Myrlie Evers-Williams Leaves The NAACP Board After 30 Years. What Will She Do Next?

Source: Krissah Thompson / The Washington Post

Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams will step down from the board of the NAACP, marking an end to her 30 years as an official of the civil rights organization. Evers-Williams, who will retain the honorary title of chair emeritus, had hoped to be in New York for the NAACP’s board meeting on Friday to officially make the announcement but inclement weather kept her home in Mississippi.

She The People: Why have you decided not to seek re-election for your seat on NAACP’s board?
Evers-Williams: At this point in my life I am very interested in writing my memoirs, focusing on my years with the NAACP, but particularly the years when I was chairman of the board. Those were pivotal years for the organization and in my life. I do believe that we in the NAACP need to encourage and make space for our young leaders of today. Unfortunately there will always be people who do not embrace justice and equality for all, therefore it’s a need to constantly build and infuse in the minds of young people that this is America; that this is a country where we say all people are created equal. We often say we need new blood in organizations and that is true for the NAACP.

STP: Benjamin Jealous stepped down as NAACP president last year and the organization is searching for a new leader. What does the NAACP need in its next leader?
MEW: It is a human factor to look for different kinds of leadership in an organization. I don’t think that ever stops. The NAACP is no exception and with the former president stepping down, and others [leaving], the NAACP is at a point where it must choose. I’m just very, very hopeful that the choice will be a sound one. I am hopeful, perhaps a little unrealistically, that politics will be put aside. When I was elected years ago as chairman of the board, I won by one vote. One vote. It was not a position that I wanted to seek, but I was encouraged to do so. My second husband Walter Williams and I knew that he had only weeks to live. He was a strong supporter and admirer of Medgar and the NAACP. He said to me: ‘You run. You win.’ … I returned home after that meeting, and I had only four hours before his demise. The challenges were unbelievable. We were $4 million plus in debt. There was discord on all fronts. All of the foundations and organizations that I personally went to to raise funds, I was told that the NAACP was dead. And I received no contributions. Only Ford Foundation stepped up and said: ‘We will provide you with the funds.’ It was not healthy. We brought it to health and full bloom. [Again] I believe that the NAACP will continue its purpose with vim, vigor and vitality and at this board meeting the wisdom of the group will be used in identifying the leadership for the organization.

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