NAACP Sues for Equal Pay - History

NAACP Sues for Equal Pay - History

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On December 8, 1936, the NAACP filed suit in the case Gibbs v. the Board of Education. The suit called for equalization f salaries between Black and White teachers.

NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom The Civil Rights Era

The NAACP’s long battle against de jure segregation culminated in the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. Former NAACP Branch Secretary Rosa Parks’ refusal to yield her seat to a white man sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the modern civil rights movement. In response to the Brown decision, Southern states launched a variety of tactics to evade school desegregation, while the NAACP countered aggressively in the courts for enforcement. The resistance to Brown peaked in 1957–58 during the crisis at Little Rock Arkansas’s Central High School. The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups targeted NAACP officials for assassination and tried to ban the NAACP from operating in the South. However, NAACP membership grew, particularly in the South. NAACP Youth Council chapters staged sit-in demonstrations at lunch counters to protest segregation. The NAACP was instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington, the largest mass protest for civil rights. The following year, the NAACP joined the Council of Federated Organizations to launch Mississippi Freedom Summer, a massive project that assembled hundreds of volunteers to participate in voter registration and education. The NAACP-led Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of civil rights organizations, spearheaded the drive to win passage of the major civil rights legislation of the era: the Civil Rights Act of 1957 the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., “101st U.S. Senator.”

Baltimore native Clarence Mitchell (1911–1984) attended Lincoln University and the University of Maryland Law School. He began his career as a reporter. During World War II he served on the War Manpower Commission and the Fair Employment Practices Committee. In 1946 Mitchell joined the NAACP as its first labor secretary. He served concurrently as director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, the NAACP’s chief lobbyist, and legislative chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights from 1950 to 1978. Mitchell waged a tireless campaign on Capitol Hill to secure the passage of a comprehensive series of civil rights laws: the 1957 Civil Rights Act, the 1960 Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. His invincible determination won him the accolade of “101st U.S. Senator.”

Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., Director NAACP Washington Bureau, February 28, 1957. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (100.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # ppmsca.23839]

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Herbert Hill, Authority on Race and Labor

Born in Brooklyn, Herbert Hill (1924–2004) studied at New York University and the New School for Social Research. He then worked as an organizer for the United Steelworkers before joining the NAACP staff in 1948. He was named labor secretary in 1951. In this capacity, he filed hundreds of lawsuits against labor unions and industries that refused integration or fair employment practices. He also used picket lines and mass demonstrations as weapons. Recognized as a major authority on race and labor, Hill testified frequently on Capitol Hill and served as a consultant for the United Nations and the State of Israel. He left the NAACP in 1977 to accept a joint professorship in Afro-American studies and industrial relations at the University of Wisconsin, from which he retired in 1997.

Herbert Hill, between 1950 and 1960. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (101.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3c26947]

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Harry Tyson Moore, Florida Leader

Harry T. Moore (1905–1951) began his career as a teacher in Brevard County, Florida, where he founded the local NAACP. With NAACP support, he filed a pay equalization lawsuit in 1937. He became the president of the NAACP’s statewide branches in 1941, and in 1945 formed the Florida Progressive Voters League, which registered more than 100,000 black voters. When these activities cost Moore his job in 1946, the NAACP hired him as Florida’s executive director. In 1951 Moore helped win appeals for two black teenagers convicted of raping a white woman in Groveland. When a white sheriff shot the defendants en route to a new trial, he called for his indictment. On Christmas night in 1951, Moore and his wife, Harriette, were killed by a bomb placed under their house by the Ku Klux Klan.

Harry Tyson Moore, ca. 1950. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (102.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3c28702]

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“Fight for Freedom” Campaign

In 1953 the NAACP initiated the “Fight for Freedom” campaign with the goal of abolishing segregation and discrimination by 1963, the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The NAACP vowed to raise one million dollars annually through1963 to fund the campaign. The concept recalls the Lincoln Day “Call” that began the NAACP. The NAACP has affirmed this connection to Abraham Lincoln throughout its history with annual Lincoln Day celebrations, related events, and programs which evoke Lincoln’s basic ideas of freedom and human brotherhood. The NAACP adopted “Fight For Freedom” as a motto.

Minutes of Committee Meeting to Implement the Annual Conference Resolution on the Fighting Fund for Freedom, October 8, 1953. Typescript. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (103.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
Digital ID # na0103p1

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NAACP Fundraiser, Marguerite Belafonte

Marguerite Byrd met entertainer Harry Belafonte in 1944 while she was a student at Hampton Institute and he was stationed at a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. They married in 1948 and had two daughters. During the 1950s Belafonte worked as women’s editor of the New York Amsterdam News, an educational director in early childhood training, and a radio commentator. From 1958 to1960, she cochaired the NAACP’s Fight for Freedom Fund campaign with Duke Ellington and Jackie Robinson. To meet the annual one million dollar fundraising goal, she traveled nationwide presenting her benefit fashion show, “Fashions for Freedom.” In September 1960 she joined the NAACP staff as special projects director.

Marguerite Belafonte and little boy holding NAACP Freedom Fund balloons, between 1950 and 1960. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (118.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # ppmsca.23841]

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Robert L. Carter, Legal Expert

Thurgood Marshall hired Robert L. Carter (b. 1917) as a legal assistant at the Inc. Fund in 1944 and promoted him to assistant counsel in 1945. Carter graduated from Lincoln University and Howard Law School, and earned a Master of Law degree from Columbia University. He helped prepare briefs in the McLaurin and Sweatt cases, and argued McLaurin in Oklahoma and before the Supreme Court. Carter later became Marshall’s key aide in the Brown v. Board of Education case. He recommended using social science research to prove the negative effects of racial segregation, which became a crucial factor in the Brown decision. He also wrote the brief for the Brown case and delivered the argument before the Supreme Court. He served as the NAACP’s General Counsel from 1956 to 1968. In 1972 President Nixon appointed Carter to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where he still presides as judge.

Robert L. Carter, between 1940 and 1955. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (105.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3c26948]

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Earl Warren’s Reading Copy of the Brown Opinion

Chief Justice Earl Warren’s reading copy of Brown is annotated in his hand. Warren announced the opinion in the names of each justice, an unprecedented occurrence. The drama was heightened by the widespread prediction that the Court would be divided on the issue. Warren reminded himself to emphasize the decision’s unanimity with a marginal notation, “unanimously,” which departed from the printed reading copy to declare, “Therefore, we unanimously hold. . . .” In his memoirs, Warren recalled the moment with genuine warmth: “When the word ‘unanimously’ was spoken, a wave of emotion swept the room no words or intentional movement, yet a distinct emotional manifestation that defies description.”
“Unanimously” was not incorporated into the published version of the opinion, and thus exists only in this manuscript.

Earl Warren’s reading copy of the Brown v. Board opinion, May 17, 1954. Printed document with autograph annotations. Earl Warren Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (106.00.00)
Digital ID # na0106

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Attorneys for Brown v. Board of Education

The Supreme Court bundled Brown v. Board of Education with four related cases and scheduled a hearing for December 9, 1952. A rehearing was convened on December 7, 1953 and a decision rendered on May 17, 1954. Three lawyers, Thurgood Marshall (center), chief counsel for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and lead attorney on the Briggs case, with George E. C. Hayes (left) and James M. Nabrit (right), attorneys for the Bolling case, are shown standing on the steps of the Supreme Court congratulating each other after the Court’s decision declaring segregation unconstitutional.

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Roy Wilkins, Longest-Serving NAACP Leader

Roy Wilkins (1901–1981) was born in St. Louis, the son of a minister. While attending the University of Minnesota, he served as secretary of the local NAACP. After graduation he began work as the editor of the Kansas City Call, a black weekly. The headline coverage Wilkins gave the NAACP in the Call attracted the attention of Walter White, who hired him as NAACP assistant secretary in 1931. From 1934 to 1949, Wilkins served concurrently as editor of The Crisis. In 1950 he became NAACP administrator and cofounded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. He succeeded Walter White as NAACP executive secretary in 1955. Under his leadership the NAACP achieved school desegregation and major civil rights legislation, and reached its peak membership. Wilkins retired in 1977 as the longest-serving NAACP leader.

Warren K. Leffler. Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, April 5, 1963. Photograph. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (100.01.00)
[Digital ID # ppmsc.01273]

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The Lynching of Emmett Till

On August 20, 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago, boarded a southbound train to visit his uncle in Leflore County, Mississippi, near the town of Money. For purportedly whistling at a white woman in a grocery store, he was kidnapped, brutally beaten, and shot to death. His mangled corpse, with a seventy-five-pound cotton gin fan tied to the neck, was pulled from the bottom of Tallahatchie River on August 31. NAACP Southeast Regional Director Ruby Hurley, Mississippi Field Secretary Medgar Evers, and Amzie Moore, president of the Bolivar County branch in Mississippi, initiated the homicide investigation and secured witnesses. Hurley sent her reports to the FBI and The Crisis. The NAACP issued this press release the day after Till’s body was found.

Press release concerning the lynching of Emmett Till, September 1, 1955. Typescript. Page 2. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (107.01.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0107_01]

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Justice for Emmett Till Flyer

On September 23, 1955, an all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the two white men accused of Emmett Till’s lynching. The verdict aroused international protest. The NAACP organized mass demonstrations nationwide under the auspices of local branches with Mamie Bradley, Emmett Till’s mother, as the featured speaker. Mrs. Bradley was sometimes accompanied by Ruby Hurley. Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, and Congressman Charles Diggs (D-Michigan), an observer at the trial, also served as speakers. In the aftermath of the trial, growing public demand for federal protection of civil rights led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Mass Meeting Protesting Emmett Till Lynching and Trial [in Mississippi] 8:00 P.M., Friday, October 21, 1955 at Community A.M.E. Church. . . , [1955]. Flyer. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (107.02.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0107_02]

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Rosa Parks’s Arrest

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, age forty-three, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her arrest and fourteen dollar fine for violating a city ordinance led African American bus riders and others to boycott the Montgomery city buses. It also helped to establish the Montgomery Improvement Association led by a then-unknown young minister from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott lasted for one year and brought the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King worldwide attention.

Mrs. Rosa Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. Gelatin silver print. New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (109.00.00)
Digital ID # cph-3c09643

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Rosa Parks’s Arrest Record

Rosa Parks was a leader in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which demonstrated that segregation would be contested in many social settings. A federal district court decided that segregation on publicly operated buses was unconstitutional and concluded that, “in the Brown case, Plessy v. Ferguson has been impliedly, though not explicitly, overruled.” The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court without opinion, a common procedure it followed in the interim between 1954 and 1958.

Rosa Parks’s arrest record, December 5, 1955. Typed document. Page 2. Frank Johnson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (108.00.00)
Digital ID # na0108p1

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Efforts to Ban the NAACP

After the Brown decision, several Southern states initiated lawsuits to ban the NAACP statewide as a strategy to evade desegregation. On June 1, 1956, Alabama attorney general John M. Patterson sued the NAACP for violation of a state law requiring out-of-state corporations to register. A state judge ordered the NAACP to suspend operations and submit branch records, including membership lists, or incur a $100,000 fine. In NAACP v. Alabama (1958) a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the NAACP had the right, by freedom of association, not to disclose its membership lists. The case was remanded to the Alabama court, which refused to try it on its merits. After three additional appeals to the Supreme Court, the NAACP was finally able to resume operations in Alabama in 1964.

J.L. Leflore to Thurgood Marshall concerning the Alabama State Attorney General’s efforts to ban the NAACP in Alabama, June 4, 1956. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (110.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0110]

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Ruby Hurley, Southeast Region Director

Ruby Hurley (1909–1980) was born in Washington, D.C., where she attended Miner Teachers College and Robert H. Terrell Law School. She began her NAACP work in 1939 by organizing a youth council in Washington, D.C. In 1943 she was named national youth secretary. During her tenure the number of youth units grew from 86 to 280. In 1951 Hurley was sent to Birmingham, Alabama, to coordinate membership drives in the Deep South. As a result, she organized the Southeast Regional Office, becoming its first director. Under her leadership the Southeast Region became the NAACP’s largest region with more than 500 branches. When Alabama banned the NAACP in 1956, Hurley moved to Atlanta. There she defended the NAACP in disputes with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She retired as regional director in 1978.

Ruby Hurley, Youth Secretary of NAACP, between 1943 and 1950. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (113.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # ppmsca.23840]

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Civil Rights Act of 1957

In 1957 Clarence Mitchell marshaled bipartisan support in Congress for a civil rights bill, the first passed since Reconstruction. Part III, a provision authorizing the Attorney General to sue in civil rights cases, was stripped from the bill before it passed. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 created a new Commission on Civil Rights to investigate civil rights violations and established a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice headed by an assistant attorney general. It also prohibited action to prevent citizens from voting and authorized the attorney general to seek injunctions to protect the right to vote. Although the act did not provide for adequate enforcement, it did pave the way for more far-reaching legislation.

U.S. Congress. Public Law 85-315, 85th Congress, H.R. 6127 (Civil Rights Act of 1957), September 9, 1957. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (111.00.00)
[Digital ID # na0111p1]

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Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine

Daisy Bates, publisher of The Arkansas State Press and president of the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP Branches, led the NAACP’s campaign to desegregate the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thurgood Marshall served as chief counsel. The school board agreed to begin the process with Central High School, approving the admission of nine black teenagers. The decision outraged many white citizens, including Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, who ordered the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School. When the black students tried repeatedly to enter, they were turned away by the guardsmen and an angry white mob. President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock to force Governor Faubus to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling and ensure the protection of black students. On September 25, 1957, federal troops safely escorted the students into Central High School. In the midst of the crisis, Daisy Bates wrote this letter to Roy Wilkins to report on the students’ progress.

Daisy Bates to NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins on the treatment of the Little Rock Nine, December 17, 1957. Typed letter. Page 2. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (112.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
Digital ID # na0112p1

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Ella Baker, Director of Branches

Ella Baker (1903–1986) grew up in Littleton, North Carolina, and was educated at Shaw University in Raleigh. During the 1930s she worked as a community organizer in New York. She joined the NAACP staff in 1940 as a field secretary and served as director of branches from 1943 to 1946. Baker traveled throughout the South, recruiting new members and registering voters. In 1957 she cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after advising the Montgomery Improvement Association, which organized the bus boycott. As SCLC executive director, she organized the 1960 conference that created the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She remained a key advisor, helping SNCC organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged Mississippi’s all-white delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Ella Baker, between 1943 and 1946. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (114.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3c18852]

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“50 Years: Freedom, Civil Rights, Progress”

The NAACP marked its Golden Anniversary with this issue of The Crisis magazine and commemorative services at the Community Church of New York on February 12, 1959. The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Lloyd K. Garrison, Chairman of the Legal Committee and great grandson of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Roy Wilkins and Channing H. Tobias, Chairman of the Board of Directors, also delivered remarks. Anna Strunsky, the widow of NAACP founder William English Walling, read the Lincoln Day Call. Other relatives of founders were presented to the audience of more than 500 by Robert C. Weaver, Vice Chairman of the Board.

The Crisis. “50 Years: Freedom, Civil Rights, Progress,” June-July 1959. New York: NAACP, 1959. General Collections, Library of Congress (115.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0115]

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Beginning of the Student Sit-in Movement

On February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina Central Agriculture and Technical College sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. All were members of NAACP youth councils. Within weeks, similar demonstrations spread across the South, and many students were arrested. The NAACP provided attorneys and raised money for fines or bail bonds. At a conference at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in April 1960, the students formed their own organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This pamphlet recounts the beginning of the student sit-in movement organized by NAACP youth councils.

The Day They Changed Their Minds. New York: NAACP, March, 1960. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6 - Page 7. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (117.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0117p1]

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Federal Government Protection for James Meredith

In September 1962, a federal court ordered the University of Mississippi to accept James Meredith, a twenty-eight-year-old Air Force Veteran, after a sixteen-month legal battle. Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett disobeyed the decree and had Meredith physically barred from enrolling. President Kennedy responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending Army troops to protect Meredith. After days of violence and rioting by whites, Meredith, escorted by federal marshals, enrolled on October 1, 1962. Two men were killed in the turmoil and more than 300 injured. Because he had earned credits in the military and at Jackson State College, Meredith graduated the following August without incident.

