The Enemy at the Gates
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

By Roger W. McCredie

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP, was founded in New York City in 1909. Its animus was William Edgar Burghardt DuBois, the New England-born, Harvard-educated author and teacher who had by that time emerged as the leader of the black activist faction that opposed the conservative social posture represented by Booker T. Washington. Co-founders included journalist Ida Wells-Barnett, immigrant leader Henry Moscowitz and teachers Mary White Ovington and William English Walling. Despite its multiracial makeup, the founding body at first called itself the National Negro Committee.

The organization’s early efforts were largely court-oriented, beginning with its involvement in the case of "Pink" Franklin, a black laborer who, in the NAACP’s own words, "unbeknowingly

[sic] killed a policeman in self defense … " In the following years Jewish attorneys Joel Springarn (who would later become President of the NAACP) and his brother Arthur acted as legal counsel in numerous such cases. Early on, however, the organization began its tradition of organizing and carrying out public protests. One of the first of these was against institutional racial segregation (which the NAACP’s website says was officially introduced into the Federal Government by President Woodrow Wilson). Another early protest was enacted against the "racially inflammatory and bigoted silent film ‘Birth of a Nation’" complete with NAACP members picketing theaters where the film was being shown. Meanwhile, under the editorship of DuBois himself, the NAACP’s monthly magazine, The Crisis, rapidly developed into a highly effective propaganda organ.

By the 1920’s the NAACP’s membership had grown to nearly 100,000. Further membership gains were made during the 1930’s, during which time a number of Communists infiltrated the organization — a process which was not difficult given the openly Marxist orientation of DuBois and other NAACP leaders. A huge influx of new members followed the 1944 Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Alwright, which struck down the segregationist structure of the Democratic Party primary in the state of Texas and had the effect of outlawing similar practices nationwide. The decision in Smith, and the resultant gains in membership, gave the NAACP, which had always been oriented towards legal action, the impetus to mount or endorse more and bigger lawsuits, a trend which culminated in the case known as Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka and formally launched what is still referred to as "the Civil Rights Movement" of the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Although the decision in Brown directly affected only the school systems that were named as defendants in the suit, its precedent had the effect of outlawing racial segregation in public schools. In 1957 the NAACP undertook to validate this effect by bringing pressure to enroll black students at a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. The resulting confrontation culminated in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s dispatching United States Army troops to Little Rock as well as federalizing the Arkansas National Guard, which had been mobilized. This was the most blatant assertion since the War Between the States of the federal executive’s position that, in effect, the Tenth Amendment was nothing more than window dressing. The NAACP may fairly be said to have thus driven the final nail into the coffin of the Constitutional doctrine of States’ Rights.

The Little Rock experience gave rise to a formula that the NAACP perfected in numerous cases during the years that followed: that of bringing legal action — sometimes spurious or even frivolous — against an institution or individual, then enlisting the executive branch of the federal government as its enforcer. The result was that the NAACP began to take on the appearance, in the public mind, of being a government agency in its own right — an impression which the NAACP went to great lengths to reinforce. In addition to its working partnership with the executive branch, the NAACP now had a collective friend in the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which had handed down the Brown ruling. Thus empowered at the corporate level, the organization was free to use operatives to engage the business, educational and even private sectors. The year before Little Rock, Rosa Parks, secretary of the NAACP chapter in Montgomery, Alabama, had arranged to have herself arrested on a city bus, thus kicking off a boycott of the city’s bus service by blacks. The four black college students who sat in at a Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter in 1960 were members of local NAACP youth chapters.

Even as its power and influence crested, however, the NAACP began to undergo a sea change, setting aside some of its overt confrontation in favor of becoming an entrenched entity within the liberal political establishment. The protests, demonstrations, and other radical black political activism of the 1960’s were carried out mostly by Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and its spinoffs the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, though it was NAACP "lobbying" that largely helped bring about the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Using its quasi-governmental status, the NAACP was now able to exercise substantial influence in local, state and national elections; judicial decisions; and even national matters of national policy that did not necessarily have to do with racial issues.

From the standpoint of achieving its stated purposes, the 60’s probably represented the NAACP’s finest hour. What happened to it over the next quarter century was what happens to most organizations that attain a certain level of fulfilment with no real future design: it turned inward, became preoccupied with the maintenance of its own status, and in consequence nearly self destructed. It abdicated its preeminence among civil rights groups; beyond some high-profile legal saber rattling it became little more than a top-heavy lobbyist organization. Beginning about 1983 it became locked in an internal power struggle, the principal players in which were Margaret Bush Wilson, the NAACP’s first-ever female Board Chairman, and board member Dr. William Gibson, a Greenville, South Carolina, dentist who went on to succeed her. The spectacle of the nation’s oldest and biggest "civil rights" group imploding caused great dismay among the corporate entities that had come to make up the NAACP’s major contributor base; as a result, by the late 80’s the organization found itself on a slippery slope towards bankruptcy.

The NAACP thus began searching frantically for a means to divert public attention from its internal struggles, as well as to jump-start its rapidly fading relevance. Unable to locate a cause concerned with the present or the future, it decided to make war on the past, and it found the instrument of its deliverance in an inanimate object: a square of red and blue cloth. At its 1987 national convention, the organization adopted a resolution that was actually a plan for the systematic eradication of Confederate heritage. Four years later, it passed the now-famous resolution known as "Item #7" declaring the Confederate battle flag "an odious blight upon the universe" and calling for its removal from all public places. The Confederate experience, the NAACP decreed, was founded upon the preservation of black slavery and any celebration of it amounted to racism and must be destroyed.

