Segregation and Blood Donation in World War II

A majority of Americans believed the United States’ entry into World War II was just. The world had already witnessed German atrocities and the cruelty of the Japanese before the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Despite presenting a united front to the rest of the world, the United States was, in part, divided.

Racial segregation was a widespread policy in the United States. Even when trying to help their country defeat its enemies, African-Americans experienced discrimination. Many black Americans, like the rest of their countrymen, sought to aid the war effort. One way to do so was to give blood. However, the Red Cross turned away many African-Americans when they approached the organization to donate blood, as noted by Thomas A. Guglielmo of George Washington University.

The Red Cross’s refusal to accept black Americans’ blood caused uproar in the African-American community. Civil rights leaders, such as Walter White of the NAACP, spoke out against the American Red Cross and its policies, said author Spencie Love. Despite the activists’ efforts, it took until after the war for the policy to change.

The Red Cross finally ended its policy of segregating blood in 1950. However, Susan E. Lederer explained how some southern states continued to segregate donated blood into the 1970s.

Segregation was one of the great sins in American History. Although ostensibly in the past, its effects on American society remain prevalent. Race relations continue to be an ongoing problem. With this in mind, Americans ought to learn from the past and use yesterday’s lessons to tackle today’s social and racial issues.

Americans should also take a moment to appreciate the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement who worked towards building a more peaceable and equal union.