This paper will be examining The Pittsburgh Courier during World
War II. The Courier was one of the leaders of the black press leading
up to and during the war. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview
of The Courier during this time. The Courier was the creator
of the Double V campaign, which was promoted civil rights and American
success in the war.
The method of research for this project was a form of Interpretive Content
Analysis called structuralism. This was qualitative research, not quantitative.
Meaning was determined based on the interpretation of the researcher. Psychoanalytic
approach was also employed to determine the underlying themes of the content.
The research consisted of physically examining The Courier microfilm,
which was done in West Pattee Library. Specifically, the national edition
of The Courier , between December 1941 and September 1945, was used
for this study. Background information on Robert Vann and the early years
of The Courier was taken from books. The internet was going to be utilized
for some research, but there is not a significant presence of information
about The Courier . In light of that, there was no actual information
used from the internet for this paper. After the conclusion of this paper,
a website will be created to detail its findings and give The Courier
a presence on the web. The address will be http://www.yurasko.net/wfy/vv.html
As one of the leading black newspapers, The Pittsburgh Courier
was in a position to influence popular opinion among blacks, advocate for
civil rights and tell the news in a perspective that was of importance
to its readers. The Courier , with over 250,000 weekly subscribers
was a leader in circulation. Pass along readership is undetectable, but
this too was influential in spreading the Courierís word. One unsubstantiated
account in a story during 1943 claimed that The Courier had a million readers.
The masthead proclaimed this in its mottoes, "Leader in Advertising, Circulation,
and News" and "Americaís Best Weekly.
The history of the black press began in 1827 with the creation of Freedomís
Journal, a New York City publication that premiered on March 16. It
was fitting that New York be the location of the first black paper, as
it had become a mecca for freed and freeborn negros.* The paper,
as the editors saw it would be able to do firsthand what others had been
doing. "We wish to plead our cause." The cause was what would be the cause
throughout the history of the black press, equal rights. Calls for mobilization
to vote and actively pursue equal rights were printed.
folded March 28, 1829. Two months later, Rights for All came to
replace it, but made sure to point out that it was a new paper. After six
months, it too folded. It was not until 1837 that another paper of consequence,
American (known first as The Weekly Advocate) also of New York
City, arrived. The search for subscriptions and no wages for the producers
of the paper were that Colored American
endured would become the
norm for the Black press.
The year 1837 was also the beginnings of black magazines, with Mirror
of Liberty in NYC. The following year saw a Philadelphia based magazine,
Reformer debut. In the 1840ís and 1850ís over half-a-dozen Black publications
came and went. The Anti-Bellum period was still a difficult time for black
papers, editors struggled to print and still eat. This was true whether
it be in NYC or elsewhere, this period saw the beginnings of the Black
press in places such as Syracuse and other Upstate New York towns, including
Frederick Douglasís North Star, out of Rochester. With $10,000 of
printing equipment from England, Douglas was able to launch and maintain
the North Star. Unlike previous papers, the North Star carried
news of distant black communities, fiction, book reviews and verse. The
revenue did eventually wane to a point where the North Star was
merged with the Liberty Party paper to become Frederick Douglasís
Paper, which brought in more subscribers and kept the paper afloat
until 1860. Mystery, a Pittsburgh paper also reigned during the
1840ís as well as did papers in Michigan, Ohio and Kansas.
In 1855, the first west coast black paper, the Mirror of the Times,
was published in San Francisco, it lasted seven years. The South saw its
first black paper, the English-French LíUnion from 1862 to 1864
in New Orleans. That city was also home to Black Republican from
1865-1868. The Black press would spread to all Southern states and the
border states as well between the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction.
One paper, The Star of Zion, of North Carolina remained in print
into the mid 1990ís. Black Codes, enforced as early as 1865, were written
to stop printing in some states. By 1896, there were 112 black newspapers.
After 73 years, the black press had established footholds in almost every
state, including the far west and Alaska.
The turn of the century saw the beginnings of The Baltimore Afro-American,
The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier, the focus
of this study. The Afro-American would be an untiring advocate for
social change and was printed daily. The Defender is credited with
advocating thousands of southern blacks to migrate to Chicago in the Great
Northern Drive. When they got there, The Defender was ready for
them; helping them find jobs, homes, and tutoring them. The Courier
contributed its own movement during World War II.
