National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Seattle Branch photograph collection, circa 1960s-1980s

Overview of the Collection

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Seattle Branch
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Seattle Branch photograph collection
circa 1960s-1980s (inclusive)
47 photographic prints (1 box, 2 folders) ; sizes vary
Collection Number
Photographs of Seattle Branch, NAACP leaders, members and events.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Most of the collection has been digitized and can be viewed on the Libraries Digital Collections website. Access to the original photographs is restricted. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Seattle Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), established on October 23, 1913, was the first branch of the national civil rights organization formed west of the Mississippi. The Seattle Branch charter names the Association's objective "to uplift the colored men and women of this country by securing to them the full enjoyment of their rights as citizens, justice in the courts, and equality of opportunity everywhere". Leticia Graves, first Chapter president, along with twenty-one other founding members, made it their first task to protest President Woodrow Wilson's policy of segregating black federal employees. In 1915 the NAACP protested the showing of D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" at local movie theatres. In 1921 the Seattle NAACP lobbied against an anti-intermarriage (miscegenation) bill that was being proposed in the state legislature, successfully defeating the issue.

In the early 1920s, the emergence of a new civil rights organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), drew many blacks away from the NAACP, leaving it dormant. In 1928, after UNIA's controversial president, Marcus Garvey, was deported, the NAACP became reactivated in Seattle by new Chapter president Lodie M. Biggs. During the years of the Great Depression, the Chapter successfully blocked anti-intermarriage bills in the state legislature, began a campaign against police brutality, leading to the conviction of three Seattle police officers, and advocated for fair employment practices.

Throughout World War II, 45,000 blacks came to Seattle, resulting in an increase in NAACP membership from 85 to 1550 members. During this time, although it had been illegal since 1890, "whites only" signs began to appear in the city's stores and restaurants. The Branch filed lawsuits with the city to ensure that the law was enforced. In 1947, the Association marched to support the hiring of future Seattle Branch president, Thelma Dewitty, as the city's first black school teacher. During the 1940s the Seattle Branch sponsored the creation of new NAACP chapters around Washington state, in Bremerton, Walla Walla, Vancouver, and the Tricities.

In the 1950s, in response to the limitations on housing for minorities outside Seattle's Central District, the Branch began campaigning for a citywide fair housing ordinance. Efforts to establish open housing continued for a decade and finally, in 1968, a fair housing ordinance was passed. The 1950s also brought lobbying for the promotion of black police officers, protests against the segregation of the city's golf courses, and passage of a state law eliminating the designation of race on driver's licenses.

The civil rights movement made major strides during the 1960s and the NAACP was at the forefront in Seattle. Labor and Industry practices were a major concern during the 1960s, and the Branch challenged the hiring practices of major retail stores such as the Bon Marche, Nordstrom, and Frederick and Nelson, as well as the grocery chains Safeway, Albertson's, and Tradewell. In 1965, then president E. June Smith helped found the NAACP credit union to provide affordable loans to the community. The Branch also provided legal support to anti-discrimination protesters who were arrested while marching in city offices and on the campus of the University of Washington.

During the 1960s and 1970s education became a primary focus. Among its many efforts, the Branch supported a March 1966 boycott of Seattle's Central District schools, calling attention to a lack of progress with desegregation. The Chapter continued to stage protests and threatened legal action. In the 1970s, Seattle Branch president, Lacy Steele, led the movement to desegregate Seattle schools through the busing of black students to white neighborhoods. In 1977, Seattle became the largest city in the United States to desegregate its schools without a court order.

In 1978 the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program was established. This "Olympics of the Mind" encouraged young black people toward academic, creative arts and cultural excellence. Competitions are still held and scholarships awarded. Focus on youth continues to be one of the biggest components of the Seattle NAACP.

The Seattle Branch also focused on law enforcement. In 1964, the NAACP successfully campaigned for the promotion of the first black Seattle Police sergeant, and in July 1965 it established "Freedom Patrols"--citizen groups who followed white police officers on their beats to insure that citizens' civil rights were not violated. Police brutality was still a major issue during the 1980s. On January 19, 1983 a black prisoner named Riley Frost died in the King County Jail after a guard used a controversial choke hold to subdue him. After protests by the Seattle Branch, the King County Executive office invited Mr. Steele and other civil rights leaders to form a King County Task Force on the Use of Force to study the issue. The County ordered the practice curtailed seven months later. Complaints of discrimination by black prisoners in the 1980s led to alliances with the Black Prisoners Caucus and Black Prisoners Assistance Coalition of Washington. The Branch also formed the Hollow Point Bullet Review Committee and protested police shootings of blacks.

