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Forging a Laboring RaceThe African American Worker in the Progressive Imagination$
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Paul R.D. Lawrie

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479857326

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479857326.001.0001

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Salvaging the Negro

Salvaging the Negro

Vocational Rehabilitation and African American Veterans, 1917–1924

(p.109) 4 Salvaging the Negro
Forging a Laboring Race

Paul R. D. Lawrie

NYU Press

Chapter Four examines how federal efforts to rehabilitate disabled African American veterans led to new forms of racial knowledge and racial labor control in postwar America. A key agent in this process was the Federal Board of Vocational Education (FBVE), which was charged with rehabilitating the citizen-solider into the citizen-worker. Through the stages of diagnosis/benefits, training, job placement and hospitalization, FBVE officials struggled to determine whether they could, or even should, mend broken black bodies often seen as defective by definition, often accusing black veterans of trying to “unjustly profit from their innate inferiority.” Black veterans rejected these characterizations, arguing for their right to rehabilitation as soldiers, citizens, workers and men. The FBVE’s efforts to salvage black veterans for work in the postwar labor force revealed a key attempt to frame social policy along biological lines, and to rationalize racial labor hierarchies as a constituent part of the republican body politic.

Keywords:   African American veterans, rehabilitation, disabled

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