John A. Morsell, Assistant to NAACP Executive Secretary, to President John F. Kennedy requesting the assistance of the Federal government in the case of James Meredith, September 21, 1962. Typed letter. Page 2. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (123.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0123p1]

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Medgar W. Evers, Field Secretary

Medgar W. Evers (1925–1963), the son of a farmer, was born in Decatur, Mississippi. After graduating from Alcorn Agriculture and Mechanical College in 1952, he went to work for a black insurance company in the Mississippi Delta. At the same time he began organizing for the NAACP. In 1954 he became the NAACP’s first field secretary in the state. His main duties were recruiting new members and investigating incidents of racial violence. He also led voter registration drives and mass protests, organized boycotts, fought segregation, and helped James Meredith enter the University of Mississippi. In May 1963 Evers’s home was bombed. On June 11, he was assassinated. His killer, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, was tried twice in 1964, resulting in hung juries. He was convicted at a third trial in 1994.

Medgar W. Evers, between 1950 and 1963. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (120.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3c19120]

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CoChairs for the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

This photograph shows civil rights attorney Joseph Rauh, founder of the Americans for Democratic Action and general counsel to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, with cochairs of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march program called for the ten cochairs to lead the procession from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial for a mass rally. Each of the cochairs delivered a speech as part of a formal presentation that included appearances by other dignitaries and entertainers.

Roy Wilkins with a few of the ca. 250,000 participants on the Mall heading for the Lincoln Memorial in the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. (2nd row, left to right). Civil rights attorney Joseph Rauh, National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young, Jr., NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters President and AFL-CIO Vice President A. Philip Randolph, and United Automobile Workers President Walter Reuther. Photograph. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (119.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # cph.3b24324]

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March on Washington, 1963

In 1962 A. Philip Randolph proposed a mass march on Washington during the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Randolph and his colleague Bayard Rustin invited civil rights, religious, and labor leaders to participate. Roy Wilkins and UAW President Walter Reuther provided the principal funding and member support. On August 28, 1963, a diverse crowd of more than 250,000 people assembled at the Lincoln Memorial in a peaceful demonstration to draw attention to employment discrimination and a pending civil rights bill. During the rally, Roy Wilkins announced the death of W.E.B. Du Bois and urged the passage of the bill. As a climax, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Afterward the march leaders met with President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—Lincoln Memorial Program, August 28, 1963. Program. Page 2 - Page 3. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (122.00.00)
[Digital ID # na0122p1]

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A Civil Rights Act of 1964 Pamphlet

In June 1963, President John Kennedy asked Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill, induced by massive resistance to desegregation and the murder of Medgar Evers. After Kennedy’s assassination in November, President Lyndon Johnson pressed hard, with the support of Roy Wilkins and Clarence Mitchell, to secure the bill’s passage the following year. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs. It banned discrimination in employment and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce compliance. It also strengthened the enforcement of voting rights and the desegregation of schools.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964. What’s in it: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 1964. Pamphlet. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP [Digital ID # na0125p1]

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Washington Attorney J. Francis Pohlhaus

Baltimore native J. Francis Pohlhaus (1918–1981) studied at Western Maryland College and Georgetown University Law School. He began a private law practice in 1949 and served as an advisor for the Baltimore Urban League. In 1951 he moved to Washington and joined the Department of Justice as an attorney in the Civil Rights Section. He joined the NAACP Washington Bureau in 1954. Pohlhaus served as the Bureau’s only counsel and Clarence Mitchell’s key legislative assistant. He shared lobbying duties and worked with congressional staff in drafting civil rights bills. Mitchell considered his legislative contributions invaluable. Pohlhaus died shortly after his retirement in 1981.

NAACP Counsel J. Francis Pohlhaus with President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964. Photograph. (125.01.00) Courtesy of Christopher J. Pohlhaus
[Digital ID # na0125_01]

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Mississippi Freedom Summer

The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of civil rights groups, was formed in 1962 to coordinate civil rights activities in Mississippi. Robert Moses of SNCC served as director and Aaron Henry of the NAACP as president. In 1964 Moses led COFO’s Freedom Summer project, a major voter registration campaign that recruited hundreds of white college students to work with black activists. Freedom volunteers registered black voters and set up schools. Violence pervaded the summer. Three civil rights workers were murdered, and scores were beaten and arrested. Churches and homes were bombed or burned. The project focused national attention on the plight of Mississippi’s blacks and led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Robert Moses, Program Director, Council of Federated Organizations to NAACP Executive Secretary Roy regarding the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, March 1, 1964. Typed letter. Page 2. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (124.00.00) Courtesy of Robert Moses
[Digital ID # na0124p1]

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Literacy Tests

After the Civil War, many states enacted literary tests as a voting requirement. The purpose was to exclude persons with minimal literacy, in particular poor African Americans in the South, from voting. This was achieved by asking these prospective voters to interpret abstract provisions of the Constitution or rejecting their applications for errors. This sample voter registration application, featuring a literacy test, was used by W.C. Patton, head of the NAACP voter registration program, to educate black voters in Alabama.

Sample Application for Registration, Questionnaire and Oaths, Alabama Board of Registrars, 1964. Typescript. Page 2 - Page 3. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (124.01.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0124_01]

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Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided direct federal enforcement to remove literacy tests and other devices that had been used to disenfranchise African Americans. It authorized the appointment of federal registrars to register voters and observe elections. It also prevented states from changing voter requirements and gerrymandering districts for a period of five years without federal review. The poll tax, a point of dispute, was fully banned in 1966. The sweeping provisions of the act were greatly due to the persistent diplomacy of Clarence M. Mitchell, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, and his associates.

Senator Walter Mondale to NAACP Executive Director Roy Wilkins acknowledging the NAACP’s appreciation of his support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, August 17, 1965. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (126.00.00) Courtesy of Walter F. Mondale
Digital ID # na0126

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NAACP’s position on “Black Power”

In June 1966 James Meredith was wounded by a sniper during a solitary voter registration march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. In the aftermath SNCC chairman Stokely Carmichael popularized the slogan “Black Power,” urging self-defense and racial separatism. Some blacks and whites perceived hints of violence and reverse racism in the call for Black Power. At the NAACP annual convention in July, Roy Wilkins denounced Carmichael’s advocacy, saying Black Power “can mean in the end only black death.” He summarized the NAACP’s position on Black Power in this open letter to supporters.

Roy Wilkins to NAACP supporters concerning the NAACP’s position on “Black Power,” October 17, 1966. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (127.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0127]

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The Civil Rights Act of 1968

In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson failed to persuade Congress to pass a civil rights bill with a fair housing provision. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., generated the support needed to pass the bill two years later. The 1968 Fair Housing Act banned discrimination in the sale and rental of 80 percent of housing. It also contained anti-riot provisions and protected persons exercising specific rights--such as attending school or serving on a jury—as well as civil rights workers urging others to exercise these rights. It included the Indian Bill of Rights to extend constitutional protections to Native Americans not covered by the Bill of Rights. For his pivotal role in the bill’s passage, Clarence Mitchell received the Spingarn Medal.

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Chairman Roy Wilkins to United States Senators concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1968, January 15, 1968. Typed letter. Page 2. Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (128.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0128p1]

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NAACP: Here Today, Here Tomorrow

In 1969 the NAACP reached another milestone: its 60th anniversary. The NAACP held the 60th annual convention in Jackson, Mississippi, a first for Mississippi—a battleground of the civil rights movement. The convention preceded the inauguration of NAACP Mississippi Field Director Charles Evers as Mayor of Fayette, the first black to be elected Mayor of a biracial town in the State since Reconstruction. The NAACP noted this progress, as well as the problems posed by the Nixon Administration’s policy on civil rights and a dispirited black community. NAACP delegates left the historic session with renewed determination to fight on. This poster reflects that resolve.

NAACP. NAACP: Here Today, Here Tomorrow, 1969. Poster. Yanker Poster Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (116.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # yan.1a38612]

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Businessman Kivie Kaplan

Kivie Kaplan (1904–1975), a Boston businessman and philanthropist of Lithuanian-Jewish descent, joined the NAACP in 1932 and was elected to the National Board in 1954. As Chairman of the Life Membership Committee he increased life memberships from 221 in 1953 to 53,000 in 1975. In 1966 he was elected to succeed Arthur Spingarn as NAACP president. Kaplan visited Abraham Lincoln’s tomb with a NAACP delegation in 1969 to mark the NAACP’s 60th anniversary. He expressed his personal admiration for Lincoln by constructing a study hall at Brandeis University in memoriam, the Emily R. and Kivie Kaplan Lincoln Hall.

NAACP President Kivie Kaplan (center) with NAACP members at Abraham Lincoln’s tomb for a memorial service, Springfield, Illinois [1969]. Photograph. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (104.00.00) Courtesy of the NAACP
[Digital ID # na0104]

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The Nomination of Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr.

In August 1969 President Richard Nixon nominated Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr., of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. The NAACP and labor groups opposed the nomination because of the judge’s negative record on civil rights and labor unions. Further probing revealed that Haynsworth had ruled in several cases in which he had a financial interest. The fight against the confirmation was similar to the one waged against Judge John Parker in 1930. In November the Senate rejected the South Carolinian’s nomination 55 to 45. President Nixon promptly nominated another anti-black, anti-labor judge to the Supreme Court, G. Harrold Carswell of Florida. The NAACP launched another campaign, and in April 1970 the Senate rejected Carswell’s nomination 51 to 45.


While primarily focused on the civil rights of African Americans in the U.S., LDF states it has "been instrumental in the formation of similar organizations that have replicated its organizational model in order to promote equality for Asian-Americans, Latinos, and women in the United States." LDF has also been involved in "the campaign for human rights throughout the world, including in South Africa, Canada, Brazil, and elsewhere." [2]

LDF's national office is in Manhattan, with regional offices in Washington, D.C. LDF has nearly two dozen staff lawyers and hundreds of cooperating attorneys across the nation. [2]

Areas of activity Edit

Areas of concern Edit

The board of directors of the NAACP created the Legal Defense Fund in 1940 specifically for tax purposes. [7] In 1957, LDF was completely separated from the NAACP and given its own independent board and staff. [7] Although LDF was originally meant to operate in accordance with NAACP policy, after 1961, serious disputes emerged between the two organizations. These disputes ultimately led the NAACP to create its own internal legal department while LDF continued to operate and score significant legal victories as an independent organization. [4] [8]

At times, this separation has created considerable confusion in the eyes and minds of the public. [8] In the 1980s, the NAACP unsuccessfully sued LDF for trademark infringement. [4] In its ruling rejecting the NAACP’s lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recognized that the "universal esteem in which the [NAACP] initials are held is due in significant measure to [LDF's] distinguished record as a civil rights litigator" and that the NAACP has "benefitted from the added luster given to the NAACP initials by the LDF's litigation successes." [4]

Probably the most famous case in the history of LDF was Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark case in 1954 in which the United States Supreme Court explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities. During the civil rights protests of the 1960s, LDF represented "the legal arm of the civil rights movement" and provided counsel for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others. [2]

1930s Edit

  • 1935Murray v. Pearson, removed unconstitutional color bar from the University of Maryland School of Law admission policy. (Managed by Thurgood Marshall for the NAACP before the formal foundation of LDF.)
  • 1938: Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, invalidated state laws that denied African-American students access to all-white state graduate schools when no separate state graduate schools were available for African Americans. (Handled by Thurgood Marshall for the NAACP before the formal foundation of LDF.)

1940s Edit

  • 1940: Abbington v Board of Education of Louisville (KY), a suit argued by Thurgood Marshall and dropped though the settlement led to the removal of a 15 percent salary discrepancy between black and white teachers in the Louisville, Kentucky public schools (see NAACP in Kentucky).
  • 1940: Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk, a federal court order that African-American public school teachers be paid salaries equal to whites, regardless of race. [9]
  • 1940: Chambers v. Florida, overturned the convictions—based on coerced confessions—of four young black defendants accused of murdering an elderly white man.
  • 1944: Smith v. Allwright, a voting rights case in which the Supreme Court required Texas to allow African Americans to vote in primary elections, formerly restricted to whites.
  • 1946: Morgan v. Virginia, desegregated seating on interstate buses.
  • 1947: Patton v. Mississippi, ruled against strategies that excluded African Americans from criminaljuries.
  • 1948: Shelley v. Kraemer, overturned racially discriminatoryreal estate covenants.
  • 1948: Sipuel v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Okla., reaffirmed and extended Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, ruling that Oklahoma could not bar an African-American student from its all-white law school on the ground that she had not requested the state to provide a separate law school for black students.

1950s Edit

  • 1950: McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, ruled against practices of segregation within a formerly all-white graduate school insofar as they interfered with meaningful classroom instruction and interaction with other students.
  • 1950: Sweatt v. Painter, ruled against a Texas attempt to circumvent Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada with a hastily established inferior law school for black students.
  • 1953: Barrows v. Jackson, reaffirmed Shelley v. Kraemer, preventing state courts from enforcing restrictive covenants.
  • 1954: Brown v. Board of Education, explicitly outlawed de jure racial segregation of public education facilities.
  • 1956: Gayle v. Browder, overturned segregation of city buses see also Montgomery bus boycott.
  • 1957: Fikes v. Alabama, a further ruling against forced confessions.
  • 1958: Cooper v. Aaron barred Arkansas GovernorOrval Faubus from interfering with the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School see also Little Rock Nine.

1960s Edit

  • 1961: Holmes v. Danner, began the desegregation of the University of Georgia.
  • 1962: Meredith v. Fair, won James Meredith admission to the University of Mississippi.
  • 1963: LDF attorneys defended Martin Luther King Jr. against contempt charges for demonstrating without a permit in Birmingham, Alabama. See Letter from Birmingham Jail.
  • 1963: Watson v. City of Memphis, ruled segregation of public parks unconstitutional.
  • 1963: Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, ended segregation of hospitals that received Federal construction funds.
  • 1964: Willis v. Pickrick Restaurant, ruled against segregation in public facilities such as restaurants Lester Maddox closed his restaurant rather than integrate.
  • 1964: McLaughlin v. Florida, ruled against anti-miscegenation laws. See also on this issue, Eilers v. Eilers (argued by James A. Crumlin, Sr.) – details in NAACP in Kentucky.
  • 1965: Williams v. Wallace, made court order to allow a voting-rights march in Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which had previously been stopped twice by state police.
  • 1965: Hamm v. City of Rock Hill, overturned all convictions of demonstrators' participating in civil rights sit-ins.
  • 1965: Abernathy v. Alabama and Thomas v. Mississippi, reversed state convictions of Alabama and Mississippi Freedom Riders on the basis of Boynton v. Virginia.
  • 1967: Quarles v. Philip Morris, overturned the practice of "departmental seniority", which had forced non-white workers to give up their seniority rights when they transferred to better jobs in previously white-only departments.
  • 1967: Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, ruled that "freedom of choice" was an insufficient response to segregated schools.
  • 1967: Loving v. Virginia, ruled that state laws banning interracial marriage ("anti-miscegenation laws") in Virginia and 15 other states were unconstitutional because they violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • 1968: Newman v. Piggie Park, established that prevailing plaintiffs in civil rights act cases are entitled to receive attorneys' fees from the losing defendant.
  • 1969: Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, ruled that 33 Mississippi school districts must desegregate "at once" thereby ending the era of foot-dragging in school desegregation permitted under the "all deliberate speed" doctrine of Brown v. Board of Education
  • 1969: Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, ruled against using the paradepermitting process as a means of suppressing First Amendment rights.
  • 1969: Thorpe v. Housing Authority of Durham, ruled that low-income public housingtenants could not be summarily evicted.
  • 1969: Sniadach v. Family Finance Corp., required due process for the garnishment of wages.
  • 1969: Allen v. State Board of Elections, guaranteed the right to a write-in vote.

