=African Americans Demand War Work ----
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By Michael Growden
lllll.jpg24_full.jpgThe first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, said "The nation cannot expect the colored people to feel that the U.S. is worth defending if they continue to be treated as they are treated now." In spite of these contradictions, black Virginians were eager to join the armed forces. At first the military proved reluctant to enlist them or else assigned them to menial roles. But in time the army and navy increased opportunities for black men and women and Richmond's Dimmeline Booth became one of the first black marines in 1943. Using the slogan "We loyal Negro-American citizens demand the right to work and fight for our country," African Americans threatened to march on Washington to demand these rights. They forced president Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order #8802, which opened government jobs and defense contract work to African Americans on the basis of equal pay for equal work. It was the first presidential action against discrimination since Reconstruction. As the Cold War began, America could not claim to be the defender of freedom and democracy when it practiced segregation and discrimination at home. President Harry Truman fully desegregated the armed forces in 1948, and a government report of 1947 called To Secure These Rights called for "the elimination of segregation from american life."