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The NAACP

February is Black History Month. Each day this month, some historical aspect of black people in America will be featured in a Black History Month Moment. Today's moment concerns the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

One of the most widely recognized and most powerful civil rights organizations in the world was founded Feb. 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) grew from a conference of white liberals, who met to protest rising violence against black people. Their concerns meshed with those of black leaders of the Niagara Movement, which had formed to demand equal rights for African-Americans.

Moorhead Story, a white Boston lawyer, was the first president. Educator W.E.B. DuBois was director of publicity and research and editor of the NAACP's Crisis magazine.

In his first editorial, DuBois said the group stands "for the rights of men, irrespective of color or race, for the highest ideals of American democracy, and for reasonable but earnest and persistent attempts to gain these rights and realize these ideals."

One of the group's first moves was to form a legal committee, which proceeded to win important victories, including a 1923 Arkansas case in which the Supreme Court declared black people could not get a fair trial when black people were excluded from juries.

Perhaps its most significant judicial win came in 1954. With future U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall as the lead NAACP lawyer, the group represented Linda Brown in the famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional.

From 1952 to 1977, Roy Wilkins led the organization. He was succeeded by Benjamin Hooks, a lawyer, minister and civil rights activist who remains the NAACP's executive director.

After helping get civil rights legislation passed, the NAACP has concentrated in recent years on seeing that the laws are carried out, voter registration drives and encouraging more blacks to run for political office.

_ WILMA NORTON

Source: African-American History, Negro Almanac

Discussion questions

1. What were the issues raised by the Niagara Movement and how did they compare to those confronted by the NAACP when it was first organized?

2. Name 10 individuals, black and white, who were active in the NAACP's organization.

3. Is there a difference between the NAACP and the newer National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP)? Explain any distinctions.

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