Civil Rights Tour: Legal Campaigns - NAACP, DC Branch

1019 U Street NW

Established in 1912, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's (NAACP) DC branch was the largest and most influential of some 50 branches across the United States. The group devoted itself to protesting racial discrimination and violence against Black residents in the nation's capital. Unlike the national NAACP, whose early leadership was mostly white, African Americans led the DC branch from the beginning and constituted most of its membership.

Archibald A. Grimke led the DC Branch for more than a decade during its formative years, beginning in 1913 when he grew the group's membership from 143 to 700. Under his leadership, the NAACP organized a rally to protest President Woodrow Wilson's segregation of the federal government, attracting nearly 10,000 people. In 1922, the branch helped organize 5,000 marchers to parade silently past the Capitol and the White House to spur passage of an anti-lynching bill that was pending in the Senate. This bill and subsequent bills died due to powerful opposition from Southern Democrats who filibustered. It was not until 2018 that the Senate passed anti-lynching legislation.
In the late 1920s and early ‘30s, the branch was victorious in getting segregation orders overturned at workplaces and in public facilities, and in securing the dismissal of at least two police officers for brutality against Black men. 

Culminating decades of protest against violent policing, in 1957 the branch presented the DC Commissioners with a scathing report, detailed affidavits, and photographic evidence testifying to the abusive treatment of Black Washingtonians, including women and children. "Our police department is the most dangerous spot in the District," remarked branch president Eugene Davidson. The department was also charged with the discriminatory hiring and treatment of officers, but after nine days of hearings, the Commissioners refused all of the branch's policy recommendations and fully exonerated the police.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the NAACP-DC had its headquarters at the small 19th century rowhouse with a storefront at 1019 U Street NW. The building currently houses a barbershop in its first floor shop.