Albion Branch NAACP Unit #3131.
A Brief History Albion Branch NAACP:
By Dr. Wesley Arden Dick, First-Vice President, Albion Branch NAACP and Professor of History, Albion College.
“If you don’t fight for your children, nobody will.”
Roy Wilkins, Executive Director, NAACP, at Albion, 1973
“The baton passed down by our ancestors is now in our hands.”—
Carl Breeding, Michigan State NAACP President, at Albion, 1995
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909.
Precisely when the Albion Branch was born remains shrouded in the mists of time, however, there is documentation that the Albion Branch got its start in 1933. Its presidents include:
- Moses Union
- Annie Rogers
- Rev. William Murphy
- Rev. R.V. Davis
- Rev. M. H. Wheeler
- Charles Jones
- Willie Davis
- Robert Pierson
- Henry Womack
- Charles Snyder
- Yancy Bradford, Sr. Juanita Lowe
- Delores Smiley
- Barbara Gladney
- Rev. James Gibson
- Dr. Bruce Borthwick
- Lenn Reid
- Arthur Davis
- Robert Dunklin
A defining episode for the Albion Branch occurred in 1953 when the Albion NAACP led the fight to close West Ward School, an all-Black elementary school since 1918.
Nearby Dalrymple elementary school was seen by many Black parents as offering facilities superior to those of West Ward. For reasons of fairness and justice, the Albion Branch challenged the “go slow” policies of the Albion School Board. With the help of a parents’ boycott and the threat of lawsuits, Albion NAACP actions culminated in the closing of West Ward and the opening of Dalrymple to the West Ward children.
This victory marked the coming of age of Albion’s Civil Rights Movement and remains a crowning achievement of the Albion NAACP. Since 1953, the local NAACP branch has continued its struggle for justice and its fight against segregation and racism, playing a key role in the city of Albion becoming known, not only for its African American population, but as a city in which African Americans share power.
Blacks have been elected to the city council, mayor’s office, and school board. African Americans have also served as city manager, chief of police, recreation director, and in many other city and civic offices. Over the years, the Albion Branch has registered voters and gotten out the vote. Citizens turn frequently to the Albion Branch with grievances concerning job discrimination, hate crimes, police brutality, and racial profiling.
The Albion Branch works with Albion’s youth and funds college scholarships. It coordinates the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. community commemoration and the Freedom Fund Banquet, as well as a variety of community forums, including those related to the 2008 political campaign, the 2009 health care reform campaign, and the 2010 election.
The work of the Albion Branch was recognized this year at the Michigan State NAACP Convention when President Robert Dunklin was selected as the Michigan NAACP “President of the Year.”
In the fight for justice, the annual Freedom Fund Banquets have served to renew the spirit of Albion’s NAACP chapter. Many illustrious national officials have spoken at Albion’s banquets. Among the most distinguished of these was 1973 speaker Roy Wilkins, legendary Executive Director of the NAACP. Wilkins told his Albion audience, “’If you don’t fight for your children now, nobody will. … If you don’t, 20 years from now, your children will still be behind the 8-ball.’” Wilkins added: “…The blacks’ salvation is at the ballot box and ‘not in New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, but in the Albions in this country.’”]
’We are engaged in a marathon and will not sprint to victory. … We are long distance runners in a relay. The baton passed down by our ancestors is now in our hands. Remember who you are. Keep stepping up and moving forward.
Carl Breeding, long-time Michigan State NAACP President, was the 1995 keynoter. Breeding declared to the Albion crowd, “’We are engaged in a marathon and will not sprint to victory. … We are long distance runners in a relay. The baton passed down by our ancestors is now in our hands. Remember who you are. Keep stepping up and moving forward.’”
The Albion Branch can look back with pride in its stewardship of the “baton passed down by our ancestors.”
Fifty-seven years after its victory in forcing the closing of the West Ward School, the Albion Branch is still standing up for the principles of equal opportunity and equal justice under the law. And tonight, in the 101st Year of the NAACP, we celebrate the election and inauguration of Barack Obama, knowing that the Albion Branch has kept the faith over the years and contributed its part to Obama’s presidency.
Membership is the life-blood of the NAACP. We depend on our members’ generosity to insure the NAACP’s independence. We depend on you to keep the flames of freedom burning bright!