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National Association for The Advancement of Colored People (Naacp)

National Association for The Advancement of Colored People (Naacp)




The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was incorporated in 1910 as an organization dedicated to mobilization on behalf of racial justice. The founding of the organization occurred through the discourse and several meetings among black and white intellectuals, business persons, educators, and professionals who, over a number of years prior to the NAACP's founding, laid the groundwork to mobilize efforts to fight racial discrimination against African Americans. Many of the leaders and participants of these precursory efforts reached a consensus on developing a major organization that would fight racial discrimination, and eventually, the NAACP was established.

One meeting that contributed to the development of the NAACP was held in Niagara Falls, New York, in 1905; this meeting marked the founding of the Niagara Movement. At the meeting, the participants discussed their opposition to the accommodationist policies of Booker T. Washington (18561915). They supported black progress by way of higher education in cultural and scientific studies, economic development, and integration within the formal political structures with full citizenship rights, the franchise, and civil rights.

By the time of the second annual Niagara Movement meeting in 1906, several members were alarmed by the continuing brutality, lynching, and loss of property, among other oppressive conditions, facing blacks at that time. This led white leaders Mary White Ovington (18651951) and Oswald Garrison Villard (18721949), grandson of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (18051879), along with W. E. B. Du Bois (18681963), to convene a meeting, referred to as The Call, to discuss the Negro question. On February 12, 1909, the one-hundredth anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (18091865), fifty-three signatories (who comprised the membership of the National Negro Committee) called for a national conference to be held on May 30, 1909.

By the time the second national conference was held in May 1910, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was incorporated by five people: Du Bois, Villard, Ovington, Walter E. Sachs (18841980), and John Haynes Holmes (18791964). The Niagara Movement, from which the NAACP was an outgrowth, eventually dissolved. Many of the movement's members, however, were also members of the NAACP. Continuing many of the concerns of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP proposed to address the social and political equality of African Americans. A 1911 NAACP program declared that its objectives were to sponsor meetings and lectures on questions about race, political representation, foreign affairs, antilynching policy, disfranchisement, educational inequities, discrimination in employment, crime, and public accommodations.


The organization's leadership consisted of a National Board of Directors that was elected from a slate of candidates chosen by the NAACP Nominating Committee. Members of the National Board of Directors had the power to establish committees, departments, bureaus, branches, and college chapters. The National Board of Directors consisted of the president (an ex officio member), vice president, treasurer, chairman of the board (the most powerful officer of the association), and the executive secretary. Other NAACP members made up youth councils, college chapters, and various branches within states.

Some notable former members of the NAACP Board of Directors include the political scientist Ralph Bunche (19041971) and Eleanor Roosevelt (18841962), wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945). Other famous members include Du Bois, who acted as the director of publicity and research and who, for a number of years, acted as editor of the association's chief publication, The Crisis. Ida B. Wells-Barnett (18621931), a strong advocate of antilynching policy in the early twentieth century, was also a member. James Weldon Johnson (18711938), known for writing the lyrics to Lift Every Voice and Sing, the Negro national anthem, was a national organizer of membership, and he later became executive secretary of the organization.

NAACP membership was (and continues to be) open to all people, regardless of race. Much of the leadership in the early organization consisted of whites. Since 1932, when Louis T. Wright (18911952), a black man, was appointed to the Board of Directors, African Americans have been more central to the association's leadership. Today, the organization is structured similarly to its past organization, comprising a National Board of Directors, several departments, state branches with regional offices, youth councils, and college chapters. Julian Bond, a longtime civil rights activist, became chair of the Board of Directors in 1998. In 2005 Bruce S. Gordon became NAACP president, replacing Kweisi Mfume, a civil rights activist and former Maryland representative of the U.S. House of Representative who had served as NAACP president since 1996.

Despite its sound leadership, strong following, and prior financial stability, the NAACP faced both financial difficulties and leadership woes during the early 1990s. During this time, the NAACP experienced alleged financial malfeasance, a budget deficit, and a sex scandal that involved its president, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. (now known as Benjamin F. Chavis Muhammad). The controversy surrounding Chavis's leadership led to his being asked by the National Board of Directors to resign from the presidency. Mfume is credited with leading the organization out of its troubled period.

