Thursday, November 24, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #17: Allie Phillips - Eritrean Refugee Women in Canada

For Eritrean refugee women in Canada, their transition into Canadian society is marked by employment concerns, isolation and loneliness, and changes in gender dynamics. Political unrest and severe droughts in Eritrea have caused massive economic decline, resulting in nearly half of the population living in extreme poverty. Starvation, forced military conscription and extreme subordination of women have resulted in a refugee crisis. The majority of Eritrean refugees came to Canada in the 1980s to escape the violence and oppression of their war-torn country. For refugee women in particular, their experience as refugees was marked with additional threats of sexual assault and exploitation. Resulting from their subordinated status in Eritrea, many women arrived in Canada with low levels of education and English proficiency. With many women coming to Canada as family sponsors, this negatively impacted their eligibility to access government programs to increase their education and improve their English proficiency. As a result, women experienced employment concerns, often being forced into low paying service sector jobs. Lack of adequate employment and income resulted in financial insecurity, and often forced the women to rely on social assistance. Family ties were broken during the refugee experience, and women lost valuable women’s networks in their home country. Lack of English proficiency and income stood as obstacles to the formation of new friendships in Canada. Gender dynamics were also disrupted within Eritrean refugee families. While Eritrea is a strictly patriarchal society and women occupied a subordinate status, these values are not tolerated in Canada. Men lost their sense of authority within their families, and women often became the primary breadwinners when men were unable to find employment. Eritrean refugee parents experienced a double burden of employment and childrearing. Maintaining a strong sense of their Eritrean cultural identity, while also transitioning into Canadian society is of primary concern.
           

            Media representations of Black women contribute to the building of a national identity. While shaping our opinions of oppressed peoples, media also constructs racialized bodies as “outsiders” within White Canadian society. These “outsiders,” or social deviants, are perspective threats to national identity. Less obvious forms of segregation exist to maintain “safe” spaces for the larger White population, and to prevent the crossing of boundaries between “normal” and “deviant” aspects of society. An example of this would be the “ghettoization” of Black communities, while White suburbs are normalized. Both living arrangements are essentially the same, but Black communities are seen as deviant. By portraying Black women as hypersexualized in the media, it renders them mere sexual objects for men and promotes their subordination in society. Negative portrayals of Black women result in a lack of role models for young women and girls, and limit their life chances. If the Black female experience is defined by a stereotype, how are Black women able to live authentic lives?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #16: Marie Kamukuny - Flying Fish in the Great White North (Review)

Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor’s book Flying Fish in the Great White North: The Autonomous Migration of Black Barbadians outlines an extremely important and ignored part of the history of Canadian immigration. It situates the West Indies, particularly Barbados, as having a history with Canada that I never knew existed due to the lack of its teaching and acknowledgment. The history of immigration policies in Canada is one filled with vile discrimination and overt racism--particularly anti-Black racism. It brings shame to, and taints the image of the accepting and inclusive, multicultural country we have been so distinctly taught. In par with the rest of the colonial lands, Canada, led and modelled by Great Britain, has its very own history of land theft, enslavement, segregation, genocide--all concepts that began with White superiority and supremacy.

The foundation of racism lies on the fragility of a concept such as skin colour, the identification of Africans as a monolithic colour. It continues to be the reasoning behind lack of value of Black lives. Lighter-skinned people worldwide are taught to internalize feelings of superiority while darker skinned people are encouraged to do the opposite. This goes back to the White hegemonic rule of Indigenous and African peoples. Whites have a history of cold-blooded murder, destruction of communities/families/culture, and a pattern of grounding it in religion--removing the guilt or empathy as they situate themselves as doing good. The ‘Curse of Ham’ is a great example of this, as it is often described as one of the key religious reasoning behind the justification for slavery.

Although the curse fails to mention Blackness or Africanness, the sons of Ham were misinterpreted to be Sub-Saharan or Black Africans and this text was used as a Biblical fact to justify slavery of Africans, which was endorsed and condoned by the church. Although there is no direct link to race or colour in the text, it became the foundation of anti-Black racism and slavery. The outcome of the oppressor's implications of this text is important to consider when thinking about current racial tensions and the concepts of racism. It aids in contextualizing the realities we have now, to understand that there are roots in the negative ideologies of Blackness and Black identity and many of these roots were formed here in Canada, specifically through immigration policies that continuously barred perfectly eligible West Indian Black people. On the quest toward creating a White liberal and Anglo-Saxon Canada, the Canadian government spearheaded by the British, created obscene policies and regulations that would make entrance into Canada by that of a person other than the White Christian, almost impossible. Barbadians showed a particular resistance to this pushback as they utilized education and government led Schemes in order to make their entrance into this land.