Whether by accident or design, the NAACP’s posturing fell on fertile ground. Its pronouncements tapped directly into the American establishment’s generation-long guilt trip that had already elevated "racism" to the role of national bogey man, as "communism" had been in the 1950’s. Moreover, the NAACP’s sentiments were an excellent fit with the national institutional scapegoating of the South and Southerners generally. In 1992 Carol Moseley-Braun, just elected the nation’s first black female U.S. Senator, took to the Senate floor to oppose what would have been the routine renewal of the patent on the seal of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, on grounds that the seal displays the Confederate First National flag. Moseley-Braun’s denunciation of the seal caused five politically adroit senators to reverse their "yes" votes, thus rejecting the application. The action in effect provided official government validation of the NAACP’s declaration of war on Southern culture.

During the mid-1990’s a series of new scandals rocked the NAACP internally. In 1994 Executive Director Ben Chavis was ousted for openly courting radical black activist Louis Farrakhan as part of what some described as an attempt to turn the NAACP into a black separatist organization. (Chavis had said of Farrakhan, "Hey, this brother is a leader!") About the same time, the NAACP found itself $5 million in debt and defending itself in a $300 million sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Mary Stansel, a female aide. ("The legacy of sexual discrimination runs deep in the civil rights movement," Newsweek commented on September 5, 1994.) These problems occurred even as the NAACP embarked on a new campaign of litigation, this time against corporate America, using a newly discovered weapon: the class action lawsuit. In 1991 it had brought suit against Denny’s Restaurants and Denny’s parent company, Flagstar Corporation, claiming discrimination in table service; the suit evolved into a series of shakedown actions which culminated in Flagstar’s paying hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, attorneys’ fees, contracts awarded to black suppliers, additional compensation to minority employees, and contributions to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Urban League, and of course the NAACP itself and its Legal Defense Fund. In 1994, as it was grappling with its own legal problems, it entered the lists against Texaco, where a class action suit had already been brought in part by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and later in the decade it used its class action scorecard and its other new toy, the threat of a boycott, to extract minority-inclusion commitments from all four major television networks. With that kind of clout working for it, the NAACP was now able to take its anti-Confederate campaign to the topmost levels of the American political, business and institutional structures.

As with the top of the socio-economic edifice, so with the bottom and everywhere in between. One of the NAACP’s long suits has always been its ability to carry its corporate agenda to the grassroots level by means of its local chapters. In no time at all, local and regional NAACP operatives began finding and complaining about things Confederate in schools, workplaces, businesses and institutions throughout the South, a posture which was at odds with its initial statement that it only objected to their use or display in public places. The NAACP hit list was comprehensive and included not merely flags but music, motion pictures, books, monuments and even street and place names, many of which were hurriedly changed. The showcase pitched battle occurred in South Carolina, where that state’s NAACP undertook a high-profile campaign to have the Confederate flag removed from the dome of the statehouse. In a bitter political fight that lasted nearly six years, the NAACP used its connections within the media to hold the entire state of South Carolina up to public scorn, ridicule and vituperation, and to push the state’s business sector into pressing the legislature to have the flag taken down. This was finally accomplished in the summer of 2000, when the flag was ceremoniously removed from the dome and transferred to a pole at the site of the Confederate memorial on the state house lawn.

By now public interest in the NAACP’s internal troubles had evaporated, in spite of one voting scandal in Minneapolis and another in Asheville, North Carolina (the latter resulting in the ouster of chapter president H.K. Edgerton, who went on to become a fearless and high-profile advocate for Confederate heritage). The NAACP had found its magic bullet: Confederate heritage. Moreover, the organization now enlisted two headliners to guide its operations. Myrlie Evers Williams, remarried widow of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, was elected Chairman and former congressman Kweisi Mfume (born Frizell Gray) was named President. Thus refurbished and reconsecrated, the NAACP resurrected one of its oldest blackmail devices, the threat of economic boycott, against states and institutions which still had not fallen properly into line to denounce Confederate symbology. Immediately after the South Carolina state house flag was removed, the NAACP, angered that it still flew anywhere on the grounds, proclaimed a boycott of all state businesses

There were signs, however, that the NAACP had overplayed its hand in South Carolina. In the boycott’s first year, hospitality and tourism revenues for that state were up a whopping 11.1 per cent, and have shown respectable increases each year since. Even the New York Times conceded that the estimated $23 million lost as a direct result of the boycott that first year amounted to "a drop in the bucket" of South Carolina’s multibillion dollar tourist income. An increasing number of critics, many of them black, complained that in tilting at the windmill of Confederate heritage, the NAACP was expending money and energy that could be better used to alleviate such chronic black problems as drug use, astronomical crime and out-of-wedlock birth rates, and unemployment. The more perceptive and outspoken among them added that perhaps the NAACP was no longer capable of addressing these core issues. For its part, the NAACP, which had now become a sort of Greek chorus for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, continued its scorched-earth campaign of threat, denunciation and coercion against anything and everything Confederate, with its pronouncements becoming institutionalized and translated into official policy by eager-to-please corporations, schools and government agencies.

As of this writing (Spring, 2003) it is evident that the NAACP will continue in its role as the senior and largest of the so-called civil rights groups committed to the destruction of Southern heritage. As the presidential and other elections of 2004 draw nearer, the NAACP, aided and abetted as always by the media, Hollywood, and the liberal side of the political establishment (for whom an NAACP membership is now a requisite credential) can be expected to exert itself even further to complete the ethnic cleansing of the American South.

(Copyright 2003 Roger W. McCredie – All rights reserved)

This article will be part of a forthcoming website. It is the first in a series of profiles of organizations that have shown themselves to be bent on the destruction of Southern/Confederate heritage and culture.