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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is America’s oldest and largest civil rights group. With approximately 500,000 members throughout the United States and around the world, its mission is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” Viewing the U.S. as a nation rife with racial inequity, the organization actively lobbies for the “enactment and enforcement of federal, state, and local laws securing civil rights.”
The NAACP was established by white socialists who invited blacks into the organization. The founder was Socialist Party member Mary White Ovington. The organization's first president was the white attorney Moorfield Storey. Two other white members, the pro-socialist Jane Addams and the father of progressive education, John Dewey, were also instrumental in organizing the American Civil Liberties Union. One of the NAACP's original organizers, W.E.B. Du Bois, believed in the communist ideology, often praised the success of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, and eventually joined the Communist Party USA. According to Dr. Melvin L. Johnson, the African American pastor of the Heart of Christ Community Church in Brazoria, Texas:
"Although one of their concerns was to help blacks fight and bring an end to lynchings and discrimination, I suspect that there were even deeper motives, though commendable in the fight against the onslaught. I believe that this is the way the black community was manipulated into the influences of socialistic ideology, which is very strong today.... Simply put, the NAACP of today serves as the clearinghouse for the modern socialist movement. On the national front, this specifically applies to the Congressional Black Caucus. No black person who does not follow the NAACP’s leftist philosophy will get support from the organization, especially when it comes to freeing struggling inner-city black and Hispanic kids from the clutches of the failing public schools. It is the legacy of socialism I believe that they are loyal to. To many blacks, its evils are not realized, and are seen as a virtue."
During the Jim Crow era of segregation, the NAACP stood in the vanguard of numerous crusades aimed at achieving racial justice for black Americans. Its leaders and members courageously took many public stands that exposed them to both ridicule and peril. For instance, when President Woodrow Wilson officially instituted segregation for federal civil service employees in 1913, the NAACP protested. During the ensuing years, the organization pressured President Wilson to publicly condemn the practice of lynching, which he finally did in 1918. Determined to show the Ku Klux Klan and other hostile parties that its own members would not be intimidated by threats of violence or retribution, the NAACP defiantly held its 1920 annual conference in Atlanta, which was then considered a hotbed of Klan activity.
In 1922 the NAACP began receiving grants from the Communist-linked Garland Fund, whose officials included American Civil Liberties Union founder Roger Baldwin, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Benjamin Gitlow, and Scott Nearing.
In 1930 the NAACP launched a successful protest against Supreme Court Justice nominee John Parker, who favored laws that discriminated against black Americans. In 1935 the NAACP won the legal battle to admit a black student to the University of Maryland, and six years later led the effort to outlaw discrimination in war-related industries and federal employment.
In 1938 the NAACP was represented at the Soviet-controlled World Youth Congress, and during the 1940s it was affiliated with the Communist-involved World Federation of Democratic Youth. In 1946 the NAACP gave support to the establishment of the Communist-dominated Progressive Party, which would run former FDR Vice President Henry Wallace for President in the 1948 election.
Membership in the NAACP increased tenfold during World War II. In 1946 the organization won the Morgan v. Virginia case, where the Supreme Court struck down laws mandating segregated facilities in interstate travel by train and bus. Two years later, thanks in part to NAACP lobbying, President Harry Truman signed an Executive Order outlawing discrimination by the federal government.
In 1954, after years of fighting segregation in public schools, the NAACP won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.
A year later, the civil rights movement took center-stage in American public life when NAACP member Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the NAACP was a leader in the massive wave of civil rights demonstrations throughout the United States. In 1960 in Greensboro, North Carolina, members of the NAACP Youth Council launched a series of nonviolent sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, actions that eventually caused dozens of stores to officially desegregate their facilities.
Following the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the NAACP, amidst threats of violence, managed to register more than 80,000 black voters in the South.
More recently, however, the nature of the NAACP’s crusades has changed dramatically. While claiming that its “primary focus … continues to be the protection and enhancement of the civil rights of African Americans and other minorities,” the organization now supports racial preferences rather than equal rights. It began to move in that direction in the early 1960s, just a few years after having advocated color-blind justice in the Brown case.
