NAACP Chief Kweisi Mfume to Step Down

NAACP Chief to Step Down (NYT – AP)

Saying he needs a break, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume announced Tuesday that he’s stepping down as the head of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group. The organization’s legal counsel, Dennis Hayes, will serve as interim president while a national search is conducted. “For the last nine years, I’ve had what I believe is both the honor and the privilege to help revive and to help restore this great organization, which has … really become an American institution,” Mfume said. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. ‘I just need a break. I need a vacation,” he said. ‘I’m just not going to do anything for a while. “In my heart of hearts, I know the job has been done, and I step aside willingly … to find another challenge and another chance to make a real difference,” he said.

Mfume, 56, has been president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1996. Before that, he was a congressman for nine years.

He inherited an organization tarnished by scandal and burdened by a $3.2 million debt and is credited with steering it into an era of stability and growth with corporate-style management techniques, including cost-saving layoffs.

This gives the NAACP another chance to broaden its appeal, although I’m not optimistic that will happen. While I didn’t often agree with his politics, I always found Mfume impressive during his television appearances in his days as a congressman and thought that he would restore the NAACP’s status as the premier civil rights organization in the country.

Instead, he presided over its further degradation by allowing it to engage in vile hatemongering for dubious partisan advantage. The NAACP’s equation of then-Governor Bush’s failure to sign a hate crimes bill with lynching during the 2000 campaign and various statements made since have ensured that the organization is taken seriously only by the most rabid of Democrats. Someone with Mfume’s impressive talents could have charted a much better course.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    I’ve heard that at least part of Mfume’s departure is because of friction with Julian Bond, apparently over some underhanded dealings Bond has had.