Writing the complete history of the Jackson (MS) Branch NAACP, which was established in the 1920s along with Meridian and Natchez branches, will be quite an undertaking. However, at a minimum, it is important that this anniversary issue recognizes the countless contributors who, under the NAACP banner, organized protest marches, mass meetings, and sit-ins; registered voters with severe consequences; gathered and disseminated information; and trained youth leaders.
Some local NAACPers braved the title of president, fully aware of the imminent threat to their wellbeing, including Revs. A.W. Wells, R.L.T. Smith, and S. Leon Whitney; attorneys Carsie Hall, Jack Young, and Fred Banks; and Sam Bailey. Keeping the freedom banner held high were presidents Doris Smith, Rev. Hosea Hines, Delores Orey, Esther Quinn Muhammad, Aurelia Jones, Mrs. Ineva May Pittman, Gus McCoy, Wayne McDaniels, and presently, Deloris Lee.
Others may not have presided at the meeting but were present at the table and on the front line. Although there are too many to mention here by name, a few early local NAACP workers were AME Logan, Atty. R. Jess Brown, Gladys Noel Bates, Dr. A. H. McCoy, J.B. Harrington, A.J. Noels, M.C. Collins, William A. Bender, John Dixon, Dorothy P. Williams, Reuben Anderson, Charles Evers, Dr. Robert Smith, Clarie Collins Harvey, Dr. James and Doug Anderson, Frank Figgers, Addie Green, Rev. Emmett Burns, Rev. Hickman Johnson, Drs. Aaron and Ollye Shirley, Dr. Freda Bush, L’Dina Robinson, and Senator Henry Kirksey.
In later years, we would be remiss not to recognize Stephanie Parker Weaver, Jim Evans, Kathy Sykes, Charles Tisdale, L.A. Warren, Winston and Adriane Kidd, Donna Lavigne, Tonea Stewart, Beverly Branson, Perry Robinson, Percy Chatman, Gary Anderson, Maggie Benson White, Edith Carter, Charles Britton, Charles Maholmes, and Derrick Johnson, who now serves as NAACP national president.
Medgar Wiley Evers, along with his wife, Myrlie, should be credited with sparking local NAACP branches to organize and reactivate when he became Mississippi NAACP field secretary in 1954 and relocated to Jackson. His dedication over the next nine years of his life is unparalleled in Mississippi’s fight for equity.
Jackson NAACP youth council members and leaders should also be celebrated for their tenacity. Among them are Shirley, Orbra, and Lee Roy Harrington; Gene Young; Cleveland and James Donald; Stanley Wright; and Randolph, Arthur, Althea, Evelyn, and Fannie Watson; and Kathryn Orey Perry, who also served as a state NAACP youth advisor as did Shirley Harrington, Addie Green, and this writer. Harrington served as a youth council member during the turbulent 1960s and went on to be a youth leader for over three decades. Green also served as special assistant to Dr. Aaron E. Henry, state NAACP president.
Although the NAACP’s primary mission is civil rights, local branches have addressed all social disparities with great vigor; education being at the top of the list.
“For seven consecutive years, we had a citywide partnership with JPS to ensure school readiness,” recalls former president Gus McCoy. “We impacted an average of 1,500 students per year with supplies and coordination with health resources through a number of community partners.”
Former president Esther Quinn Muhammad (1990-94) added her priority was engaging youth. “We had the largest membership of young people joining and participating in the Jackson branch. We reactivated the youth council and worked closely with the college chapters in the area,” she said.
“The Jackson Branch NAACP continues to be involved with civic engagement activities, such voter registration, voter education forums, and Get Out The Vote,” says current president Deloris Lee. “We have supported school bond issues that will improve the schools here in Jackson; been involved with the effort to get a new stage flag; participated with the effort to educate the community on the importance of the Census; supported Nissan workers in their efforts to unionize in Canton; opposed charter schools; partnered in health and political forums; and went on record of opposing the redistricting plan the state legislature adopted in 2021.”
Lee said branch members worked tirelessly during the 2021 and 2022 water crisis to get bottled water to senior and disabled citizens. Members also held COVID vaccination events for the public last year.
Again, this is not a history lesson on the Jackson Branch NAACP. This is merely a thank you to those mentioned and not mentioned for their incredible service to the Jackson community.