Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Layla. Layla Wonders, “What can I do to help people who are fighting for civil rights?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Layla!

Have you ever wondered how you could support civil rights? Would you like to be involved with a group of activists dedicated to equality? The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the oldest and largest U.S. civil rights organization. How did it start?

On August 14, 1908, in Springfield, race riots wrecked Illinois. Two Black men were in the local jail. Police arrested both for crimes against Whites. A group of White people planned to storm the jail to attack and harm the men. They were furious when they found that the sheriff secretly had moved the men to another jail.

The mob turned to violence. They burned the car used to save the Black men. Over the summer, Whites continued to attack Blacks and damage houses and businesses. Over 40 Black families lost their homes when Whites destroyed their neighborhood. The state militia was called to bring order back to the city.

A group of Black and White activists met in 1909. They were responding to the Springfield riots and the poor treatment of Blacks. Some activists were members of the Niagara Movement civil rights group. White journalist William English Walling wrote an article proposing a new abolition movement. It encouraged other Whites to join Blacks to pursue equal treatment.

On February 12, 1909, this group met in New York City. The date was important. It was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The group issued a call to look at U.S. race relations since the Emancipation Proclamation. Sixty important Americans—Whites and Blacks—signed the call for a conference. On May 31 and June 1, 1909, 300 men and women joined in New York City for the National Negro Conference.

At the second annual meeting, held May 12, 1910, a conference committee founded a formal organization. They adopted the name NAACP. W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells were among the famous founders. The group aimed to abolish segregation, discrimination, and racial violence.

The association started a publication in 1910, The Crisis. It shared information on race, Black life, and culture. Du Bois was the editor. The paper also wrote about the NAACP and its activities. It looked at politics and ways to gain support for Blacks. At first published monthly, it has become quarterly. Still in print today, it is the oldest magazine covering issues on racial and social justice.

In 1910, the NAACP also took on its first major legal defense case. The group fought for the release of Pink Franklin. Courts convicted Franklin of murder and sentenced him to death. The NAACP’s work for Franklin changed his term to life in prison. Nine years later, South Carolina’s courts released him.

The NAACP established its Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) in 1940. Thurgood Marshall led the LDF. Marshall became an important figure in the civil rights movement. He won several cases that led to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. That resulted in the ruling against “separate but equal” in schools. The LDF became a separate organization from the NAACP in 1957.

Today, the NAACP continues to support civil rights and social justice movements. It has 2,200 chapters and advocates for an end to racism. Members fight for equity in health care, climate justice, voting rights, and education.

Does your city or area have an NAACP chapter? Why do you think this organization continues to be so important?

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.8, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.3, NCAS.CR.1

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