Area members and supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – the NAACP – will celebrate its national centennial tonight with a banquet sponsored by the Lee County/Tupelo chapter of the human rights organization.
Though reviled through the years by many white southerners as a rabble-rousing group of agitators, the NAACP’s relentless pursuit of equality, fairness and full social and legal standing for all people, but especially people of color, helped shape great progress in human relations in the past century.
Tonight’s banquet and recognition program, for which tickets will be available at the door until 7 p.m. at The Summit Center, or by calling (662) 255-5656, honors the accomplishments and the forthrightness of people in Tupelo and Lee County who answered the NAACP’s question, “Who will help?” by personally stepping forward.
The list of honorees includes African-American and white citizens, living and deceased, who joined hearts, passion, intellect and personal skills in common cause for mutual benefit and community progress.
Lillie Belle Johnson, a longtime NAACP member and civic activist from Shannon, said the NAACP was “our backbone” in times when situations required peaceful public protests and legal action to win important issues.
Johnson also said an NAACP membership card was equivalent to saying “this is my lawyer” as situations required assertive stances.
Johnson, along with others, also said tonight’s celebration will appropriately honor white Tupeloans and Lee countians who worked against prevailing attitudes and practices to dismantle segregation and overwhelm racism as an acceptable conviction and practice.
The centennial celebration coincidentally and appropriately happens the same week that the late Frank Dowsing, a stellar Tupelo High School and Mississippi State University student athlete who shattered racial barriers in high school and collegiate football, basketball and track-and field, was announced as a 2010 inductee into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Dowsing, an academic and football all-American player at MSU, was elected Mr. Tupelo High School and Mr. Mississippi State.
The NAACP started with about 60 founders, seven of whom were black, the rest white liberals. The founding date was Feb. 12, 1909, the centennial of “great emancipator” Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
Among the African-American founders were the revered W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell.
The NAACP’s principal objective remains political, educational, social and economic equality for minority group citizens of the United States and elimination of all race prejudice. It seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes, a thoroughly American method that has achieved many goals and brought many others within reach.

NEMS Daily Journal

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