Skip to main content Accessibility help

From “Wops and Dagoes and Hunkies” to “Caucasian”: Changing Racial Discourse in American Classrooms during World War II

  • Zoë Burkholder


Margaret Gillum was distressed. Her sophomore English students in Terre Haute, IN were making “sneering remarks” about “dirty foreigners,” even though she implored them to use language that reflected the principles of “brotherhood” and “true neighborliness.” Pressed into action by the catastrophic world war unfolding around her, Gillum decided to teach her students to be more tolerant of human diversity. Describing her successful lesson to colleagues in a popular teaching journal in 1941, Gillum explained, “There are in my city a number of racial groups gathered into neighborhoods, as one finds them everywhere: Syrians, Italians, French, and a large number of Germans and Jews, as well as three distinct communities of Negroes drifted up from the South.” Hoping to foster empathy for the “racial groups” in her community, Gillum initiated her lesson by asking students to list familiar racial epithets. Her students responded enthusiastically and as Gillum called out the names of different “races” her students shouted back their answers:

      And what do we call Italians—Dagoes!
      And the Germans?—Dutchmen!
      The Irish?—Oh, Pat or Mike!



Hide All

1 Gillum, MargaretInternationalism at Home: An Experiment with Sophomores,“ English Journal 30, no. 1 (1941): 6365, quote on 63.

2 Ibid, 63–64.

3 Ibid., 65. On the origin and expansion of die movement to teach cultural gifts in American schools, see Selig, Diana Americans All: The Cultural Gifts Movement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).

4 Guglielmo, Thomas A. White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

5 Roediger, David R. Working toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White (New York: Basic Books, 2005).

6 Pascoe, Peggy What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Hattam, Victoria In the Shadow of Race: Jews, Latinos, and Immigrant Politics in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); Baum, Bruce The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race: A Political History of Racial Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2006); Goldstein, Eric L. The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); Williams, Vernon J. Jr., The Social Sciences and Theories of Race (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006); Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness; Guglielmo, White on Arrival; Hodes, Martha “The Mercurial Nature and Abiding Power of Race: ATransnational Family Story,” American Historical Review 108 (2003): 84–118; Gerstle, Gary American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Guterl, Matthew Pratt The Color of Race in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); Jacobson, Matthew Frye Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1816–1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000); Smedley, Audrey Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Baker, Lee D. Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896–1954 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, Gossett, Thomas F. Race: The History of an Idea in America, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Williams, Vernon J. Jr., Rethinking Race: Franz Boas and His Contemporaries (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996); Bederman, Gail Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Ignatiev, Noel How the Irish Became White (New York: Routledge, 1995); Barkan, Elazar The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race in Britain and the United States Between the World Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks “African American Women's History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Signs 17, no. 2 (1992): 251–74; Roediger, David Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso, 1991); Fields, Barbara J. “Ideology and Race in American History,” in Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C Vann Woodward, ed. Morgan Kouser, J. and McPherson, James M. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 143–72.

7 Although American historians have not fully considered how schools construct and influence racial ideologies, anthropologists, sociologists, and scholars of critical race theory in education have produced some provocative contemporary studies of schools as racializing institutions. See Cole, Mike Critical Race Theory and Education: A Marxist Response (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Taylor, Edward Gillborn, David, and Ladson-Billings, Gloria, ed., Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education (New York: Routledge, 2009); Gresson, Aaron David III, Race and Education (New York: Peter Lang, 2008); Gloria Ladson-Billings, “It's Not the Culture of Poverty, It's the Poverty of Culture,” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 37, no. 2 (2006): 104–9; Sarah Jewett, “‘If You Don't Identify with Your Ancestry, You're Like a Race without a Land’: Constructing Race at a Small Urban Middle School,” Education and Anthropology Quarterly 37, no. 2 (2006): 144–61; Lee, Stacey J. Up Against Whiteness: Race, School, and Immigrant Youth (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005); Sarroub, Loukia K. All American Yemeni Girls: Being Muslim in a Public School (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Pollock, Mica Colormute: Race Talk Dilemmas in an American School (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004); Amanda Lewis, Race in the Schoolyard: Negotiating the Color Line in Classrooms and Communities (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003); Yon, Daniel A. Elusive Culture: Schooling, Race, and Identity in Global Times (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000); Parker, Laurence Deyhle, Donna, and Villenas, Sophia, ed., Race Is … Race Isn't: Critical Race Theory and Qualitative Studies in Education (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999). For a compelling historical analysis of race in Brazilian schools, see Davila, Jerry Diplomas of Whiteness: Race and Social Policy in Brazil, 1917–1945 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004). For an analysis of how American history, as it is currently taught in schools, constructs particular ideas about race, see Richardson, Theresa R. and Johanningmeier, Erwin V, Race, Ethnicity, and Education: What is Taught in School (Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2003).

