WALTER F. WHITE
Walter White, who served a high¬ ly influential term as executive sec¬ retary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended segre¬ gated schools before entering Atlanta University and graduating in 1916.
He joined a local branch of the NAACP and served as local secre¬ tary, carrying off management affairs with such dependable skill that James Weldon Johnson (see no. 36) befriended him, recommending him for assistant secretary of the New York office.
White took great interest in the anti-lynching campaign headed by Ida B. Wells-Bamett (see no. 27), and became one of the spokesmen who effectively reported on violent crime against African-Americans.
Using his light complexion to help him pass as a white journalist, he was able to infiltrate lynching areas safely and bring out the stories that were hardest to obtain.
Along with his steady, influential voice in the NAACP, White possessed a voice of great creative strength. He joined the other writers and artists of the Harlem Renais¬ sance (see no. 36) with three books pub¬ lished between 1920 and 1926: Rope and Faggot (1920), The Fire in the Flint (1924) and Flight (1926).
A powerful manager and tireless activist, White, as executive secretary of the NAACP, saw the association’s work begin to turn the tides of racism. He supported sharecroppers and tenant farmers in their efforts to organize, and watched the US Supreme Court rule in favor of the founding of the Progressive Farmers Household Union of America. The ruling, passed on Moore v. Dempsey, allowed farmers to
move out from under the servitude enforced by the sharecropping “accounting” system that kept them poor by design. White also supported A. Philip Randolph (see no. 48) when Randolph met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and promised that if all military personnel weren’t desegregated quickly, 100,000 people would accept his impassioned invitation to march on Wash¬ ington.
White was also influential in remov¬ ing W.E.B. Du Bois (see no. 32) from his position as editor of Crisis and director of research and publicity. Du Bois was removed because his support for voluntary segregation violated the stated goal of the NAACP: “The Negro must, without yield¬ ing, continue the grim struggle for integra¬ tion and against segregation for his own physical, moral and spiritual well-being and for that of white America and of the world at large.”