On its 100th anniversary, a history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
This past July, President Obama gave a rousing speech in New York at the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, marking the 100th anniversary of the organization’s founding. To watch the nation’s first African-American president stand before America’s oldest and most important civil rights organization was to witness an epochal moment in the history of American race relations.
One can only imagine the profound sense of satisfaction the NAACP’s founders would have felt had they been there.
On the very same day as Obama’s NAACP address, one of the country’s most distinguished African-American scholars, Professor Henry Lewis Gates of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., was arrested for “disorderly conduct” on his front porch, a short walk from campus. It was alleged that Professor Gates had spoken angrily to a white police officer who had suspected Gates of breaking into what the professor told the officer was his own home. (With the help of another man, Gates, returning home from an overseas trip, had forced open the jammed front door to his house, leading a passerby to call the police.) The white officer arrested the black professor, handcuffed him, and took him into custody.
Many people, especially peoples of color, saw the incident as one more example of the indignities blacks continue to endure every day in America. After the historic Obama victory, they felt that perhaps the country, in a self-congratulatory mood, had patted itself on the back too soon. Maybe the long, hard struggle for racial justice was not over.