The NAACP was the brainchild of white progressives in response to a race riot in Springfield, Illinois and its official formation date is February 12, 1909, designed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
William English Walling, one of the founders of the NAACP, was from a wealthy Kentucky family that once owned slaves.
Prominent black scholar W.E.B. Dubois, the only African American among the NAACPs initial executives, suggested the name for the organizations, pushing for the term "colored people" to include all people of color. DuBuois resigned from the NAACP in 1934 when he began advocating for black separatism.
An initial goal of the NAACP was to stop lynchings. While Congress never passed an anti-lynching bill, the NAACP's campaign is credited with reducing the practice. Between 1900 and 1909, it's estimated 791 blacks were lynched in the United States. During the 1920s, it was 281. During the 1930s, it was 119.
Among famous whites who belonged to the NAACP: Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt. The latter served on the NAACP Board of Directors. Famous African-Americans in the NAACP included Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Lena Horne.
The NAACP hired famed lawyer Clarence Darrow for an infamous 1925 Detroit murder case involving an African-American doctor, Ossian Sweet, who moved into an all-white neighborhood. Sweet was put on trial after a shot fired from his house killed someone in a mob gathered outside the residence. Darrow argued Sweet had a right to protect his home. The first trial ended in a hung jury, and the second trial ended in a verdict of not guilty.
The NAACPs best-known legal victory was Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation. The NAACPs lead lawyer in the case was Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. both belonged to the Montgomery, Alabama NAACP. But as a result of the Montgomery bus boycott, Alabama outlawed the NAACP, and so King and others formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council. Unlike the NAACP, which tended to wage its wars in the court, SCLC emphasized non-violent direct action.
In June 1963, hours after President John F. Kennedy gave a national address in support of civil rights, Medgar Evers, field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP, was assassinated by a sniper in his driveway.
NAACPs greatest legislative victories were the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination in the workplace and public venues, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which established federal oversight of elections in places with a history of disenfranchising minority voters. The Supreme Court has since rolled back an important provision of the 1965 law.