When looking at the history of Canadian immigration, it is essential to observe the reasoning behind leaving one’s home and emigrating to a unfamiliar place. In regards to Barbados, the dense population of the British colonial Island post-slavery led to a lack of opportunity available for the citizens. Their governments encouraged emigration in order to decrease the population size. In addition to this, following the rise of the Black Intellectual era education became an essential component of Barbadian culture and society. Education was largely government sponsored and funded, people were encouraged to study and use education as a tool to gain opportunities abroad. Education became the keys to a better future and a life outside of the Island. While this was good due to the fact that education provided a valuable service to its citizens is, as Dr. Taylor puts is, Barbados exported its most valuable commodity. Those who gained that British education that is so valuable abroad, were those whom the Island could not afford to lose for its own success. However, emigration to other British colonies, primarily the United Kingdom and Canada (also the United States) became the goal.

What followed this emigration was a negative response from both the British/Canadian governments and their citizens. The author describes “immigration policies prior to its deracialization as a major vector of state power through which Jim Crowism (anti-Black and social segregation) was institutionalized in Canada” (9). Such as the 1906 Immigrations Acts that excluded Black migrant settlements through invasive and unnecessary medical examinations.The government went through great lengths to lower the population of Black settlers and migrants, they did well in such that “between the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, most Black Canadians were native born” (9). Acts were utilized as a prime way to be overtly racist and have to not completely explain your position or have them make real sense. When a mass migration of Barbadians took place in the United Kingdom following WW2-- “an estimated sixty thousand” (Taylor 75). Eventually, the British government formed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act which was an act fuelled by anti-Black racism. As a direct response to the flow of British colony migrants of colour, this act was created to restrict movement. Citizens responses also fuelled these Acts, they responded by forming a series of violent attacks and hate crimes. They formed racist youth cults such as the ‘Teddy Boys’ who led and formulated many attacks. The government responded by trying to get rid of the Barbadian and West Indian migrants and prevent more from entering the country. This a history that is unknown to many people, one that is barely touched upon in Canadian history classes, this history is important to Canada as it was meant to be a country that reflected only the kind of Whiteness that the UK produced and actively worked to maintain it.

In Canada, despite its positive business related, trading affairs with the West Indies, racism still prevailed. Dr. Taylor quotes Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King saying the following WW2, in regards to Canadian racist immigration policies:

“I wish to make it quite clear that Canada is perfectly within her rights in selecting the persons whom we regard as desirable future citizens. It is not ‘fundamental human right’ of any alien to enter Canada. It is privilege. It is a matter of domestic policy.”

This to me summarizes the level of racism in Canadian immigration policies prior to it deracialization in 1962. Whiteness was a keep part in the Canadian nation building rhetoric and they were willing to go retouch lengths and enforcing senseless Acts in order to gain this ‘ideal citizen’--in order to keep non-white people, Black people, out. There were no politically, economical, or governmental strategic reasoning for excluding people based on race, yet Canada clearly excluded immigrants based on their race. They stated that “the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration shall decide if an immigrant is suitable for Canadian climate, society, education or that they do not have undesirable habits, customs and or model of life” (Taylor 113). These are texts that can be found in the archives of Canadian history yet it is not a piece of it which we are exposed to unless we seek it on our own based on some personal or social connection. Although Canadian immigration policy is ‘de-racialized’ today, I believe that once you understand and learn about the history of how it has been racialized in the past, you can find similar connections in these policies that are in place today.


Overall, I believe that Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor’s book Flying Fish in the Great White North: The Autonomous Migration of Black Barbadians book is truly detailed and informative. It uses both a historical facts and social narrative/analyse in order to showcase the ways in which both facts and societal analyses complete the missing gaps in history and root the social order we live in today. Canada is very dishonest about their past and they are deliberately removing the contributions of non White people and allow an understanding of whiteness as the foundation of Canadian identity. When we learn about the realities of the Canadian past, we start to understand why the racism that exists here is done in such a way that the victims are conflicted about acknowledging it as such. There is a very undertone version of racism in Canadian history that exists behind the mosaic blanket of multiculturalism.



