Kruse, Kevin M., and Stephen Tuck, eds. Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Oxford University Press. 2011. x + 240 pages. Paper, $21.95.
Historians have long debated the effects of the Second World War on the struggle for racial equality. While scholars such as Richard Dalfiume and Jacquelyn Dowd Hall have linked the war to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, others have more recently challenged the war's label as a catalyst of African American social movements. Now a new cohort of historians has begun to analyze new elements of the Civil Rights Movement and ask how the war directly or indirectly shaped the outcomes. Historians Kevin M. Kruse and Stephen Tuck have collected many of these perspectives in the present edited volume, which is sure to change the trajectory of the civil rights historiography during and after World War II.
Fog of War contains eleven essays that discuss different elements of the African American struggle for equality as it intersected with the turbulence of World War II. It complicates the historiography by arguing that "the impact and legacy of war were decidedly ambiguous, at times empowering black activists, at times constraining them, at times emboldening those seeking to preserve racial hierarchies, and at times making surprisingly little difference at all" (p. 6). This book blazes a new path by contending that many "diverse activists" used the war to their advantage, thus creating multiple impacts on the black freedom struggle. The authors concentrate on the role of the federal government, the resurgence of the Southern Democrats, as well as the fight for African American equality in institutions of the North and the South. What is evident in each of these chapters is that the challenge created by war "did not push racial systems in a single direction, and certainly not one moving inexorably toward greater equality" but instead remade racism and set activists on even more contradictory paths (p. 11). Kruse urges us not to see World War II as a "linear story of progress" for activists but to understand it "as it was experienced at the time--in multiple ways, by multiple Americans," so that it does not become an event possessing "exaggerated dimensions and an unnatural appearance" (p. 12).
One of the most thought-provoking chapters is "You can sign and punch ... but you can't be a soldier or a man," by Stephen Tuck. He...