Guest Post: Rusty Annis, Belchertown, Massachusetts, Teacher
World War II marked a watershed for American identity, equality and opportunity. Advocates called bastions of racism into question and for the first time effectively challenged many aspects of discrimination. The war gave minorities (including women) a chance to contribute in a noticeable way to American society. It was not an easy transition. Horrifying reactions occurred.
Axis propagandists used America racism to knock America off its high horse of moral superiority. An excellent book utilizing personal accounts from this time period is Double Victory, by Professor Ronald Takaki (Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Co. New York). Takaki gives an overview of many ethnic stories of striving for American identity. The phrase double victory refers to a February 7, 1942 letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Courier from James G. Thompson, encouraging equality for people of color in the United States. “The first V for victory over our enemies from without, the second V for victory over our enemies from within.” Link to a wiki on the impact of the Double Victory Campaign. (The "Double V for Victory" button by the page title leads to a unique large photo of a Double V rally.)
Although the concept of Double Victory was conceived from an African American view, Takaki perceptively expands its impact on a multitude of ethnic identities. A resonant theme in the book is how each person felt very strongly that America was their home and personal identity in spite of the historical treatment of their ethnicity. World War II was a uniting factor for American identity and a flowering of equality in American society.
The Library of Congress also offers materials on African American struggles for equality in World War II. The Library of Congress also presents audio links of interviews with people responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor.