The leadership and origins of the NAACP 1898-1948: heroic liberals and conservative elitists?

Hill, Gerard Francis (2022). The leadership and origins of the NAACP 1898-1948: heroic liberals and conservative elitists? University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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My dissertation appraises the development of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from its origins in the 1900s to the beginning of the Cold War in the 1940s. I trace the NAACP’s roots to the nineteenth century campaign for Abolitionism and the growth of American Imperialism. The NAACP leadership had a reputation as an elitist or middle-class organisation but I found its membership to be diverse though the working-class was under-represented. It included supporters of conservatism, liberalism and socialism. The Association underwent changes which were driven by social trends during the 1920s and 1930s. Movements in US society were migration, industrialisation and urbanisation. Foreign policy also affected the NAACP, as the US fought several wars, some of an imperialist nature.
Social class and imperialism are at the root of my thesis; they represent an original interpretation of the NAACP. I expected my work in archives to reveal a middle-class, moderate organisation but the evidence produced a more complex picture. Individual leaders were changed by circumstances, especially Moorfield Storey, W.E.B. DuBois and Walter White. They appeared to have completely different beliefs; I show they were united by their approach to anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism. I argue that the NAACP combined liberal ideals with conservative, elitist attitudes. Socialist members persistently tried to reform the organisation but failed. The trend to American Imperialism threatened to put American liberals on the wrong side of history. Moorfield Storey was determined to prevent this.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, American and Canadian Studies Centre
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)


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