Dr. Frances “Toni” Draper
When my grandfather, Carl J. Murphy, Ph. D., wrote of World War II as “our war,” it was an acknowledgement of how near the global conflict was to the Black community. This book was originally published in 1945, just months after the Allied victory, when the ripple effects had only begun to spread across the globe. The evils of facism were dealt a forceful, but not fatal blow, as we would later come to learn. Soldiers re-entered a country seeking to build upon their shared victory, with the civil rights movement still in its earlier days.
Still today, as we mark 75 years of a desegregation in the United States Armed Forces, those ripple effects can be felt.
As lawmakers across the United States attempt to minimize and rewrite Black history, hatred fuels this erasure of common purpose and knowledge. Amid these efforts, it becomes ever more important for us to document and share our own stories. This Is Our War does just that by highlighting the triumphs and challenges Black soldiers faced both abroad and at home in their own words. Our units delivered a forceful blow against the spread of evil abroad, but daily life in America—then and now— reminds us how much work remains in the fight against injustice.
During the war, many African-American soldiers lamented about fairer treatment abroad compared to what they faced back in the United States. Their plight is forever recorded into history thanks to the AFRO-American Newspapers’ expansive archival collection, which put on record their day-to-day life in the military as well as their major conquests on the war front. The “Double V” campaign — “Victory Abroad and Victory at Home” — emerged from this conundrum as Black soldiers found themselves fighting two simultaneous wars for freedom and democracy. Many hoped that their patriotic service abroad would lead to better treatment upon their return home, but sadly, they were mistaken.
The war continued for Black soldiers when they returned home from foreign battle, and this war still rages today. This is Our War not only preserves our history, but lives on as a testament to the ongoing pursuit of justice.
The truth matters. Brave, quality storytelling and accurate journalism matters.
The storytelling and courage of the Black Press amplified the extraordinary efforts of Black soldiers and units across the war-front. The AFRO was proud to play a pivotal role in these efforts, sending correspondents worldwide to Europe, Africa, Alaska and into the South Pacific.
Our writers documented various crucial inflection points in the war, from the chasing of Rommel out of Northern Africa to landfall in Normandy, and many others.
In the book, we highlight the efforts of individual correspondents like Elizabeth “Bettye” Phillips, the first Black woman journalist to be sent overseas as a war correspondent.
We also salute the tireless efforts of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, a predominantly Black battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, who sorted, re-routed, and delivered mail to more than seven million Americans and Allied troops stationed in the European Theater. The AFRO, as Col. (Rret.) Edna Cummings points out in her reflection, highlighted the service of these women and was a source of information as she and others successfully fought for a Congressional Gold Medal celebrating these courageous soldiers.
This collection of letters and photos, culled from the AFRO-American Newspapers’ Archives, captures those stories and so much more. The AFRO Archives underscore the significance of Black storytelling in educating the country on our community’s dynamic history.
As we reflect on World War II and republish this impactful book, we remember that it is not only our honor to share these stories— it is our obligation.
May we continue to forever recognize the Black Press for its role in championing the battles for Black freedom— both at home and abroad during World War II. This is still our war, and we will continue to fight on.
Frances “Toni” Draper (email@example.com) is publisher and CEO of the AFRO American Newspapers, the oldest Black-owned business in Maryland.
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Read about some of the untold stories here