The Legacy: Then and Now

As 2011 comes to a close, the NAACP has launched a series of blogs, "10 Reasons to be a Part of NAACP", reflecting on our work this year and the year ahead. Each day, we'll feature a new blog on our social networks. View the entire "10 Reasons" series, and donate to the NAACP here.

For more than 100 years, the NAACP has advocated for the equal treatment and rights of all Americans. From denouncing Jim Crow laws in the early part of the 20th century, to marching against the segregation/Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 60s, to advocating against modern-day disparities like the wealth gap and climate justice, our mission has been clear: to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Hundreds of thousands of NAACP advocates have dedicated their lives to advancing our nation’s civil rights agenda. Martyrs like Harry T. Moore & Medgar Evers (pictured, right) paid the ultimate sacrifice so that future generations could achieve access to voting rights, while attorneys like Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall sought justice through the court system. Leaders like Roy Wilkins, Benjamin Hooks & Myrlie Evers-Williams offered vision, strength, and wisdom.

The legacy of these icons lives on through their groundbreaking accomplishments in civil rights. Moore registered more than 100,000 black people to vote in the state of Florida, and started more than 70 NAACP branches in the state alone. Houston was involved in nearly every civil rights legal case from 1930 to the Brown vs. Board case in 1954 which desegregated public schools. His protégé, Marshall, integrated the U.S. Supreme Court, and was appointed to the court in 1967. And, under the leadership of Wilkins, the NAACP was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Thanks in large part to the contributions of these and countless other NAACP members, today’s America is a more equitable place – yet disparities still exist. While the national unemployment rate hovers above 9 percent nationwide, it is nearly twice that for black communities—not to mention to more than 40 percent for young black men in many communities. Though African Americans make up just 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost half (44 percent) of all new HIV infections in the nation every year. People of color are disproportionately affected by issues ranging from climate change to criminal sentencing. In the spirit of those who came before, today’s NAACP takes on these and other issues affecting communities of color.

Whether it’s in your local community or on your college campus, get involved and help us carry on the legacy. Donate to the NAACP today and help kick off a strong start to 2012.