The shift was articulated bluntly by Thurgood Marshall, who, as NAACP Chief Counsel in 1954, had written in a brief for the Brown case: “Distinctions by race are so evil, so arbitrary and invidious that a state, bound to defend the equal protection of the laws must not invoke them in any public sphere.” But as a Supreme Court Justice in the 1960s, Marshall told fellow Justice William O. Douglas in a conversation about racial preferences: “You [white] guys have been practicing discrimination for years. Now it’s our turn.”
Underpinning the NAACP’s support for race preferences is its fervent belief that white racism in the United States remains an intractable, largely undiminished, phenomenon. Elaine Jones of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, for instance, contends that the Ku Klux Klan's racist views "are shared quietly" by many Americans. According to the NAACP's former Chair, Myrlie Evers-Williams, "America reeks of racism." And the NAACP's former Executive Director, Benjamin Chavis, has lamented the "vestiges of American apartheid" that allegedly prevent blacks from acquiring a "fair share" of the American economy, calling racism “worse today than it was in the 60s.” Citing what he perceived to be America's pervasive racial injustice, Chavis called the 1992 Los Angeles riots a justified "people's rebellion" against their white oppressors. As compensation for the enslavement of their ancestors between the 17th and 19th centuries, and as punishment for America’s allegedly persisting racism throughout the post-slavery era, the NAACP favors the notion of reparations payments to black Americans.
In the early 1990s the NAACP, following the lead of its then-Executive Director Benjamin Chavis, rejected moderate voices and strove instead to form alliances with some of the most radical elements in the black community. For example, Chavis proudly entered his organization into a "sacred covenant" with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and pledged never to "forsake Mr. Farrakhan as my brother." He made a similar covenant with the Congressional Black Caucus in September 1993. In 1994 Chavis recruited into the NAACP such prominent black militants as Calvin Butts, Angela Davis, Maulana Karenga, Alton Maddox (the attorney best known for his role in the Sharpton-Tawana Brawley hoax), Al Sharpton, and Cornel West. When the NAACP's Board of Directors voted, by a 53 to 5 margin, to remove Chavis from his position after he had stolen at least $64,000 from the group's coffers, Chavis blamed "forces outside the African American community" for his demise, prominent among which were "right-wing Jewish groups."
In the NAACP’s calculus, no area of American society is more thoroughly plagued by racism than is the criminal-justice system. Claiming that “race, police, and violence” are “inseparable in this country,” an NAACP report charges that racism “informs every aspect of policing” in the United States. To remedy this, the organization seeks to ensure that there is “equity in [the] arrest, interrogation, pre-sentencing, jury selection, discovery, trial, sentencing, [and] appeal phases” of the justice process; that “incarcerated and released felons have access to appropriate voting, education, job training and civic participation resources”; and that the federal and state governments alike place a moratorium on capital punishment “until race and ethnicity is no longer statistically significant in predicting sentencing and execution.”
The NAACP also seeks a federal prohibition against the “insidious practice” of racial profiling, and supports funding for “the retraining of law-enforcement officials on how to discontinue and prevent the use of racial profiling.” “At the most basic level,” the organization explains, “it is difficult for our faith in the American judicial system not to be challenged when we cannot even drive down an interstate without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin.”
In the realm of education, the NAACP has initiated a national Equity Matters campaign “to recruit local advocates to annually track, monitor, and submit data … highlighting the resource inequities in four key areas of their local and state education systems: funding, teacher quality, class size and access to a college-bound curriculum.”
Lamenting “the magnitude of voter-suppression strategies that continues to hinder our [black] vote,” the NAACP Civic Engagement Department developed a 2006 Voter Empowerment Program as a “nonpartisan campaign” designed “to empower African Americans and people of color by increasing awareness and participation in the electoral process.” The objective was to increase -- by means of registration, education, and get-out-the-vote initiatives -- black voter turnout by 5 percent over the 2002 turnout.