8 See the section “Becoming Caucasian, 1924–1965,” in Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 91–135.

9 For a critique of “whiteness” studies in particular, see Kolchin, PeterWhiteness Studies: The New History of Race in America,“ Journal of American History 89, no. 1 (2002): 154—-73; Eric Arnesen, “Whiteness and the Historians’ Imagination,” International Labor and Working Class History 60 (2001): 3–32.

10 Boas was the first to examine how textbooks defined the concept of “race.” His results were published as American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom, Science Condemns Racism: A Reply to the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York (New York: ACDIF, 1939), which is available in the New York Public Library, New York, NY. Before 1939, minority activists critiqued how schoolbooks portrayed their own minority groups, see Zimmerman, Jonathan Whose America?: Culture Wars in the Public Schools (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), part 1, “The History Wars.”

11 Boas secured the support of major social science, educational, and religious organizations for his efforts including the American Anthropological Association, ACDIR Science Condemns Racism, 1.

12 On Franz Boas’ reform efforts in public schools, see Burkholder, Zoë‘With Science as His Shield': Teaching Race and Culture in American Public Schools“ (PhD diss., New York University, 2008), especially chap. 2, “Education, Freedom, and Democracy': Franz Boas and Race Education Reform, 1939–1942.” Also see Burkholder, Zoë “‘Out to DeBunk the Bunk': Antiracist Teaching in the 1940s and Today,” Teachers College Record, 17 July 2007; Zoe Burkholder, “Franz Boas and Anti-Racist Education,” Anthropology News 47, no. 7 (2006): 24–25.

13 On the relationship between World War II and race in America, see Litwack, Leon F. How Free Is Free? The Long Death of Jim Crow (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 5194; Sullivan, Patricia Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: The New Press, 2009), 237–86; Chen, Anthony S. “‘The Hitlerian Rule of Quotas’: Racial Conservatism and the Politics of Fair Employment Legislation in New York State,” Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (2006): 1238–64; Guglielmo, Thomas A. “Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas,” Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (2006): 1212–37; McEnaney, Laura “Nightmares on Elm Street: Demobilizing in Chicago, 1945–1953,” Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (2006): 1265–91; Gerstle, Gary “The Crucial Decade: The 1940s and Beyond, “Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (2006): 1292–99; Kryder, Daniel Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State during World War II (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Takaki, Ronald Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 2000); Barbara Diane Savage: Broadcasting Freedom: Radio, War, and the Politics of Race, 1938–1948 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999); Nelson, Bruce “Organized Labor and the Struggle for Black Equality in Mobile During World War II,” Journal of American History 80, no. 3 (1993): 952–88; Sullivan, Patricia Days of Hope: Race and Democracy in the New Deal Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Dower, John W. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986); Philip Gleason, “Americans All: World War II and the Shaping of American Identity,” Review of Politics 43, no. 4 (1981): 483–518. On the impact of World War II on American schools, see Dorn, Charles American Education, Democracy, and the Second World War (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007); Giordano, Gerard Wartime Schools: How World War II Changed American Education (New York: Peter Lang, 2004); Shafer, Robert “Multicultural Education in New York City During World War II,” New York History 77, no. 3 (1996): 301–32; James, Thomas Exile Within: The Schooling of Japanese Americans, 1942–1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987); Kandel, Isaac L. The Impact of the War Upon American Education (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948).

14 Hall, Jacquelyn DowdThe Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the PastJournal of American History 91, no. 4 (2005): 1233–64.

