World War II and the 1944 Urban League Report

From 1941 to 1945, the involvement of the United States in World War II caused major shifts in all parts of the country, particularly in the Northeast. During the war, industries in the United States became more geared towards meeting the needs of wartime which created more opportunities for people who could not or did not enter the military. Because many men were shipped off to war, there were more opportunities for African Americans to make social progress within Connecticut. Furthermore, many of the conditions in which African Americans faced with housing during this period became even worse than before even though the main focus was on improving this housing. The consequence of ignoring the housing issue, even after the war was over, in Hartford would soon take a toll on the population as a whole. Warren M. Banner, the director of Research and and Community Projects for the National Urban League, published several reports describing the population of African Americans in different cities including in journals such as The Journal of Educational Sociology (1). In 1944, the National Urban League asked Warren to write a report that demonstrated to the general public the housing conditions of African American communities in Hartford. Banner decided to include additional issues that were just as important; In Banner’s 1944 report, “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”, Banner demonstrated to his audience the increase of African Americans moving into the Hartford community, the increased opportunities for African Americans in the workforce, and described the housing conditions in the African American communities (2).

The Rise and Fall of Employment

With the U.S. entering the war in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many men were shipped off to fight which left many job opportunities open well into 1945. Although many jobs were left for those who could not or did not participate, many of the jobs were very basic and limited, and they excluded African Americans. People from all walks of life made up Hartford’s population including workers, soldiers, and new families. Many of the people who migrated to Connecticut were in-migrators, which meant that they were people who were migrating from different parts of the U.S. to another area within it. Many of the immigrants that made up the population were residents who had previously came to Connecticut in the 1850′s and the start of 1900 (3). With the growth of the African American population, many African Americans began to scatter all throughout the state of Connecticut. The largest populations of African Americans tended to be in larger towns such as Bloomfield, Windsor, and Wethersfield with hopes of finding more opportunities in larger areas, where they eventually settled down and had families of their own (4). Although there became more stable communities and larger populations in the area, there were also a number of people who left the area for their own reasons such as soldiers. African American troops were stationed in certain areas of the Greater Hartford region and were constantly on the move within and out (5). Moreover, many people would leave dependent on the amount of employment opportunities in each town. However, Hartford’s North End had “the heaviest concentration” of African Americans because of the amount of labor that was needed for the tobacco industry (6).

 Banner, Warren M. A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut. “Table XI: Negro Public Employees”

Banner, Warren M. A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut.
“Table XI: Negro Public Employees”

Prior to Banner’s report in 1944, African Americans had to compete for employment against immigrant workers in Hartford’s growing tobacco industry as described in Charles S. Johnson’s 1921 report. Many of these immigrants were mainly Italian and Irish who dominated the workforce in 1850 and had an even stronger influence in the 1900s dominating political and social organization (7). During the early 1940s, there were certain areas of employment that became closed off to African Americans which were claimed to have been open to the general public. Before the war, most white men dominated in the more respected areas such as sales, woodwork, and clerical work while African Americans generally made up the general population of laborers and service workers (8). However, African Americans would soon dominate the large tobacco industry that they had once competed ferociously for. Employers in the tobacco industry soon made a change from a preference of immigrant workers to a preference of African American workers causing more jobs to become open to the African American community. Tobacco growers in the area felt The opening of this opportunity would then cause many more African Americans to migrate to Hartford residing primarily within its city limits.

Although there were many opportunities for African Americans in menial jobs, many were excluded from becoming a part of Hartford’s offices, state, and federal departments. There were many people employed in private companies, but generally African Americans were not employed or excluded. African Americans generally were placed in more basic and routine jobs, and they were not given the same opportunities to seek employment to “obtain the necessities for healthful and comfortable living” (9). Although many African American workers journeyed to Connecticut during this time to take advantage of the growing industrial companies, there were little to none working in them. Even when African American workers were hired to work for a company, they were tasked with a job in which required little to no skill at all.

