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The Black GIs & Kington. Statistics the pre-war black population of Britain numbered around 8,000 people. the pre-war black population of Britain numbered.

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Presentation on theme: "The Black GIs & Kington. Statistics the pre-war black population of Britain numbered around 8,000 people. the pre-war black population of Britain numbered."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Black GIs & Kington

2 Statistics the pre-war black population of Britain numbered around 8,000 people. the pre-war black population of Britain numbered around 8,000 people. From May 1942 until the end of World War II, some 130,000 black GIs came to Britain. From May 1942 until the end of World War II, some 130,000 black GIs came to Britain.

3 Experiences of African Americans Most contemporary accounts tell how they felt completely liberated in Britain compared to their restricted lives in the United States. Most contemporary accounts tell how they felt completely liberated in Britain compared to their restricted lives in the United States. Many were at first astonished and then delighted to find a white society that actually showed them hospitality and then respect. Many were at first astonished and then delighted to find a white society that actually showed them hospitality and then respect.

4 Experiences of African Americans However, many white GIs, especially from the southern states, were adamant that black American soldiers should be treated in Britain exactly as they had been in the United States. However, many white GIs, especially from the southern states, were adamant that black American soldiers should be treated in Britain exactly as they had been in the United States.

5 Experiences of African Americans US Army imposed their segregationist views as if it were a condition of their supporting the allied war effort. US Army imposed their segregationist views as if it were a condition of their supporting the allied war effort. the United States of America Visiting Forces Act, enacted by the US Congress in August 1942, stipulated that black soldiers abroad were subject to the same restrictions and racial segregation as in their home country. the United States of America Visiting Forces Act, enacted by the US Congress in August 1942, stipulated that black soldiers abroad were subject to the same restrictions and racial segregation as in their home country.

6 Experiences of African Americans Black soldiers in uniform were only allowed to marry white British women with the permission of their commanding officers (and this permission was almost always withheld), were often forbidden from entering official whites-only areas in public places and were subjected to a host of other racial bans which British society had never encountered before. Black soldiers in uniform were only allowed to marry white British women with the permission of their commanding officers (and this permission was almost always withheld), were often forbidden from entering official whites-only areas in public places and were subjected to a host of other racial bans which British society had never encountered before.

7 Tan Yanks & Limeys Towns near US army bases - and many of their black British residents - can attest to the heightening of racial tension caused by the arrival of the American GIs. Towns near US army bases - and many of their black British residents - can attest to the heightening of racial tension caused by the arrival of the American GIs. Smaller towns often had ‘white nights’ and ‘black nights’ for passes and larger towns established a network of black and white pubs and dancehalls. Smaller towns often had ‘white nights’ and ‘black nights’ for passes and larger towns established a network of black and white pubs and dancehalls. Official patterns of segregation often grew out of local circumstances. Official patterns of segregation often grew out of local circumstances.

8 Reactions of the British The American brand of racism did not come naturally to British civilians. The American brand of racism did not come naturally to British civilians. Many had welcomed the blacks and were adamant that all soldiers - black and white - fighting for European liberty should be treated the same. Many had welcomed the blacks and were adamant that all soldiers - black and white - fighting for European liberty should be treated the same. When rioting between black and white soldiers broke out in a city centre and military police waded in, some British locals lined up alongside the black GIs. When rioting between black and white soldiers broke out in a city centre and military police waded in, some British locals lined up alongside the black GIs.

9 Reactions of the British With most eligible white men away in the services and few black women available, the 'Tan Yank' was a hit with many local white women. They found the black troops fascinating and appreciated their attentiveness and good manners. To them, the black GI was less bombastic and complaining than his white counterpart. Numerous contemporary surveys and pieces of research support the opinion of one 20-year-old girl, who said at the time that the blacks were 'marvellous - treat you as if you are something rare and precious - don't take you for granted as Englishmen do.' With most eligible white men away in the services and few black women available, the 'Tan Yank' was a hit with many local white women. They found the black troops fascinating and appreciated their attentiveness and good manners. To them, the black GI was less bombastic and complaining than his white counterpart. Numerous contemporary surveys and pieces of research support the opinion of one 20-year-old girl, who said at the time that the blacks were 'marvellous - treat you as if you are something rare and precious - don't take you for granted as Englishmen do.'

