Last Wednesday I visited six cities on Southwest Airlines. I was I accompanying my sister home from Cleveland where she had a successful revision to her ten year old hip replacement. We flew from Cleveland to Chicago, to St. Louis, to Tulsa where I dropped her off. Then I flew on on to Phoenix and finally home to Reno.
I had lots of time to read as we puddle jumped across the U.S. I finished the last 200+ pages of No Ordinary Time – Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin. What a great book!
The book provided several learnings and surprises for me. I realized how ignorant I am about the history of prejudice in this country. Although I knew that segregation and racial prejudice were prevalent in the 1940’s, I did not really appreciate how bad it was. Black men were only allowed to enlist in the Navy as mess men. In the Army black soldiers were not allowed to fight. Segregation and terrible conditions were the norm. Goodwin summarizes the progress made during the war. “Between 1940 and 1945 the Negro Military Force had increased in size from 5,000 to 920,000 and the number of Negro officers had grown from 5 to over 7,000. Moreover, whereas almost every Negro soldier in 1940 was confined to a service unit, by war’s close Negroes held responsible jobs in almost every branch of the army as artillerymen, tankmen, infantrymen, pilots, paratroopers, doctors and more.” When I realize that the young African American men who were being treated so badly as second class citizens during World War II were the peers of my father it gives me some small window of empathy for the feelings that African Americans of my fathers generation must have. I could certainly understand bitterness. It certainly makes me ashamed of our country’s history.
No Ordinary Time also gave me a lot of insight into the strengths and weaknesses of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and their relationship. I knew FDR was a great leader. I certainly didn’t realize that the war in Europe didn’t even start until the very end of his second term. I had some understanding of what an extraordinary woman Eleanor was but I had no idea how hard she worked and what a large contribution she made both to the war effort and to FDR’s success.
Eleanor published a newspaper column “My Day” from 1935 to 1962. She wrote the column consistently six days a week. When I think of how I can’t even manage to write a blog a day it impresses me that she published 400 words every day and never missed a day except for 4 days when FDR died. She was a blogger ahead of her time .