Democracy: Victory at Home, Victory Abroad
August 31, 2011 9:55 AM   Subscribe

"World War II has immesurably magnified the Negro's awareness of the disparity between the American profession and practice of democracy." During WWII, the armed forces were still marked by segregation of troops, with black troops often led solely by white officers, there were many instances of violence against African-American troops as well as general discrimination. While many African-American troops were serving with honor and some with particular levels of distinction, a stateside newspaper - the Pittsburgh Courier - began the "Double V" campaign: "Democracy: Victory at Home, Victory Abroad" after printing a letter from a reader asking "Should I Sacrifice To Live ‘Half American?’". The response from the community was overwhelming. Many people, not just activists, latched onto the campaign and made it a huge success for the community, helping to lay the ground work for the beginnings of the post-war Civil Rights movement.
posted by rmd1023 (23 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I totally forgot to include this link in the post. Oops!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:56 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

aaaand this one.

Note to self: preview better.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:57 AM on August 31, 2011

Good old Pittsburgh. As opposed to busted new Pittsburgh, trying to renew itself on the backs on Hipsters in the Strip district and that Heinz factory.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:43 AM on August 31, 2011

backs of hipsters... there's just something about this thread and not looking at posts.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:43 AM on August 31, 2011

I had served in the army at the very end of WWI...and yes. It was segregated. Then, in 1950, got called up again for Korean War and by then, under Truman, the military was integrated.
What needs to be remarked: the military was integrated well before the nation was, and in fact was a model to show it could be done. The Navy, though, had mixed (integrated) forces dating back to the Civil War.

For Blacks in America, unable to get decent jobs at decent pay, the military was an opportunity to improve things, as it was, too, for American Indians.
In peace time--will we ever have that again?--years ago, Southerns made up the bulk of regular army people, and so working with Blacks after integration presented problem.s

I recall leaving Ft Lee Army base and getting on bus and then being told to move up front because "colored" sat in back. I was dumb high school grad and knew little about anything but instinctively said: "You can't tell me where to sit. This is govt property."He shut the door and drove on. Once outside the main gate:" You are in Virginia now. Up front or out."
posted by Postroad at 11:17 AM on August 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Good old Pittsburgh. As opposed to busted new Pittsburgh, trying to renew itself on the backs on Hipsters in the Strip district and that Heinz factory.

Busted, Slackermagee? If economic recovery from a failed steel industry, redefinition as a software, high-tech*, and advertising economic player, alongside a vibrant renovation of the downtown and historic areas, is busted...

... Oh! You were going for the cheap laugh. Sorry. Carry on.

* Such as telescopes, robotics, prosthetics, ...
posted by IAmBroom at 11:35 AM on August 31, 2011

Postroad: Wow.

I'd heard about the Double V campaign years ago, but the recent post about resistance in the Japanese camps reminded me that it would make good FPP fodder.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:37 AM on August 31, 2011

I know that for my grandfather, who was first assigned to the transport corps before he ended up with the OSS as a translator, commanding black troops made a huge difference for him in how he perceived racism. He'd always been a generally liberal guy (came from Chicago socialist stock) but even sort of banal things like realizing that black guys will get sunburned too if you work them too long under the sun were part of him going from passive supporter to active supporter for equal rights.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on August 31, 2011

Note that German Americans were not interned. A number Italians however were. Why the Japanese only? Color makes a difference in America.
Also of interest: Eisenhower, our Supreme Commander was German-Amerian; Admiral Nimitz, in charge of our Navy was also.
posted by Postroad at 11:59 AM on August 31, 2011

Then too there was World War One. Pretty much well appreciated in France, and indeed some went back for the good times of 1920's Paris as did Scott and Zelda and Ernest and all those people.

Note that German Americans were not interned.

posted by IndigoJones at 12:27 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Detroit Riot of 1943 was started by white servicemen beating blacks. There were whispers of this from some older black Detroiters. But you heard a good bit about the '67 riots around the area.

When I was in AIT, one of the drills brought the video of "A Soldier's Story" for us to watch one Saturday evening during our "free time." I usually skipped the movie because I'm not so fond of poorly done action films (and nearly all of them are poorly done), but when I saw what she was holding, I said, "Oh, that's a good film!" and sat down. When my drill gave me an odd look, I said, "Drill Sergeant, we all need to know Army history, the good parts and the bad parts."

