The Double V – Summary

Chapter 4 of the book Hidden Figures describes the atmosphere in the cities and hamlets around the harbor of Hampton Roads during World War II. This region saw a surge of in-migrants due to its role as a military capital, with vast complexes of coal piers and manufacturing centers. The war effort brought in hundreds of thousands of residents, soldiers, and workers, including women who took on new jobs previously reserved for men. The booming population created challenges for local infrastructure, including water systems, electrical plants, and hospitals. Despite the difficulties, the region’s economy thrived, and local businesses went to extraordinary lengths to recruit and retain employees.

The chapter then describes the impact of the war on the Hampton Roads area, particularly the housing development built to accommodate war workers. The development consisted of 5,200 prefabricated homes, 1,200 designated for black workers and 4,000 for white workers. The author also describes Dorothy Vaughan’s experience moving to Newport News to work at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory and the difficulties she faced, including the Jim Crow transportation laws. The chapter notes that the pressures of daily life in boomtowns across the country strained racial relations and led to violent confrontations in some cities.

During World War II, black Americans were tired of the racial discrimination they faced, such as being fined for sitting in white sections of buses or trolleys. The war created an urgency in the black community to demand their long-overdue rights. Executive Order 8802 and the establishment of the Fair Employment Practices Committee brought hope for the future, but similar promises were made during World War I and not fulfilled. Charles Hamilton Houston’s opposition to discrimination came in part from his experiences as a young soldier in France during World War I, where he and other black soldiers faced abuse from white officers.

During World War II, many African Americans were torn between their desire to fight for their country and the ongoing discrimination and racism they faced in their own communities. Black newspapers refused to censor themselves and openly expressed the mixed feelings of their readers about the war. The black community questioned what the war meant for them, and it was their own pride, patriotism, and belief in democracy that inspired them to do so. African Americans knew American democracy intimately because they experienced its absence in their lives. Their failure to secure the blessings of democracy defined their existence in America, and they fervently prayed for a sign that democracy would come to them.

During World War II, black Americans closed ranks and geared up to fight for their country’s future and their own. They moved with an organization that shadowed the government, and the Negro press acted as a signal corps, communicating between leaders and the ground troops. The idea of the double victory, articulated by James Thompson, was to adopt the double V for a victory over enemies from without and within. On the first day of December 1943, as the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia concluded a conference in Tehran, Dorothy Vaughan started working at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.


Active Themes:

Some active themes in the above chapter include:

African American patriotism and dedication to their country: 

The text describes how African Americans, despite facing discrimination and racism, closed ranks and geared up to fight for their country’s future during World War II. This is evidenced by the numerous organizations and groups that mobilized to support the war effort, such as the black churches, sororities and fraternities, and black colleges across the country.


Double consciousness and the fight for equality: 

The concept of double consciousness, or the idea that African Americans have a dual identity as both black and American, is referenced in the chapter. Additionally, the idea of the “double victory” is introduced, which refers to the need for victory over both external enemies (the Axis forces) and internal enemies (racial discrimination and prejudice).


Women’s contributions to the war effort: 

The chapter specifically mentions Dorothy Vaughan, who was one of the many African American women who worked at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory during World War II. This highlights the often-overlooked contributions of women to the war effort, particularly in scientific and technical fields.



1. What is life in Newport News like for Dorothy?

Ans. Life in Newport News for Dorothy is a mixture of challenges and opportunities. She is a single mother raising her children on her own while working long hours at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Dorothy faces discrimination at work and in her personal life, but she is determined to provide for her family and achieve success in her career.


2. How did the civil rights movement take shape during this time period?

The civil rights movement takes shape during this time period through the efforts of various organizations and individuals, including black churches, sororities and fraternities, the Urban League, and the National Council of Negro Women. The black press also plays a critical role in communicating information and organizing the community. The idea of the “double victory” takes hold, which means achieving victory over external enemies (the Axis powers) as well as internal enemies (racial discrimination and prejudice).


3. To what does the chapter title, the double V, refer?

The chapter title, “The Double V,” refers to the idea of the double victory, as articulated by James Thompson in his letter to the Pittsburgh Courier. The first “V” represents victory over external enemies, while the second “V” represents victory over internal enemies, specifically racial discrimination and prejudice within the United States. The concept of the double victory became a rallying cry for the civil rights movement during World War II.


4. Briefly discuss the main points of ‘Jim Crows Transportation Laws’.

Jim Crow transportation laws were a series of state and local laws in the United States that enforced racial segregation in public transportation. These laws were enacted from the late 19th century through the mid-1960s and were primarily used to enforce segregation between African Americans and whites.

Under these laws, African Americans were forced to sit in the back of buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, while whites were allowed to sit in the front. Separate seating areas, drinking fountains, and restrooms were also required for African Americans and whites.

The Jim Crow transportation laws were part of a larger system of racial segregation and discrimination known as “Jim Crow” that pervaded many aspects of American society, including education, housing, employment, and voting rights. The Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education began to dismantle the system of Jim Crow segregation, including transportation laws, by ruling that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 further dismantled the Jim Crow system of discrimination in the United States.

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