The War on Housing

With the demand for employment in Hartford increasing, the focus on housing for the residents living within Hartford slowly declined along with the plans for improvements. Improvements for residences were made in order to improve the living conditions for residents, even though the housing was already difficult for residents before 1940, but the “great war emergency period” caused for a halt and made the existing conditions even worse (10). Many of the residents of Hartford, including African Americans, were “tenant dwellers” which meant that they resided in places that were rented and not owned by them. Residents in Hartford, more specifically African Americans, were living in below than adequate residences and unable to find decent housing within the city of Hartford. Although many moved out of the city, African Americans did not move and dwelled within these same subpar building a part of the low-renting and war housing projects. African Americans were the largest population of people who dwelled in these projects as well as other immigrants in each given community. Towards the end of the “great emergency war period”, African American residents would then have to move into slums and run-down buildings because of the cost and familiarity with the areas that they had lived in for so long (11). Many would migrate to the North End of Hartford which already previously had the largest population of African Americans in the city of Hartford.

Banner’s Advice

Despite the war having drastic effects on the city of Hartford, Banner states that the African American population has been able to create a stronger and firm leadership role that was not present before. With the improvements in finding employment and the growing African community, people are able to bond and create a life for their families. However, this strength can and has been tarnished by the growing housing crisis for African Americans living in Hartford. He advises that if this continues, the community will grow weaker and the problems will continue to progress (12). Housing would then become more segregated and create overcrowding in the area. African Americans and their families would then continue to live in inadequate housing and unstable environments. In order for there to be a progression, Hartford would need to improve conditions for that of African American tenants living in the city (13).

Learn More:

Immigrant Residing in Hartford 1850-1940 Click Here.

Charles S. Johnson’s 1921 Report for the Urban League Click Here.

Works Cited:

1. Banner, Warren M. “Profiles: New York.” Journal of Educational Sociology 17.5 (1944): 272-79. JSTOR. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/2262338>.

2. Banner, Warren M. A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut. Rep. New York: National Urban League, 1944. Print.

3. Clouette, Bruce Alan, ““Getting their share”: Irish and Italian immigrants in Hartford, Connecticut, 1850–1940″ (1992). Doctoral Dissertations. Paper AAI9300925.<http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/dissertations/AAI9300925>

Footnotes:

(1) Banner, Warren M. “Profiles: New York.”

(2) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 1.

(3) Clouette, Bruce Alan, ““Getting their share”: Irish and Italian immigrants in Hartford, Connecticut, 1850–1940″. Abstract.

(4) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 5.

(5)Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg 8.

(6) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 5.

(7) Clouette, Bruce Alan, ““Getting their share”: Irish and Italian immigrants in Hartford, Connecticut, 1850–1940″. Abstract.

(8) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 9.

(9) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 13-17

(10) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 27.

(11) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg 29.

(12) Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 64-65.

(13)Banner, Warren M. “A Review of the Social and Economic Conditions of the Negro Population of Hartford, Connecticut”. pg. 65.

 

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One Response to World War II and the 1944 Urban League Report

  1. Clarissa Ceglio says:

    Kudos for using Johnson’s report to place Banner’s study within the longer history of African American immigration to—and presence in—Hartford. Also effective is the use of a single sentence at the end of the opening paragraph to provide an overview of the three aspects of Banner’s study that the essay examines. To take this essay to the next level, a thesis that makes a compelling argument is needed. The introduction gestures toward a strong possibility. It states that despite the focus on providing worker housing during WWII—and despite Banner’s warnings—the housing situation for African Americans became worse during the war and after. So, in addition to summarizing key aspects of Banner’s report (which the essay does), making an argument with that data is needed. This would also lead to a stronger conclusion.

    In places, the essay’s logic is difficult to follow due to the syntax of the sentences and repetition of information. For example, this sequence is difficult to interpret: “Tobacco growers in the area felt The opening of this opportunity would then cause many more African Americans to migrate to Hartford residing primarily within its city limits.” Since the fields were outside Hartford proper why did the growers anticipate African American laborers would reside within city limits? And is this the point you wanted to make? The following shows how repetition and syntax impede comprehension: “Although there were many opportunities for African Americans in menial jobs, many were excluded from becoming a part of Hartford’s offices, state, and federal departments. There were many people employed in private companies, but generally African Americans were not employed or excluded.” A possible revision might be: Although private companies and government agencies increased hiring during these years, fewer overall job opportunities existed for African Americans. Furthermore, African Americans were directed to menial, lower-paying jobs and rarely considered for the better-paying office positions open to white workers.

    The table used to illustrate the essay is rich with detail and convincingly supports your argument about the exclusionary employment patterns of the era.

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