Oct. 23, 1913

Map shows NAACP branches that existed in 1913. Credit: Courtesy of NAACP

An NAACP branch was formed in the Seattle-Tacoma area — one of the few branches started west of the Mississippi River. 

A beautician and philanthropist, Letitia Graves served as the first president, and journalist Horace Cayton Sr. served as first vice president. He had graduated from what is now Alcorn State University and married Susie Revels, the daughter of Sen. Hiram Revels, the first Black American elected to the U.S. Senate. She worked as associate editor for the Black newspaper that he began, the Seattle Republican. 

NAACP members protested President Woodrow Wilson’s new policy of segregating Black federal employees. When the racist film “The Birth of a Nation” emerged in 1915, NAACP members sought to stop the showing of the film in Seattle. The effort failed, but they succeeded six years later when the movie returned. This time, Graves convinced the president of the Seattle City Council to have the police chief block the showing of the film. 

In the decades that followed, the Seattle branch challenged discrimination in court and saw its membership grow from 85 to 1,550 members. After protests regarding police brutality and failure to promote black officers, the city of Seattle hired its first Black police chief in 1964. In the years since, the branch has continued to remain active.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.