African-American History Timeline: 1940 to 1949
In 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which desegregated war production plants and also established the Fair Employment Practices Committee. This act, set the stage for a decade filled with African-American firsts in the U.S. Armed Services.
- Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award. McDaniel wins the best supporting actress award for her portrayal of a slave in the film, Gone with the Wind.
- Richard Wright publishes the novel, Native Son. The book became the first bestselling novel by an African-American author.
- Dr. Charles Drew's thesis, "Banked Blood" at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Included is Drew's research discovering that plasma can replace whole blood transfusions.
- Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr., is appointed a general in the U.S. Army. With this appointment, Davis becomes the first African-American to hold the position.
- The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is established in New York City.
- The National Negro Opera Company is established in Pittsburgh by Mary Lucinda Dawson.
- The Tuskegee Air Squadron, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, is established by the U.S. Army.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt issues Executive Order 8802, desegregating war production plans. The Order also establishes the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).
- The Great Migration continues as African-Americans from the South come North and West to work in factories.
- Margaret Walker publishes her book, For My People while working at Livingstone College in North Carolina.
- James Farmer Jr., George Houser, Bernice Fisher, James Russell Robinson, Joe Guinn and Homer Jack found the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Chicago.
- The Montford Point Marines are established by the U.S. Marine Corps as the first African-American men accepted into a segregated training camp.
- Charity Adams Earley is the first African-American woman commissioned officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs).
- Hugh Mulzac is the first African-American captain in the U.S. Merchant Marines.
- An estimated 34 African-Americans are killed during the Detroit Race Riots.
- The first African-American cadets graduate from the Army Flight School at Tuskegee University.
- The largest concentration of African-American military personnel is stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. In total, there are 14,000 African-American soldiers as well as 300 women from the 32nd and 33rd companies of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.
- The Tuskegee Airmen fly their first combat mission in Italy.
- The U.S. Supreme Court declares that white only political primaries are unconstitutional in the Smith v. Allwright case.
- The United Negro College Fund is established by Frederick Douglass Patterson to provide support to historically black colleges and universities and well as its students.
- The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, is elected to the US Congress.
- Benjamin O. Davis Jr. is named commander of the Goodman Field in Kentucky, becoming the first African-American to command a military base.
- Nat King Cole becomes the first African-American to have a radio variety show.
- Ebony magazine is published. The magazine is developed by the Johnson Publishing Company.
- Fisk University appoints its first African-American president--Dr. Charles S. Johnson. That same year, Johnson became the first African-American president of the Southern Sociological Society.
- The U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation on interstate bus travel is unconstitutional in Morgan v. Virginia.
- Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in the major league baseball. He is signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- The NAACP issues an appeal to racism entitled An Appeal to the World. The petition is presented to the United Nations.
- Historian John Hope Franklin's text, From Slavery to Freedom is published. It will become the most popular African-American history textbook to be published.
- President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981, desegregating the armed forces.
- Alice Coachman becomes the first African-American woman to win an Olympic Gold medal when she wins the high jump competition.
- The law banning interracial marriages in California is banned by its state supreme court.
- The first African-American variety show, Sugar Hill Times is aired on CBS. Performer Timmie Rogers leads the variety show's cast.
- E. Franklin Frazier becomes the first African-American president of the American Sociological Association.
- June Wesley Brown becomes the first African-American to graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
- Jesse Blayton Sr. launches WERD-AM, the first African-American owned radio station in the United States. The station is broadcast out of Atlanta.
- William A. Hinton becomes the first African-American professor at the Harvard University Medical School.