1970s Edit

  • 1970: Ali v. The Division of State Athletic Commission, restored Muhammad Ali's boxing license.
  • 1970: Carter v. Jury Commission, approved Federal suits over discrimination in the selection of juries.
  • 1970: Turner v. Fouche, overruled a requirement in Taliaferro County, Georgia that grand jury and school board membership be limited to owners of real property.
  • 1971: Kennedy-Park Homes Association v. City of Lackawanna, forbade a city government from interfering in the construction of low-income housing in a predominantly white section of the city.
  • 1971: Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upheld intra-district busing to desegregate public schools. However, this issue was contested in the courts for three more decades. In the most recent as of 2004 [update] related cases, the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2002 refused to review Cappachione v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, in which lower courts had ruled in favor of the school district.
  • 1971: Haines v. Kerner, upheld the right of prisoners to challenge prison conditions in federal court.
  • 1971: Groppi v. Wisconsin, upheld the right of a criminal defendant in a misdemeanor case to a venue where jurors are not biased against him.
  • 1971: Clay v. United States, struck down Muhammad Ali's conviction for refusing to report for military service.
  • 1971: Griggs v. Duke Power Company, ruled that tests for employment or promotion that produce different outcomes for blacks and whites are prima facie to be presumed discriminatory, and must measure aptitude for the job in question or they cannot be used.
  • 1971: Phillips v. Martin Marietta, ruled that employers may not refuse to hire women with pre-school-aged children unless the same standards are applied to men.
  • 1972: Furman v. Georgia, ruled that the death penalty as then applied in 37 states violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment because there were inadequate standards to guide judges and juries making the decision which defendants will receive a sentence of death. However, under revised laws, U.S. executions resumed in 1977.
  • 1972: Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia and U.S. v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education, ruled against systems' avoiding public school desegregation by the creation of all-white "splinter districts".
  • 1972: Alexander v. Louisiana, accepted the use of statistical evidence to prove racial discrimination in the selection of juries.
  • 1972: Hawkins v. Town of Shaw, banned discrimination in the provision of municipal facilities.
  • 1973: Norwood v. Harrison banned government provision of school books to segregated private schools established to allow whites to avoid public school desegregation.
  • 1973: Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, addressed deliberate de facto school segregation, ruling that where deliberate segregation was shown to have affected a substantial part of a school system, the entire district must ordinarily be desegregated.
  • 1973: Adams v. Richardson, required federal education officials to enforce Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which requires that state universities, public schools, and other institutions that receive federal money may not discriminate by race.
  • 1973: Ham v. South Carolina, ruled that defendants are entitled to have potential jurors interrogated about whether they harbor racial prejudices.
  • 1973: McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, ruled that courts should hear cases of alleged unlawful discrimination based on the "minimal showing" that a qualified non-white applied unsuccessfully for a job that either remained open or was filled by a white person.
  • 1973: Mourning v. Family Publication Service, upheld the Truth in lending Act, requiring disclosure of the actual cost of a loan.
  • 1975: Albemarle v. Moody, mandated back pay for victims of job discrimination.
  • 1975: Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1866, passed during Reconstruction, as providing an independent remedy for employment discrimination.
  • 1977: Coker v. Georgia, banned capital punishment for rape, the most racially disproportionate application of the death penalty.
  • 1977: United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburgh v. Carey, provided that states may consider race in drawing electoral districts if necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act by avoiding a dilution of minority voting strength.

1980s Edit

  • 1980: Luévano v. Campbell, struck down Federal government use of a written test for hiring into nearly 200 entry-level positions because the test disproportionately disqualified African Americans and Latinos.
  • 1980: Enmund v. Florida, struck down a federal "felony murder" statute.
  • 1982: Bob Jones University v. U.S. and Goldboro Christian Schools v. U.S., denied tax exempt status to religious schools that discriminate on the basis of race.
  • 1983: Major v. Treen, overturned a Louisianagerrymander intended to reduce African-American voting strength.
  • 1984: Gingles v. Edmisten, continued as Thornburg v. Gingles (1986), the Supreme Court ruled that at-large countywide election of state legislators illegally discriminated against black voters, and the Court established the standard for identifying "vote dilution" under the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act.
  • 1986: Dillard v. Crenshaw County Commission: a district court ordered over 180 of the local government bodies in counties, cities, and school boards in Alabama to change their methods of election because intentionally racially discriminatory state laws had made it extremely difficult for Black voters to elect their preferred candidates to local office. [10]
  • 1987: McClesky v. Kemp: in a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Georgia's death penalty and held that statistical evidence showing pervasive racial bias in the administration of the death penalty was not sufficient to invalidate a death sentence. [11]
  • 1988: Jiggets v. Housing Authority of City of Elizabeth: a district court ordered the HUD to spend $4 million to upgrade predominantly black, as well as predominantly white, housing projects in the city, and to implement federal maintenance, tenant selection and other procedures equitably.
  • 1989: Cook v. Ochsner: in a belated coda to Simkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, a District Court approved a settlement ending a New Orleans hospital's discrimination in emergency room treatment and patient admissions. The settlement also provided increased opportunities for African-American physicians to practice at the hospital.

1990s Edit

  • 1991: Chisom v. Roemer and Houston Lawyers Association v. Attorney General, established that Voting Rights Act applies to the election of judges.
  • 1992: Matthews v. Coye and Thompson v. Raiford, compelled California and Texas, respectively, to enforce and implement federal regulations calling for testing of poor children for lead poisoning.
  • 1993: Haynes v. Shoney's: A record court-approved settlement in an employment discrimination case. Shoney's Restaurants agreed to pay African-American employees, applicants, and white managers who resisted the practices, $105 million and to implement aggressive equal employment opportunity measures. [12]
  • 1994: Lawson v. City of Los Angeles and Silva v. City of Los Angeles, led to settlements to end discriminatory use of police dogs in minority neighborhoods.
  • 1995: McKennon v. Nashville Banner: The Supreme Court refused to allow employers to defeat otherwise valid claims of job discrimination by relying on facts they did not know until after the discriminatory decision had been made.
  • 1996: Sheff v. O'Neill: The Supreme Court of Connecticut, in view of the disparities between Hartford public schools and schools in the surrounding suburbs, found the state liable for maintaining racial and ethnic isolation, and ordered the legislative and executive branches to propose a remedy.
  • 1997: Robinson v. Shell Oil Company, determined that a former employee may sue his ex-employer for retaliating against him (by giving a bad job reference) after he filed discrimination charges over his termination.
  • 1998: Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corp., determined that a general arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement did not deprive an employee of his right to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws in federal court.
  • 1999: Campaign to Save Our Public Hospitals v. Giuliani, barred New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani's attempt to privatize public hospitals.

2000s Edit

  • 2000: Rideau v. Whitley, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit threw out the 28-year-old, third conviction of Wilbert Rideau for murder because of discrimination in the composition of the Grand Jury that originally indicted him more than 40 years earlier. (Rideau was retried, convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter, and released in 2005.)
  • 2000: Smith v. United States, was resolved when President Clintoncommuted the sentence of Kemba Smith. Smith was a young African-American mother whose abusive, domineering boyfriend led her to play a peripheral role (she did not sell drugs but was aware of the selling) in a conspiracy to obtain and distribute crack cocaine. She had been sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 24½ years in prison even though she was a first-time offender.
  • 2000: Cromartie v. Hunt and Daly v. Hunt, ruled that it is legal to create, for partisan political reasons, a district with a high concentration of minority voters hence the North Carolina district from which Mel Watt was elected to the House of Representatives was ruled not to be an illegal gerrymander.
  • 2003: Gratz v. Bollinger, ordered the University of Michigan to change admission policies by removing racial quotas in the form of "points", but allowed them to continue to utilize race as a factor in admissions, to admit a diverse entering class of students.
  • 2007: Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the Supreme Court ruled racial quotas unconstitutional in PK–12 school assignment, but allowed other remedial school integration programs to continue [13]
  • 2009: Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled the Voting Rights Act Section 5 preclearance process constitutional. LDF presented oral argument at the Supreme Court on behalf of a group of African-American voters. [14]

2010s Edit

  • 2010: Lewis v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the City of Chicago can be held accountable for each and every time it used a hiring practice that arbitrarily blocked qualified minority applicants from employment. [15]
  • 2013: Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, ending the Section 5 preclearance regime. LDF presented oral argument and represented a group of African-American voters in the Supreme Court. [16]
  • 2013: Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action, and remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for a second view. LDF represented the Black Student Alliance and the Black Ex-Students of Texas, Inc. [11]
  • 2014: Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Michigan's Proposal 2 voter initiative, which amended the state's constitution to make affirmative action illegal in public employment, public education or public contracting purposes. LDF represented the Plaintiffs challenging Proposal 2. [11]
  • 2016: Fisher v. University of Texas II, Following the remand to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Supreme Court again upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action. LDF represented the Black Student Alliance and the Black Ex-Students of Texas, Inc. in oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals and in an amicus brief in the Supreme Court. [17]
  • 2016: Veasey v. Abbott, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, held that Texas's 2011 voter photo identification law violated the Voting Rights Act and that there was sufficient evidence to find that the Texas Legislature might have passed the law for the purpose of discriminating against Black and Latino voters. LDF presented oral argument in the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Black students and the Texas League of Young Voters. [18]
  • 2017: Buck v. Davis, the Supreme Court reversed the death sentence of Mr. Duane Buck because Mr. Buck's trial attorney introduced evidence that suggested Mr. Buck was more likely to commit violent acts in the future because he is black. LDF represented and presented oral argument on Mr. Buck's behalf in the Supreme Court. [11]
  • 2018: Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education and Gardendale Board of Education, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, blocked the City of Gardendale's attempt to secede from the larger Jefferson County school system because Gardendale's purpose was to create a mostly white school system separate from the more racially diverse Jefferson County schools. LDF represents and presented oral arguments on behalf of Black students opposed to the separation. [19]

2020s Edit

  • 2020: NAACP LDF v. Barr, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to LDF and ruled that the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice violated multiple requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, halting the Commission's operations until it was brought into compliance with federal law. [20]
  • 2020: NAACP v. United States Postal Service, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the US Postal Service's widespread disruptions in mail delivery violated federal law and risked delaying the delivery of mail-in ballots — thereby causing voter disenfranchisement. On October 10, 2020, the court granted a preliminary injunction motion suspending service changes that had disrupted mail delivery. The court issued a series of additional orders leading up to the November 2020 General Election, which required the US Postal Service to take extraordinary measures to ensure the timely delivery of ballots and to provide daily updates about the delivery status of mail-in ballots. LDF represented the NAACP and individuals in the litigation. [21]

A number of prominent attorneys have been affiliated with LDF over the years, including Barack Obama who was an LDF cooperating attorney. [2] The following, non-exhaustive list of LDF alumni demonstrates the breadth of positions these attorneys have held or currently hold in public service, the government, academia, the private sector, and other areas.


Calls for a federal equal pay law coalesced in the early 1960s during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Esther Peterson, head of the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, was a vocal supporter of the proposed legislation, as was former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired Kennedy’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Representatives Katharine St. George and Edith Green helped lead the charge for a bill in Congress.

Despite the opposition of powerful business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Merchants Association, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

In its final form, the Equal Pay Act mandates that employers cannot award unequal wages or benefits to men and women working jobs that require 𠇎qual skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”

The law also includes guidelines for when unequal pay is permitted, specifically on the basis of merit, seniority, workers’ quality or quantity of production and other factors not determined by gender.

The Equal Pay Act was among the first federal laws in American history to address gender discrimination. In signing it into law on June 10, 1963, Kennedy praised it as a “significant step forward,” but acknowledged that “much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity” for women.

Among other things, Kennedy stressed the need for child day care centers to support working mothers.

How women players are compensated compared to the men

This is where things get very complicated. While the issue of establishing equal pay between the two teams seems like a matter of adjusting some numbers, the collective bargaining agreements for the men and women players detail differing pay structures.

Gabe Feldman, a sports law professor at Tulane University, tells TIME it’s not that unusual that the mediation attempt ended unsuccessfully. “Many equal pay cases are complicated and are difficult issues to prove,” he says. “In many cases, the fight is over whether the jobs are similar, not over the level of pay. In this case, both questions are difficult: Are the jobs similar and is the pay equal? Are there factors other than gender leading to pay difference?”

Making a direct comparison between how much the men earned versus the women is difficult because of the different contracts signed by men and women players and other factors that come into play, according to Feldman. Among other things, players factor in the number of games they play, which tournaments they play in, the popularity of soccer in general and the money they make outside of soccer through sponsorships or other work to determine what they think is a fair amount to make, he says.

Women players under contract earn a base salary of $100,000 and can earn some bonuses based on game performance. Players on the men’s team only earn bonuses.

In the USWNT’s lawsuit, compensation models showed that if both teams won 20 games in a row, women would make 38% less than their male counterparts. That calculation was based on the women’s team’s prior collective bargaining agreement, which expired in December 2016. The Washington Post, which ran the numbers based on the new collective bargaining agreement that became effective in April 2017, found that if the women’s team won 20 games in a row, a player would earn $28,333 less, or about 89% of what a male player would make.

The Post noted that were both teams to lose all 20 games, they would make the same amount because the men receive a $5,000 bonus for losing and the women have a base salary.

Compensation changes even further when it comes to the World Cup&mdashthough the pool money at stake here is set by FIFA, which gives prize winnings to the national federations behind each soccer team. For the Women’s World Cup, prize money totaled to $30 million in 2019, according to the Post. The USWNT earned about $4 million for winning the tournament. By contrast, the prize money pool for the 2018 Men’s World Cup totaled about $400 million, giving reigning champion France’s men’s team $38 million&mdashmore than the total pool for the women.


The NAACP is headquartered in Baltimore, with additional regional offices in New York, Michigan, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Colorado and California. [12] Each regional office is responsible for coordinating the efforts of state conferences in that region. Local, youth, and college chapters organize activities for individual members.

