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The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors

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James Weldon Johnson joins the NAACP

James Weldon Johnson was one of the most accomplished people of his time. By the time he joined the NAACP in 1916 he had been a school principal, a lawyer, a songwriter, a diplomat, a poet, a novelist and a journalist.  He brought his considerable skills and trustworthy temperament to the NAACP first as field secretary and eventually as leader of the organization.  Moreover his appointment was a recognition that the  original conception of the organization as one supported and run by whites had indeed changed. From its founding in 1909 until 1916 W.E.B. Du Bois had been the only African American officer in the national office. This had been intentional to convince potential white donors to give.  As it turned out small black donors rather than large white ones  were the ones who allowed the small organization to grow.  By 1913 it was becoming clear that in order to succeed it would have to be supported by African Americans. Eighty percent of the more than 3000 members of the organization were black. In 1914 the Association hired a black woman Kathryn Johnson as the first paid, full time field organizer. Although she started more branches in black communities and revived others, the board felt that she was not "refined" enough to reach liberal whites.  In 1916 she was fired and eventually James Weldon Johnson was hired Jim Johnson was a southerner himself and the vision he brought was to have the Association start new branches in the south where most African Americans lived.
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