The Return of the Soldier

 

returnofthesoldiercharleswhite            

The Return of the Soldier, Charles White, 1946, African American Odyssey,Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query

This post is pretty eerie, and I think that it represents something that is pretty unfamiliar to me. In today’s day in age it’s pretty explicit that soldiers are nicely welcomed back to the states. The idea is to hate the game not the player when it comes to welcoming home troops. Yeah sure there are issues with veterans getting jobs and readjusting back to civilian lifestyle, but overall it’s not as though people go out of their way to be rude to soldiers. In this picture race is playing a huge role because it is bunch African American soldiers being oppressed by a white police officer who is linking arms with a Ku Klux Klan member. That’s irony. Because these are soldiers who went off to war, and put their life on the line for that police officer or Ku Klux Klan member, and yet they still can’t give the African American soldiers a break. Part of the reason none of the Axis powers set foot on American soil is because African Americans made sacrifices for their country.

I think that the artist was trying to say when he sketched this was that, ‘Yeah the whole world is in conflict, but the U.S. still has some serious problems domestically.’ World War II was one of the most fragile time periods of the 20th century, which included the most horrible atrocities in Europe known to man, yet this sketch reminds us that there were still some awful atrocities going on back home. In the 40’s racism was still alive and very prevalent, despite the other conflicts in the world.  It reminds us that not every soldier was rewarded for their back breaking work.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Return of the Soldier”

  1. This poster and the nature of this post reminds me of a novel I read a few years ago, called ‘Mudbound,’ by Hilary Jordan. The novel was told through multiple narrators, whose stories intertwined with each other. It took place in the 1940s on a farm on the Mississippi Delta. One of the characters, Ronsel Jackson, is a young black man, returning from the European front, relearning the mores of the Jim Crow era. The poster reminds me of reading about Ronsel’s struggles– entering building through the back door, sitting in the back seat of the car, not looking a while person in the eyes, etc. Both the poster and the novel highlight the hypocrisy of the American people during that time. While Americans protested the violation of human rights carried out by the Axis powers, they perpetuated racism and segregation in their home country.
    The hostility black soldiers faced returning home is similar to that Vietnam War veterans faced as they assimilated back into civilian life. Many Americans disliked the war, and took their frustration out on the soldiers returning from Vietnam. I would be interested to look into propaganda during the 1960s, to see if there are any cartoons, posters, photographs, etc. that criticize the treatment of the soldiers returning from war.

  2. This image isn’t just about the treatment of soldiers. The KKK member seems to be pulling the strings as he is holding the whip. It just goes to show how their radical beliefs penetrated every facet of society at that time period.

  3. Yes, anthony, I think it’s important to note the positioning of the KKK member’s right hand. White is trying to make a point that the KKK and other racist individuals/groups had a strong influence over what happened in the US at this time. I think this image is more complicated than some of the others posted (which may account for the fewer comments) because its historical context is difficult to understand. The US had a strange (and unfair) relationship with the black soldiers who fought during WW2. While black soldiers fought to protect their country, they were unable to exercise some of the rights they put theirs lives at risk to defend. To be honest I don’t know a lot about how black veterans were treated after WW2, but this image makes me want to do some research. Perhaps this black veteran situation is swept under the rug in most American history discussions, but White’s image (and spencer’s choice to post this image) brings the topic to light.

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