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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Visual materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People records

Repository: Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division

Collection Description (Extant): Images of the NAACP administrative staff and programs focus on people and activities at the national and local level. Almost half of the collection consists of portraits of NAACP headquarters staff, state and national conference delegates, branch officers, and members (LOTs 13074, 13106, 13111, 13120, 13123); national and regional conference activities (LOTs 13077, 13078, 13079); and fundraising and membership campaigns (LOTs 13075, 13080, 13081). Prominent activists depicted include Ella Baker, Daisy Bates, Gloster Current, Charles Houston, Ruby Hurley, Lillian Jackson, James Weldon Johnson, Daisy Lampkin, Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Mitchell, Constance Baker Motley, Arthur Spingarn, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, and Herbert Wright. In addition to civil rights activists, portraits of African American entertainers, sports figures, government officials, and other professionals are prevalent. Local branch activities (LOT 13082) and administrative programs (LOTs 13075, 13076, 13077, 13078, 13079, 13080, 13081, 13082, 13083, 13084) are reflected in photos of membership campaigns, meetings, and members protesting against discrimination.

Most of the other photographs document the Association's long-term efforts to promote civil rights legislation through litigation, public protest, and sustained monitoring and reporting of injustices against African Americans. Examples of these efforts are seen in photos of lynching victims (LOT 13093), defendants in civil rights cases (LOT 13086), housing conditions of African Americans in urban areas (LOT 13091), inferior school buildings (LOT 13088), discrimination signs (LOT 13087), and segregated public facilities (LOT 13094). NAACP investigations to gather evidence in support of civil rights campaigns and legal cases are documented in snapshots taken by NAACP staff while working in the field. Included among these are photographs taken by Roy Wilkins for his 1937 investigation of Red Cross relief efforts for African American flood victims (LOT 13119). Other snapshots document the Association's investigation of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Mississippi flood control construction projects (LOT 13097), taken 1934.

Marches, which focused national attention on civil rights issues, are well represented in the collection (LOT 13099). The earliest example is the Silent Protest parade of 1917. Images of later events include the 1950 National Emergency Civil Rights Mobilization; the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage at Washington, D.C.; and the Selma, Alabama, march of 1965. Many of these later photographs depict NAACP executives Walter White and Roy Wilkins working alongside other prominent African American civil rights activists, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and A. Philip Randolph, as well as labor leaders Walter Reuther and Paul Sifton. Noteworthy for the depiction of the activities of two other civil rights organizations is a group of snapshots documenting a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) “Freedom Walk” in memory of activist William Moore, who was murdered in 1963 while on a solo march from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, in support of civil rights.

NAACP efforts to integrate the armed services are represented principally for the World War II period. These photographs document African American men participating in various branches of the armed forces: Tuskegee Air Pilots (LOT 13104), 99th Fighter Squadron (LOT 13105), 8th Army (LOT 13106), 369th Artillery Regiment (LOT 13106), Coast Guard (LOT 13107), Marines (LOT 13109), and Navy Seabees (LOT 13111). Women are represented contributing to the war effort on the home front and abroad (LOT 13103).

The Association's interest in monitoring international events and issues affecting African Americans is illustrated in views of people and activities in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America (LOT 13102). Included among these are photos of the 1944 Conference Africaine Française, at Brazzaville, an event leading to the independence of French colonies in western and equatorial Africa (LOT 13101).

African American photographers are well represented in the work of professionals such as James Allen, Ed Bagwell, Cecil Layne, Morgan & Marvin Smith, Ernest Withers, and the Scurlock Studio.

The bulk of the photographs bear stamps and other editorial markings indicating they were acquired and used primarily for publication in the NAACP's official magazine (the Crisis) and in its newsletter (the Bulletin). “Duplicate” photographs showing different crop lines or other editorial or printing instructions are filed together to facilitate comparison. Many photographs published in the Crisis or in the Bulletin bear unique editorial markings that make them useful documents for the study of photojournalism.

