One Year: 1942

Season 4: Episode 6

The Black-Japanese Axis

A shadowy organization, a mysterious leader, and an alleged conspiracy against America during World War II.


Episode Notes

In 1942, federal officials targeted a group of Black Americans who were allegedly hoping for a Japanese invasion. They uncovered a plot that included stockpiles of weapons and secret passwords—but was any of it true? This week, Joel Anderson tells the story of a shadowy organization in East St. Louis, Illinois, the group’s mysterious leader, and an alleged conspiracy against America during World War II.

This episode of One Year was produced by Evan Chung, Sophie Summergrad, Sam Kim, Joel Anderson, Sol Werthan, and Josh Levin.

Derek John is executive producer of narrative podcasts and Merritt Jacob is senior technical director.

Slate Plus members get to hear more about the making of One Year. Get access to extra episodes, listen to the show without any ads, and support One Year by signing up for Slate Plus for just $15 for your first three months.

Sources for This Episode


Briones, Matt. Jim and Jap Crow: A Cultural History of 1940s Interracial America, Princeton University Press, 2012.

Gallicchio, Marc S. The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in Asia, 1895-1945, University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Horne, Gerald. Facing the Rising Sun: African Americans, Japan, and the Rise of Afro-Asian Solidarity, New York University Press, 2018.

Kurashige, Scott. The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles, Princeton University Press, 2007.


“2 Cultists Indicted In E. St. Louis,” Chicago Defender, Feb. 6, 1943.

“4- and 2-Year Terms in Jap-Negro Plot,” St. Louis Star and Times, June 15, 1943.

Allen Jr., Ernest. “Waiting for Tojo: The Pro-Japan Vigil of Black Missourians, 1932-1943,” Gateway Heritage, Fall 1995.

Allen Jr., Ernest. “When Japan Was ‘Champion of the Darker Races’: Satokata Takahashi and the
Flowering of Black Messianic Nationalism,” the Black Scholar, Winter 1994.

Barnes, Kenneth C. “Inspiration from the East: Black Arkansans Look to Japan,” the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2010.

“Charges Church Formed to Keep its ‘Ministers’ Out of the Army,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 28, 1943.

“FBI Grills 2 in Jap-Negro Movement,” St. Louis Star and Times, Sept. 16, 1942.

“FBI Hunts Two Japs In Expose Of 5th Column Activity In St. Louis,” Chicago Defender, March 14, 1942.

“‘Fifth Column’ Propaganda Among Negroes in St. Louis Area Traced to Japanese,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 5, 1942.

“Filipino Testifies Against Leader at Sedition Trial of Two Negroes,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 11, 1943.

“Former Officers of Negro Pacific Group on Stand,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 12, 1943.

Gates Jr., Henry Louis. “What Was Black America’s Double War?,” PBS.

“Guilty of Sedition Backed by Japanese,” New York Times, June 16, 1943.

“Had Arsenal Here for Japs, Says Witness,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 11, 1943.

“Jap Movement Had Million Membership,” Afro-American, June 26, 1943.

“Japanese Brought Here as Sedition Witness,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 7, 1943.

“Japanese Plotter of ‘Fifth Column’ Among Negroes Here Held in East,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 31, 1942.

“Leader Admits Not Resisting Pro-Jap Move,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 15, 1943.

“Leader Says FBI Coerced Him in Sedition Confession,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 14, 1943.

Lumpkins, Charles L. “Black East St. Louis: Politics and Economy in a Border City, 1860-1945,” Pennsylvania State University, May 2006.

Morgan Ward, Jason. “‘No Jap Crow’: Japanese Americans Encounter the World War II South,” The Journal of Southern History, February 2007.

“Negro Group Leaders Plead Not Guilty,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 2, 1943.

Nielsen A., Euell. “The Double V Campaign (1942-1945),” BlackPast, July 1, 2020.

Ottley, Roi. “A White Folks’ War?,” Common Ground, Spring 1942.

“Pacific Group Told to Arm, Says Witness,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 13, 1943.

“Pacific Movement Founder Held,” Sikeston Standard, Aug. 4, 1942.

“Pro-Japanese Unit Scrutinized,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Sept. 23, 1942.

Russo-Japanese Relations in the Far East, Library of Congress.

Russo-Japanese War: Topics in Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

Steinberg, John W. “The Russo-Japanese War and World History,” Education About Asia, Fall 2008.

“Swears Jap Paid Him to Promote Disloyal Sect,” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 28, 1943.

Tajiri, Larry. “Farewell to Little Tokyo,” Common Ground, 1944.

“Testifies Negroes Gathered Guns to Aid Invaders,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 12, 1943.

“Testimony Ended in Trial of 2 on Sedition Charges,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 15, 1943.

“Two in Pacific Movement to Begin Terms for Sedition,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 6, 1943.

“U.S. Indicts 3 in East Side Sedition Probe,” St. Louis Star and Times, Jan. 27, 1943.

Washburn, Pat. “The ‘Pittsburgh Courier’s’ Double V Campaign in 1942,” Association for Education in Journalism, August 1981.

Werthan, S.M. “In Search of Common Ground: Japanese Americans’ and African Americans’ Struggle for Citizenship during World War II,” Wellesley College, April 2018.

“Witness Gives Dramatic Story of Jap Intrigue,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 12, 1943.


Axelrod, Josh. “A Century Later: The Treaty Of Versailles And Its Rejection Of Racial Equality,” Code Switch, Aug. 11, 2019.


About the Show

The people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time. In each episode, host Josh Levin explores a story you may have forgotten, or one you’ve never heard of before. What were the moments that transformed politics, culture, science, religion, and more? And how does the nation’s past shape our present?

The fourth season of One Year covers 1942, a year when inflation threatened to sink America, disinformation was rampant, and a worker revolt changed music forever.

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  • Josh Levin is the editorial director of the Slow Burn and One Year podcasts. He is the host of One Year and Season 4 of Slow Burn and co-hosts the sports podcast Hang Up and Listen. He is the author of The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth.

  • Joel Anderson is a staff writer at Slate and the host of Seasons 3 and 6 of Slow Burn. Previously, he worked as a reporter on sports, culture, and politics for ESPN and BuzzFeed News.