NAACP - Its Real Beginning & Its Real Purpose
Before we begin here with the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), let's first dispel a few myths (created mainly by way of the Internet).
Myth 1. W.E.B Du Bios was the creator of the NAACP. Not true. Du Bois was a member of a Black quasi organization called the Niagara Movement - which was never legally incorporated. This quasi organization, which consisted of some prominent Black men, met a few times and expressed a desire, among other things, to have White people commit to race-nullification. It basically stopped meeting sometime before 1909. Du Bois had no firsthand input in the actual making of the NAACP organization. But he certainly did support its agenda.
Myth 2. Ida Wells was one of the founders of the NAACP. Not true. Her name never appeared as a member of the Executive Committee, or as a founding member either. Nor did she ever write anything in her journalism capacity for the NAACP i.e. she never worked for the NAACP.
Myth 3. The NAACP was inspired by Jews (specifically Henry Moskowitz). Not true. The NAACP was inspired by Mary White Ovington (member of the Unitarian Church). Additionally, no Jewish person was listed among the original Executive Committee members.
Myth 4. The NAACP was created to ensure that people of African descent received their civil rights in America. Not true. There were no federal civil rights laws in America from 1883 to 1957.
Okay, let's get started with how the NAACP was really created and it's intended purpose.
1. The Beginning: In 1908, a White female social worker by the name of Mary White Ovington claimed to have read an article written by William English Walling describing a recent race riot in Springfield, Ill.. Based on this article, according to Miss Ovington, she became inspired to create an organization that would help those of African descent in America achieve more political representation and economic security.
On Feb. 12, 1909, Miss Ovington (she was a lifelong spinster), along with Oswald Garrison Villard and William English Walling (both White males and Christians) sent out a "Call" letter to everyone they believed would be supportive of an organization that would provide Blacks a new direction: integration.
By May 1910 the future NAACP organizers held two conferences in New York City. Without question, the purpose of the first conference, which was attended by many Blacks, was a desire on the part of the White organizers to see if Blacks would be receptive to the new integration agenda; and, perhaps more importantly, would not protest against the societal anomaly they were suggesting to create. After all, racial integration was a complete contradiction to what did exist in 1910; and Blacks, since 1865, had never protested against the "separate" living arrangements. (Note: no record that I'm aware of exists of the NAACP first conference telling us which prominent Black men/women attended, or how many Blacks attended).
Following the first conference, which did allay worries of its White organizers against Black resistance, the next conference was used to choose the name of the new organization, develop an organizational strategy for racial integration and choose its executive board members.
(Mary W. Ovington's original name for the NAACP was 'The 'National Committee for the Advancement of the Negro People')
2. The Purpose: Thus was borne the concept of racial integration, something never before practiced or even conceived of in human history. 1
Not surprisingly, when the new and revolutionary NAACP was launched, even though it was created and run by White people, it wasn't in any way popular among the numerically and culturally dominant White population. In fact, the agenda was steadfastly rejected by the group. However, this attitude among the White population was likely rooted in simple and logically sound reasoning, that Blacks, being a distinct people, should be separate and thereby achieve self-reliance, which would produce a feeling of empowerment as a people (Booker T. Washington's desire and pursuit). NOTE: Philanthropists in the White community at that time also believed Blacks should be separate and a self-reliant people, and therefore would not offer financial help to the NAACP in its formative years.2
How The NAACP Pursued It's Integration Agenda:: Since the separation of the races was so deep-seated within the White community, and it was the White population that had created all the urban centers, all the industries, and likely not a single White male in America was employed by a Black man in 1910, it certainly had to be very clear to the organizers of the NAACP that there was no quid pro quo to entice White males to accept racial integration on their own volition. Naturally, given these existing circumstances, using persuasive measures such as literature and speeches to try to convince the White population from coast to coast (including the South) that integration was beneficial to them and they should just voluntarily submit to it, would appear to be a Herculean task necessitating far more in financial resources than the meager funds of NAACP. Therefore, the NAACP settled on a much more economically practical strategy, which was to use the judicial system (judicial activism) to strike down those laws which apparently allowed for racial separation (i.e. allowed the White population to keep Black males out of what White males regarded as their political and economic arenas).
Historical Correction: It is often stated that the NAACP was created because of the 1908 Springfield, Ill. riot.3 This riot, which was initiated by White males against the city's Black population (the riot's flashpoint was the death of a White male, who found a Black male intruder in his daughter's bedroom, gave chase and was killed during a struggle). It was clearly an ugly riot and surely the White population did desire to drive the Blacks from the city. Two Blacks were lynched (the number of Blacks lynched by White males - perhaps intentionally - equaled the number of White people killed by Back males in the previous few days). However, using this riot as the basis to launch an organization advocating integration of the races, and where White people had demonstrated, in general, such a ubiquitous hostile attitude to the presence of the Black race, just doesn't sound logical.
The most likely reason for using the Springfield riot is that Springfield was the recognized birthplace of President Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, and the White organizers of the NAACP were hoping Blacks would equate emancipation with integration. NOTE: Mary White Ovington and William English Walling where both very staunch socialists, and also very much involved in the socialist movement in America at that time. In fact, Mr. Walling wrote many books on the socialist movement: LINK
Mr. DuBois' Contribution: When the NAACP's Executive Committee was created in 1910 (with this committee rested all the power and decision making), only one member of this committee was a Negro: W.E.B. DuBois. Mr. DuBois was given the title of director of publicity and research, and his main duty was to be editor of the Crisis magazine (Miss Ovington's own recounting of the making of the NAACP, she implies she persuaded DuBois to join the organization after it was already established). W.E.B. DuBois does deserve all the credit for disseminating through the Crisis the new concept of integration among the Black race; and creating the belief in the mind of particularly the urban Negro that he should seek integration rights into another male group's established society. By 1917, most northern urban black newspapers were following the lead of the Crisis ... and also demanding that integration was a legitimate pursuit among their people. Of further note...Dubois joined the socialist party in 1911.
1. W.E.B. DuBois' Niagara Movement (1905 to 1909), never became an actual organization but rather consisted of a number of prominent Black men. who gathered on three (some say four, some say five) separate occasions and did issue a statement demanding that White Americans commit to race-nullification, among other things. The three meetings between 1906 and 1909 produced nothing substantive in improving the prospect of race-nullification from the White population.
2. According to the book "The Chronological History of the Negro", because of a complete lack of funds the NAACP's first four years were devoted almost exclusively to reporting on and lodging complaints about lynching - through the Crisis - and on opening new branches in cities outside of New York City.
3. Mary White Ovington claimed she read an article written by William English Walling. She then claimed she contacted Mr. Walling and invited him to New York City to talk about creating an organization to help blacks. At the arranged meeting was also Henry Moskowitz, which Miss Ovington credits with giving her insightful recommendation. The future NAACP moved forward from there.
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