Breaking Barriers: The Modern Impact of the NAACP on the Lives of African Americans

The NAACP is an organization that is over a century old. Learn how the NAACP is helping promote modern causes for African Americans

Creab Mcselvin

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has helped advance the progress of civil rights in the United States for over a century. Founded in 1909, the organization challenges discrimination, advocates for equal rights, and promotes justice for African Americans. 

The NAACP has been involved in landmark legal battles, grassroots efforts, and policy advocacy that have helped transformed American society. Despite significant progress over the years, many challenges remain, including ongoing racial disparities in areas such as education, healthcare, and criminal justice. 

What did the NAACP accomplish early on? 

Early on, the NAACP accomplished several significant victories that paved the way for the civil rights movement in the United States. One of the organization’s earliest achievements was the successful legal challenge to the grandfather clause in Oklahoma, which aimed to disenfranchise African American voters by requiring citizens to prove that their grandfathers had been eligible to vote. In 1915, the NAACP secured a major victory in the Supreme Court case Guinn v. United States, which declared the grandfather clause unconstitutional.

The NAACP also played a central role in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954, which struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” in public schools and paved the way for desegregation. This case was a turning point in the civil rights movement and represented a major victory for the NAACP, which had been working to challenge segregation in education for decades.

What has the NAACP accomplished during the 21st century? 

In the 21st century, the NAACP has continued to make significant strides in the fight for civil rights and social justice. One of the organization’s most notable accomplishments in recent years was the role it played in securing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The NAACP mobilized its network of activists and members to lobby for the ACA, which provided millions of Americans with access to healthcare and included provisions to address racial health disparities.

The NAACP has also been at the forefront of efforts to reform the criminal justice system, which has long been plagued by racial bias and systemic injustices. The organization has advocated for changes in sentencing laws, police reform, and the elimination of the death penalty. In 2019, the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund successfully challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi’s sentencing laws, which had allowed people to be sentenced to life without parole for nonviolent offenses.

In addition to its work on healthcare and criminal justice, the NAACP has also focused on issues such as voter suppression, economic inequality, and education. The organization has been a vocal advocate for voting rights and has challenged discriminatory voter ID laws in several states. It has also fought to close the wealth gap by advocating for policies that promote economic opportunity and financial literacy. The NAACP continues to push for equitable access to quality education for all children.

One of the most significant efforts being undertaken by the NAACP impacts the economic wellbeing of BIPOC. In the 21st century, the NAACP is especially involved in creating good financial environments, growing the middle class, and making sure that worker rights are protected for BIPOC. Education is also another important opportunity for the NAACP to be involved. For example, supporting the elimination of student loan debt, making sure that college is affordable for everyone, and promoting culturally significant learning opportunities are fundamental to the NAACP movement and its involvement in education. 

Some significant cases that the NAACP has been involved with in the 21st century include:

  • Shelby County v. Holder (2013): The NAACP was among the groups that challenged the constitutionality of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required certain states with a history of voter discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing their voting laws. The Supreme Court ultimately struck down the provision, leading to concerns about voter suppression and discrimination.
  • Fisher v. University of Texas (2016): The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, which challenged the use of race in admissions decisions at the University of Texas. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the university’s use of race as a factor in admissions.
  • Sessions v. Dimaya (2018): The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund represented the respondent in this case, which challenged a federal law that allowed certain noncitizens to be deported if they were convicted of “aggravated felonies.” The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the respondent, finding that the law was unconstitutionally vague.
  • Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021): The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, which addressed the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children through a foster care agency that receives government funding. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the foster care agency, allowing it to refuse to work with same-sex couples based on religious objections.

How to get involved with the NAACP and shape the modern world

The NAACP  is a membership-based organization that is open to anyone who shares the organization’s mission and values. There are membership options available for college students, regular memberships, and lifetime memberships. Being involved with the NAACP can help shape the modern day world by providing opportunities for individuals to work together to advance social justice and civil rights for all people, especially with accelerating change, protecting voting rights, and providing support and resources for BIPOC people and communities.


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