In 2006 the NAACP comprised over two thousand local chapters and more than 500,000 members. It faces the challenge of increasing its membership among a younger generation of political activists. Financial support comes mostly from individuals and corporate donors. Prior to the separation of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF, also known as the Inc. Fund) from the main organization, the association benefited financially from tax-exempt donations made to the Inc. Fund. The NAACP also has tax-exempt charitable status, which was initiated via the NAACP Special Contribution Fund in 1964.


NAACP political activism consists of policy reviews, political lobbying, political protests, political mobilization, and legal challenges. The organization's early policy concerns were related to African Americans acquiring civil rights. The NAACP compiled and disseminated information to members and other blacks about senators' and representatives' votes on policies that affected civil rights. This information served as a public record of official support for antiblack policies and as a means by which support could be galvanized for NAACP policy concerns.

The NAACP lobbied U.S. presidents and members of Congress for support of civil rights policies, and openly opposed President Woodrow Wilson's (18561924) initiation of segregation in the federal government. Early pressure from the NAACP in the 1940s contributed to President Franklin Roosevelt's implementation of Executive Order 8802, which desegregated the American defense industry. Such pressure on the executive branch also resulted in President Harry S Truman (18841972) implementing Executive Order 10308, which created a committee to enforce the prohibition of racial discrimination in employment.

In 1930 the NAACP successfully galvanized support in Congress to block the confirmation of Judge Robert Parker of North Carolina (an opponent of black rights) to the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar tactics have been used by the association in more recent years to acknowledge support or nonsupport of various nominations to government posts.

In the early twentieth century, Walter White (18931955), former NAACP executive secretary, and James Weldon Johnson lobbied Congress to secure the passage of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, but the bill failed due to a lack of support in the Senate, despite its passage in the House of Representatives. Thereafter, the NAACP decreased its attention to antilynching policy and adopted a focus on other policy interests. Important legislative victoriesthe Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968occurred as a result of the efforts of NAACP leaders Roy Wilkins (19011981) and Clarence Mitchell (19111984).

In international affairs, the NAACP denounced African colonization, calling international conferences on the subject in 1919, 1921, 1923, 1927, and 1944. The Pan-African Congress (under the direction of DuBois) specifically asked the U.S. president to take a stand against colonialism and the exploitation of black people around the world.

Political protests by NAACP members also challenged segregated environments. Rosa Parks (19132005), an NAACP member, ignited protests across the South when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Moreover, sit-ins by NAACP Youth Council members in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960 led to nonviolent protest strategies that challenged and eventually desegregated lunch counters.

One of the most effective strategies for fighting racial discrimination consisted of the NAACP litigating Jim Crow laws in the South and eventually in other regions of the country. Charles Hamilton Houston (18951950), special counsel for the NAACP and dean of Howard University Law School, launched the NAACP's litigation campaign.

In 1939 Thurgood Marshall (19081993), an NAACP attorney who was later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, formalized the litigation strategy within the NAACP when he developed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Becoming a formal entity within the NAACP in 1940, the LDF fought cases that challenged restrictions against blacks voting in primary elections (Smith v. Allwright, 1944); restrictive covenants (Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948); and educational segregation and discrimination (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954). These LDF efforts effectively changed the second-class citizenship status of African Americans. The landmark decision in Brown declared that the separate but equal doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was unconstitutional.

Upon the separation of the LDF from the NAACP in 1957, Robert Carter (NAACP general counsel) continued the NAACP's litigation strategies through the NAACP Legal Department. Under Carter's counsel, the NAACP won a decision in Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960), in which the Supreme Court acknowledged the concept of one person, one vote.

The NAACP was one of the leading civil rights organizations of the modern civil rights movement, along with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE, founded in 1942), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, founded in 1960), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC, founded in 1956), and the National Urban League (founded in 1910). These organizations mostly supported nonviolent, direct action strategies (sit-ins, marches, picketing, and especially litigation) to protest racial discrimination.

By the mid-1960s SNCC (whose membership comprised many of the black youth in the movement) and CORE became more radical and militant as members became frustrated with the violent and mostly unmoved opposition of many white Americans to black progress. SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael (19411998) expressly supported the notion of Black Power as a new objective of black protest. The commitment of the NAACP and other organizations to integrationism (integrating blacks in white society) contrasted with the increasingly nationalistic sentiments of activists like Carmichael and other black youth, as Black Power and black nationalism garnered more support among the black masses.