The Seattle NAACP continues to be a leader in the fight for black equality. From the 1990s to the present, the Association has focused on voter registration, equal employment opportunity, the creation of new economic development for black entrepreneurs, political recognition, elimination of drugs and prostitution in black neighborhoods, and legal redress.

In 1998 Lacy Steele retired from his position of Branch president after 26 years. Oscar Eason, Carl Mack and Alfoster Garrett all served as presidents after Mr. Steele, and in 2006, Sheley Secrest was elected to the position.

NAACP Seattle Branch presidents:

  • Leticia Graves (1913-?)
  • J. H. Graves
  • F. Benjamin Davis
  • John E. Prim
  • Prentice Frazier
  • Melvina Squires
  • James Washington
  • Lodie M. Biggs (1928-1930)
  • William H. Wilson (1930-1933, 1935-?)
  • John R. Harris (1934-1935)
  • Letcher Yarbrough (mid 1940s)
  • Fred Shorter (1943-1947)
  • Charles Stokes (late 1940s)
  • Fountain Penick (1949-1951)
  • Joseph Willard (1951)
  • Odel Lewis (1952-1953)
  • Philip Burton (1953-1954)
  • James McIver (1955-1956)
  • Benjamin McAdoo (1956-1957, 1966)
  • Thelma Dewitty (1958)
  • Robert M. Davis (1959)
  • Charles V. Johnson (1959-1964)
  • E. June Smith (1965-1966)
  • Andrew Young (1967-1968)
  • Donald D. Haley (1969-1971)
  • Lacy Steele (1972-1998)
  • Oscar Eason (1999-2002)
  • Carl Mack (2002-2005)
  • Alfoster Garrett (2005)
  • Sheley Secrest (2006- present)

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection includes photographs of members and leaders of the Seattle branch of the NAACP and various events.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

Gift from Seattle NAACP, July 15, 1964, 2005.

Processing Note

Processed by Don Romero, 2016.

Separated Materials

Material Described Separately:

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Seattle Branch Papers (Manuscript Collection 0465)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Board MembersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/1 1
  Ms. McMullen
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 2
  Ms. Holland
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 3
  Arlington Carter, Jr.
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 4
  Leroy McCullough
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 5
  Ethel Jackson
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 6
  Mr. Gilmore
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 7
  Mr. Ball
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 8
  Ms. Kiner
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 9
  Ms. Crews
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 10
  Ms. Smith
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 11
  Katherine Vassar
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 12
  Ms. Herring
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 13 1976
1/1 14
  Ms. Beatty
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 15
  Ms. Swancey
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 16
  Ms. Harrell
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 17
  Mr. Haley
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 18 1976
1/1 19
  Portrait of African-American man
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 20
  Portrait of African-American woman
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
1/1 21
  Portrait of African-American man
Kennell-Ellis, Inc., Seattle (photographer)
Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/2 22-36 circa 1970s
1/3 37
Probably NAACP president Lacy Steele with students
circa 1970s
1/3 38 circa 1970s
1/3 39
  NAACP president Lacy Steele with Seattle Mayor Charles Royer receiving NAACP Week Proclamation
Nicholas J. Cirelli, Seattle City Engineering Dept (photographer)
May 15, 1978
1/3 40
  NAACP president Lacy Steele with man holding basketball
Salisbury Photography (photographer)
Lacy Steele is holding a flyer for annual Freedom Fund Disco-Cabaret.
1/3 41
Ben Hooks and another man during visit to Army Camp Zama, Japan
U.S. Army, SP4 C. Keith (photographer)
May 29, 1982
1/3 42 circa 1985-1993
1/3 43 undated
1/4 44
  African-American man speaking at podium
Gil Baker's Original Photography, Seattle
1/4 45 undated
1/4 46
Contact sheet with 20 images of people in office and at a party
M293 47
NAACP 55th Annual Convention, Washington D.C.
Capitol Photo Service (photographer)
June 22-27, 1964

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • African Americans--Civil Rights--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • African Americans--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Pressure groups--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs

Corporate Names

  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Seattle Branch--Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)