Issues & Activities
Part of the mission of the NAACP is to ensure educational equality. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in public schools. Ten years later, in 1964, Elmira schools were facing the problem of de facto segregation because enrollment was based on home neighborhoods. The city re-drew district lines to improve integration. The organization also focuses on education as a way of advancing people and opening up new opportunities. It provides scholarships to black college-bound students and, in 1981, began sponsoring courses in new fields such as computer programming and data processing.
1964 map of reorganized school district lines on Elmira’s northside. Image courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette.
By rearranging district lines for elementary and middle schools, Elmira was able to increase integration in its schools.
Southside High School student Princella Shanise Thomas received a scholarship at the NAACP Freedom Fund Awards Banquet in 2008. Image Courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette
From its very beginning, the Elmira-Corning branch of the NAACP provided scholarships to local students. In 1917, Phillipa Stowe was the first recipient of the Madam Walker Scholarship. In the mid-1990s, the local NAACP began awarding multiple scholarships to students in Elmira and Corning at their annual Freedom Fund Awards banquets.
Headline announcing mail fund campaign. Image courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette.
In 1950, the Elmira NAACP branch conducted a mail campaign to raise money to fund scholarships for black high school graduates to attend college. In the first few months of the campaign, 51 out of the 850 households solicited had made donations.
Carole Coleman instructs Natalie Jones of Horseheads in basic computer techniques in the new Neighborhood House computer room, April 22, 1981. Image courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette.
In 1981, the local NAACP, in partnership with the Chemung County Private Industry Council, sponsored a series of computer training courses at the Neighborhood House for students in 7th through 12th grade. By 1984, more than 400 minority students had taken courses in word processing, data processing, and basic programming.
March celebrating the 10th anniversary of Brown vs. The Board of Education, March 18, 1964. Image courtesy of the Elmira Star-Gazette.
On May 18, 1964, over 200 people marched from the Neighborhood House to Wisner Park in Elmira to mark the 10th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education which made school segregation illegal. It was the first civil rights march by African Americans in Elmira’s history.