National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: Sixth Annual Report, 1915

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Section I. Our Reasons for Being

THE National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was first called into being on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

It conceives its mission to be the completion of the work which the great emancipator began. It proposes to make a group of 10,000,000 Americans free from the lingering shackles of past slavery: physically free from peonage, mentally free from ignorance, politically free from disfranchisement and socially free from insult.

We are impelled to recognize the pressing necessity of such a movement when we consider these facts:

The lynching of 2,812 prisoners without trial in the last thirty years.

The thousands of unaccused black folk who have in these years been done to death.

The widespread use of crime and alleged crime as a source of public revenue.

The defenseless position of colored women continually threatened by laws to make their bodies indefensible and their children illegitimate.

The total disfranchisement of three-fourths of the black voters. The new attack on property rights.

The widespread and growing discrimination in the simplest matters of public decency and accommodation.

All these things indicate not simply the suffering of a people, but greater than that, they show the impotence of American democracy.

And so the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People appeals to the nation to accept the clear and simple settlement of the Negro problem, which consists in treating colored men as you would like to be treated if you were colored.

The definite program and. purpose of this organization has thus been stated:

"The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People seeks to uplift the colored men and women of this country by securing to them the full enjoyment of their rights as citizens, justice in all courts, and equality of opportunity everywhere. It favors, and aims to aid, every kind of education among them save that which teaches special privilege or prerogative, class or caste. It recognizes the national character of the Negro problem and no sectionalism. It believes in the upholding of the Constitution of the United States and its amendments, in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. It upholds the doctrine of 'all men up and no man down.' It abhors Negro crime, but still more, the conditions which breed crime, and most of all the crimes committed by mobs in the mockery of the law, or by individuals in the name of the law.

"It believes that the scientific truths of the Negro problem must be available before the country can see its way wholly clear to right existing wrongs. It has no other belief than that the best way to uplift the colored man is the best way to aid the white man to peace and social content; it has no other desire than exact justice, and no other motive than humanity."

Section 2. Two Paths of Duty

TWO lines of action are necessary for the emancipation of any individual or group or nation.

First and foremost, the unfreed must himself strive, equip himself and advance. Secondly, the path before him must be cleared of dangerous and unfair obstacles.

It will not do for the slave or the serf to sit supinely before his obstacles without making an effort to remove them. On the other hand, the modern world is too well aware of the tremendous power of organized society to believe that any individual or group can prevail against it, if the nation is deliberately and consciously determined to oppose advance.

In the United States, therefore, we must ask ourselves so far as the American Negro is concerned, where does the present danger lie? Does it lie in the Negro's refusal to exert himself, or does it lie in the obstacles which are deliberately or thoughtlessly put in his path?

Any fair-minded American can easily answer that the second case is the true one. …