NAACP’s New Focus After 1950: An Overview of Their Contribution to Civil Rights Movement

NAACP’s New Focus After 1950: An Overview of Their Contribution to Civil Rights Movement

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. After its inception in 1909, the organization focused on challenging racial discrimination through legal means. However, in the post-1950s era, the organization shifted its focus, expanding its scope of activities to create a more significant impact. This article explores the new focus of the NAACP after 1950 and how its contribution shaped the Civil Rights Movement.

Historical Overview

The NAACP’s early efforts were focused on the social and legal challenges faced by African Americans. The organization’s focus was on challenging racial discrimination through the legal system, with a primary emphasis on ending the discriminatory system of Jim Crow laws in the southern states. However, after World War II, the United States began to experience a significant societal change, and the Civil Rights Movement evolved.

The post-1950s period witnessed a combination of social, economic, and political factors that led to the expansion and redefinition of the NAACP’s role. The African American community demanded equal rights, particularly in education, employment, housing, voting rights, and desegregation. Due to these demands, the NAACP emerged as a key player in the movements that sought social and political reforms. The leaders of this organization recognized that the legal system and court cases would not solely bring about the needed structural changes in the United States. Therefore, they began to adopt a more proactive and comprehensive approach to address these issues.

The Civil Rights Movement during this period was characterized by significant shifts in approach and tactics. The Movement witnessed the emergence of influential leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who spurred on community mobilization, resulting in a series of sit-ins, freedom rides, and other forms of non-violent protests.

Prominent NAACP Leaders

The expansion of the NAACP’s focus after 1950 was facilitated by prominent leaders such as Thurgood Marshall, Roy Wilkins, James Weldon Johnson, and Earl Warren. These leaders played a significant role in shaping the organization’s new focus.

Thurgood Marshall was an attorney who specialized in civil rights cases and served as the NAACP’s chief counsel from 1938 to 1961. He focused on using the legal system to challenge discriminatory policies and practices. Marshall led the legal defense team in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which led the U.S. Supreme Court to declare that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

Roy Wilkins, who served as the NAACP’s executive director from 1964 to 1977, was instrumental in expanding the organization’s focus and elevating its political power. During his tenure, he led campaigns for voting rights, fair housing, and equal employment opportunities. Furthermore, he played a significant role in the organization’s support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark pieces of legislation that eliminated voting barriers and workplace discrimination based on race.

Impact of the NAACP’s New Focus

The NAACP’s new focus on achieving greater social and political change allowed the organization to achieve significant breakthroughs. The NAACP played a central role in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, which marked the beginning of the end of the segregation era. Moreover, the organization facilitated voter registration drives in the southern states, resulting in more African Americans participating in elections.

The NAACP’s efforts in pressuring the government, leading legal challenges, and using non-violent protests led to new opportunities and victories for the African American community. With the organization’s intensified focus on desegregation, there was a rapid increase in the employment rate, educational opportunities, and housing desegregation for the African American community. The NAACP also facilitated greater political representation of the African American community at the local, state, and national levels.

Personal Reflection

Cathy is a former member of the NAACP and has been involved in the civil rights movement since the 1960s. Reflecting on her time in the organization, she recalls how the NAACP’s new focus on action-oriented initiatives inspired her to actively seek change.

“The NAACP’s change in focus and strategy was essential in gaining more significant political power and representation. It enabled the African American community to demand their rights and make their voices heard more effectively through non-violent activism and collective action. As a member, this inspired me to become more involved and take an active role in creating change. I am proud of the work that the NAACP has done and continues to do to this day.”

Comparative Study

Other civil rights organizations emerged in the same period with similar objectives but different approaches. One prominent group was the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942, which primarily focused on direct action by organizing movements such as the Freedom Rides and sit-ins.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which emerged in 1960 and was composed of students involved in the Civil Rights Movement, played a vital role in facilitating voter registration drives and other campaigns.

Although there were similarities between these organizations, their approaches and focus differed significantly. The NAACP primarily emphasized legal challenges, whereas CORE and SNCC used direct action movements to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, there were also areas of cooperation in which their efforts were integrated, resulting in a united front for greater change.


In conclusion, the NAACP’s new focus after 1950 played a crucial role in achieving progress in the Civil Rights Movement. By expanding its scope of activities beyond legal challenges, the organization facilitated non-violent protest movements, voter registration drives, and economic empowerment programs in the African American community. This article highlights the significance of the NAACP’s changing focus, profiles its influential leaders, and assesses its impact on the Civil Rights Movement. Looking forward, the NAACP continues to strive for greater equity, justice, and empowerment for marginalized groups.

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