Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The NAACP and Global Human Rights

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The NAACP and Global Human Rights

Article excerpt

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." The Declaration, which was adopted in 1948, is perceived as a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." Article Seven of the document proclaims:

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

In later years, the United Nations sought to implement the Declaration by writing its goals into covenants and conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which was adopted in 1965. The adoption of the Convention was a follow-up to the passing of a General Assembly resolution of 1963 which expressed alarm over "the manifestations of racial discrimination still in evidence in some areas of the world." Nations which are signatories of the Convention condemned racial discrimination in all forms, and pledged themselves to seek its immediate elimination. Likewise, state parties agreed "to encourage, where appropriate, integrationist multiracial organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between races and to discourage anything which tends to strengthen racial division."

Following the adoption of the Convention, the United Nations, through various resolutions, called upon non-governmental organizations to assume a more energetic role in the global fight to eliminate racial discrimination. While there were various church and human rights groups which were willing to assume such responsibility, perhaps none felt so strongly about accepting the challenge as did the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The major purpose of the NAACP is implicit in its name, the promotion of the advancement of colored people. At its founding in 1909, African Americans were confronted with the major task of winning full citizenship in an American society which was characterized by widespread racial segregation. Initially, the NAACP focused most of its attention upon domestic matters, but it did respond to international challenges which were perceived as having serious implications for American racial progress. From the outset, leaders of the Association recognized the close linkage which existed between racial discrimination on the domestic and international levels. Therefore, by 1965, when the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was adopted, the NAACP already had spent more than a half century in the struggle to achieve racial justice, internationally.

This paper is designed to assess the role of the Association as a combatant in the struggle for global human rights. It will focus, primarily, upon efforts to influence the foreign policy of the United States. While major consideration will be given to the struggle of African Americans to throw off colonialism and colonial-like experiences in Africa and its diaspora, attention also will be given to human rights violations of black-dominated governments. Likewise, an assessment will be made of the NAACP's reaction to non-black oppressed peoples.

Pre-World War II Involvement

During the first decade of its history, the NAACP, with William E. B. DuBois as its leading spokesman, demonstrated its international concern for racial justice by joining with other blacks from Africa and the West Indies in promoting the causes of Pan-Africanism. The Association participated actively in the various Pan-African Congresses, inlcluding the one held in Paris in 1919, which was viewed as a gathering of blacks who could exert significant influence upon the proceedings of the Peace Conference which also was convening there to consider means of preventing further wars. …

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