Section One

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Pvt. Joe Louis Says—
Joe Louis  
Unidentified artist for Graphics Division, Office of Facts and Figures, 1942

Heavyweight champion Joe Louis was so popular in the 1930s, according to reporter Earl Brown, that “his huge picture in fighting togs” adorned many African American community gathering spots. Different fighting togs but the same popular appeal made for an extremely effective government war poster, utilizing only the dramatically posed figure, an inspirational quote, and a vivid blue background. The poster does not attempt to recruit troops, sell war bonds, or encourage hard work in the factories. It is a general message to fellow black Americans to “do our part.”

Louis himself, who had turned down a commission when he enlisted in the army, helped to integrate athletic programs, boxed in exhibition matches to entertain the troops, and helped to raise money for military relief funds. At the end of the war, the army commended him for “exceptionally meritorious service.”