The Double V campaign was a slogan and drive to promote the fight for democracy in overseas campaigns and at the home front in the United States for Black Americans during World War II. The Double V refers to the "V for victory" sign prominently displayed by countries fighting "for victory over aggression, slavery, and tyranny," but adopts a second "V" to represent the double victory for Black Americans fighting for freedom overseas and at home. The campaign first appeared in the Black American newspaper Pittsburgh Courier on February 7, 1942. Being the largest circulated black newspaper with around 350,000 copies circulated during the war; hence other black newspapers followed suit including the Chicago Defender and the Amsterdam Star News in embracing the motto and symbol of Double V. The slogan was prompted by a response to the letter, "Should I Sacrifice to Live 'Half American?'" written by 26-year-old reader James G. Thompson. It was also in a response to Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged five editors of the top black newspapers in the United States to reduce their discontent and apathy of the war; to which they did not reduce their discontent but changed to the two pronged approach of the Double V campaign.
Pitched as "Democracy – Double Victory, At Home – Abroad", the campaign highlighted the risks black soldiers and civilians took while participating in America's struggle against the Axis powers while being denied their rights as full American citizens back home. African-American soldiers fighting abroad in the Second World War were still subject to segregation within the armed forces, despite fighting on land that did not hold the same racist ideology which was especially soldiers from the North, as they were denied a part on the front line; instead being subjugated to menial roles due to prejudices about their abilities. It was not until July 28, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman put forth Executive Order 9981 that ordered the integration of the armed forces.
Among Black-Americans, the Double V campaign had a 91% approval rating and was supported by various organizations, such as North Carolina A&T State University and United Automobile Workers. Contributing factors to the campaign's success were the discrimination that black soldiers experienced in the military who drew connections between the United States' treatment of blacks to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews in a case study comparing Georgia to Germany finding similarities, as well as wartime injustices such as the Port Chicago disaster and Agana race riot that underscored the necessity for victory at home. The campaign also played a role at home in encouraging defense industries to hire African-American employees who left the South in large numbers for the urban North and West Coast during the Second Great Migration to help the nation's war effort.
Response to African Americans in the Second World War
After the Japanese attack at the American naval base in Pearl Harbor, America sent in the 369th Division to defend the territory of Hawaii from air attacks, the response from Hawaiians towards the African American soldiers varied greatly. The territory was a volatile combination of racial tension and extreme state power as it had not yet joined the American union, which wouldn't happen until 1959. Hawaii did not have the engrained segregation found within America at this time and although stereotyping minorities did occur, Hawaii is considered today to have been more progressive on the issue of race than that of mainland America. There was no established place for African Americans as Jim Crow segregation laws within American had kept white and black people in separate social spheres. Racially driven stereotypes towards African Americans did exist on the island and included rumours spread by non-African American soldiers that black soldiers had tails. Within the military racial conflict did exist as white soldiers refused to recognise the higher ranking black officers. The discrimination African Americans experienced within the military in Hawaii fueled their fight to see the "Double V" campaign succeed. However their experience of life within a community that didn't have such established racial ideas demonstrates what a double victory could achieve.
Role of the press
The African American community had to create their own newspapers to spread information about their community and heritage as white newspapers wouldn't include black issues, and these newspapers and their influence increased during the war as they had to relay information about the war to their readers. The black press emerged as a space for rhetorical expression and a vibrant space for black social, political and cultural activity which was its primary function. It reflected the frustrations of the black community which were often more radical than the press itself. The press had a vital role in spreading and creating the idea of Double V in an effort to get more readers and black men to enroll in the army and support the war effort, as it was not a "white man's war" and if black people did not support the war effort and help America win it could be problematic to win equality back home. Especially as the black press had been criticised for its lack of sufficient patriotism, hence they created the Double V Campaign to counter this and promote patriotism among African Americans; despite the hypocrisy of the US government. However, newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier also detailed discrimination and racism which African American troops were facing abroad during the war. Difficulty was therefore found in maintaining emphasis on the importance of African American involvement in the war at a time where discrimination was apparent both in conscription and the wartime labour force.
Results of the campaign
The Double V Campaign had limited success as while it promoted patriotism and support for the war effort among Black Americans, especially as the allies won the war, it fostered a narrow appreciation for the complexity of Black American wartime situations and did not address or impact the underlying structure of institutional racism of America. The campaign was also not a unifying force as many white, Southern newspapers and journalists criticised the slogan and characterised it as a dangerous revolution hence the government tried to get the black press to cease agitation in an effort for greater rights. However it is also considered to be a turning point within Black American history which led to unity among the black population in regards to achieving this double victory in the long run. The slogan and wartime protests marked a key development within black protest movements and aided in laying the groundwork for the future Civil Rights Movement. The campaign naturally died down by 1943 and the Pittsburgh Courier just mentioned the successes of the campaign from that point on; the campaign had not fully achieved its goal as discrimination was still legal after the war in America despite the efforts of Black American soldiers. In this regard the White House has also failed to respond to progressive change within the Black American population.
- African-American newspapers
- American propaganda during World War II
- Civil Rights Movement
- Isaiah Bradley - fictional character from Marvel Comics uses shield with Double V campaign emblem
- Louis Austin
- Military history of African Americans
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- The above information sourced from Wikipedia