Friday, January 25, 2013

Double Victory by Cheryl Mullenbach: Book Review

Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II
Author: Cheryl Mullenbach
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Inc., 2013
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 12 up, Young Adult nonfiction
Pages: 272 

Thousands of men in the U.S. quit their jobs to fight in World War II. Women rallied to the cause to fill these jobs, but in a segregated society rooted in racial discrimination, African American women were denied access. Segregation rules even kept some from volunteering. Mullenbach describes their upward struggle to participate. Ironically, as the nation fought for democracy and freedom overseas, African Americans were denied such freedom at home. In 1942, a black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, started the Double V Campaign—V for victory at war; V for victory at home. Not all blacks embraced this campaign, according to Mullenbach, but it “gave some black people the courage to act.” Hattie Duvall carried a protest sign when denied service at a restaurant. Willa Brown, a pilot, started a black flight school. Protester Thomasina Walker Johnson Norford, a young teacher, would become an influential lobbyist. Ethel Bell, who was refused employment after passing a civil service test, traveled to Washington, DC to complain. Others fought to join the military, but once accepted, faced unfair practices. Nursing was only open to white women at first, but persistence paid off. As nurses, they served stateside and overseas, and although segregated, assigned to black soldiers only, they more than proved their worth. Black female entertainers faced similar hurdles. Black actress Hattie McDaniel was denied housing in a white neighborhood, despite her contribution in boosting military morale. However, black singers Margaret Simms and Josephine Baker (also a spy) were well received all over Europe. As war workers, political activists, volunteers, military personnel, and entertainers, black women “broke race and gender barriers to help win” the war. Double Victory is an excellent resource on African American women’s contribution to World War II and the Civil Rights Movement later (1955-1968). 

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl    

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