chapter  7
Black Protests Against Employment Discrimination in Wartime Detroit
WithOliver Ayers
Pages 31

Chapter Seven examines black protests against employment discrimination in Detroit during the Second World War. A range of organizations took up the challenge, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), unionists in the United Auto Workers (UAW) and new groups like the Metropolitan Detroit Council on Fair Employment Practices (MDC) and the Citizens’ Committee for Jobs in War Industry (CCJ). The CCJ was particularly effective at spanning political differences in the black community, but it ran into trouble after its efforts to secure work at Ford’s new bomber plant at Willow Run. The CCJ disbanded in 1943, a victim of an internal political dispute about leadership of the local NAACP, which raised familiar arguments about the NAACP’s stance on labour and the far left. Protests in employment continued, but organizations like the MDC shifted tack to legislative activism on fair employment with an emphasis on personal lobbying and education rather than direct protests like marches and pickets. As the war ended, newer entrants like women and minority workers found themselves hit disproportionately by the massive layoffs that accompanied reconversion to peacetime production.