Who we Are
On February 26, 2022, a historical marker
commemorating the founding of the
Coatesville Area Branch of the NAACP was erected at the intersection of Modena
Road and South 1st Avenue, Coatesville.
How The Coatesville NAACP Began
The Coatesville Area Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was organized as an outgrowth of the “Bud Ward Incident.”
Before the Bud Ward Incident, the lynching of Virginia-native and black steel worker, Zachariah Walker, in 1911, still burned in the minds of blacks in Coatesville. In fact, the lynching created a heightened awareness about justice for some in the community. Thus, in 1938, when a young white girl accused a black youth (no more than 15 years of age), Bud Ward, of rape, the black community rebuffed the allegations. The community believed what Ward claimed: the girl made the claim only after being caught in a love kiss with him. Ward was arrested as a result of the allegations. Meanwhile, the white community promised to do to Ward what it had done to Walker. Determined to prevent another lynching, blacks took to the streets with weapons. In response to the black citizens’ reactions to whites residents’ threats of lynching, county officials called in the Guard. From this incident, blacks learned that the need was imperative for an organization in Coatesville that would collectively and, promptly handle injustice of any kind. Black citizens in Coatesville faced various forms of discrimination. Consequently, the Ward Incident signaled to blacks that local· participation in a national organization fighting for democracy and equity was vital.
Organizing for the Coatesville Area Branch actually began in South Coatesville, at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, 1938. It all began when Reverend Alonzo· Baxter, Reverend Benjamin J. Kennedy, Sr., Reverend S.B. Randolph, Dr. Whittier C. Atkinson, and Mr. James Porter Bryant, Sr. journeyed to Lincoln University, seeking information on chartering a branch.
On September 12, 1938, the charter was granted, carrying Mr. James McCullough, President; Mr. James Porter Bryant, Vice President; Reverend Alonzo D. Baxter, Executive Secretary; Mrs. Margaret McDougald, Recording Secretary; and Mrs, Minnie Culclasure and Mr. Robert Player.
In response to the Springfield riot, a group of black and white activists, Jews and gentiles, met in New York City to address the deteriorating status of African Americans. Among them were veterans of the Niagara Movement (a civil rights group), suffragists, social workers, labor reformers, philanthropists, socialists, anti-imperialists, educators, clergymen, and journalists—some with roots in abolitionism. In the abolitionist tradition, they proposed to fight the new color-caste system with a “new abolition movement”—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP pledged “to promote equality of rights and eradicate caste or race prejudice among citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for their children, employment according to their ability, and complete equality before the law.” The NAACP pursued this mission through a variety of tactics including legal action, lobbying, peaceful protest, and publicity.