Double V in North Carolina: The Carolina Times and the Struggle for Racial Equality during World War II
Gershenhorn, Jerry, Journalism History
Louis Austin, the editor of Durham's Carolina Times and one of the most outspoken of the southern black editors, was the leading proponent of the Double V strategy in North Carolina during World War II. He joined other black activists and newspapers in articulating a dual strategy in which blacks fought for victory abroad against the Axis powers while fighting for victory at home against the forces of white supremacy and racial oppression. He further stimulated the politics of protest in the South by calling for an end to racial oppression in education, politics, economics, and the armed forces; and his wartime use of the politics of protest helped lay the groundwork
During World War II, African-American activists formulated a strategy that the Pittsburgh Courier called the Double V.1 Even before the Courier first publicized the Double V slogan in February 1942, black activists and newspapers were already articulating a dual strategy in which blacks would fight for victory abroad against the Axis powers while fighting for victory at home against the forces of white supremacy and racial oppression. The black press, which according to one authority was the most powerful institution in the black community, played a key role in promoting this strategy.2 By publicizing racial oppression, black newspapers revealed the hypocrisy in America's supposed "war for democracy."3
While the most prominent black newspapers-the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier-operated in the North, southern black newspapers also played a major role in the fight against white supremacy in America. Working in the nation's most racially oppressive section, black publishers, editors, and journalists courageously attacked racial inequity. While some southern black editors, notably P.B. Young of the Norfolk Journal and Guide, refused to mount a frontal attack on segregation, Louis Austin, editor of Durham's Carolina Times, the leading proponent of the Double V strategy in North Carolina and one of the most outspoken of the southern black editors, demanded the end of racial segregation. He further stimulated the politics of protest in the South by calling for an end to racial oppression in education, politics, economics, and the armed forces, and his wartime use of the politics of protest helped lay the groundwork for the post-war Civil Rights movement.4 This article will examine his protests during the war.
Austin was born in Enfield, North Carolina, in 1898, which was the year of the infamous Wilmington Racial Massacre wherein white vigilante Democrats killed and wounded hundreds of blacks while overthrowing the Republican government of that city. His Christianity and his egalitarianism formed the foundation for his editorial positions.5 A long-time trustee of St. Joseph's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Durham, he believed that it was his moral duty to report the suffering and injustice doled out to African-Americans.6 As historian and theologian James Cone observed:
When blacks read the Bible and listened to its stones . . . they heard a message of freedom and applied it to their own situation in America. They refused to accept white people's attempt to limit the Bible's message of freedom to a spirituality removed from the everyday relations between black and white people. If God created all races as children of the divine, which even whites did not deny, then we are all brothers and sisters, and nobody has the right to mistreat another.7
Austin's father, who owned and operated a barbershop, never let any of his children work for whites and taught his son in word and deed that no person, white or black, was superior to him. In an interview with sociologist Harry J. Walker, Austin recalled that when he was a child, his father reprimanded him for imitating shoeshine boys who sought to gain white customers by shouting, "Shine, capt'n, Shine, capt'n." His father told him, "Son, never let me hear you say those words again. …