The Membership Pin

Many people who are part of an organization have worn a pin representing what they are a part of. Back then the members of the NAACP did just that. I chose this cultural artifact because I feel like I am not as educated about the NAACP as I should be. This group has played a significant role various times throughout history. Many of the things that they have fought for and accomplished have affected my life being a black woman in America. This pin is directly correlated with the NAACP so I feel that if I research the pin I can also learn about this legacy.
When people joined the National Associate of Advancement of Colored People they were often given a membership pin. There are various version of this pin but the one I chose in particular was around the Civil Rights Era. It is fairly plain with only two colors, blue and white, and has minimal writing on it. The design doesn’t really have a direct correlation with the time period but being that it says 1954 on it we know that it is from this era. There is no documentation of when the first pin was distributed but I believe that it probably happened sometime around 1909 when they were first founded.
The producers of the pin were leaders of the NAACP. White liberals such as Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard plus their African American counterparts like W.E.B Du Bois and Ida B Wells were among the first members. I assume that they had some sort of design team assist them with this task but for the most part the pins were made by the people in charge. These leaders helped create this pin to show togetherness.
The inspiration for the creation of this organization was “partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield.” (NAACP) “They called for a meeting to discuss racial justice,” (NAACP) and knew that there would be a large amount of people interested. The more people that came out to support their movement the more they wanted to keep getting their word out. A great way to advertise was giving the members a pin to wear. Think about it, one person comes in contact with hundreds of people a week. Therefore the word spread extremely fast for that time period. One of the main founders, W.E.B DU Bois also played a large role because what the NAACP was doing echoed Du Bois’ Niagara Movement. He was very passionate about bettering the lives of colored people so it was only right for him to be deeply involved in this organization.
The pin was created in the early 1900s when lynching and riots against blacks were at an all-time high. It continued being relevant in society as segregation began to take place and racism was still a major problem. Specifically, the pin I chose was from the year 1954. During the 50s the NAACPs Legal Defense and Education Fund helped accomplish the goals of the Brown vs Board case. Led by Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. the advancement of integration in the armed forces also going on. Various Civil Rights Acts as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were among the accomplishments of the NAACP. All of these things that the NAACP took part in were solely to benefit the African American community. Especially during this time period. Violence was reaching not only black men and women but their children as well.
There was little to no justice in the Colored community during the Civil Rights era. When the Civil Rights Movement began their goal was to echo the NAACP’s goals. Which shows us how much of an influence this organization was to other people who were fighting for a change. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most known names for fighting for black rights looked up to the NAACP for guidance. The Civil Rights Era wasn’t necessarily the best time for black people. Of course there were worse times, such as slavery, but everything wasn’t all merry. African American people needed a voice large enough to make a significant impact, and the NAACP was there to do just that.
If the goal is to bring justice to all colored people of the world, then those people have to come together in some way. This subtle pin sparked so much interest bringing everyone on the same page. Imagine hate crimes and blatant discrimination going on every day of your life. You would want some sort of safe haven or a place to voice your thoughts and opinions on where to go next right? Who would you rather approach, someone wearing this membership pin or a random person walking down the street? All black people were going through this struggle so it was very important that there is something done to help fix it. This pin brings awareness to the community and extends the invitation to help with the battle for black justice. There needed to be as much awareness as possible, so any way that they could make that happen they did. This little pin, only saying NAACP Member 1954, could have been a major piece of changing the world.
Legally the NAACP did so much for the black community by backing them up. They “posted bail for hundreds of Freedom Riders in the ‘60s who had traveled to Mississippi to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow policies.” They provided legal representation for other protestors as well. This really allowed for black people to stand up against the system and have their demands heard. They also helped plan the March on Washington which was a big turning point in history.
The pin did change over time but not completely. The written words remained the same with the exception of the year that they were involved in the organization. The background or theme of the pin also changed. They went from the scale of justice being the logo to a more plain approach where there are two solid colors. The combinations of blue and white or red and white gave off the American feel. I think this is a way to suggest to the rest of the world that colored people deserve just as many human rights as whites.
We talked about the Second Reconstruction in America during class and I think this fits in well during that time period. We briefly touched on the NAACPs role in the Civil Rights Movement but I think that we could have addressed more. The NAACP was on the Right side of things, where they wanted things such as black integration and color-blindness. They continuously fought alongside other influential people and made a huge impact on the world. They had and still have demands, desire for equality, appeal, urgency, and an approach to persist in their fight for justice. “The NAACP will remain vigilant in its mission until the promise of America is made real for all Americans.” (NAACP)
Works Cited
“NAACP: 100 Years of History.” NAACP. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.


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