The national executive director at that time, Roy Wilkins, publicly denounced what he perceived to be the racially separatist and antiwhite orientation of Black Power ideology. The Black Panther Party, at that time a prominent black nationalist organization and a leading proponent of Black Power, disagreed with a political strategy that focused on integrating blacks with whites in society. Instead, the Black Panthers emphasized building the black community (without white resources or integration) to address race and poverty. The party supported building a black nation.

The Black Panther Party criticized the NAACP as being a mainstream, passive, and bourgeois civil rights organization that represented older, outmoded views about the position of blacks in American society. Moreover, the Black Panthers disagreed with the NAACP's strategy to address racial discrimination without self-defense and without critical opposition to class oppression. In contrast, the Black Panther Party supported more militaristic tactics to protest racial discrimination and violence by whites, and it focused on implementing programs that addressed the overwhelming poverty of black Americans. Although the NAACP supported pacifist resistance and protest movements on a national level, some local chapters and membersin particular, Robert F. Williams (19251966), president of the Monroe, North Carolina, chapter of the NAACPsupported self-defense tactics that were akin to the black nationalist tenets of the Black Panther Party.

The vanguard leadership of the NAACP also differed generationally and ideologically from the Black Panther Party, which was comprised mostly of black youth. This generational difference translated into what members of the Black Panther Party perceived to be the desire of older activists to assimilate into white society, as opposed to appreciating black culture as distinct from white influence. The Black Panther Party ushered in an increasing embrace of black pride among black youth and the black massesa transformation of African American identity that also emphasized less reliance on white resources and more appreciation for black self-determination. As support for black pride became more popular among the black masses, the NAACP became more supportive of black consciousness and black community-building. As always, however, the NAACP was prejudicial about racial separatism.

Over the years, the NAACP has continued to address issues related to race and discrimination. It has also incorporated into its political agenda more programs focusing on economic inequality. Such issues as disparities in education, redistricting and vote dilution, fair housing, criminal justice, and environmental racism now form part of the NAACP's commitment to fighting racial discrimination. The NAACP has also protested apartheid in South Africa, sponsored voter registration drives, encouraged increased voter turnout, challenged negative images of blacks in the media, promoted economic empowerment, and advocated improved healthcare regardless of race. NAACP activism has been extended to address the discrimination of various racial and ethnic minorities, while still focusing on the conditions of African Americans.

SEE ALSO African American Studies; African Americans; Black Panthers; Black Power; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; Civil Rights; Civil Rights Movement, U.S.; Du Bois, W. E. B.; Integration; Jim Crow; Race; Segregation


Cose, Ellis, and Vern E. Smith. 1994. The Fall of Benjamin Chavis: Civil Rights: How the NAACP's Controversial Leader Did Himself In. Newsweek 124 (9): 27.

Greenberg, Jack. 1994. Crusaders in the Courts: How a Dedicated Band of Lawyers Fought for the Civil Rights Revolution. New York: Basic Books.

Hosenhall, Mark, and Vern E. Smith. 1994. Trial by Fire at the NAACP: Civil Rights, the Scandal Engulfing Director Ben Chavis Could Threaten the Entire Organization. Newsweek 124 (8): 24.

Janken, Kenneth Robert. 2003. White: The Biography of Walter White, Mr. NAACP. New York: New Press.

Jonas, Gilbert. 2005. Freedom's Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle against Racism in America, 19091969. New York: Routledge.

Kellogg, Charles Flint. 1967. NAACP: A History of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Kweisi Mfume Takes the NAACP Out of the Recovery Room. Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 29: 4041.

Marger, Martin N. 1984. Social Movement Organizations and Response to Environmental Change: The NAACP, 19601973. Social Problems 32 (1): 1630.

Miller, Jake C. 2002. The NAACP and Global Human Rights. The Western Journal of Black Studies 26 (1): 2231.

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Topping, Simon. 2004. Supporting Our Friends and Defeating Our Enemies: Militancy and Nonpartisanship in the NAACP, 19361948. Journal of African American History 9 (1): 1735.

Tyson, Timothy B. 1999. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Ware, Gilbert. 1994. The NAACP-Inc. Fund Alliance: Its Strategy, Power, and Destruction. Journal of Negro Education 63 (3): 323335.

