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The National Afro-American League (1887-1908) and The 6 point program
From "Plural But Equal" (pg.8) , Harold Cruse says, " A critical reason why such an examination of the real origins of the twentieth-century civil rights movement is not simplistic is because the NAACP was not, as is commonly believed, the first effort on the part of historic black leadership to establish a civil rights organization.
He goes on to say...
Why the NAACP was not the first, became a major determinant in what it became as the major twentieth-century, both black and whites had attempted a number of short - lived conferences to deal with the "problems peculiar to the Negro." The most significant attempt, and the one that gained a degree of national attention and critical response, was The National Afro American League (1887 - 1908).
It was not generally understood during the heyday of the Sixties that the modern civil rights movement had an important history that had interacted with practically every major American reform, radical, labor, or progressive movement of the Twentieth century: that is was not a fortuitious aberration inspired or plotted by "subversive" elements bent on promoting anti-American domestic unrest. But the ahistorical character or our mind-set affects even historians when dealing with the racial factor in American developments. Truths are evaded aand consequences ignored. Thus, it was not acceidental that in the first comprehensive black history, From Slavery to Freedom (1947) , written seven years before the historic Brown decision, the National Afro-American League was not even mentioned.
The National Afro- American League was founded on the initiative of T. Thomas Fortune, a will-known journalist and newspaper editor who in 1887 called for the creation of an organization led by blacks "to fight for the rights denied them." After three years of intense effort and lively debate on the pros and cons of such a enture, the National Afro Amercian League wa formally organized at its first convention in Chicago in 1890. The convention agreed on a "six-point program":
1. The securing of voting rights
2. The combating of lynch laws
3. The abolition of inequities in state funding of public school education for blacks and whites
4. reforming the southern penitentiary system --- its chain gang and convict lease practices
5. combating discrimination in railroad and public travel conveyances;
6. and discrimination in public places, hotels, and theaters.
Let's stop and reflect. The National Afro-Amercian League struggled to establish itself as a legitimate civil rights protest organization by and for, and supported by, black themselves.
What accomplishments emerged from the 6 point program?
Can you see the historical civil rights, African-centered leadership ideals, and philophies of the 1890's represented in these accomplishments listed below?
- The National Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871
- * Blair Education Bill, The Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, an d the the "No child Left Behind Act".
- Plessy v. Ferguson
With the exception of the last item (listed in the 6 point program), all the racial issues in the leagues's platform were either peculiar to the southern states or else more stringently enforced in that region than in the North. This was especially true because the league was established just ten years after the demise of Reconstruction, when practically all the advances blacks had won as a consequence of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 were rapidly being eroded in the South.
- and at last the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The launching of the National Afro-American League coicided with South's concerted move to disfranchise and completely remove southern blacks from participation in the political life of the region.
* The Blair Bill was introduced at The Fifty-first United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, D.C. from March 4, 1889 to March 3, 1891, during the first two years of the administration of U.S. PresidentBenjamin Harrison.
The apportionment of seats in this House of Representatives was based on the Tenth Census of the United States in 1880. Both chambers had a Republican majority.
The Congress was dominated by the Republican Party. It was responsible for a number of pieces of landmark legislation, many of which asserted the authority of thefederal government.
Bills were discussed but some failed to pass, including two significant pieces of legislation focused on ensuring African Americans the right to vote.Henry Cabot Lodge sponsored a so-called Force Bill that would have established federal supervision of Congressional elections so as to prevent the disfranchisement of southern blacks.
Henry W. Blair sponsored the Blair Education Bill, which advocated the use of federal aid for education in order to frustrate southern whites employing literacy tests to prevent blacks from registering to vote.
51st United States Congress - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
part 2: The split of the National Afro-American League
Beginning with Mississippi In 1890, every southern state had by 1910 rewritten its stae constitution to establish white supremacy and to impose legal segregation based on race and color in all areas of social and institutuional life.
Hence, the 1890s offered an unfavorable social climate for a civil rights organization as bold and pioneering as the National Afro-American League.
Thus, it was not surprising that not a single issue in the league's six-point platform ever recieved public or federal support on a local, regional, or national basis except for item number three: racial inequities in funding public school education for blacks and whites.
And even here, federal and regional interest was not prompted by the platform of the National Afro Amercian League, but by the Blair Education Bill, which had been introduced in the national legislature in 1881, nine years befor the league was established.
Yet the Blair Bill was the one public issue around which the newly formed league could meaningully agitate until the bill was killed in the Senate in 1890.
The split the National Afro-American League
From 1890 to 1908, the national Afro- American League struggled to establish itself as al egitimate civil rights protest organization; organized by and for, and supported by, black themselves.
In 1898 the league changed its name to the Afro-American Council.
This change was one of the onsequences of the extended controversy that plagued the organizatiojn from it inception.
The league became "the battleground" for conflicting black leadership philosophies that emerged in the 1890's.
The question of leadership ideals centered mainly around "the personality" of Booker T. Washington, who emerged in 1895 as the most prominent black leader "acceptable" to whites, both liberal and conservative, in the North and South.
Thus, in the historical arena of black civil rights, the league provided a debating platform for the seminal leadership ideals of not only T. Thomas Fortune himself, but of W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, Booker T. Washington, Bishop Alexander Walters, Ida B. Wells, and serval others not so well remembered today.
The programmatic approaches to civil rights argued out among black leadership factions within the league were carried over in the NAACP in 1909, and never ceased to be fundamental conflicts from 1909 to the 1980's.
The only factors that changed were the emphases and the circumstances.
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Peace be upon you