In the U.S., the NAACP is administered by a 64-member board led by a chairperson. The board elects one person as the president and one as the chief executive officer for the organization. Julian Bond, civil rights movement activist and former Georgia State Senator, was chairman until replaced in February 2010 by healthcare administrator Roslyn Brock. [13] For decades in the first half of the 20th century, the organization was effectively led by its executive secretary, who acted as chief operating officer. James Weldon Johnson and Walter F. White, who served in that role successively from 1920 to 1958, were much more widely known as NAACP leaders than were presidents during those years. [14]

The organization has never had a woman president, except on a temporary basis, and there have been calls to name one. Lorraine C. Miller served as interim president after Benjamin Jealous stepped down. Maya Wiley was rumored to be in line for the position in 2013, but Cornell William Brooks was selected. [15] [16]

Departments within the NAACP govern areas of action. Local chapters are supported by the "Branch and Field Services" department and the "Youth and College" department. The "Legal" department focuses on court cases of broad application to minorities, such as systematic discrimination in employment, government, or education. The Washington, D.C. bureau is responsible for lobbying the U.S. government, and the Education Department works to improve public education at the local, state, and federal levels. The goal of the Health Division is to advance health care for minorities through public policy initiatives and education. [17]

As of 2007 [update] , the NAACP had approximately 425,000 paying and non-paying members. [18]

The NAACP's non-current records are housed at the Library of Congress, which has served as the organization's official repository since 1964. The records held there comprise approximately five million items spanning the NAACP's history from the time of its founding until 2003. [19] In 2011, the NAACP teamed with the digital repository ProQuest to digitize and host online the earlier portion of its archives, through 1972 – nearly two million pages of documents, from the national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country, which offer first-hand insight into the organization's work related to such crucial issues as lynching, school desegregation, and discrimination in all its aspects (in the military, the criminal justice system, employment, housing). [20] [21]

The Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, New York, featured many American innovations and achievements, but also included a disparaging caricature of slave life in the South as well as a depiction of life in Africa, called "Old Plantation" and "Darkest Africa", respectively. [22] A local African-American woman, Mary Talbert of Ohio, was appalled by the exhibit, as a similar one in Paris highlighted black achievements. She informed W. E. B. Du Bois of the situation, and a coalition began to form. [22]

In 1905, a group of thirty-two prominent African-American leaders met to discuss the challenges facing African Americans and possible strategies and solutions. They were particularly concerned by the Southern states' disenfranchisement of blacks starting with Mississippi's passage of a new constitution in 1890. Through 1908, Southern legislatures, dominated by white Democrats, ratified new constitutions and laws creating barriers to voter registration and more complex election rules. In practice, this caused the exclusion of most blacks and many poor whites from the political system in southern states, crippling the Republican Party in most of the South. Black voter registration and turnout dropped markedly in the South as a result of such legislation. Men who had been voting for thirty years in the South were told they did not "qualify" to register. [ citation needed ] White-dominated legislatures also passed segregation and Jim Crow laws. [23]

Because hotels in the US were segregated, the men convened in Canada at the Erie Beach Hotel [24] on the Canadian side of the Niagara River in Fort Erie, Ontario. As a result, the group came to be known as the Niagara Movement. A year later, three non-African-Americans joined the group: journalist William English Walling, a wealthy socialist and social workers Mary White Ovington and Henry Moskowitz. Moskowitz, who was Jewish, was then also Associate Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. They met in 1906 at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and in 1907 in Boston, Massachusetts. [25]

The fledgling group struggled for a time with limited resources and internal conflict and disbanded in 1910. [26] Seven of the members of the Niagara Movement joined the Board of Directors of the NAACP, founded in 1909. [25] Although both organizations shared membership and overlapped for a time, the Niagara Movement was a separate organization. Historically, it is considered to have had a more radical platform than the NAACP. The Niagara Movement was formed exclusively by African Americans. Four European Americans were among the founders of the NAACP, they included Mary White Ovington, Henry Moskowitz, William English Walling and Oswald Garrison Villard. [27]


The Race Riot of 1908 in Springfield, Illinois, the state capital and President Abraham Lincoln's hometown, was a catalyst showing the urgent need for an effective civil rights organization in the U.S. In the decades around the turn of the century, the rate of lynchings of blacks, particularly men, was at an all-time high. Mary White Ovington, journalist William English Walling and Henry Moskowitz met in New York City in January 1909 to work on organizing for black civil rights. [28] They sent out solicitations for support to more than 60 prominent Americans, and set a meeting date for February 12, 1909. This was intended to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated enslaved African Americans. While the first large meeting did not occur until three months later, the February date is often cited as the organization's founding date.

The NAACP was founded on February 12, 1909, by a larger group including African Americans W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Mary Church Terrell, and the previously named whites Henry Moskowitz, Mary White Ovington, William English Walling (the wealthy Socialist son of a former slave-holding family), [28] [29] Florence Kelley, a social reformer and friend of Du Bois [30] Oswald Garrison Villard, and Charles Edward Russell, a renowned muckraker and close friend of Walling. Russell helped plan the NAACP and had served as acting chairman of the National Negro Committee (1909), a forerunner to the NAACP. [31]

On May 30, 1909, the Niagara Movement conference took place at New York City's Henry Street Settlement House they created an organization of more than 40, identifying as the National Negro Committee. [32] Among other founding members were Lillian Wald, a nurse who had founded the Henry Street Settlement where the conference took place.

Du Bois played a key role in organizing the event and presided over the proceedings. Also in attendance was Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an African-American journalist and anti-lynching crusader. Wells-Barnett addressed the conference on the history of lynching in the United States and called for action to publicize and prosecute such crimes. [33] The members chose the new organization's name to be the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and elected its first officers: [34]

  • National President, Moorfield Storey, Boston
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee, William English Walling
  • Treasurer, John E. Milholland a prominent New York Republican
  • Disbursing Treasurer, Oswald Garrison Villard
  • Executive Secretary, Frances Blascoer
  • Director of Publicity and Research, W. E. B. Du Bois.

The NAACP was incorporated a year later in 1911. The association's charter expressed its mission:

To promote equality of rights and eradicate caste or race prejudice among citizens of the United States to advance the interest of colored citizens to secure for them impartial suffrage and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for their children, employment according to their ability, and complete equality before the law. [35]

The larger conference resulted in a more diverse organization, where the leadership was predominantly white. Moorfield Storey, a white attorney from a Boston abolitionist family, served as the president of the NAACP from its founding to 1915. At its founding, the NAACP had one African American on its executive board, Du Bois. Storey was a long-time classical liberal and Grover Cleveland Democrat who advocated laissez-faire free markets, the gold standard, and anti-imperialism. Storey consistently and aggressively championed civil rights, not only for blacks but also for Native Americans and immigrants (he opposed immigration restrictions). Du Bois continued to play a pivotal leadership role in the organization, serving as editor of the association's magazine, The Crisis, which had a circulation of more than 30,000. [36]

The Crisis was used both for news reporting and for publishing African-American poetry and literature. During the organization's campaigns against lynching, Du Bois encouraged the writing and performance of plays and other expressive literature about this issue. [37]

The Jewish community contributed greatly to the NAACP's founding and continued financing. [38] Jewish historian Howard Sachar writes in his book A History of Jews in America that "In 1914, Professor Emeritus Joel Spingarn of Columbia University became chairman of the NAACP and recruited for its board such Jewish leaders as Jacob Schiff, Jacob Billikopf, and Rabbi Stephen Wise." [38]

Jim Crow and disenfranchisement

In its early years, the NAACP was based in New York City. It concentrated on litigation in efforts to overturn disenfranchisement of blacks, which had been established in every southern state by 1908, excluding most from the political system, and the Jim Crow statutes that legalized racial segregation.

In 1913, the NAACP organized opposition to President Woodrow Wilson's introduction of racial segregation into federal government policy, workplaces, and hiring. African-American women's clubs were among the organizations that protested Wilson's changes, but the administration did not alter its assuagement of Southern cabinet members and the Southern block in Congress.

By 1914, the group had 6,000 members and 50 branches. It was influential in winning the right of African Americans to serve as military officers in World War I. Six hundred African-American officers were commissioned and 700,000 men registered for the draft. The following year, the NAACP organized a nationwide protest, with marches in numerous cities, against D. W. Griffith's silent movie The Birth of a Nation, a film that glamorized the Ku Klux Klan. As a result, several cities refused to allow the film to open. [39]

The NAACP began to lead lawsuits targeting disfranchisement and racial segregation early in its history. It played a significant part in the challenge of Guinn v. United States (1915) to Oklahoma's discriminatory grandfather clause, which effectively disenfranchised most black citizens while exempting many whites from certain voter registration requirements. It persuaded the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in Buchanan v. Warley in 1917 that state and local governments cannot officially segregate African Americans into separate residential districts. The Court's opinion reflected the jurisprudence of property rights and freedom of contract as embodied in the earlier precedent it established in Lochner v. New York. It also played a role in desegregating recreational activities via the historic Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan after plaintiff Sarah Elizabeth Ray was wrongfully discriminated against when attempting to board a ferry.

In 1916, chairman Joel Spingarn invited James Weldon Johnson to serve as field secretary. Johnson was a former U.S. consul to Venezuela and a noted African-American scholar and columnist. Within four years, Johnson was instrumental in increasing the NAACP's membership from 9,000 to almost 90,000. In 1920, Johnson was elected head of the organization. Over the next ten years, the NAACP escalated its lobbying and litigation efforts, becoming internationally known for its advocacy of equal rights and equal protection for the "American Negro". [40]

The NAACP devoted much of its energy during the interwar years to fight the lynching of blacks throughout the United States by working for legislation, lobbying, and educating the public. The organization sent its field secretary Walter F. White to Phillips County, Arkansas, in October 1919, to investigate the Elaine Race Riot. Roving white vigilantes killed more than 200 black tenant farmers and federal troops after a deputy sheriff's attack on a union meeting of sharecroppers left one white man dead. White published his report on the riot in the Chicago Daily News. [41] The NAACP organized the appeals for twelve black men sentenced to death a month later based on the fact that testimony used in their convictions was obtained by beatings and electric shocks. It gained a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision in Moore v. Dempsey 261 U.S. 86 (1923) that significantly expanded the Federal courts' oversight of the states' criminal justice systems in the years to come. White investigated eight race riots and 41 lynchings for the NAACP and directed its study Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States. [42]

The NAACP also worked for more than a decade seeking federal anti-lynching legislation, but the Solid South of white Democrats voted as a bloc against it or used the filibuster in the Senate to block passage. Because of disenfranchisement, African Americans in the South were unable to elect representatives of their choice to office. The NAACP regularly displayed a black flag stating "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday" from the window of its offices in New York to mark each lynching. [43]

It organized the first of the two 1935 New York anti-lynching exhibitions in support of the Costigan-Wagner Bill, having previously widely published an account of the Lynching of Henry Lowry, as An American Lynching, in support of the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill.

In alliance with the American Federation of Labor, the NAACP led the successful fight to prevent the nomination of John Johnston Parker to the Supreme Court, based on his support for denying the vote to blacks and his anti-labor rulings. It organized legal support for the Scottsboro Boys. The NAACP lost most of the internecine battles with the Communist Party and International Labor Defense over the control of those cases and the legal strategy to be pursued in that case.

The organization also brought litigation to challenge the "white primary" system in the South. Southern state Democratic parties had created white-only primaries as another way of barring blacks from the political process. Since the Democrats dominated southern states, the primaries were the only competitive contests. In 1944 in Smith v. Allwright, the Supreme Court ruled against the white primary. Although states had to retract legislation related to the white primaries, the legislatures soon came up with new methods to severely limit the franchise for blacks.

Legal Defense Fund

The board of directors of the NAACP created the Legal Defense Fund in 1939 specifically for tax purposes. It functioned as the NAACP legal department. Intimidated by the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, the Legal and Educational Defense Fund, Inc., became a separate legal entity in 1957, although it was clear that it was to operate in accordance with NAACP policy. After 1961 serious disputes emerged between the two organizations, creating considerable confusion in the eyes and minds of the public. [44]


By the 1940s, the federal courts were amenable to lawsuits regarding constitutional rights, against which Congressional action was virtually impossible. With the rise of private corporate litigators such as the NAACP to bear the expense, civil suits became the pattern in modern civil rights litigation, [45] and the public face of the Civil Rights Movement. The NAACP's Legal department, headed by Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, undertook a campaign spanning several decades to bring about the reversal of the "separate but equal" doctrine announced by the Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.

The NAACP's Baltimore chapter, under president Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, challenged segregation in Maryland state professional schools by supporting the 1935 Murray v. Pearson case argued by Marshall. Houston's victory in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) led to the formation of the Legal Defense Fund in 1939.

The campaign for desegregation culminated in a unanimous 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that held state-sponsored segregation of public elementary schools was unconstitutional. Bolstered by that victory, the NAACP pushed for full desegregation throughout the South. [46] NAACP activists were excited about the judicial strategy. Starting on December 5, 1955, NAACP activists, including Edgar Nixon, its local president, and Rosa Parks, who had served as the chapter's Secretary, helped organize a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. This was designed to protest segregation on the city's buses, two-thirds of whose riders were black. The boycott lasted 381 days. [47] In 1956 the South Carolina legislature created an anti-NAACP oath, and teachers who refused to take the oath lost their positions. After twenty-one Black teachers at the Elloree Training School refused to comply, White school officials dismissed them. Their dismissal led to Bryan v. Austin in 1957, which became an important civil rights case. [48] In Alabama, the state responded by effectively barring the NAACP from operating within its borders because of its refusal to divulge a list of its members. The NAACP feared members could be fired or face violent retaliation for their activities. Although the Supreme Court eventually overturned the state's action in NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), the NAACP lost its leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement while it was barred from Alabama.

New organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC, in 1957) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, in 1960) rose up with different approaches to activism. Rather than relying on litigation and legislation, these newer groups employed direct action and mass mobilization to advance the rights of African Americans. Roy Wilkins, NAACP's executive director, clashed repeatedly with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders over questions of strategy and leadership within the movement.

The NAACP continued to use the Supreme Court's decision in Brown to press for desegregation of schools and public facilities throughout the country. Daisy Bates, president of its Arkansas state chapter, spearheaded the campaign by the Little Rock Nine to integrate the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. [49]

By the mid-1960s, the NAACP had regained some of its prominence in the Civil Rights Movement by pressing for civil rights legislation. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on August 28, 1963. That fall, President John F. Kennedy sent a civil rights bill to Congress before he was assassinated.

President Lyndon B. Johnson worked hard to persuade Congress to pass a civil rights bill aimed at ending racial discrimination in employment, education and public accommodations, and succeeded in gaining passage in July 1964. He followed that with passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for protection of the franchise, with a role for federal oversight and administrators in places where voter turnout was historically low.

Under its anti-desegregation director J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI's COINTELPRO program targeted civil rights groups, including the NAACP, for infiltration, disruption and discreditation. [50]

Kivie Kaplan became NAACP President in 1966. After his death in 1975, scientist W. Montague Cobb took over until 1982. Roy Wilkins retired as executive director in 1977, and Benjamin Hooks, a lawyer and clergyman, was elected his successor.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, the NAACP ran into debt. The dismissal of two leading officials further added to the picture of an organization in deep crisis.

In 1993, the NAACP's Board of Directors narrowly selected Reverend Benjamin Chavis over Reverend Jesse Jackson to fill the position of Executive Director. A controversial figure, Chavis was ousted eighteen months later by the same board. They accused him of using NAACP funds for an out-of-court settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit. [51] Following the dismissal of Chavis, Myrlie Evers-Williams narrowly defeated NAACP chairperson William Gibson for president in 1995, after Gibson was accused of overspending and mismanagement of the organization's funds.

In 1996, Congressman Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic Congressman from Maryland and former head of the Congressional Black Caucus, was named the organization's president. Three years later strained finances forced the organization to drastically cut its staff, from 250 in 1992 to 50.