Originally founded in 1910, The Courier was the brainchild of
Edwin Nathaniel Harleston, a guard at the H.J. Heinz food packing plant.
He and Robert Vann had shared a common interest; poetry. Initially, the
paper struggled to survive, resorting to gimmicks such as offering a free
care to the person who signs up the most subscriptions. Despite The
Courierís constant struggles, it was apparent by 1914, it was going
to make a go at it.** The paper barely broke even for many years;
Vann an accomplished attorney, worked other jobs in addition to his Courier
duties, just to make ends meet. Eventually, he was pulled to newspapering
full time and by 1926 he had become the controlling owner.
Other facets of The Courier was sensationalism, which came into
play as it grew more national, Vannís promotion of successful black businessmen,
and in 1927, a fueled with the NAACP. In 1929, The Courier built
its own plant, complete with printing equipment. At the time of Vannís
death of cancer in 1940, The Courierís weekly circulation had risen to
185,000. It would slip down to 160,000 initially, but would rise throughout
The Double V Campaign
Shortly after Americaís entrance in to World War II, The Courier
launched "The Double V Campaign" (Double V). Under the theme of "Democracy:
Victory at Home, Victory Abroad" The Courier remained patriotic,
yet pushed for civil rights for blacks. It was very important that the
campaign show loyalty towards the war effort, since the black press had
been criticized for pushing their own agenda ahead of the national agenda.
This campaign was initially a roaring success. This was the most important
part of The Courier during the war.
The campaign was created by James G. Thompson, of Wichita, KS. In a
January 31, 1942 letter to the editor, titled, "Should I Sacrifice To Live
ĎHalf American?í" Thompson urged that such a campaign would set apart the
confusion of a black American at the time. Formally debuting February 7,
1942, Double V, appeared only as the insignia; DEMOCRACY on top
of two interlocking "Vís" with a crest that included "Double Victory" and
AT HOME - ABROAD at the bottom of the logo. An eagle perched across the
crest. There was no other mention of the entire campaign in that issue
of the paper. On February 14, 1942, The Courier released this statement,
above the masthead:
"The Courierís Double ĎVí For a Double Victory Campaign Gets Country-Wide
Support." Last week, without any public announcement or fanfare , the editors
of The Courier introduced its war slogan- a double "V" for a double victory
to colored America. We did this advisedly because we wanted to test the
response and popularity of such a slogan with our readers. The response
has been overwhelming. Our office has been inundated with hundreds of telegrams
and letters of congratulations proving that without any explanation, this
slogan represents the true battle cry of colored America. This week we
gratefully acknowledge this voluntary response and offer the following
explanation: Americans all, are involved in a gigantic war effort to assure
the victory for the cause of freedom- the four freedoms that have been
so nobly expressed by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill.
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 on the battlefields abroad. Thus in our fight for freedom
we wage a two-pronged attack against our enslaves at home and those abroad
who would enslave us. WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT....WE ARE AMERICANS
That spring, DOUBLE V became an integral part of The Courier . Photographs
of people endorsing the campaign saturated the paper. Supporters of DOUBLE
V were prominently displayed, particularly if they were white. One typical
photograph, which appeared February 28, 1942, above the nameplate on the
front page, contained a black man and his white friend:
To make democracy a fact and not a dream is the aim of William Adams,
salesman in a New York Menís furnishing store, who is pictured here with
Seymour Kay, a white shipping clerk. They are supporting the "Double V"
Some covers, prominently displayed two people, a black and a white, standing
together with fingers on both hands forming Vís. This was placement was
essential to The Courierís plan. The Courier was determined
to fight for rights within the democratic system and in cooperation with
whites. Very tactfully, The Courier asked that the US practice at home
what it preached abroad. This was not an observation made only by the black
press either, the Nazi propaganda machine made note of the double standard
in its efforts as well.
The Double V campaigns creators were announced in the April 11, 1942
edition. The brainchild, Thompson and the creator of the logo, Wilbert
L. Holloway, a staff artist for The Courier . Holloway was also responsible
for the comic strip Sunnyboy and many of The Courierís editorial
cartoons. Photographs were shown of the two men and an essay by Thompson
was included. The following is an excerpt from it:
"....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 become the true democracy it
was designed to be. These things will become reality in time; but not through
any relaxation of the efforts to secure them."
