Recharging The Mission

The N.A.A.C.P. is looking for a new leader. It also needs to come up with a new sense of purpose

When Kweisi Mfume took the helm of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) in 1996, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization was in crisis. Mired in debt and stung by a sex scandal involving ousted executive director Benjamin Chavis, the group needed a leader who could restore its credibility. Mfume, a five-term Democratic Congressman from Baltimore, stepped up to the challenge. Through a campaign of corporate sponsorship, he erased the group's $3.2 million in debt and stockpiled $15 million in cash reserves.

But the fate of Mfume's social initiatives proved less successful and were emblematic...

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