Double V for Victory

The Double Victory Campaign

The Double-V Logo
"The V for victory sign is being displayed prominently in all so-called democratic countries, which are fighting for victory... Let we colored Americans adopt the double V for a double victory. The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies from within." (James G. Thompson, 1942)

What was the Double Victory Campaign?
The Pittsburgh Courier
The Double Victory Campaign wasn't so much an event as a motivational tool used by African Americans during the time of World War II. In response to the United States entering World War II in 1941, James G. Thompson wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier - a black newspaper (shown at right)- expressing his concerns about discrimination in the war and in general towards African Americans in the US. Thompson was a mere cafeteria worker in a Kansas aircraft manufacturing plant. He was 26 years old. The idea he proposed in this article was to start a movement for two causes. Not just so Africans could fight and participate in the war, but also in everyday society, as equal citizens. He proposed that providing freedom for the blacks wasn't such a high price to pay if they were sacrificing their lives every day in the war. The Double Victory Campaign became another marker in American history in which Africans took another step, albeit a small one, towards complete emancipation. If you scroll to the top of the page, there is a link (Double V for Victory) that will take you to a picture of some African Americans threatening to start a March of over 5 million blacks to demand the repeal of segregation and the Jim Crow Laws. (Please read the tan and yellow boxes.)

The War in Their Eyes
world_war_2.jpg While the Government of the United States tried very hard to ignore the fact that they were denying the rights promised to every citizen of the US despite race or color, the D.V. Campaign promoted the truth all throughout the duration of World War II. But the troops remained segregated, and only black newspapers reported the occurrence of discrimination and unfair treatment towards the black regiments.
The black troops were continually discriminated despite abolitionist's efforts to convince them otherwise. They were not paid the same amount of money as was promised to the white soldiers, and were constantly used for free labor. They were also segregated according to the Jim Crow laws and brutalized and belittled by the white soldiers, officers included. But if not for the sacrifices African Americans made, the war could have been lost and the United States wouldn't be where we are today.

"Separate But Equal"
fountain.jpgThe Jim Crow Laws, occurring between 1876 and 1965, enforced mandatory segregation in all public places. Restaurants, post offices, restrooms, schools, stores - everywhere. The Double V Campaign did not only stand for equal treatment within the war, but for the freedom of the entire black society of the US. They claimed "separate but equal" but it couldn't have been further from the truth. Whites were always given the upper hand, the advantage. While whites could sit in the main dining hall of the restaurant, blacks had to eat in the back, where they couldn't "bother" anyone. Schools were so out of balance, it showed no semblance of equality. They could hardly pay to give each student a textbook, much less the materials they needed to properly educate them.

J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, considered that the black newspaper's reports about the war and Jim Crow Laws treason against the US Government. He tried to sue the black press to shut them down and stop them from maintaining the truth about discrimination among the troops and at home. John Sengstacke, new publisher for the Chicago Defender, heard of his intentions, and demanded to speak with Attorney General Francis Biddle. Sengstacke convinced Biddle that it was just the job of the black press to report the truth, and Biddle agreed to stop Hoover's efforts against the newspapers. As a result, the black press stayed in business, and over two million readers were supporting it by the end of the War in 1945.

apr.jpg A. Philip Randolph was the founder of the March on Washington, as shown in the link at the top of the page, and formed the Committee Against Jim Crow Laws in Military Service, which had an awful lot to do with World War II at the time of racial discrimination. In 1942, in agreement with the Double V Campaign, some 18,000 African Americans congregated in Madison Square Garden threatening a March on Washington if their demands for integration were not met.

A. Philip Randolph, World War II, the Double Victory Campaign, Jim Crow Laws, The black press - they all happened around the same time, making it difficult for the Government to focus on any one issue, but it all came down to the same thing: racism and discrimination against African Americans, and though the Double V Campaign may not have been a primary success toward their freedom, it definitely made a difference when combined with the efforts of men like A. Philip Randolph. The black press didn't give up their fight for freedom through the press, and their sacrifices and hardships made a big difference in the long run. Discrimination wasn't completely defeated at this time, but it was surely a step in the right direction.


~Courtesy of Michelle Saul Yamasaki & Rachael McCool~