National Archives and Records Administration
Powers of Persuasion

We say glibly that in the United States of America all men are
free and equal, but do we treat them as if they were? . . . There is
religious and racial prejudice everywhere in the land, and if there
is a greater obstacle anywhere to the attainment of the teamwork
we must have, no one knows what it is.
Arthur Upham Pope, Chairman of the Committee for National Morale, in
America Organizes to Win the War

United We Win

In spite of overt racial discrimination and segregation in the military and in civilian life, the overwhelming majority of black Americans participated wholeheartedly in the fight against the Axis powers. They did so, however, with an eye towards reconciling American ideals of equality with American practices of discrimination. This objective was expressed in the call, initiated in the black press, for the "Double 'V'"--victory over fascism abroad and over racism at home.

The Government was well aware of the demoralizing effects of racial prejudice on the African American population. In its publicity campaigns, the Government presented an idealized view of race relations in America. Racial tensions disappeared in portrayals of black Americans as full and equal participants in American society. The images of racial harmony belied the profound feelings of unrest that, on occasion, erupted into episodes of racial violence during the war years.

United We Win
Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943
Printed by the Government Printing Office for the
War Manpower Commission
NARA Still Picture Branch (NWDNS-44-PA-370)

Image of Dorie Miller
Above and Beyond
the Call of Duty

by David Stone Martin
Printed by the Government Printing Office for
the Office of War Information
NARA Still Picture Branch (NWDNS-208-PMP-68)
During World War II, the military employed policies of racial restriction and segregation. At the beginning of the war, for example, blacks could join the Navy but could serve only as messmen.

Doris ("Dorie") Miller joined the Navy and was in service on board the U.S.S. West Virginia during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Restricted to the position of messman, he received no gunnery training. But during the attack, at great personal risk, he manned the weapon of a fallen gunman and succeeded in hitting Japanese planes. He was awarded the Navy Cross, but only after persistent pressure from the black press.

Private Joe Louis Says--
NARA Still Picture Branch (NWDNS-44-PA-87)
Boxer Joe Louis in uniform

To More Posters
  • Man the Guns!
  • It's a Woman's War Too!
  • United We Win
  • Use it Up, Wear it Out
  • Four Freedoms
  • Warning! Our Homes are in Danger
  • This is Nazi Brutality
  • He's Watching You
  • He Knew the Meaning of Sacrifice
  • Stamp 'em Out!
    Exhibit Hall
    National Archives and Records Administration
    Last updated: April 29, 1998