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African Americans and the War Bond Efforts in New Orleans

A war bond drive parade on Canal & Rampart Streets, circa 1945.

America’s involvement in WWII was a costly one and the government spent around $300 billion — more than $4 trillion in today’s money. The government looked to its citizens for assistance in financing the war by issuing savings bonds. Purchasing “war bonds,” as they were popularly called, was a way for an American citizen to invest money by lending it to the government for war efforts. In the George Longe papers at the Amistad Research Center, one can find photographs, ephemera, and financial reports of war bond campaigns among Black New Orleanians during WWII.

WWII poster marketing war bonds, circa 1944.

War Bond Saving Clubs were a way in which groups of people promoted the purchase and holding of war bonds. Other objectives of these clubs was to combat inflation and build a reserve of savings for the post-war readjustment. Each member of a War Bond Saving Club had to purchase at least one $25 bond each month or one every two months depending on the by-laws of a particular club. The cost of $25 in 1944 would be the equivalent of $351 in today’s money. The National Negro Business League sponsored the War Bond Saving program for African Americans and formed a National Organizing Committee of War Bond Saving Clubs. The Interracial Section of the War Finance Division of the U.S. Treasury Department served as an advisor to the National Negro Business League in its fundraising efforts of war bonds. It was suggested that the clubs be affiliated with existing organizations and institutions in order to increase support and gain confidence from the public. George Longe, a principal, was appointed as the state representative for Louisiana in 1944. Being the state representative, Longe had to report to the National Chairman every month and provide the number of clubs operating in his state, total membership, and the amount of bonds deposited.

War Bond Saving Clubs in New Orleans organized activities such as war bond rallies, parades, musical performances, etc. to encourage people to buy bonds. On June 25, 1944, there was a war bond show held in Booker T. Washington High School’s auditorium which featured a screening of the film, The Negro Soldier, and performances from singer Muriel Rahn, pilots of the European Theatre of War, and the 384th Camp Plauche Army Band. Other war bond drives included the performance of a musical by the 357th Army Service Forces of Camp Claiborne and a baseball game between the “T. C. Pirates” representing Camp Plauche and the “Warhawks” representing Tuskegee Army Air Field held at Pelican Stadium.

Flyer for a war bond rally at Booker T. Washington auditorium, circa 1944.

The American government publicized campaigns for eight individual bond drives. By the eighth bond drive in 1945 African Americans in New Orleans, through their various organizations, clubs, and institutions, had purchased over $5,072,942 worth of war bonds. If one were to adjust that amount for inflation it would equate to $69,763,212 today. A large number of New Orleans secondary schools and universities purchased bonds and these included McDonogh 35, Valena C. Jones, Thomy Lafon, Booker T. Washington, Xavier Preparatory, and Xavier University. In a December 1945 report for the eighth drive other industries that participated in the buying campaign included labor, businesses, insurance executives, churches, beauticians, benevolent associations, community volunteers, and athletics.

Images from the George Longe Papers. Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.

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