- Walter Francis White (1893-1955) — NAACP’s Executive Secretary from 1931 to 1955
After courageously passing for White during his remarkable investigations of southern lynchings, Walter White took the helm of the historic NAACP. While at odds with NAACP founder W.E.B. Du Bois, White transformed the NAACP into a powerful litigating and lobbying outfit that broke the legal back of segregation. White envisioned equal opportunity for African-Americans — civilly, but never culturally — in contrast to novelist Zora Neale Hurston and poet Langston Hughes. White believed the “development of an intensive Negro culture” ultimately “works a greater loss upon” us all. Under White’s command from 1931 to 1955, the NAACP “embraced an ideology of extreme cultural assimilationism,” as acclaimed historian David Levering Lewis explained.
As his arch enemy, Mississippi segregationist Theodore Bilbo, wanted to rid the nation of African-American bodies, White wanted to rid the nation of African-American culture. Neither Bilbo’s segregationists nor White’s assimilationists fully accepted African-Americans as equal.
- Bill Cosby (1937-) — Comedian and Actor
The Cosby Show featured brilliant comedy and relatable storylines from 1984 to 1992. The stereotype-defying, upwardly striving Huxtables probably persuaded away the racist ideas of many. And yet, their few experiences with discrimination simultaneously reinforced the racism of post-civil rights propagandists who were claiming the end of racism and blaming inferior Black behavior for persisting racial inequities. Cosby emerged as the representative of those Black elites who blamed poor Blacks for their condition, and deployed the same racist ideas as their White counterparts. In 2004, Cosby infamously took his blame game on the road, looking down upon poor Blacks as inferior parents, circulating disproven stereotypes. “The lower economic people are not…parenting,” Cosby grumbled at a NAACP gala in 2004. “They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.”