The history of blacks in the armed forces in this country is fascinating and not at all in any logical progression. I'm glad to see it get some attention.
posted by QIbHom at 12:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had the honor to meet Lt. Col. Matt Urban years ago. He devoted himself to recreation and sports for young people, well a whole lot of good things. The best, IMO, is the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of W.N.Y.
posted by clavdivs at 1:09 PM on August 31, 2011

…We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with a cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same school room. So we watch them in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village. But we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta…
— Martin Luther King Jr.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

The second link in the OP is a bit sketchy to me.

See what you can find to back this up:

"THE CAMP VAN DORN RIOT, Late Fall, 1943 -

More than 1,200 black soldiers from the 364th Infantry Division were murdered in cold blood by the U.S. Army at camp Van Dorn in the southwestern Mississippi. "
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2011

Mr Yuck: Interesting -- I hadn't caught that -- it does look sketchy. I had been looking for some summaries of the sort of normal discrimination-based violence that African-American soldiers had run into during the time, mostly to fill out some of the context of the time (for a civilian example, it wasn't until the 1950's that the US had a year in which there wasn't at least one lynching) and had found that page but had missed the bit in there about the Camp van Dorn riot. I probably would've found a different source if I had noticed it.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:28 PM on August 31, 2011

I had served in the army at the very end of WWI

Oldest living Mefite tells all!
posted by chinston at 1:33 PM on August 31, 2011

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Thanks for this post - there's so much interesting stuff about the history of the African-American community in Pittsburgh (the Courier, the Homestead Grays, August Wilson (!), JE Wideman, etc.), and yet I feel like it doesn't get the attention it deserves, at least locally.
posted by chinston at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2011

It's important to note that after Pearl Harbor, FDR instructed Attorney General Francis Biddle to investigate the black press for possible violations of the Espionage and Sedition Acts. The Double V campaign notwithstanding, FDR was concerned that black newspapers were being too critical of the administration and its failure to push for forcefully for equal treatment for blacks in the military and other parts of government. Biddle, a more cautious man than his boss, arranged a meeting with Chicago Defender publisher John Sengstacke to explain the president's concerns. The two men reached an arrangement in which Sengstacke would arrange for more favorable coverage in the major black newspapers and Biddle would provide better access to black reporters. Roosevelt was mollified, and the investigation was closed.

Later, at the beginning of the Korean War, the Courier tried to get another Double V campaign off the ground, but nothing ever came of it. A generation of black troops had returned from World War II to find that not only had their not service not won them equal treatment, things had actually gotten worse. The Army disbanded the all-black 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions and tried to return to the policy of strict segregation that existed during the war. Most of the black soldiers still in the Army were shipped off to occupation duty in Japan, largely because the Army didn't know what else to do with them. Meanwhile, a number of black veterans were being lynched in the South and Midwest--some of them murdered because the sight of a black man in uniform enraged local whites. So there wasn't a lot of support for another Double V campaign, because the first one hadn't really worked.
posted by Rangeboy at 2:00 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Old but firm...just sent myh 18 year old daughter off to college. Clean living works wonders.
posted by Postroad at 2:35 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Black men and women have been fighting and dying for America since before there was a United States. They've proven their valor time and again and in each war until probably Vietnam their bravery has been questioned and they prove it all over again.

The Dixiecrats formed in 1948 in response to Truman's desegregation of the military and formation of a committee on civil rights.

A Soldier's Story is a good movie (based on A Soldier's Play) about the integrated military near the end of World War II.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:08 PM on August 31, 2011

The Dixiecrats formed in 1948 in response to Truman's desegregation of the military

You've mixed up cause and effect a bit here. The Dixiecrats walked out of the '48 Democratic Convention on July 13-14 when the party voted to include a liberal civil rights plank in its platform. With the Dixiecrats gone, Truman no longer had to placate the most racist and reactionary elements of his party. Also, the fracturing of the party meant that black voters would be essential to secure a Democratic victory in November. Executive Order 9981 was issued on July 26. Which is not to say that it was merely a political ploy by Truman and his advisers; Truman had been moving toward a more liberal civil rights policy for a few years.

Executive Order 9981 was also accompanied by the creation of the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces (better known as the Fahy Committee, for its chairman, Charles Fahy), a body designed to help (or rather, push) the military into complying with the new order. It had two black members, one of whom was Defender publisher John Sengstacke.
posted by Rangeboy at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2011

Now the Hell Will Start is a great book for understanding how segregated the assignments were in WWII.

Black troops weren't just ironically fighting for democracy, they were enslaved to fight for democracy. Losing one's civil rights as a soldier just plain looks different when one is black vs when one is white.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:40 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

vitabellosi, I have indeed heard that "Now the Hell Will Start " is a pretty good book.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:57 AM on September 1, 2011

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