In the second half of the 1990s, the organization restored its finances, permitting the NAACP National Voter Fund to launch a major get-out-the-vote offensive in the 2000 U.S. presidential elections. 10.5 million African Americans cast their ballots in the election this was one million more than four years before. [51] The NAACP's effort was credited by observers as playing a significant role in Democrat Al Gore's winning several states where the election was close, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. [51]

Lee Alcorn controversy

During the 2000 presidential election, Lee Alcorn, president of the Dallas NAACP branch, criticized Al Gore's selection of Senator Joe Lieberman for his vice-presidential candidate because Lieberman was Jewish. On a gospel talk radio show on station KHVN, Alcorn stated, "If we get a Jew person, then what I'm wondering is, I mean, what is this movement for, you know? Does it have anything to do with the failed peace talks? . So I think we need to be very suspicious of any kind of partnerships between the Jews at that kind of level because we know that their interest primarily has to do with money and these kind of things." [52]

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume immediately suspended Alcorn and condemned his remarks. Mfume stated,

I strongly condemn those remarks. I find them to be repulsive, anti-Semitic, anti-NAACP and anti-American. Mr. Alcorn does not speak for the NAACP, its board, its staff or its membership. We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the Jewish community and I personally will not tolerate statements that run counter to the history and beliefs of the NAACP in that regard. [52]

Alcorn, who had been suspended three times in the previous five years for misconduct, subsequently resigned from the NAACP. He founded what he called the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights. Alcorn criticized the NAACP, saying, "I can't support the leadership of the NAACP. Large amounts of money are being given to them by large corporations with which I have a problem." [52] Alcorn also said, "I cannot be bought. For this reason I gladly offer my resignation and my membership to the NAACP because I cannot work under these constraints." [53]

Alcorn's remarks were also condemned by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Jewish groups and George W. Bush's rival Republican presidential campaign. Jackson said he strongly supported Lieberman's addition to the Democratic ticket, saying, "When we live our faith, we live under the law. He [Lieberman] is a firewall of exemplary behavior." [52] Al Sharpton, another prominent African-American leader, said, "The appointment of Mr. Lieberman was to be welcomed as a positive step." [54] The leaders of the American Jewish Congress praised the NAACP for its quick response, stating that: "It will take more than one bigot like Alcorn to shake the sense of fellowship of American Jews with the NAACP and black America . Our common concerns are too urgent, our history too long, our connection too sturdy, to let anything like this disturb our relationship." [55]

George W. Bush

In 2004, President George W. Bush declined an invitation to speak to the NAACP's national convention. [56] Bush's spokesperson said that Bush had declined the invitation to speak to the NAACP because of harsh statements about him by its leaders. [57] In an interview, Bush said, "I would describe my relationship with the current leadership as basically nonexistent. You've heard the rhetoric and the names they've called me." [57] Bush said he admired some members of the NAACP and would seek to work with them "in other ways". [57]

On July 20, 2006, Bush addressed the NAACP national convention. He made a bid for increasing support by African Americans for Republicans, in the midst of a midterm election. He referred to Republican Party support for civil rights. [58] [59]

Tax exempt status

In October 2004, the Internal Revenue Service informed the NAACP that it was investigating its tax-exempt status based on chairman Julian Bond's speech at its 2004 Convention, in which he criticized President George W. Bush as well as other political figures. [60] [61] In general, the US Internal Revenue Code prohibits organizations granted tax-exempt status from "directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office." [62] The NAACP denounced the investigation as retaliation for its success in increasing the number of African Americans who were voting. [60] [63] In August 2006, the IRS investigation concluded with the agency's finding "that the remarks did not violate the group's tax-exempt status." [64]

LGBT rights

As the American LGBT rights movement gained steam after the Stonewall riots of 1969, the NAACP became increasingly affected by the movement to gain rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. While chairman of the NAACP, Bond became an outspoken supporter of the rights of gays and lesbians and stated his support for same-sex marriage. He boycotted the 2006 funeral services for Coretta Scott King, as he said the King children had chosen an anti-gay megachurch. This was in contradiction to their mother's longstanding support for the rights of gay and lesbian people. [65] In a 2005 speech in Richmond, Virginia, Bond said:

African Americans . were the only Americans who were enslaved for two centuries, but we were far from the only Americans suffering discrimination then and now. . Sexual disposition parallels race. I was born this way. I have no choice. I wouldn't change it if I could. Sexuality is unchangeable. [66]

In a 2007 speech on the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, Bond said, "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married." His positions have pitted elements of the NAACP against religious groups in the civil rights movement who oppose gay marriage, mostly within the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The NAACP became increasingly vocal in opposition against state-level constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and related rights. State NAACP leaders such as William J. Barber, II of North Carolina participated actively against North Carolina Amendment 1 in 2012, but conservative voters passed it.

On May 19, 2012, the NAACP's board of directors formally endorsed same-sex marriage as a civil right, voting 62–2 for the policy in a Miami, Florida quarterly meeting. [67] [68] Benjamin Jealous, the organization's president, said of the decision, "Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. . The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people." Possibly significant in the NAACP's vote was its concern with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the black community while AIDS support organizations recommend that people live a monogamous lifestyle, the government did not recognize same-sex relationships as part of this. [69] As a result of this endorsement, Rev. Keith Ratliff Sr. of Des Moines, Iowa, resigned from the NAACP board. [70]

Travel warning regarding Missouri

On June 7, 2017, the NAACP issued a warning for African-American travelers to Missouri:

Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri. Missouri, home of Lloyd Gaines, Dred Scott and the dubious distinction of the Missouri Compromise and one of the last states to lose its slaveholding past, may not be safe. . [Missouri Senate Bill] SB 43 legalizes individual discrimination and harassment in Missouri and would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in Missouri.

Moreover, over-zealous enforcement of routine traffic violations in Missouri against African Americans has resulted in an increasing trend that shows African Americans are 75% more likely to be stopped than Caucasians. [71]

Missouri NAACP Conference president Rod Chapel, Jr., suggested that visitors to Missouri "should have bail money." [72]

The organization's national initiatives, political lobbying, and publicity efforts were handled by the headquarters staff in New York and Washington, DC. Court strategies were developed by the legal team based for many years at Howard University. [5] [73] [74]

NAACP local branches have also been important. When, in its early years, the national office launched campaigns against The Birth of a Nation, it was the local branches that carried out the boycotts. When the organization fought to expose and outlaw lynching, the branches carried the campaign into hundreds of communities. And while the Legal Defense Fund developed a federal court strategy of legal challenges to segregation, many branches fought discrimination using state laws and local political opportunities, sometimes winning important victories. [5] [75] [76] [77] [78]

Those victories were mostly achieved in Northern and Western states before World War II. When the Southern civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1940s and 1950s, credit went both to the Legal Defense Fund attorneys and to the massive network of local branches that Ella Baker and other organizers had spread across the region. [5]

Local organizations built a culture of black political activism. [5]


Youth sections of the NAACP were established in 1936 there are now more than 600 groups with a total of more than 30,000 individuals in this category. The NAACP Youth & College Division is a branch of the NAACP in which youth are actively involved. The Youth Council is composed of hundreds of state, county, high school and college operations where youth (and college students) volunteer to share their opinions with their peers and address local and national issues. Sometimes volunteer work expands to a more international scale.

Youth and College Division

"The mission of the NAACP Youth & College Division shall be to inform youth of the problems affecting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities to advance the economic, education, social and political status of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and their harmonious cooperation with other peoples to stimulate an appreciation of the African Diaspora and other African Americans' contribution to civilization and to develop an intelligent, militant effective youth leadership." [79]

ACT-SO program

Since 1978, the NAACP has sponsored the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program for high school youth around the United States. The program is designed to recognize and award African-American youth who demonstrate accomplishment in academics, technology, and the arts. Local chapters sponsor competitions in various categories for young people in grades 9–12. Winners of the local competitions are eligible to proceed to the national event at a convention held each summer at locations around the United States. Winners at the national competition receive national recognition, along with cash awards and various prizes. [80]

Environmental justice

The environmental justice group at NAACP has 11 full-time staff members. In April 2019, the NAACP published a report outlining the tactics used by the fossil fuel industry. The report claims that "Fossil fuel companies target the NAACP for manipulation and co-optation." [81] The NAACP has been concerned about the influence of utilities which have contributed massive amounts of money to NAACP chapters in return for chapter support of non-environmentally friendly goals of utilities. In response, the NAACP has been working with its chapters to encourage them to support environmentally sound policies. [82]

‘If we wanted the money, we had to do it.’

As solar panels and other renewable energy sources tumbled in price in recent years, making them attractive alternatives to coal and natural gas in power plants, electric utilities in Florida began pressing regulators and lawmakers to limit their growth.

Rooftop solar in particular posed a threat to the utilities. When the electric grid was designed, engineers did not foresee that consumers would generate their own power and even sell it to the utilities. That could reduce revenue for the companies.

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and other utilities argued that as more affluent homeowners installed solar panels and reduced their reliance on the electric grid, lower-income residents would be forced to pay higher rates to maintain power lines. Many energy experts have disputed that argument, saying energy-efficiency programs and increasingly affordable solar panels can reduce electricity costs for low-income households. But utilities have successfully made their case around the country, often with the help of the N.A.A.C.P. and other nonprofit groups that are advocates for communities of color.

In Florida, utilities found a ready partner — for a time — in Adora Nweze, the president of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference. She and her staff repeated industry talking points in newspaper opinion articles, written comments to state regulators and testimony in public hearings.

Utilities often sought the group’s support around the time that the state conference was in the middle of raising money for programs and its annual gathering, held in September, Ms. Nweze said.

Invoices obtained by The New York Times show that Florida Power & Light gave the N.A.A.C.P. at least $225,000 from 2013 to 2017 and that Duke Energy gave $25,000. Florida Power & Light’s annual donations doubled in 2014 just as the utility was pressing state regulators to restrict rooftop solar power and weaken the state’s energy efficiency goals.

For example, the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida conference issued a $50,000 invoice to the utility on Sept. 11, 2014, a couple of months after Ms. Nweze wrote an essay in The Tallahassee Democrat opposing a solar-energy rebate program and in support of a utility-backed change to state efficiency goals.

“In many cases, nonparticipants tend to be the poor, creating a shockingly inequitable situation in which high-income households capture all of the benefits while low-income households shoulder all of the costs,” the essay said. Ms. Nweze said her staff wrote that article and similar ones, often copying verbatim from text sent by Florida Power & Light and other utilities.

In addition to the article, the conference filed comments with the state Public Service Commission. The commission later cited those comments in ruling for the utilities. The commission reduced the state’s energy-efficiency goals by about 90 percent.

The utilities’ policy victory in the 2014 case has had a lasting impact.

Florida utilities have some of the country’s least ambitious energy-efficiency goals. The Sunshine State also trails several states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, in how much electricity it gets from solar panels.

Florida Power & Light declined to answer questions about its work with the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and other civil rights organizations. The utility said its primary focus had been to keep electricity rates as low as possible.

“We are proud of our longstanding relationship with the N.A.A.C.P. and of our ability to constructively work together on issues that benefit customers,” said Alys Daly, a company spokeswoman.

In an interview, Ms. Nweze said she had signed on because of the utilities’ financial support to her group, and because she believed what executives had told her about solar panels and energy efficiency.

NAACP v. Jim Crow

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in 1909 to fight Jim Crow, 20th-century America's experience with petty and not so petty apartheid. Under the leadership of W.E.B. Du Bois, the NAACP would take the bully pulpit to push for the abolition of segregation and racial caste distinctions, and it would fight for open and equal access to education and employment for Negroes. It would crusade against lynching and offer legal assistance to defend black people mistreated in criminal court. Over time, the NAACP would become the nation's premier civil rights organization. It would do so in large part because the NAACP early on recognized that the courts, despite their racial conservatism, were a potentially potent weapon in the battle for racial change.

In 1931, the NAACP's first staff attorney, Nathan Margold, outlined a legal strategy to challenge school segregation. His strategy was part direct, part circumspect. Given the temper of the times, Margold recognized that it wouldn't do to attack school segregation under any and all circumstances. Such an approach would invite, in his words, "intense opposition, ill-will and strife." Instead Margold urged an attack on "the constitutional validity of southern school systems as they exist and are administered at the present time [italics added]." Plessy v. Ferguson had given "separate but equal" a constitutional imprimatur. But there was an opening to diminish its importance and pave the way to its undoing. It was clear that in the South, expenditures on black schools were significantly inferior on a per capita basis to those for white schools. State officials, according to Margold's strategy, would be forced into the Hobson's choice of having to greatly increase expenditures on black schools or to think the unthinkable, providing one set of schools for all children. It was a good strategy, but because of the depression, there would not be sufficient money to implement it during Margold's tenure at the NAACP.

In 1933, Charles Hamilton Houston succeeded Margold as the NAACP's chief attorney. Houston was a man of extraordinary brilliance. He graduated as a valedictorian from Amherst College in 1915 at age 19. For a short time afterward, he taught in the English department at Howard University. With America's entry into the First World War, Houston joined the NAACP in lobbying for a program to train black officers for the wartime National Army. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant after attending a training camp for Negro officers in Des Moines, Iowa. Houston served in France with the all-black, rigidly segregated Ninety-second Division and experienced some of the most strident racism of the Jim Crow army of that era, including almost being lynched by a mob of white troops. Those wartime experiences left an indelible impression on the young Houston, creating, as he indicated, a determination to strike back at racial oppression: "The hate and scorn showered on us Negro officers by our fellow Americans convinced me that there was no sense in my dying for a world ruled by them. I made up my mind that if I got through this war I would study law and use my time fighting for men who could not strike back."

He did get through. In the fall of 1919 he entered Harvard Law School. At Harvard he compiled a brilliant record, graduating in the top five percent of his class and serving as the first Negro editor of the Harvard Law Review. While practicing law in Washington, D.C., Houston taught law part-time at Howard University Law School. In 1929 he was named vice-dean and associate professor at the school. It was then that Houston decided to make changes—changes that would profoundly influence Howard University's law school and the course of the nation's civil rights law.

Convinced that the law could be an important tool in the fight against racial repression, Houston began to give the Howard Law School a strong civil rights orientation. He established the first course in civil rights law taught at an American law school. Houston also made the law school library a depository for files on civil rights litigation from around the nation. Howard became a clearinghouse and research center for those involved in the fight against segregation. Students were not only exposed to the theoretical possibility that law could shape social change, but also had the opportunity to actually work on cases that were changing the law and the society as well.

When Houston became the NAACP's special counsel in 1933, he reexamined Margold's litigation strategy. He concluded that efforts to equalize facilities between black and white schools should continue, but he also recognized (as Margold did) that victories in such cases could cause problems for the long-term goal of eliminating segregation. In addition, black teachers who acted as plaintiffs in salary equalization suits ran serious risk of being fired—a particularly severe risk given the desperate scarcity of jobs in America in the 1930s.*

For these reasons, Houston decided that while the NAACP should continue its efforts to create a Hobson's Choice for school districts by bringing facility and salary equalization suits, it should also add a new, perhaps more promising, focus: desegregation in graduate and professional schools. Segregation in graduate and professional education was as common in the South as segregation in elementary and secondary schools. But there were far fewer graduate and professional programs and, therefore, fewer targets for a concentrated litigation effort. A victory against a state's single law school or medical school would reverberate across the state.

Also, it was easier to make the case that discrimination was occurring in professional schools. Boards of education that ran elementary and secondary schools had an arsenal of potential defenses for differences between white and black schools. Did the school for white children offer an academic curriculum while the school for Negroes offered a vocational program? Well, schools can't be expected to be identical the schools were simply serving the different needs of their different constituencies. Was a new building constructed for the white school and not the black one? Perhaps, but the physical facilities were substantially equal, and besides the new building for the white school could help explain the differences in per capita expenditures for white and black students. These kinds of arguments could be challenged, of course, but they would involve the NAACP in long, often hard to prove, fact-specific litigation. The possibilities for long-term evasion of any reckoning over inequalities in primary and secondary education were clear. Professional schools offered a more tempting target: The NAACP was dealing with total exclusion the state provided a law school or a medical school, but only for whites.

Professional schools were also a tempting target for another reason—they carried less emotional baggage. In the atmosphere of the 1930s, and indeed for a long time after, any effort that seemed like it was directed at the integration of primary or secondary education would raise an emotional and political firestorm. Large numbers of white children attended the public schools. Racist demagogues were sure to charge that black and white children attending elementary and secondary schools together would lead to the dreaded scourge of race mixing. The political opposition would be intense, perhaps fatal.

But professional schools were another matter. Few people attended them. There would be even fewer African Americans eligible for admission. The students were mature. An attempt to get some good cases and set some decent precedents with regard to professional schools? That might work. Maryland looked like it might provide fertile ground for such an effort. The University of Maryland's law school was only open to whites. There was no state school for the education of Negro lawyers. Between 1933 and 1934, nine Afro-Americans had applied to the school in Baltimore and had been denied admission because of race. The NAACP looked around for a strong plaintiff.

Are All Law Schools Equal?

The NAACP found one in Baltimore resident Donald Murray. Like Houston, Murray was a graduate of Amherst College, and, by any standard, qualified for admission to the University of Maryland Law School. That is, he was qualified by any standard but one. His application was rejected. The rejection letter stated that the school "did not accept Negro students." His application evidently got more than routine notice and rejection. University of Maryland President Raymond Pearson informed Murray that while the University of Maryland did not accept black students, Howard University did. He indicated that Murray might attend Howard under the auspices of a scholarship for black students who could not attend state institutions.

The correspondence between Murray and University of Maryland officials allowed the NAACP to focus on the issue of segregation. Maryland was willing to provide a state-supported legal education for Murray, but not in Maryland and not at the state university. NAACP lawyers brought the case in state court. The question was simple: Was Maryland's system of providing state-sponsored scholarships to schools outside the state equal to providing an education at the state's law school?

