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]

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]

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]

“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

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]

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

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.

George E. C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit congratulating each other on the Brown decision, May 17, 1954. Gelatin silver print.  New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (107.00.00)
Digital ID # cph-3c11236

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]

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]

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]

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

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]

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]

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]

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

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]

“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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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

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]

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]

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]

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]

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.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy to Roy Wilkins concerning the nomination of Judge Clement F. Haynsworth, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court, October 6, 1969. Typed letter.  NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (129.00.00) Courtesy of the Kennedy Family
[Digital ID # na0129]

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