There is no other organization that has confronted the misuse of media to influence negative public attitudes toward race like the NAACP. As early as 1915, it organized a nationwide protest against the negative portrayals of African Americans in “Birth of A Nation.” The founding members of the Association immediately understood the power and influence of the then new media of film.
The Association has also been at the forefront of the struggle for the inclusion of all Americans, regardless of race, in the entertainment industry. Portrait of Walter White, civil rights activist and Secretary of NAACP, 1940. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images) In 1942, NAACP Executive Director, Walter White, worked with politicians and studio executives to establish an ad hoc committee with the major studios to monitor the image and portrayal of African Americans on the screen. In 1955, the Mississippi Branch of the NAACP, led by Medgar Evers, filed a complaint with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that the local television affiliate, WLBT, presented the local news in a racially biased manner that did not serve the public interest. Finally in 1969, the FCC revoked WLBT’s broadcast license. This, after years of litigation, marked the only time in FCC history that a television station’s license was revoked because of racial bias in programming. This sent a powerful reminder to the rest of the television industry – that we as citizens own the public airwaves.
In1966, under consistent legal pressure from the NAACP, “The Amos & Andy Show” was taken off the air, and a year later the NAACP Hollywood Branch created the NAACP Image Awards. Now a primetime live special, the NAACP Image Awards is the nation’s premier event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts, as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.
In 1999, the networks signed a landmark memorandum of understanding with the NAACP and the Grand Coalition greatly advancing the cause of diversity in the entertainment industry and creating a milestone by which we can measure future progress in Hollywood. Today, the NAACP through the Hollywood Bureau, and support of its membership, continues to monitor offensive and defamatory images in film and television, and its campaign for greater minority participation in the entertainment industry.