The trial judge said no, as did Maryland's highest court on appeal. Careful selection of the right plaintiff had paid off. This is clear in the language of the appellate opinion. Murray, the court noted, had been "denied admission on the sole ground of his color." The court was forced to confront the constitutional issue. It was clear to the court that to entirely deny blacks the opportunity for a state-sponsored legal education when whites were provided one would violate the formula laid down by Plessy, but that was not the issue here. The issue was whether the state had chosen a proper method by which equal treatment would be maintained.

The court found the state's method inadequate, not in theory but in fact. There was no separate law school for blacks, and there was no authority to establish one. The state legislature had passed a statute in response to Murray's lawsuit. But the statute provided only $10,000 for scholarships: a paltry $200 each for up to 50 black students seeking a professional education out of state. By the time of the trial, only 17 days after the scholarships became available, 380 African-American students had asked for applications, 113 had returned them, and there were still 12 more days during which completed applications would be accepted. On these facts, the court found that there was inadequate funding and no guarantee that Murray would have been successful had he applied for a scholarship. Even if he had received a scholarship, the court found that Murray would still be at a significant disadvantage because of the added costs of commuting or relocating.

The appellate opinion went on to consider the question of intangible differences between a law school education at Howard and one at the University of Maryland. Here it is important to note that judges, of course, know a great deal about law schools and how to compare them. They are law school graduates and they spend their professional lives working with law school graduates. They have an expertise in the subject matter far beyond that which they have in other kinds of cases. The Murray court noted that if Murray were barred from the University of Maryland's law school, he would miss the benefits of a state law school education, specifically gaining a familiarity with the courts of the state in which he intended to practice law. Houston's skillful cross examination of the dean of the University of Maryland's law school highlighted this point.

The court held that the state had failed in its Fourteenth Amendment obligation to provide an equal education. The court did not condemn the scholarship program as a matter of law. Instead the court relied on a close examination of the facts and concluded that Murray had not been provided with an equal opportunity. The court did not hold that another scholarship program would be unconstitutional. But it did order Donald Murray admitted to the University of Maryland's law school.

Murray was noteworthy. It was the NAACP's first major victory in the campaign against segregated higher education. It got Donald Murray admitted to the University of Maryland. It established precedent within Maryland and might persuade courts in other jurisdictions. But the case was important for another reason as well. It was the first major case for a young attorney who would succeed Charles Hamilton Houston as NAACP special counsel—Thurgood Marshall. Like Donald Murray, Marshall was a Baltimore native. He too had applied to the University of Maryland's law school in 1930, and like Murray, Marshall was rejected. As a result, Marshall attended Howard's law school, just as Houston's reforms were beginning to take hold. Marshall graduated first in his class and passed the Maryland bar in 1933. He immediately began the practice of law, representing the NAACP's interests in Maryland. When Marshall sat with Houston on Murray's case, Marshall must have taken no small amount of pleasure in attacking the Maryland law school's policy of discrimination. Houston no doubt took pleasure in seeing, in Marshall's commitment and performance, graphic evidence of the success of his policies at Howard.

American attitudes toward race had changed since Plessy in 1896, and, in key areas, NAACP attorneys were striking blows against racial discrimination and gaining valuable legal experience along the way. In its battle against blatant racism in the nation's police stations and criminal courts, the NAACP had successfully stopped many African-American defendants from being railroaded, often to their deaths reversed convictions and got the U.S. Supreme Court to confirm that convictions based on forced confessions were invalid and to rule that a criminal court could not exclude Negroes from juries. In the voting rights arena, the NAACP ended Oklahoma's restrictive time limit on when Negroes could register to vote and Texas's all-white primary.

But in education, Plessy's separate but equal doctrine still remained the law of the land. True, the NAACP had taken some chunks out of the doctrine with Murray and other cases. But at the end of the day, "separate but equal" remained entrenched. To be successful in eliminating segregated education throughout the United States, the NAACP realized it would have to convince the courts to take a much closer look at the equal side of the Plessy case. It had to convince the courts that segregation was inherently unequal and that that inequality could be eliminated only by outlawing segregation itself.

In arguing another law school case in the late 1940s, Marshall had attempted to use social science evidence to make the case that segregated facilities were inherently unequal. But the Supreme Court had disposed of the case without addressing Marshall's argument. Marshall searched for another plaintiff who could help advance the court's thinking on the inherent inequality of separate education. He found that plaintiff in Heman Sweatt.

Cracking the Wall: Separate Is Inherently Unequal

Sweatt was a letter carrier who lived in Texas. In 1946 he applied to the all-white law school at the University of Texas. He was immediately rejected. The rejection letter informed him that he could request that the state of Texas establish a law school for Negroes. The NAACP filed suit in state court on Sweatt's behalf. The results were familiar. The trial court opinion stated that state officials were under no obligation to admit him to the University of Texas. The opinion allowed state officials six months to establish a black law school. Just before the six months were up, the state presented the trial court with evidence that it had established the Jim Crow law school. The school was housed in two rented rooms in Houston. Administratively, the school was part of Prairie View University, a Texas state university for Negroes, some 40 miles away. The faculty consisted of two part-time instructors. There was no library.

Prairie View's new law school was a poor excuse for equal education, indeed even for good education. Nonetheless, the trial court found that the Jim Crow law school provided a legal education that was equal to that provided by the University of Texas. Still, state officials recognized that they were on shaky ground, that appellate courts would be more skeptical. The legislature moved to provide a more credible alternative. By the time an appellate court could hear the appeal, the legislature had appropriated $100,000 toward the establishment of a law school at the newly established Texas State University for Negroes in Houston. Until a new facility could be built in Houston, the new school would be housed in downtown Austin, across the street from the state capitol. It was to have three rooms, a 10,000-volume library, access to the state law library in the capital building, and three part-time faculty members. The part-time faculty members were professors from the University of Texas School of Law. Because of these changes, the case was remanded to the trial court to determine if the new school was equal to the one for whites.

Of course, the trial court found that the new school provided an education equal to that provided by the state university. The judge was the same one who had held that the vastly inferior Prairie View school was equal. What was important was not so much the trial court decision as the record that was produced in the trial. That record included evidence related to the tangible differences between the black and white law schools, the differences in physical plant, financial resources, numbers of professors, books in the library, and the like. The trial court record also contained important evidence showing the qualitative, intangible differences between the two schools. The tangible differences were damning enough. The new law school's temporary facility in Austin turned out to be an office basement the University of Texas had a permanent facility that housed a law review and a moot courtroom. † The new law school had neither. Most of the library's books had yet to be delivered to the new law school, and there was no full-time librarian the University of Texas had over 65,000 volumes. The entirely part-time faculty had no offices at the black school. Their offices were at the University of Texas. The white law school had 16 full-time and three part-time faculty members and a student body of 850. The Negro university had only five part-time members and a tiny student body. The alumni of the University of Texas School of Law were large in number and wielded a great deal of power and influence throughout the Lone Star State and beyond. The new school had only one alumnus. By any concrete measure, the law school at the Texas State University for Negroes was a laughable substitute for the one at the University of Texas. It was, as lead counsel Thurgood Marshall stated, "an apology to Negroes for denying them their constitutional rights to attend the University of Texas," and, it should be added, not a particularly good one at that.

And there was more. If the tangible measures of inequality revealed stark differences in resources between the two institutions, there were harder to measure, intangible factors that also marked the black schools inferiority. The small size of the Negro law school's faculty meant that its curriculum lacked both breadth and depth. The absence of a law review or moot courtroom meant that critical cocurricular components of a law school education were not provided. The small number of students might have meant a smaller teacher-student ratio, but it also meant an inferior education. As one expert witness testified at trial, "a well-rounded, representative group of students" was necessary to enrich the learning atmosphere and to maximize the value of classroom discussion.

Beyond the comparison of tangible and intangible differences, Marshall also brought before the court the University of Chicago's Robert Redfield, an expert with doctorates in both law and anthropology. Redfield testified on the general effect of segregated education. He explained his view that segregated education gave its recipients a false education. It left blacks and whites ignorant of one another, "prevent[ing] the student from the full, effective and economical . understand[ing of] the nature and capacity of the group from which he is segregated." In effect, segregated education was bad education, for while education is meant to enlighten, segregation instead "intensifies suspicion and distrust between Negroes and whites, and suspicion and distrust are not favorable conditions for the acquisition and conduct of an education, or for the discharge of the duties of a citizen." Moreover, he continued, not only did segregated education produce negative effects, it also produced no positive effects. It had no basis in either educational or enlightened racial theory. Reflecting what had become the new thinking on race in the social sciences after the Second World War, Redfield further testified that scholars had recently become "compelled" to the conclusion that there were no "inherent differences in intellectual ability or capacity to learn between Negroes and whites," and that should any such differences be "later shown to exist, they will not prove to be significant for any educational policy or practice." Through Redfield, Marshall made a record that would support a conclusion that segregation was irrational, and under the Fourteenth Amendment, no distinction that was not rational could stand muster. His use of Redfield's testimony also showed that social science could be an important tool in the quest to vindicate the constitutional requirement of equal protection under the law.

The trial court ruled against Heman Sweatt and the NAACP, as did the Texas Court of Civil Appeals. By now it was February 1948, and Heman Sweatt's fight to pursue a legal education at the University of Texas had gone on two years. Yet, Sweatt refused to attend the law school at the Texas State University for Negroes. Both he and the NAACP refused to disappear. It would be another two years before the U.S. Supreme Court would hear and decide Sweatt v. Painter (1950), winning for him the right to attend the University of Texas.

In representing Sweatt before the Supreme Court, Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall made the same three-part argument that had been rejected by the Texas Court of Civil Appeals. The first part of that argument was based on the equal protection clause. The segregated law school that Texas reserved for African Americans was unequal. Both the tangible and the intangible factors were inferior. The second part of the argument was also based on the equal protection clause. It was an argument that segregation inherently produced inequality. In its brief and oral argument, the NAACP gave ample evidence of this. In doing so, the NAACP placed before the Court the predictable and unavoidable consequence of segregation: inequality. It did so in the hopes of dealing a fatal blow to segregation under the equal protection clause. In effect, the NAACP was making the argument it had made before the Texas court that the formula in Plessy was constitutionally malformed and that the 1896 case should be overruled.

The third prong of the NAACP's attack was based on the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. The Court had interpreted that clause to mean that no state action not grounded in a rational basis could stand constitutional muster. The NAACP argued that there was no "valid legislative end" that justified racial segregation, that segregation was arbitrary and irrational. This argument also concerned the equal protection clause, for a racial classification that was arbitrary and irrational could not satisfy the demands of the equal protection clause either. The NAACP also argued that racial segregation did not meet the more exacting standard that had been suggested by two cases decided by the Supreme Court during the Second World War. These cases, Hirabayashi v. United States (1943) and Korematsu v. United States (1944), involved the imposition of curfews, relocation, and confinement of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. In Korematsu, the Court stated that while "all legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect [t]hat is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional." Racial restrictions, even of the most damaging kind, might be upheld, though only under "the most rigid scrutiny." Now in Sweatt, the NAACP was arguing that segregation could not meet that high standard if it was irrational to begin with.

The Supreme Court's decision in Sweatt was unanimous in Heman Sweatt's favor. The Court ordered his immediate admission to the law school at the University of Texas. Simply put, the Court was "unable to find substantial equality in the educational opportunities offered white and Negro law students by the State." The Court saw significant differences between the University of Texas and the Texas State University for Negroes in the number of faculty, the breadth and depth of course offerings, the size of the student body, the size and scope of the library, and the availability of cocurricular offerings. In all of these tangible factors, the Court found the University of Texas superior. If the Court had ended its analysis there, the Sweatt case would have been just another case upholding the separate but equal doctrine. But because the tangible facilities were not equal, Texas could not restrict Negroes to the Jim Crow school.

But the Court went beyond that—as had Maryland's highest court in Murray. It examined the intangible characteristics of a legal education. What was "more important" than those factors capable of measurement were "those qualities that are incapable of measurement, but which make for greatness in a law school. Such qualities, to name a few, include reputation of the faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, and prestige." With respect to these factors, the University of Texas was the superior school, and the question, the Court said, was not even close. Moreover, just as black people were excluded from the University of Texas, the Texas State University of Negroes excluded the overwhelming majority, 85 percent of the population of the state, from which would be drawn most of the lawyers, judges and other officials, witnesses, and jurors in the state. Such an exclusion meant that the education at the separate law school for blacks was not the equal of the one received by whites. No matter how much money the state might spend at the black law school, how many faculty members the state might add, how large the student body might grow, or how large the library holdings might become, the qualitative differences in the intangibles associated with the two schools meant that to deny Heman Sweatt admission to the University of Texas was unconstitutional. In effect, the Supreme Court in Sweatt was going well beyond Murray by saying that segregation in law school is inherently unequal. Once again, note that the Court was examining two different law schools and that the justices were familiar with legal education from their own experience they could see that the two schools were clearly not equal. These facts probably helped influence the Court's decision.

The Court had not explicitly overruled Plessy v. Ferguson indeed, the Court was quite clear on that point. There was no need. The Court had reiterated its frequent admonishment that it "will decide constitutional questions only when necessary to the disposition of the case. and that such decisions will be drawn as narrowly as possible." But the Court had implicitly accepted the NAACP's first and second arguments in Sweatt, and though it had avoided the third, the due process claim, it had set a standard that was impossible for a segregated system of legal education to meet, for there would always be intangible differences in racially segregated schools. Sweatt was an important step in the fight to end segregation, but it applied only to law schools. The NAACP was far from certain that it could win a similar ruling on elementary and secondary schools.

An additional important point should be made. In Sweatt, the NAACP was no longer alone. The new postwar racial atmosphere helped bring the civil rights organization important allies who agreed with their stand. First among these was the United States government. Solicitor General Philip Perlman filed an amicus brief supporting the NAACP's position on behalf of the Truman administration. The NAACP also benefited from supporting amicus briefs filed by the American Federation of Teachers, the Committee of Law Teachers Against Segregation in Legal Education, the American Veterans Committee, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Social change had helped bring new allies to the fight against segregation.

Not more than three weeks after the decision in Sweatt, two black graduate students were admitted to the University of Texas, and Heman Sweatt became the first black person to enroll at the law school. By August 1950, the University of Delaware was ordered to admit blacks to its undergraduate campus because of the "woefully inferior" opportunities otherwise available to them. By the fall of 1950, the University of Maryland was forced by court order to open to blacks its graduate program in sociology. Louisiana State University had been ordered by a three-judge federal panel to admit black students to the law school, an order only three months later summarily affirmed by the Supreme Court. The historically white University of Tennessee also admitted black students to previously segregated programs, bringing the total of southern states doing so to six. By 1952, the number had grown to twelve.

Two things were left to the NAACP. The first was to apply the Supreme Court's new understanding of inherent inequality to elementary and secondary education. The second was to bring cases that would coax the Supreme Court into doing what it had assiduously avoided doing in Sweatt: overturning Plessy.

The Final Assault

Shortly after Sweatt, Marshall, 43 other attorneys, and 14 branch and local NAACP presidents convened to develop the next phase of the legal strategy. Marshall had traditionally been cautious. He believed that cases involving segregated public schools were cases that the NAACP could not afford to lose, as they would set devastating precedents. Nonetheless, understanding the risk, he joined with the other conference members to support a resolution declaring that all future education cases would be aimed directly at segregation, not merely at the inequalities between black and white schools. The aim was to produce, in the words of the conference report, "education on a nonsegregated basis . that no relief other than that will be acceptable."

This was controversial. After all, after nearly half a century, the equal side of separate but equal was finally coming into prominence. States were being prodded toward making some progress in the equalization of schools, libraries, and recreational and other facilities. There were those who were pleased with the new progress and reluctant to give up what had been a successful campaign. But the new NAACP position did not require the sacrifice of the strategy that had brought victory in Sweatt and the other cases. The NAACP could continue to urge the courts to find segregation inherently unconstitutional. It could also offer the courts the alternative argument that even if the courts did not agree that segregation was inherently unconstitutional, it was nonetheless unconstitutional in actual practice. If a case that made a frontal assault on Plessy lost, it would be a blow to morale, but the NAACP could resume its current campaign to litigate equal protection under the new standards that had developed in Sweatt. Marshall and his associates knew they would have to choose their cases and their clients carefully.

