NAACP History

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Source: NAACP. Org. (n.d). The First 100 Years of NAACP History (1909 - 2009). [Online]. Available at:

[Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].



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The First 100 Years of NAACP History

(1909 - 2009)

Founded Feb. 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.

( Before the NAACP was founded, W.E.B. Du Bois and William M. Trotter established the Niagara Movement in 1905. This was a black civil rights group that worked to bring about legal change regarding issues of racial justice, equality and education. The NAACP was an outgrowth of the Niagara Movement. )

Founding Group

The NAACP was formed by a multiracial group of activists, who answered "The Call." They initially called themselves the National Negro Committee. They began partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and brutal attacks on black communities, including the 1908 attack in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln's birth.

Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs.

Echoing the focus of Du Bois' Niagara Movement began in 1905, the NAACP's stated goal was to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.

The NAACP's principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic processes.

The NAACP established its national office in New York City in 1910 and named a board of directors . The only African American among the organization's executives in this office was W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois was made director of publications and research. In 1910, he established the official journal (magazine) of the NAACP called The Crisis. The Crisis magazine became the premier crusading voice for civil rights. Today, The Crisis is one of the oldest black periodicals in America.


1910 In the face of intense adversity, the NAACP begins its legacy of fighting legal battles addressing social injustice with the Pink Franklin case, which involved a Black farmhand, who unintentionally killed a policeman in self-defense when the officer broke into his home at 3 a.m. to arrest him on a civil charge. After losing at the Supreme Court, the following year the renowned NAACP official Joel Spingarn and his brother Arthur start a concerted effort to fight such cases.

1913 President Woodrow Wilson officially introduces segregation into the Federal Government. Horrified that President would sanction such a policy, the NAACP launched a public protest.

1915 The NAACP organizes a nationwide protest D.W. Griffith s racially-inflammatory and bigoted silent film, Birth of a Nation.

1917 In Buchanan vs. Warley, the Supreme Court has to concede that states can not restrict and officially segregate African Americans into residential districts. Also, the NAACP fights and wins the battle to enable African Americans to be commissioned as officers in World War I. Six hundred officers are commissioned, and 700,000 register for the draft..

1918 After persistent pressure by the NAACP, President Woodrow Wilson finally makes a public state­ment against lynching.

1920 To ensure that everyone, especially the Klan, knew that the NAACP would not be intimidated, the annual conference was held in Atlanta, considered one of the most active Klan areas.

1922 In an unprecedented move, the NAACP places large ads in major newspapers to present the facts about lynching.

1923 A successful landmark NAACP case: Moore v. Dempsey, the Supreme Court ruled that cities may not legally ban African Americans from purchasing real estate.

1930 The first of successful protests by the NAACP against Supreme Court justice nominees is launched against John Parker, who officially favored laws that discriminated against African Americans.

1935 NAACP lawyers Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall win the legal battle to admit a black student to the University of Maryland.

1939 After the Daughters of the Revolution barred acclaimed soprano Marian Anderson from performing at the Constitution Hall, the NAACP moved her concert to the Lincoln Memorial, where over 75,000 people attended.

1940 Women's leadership was instrumental to the growth of the NAACP, and the election of Mary McLeod Bethune as vice-president of the organization in 1940 continued the example set by Mary White Ovington and Angelina Grimké.

1941 During World War II, the NAACP leads the effort to ensure that President Franklin Roosevelt orders a non-discrimination policy in war-related industries and federal employment.

1945 NAACP starts a national outcry when Congress refuses to fund their own Federal Fair Roosevelt Employment Practices Commission.

1946 The NAACP wins the Morgan vs. Virginia case, where the Supreme Court bans states from having laws that sanction segregated facilities in interstate travel by train and bus.

1948 The NAACP was able to pressure President Harry Truman to sign an Executive Order banning discrimination by the Federal government.

1950 As NAACP's Special Counsel, Thurgood Marshall won cases that struck down Texas and Oklahoma laws requiring segregated graduate schools in Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma. In those cases, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment required those states to admit black students to their graduate and professional schools.

1954 After years of fighting segregation in public schools under the leadership of Special Counsel Thurgood Marshal, the NAACP wins one of its greatest legal victories in Brown vs. the Board of Education.

1955 NAACP member Rosa Parks is arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Noted as the catalyst for the largest grassroots civil rights movement, that would be spearheaded through the collective efforts of the NAACP, SCLC and other Black organizations.

1960 In Greensboro, North Carolina, members of the NAACP Youth Council launch a series of non-violent sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. These protests eventually lead to more than 60 stores officially desegregating their counters.

1963 After one of his many successful mass rallies for civil rights, NAACP’s first Field Director, Medgar Evers is assassinated in front of his house in Jackson, Mississippi. Five months later, President John Kennedy was also assassinated.

1963 NAACP pushes for the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act.

1964 U.S. Supreme Court ends the eight year effort of Alabama officials to ban NAACP activities. And 55 years after the NAACP's founding, Congress finally passes the Civil Rights Act.

1965 The Voting Rights Act is passed. Amidst threats of violence and efforts of state and local governments, the NAACP still manages to register more than 80,000 voters in the Old South.

1979 The NAACP initiates the first bill ever signed by a governor that allows voter registration in high schools. Soon after, 24 states follow suit.

1981 The NAACP leads the effort to extend The Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. To cultivate economic empowerment, the NAACP establishes the Fair Share Program with major corporations across the country.

1982 NAACP registers more than 850,000 voters, and through its protests and the support of the Supreme Court, prevents President Reagan from giving a tax-break to the racially segregated Bob Jones University.

