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What is the NAACP?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated: May 17, 2024

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an American organization that was founded on 12 February 1909 to promote the rights of minorities. The group consists of different departments that are concerned with various aspects of minority rights, such as legal, education, and employment.

The NAACP was created by a group of people — both black and white — inspired by W.E.B. De Bois and the Niagara Movement. W.E.B. De Bois was the first black person in the United States to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard; his book, The Souls of Black Folk, was published in 1903, and he led an anti-segregation movement called the Niagara Movement. The movement began because not one American hotel would allow the group of black men to register, so they stayed on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

De Bois became the organization's director and edited a publication called Crisis. The white people involved in the creation of the NAACP included philosopher John Dewey, social worker Jane Adams, editor Oswald Garrison Villard, and novelist William Dean Howells. Although best known for its work promoting the rights of African Americans, the organization, with headquarters in Maryland, also promotes the rights of other minorities such as Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Jewish Americans.

In 1919, the NAACP held a symposium about lynching and published a report entitled "Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1889 - 1918." The group supported Missouri Congressman Leonidas C. Dyer's proposed federal anti-lynching bill, and although the bill did pass the House on 26 January 1922, it did not pass in the Senate. It was not until the year 2005 that the United States senate issued a formal apology for not passing Dyer's bill or similar anti-lynching bills.

The organization was strongly involved in the Harlem Renaissance that encouraged black Americans to make artistic and intellectual contributions to society. The Harlem Renaissance saw many black Americans become published authors and celebrated artists, singers and dancers throughout the 1920s and the early 1930s. During the Great Depression, the group began to focus on minorities struggling in poverty situations.

Membership in the organization grew during the 1940s, as the NAACP worked to try to end segregation and advocate for the legal rights of minorities. Thurgood Marshall, who would later be the first African American appointed to the US Supreme Court, became head of the of the organization's Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1940. He argued a number of cases before the court, including Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which ended segregation in public schools. The group continued working to promote minority rights throughout the Civil Rights Movement, focusing on legal and judicial action. This culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the mid-1960s.

Although it has suffered some financial and political setbacks in more recent years, the NAACP has focused on equality in education, health care, economics, and the justice system. The organization still promotes voting rights and acts as an advocate for civil rights. Membership reached its high point in 1964, with about 600,000 members; although there were fewer than half that number in 2009, it is still one of the largest and most well-recognized organizations of its kind.

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Discussion Comments
By sneakers41 — On Aug 01, 2010

Moldova- I wanted to say that I love the NAACP Image Awards. I love how they honor outstanding achievement.

For example, Tyler Perry recently won the Chairman’s award for outstanding achievement in motion pictures. What is really amazing is how he came from an impoverished home in New Orleans and overcame those obstacles to become the star that he is today.

By Moldova — On Aug 01, 2010

Mutsy- I think it so nice that they offer scholarships to deserving students. I also know that they provide academic scholarships that are not tied to the family income.

For example, the Earl G. Graves scholarship is offered to students interested in business that are in the top 20% of their class.

By mutsy — On Aug 01, 2010

Wow, what a fascinating article. I just want to say the NAACP offers need-based scholarships based on family income and size.

For example, for the Agnes Jones Jackson scholarship offers $1,500 for high school seniors that are members of the NAACP and are enrolled full time in college. They also must have had at least a 2.5 grade point average when graduating high school.

For a family of four that lives within the continental United States should not earn more than $31,000. However, the NAACP does set aside additional funds for those students whose family exceeds this income.

They are encouraged to apply for a scholarship, as they had other limited scholarships available.

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