15 Stulberg, Lisa Race, Schools, and Hope: African Americans and School Choice After Brown (New York: Teachers College Press, 2008); Fairclough, Adam A Class of Their Own: Black Teachers in the Segregated South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Theoharis, Jeanne “‘Alabama on Avalon': Rethinking the Watts Uprising and the Character of Black Protest in Los Angeles,” in The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era, ed. Joseph, Peniel E. (New York: Routledge, 2006), 27–54; Cherry A. McGee Banks, Improving Multicultural Education: Lessons From the Intergroup Education Movement (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005); Guinier, Lani “From Racial Liberalism to Racial Literacy: Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest Divergence,” Journal of American History 91, no. 1 (2004): 92–118; Payne, Charles M. “‘The Whole United States is Southern!': Brown v. Board and the Mystification of Race,” Journal of American History 91, no. 1 (2004): 83–91; Scott, Daryl Michael “Postwar Pluralism, Brown v. Board of Education, and the Origins of Multiculturalism,” Journal of American History 91, no. 1 (2004): 69–91; Zimmerman, JonathanBrown-ing the American Textbook: History, Psychology, and the Origins of Modern Multiculturalism,” History of Education Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2004): 46–69; Pak, Yoon K. “‘If There Is a Better Intercultural Plan in Any School System in America, I Do Not Know Where It Is': The San Diego City Schools Intercultural Education Program, 1946–1949,” Urban Education 37, no. 5 (2002): 588–609; Patterson, James A. Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Walker, Vanessa Siddle “African American Teaching in the South: 1940–1960,” American Educational Research Journal 38, no. 4 (2001): 751–79; Dougherty, Jack “‘That's When We Were Marching for Jobs': Black Teachers and the Early Civil Rights Movement in Milwaukee,” History of Education Quarterly 38, no. 2 (1998): 121–41; Banks, James A. ed., Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (New York: Teachers College Press, 1996); Fultz, Michael “Teacher Training and African American Education in the South, 1900–1940,” The Journal of Negro Education 64, no. 2 (1995): 196–210; Fultz, Michael “African American Teachers in the South, 1890–1940: Powerlessness and the Ironies of Expectations and Protest,” History of Education Quarterly 35, no. 4 (1995): 401–22; Fultz, Michael “‘The Morning Cometh': African-American Periodicals, Education, and the Black Middle Class, 1900–1930,” The Journal of Negro History 80, no. 3 (1995): 97–112; Anderson, James D. The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Montalto, Nicholas V. A History of the Intercultural Education Movement, 1924–1941 (New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1982); Wilkinson, Harvie J. From Brown to Bakke: The Supreme Court and School Integration, 1954–1978 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979).

16 This seems to be the case despite the voluminous scholarship on anthropological luminaries Boas, Benedict and Mead, see: Baker, Lee D. Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); Cherneff, Jill B. R. and Hochwald, Eve, ed., Visionary Observers: Anthropological Inquiry and Education (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006); Young, Virginia Heyer Ruth Benedict: Beyond Relativity, Beyond Pattern (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005); Pierpont, Claudia Roth “The Measure of America: How a Rebel Anthropologist Waged a War on Racism,” New Yorker 80, no. 3 (2004): 48–63; Banner, Lois W. Intertwined Lives: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict and Their Circle (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003); Lapsley, Hilary Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict: The Kinship of Women (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999); Baker, From Savage to Negro, Liss, Julia E. “Diasporic Identities: The Science and Politics of Race in the Work of Franz Boas and Bois, W.E.B. Du 1894–1919,” Cultural Anthropology 13, no. 2 (1998): 127–66; Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism; Williams, Vernon J. Jr., Rethinking Race; Hyatt, Marshall Franz Boas Social Activist: The Dynamics of Ethnicity (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990); Howard, Jane Margaret Mead, A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984); Mabee, Carleton “Margaret Mead and a ‘Pilot Experiment’ in Progressive and Interracial Education: The Downtown Community School,” New York History 65, no. 1 (1984): 5–31; Modell, Judith Schachter Ruth Benedict: Patterns of a Life (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1983); Stocking, George W. Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974).

