The Impact of National Association for Advancement of Colored People

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NAACP: Advancing the Position of African-Americans in the US

NAACP; the acronym of “National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People”, is ultimately one of the foremost, largest, as well as most recognized and important civil right movements in the US. Initially termed as National Negro Committee, NAACP was founded in early 20th century precisely in 1909, in New York by a large group of multi-racial activists partly in response to the horrific and monstrous lynching and violence against African Americans in the US (Miller 2012, p.1179). As a result, anti-lynching campaigns were central to the movement’s agenda. NAACP also worked for the abolition of both segregation and discrimination of minorities in education, employment, voting, housing among other areas. Following this, for over a century, NAACP has promoted and championed several civil liberties issues, tackled white racism, promoted racial justice, integration as well as equal opportunity for the minorities. This paper explores the significant impact of NAACP in advancing the position of African-Americans in the US between 1909 and 2009.


Founding Group

In 1908, a somewhat deadly race-based riot rocked the state of Illinois capital Springfield city, for years, such eruptions involving anti-black violence especially lynching had become a commonplace, however, the Springfield riot was to a great extent the final tipping point that is attributed with the creation of NAACP (Miller 2012, p.1179). Therefore, appalled by the rampant race-based violence a group of white and Black liberals issued a call for a meeting that aimed at discussing the issue of racial justice. One of the key founders included Mary White Ovington who was a journalist, author, and activist born in Brooklyn New York in 1865. Apart from, being an activist for racial equanimity, Mary White Ovington was also a socialist and a suffragette. Another key founder of NAACP was Ida B Wells-Barnett, born into slavery in 1862, Wells Barnett was both a newspaper editor and journalist who actively led the anti-lynching crusade during the 1890s; particularly editorial campaigns (Miller 2012, p.1179).

William English Walling

William English Walling was also a key player in the formation of NAACP, Walling was an American Labour reformer, a socialist, author, and founder of the 1903 National Women’s Trade Union League. Other key players included W.E.B Du Bois; an American historian, author, sociologist, and an activist who went on to become of the most important black protest leader in the US (Gilbert 2005, p.10). During the movement’s meeting, approximately 60 individuals among them seven African Americans signed the call which was later on released on the centennial of President’s Lincoln birth. Some of the notable early members included John Dewey, Charles Darrow, and Charles Edward Russell among others (NAACP. Org., n.d).

The Impact of NAACP as from 1909 to 2009

In the America history, NAACP was and still is perhaps one of the most important social movements in advancing the position of minority groups; particularly African Americans. Generally, after inception, NAACP’s mission to a great extent echoed the focus of the Niagara Movement under the leadership of W.E.B Dubois which had been created earlier in 1905 (Miller 2012, p.1179). Concerning this, its mission was to secure all the rights guaranteed by the US constitution in the 13th, 14th as well as the 15th amendment which promised a variety of rights which included cessation to slavery, equal protection, thus under the law, inclusive of universal adult male suffrage respectively. United in its strong opposition to Booker T. Washington’s preaching’s; urging African Americans to accept segregation, the movement began by creating awareness for the need of racial equality, consequently, it launched a program of lobbying and speechmaking. The Crisis magazine founded the same year by W.E.B Du Bois became the premier crusading voice; thus for civil rights. As a result, the magazine emerged as a ground-breaking outlet that was used for the discussing critical issued that faced African Americans (Miller 2012, p.1180).

Following its initiatives, and campaigns, 1915 is considered a landmark year for the movement and it was a somewhat representative of what the movement would become; a movement that focused on not only on policy but also cultural concerns; thus in the course of the 20th century. Concerning this, the movement marked its first victory; thus against the discriminatory law which greatly regulated voting primarily through the grandfather clause in the American landmark case Guinnv (Gilbert 2005, p.35) the United States. Generally, the Grandfather Clause was a clause enacted by the southern states which allowed white voters to evade/circumvent poll taxes, literacy tests among other tactics that had been designed to deny Blacks suffrage rights. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled against US states from granting the “grandfather clause” to whites; hence, ensuring equality (Gilbert 2005, p.35). In the same year, the movement launched protests following the debut of the inflammatory film “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith in US theaters as it perpetuated what can be termed as very demeaning stereotypes of Blacks in the US (NAACP, n.d, p.3). As a result, in their protests, NAACP highly condemned the film’s glorification of a high racist’s propaganda, and although the movement’s protests were not successful in preventing the airing of the film in the Southern states, it successfully stopped its airing in most Northern States such as Kansas City, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.

