William Walling English, best known for his role in founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1877 to a wealthy and well-connected family. His great-grandfather was a Democratic candidate for vice president. While attending Harvard Law School, after graduating from the University of Chicago, he retained his southern-bred distaste for being thrown into the company of blacks. After dropping out of law school he spent several years becoming a radical journalist and social reformer. Although he was never able to completely free himself from the racial culture in which he had been reared, he recognized it, isolated it, and acted in spite of it. When in 1908 the European American citizens of Abraham Lincoln's former home of Springfield, Illinois, went on a rampage against their African American neighbors, Walling and his socially conscious wife, Anna Strunsky Walling, were soon on the scene to investigate.
Walling's celebrated article on the riot in The Independent. (September 3, 1908), “Race War in the North,” touched off a series of events leading to the founding of the NAACP by Walling, Mary White Ovington, Henry Moskowitz, Charles Edward Russell, and Oswald Garrison Villard, all prominent European American socialists or liberals. It was, of course, the existence of Du Bois' predominantly black Niagara Movement that helped pave the way for the new civil rights organization. After the group's founding in 1910, Walling was largely responsible for arranging for Du Bois to move to New York and become publicity director and editor of The Crisis. Without Du Bois and the bulk of the Niagara Movement, the NAACP might have been condemned to remain primarily an organization of white social reformers, instead of gradually being able to achieve a depth of support within the black community. Walling