Across the country, Double V clubs surfaced. The Courier, would eventually
create a Double V column for such clubs. The week after the campaign began,
the February 14, 1943 issue, a photograph two young ladies, titled "Debs
(as in debutantes) Support "DOUBLE V" Drive. Soon, pretty young women were
regularly shown flashing two Vís, which evolved into the Double V girl,
found in every issue, sometimes on page 1. Each week a new young lady would
be featured. Typically, they were in college, active participants in extracurricular
activities, and of course, strong supporters of the campaign. A typical
Double V girl, would have a caption similar to this one;
Lovely Marguerite V. Roan, co-ed at Tennessee A. and I. college, Nashville,
is the "Double Victory" girl of the week. Miss Roan, native of Cincinnati,
Ohio, is an ardent booster of the "Double V" program and one of the first
to join the movement. She is a talented ballet dance and has appeared in
many concerts in the midwest. Incidentally, Tennessee A. and I. college
is the only school in the country whose entire student body Is organized
into a "Double V" club.
Other examples of the campaignís popularity were shown, whether it be in
the comic strips or in dress. One photo showed four young women singers
sporting Double V dresses. Double V hats were also featured in the photographs.
Whites who endorsed it were featured as well. Politicians who supported
the cause were shown on the front page. Actress Lana Turner, was shown
in a rather sundry shot in one edition. the caption described that her
latest film, Slightly Dangerous, featured blacks and that she endorsed
the campaign and was a Courier subscriber.
Often, The Courier would say that a certain person or organization supported
the Double V Campaign. However, these groups and individuals were not always
quoted as specifically saying that they endorsed the campaign, just the
principles of it. Early on, a number of senators were shown as supporters
of the Double V campaign. Warren Barbor (NJ), Francis Malone (CT), and
Joseph Guffey (PA) were pictured in the April 11, 1942 issue as supporters
to the campaign. There was no story accompanying their photos though, so
whether the specifically endorsed the Double V campaign is uncertain. Another
example is a January 3, 1943 story with the headline, "Murray, Townsend
Seek a ĎDouble Ví." The story which detailed the CIOís plan ( Murray and
Townsend were labor leaders) to eliminate racial discrimination which undermined
the war effort, did not make one mention of an endorsement for the campaign.
The CIOís plan was in accordance with the principals of Double V, but not
actually using it as a rallying cry. Wendall Wilkie, former Republican
candidate for President, did openly support Double V, and a photograph
appeared with him wearing a Double V pin. The caption included that Mr.
Wilkie, "wholeheartedly endorses The Courier ĎDouble Ví."
The pin that Wilkie wore was created by The Courier based on
reader demand. The campaign had become so popular and promoted so heavily,
that there was calls for "official" Double V merchandise, so to speak.
Unofficially, double V "fashions" had become quite popular, whether it
be in hats or dresses. For a nickel, a Double V pin could be purchased
through mail order. In some issues, an advertisement for A Double V pin
for five cents, scrolled across the page. This research did not find any
totals for sales of the pin though.
On April 4, 1942, it was announced that another black paper joined the
Double V campaign, the LA Sentinel. June 13, 1942 saw five more papers
were added to this list: The Washington Tribune, (DC); The Challenger of
Columbus, Ohio; The Aiken Journal, (SC); Interracial News Service, a periodical
of the Department of Race Relations, Federal Council of Churches, (NY);
and The Voice, Rochester, NY.
Even though the campaign was not moving along at the same rate it had
previously, the story "Double V Wins in Courier Poll," printed October
24, 1942, discussed the results of a poll about the Double V. The question
was as follows:
"DO YOU FEEL THAT THE NEGRO SHOULD SOFT PEDAL HIS DEMANDS FOR COMPLETE
FREEDOM AND CITIZENSHIP AND AWAIT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS?"
Eighty-eight point seven percent responded NO. Nine point two percent said
YES. The remaining 2.1% answered UNCERTAIN.
The story did speak of a defensive tone for those who answered NO;
"No one must interpret this militant of Negroes as a plot to impede
the war effort. Negroes recognize that the first factor in the survival
of this nation is the winning of the war. But they feel integration of
Negroes into the whole scheme of things Ďrevitalizesí the U.S. war program."