1985 The NAACP leads a massive anti-apartheid rally in New York.

1987 NAACP launches campaign to defeat the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. As a result, he garners the highest negative vote ever recorded.

1989 Silent March of over 100,000 to protest U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have reversed many of the gains made against discrimination.

1991 When avowed racist and former Klan leader David Duke runs for US Senate in Louisiana, the NAACP launches a voter registration campaign that yields a 76 percent turn-out of Black voters to defeat Duke.

1992 The number of Fair Share Program corporate partners has risen to 70 and now represents billions of dollars in business.

rman of the NAACP's Board of Directors. The following year, the Kweisi Mfume leaves Congress to become the NAACPs President and CEO.

1995 Over thirty years after the assassination of NAACP civil rights activist, Medgar Evers - his widow Myrlie, is elected Chairman of the NAACP's Board of Directors. The following year, the Kweisi Mfume leaves Congress to become the NAACPs President and CEO.

1997 In response to the pervasive anti-affirmative action legislation occurring around the country, the NAACP launches the Economic Reciprocity Program... And in response to increased violence among our youth, the NAACP starts the "Stop The Violence, Start the Love' campaign.

1998 Georgia's first elected Black state representative and civil rights activist, Julian Bond is elected as the new Chairman of the NAACPs National Board of Directors.

1999 NAACP president Kweisi Mfume demands that television networks end what he calls the virtual “whitewash” of television programming that holds down the number of African Americans who work in the TV industry. In quick order, the major networks ink agreements with the NAACP that commit them to doing a better job of employing black actors, producers, directors and writers and contracting with black suppliers.

2000 On January 17, 2000, the NAACP organizes a march in Columbia, South Carolina, to protest the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag. The march is attended by more than 50,000, and the flag is removed on July 1.

2000 The NAACP launches a major get-out-the-vote campaign in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Approximately 10.5 million African Americans cast their ballot in the election, 1 million more than four years before.

2001 The Adam’s Mark hotel chain agrees to pay $1.1 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against black guests during a 1999 black college reunion in Florida. The settlement ends a boycott by the NAACP and legal action by the hotel chain against those who canceled contracts as part of the boycott.

2002 NAACP lobbies Congress to pass the Help America to Vote Act. This legislation seeks to improve the administration of federal elections by providing assistance with the administration of certain federal election laws and programs.

2005 With a long history of promoting quality education, the NAACP is among more than 800 educators, corporate leaders and government officials honored for outstanding contributions in educating youth by the National Education Association.

2005 Lawyers of the NAACP file a motion to prevent Myrtle Beach from changing traffic management plans between two events, one with black participants and one white participants, and treating the two groups of visitors differently. On May 9, 2005, the U.S. District Court in South Carolina agrees with the NAACP that the city of Myrtle Beach must stop discriminating against African-American visitors.

2005 The NAACP is instrumental in allowing Rosa Parks to make history even in death. Through NAACP efforts, she is permitted to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Parks is the first woman, the second African American and one of only 30 Americans ever honored with the pomp and ritual of a Capitol Rotunda viewing.

2005 The NAACP National Education Department declares victory with the Senate decision to repeal the Florida Class Size Reduction Amendment. By defeating this proposed legislation, the NAACP and a bipartisan coalition of legislators increase the likelihood that more students, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, will have an opportunity to meet the state’s educational achievement benchmarks.

2005 - 2006 The NAACP leads several thousand members, politicians and entertainers in the 2005 “Keep the Vote Alive” march to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and to mobilize support for extension of portions of the act scheduled to expire in 2007. Their efforts succeed on July 21, 2006, when President George W. Bush signs the Voting Rights Act extension.

2006 The NAACP unites with media companies CBS and NBC to create its Master Degree Writing Fellowships. The fellowship is awarded each year to a graduate student whose work offers a fresh perspective on ways in which minorities are represented. The fellowships provide students with financial assistance in their studies and mentoring throughout their academic program.

2007 In a bipartisan show of force, the Senate unanimously passes the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act, which will authorize state and local governments to divest from companies that support the Khartoum government at the expense of marginalized populations in Sudan and prohibit federal contracts with those companies. The NAACP, together with Darfur activists, has been aggressively pushing this important legislation.

2008 The NAACP’s century-long fight for social and economic justice bears fruit when Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president of the United States. The contributions of the NAACP to make this historical election possible is acknowledged by President Obama, who states, “Because of their work…we as a nation were able to take the dramatic steps we have in recent history.”

2009 After decades of NAACP protest, the Rockefeller Drug Law is repealed by New York state officials. The repeal will remove the mandatory minimum prison sentences, expand drug treatment programs and allow first-time nonviolent offenders to be diverted to treatment instead of prison.

2009 President Obama proposes to Congress a budget designed to make higher education both more affordable and more accessible. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of young people, including members of the NAACP Youth and College Division, the initial budget proposal is passed in both the House and the Senate.

In summary, the NAACP has been built on the individual and collective courage of thousands of people. People of all races, nationalities and religious denominations, who were united on one premise --that all men and women are created equal.

NAACP attorneys are still challenging racial discrimination whether it appears in the guise of corporate hotel policies that discriminate against African-American college students, voting disenfranchisement during national presidential elections or state sponsored symbols of white supremacy, such as the confederate battle flag. The NAACP's Legal Department focuses on class actions and other cases of broad significance in areas including employment, education, housing, environmental justice, criminal law and voting, striving always, to advance the Association's goals.

November 13, 2023
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