Founded February 12, 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is America’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots–based civil rights organization. Here, four generations and millions of people have championed social justice through advocacy, voter mobilization and monitoring of the public and private sectors.
Definitions of justice and equity are concepts defined differently by different people. The NAACP has led the way in reframing concepts of American justice and equity by challenging the arguments of status quo, tradition or predictability that are some of the most significant barriers to full inclusion for all citizens. The NAACP uses America’s legal and democratic processes to move our society through these difficult questions on a case-by-case basis.
Local leaders, national impact
In 1905, a group of black leaders, including W. E. B. Du Bois, John Hope, and Saint Paul, Minnesota’s own Frederick L. McGhee, formed the Niagara Movement, the precursor to the NAACP. Their goal was to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal voting rights to all adult males.
The Niagara Movement became the NAACP after the 1908 race riot in Springfield, Illinois propelled white liberals to join forces with the black leaders in a call for racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American, answered that call. In 1910, the NAACP established its national office in New York City and named its first president, Moorfield Storey, a white constitutional lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association.
The Saint Paul branch of the NAACP was founded in 1913 by Frederick L. McGhee. He was a young Black man born in Mississippi, who migrated to Minnesota to become the first Negro, in Minnesota history, to be admitted to practice before the State Supreme Court. After attending the Niagara Movement’s second meeting, McGhee helped to organize the Twin City Protection League which eventually became the Twin City branch of the NAACP. A year later, in 1913, seventeen members of the Twin Cities branch met at St. Phillips Episcopal Church to form the Saint Paul Branch. That same year, the Saint Paul NAACP conducted its first successful protest march to City Hall.
Since then, this branch has produced leaders, like Roy Wilkins, who influenced civil rights on a national scale. Yet the real story of the nation's most significant civil rights organization lies in the hearts and minds of the people who would not stand idly by while the rights of America's darker citizens were denied. From bold investigations of mob brutality, protests of mass murders, segregation and discrimination, to testimony before congressional committees on the vicious tactics used to bar African Americans from the ballot box, it was the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.
Today, the NAACP exists in environment that considers itself “color blind” – where issues are sketched out in shades of gray. Today’s civil rights challenges reflect the increased sophistication and complexity of today’s society. They demand a different kind of courage and different skills and talents. Heading into the 21st century, the NAACP is focused on disparities in economics, health care, education, voter empowerment and the criminal justice system while also continuing its role as legal advocate for civil rights issues.
Do Right, Too
While much of NAACP history is chronicled in books, articles, pamphlets and magazines, the true movement lies in the faces---black, white, yellow, red, and brown---united to awaken the consciousness of a people and a nation. The NAACP will remain vigilant in its mission until the promise of America is made real for all Americans.
With its unwavering mission to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination, the NAACP attracts individuals across racial, ethnic and religious lines. In fact, the NAACP has always been a multicultural organization because social justice, the ethics of responsibility and the belief in inherent human dignity have central places in many cultural and religious teachings.
The Saint Paul NAACP welcomes new members! Click here to join.
For more information about the National NAACP, visit www.naacp.org.