THE NATION AND THE NAACP:
Progressive politics and the quest for civil rights were in
Oswald Garrison Villard
‘s blood. His grandfather was the great abolitionist
William Lloyd Garrison
. His mother was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement, his father the owner of the literary supplement to the New York Evening Post, a k a The Nation. So it was no surprise that when the modern civil rights movement emerged from the ashes of the 1908 Springfield race riots, Villard was one of its driving forces.
It began in January 1909 when
Mary White Ovington
William English Walling
met in New York to organize a group they hoped would aggressively address the country’s racial issues. The trio invited Villard, then president of the New York Evening Post Company (nepotism occasionally has its benefits), to join them. Villard helped organize the subsequent convention out of which the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) was born. When the fledgling organization began to founder, it was Villard who kept it together; and when the decision was made to pursue justice in the courts, it was Villard who took the lead in forming the NAACP’s legal arm, which would prove so instrumental to the movement’s success, culminating in its historic legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education.
The Nation has a proud history, but its connection through Villard, who became its editor and owner upon his father’s death in 1918, to the most righteous of all Supreme Court decisions may be among its greatest legacies. Look for a special section celebrating Villard and the NAACP on our website this month.
When Honduran President
–who was rousted out of his bed on June 28 by armed soldiers and forced into exile–took office in early 2006, unionists, peasant activists and reformers expected little of the center-right politician. So did the elite Honduran families who control the country’s media, banking, agricultural, manufacturing and narcotics industries. “You are only temporary, while we are permanent,” they told him soon after his inauguration.
But the reality of governing a country where more than 60 percent live in poverty tends to reinforce a left slant. Over the past two years Zelaya has adopted a progressive agenda, including steering his country into the
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
, two regional economic alliances backed by Venezuela to wean Latin America from its dependence on the United States.
For the elite, however, Zelaya took a step too far when he began to push for the convocation of a constitututional assembly in order to democratize Honduras’s notoriously exclusionary political system. The US media have falsely presented this as a power grab, an effort to end term limits to allow Zelaya to run for re-election. But the referendum simply asks Hondurans to vote on whether or not to have a vote on revising the Constitution, with the terms of that revision left to an elected assembly.