In February of 1909, a group of prominent African Americans including W. E. B. Du Bois, Archibald Grimke, Mary Church Terrel, and Ida B. Wells met in New York with White progressives Henry Moskovitz, Mary White Ovington, William English Walling and Oswald Garrison Villard, with the goal of creating an organization to champion equal rights, eliminate racial prejudice and advance voting rights, education, employment and legal justice for colored citizens. The effort was made as a response to continued unfair treatment and segregation of the African American population and was in part a result of the 1908 Springfield race riot when a white mob burned down 40 Black homes in the area and murdered two Black citizens.
Their new organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Since its start, the NAACP has worked to achieve its goals through lobbying, peaceful protest and the judicial system. Its first president, White Attorney Moorfield Storey, with the help and backing of W. E. B. Du Bois, helped repeal the “grandfather clause” in Oklahoma that unfairly kept illiterate persons of color from voting while allowing illiterate Whites to do so. In 1920, the organization again made headlines when it took up the defense of the Elaine Twelve leading to an important precedent ruling in 1923.
The NAACP continued its mission, winning victories in the defense of the Scottsboro Boys and organizing multiple silent marches in cities around the nation, demonstrating against lynching and unfair treatment. The NAACP hit its stride in the civil rights era of the 1950s and ‘60s, with a key victory in Brown vs. Board of Education, orchestrating the 1963 March on Washington, the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and in 1968, the Fair Housing Ordinance in Flint.
Even today, the NAACP continues to succeed in its mission with federal anti-lynching legislation passed and signed by President Joe Biden in 2022.
Now led nationally by Attorney Derrick Johnson and locally (Flint) by Frances Gilcreast, the NAACP continues to focus on economic development, membership, youth advocacy, voter empowerment and public organization accountability. The fight continues both now and far into the future and wherever and whenever injustice occurs, the NAACP will be there to advocate for affected Americans.