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History Vault: NAACP Papers: Branch Department, Branch Files, and Youth Department Files

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NAACP Papers: Branch Department, Branch Files, and Youth Department Files (Module 17)

The NAACP branch files in this module chronicle the local heroes of the civil rights revolution via NAACP branches throughout the United States, from 1913-1972. The contributions of scores of local leaders—attorneys, community organizers, financial benefactors, students, mothers, school teachers, and other participants—are revealed in these records. The Branch Department, Branch Files, and Youth Department Files in this module of NAACP Papers will allow researchers at all levels new opportunities to explore the contributions of NAACP local leaders. The branch files also indicate how effectively the NAACP national office used the branch network to advance the NAACP national program. The Youth Department Files document how the NAACP tapped the energy and talent of college students and other young people at the state and local levels.

Selected Branch Files

The Branch Files are collections of documents that provide a wealth of information about local networks of civil rights activists who worked for the NAACP at the grass-roots level. These documents show the interaction between the national office and local branches as they worked together on issues such as education equality, voting rights, residential segregation, lynching, and more specific campaigns, such as the Scottsboro Boys rape case.

Document types include correspondence, annual reports, membership literature and statistics, invitations, annual meeting papers, policy directives, speeches, and resolutions.

The Branch series cover 4 geographic areas: South, Northeast, Midwest and West, and the Youth movement.

Each geographic series and the Youth file has coverage for 3 date ranges: 1913-1939, 1940-1955, 1956-1965

Here are some suggested research topics that you will find covered in the Branch files:

Women in Branch Offices

Fight for Educational Equality

Disenfranchisement and Voter Discrimination

Residential Segregation

Lynching and Mob Violence

Black American Communities

Visits by National NAACP Officials

The Branch Files contain the correspondence between the national office and the most important and interesting local branches. The pre-1940 branch files reveal the wide-ranging nature of NAACP activism before 1940, efforts to build permanent community-based protest organizations, to secure the cooperation of white liberals, and to fend off white reaction. They shed light on relations with other organizations inside the Black community and with competing factions within the local branches. Branch Files frequently contain biographical material on numerous local civil rights leaders whose efforts have been largely unchronicled by historians.


Regional Files

The Regional Files and Special Reports show how national branch director Gloster Current set up regional offices to provide a full-time professional staff to link the local branch structure to the national office. Regional officers were on the front lines contesting housing segregation throughout the country, especially in the North. In the Midwest and West, files reflect substantial efforts to fight against discrimination and for enactment of state fair housing legislation. Southern files detail the emergence of a civil rights network during World War II (before the Brown decision) and the work of many talented and notable southern leaders such as Roscoe Dunjee of Oklahoma and Harry T. Moore of Florida. Western files reveal particular concern for keeping local organizations free of communist influence. Concern with the media is seen in the establishment of an NAACP Hollywood Bureau.

Branch Leaders

The NAACP had branches in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We owe much of the credit for the volume of documentation that we have on the NAACP branches and their activities and initiatives to the requirements of the Director of Branches (1946-1976) Gloster Current Here is an example of the reports filed by the Southeast Regional Office for 1957

Branch Differences

Branches in different areas of the country may have employed different tactics or initiatives, and may have had differing responses based on their historical experience with segregation and discrimination.

Youth Department Files

Series D: 1956-1965 Youth Department Files details the infusion of energy from hundreds of young men and women into the NAACP in the decade following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Brown v. Board of Education. The records show how the roots of youthful militancy in the 1960s ran deep into the preceding decade.
They document an outpouring among both African American and white youths of energy and political action dedicated to basic change and improvement of race relations in the United States.

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