Published Feb. 19, 2015
Throughout the month of February, in honor of Black History Month, we will be featuring unsung heroes and stories of the civil rights movement. You can find more stories of those well-known and not-so-well-known in our Making A Change EDCollection.
During the civil rights movement, African-American newspapers advocated for change when other newspapers did not. One of these newspapers, the Pittsburgh Courier, was known for its coverage of the local black community. It sought to improve conditions for blacks, as well as empower them.
Established in 1907 by Edwin Harleston, the Pittsburgh Courier weekly became one of the most influential African-American newspapers in the country. On Feb. 7, 1942, only a few months after the United States entered World War II, the newspaper began a campaign known as “Double V”, which sought not only victory abroad but also victory at home.
Through the power of the press, the campaign urged readers to help bring victory abroad by buying war bonds and participating in civilian defense. At home, among other goals, the “Double V” campaign demanded full citizenship rights for African Americans and “elimination of the ban which prevents loyal and patriotic Negro Americans from full participation in the defense industries of the country.” The campaign sought an end to segregation in the military and elsewhere, including professional sports.
The “Double V” campaign was initially successful; it attracted readers and national attention. In October 1943, the campaign ended without any specific changes, but it did provide a voice for those fighting against discrimination at home. While change was slow, World War II helped to shine a light on the domestic problems and discrimination against the very service members who fought for freedom abroad. (According to the National WWII Museum, 1.2 million African Americans served in the U.S. military.) World War II ended in 1945; three years later, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which began the process of integrating the United States Armed Forces.
The Pittsburgh Courier continued to publish through 1965, until it was purchased by The Chicago Defender‘s owner John Sengstacke. Today, the newspaper is published as the New Pittsburgh Courier.
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