The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the oldest and most recognized civil rights organization in the United States. With more than 500,000 members, the NAACP works locally and nationally to “to “ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality for all, and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”
But when the NAACP was founded more than one hundred years ago, its mission was to develop ways to create social equality. In response to the rate of lynching as well as the 1908 race riot in Illinois, several descendants of prominent abolitionists organized a meeting to end social and racial injustice.
And since its founding in 1909, the organization has worked to end racial injustice in a number of ways.
1909: A group of African-American and white men and women establish the NAACP. Its founders include W.E.B. Du Bois , Mary White Ovington, Ida B. Wells, William English Walling. Originally the organization was called the National Negro Committee
1911: The Crisis, the official monthly news publication of the organization is established. This publication would feature events and issues impacting African-Americans throughout the United States. During the Harlem Renaissance, many writers published short stories, novel excerpts and poems in its pages.
1915: Following the debut of Birth of a Nation in theaters across the United States, the NAACP publishes a pamphlet entitled, "Fighting a Vicious Film: Protest Against The Birth of a Nation." Du Bois reviewed the film in The Crisis and condemned its glorification of racist propaganda. The organization protested to have the film banned throughout the United States. Although protests were not successful in the South, the organization successfully stopped the film from being shown in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
1917:On July 28, the NAACP organized the largest civil rights protest in United States’ history. Beginning on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, an estimated 800 children led a 10,000 silent marchers. The marchers moved silently up the streets of New York City holding signs that read, “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?” and “Thou Shall Not Kill.” The purpose was to highlight the importance of bringing an end to lynching, Jim Crow laws and violent attacks against African-Americans.
1919: The pamphlet, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1898-1918 is published. The report is used to appeal to lawmakers to end the social, political and economic terrorism associated with lynching.
From May 1919 to October 1919, a number of race riots erupted in cities throughout the United States. In response James Weldon Johnson, a prominent leader in the NAACP, organized peaceful protests.
1930s: During this decade, the organization began providing moral, economic and legal support for African-Americans suffering criminal injustice. In 1931, the NAACP offered legal representation to the Scottsboro Boys, nine young adults who were falsely accused of raping two white women.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund provided defense of the Scottsboro Boys and bought national attention to the case.
1948: President Harry Truman becomes the first president to formally address the NAACP. Truman worked with the NAACP to develop a commission to study and offer ideas to improve civil rights issues in the United States.
That same year, Truman signed Executive Order 9981 which desegregated the United States Armed Services. The Order declared ""It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale."
The landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. The ruling declared that racial segregation violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The ruling made it unconstitutional to separate students of different races in public school. Ten years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to racially segregate public facilities and employment.
A local chapter secretary of the NAACP refuses to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. Her name was Rosa Parks and her actions would set the stage for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott became a springboard for the efforts of organizations such as the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)and Urban League to develop a national civil rights movement.
1964-1965: The NAACP played a pivotal role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Through cases fought and won in the U.S. Supreme Court as well as grassroots initiatives such as the Freedom Summer, the NAACP consistently appealed to various levels of government to change American society.