Borders of EqualityThe NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Borders of EqualityThe NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Lee Sartain

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9781617037511

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

As a border city Baltimore made an ideal arena to push for change during the civil rights movement. It was a city in which all forms of segregation and racism appeared vulnerable to attack by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)’s methods. If successful in Baltimore, the rest of the nation might follow with progressive and integrationist reforms. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP, one of the first chapters in the nation and the largest branch by 1946, undertook various forms of civil rights activity from 1914 through the 1940s that later were mainstays of the 1960s movement. Nonviolent protest, youth activism, economic boycotts, marches on state capitols, campaigns for voter registration, and pursuit of anti-lynching cases all had test runs. Remarkably, Baltimore’s NAACP had the same branch president for thirty-five years starting in 1935, a woman, Lillie M. Jackson. Her work highlights gender issues and the social and political transitions among the changing civil rights groups. This book evaluates Jackson’s leadership amid challenges from radicalized youth groups and the Black Power Movement. Baltimore was an urban industrial center that shared many characteristics with the North, and African Americans could vote there. The city absorbed a large number of black economic migrants from the South, and exhibited racial patterns that made it more familiar to Southerners. It was one of the first places to begin desegregating its schools in September 1954 after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.