The NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is one of the oldest and most respected grassroots organizations in the country. It was formed in 1909, after the destruction of the Springfield Race Riot. Lynchings, racism and other horrific attacks on blacks like the riot in Illinois were common and steadily increasingly in scale and frequency, despite efforts to improve race relations by many. As one of the major events to spawn the NAACP, the Race Riot of 1908 epitomizes the racism and violence African-Americans suffered when the organization took root.
The riot, a two day onslaught of brutality on an African-American community by thousands of whites, destroyed the lives, homes and businesses of many blacks in Springfield, Illinois. The violence didn’t end until the National Guard marched in to break up the angry mob. Yet, the damage was already done — thousands of blacks had fled the city and seven people were dead.
Appalled by the event, liberal whites, who were also the descendants of abolitionists, gathered with a collection of people from different backgrounds to discuss the racial injustice plaguing African-Americans. Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell were just a few of the founders of the NAACP and members of this first meeting. W.E.B. Du Bois also founded the official publication of the NAACP, The Crisis
A diverse group of civil rights activists, the NAACP continues to accumulate members dedicated to the mission of “ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”