"UNITED WE WIN"
BEN BIBLE and DAVID ISELIN
GROUP II, TEAM 5
In 1943 the Office of War Information issued the poster “United We Win,” portraying a Black industrial worker and a White industrial worker together, constructing a plane, under the American flag. Skilled photographer, painter, sculptor and author Alexander Liberman produced this image which became one of the most well-known propaganda posters of the war.1
The poster is persuasive . . . advocating racial equality with multifaceted historical contexts and messages. The intent was to show equality between the races in war industry, [but] there are features illustrat[ing] segregation, and show[ing] the discrimination that was still occurring during the war.
The goal of the War Manpower Commission was to “present an idealized view of race relations in America.”2 However, the poster may have been depicting racial inequality through the placement of the two main subjects. The White man stands above the Black man. While this [placement] may have been unintentional, it could be interpreted as White superiority in the work force at a time when Blacks still held lower positions. Equality in the workforce was not actually occurring.
Evocative Meaning / Interpretations
The words "united" and "we" are significant. The government wanted the public to see that, in order to unite the country, individual differences must be put aside.
President Roosevelt attempted to end discrimination in the workplace.3 However, [the] order [he gave] held little sway in the war industry.4 Large numbers of employers refused to hire Blacks for anything but unskilled work.”5 Although Black workers in American industry increased from 8 percent to 14.5 percent, or by a hundred thousand workers over the war years, the majority still held menial jobs with low pay.6
The NAACP, headed by A. Phillip Randolph, organized the march on the Capitol to protest inequality in both the workplace and in the army.7 Randolph proudly stated: “We loyal Negro American citizens demand the right to work and fight for our country.”8 Black American citizens adopted the “Double V” campaign, known as “Victory at war, and Victory at home” against discrimination and segregation.9 These protests and strikes evolved into the American Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1950s.
1“Alexander Liberman” in the Union List of Artists Online http://www.getty.edu/vow/ULANFullDisplay?find=Liberman&role=&nation=&prev_page=1&subjectid=500020756
2United We Win. http://users.pandora.be/dave.depickere/Text/unitedwewin.html; Internet; accessed 19 October 2006.
3Gail Buckley, American Patriots (New York, Random House), 270.
4Nelson Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in WWII (New York, Cambridge University Press).
5Eric Arneson, The Human Tradition in American Labor History (Wilmington, Scholarly Resources Inc.), 183.
6Joe Trotter and Earl Lewis, African Americans in the Industrial Age: 1915-1945 (Boston, Northeastern University Press), 254.
7Eric Arneson, The Human Tradition in American Labor History (Wilmington, Scholarly Resources Inc.), 183.
8Nelson Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in WWII (New York, Cambridge University Press).