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Borders of Equality

Borders of Equality: The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Lee Sartain
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  • Book Info
    Borders of Equality
    Book Description:

    As a border city Baltimore made an ideal arena to push for change during the civil rights movement. It was a city in which all forms of segregation and racism appeared vulnerable to attack by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's methods. If successful in Baltimore, the rest of the nation might follow with progressive and integrationist reforms. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP was one of the first chapters in the nation and was the largest branch in the nation by 1946. The branch undertook various forms of civil rights activity from 1914 through the 1940s that later were mainstays of the 1960s movement. Nonviolent protest, youth activism, economic boycotts, marches on state capitols, campaigns for voter registration, and pursuit of anti-lynching cases all had test runs.

    Borders of Equality


    eISBN: 978-1-62103-930-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Baltimore, Maryland, has been seen as a “town of contradictions” attributed to its geography and its unusual history in the United States narrative. Maryland was the only Catholic colony at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and as a border state it came to link the industrializing North with the slave-owning South. Before the Civil War, Baltimore was a major industrial city that contained slaves while the south and east of Maryland was traditional southern rural slave territory. Baltimore was the fourth largest city in the Union by 1860 with 212,418 residents; New Orleans was the only...

  4. CHAPTER ONE The Formation of a Branch and the Early Campaigns
    (pp. 15-45)

    The black bourgeoisie has been intimately linked to the embryonic stages of local NAACP branches across the United States. A cursory glance at any branch in the 1910s to the 1930s reveals lawyers, physicians, religious ministers, and other middle-class professions, such as dentists, teachers, and newspaper proprietors, as mainstay of branch membership. Such people were naturally attracted to the idea of the NAACP and could campaign on the issues that they saw as reflecting their values and would advance their class and group interests. This chapter will first examine the leadership of the Baltimore branch and, secondly, will focus on...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Class and Gender and Early Civil Rights
    (pp. 46-75)

    Gender and class have emerged as the key areas of debate for academics in recent years in their discussion of civil rights. Belinda Robnett’s seminal text from 1996, How Long? How Long?, set the benchmark for gender inquiry in twentieth century African American studies. Women’s activism being defined as “community bridge leaders” and broadly not undertaking the formal leadership positions of the civil rights movement (instead, organizing between groups and individuals to build complex social and professional networks) has dominated the discussion of black women and definitions of leadership. My own work on female campaigners in Louisiana, Invisible Activists, built...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Leadership and Dr. Lillie M. Jackson
    (pp. 76-108)

    Lillie May Jackson became president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP in 1935. She remained in that post until January 1970. This was exceptional for longevity of tenure and that a woman led a major branch from the New Deal to the end of the civil rights movement. She did this by being a charismatic and dominating personality, characteristics that tend to be associated with male leadership, and by creating an organization of familial and social networks that defined civil rights in a border state for nearly four decades.

    Academics have seen women as doing essential organizing but were...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Youth Activism and the NAACP
    (pp. 109-140)

    How to organize and sustain a youth wing of the NAACP was a perennial problem for the national office and its local affiliates. Firstly, it was an issue of how to attract younger people into an organization dominated by adults and to train them in activist tactics. Secondly, it was the issue of the relationship of the youth wing of the NAACP with the adult branch that, in many ways, had parallels with local adult branch tensions with the national organization in New York. Thirdly, there was the problem of generational tensions and the way that adults often appeared too...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Age of Brown and Agnew
    (pp. 141-168)

    Entering the civil rights era, the Baltimore NAACP branch proved itself an essential part of the national strategy to attain civic and educational equality. Its robust local activism meant that it was in a position to push Maryland into being the “first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line” to accept the Brown decision (1954) and to demand integration across a number of areas, including public accommodations. As a gateway to the South, Maryland, and crucially Baltimore, needed to be seen by the rest of the nation as being able to implement civil rights objectives before the South was further tested....

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-175)

    On December 16, 1969, the Baltimore branch of the NAACP held its first unpredictable election for the post of president in the 55 years of its existence. Lillie Jackson was 80 years old and had finally decided it was time to retire from frontline NAACP activism. But the family ambition remained and she wished for control of the branch to be transferred to her second daughter, Juanita Mitchell, who was most active in civil rights among her children. However, in a surprise result, Mitchell lost the election, bringing a long era in Baltimore civil rights history to an end.


  10. Appendices
    (pp. 176-178)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 179-214)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-224)
  13. Index
    (pp. 225-235)