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"'Now We Think ----'"

Now We Think
The Philadelphia Tribune
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tags: antisemitism community

type: Newspaper Article

Articles and opinion pieces published in major Black newspapers during the 1920s and 1930s show that many Black Americans' hoped that, at least before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States would stay out of World War II.1 

Their skepticism was shared by a larger isolationist movement that advocated against the United States' involvement in another European conflict—a war which many believed would lead to senseless carnage abroad and turmoil at home.2 Some Black intellectuals held out hope that war would cause the collapse of the Allied powers' colonial empires, bringing freedom and self-determination for oppressed people of color all across the globe.3

One of the most outspoken opponents of intervention in World War II was famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. In 1927, several Black newspapers had lionized Lindbergh and praised his historic trans-Atlantic solo flight. For example, the Baltimore Afro-American called it a "marvelous exploit" and praised the technological feat as well as the "spiritual factors which produced the MAN."4 For many, Lindbergh became an emblem of American progress and bravery.

Over the following decade, Lindbergh grew increasingly associated with pro-German, antisemitic, eugenicist, and isolationist politics. His opposition to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration became more outspoken. On September 11, 1941, he delivered a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, to a gathering of supporters of the isolationist America First Committee.5 Lindbergh described what he saw as an increasing effort to force the United States into a European conflict. Lindbergh blamed three groups for "pressing this country toward war … the British, the Jewish, and the Roosevelt administration." He also complained that "capitalists, Anglophiles, and intellectuals" as well as "Communistic groups" were "major war agitators" trying to push the US to join the war.

The speech was broadcast across the nation and thoroughly covered in the press.6 It provoked criticism from Jewish and pro-democracy groups for Lindbergh's antisemitic rhetoric and his support for fascism. His racial interpretation of the war also outraged many Black Americans. Many grew more skeptical of this national hero, as the featured piece from the Philadelphia Tribune shows. The spectrum of opinions presented here—both critical and supportive of Lindbergh—speaks to the range of views within Black communities on the events and personalities of the war years.

To learn more, see Daniel W. Aldridge III, "A War for the Colored Races: Anti-Interventionism and the African American Intelligensia," Diplomatic History, vol. 28, no. 3 (June 2004): 321-352. The author focused his study on five influential publications: Pittsburgh Courier, Chicago Defender, Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News, and the NAACP’s journal, Crisis. Of the five, only the Baltimore Afro-American was consistently pro-intervention.

Aldridge, "A War," 321.

Ibid, 334. 

Baltimore Afro-American, June 4, 1927. Capital letters in original; quoted in Mark Hebling, "The Response of African Americans to Lindbergh's Flight to Paris," Prospects, no. 8 (July 2009): 375-398. For more on Lindbergh, see the related item in Experiencing History, Letter from Yale Students to Charles Lindbergh.

The America First Committee (AFC) was organized in September 1940 by students at Yale University to oppose United States intervention in the conflict in Europe. The AFC soon became a national movement that claimed a membership of 800,000 members. The AFC disbanded immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces in December 1941. For more, see the related Experiencing History item, "America First" License Plate Attachment.

For more on national coverage of Lindbergh's speech and reactions from around the country, see USHMM's citizen history project, History Unfolded.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
The Philadelphia Tribune
Date Created
October 18, 1941
Page(s) 11
Author / Creator
Gaston DeVigne
Language(s)
English
Location
Philadelphia, USA
Reference Location
Des Moines, IA, USA
Document Type Newspaper Article
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