While advocating higher levels of voter participation on election day, the NAACP has strongly condemned proposed laws that would require all voters to show some form of federally approved photo-identification and proof of citizenship before being permitted to cast their ballots. According to the NAACP, “This legislation flies in the face of our right, guaranteed by the Constitution, to cast a free and unfettered ballot … [It] re-creates new obstacles in voting akin to a modern day ‘poll-tax’ by forcing U.S citizens to pay for government-approved ID that many of our most vulnerable citizens do not have or cannot easily obtain ... The requirement that all voters present a photo ID before being able to cast a regular ballot will disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority Americans …”
The NAACP supports racial gerrymandering, a system whereby Congressional voting districts are drawn along racial rather than geographic lines, so as to ensure the election of black representatives in those districts. After the Supreme Court's 1995 ruling that gerrymandered districts were unconstitutional and needed to be reconfigured, one NAACP leader, evoking images of lynchings, warned that "the noose" was "tightening" around the proverbial neck of black America. The NAACP's Theodore Shaw lamented that before long, the entire Congressional Black Caucus "will be able to meet in the back seat of a taxi cab." Elaine Jones said that gerrymandering's demise would "torch the fundamental rights of African Americans … to be included as participatory citizens in this democracy." The clear consensus was that the bigotry of white voters would surely preclude blacks from winning political offices in the newly redrawn districts. But the dire warnings proved to bear no resemblance to reality. In the 1996 congressional elections, all five black incumbents whose districts were newly majority white, were re-elected.
Favoring redistributive economic policies both at home and abroad, the NAACP is “dedicated to closing the gap of disparities faced by people of color across the globe by promoting fair and equitable human rights and economic justice.” Says the organization: “African Americans, with few exceptions, fare the worst in terms of access to healthcare and housing, numbers living in poverty, etc. No matter where they reside in the world, people of African descent are plagued with similar conditions within the global community.”
Over the years, the NAACP has negotiated dozens of "Fair Share" deals with American corporations, threatening lawsuits unless the companies in question hire and promote more black employees, purchase more supplies and equipment from black vendors, or make financial contributions to the NAACP.
In 2002, then-NAACP President Kweisi Mfume led a delegation to Communist Cuba "to learn more about [that nation's] education and health systems." He embraced Marxist dictator Fidel Castro and urged that the U.S. open more trade with Cuba. Mfume also had a token meeting with dissidents, but an official NAACP press release cast doubt on whether they were being truthful in claiming that "the Cuban people are denied freedom of expression and freedom of worship." This same press release ended by quoting, without question or qualification, a Cuban Communist commissar saying: "Most of these people [dissidents] just pretend to represent organizations. They have absolutely no support in our country."
With regard to national security issues, the NAACP officially opposes the Patriot Act, which, according to Kweisi Mfume, has caused "thousands of individuals [to be] denied their basic civil rights." The organization has endorsed the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, a project that tries to influence city councils nationwide to pass resolutions of noncompliance with the provisions of the Patriot Act. Moreover, the NAACP was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress to oppose the Patriot Act on grounds that it “would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights.” Fellow signers included the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Library Association, the Arab American Institute, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Immigrant Defense Project of the New York State Defenders Association, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Law Center, the National Lawyers Guild, People for the American Way, and Women Against War.
The NAACP Board of Directors passed a resolution expressing its opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and made the organization a member of the Win Without War coalition.
The NAACP is also a member of the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of groups that believe the American workplace is rife with sexism and discrimination against women.
The NAACP receives large amounts of funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sara Lee Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The NAACP’s current Chairman is Julian Bond. The NAACP’s current President and CEO is Benjamin Todd Jealous, who is the youngest person to hold those offices in the organization’s history.
Bruce Gordon, one of America’s most prominent black corporate executives, succeeded Kweisi Mfume as President in July 2005. But Gordon often clashed with the organization's Board and consequently resigned in March 2007. Whereas Gordon had sought to address the black community’s practical problems, Board members were steadfastly committed to the notion that the NAACP’s mission should focus on achieving “social justice” in an allegedly racist, unremittingly discriminatory United States. In an interview shortly after he departed, Gordon said that the NAACP had lost touch with its constituency.
According to informed sources, another major cause of Gordon’s dissatisfaction was the micro-managing style Julian Bond. In fact, in 2005 when Gordon was first selected to lead the NAACP, a source close to former President Kweisi Mfume (who also had clashed with Bond) said: “He [Gordon] won’t have any control. Julian won’t let him have the power.”
