World War II took place some 80 years ago. Since then, there have been countless books written on WWII filled with all kinds of information concerning happenings on the home front during the war years. Having been born in 1940, I can remember the effects of the war upon my community, family and me.

Many families here in Franklin County still hold dear accounts left by members of their family who served in the military during the war, or who were employed in one of the many industrial, transportation and agricultural endeavors that focused on producing the goods needed to win the war.

The United States government understood that if the country was to win the war against the Axis Powers, the government would need the whole hearted support of all of its citizens. One of the ways in which the United States government mobilized the citizens of the country to maximize war production was the Victory Campaign or the V Campaign. The United States government printed millions of posters that had in their center a “V.” War bond drives flew flags with a V centered in them. Banners with a V centered in them suitable for display in residential and business windows were sold to the public.

A Double V banner which was embraced by the African American community during World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. (Photo via National Archives)

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the leaders of the United States African American community mobilized their fellow citizens to support the V Campaign. They did this in hopes that such African American support would translate into better domestic, social and economic living standards for them and their children. However, the African American communities quickly realized that their support for the United States war against the Axis governments was not bringing any improvement to their social and economic status.

In February 1942, James G. Thompson had a letter published in the Pittsburgh Courier. The letter was headed “Should I Sacrifice to Live Half American?” Within the letter, Thompson wrote, “The V for Victory sign is being displayed prominently in all so called democratic countries which are fighting for victory … Let we colored Americans adopt the double V for a double victory. The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies within. For surely those who perpetuate these ugly prejudices here are seeking to destroy our democratic form of government just as surely as the Axis forces.” This letter was quickly republished across the United States by other Black newspapers, including The Louisville Defender, the leading African American newspaper in Kentucky

The Double V Campaign soon took hold within the United States African American community. As a result of the African American community embracing the Double V Campaign, instead of displaying the standard Victory flag and banner, they displayed the Double V flag and the Double V banner. One of the prominent white vocal backers of the Double V Campaign was Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another person who would support the program, via executive orders, was President Harry S. Truman.

In general, the local African American community embraced the Double V Campaign. We know that Kentucky State University, then Kentucky State College for Negroes, actively embraced the Double V Campaign. The college supported both the war effort and the Civil Rights movement.