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Wed Jun 5, 2019, 09:13 PM

The "Double V" campaign. A Tribute to Struggle and Courage for D-Day.

“We cannot fight to crush Nazi brutality abroad and condone race riots at home. Those who fan the fires of racial clashes for the purpose of making political capital here at home are taking the first step toward Nazism.”


Vice President Henry Wallace, 1943. One month after a race riot in Detroit.



Beaumont to Detroit: 1943, by Langston Hughes


Looky here, America
What you done done -
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free.
I reckon you don’t care
Nothing about me.

You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
From the ku klux klan.

You tell me mussolini’s
Got an evil heart
Well, it mus-a-been in Beaumont
That he had his start

Cause everything that hitler
And Mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.

You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power
And you’re STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.

Yet you say we’re fighting
For democracy
Then why don’t democracy
Include me?

I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight
BOTH HITLER – AND JIM CROW


The end of Hughes’ poem calls to mind the swastikas and Confederate flags that were prominently displayed in Charlottesville and at other white supremacist rallies. These symbols and ideologies have long and intertwined histories in the U.S.

Advocates of the Double Victory campaign understood that Nazism would not be completely vanquished until white supremacy was defeated everywhere. In linking fascism abroad and racism at home, the Double Victory campaign issued a challenge to America that remains unanswered.



This campaign was orchestrated by the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly black newspaper that helped influence public opinion among black Americans. According to the Courier's February 14th headline, “The Courier's Double 'V' for a double victory campaign gets country-wide support.”

This support showed that black America was tired of being oppressed and ready for change. The Double V campaign helped tremendously the plight of black Americans. Blacks everywhere were discriminated against based on their color, and the armed forces at this time was no exception. If blacks were allowed entrance into the army, they were only given menial jobs such as cooks or stewards. The Double V campaign called for integration and for the possibility of fighting for freedom everywhere.

The Courier went on to say in its’ February 14th article, “We, as colored Americans are determined to protect our country, our form of government and the freedoms which we cherish for ourselves and the rest of the world, therefore we have adopted the Double ‘V’ war cry—victory over our enemies at home and victory over our enemies on the battlefields abroad. Thus in our fight for freedom we wage a two-pronged attack against our enslavers at home and those abroad who will enslave us.



The Double Victory campaign, launched by the Courier in 1942, became a rallying cry for black journalists, activists and citizens to secure both victory over fascism abroad during World War II and victory over racism at home.

There is a historical relationship between Nazism and white supremacy in the United States. Yet the recent resurgence of explicit racism, including the attack in Charlottesville, has been greeted by many with surprise.

But collective amnesia has consequences. When Americans celebrate the country’s victory in WWII, but forget that the U.S. armed forces were segregated, that the Red Cross segregated blood donors or that many black WWII veterans returned to the country only to be denied jobs or housing, it becomes all the more difficult to talk honestly about racism today.



When the United States entered WWII, African-Americans joined the fight to defeat fascism abroad. Meanwhile, the decades-long fight on the home front for equal access to employment, housing, education and voting rights continued.

These concerns prompted James G. Thompson, a 26-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, to write to the editors of the Pittsburgh Courier. His letter sparked the Double Victory campaign. Considering his service in the U.S. Army, which was racially segregated during WWII, Thompson wrote:

“Being an American of dark complexion and some 26 years, these questions flash through my mind: ‘Should I sacrifice my life to live half American?’ ‘Will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow?’…‘Is the kind of America I know worth defending?’”

For Thompson and other African-Americans, defeating Nazi Germany and the Axis powers was only half the battle. Winning the war would be only a partial victory if the United States did not also overturn racial discrimination at home.



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