There was no shortage of potential cases with which to move the battle forward segregated elementary and secondary schools existed throughout the South and in other regions as well. The challenge would not be undertaken in just one district. If that was done, it would be too easy for a peculiar set of facts, a shrewdly litigated defense case, or a clever and obstinate judge to thwart the NAACP's efforts. Instead different cases would be brought in several districts, in different regions of the South, and in other regions as well. Cases from across the country would be argued. Eventually, six cases would be consolidated and collectively known as Brown v. Board of Education.

The key to the cases lay in the innovative use of expert testimony to establish the psychological harm that segregation inflicted on African-American schoolchildren. The use of such experts as psychologists and social scientists accomplished a number of important goals. First, it demonstrated the psychological injuries that were caused by segregation. This made it clear that equalizing facilities would not remedy the harm that the black students were suffering. Second, it exposed the actual purpose of segregation, the perpetration of racial subordination. Third, the testimony of experts refuted widely held beliefs about the intellectual inferiority of Afro-Americans. The expert witnesses would force the judges to grapple with the realities of segregation. They could continue to engage in spurious rationalizations, or they could enforce the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that would make the constitutional provision meaningful. Jurists were placed in a moral and ethical dilemma. If they were intellectually honest, they could not, on the basis of the extensive evidence presented, rule that segregated schools were—or could ever be—equal. The disparities were too obvious. At the same time, it was difficult for judges to break with long-standing social traditions and legal precedent. The jurists would be caught in a difficult analytical box from which there could be no escape.

Several social science and education experts aided the NAACP in the school desegregation cases, but one stands out for the simple but compelling test that demonstrated the psychological effects of discrimination on young children. In 1951, Kenneth Clark, a social psychologist at the City College of New York, and his wife and fellow psychologist, Mamie Clark, developed a series of studies that examined the psychological effects of segregated and racially mixed schools on black children. In one of the tests, the Clarks used four dolls—two brown, two white. The Clarks first asked the children, aged three to seven, to identify the race of the dolls. They then made a series of commands. These included:

1. Give me the doll you like to play with.
2. Give me the doll that is the nice doll.
3. Give me the doll that looks bad.
4. Give me the doll that is a nice color.

The experiments consistently showed that the participating black children preferred the white dolls. They picked the white doll when asked which was the "nice" one or the one they preferred to play with. The black doll was selected when the children were asked which doll looked "bad."

The Clarks concluded that these studies indicated self-rejection, one of the negative effects of racism on children at the early stages of their development. The Clarks' findings were corroborated by separate studies performed by other psychologists. Kenneth Clark was hired to provide expert testimony based on the doll studies. This testimony, and the studies on which it was based, became a key element of the NAACP's evidence in the desegregation cases.

No two of these cases were argued by the exact same legal team. The facts were somewhat different in each case, but the cases were all part of a coordinated strategy directed from the NAACP's headquarters in New York. They all had a common aim: the elimination of Plessy v. Ferguson's "separate but equal" doctrine.

South Carolina

The first case originated in Clarendon County, S.C. That county maintained a system of grossly unequal segregated schools. In the 1949–1950 academic year, there were 6,531 black students attending 61 schools. The annual expenditures for these schools were $194,575. There were 2,375 white students attending 12 schools. The annual expenditures for these schools were $673,850. Per pupil expenditures of public funds came to $43 per capita for black children and $179 per capita for white children. The average white schoolteacher earned two-thirds more than the average black one and in contrast to its treatment of white children, the school board could not be troubled to provide a single bus for the transportation of black children. Thurgood Marshall took the case on behalf of 20 plaintiffs.

The case bearing the name by which the school desegregation cases are remembered began in 1948 when the Topeka, Kan., branch of the NAACP petitioned the local school board to desegregate the public schools. After two years of inaction, the branch contacted the organization's headquarters in New York and requested assistance in filing a lawsuit. The lead plaintiff, Oliver Brown, was not a prominent figure in the local NAACP. He was an ordinary citizen who was angered that his daughter had to travel each day past a modern, fully equipped white school to a black school housed in a deteriorated building. There were several plaintiffs, but Oliver Brown's name came first alphabetically, and as a result, when the case was filed in the federal court on February 14, 1951, the case bore his name. Robert Carter and Jack Greenberg were the NAACP's point men for Brown.

When Oliver Brown became the lead plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka and the state of Kansas had a schizophrenic attitude about its Negro population. There was segregation, but it was not universal. Black people were only 7.5 percent of the state's population, and though they were, in general, relegated to the lowest rung of the economic ladder, they were allowed in some of the same civic organizations as whites. Restaurants and hotels were segregated, but bus and train station waiting rooms were not. Five of the seven movie theaters were relegated to whites only, and a sixth was for blacks the seventh allowed both races, but blacks were consigned to the balcony. The state put no barriers in the way of higher education, for the University of Kansas had long been open to black people and so had Washburn University. And the state did not mandate segregation in elementary schools, but for localities above 15,000 in population, the state specifically allowed school segregation as an option.

Thus, Topeka had a limited option to have desegregated schools, and the city took it. Elementary schools were segregated, as the junior high school had been until 1941 litigation ended the practice. Senior high schools were integrated, but they had separate teams in basketball, swimming, wrestling, golf, and tennis, as well as separate pep clubs, separate cheerleaders, and a separate assembly at which black students were urged to keep to their place. Though the facilities for black elementary children were older, they were the rough equivalent of their white counterparts' facilities.

The South Carolina and Kansas cases would also be joined by two separate cases that were filed in Delaware: Gebbart et al. v. Belton et al. (1952) and Gebbart v. Bulah (1952). Belton arose in Claymont, a suburb a few miles north of Wilmington. The combination grade school-high school in Claymont served about 400 white students. It occupied a 14-acre site. The school was well equipped, and the grounds were beautifully landscaped. Black children, in contrast, were required to travel by bus to Howard High in Wilmington, the only black high school in the entire state. It was surrounded by factories and warehouses. The student-to-faculty ratio was three times higher at Howard than at Claymont. Sixty percent of Claymont's faculty held master's degrees, compared with 40 percent at Howard. Claymont offered several extracurricular activities that were not available at Howard.

The second Delaware case was filed by Sarah Bulah, from Hockessin, Del., who was annoyed when she was required to drive her child past the well-equipped white school to reach the dilapidated one-room schoolhouse that served black students. Louis Redding, a black civil rights lawyer, represented the plaintiffs in the Delaware cases. Redding was a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School and was admitted to practice in Delaware in 1929. He was still the only black attorney in Delaware when the desegregation cases were filed more than 20 years later.

In April 1951, a group of students at Moton High School, a black school in Prince Edward County, Va., organized a strike to protest their high school's shoddy conditions. The students intended to remain on strike until the local school board agreed to construct a new school. Eventually, the students sent a letter to the NAACP's special counsel for the Southeast region. Two Richmond lawyers, Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson, served in that capacity. Both were trained at Howard Law School during the years that Charles Houston was dean. They were Thurgood Marshall's contemporaries and personal friends. Hill and Robinson met with the striking students and were impressed by their resolve. The attorneys agreed to represent the students not in a case to equalize the facilities, but in a case to desegregate the schools.

Washington, D.C.

While the Prince Edward County case was pending, a separate case was filed in the District of Columbia. Compared with most other cities, Washington's black community was well educated and relatively well off. A third of the city's Afro-American population was employed by the federal government. In 1950 there were 300 Negro physicians, 150 African-American lawyers and judges, 150 black college professors, and 2,500 African-American schoolteachers residing in the District of Columbia. Despite the relative affluence of its black community, Washington was as segregated as any city in the Deep South. Public facilities, public transportation, housing, and public schools were all rigidly segregated. Furthermore, because of the rapid growth in the city's black population during World War II, housing conditions in poor communities were deplorable, and black schools were inferior to white schools.

The District of Columbia's desegregation case began when a local barber, Bishop Gardner, organized the Consolidated Parents Group. Gardner's group initiated a boycott of a black high school that was overcrowded and in a state of severe disrepair. As a result of class divisions within the African-American community, Gardner's group formed separately from the school's PTA, which was dominated by middle-class blacks. The boycott was not supported by the local NAACP branch. In February of 1948, Gardner visited a NAACP meeting at a Methodist church were Charles Houston was delivering an address. After the meeting, Gardner introduced himself and met with Houston later that night. After Gardner explained the problems with the high school, Houston agreed to represent Gardner's group.

The decision in the school desegregation cases was announced on May 17, 1954, to an overflowing courtroom. Chief Justice Earl Warren read the opinion for a unanimous Court. Given the events that led up to Brown—trials lasting several days in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia testimony presented by dozens of witnesses and several days of intense arguments in the Supreme Court over a two-year period—the opinion in Brown is remarkable in its brevity and simplicity. It was written in a straightforward style that could be understood by the most unsophisticated reader.

The opinion commenced with a recitation of the history of the cases from the trials to the arguments in the Supreme Court. The Court found, as a threshold matter, that the original intent of the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment on the question of segregated schools was not clear. The Court then traced the evolution of the separate but equal doctrine from Plessy through McLaurin (a case decided shortly before Sweatt in which the Court ruled that segregation within a desegregated institution, such as having blacks relegated to the back of a classroom, interfered with the educational process). After describing the importance of education to a democratic society, the Court framed the issue as whether "segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race . deprives the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities." The Court found that it did, concluding that "to separate [black] children from others of similar age and qualifications generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in ways unlikely ever to be undone." Relying heavily on the foundation developed in cases such as McLaurin and Sweatt, as well as the social science evidence presented by Dr. Clark and others, the Court held that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" (italics added). With this pronouncement, America stood at the dawn of a new era in race relations.

The End of Caste in American Law

The Brown decision was momentous, but with respect to the issues of race and racial discrimination, even with respect to the issue of school segregation, the decision was hardly definitive. In many ways it fit Winston Churchill's observation during the Second World War immediately after the allied victory in North Africa. The British prime minister observed: "This is not the end, no it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning." In a sense, Brown was the end of the beginning, the end of the idea as old as the Republic itself, that the law could formally discriminate—indeed totally exclude—on the basis of race and that the Constitution would support such discrimination.

But if Brown proclaimed that that idea was unconstitutional, the decision hardly ended racial discrimination, even state-sponsored discrimination. What Brown did do was to catalyze a whole new phase of the civil rights movement. It would be a phase in which the champions of civil rights would continue the struggle for equal rights in the courts and in other venues. Members of the civil rights movement would find themselves confronting recalcitrant clerks at voter registration offices and gun-toting drivers enforcing segregation on municipal buses. They would challenge segregation at small-town lunch counters and risk their lives on the often dangerous back roads of the rural South. They would bring the movement to Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial and ultimately, to the halls of Congress. Along the way, the civil rights movement would encounter every conceivable kind of resistance from unofficial and official quarters, but it would succeed in winning over new supporters.

Moreover, the liberalization of racial attitudes that started becoming part of American culture before the Second World War, a liberalization that provided an important, perhaps critical backdrop to the Brown decision, has continued. Indeed that liberalization has spread and intensified. Today, the raw racism that prevailed in daily life, popular culture, and academic treatise at the beginning of the last century has become an embarrassing relic, defended by only a marginalized few in public life. Few in the modern behavioral or biological sciences support the kind of scientific racism that was heartily championed at the best universities a century ago. Affirmative action programs exist to try to increase the number of minority students admitted to universities or minority employees hired by firms. And while those programs are under heavy criticism and face an uncertain future, even the critics of such programs couch their criticism in the rhetoric of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, claiming that they are seeking "color-blind" methods to increase the inclusion of those previously excluded.

The changes in racial attitudes among white Americans are perhaps even more profound than has generally been acknowledged. Social science surveys, as well as day-to-day practice indicate an acceptance of interracial relations in family life, marriage, and adoption that clearly would have been unthinkable in 1954 when the Brown decision was handed down. Even if one suspects that a significant portion of the responses to social surveys should be discounted as people telling the pollsters the "right" or "socially acceptable" answer, the fact that tolerance for interracial marriage or transracial adoption has become the "right" answer in the last half century itself reflects a profound cultural change. This rejection of outright racial bigotry even occurs in some quite unexpected precincts in modern America. Private schools in southern communities that originally started out as "Seg Academies," institutions founded to allow white students to avoid integrated public schools, now routinely enroll black students. Southern white fundamentalist Protestant churches often have black parishioners. Rural white southern voters vote for African-American representatives—former congressmen J. C. Watts of Oklahoma and Mike Espy of Mississippi are perhaps the most prominent examples of this. Surprisingly, even the occasional right-wing antigovernment militia will sometimes have a black member or two. Multiracialism and a rejection of the kind of racism that prevailed in the first half and indeed beyond the first half of the 20th century has taken strong root in modern America.

But that is only part of the story. Racism still exists. It is not hard to find. But it lacks the kind of official support that it had in generations past. It is not as overwhelming a part of American culture as it was throughout most of the 20th century, but still, reports of its total demise are woefully premature. Segregation continues. It has lessened to be sure, but African Americans remain the most segregated of the racial and ethnic groups in the United States, with the exception of Indians on reservations. At the dawn of the 21st century, nearly half of the black population still lives in communities that are 90 percent or more black. The legacy of slavery, caste, and racism is a poverty rate for black families that is roughly three times that for whites. The percentage of African-American children raised in female-headed, fatherless households has risen dramatically since the Brown decision: More than 50 percent of all African-American children are raised in such families. The percentage of black children born out of wedlock approaches 70 percent.

The importance of Brown lay in its setting the nation's law on the path of rejecting the kind of racial exclusion that had made African Americans a people apart since before the nation's founding. The 1954 decision provided a foundation for later court decisions and legislative enactments that established a new set of norms concerning law and race. Before Brown, the Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding, American law gave its sanction to a patent system of racial inequality. Brown began the process of withdrawing the law's sanction from the system of caste and caste-like distinctions that had been a part of American life from the beginning. Brown did not do it alone. The decision would become a catalyst for profound changes in legal norms. It was able to do so in large part because of the remarkable courage of ordinary men and women. That courage started with parents like Harry Briggs of South Carolina, Sarah Bulah of Delaware, and Oliver Brown of Kansas, who stood up for better lives for their children by challenging, through the Brown cases, the entrenched system of school segregation in their communities.

But Brown was not self-executing. Without the willingness of Negro parents after Brown to risk their children's lives by sending them to the white schools of the South, the Warren opinion would have been a dead letter. Anyone who has seen the newsreels from that era with snarling and vicious mobs poised to attack children attempting to enter schools knows of the incredible bravery of the parents and students who helped turn the Warren opinion into living law. Brown was also enacted by the courageous Americans of all races who struggled in the civil rights movement to make it the foundation of a modern body of civil rights law. The civil rights struggles of the 1960s, which led to among other things the critical Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, played a crucial role in dismantling legal support for the American system of race as caste.

Brown's importance in the history of American race relations is assured. But if Brown should be seen as having a central importance in the fight against caste and racism, Brown also provides an important lesson in the law's limitations. Brown played an important role in challenging the system of caste and exclusion that had developed in American society. But the law has found the system of structural inequality a more vexing problem. The often profound socioeconomic inequalities between blacks and whites can be traced to slavery, segregation, and long-term patterns of exclusion. These were sanctioned, indeed often mandated, by law. Yet it is not clear the extent to which the law will or can provide remedies in the future for the legacy of exclusion in the past. What is clear is that the terrain would have been much bumpier and the playing field an awful lot less level without the efforts of those men and women who developed the strategy, argued the case, and changed history in Brown v. Board of Education.

Robert J. Cottrol is Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law and professor of history and sociology at George Washington University. Raymond T. Diamond is C.J. Morrow Research Professor of Law and adjunct professor of African Diaspora studies at Tulane University. Leland B. Ware is Louis L. Redding Chair for the Study of Law and Public Policy at the University of Delaware. These articles were especially adapted for American Educator by Robert J. Cottrol from Brown v. Board of Education: Caste, Culture, and the Constitution, by Robert J. Cottrol, Raymond T. Diamond, and Leland B. Ware (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003) by permission of the publisher.