17 Takaki, Double Victory, 1421; Kennedy, David M. Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

18 Dorn, American Education, Democracy, and the Second World War, Mirel, Jeffrey E.The Politics of Educational Retrenchment in Detroit, 1929–1935,“ History of Education Quarterly 24, no. 3 (1984): 323–58; Tyack, David Lowe, Robert, and Hansot, Elisabeth, Public Schools in Hard Times: The Great Depression and Recent Years (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 27–41; Kandel, The Impact of the War Upon American Education.

19 Journals examined: American Unity, Boston Teachers Newsletter, Common Ground, Elementary English Review, The English Journal, Frontiers of Democracy, High Points in the Work of the High Schools of New York City, Journal of the National Education Association, Massachusetts Teacher, New York Teacher, The Science Teacher, Social Education, and The Social Studies.

20 See for example, Baum, The Rise and Fall of the Caucasian Race; Guglielmo, White on Arrival; Gerstle, American Crucible; Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color; Smedley, Race in North America; Gossett, Race.

21 Mirel, Jeffrey E. Patriotic Pluralism: Americanization Education and European Immigrants (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Zimmerman, Whose America, 13–80; Zimmerman, Jonathan “Ethnics Against Ethnicity: European Immigrants and Foreign-Language Instruction, 1890–1940,” Journal of American History 88, no. 4 (2002): 1383–404; Fass, Paula Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Ross, William Forging New Freedoms: Nativism, Education, and the Constitution, 1911–1927 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 26–29, 57–95; Barrett, James R. “Americanization from the Bottom Up: Immigration and the Remaking of the Working Class in the United States, 1880–1930,” Journal of American History 79, no. 3 (1992): 996–1020; Kennedy, David M. Over Here: The First World War and American Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 63–69.

22 Fairley, WilliamAncient History in the Secondary School,“ History Teacher's Magazine 1, no. 1 (1909): 78, quote on p. 7.

23 Higham, John Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860–1925 (New York: Atheneum, 1963). Chapter 11 describes the passing of national origin laws in the 1920s and the recession of nativist sentiment after 1924. Also see Gleason, “Americans All.”

24 Fine, BenjaminSchools to Open Tolerance Drive,“ New York Times, 16 January 1938, 46; “Schools Ordered to Teach ‘Tolerance’ Twice Monthly,” New York Times, 22 December 1938, 9; Benjamin Fine, “Schools Fight Racial Hatred,” New York Times, 12 February 1939, 10; Arthur Chidnoff Studios, “Drive to Teach Tolerance Ideal,” New York Times, 5 March 1939, D9; Benjamin Fine, “Schools in War on Propaganda,” New York Times, 6 August 1939, D5; also see Shaffer, “Multicultural Education in New York City during-World War II.”

25 “Teaching Tolerance a Major Problem in 1939,” High Points 21, no. 1 (1939): 7576, quote on p. 75.

26 Hunt, Rolphe LanierWhat Do We Teach About the Negro,“ The Journal of the National Education Association 28, no. 1 (1939): 1112.

27 Selig, Americans All.

28 Beatrice DeLima Meyers, “On Common Ground with Children's Books,” Common Ground 1, no. 1 (1940): 101–3.

29 Klotsche, J.M.What the Schools Can Do to Promote International Goodwill,“ Social Studies 31, no. 1 (1940): 36, quote on p. 3.

30 Ibid.

31 For examples of tolerance lessons on African Americans, see Leon Lapp and Leon Atkinson, “A Study of Negro Life,” English Journal 29, no. 8 (1940): 659–61; Simpson, Floydd “Teaching Racial Tolerance in the South,” Social Education 4, no. 8 (1940): 549–52; Dyer, J. Pope “A Unit in Interracial Understanding,” Social Studies 30, no. 2 (1939): 79–80 Hunt, “What Do We Teach About the Negro.”

32 Wingate, Jeanora DonIntercultural Education,“ Journal of the National Education Association 29, no. 9 (1940): 269.

33 Ibid.

34 On the history of blackface performance in the United States, see Mahar, William J. Beyond the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); Lhamon, William T. Jr., Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Cockrell, Dale Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World (London: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Lott, Eric Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Rogin, Michael Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

35 Wingate, Intercultural Education.

36 DeBonis, Albert V.Tolerance and Democracy: A Program for the English Class,“ English Journal 30, no. 2 (1941): 123–30, quote on p. 127.

