James Lee Dickey: An Analysis of One African-American's Leadership in Jim Crow Texas

War Intervenes

As with many young men in 1917, the coming years brought about several changes. America joined World War I in April and the Selective Service Act was implemented in May. Having returned home for the summer, James dutifully registered for the draft. He delivered medicines for Provident Drug Store to support his parents and siblings before he left for medical school at Meharry College. Soon after, Uncle Sam called James up for duty. On December 29, 1917, James enlisted with the Student Army Training Corps, a university level version of an ROTC, and as a medical student, he became part of Medical Education Reserve Corps. Both programs were to prepare young soldiers in anticipation of American need in Europe.  In general, World War I also centered James Dickey’s eyes on the future. When Americans answered the call to arms, factories in the North sought workers from the untapped population of the South. The Great Migration changed the demographics of the United States by sweeping approximately a million black Southerners into the urban centers of Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York where an industrial worker earned three times more than a black farmworker in the South.  Free of the oppression of Jim Crow (Southern laws created keep African-Americans subservient laborers), the African American population grew and so did the need for black doctors. This was where James Dickey saw himself; he would get his medical license and move north.

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