Following the Second World War, the G. I. Bill of Rights (or, “G.I. bill”) greatly expanded the population of African Americans attending college and graduate school, forming a “crack in the wall of racism that had surrounded the American university system.”
Because of the prevailing social climate that existed in the United States after World War II, one in which racism was a prominent factor, African Americans did not benefit from the provisions of the G. I. Bill nearly as much as their European American counterparts. Though the bill did provide a more level playing field than the one blacks faced during Reconstruction, this is not saying much. Representative John Elliott Rankin, who was also an avid segregationist and racist, sponsored the bill in the United States House of Representatives. Although the law did not specifically advocate discrimination, the social climate of the time dictated that the law would be interpreted differently for blacks than for whites.
Once they returned home after the war, blacks faced not only discrimination but also poverty, which confronted most blacks during the 1940s and 1950s and represented another barrier to harnessing the benefits of the G.I. Bill, as poverty made seeking an education problematic to while labor and income were needed at home. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), because of its strong affiliation to the all-white American Legion and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), also became a formidable foe to many blacks in search of an education because it had the power to deny or grant the claims of black G.I.s. Additionally, banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.
This write up is referenced from:
Hilary Herbold, “Never A Level Playing Field: Blacks and the G.I. Bill,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, (Winter, 1994–1995), 104-105,107,108.
Mark Boulton, “How the G.I. Bill Failed African-American Vietnam War Veterans,” THE JOURNAL OF BLACKS IN HIGHER EDUCATION, Number 58, Winter 2007/08, 57-61.
Humes, Edward, “How the G.I. Bill Shunted Blacks into Vocational Training.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 53 (Autumn, 2006), pp. 92–104,