Noah Griffin. 1939.

Black educators were the backbone of the NAACP Florida State Conference. Black teachers and administrators used their well respected positions in the Black community, to take on more clandestine roles organizing for Black political causes. In every area of Florida where there was an active group of educators, leaders planted an NAACP branch. This was dangerous work. Harry T. Moore and Noah Griffin created the first State conference of the NAACP in 1941. Griffin was threatened and assaulted for his work organizing in St. Petersburg. Moore and his wife Henriette, were murdered when their home was bombed on Christmas night in 1951. Moore is memorialized as the first martyr of the Civil Rights Movement.


Aiming to end segregation across the South, the NAACP began litigating cases focused on the public education system. Inequalities in Black and White teachers salaries were stark representations of the Jim Crow system. The NAACP hoped that rulings overturning unequal salaries would create a precedent to overturn racial separation in schools. But they needed plaintiffs--teachers who would be willing to bring cases despite the retribution they would face. Maryland’s teachers went first.

Florida’s Black teachers were ready and willing to follow their lead. In 1938, Samuel McGill, Esq. contacted Thurgood Marshall to inform him that the Florida State Teachers Association was willing to initiate lawsuits across Florida. Marshall agreed to co-represent them. The backlash was immediate. Noah Griffin, his wife, and other plaintiffs who brought suits were fired. This was the cost of justice.