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Borders of Equality

The NAACP and the Baltimore Civil Rights Struggle, 1914-1970

Lee Sartain

Publication Year: 2013

As a border city Baltimore made an ideal arena to push for change during the civil rights movement. It was a city in which all forms of segregation and racism appeared vulnerable to attack by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's methods. If successful in Baltimore, the rest of the nation might follow with progressive and integrationist reforms. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP was one of the first chapters in the nation and was the largest branch in the nation by 1946. The branch undertook various forms of civil rights activity from 1914 through the 1940s that later were mainstays of the 1960s movement. Nonviolent protest, youth activism, economic boycotts, marches on state capitols, campaigns for voter registration, and pursuit of anti-lynching cases all had test runs.

Remarkably, Baltimore's NAACP had the same branch president for thirty-five years starting in 1935, a woman, Lillie M. Jackson. Her work highlights gender issues and the social and political transitions among the changing civil rights groups. In Borders of Equality, Lee Sartain evaluates her leadership amid challenges from radicalized youth groups and the Black Power Movement. Baltimore was an urban industrial center that shared many characteristics with the North, and African Americans could vote there. The city absorbed a large number of black economic migrants from the South, and it exhibited racial patterns that made it more familiar to Southerners. It was one of the first places to begin desegregating its schools in September 1954 after the Brown decision, and one of the first to indicate to the nation that race was not simply a problem for the Deep South. Baltimore's history and geography make it a perfect case study to examine the NAACP and various phases of the civil rights struggle in the twentieth century

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Margaret Walker Alexander Series in African American Studies


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-14

...Baltimore, Maryland, has been seen as a “town of contradictions” attributed to its geography and its unusual history in the United States narrative. Maryland was the only Catholic colony at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and as a border state it came to link the industrializing North with the slave-owning South. Before the Civil War, Baltimore was a major industrial city that contained slaves while the...

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CHAPTER ONE: The Formation of a Branch and the Early Campaigns

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pp. 15-45

...The black bourgeoisie has been intimately linked to the embryonic stages of local NAACP branches across the United States. A cursory glance at any branch in the 1910s to the 1930s reveals lawyers, physicians, religious ministers, and other middle-class professions, such as dentists, teachers, and newspaper proprietors, as mainstay of branch membership. Such people...

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CHAPTER TWO: Class and Gender and Early Civil Rights

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pp. 46-75

...inquiry in twentieth century African American studies. Women’s activism being defined as “community bridge leaders” and broadly not undertaking the formal leadership positions of the civil rights movement (instead, organizing between groups and individuals to build complex social and professional networks) has dominated the discussion of black women and definitions of leadership. My own work on female campaigners in Louisiana, Invisible Activists, built upon these key concepts. Baltimore leadership...

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CHAPTER THREE: Leadership and Dr. Lillie M. Jackson

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pp. 76-108

...Lillie May Jackson became president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP in 1935. She remained in that post until January 1970. This was exceptional for longevity of tenure and that a woman led a major branch from the New Deal to the end of the civil rights movement. She did this by being a charismatic and dominating personality, characteristics that tend to be associated with male leadership, and by creating an organization of...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Youth Activism and the NAACP

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pp. 109-140

...How to organize and sustain a youth wing of the NAACP was a perennial problem for the national office and its local affiliates. Firstly, it was an issue of how to attract younger people into an organization dominated by adults and to train them in activist tactics. Secondly, it was the issue of the relationship of the youth wing of the NAACP with the adult branch that, in many ways, had parallels with local adult branch tensions...

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CHAPTER FIVE: The Age of Brown and Agnew

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pp. 141-168

...Entering the civil rights era, the Baltimore NAACP branch proved itself an essential part of the national strategy to attain civic and educational equality. Its robust local activism meant that it was in a position to push Maryland into being the “first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line” to accept the...

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pp. 169-175

...On December 16, 1969, the Baltimore branch of the NAACP held its first unpredictable election for the post of president in the 55 years of its existence. Lillie Jackson was 80 years old and had finally decided it was time to retire from frontline NAACP activism. But the family ambition remained and she wished for control of the branch to be transferred to her second daughter, Juanita Mitchell, who was most active in civil...


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pp. 176-178


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pp. 179-214


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pp. 215-224


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pp. 225-235

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039303
E-ISBN-10: 1621039307
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037511

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Margaret Walker Alexander Series in African American Studies
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OCLC Number: 806456436
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Borders of Equality

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Maryland -- Baltimore -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- Maryland -- Baltimore -- History -- 20th century.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Baltimore Branch -- History -- 20th century.
  • Baltimore (Md.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
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