NAACP Metro Birmingham Branch

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NAACP Metro Birmingham Branch formerly the Birmingham Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is the Birmingham area chapter of the NAACP. The group meets monthly at the offices of the Birmingham Urban League at 1229 3rd Avenue North. Dorothea Crosby is the current chapter president.

The NAACP was founded in 1908 by Oswald Villard, Mary White Ovington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and others in the wake of a race riot in Springfield, Illinois. Its official aims were to secure the rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. It opened a headquarters office in New York City and named Moorfield Storey is its first president. Du Bois, the only African American to serve among the initial executive group, established its publication, The Crisis.

The Birmingham chapter was founded in 1918. Edward Hutchinson served as president. In May 1919 M. H. Freeman wrote an open letter, published in The Voice of the People, noted that at the inaugural mass meeting only ministers appeared on the platform or addressed the group. He hoped Hutchinson would cultivate active participation from other "workers and toilers" as well as the "property owners, taxpayers and qualified voters" in helping the group become a "great militant body" representing "every man and woman of the race in this great county."

It held its next annual election of officers on November 20, 1919 at 16th Street Baptist Church. B. J. Anderson was elected president. J. T. Harrison and R. T. Jackson were elected as vice-presidents. Charles McPherson was made secretary and P. J. Harris treasurer.

In January 1920 a notice was published complaining that less than 10% of the chapter's 900 members attended weekly meetings. The writer implored the group to hold meetings across the district and to give the platform to more active and inspiring members, saying, "we want more ginger injected into these meetings."

In the fall, Anderson led a "Citizenship School" to prepare prospective voters for registration and balloting, and, "to study good citizenship and its importance."

For 1921 the national organization announced a campaign to increase membership by 250,000, with a platform of getting anti-lynching legislation through congress, ending segregation in federal agencies, either enfranchising Black voters or reducing representation of Southern states in congress, restoring Haiti's independence, securing a pardon for soldiers charged with rioting in Houston, abolishing Jim Crow in interstate traffic, regaining military promotions lost after the end of World War I, creation of a national inter-racial commission, continuing legal cases in Arkansas, promoting the Pan-African Congress, and suppressing Klan violence and intimidation. By the end of the year the group was also collecting donations to help the victims of the Tulsa massacre.

The NAACP established a regional office in Alabama in 1951.

On June 1, 1956 Attorney General of Alabama John Patterson sought an injunction against the NAACP, claiming that it had failed to abide by a state law requiring out-of-state organizations to register with the state. Judge Walter Jones issued an order prohibiting the group from engaging in fund-raising, collecting dues, or recruiting new members in the state. Within a week, Fred Shuttlesworth launched the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights to pick up the mantle.

As part of his injunction, Jones ordered the NAACP to turn over a list of its members' names and addresses. When the group refused, he found them in contempt and levied a large fine. That order was appealed to the Supreme Court of Alabama, and a suit filed against the state by the NAACP was heard by the United States Supreme Court. On June 30, 1958 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in NAACP v. Alabama that the 1st amendment's freedom of association protected groups from being forced to divulge their membership. The narrow decision still left the group's legal status in Alabama in doubt. After numerous follow-up suits, the Alabama NAACP was reorganized in 1964.

Activist, author and educator Angela Davis addressed the Birmingham chapter of the NAACP at 6th Avenue Baptist Church on March 30, 2013, speaking on the tendency to misinterpret the history of the Civil Rights victories of 1963 50 years later.


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