A Pennsylvania clerical worker summed it up when he said: "Arenít the Allies
fighting for freedom? How can the deny our effort?"
To address the minority of those polled, The Courier added a
the following quote:
"As a race we need education before we can expect full citizenship."
Other quotes from the articles stated, that there was a need for a "Double
"The logical and most sane program of all has been the Double V slogan.
Many whites have endorsed it and in general it has not drawn subversive
criticism which has been characteristic of a number of the so-called Ďrace
Throughout 1942, the Double V campaign insignia would appear throughout
the paper, in margins and sometimes on the front page, above the fold on
most of those occasions. These reminders kept the campaign going without
devoting actual text to them. However, as 1943 started up, the campaign
was taking up less column inches then the initial start. The insignia had
essentially disappeared from the pages by September 1942, and the Double
V girls did not last much beyond that period. The June 5, 1943 edition
did provide one of the most vivid displays of the campaign; two people,
one black, one white, holding each otherís hands to form two "Vís." This
was the essence of the campaign.
Although the campaign was not being promoted as much after Fall 1942,
there was one specific feature of the campaign that remained.. Between
briefs on its pages, as well as some stories, a "DOUBLE V" appeared. It
looked similar to this:
Starting in September 1945, the Double V was finally removed from the
paper. However, it lived in spirit as a single V. The victory abroad had
been won. The single V lasted into 1946.
Outside of Double V, The Courierís Advocacy
The Courier crusaded in ways other than the Double V campaign.
one of the first war issues that The Courier crusaded against was
the ban on blood donation for blacks. A January 3, 1942 story reported
that The American Red Cross would not accept black blood. This was often
a front page story and had a fair share of editorial remarks regarding
it. Called the "Race Blood Myth," it was editorialized as being the greatest
dictator on earth, the comparisons to Hitler appeared as well. On January
31, 1942, the Red Cross allowed all peoples to donate blood, but it was
to be kept separate. The February 7, 1942 issue proudly proclaimed "NEGRO
CREATED BLOOD BANK" on the very top of the front page. It was also noted
that there was no scientific evidence that there was a difference in blood
based on race to which the Red Cross readily admitted, fueling The Courierís
disagreement with the policy.
As it had before the war even began, The Courier pushed for full
integration of the military. The late Robert Vann had been pushing for
that during the 1930ís. Coverage of blacks plight in the military, particularly
the Tuskeegee Air School were focused on nearly weekly. The Navy did not
except Negroes as anything but messman. This became one of the biggest
and continuing crusades of The Courier during the war. The first example
was a story of an unknown Negro messman who, without training defended
the battleship Arizona. The Courier printed an excerpt from the December
22, 1941, New York Times, prepared by the NAACP:
A Negro mess attendant who never before fired a gun manned a machine
gun on the bridge until his ammunition was exhausted.
More on this story is found further along in the paper, under "Heroes."
The 93rd Division, an all black division was given even more coverage,
often appearing on the front page, as did the 99th Division. Photographs
of the 93rd were many and praise, when it came was emphasized. A photograph
from February 21, 1942 showed a mixed group of soldiers having a good time:
Having a rollicking good time on shore leave at a San Diego cafe is
the happy group of sailors pictured here. This scene gives rise to the
question if Uncle Samís sons of the Navy Blue can play together, why canít
they fight together?
Full inclusion in the war effort was advocated by The Courier , whether
it be in the armed forces themselves or in war production plants. A photograph
of a striker at a St. Louis plant summed up the attitude The Courier
"STRIKING FOR THE RIGHT TO FIGHT AND DIE FOR MY COUNTRY"
One of The Courierís other ways of promoting the war effort was
by including an American flag with every subscription. "BUY WAR BONDS"
was also displayed in the paper as the war progressed, in full advertisements
and between the stories. The research did not clearly indicate if the "BUY
WAR BONDS" between stories were paid advertisements or The Courierís
own advocacy. Starting in 1943, an insignia promoting "100% participation
and 10.7% payroll reduction" was placed beside the masthead. Previously,
that had been home to the Double V insignia.
The Courier also included the "Negro Pledge of Allegiance" on
the front page of one issue. "Yankee Doodle Tan" described as a "moving"
song composed by Andy Razaf and J.C. Johnson was written to coincide with
the national Double V program, and produced in early April 1942. The song
was to symbolize the "non-Nordic" fighting manís hopes and ambitions during
the war. The second headline said that it "looms as a great song."
