ABOUT US - BRANCH HISTORY
The Jamaica Branch of the NAACP was organized in April 1927 by Frank Turner, former secretary to Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, with Frosty Turner, Charles Shaw, Frances Dougherty, Lora Lewis, Mabel Booth - mother of Judge William Booth - and several others, including Selena Girardeau.
Dr. Charles Reid was elected the first President of the Jamaica Branch NAACP. One of his initial tasks was to announce the organization’s objectives: to secure Negroes the full enjoyment of their citizenship rights, to assure justice in the courts and equality of the opportunity to work, to stimulate the culture and to support the NAACP national program. With goals now established, the Jamaica Branch immediately went to work in challenging discrimination. The Branch spearheaded the fight that led to the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan in the community and began legal action that ended segregation in the area’s theatres. It also fought successfully to extend employment in Queens General Hospital to Black physicians and nurses, and led the campaign to construct the South Jamaica Housing Development. It successfully defended eight Black men accused of committing murder during a racial disturbance, and insisted on enhanced security for any Black family desegregating a white community.
In 1960, a candidate opposed to school desegregation was slated to go to Congress, but the Jamaica Branch led the successful fight to defeat him. In addition, York College was originally designated to be located in the predominantly white community of College Point, Queens, but the Jamaica Branch helped bring the learning institution to its home of Jamaica, Queens.
For sixteen weeks in 1963, the Jamaica Branch manned picket lines in front of the Rochdale Village construction site, where biased unions gloated as 2,000 of their members reported for work each day while hundreds of unemployed, but qualified Blacks vainly sought employment at the same site.
When plans to extend the Clearview Expressway threatened the homes of thousands of Black families in Queens Village and Springfield Gardens, the Jamaica Branch led a successful battle to protect them. When the announcement was made that an elevated transit system would be constructed through Baisley Pond Park, the Jamaica Branch led the community in opposition. The Jamaica Branch also developed “Dialogue,” a program designed to help residents in the diverse Queens community communicate with each other. When New York City’s schools were closed by labor disputes, the Jamaica Branch opened “Freedom Schools.” When parents and taxpayers threatened school desegregation efforts, the Jamaica Branch rallied supporters of quality, integrated education.
In 1968, the Jamaica Branch developed an education program, located a site, solicited funding, and became the first NAACP Branch in the nation to provide a quality pre-kindergarten edifice: The Jamaica NAACP Day Care Center. More than four decades later, the Day Care Center continues to provide quality services to the community.
Membership is the life blood of the NAACP. We remember Chester Alston, a tireless worker, and the man who organized and directed massive membership drives as he pushed the Jamaica Branch’s enrollment over the 5,000 member mark. Others who distinguished themselves in the recruitment of members included: Frances Doughtery, Isabelle Cooper, Betavious Archer, Walter Daniels and Rev. J.B. Watts.
There were many leaders laboring behind the scenes, raising funds and providing the muscle that empowered the movement. Some of these notable men and women were: Msgr. Archie McLees, Lawrence Bailey, Claire Foster, Bobbie Croslin, Leonard Gould, Florence Lucas, Una Mulzac, Carita Roane, Stanley Cunningham, Neville Lake and Lawrence Cormier.
Recent Civil Rights Activities
The Jamaica Branch is heavily involved in combating police brutality. It created a program that assists the community to prepare and file police abuse complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, demanding investigations and follow-up by the Board and the District Attorney’s office. It also assists the community in fighting false arrest charges, and was instrumental in removing three South East Queens Police Precinct Commanders (105, 105, 113) who had consistent police abuse patterns in their commands. The Branch also provides free police “Know Your Rights” workshops for community organizations and offers free legal rights workshops for the formerly incarcerated. The Branch also led the call for justice and served as courtroom monitors and observers in the trial for the police shooting death of Sean Elijah Bell.
The Branch involvement in protecting the right to vote includes hosting annual candidate forums in the community for all major elections, as well as creating and implementing Election Day legal observer teams who are trained to patrol community polling sites and prevent voter irregularity. The Branch also partners with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to present annual voter education forums in the community.
In the pursuit of quality education for all children, the Branch was instrumental in removing school officials charged with forcing Haitian children to eat on the floor, and the removal of a middle school principal who referred to African American students as “animals.” In January 2009, the Branch joined a crusade to prevent a private developer from constructing a “hot sheet” motel, to be located directly across from a predominantly enrolled Black honors high school, and middle school. In January 2011, after years of site monitoring and appearances at city agency hearings by NAACP members and other community group leaders, the developer conceded and put the site up for sale.
In September 2010, the Branch assisted in forcing the Department of Education to remove a District Advocate who was using the “N” word to describe parents and children. Also, in partnership with a local Baptist Church, the Branch started an annual “Back to School - Stay in School Program,” where school supplies are distributed to more than 200 minority, economically disadvantaged public housing youths. In 2010 the Branch was instrumental in removing the Principal of Intermediate School 8 for his treatment of minority students and teachers in the school. In the winters of 2010 and 2011, the Branch participated in numerous rallies and testified at many public hearings in opposition to the Department of Education’s attempt to close 18 high schools in predominantly Black and Latino Communities in New York City.
In memory of the historic NAACP Civil Rights Case, Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Branch holds an annual arts and essay contest for high school students on the impact and the current benefits of the Brown decision and the involvement and role of the NAACP in this U.S. Supreme Court Decision which ended legal segregation.
At the NAACP National Convention in Orlando, Florida on July 13, 2013, the NAACP presented the Jamaica Branch NAACP with the Thalheimer Award, its highest national award for outstanding civil rights activities. At the NAACP National Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 22, 2014, the NAACP presented Branch President Leroy Gadsden with the coveted Benjamin Lawson Hooks Keeper of the Flame award.
There is still work to be done. The Branch continues to fight for access to the ballot box, quality education for all people, the elimination of police brutality, adequate health care for all citizens, full inclusion in the jury box, and the elimination of the glass ceiling in upper management positions.
The Jamaica Branch Presidents are: Dr. Charles Reid, Mr. G.W.A. Murray, Dr. John Singleton, Rev. A. Chester Clark, Dr. Judge A. Thompson, Mr. John Klugh, Rev. Charles L. Carrington, Mr. Emory Hightower, The Honorable Guy R. Brewer, Florence Lucas, Mrs. Dupree C. White, The Honorable Paul Gibson, Jr., The Honorable Judge William H. Booth, The Honorable Judge W. Eugene Sharpe, Mr. Robert Couche, Mr. Peter Saltz, Mr. Richard Hansen, Mr. Walter Ramsey, Mr. David Bryan Jr., Mr. Lawrence Cormier, June Van Brackle, The Honorable Dr. Jean Phelps, Ms. Marilyn Barnes, Mr. Leroy Gadsden, and the current president, Ms. Candace Prince-Modeste.