Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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August 6, 1942


The Illinois State Council of Defense was composed of the governor, seven other ex officio members, and nine citizen members. It was designed to be bipartisan and to include representatives of a broad spectrum of Illinois society. Rev. James L. Horace, the black pastor of the Monumental Baptist Church in Chicago, was one of the original Defense Council members appointed by Governor Green. The Illinois population in 1940 was 7,897,241 of which 387,446 were black. Racial unrest was viewed as counterproductive to the war effort and it was to be avoided as a matter of policy at the federal, state of Illinois, and city of Chicago levels of government. All three issued executive orders or passed legislation outlawing discrimination in war industry hiring. This policy seldom was enforced and largely was ignored. The fact that large numbers of blacks did find work in war plants was due more to a critical shortage of labor than to an enlightened policy of racial justice. But for whatever reasons Illinois throughout World War II never suffered the racial violence such as occurred in Detroit and New York City in the summer of 1943.

The State Council of Defense formed sixteen standing committees which were charged variously with all matter of activity from Adjustment of Business to War Conditions to War Bonds and Stamps. They in turn had thirty advisory committees. Broad based community involvement was the objective.

The Illinois Association of Colored Women involved itself actively in the war effort. Besides giving their sons and daughters to the armed services; they donated blood; served in various capacities in civilian defense; participated in salvage drives; purchased war bonds; made surgical dressings; conducted classes in nutrition, consumer education, first aid, hygiene, and child care; volunteered at local USOs; recruited women for the armed forces; served on rationing boards; and operated nurseries so that mothers of young children could work in war plants. Although much of the association's members' war work was done in segregated settings, their goal was "a chance - not a Jim Crow chance - to live and work as all loyal Americans should live - in peace and brotherhood."

Points to Consider

Why was a representative of the Illinois Association of Colored Women appointed a vice-chairman of the Women's Division of the Illinois State Council of Defense?

Why was Hannah A. Woods concerned with day-care?

How were blacks treated generally during WWII
    at home?
    in the armed forces?

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