On this day in Black History the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded by Mooreland Storey, Mary White Ovington, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The NAACP is an African American organization who’s mission is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”.
The Race Riots of 1908 in Springfield, Illinois prompted the call for an adequate civil rights organization in the United States. This event, although never confirmed, has been cited as the catalyst for the formation of the NAACP.
The very first meeting of the NAACP was set for February 12, 1909 in New York City to coincide with the 100th anniversary of “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The original group that met was composed of W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimke, Henry Mosokowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English, Walling, Florence Kelley, and Charles Edward Russell. These original members were a mixture of scholars, activists, writers, and even former slave owners.
Since this original meeting day, the NAACP has grown to become the nation’s largest and strongest civil rights organization. With a membership reaching over 300,000, the NAACP has offices in California, New York, Michigan, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, and a headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. There are also local, youth, and college chapters of the organization.
Since its founding, the NAACP has sought to removed all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic process. From school desegregation, fair housing, employment and voter registration, to health opportunities the NAACP has been at the forefront of almost every battle for equality in the country.
In its early years, the NAACP focused on overturning the oppressive Jim Crow laws that were legalizing racial separation. By 1914, the groups membership was at 6,000 with 50 branches nationwide. Throughout the early 1900s, the NAACP orchestrated marches and protests against many different forms of oppression toward African Americans.
The NAACP’s legal department has also had a hand in some of the most influential court cases in US history. Headed by the legendary Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston, the legal team was able to take on cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson, Murray v. Pearson, Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada. These instrumental cases to racial equality lead to the NAACP founding the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1940.
In 1954, the NAACP had what may be their greatest legal victory with the decision of the Brown v. Board of Education that held state sponsored segregation of elementary schools unconstitutional. After this victory the NAACP pushed for full desegregation throughout the south.
The following year, members Edgar Nixon and Rosa Parks helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott that helped Black bus riders in Montgomery, Alabama be treated equally while riding the bus. This boycott also was the catalyst for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to gain national recognition, although he repeatedly clashed with the NAACP over questions of strategy and leadership within the movement. Regardless, during the 1960s the NAACP was a prominent figure in the fight to achieve civil rights.
Although the organization fell into debt during the 1990s, the years that followed the passing of the Civil Rights of 1964 were still productive for the NAACP. Moving into the new millennia the focus of the group has broadened to equality of all people. They have gotten involved in battles against injustice effected more races and even the LGBT community. They recently have begin to focus a lot on the youth to ensure that their ideals of justice and equality are upheld in the next generation.
Today we celebrate the longevity and influence of the largest civil rights organization in the United States and what they have done for the African American community.