HISTORY OF THE BUFFALO, NY BRANCH NAACP FOUNDED JANUARY 15, 1915
Buffalo, NY played a major role in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1905 a conference to be held in Buffalo was organized by Professor W.E.B. DuBois of Atlanta, Georgia. He made arrangements with William H. & Mary Talbert to have the first day of the meeting on July 11, 1905, at their 521 Michigan Avenue home. Representatives from 18 states and the District of Columbia attended. The July 12th and 13th meetings were held in Fort Erie Ontario, Canada. Plans were made for a permanent organization to be known as the “Niagara Movement”. Professor DuBois prepared the principles of the Niagara Movement.
The Platform of this organization includes
Freedom of speech and criticism;
An unfettered and unsubsidized press:
No caste distinction of race and color:
Recognition of human brotherhood as a practical; present creed:
A belief in the dignity of manual toil and other good things:
Buffalo Inquirer News-Buffalo Commercial News July 12, 1905
Four years after that event, in 1909, in New York City an interracial group of prominent citizens founded the NAACP based on the principles outlined by the Niagara Movement.
Subsequently, a letter dated July 1, 1914 and signed by Amelia G. Anderson, Secretary and John E. Brent, Chairman, was sent to the Colored Citizens of Buffalo requesting their moral support in organizing a Branch of the National Association For The Advancement of Colored People. At that time there were about 30 branches in the country. As a result of this appeal, a Constitution and By-Laws was adopted November 30th , 1914 for the Buffalo Branch and was approved by the National Board of Directors on January 15, 1915. Mary B. Talbert and Rev. Dr. J. Edward Nash were amongst those most instrumental in the 1915 founding of the Buffalo NAACP.
A SACRED BOND
Since it’s inception the African American Clergy and Churches were very much involved in the organization and business of the Buffalo NAACP. Meetings were often held in the churches. Announcements from 1922, 1926, 1927 and 1933 show mass rallies/meetings
Were held at Bethel AME, First Shiloh Baptist, St. Luke AME Zion and the Michigan Avenue YMCA. Ministers listed on these slingers which are a part of the branches archives were Rev. Henry Durham, Rev. W.R.A. Palmer, Rev. E.J. Echols, Rev. S.O.B. Johnson, Rev. O.H. Brown, Rev. Dr. J. Edward Nash and Rev. D. Robinson. The relationship between the Buffalo NAACP and the religious community exists to this day. Many of the predominately African – American churches in the Buffalo area hold Life & Gold Life Memberships and support the branch Annual Dinner.
(Note: In the late 1960’s the Buffalo Headquarters of the NAACP which was located at Jefferson and E. Ferry St. burned down. All of its contents including most historical documents were lost in that fire. The historical papers and records that continue to exist are those that some members had in their homes.
THE MODERN CIVIL RIGHTS ERA
Presidents that served the branch during the turbulent and volatile civil rights years of the late 1950’s – early 1960’s were Raphael DuBard, Joseph Easley and Donald R. Lee.
Both Raphael DuBard and Donald Lee also served as President of the New York State NAACP Conference of Branches.
During the early sixties, the NAACP had to adjust to the emergence of several new civil rights organizations. These groups were seen to be more aggressive than the NAACP and their leadership often complained about the NAACP. They charged the Association was too wedded to a program of legal action and negotiations.
In reality, the NAACP had the most varied program and tactics of all the civil rights groups then active. History records the NAACP both locally and nationally had leadership with courage and common sense. Equally important, it had leadership with staying power and vision.
LITIGATION, PROGRESS AND PROMISE
When the NAACP was developed there were no other organizations, civic or social groups, or laws protecting Black people from all types of offenses.
The focus of the NAACP from its inception was to fight segregation in schools, housing, public accommodations, denial of employment, voting rights, lynching and other violence against black citizens.