Wickham, DeWayne. 2004. Troubling Exit for NAACP's Mfume. USA Today (November 30).

Shayla C. Nunnally

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Founded in 1909, the organization formerly known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and now called simply NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. Headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, with a staff of more than 220 persons, the interracial NAACP works for the elimination of racial discrimination through lobbying, legal action, and education. With its victories in landmark Supreme Court cases such as brown v. board of education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), as well as its sponsorship of grassroots social programs, the NAACP has been a leader in the effort to guarantee that African Americans and members of other racial minorities receive equal protection under the law.

The NAACP grew out of race riots that occurred in Springfield, Illinois, in August 1908. Shocked at the violence directed against African Americans by white mobs in Abraham Lincoln's hometown, William English Walling, a white socialist, wrote a magazine article that called for the formation of a group to come to the aid of African Americans. The following year, Walling met with two young white social workers, Mary White Ovington and Henry Moskowitz, and began planning a course of action. They enlisted the aid of Oswald Garrison Villard, grandson of the abolitionist william lloyd garrison, to publicize the Conference on the Status of the Negro, to be held that May. The conference drew several hundred people, many of whom would unite a year later as the NAACP.

Although originally the NAACP leadership was largely white, since the 1920s, it has been primarily African American. The organization drew many of its original white members from progressive and socialist ranks, and most of its first African American members through the leadership of the historian and sociologist w. e. b. du bois. Du Bois and booker t. washington were the two principal African American leaders of the day. Du Bois had led the Niagara Movement, an African American protest organization, since 1905, and he brought the membership of that organization into the NAACP. He was named director of publicity and research for the NAACP in 1910, and he edited the organization's highly respected journal, The Crisis, until 1934.

From the beginning, the NAACP made legal action on behalf of African Americans a top priority. It won early Supreme Court victories in Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347, 35 S. Ct. 926, 59 L. Ed. 1340 (1915), which overturned the grandfather clause as a means of disfranchising black voters, and in Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60, 38 S. Ct. 16, 62 L. Ed. 149 (1917), which barred municipal ordinances requiring racial segregation in housing. The grandfather clause imposed a literacy test on persons who were not entitled to vote prior to 1866. This meant that all slaves and their descendants had to pass a rigorous literacy test based on knowledge of the state constitution and other highly technical documents. Few, if any, African Americans passed the test.

The NAACP appointed its first African American executive director, james weldon johnson, in 1920. Under Johnson and his successor, Walter White, who led the organization from 1931 to 1955, the NAACP worked for the passage of a federal antilynching law. Although unsuccessful in its efforts to pass a federal law, the NAACP brought public attention to the brutality of lynching and helped to significantly reduce its occurrence. As a result, lynching—which is the infliction of punishment, usually hanging, by a mob without trial—is now illegal in every state.

In 1941 the NAACP established its Washington, D.C., bureau as the legislative advocacy and lobbying arm of the organization. The bureau does the strategic planning and coordination of NAACP political action and legislation program. It acts as the liaison between NAACP units and government agencies, and it coordinates the work of other organizations that support NAACP programs and proposals.

The bureau sponsors the annual Legislative Mobilization which informs participants of the NAACP legislative agenda, monitors and advocates for NAACP civil rights and related legislation, and prepares an annual "Report Card" showing how each member of Congress voted on key civil rights issues.

For its early litigation efforts, the NAACP relied on lawyers who volunteered their services. In 1934, the group hired charles hamilton houston, an African American and dean of Howard Law School, as its first full-time attorney. The following year, Houston started a legal campaign to end school segregation. Houston was assisted by thurgood marshall, a young lawyer who would go on to argue many cases before the Supreme Court and in 1967 would become the first African American appointed to the Court. In 1940, the NAACP appointed Marshall director-counsel of its new legal branch, the naacp legal defense and educational fund (LDF). In 1957, the LDF became a separate entity.

After succeeding in Supreme Court cases concerning unequal salary scales for black teachers and segregation in graduate and professional schools, the NAACP achieved its most celebrated triumph before the Court in Brown, a decision that declared racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.

The Brown decision sparked another civil rights initiative, the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955. The boycott catapulted martin luther king jr. to national recognition and spurred the creation of the southern christian leadership conference (SCLC). By the early 1960s, the SCLC, the student nonviolent coordinating committee (SNCC), the congress of racial equality (CORE), and the national urban league all promoted civil rights for African Americans. These groups adopted a direct-action approach to promoting African American interests by conducting highly publicized sit-ins and demonstrations.

