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Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America’s World War II Military

America's World War II military was a force of unalloyed good. While saving the world from Nazism, it also managed to unify a famously fractious American people. At least that's the story many Americans have long told themselves. Divisions offers a decidedly different view. Historian Thomas A. Guglielmo argues that the military built not one color line, but a complex tangle of them. Taken together, they represented a sprawling structure of white supremacy. Freedom struggles arose in response, democratizing portions of the wartime military and setting the stage for postwar desegregation and civil rights movements. But the costs of the military's color lines were devastating. They impeded America's war effort, undermined the nation's rhetoric of the Four Freedoms, further naturalized the concept of race, deepened many whites' investments in white supremacy, and further fractured the American people.

Date & Time

Monday
Oct. 18, 2021
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

Location

Zoom Webinar

Overview

Space in the Zoom webinar is available on a first-come first-serve basis and fills up very quickly, if you are unable to join the session or receive an error message, you can still watch on this page or on the NHC's Facebook Page once the event begins.

America's World War II military was a force of unalloyed good. While saving the world from Nazism, it also managed to unify a famously fractious American people. At least that's the story many Americans have long told themselves. Divisions offers a decidedly different view. Historian Thomas A. Guglielmo argues that the military built not one color line, but a complex tangle of them. Taken together, they represented a sprawling structure of white supremacy. Freedom struggles arose in response, democratizing portions of the wartime military and setting the stage for postwar desegregation and civil rights movements. But the costs of the military's color lines were devastating. They impeded America's war effort, undermined the nation's rhetoric of the Four Freedoms, further naturalized the concept of race, deepened many whites' investments in white supremacy, and further fractured the American people. 

Thomas A. Guglielmo is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of American Studies at George Washington University. His previous book is White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1940 (2003), which won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians and the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians. He has a PhD in History from the University of Michigan.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University and the National History Center) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partners (the George Washington University History Department and the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest) for their continued support.