It was 110 years ago this month that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded. As my contribution to Black History Month, I am posting this article in celebration of the NAACP and its meritorious contributions to the improvement in the status of people of color in U.S. society.
(Through the years I have written about several of the people mentioned in this article; the hyperlinked names are links to blog articles about those persons.)
The Beginning of the NAACP
The NAACP gives February 9, 1909, as the date marking their founding. That date, not by accident, was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. (The name was not officially adopted until the following year.)
Prior to the formation of the NAACP, had organized the Niagara Movement (a civil rights group you can read about ). He then became one of the co-founders of the NAACP and from 1910 to 1934 was the founding editor of “The Crisis,” the organization’s official publication.
In his editorial for the first edition of The Crisis (Nov. 1910; ), Du Bois wrote, “The object of this publication is to set forth those facts and arguments which show the danger of race prejudice, particularly as manifested to-day toward colored people.”
Other than Du Bois, the main early leaders of the NAACP, such as William English Walling and Mary White Ovington, were not “colored people.” The first African-American to hold a high leadership position was , who served as Executive Secretary from 1920 to 1931.
Historical Highlights of the NAACP
The history of their first 100 years is highlighted in the large (456 pages and weighing over four pounds!) and nicely done book NAACP: Celebrating a Century (2009). Here are just a few highlights gleaned from that book.
** The NAACP organized protests against the 1915 film “The Birth of a Nation,” which glorified the KKK.
** By 1919, their tenth anniversary, the NAACP had 90,000 members and “The Crisis” had a circulation of 100,000.
** Their 14th Annual Conference, in 1923, was held in Kansas City, and over 550 delegates journeyed to Leavenworth Federal Prison to visit black inmates.
** The NAACP helped convince President Truman in 1948 to issue Executive Order No. 9980, prohibiting racial discrimination in federal military service.
** Largely due to the work of Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP’s top attorney from 1938 to 1961, the “Brown v. Board of Education” Supreme Court decision legally desegregated America’s public schools.
The NAACP Today
According to their current website, “The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.”
Their website also links () to a 2/1/19 article titled “28 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month.” No. 6 was “Become a member of a Black organization.” Last year I became a member of the NAACP for the first time, and I am happy to be a supporter of this significant organization.
In the Foreword of the NAACP book mentioned above, then Board Chairman wrote, “We hope you will feel called to join this one-hundred-year-old crusade for justice by joining the NAACP. . . . anyone who shares our values is more than welcome” (p. 7).
Perhaps not many of you will decide to join the NAACP, but at the very least I hope you will celebrate their 110 years of existence by acknowledging their many significant accomplishments since 1909 and by actively joining in the ongoing struggle to eliminate race-based discrimination in our nation.