*Still, the NAACP received support from courageous Afro-American educators who allowed their names to be used to press complaints of discrimination in teachers' salaries. Between 1936 and 1940, the NAACP had notable success in Maryland with lowsuits and negotiated settlements designed to equalize the pay of Negro and white teachers. It also won a case challenging unequal pay in Virginia. That case, Alston v. School Board of City of Norfolk (1940), was decided in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. (back to article)

† A law review is a student-edited journal that publishes articles by law professors, practicing lawyers, and students a moot courtroom is a space for practicing oral arguments and holding mock trials. (back to article)


Kentuckians played a large role in the NAACP. William English Walling from Louisville, Kentucky (1877&ndash1936), an American labor reformer and socialist educated at the University of Chicago, the Hull House and Harvard Law School, brought his interest in women's rights to his work with the American Federation of Labor and founded the National Women's Trade Union League. A few years later, the Springfield Race Riot of 1908 in Illinois informed his work with Mary White Ovington and Henry Moskowitzto form the NAACP.

The Kentucky branch of the NAACP gained national recognition as early as 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky. The NAACP had already supported several court cases to protest the unequal pay of African Americans teachers. Vallateen Virginia Dudley Abbington (1907&ndash2003), one of several school teachers in Louisville who petitioned against the differential in pay, became a plaintiff in a NAACP suit argued by Thurgood Marshall that led to the removal of a 15 percent salary discrepancy between black and white teachers in the Louisville public schools. The case, Abbington v Board of Education of Louisville (KY), filed on December 5, 1940, caused the School board to agree to equal pay, but only if Mrs. Abbington from Jackson Junior High School dropped the lawsuit. The lawsuit was dropped and the salaries of teachers in Louisville no longer differed on the basis of race.

The Kentucky branch of the NAACP also fought against other discrimination through the civil rights movement and beyond. In the case of Eilers v. Eilers, attorney James Crumlin, Sr. of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, helped Anna sue for custody of her five children from her ex-husband, George Eilers of Jefferson County, Kentucky. In 1964 Eilers had successfully sued his former wife (a white woman from New Haven, Kentucky.) after she married Marshall C. Anderson, an African American man, gaining custody of their children since interracial marriage was illegal in Kentucky at the time. Another important leadership role of the NAACP in Kentucky was in the 1970s when the NAACP of Louisville and the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union worked together to fight segregation in the Jefferson County Public Schools.


Dred Scott was born into slavery c. 1799 in Southampton County, Virginia. It is not clear whether Dred was his given name or a shortened form of Etheldred. [1] In 1818, Dred was taken by Peter Blow and his family, with their five other enslaved people, to Alabama, where the family ran an unsuccessful farm in a location near Huntsville. This site is now occupied by Oakwood University. [2] [3] [4]

The Blows gave up farming in 1830 and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where they ran a boarding house. [5] Dred Scott was sold to Dr. John Emerson, a surgeon serving in the United States Army, who planned to move to Rock Island, Illinois. After Scott learned this, he attempted to run away. His decision to do so was spurred by a distaste he had developed for Emerson. Scott was temporarily successful in his escape as he, much like many other runaway slaves during this time period, "never tried to distance his pursuers, but dodged around among his fellow slaves as long as possible". Eventually, he was captured in the "Lucas Swamps" of Missouri and taken back. [6] (Blow died in 1832, and historians debate whether Scott was sold to Emerson before or after Blow's death. Some believe that Scott was sold in 1831, while others point to a number of enslaved people in Blow's estate who were sold to Emerson after Blow's death, including one with a name given as Sam, who may be the same person as Scott. [7] )

As an army officer, Emerson moved frequently, taking Scott with him to each new army posting. In 1836, Emerson and Scott went to Fort Armstrong, in the free state of Illinois. In 1837, Emerson took Scott to Fort Snelling, in what is now the state of Minnesota and was then in the free territory of Wisconsin. There, Scott met and married Harriet Robinson, a slave owned by Lawrence Taliaferro. The marriage was formalized in a civil ceremony presided over by Taliaferro, who was a justice of the peace. Since slave marriages had no legal sanction, supporters of Scott later noted that this ceremony was evidence that Scott was being treated as a free man. But Taliaferro transferred ownership of Harriet to Emerson, who treated the Scotts as his slaves. [5]

Emerson moved to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri in 1837, leaving the Scott family behind in Wisconsin and leasing them out (also called hiring out) to other officers. In February 1838, Emerson met and married Eliza Irene Sanford at Fort Jesup in Louisiana, whereupon he sent for the Scotts to join him. While on a steamboat on the Mississippi River, between the free state of Illinois and the Iowa district of Wisconsin Territory, Harriet Scott gave birth to their first child, whom they named Eliza after their new mistress. They later had a daughter, Lizzie. They also had two sons, but neither survived past infancy. [5]

The Emersons and Scotts returned to Missouri, a slave state, in 1840. In 1842, Emerson left the Army. After he died in the Iowa Territory in 1843, his widow Irene inherited his estate, including the Scotts. For three years after Emerson's death, she continued to lease out the Scotts as hired slaves. In 1846, Scott attempted to purchase his and his family's freedom, offering $300, about $8,000 in current value. [8] Irene Emerson refused his offer. Scott and his wife separately filed freedom suits to try to gain their freedom and that of their daughters. The cases were later combined by the courts. [9]

Summary Edit

The Scotts' cases were first heard by the Missouri circuit court. The first court upheld the precedent of "once free, always free". That is, because the Scotts had been held voluntarily for an extended period by their owner in a free territory, which provided for slaves to be freed under such conditions. Therefore, the court ruled they had gained their freedom. The owner appealed. In 1852 the Missouri supreme court overruled this decision, on the basis that the state did not have to abide by free states' laws, especially given the anti-slavery fervor of the time. It said that Scott should have filed for freedom in the Wisconsin Territory.

Scott ended up filing a freedom suit in federal court (see below for details), in a case that he appealed to the US Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African descendants were not U.S. citizens and had no standing to sue for freedom. It also ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. This was the last in a series of freedom suits from 1846 to 1857, that began in Missouri courts, and were heard by lower federal district courts. The US Supreme Court overturned the earlier precedents, and established new limitations on African Americans.

In detail Edit

In 1846, having failed to purchase his freedom, Scott filed a freedom suit in St. Louis Circuit Court. Missouri precedent, dating to 1824, had held that slaves freed through prolonged residence in a free state or territory, where the law provided for slaves to gain freedom under such conditions, would remain free if returned to Missouri. The doctrine was known as "Once free, always free". Scott and his wife had resided for two years in free states and free territories, and his eldest daughter had been born on the Mississippi River, between a free state and a free territory. [10]

Dred Scott was listed as the only plaintiff in the case, but his wife, Harriet, had filed separately and their cases were combined. She played a critical role, pushing him to pursue freedom on behalf of their family. She was a frequent churchgoer, and in St. Louis, her church pastor (a well-known abolitionist) connected the Scotts to their first lawyer. The Scott children were around the age of ten when the case was originally filed. The Scotts were worried that their daughters might be sold. [11]

The Scott v. Emerson case was tried by the state in 1847 in the federal-state courthouse in St. Louis. Scott's lawyer was originally Francis B. Murdoch and later Charles D. Drake. As more than a year elapsed from the time of the initial petition filing until the trial, Drake had moved away from St. Louis during that time. Samuel M. Bay tried the case in court. [12] The verdict went against Scott, as testimony that established his ownership by Mrs. Emerson was ruled to be hearsay. But the judge called for a retrial, which was not held until January 1850. This time, direct evidence was introduced that Emerson owned Scott, and the jury ruled in favor of Scott's freedom. His family had a taste of freedom.

Irene Emerson appealed the verdict. In 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the lower court ruling, arguing that, because of the free states' anti-slavery fervor was encroaching on Missouri, the state no longer had to defer to the laws of free states. [13] By this decision, the court overturned 28 years of precedent in Missouri. Justice Hamilton R. Gamble, who was later appointed as governor of Missouri, sharply disagreed with the majority decision and wrote a dissenting opinion.

In 1853, Scott again sued for his freedom this time under federal law. Irene Emerson had moved to Massachusetts, and Scott had been transferred to Irene Emerson's brother, John F. A. Sanford. Because Sanford was a citizen of New York, while Scott would be a citizen of Missouri if he were free, the Federal courts had diversity jurisdiction over the case. [14] After losing again in federal district court, the Scotts appealed to the United States Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford. (The name is spelled "Sandford" in the court decision due to a clerical error.)

On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the majority opinion. Taney ruled, with three major issues, that:

  1. Any person descended from Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States, according to the U.S. Constitution.
  2. The Ordinance of 1787 could not confer either freedom or citizenship within the Northwest Territory to non-white individuals.
  3. The provisions of the Act of 1820, known as the Missouri Compromise, were voided as a legislative act, since the act exceeded the powers of Congress, insofar as it attempted to exclude slavery and impart freedom and citizenship to non-white persons in the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase. [15]

The Court had ruled that African Americans had no claim to freedom or citizenship. Since they were not citizens, they did not possess the legal standing to bring suit in a federal court. As slaves were private property, Congress did not have the power to regulate slavery in the territories and could not revoke a slave owner's rights based on where he lived. This decision nullified the essence of the Missouri Compromise, which divided territories into jurisdictions either free or slave. Speaking for the majority, Taney ruled that because Scott was considered the private property of his owners, he was subject to the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting the taking of property from its owner "without due process". [16]

Rather than settling issues, as Taney had hoped, the court's ruling in the Scott case increased tensions between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in both North and South, further pushing the country toward the brink of civil war. Ultimately after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution settled the issue of Black citizenship via Section 1 of that Amendment: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside . " [17]

Scott's freedom suit before the state courts was backed financially by Peter Blow's adult children, who had turned against slavery in the decade since they sold Dred Scott. Henry Taylor Blow was elected as a Republican Congressman after the Civil War, Charlotte Taylor Blow married the son of an abolitionist newspaper editor, and Martha Ella Blow married Charles D. Drake, one of Scott's lawyers who was elected by the state legislature as a Republican US Senator. Members of the Blow family signed as security for Scott's legal fees and secured the services of local lawyers. While the case was pending, the St. Louis County sheriff held these payments in escrow and leased Scott out for fees.

In 1851, Scott was leased by Charles Edmund LaBeaume, whose sister had married into the Blow family. [5] Scott worked as a janitor at LaBeaume's law office, which was shared with Roswell Field. [18]

After the Missouri Supreme Court decision ruled against the Scotts, the Blow family concluded that the case was hopeless and decided that they could no longer pay Scott's legal fees. Roswell Field agreed to represent Scott pro bono before the federal courts. Scott was represented before the U.S. Supreme Court by Montgomery Blair. (The abolitionist later served in President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet as Postmaster General.) Assisting Blair was attorney George Curtis. His brother Benjamin was an Associate Supreme Court Justice and wrote one of the two dissents in Dred Scott v. Sandford. [5]

In 1850, Irene Emerson remarried and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. Her new husband, Calvin C. Chaffee, was an abolitionist. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1854, and fiercely attacked by pro-slavery newspapers for his apparent hypocrisy in owning slaves. In response, Chaffee said that neither he nor Mrs. Chaffee knew about the case until it was "noticed for trial". He wrote to Montgomery Blair, saying "my wife . desires to know whether she has the legal power and right to emancipate the Dred Scott family." [ citation needed ]

Given the complicated facts of the Dred Scott case, some observers on both sides raised suspicions of collusion to create a test case. Abolitionist newspapers charged that slaveholders colluded to name a New Yorker as defendant, while pro-slavery newspapers charged collusion on the abolitionist side. [19]

About a century later, a historian established that John Sanford never legally owned Dred Scott, nor did he serve as executor of Dr. Emerson's will. [18] It was unnecessary to find a New Yorker to secure diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts, as Irene Emerson Chaffee (still legally the owner) had become a resident of Massachusetts. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Roswell Field advised Dr. Chaffee that Mrs. Chaffee had full powers over Scott. [19] However, Sanford had been involved in the case since the beginning, as he had secured a lawyer to defend Mrs. Emerson in the original state lawsuit, before she married Chaffee. [9]

Following the ruling, the Chaffees deeded the Scott family to Taylor Blow, who manumitted them on May 26, 1857. Scott worked as a porter in a St. Louis hotel, but his freedom was short-lived he died from tuberculosis [20] in September 1858. [21] He was survived by his wife and his two daughters.

Scott was originally interred in Wesleyan Cemetery in St. Louis. When this cemetery was closed nine years later, Taylor Blow transferred Scott's coffin to an unmarked plot in the nearby Catholic Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, which permitted burial of non-Catholic slaves by Catholic owners. [22] A local tradition later developed of placing Lincoln pennies on top of Scott's gravestone for good luck. [22]

Harriet Scott was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale, Missouri. She outlived her husband by 18 years, dying on June 17, 1876. [5]

The newspaper coverage of the court ruling and the 10-year legal battle raised awareness of slavery in non-slave states. The arguments for freedom were later used by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The words of the decision built popular opinion and voter sentiment for his Emancipation Proclamation and the three constitutional amendments ratified shortly after the Civil War: the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, abolishing slavery, granting former slaves citizenship, and conferring citizenship to anyone born in the United States and "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" (excluding those subject to a foreign power such as children of foreign ambassadors). [23]

  • One daughter, Eliza, married and had two sons. Her sister Lizzie never married but, following her sister's early death, helped raise her nephews. One of Eliza's sons died young, but the other married and has descendants, some of whom still live in St. Louis as of 2017. [24]
  • 1957, Scott's grave site was rediscovered and flowers were put on it in a ceremony to mark the centennial of the case. [25]
  • 1977, the Scotts' great-grandson, John A. Madison, Jr., an attorney, gave the invocation at the ceremony at the Old Courthouse (St. Louis, Missouri) for the dedication of a National Historic Marker commemorating the Scotts' case. [25]
  • In 1997, Dred and Harriet Scott were inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. [26]
  • 1999, a cenotaph was installed for Harriet Scott at her husband's grave to commemorate her role in seeking freedom for them and their children. [25]
  • 2001, Harriet and Dred Scott's petition papers were displayed at the main branch of the St. Louis Public Library, following discovery of more than 300 freedom suits in the archives of the circuit court. [25]
  • 2006, Harriet Scott's grave site was proven to be in Hillsdale, Missouri and a biography of her was published in 2009. [25]
  • 2006, a new historic plaque was erected at the Old Courthouse to honor the roles of both Dred and Harriet Scott in their freedom suit and its significance in U.S. history. [25]
  • May 9, 2012, Scott was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians a bronze bust by sculptor E. Spencer Schubert is displayed in the Missouri State Capitol Building. [27]
  • June 8, 2012, a bronze statue of Dred and Harriet Scott was erected outside of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, MO, the site where their case was originally heard. [28]
  • 1971, Bloomington, Minnesota dedicated 48 acres as the Dred Scott Playfield. [29]
  • March 6, 2017, the 160th Anniversary of the Dred Scott Decision – on the steps of the Maryland State House next to a statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, his great-great-grandnephew Charlie Taney apologized on his behalf to Scott's great-great-granddaughter Lynne Jackson and all African-Americans "for the terrible injustice of the Dred Scott decision". [30] During the ceremony, Kate Taney Billingsley, Charlie Taney's daughter, read lines regarding the court's decision from the play "A Man of His Time". [31]

Shelia P. Moses and Bonnie Christensen wrote I, Dred Scott: A Fictional Slave Narrative Based on the Life and Legal Precedent of Dred Scott (2005). [25] Mary E. Neighbour, wrote Speak Right On: Dred Scott: A Novel (2006). [25] Gregory J. Wallance published the novel Two Men Before the Storm: Arba Crane's Recollection of Dred Scott and the Supreme Court Case That Started the Civil War (2006). [25]

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