Saturday, November 12, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #15: Nancy Turner - Racial Segregation and Litigation in Canadian History

Racial Segregation and Litigation in Canadian History.
Nancy Turner

When many think of racial segregation, most would probably think of Brown v. Board or Rosa Parks in the US rather than the history of Canadian racial segregation. Racism in Canada is severely overlooked, Judge John Sprott Archibald argued in 1899 “Slavery never had any wide influence in this country […] All men are equal before the law and each has equal rights as a member of the community”. Revisionist history like this has helped to hide the very real influence of racism present in Canada from the country’s inception. Walker Barrington’s book The African-Canadian Legal Odyssey reveals this secret past, bringing to the surface the stories and legal battles of those who questioned the discrimination they faced in Canada.

The first case I explored was that of Viola Desmond outlined by Constance Backhouse in Chapter 5. On the 8th November 1946, Black Business Woman Viola Desmond decided to watch a film at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. When attempting to take up a downstairs seat in the theatre she was told by the ticket attendant that these seats were reserved for white people and she must sit on the balcony section of the theatre. Viola refused to move and was forcefully ejected, arrested, detained over night, and fined. Viola’s case is arguably the most well known in Canadian history and has been given some acknowledgment in Canadian culture for example the incident was made into a Canadian Heritage minute on TV (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie0xWYRSX7Y); however, clips such as these oversimplify the dynamics of Viola’s case.

Firstly, while the Heritage Minute creates the impression that the community stood behind Viola completely, Constance Backhouse’s chapter complicates this. Viola did have some support from the community, for example her friend Pearleen Oliver convinced the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP) to provide legal support in Viola’s appeal case. However, there were still many who were reluctant to support Viola’s case fearing racial backlash, questioning the use of law to stop segregation and generally questioning if segregation in theatres was a pressing matter.

Secondly, although Pearleen Oliver argues the case touched a nerve in the Black community and enhanced the prestige of the Black community throughout the province; as a matter of legal precedent the case was a complete failure. The case and verdict were clouded by technicalities and refused to explicitly discuss the racial discrimination at hand.  Viola’s Lawyer (William Bisset) framed his legal review in racially neutral terms and the case was thrown out by the judge due to wrong use of legal review – the fact that Viola was Black was never even mentioned on the official record. As a result, to many it appeared clear that courts were not willing to defend individuals from racial discrimination or even acknowledge its existence and there was subsequently an increase in racist attacks in New Glasgow.  

Chapter 7 and 8 go on to discuss the case of Christie v. York. In 1938 the York Tavern in Montreal moved from its old location to the Montreal forum and with this move created a policy of refusing to serve Black people. Fred Christie had frequented the York Tavern in its original location but when Christie attempted to order himself and two friends a beer in the new location he was informed that he could not be served. Outraged Christie took this incident to court. Christie was initially successful in court winning his case on the basis that the tavern had violated section 33 of the Quebec Licence Act - No licensee for a restaurant may refuse without reasonable cause, to give food to travellers". However, the verdict was successfully appealed in 4-1 vote in the Supreme Court that found the Quebec Licence act not applicable. Just as in the Viola Desmond case, the court set a precedent that the freedom of commerce was more important than the freedom from discrimination.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Christie v. York case is the way in which Christie was introduced throughout the case that Eric Adams explores in Chapter 8. Justice Davis described Christie as a gentleman that had lived in Canada for 20 years, rooted him in a province a city and a suburb The fact that Christie had white friends was also deemed important and it was even made clear on the record that Christie was “not extraordinarily black”. Moreover, the fact that Christie was a Hockey fan and possessed a hockey season ticket was repeatedly mentioned and the entire case incident was understood as having happened after a hockey game – even though evidence shows that there were no hockey games on that day. Hockey became a shorthand way of understanding Christie as Canadian and a part of white Canadian culture. In the words of Adams the case implied “He deserves equal treatment not because of any free-standing abstract individual right to equality, but because, in a very real and practical sense, he is already a functional and accepted member of the city. Hockey tells us so.”

In the same way as Christie was repeatedly understood as a gentleman, Viola’s case was repeatedly framed as the injustice of a respectable lady being mistreated by thuggish, hostile men. It appears clear that throughout Canadian history if cases of racial discrimination are to be taken seriously enough to get to court the Black victims of discrimination must “act white”. The defence of the York Tavern even argued that part of the reason that Christie had been served in the past was because he had been mistaken for being white. It is clear therefore that that racial equality is not understood as a human right but instead as a right that is allowed if individuals “pass” as white.

Has this changed?

