By Stefanie Jackson – Today the NAACP celebrates 112 years since its founding in 1909 by a multiracial coalition headed by civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois.
The NAACP was established as “an organization for the black community and their allies from across the political spectrum to fight for human rights and equality,” wrote Jane Cabarrus, president of the Northampton County NAACP.
Du Bois and the other NAACP founders “recognized something that rings true to this very day: None of us are free until all of us are free,” Cabarrus said.
NAACP members have experienced and witnessed much over the years, from the Jim Crow era and lynchings to the civil rights movement and today’s fight to end police brutality, expand voter rights, and address economic and health disparities in the Black community, which have been made evident and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On its anniversary, the NAACP takes time to reflect and remember its history and history makers like the late Oliver W. Hill, an African American attorney and civil rights activist.
Hill was the lead attorney for the Virginia State Conference of the National NAACP and is best known for his involvement in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in schools.
Hill and his team filed more legal challenges to segregation than any other attorney in the South, undermining segregation and discrimination throughout the region.
The Eastern Shore NAACP also remembers the Shore’s “unsung heroes” of Black history, including:
• The Hon. Samuel S. Cooper Jr., Accomack County’s first African American clerk of court.
• The late Julia Major, the first African American on the Accomack County Board of Supervisors.
• Thomas Godwin, the first African American on the Northampton County Board of Supervisors.
• The Rev. Felton Sessoms, the first African American mayor of Nassawadox.
• Joan Wilson, the first African American registered nurse at the Northampton-Accomack Memorial Hospital.
• The late Alice B. Brown, the first African American mayor of Cape Charles.
• The late Clarence Arnold Sr., the first African American member of the Northampton County School Board.
• Charlene Gray, Northampton County’s first African American commissioner of the revenue.
• The late Dr. Vernon L. Giddens Jr., the first African American dentist to serve the children of Northampton County Public Schools.
• Janice Langley, the first African American teacher of the Bessie B. Anderson Practical School of Nursing.
• Jane Cabarrus, the first and only woman president of the Northampton County NAACP.
• Willie Randall, the first African American to own and operate a financial business on the Eastern Shore.
Other honorees include Reginald Terry, the late Calvin L. Brickhouse, Otis J. Braggs, John Parsons, Vernon L. Giddens III, Dr. Arthur Carter, Gerald Boyd, Nathaniel Williams, Matilda Tyler, Earnestine Ashby, Bernice Griffin, Chester Pettit, the Rev. Charles F. Mapp Sr., the Rev. William C. Rucker, the Rev. Albert Sinclair, the Rev. Ralph Harmon, the late Effie G. Spady, the Rev. R.W. Wilson, William Denny, Isaac “Ike” Mapp, Charles Bell, and S. Dawn Goldstine.
“The Northampton County NAACP is still on the front lines for human rights, civil rights, and justice for all,” Cabarrus said.
“We have made many strides for change, yet we still have a long way to go. Education is the key. We must work together to make our schools National Blue Ribbon Schools again.”