37 To consider the diversity of intercultural education in towns nationwide, see Minneapolis, MN, “High School Democracy,” Common Ground 1, no. 13 (1941): 112; Hamtramck, MI, “Hamtramck Experiment in Social Studies,” Common Ground 1, no. 13 (1941): 115–16; St. Louis, MO: Helen Gamble, “Children's Literature and Pan-American Relations,” Elementary English Review 18, no. 8 (1941): 283–87, 290; Laramie, WY: Harriet Knight Orr, “History Textbooks and International Attitudes,” Social Studies 32, no. 6 (1941): 254–55; New York: Hymen Alpern, “A Broader Base for Teaching Tolerance,” Journal of the National Education Association 30, no. 2 (1941): 47–48.

38 Mayer, Jenny L.One Teacher is doing This,“ Common Ground 1, no. 13 (1941): 112–14. quote on p. 113.

39 Dorn, American Education, Democracy, and the Second World War; Giordano, Wartime Schools, Tyack, Lowe, and Hansot, Public Schools in Hard Times; Shafer, “Multicultural Education in New York City during World War II”; Kandel, The Impact of the War Upon American Education.

40 Sullivan, Lift Every Voice, 278–82; Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Robert L. Allen, The Port Chicago Mutiny: The Story of the Largest Mass Mutiny Trial in US Naval History (Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 2006); Capeci, Dominic J. Jr., The Harlem Riot of 1943 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1977); Capeci, Dominic J. Jr. and Martha Wilkerson, Layered Violence: The Detroit Rioters of 1943 (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1991); Sitkoff, Harvard “Racial Militancy and Interracial Violence in the Second World War,” Journal of American History 58, no. 3 (1971): 661–81.

41 Kryder, Divided Arsenal, 168207, 208–42.

42 The publication of Gunnar Mrydal's famous study, An American Dilemma in 1943 also emphasized the problem of black-white race relations in America, see Jackson, Walter A. Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 1938–1981 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).

43 McFeely, Richard H.Cures for Intercultural Myopia,“ Social Studies 34, no. 6 (1943): 247–51, quote on p/247.

44 Ludins, Tima D.Teaching Democracy through the Living Newspaper Play,“ High Points 25, no. 3 (1943): 7176, quote on p. 73.

45 Ibid.

46 See three pamphlets published by the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom (ACDIF), of which Boas was chairman: Can You Name Them? (New York: ACDIF, 1939); The Genetic Basis for Democracy (New York: ACDIF, 1939); and Science Condemns Racism. Much of Boas’ activism in public schools was done through his position of chairman of the ACDIF. An overview of the history and political activism of the ACDIF can be found in Kuznick, Peter J. Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 171–226. Also see Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism, 284, and Mead, Margaret An Anthropologist at Work: Writings of Ruth Benedict (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1959), 348–49. For more on the Textbook Committee of the ACDIF, see Zimmerman, Whose America, 72–73.

47 “Schools Rebuked on Racial Errors: Prof Boas Charges Many Use Textbooks that Support Nazi Doctrines,” New York Times, 17 July 1939, 21; “Be Careful of the Word ‘Race,'” New Republic, 26 July 1939, 319 and “Declares School Books Teach False Race Views,” Chicago Defender, 29 July 1939, p. 3. Boas’ survey of textbooks was funded by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC withdrew funding from Boas shortly after he published the textbook survey in 1939, severing their relationship with Boas at this time. See Harry Schneiderman to Frank N. Trager 3 October 1939, p. 1, folder 92, box 5 American Jewish Committee, Executive Office, Morris Waldman Papers (MWP), YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York. Also see Frank N. Trager to Max M. Warburg 3 November 1939, folder 92, box 5 MWP. The American Council on Education would conduct their own study of racial prejudice in textbooks in 1944 with funding from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, a project Ruth Benedict contributed to. See George F. Zook to Ruth Benedict, 16 March 1944, folder 2, box 19, Ruth Fulton Benedict Papers (RFBP), Vassar College Archives and Special Collections, Poughkeepsie, NY.