When you look at the demonization of movements such as Black Lives Matter movement by many that see it as too violent and aggressive it is clear that there is still a greater respect given to those that protest against their discrimination in a way that is quiet, restrained and put simply: “white”.



Interesting speech about “acting white”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShrWgdHEwHs

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #14: Kiran Bal - Carrie M. Best

Accrediting Carrie M. Best

By: Kiran Bal

Canadian history has documented the way in which a young, brave Black woman by the name of Viola Desmond pushed back against racial segregation by refusing to sit in the “Black section” of a theater she frequented. Many poems and short films about Desmond’s life have either been written, or are in the works. However, the accuracy behind whether or not Desmond was the initial trailblazer against racial segregation in the theater has proven to be not so accurate. In Constance Backhouse’s article “I was Unable to Identify with Topsy” Backhouse wrote about a woman named Carrie. M. Best who brought a lawsuit against racial segregation in Nova Scotia to court four years prior to Desmond after Best experienced the same racial discrimination. The Backhouse paper reported on an eventful court case that has been buried in Canadian legal archives for many years. In 1942, Carrie Best brought an action against a Nova Scotia theatre, charging the owners with overt racial discrimination in a public place.

In December of 1941, Norman Mason apparently decided it was time to respect the racist complaints of some of his White patrons who felt as though African-Canadians and Whites should be seated separately (after years of having so seating arrangements). He instructed the staff of the Roseland Theatre to insist that a new seating policy be implemented, and when several African-Canadian high school girls refused to comply, he had them forcibly ejected from the theatre. When Carrie Best learned what had happened, the forty-one year old woman resolved to take action. (Best v. Mason and Roseland Theatre, 1942). Her first strategy was to go to the theatre in person and insist that the discriminatory policy be dropped. When this failed, she wrote a letter to theatre-owner Norman Mason directly. In clear and forceful language, she recounted what had transpired, laid out her arguments against the discrimination, and demanded a change in policy. Best would actively attend the theatre and refuse to sit in the balcony seats that were designated for coloured people—as a result she was consistently thrown out of the theatre.

In 1941, there were no Canadian statutes expressly prohibiting racial segregation in public facilities. The first such legislation would not appear until 1947, when the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights Act, Canada's first comprehensive human rights statute, outlawed discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theatres, business ventures, employment, housing and education.

Best ended up taking Mason and the theatre to court only to lose her case. The preceding Judge Graham conceded that theatres advertised their services generally to the public. However, it was his view that "the management had the right to exclude anyone from the theatre." Theatres were no different from private dwellings, as far as Judge Graham was concerned. "The ordinary citizen had the right to exclude anyone from their home unless a contract had been entered into," he stated before urging the jury to disregard any other questions raised in the litigation. All else was "irrelevant. Frustrated but not defeated Best took up a career in journalism, going on to start The Clarion newspaper and through her passionate writing and active resistance against racial segregation she won many awards and acknowledgements of public service. Four years later when Viola Desmond experienced the same prejudice, Best helped her formulate her case. Desmond, unlike Best, won her case, which is perhaps why her story has been better documented—her story and victory illustrates a progressive stride for Black Canadians whereas Best’s case is an example of the oppressive discriminatory nature of legislation in Canada that is forgotten in Canadian history.  In spite of the fact that the fights of both of these women are equally valid and both helped to ameliorate racist segregation by making valid contributions to the community, it is important to create an accurate timeline of Black Canadian history and appoint credit to all Black women who fought for equality and justice in order to create a more complete and accurate reiteration of Black Canadian history.

The link below is an example of the way Viola Desmond’s story has been documented in a Canadian Heritage Moment:

Constance Backhouse Article:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

#WS3330F Blog Post #13: Natalie Gaskin - Black Refugees

 Stories of Black people in general is unwritten in Canadian history, however, this claim is particularly true for Black women. Our understanding of Black women and how they came to Canada is lionized through names like Harriet Tubman, who took an estimated 19 trips into slave territory and recused over three hundred slaves from bondage. Her incredible life and deeds took a course that few women would or could emulate, however, her courage and tenacity in the face of all odds was certainly not unique in the history of African-Canadian women. The problem here is that we rarely are taught about much more than Tubman herself, as her name alone has come to symbolize in many ways the struggle for all African people working toward freedom and justice.

