1920 September 13

NAACP Leaders Have “Cordial” Meeting the GOP Presidential Candidate Harding

 

Leaders of the NAACP had a “cordial” meeting the GOP presidential candidate Warren G. Harding, it was reported in the Minutes of the NAACP Board of Directors on this day. The meeting marked a political coming of age for the young NAACP, which was only 11 years old but had quickly established itself as the nation’s leading civil rights organization.

Earlier in the year, the great African-American scholar and activist W. E. B. DuBois had drafted a seven-point platform of civil rights demands for the NAACP, which it planned to present to both Republican and Democratic party presidential candidates. A federal anti-lynching law was the group’s most important issue. (See the first national anti-lynching conference on May 5, 1919.) The NAACP, however, was never able to secure a meeting with Democratic Party candidate James M. Cox.

Harding, although famous in history as an undistinguished president, saw the Republican Party as the party of Abraham Lincoln and was committed to civil rights (at least for a brief period of time). On October 26, 1921, as president, he gave a forceful speech on civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, on the occasion of the city’s 50th anniversary. The speech shocked most whites in the audience.

Harding was initially committed to civil rights, and on April 12, 1921 sent a civil rights message and legislative program to Congress, calling for an end to “barbaric lynching.”. By late 1921, however, when it became clear that Congress would not act on any civil rights legislation, Harding abandoned the issue.

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