48 On Boas’ support for teachers unions and academic freedom, see Franz Boas to American Federation of Teachers 31 July 1941, American Federation of Teachers Convention, Franz Boas Papers, Franz Boas Papers, American Philosophical Society (APS), Philadelphia. Credo of Teachers Union of New York, 14 April 1941 in Franz Boas Papers, folder Miscellaneous; Franz Boas, Freedom of Education, testimonial dinner, National Federation Constitutional Liberties, 12 March 1941, p. 1–2, Franz Boas Papers, Professional Papers, APS. Also see Lerman, Louis Winter Soldiers: A Story of a Conspiracy against the Schools (New York: Committee for Defense of Public Education, 1941). Franz Boas wrote the introduction to this pamphlet, which is available in the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University's Bobst Library, New York, NY. Boas published articles in the New York City Teachers Union journal, see: Boas, Franz “Freedom of Thought,” New York Teacher 6, no. 4 (1941): 21; Boas, Franz “Freedom Defined,” New York Teacher 6, no. 9 (1941): 25. A description of the lesson on race by Franz Boas in the November 1939 issue of Teaching Biologist can be found in Barnet S. Minters, “Biology Can Promote Tolerance,” New York Teacher 5, no. 1 (1939): 22.

49 With funding from the American Jewish Committee, Boas spoke on a radio show on WNYC broadcast over the summer and fall of 1939. See Boas, Franz to Trager, Frank 30 June 1939, p. 1, folder 92, box 5, American Jewish Committee, Executive Office, MWP. A full transcript of the World's Fair panel was published as ACDIF, The Genetic Basis of Democracy can be found in the New York Public Library, New York, NY. The 1939 World's Fair panel was a reproduction of a panel Boas had organized in January of 1939 at the Columbia Men's Faculty Club entitled, “Racial Theories and the Genetic Basis of Democracy.” See “Scientists to Open Drive for Freedom,” New York Times, 24 January 1939, 21.

50 On Franz Boas’ antiracist activism in other spheres of American society, see Pierpont, “The Measure of America”; Liss, “Diasporic Identities”; Hyatt, Franz Boas Social Activist, 148–49; Williams, Rethinking Race; Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism; Stocking, Race, Culture, and Evolution; Selden, Steven Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999), explains how Boas’ theories on race directly challenged the scientific theories of eugenicists, see p. 108 and 110. For an overview of how Boas’ theories fit into larger intellectual histories of race in America, see Gossett, Race, 409–30. For a discussion of how anthropological theories on race were disseminated in popular culture see Baker, From Savage to Negro. For a critical view of Boas, see Harris, Marvin The Rise of Anthropological Theory: A History of Theories of Culture (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968).

51 Benedict, Ruth and Weltfish, Gene, The Races of Mankind, Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 85 (New York: Public Affairs Committee, 1943). On the public reception of Races, see: Edwards, VioletNote on the ‘Races of Mankind,'“ in Race: Science and Politics, ed. Benedict, Ruth (New York: Viking Press, 1945), 167–68. American Unity, in particular among educational journals, encouraged teachers to employ The Races of Mankind. Among other articles, see, “Cranbrook Exhibit Shows Up Race Myth,” American Unity 2, no. 6 (1944): 14;, “Races of Mankind Exhibit,” American Unity 3, no. 6 (1945): 16;, “Now in Poster Form,” American Unity 3, no. 8 (1945): 8. Review of film, “Brotherhood of Man,” American Unity 5, no. 3 (1946): 12–13;, “Ammunition,” American Unity 5, no. 5 (1947): 12–13. For more on The Races of Mankind, see Young, Virginia Heyer “Ruth Benedict: Relativist and Universalist,” 2554 and Niehaus, Juliet “Education and Democracy in the Anthropology of Gene Weltfish,” 87118, both in Cherneff and Hochwald, Visionary Observers. According to Price, David the FBI targeted both Benedict and Weltfish as potential “subversives” because of The Races of Mankind. Price, David Threatening Anthropology: McCarthyism and the FBFs Surveillance of Activist Anthropologists (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 113–35.