As other civil rights, social service groups formed, they along with the NAACP were successful in enacting laws that protected affected persons from the injustices of the
past. Once these laws were enacted and people had access to the courts, the focus of the NAACP changed. Education became a paramount issue in order to ensure that black youth would be prepared to move into the professions that had been opened to them.
THE DAN ACKER ERA
Daniel Acker became President in 1972 and served until his death in May 1997. The Buffalo Branch made giant strides towards providing equal opportunity for all minorities under his leadership. He led the way in building meaningful community alliances and taking legal actions when necessary to assure progress.
During his presidency: These legal milestones took place:
In 1972 a local integrated group, Citizens Council On Human Relations (CCHR), the NAACP and several individual parent plaintiffs filed suit against the city, Board of Education and the NYS Education Department. Claiming they had intentionally segregated the schools and failed to hire minority teachers. The case was heard in 1974 and Federal District Judge John Curtin found in 1976 in favor of CCHR, NAACP and the parent plaintiffs. This case handled by local lawyers and national NAACP lawyers was in the court’s jurisdiction for 22 years. In late 1996 Judge Curtin ruled the Buffalo school system had finally been desegregated to its fullest.
The NAACP joined in the Minority Police and Fire Fighters case against the City of Buffalo as a Friend of the Court. The final decree and order dated 11/23/1979 was based upon a finding of persistent discrimination by defendants against Blacks, Hispanics and Women.
On June 28 1991 Hispanic Appellants and the NAACP with 3 African American Appellants sought a preliminary injunction against implementation of a new Reapportionment Plan adopted by the Common Council of the City of Buffalo. It was believed the Reapportionment Plan would weaken the voting strength of the Hispanic and African
American communities. This litigation was in defense of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and demonstrated the branch’s determination to protect hard won legal gains.
Upon the death of Daniel Acker, First Vice President Rufus Frasier served as President for a few months until he became ill. Frank B. Mesiah moved up to the President position. He was elected President by the membership in November 1997 and is currently serving in that capacity.
In 1978, the Buffalo Branch NAACP joined the National NAACP Academic, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics, (ACT-SO). This program which promotes excellence among Black high school students is designed to give young Black achievers the public acclaim awarded to athletic stars. The Buffalo Branch, was one of 1000 chapters
participating holding local competitions in the spring of each year. Area professionals in various fields served as Judges in the local competition. Local winners who were considered capable of competing on a national level were taken to the National competition in July of each year to compete against their counterparts from all over the country. Over the years Buffalo youth were successful in winning the national competitions bringing home, Gold, Silver, Bronze Medals, thousands of dollars as well as word processors and computers.
It was always the intention of the Buffalo ACT-SO Committee that every student be allowed to participate. To make sure the financial cost of attending the national competition was not a barrier for participation the entire cost of travel, lodging and daily meals were paid in full by the Buffalo Committee who raised the funds each year.
Due to the rising costs and lack of interest by foundations & organizations for a program that expenses were primarily for lodging and travel, the Buffalo ACT-SO program was discontinued in 2010.
The Buffalo Branch NAACP since its inception, primarily serves the African American community within the Buffalo area.
With the enactment of the Civil Rights legislations, social, government and private agencies have come into being, such as the NYS Human Rights Commission and Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC). These groups and agencies have the legal authority to act for aggrieved persons. So while the NAACP continues to receive these complaints the local branch refers those cases they cannot, or have no authority to handle, to the proper designated agencies.
The NAACP Buffalo Branch office is located at 395 E. Ferry Street.
The NAACP is not and does not claim to be everybody’s personal Lawyer or spokesperson.
The Buffalo Branch is primarily supported by paid annual memberships, donations, and an annual fund raiser. Memberships constitute 75% of the branches income.
For membership information, call 716-884-7242 or fax 716-884-7243.
This history was researched and written by Madeline O. Scott. Validation advisors were Frank B. Mesiah and Monroe Fordham, Ph.D. Edited for presentation by Cliff Suggs.