In Search of Democracy: The NAACP Writings of James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins (1920-1977)

By Sondra Kathryn Wilson | Go to book overview

Introduction

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been in existence for nearly ninety years. James Weldon Johnson wrote, "I think it is fair to say that there is no phase of race relations in America which the "NAACP" has not profoundly affected."1 Roy Wilkins called the NAACP the most radical idea of this century—the idea was to abolish legal segregation, a goal the organization achieved in the 1954 Brown decision. The trenchant and sweeping apparatus of the NAACP since its inception in 1909 has, without question, been the most effective force for the freedom of black Americans. In short, for most of this century the organization can claim almost monopolistic credit for civil rights achievements. It is likely that without the NAACP, this nation would have lapsed into a kind of moral vacuity.

This collection of writings by James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins, the NAACP's first three African-American secretaries, constructs a narrative that illuminates their courageous role in challenging virtually every form of race discrimination during their successive fifty-seven years of leadership. Their consummate and innovative leadership capacities inspired an oppressed people to see them and their organization as a viable hope for achieving the promise of the U.S. Constitution.

This collection, which comprises more than a half century of racial conflicts in American civil rights history, builds a story that brings the reader face to face with momentous events: rampant lynchings and mob violence, the white primaries, the American occupation of Haiti, the Scottsboro case, two world wars, Brown vs. Board of Education, the sit-ins, the March on Washington, the urban riots, and the Kennedy, King, and Evers assassinations. The reader will witness the words and actions of these three leaders who emerge in towering dimensions as they tactically battle the enemies of freedom who used race discrimination in virtually every phase of African-American life to implant roadblocks to justice.

This volume likewise documents the reality and verity that all hearts imbued with morality, regardless of color, seek justice. The pivotal role of white founders and white sustaining members—the Spingarn brothers, Clarence Darrow, Arthur

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