"They Are Hiring the White Women but They Won't Hire the Colored Women": Black Women Confront Racism and Sexism in the Richmond Shipyards During World War II
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- Publisher: DigitalCommons@USU
They | hiring | white | women | won't | colored | black | racism | sexism | richmond | shipyards | world war ii | History
During World War II, black women migrated largely out of the South to take advantage of the growing defense industries in California. Black women flocked to the shipbuilding industry in Richmond for the great economic opportunities industrial jobs offered. What they found when they arrived and attempted to secure jobs in the shipyards hardly lived up to their dreams and expectations. Black women found themselves faced with dual discrimination due to their race and gender.
The shortage of available manpower opened up the traditionally white male shipbuilding industry to women and minorities but it did not guarantee them equal treatment or employment opportunities. Women faced hostile treatment from their male coworkers, especially in the form of sexual harassment, while black workers experienced racist comments and behavior. Black women experienced both gender and racial harassment. Yet, they chose not to fight against the interpersonal discrimination they experienced in the workplace.
Black women fought against the dual discrimination that hindered their employment opportunities. The shipyards and the union worked together to limit the employment opportunities of black women. They practiced many methods of discrimination that denied black women jobs. The union used residency requirements and a quota system to limit black women’s access to shipyard jobs. This discrimination extended beyond hiring practices. The shipyards and union worked together to keep black women out of skilled occupations regardless of their training and prior experience. They also denied black women access to supervisory positions. These discriminatory policies and practices severely limited the employment opportunities of black women but they continuously fought for greater access to jobs and sought government support for their efforts.
As black women confronted this double burden due to their race and gender, they fought most strongly against discrimination that affected their employment opportunities. They migrated to the Bay Area to take advantage of industrial jobs in the shipbuilding industry and they did everything in their power to acquire these jobs despite the many forms of discrimination that attempted to thwart their plans.