12 Apr 2011
History 162 Section 8
America’s role in World War II was fueled by the desire to fight oppression abroad. However, America’s own oppressive behavior contradicts this desire. Segregation and discrimination were still prominent in WWII. Full citizenship rights were denied to African-Americans. The Jim Crow laws kept the separation of black and white soldiers. Black and white soldiers shared different bathrooms and were trained in different military units. African-American soldiers fought two wars: one over the Axis Powers and one with domestic racial prejudice. There is no sense for America to fight for democracy if America could not have even exemplified it. There was no motive to guide an African-American soldier to shed blood for hypocrisy. In January 1942, a cafeteria worker named James G. Thompson sent a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier that decided to confront the contradiction of a Jim Crow army defending democracy and proposed the Double Victory sign. The first “V” stood for victory over America’s enemies abroad and the second V stood for victory over African-American’s enemies at home. The Pittsburgh Courier’s “Double V” campaign was a profound movement that provided incentive for African-American war efforts and effectively revealed the disparity between America’s ideals abroad and the reality at home.
The Double V campaign instantly grabbed the attention of the Pittsburgh Courier which started publishing the Double V insignia in its February 7th edition. Thompson’s letter made an immediate impact due to its simple yet memorable slogan with the words. His Double V idea was great enough for a very popular black press to quickly support. The slogan “gave voice to a democratic dream that would be widely shared across the country.” African-Americans could quickly relate to the cause because of its positive message. The Pittsburgh Courier used great tactics such as photographs to charge the “Double V” Campaign. The photographs in the paper had a woman with a “VV” on the back of her dress, a class of six graders flashing the Double V sign and a soldier forming a Double V with his hands and two military flags. The campaign did not discourage patriotism or influence a turn against America. It called for the democratic truth America tried to embody. Private Charles F. Wilson wrote to President Roosevelt, “Are the Chinese to believe that we are fighting to bring them ‘freedom, equality, and justice,’ when they can see that in our Armed Forces we are not even practicing what we preaching?” This illustrates the powerful effect the campaign had in motivating people to stand up for the double victory cause. Democratic America was a fraud in World War II and Thompson’s letters called America out to be a true model for democracy. White America only had to worry about the victory over the Axis powers. The Double V showed the greater challenges colored Americans had to face. An African-American soldier named E.G. McConnell of the 76ist Tank Battalion said, “I was in a unit I was damn proud of, and I knew that the things we did would shape the future for my children and grandchildren.” The soldiers who felt unsure about the war now had a certain answer which was that the ideal would be one day reached with enough sacrifices.
The maintenance of patriotism is vital to unifying the country. Black and White Americans live in America. Love for one’s country is something that can be undeniably shared. The Courier’s introduction of the Double V Campaign had a brilliant statement which was “WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT....WE ARE AMERICANS TOO!” This statement shows that all Americans no matter what race share the loyalty and pride for the country. Black and White Americans share the same goal in defeating the Axis Powers in the name of democracy. African-Americans have just as much to lose as White Americans. Support for the campaign also came from famous whites....