American
As Apple Pie
[19401954]

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his absorbing documentary demonstrates that equality under the law became viable for African Americans only after public opinion and federal policy had been turned against the white terror that enforced segregation and the denial of constitutional rights.

The program illuminates the mid-century battle for American hearts and minds with recordings of and recollections by such remarkable participants as A. Philip Randolph and Stetson Kennedy, as well as the better-known contributions of Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson.

In 1941 Randolph, head of the all-black Pullman Porters union, boldly threatened a wartime March on Washington to force recognition of the intolerable conditions blacks faced nationwide. His tactic effectively pressured President Roosevelt to back fair employment practices. Later, President Truman ordered desegregation of the Army and the federal government due, in part, to Randolph's threats of mass civil disobedience during the Cold War.

White resistance to blacks' rising aspirations threatened a replay of the bloody "Red Summer" of 1919, which was marked by violence against blacks and leftist-liberals. Kennedy, a journalist, investigator, and labor activist, courageously exposed the Ku Klux Klan and other such groups on their own turf. He recalls ridiculing the Klan by broadcasting Klan passwords on the Superman radio show and wearing Klan robes into the U.S. capitol to embarrass the Committee on Un-American Activities.

American as Apple Pie: How Segregation and Terror Lost, 1940 54 makes it clear that despite ongoing white resistance, the path to change was well prepared by activists, both famous and obscure. In time, the Supreme Court announced the end of America's legally separate and unequal society in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

PROGRAMS IN THIS SERIES

How the South Won the War

 

Democracy's Denial: Revolutions in Wilmington

 

White Protestant Nation

 

Rosewood Reborn

 

American As Apple Pie

 

Media & Myths

 

 

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American As Apple Pie [19401954]

Jolivette Anderson, narrator
Jolivette Anderson, narrator

Sexual Terror and Racial Inequality. Time: 5:13
Under the system of slavery in America, racial and sexual inequalities were closely intertwined. Sexual use and abuse of black women by white men was as much a hallmark of the times as was the "strange fruit" of lynching black men under the pretext of punishing or controlling black male threats against white womanhood. At the same time, African Americans and white Europeans met, fell in love, and fought against all odds to have healthy, loving relationships.

 

 


Paul Robeson, addressing the World Conference of Partisans of Peace in Paris
Paul Robeson, addressing the World Conference of Partisans of Peace in Paris

Black Integration Moves to the National Stage.
Time:  5:36
On the first day of 1940, millions thrilled to a nationwide radio broadcast, Ballad for Americans, in which Paul Robeson, African-American actor, singer and activist, lauded racial unity. As President Roosevelt prepared the country for war, but refused to take a stand on integrating the armed forces. Black leaders crafted a strategy of pressure on the federal government to force equal treatment in every arena. Their strategy included backstage meetings at the White House, in the electoral arena, and national calls to March on Washington.

 

 


Negroes and whites at Workers' Alliance meeting listening to organizer. Muskogee, Oklahoma
Negroes and whites at Workers' Alliance meeting listening to organizer. Muskogee, Oklahoma

Operation Dixie - Labor Hits the South. Time:  9:07
Industrial jobs drew millions of Americans from the countryside into urban centers like Richmond, Birmingham, and Atlanta.  But in industry as in agriculture, Blacks' pay was low. And the threat of cheap black labor dragged down all workers' wages. The Congress of Industrial Organizations launched Operation Dixie in order to unionize the south. Its success depended on challenging the old white southern political and social establishment. Unions couldn't organize workers as long as segregation kept whites and blacks apart. The CIO intended to tackle both economic exploitation and racial segregation.

 

 


Left to right: George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit, congratulating each other, following Supreme Court decision declaring segregation unconstitutional
Left to right: George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit, congratulating each other, following Supreme Court decision declaring segregation unconstitutional

Looking for Democracy; Coming Home From the War.
Time:  9:05
Some feared that with millions of African Americans in uniform, the War  would be followed by an upsurge of racial violence. In fact, countless African American servicemen were attacked, sometimes killed, to deter them from thinking they were now equal to the white man. But in fact, African Americans' experience doing battle against fascism overseas did give them new expectations and common purpose to organize for equality in their hometowns.

 

 


House burning during Groveland reign of terror
House burning during Groveland reign of terror

Speaking Truth to Terror. Time: 11:01
In the late 1940s, even with the President committed to the cause of African-Americans for the first time since the Civil War, many especially in the South still lived under a state of siege. Lynchings and anti-black violence continued throughout the U.S. Two of the more famous incidences took place in Moore's Ford, Georgia and Groveland, Florida. Integration of the Armed Forces by Truman did not improve civil rights in the military. Thurgood Marshall went to Korea to investigate reports of 10-minute hearings that sent dozens of black soldiers to prison with life sentences on trumped up charges.

 

 


'Klanbuster' Stetson Kennedy
"Klanbuster" Stetson Kennedy

Anti-Red and Building the Black Movement. Time:  6:47
Under McCarthyism and the anti-communist crusades of the late 1940s and early 1950s, many African American and trade union organizers were silenced, jailed, and sometimes deported. The leaders of the civil rights and labor movements were forced to choose whether to face a similar fate by standing up to state and federal government attacks or quietly acquiesce to the purges in order to keep their organizations alive. The debate continues over what price was paid in the long term by the Civil Rights Movement .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To order this and other programs in the series, call 1-800-481-8482.