Freedom's Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle against Racism in America, 1909-1969

By Gilbert Jonas | Go to book overview

Epilogue

The founders of the NAACP in 1909 set out to create a strong and effective organization of activists to advance the status of African Americans and to empower them to attain all of the benefits and responsibilities of full citizenship in American society. Sixty years later that vision was realized: the NAACP had become the strongest, largest, and most powerful civil rights organization the nation has ever known. Anchored firmly in thousands of local units with well over 400,000 paid members at any given moment, with several hundred youth councils and college chapters whose membership numbered roughly 40,000, with a staff whose intellect and capabilities were at the time unparalleled, and with a reputation among opinion molders for integrity and responsible action, the NAACP in 1969 had exceeded the wildest dreams of its founders.

As we have seen, in addition to becoming the foremost advocate of the aspirations of African Americans and the most despised foe of the KKK and the White Citizens Councils, the Association became the primary litigator on behalf of the civil rights of African Americans and other minorities. Black lawyers crafted the imaginative and groundbreaking strategies which overturned the noxious separate-but-equal doctrine and replaced it with a revolutionary new concept in Brown v. Board of Education-that racial segregation is inherently unconstitutional. Along the way, brilliant attorneys led by Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and Robert L. Carter devised new legal doctrines and innovative strategies. Not the least of their achievements was the Supreme Court decision guaranteeing “one man, one vote.”

Under James Weldon Johnson, the NAACP cut its political eyeteeth seeking passage of an antilynching bill in Congress (which, to our nation's shame, has never been adopted). Then Walter White navigated

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