Non-blacks in The Courier
White America was largely ignored by The Courier . This is typical
of the Black press, which sought to fill the void that the mainstream papers
created. The inclusion of whites in the paper was typically included only
if it directly related to blacks. George Dewey, who spoke of bringing down
racial barriers as a candidate for Governor of New York and as a Presidential
candidate appeared on the front page numerous times promoting the same
ideals that the Double V campaign was based on. Coverage of Dewey, was
very favorable, but often he appeared without a photograph. Photographs
of whites usually included a black person(s) in them. White celebrities
and black celebrities working together was a common photograph. Whites
opposed integration were not shown in photographs very often and received
less coverage than their "liberal" counterparts.
The Courier also included, in its editorial pages, views from
non-blacks. Rose Wilder Lane represented the "progressive White" voice.
Similar columns were given for an Indian and a Chinese writer as well.
The tone of these columns generally agreed with The Courierís view
The Courier and the Presidency
The election of 1944 is the only one covered by this study, but it should
be noted that in 1932 and 1936, The Courier endorsed Franklin D.
Roosevelt. In 1940, Wendall Wilkie was The Courierís choice. In
1944, The Courier once again did not endorse Roosevelt, siding with
Thomas Dewey of New York. Dewey had made headlines for the paper early
in the war by being openly against the disenfranchisement of blacks in
America. The Courier felt that Roosevelt had served for too long
and criticized him for never championing any legislation to improve the
plight of blacks. The Courier maintained that there was time for
a change of administration and vowed it would contend that if Roosevelt
won. Also, Harry S Truman, was seen as a threat to the advancements or
possible advancements of blacks because of his alliance with Southern politicians.
An October 28, 1944 editorial noted:
"There is NOTHING in Mr. Trumanís record, nor anything in the record
of those whose company he keeps, that can possibly justify the support
of the Negro people in the key cities of the North. On his recent trip
to New Orleans, his company consisted of Senators EASTLAND, ELLENDER, BILBO.
This can have but one meaning --MORE SEGREGATION, MORE JIM CROWISM, CONTINUATION
OF THE VICIOUS POLL TAX SYSTEM!"
And in a caption from the same issue:
"BIRDS OF A FEATHER"- This chummy picture of Texas Senator Tom Connally,
the "Filibuster Tycoon," and the Democratic nominee for Vice-President,
Harry S. (note the period next to S, in reality, Trumanís middle initial
was simply S, without a period) Truman, raises a most interesting question
in the minds of Negro voters. Henry Wallace was sacrificed at Chicago for
this same Truman in order to please the prejudiced Southern politicians.
Negroes who vote for the re-election of President Roosevelt this fall,
should also PRAY AS THEY VOTE . . . PRAY that Mr. Roosevelt continues in
Also, in that editorial, and other editorials, The Courier spoke
to those who choose to vote for FDR. Citing that the distance between the
President and Vice-President is merely a heartbeat away, The Courier
would suggest that there be prayer that HE KEEPS GOOD HEALTH. Editorials
expressed doubts over whether FDR could survive the term.
The editorials that questioned FDRís ability to survive became nearly
prophetic. April 12, 1945, a cerebral hemorrhage ended the Presidents life.
In coverage of the Presidents death and of the new President, the confrontational
tone of the Ď44 election editorials was gone. The front page story of Roosevelt
described him as "The Best Friend of Race Since Lincoln, Wilkie" in its
headline. President Harry Truman, was shown shaking hands with Marshall
Shepherd, recorder of deeds at the top the April 12 edition. There was
no reference to Trumanís possible allegiances upon his accession.
Cartoons in The Courier, Part of the Agenda
The Courier contained comic strips, panels, and editorial cartoons.
The editorial cartoons covered a wide variety of issues, some that were
about black rights and some that were universal in the relevance. Panels
were typically light hearted and did not have any advocacy towards the
war effort. Strips also generally lighthearted and did not advocate as
often as the editorial cartoons.
Early in the war, one cartoon depicted a battlefield with downed planes.
The editorial that followed explained that if 145 planes were lost everyday,
there would be outrage and despair. It was then explained that an estimated
145 planes were not created every day because of poor nutrition of workers.
