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History of the NAACP

For more than 100 years our nation’s premier civil rights organization has fought for human rights, voting rights, economic rights. The NAACP’s stated goal was to work to secure the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution.

Founded on February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, formed in New York City. When a following meeting of prominent Americans took place in May of that year, the first officers of the organization were selected.

The NAACP began to lead the “struggle” through the legal system. Several noteworthy court cases were championed by the NAACP. The landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954, outlawed segregation in public schools.

The NAACP is headquartered in Baltimore, with additional regional offices in New York, Michigan, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Colorado and California. Each regional office is responsible for coordinating the efforts of state conferences in that region. Local, youth, and college chapters organize activities for individual members. 

In the U.S., the NAACP is administered by a 64-member board, led by a chairperson. The board elects one person as the president and one as chief executive officer for the organization; Benjamin Jealous is its most recent (and youngest) president, selected to replace Bruce S. Gordon, who resigned in March 2007. Julian Bond, Civil Rights Movement activist and former Georgia State Senator, was chairman until replaced in February 2010 by health-care administrator Roslyn Brock. For decades in the first half of the 20th century, the organization was effectively led by its executive secretary, who acted as chief operating officer. James Weldon Johnson and Walter F. White, who served in that role successively from 1920 to 1958, were much more widely known as NAACP leaders than were presidents during those years. 

The NAACP's non-current records are housed at the Library of Congress, which has served as the organization's official repository since 1964. The records held there comprise approximately five million items spanning the NAACP's history from the time of its founding until 2003. In 2011, the NAACP teamed with the digital repository ProQuest to digitize and host online the earlier portion of its archives, through 1972 – nearly two million pages of documents, from the national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country, which offer first-hand insight into the organization's work related to such crucial issues as lynching, school desegregation, and discrimination in all its aspects (in the military, the criminal justice system, employment, housing.


W.E.B. DuBois

Civil Rights Activist

W.E.B. DuBois (William Edward Burghardt DuBois) founded The Crisis, a magazine, which became the official publication of the NAACP, in 1910. One of the The Crisis’ aims according to DuBois, was “to show the danger of racial prejudice”. Dubois, one of the co-founders of the NAACP, graduated from Harvard University, became a history professor at Atlanta University and published a collection of essays entitled, The Souls of Black Folks.
By 1917, the organization had 9,000 members and more than 300 branches.


Thurgood Marshall

Supreme Court Justice

Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the NAACP, argued several cases before the Supreme Court during his career, eventually being appointed to the court in 1967. Justice Marshall was nominated by President Johnson, becoming the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The NAACP is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, which happens to be the birth place of Justice Marshall.

During the 1960’s the NAACP, was at the forefront during the passage of key legislation. The civil rights movement was crucial in developing the conscious of the country. Noted legislative accomplishments were the Civil rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

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