10 Reactions of British politicians The fact that the black soldiers were in England at all was against the wishes of some prominent British politicians, who feared that the GIs' presence in the country would lead to all kinds of problems. The fact that the black soldiers were in England at all was against the wishes of some prominent British politicians, who feared that the GIs' presence in the country would lead to all kinds of problems. As time wore on, in a situation fuelled by prejudice and jealousy, the British began to be swayed by American opinion. It was not long before official fears were voiced at the prospect of British women having sexual liaisons with the black soldiers, resulting in mixed-race marriages and mixed-race babies. Over the months, public disapproval regarding sexual relations between black GIs and white girls became increasingly strong As time wore on, in a situation fuelled by prejudice and jealousy, the British began to be swayed by American opinion. It was not long before official fears were voiced at the prospect of British women having sexual liaisons with the black soldiers, resulting in mixed-race marriages and mixed-race babies. Over the months, public disapproval regarding sexual relations between black GIs and white girls became increasingly strong

11 Racially mixed relationships and reactions of US troops Young black troops were not used to white women being friendly to them but very quickly sexual relationships sprung up which enraged the white American soldiers and caused a great deal of antagonism between the two groups of men. Many British people were appalled at the treatment of black troops. Following reports of a number of disturbances between white and black US troops, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower said: These incidents frequently involved social contact between our Negro soldiers and British girls... The small town British girl would go to a movie or dance with a Negro quite as readily as she would with anyone else, a practice that our white soldiers could not understand. Brawls often resulted and our white soldiers were further bewildered when they found the British press took a firm stand on the side of the Negro Young black troops were not used to white women being friendly to them but very quickly sexual relationships sprung up which enraged the white American soldiers and caused a great deal of antagonism between the two groups of men. Many British people were appalled at the treatment of black troops. Following reports of a number of disturbances between white and black US troops, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower said: These incidents frequently involved social contact between our Negro soldiers and British girls... The small town British girl would go to a movie or dance with a Negro quite as readily as she would with anyone else, a practice that our white soldiers could not understand. Brawls often resulted and our white soldiers were further bewildered when they found the British press took a firm stand on the side of the Negro

12 Racially mixed relationships – sexual racism Women accused of 'chasing' black soldiers were ostracised by the Americans and branded as prostitutes. Consequently many British girls were forced, under pressure, to drop their boyfriends. For those who didn't and were determined not to allow racism to get in the way of their love, their romances were curtailed when the soldiers were sent away. Marriage was usually out of the question - white officers almost invariably refused permission. Women accused of 'chasing' black soldiers were ostracised by the Americans and branded as prostitutes. Consequently many British girls were forced, under pressure, to drop their boyfriends. For those who didn't and were determined not to allow racism to get in the way of their love, their romances were curtailed when the soldiers were sent away. Marriage was usually out of the question - white officers almost invariably refused permission.

13 Jim Crow meets John Bull Under a unique agreement between the American forces and the British government, US troops were tried by the Americans, under US law on British soil. This happened even when the crimes were permitted against British citizens. Rape was not a capital offence in Britain at the time, but it became one for black soldiers accused of raping the local British girls. In many cases the short trials were based on flimsy evidence and then followed by swift executions. Under a unique agreement between the American forces and the British government, US troops were tried by the Americans, under US law on British soil. This happened even when the crimes were permitted against British citizens. Rape was not a capital offence in Britain at the time, but it became one for black soldiers accused of raping the local British girls. In many cases the short trials were based on flimsy evidence and then followed by swift executions.

14 Jim Crow meets John Bull Britain did not practise segregation. The US forces separated black and white troops in- keeping with the Jim Crow laws that held sway in much of the US at the time. Black soldiers were considered unsuitable for the frontline and so stayed in barracks for months longer than their white comrades. This meant that many Black soldiers stayed in a given area for up to a year and a half. They consequently got to know the white locals and got used to the desegregated nature of wartime Britain. Britain did not practise segregation. The US forces separated black and white troops in- keeping with the Jim Crow laws that held sway in much of the US at the time. Black soldiers were considered unsuitable for the frontline and so stayed in barracks for months longer than their white comrades. This meant that many Black soldiers stayed in a given area for up to a year and a half. They consequently got to know the white locals and got used to the desegregated nature of wartime Britain.

15 US Military executions 18 military executions were carried out at Shepton Mallet, representing 26% of the 70 executions of American servicemen serving in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). 18 military executions were carried out at Shepton Mallet, representing 26% of the 70 executions of American servicemen serving in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). Of these 18 men, nine were convicted of murder, six of rape, and three of both crimes. Their racial mix was :11 African American, 3 Latino and 4 white and it is thought that their average age was 21.5 years. 17 were Privates and one was a Corporal. None ranked higher than this. Of these 18 men, nine were convicted of murder, six of rape, and three of both crimes. Their racial mix was :11 African American, 3 Latino and 4 white and it is thought that their average age was 21.5 years. 17 were Privates and one was a Corporal. None ranked higher than this. Alleged poor quality of the trials that these men received. Alleged poor quality of the trials that these men received.

16 Themes Experiences of Black GIs in Britain – new freedom or continued segregation? Changing situation 1942-45? Experiences of Black GIs in Britain – new freedom or continued segregation? Changing situation 1942-45? Attitudes of White GIs – a generalisation of racism? Attitudes of White GIs – a generalisation of racism? Attitudes of US Military authorities and British authorities – racist or addressing real problems? Attitudes of US Military authorities and British authorities – racist or addressing real problems? Reactions of British people – positive towards Black GIs or racist. Reactions of British people – positive towards Black GIs or racist. KEY POINT – We cannot stereotype any group. KEY POINT – We cannot stereotype any group.


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