Preserving American Freedom

The Evolution of American Liberties in Fifty Documents

Eternal Vigilance in Business, 1943

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Eternal Vigilance in Business
1943
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Eternal Vigilance in Business
Lest We Forget: Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty
Institute for Oral and Visual Education, Washington, DC, 1943, 7th ser., no. 5
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Fellowship Commission Recordings (Collection 3572)
Box 1, disc 5, side A
About This Document: 

Turning a phrase by the abolitionist Wendell Phillips, this radio broadcast edition of the series "Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty" explores an important part of the wartime experience for Americans on the home front during World War II. This particular episode, a 15-minute story of a factory owner stamping out racial and religious discrimination in the name of American values in 1943, is just one of many serialized episodes produced by the Institute of Oral and Visual Education that aired throughout the war. The kind of tolerance and inclusion it encouraged was central to the domestic atmosphere of the United States during World War II.

Allying themselves with the democratic ideals that America represented, including political freedom, religious tolerance, and ethnic pluralism, propaganda like this radio show cast the fascist Axis powers not simply as physical foes but as ideological antagonists. Comparing themselves with Nazi Germany—a totalitarian state that trumpeted the superiority of the Aryan "master race"—Americans prided themselves on the democratic government, religious tolerance, and racial and ethnic pluralism that defined their nation (in theory if not always in practice). Propaganda pieces such as this aimed not only to encourage support for the war but to promote what were cast as core American values: equality, diversity, and opportunity. Driving home the idea that discrimination is un-American and harmful to the war effort, this radio play features the voice of Superman (Jackson Beck) in its drama about eliminating discriminatory hiring practices at a war production plant.

As Americans began to consider themselves stewards of the "free world," the contradictions inherent in their own society were thrown into relief: segregation and racial discrimination were part of everyday life, and intolerance of all sorts was widespread. This awareness would carry over into action in the following years, as civil rights movements throughout the country began working to make the reality of American life match the ideal.

Sources:

"Cuffo E.T.'s Do Sock P.S. Job," Billboard, June 30, 1945.

Marilyn M. Harper, World War II and the American Home Front: A National Historic Landmarks Theme Study (Washington: National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, National Historic Landmarks Program, October 2007), accessed November 2012, www.nps.gov/nhl/themes/homefrontstudy.pdf.

"Jackson Beck, 92: Radio, TV Voice Performer for 70 Years," obituary, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2004.

"Lest We Forget: Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty," RadioGOLDINdex, accessed November 2012, http://radiogoldindex.com/cgi-local/p2.cgi?ProgramName=Lest+We+Forget:+E....

"News, Views, and Reviews," Music Educators Journal 29, no. 5 (1943): 55.

"The Reporter," Journal of Higher Education 14 (1943): 274.

"Source List of War-Related Publicity Materials," ALA Bulletin 37 (1943): 42-46.