James Thompson, a cafeteria worker from Wichita, Kansas suggested in a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier that African Americans use the war overseas to press for change on the home front. Thompson recommended adopt double V for a double victory. The first V would represent a victory for our enemies without, and the second V would represent a victory over our enemies within.
Although we were fighting a war for democracy overseas, segregation and the Jim Crow laws continued to be a bitter reality for African Americans here in the U.S.
The Courier received overwhelming support of James Thompson’s idea. To capitalize on his reader sentiment, the Pittsburgh Courier initiated the campaign by designing a graphic of the double V, which included a flying eagle. The campaign was stepped up by women wearing V’s on their dresses and adopting a new hairstyle called the doubler. There was even a double V song. The campaign followed the African American soldiers overseas as the paper and reporters circulated abroad.
The African American newspaper was a moral booster for the African American soldiers. The paper not only reported news from the United States, but it also reported what was going on with African American Soldiers abroad. That included violent racism practiced against our African American soldiers by our not black members of the U.S. military. As a result, the military sought to ban the distribution of black newspapers within the military. The military also ordered African American Soldiers not to read any of the black newspapers.
The black newspapers continued to report the ugly treatment the African American soldiers were receiving with the approval of the high command. The government and its’ top cop J. Edgar Hoover was angered by these reports. Hoover convinced President Roosevelt that the articles were dangerous to the well being of the United States during a time of war. He also wanted the black press to be charged with treason. In order to move forward on the charge of treason, Hoover would also have to convince the Attorney General to join in. The Attorney General, Francis Biddle, would only do so with convincing evidence. Before presenting his case to the Attorney General, Hoover held special hearings before a select committee. After the hearings Hoover provided Biddle with lengthy reports of what he termed as seditious activity by the African American press. Hoover then asked that the publishers of the black newspapers be indicted and charged with treason.
Will this be the end of the black press? I’m Susan Kidd. Join us tomorrow for the outcome.
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