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Winning the War for DemocracyThe March on Washington Movement, 1941-1946$
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David Lucander

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038624

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038624.001.0001

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“These Women Really Did the Work”

“These Women Really Did the Work”

Marching on More than Defense Plants

(p.129) 5 “These Women Really Did the Work”
Winning the War for Democracy

David Lucander

University of Illinois Press

This chapter describes a series of sit-ins during 1944. Led by largely forgotten African American women, this interracial direct-action campaign sought to challenge the color line at department-store lunch counters. Integrating, or at least improving, access to food service at major downtown retailers was an important step in the process of breaking down elements of Jim Crow segregation in St. Louis. That same year, the March on Washington Movement (MOWM) shifted its attention toward obtaining and retaining jobs for black workers in publicly funded workplaces. Gaining access to jobs operating switchboards and in the local administration of Southwestern Bell Telephone offices was presented as a stride toward securing sustainable employment for a largely female contingent of working-class African Americans who wanted long-term white- and pink-collar employment. This sort of local women's activism, juxtaposed against national men's leadership, is consistent with a gendered pattern of activism in civil rights campaigns that persisted through the 1960s.

Keywords:   African American women, Jim Crow segregation, black workers, working class, African Americans, women's activism

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