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Yarmuth Honors NAACP and Louisville Founder on Centennial

 

House passes resolution honoring civil rights group


(Washington, DC) Today, the House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on its hundred year anniversary. 

Congressman John Yarmuth’s (KY-3) remarks, honoring the NAACP and William English Walling— the Louisvillian who helped to found the organization— are below.

Mr. Speaker, one hundred years ago today, on the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth in my home state of Kentucky, a fellow Louisvillian by the name of William English Walling cofounded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Born to former slave owners, English—as he was known—quickly developed a passion for combating injustice, which culminated when he witnessed, first-hand, the violent and destructive 1908 race riots in Springfield, Illinois.  Incensed by what he saw, he published an article in which he lamented the “permanent warfare with the Negro Race,” and called for a “large and powerful organization” to ensure that his fellow white men would “come to treat the Negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality.”

Within a year, he had joined with a group of 60 diverse and prominent Americans, on the 100th birthday of the President who had freed the slaves, to create such an organization: the NAACP. 

With Mr. Walling serving as Chairman of the Executive Committee, the NAACP quickly became the most coordinated and fiercest opposition to the inequality of Jim Crowe, the injustice of bigotry, and the violence of hatred that this country had ever known. 

Within five years, the NAACP’s membership included thousands of individuals, white and black; male and female, throughout the nation.  As racism continued to threaten the lives, livelihoods, and liberty of black Americans, the efforts of the NAACP to bring about justice intensified.   Their efforts were critical in meeting many milestones of progress in the last century, helping lead the crusade to integrate the military, housing, education, and the voting booth. 

Today, it is easy to see how far we have come and overcome.  Just look at a black man eating with a white friend in a diner; at the African-American family who can move into a neighborhood without fear of violent and ignorant retribution; at the young girl, a descendant of slaves, studying hard because she knows she can be anything she dreams.  Or look to the White House where a second legislator from Springfield now sits in the Oval Office.  It’s easy to see our progress.

But there was nothing easy about the battles of the last hundred years.  And as we look to the many challenges that still lay ahead, we are infinitely more capable of meeting them thanks to the NAACP and the insight, foresight, and fortitude of William English Walling and 60 Americans passionate about justice, 100-years ago today.