The Winds of change have just arrived

In the midst of the lynchings and massacres of this period, some Supreme Court decisions of note emerged. In Powell v. Alabama (1932), eight of nine African American men, the Scottsboro Boys, who had been accused of raping two white women, had been rapidly sentenced to death in one-day trials. They had seen their attorneys just before the trials and had no opportunity to construct an adequate defense and appealed on that basis. The Alabama Supreme Court rejected the appeal, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in capital cases, to satisfy due process requirements, a defendant had to be given access to his attorney when requested. According to the court, the defendants had not received a fair and impartial trial, nor had they been adequately afforded the right to counsel. The
court recognized that they had been tried by juries from which blacks had been excluded. In Norris v. Alabama (1935), Scottsboro convictions were overturned yet again because African Americans had been excluded from the jury pool.

The period of World War II had a marked effect on African Americans, partly because the dissatisfaction with stateside discrimination that had been
feared from World War I veterans was greatly multiplied in returning World War II soldiers, who had seen the workings of race elsewhere, had fought
bravely against white men, and had earned rank and accolades. African American soldiers had faced discrimination in the military, including the excessive use of “blue discharges,” a dishonorable discharge from the military disproportionately used on blacks that also stripped them of many military benefits. Still, substantive desegregation in the United States came early in the armed forces, when a 1948 order by President Harry Truman integrated the military, including military posts and bases and living areas—base housing, schools, and amenities. This period also saw increasing attention to the causes of African American crime, especially in urban areas that would see a second wave of black migration to the northeast. In Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas (1942), C. R. Shaw
and Henry McKay linked delinquency and crime to the health of communities and the effects of segregation and economic status. These observations recalled Du Bois’s observations about immigration, slum-dwelling, and crime in Philadelphia and Chicago, and looked ahead to scholarly studies of unemployment, black family disintegration, and juvenile violence in the late 20th century.


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