HISTORY OF GEORGIA NAACP
In February 1909 future NAACP organizers issued "The Call," a statement protesting lawlessness against Negroes, and began forming the Committee on the Negro. By 1910 the organization had adopted the name National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and had begun publication of a monthly journal, The Crisis, under editor W. E. B. DuBois. Extensive organization in the North and Midwest and development of anti-lynching legislation characterized the NAACP's first seven years. Its organizers shifted focus to the South when they began to see the difficulty of accomplishing legislative goals without southern politicians' support. The leadership of Jacksonville, Florida, native James Weldon Johnson as executive secretary brought attention to the importance of serving the largest part of the African American population, which resided in the South.
Beginning in January 1917 and up until June 1920, branches were organized in communities around Georgia, including Albany, Americus, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Brunswick, Columbus, Cordele, Dublin, Macon, Milledgeville, Rome, Savannah, Thomasville, Valdosta and Waycross. Many of the earliest branch members came from the professional class of physicians, dentists, businessmen, teachers, and ministers. Established black newspapers in Atlanta, Rome, and Savannah carried NAACP news releases, and these cities hosted successful early locals that focused primarily on educational improvements.
In most black schools in Georgia's cities and towns, teachers were expected to teach twice the number of students per day as those in white schools. In two separate shifts, one in the morning and early afternoon and one from afternoon into the evening, these overworked and underpaid black educators taught shortened lessons to two sets of large classes. Efforts for the elimination of these "double sessions" and the addition of seventh grade and above in African American schools provided an early focus for branches in Georgia's cities.
"The Georgia NAACP has been the most effective and consistent advocates for African American civil rights in Georgia."
THE WAR YEARS.
During World War I (1917-18), when many men and women left their communities for military service, shortages of laborers and domestic workers occurred. Black men and women who were self-employed or homemakers were under extreme pressure to work for whites. Many southern communities passed local laws that required all black people to work outside of their own households. Black communities organized to protest these "work or fight laws," and their efforts often led to the formation of NAACP branches. Destitute farmers and other rural laborers found it difficult to form branches of the association because of the requirement that fifty people pay one dollar each to receive a charter. Threats of violence
against local activists also made organization in rural counties almost impossible at this early stage.
In the immediate post–World War I years, Atlanta served as a refuge for black Georgians who fled from oppressive violence and peonage in rural parts of the state, and the NAACP branch in the capital often provided refugees legal and financial assistance. But after the national NAACP held its 1920 annual conference in Atlanta, the publicity it received triggered a backlash that hurt the Atlanta branch and virtually paralyzed most branches throughout the state for the next two decades. Only five branches—at Fort Valley, Griffin, Hawkinsville, Monroe, and Newnan—formed during the 1920s.
The NAACP's official organ, The Crisis, dubbed Georgia the "Empire State of Lynching" because of the state's horrifying record of racial vigilantism. Walter White of Atlanta became a field secretary for the national office immediately after helping to organize the Atlanta branch in 1917, and in 1930 he became executive secretary of the national NAACP in New York. His work to solve the lynching problem through legal means and his ties to the Atlanta community helped the NAACP to remain steadfast in Georgia during the 1930s and 1940s, when it lost many branches in the southern states because of suppression by law and intimidation by force. A. T. Walden, Georgia's most prominent black lawyer and later the cofounder of the Atlanta Negro Voters League, served as president of Atlanta's NAACP branch from 1924 to 1936. Branches in Augusta, Savannah, and other cities in Georgia survived with varying degrees of success until the next growth period of the organization after World War II (1941-45).
More recently the NAACP has focused on discrimination in the private sector, especially where it hinders economic opportunities for minorities. The NAACP branches follow and support the strategic initiatives established by the national board through membership dues and participation in activities at the state and local level. Many of these initiatives are handled by the NAACP legal department, which seeks to press cases, especially class actions, that have broad significance in mitigating discrimination in private businesses and corporations. Voter registration continues to be an important emphasis for the NAACP at the local, state, and national levels. In addition, each local branch provides a contact point for complaints of racial discrimination at the local level, which can then be investigated by the field and branch services of the national organization if necessary.