African Americans in World War II
Courtesy of the National Archives.
The war dramatically accelerated the pace of economic change for black women. The demand for war materials and the entry of millions of men into the armed services created an unprecedented labor shortage in the United States. Millions of new jobs were created in the clerical and manufacturing fields, opening up opportunities for women and racial and ethnic minorities to secure new and better kinds of employment. Between 1940 and 1944, the proportion of black women workers employed in industrial work nearly tripled, from 6.8 percent to 18.0 percent. For many African American women, the move from domestic to industrial labor and from the rural South to the industrial North would be a permanent one, with dramatic social consequences. This photograph shows 21-year old Bertha Stallworth inspecting the end of a 40mm artillery cartridge case at Frankford Arsenal, near Philadelphia.