What is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

Jason C. Chavis

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an organization devoted to ensuring equality in politics, education, the economy, and on social issues for all races. Many of the activities undertaken by the group are geared towards eliminating racism and promoting minority rights. Primarily operating in the United States, the NAACP is headed by a 64-member board of directors, which in turn elects a president to oversee the day-to-day functions of the organization. Headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, it also has offices in six other states that coordinate local chapters across the country.

Sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of the Civil Rights movement.
Sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of the Civil Rights movement.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Southern states made an effort to change their constitutions in an effort to disenfranchise African American voters. Forming the basis of the future organization, many prominent African Americans joined with white journalists and social workers to establish the Niagara Movement in 1905. Although the group began to make headway in its pursuit of equal rights, many divisions within the movement were far more radical than the principle core. Four years later, with the founding of the NAACP, the Niagara Movement was disbanded. Many of the members joined the new organization to continue the fight for voting rights and overall equality.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an organization devoted to ensuring equality in politics, education, the economy, and on social issues for all races.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is an organization devoted to ensuring equality in politics, education, the economy, and on social issues for all races.

Four specific departments exist within the structure of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, each one dedicated to different aspects of the group's goals. Branch and Field Services support local chapters at the community and college level. The Education department focuses on educating the public on race relations and equality. Advancement of minority health care is handled by the Health Division, while anti-discrimination goals and legal defense of minorities is overseen by the Legal Department.

Throughout its history, the organization has fought successfully against Jim Crow laws, statutes that legalized the segregation between whites and other races. Joining the movements of famous people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the organization was able to overcome legal boundaries such as Plessy v. Ferguson, a doctrine of “separate but equal.” It also made major headway in desegregation with the legal support of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that ultimately opened up schools across the country to all races. Today, the organization is also known for its support of the arts through the Image Awards, and the annual presentation of the Spingarn Medal to an African American of historical significance.

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Discussion Comments


I need help for my son who is being discriminated against here because of the color of his skin. The courts and corrections department system are the ones during the discrimination and they know that no one will help us.

But I am crying out now and I am going to tell the world how my son and our family are being treated by the world of white control. America has imprisoned my family for the same charge over and over, because of the color of their skin. Racism and discrimination are very strong here in Lincoln, NE. It will keep on happening until someone tells what's going on.

I know once I start to tell about what's happened to us that my life is in danger and I am terrified for my family and myself. God Bless you all and I hope and pray some will help me.


@nony - Where we live we’re fortunate to have the gifted author Clifton Taulbert. He wrote the memoir, “Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored,” where he recounts growing up in a segregated society.

It’s a great book and it’s been adapted to a movie. While it does recount the instances of racism and segregation, the main theme seems to be that the author’s tightly knit family protected him from all the evils of racism.

It’s so good to have strong families in my opinion, regardless of your race.


@hamje32 - Yeah, you see that kind of thing in California too with China town and places like that. Why doesn’t everyone embrace integration?

You’re right. It’s an individual choice. But whether they embrace it or not, the important thing is that it’s legal and then people can make their own choices.


This is an interesting history of NAACP and its roots in earlier movements. I was surprised to read that it came from a more radical offspring in the Niagara Movement. I wonder what the radical elements were proposing.

At any rate, the NAACP is serving a very useful purpose in ensuring equality for minorities in my opinion. The only thing that I regret is that there is still segregation in our society; it’s just not legalized as such.

I used to live in a particular suburb in Maryland that over the course of several decades experienced what is known as “white flight” as African Americans became more prosperous and started moving in.

Soon, the local schools were almost all black. You see, you can legalize integration, but you can’t really tell people where to live or send their kids to school.


I remember learning about the Niagara Movement in school. I always thought it was very interesting that the history of the NAACP (a prominent American organization), actually started in Canada.

Since hotels in America were segregated when the Niagara Movement started, the founders of the Niagara Movement (and later leaders of the NAACP) chose to meet in Canada to get organized. They met on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, which is why the movement was first called the Niagara Movement.


@sunnySkys - That's very interesting and makes a lot of sense. Ending discrimination against minorities is good for all minorities, so I can see why the Jewish community has close ties to the NAACP.

Anyway, even though the fight for voting rights is over, I can totally see why the NAACP still exists. There's still discrimination and racism in this country, so I imagine this organization will continue to exist for quite awhile.


Interesting fact about NAACP history: although most people associate the NAACP with crusading for the rights of African-Americans, a lot of Jewish Americans were involved in the founding of the NAACP. In fact, only one member of the original executive board was African-American.

Anyway, at the time of the NAACP's founding, many leading Jewish organizations thought that ending racial prejudice would also be good for the American Jewish community. So, many were involved in the founding and early activities of the NAACP.

The NAACP has remained close with the Jewish community. However, there was a big controversy in the early 2000s when a prominent member of the NAACP criticized Al Gore's choice of a Jewish running mate. The leadership of the NAACP then reaffirmed their relationship with the Jewish community and called for the resignation of the outspoken critic.

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