Monday, December 24, 2007



Notwithstanding contemporary accusations of "conservativism" and "Uncle Tomism" leveled by many young black militants, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been in the vanguard of the African American struggle for civil rights and equality for nearly a hundred years. Founded in 1909 in response to the prevailing pattern of American segregation, disfranchisement and racial violence, the NAACP from the outset has been an interracial organization. In fact, aside from W. E. B. Du Bois, the first group of NAACP officials, including the organization's first president, Moorfield Storey, were whites. Bringing most of the black intellectuals from the Niagara Movement into the new group with him, Du Bois was named Director of Publications and Research and editor of the NAACP's magazine, The Crisis, a position he held until 1934.

From the very beginning, the NAACP adopted a program which stressed "litigation, legislation and education" as the primary means of bettering the status and condition of American blacks. By maintaining a strong lobby in Washington, the NAACP successfully has campaigned for laws designed to protect and, when necessary, extend the rights of African Americans. Equally significant have been the NAACP's legal battles in the courts against unjust laws and inadequate enforcement of constitution­ally guaranteed rights. During the 1930's and 1940's, for example, NAACP lawyers won a series of court battles over the question of southern legal oppression of blacks by such means as the Democratic white primary, the exclusion of blacks from juries and forced confessions.

The organization's most notable success came as a result of its steady and skillful assault on public school segregation, an assault which culminated in 1954 when the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education declared that racially segregated schools are "inherently unequal." Legal victories such as these set the stage for the subsequent "Civil Rights Revolution" during the 1960's. In defense of the NAACP's emphasis upon litigation, James Weldon Johnson, Executive Secretary of the organization during the 1920's, berated those who held "that these legal victories are empty. They are not. At the very least, they provide the ground upon which we may make a stand for our rights." See also: NIAGARA MOVEMENT.

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