Cover image for Victory at home : manpower and race in the American South during World War II
Victory at home : manpower and race in the American South during World War II
Chamberlain, Charles D., 1964-
Publication Information:
Athens : The University of Georgia Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD5725.S85 C48 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Victory at Home is at once an institutional history of the federal War Manpower Commission and a social history of the southern labor force within the commission's province. Charles D. Chamberlain explores how southern working families used America's rapid wartime industrialization and an expanded federal presence to gain unprecedented economic, social, and geographic mobility in the chronically poor region.

Chamberlain looks at how war workers, black leaders, white southern elites, liberal New Dealers, nonsouthern industrialists, and others used and shaped the federal war mobilization effort to fill their own needs. He shows, for instance, how African American, Latino, and white laborers worked variously through churches, labor unions, federal agencies, the NAACP, and the Urban League, using a wide variety of strategies from union organizing and direct action protest to job shopping and migration. Throughout, Chamberlain is careful not to portray the southern wartime labor scene in monolithic terms. He discusses, for instance, conflicts between racial groups within labor unions and shortfalls between the War Manpower Commission's national directives and their local implementation.

An important new work in southern economic and industrial history, Victory at Home also has implications for the prehistory of both the civil rights revolution and the massive resistance movement of the 1960s. As Chamberlain makes clear, African American workers used the coalition of unions, churches, and civil rights organizations built up during the war to challenge segregation and disenfranchisement in the postwar South.

Author Notes

Charles D. Chamberlain is the museum historian at the Louisiana State Museum and an adjunct professor of history at Tulane University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Chamberlain (Tulane Univ.) has provided an insightful, widely researched study of the shift in southern black labor conditions during WW II. The war years greatly added to southern black mobility, enabling hundreds of thousands to obtain better-paying jobs in other sections of the country and offering relief from stifling Jim Crow repression, forever changing the social fabric of the US. Chamberlain is in line with recent scholarship calling attention to WW II as a point of departure in African American history. A federal presence--which Chamberlain notes "helped consolidate black political networks in the South"--was introduced into the mobilization of southern labor, despite conservative fears this would upset the hierarchical racial system. Expanding on recent studies of black migration, Chamberlain carefully examines the mass movement of black workers to the West. Conditions varied from city to city but generally migrants found access to better jobs and some protection of civil rights. Wartime mobilization resulted in a strong effort to increase black voter registration, an effort that continued into the postwar era. Meriting the attention of anyone interested in the history of the struggle against racism, this book recognizes the government's role while highlighting the courage and determination of blacks who served the war effort. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. H. Shapiro emeritus, University of Cincinnati