Saturday, June 13, 2015

walter francis white


wikipedia |  Walter Francis White (July 1, 1893 – March 21, 1955) was an American civil rights activist who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for almost a quarter of a century and directed a broad program of legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement. He was also a journalist, novelist, and essayist. He graduated in 1916 from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), a historically black college.

In 1918 he joined the small national staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in New York at the invitation of James Weldon Johnson. He acted as Johnson's assistant national secretary and traveled to the South to investigate. White later succeeded Johnson as the head of the NAACP, leading the organization from 1931 to 1955.

White oversaw the plans and organizational structure of the fight against public segregation. He worked with President Truman on desegregating the armed forces after the Second World War and gave him a draft for the Executive Order to implement this. Under White's leadership, the NAACP set up the Legal Defense Fund, which raised numerous legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement, and achieved many successes. Among these was the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which determined that segregated education was inherently unequal. White also quintupled NAACP membership to nearly 500,000.

White used his appearance to increase his effectiveness in conducting investigations of lynchings and race riots in the American South. He could "pass" and talk to whites, but also identified as black and could talk to members of the African-American community. Such work was dangerous. “Through 1927 White would investigate 41 lynchings, 8 race riots, and two cases of widespread peonage, risking his life repeatedly in the backwaters of Florida, the piney woods of Georgia, and in the cotton fields of Arkansas.”[14]

In his autobiography, A Man Called White, he dedicates an entire chapter to a time when he almost joined the Ku Klux Klan undercover. White became a master of incognito investigating. He started with a letter from a friend that recruited new members of the KKK.[15] After correspondence between him and Edward Young Clark, leader of the KKK, Clark clearly tried to interest White joining.[15] Invited to Atlanta, to meet with other Klan leaders, White declined, fearing that he would be at risk of his life if his true identity were discovered.[15] White used this access to Klan leaders to further his investigation into the "sinister and illegal conspiracy against human and civil rights which the Klan was concocting."[15] After deeper inquiries into White's life, Clark stopped sending signed letters; White was threatened by anonymous letters stating his life would be in danger if he ever divulged any of the confidential information he had received.[16] By this time, White had already turned the information over to the US Department of Justice and New York Police Department.[16] He believed that undermining the hold of mob violence would be crucial to his cause.