A Guide to the State of Texas vs. NAACP Case Records, 1911, 1945-1961
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was introduced in Texas when Houston blacks formed the first Texas Chapter in 1912. By 1919, 31 Texas NAACP chapters existed, and in 1956, there were 111 chapters.
The State of Texas versus The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, A Corporation, Et. al. was instigated on September 13, 1956, when Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd sought to investigate and examine files, records and accounts of the NAACP branches in Houston and Dallas. On September 21, 1956, Shepperd requested a temporary restraining order to force the NAACP to halt their activities, claiming that the NAACP had violated their state charter, which permitted only non-profit, charitable, and educational activities. The three main charges were: 1) practicing law without a license and barratry (the offense of frequently instigating lawsuits), 2) involvement in political activities by lobbying and supporting partisan candidates, and 3) making pecuniary profit.
The first hearing was held in September of 1956, in the Seventh Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas. Judge Otis T. Dunagan presided and granted a temporary restraining order against the NAACP in Texas, pending a subsequent hearing to consider State Attorney General Shepperd’s further request to make the temporary restraining order permanent.
Although the NAACP did not appeal the temporary injunction, the organization filed a plea of privilege motion to request that future hearings on the case be heard in a court other than that of Judge Dunagan. This motion was heard in December and overruled by Judge Dunagan in February 1957.
The hearing on the merits of a permanent injunction began on April 29, 1957. After 10 days of testimony, the court upheld the charges and issued a permanent injunction. However, the NAACP was not prohibited altogether. The organization could continue operation in Texas if it restricted its activities solely to charitable and educational functions. In addition, the NAACP was required to file franchise tax reports and returns, open all records to this end for the State’s investigation, and pay the State the accrued franchise tax with interest and penalties. The State also determined that the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., hitherto a close affiliate of the NAACP, must be divorced and separate from that organization in the future.
The NAACP served notice of an appeal but it was later dropped. The judgment against the organization’s activities in Texas remained in effect for several years until court cases in Alabama and Virginia ruled that the NAACP, as well as labor unions, were actually political associations and were thus permitted to represent themselves in collective legal actions when they had direct interest.
The State of Texas vs. NAACP Case Records, 1911, 1945-1961, document the 1956-1957 lawsuit that, in effect, outlawed the NAACP in Texas until the 1960s and also reflects the progress of the civil rights movement from the late 1940s to the 1960s. Collection bulks with courtroom proceedings, including oral testimonies, pleas and petitions by the plaintiff and defendants, and the court's rulings. Also contains the State's exhibits of NAACP branch records and the Attorney General's Office records of case preparation. Materials also include correspondence, news clippings, minutes, manuals, reports, and brochures. Attorney General's Office records contain materials concerning investigation of Communism among NAACP supporters.
Of special note are records of the investigation of prominent NAACP leaders and supporters by the Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Included are lists of alleged subversive organizations and individuals in Texas.
Most of the collection was originally assembled by Michael Gillete, an archivist at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, who loaned the material to the Barker Texas History Center for copying in 1971 and 1981.
This collection is open for research use.
The State of Texas vs. NAACP Case Records, 1911, 1945-1961, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by archives staff.
Detailed Description of the Papers