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The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors
Walter White Biography, page 10 of 17

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WW becomes Secretary of the NAACP

W.E.B Du Bois had supported White's hiring by the NAACP in 1918 but came to dislike him;  He wrote:

White could be one of the most charming of men.  He was small in stature, appealing in approach, with a ready smile and a sense of humor.  Also he was an indefatigable worker, who never seemed to tire.  On the other hand he was one of the most selfish men I ever knew.  He was absolutely self-centered and egotistical to the point that he was almost unconscious of it.  He seemed really to believe that his personal interests and the interests of his race and organization were identical.  This led to curious complications because to attain his objects he was often unscrupulous.

From 1929 to 1931 Walter White rose from Acting Secretary of the NAACP to Secretary of the NAACP.  W.E.B. Du Bois described the transition in his autobiography:

An assistant to JWJ who became secretary in 1920, White was an outstanding success.  He investigated lynchings at great personal risk; and especially, he carried out the plans which Johnson laid down.  It was Johnson’s strong point to consult widely and decide carefully.  White then took over and put the plans to work. For twelve years this team worked harmoniously and well...but in 1931 Johnson resigned and went to Fisk University.  Walter White was elected to succeed him.

White’s assumption of office was to set off an explosion within a year.  His attitude and actions were unbearable. The whole staff [Robert Bagnall, William Pickens Jr., newly hired Roy Wilkens and others] appealed to me as the senior executive officer to lead a protest to the Board of Directors… I could not shirk this appeal.  I wrote a protest and all of the staff signed it…It was a strong and biting arraignment but all accepted it and signed it.  The board was deeply moved and while it did not attempt to deny the charges, thought the protest was too strong and not quite fair.  They asked us to withdraw our signatures and promised to investigate the situation.  White abased himself before the Board and made every promise of reform.  Nearly all the signers, at the urgent request of Joel Spingarn, President of the Board, withdrew their names.  But I refused.  I did not trust White.  The matter was dropped and was not heard of afterwards. But White radically changed his attitude toward the staff.  He became pleasant and approachable.  Above all he went to work.

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