After Gordon's resignation, Bond appointed Dennis Courtland Hayes as Interim President and CEO of the organization. Hayes is a practicing attorney who, according to the NAACP, previously "served as General Counsel in charge of the NAACP's historic legal program to eliminate racial discrimination from all facets of American life, with the nation's courts as a principal means and the United States Constitution as the weapon."
In June 2007 the NAACP announced that it would cut its national staff by 40 percent and that seven of its regional offices would be eliminated -- at least temporarily.
In July 2010, NAACP delegates passed a resolution titled “The Tea Party Movement” designed to expose “bigoted elements” within the Tea Party movement and repudiate “racist Tea Party leaders.” “The time has come for [Tea Party leaders] to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no place for racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry in their movement," said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous.
In an effort to portray itself in the most positive light to the American people, the NAACP uses the services of the public relations firm Fenton Communications.
In 2012 the NAACP spoke out strongly against legal initiatives such as voter ID laws that more than a dozen U.S. states had passed. Characterizing these laws as "voter suppression tactics" designed to disenfranchise “the political participation of people of color, the poor, the elderly, and the young,” the orgsnization asked the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) to "investigate and condemn" the laws. According to an NAACP report, those states which had passed the measures were those with fast-growing black and Latino populations. “It is no mistake that the groups who are behind this are simultaneously attacking very basic women’s rights, environmental protections, labor rights, and educational access for working people and minorities,” NAACP president Ben Jealous said at the time of the report’s release. Columnist Dennis Prager noted the following about the nature of the HRC members at that time:
"According to the Freedom House 2011 assessment of freedom in the world, of the 41 members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, fewer than half are free countries. Ten are ranked 'Not Free,' and 12 'Partly Free.' Among the 'Not Free' members are Angola, China, Congo, Cuba, Jordan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Those countries' elections, if they have them, are rigged, and prominent opponents are jailed, tortured and killed."
In March 2013, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros pledged to give, through his Open Society Foundations, $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which President Barack Obama has lauded as “simply the best civil rights law firm in American history.” This was the largest grant that organization had received from a named donor in recent decades. The purpose of the grant was to help fight challenges to the Voting Rights Act and oppose the implementation of Voter ID laws.
In July 2013, Fox News contributor Deneen Borelli and her husband, Tom Borelli, claimed that black conservatives had been blacklisted from the NAACP's national conferences for years. When the Borellis, who work for the conservative group FreedomWorks, attempted to pay for booth space at the NAACP's 2013 national conference in Florida, they were told that there was no room for them, even though a great deal of exhibit space had not yet been filled. Said Borelli:
“As a black conservative, I’ve been attacked for communicating my values of individual liberty and economic opportunity for all Americans. The NAACP refuses to defend my right to express my views, despite my numerous attempts to contact their headquarters. Sadly, this once venerable civil rights organization has morphed into a political arm of the progressive movement, and it reserves its advocacy for left-wing causes and individuals. We are asking the NAACP to end their selective representation of black victims of racial discrimination, and to provide a voice for black conservatives to speak at their events.”
Reverend C.L. Bryant, former NAACP branch president in Garland, Texas, amplified Borelli's theme:
“I was punished for my outspoken belief that as a Baptist preacher, my rights come from God, not the government. The NAACP has strayed from the principles of empowerment and opportunity. We are here to remind the leadership and the membership that the NAACP stands for the ‘advancement of colored people,’ not the ‘advancement of colored progressives.’”
In January 2014, Rev. William Barber II, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, derided Senator Tim Scott -- a black Republican representing South Carolina -- as a pawn of “the extreme right wing.” “A ventriloquist can always find a good dummy,” said Barber.
On May 15, 2014, the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter honored Al Sharpton with its “Person of the Year” award.
In July 2015, pressure from the NAACP caused Connecticut's state Democratic Party to vote unanimously to remove the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from its annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey fundraising dinner. At issue was the NAACP's complaint that the two former presidents owned slaves, as well as Jackson’s role in the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. Scot X. Esdaile, the head of Connecticut’s NAACP, said: “I would applaud the current leaders in Connecticut in making the symbolic first step and striving to right the wrongs of the past. You can’t right all the wrongs, but I think it’s a symbolic gesture of our support for their party.”