janice wilsonLa Plata, MD – Founded just months before the United States entered the Second World War, the Charles County Branch of the NAACP has a notable past. Standing up for equality when it was most unpopular to do so during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, theirs is an amazing legacy.

Luther Stuckey, past president of the organization, organized the “Freedom Riders,” who came to the county and integrated motels and restaurants lining Route 301. Stuckey didn’t stop there, he organized the Charles County Farmer’s Association and sponsored a county fair for Negroes. He helped African-Americans get jobs with the phone company, food chains and other businesses, and in segregated Charles County was able to get “Black Only” and “White Only” signs removed from the bathroom and cafeteria at the Naval Ordnance Station in Indian Head. Stuckey also instigated the “Hart Case” which allowed minority students to ride the bus in Charles County.

Stuckey wasn’t the only president to make waves. Past-president Dupree Monk organized Charles County’s Freedom Rides and Sit-in in 1962. Working with the Charles County Branch of the NAACP members, he brought a lawsuit in the late 1960s demanding equal pay and promotions for county teachers as well as for fair hiring and promotion practices at the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. Former president Salome Howard demanded restaurants, motels and other businesses along Route 301 remove racial signs from their establishments. She also organized a protest at the A&P grocery store in La Plata when it was determined no people of color worked there and started a Youth Council with up to 450 children participating.

The list of accomplishments goes on and on. After more than seven decades, it is time to pause and acknowledge achievements.

The Branch will celebrate its 75th anniversary Sunday, March 26 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at The Historic Willing Helpers Society, 1002 Washington Ave. La Plata. Advanced ticket sales $25.

There are still a lot of challenges confronting African-Americans, even today, said Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County Branch of the NAACP.

“Charles County demographics are changing,” Wilson noted. “Now you’re looking at a minority majority in the county. It’s a form of racism when you think a minority majority only attracts low-income stores. It’s as if they think we want the cheap stuff. There are African-Americans moving into the county with higher incomes.”

Another issue, she said, is the disproportionate number of African-Americans getting suspended from schools compared to white students.

“It’s a problem throughout the nation,” she said. Wilson advocates a different system other than basically rewarding children for misbehaving.

The local branch has also taken on the Sons of Confederate Veterans flying of the Rebel flag at the county fair.

“They didn’t fly it in 2015, but it was back this year,” she said. “We really wish they wouldn’t fly it.”

Since its inception in 1941, the Charles County Branch of the NAACP has grown significantly. The branch was recently recognized by the state branch for increasing its membership by 38 percent, the most in Maryland. With 250 members currently, Wilson says their meetings often bring an average of 25 to 30 people.

She still sees the need to bring in more, however.

“You talk to St. Mary’s and Calvert, they average 10 or 12,” she noted. “But the average age of people in the NAACP is 58. We need to bring in young people.”

And therein lies the challenge for the future.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com