About the NAACP
LEADERSHIP: Lorraine C. Miller is the Interim President, CEO and the official spokesperson for the NAACP. The Chairman of the Board is Roslyn M. Brock. The President of the Greater Springfield, MA Branch is Reverend Talbert W. Swan, II.
STRUCTURE: The NAACP is a network of more than 2,200 branches covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Japan and Germany. They are divided into seven regions and are managed and governed by a National Board of Directors. The NAACP is headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. Total membership exceeds 500,000.
FOUNDATION: The NAACP was formed in 1909 in New York City by a group of black and white citizens committed to helping to right social injustices. On February 12, over the signatures of 60 persons, the “Call” was issued for a meeting on the concept of creating an organization that would be an aggressive watchdog of Negro liberties. This event marks the founding of the NAACP. The organization was backed by the New York Evening Post.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) (African American Man),
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (African American Woman) (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931),
Henry Moscowitz (Jewish male) (c 1875 – December 18, 1936)
Mary White Ovington (White woman), (April 11, 1865 – died July 15, 1951)
Oswald Garrison Villard (German born white male) (March 13, 1872 – October 1, 1949), and
William English Walling (white male and son of a former slave owning family) (1877-1936) led the “Call” to renew the struggle for civil and political liberty.
NAACP OVERVIEW: On February 9, 1909, on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, sixty prominent black and white citizens issued “The Call” for a national conference in New York City to renew “the struggle for civil and political liberty.” A distinguished group of black leaders added their voice to the movement. Principal among these was W.E.B. DuBois, who was to serve as the sage of black professionals to form the Niagara Movement which drew up an agenda for aggressive action not unlike the group he now joined. Also involved was Ida Well-Barnett, a young journalist, who eloquent editorials focused national attention on the epidemic of lynching. Participants at the conference agreed to work toward the abolition of forced segregation, promotion of equal education and civil rights under the protection of law, and an end to race violence. In 1911, that organization was incorporated as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – the NAACP.
Working Through the Courts: The distinctive strategic emphasis of the NAACP – ending discrimination through legal action – evolved during its first twenty years. By assuming the legal challenges that were required to gain full citizenship for blacks, the Association became a formidable force for change even in its early years. First in Guinn v. United States, the Supreme Court in 1910 struck down the grandfather clauses of state constitutions as an unconstitutional barrier to voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment. In 1917, the Court declared as unconstitutional a Louisville ordinance that required blacks to live in certain sections of the city, thus challenging residential segregation through city ordinances. Court decision to follow, initiated through NAACP lawsuits, nullified the restrictive covenants – a clause in real estate deeds that pledged a white buyer never to sell the property to blacks. And in 1923, the court declared that exclusion of blacks from a jury was inconsistent with the right to a fair trial. Thus, in just a few years, formidable obstacles to black voting, integrated communities and integrated juries had been removed through concerted legal action. The Association then widened its scope and faced the next barrier to equal rights and then the nest . Case precedents were established. The process was slow and evolutionary, but as history has demonstrated it was the only way to win full constitution guarantees for the rights of minorities.
A Voice for Change: For 104 years, the NAACP through political pressure, marches, demonstrations and effective lobbying – has served as the voice, as well as the shield of minority Americans. As the nation’s largest advocacy organization, our prolonged agitation for peaceful change has been felt in every comer of American life.
Born in response to racial violence, the Association’s first major campaign was the effort to get the anti-lynching laws on the books. In 1919, to awaken the national conscience, the Association published an exhaustive review of lynching records entitled, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918. NAACP leaders, at potential risk to their own lives, conducted first-hand investigations of racially motivated violence which were widely publicized.
Though bills succeeded in passing the House of Representatives several times, they were always defeated in the Senate. Nonetheless, NAACP efforts brought an end to the excesses of mob violence through public exposure and the public pressure it mobilized.
In the 1930’s, as lynchings declined, the NAACP shifted its focus from racial brutality to the grim economic conditions produced by the Great Depression. The Association lobbied fiercely against racial discrimination in New Deal programs. Only the imminent threat of a National March on Washington led to FDR’s Executive Order to create a Fair Employment Practices Committee and to ban racial discrimination in industries which received federal contracts. The door to new employment opportunities had open slightly.
As the nation threw itself into World War II, the NAACP launched a “second war” to end discrimination and segregation in the Armed Services, while expanding employment opportunities on the home front. Though unable to obtain the creation of racially mixed voluntary units, the NAACP affected formation of the nation’s first black air force units. It was not until 1948 that President Truman issued an Executive Order prohibiting racial discrimination in the federal service. Through the Association’s sustained pressure, the desegregation of the armed forces had become inevitable.
While Brown v. Board of Education proved the end of a long struggle, it also marked the beginning of a new one. Despite attempts to outlaw the NAACP throughout the south, the Association pressed ahead with voter registration, sit-in demonstrations (The NAACP Youth Council in Oklahoma City pioneered the tactic in 1958), and grassroots protests of injustice. One memorable example took place in Alabama in 1955. NAACP Montgomery Branch Secretary Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. This defiant act triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and another chapter in the civil rights struggle.
The NAACP’s creation of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – a coalition of civil rights organizations – institutionalized broad-based support for the struggle and was crucial to the Association’s drive to win passage of civil rights legislation in Congress. It began with the 1957 Civil Rights Act – the first since Reconstruction. Subsequently, the NAACP-led coalition produced the Civil Rights Act of 1960 and 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 1968 Fair Housing Rights Act – laws which ensured government protection for legal victories going back some 75 years. In one decade, a non-violent social revolution had transformed American society.
The NAACP wrought other changes through public pressure and raised consciousness. Since our protest of Birth of a Nation in 1915, we have long fought to end the racial stereotypes that create misunderstanding and prejudice. We have worked to change attitudes, laws, and institutions for the good of all Americans. We have repeatedly rejected the voices of hate and separatism, seeking to bind old wounds and unify our nation. Today after years of unrelenting struggle, we affirm our commitment to the true American Dream – an integrated society rich in diversity and open equally to all. The struggle continues and we invite all Americans to stand with us; Native-American, Black and White, and Hispanic, young and old, Jew and Gentile, male and female, wherever Americans of good will and decency reside – they are welcome to join our ranks until freedom for all is won.
SPRINGFIELD, MA BRANCH:
The Springfield Branch was chartered in 1918 and has been at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights throughout the Western Massachusetts Region for over nine decades.
For more than 100 years the NAACP has been developing leaders. With the selection of Benjamin Todd Jealous as President and CEO and the election of Roslyn M. Brock as Board President, the NAACP has passed the torch to the next generation.