National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

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National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

(NAACP), organization composed mainly of American blacks, but with many white members, whose goal is the end of racial discrimination and segregation.

The association was formed as the direct result of the lynching (1908) of two blacks in Springfield, Ill. The incident produced a wide response by white Northerners to a call by Mary W. Ovington, a white woman, for a conference to discuss ways of achieving political and social equality for blacks. This conference led to the formation (1910) of the NAACP, headed by eight prominent Americans, seven white and one, William E. B. Du BoisDu Bois, W. E. B.
(William Edward Burghardt Du Bois) , 1868–1963, American civil-rights leader and author, b. Great Barrington, Mass., grad. Harvard (B.A., 1890; M.A., 1891; Ph.D., 1895).
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, black. The selection of Du Bois was significant, for he was a black who had rejected the policy of gradualism advocated by Booker T. WashingtonWashington, Booker Taliaferro,
1856–1915, American educator, b. Franklin co., Va. Washington was born into slavery; his mother was a mulatto slave on a plantation, his father a white man whom he never knew.
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 and demanded immediate equality for blacks. From 1910 to 1934 Du Bois was the editor of the association's periodical The Crisis, which reported on race relations around the world. The new organization grew so rapidly that by 1915 it was able to organize a partially successful boycott of the motion picture The Birth of a Nation, which portrayed blacks of the Reconstruction era in a distorted light.

Most of the NAACP's early efforts were directed against lynchinglynching,
unlawfully hanging or otherwise killing a person by mob action. The term is derived from the older term lynch law, which is most likely named after either Capt. William Lynch (1742–1820), of Pittsylvania co., Va., or Col.
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. In this area it could claim considerable success. In 1911 there were 71 lynchings in the United States, with a black person the victim 63 times; by the 1950s lynching had virtually disappeared. Since its beginning, and with increasing emphasis since World War II, the NAACP has advocated nonviolent protests against discrimination and has disapproved of extremist black groups such as SNCC and the Black Panthers in the 1960s and 70s and CORE and the Nation of Islam in the 1980s and 90s, many of which criticized the organization as passive. While complacent in the 1980s, it became more active in legislative redistricting, voter registration, and lobbying in the 1990s.

Well-known leaders of the NAACP include Moorfield StoreyStorey, Moorfield,
1845–1929, American lawyer, b. Roxbury, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1866. He attended Harvard law school and was admitted (1869) to the bar. He was (1867–69) secretary to Charles Sumner and thereafter practiced law in Boston.
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 (1910–29), Walter WhiteWhite, Walter Francis,
1893–1955, American civil-rights leader, b. Atlanta, Ga., grad. Atlanta Univ., 1916. From 1931 until his death he was secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and tirelessly fought against racial discrimination and
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 (1931–55), Roy WilkinsWilkins, Roy,
1901–81, American social reformer and civil-rights leader, b. St. Louis, Mo.; grad. Univ. of Minnesota (B.A., 1923). While a student, Wilkins served as secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
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 (1955–77), and Benjamin HooksHooks, Benjamin Lawson,
1925–2010, African-American civil-rights leader, b. Memphis, Tenn. In 1972 President Nixon named Hooks, a lawyer, Baptist minister, and former Tennessee county criminal court judge (1965–68), to the Federal Communications Commission, making
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 (1977–93). In the mid-1990s the group faced financial difficulties and a loss of confidence in its leadership, as the organization's executive director, Benjamin Chavis (see Muhammad, B. FMuhammad, Benjamin Franklin Chavis,
1948–, African-American civil-rights and religious leader, b. Oxford, N.C., as Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. An activist from boyhood, he was a youth coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
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.), and then its board chairman were dismissed in 1994 and 1995, respectively. Representative Kweisi Mfume of Maryland, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, was chosen to replace Chavis in 1996, with the new title of president and chief executive officer. Mfume retired as president in 2004 and was succeeded by Bruce S. GordonGordon, Bruce S.,
1946–, African-American business executive and civil-rights leader, b. Camden, N.J.; grad. Gettysburg College (B.A., 1968), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.S., 1988).
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, a former telecommunications executive, who served from 2005 to 2007, Benjamin Todd Jealous, who served from 2008 to 2013, and Cornell William Brooks, who served from 2014 to 2017.

With a membership of about 300,000, the association remains the most influential civil-rights organization in the United States. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, an independent legal aid group, argues in court on behalf of the NAACP and other civil-rights groups. Along with the NAACP, it was instrumental in helping to bring about the Supreme Court's ruling (1954) against segregated public education in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. case.


See R. L. Jack, A History of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1943); L. Hughes, Fight for Freedom (1962); B. J. Ross, J. E. Spingarn and the Rise of the NAACP, 1911–1939 (1972); R. L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade against Lynching, 1909 to 1950 (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


(NAACP), a Negro mass social organization in the USA. Founded in 1909.

The NAACP pursues the goal of improving the status of American Negroes, who are subjected to racial discrimination in social, political, and economic life. It defends the rights of Negroes in courts, state legislatures, and the US Congress. The organization participates in mass demonstrations by Negroes, including “freedom marches,” rallies and demonstrations, and propaganda actions. A number of liberal whites are also active in the NAACP. It has about 1,700 chapters, in every state. The NAACP is led by a national board of directors consisting of 64 persons. Its headquarters is in New York.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Finally, it is worth noting that a number of foundations have entered the legal field, which at one time was dominated by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons Legal Defense Fund.

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