Freedom and Rights through Political Action: Ogden’s NAACP Youth and College Division
by Melissa Francis, Special Collections Coordinator
One of my favorite images in the Beyond Suffrage exhibit is this photograph of Shauna Gillespie (left) and Lynn Boyd (right), both of the Ogden NAACP Youth & College Division. They’re preparing their “votemobile,” to provide free transportation to voters in Ogden’s 1969 election. In addition to providing transportation, the group also provided babysitting service until the polls closed. Voting is such an essential act of citizenship, and I love seeing their enthusiastic service to support voters. It was this kind of political action that has defined the NAACP Youth & College Division.
More than 70 members founded Ogden’s branch of the NAACP in early 1944. African-American women led the charge to organize the group here: Mary Louise Finch led the membership drive that first secured their charter, and the first two presidents of the organization were women: Ruby Timms Price and Sadie Louden. After World War II, membership waned for a time, but the organization survived. By the 1960s, branch members were active in local and national civil rights efforts. (“How the Ogden NAACP Began,” Frank S. Satterwhite, http://www.naacpogdenchapter.org/our-history/.)
Members of the Youth & College Division “devoted considerable time to charitable work as well as civic duties….” They organized apprenticeship programs, clinics for sickle cell patients, and (as pictured above) they assisted in voter registration and turn-out efforts. In 1970 the national NAACP recognized the Ogden Youth & College Division for their “fight for freedom.” (“Ogden NAACP Youth Win National Award,” Ogden Standard Examiner, July 27, 1970, and “Student Heads Local NAACP Youth Division,” Ogden Standard Examiner, May 28, 1973.)
When I look at these two young women, I think about how simple acts can have a major impact. It seems a small thing to do: offer a ride to a polling place, or an hour of babysitting while someone registers to vote. But African-Americans in Ogden were able to claim their right to vote because of the efforts of this youth group. Citizens who otherwise may not have participated in elections were counted, their voices heard.
In preparing this exhibit we’ve challenged ourselves to think about the meaning of citizenship beyond just the act of voting, beyond suffrage itself. The youth of Ogden’s NAACP have taught me that citizenship is action. It’s doing what you can and lifting where you stand. It’s fighting for the rights and citizenship of others.