NAACP and Membership

By Cheryl Oestreicher, Projet Archivist, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History

“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.

The NAACP Atlanta Branch relied on members and their contributions to sustain their organization and programs. Strong membership shows support as well as need for the organization.

There are two main types of membership: adult and youth. Both of those could be with or without a subscription to The Crisis. Throughout its history, the organization experimented with various other types of memberships, including Lifetime, Thousandaire Club, student, and others. The  organization also targeted certain groups, such as students, ministers, and beauticians to increase their membership.

Membership Campaign report, 1959 “What NAACP Leaders Should Know About Membership and Fund-raising Campaigns,” 1962 Freedom Fund Dinner, 1973

In 1958, the minimum membership cost $2, and $3.50 with a subscription to The Crisis. A youth membership cost 50 cents. In 1973, membership cost $4, $6 with The Crisis, $1 youth under 17, $2 for youth 17-21. By 1986, minimum membership was $10, $15 with The Crisis, youth up to 21 cost $3 or $5 with The Crisis. Organizations could also become members through donations of various amounts.

Membership drives occurred at least twice a year and often involved events and themes. The annual fundraiser and membership drive is the Freedom Fund Dinner. Other events include luncheons, “Kentucky Derby” membership drive, Jubilee Day, Mr. and Miss NAACP Pageant and Dance, and Radiothons.

Mr. and Miss NAACP Pageant and Dance, to increase youth memberships, 1977 Radiothon brochure, 1990 Thousandaire Club flier, undated

The NAACP Atlanta Branch Records membership files contain reports, meeting agendas and minutes, correspondence, programs, brochures, tickets, certificates, lists, and campaign manuals.

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