More than 96 Years of Leadership
Saginaw Branch - #3152
The Saginaw Negro community, then totaling about 50 families, decided to organize the NAACP Branch on July 13, 1919 at Bethel AME Church. The purpose was to give the families a chance to meet with each other and discuss their problems in Saginaw. The charter was granted to the Saginaw Branch on August 25, 1919. The President was Rev. Peter S. Marks.
In 1929 the Branch asked the mayor and council to name a city social worker to help Negroes with housing and social problems. The motion was denied.
M.L. Dukes, Branch President from 1942-44, resolved the challenge of ˜introducing a Negro teacher into the Saginaw public school system.' The Board of Education agreed to hire one if the Branch could find one. A committee located Lady Margaret Haithco Groves, a state civil service employee in Lansing, and she became the first Negro teacher.
Julian Bond, current Chairman of the Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has addressed the residents of Saginaw at least three times, twice in banquet settings.
The 1960's saw unrest in our city and the NAACP was looked upon as a leader and a voice of reason as well as of responsibility. We have never shirked our responsibility to the citizens of our community. Led by the Housing Chair, the City passed an ordinance that finally allowed Realtors to show houses citywide to all citizens. In 1968, Bernice Barlow was elected President and she became one of the longest serving Branch Presidents “ serving for 30 years - until 1998. In 1968, Open Enrollment was started to provide opportunities for minority students in predominately white west side schools.
The Saginaw Branch has always been involved in equal opportunity for education. In the 1970's the Saginaw Public Schools, and the city, were basically segregated by the Saginaw River. We were involved as Friend of the Court in the suit with The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare which provided integration of the Saginaw Public Schools.
In 1980, Executive Director of the NAACP, Benjamin L. Hooks spoke at our Freedom Fund Dinner on "WE SHALL OVERCOME. It was held at the Saginaw Civic Center in Unity Hall and was a sell-out crowd.
The Saginaw Branch has always been a community leader in equality of educational opportunities and voter education. We have worked on Public Safety millages as well as school operating and building bond elections. We were active in opposing the elimination of affirmative action in Michigan and now are monitoring the effect of its passage as it applies to our community. We have been working for minority representation in our public servant employees. Our Freedom Fund Dinner has become a true melting pot of the community and the participants reflect all community groups as well as the leaders of government, education, philanthropy, and business. Our speakers reflect the major topics of the day and have been leaders of Michigan and the nation in civil rights, public policy, and education.
"This history was sent to the National office as part of the Centennial Celebration - accompanied by the requested quilt square."