The Great Depression
With the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the NAACP confronted an internal dispute and external criticism over the merits of pursuing an agenda of civil and political equality versus an agenda of economic development and independence. The merits were debated at the Amenia Conference in 1933. In the political arena, the NAACP won the first successful campaign against a Supreme Court nominee, Judge John J. Parker, demonstrating the association’s growing influence. By 1931, the NAACP undertook the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black youths wrongfully accused of raping two white women, before losing control of the case to the Communist-led International Labor Defense. Later, based on the findings of attorneys Nathan Margold and Charles H. Houston, the NAACP launched a legal campaign against de jure segregation that focused on inequalities in public schools. Towards the end of 1932, in response to employment discrimination, the NAACP sent Roy Wilkins, then the assistant NAACP secretary, and George Schuyler, a journalist and author, undercover to investigate conditions for the 30,000 black workers in the War Department’s Mississippi River Flood Control Project.
In 1939 the NAACP created its Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., to litigate cases and raise money exclusively for the legal program. On the cultural front, the NAACP deliberated about the prospect of Jesse Owens’s and other black athletes’ participation in the 1936 Olympics in light of Nazi propaganda and urged them not to participate. After the Daughters of the American Revolution barred Marian Anderson from singing at Constitution Hall in 1939, the NAACP worked with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration to stage a concert for her at the Lincoln Memorial.
View all items from The Great Depression »