The Seattle Medium
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established in Seattle, Washington on October 23, 1913. Now, 100 years later they are still standing strong.
The NAACP was the first Black civil rights organization in the city of Seattle, a branch of the national organization, which was originally formed to stop the lynching and hanging of Black people and the segregation between Blacks and Whites. Its’ founding activists protested and marched on behalf of the Black community, as well as sponsored and celebrated holidays not represented by the White American calendar. The goal for the NAACP was to set up camp in cities and states nationally in support of the Black communities.
Seattle was one of those communities where there was a rapid growth in the Black community. It was only appropriate for the NAACP to set up a charter in Seattle, Washington where discrimination was very common. The NAACP staged marches protesting for open housing, fair education and employment opportunities. They also provided legal representation to the Black community. What the NAACP started was something new to Seattle and through the toughest times, it was the NAACP that looked out for the interest of Seattle’s Black community.
Led by civil rights activist Horace Clayton, in the 1920’s activists pressured state legislators not to pass the Anti-Intermarriage Bill. A bill that would bar all non-White, non-Christian individuals by laws, contracts, conspiracies, and harassment from buying or leasing property in desirable and even undesirable neighborhoods.
In the 1930’s, the Great Depression threatened the economic viability of Seattle’s Black community. During this time, Blacks were passed over for jobs in favor of Whites, and if they were fortunate enough to have a job they commonly experience racial harassment. The NAACP fought long and hard to help the community overcome this urban economic crisis.
By the 1940’s the reputation of the organization was so strong that the membership grew from 85 to 1,550 members. They staged wide-spread protests in an effort to desegregate movie houses, restaurants, parks and schools.
As the Seattle branch NAACP grew, so did the Black communities in other Washington cities. In response, the Seattle branch sponsored the establishment of other chapters in the state. Also, it worked in conjunction with other organizations in the state capital of Olympia, to push for a state fair employment practices law. In 1948, the law was finally enacted to prevent Blacks from being discriminated against on the job or when applying for one.
From the beginning, the Seattle NAACP has been the voice for Black communities across the state of Washington. Statewide marches and protests have prepared the chapter to overcome the many challenges and struggles they encounter every day, as they continue to be advocates for oppressed people. The credibility of the Seattle chapter continues to increase year-after-year, and from one generation of advocates to the next.
In recent years, the organization has concentrated on voter registration, police brutality and the advancement of the Black youth. Lacy Steele, who was president from 1972 to 1998, led the first march and demonstration to stop drugs and prostitution in the Seattle area. He also, coordinated and led voter registration drives and personally influenced over 2,000 Black people to become registered voters. “We’re one of the strongest premiere civil rights organizations and we’re respected,” said Steele, a member of the national board of directors.
Since Steele, there was Oscar Eason, who was president of the NAACP for four years. Carl Mack served as president from 2002 – 2005. Mack was followed by Alfoster Garrett, Jr. and Sheley Secrest. James Bible, the current president, has served since 2007.
One hundred years later the Seattle NAACP is still the voice of the Black community and their successful work was recently recognized by the national organization. The Seattle NAACP is a well-respected organization of the Black community and has a renowned reputation for its representation of Blacks in Seattle. Like previous presidents, Mack continued to build the reputation of the NAACP with his bold statements and an aggressive, no-nonsense approach in addressing civil rights issues.
During his tenure as president, Mack along with fellow members made national headlines with their headstrong protest against the controversial game “Ghettopoly,” a game that portrays and makes fun of the stereotypes associated with African Americans. Mack and other members organized a sit-in at the retail store known for selling the game and demanded the game be pulled. They succeeded and the retailer took the game off of the shelves, but for Mack that was not enough. “I wasn’t happy with just that store pulling the game. I wanted (all of their) stores in the state and nationwide to stop the solicitation of that game,” stated Mack.
The efforts of the Seattle chapter caught the attention of national television stations, newspapers, and radio stations and sparked protests throughout the country, that eventually led to the removal of the game from retail shelves across the country.
One of the NAACP’s most popular sponsored committees is geared towards the Black youth, ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) is a committee designed by members of the NAACP to encourage and inspire Black youth toward excellence in academic and cultural pursuits. They recruit dedicated community volunteers and business leaders to serve as mentors and coaches to promote outstanding academic achievement among the Black youth. In turn, the youth are recognized and given awards for specific areas of achievement. This program is a stance to say that African Americans are not only over achievers in athletics, but in academic as well.
In addition, there is also the education committee that assures Black students are receiving the same educational benefits as their White counterparts. Next, is their political action committee, where the NAACP keeps track of the city’s council members actions towards addressing the city’s needs. Everything is then reported back to the community, so that when re-election time comes around the community can determine whether or not to re-elect a council member or not.
The Labor & Industry committee addresses and acts upon any evidence of discrimination against African Americans in the workplace. The Economic Development committee was designed to empower and uplift the economic outlook for Black residents in Seattle. Another committee established in the Seattle chapter, is the Legal Redress committee. The purpose of this litigation process in their discrimination cases. They also provide legal support to victims of discrimination. These are some of the many committees the NAACP has developed in order to better serve its’ community.
For 100 years locally and 103 years nationally, the NAACP has played a prominent role in the plight of the Black community and will continue in that role for years to come.
The NAACP will host a Centennial Celebration this Sat., Nov. 2, 2013 at the Double Tree Hilton Airport. For more information/tickets call (206) 324-6600.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in commemoration of the Seattle-King County NAACP’s 90th Anniversary celebration. It has been updated to reflect the 100th Anniversary of the organization.