The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
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Jim Crow Stories

Introduction People Narratives Events Organizations

Naacp Founded (1909)
NAACP sign inside office

In 1909, the country was still stunned from a race riot the year before in Springfield, Illinois, the city in which Lincoln had once lived. Eight blacks were killed and dozens injured as mobs of whites rampaged through the black community destroying homes, property, and businesses, forcing thousands to flee. After the riot, an Englishman by the name of William English Walling described how race prejudice was rampant in the North and called for "a powerful body of citizens to come to their aid."

Walling received a letter from Mary White Ovington, a social worker who in 1904 had written a study on racial discrimination. In 1909 Walling and Ovington called a conference to which they invited a number of prominent civil-rights activists, black and white. Among them was W.E.B. Du Bois, whose own Niagara Movement was foundering and would soon be disbanded. The organization was eventually named the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Du Bois became the editor of the NAACP's In it's early years the NAACP was blessed with an extremely talented staff, which included W.E.B. Du Bois, Walter White, James Weldon Johnson, and Charles Houston. magazine, THE CRISIS, in 1910. The NAACP began to organize local branches in the South as well as the North. By 1918 the NAACP had 165 branches and 43,994 members. Many Southern blacks joined secretly because they knew that they could lose their jobs or even be killed for doing so. Poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson became the NAACP's first black executive secretary, and his assistant Walter White its first investigator of lynching. Du Bois was the organization's militant voice, condemning racial injustice, violence, and Jim Crow in any form. When President Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal government, the NAACP fought against it and checked its spread. The Organization protested against the film THE BIRTH OF A NATION, released in 1915, for glorifying the murderous Ku Klux Klan and denigrating blacks. The NAACP also challenged segregation in the courts. It saved the lives of twelve black farmers unjustly sentenced to death for allegedly killing a white person during a racial massacre of blacks in Sign: Father and Son BanquetElaine, Arkansas in 1919; the United States Supreme Court reversed the verdicts (Moore v. Dempsey) and the men were freed. The NAACP won other cases concerning housing and voting rights, and also NAACP campaigned unsuccessfully for a federal anti-lynching bill while raising public awareness of this atrocity. In 1929 Walter White became executive secretary of the organization. The NAACP continued its anti-lynching campaigns and put increasing emphasis on court challenges. Among the attorneys who led the legal assault on Jim Crow were Charles Hamilton Houston and his assistant, Thurgood Marshall. Houston devised the strategy that led to a series of victories that ultimately enabled the United States Supreme Court to overthrow segregation, and Marshall -- who earned many of those victories -- went on to become the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court. The NAACP played a major role in the civil-rights movement and is still active today.

-- Richard Wormser

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Related Pages
W.E.B. Du Bois
Niagara Movement
Charles Houston
Walter White
The Crisis
Moore v. Dempsey
The Red Summer
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