Source Analysis


A War for Whose Freedom?   The Context: Because World War II was largely fought against fascist regimes, the United States government framed the war as one waged in the name of democracy.  When President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke before Congress in January 1941, the U.S. was not yet directly involved in the Second World War, but the war was by that point unraveling on a massive scale in Europe and Asia, and it was evident that the probable need for American military intervention was rapidly increasing.  Knowing that the U.S. would have to  ramp up its defenses during the tight economic circumstances brought about by the Great Depression, FDR called upon Congress to raise taxes for the purposes of strengthening the military arsenal and preparing for the need, if called upon, to secure freedom for the world.  He listed the fundamental freedoms to which all humans were entitled, which he labeled the “four freedoms.”   “The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world.  The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world.  The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.  The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.” Roosevelt closed the speech with the following conclusion: “This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God.  Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.  Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them.  Our strength is our unity of purpose.  To that high concept there can be no end save victory.” But one thing was glaringly evident in the years between World War 1 and World War 2: the “democracy” that the U.S. fought for was not even universal within its own borders.  During World War 2, African Americans, Latin Americans, and Japanese Americans faced discrimination and unequal treatment, which begged the question.  Whose freedom did the United States fight for? _________________________________________________________________ The Assignment (Due Friday, 10/23): In this assignment we’ll consider the experiences of Americans who didn’t enjoy the full benefits of freedom and democracy because of discrimination they faced as a result of their ethnic and cultural heritages. I’ve uploaded a PDF file to Canvas titled “Voices of Freedom: Fighting for the Four Freedoms.”Preview the document  The file features three documents, all written in between 1944-1945.  The first document discusses the Mexican American experience (“World War II and Mexican Americans”); the second discusses the African American experience (“African-Americans and the Four Freedoms”); and the third discusses the Japanese American experience (“Justice Robert A. Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu v. United States”)    For this assignment you will read all three of the sources in the PDF file and then answer the following questions for each document:   1. “World War II and Mexican Americans”  According to the first document, the root cause of discrimination toward Mexican Americans was not a racial difference, but something else entirely.  What was it?  How did it influence people’s thoughts and treatment toward Mexican Americans?  And why is it important to dispute and debunk the idea of racial differences?   2. “African-Americans and the Four Freedoms” According to the second document, what are the four freedoms that African Americans wanted?  Are they different from the four freedoms that Roosevelt discussed in his message to Congress, or are they the same?  In what ways have African Americans been denied those freedoms?     3. “Justice Robert A. Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu v. United States” In the third document, Justice Robert A. Jackson argues against the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of forcibly placing Japanese Americans into internment camps.  A military order had led to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans, and as a result, many lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes.  One Japanese American, Fred Korematsu, who had been born and raised in Oakland, California, had refused to report for internment out of a personal objection to the policy.  He was arrested and his case ultimately went before the Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 in favor of the arrest and the constitutionality of Japanese American internment.  Among the three justices who opposed the ruling was Justice Robert A. Jackson, who wrote this document to voice his opposition. Why does Justice Robert A. Jackson argue that the arrest of Korematsu was wrong in the first place?  Why does Jackson argue that the Supreme Court ruling is even more troubling?  What does he say is at risk when the highest court in the U.S. affirms such treatment toward its citizenry?

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