A Brief History Of: The NAACP

David J. & Janice Frent Collection / Corbis

A little more than 100 years ago, in the midst of a two-day riot, 5,000 spectators gathered in Springfield, Ill., to witness the lynching of two African-American men. Incited partly by a false rape accusation, mobs torched black-owned businesses and buildings, forcing 2,000 African Americans to permanently flee the city. That such hatred would exhibit itself in Abraham Lincoln's hometown just six months before his 100th birthday made the news even more appalling.

Less than a thousand miles away, an interracial group of some 60 activists met in New York City to discuss how best to defend Lincoln's dying legacy. They...

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