James Jones lecture series continues with lecture on race and gender

Mackenzie Freund, City Editor

Matthew Basso, professor of history and gender studies at the University of Utah, gave a presentation on home-front men's relationship with the government, while touching on issues in regards to gender and race as well.
Mackenzie Freund
Matthew Basso, professor of history and gender studies at the University of Utah, gave a presentation on home-front men’s relationship with the government, while touching on issues in regards to gender and race as well.

During the period of World War II, there were some significant moments that led to things changing for people during the era including significant shifts to the views of women and black men in the work force during the war.

All of these points were researched and presented during the ninth annual James Jones Lecture series put on by the College of Arts and Humanities.

This year’s speaker was Matthew Basso, a professor of history and gender studies at the University of Utah, was speaking from different subjects out of his book, Meet Joe Copper: Masculinity & Race on Montana’s World War II Home Front.

Basso told stories about different things that happened during the World War II era, mostly in regards to the different construction jobs in the towns of Butte, Black Eagle, and Anaconda, of Montana.

One of the instances Basso talked about was a situation in Butte, which at the time was the number one international union for mine workers and was, arguably, the most racially progressive union during the era.

Under the orders of the Roosevelt Administration, a platoon of black miners was sent to Butte to work and help out.

“When the platoon of black miners showed up at the mine the first morning in November of 1942, 8,000 white men left the mines,” Basso said.

Basso said the miners refused to work with the black men, so the government sent the union leader to the mine to talk to the miners. The union president at the time was a former Butte mineworker.

The union president went to talk to the Butte miners, and the response that he had gotten from the miners was “if you want to work with these black guys, you go ahead. We won’t,” according to Basso.

The problem with the miners in Butte is that the situation had the ability to become a national scandal for the Roosevelt administration when it started to be reported in the Washington papers.

“If one of the most racially progressive unions wouldn’t follow the mandates from the federal employment practices commission on race, and the exec order the president himself had issued, what would this mean to the larger, national story of race,” Basso said.

Basso said the Butte miners were very connected to the Catholic church, and the church is the organization that convinced the government to get rid of the black miners.

Basso said the interesting part of the story is not the racism itself, but that the racism was there because the men that lived in Butte said they did not want the town to become a black town.

Rosie the Riveter was another topic of discussion during the talk, when Basso brought up the fact that she was an icon that American citizens could get behind.

“She is an icon that we can accept and embrace and are comfortable with,” Basso said.

Rosie the Riveter had turned into such an icon that she has the only national home-front memorial named after, according to Basso.

 

Mackenzie Freund can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]