American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

Featured Document: Pittsburgh Courier on World War II “Double V” Campaign

Published March 30, 2011

Double VIn our professional development seminars, we highlight documents that go beyond the traditional narrative. World War II is and remains a seminal point of study. As in previous wars, African Americans once again heeded the calls of unity, support, and sacrifice while they continued to endure the limits of segregation. They served in the armed forces and participated in all aspects of home-front activities.

At the same time African Americans sought to create awareness about the injustice and paradox of racial segregation in a democratic nation. In January 1942, an editorial by James Thompson in the African-American newspaper Pittsburg Courier posed the question, “Should I sacrifice my life to live half American” Mr. Thompson suggested that while African Americans should join with all Americans in the war effort, they should not “lose sight of our fight for true democracy at home.” He argued that if the Allies were using the “V for Victory” slogan to rally them to fight for victory over tyranny, then blacks should have the “Double V” for “democracy at home and abroad.”

Beginning February 7, 1942 and continuing weekly until 1943, the Pittsburg Courier’s “Double V” campaign demanded that African Americans who were risking their lives abroad receive full citizenship at home. The newspaper printed articles, editorials, letters, “Double V” photographs and even designed a recognizable “DOUBLE V” sign to promote the campaign. This campaign provided African Americans a way to express their support for the war effort while reminding the rest of the nation that it must guarantee equal opportunity for all.

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