chapter  4
‘Getting a Grand Runaround by Management, Government and the Union’
The Shifting Contours of Employment Discrimination in Wartime
WithOliver Ayers
Pages 33

Chapter Four examines the shifting contours of racial discrimination in employment during the Second World War in New York City and Detroit. Attention is paid to the history of the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC)—the agency tasked by President Roosevelt with remedying the problem. While the FEPC’s records have often been mined to trace its institutional story, however, they can also be read another way: from the ‘bottom up’. Surveying the complaints made by black workers, which often contained revealing personal stories of the frustrations and humiliations endured at the hands of various officials, reveals that racial discrimination in wartime drew upon some long-standing prejudices but took some innovative new forms. Although management remained the most powerful actor in the drama of wartime employment—and the party ultimately responsible for the persistence of economic barriers—some workers were given a ‘grand runaround by management, government and the union’. The multifaceted nature of wartime discrimination presented a burdensome demand for coordinated protests on civil rights organizations at the national and local levels.