Between 1815 and 1865, it is estimated that tens of thousands of African-Americans sought refuge on Canadian soil. These settlers were free Blacks migrating from northern free states & fugitive slaves, for whom the road to freedom was made possible via The Underground Railroad (UGRR). The UGRR took place during 1850 to 1860 as a response to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which made it legal to capture Black people, free or not, and return them back into slavery. The Railroad was comprised of a series of secret routes or ‘trains’ through northern states to ‘terminals’ in Canada. After reaching non-slaveholding northern states, some Blacks received aid through organized systems that spirited them to freedom, which involved ‘conductors’ who personally transported ‘passengers’ from point A to B or ‘station-masters’ who received and hid arrivals at transfer points (Ch. 2, 42). It is important to mention that many of these freedom seekers actually received little or no aid, resulting in the slave's’ own locomotion north and into Canada. The UGRR undoubtedly saved many African-Americans, however the number of women who were able to seek freedom to Canada was proportionality fewer than men.

Why? Deborah Gray Write gives insight into this female fugitive phenomenon. Firstly, the age profile of the average fugitive was 16-18, the peak years for childbearing at the time. In a slave family, the decision of who could escape was based on who could run without encumbrance; as you could imagine, a pregnant mother or a mother travelling with a young infant was much more difficult than running freely in full health. As Adrienne Shadd puts it, “a fugitive mother simply did not have the same assurances that her babies would be properly cared for if she became a fugitive” (Ch. 2, 43). And the fact that more women were unable to take flight has its explanation in the nature of female slavery itself.

William Still, a Black abolitionist from Philadelphia ran a well-organized UGRR depot with his wife that aided hundreds of fugitives by providing food, shelter, clothing, and free passage to destinations in the North. It is through William Still’s dairies, that we are able to put Harriet Tubman’s life in context as one of the untold thousands of previously unknown women who endured similar risks and hardships and exhibited similar courage and tenacity in the fight for themselves and their people.

I wanted to conclude with one case in particular that has stuck with me. Margaret Garner, a woman who may not have had the same ability to escape and save as many people as Tubman did, should be seen as a woman with the same courage that Tubman had. Garner escaped from Kentucky with her husband, in-laws, and four of her children. Sadly, she was captured in Ohio. Knowing the horrors of slavery, she attempted to ‘save’ her children the only way she knew how by grabbing a butcher knife and slitting their throats, with the intention of finishing with her own. Although she was over-powered after killing only one and sent back into bondage, along with her remaining three children and the dead body of the fourth, her story is one that is important in understanding the extents to which Black woman resisted slavery and attempted to save those around them. Women who risked their lives in escaping freedom or in helping others escape are much higher than you might expect; Harriet Tubman was only one of many who fought for free life in Canada for themselves and their families. The antislavery work and the struggle against racism was particularly burdensome, yet, the vibrancy of the communities and Black women’s push for self-improvement, courage, tenacity, and racial advancement was exceptional.  

#WS3330F Blog Post #12: Saredo Mohamed - 19th and Early 20th Century Black Women in Canada

Blog Post:19th and Early 20th Century Black Women in Canada
·       Reading: Chapter #4: Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb

Within the text, “Black Women and Work in 19th Century Canada West: Black Woman Teacher Mary Bibb”, Afua Cooper explores the life of abolitionist activist and teacher, Mary Bibb. Mary Bibb, along with her husband Henry, migrated from Boston to Sandwich Canada West as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act, which granted American slave holders from the south to travel North to recapture escaped slaves, resulted in a mass exodus to Canada. Many of these people already established in the north with forms of education, trades, and they were leaving economic stability.

Clip:


Bibb’s First School & Entrepreneurial Spirit
Within Black communities in Canada, there existed an entrepreneurial spirit that pushed Mary Bibb, and her husband Henry to initiate Black empowerment projects. As Henry founded a newspaper titled “The Voice of the Fugitive”, Mary opened a school in her region to provide Black children with access to education.
In the same year, provincial legislature passed an act that promoted segregated schooling. This act legalized the creation of Black academic institutions, which was used as a justification by White Canadians to bar Black students from attending their schools.

For the many years that Mary Bibb taught in Canada she was acutely aware that the powers-that-be meant for Blacks to be placed firmly at the bottom of society’s ladder. Inferior education was one way to ensure this outcome.”
// Afua Cooper, pg. 122
Although Bibb was dedicated in her efforts to combat state-sanctioned racism through education, she was forced to resign from her position shortly after a year. According to Cooper, the school was unsustainable for 2 reasons. Firstly, parental poverty within the region made it difficult for adults to invest in these institutions. As a result, Bibb was not compensated for her efforts. Secondly, the lack of governmental financial support tied with this parental poverty made the schools collapse inevitable.

