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America's History in the Making

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Democracy: Double Victory at Home-Abroad

These Men Developed The "Double V" Idea

EDITOR'S NOTE:

The Pittsburgh Courier's "Double V" idea, created in the mind of James G. Thompson of Wichita, Kansas, and brought to glowing light through the brilliant pen of Wilbert L. Holloway, Courier staff artist, has swept the nation like wildfire.

The letter of Mr. Thompson, which appeared first in our issue of January 31, is reprinted here, because of its over all significance and because of its gem-like literary value.

The editors of The Pittsburgh Courier suggest that everyone who reads this letter, clip it out and place it in a conspicuous place... where all may see AND read!

DEAR EDITOR:

Like all true Americans, my greatest desire at this time, this crucial point of our history; is a desire for a complete victory over the forces of evil, which threaten our existence today. Behind that desire is also a desire to serve, this, my country, in the most advantageous way. Most of our leaders are suggesting that we sacrifice every other ambition to the paramount one, victory. With this I agree; but I also wonder if another victory could not be achieved at the same time.

After all, the things that beset the world now are basically the same things which upset the equilibrium of nations internally, states, counties, cities, homes and even the individual.

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?" "Would it be demanding too much to demand full citizenship rights in exchange for the sacrificing of my life." "Is the kind of America I know worth defending?" "Will America be a true and pure democracy after this war?" "Will colored Americans suffer still the indignities that have been heaped upon them in the past?"

These and other questions need answering; I want to know, and I believe every colored American, who is thinking, wants to know.

This may be the wrong time to broach such subjects, but haven't all good things obtained by men been secured through sacrifice during just such times of strife?

I suggest that while we keep defense and victory in the forefront that we don't loose sight of our fight for true democracy at home.

The "V for Victory" sign is being displayed prominently in all so-called democratic countries which are fighting for victory over aggression, slavery and tyranny. If this V sign means that to those now engaged in this great conflict then let colored Americans adopt the double VV for a double victory&#amp;The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies within. For surely those who perpetrate these ugly prejudices here are seeing to destroy our democratic form of government just as surely as the Axis forces.

This should not and would not lessen our efforts to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion; but should and would make us stronger to resist these evil forces which threaten us. America could become united as never before and become truly the home of democracy.

In way of an answer to the foregoing questions in a preceding paragraph, I might say that there is no doubt that this country is worth defending; things will be different for the next generation; colored Americans will come into their own, and America will eventually become the true democracy it was designed to be. These things will become a reality in time; but not through any relaxation of the efforts to secure them.

In conclusion let me say that though these questions often permeate my mind, I love American and am willing to die for the America I know will someday become a reality.

JAMES G. THOMPSON.

James G. Thompson, letter to the editor, Pittsburgh Courier, originally printed January 31, 1942; reprinted April 11, 1942, page 5.

Creator James G. Thompson
Context During World War II, African Americans GIs encountered segregation on the home front and abroad.
Audience African Americans
Purpose To show a united front for African Americans to win victory abroad in the war against the Axis powers and victory at home against discrimination

Historical Significance

During World War II, many African Americans served in the armed forces, but some questioned the rationale for supporting the war effort. James Thompson wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier expressing his belief that he should not fight for a nation that discriminated against him and African Americans in general. He suggested the idea that African Americans wage a "double V" campaign that stood for "victory from without" over the Axis powers and "victory from within" the United States to end discrimination. This letter prompted the Courier to launch a campaign that promoted the idea of "double V" through lapel pins, stickers, songs, and posters. The campaign caused the U.S. military to ban African American newspapers from its libraries and J. Edgar Hoover to seek the indictment of African American publishers for treason. By the end of the war, the "double V" campaign was so popular among African Americans that the Pittsburgh Courier had a record weekly circulation of two million readers.

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