The call of that editorial was for proper eating habits to ensure victory.
Other editorials and cartoons would tackle different issues. One cartoon
showed a desert, with an oasis of integration and end of prejudice. Themes
like this- a vast sea or desert separating blacks from an oasis or island
of freedom and true democracy. The February 14, 1942 editorial showed a
lookout in a crows nest aboard a ship looking across the sea to freedom.
Another showed Segregationists, Klu Klux Klan, Nazis and others throwing
stones at the Statue of Liberty. The accompanying story argued that the
virtues of liberty were being denied by such individuals and groups.
One of the weekly strips, the typically lighthearted Sunnyboy
sometimes included the Double V campaign and other wartime themes such
as rationing. One Sunnyboy, February 7, 1942, even included the
heavy weight champion, Joe Louis talking to Sunnyboy after his enlistment.
That strip also had Sunnyboy advertising a Joe Louis, Solider, print and
yet another had Sunnyboy advocating the Double V campaign. Society Sue
an adventure serial comic included stories involving war factories blowing
up with the heroes trapped inside. Bucky was a comic about a little
boy and the mischief that little boys get into. At times it too included
war themes, such as Bucky praying to god to "defeat the Japs," and in "Mistaken
Identity" spraying a neighborhood Japanese laundry owner with water. That
strip, from January 3, 1942, included Asian stereotypes; laundry-owner,
poor grammar, and "Lís" that should be "Rís." The prayer to defeat the
Japs, " Dear Lord, please help us whip the Japs A-AíAmen" appeared on February
The Courierís two biggest heroes of the
war effort were two soldiers, one who was initially anonymous and the other
was the most famous black man in America. At Pearl Harbor, a Negro messman
rushed to an unmanned gun and fired until the ammunition was exhausted.
This came to light after the initial reports from Pearl Harbor, which was
refereed to earlier in this paper. The Courier continued with the
story, and sought to learn the identity of this hero. Not releasing the
names of black heroes was not too uncommon for the military, the May 8,
1943 issue detailed a heroic, but unnamed machine gun crew of 11. As of
February 14, 1942, Miller remained unknown, but was shown to be decorated
in a story from that issue. Exactly one month later, The Courier got the
"scoop of the year" and learned that the decorated messman was Dorie Miller.
In the April 4, 1942, The Courier reported that Miller was honored
by a CBS program. Admiral Nimitz pinned a medal on Miller in June Ď42,
reported on June 20. The Courier advocated for his return in the June 27
edition and offered this question,
Why canít Dorie Miller, the messman who risked his life to save that
of his dying captain at Pearl Harbor, be returned to his country so people
may see him? Why does the Navy Department find it so easy to return other
men - commanders of battleships, commanders of submarines and destroyers,
aviators and other personnel - and so difficult to return the heroic mess
boy, Dorie Miller? Men who fought in the Coral Sea in May have been returned
to the United States.
On February 6, 1943, The Courier made another plea for Miller to be returned
to the States. The comparison this time was that of Joseph L. Lockhard,
a sergeant at Pearl Harbor who warned of impending Japanese attack (which
was ignored), was sent to officer training school. Miller, who FOUGHT in
the battle was "too important waiting table in the Pacific to return him."
In photographs accompanying the article, Lockhardís included the caption,
"He Warned . . . Got Commission" and Miller, "He Fought . . . Keeps Mop."
For all of The Courierís advocacy, Miller never returned home or received
commission. In November 1943, Miller was killed in battle, reported June
Messman heroes were not limited to Miller. Another posthumous hero was
Leonard Roy Harmon, who died in the South Pacific. Harmon would later be
recognized with the commissioning of the USS Harmon, a destroyer
escort. Ships, such as the Harmon, became heroes in themselves.
Marian Anderson, famed opera singer, christened the Booker T. Washington,
appearing in the October 3, 1943 edition. Robert Vann, founder of The
Pittsburgh Courier, was also honored with a ship bearing his name.
The October 16, 1943 Courier used this occasion to commemorate Vannís life.