Bibb’s Second School
In 1852, Bibb moved to Windsor and once again, founded a school for her community members. This school was successful because of Bibb’s determination to have a private institution independent of the government.

Discussion Question: In what ways can education be used as both a tool of marginalization and liberation for Black Canadians, and specifically Black Canadian women?

Notably, Bibb aspired for her second school to be open to all “irrespective of colour”. In her last spring term in 1855, there were 46 pupils, 7 of which were White students.     Let’s consider Afro-centric Alternative Schools in Toronto!



Discussion: After acknowledging Canada’s history of excluding Blacks from academia through legislation, are Afro-centric schools helpful/necessary to combat anti-black racism? What do you think about Afro-centric schools? Are they still useful institutions?

Other Black Empowerment projects in Windsor:
·       Bibb assisted in local religious services
§  Sunday school was the only opportunity for many blacks to receive education in Essex county
·       Helped to establish Windsor anti-slavery society
Cooper notes that Bibb was influential in aiding in the settlement of Black ‘refugees’ in Canada. This is interesting because Cooper evokes the language of ‘refugee’, which I would, not deemed these migrants prior to reading the text.

Discussion: What links can we make between the experiences/treatments of Black migrants/refugees in Canada in the19th century and current Black refugees in Canada?



Jane Rhodes Reading: Mary Ann Shadd Cary


·       First Black female publisher in North America
§  Edited ‘Provincial Freeman 1853”
·       First female publisher in Canada
·       Abolitionist
·       1850 – Moved to Buxton due to Fugitive Slave Act



#WS3330F Blog Post #11: Samah Ali - Black Women During WWII

Breaking Barriers and Staying Resilient: Black Women during WWII

Dionne Brand examines the history of Black female entry into jobs outside of the domestic sphere in “‘We weren’t allowed to go into factory work until Hitler started the war’: The 1920s to the 1940s”. By interviewing various women and archiving their experiences during World War II in Canada, it’s clear that Black women could not access other work fields due to their race and gender. Black men were regulated to labour-intensive jobs while Black women were pigeonholed into domestic work. These jobs did not offer women reasonable pay as some were paid through items of clothing instead of money. As a result domestic work kept Black women stagnant in the early twentieth century due to low income and high work demands however the oncoming war opened up the job market.
Since white men were required to serve for the Canadian forces, industrial jobs were increasing and allowed women to break gender norms and access the mechanical work industry. Marjorie Lewsey mentions this in her anecdote saying, “Really and truly, we weren’t allowed to go into factory work until Hitler started the war, and then they’d beg you, ‘Would you like a job in my factory?’ But we weren’t allowed in [before]. We were left more or less to clean their dirty houses” (Bristow 179). 

Black men also considered the war their opportunity to raise their rank in society through economic means as well as educational resources offered to soldiers and veterans. As Black men took these opportunities Black women shared the same beliefs since industrial jobs offered a consistent and higher salary than domestic work. An anecdote from Bertha McAleer expresses this as she says, “When I come to think of it – my goodness, the place could’ve been blown up! You didn’t really think too much about it, not when you’re younger” (Bristow 185). The increased pay outweighed working conditions since it was a means to survive and a job opportunity outside of the tired, unwanted domestic sphere. And even though fighting in the war and working in industrial factories were marketed as a time to step up for the country, most people took these jobs for economic purposes rather than following their patriotic duties.

Factories were often integrated and this gave blacks the opportunity to demystify myths, stereotypes, and ignorant thoughts that white people believed. It also proved Black women’s capability to perform the same amount of work as whites so when the war ended they refused to return to their previous jobs. The absence in domestic workers eventually caused white women to resort to migrant workers for their house chores since Black women had opened up new job markets for themselves after the war and refused to return to their disliked working standards before.

Acknowledging the previous obstacles set in place to bracket Black women into certain jobs, their expansion into different work fields was a product of the war rather than societal changes or governmental policies. Remembering this is essential in understanding why Black women continuously have to prove themselves in the workplace since they were never really welcomed there but rather stayed resilient to keep their jobs in their field. Despite the new jobs being an opportunity giving them the ability to combat stereotypical thought, their agency amended a societal norm rather than removing it all together, allowing it to live on today.

Bristow, Peggy. "'We Weren't Allowed to Go into Factory Work until Hitler Started the War': The 1920s to the 1940s." We're Rooted Here and They Can't Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women's History. Toronto: U of Toronto, 1994. 171-92. Print.