The movement greatly advanced the position of African Americans in the US through the creation of an anti-lynching committee in 1916 after which, a year later in 1917 NAACP organized perhaps the largest civil right protest in US history in New York’s fifth avenue and 59th Street (Alchin 2014). The primary goal of the protest marches was to create widespread awareness concerning lynching, violence against African Americans and ultimately the unfair Jim Crow laws. In the same year following the protests against segregation, in the case of Bachanan v. Warley, the US Supreme Court prohibited municipal ordinances that required racial segregation in housing. Therefore, US states could not restrict or even officially segregate Blacks into residential districts. (Alchin 2014) Furthermore, NAACP also fought and won the fight against not only the mistreatment but also the segregation and discrimination of African Americans in the military; hence, African Americans could be commissioned as officers during the First World War.

In 1918, following persistent pressure from the NAACP movement, President Wilson eventually condemned the act of lynching publicly. Concerning this, the NAACP provided legal representation to African Americans in a number of cases such as the 1931 case involving Scottsboro Boys a group of nine young African American boys who had been falsely accused of having sexually assaulted two white women, generally, NAACP’s legal defense to a great extent aided in bringing national attention to the legal case. In 1939, the legal defense of NAACP which comprise of lawyers such as Thurgood Marshall secured victory in the legal battle sought to have black students admitted to the University of Maryland. In 1941, President Roosevelt agreed to provide job opportunities for African American workers following NAACP’s support; thus for the labor leader, he also agreed to set up what was termed as the Fair Employment Practices Committee in order to ensure compliance (NAACP, n.d, p.3).

The Impact of NAACP in Advancing African-Americans’ Position during the Civil Rights Era

In 1954, NAACP’s legal defense, as well as its Educational Fund which were headed by Marshall, secured victory in the Brown vs. Board of Education case in which the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson (Alchin 2014). The landmark case outlawed segregation in schools or rather education as unconstitutional and violated the 14th amendment on the Equal Protection Clause.

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Later in 1955 Rosa Parks; a member of the NAACP and its secretary was arrested after having refused to give up her seat; thus in a highly segregated bus in Montgomery in Alabama (Fradin 2009, p. 21). Due to her actions, NAACP believed she was ultimately the best candidate; thus for seeing through a court challenge following her arrest where she was charged with civil disobedience having violated the Alabama segregation laws (Fradin 2009, p. 21). Park’s emerged as an inspiration to the Black Community to resist segregation which resulted in the Montgomery bus boycott; the first direct action campaign; against discriminatory segregation laws, of the post-civil rights movement. Following this, the bus boycott became an important symbol of the NAACP movement.

Martin Luther King

Following her arrest, the NAACP together with Martin Luther King; a local Baptist pastor, organized numerous protests against segregation in the public transportation such as buses; hence, the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott (Fradin 2009, p. 21). Born in 1929 Martin Luther King rose to become one of the greatest civil rights activists in the US history. Following Rosa Park’s arrest, Martin Luther King Jr. began traveling throughout the US making speeches consequently inspiring individuals to participate in the struggle for their civil rights. Apart from the bus boycott, some of his major achievements in advancing African Americans include the organization of the March on Washington; which is considered as the history’s biggest Civil Rights Rallies, together with other NAACP members. The march aimed at persuading the US Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act and it was here that King delivered his famous “I have a Dream Speech” which intensified the Civil Rights Movement. As a result of the March as well as King’s speech, American Citizens began growing pressure on the then-president John F. Kennedy to push for civil rights laws. Following the march, in 1964 and 1965 US passed the landmark legislation the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts respectively. Later in 1968, following NAACP lobbying, the Fair Housing Act was passed (Alchin 2014). By the late 1970s, NAACP greatly broadened its objectives or rather it scope; consequently, committing itself to the overall struggle for equal rights for all people around the globe including the minorities. Martin Luther King also aided in promoting the Birmingham campaign which sought to end the segregated and discriminatory economic policies, the campaign was an immense success as it ended the Jim Crow laws in public businesses.