The NAACP, meanwhile, drew criticism for its devotion to traditional legal and political means for seeking social change. roy wilkins, executive director of the NAACP from 1955 to 1975, voiced his preference for traditional tactics over "the kind that picks a fight with the sheriff and gets somebody's head beaten" (Spear 1984, 7:402). Although many viewed it as overly conservative in its civil rights approach, the NAACP helped pass important civil rights legislation such as the civil rights act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000a et seq.), the voting rights act of 1965 (42 U.S.C.A. § 1973 et seq.), and the fair housing act of 1968 (42 U.S.C.A. § 3601 et seq.). The NAACP remained an interracial group and spurned the call for black nationalism and separatism voiced by SNCC, the black panthers, and other groups that turned to blacks-only membership later in the 1960s.

Unlike many of the more radical civil rights groups, the NAACP outlasted the turbulent 1960s. However, it experienced setbacks during the 1970s in Supreme Court cases such as Bradley v. Millikin, 418 U.S. 717, 94 S. Ct. 3112, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1069 (1974), which overturned efforts to integrate largely white suburban public school districts and largely black urban districts, and regents of university of california v. bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 98 S. Ct. 2733, 57 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1978), which placed limits on affirmative action programs.

benjamin l. hooks succeeded Wilkins as NAACP director in 1977. He held that office until 1993, when he was replaced by Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Leadership and funding problems plagued the NAACP during the mid-1990s. After a sexual harassment suit was filed against Chavis in 1994, the NAACP board of

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
source: NAACP web page; Simple Justice by Richard Kluger (1975).
1905W. E. B. Du Bois and others founded the Niagara Movement
1908Race riots erupted in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln's hometown
1909On 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday, more than sixty citizens issued a "call" for a national conference to renew the struggle for civil and political liberty; the group and conference formed the foundation of the NAACP
1910National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chosen as group's name at second annual conference; William Walling chosen as executive director; W. E. B. Du Bois chosen as director of publicity and research and editor of the Crisis
1911NAACP incorporated
1915In Guinn v. United States, the Supreme Court struck down grandfather clauses in state constitutions as unconstitutional barriers to voting rights granted under the Fifteenth Amendment
1917Supreme Court barred municipal ordinances requiring racial segregation in housing in Buchanan v. Warley
1920NAACP appointed its first African American executive director, James Weldon Johnson
1923Supreme Court ruled in Moore v. Dempsey that exclusion of African Americans from a jury was inconsistent with the right to a fair trial
1931Walter White appointed to succeed Johnson as director of NAACP
1934Charles Hamilton Houston hired as NAACP's first full-time attorney
1936Thurgood Marshall joined NAACP as special counsel
1940NAACP created separate legal arm, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and appointed Marshall as its director-counsel
1941Secretary of Army authorized first segregated airman unit, the 99th Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen
1948Marshall's team argued Shelley v. Kraemer, which struck down racially restrictive (land) covenants; President Truman abolished racial segregation in armed services by executive order
1950In Sweatt v. Painter, Supreme Court ruled racially segregated professional schools inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional; first integrated combat units saw action in Korea
1954Marshall's team argued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional
1955Roy Wilkins appointed to succeed White as NAACP's executive director
1961Marshall appointed to U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; Jack Greenberg succeeded Marshall as director of LDF
1964NAACP lobbying led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
1965NAACP lobbying led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
1967Thurgood Marshall became first African American associate justice of the Supreme Court
1968NAACP lobbying led to passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968
1972U.S. Supreme Court declared existing capital punishment laws unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia
1974NAACP experienced a setback when Supreme Court overturned efforts to integrate largely white suburban school districts with largely black urban districts in Milliken v. Bradley
1976Georgia, Florida, and Texas drafted new death penalty laws; Supreme Court upheld these new laws
1977Benjamin Hooks succeeded Wilkins as NAACP's executive director
1978Supreme Court placed limits on affirmative action programs in Regents of University of California v. Bakke
1993Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. appointed to succeed Hooks as NAACP's executive director
1994NAACP board of directors voted to oust Chavis after sexual harassment suit was filed against him
1995Myrlie Evers-Williams replaced William F. Gibson as chairman of the NAACP board of directors
1996NAACP board appointed Kweisi Mfume, a U.S. representative from Maryland, as president and chief financial officer; Mfume cut national staff by third as first step in returning NAACP to financial health
1997NAACP launched the Economic Reciprocity Program
2000TV diversity agreements; retirement of the debt and first six years of a budget surplus; largest black voter turnout in 20 years
2001Cincinnati riots; development of five year strategic plan