Most photographs were received with captions attached to them. Unidentified photographs were researched in reference sources and official NAACP publications such as the Crisis, the Bulletin, and the Annual Reports to find published versions of the images in order to identify people and events depicted in the photographs. When published information was matched to a photograph in the collection, it was either noted in pencil (on the versos of the photographs) or in the finding aid. However, many photographs remain uncaptioned and unidentified.

The collection also includes photomechanical prints, for example, postcards, greeting cards, flyers, magazine clippings, etc., which are interfiled with the photographs. Accompanying textual materials, including memos describing how the photos came to the organization, notes, press releases, programs, and accompanying envelopes with annotations, are filed with corresponding photographs and photomechanical prints to provide contextual information for the images.

Catalog records for each LOT are available in the Library's automated catalog. Prominent subjects and people depicted, as well as prominent photographers associated with each LOT, are indexed and searchable in the Library's automated catalog.

Cartoon Drawings,Prints,Illustration Drawings
Special formats in the collection include cartoon drawings depicting anti-lynching subjects and posters announcing NAACP events, membership, and voter registration campaigns (LOT 13084). Drawings by African American artists include materials by Elton Fax ( CD 1 -Fax and LOT 13084), Louise Jefferson (LOT 13084), and Cornelius Johnson ( CD 1 -Johnson). The collection also includes a February 1918 Crisis cover illustration depicting W.E.B. Du Bois ( CAI -Walts) by the African American illustrator Frank Walts. Another notable item is a 19th century mezzotint of the African slave revolt leader, Cinqué ( PGA -Sartain--Cinqué), engraved by John Sartain after the painting by Nathaniel Jocelyn, which bears an inscription to Francis Perkins from Louis Tappan.

Color Transparencies
Twelve color transparencies are in P&P filing series LC-NA05: seven of eleven 16mm color film transparencies--those depicting prominent NAACP staff--have been reproduced as Cibachrome prints (LOT 13084); one 35mm slide--depicting an unidentified man--has not been reproduced.

Negatives and Transparencies
The collection includes 55 black-and-white negatives measuring 8 x 10 inches or smaller. These are in P&P filing series LC-NA14 (safety film) and LC-NA24 (nitrate film). All negatives have corresponding prints that either came with the collection or were made later by the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service and processed with the collection. Corresponding negative numbers appear on the versos of each print.

Twenty-two panoramic photographs depict NAACP conference participants and banquets. Standard 8 x 10 inch copy prints of original panoramas that have been retired from service (to protect them from further deterioration) and are filed in appropriate LOTs; other original panoramas are located in the PAN SUBJECT filing series. Individual catalog records for panoramas can be accessed via P&P's automated catalog.

Supplementary Archives
Supplementary Archives materials include paper printing plates, engraving plates, printing blocks (used in publishing the Crisis or the Bulletin), as well as miscellaneous hand-or typewritten captions that duplicate those already attached to the images or that were found separated from images but could not be easily matched to images in the collection. Also included is a series of published color illustrations of fairy tales. In addition, photographs of three hinged wooden panels, measuring ca. 4 x 8 feet, advertise the NAACP Life Membership program. These materials do not appear on the microfilm. They are located in P&P's Supplementary Archives under the collection name and LOT number.

Origin Info: This collection was transferred from the NAACP records held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

Access Copy Note: Permitted; subject to P&P policy on serving originals.
Some photographs have been digitized and are available online through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog at

Date(s): ca. 1838-1969

Digital Status: Partial

Extent: 4,596 items : photographic prints, photomechanical prints, lithographs, engravings, and drawings, most b&w, a few color ; various sizes, most 8 x 10 in. or smaller, some as large as 76 x 61 cm.

Finding Aid URL:

Language: English

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository for more information on rights.


African American civil rights workers
African American lawyers
African American women civil rights workers
Civil rights demonstrations
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People




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   September 26, 2018
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