Guided Readings: World War II

Reading 1

It seems to be unfortunately true that the epidemic of world lawlessness is spreading. When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread, the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease. . . . War is a contagion, whether it be declared or undeclared. . . . We are determined to keep out of war, yet we cannot insure ourselves against the disastrous effects of war and the dangers of involvement. We are adopting such measures as will minimize our risk of involvement, but we cannot have complete protection in a world of disorder in which confidence and security have broken down.

—President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

Reading 2

There can be no objection to any hand our government may take which strives to bring peace to the world so long as that hand does not tie 130,000,000 people into another world death march. . . .

We reach now a condition on all fours with that prevailing just before our plunge into the European war in 1917. Will we blindly repeat that futile venture? Can we easily forget that we won nothing we fought for then—that we lost every cause declared to be responsible for our entry then?

—Senator Gerald P. Nye, 1937

Reading 3

Our whole program of aid for the democracies has been based on hard-headed concern for our own security and for the kind of safe civilized world in which we wish to live. Ever dollar of material we send helps to keep the dictators away from our own hemisphere. Every day that they are held off gives us time to build more guns and tanks and planes and ships.

—President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May, 1941

Reading 4

We know that our fate is tied up with the fate of the democratic way of life. And so, out of the depths of our hearts, a cry goes out for the triumph of the United Nations. But . . . unless this war sounds the death knell to the old Anglo-American empire systems, the hapless story of which is one of exploitation for the profit and power of a monopoly capitalist economy, it will have been fought in vain. Our aim then must not only be to defeat nazism, fascism, and militarism on the battlefield, but to win the peace, for democracy, for freedom and the Brotherhood of Man without regard to his pigmentation, land of his birth or the God of his fathers. . . .

. . . White citizens . . . should [not] be taken into the March on Washington Movement as members. The essential value of an all-Negro movement such as the March on Washington is that it helps to create faith by Negroes in Negroes. It develops a sense of self-reliance with Negroes depending on Negroes in vital matters. It helps to break down the slave psychology and inferiority-complex in Negroes which comes and is nourished with Negroes relying on white people for direction and support.

—A. Philip Randolph, 1942, proposing a march on Washington

Questions for Discussion

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