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Ineffective N.A.A.C.P. In James Baldwin's Down At The Cross

1885 words - 8 pages

The Effect of the N.A.A.C.P.

There are many different opinions of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), the premier organization for African-American rights around the world. Some believe that the organization has made great strides towards equality and fairness across the country, and that segregation could still be a prominent fixture today if not for the N.A.A.C.P. Others scrutinize the efforts of the N.A.A.C.P., and claim that it is nothing more than a figurehead organization that doesn’t actually advance the African-American people. This seems to be the sentiment shared in the essay, “Down at the Cross,” by James Baldwin. Although mentioned only briefly in the essay, Baldwin conveys a sense of discouragement towards the N.A.A.C.P., and that there work doesn’t do much good because of their lethargy in the courtroom. (Baldwin, 320) Baldwin asserts that by the time the court decision has been made, the impact of the decision is almost nonexistent, and fails to carry a collective punch. For these reasons, Baldwin believes that the N.A.A.C.P. will never accomplish meaningful, and that they will continue to simply go through the motions, in an almost lifeless manner.

The history of the N.A.A.C.P. dates back to the early 20th century. The organization was founded in 1909 by Mary White Ovington. Ovington had read an article from the New York Post entitled “Race War in the North,” written by William English Walling. Ovington became inspired to learn more about the African-American situation, and set up a meeting with Walling in New York. On February 12th, 1909, approximately 20 or so members met and formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This just so happened to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the president who emancipated the United States in 1865. Some of the prominent members at that meeting in 1909 were Jane Addams, who went on to form the Hull House in Chicago, and William Du Bois, who became a very famous civil rights author of the 20th century. (“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People”)

The N.A.A.C.P. immediately began to publish their views in any means possible. They started their own magazine in 1910, called Crisis, and appointed Du Bois as the editor. Crisis immediately became popular among African-Americans and white sympathizers, and by 1919, Crisis was selling nearly 100,000 copies per month. The N.A.A.C.P. also set forth in their bylaws that they would only enter a court case under two conditions: it had to involve discrimination based on color and some fundamental right of citizenship must have been infringed upon. (Kellogg, 293) In 1915, the N.A.A.C.P. decided to begin to try court cases for the first time. The organization was outraged at discrimination in southern housing, education, employment, voting, and transportation laws, and...

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