NAACP confronts new Jim Crow racism


LOS ANGELES - Thousands of people gathered here July 25 to hear NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous and other speakers address the struggles of African Americans in the United States at the organization's 102nd convention.

African Americans have made great strides since the founding, 102 years ago, of the NAACP, and especially since the modern-day civil rights movement, Jealous said, but it's not over yet.

"Ladies and gentlemen, these are the best of times and-if we are honest with ourselves, in too many places-they are the worst of times. We have our first black president. We have our first black female CEO of a fortune 500 company. Oprah owns a TV network. Tyler Perry owns movie studios. And every city has its resident black millionaires. And we are duly proud of all of them," he said.

"And yet at the same time poverty is at depression-era levels. Home ownership is down. Foreclosures are up. HIV rates among black and brown kids are way too high. And high school graduate rates are way too low."

Jealous spoke about the recent union-busting and voter suppression legislation that have plagued many states across the nation recently.

The ability to vote is of fundamental importance, Jealous said, upon which all other rights rest.

He spoke specifically on states' laws that limit early voting, eliminate same-day voter registration and implement specialized voter ID cards for people- likening these measures to a new Jim Crow poll tax.

But, he added, disenfranchising ex-felons is Jim Crow.

 "All of it is under attack: the right to organize, the right to choose, the right for immigrants in this country to be treated with basic human respect, the right for people to have a fair shot at employment and business opportunities, and event the right to vote itself. And let us be very clear that that last right, the right to vote, is the right upon which all of our rights are leveraged," he said.

"In Florida this year, the Republican Governor promoted and signed a new order that requires five to seven year mandatory waiting period for formerly incarcerated persons voting rights to be restored. While voter ID and registration ID are like Jim Crow, ex-felon disenfranchisement laws are Jim Crow," Jealous said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in Feb. 12, 1909 as a response to the lynching of African Americans and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, Ill., the resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Sixty people, many white liberals with abolitionist roots, signed a call for action on racial justice. Seven of the signers were African American, including Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell and W.E.B. Du Bois. The group's founding mission was to ensure "political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice."

In another powerful speech, veteran civil rights attorney Leo Branton, Jr. linked racism with political oppression and anti-communism.

Judge Greg Mathis, founder of the Prisoner Empowerment Education and Respect Initiative and NACCP board member, introduced Branton, who has been practicing law for 62 years, taking many politically and racially charged cases, including defending members of the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party. Perhaps his most famous case was successfully defending then-CPUSA member and activist Angela Davis.

Branton worked with Paul Robeson, famous African American singer, actor, activist and Communist, and joined the protests against the execution Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953.

"The [19]50s were dominated by fear created by the Un-American Activities Committee and the fear of communism throughout the United States and the attack on everyone who believed in civil liberties by calling them communist or communist sympathizers," Branton said.

"This period was known as McCarthy era: when the country was always put in fear that the Un-American Activities Committee who called people before the committee to ask them whether or not they were then or have ever been a members of the Communist Party," he said. 

He went out to site the numerous repercussions caused by the Committee, how people lost their jobs through being blacklisted, went to jail, and the overall damage caused to democracy.

Branton himself was blacklisted. But it was not by an employer or government agency. The Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP blacklisted him by denying him to a convention many years ago because of his being "too close to the Communist Party."

"The NAACP refused to accept me as a delegate to that convention. I became estranged from the NAACP-in Los Angeles-and remained estranged from them even until today," Branton said.

Immediately after his speech, Jealous apologized to Branton, and the crowd gave Branton a standing ovation.

Photo: Ben Jealous addresses the convention. Luis Rivas/PW



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  • Oh that we could give wide distribution to the comment made by E.E.W. Clay. This person makes more sense than any of the nonsense coming out of Washington.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 07/29/2011 10:37am (4 years ago)

  • E.E.W. Clay. Wow, great comment, my friend! - That coulda been its own article! Do you submit to PW or PA?

    Posted by Luis Rivas, 07/27/2011 11:48pm (4 years ago)

  • The NAACP is moving in the right direction especially for the times we live in. Leo Branton is a real hero who has given a life time to the struggle for equality, economic and social justice. I remember his brilliant legal work on the Angela Davis case. He has earned a place in the civil rights Hall of Fame. It is so important that the NAACP apologized for it's anti communist exclusion of him inthe past. Great Article Luis!

    Posted by Jarvis Tyner, 07/27/2011 11:43am (4 years ago)

  • The rash of repressive, racist, misogynist,anti-labor, anti-gay, Jim Crow, and anti-communist laws and initiatives that came out of this referenced Mc Carthy period-the infamous"Second Red Scare",crippled human progress for decades in the U. S. and internationally.
    It was and is used to stifle trade union organization and collective bargaining efforts, even to spread xenophobic, homophobic hatred and foment fascistic and genocidal tendencies and campaigns.
    The current budget confrontation and hostage taking the extreme right and right wing is forcing is that of working poor, women of color, women, the elderly, the youth-the most vulnerable people-the most needy,exploited, and oppressed.
    As Benjamin Todd Jealous indicates, foreclosures, drop-outs, and joblessness sky-rocketing, while voting rights, immigrant rights, college and high school resources and funding, diplomas are plummeting :this is a Dickensonian "worst of times".
    Working people, and especially the working poor are being criminalized as never before-with few or no options. For African American and Latino youth, it is the county jailhouse or the county morgue.
    Labor law which protects children, youth or elderly workers is being gutted state by state, while all social relief and safety nets are being abandoned-this is the recipe for "social progress" promoted by the extreme right and right-monies to stem economic, environmental and racist genocide, and unemployment relief itself- is being refused by our hypocrital, "tea-party politicians", to mock the poor and oppressed, while these pandering "politicians" parade their disgraced"integrity".
    Thank goodness for leaders like Judge Greg Mathis, Ben Jealous-and especially Leo Branton Jr. and Angela Yvonne Davis.
    These, and the latter forerunners seemingly see and saw the impending disaster of anti-communist and racist hysteria and how it would greivously harm the entire working class people-and democracy in the United States of America.
    Out of this historic convention, determined to combat racism, anti-labor, anti-immigrant and anti-communist hysteria and displace and replace the political right, extreme right,the extremely rich, tax free usurpers of educational, political and economic rights of the great numbers of people-the whole people-will come the stuff that will make us victorious on 6 November 2012, when we re-elect Barack Hussein Obama to a second term as president of the United States of America.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 07/27/2011 11:32am (4 years ago)

  • Wish I was there with my brothers an sisters!

    Posted by Reda StCyr, 07/26/2011 4:55pm (4 years ago)

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