Our Methods (1927)

Our Methods (1927)

Some assiduous friends have recalled the remark of a white secretary when he left the N.A.A.C.P. voicing serious doubts as to our methods. There has long been and long will be controversy over the stand which the N.A.A.C.P. has taken. There are those who still believe that our rights as American citizens can be won by cajoling and kow-towing and by the various methods of the so called “white-folks nigger.”

It is not, on the other hand, to be supposed that the N.A.A.C.P. is doing aimless and ill-considered fighting. First of all, it is untrue that our officers reside in a “safety zone” and “dictate” to the black South. Walter White did not dictate to Aiken from New York. He went to Aiken and risked life and limb in so doing. During the present year our officers have visited and spoken in Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia and Missouri. During the last five years there is not a single Southern state that our Secretaries have not visited and most of them repeatedly. Not only that, but the N.A.A.C.P. took its whole paraphernalia and went down to Georgia in 1920 and held its annual conference. And it said in Atlanta exactly the same sort of thing which it said last year in Chicago. The editor of The Crisis in the last ten years has lectured in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The N.A.A.C.P. has always cooperated with other agencies, be they radical or conservative, white or black, Northern or Southern. It has, for instance, repeatedly cooperated with Monroe Trotter and the Equal Rights League, financially and otherwise.

The N.A.A.C.P. has attacked the white people of the South and as long as they are responsible for lynching and disfranchisement and Jim Crowism, it is going to continue to attack them. But far from the fact that its outspoken methods have made the relations between the races worse in the South, there is testimony from the South itself that race relations have been steadily improving since 1910 when we began our work; and we maintain that they have been improving because the Negroes have been increasing and reiterating their demands for treatment as men.

Again we have been accused of selecting “notorious” cases for defense. This is putting the cart before the horse. Cases become notorious because we select them. Aiken got on the front pages of the newspapers because we put it there. The Sweet case never would have been heard of by most of the country if we had not hired Clarence Darrow and flooded the land with propaganda. The East St. Louis riots would have been hushed up if America had been able to hush up the N.A.A.C.P.

The great majority of the persons we have defended have been ordinary working people like the twelve peons in Arkansas; but we have never refused help just because the victim was educated, decent and practicing a profession.

It has been charged that the management of the N.A.A.C.P. is undemocratic. If by this is meant that it is impossible for any temporary mob to turn our work up-side-down in fifteen minutes of yelling, this is perfectly true. On the other hand, each member of this organization has a full and effective voice in the conduct of the organization. The members of the Board of Directors are elected at an annual meeting at which every member has a right to vote. Nominations to the Board can be made by anybody who wishes. The Board of Directors thus elected appoints the Executive Officers. This is the method pursued by practically every organization which is permanently effective.

Finally some people who find pleasure and profit in opposing the officers of the N.A.A.C.P. get very much up-set if these same officers answer attacks in words just as sharp as those of the attacking parties; but surely all this is a matter of taste. If a man calls me a thief there are various kinds of answers recommended by human experience. But certainly pained surprise is the last attitude for the accuser to take if I reply that the gentleman looks to me distinctly like a liar. The facts of the case however are what the public is really interested in and these facts are clear.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1927. “Our Methods.” The Crisis. 33(3):129–130.