How the National NAACP Began

In the summer of 1908, the USA was shocked by the account of race riots in Springfield, IL. A mob of the “best citizens” of Abraham Lincoln’s hometown had raged for two days, killed and wounded scores of Negroes and driven thousands from the city. Articles on the subject had appeared in newspapers and magazines. One such article, which appeared in the Independent on September 3, 1908, written by William English Waling and entitled “Race War in the North,” ended with the sentence, “Yet who realized the seriousness of the situation, and what large and powerful body of citizens is ready to come to their aid?” Mrs. Mary White Ovington answered that charge by meeting Mr. Walling and Dr. Henry Moskowitz during the first week of 1909.

It was in the little room of a New York apartment that the NAACP was born. The call was made to other to join the cause. The celebration of the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln was the date. “Hence we call upon all the believers in democracy to join in a national conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protest and the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty.” Dr. W.E.B. DuBois and Mrs. Mary Church Terrell and Dr. J. Milton Walton, from Atlanta and Rev. Francis J. Grimke from Washington, DC, were among those who signed the Call.

It was a second conference in New York in May 1910 that a permanent body to be known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was organized.

When Dr. W.E. B. DuBois was called to the conference, he brought the conference closely in touch with an organization of colored people that had been formed in 1905 at Niagara and was known as the Niagara Movement. This organization had been involved in the work of legal redress along the lines of the NAACP. In 1910, it had conducted important civil rights cases and had in its membership some of the prominent colored lawyers in the country, among them Mr. W. Ashbie Hawkins, its treasure.

The first issue of The Crisis, the official news organ of the NAACP, was published in November, 1910. Its name was suggested by Lowell’s poem, “The Present Crisis.”

The NAACP was incorporated in the State of New York in 1911. The principal objectives as stated in the Certificate of Incorporation were as follows:

• voluntarily to promote equality of rights and eradicate race prejudice among the citizens of the United States;
• to advance the interest of colored citizens;
• to secure for them impartial suffrage; and
• to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for their children, employment according to their ability, and complete equality before the law.


Today, the NAACP works along four main lines in pursuit of its goals:

• it uses the courts, state and federal, to secure justice and level barriers;

• it works for the enactment of national, state and local laws to protect civil rights and ban racial discrimination;

• it carries and educational program in efforts to create a climate of opinion in favor of equal rights and human brotherhood; and

• it engages in selective buying campaigns, picketing and direct action programs.

The basic policies of the Association are developed at it annual convention by delegates elected to represent local NAACP units. In the form of resolutions, policies are presented to the National Board of Directors for ratification.

For additional information, please visit the Web site for our national organization: NAACP.

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