Bremerton NAACP branch is founded on May 23, 1943.

  • By Kate Kershner
  • Posted 11/16/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9911

On May 23, 1943, local activists and community members form the Bremerton branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Established in response to segregation and racial tensions in Kitsap County, the group spawns the Carver Civic Club, a social group for African American women that also continues today (2011).

A Response to Discrimination

Kitsap County did not integrate overnight after more than 4,500 African Americans moved into Bremerton between 1940 and 1944 to find work in the war effort. Reports of race-related assaults and business refusals to serve blacks were common. Inspired to create change in the area, community members Lillian (1913-2012) and James Walker (1911?-2000), Al and Hazel Colvin, Elwood and Marie Greer, Loxie and Alyce Eagans, Bill Simmons, Reverend Chester Cooper (pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. church), and others founded the Bremerton's NAACP in 1943. Reverend Cooper became the first president of the branch. 

"I knew that with the NAACP you would have all races fighting for civil rights," Lillian Walker, founding member and one-time secretary of the branch, recalled in an oral history interview. "And that's why we formed it -- to change things here. We talked to people in Seattle that were in charge. We knew that we needed help. It was just more than two or three of us that were fighting could do by ourselves" (Hughes).

Bringing Change

The Bremerton NAACP worked to end segregation in Kitsap County by meeting with area business leaders and filing civil rights complaints if persuasion failed. Prominent Seattle attorney Phillip Burton (1915-1995) took part in one case in which James Walker (Lillian's husband) was refused service at a drugstore. After the complaint was filed, the druggist settled out of court and agreed to provide non-discriminatory service.

The Bremerton NAACP also gave rise to the Carver Civic Club, founded in 1948. A women's group focused on civil rights, the club was active for many years in the Bremerton community. The Carver Civic Club is experiencing a resurgence (2011) and has been reorganized by Bremerton City Councilwoman Dianne Robinson.  


Sources: John C. Hughes interview with Lillian Walker, June 8-9, 2009, transcript available online (http://www.sos.wa.gov/legacyproject/oralhistories/lillianwalker/pdf/complete.pdf); Brynn Grimley, "Exhibition, Presentation Looks at Segregation, Civil Rights in Kitsap," The Kitsap Sun, February 5, 2009 (http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/feb/05/exhibit-presentation-looks-at-segregation-civil/).

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