Washington,DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today in recognition of the 100thanniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:
“Today our country celebrates two remarkable milestones: the 200thbirthday of Abraham Lincoln and the 100thanniversary of the founding of the NAACP. When the NAACP opened its doors in 1909, emancipation had been the law of the land for less than 50 years. African Americans held the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for less than 40 years, and in many parts of our country, that right would be flatly ignored for many more decades.
“The early years of the 20thcentury found our nation in standstill. The previous generation’s Civil War had changed our laws for the better, but the rights newly guaranteed to African Americans on paper were receding in practice.
“This crisis grew in 1908, whenSpringfield, Illinois, the hometown of the Great Emancipator, became home to a horrific race riot. A small group of fearless African American and white Americans responded by joining together to begin pushing our stubborn nation to embrace the full blessings of liberty in not just words but deeds.
“The seeds they planted in 1909 have taken root and blossomed through the years. When African-American children were denied the right to an equal education, the NAACP’s efforts brought us to theBrown v. Board of Educationdecision. When African American citizens were denied their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, the NAACP led the charge that brought forth the Civil Rights Acts and the Voting Rights Act.
“The pages of our history books and shelves of our libraries are filled with the heroic stories of those who marched and prayed and stood for justice when those marches, those prayers and those stances were lonely.
“Today’s NAACP remains as vibrant as ever. When the Gulf Coast was ravaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the NAACP took action in the places where our own government could not be found to help families rebuild their lives. And last year, we stood side by side with the NAACP to finally pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which will bring long-overdue justice and closure to the families of those who gave their lives to the call of justice.
“It must have been unthinkable to the founders – men and women like W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell – that this 100thanniversary would be celebrated at a time when our President and our United States Attorney General would both be African Americans.
“This is a joyous time. But Dr. King would tell us we’re not at the mountaintop yet. He’d remind us that ‘change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability.’
“That is why this Congress will continue to stand with the NAACP as it continues to push those wheels of change. We will stand with you for economic justice. We will stand with you for better schools. We will stand with you for safer communities. We will stand with you for stronger enforcement of our civil rights laws. We will stand with you for high-quality, low-cost health care. And we will stand with you to open the gates of higher education to more of our sons and daughters.
“We will stand with you, we will fight for you, and together we will continue to renew the dream that generations of Americans left in our caring hands.”