JULY 11, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—From July 12 to 17 in Los Angeles the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will hold its annual conference and celebrate its 40th anniversary. The closing session will be a memorable one because the annual presentation of the Spingarn Medal will be made by Madame Pandit of India to Dr. Ralph J. Bunche.
I hope that on this anniversary many people will review the work of this organization since its beginning in 1909. This group has worked under the American constitutional system and within the framework of the Constitution and has accomplished much for real democracy.
Not many people will remember the beginnings of this organization. In 1908 the country had been shocked by stories of race riots in Springfield, Ill. For two days mobs, among them many of the town's "best citizens," went wild and killed and wounded scores of Negroes and drove thousands from the city. The accounts in the newspapers stirred up a great deal of feeling in the North, and brought about a meeting in 1909 in New York City, with William English Walling, Mary White Ovington and Dr. Henry Moskowitz, among others, participating.
At that first meeting it was decided to call together a national conference on the Negro question and the group turned to Oswald Garrison Villard, then president of the New York Evening Post, who drafted the call to the meeting which was to be held on Lincoln's Birthday. Many fine people accepted this invitation, and Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois was called from Atlanta University to an executive position in the new organization. In 1910 there appeared the first number of the "Crisis," the magazine of the association.
Perhaps the most vital accomplishments over the years are in the legal area of the work, carrying cases to the Supreme Court of the United States, often successfully.
I think the creed that expressed the spirit at the foundation of the organization is still the one by which its members live today. This creed is found in James Russell Lowell's verses, written 70 years ago.
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side....
Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and it is prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
Doubting in his object spirit, till his Lord is crucified,
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied."
Walter White has been the executive secretary for a long time and he is now taking a well-earned year of rest, so Roy Wilkins, who has been the assistant secretary and the editor of the "Crisis," which is still the monthly magazine, has been made secretary during Mr. White's absence. Mr. Wilkins has done much successful investigating for the organization.
The NAACP is working very well. I think it is one of the best bulwarks that we have against communism among our Negro population, since its members are active in promoting democracy.