The NAACP New York State Conference has been a vital programmatic component of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 75 of the 102-year history of the oldest, most effective and most respected civil rights organization in the Nation. The New York State Conference has played a pivotal role in moving the agenda for freedom and equality forward under the leadership of dynamic State Conference Presidents, each of whom addressed critical issues during their tenure.
Dr. James E. Allen, the first President, took on the challenge of expanding the number of branches all across the state. From 1936 to 1952 the number of branches grew from 15 to 45, providing local civil rights advocacy in every corner of the state on a wide range of issues. The succeeding Presidents have built on that solid foundation and added to the scope and innovative advocacy techniques. They were: Mrs. Effie Gordon, Dr. Eugene T. Reed, Judge William Booth, Donald Lee, Raphael Dubard and the current President, Hazel N. Dukes.
The first Prison Branch of NAACP was chartered in New York . The Youth and College Division became a dynamic force to be reckoned with; and continues to be. The State Office opened in 1978 under Dr. Hazel N. Dukes leadership with Attorney David Bryant as the first Executive Director. The office has continued to remain open with an Administrative Assistant to facilitate activity throughout the state to the 56 adult units and Youth and College Chapters from Brooklyn to Buffalo , Syracuse to Suffolk County, Albany to Amityville and all points in between.
New York State Conference Civil Rights Advocacy over the years has included historic demonstrations and marches: The 160-mile march from New York City to Albany to underscore our civil rights issues. The Over-ground Railroad to promote voter registration and voter participation, marches and demonstrations to protest police brutality and the murders of Michael Steward by Transit police and Eleanor Bumpers by Public Housing police. The largest march was held in Howard Beach to protest the racial murder of Michael Griffin. Demonstrations were held in Middletown to protest the police murder of the son of NAACP branch President, Maude Bruce. Anti-Apartheid demonstration and vigils were held at the UN. The New York State Conference convened a series of Congressional Hearings in New York to address police brutality, which resulted in the reform of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The State Conference established a hotline; and the then State Counsel, Laura Blackburne, Esq. negotiated the peaceful and safe surrender of accused cop killer, Larry Davis. A SLEEP-OUT was held to focus attention on the lack of affordable housing and housing discrimination.
Legal victories facilitated by the State Conference include but is not limited to the Buffalo school desegregation case, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity school funding case, the Suffolk County voting rights case, the Fox News/New York Post media ownership.
The Annual Albany Mobilization has taken place for 68-years, with members from branches across the State meeting with State legislators and the governor to promote the civil rights agenda. Other annual programs are conducted by the State Conference and keep the NAACP in the spotlight. They are the Roy Wilkins Humanitarian Award, the Corporate Recognition Luncheon/Reception, and The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.
The New York State Conference has hosted the National Convention in 1987, in 1999; and again for the Mega Centennial celebration in New York City in 2009 with the pizzazz that can only happen in the Big Apple.
The State Conference and individual branches are regular award winners at the Region II Leadership Conferences as well as the National Conventions. These Awards are earned the old fashioned way by hard work, creativity and consistent commitment to civil rights advocacy in keeping with 75 years of speaking truth to power.