NAACP: The next 100 years

WASHINGTON–“This awful slaughter,” was how Ida B. Wells described lynching, the murderous act of domestic terror that claimed the lives of about 5,000 Black Americans from 1890 to 1960.

WASHINGTON–“This awful slaughter,” was how Ida B. Wells described lynching, the murderous act of domestic terror that claimed the lives of about 5,000 Black Americans from 1890 to 1960.

By 1909, Wells, a civil rights leader, women’s rights leader, sociologist and journalist was the most relentless anti-lynching advocate in the United States.

And that year, on Feb. 12, 1909, Wells joined with W.E.B. DuBois, Oswald Garrison Villiard, Mary White Ovington, Henry Moscowitz and William English in New York City to form a group initially known as the National Negro Committee.

They would become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“In 1909, when we were founded in a small apartment in Lower Manhattan by a multi-faith, multi-racial group of dreamers, the purpose was simple – it was to end lynch mob justice – and it was to crush Jim Crow,” said Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president and CEO.

“While the problems we face today are different, they are too familiar,” Jealous continued. “In Black communities across the country, we still see too many young Black men killed in the prime of their life. It’s no longer men hanging from trees; it’s men in body bags.”

And although the group’s centennial celebration falls the same year that America and the world witnessed the sea-changing election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, Jealous says the need for the organization he leads is still great.

“While we do have a Black president and while there are many single individuals who have been able to permeate racial barriers in the society…we still have a battle for the whole group to be treated fairly,” he said.

Jealous, who emerged last year from a sometimes contentious and controversial selection process as the group’s 17th president — following the abrupt resignation of Bruce Gordon — is the organization’s youngest leader. He faces problems within the organization that have ebbed and risen throughout the NAACP century: questions of its relevance, financial issues and a board structure some argue is bloated and obsolete.

But recently Jealous pointed his organization towards the next 100 years with the release of “An NAACP White Paper” that outlines the group’s priorities – “safe communities, good schools and a fair chance for all Americans.”

“We have high hopes right now with this change of Congress, change of administration. There is a more pro-civil rights tilt to the federal government these days. But with high hopes come high expectations,” Jealous said.

A major swath of the NAACP’s agenda focuses on law enforcement, a struggle that has been ongoing for the group since its beginning and for the Black American community for centuries.

“Reforms need to be made across the board nationally in this country,” Jealous said.

“The End Racial Profiling Act has to be passed. We have a president who has talked about being racially profiled. He doesn’t have to worry about the problem anymore, but we shouldn’t tolerate the fact that his cousins or his formal constituents on the South Side will still be subjected,” he said.

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