directors voted to oust him as executive director. The following year, it dismissed board chairman William F. Gibson and replaced him with myrlie evers-williams, the widow of civil rights activist medgar evers. Seeking to put aside its troubles, on February 20, 1996, the NAACP board appointed Kweisi Mfume, a U.S. representative from Maryland and head of the Congressional Black Caucus, as the organization's new president and chief executive officer. To restore the organization's financial stability, Mfume cut back the national staff by one-third.

Among its many tasks, the NAACP works on the local level to handle cases of racial discrimination; offers referral services, tutorials, and day care; sponsors the NAACP National Housing Corporation to help develop low- and moderate-income housing for families; offers programs to youths and prison inmates; and maintains a law library. It also lobbies Congress regarding the appointment of Supreme Court justices.

The NAACP accepts people of all races and religions as members. In the early 2000s it had a membership of over 500,000, with 2,200 units (including more than 600 youth councils and college chapters) in the United States and around the world. The organization continues to struggle with the need to increase member-ship and retain relevancy while advocating for various civil rights issues. In 2000 the board instituted mandatory training for NAACP local leadership. More than 10,000 branch officers and executive committee members attended the training, and the organization removed 800 officers and committee members who did not attend.

The NAACP has also taken steps to build coalitions with black youth. NAACP president Kweisi Mfume sits on the board of Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip hop music stars as well as record company executives and community organizations that seek to educate and mobilize fans of rap music to register and vote in local and national elections. In addition, the NAACP has sought to overcome political differences and gain the support of the country's major Latino civil right organizations including the league of united latin american citizens (LULAC) and the national council of la raza. In January 2003 the NAACP announced that the united nations had designated it as a non-governmental organization (NGO). The NGO designation meant that the NAACP could advise and consult with foreign governments and with the U.N. secretariat on issues relating to human rights.

In 2001 the NAACP signed a new three-year contract with Mfume to continue as the organization's president and CEO. Mfume continued to move ahead with his action agenda that emphasizes civil rights, political empowerment, educational excellence, economic development, and health and youth outreach. The NAACP Board of Directors continued to implement its plan to streamline and strengthen the governing procedures of the organization. For the first time since its inception in 1909, the board began revising and updating its constitution and bylaws. Up to this point each NAACP unit including state conferences, youth councils, college chapters, and local chapters had its own constitution and bylaws. The goal of the board is to have a uniform set of governing documents that are understandable and "user-friendly."

further readings

NAACP. Available online at <> (accessed July 28, 2003).

Rhym, Darren. 2002. The NAACP. Philadelphia: Chelsea House.

Schneider, Mark R. 2002. We Return Fighting: The Civil Rights Movement in the Jazz Age. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.



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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE. African American communities, usually through their churches, made several attempts to organize in the late nineteenth century. The only national organization to last from these efforts was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), founded in 1909. The NAACP was originally founded by an inter-racial group of white progressives and black militants belonging to the Niagara Movement. In response to the Springfield, Illinois, race riot of August 1908, a distinguished gathering that included the journalist William English Walling, the social worker Mary White Ovington, the newspaper editor Oswald Garrison Villard, and the scholar W. E. B. Du Bois issued "The Call" for a national conference on black rights to meet on 12 February 1909, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The conference formed the National Negro Committee, out of which the NAACP emerged in May 1910.