Unlike the messmen heroes that The Courier promoted, Joe Louis,
often referred to simply as Joe, was famous before the war. The champ,
who donated all of the proceeds of the Buddy Baer purse to the Navy Relief
Fund, enlisted in the Army. The Courier supported Louis from the
start of his enlistment with heavy coverage on the front page and throughout
the paper with photos included. January 17, 1942ís cover featured Louis
saluting in front of an American flag. That same issue, Wendall Wilkie
praised Louis for all of his efforts and urged that it was now the Navyís
turn. January 24 included a photo spread of a day in the Army for Louis.
Showing that Louisís popularity was universal, a cartoon from The New
York Journal-American appeared in the January 31 Courier
showed Louis in the ring clobbering an opponent. Behind his blows were
dignity, courage, honesty, patriotism, modesty, unselfishness, sportsmanship,
and clean living. His opponents: stupid bigotry, race prejudice, and vicious
intolerance. Tallulah Bankhead, star of the stage, was quoted in the February
28 issue as saying that the "three greatest Americans were FDR, Joe Louis,
and Wendall Wilkie," in that order.
Louisí movements were followed wherever he went. Working more as a good-will
ambassador for the Army, it was announced in the July 17, 1943 Courier
that he would be going on a Ďround the world tour of Army posts. In an
adjoining box, readers learned that Louis was mobbed by autograph seekers,
causing him to arrive twenty minutes late for a Pentagon meeting. Readers
even learned of an addition to the Louis family, a girl named Jacqueline,
born February 8, 1943 and reported on the 20th of that month.
The Pittsburgh Courier of the World War II years continued to
serve the basic function on which the Black press had been formed over
100 years previously; "we wish to plead our cause." To The Courier
the cause was two-fold; the end of Jim Crow and disenfranchisement, and
the defeat of the Axis powers. Overall the cause was freedom. Double V
campaign was brilliant in its simplicity to achieve these ends. The evidence
to support this is the initial reaction in a mere week without anymore
than the insignia. The responses in The Courier showed that this was an
accurate representation of the feelings of blacks across America who wanted
America to be the free land that it was capable of being. This campaign
called the country on its double-standard of fighting for freedom on the
world stage, yet denying it to 10% of its own population. This was indeed
a militant campaign, but militant within the system. The Double V was not
calling the destruction or overthrow of society to achieve its means, rather
the inclusion into society. This was a democratic movement, it was designed
to use the system at its basic ideological level. The very society that
denied civil rights was embraced by the people who were at the bottom.
The campaign call upon the tactic of the overall American campaign in
both World Wars, VICTORY and made it include the homefront. It was a positive
assertion of rights through cooperation, friendship, respect, love, and
the very principle that this nation was created on, "all men are created
equal." It mobilized Blacks into fighting a war for a country that did
not treat them as full citizens. Optimism was an important component, it
was creator James G. Thompson who said that the next generation will have
There is no doubt that The Courier was setting an agenda. The
paper was proud of its advocacy and made no apologies for fighting to be
recognized as Americans. The Double V was the ultimate expression of the
agenda. Other expressions, such as the integration of the armed services
were also very important to promoting the agenda. It was the heart of the
Dorie Miller was also symbolic of the agenda, the "everyman" solider
who performed at the most crucial time beyond his training to preserve
the nation. Even in doing that he was brushed aside, and not even given
credit initially. Others had done less them him and returned to the States
to be hailed as heroes and trained as officers. Miller would never receive
this because of his skin color. He would eventually be rewarded and honor
by the military and press alike, but for him and the other Blacks in the
service, the real prize was denied. Upward mobility through promotions
and commissions would not come to the lowly messman, no matter how great
his deeds were. The Courier advocated that it should not be that way, blacks
should be should be given the same opportunity to defend their country.
Joe Louis was the opposite end of the spectrum than Dorie Miller. He
enlisted into the Army and became the hero of America, regardless of race.
The Courier promoted his effort, as did the mainstream press as the example
of a great American. Louis was allowed to do all of this because he was
famous, a heavyweight champion in boxing. He was a symbol of sacrifice
for the greater good. Why then, did the military contradict itself by allowing
Joe Louis to be a hero, but not other blacks, The Courier asked?
Across the sea of inequality, The Courier sailed towards the promised
land, the agenda was its sails, with two "Vís" proudly displayed beneath
the stars and strips. The Courier fulfilled its mission to plead our cause
and continue the war, started in 1827. The Double V campaign brought the
war closer to conclusion.