Ohio History

The Ohio Conference of Units of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)  has been a vital programmatic component of the NAACP for more than a century. The NAACP is the oldest, most effective and most respected civil rights organization in the Nation, founded in 1909. The Ohio Conference has played a pivotal role in moving the agenda for freedom and equality forward under the leadership of dynamic State Conference Presidents, each of whom addressed critical issues during their tenure.

The first Ohio unit of the NAACP was formed in Cleveland in 1912, just 3 years after the organization was formed in New York on the 100th anniversary of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln and in  response to the disappointing actions of the Niagara Movement, which had its final meeting in Oberlin,  Ohio in 1908. The goals of ending racial discrimination, segregation, and lynching were of paramount concern. In 1915, units of the NAACP were formed in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Springfield, and Toledo.  During the next few years, 1916-1919, NAACP branches were established at Akron, Lorain, Oberlin, Wellsville, and Youngstown in northern Ohio.

As with the parent organization in New York, the Ohio NAACP units were racially integrated, but most NAACP members and leaders in Ohio were African Americans.

In the early years, the Cleveland Unit was the most vital in the state. Its public meetings were well attended. However, the Cleveland Unit was small and lacked sufficient funding. The unit began to work on employment and housing problems and occasionally inserted itself into racial discrimination cases.  The first district conference of the NAACP in Ohio was held in Cleveland in May 1916. In June of 1919, Cleveland was the site of the Tenth Anniversary Annual Conference of the national organization.

The 1930’s and 1940’s, Ohio had several violent acts against blacks. For example, The Mt. Adams Stonings in 1944, The Racial profiling of Nathan Wright and the Case of Haney Bradley and others. All of which signaled how little things had changed.

Pushing forward to desegregation through the 1950’s and 60’s was a hard-fought struggle in Ohio. The timeline of protests and boycotts especially in response to the U. S. Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education, delineate the hard-fought battle for justice in public schools. In 1964, nearly 20,000 African-American public-school students boycotted the Cincinnati Public School system to protest the district’s segregation policies.  Ten years after the landmark Supreme Court decision.

The struggles in Ohio with treatment by law enforcement and an unfair judicial system continued in the 1960’s even with the passage of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), few changes took place in some communities, however, the struggle continued.

The NAACP at the National, State and local or unit levels in Ohio, has been at the forefront of many court cases to ensure the rights of all people. By applying direct action or litigation, the NAACP, has continued to fight on behalf of people and their rights.

Sources: “African Americans and the Color Line, 1915-1930” by William Wayne Giffin;
Safe Passage: Overview of Civil Rights in SW Ohio.