At its formation, the NAACP adopted a militant program of action based on the platform of its radical fore-runner, the Niagara Movement, demanding equal educational, political, and civil rights for blacks and the enforcement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The NAACP initially employed two basic methods in its protest philosophy—the legal approach and public education. Relying on an integrated and middle-class approach to reform, the NAACP stressed corrective education, legislation, and litigation rather than more radical, disruptive protest. The first years of the NAACP were dedicated to the problems of mob violence and lynching. Between 1915 and 1936, under the leadership of Arthur B. Spingarn, white and black attorneys for the NAACP, including Moorfield Story, Louis Marshall, and Clarence Darrow, attacked four areas of injustice: suffrage, residential segregation ordinances, restrictive covenants, and due process/equal protection for African Americans accused of crimes. The NAACP legal committee joined other organizations, such as the National Urban League, and won its first important victory before the U.S. Supreme Court in Guinn and Beal v. United States (1915), which overturned the amendment to Oklahoma's state constitution that exempted from literacy tests those or the descendents of those who had been eligible to vote prior to 1 January 1867. Other states had enacted similar "grandfather clauses," the clear intent of which was to deny blacks the vote. A second case, Buchanan v. Warley (1917), nullified Jim Crow housing ordinances in Louisville, Kentucky, as they were found to be in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

During the post–World War I period, the organization, led by its African American executive secretary James Weldon Johnson, focused its attention on antilynching legislation. Although no federal antilynching bills were passed by Congress, in an age of increasing racism and the national rise to prominence of the Ku Klux Klan, the NAACP's aggressive campaign heightened public awareness of and opposition to mob violence against blacks and firmly established the organization as the national spokesman for African Americans.

Over the next three decades, the NAACP directed its attention to voting rights, housing, and the desegregation of public education. In the 1930s, under the leadership of Charles Houston, former dean of the Howard University Law School, the NAACP prepared its first cases aimed at "the soft underbelly" of Jim Crow—graduate schools. In 1935, NAACP lawyers Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall won the legal battle to admit an African American student, Donald Gaines Murray, to the University of Maryland Law School. Building on the strategy and issues used in the Murray case, the NAACP legal counsel finally argued its first case involving education and the "separate but equal" doctrine before the Supreme Court in Missouri ex. rel. Gaines v. Canada in 1938. Although the court decision reaffirmed the doctrine that separate educational facilities were legal if equal, the road to the 1954 Brown decision had been paved.

During the depression, the NAACP had notable successes, the most famous of which was in response to the barring of the acclaimed soprano Marian Anderson from performing at the Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., by the Daughters of the American Revolution. The NAACP helped to have her concert moved to the Lincoln Memorial, where over 75,000 people attended.

Between 1940 and 1950, the NAACP fought in the courts in two areas, racial injustice in court procedures and discrimination in the voting process. The first case, involving a forced confession of a crime, Lyons v. Oklahoma (1944), resulted in a setback for the NAACP legal team, but the second case, Smith v. Allwright (1944), resulted in banning the all-white primary in Texas. During World War II, the NAACP led the effort to ensure that President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a nondiscrimination policy in war-related industries and federal employment. In 1946, the NAACP won the Morgan v. Virginia case, which banned states from having laws that sanction segregated facilities in interstate travel by train and bus. The NAACP was also influential in pressuring President Harry Truman to sign Executive Order 9981 banning discrimination by the federal government and subsequently integrating the armed forces in 1948.

With Thurgood Marshall as its special legal counsel, the NAACP figured prominently in a series of Supreme Court decisions that outlawed residential covenants against black homebuyers (Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948) and ordered the integration of the University of Oklahoma (Sipuel v. University of Oklahoma, 1948) and the University of Texas (Sweatt v. Painter, 1950). These successful cases on higher education issues helped lead to the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka of May 1954, which finally declared segregated schools unequal and unconstitutional. The Brown decision marked the beginning of the end of the formal aspects of Jim Crow and ushered in a new and stormy course for race relations in the form of the civil rights movement. Although it worked with a variety of newly formed African American–led groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the NAACP's hegemony as the country's major civil rights group was unchallenged.

After one of his many successful mass rallies for civil rights, the NAACP's first field director, Medgar Evers, was assassinated in front of his house in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963; five months later, President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated, setting the course of the civil rights movement in a different direction, through legislative action. The NAACP achieved its goals by playing a leading role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which established the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Civil Rights. The NAACP worked for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which not only forbade discrimination in public places, but also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

As the NAACP entered the fourth quarter of the twentieth century, it remained an active force among African Americans committed to racial integration, and it continued to work successfully to fight discrimination in housing and strengthen the penalties for violations of civil rights. The organization helped win extensions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and led successful efforts in 1972 to increase the power of the EEOC. Under its executive secretary, Roy Wilkins, the NAACP had a membership of 433,118 in 1,555 branches located in all fifty states by 1975.

