Issues & Activities

Civil Rights

Throughout its history, the NAACP Elmira-Corning Branch has fought for civil rights for African Americans in the Southern Tier and beyond. In 1947, they took legal action against an area restaurant which had refused service to four African American youths. They lobbied at the state and local level for fairer laws and policies regarding housing and school redistricting.  Nationally, the Elmira NAACP sent money to the anti-lynching fund in the 1920s and tenant farmers in Tennessee who had been evicted after registering to vote in the 1960s. Individual members participated in the Freedom Riders and attended marches on Washington, D.C. in 1963, 1968, 1989, and 1993.

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Patricia Bryant, Freedom Rider

Beginning in May 1961, mixed-race groups of civil rights activists known as Freedom Riders took interstate buses into segregated southern states to challenge the non-enforcement of Supreme Court rulings desegregating interstate transportation. The first batch of Freedom Riders were attacked by mobs in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama. More riders kept coming throughout the summer even as the violence against them escalated. Twenty-year-old Elmiran Patricia Bryant joined the movement and was arrested in Jacksonville, Mississippi on June 9th. She was sentenced to four months in jail, but was released after two weeks on bond. In November 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the desegregation of bus terminals throughout the country.

J.J. Newberry’s on Water Street

Black activists staged sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters throughout the south beginning with a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina in the spring of 1960. The Elmira NAACP considered picketing the local Woolworth’s in support, but ultimately decided not to. By end of the summer, most major chains had agreed to desegregate. In April 1963, the NAACP found that, in some southern cities, F.W. Woolworth, S.H. Kress, H.L. Green, and J.J. Newberry still remained segregated. The NAACP called for a nationwide boycott and picketing of the chains. At the time, Elmira had a Woolworth’s and Newberry’s. The local branch voted to just boycott the stores, rather than picket.

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Flyer advertising the 30th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs, Justice, and Peace, August 28, 1993

In the summer of 1963, a group of Twin Tiers residents chartered a bus to Washington, D.C. to join Martin Luther King Jr. in his march for racial justice. Similarly, in 1993, the Elmira-Corning NAACP organized a trip to the march commemorating the original march’s 30th anniversary.