NAACP Papers: The NAACP's Major Campaigns—Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces
Major campaigns for equal access to education, voting, employment, housing and the military are covered in this module. The education files in this module document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Files from 1955 –1965 focus on the NAACP’s efforts to implementthe Brown decision as well as to combat de facto segregation outside of the South.
The majority of the material derives from the World War II and postwar eras, however, there is a significant series of material which covers World War I as well as the 1920s and 1930s. The Legal Office Files provide an extensive chronicle of the work of NAACP lawyers on behalf of black servicemen and women in the 1940s. The Veterans Affairs Department was established in December of 1944 to handle the increasingly heavy load of inquiries made upon the NAACP by black servicemen and veterans and also to advance the NAACP objective of eliminating discrimination in the armed services based on race or color.
For the 1930s, the NAACP shifted its emphasis to educational segregation and discrimination in the South. The inauguration of this campaign was facilitated by a grant from the American Fund for Public Service (known as the Garland Fund). With this grant, the NAACP established a full-time paid legal counsel in 1936. The man selected, and who set the basic tactics for the litigation, was the prominent black attorney and dean of Howard University Law School, Charles H. Houston. Two years later his former student, Thurgood Marshall, took over the the NAACP's legal department and the struggle against Jim Crow education.
The campaign for educational equality set the stage for the series of cases that culminated in the famous 1954 Brown decision. The NAACP Legal and Educational Fund, Inc., had become a completely independent organization, and the files of this and other post-1950 litigation are to be found in its archives.
The NAACP from its inception mounted campaigns against the use of poll taxes, "white primaries," the "grandfather clause," literacy tests, and arbitrary requirements set by state and local registrars. Backed by the threat and use of intimidation, mob violence, and lynching, it was difficult for any organization to make much headway during the period from the 1800s to the First World War, the "nadir" of the sojourn of black people in the U.S.
The files in this part include all the pertinent records in the area of voting rights from the NAACP collection at the Library of Congress. Topics of the correspondence range from discussing local complaints to devising legal strategies, arranging for NAACP financial assistance in the litigation, and attracting local support for NAACP efforts. The correspondence provides excellent detail on NAACP litigation strategies and national office policies. It also sheds considerable light on local political conditions within the black community.