I set out to write the story of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for several reasons. First, my participation in the NAACP began in 1949 as a college student and continued with few interruptions until 1999. Thus, for half a century the Association has been my major allegiance, and in many ways, my extended family. Second, because of this involvement I have been privileged to work with many of the era's greatest Americans and social activists, and to have earned the trust of men and women for whom I have great respect and admiration. Few white Americans have had this enviable opportunity, which has helped to shape me as a human being and as a professional in my fields.
After I formally retired in 1997, I was struck by the awareness that few Americans had the slightest notion of how important the NAACP has been to our nation's fabric. It took me some time to realize that at least two generations-about four decades-had transpired since the peak of the civil rights struggle, during which a great deal of history has been lost and an even greater amount has been revised. For example, of that small minority still interested in the civil rights struggle, many believe that the so-called Civil Rights Movement began in 1955, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery bus boycott inspired by the NAACP's Rosa Parks, and ended with the tragic assassination of Dr. King in 1968. Within that minority are those who believe that the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was the key organization, and there are those who still believe that the Committee on Racial Equality (CORE) played the most important role. And, of course, many Americans-black and white-continue to regard Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as the agency most responsible for changing the nation. Indeed, dozens of books have been written on these three organizations and