Oil, 1984, 30 x 50 inches

Moorfield Storey, lawyer and author, practiced law in Boston, where he was a reformer and a strong supporter of civil rights. He wrote a number of books and pamphlets including ‘Legal Aspects of the Negro Question and Problems of Today’, in which he discussed race prejudice. He was among the sixty prominent Americans who responded to the call of Mary White Ovington to meet in February 1909, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, to protest the recent frightening riot in Springfield, Illinois, and the many decades of such oppressive acts of terror as burnings and lynchings. He became the first national president of the NAACP.

Mary White Ovington, reformer and the spirit behind that meeting, was born in Brooklyn in 1865, where she grew up in an atmosphere of abolitionism and women’s rights. She worked in settlement houses and came to know the depth of the problems of the blacks. In 1911, she published her 1904 study ‘Half a Man: The Status of the Negro’. By that time, she had seen her 1909 meeting evolve into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. For more than forty years she served as board member, executive secretary, and chairman, and served as conciliator among the various factions that threatened to destroy the movement.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, scholar and activist, was born in western Massachusetts in 1868. He attended local schools where he was usually the only black. He went off to Fisk University, graduated, and enrolled at Harvard College as a junior. He stayed on through his doctorate in 1895. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania while doing the research for his magisterial ‘Philadelphia Negro’ in 1899. He taught at Atlanta University and became the ideological rival to Booker T. Washington upon the publication of his ‘Souls of Black Folk’. He was the first NAACP director of research and publications and he founded Crisis, of which he was editor for two dozen years.

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