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The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Topic: FreedomTopic: IdentityTopic: InstitutionsTopic: PoliticsTopic: Forward
Topic: Forward
Toolbox Overview: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Resource Menu: Forward
Text 1. 1913: Fifty Years
Text 2. Two Views
Text 3. The NAACP
» Reading Guide
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Text 4. Protest
Text 5. Popular Culture
Text 6. World War I
Text 7. 1917: Forward

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Reading Guide
3.  The NAACP
- National Negro Committee, Call for a national conference, 1909
- NAACP, The Crisis, representative excerpts, 1910-1916

After years of benign response to lynchings and mob violence, many white Americans were shocked by the 1908 "race riot" in Springfield, Illinois. How could this happen in Abraham Lincoln's longtime home? Why were northern cities fueling the same violence associated with southern mobs? What could be done? One thing was to organize. In February 1909, to coincide with the centennial of Lincoln's birth, a group of northern white and black activists sent out letters calling for a national conference to address the problem. "Silence under these conditions means tacit approval," they insisted. They named their group the National Negro Committee, and among them were Mary White Ovington, W. E. B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Rev. Francis J. Grimké, Rabbi Emil Hirsch, and William English Walling, the signer of the letter presented here. At the conference which convened that May in New York City, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded.

Eighteen months later, the first issue of the NAACP's periodical, The Crisis, was published, with Du Bois as its editor. For the next quarter century, Du Bois led the magazine in its activist stance, taking on "a new role," as he wrote, "of interpreting to the world the hindrances and aspirations of American Negroes." Here you will find a representative collection of articles, editorial cartoons, ads, and poems from the first seven years of The Crisis. 14 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. How did the National Negro Committee use Lincoln's stature its appeal for a conference?
  2. In what ways did the creation of the NAACP mark an open break with Booker T. Washington and his moderationist philosophy? Was this inevitable, in your opinion?
  3. Reflect on your response to the Crisis selections. How did Du Bois pursue his activist philosophy through the magazine?
  4. How did The Crisis reflect its origins as a cooperative venture of black and white leaders?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What gains and setbacks mark the period of 1907 to 1917 for black Americans?
  •  To what extent did African Americans set their own paths forward?
  •  How were the lives of ordinary black people affected by black and white leadership?
  •  What identity had African Americans created, as a group, between 1865 and 1917?
  •  What insights could black Americans take forward into the postwar years and the 1920s?

Toolbox: The Making of African American Identity: Volume II, 1865-1917
Freedom | Identity | Institutions | Politics | Forward

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