The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966

The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966

The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966

The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966

Synopsis

In a city of migrants, the Chicago NAACP was one of the first branches created to aid the national effort to attain first class citizenship for African Americans. Evolving through six decades of white resistance, black indifference and internal group struggle, the branch was affected both adversely and positively by two world wars, national depression, the Cold War conflict and growing class differentiation among blacks. Among the luminaries who influenced the development of the Chicago NAACP's development were Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Jane Addams, Dr. Charles E. Bentley and Earl B. Dickerson during its earliest days. In the middle of a decade of racial self-assertion by 1925 the branch selected its first African American president, shedding its biracial, patrician leadership. Significantly, this period also marked the emergence of a black professional leadership in the civic life of Chicago. An ideological struggle during the 1930s in pursuit of integration produced what W. E. B. Du Bois labeled the 'Chicago Revolt.' His endorsement of what was perceived as a revival of Booker T. Washington's program of self-segregation infuriated Chicagoans. By the 1950s the Chicago NAACP achieved primacy among civil rights organizations in the city. Cora Patton was elected its first woman president in 1954. Over a torturous half-century of inter-racial and intra-racial struggles, the branch shed its elite image and agenda to become a democratized organization encompassing the interests of not only the privileged but the dispossessed as well. The branch also challenged the powerful Bronzeville Democratic machine of Congressman William L. Dawson. The study concludes with the arrival of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Chicago in 1966, when the branch had lost much of its past luster and would play only a minor role in the Chicago Freedom Movement.

Excerpt

Faded memory and the outcome of intellectual curiosity intersected in 1987 to stimulate my interest in writing this book. Viscerally, I have vivid childhood memories of Chicago's legendary and influential Bronzeville, the African American South Side enclave recognized nationally for decades because of its politics, businesses, churches, and various entertainments. One indelible recollection involves the sight and sounds of civil rights activists, marching near our longtime family home at 3159 South Parkway, and their determined, rhythmic chants: "Jim Crow must go! Jim Crow must go!" I tucked this recollection away for almost four decades until cognitively I connected it, almost in a revelatory manner, with the substance of a 1987 article I completed on the professional origins of local black civic leadership.

This piece, titled "Black Chicago Civic Organization before 1935," challenged the contention that black Chicagoans lacked a socially differentiated class structure and the necessary will to support a civic infrastructure before the Civil Rights Revolution of the 1960s. Assuming that the evidence I presented proved the case to the contrary, the article allowed me to link the type of civil rights advocacy I remembered from the 1940s with its earliest roots as established through scholarship. While I cannot accurately recall which of the South Side's many protest organizations initiated the particular action that is embedded in my memory, one certainty emerged; the one organization that had achieved primacy in the city as the agency of African American protest between 1933 and 1957 was the Chicago branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). So, perhaps it was the branch. However, the exact identity of the group was and is not as important as the makeup of its leadership, its rootedness in the protest tradition, and the character of its activities and the consequences that resulted.

Significantly, what I could now clearly reminisce about and understand represented a major part of the essence of a perpetually evolving African American urban history. A discernible black professional class emerged around the time of the first World War and tested its mettle in confronting and surmounting racial obstacles, balancing disparate working-class and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.