In 1982, the NAACP registered more than 850,000 voters, and its protests helped prevent President Ronald Reagan from giving a tax break to the racially segregated Bob Jones University. The NAACP led a massive antiapartheid rally in New York in 1985 and launched a campaign that helped defeat the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. In 1996, Maryland congressman Kweisi Mfume left Congress and became the NAACP's president. As the twenty-first century started, the NAACP continued to follow its original goals of fighting social injustice through legal and political action.


Harris, Jacqueline L. History and Achievement of the NAACP. New York: Watts, 1992.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Web site

Ovington, Mary W. Black and White Sat Down Together: The Reminiscences of an NAACP Founder. New York: Feminist Press, 1995.

Tushnet, Mark V. NAACP's Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925–1990. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Zangrando, Robert L. The NAACP Crusade against Lynching, 1909–1950. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.

James F.Adomanis

See alsoBrown v. Board of Education of Topeka ; Civil Rights Movement ; Integration ; Jim Crow Laws ; Niagara Movement ; Race Relations .

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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), organization composed mainly of American blacks, but with many white members, whose goal is the end of racial discrimination and segregation.

The association was formed as the direct result of the lynching (1908) of two blacks in Springfield, Ill. The incident produced a wide response by white Northerners to a call by Mary W. Ovington, a white woman, for a conference to discuss ways of achieving political and social equality for blacks. This conference led to the formation (1910) of the NAACP, headed by eight prominent Americans, seven white and one, William E. B. Du Bois, black. The selection of Du Bois was significant, for he was a black who had rejected the policy of gradualism advocated by Booker T. Washington and demanded immediate equality for blacks. From 1910 to 1934 Du Bois was the editor of the association's periodical The Crisis, which reported on race relations around the world. The new organization grew so rapidly that by 1915 it was able to organize a partially successful boycott of the motion picture The Birth of a Nation, which portrayed blacks of the Reconstruction era in a distorted light.

Most of the NAACP's early efforts were directed against lynching. In this area it could claim considerable success. In 1911 there were 71 lynchings in the United States, with a black person the victim 63 times; by the 1950s lynching had virtually disappeared. Since its beginning, and with increasing emphasis since World War II, the NAACP has advocated nonviolent protests against discrimination and has disapproved of extremist black groups such as SNCC and the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 70s and CORE and the Nation of Islam in the 1980s and 90s, many of which criticized the organization as passive. While complacent in the 1980s, it became more active in legislative redistricting, voter registration, and lobbying in the 1990s.

Well-known leaders of the NAACP include Moorfield Storey (1910–29), Walter White (1931–55), Roy Wilkins (1955–77), and Benjamin Hooks (1977–93). In the mid-1990s the group faced financial difficulties and a loss of confidence in its leadership, as the organization's executive director, Benjamin Chavis (see Muhammad, B. F.), and board chairman, William Gibson, were dismissed in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Merlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, replaced Gibson in 1995, and Representative Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, was chosen to replace Chavis in 1996, with the new title of president and chief executive officer. Mfume retired as president in 2004 and was succeeded by Bruce S. Gordon, a former telecommunications executive, who served from 2005 to 2007, and Benjamin Todd Jealous, who served from 2008 to 2013. Cornell William Brooks was named as Jealous's successor in 2014. Roslyn M. Brock has been board chairwoman since 2010.

With a membership of about 300,000, the association remains the most influential civil-rights organization in the United States. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, an independent legal aid group, argues in court on behalf of the NAACP and other civil-rights groups. Along with the NAACP, it was instrumental in helping to bring about the Supreme Court's ruling (1954) against segregated public education in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. case.

See R. L. Jack, A History of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1943); L. Hughes, Fight for Freedom (1962); B. J. Ross, J. E. Spingarn and the Rise of the NAACP, 1911–1939 (1972); R. L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade against Lynching, 1909 to 1950 (1980).

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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) US civil rights organization. Founded in 1909, its objectives are “to achieve through peaceful and lawful means, equal citizenship rights for all American citizens by eliminating segregation and discrimination in housing, employment, voting, schools, the courts, transportation, and recreation”. Early leaders included W. E. B. Du Bois.

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NAACP / ˈen dəbəl ā sē ˈpē/ • abbr. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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NAACP (USA) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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