Other Movements

Other movements such as Marcus Garvey’s movement termed as the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) also had significant impact in advancing the role and position of African Americans mainly during the civil rights era; thus in the 1950s (Recchiuti 2018).

United Negro Improvement Association

Founded in 1914, under the leadership of Marcus Garvey, the United Negro Improvement Association greatly advanced the Position of African Americans primarily by promoting unity among them and promoting the notion or rather idea of Black Nationalism which was primarily based on three important elements which included African cultural heritage, unity among African Americans and pride. Following his conviction that integration, respect, and equality of African Americans would only occur if they gained the economic, political, and ultimately cultural success, through the movement Marcus Garvey set up the Black Star Line which set up trade and commerce activities between African Americans and African nations including the Caribbean. Through conventions, the movement also highlighted the rich cultural heritage of the African Americans, and also highlighted the plight of African Americans in the US calling for equality (Leeuwen 2000).

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

Formed in 1960, SNCC successfully coordinated non-violent campaigns led by the youths who engaged in direct campaigns against racism including segregation (Recchiuti 2018). Members of the movement play an important role in Freedom rides, and in the 1963 march on Washington. During this, period the movement also gained national attention and consequently throwing what can be termed as, a harsh public light on the prevalent white racism that existed in the South through their famous sit-ins, which was a non-violent form of protest.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

Established in 1942 by a group of both Black and White Student, from the University of Chicago, the movement advanced the position of African Americans by participating in non-violent civil disobedience (Recchiuti 2018). Apart from participating in the Montgomery Bus Boycott together with other movements such as NAACP and SNCC, the movement also participated in student sit-ins across the South which upheld Jim Crow’s segregation laws. CORE also participated in Freedom Rides organized by its national director James Farmer in an effort to integrate interstate buses as well as bus stations present in the Deep South (Recchiuti 2018). CORE activists also made tremendous contributions towards voter education and registration among African Americans in the South.

Conclusively, together, NAACP, CORE, and SNCC, established approximately 30 Freedom Schools in the state of Mississippi for the advancement of African Americans (Recchiuti 2018). Moreover, these movements also participated in voter registration drives, Freedom rides as well as sits all aimed at abolishing segregation laws, racism, as well as discrimination of African Americans; hence, promoting equality.


After many decades of struggle for not only social but also economic justice, in 2009 Barak Obama became America’s first African America President. The significant contributions and impact of NAACP; thus advancing the overall position of African-Americans in the US, hence, making the 2009 historical elections possible were greatly acknowledged by President Obama. In his inaugural speech, Barack Obama stated that “Because of their work…we as a nation were able to take the dramatic steps we have in recent history” (NAACP. Org., n.d).

In the contemporary world, with approximately half million members and supporter in not only the US but also in other nations NAACP works to ensure social, economic, educational, and political equality for all, and consequently, eliminating both racial discrimination and segregation (NAACP, n.d., 1). This includes promoting voter empowerment and equality in areas such as health care, criminal justice system and advocacy for civil rights; thus in the legal arena. Conclusively, since its formation, NAACP to a great extent has been built on not only individual but also the collective courage of people from different nationalities, and races united in a somewhat single premise that all people regardless of their skin colour are equal. By exploring its major historical achievements, it can, therefore, be argued that NAACP ultimately had the greatest impact; thus in advancing the position of people from the African American communities in American from its inception in 1909 up to 2009.


Alchin, L. (2014). NAACP Facts & History Timeline. [Online]. Available at:

[Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].

Fradin, B. D. (2009). The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Marshall Cavendish. Pp. 48

Gilbert, J. (2005). Freedom's Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle against Racism in America, 1909-1969. New York: Routledge. Pp. 554.

Leeuwen, V. D.(2000). Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro: Improvement Association. Available at: [Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].

Miller, W. (2012). The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America. SAGE Publications. Pp. 2606.

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

[Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].

NAACP. (n.d). The History of the NAACP. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Pp. 10. Available at:

Recchiuti, J. L. (2018). SNCC and CORE. [Online]. Available at:

[Accessed Aug. 16, 2018].

November 24, 2023
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