52 Bristow, William H.Intercultural Education: Problems and Solutions,“ High Points 25, no. 8 (1943): 15–27; Norman D. Humphry, “Race Can Work Toward Democracy,” Social Studies 35, no. 6 (1944): 246–48. Also see a series of booklets published for the public school teachers in Boston, available in the Boston Public Library, see “Scrapbook for Teachers” (Boston: Governor's Committee for Racial and Religious Understanding, 1946); “Scrapbook for Teachers” (Boston: Massachusetts Fair Employment Practice Commission, 1948); “Scrapbook for Teachers” (Boston: Massachusetts Fair Employment Practice Commission, 1950). In addition, see Sevier, Brian R. “Somewhere Between Mutuality and Diversity“: The Project in Intergroup Education and Teaching for Tolerance Following World War II” (PhD diss., University of Colorado, Boulder, 2002), 74–90.

53 Edman, MarionBuilding Unity within a Community,“ Elementary English Review 21, no. 5 (1944): 179–85, quote on p. 184.

54 4Review of “The Races of Mankind,” American Unity 2, no. 2 (1943): 23.

55 Singerman, JosephThe Spirit of Franz Boas Lives,“ Science Teacher 10, no. 1 (1943): 2021, 28., quote on p. 28.

56 Williams, Mildred and Van Loan, W.L., “Education for Racial Equality,” Social Studies 34 no. 7 (1943): 308–11, quote on p. 308.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid., 309.

59 Benedict, Ruth and Weltfish, Gene, In Hernes Backyard: The Races of Mankind (New York: H. Schuman, 1948). The caption reads, “The bright ones as well as the strong ones … come in all colors.”

60 American Unity 1, no. 8 (1943): 7.

61 Alain Locke, “With Science as His Shield: The Educator Must Bridge Our ‘Great Divides,'” Frontiers of Democracy 6, no. 53 (1940): 208–10. Dorothy Ross explains that the social sciences came to adopt the theoretical premise of the hard sciences, what she calls “scientism.” Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 390–470. See also: O'Connor, Alice Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Walters, Ronald G. ed., Scientific Authority and Twentieth Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

62 For a survey of intercultural programs as practiced in every school district in the state of New York, see University of the State of New York, Education for Unity in the Schools of New York State: A Report on the Program of Intergroup Education in New York State Schools (Albany: The University of the State of New York, 1947). Also see a national survey conducted by Smiley, Marjorie B. a professor of education at Teachers College: Marjorie B. Smiley, “Intercultural Education in English Classrooms: An Informal Survey,” English Journal 35, no. 6 (1946): 337–49.

63 Sloat, Mayme LouiseScience Teaching Can Develop Intercultural Understanding,“ American Unity 3, no. 9 (1945): 1519, quote on p. 16.

64 Nirenberg, Alice B.Meet Your Relatives,“ Common Ground 2, no. 4 (1944): 1723, quotes on p. 17, emphasis in original.

65 See, Guglielmo, White on Arrival; Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color.

66 Takaki, Double Victory.

67 An article on the Arts High School in Newark, New Jersey reported that students disliked Jews only slightly less than they despised the Japanese. See D.H. Rich, “Racial and Group Prejudice,” English Journal 42, no. 10 (1943): 570–71. For an example of teachers in Chicago who did not have support for tolerance education from their administrators, see, “A New Experiment in Education,” Common Ground 3, no. 4 (1943): 114–15.

68 Norman D. Humphrey, “Race Can Work toward Democracy,” Social Studies 35, no. 6 (1944): 246–48, quote on p. 246–47, emphasis in original.

69 Ibid., 247.

70 Ibid.

71 Hartman, HamillYou Don't Teach Until You Get under Their Hides,“ English Journal 33, no. 6 (1944): 294–96, quote on p. 295.

72 Ibid.

73 Mahar, Beyond the Burnt Cork Mask; Lhamon, Jr., Raising Cain; Cockrell, Demons of Disorder; Lott, Love and Theft; Rogin, Blackface, White Noise.

74 Hartman, You Don't Teach until You Get Under Their Hides,“ 296.

75 Syrian, MarieJim Crow in the Classroom,“ Common Ground, no. 4 (1944): 2432, quote on p. 25.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Lien, MarieThe New Intercultural Education: Facts or Chauvinistic Myths?,“ Elementary English Review 21, no. 3 (1944): 111–13, quote on p. 111.

