Journal of American History

Round Table

A Critical Moment: World War II and Its Aftermath at Home


Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas

A 1942 sign outside the Tarrant County Court House, Fort Worth, Texas, shows 
that Mexican Americans were outsiders to the privileges of whiteness.
Courtesy National Archives.

In 1943 the Texas legislature unanimously passed a wartime resolution guaranteeing “Caucasians” equal access to public accommodations. Since the state of Texas had, at various points, officially accepted people of Latin American descent as Caucasian, the resolution was aimed at them. Drawing on little-used State Department records, Thomas A. Guglielmo shows that the 1943 resolution and similar bills that failed to pass the legislature throughout the 1940s were important parts of a transnational civil rights struggle that included activists, organizations, and government officials on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border. Guglielmo probes the reasons for—and the costs of—that struggle’s commitment to Caucasian rights for some rather than equal rights for all. (pp. 1212–38) Read online >

“The Hitlerian Rule of Quotas”: Racial Conservatism and the Politics of Fair Employment Legislation in New York State, 1941–1945

The denunciation of racial “quotas” began decades before the late-1960s backlash against affirmative action and civil rights. This resistance first emerged during World War II when New York State contemplated the passage of a “fair employment practices” law to outlaw discrimination in employment. Anthony S. Chen explores the vigorous but unsuccessful opposition to the Ives-Quinn bill mounted by business groups, rural and suburban whites, and conservative Republicans. Opponents decried the law as imposing racial quotas and betraying American beliefs in equality. The opposition to Ives-Quinn provides a new perspective on the fall of the New Deal order and the rise of the New Right. (pp. 1238–64) Read online >

Nightmares on Elm Street: Demobilizing in Chicago, 1945–1953

Courtesy Chicago Historical Society.

Examining how ordinary people made the shift from wartime to postwar life in Chicago, Laura McEnaney offers a way to broaden and extend the narratives we teach about World War II. Her study of demobilization takes readers inside the city’s apartment housing, drawing on captivating testimony from landlords and tenants as they fought one another over the meanings and spoils of the war. These stories of demobilization’s daily grind reveal a more complex history of the so-called greatest generation and point to the need to understand how people experience the transition from war to peace. The struggles in Chicago over the conduct and power of the postwar state illuminate what people thought they had been fighting for during the war. (pp. 1265–91) Read online >

The Crucial Decade: The 1940s and Beyond

The events of the 1940s produced sweeping changes in every aspect of American life. One of the principal changes was the dramatic growth of government involvement in the economic and social life of the country caused by World War II. Considering the efforts of ordinary people in Texas, New York, and Illinois to turn the power of the government to their own advantage, the three articles in our round table, “A Critical Moment: World War II and Its Aftermath at Home,” provide local histories set in an era of global war. In his commentary, Gary Gerstle places these articles in the evolving historiography on the establishment of the modern liberal order. (pp. 1292–99) Read online >


“They Are Ancestral Homelands”: Race, Place, and Politics in Cold War Native America, 1945–1961

The cousins Pfc. Preston Toledo (on the left) and Pfc. Frank Toledo (both Navajo) use the Navajo language to relay orders over a field radio during a World War II Marine Corps artillery operation in the South Pacific.
Courtesy National Archives.

Recent scholarship on the intersection of race and the Cold War has neglected Native Americans’ experiences. Situating Native Americans’ postwar campaigns for civil rights in an international context, Paul C. Rosier examines how Native Americans drew on the moral dimensions of Cold War ideology to resist federal antisovereignty policies and appealed to American foreign aid programs such as the Marshall Plan and Point Four as models for refashioning federal Indian policy at home. Focusing on Native Americans’ hybrid patriotism, Rosier considers how they made the Cold War relevant to their lives and incorporated international circumstances into their national and ethnic identities. (pp. 1300–27) Read online >

Enslaved Swimmers and Divers in the Atlantic World

D. O. Dapper described seventeenth-century Africans diving for gold nuggets that accumulated on riverbeds at the foot of waterfalls.
Courtesy Brown University.

In the essay that won the 2005 Louis Pelzer Award, Kevin Dawson analyzes how the swimming and diving skills West African slaves carried to the Americas shaped their work and recreation. Since enslaved divers harvested pearls, salvaged sunken goods, and cleared fisheries of debris that might entangle nets, they often received privileges that field slaves were denied. Since many plantations were located near waterways to facilitate trade and communication, many slaves swam to relax, to bathe, and even to participate in swimming competitions. These experiences reveal the vibrancy of slaves’ African-influenced culture and show how slaveholders frequently valued slaves’ skills and knowledge. (pp. 1327–55) Read online >

Textbooks & Teaching

Image courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum
Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The full text of "Textbooks & Teaching" is also freely available here.

  • “Beyond Best Practices: Taking Seriously the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” by Gary J. Kornblith and Carol Lasser (pp. 1356–57) Read online >>
  • “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” by Lendol Calder (pp. 1358–71) Read online >
  • “Ways of Seeing: Evidence and Learning in the History Classroom,” by Michael Coventry, Peter Felten, David Jaffee, Cecilia O’Leary, and Tracey Weis, with Susannah McGowan (pp. 1371–402) Read online >

Book Reviews

March 2006, Vol. 92 No. 4

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • Connecticut History Online, by Walter W. Woodward (p. 1534) Read online >
  • Nineteenth-Century American Children and What They Read; and Children in Urban America Project, by Kelly Schrum (p. 1535) Read online >
  • Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, History (hearth), by Jessamyn Neuhaus (p. 1536) Read online >
  • The New Deal Stage: Selections from the Federal Theatre Project, 1935–1939, by Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff (p. 1537) Read online >
  • History and Politics Out Loud (hpol), by Samuel Brylawski (p. 1538) Read online >


Recent Scholarship

Browse “Recent Scholarship” listing >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

924 cover

On the cover:

The problems of post-World War II demobilization are evident in this photograph of the basement of 77 East Elm Street in Chicago, where the twenty-year-old waitress Betty Ackerman lived temporarily in 1946. The Time magazine photographer E. S. Purrington and Ackermann had concocted a cover story—that he was her boyfriend—to explain his visit to photograph Ackerman’s tent room. Ackerman’s room was a section of the basement that the landlady conrdoned off with haning sheets so she could squeeze more tenants into the building. A smiling version of this photo appeared in Time’s April 29, 1946, issue with the caption “Shameful crowding.” Courtsey E. S. Purrington. See Laura McEnaney, “Nightmares on Elm Street: Demobilizing in Chicago, 1945–1953,” p. 1265.

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