Women of the NAACP: Exemplars of Achievement


CB and Sean Penn at peace rallyWomen have served an integral role in the history of the NAACP, and they continue to play a vital role today.

The story of the NAACP begins with a woman. On February 12, 1909, a white journalist and woman’s suffragist named Mary White Ovington joined with two other activists to call for a national conference on the civil and political rights of African-Americans. The ensuing conference was called the National Negro Committee, and it was soon renamed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Ovington served as the third chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors from 1919-1934 – the highest position in the NAACP — and twice as Executive Secretary — then the highest position on the NAACP staff. She added a woman’s touch to NAACP leadership in its first few seminal decades, helping to build a strong field staff against seemingly insurmountable odds, protest racist depictions in the media like “Birth of a Nation”, and push for anti-lynching legislation.

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