The Mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.
One of the world’s leading civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded on February 12, 1909, the one-hundredth anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln. It originated from a merger between the civil rights movement among African Americans and the progressive reform movement led by white journalists and social workers. Both of these social movements were concerned with the rise in mob violence against African Americans and the expansion of “Jim Crow” practices throughout the nation at the turn of the century.
To address these issues, African Americans organized the National Afro-American League in 1887 and the Niagara Movement in 1905. In direct response to a massive race riot that broke out in Springfield, Illinois, in 1908, the hometown of President Abraham Lincoln, white activists, whose families were prominent in the abolitionist movement, initiated a call for meetings between African Americans and whites to discuss the current decline in race relations. From these meetings, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was organized and, later incorporated in New York on June 20, 1911.
To advance its mission of ensuring full equality for all people of color, the NAACP Board of Directors authorized the establishment of local units in 1911. With the support of these unit offices, the NAACP launched a nationwide campaign against lynching, disfranchisement, and “Jim Crow” laws, which finally eliminated the legal foundation for discrimination, and segregation based on the color of a person’s skin in 1954.
TOPEKA UNIT OF THE KANSAS STATE CONFERENCE OF THE NAACP (An early overview)
Topeka was the site of the first local unit organized in Kansas. On January 3, 1913, the Topeka Unit applied for a charter from the NAACP, which was granted on March 8, 1913. The first officers of the Topeka Unit were Arthur Capper, chapter president, Nathaniel Sawyer, chairman of the executive committee, the Reverend George G. Walker, treasurer, and Mrs. Julia B. Roundtree, secretary.
While Arthur Capper served as governor of Kansas and beginning in 1918, as a United States Senator, the work of the Topeka Unit was carried out by its executive committee. From 1920 through 1929, vice-presidents of the Unit were Dr. T. P. Martin, George K. Williams, William Bradshaw, Fred Roundtree, and the Reverend M. J. Burton. During the 1930s, those who served as Unit presidents were attorneys Raymond J. Reynolds and Elisha Scott. In 1945, Mr. Boliver E. Watkins served as president.
From 1947 to 1957 McKinley Burnett served as president of the Unit and initiated numerous challenges to racial segregation in public accommodations in Topeka. Under Burnett’s leadership, the Topeka Unit's court challenge to racially segregated public schools became the lead case in the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. The Topeka Board of Education.
Prepared by Deborah Dandridge
“The NAACP must be so strong in numbers and so effective in method that no one - no Mayor of any city, no Governor of any State, no Congressman of any party, no President of the United states and no Foreign Ambassador will dare to commit any indignity against people of color without realizing the NAACP will challenge them on the platform, in the press, in the courts, in the streets and at the ballot box.” Author Unknown