NAACP: Helping African Americans Confront Social Injustices for More Than a Century

By Dillard, Benita | Black History Bulletin, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

NAACP: Helping African Americans Confront Social Injustices for More Than a Century


Dillard, Benita, Black History Bulletin


"Dr. King once said, 'Well, you know, one thing I did with the marches was to make the NAACP look respectable. "'

--Dorothy I. Height

In the late 1980's, the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at my high school in Greenville, South Carolina. Southside High School, my alma mater, was considered to be the contemporary of Sterling High School. During the 1950's and 1960's, Sterling High School was one of the few local schools that educated an all black population with an all black teaching staff. In the 1960's, a hate group set Sterling High School on fire. Several years later, Southside High School was built and it continued the legacy of Sterling by educating a predominately African American population. However, at the beginning and end of Rev. Jesse Jackson's speech, he required all the students to stand and shout repeatedly and boldly, "I am somebody!" As a young immature student, I laughed while I screamed "I am somebody!" As I grew older, I began to understand the reason why Rev. Jackson required all the students to stand and shout in unison "I am somebody!" Rev. Jesse Jackson, a graduate of Sterling High School, wanted us to experience, as he did in high school, unity, sisterhood, brotherhood, and a sense of self-worth.

After graduating from a historically black institution, I developed an in-depth understanding and appreciation for the unity that I experienced with other students on the campus. This understanding and appreciation led to my personal journey to create a classroom environment where my ninth grade students felt it was more than just an English class; it was a community where all students felt validated. It was a community where everybody was somebody! To create this environment, I designed lesson plans that revolved around cultural issues, events, and institutions that embodied indivisibility. One lesson, in particular, examined the strategies that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) used to confront racism, segregation, and disenfranchisement.

I read Bettye Collier- Thomas and V.P. Franklin's edited book Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights- Black Power Movement to help me design lessons on the NAACP. To activate my students' prior knowledge, they had to analyze the cover of the book. The cover of the book has two African American women on it, and one of the women is holding a sign with, "We protest dog attacks in Birmingham, NAACP" written on it. I presented this book cover to my students to see what they already knew about the NAACP and the role of women in the organization. I also focused on this book cover because it presented two African American women, other than Rosa Parks, as active members who risked their lives to protest against social injustices. The majority of this lesson revolved around the NAACP's involvement in specific civil rights issues and the unity and strength that African American women displayed as they fought peacefully to keep the organization alive and active in the midst of racism and sexism.

To help my students develop an understanding and appreciation for the NAACP and the women who spoke alongside the men, I designed a lesson around the book Sisters in the Struggle. The lesson focused on chapter six so students could read Dorothy I. Height's personal narrative on her involvement with the NAACP Dorothy I. Height's personal narrative provided my high school English class with an opportunity to develop an in-depth understanding on the obstacles that African American women faced as they struggled to be heard by the men within the organization while at the same time maintain unity and peace in the midst of a race war. Moreover, this lesson allows students to compare the ways that they handle injustices to the ways the members in the past, in particular the women, of the NAACP handled injustices. Most importantly, this lesson enables students to develop an appreciation for a predominately African American organization that continues to confront the social injustices that plague African Americans. …

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