Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 2, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 2, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 20
Public Conference to Mark NAACP Centennial

JHU Center for Africana Studies hosts weekend event focused on history

By Amy Lunday

The Center for Africana Studies at The Johns Hopkins University will be marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with a public history conference being held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 6 and 7, on the Homewood campus. (See "Special Events" in this issue's Calendar.)

The Civil Rights Century: The NAACP at 100, which will take place just a few days prior to the organization's official centennial on Feb. 12, seeks to complement the NAACP's centennial celebration by focusing on history with presentations by scholars and activists noting that the civil rights struggle predated the 1960s by decades. From prominent achievements like the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to lesser-known battles like the protests against the controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation, the NAACP's stewardship of the fight for racial equality will be in the spotlight.

"This is a historic moment for the NAACP," said Ben Vinson, director of the Center for Africana Studies and a professor of Latin American history. "Given the landmark political changes generated by the recent presidential election, and continuing shifts in the discussion surrounding race in America, this conference will help us look forward to the NAACP's future while reflecting back on its landmark accomplishments as one of America's premier civil rights institutions. By featuring cutting-edge research on the NAACP's history," he said, "this conference will offer a fresh look at a familiar organization in ways that will undoubtedly inform and engage our community. We are thrilled to host this event."

The conference will open on Friday with a reception and keynote address by Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP from 1996 to 2004 and, prior to that, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade.

Pulitzer Prize-winning W.E.B. Du Bois biographer David Levering Lewis will kick off the second day of events, which will include panel discussions about the NAACP's impact on civil rights, politics and women's rights, and depictions of race in the media. Panelists are Angela Ciccolo, interim general counsel and secretary of the NAACP, and professors and graduate students from the universities of Virginia and Georgia, and Harvard, Duke, Tulane and Indiana universities.

There will also be an opportunity for attendees to record their own oral histories about the civil rights struggle in Baltimore and around the country.

The Civil Rights Century: The NAACP at 100 is sponsored by Johns Hopkins' Center for Africana Studies, Center for Social Concern, Office of Institutional Equity and Office of Multicultural Affairs; with the Maryland Humanities Council and the Jewish Museum of Maryland; and in partnership with the ACLU of Maryland, Equality Maryland and the Maryland Black Family Alliance.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information about the conference, which is free, go to or e-mail


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