NAACP P: Mary White Ovington and the Founding of the NAACP

NAACP P: Mary White Ovington and the Founding of the NAACP

by Carolyn Wedin

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NAACP P: Mary White Ovington and the Founding of the NAACP by Carolyn Wedin

Inheritors of the Spirit Premier in American civil rights history stands the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From its earliest days, it reflected the brilliant, charismatic leadership of W. E. B. Du Bois and other remarkable pioneers—including the New York upper-middle-class feminist and social activist Mary White Ovington. In Inheritors of the Spirit, Carolyn Wedin has created a superbly detailed biography of this extraordinary woman whose vision, courage, and passion for justice left an indelible mark on the twentieth century. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1865, just three days before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Mary White Ovington grew up imbued with the spirit of abolition and surrounded by reminders of the catastrophe of slavery. A precocious and unusually perceptive child, she viewed her comfortable, upper-middle-class childhood as merely a happy accident of birth and was struck by the contrast between her own healthy, nurturing life and the lives of the black poor and disenfranchised. Her developing awareness of the power of race and class in America would become the driving force in her life. After attending Radcliffe and the Harvard Annex for Women, Ovington did not follow the expected paths of young women of her time, neither marrying nor staying at home to look after her parents. The independent-minded Ovington was in search of a career and a cause. She found both while attending a Social Reform Club event where Booker T. Washington spoke about "the Negro Problem." Ovington was both stunned and inspired. She would eventually write to her mother, "I’ve got a work now that is just as absorbing and, I believe, just as important as the work the abolitionists did before the war.… conditions are far from being what a democratic country should show towards its people." In 1909, the NAACP was born with the issuing of "The Call"—coauthored by Ovington—on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. With Ovington as acting Chairman and Chairman from 1917 to 1932, the NAACP grew from a small, mostly white volunteer staff to a predominantly black organization run by a salaried staff. Inheritors of the Spirit opens a wide window on the inner life of the NAACP, tracing its evolution from a virtual one-man show under W. E. B. Du Bois through the unflappable stewardship of James Weldon Johnson and the brilliant operational leadership of Walter White. Carolyn Wedin’s extensive research sheds new light on the shifting allegiances and internal power struggles within the movement, including Ovington’s work to empower women and explore the dynamics of the debate on class versus race. Drawing on a wide range of both public and private sources, Wedin provides a rich cultural and historical context, illuminating an era of great social upheaval and the remarkable, fiercely committed woman who dedicated her life to bringing it about.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470254738
Publisher: Turner Publishing Co.
Publication date: 08/24/2007
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 367
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

CAROLYN WEDIN is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and the editor of Black and White Sat Down Together: Reminiscences of an NAACP Founder by Mary White Ovington.

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