NAACP chapter marches forward throughout the years

ABERDEEN – At age 96, Estella Dobson recalls the founding of the local chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People as a by-product of the Montgomery bus boycotts and other components of the Civil Rights Movement.

COURTESY PHOTO MARCHING – Members of the NAACP march with members of the Concerned Parents Committee in an educational protest march in February 1987. The Aberdeen chapter of the NAACP was began in the early 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and its members still push for people's civil rights no matter their race.

COURTESY PHOTO
MARCHING – Members of the NAACP march with members of the Concerned Parents Committee in an educational protest march in February 1987. The Aberdeen chapter of the NAACP was began in the early 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and its members still push for people’s civil rights no matter their race.

“General Young had heard about Martin Luther King Jr. leading the movement and he told us about it. Dr. King wasn’t hating other people, he just wanted the rights for people. He didn’t want any evil, just equality,” Dobson said, who was honored last year at the Mississippi NAACP banquet for being one of its oldest living members in the state.
Young, who passed away last August, helped form Aberdeen’s chapter in the early 1960s and was described as a bulldog for his causes locally and statewide.
“Mr. Red [as Young was also called] asked me to join when membership was $5 or $10 a year. I know now what he’s going through. We’d go to meetings with three or four people there and he would shed tears wondering why more people didn’t come to the meetings,” said Harold Holliday, who served as vice president of the chapter under Young.
Like many other cities in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s, there were tumultuous times in race relations.
In 1964 when black and white students from Washington, D.C., and New York came to the south to work on passing the Voting Rights Act during the Mississippi Freedom Summer, students worked closely with Young and others in Aberdeen.
“We were all students of nonviolence. Being a member made me an advocate during times of injustice while it broadened my prospective of life. Back then, it was a movement of young people,” said Bishop Eugene Sacus.
Most of the chapter’s original members have passed away and current members are looking to increase their numbers to anyone pushing for the civil rights cause. The chapter is now under the leadership of chapter president Leon Manning.
“I like to think that we’re breaking ground, but if we can’t change people’s hearts, we’re not achieving our goals. We’re not a racial organization and we’re not the Black Panthers. We’re here to fight for anyone being mistreated – blacks, whites and Hispanics,” said Lady B. Garth.
During the 1980s, Young and the NAACP pushed for the hiring of Aberdeen’s first black bank tellers, which included Dorothy Fears, Angie Belle and Gloria Wilson. Efforts to release teachers in the Aberdeen School District from staff development meetings were solidified when Martin Luther King Day was first observed as a national holiday in 1986.
“Speaking as a teenager growing up in the 70s, we understood equality wasn’t there and the NAACP gave us comfort in having someone to talk to about it. We’re pushing for unity and most people have a misunderstanding. This organization is for all people. I’d really like to see more diversity within our organization,” said Cloyd Garth.
“We have to continue to walk forward together to move Aberdeen forward,” Sacus said.
The chapter’s biggest event of the year is the annual Martin Luther King Day motorcade and church service.

About Ray Van Dusen

I've been with the Monroe Journal since Aug. 2009 as a staff writer, but took the role as news editor in late 2012. I'm always looking for interesting story ideas from around Monroe County. You can reach me via email at ray.vandusen@journalinc.com.