Choosing a New NAACP Leader

THE NAACP is about to turn another corner in its illustrious history as a bellwether for the American civil-rights movement.

The Rev. Benjamin Hooks, who has led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 15 years, is retiring.

Mr. Hooks has nurtured and witnessed significant, even momentous, achievements in the still-unfinished struggle to establish the right of every American to fully exercise the freedom defined in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Individuals, black and white, started the quest long before the legendary W.E.B. Du Bois organized the Niagara Movement in 1905. The NAACP was organized in 1910.

With the possible exception of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., no one organization and few individuals, past or present, have had an overwhelmingly dominant role in the civil rights struggle.

But it is very clear that in recent decades the NAACP has provided a rallying point and an overall agenda for action without which the American civil rights movement could have withered or scattered its fire.

Even in the years of Dr. King's galvanizing calls to action as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP remained the steady helmsman for the civil rights struggle.

Of the many outstanding individuals in various branches of the movement, most have maintained their NAACP membership while heading other militant organizations.

Who will take the helm now? The NAACP Board has put forward a list of four possible candidates: Jesse Jackson, Jewel Jackson McCabe, Earl Shinhoster, and Benjamen Chavis.

The 64-member board is scheduled to vote on the appointment April 9.

Some observers say the Rev. Mr. Jackson can have the job if he wants it. With his appeal to youth and high national profile, it is easy to see why.

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