The NAACP have played a very important part in the civil rights movement. The initials stand for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.
Brief early history 1909 to 1945
The NAACP was founded in 1909 by a group of multi-racial activists. It was originally called the National Negro Committee.
The NAACP started to fight injustices in 1910 with the Pink Franklin case. Though they failed in this case, the organisation resolved to use the law and the law courts to fight its campaign lead by the brothers Joel and Arthur Spingarn.
In 1913, the NAACP publically criticised the president – Woodrow Wilson – who officially introduced segregation into federal government and in 1918, after intense pressure by the NAACP, Wilson finally publically condemned lynching – something the man who wanted a “just” peace settlement in Europe had failed to do throughout his presidency. During the war, the NAACP successfully campaigned for African Americans to be commissioned as officers in the army. 600 were commissioned and 700,000 African Americans registered for the army.
In 1920, the NAACP deliberately selected Atlanta for its annual conference; the city was known as an activeKKK area and this was a sign that violence and general intimidation would have no impact on the organisation.
In 1930, the NAACP successfully protested about the nomination of John Parker to be a Supreme Court judge. Parker wanted laws that discriminated against African Americans.
During the war, the NAACP pressured Roosevelt into ordering a non-discriminatory policy in war-related industries and federal employment.
1945 to 1968
Landmark events in the NAACP’s post-war history
In 1945, the NAACP condemned Congress when it refused to fund an investigation into fair employment practices.
In 1946, the NAACP won the Morgan v Virginia case where the Supreme Court banned states from having segregated facilities on busses and trains that crossed state borders.
In 1948, the NAACP pressured President Truman into signing the Executive Order that banned discrimination by the Federal government.
In 1950, the head of the NAACP’s legal department, Thurgood Marshall, won his case in the Supreme Court for state universities to provide equal facilities for all students.
In 1954, the NAACP won its landmark legal case – Brown v the Board of Education. This case was lead by Special Counsel Thurgood Marshall. The organisation had spent years fighting segregation in schools which existed in thirteen southern states. The Supreme Court declared that schools could be “separate and equal”. The NAACP found it easy to prove that children at white-only schools in the south had nearly $38 spent on each one of them per year. For children at black-only schools, the figure was just over $13. The Supreme Court deemed that this was not “equal” and declared schools that were segregated were unconstitutional.
In 1955, NAACP member Rosa Parks was arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This sparked off the famous Montgomery bus boycott which lead to all the major civil rights groups combining their efforts. This protest was organised by Martin Luther King. The loss of revenue from the 17,000 African Americans in Montgomery who refused to use buses, lead the Montgomery Bus Company withdrawing its segregation policy.
In 1960, members of the NAACP Youth Council started a series of non-violent sit-ins at a segregated lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greenboro, North Carolina. Such was the success of this protest, that 26 southern cities officially desegregated their lunch counters. Student sit-ins were also organised in segregated parks, swimming pools, libraries, churches and museums. All of this was done using King’s policy of non-violence. Any assaults on the protesters was met with passivity.
In 1963, the NAACP’s first Field Director, Medgar Evars, was assassinated.
In 1964, the Supreme Court ended the eight year campaign by Alabama officials to ban the activities of the NAACP. In this year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.
Also in 1964, the NAACP, along with CORE and SNCC, established 30 Freedom Schools throughout Mississippi. These taught about the history of civil rights and African Americans. These schools were staffed by volunteers. Over 80 of these volunteers were beaten up and in June, 1964, three were murdered by the KKK. Though tragic, the murders received massive national media coverage and did much to educate the nation’s population about what was going on in the Deep South
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed. The NAACP persuaded more than 80,000 African Americans in Mississippi to register their right to vote. Up to that time, 42% of Mississippi’s population was African American but only 7% had registered to vote. Now if any state or local authority tried to obstruct anyone from voting at an election, they would face federal prosecution if charged.