Originally located on First Street between Jefferson and Madison, The Hoboken Branch, NAACP is an affiliate of the historic National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization in America, having been founded in 1909. Its mission is to insure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred discrimination.
In May of 1962, Edward B. Johnson organized the Hoboken Branch of the NAACP in response to alleged unfair and abusive treatment of African-American citizens. The support of a national organization allowed African-American citizens of Hoboken to eradicate many of those abusive practices.
With that success, the NAACP turned its attention to the hiring practices at Maxwell House Coffee where they believed minorities were under-represented. Through the efforts of Johnson, the branch’s first president, many African-American and Hispanic people where hired at Maxwell House.
A new leader and new issues
Leo Smith, president of Local 480 – at that time one of the largest local unions in the IUE-AFL-CIO – followed Johnson in the branch’s presidency. Under his leadership, the NAACP continued the fight for the right of all people to attain a decent way of life with dignity in employment.
Smith marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Alabama; he was jailed in Mississippi; he even received anonymous death threats for his civil and human rights activism in his adopted hometown of Hoboken. But Smith and the organization persevered.
The NAACP next addressed the issues of unfair employment and housing practices in Hoboken. Smith had become the first African-American commissioner appointed to the Hoboken Housing Authority in March of 1962. He subsequently became vice-chairman of that organization, where he was instrumental in insuring fair housing practices within the Authority.
The NAACP advocates holding elected officials responsible for their actions with respect to civil and human rights. During his tenure as president, Smith was instrumental in raising community awareness of the political process and worked diligently to ensure that the African-American community was involved in that process. His daughter, Evelyn Smith, was a mayoral candidate in the 2005 election.
Under its third president, Clayton Anderson, the branch’s focus expanded to education. Anderson understood and was a strong advocate of education as the path to success. As a result of his commitment, Anderson became the first African-American to serve on the Hoboken Board of Education in March of 1973.
Women of the organization
Hoboken’s African-American women, especially those who also served at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, have been an integral part of the organization. In many instances, women held the vice-presidencies and served on the organization’s executive board.
Women such as Joanne Jackson, Gladys Richardson, Sarah Smith, Vertis Watson, Anna Mae Lyons, Winnie Anderson, Gertrude Harris, Mamie Franklin, Beatrice Johnson, Virginia Gregory, Edith Smith and Brunell Barfeild, to name a few, were responsible for much of the day-to-day operation of the organization.
These women organized meetings, rallies and social events, headed various committees, and conducted many of the organization’s workshops.
At times they took the forefront. Joanne Jackson, who served as vice president in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was once responsible for preventing a Ku Klux Klan rally here in Hoboken. She also led an employment initiative which successfully addressed unfair employment practices of the Hoboken police and fire departments and the U. S. Post Office.
An ongoing mission
From its inception in 1962, The Hoboken Branch, NAACP has dedicated itself to the civil and human rights of African-American citizens in Hoboken. Edward Johnson, Leo Smith and Clayton Anderson laid a strong foundation and provided the template for activism in the African-American community. Successive presidents Cecile Vincient, Eugene Drayton, Tonya Drayton, and Elizabeth Falco have all built on that solid foundation.
The Hoboken Branch, NAACP, under its current president, Carrie Gilliard, continues to strive for equal justice under the law and fair representation in housing, employment and education practices, as well as fair representation in government.
The branch strives to achieve its goals through sponsorship of educational and recreational activities for children, by sponsoring workshops on a number of topics aimed at raising community awareness of current issues facing the community, and through sponsorship of social events that bring the Hoboken community together.
The NAACP is an international, multi-cultural organization. The Hoboken Branch welcomes the support and involvement of all members of the diverse Hoboken community to ensure that all of Hoboken’s citizens have an equal opportunity to exercise the civil human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America.