The Man Behind the Double V Campaign

Many could pay attention to the Double V marketing campaign—victory at dwelling and overseas for Black residents throughout World Conflict II—however few know of the 26-year-old cafeteria employee on the Plane Corps in Wichita, Kansas, who ignited the marketing campaign.

In his letter to the Pittsburgh Courier, a distinguished Black newspaper, James G. Thompson contemplated the paradox of preventing for equality overseas whereas dealing with inequality at dwelling when he penned, “Ought to I sacrifice my life to reside half American?”


Previous to the battle, almost 80 p.c of the Black inhabitants lived within the South beneath Jim Crow legal guidelines that institutionalized segregation. On the eve of World Conflict II, Blacks carried an unemployment price twice that of white People and a median earnings that was a 3rd of the common household, in keeping with the Nationwide World Conflict II Museum. Between 1918 and 1941 the Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks (NAACP) recorded at the very least 544 lynchings of Blacks, though current estimates have deemed that quantity to be even increased.

In battle time Black women and men confronted the duality of preventing in opposition to the genocidal Nazi regime, whereas conversely residing via widespread racial violence and discrimination that often denied Black residents their constitutional proper to vote.

In his letter, revealed on January 31, 1942, Thompson implored that “whereas we maintain protection and victory within the forefront that we don’t lose sight of our struggle for true democracy at dwelling.” Thompson added, “Wouldn’t it be demanding an excessive amount of to demand full citizenship rights in alternate for sacrificing of my life?”

Thompson’s letter tapped into the frustration that many Blacks have been experiencing. Historian C.L.R. James later echoed Thompson and proclaimed, “Why ought to I shed my blood for Roosevelt’s America, for Cotton Ed Smith and Senator Bilbo, for the entire Jim Crow, negro-hating South, for the low-paid, soiled jobs for which negroes should struggle, for the few {dollars} of reduction and the insults, discrimination, police brutality, and perpetual poverty to which negroes are condemned even within the extra liberal North?”

Co-opting the “V for Victory” slogan, Thompson instructed that if the “V for victory signal is being displayed prominently in all so-called democratic nations that are preventing for victory over aggression, slavery and tyranny,” then “we coloured People undertake the double VV for a double victory. The primary V for victory over our enemies from with out, the second V for victory over our enemies from inside.”

Thompson’s letter was not a wild new idea for a lot of Black People, however his slogan was memorable and caught the curiosity of quite a few Black newspapers throughout America.

The Courier, for instance, took Thompson’s cue and launched the Double V marketing campaign, demanding social, political, and financial positive aspects. On February 14, 1942 the newspaper printed, “we adopted the Double “V” Conflict Cry—victory over our enemies at dwelling and victory over our enemies on the battlefields overseas. Thus, in our struggle for freedoms, we wage a two-pronged assault in opposition to our enslavers at dwelling and people overseas who would enslave us. WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT. . . ARE AMERICANS, TOO!”

(National Archives, Records of the Office of Civilian Defense)
(Nationwide Archives, Information of the Workplace of Civilian Protection)

In June of that yr Thompson changed W.C. Web page because the director of the Courier‘s nationwide Double V marketing campaign, and by mid-July the Courier claimed it had recruited 200,000 Double V members—one of many largest Black organizations in America at the moment.

The marketing campaign additionally obtained appreciable help from key white politicians, novelists, and films stars that included, amongst others, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Ingrid Bergman, and Humphrey Bogart.

Thompson remained with the Courier till he was drafted into service in February 1943, after which era the newspaper largely deserted its Double V marketing campaign.

And though he pale into historic obscurity, Thompson’s slogan stays a key pillar of the struggle for racial equality within the twentieth century and a harbinger of the civil rights motion.

 “I really like America,” he wrote. “[A]nd am keen to die for the America I do know will sometime turn out to be a actuality.”


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