79 Edman, MarionBuilding Unity within a Community,“ 179.

80 Morgan, Madeline R.Chicago Schools Teach Negro History,“ Elementary English Review 21, no. 3 (1944): 105–9, quote on p. 107.

81 Ibid., 108–9.

82 Dale, EdgarThe Price of Prejudice,“ High Points 27, no. 5 (1945): 1317.

83 Schuker, LouisCitizenship Attitudes in a City High School,“ High Points 27, no. 1 (1945): 4448.

84 Norma Jensen, “School Strikes in Gary, Chicago, and New York,” American Unity 4, no. 3 (1945): 3–5. Also see Ronald D. Cohen, “The Dilemma of School Integration in the North: Gary, Indiana, 1945–1960” in Race, Law, and American History, 1700–1990, ed. Finkelman, Paul (New York: Garland Publishing, 1992), 279302.

85 Anonymous, I Faced the High School Race Problem,“ American Unity 4, no. 3 (1945): 16–20, quote on p. 18.

86 Ibid., 19.

87 Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience, 279–93; Sevier, “Somewhere between Mutuality and Diversity”; McGee Banks, Improving Multicultural Education.

88 Benedict, RuthRacism is Vulnerable,“ English Journal 35, no. 6 (1946): 299–303, quote p. 299.

89 For example: Ruth Benedict and Mildred Ellis, “Race and Cultural Relations: America's Answer to the Myth of a Master Race” Problems in American Life: Unit No. 5 (Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1942); Benedict, RuthVictory Over Discrimination and Hate,“ Frontiers of Democracy 9, no. 73 (1942): 8182; Ruth Benedict, “American Melting Pot, 1942 Model,” in department of supervisors and directors of instruction of the National Education Association, Americans All: Studies in Intercultural Education (Washington, DC: Department of Supervisors and Directors of Instruction, 1942), 14–24; Benedict, Ruth “America's Racial Myths” (date unknown): 12–13, folder 3, box 58, RFBP; Ruth Benedict, “Privileged Classes: An Anthropological Problem,” Frontiers of Democracy 7, no. 58 (1941): 110–12.

90 Benedict, Racism is Vulnerable,“ 299.

91 Miles, Lou EllaTeacher Attitudes on Education in Human Relations,“ American Unity 4. no. 4 (1946): 1415, quote on p. 15, emphasis in original.

92 Zimmerman, Brown-ing the American Textbook.“ American social activists in the postwar era increasingly relied on psychology as the social science best suited to fighting racial prejudice. See Herman, Ellen The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 174207; Ella Jackson, Lou Jr. “The Triumph of the Segregationists? A Historiographical Inquiry into Psychology and the Brown Litigation,” History of Psychology 3, no. 3 (2000): 239–61; Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal arid America's Conscience, 279–93; Scott, Daryl Michael Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 119–36.

93 Foley, DougQuestioning “Cultural” Explanations of Classroom Behaviors,” in Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School, ed. Pollock, Mica (New York: The New Press, 2008), 222–25; Louie, Vivian “Moving Beyond Quick “Cultural” Explanations,” in Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race in School, ed. Pollock, Mica (New York: The New Press, 2008), 257–61; Ladson-Billings, “It's Not the Culture of Poverty, It's the Poverty of Culture,”; Jewett, “‘If You Don't Identify with Your Ancestry, You're Like a Race without a Land'”; Lynn, Marvin “Race, Culture, and the Education of African Americans,” Educational Theory 56, no. 1 (2006): 107–19; Pollock, Mica “Everyday Antiracism in Education,” in The New Press Education Reader: Leading Educators Speak Out, ed. Gordon Reeves, Ellen (New York: New Press, 2006), 157–60; Darder, Antonia and Torres, Rodolfo D. “Shattering the “Race” Lens: Toward a Critical Theory of Racism,” in The Critical Pedagogy Reader, ed. Darder, Antonia Bartodano, Marta and Torres, Rodolfo D. (New York: Routledge Falmer, 2003), 245–61; Lewis, Race in the Schoolyard; Yon, Elusive Culture.

From “Wops and Dagoes and Hunkies” to “Caucasian”: Changing Racial Discourse in American Classrooms during World War II

  • Zoë Burkholder


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed