Recognizing the potential of World War II to serve as a catalyst in the equal rights struggle, many African Americans adopted a “double V for a double victory” campaign—victory against democracy’s enemies at home and abroad. In Baltimore, Maryland, activists embraced Double V themes to mobilize support for equal rights protests and campaigns in a sustained attack on Jim Crow that lasted throughout the war’s duration. This all-out charge by Black activists—and not a few white allies—included wartime employment, public accommodations, direct political action, housing, and racial unity campaigns. In wartime Baltimore, the city’s neighborhoods, defense plants, theaters, parks, and department stores became contested sites, where its Black and white citizens played out the racial politics of the Jim Crow segregationist culture. In the end, most white Baltimoreans chose to resist changes to the local Jim Crow racial status quo and to keep Baltimore a Jim Crow city. Yet, despite defeat in the war against Jim Crow, Baltimore’s Black activists gained much from the lessons and legacies of their wartime equal-rights struggle. In many ways, wartime protest and confrontation, in the Baltimore case, was a “turning point” in the local equal-rights struggle—forging interracial alliances, reshaping local (and ultimately state and regional) politics, and laying the foundation for the eventual defeat of Jim Crow in its northernmost outpost. Well before the emergence of a national civil rights movement, Baltimore had already entered the modern civil rights movement phase of its centuries-long Black freedom struggle.

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