The homemade bomb that exploded outside of an NAACP chapter in Colorado this week brought back difficult memories of the long history of violence wrought against America's oldest civil rights organization.
"One hundred-plus years of attacks of various kinds has hardened us considerably," Julian Bond, who served as NAACP chairman from 1998 to 2010, told The Huffington Post. "We expect them and as far as we can, we prepare for them. But by its nature, one cannot prepare fully for terrorist attacks. By their nature they are surprises."
On Tuesday morning, a homemade explosive device was detonated against an exterior wall of a building that houses the NAACP Colorado Springs chapter and a local barbershop. There were no deaths or injuries from the explosion, and only minimal surface damage was done to the wall where the explosion occurred, but chapter president Henry Allen, Jr. said the blast was strong enough to knock objects off the wall. According to the FBI, the bomb was placed near a gasoline can that failed to burst during the explosion; had the gasoline can ignited, the results could have been much worse.
While the investigation is still ongoing, the FBI said this week that it could be an act of domestic terrorism. But during a Friday press conference Tom Ravenelle, special agent in charge of the FBI's Denver division, said that they would not speculate on the motive.
"We're not going to call it terrorism, we're not going to call it a hate crime, what it is is a bombing investigation," Ravenelle said, but clarified that law enforcement is not naive to what the NAACP represents to some extremists.
"We try as best we can to be ready for attacks, and generally are prepared," said Bond, a former Georgia state congressman who also served as the first president of civil rights law firm Southern Poverty Law Center and is now a history professor at University of Virginia. "Our membership knows it should be alert."
That's because since its inception in 1909, it has regularly faced murders of its members and attacks on its facilities, frequently at the hands of white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Then, as the civil rights movement began to take shape in America in the 1950s, violence against the NAACP reached new and tragic levels.
On Christmas night in 1951, Harry T. Moore, NAACP field secretary in Florida, and his wife, Harriette, were killed after a bomb that was placed under their bed exploded. The murder remains unsolved, but law enforcement later implicated four Klan members in the bombing.
More than a decade later, in 1963, Medgar Evers, who became the NAACP first field secretary in Mississippi, was targeted. Over the course of several weeks beginning in May, Evers survived a firebombing at his home and a vehicular assault in front of NAACP's Jackson office. But in June of that year, the day after President John F. Kennedy delivered his now-famous speech in support of civil rights, Evers was assassinated outside of his home.
Some of what the NAACP had been fighting for since its origins was achieved by the 1964 signing of the Civil Rights Act into law by President Lyndon Johnson. And while the violence that plagued the organization in the decades prior slowed, it still has carried on into present day.
"Working for the NAACP should not be hazardous, but it is, and we are ready for whatever comes," said Bond.
While not a comprehensive list, here's a look at just some of the major acts of terrorism that have been aimed at the NAACP since the Civil Rights Act became law. The Huffington Post prepared this list with the help of Julian Bond.
|August 1965||Weeks after urging a Mississippi school board to accept desegregation, George Metcalfe, NAACP leader in Mississippi, survives a car bomb that leaves him seriously injured. No one is arrested, but the crime is later linked to a local Klansman.|
|August 1966||The Milwaukee NAACP chapter is bombed, blowing out all the windows and tearing a door off of its hinges. No one is injured, as the office is empty at the time of the attack. Several Klan members are later arrested for the bombing. The Milwaukee office was bombed again a year later.|
|February 1967||Wharlest Jackson, Sr., an NAACP treasurer in Mississippi, is killed when a car bomb explodes in his truck as he drives home from work. His murder is never solved.|
|December 1975||An NAACP Boston chapter is firebombed. The attack is believed to be perpetrated by people opposed to school desegregation.|
|May 1981||Authorities arrest multiple people, including Klan leaders, intending to bomb the NAACP Baltimore headquarters.|
|Summer 1989||Shots are fired at the NAACP’s Baltimore headquarters.|
|August 1989||The NAACP Atlanta office receives a tear gas bomb in the mail, injuring multiple people.|
|December 1989||Robert E. Robinson, a Savannah, Georgia, NAACP attorney, is killed by a mail bomb. The mail-bomber is later arrested and sentenced to death.|
|December 1989||Mail bomb sent to Jacksonville, Florida, NAACP branch. No one is injured, as the bomb is detected and defused.|
|July 1993||The Tacoma, Washington, NAACP branch meeting hall is bombed, causing minor damage and no injuries. A white supremacist is later arrested for the bombing.|
|July 1993||Sacramento, California, NAACP chapter is firebombed. White supremacists are later investigated for the crime.|
|January 2011||The FBI thwarts a white supremacist’s plot to bomb an NAACP march for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Spokane, Washington.|
|January 2015||A bomb explodes outside of a Colorado Springs NAACP chapter. There are no damages and no one is injured.|
This story has been updated to include additional comment from the FBI.
CORRECTION: The Colorado Springs NAACP chapter bombing occurred in January 2015, not 2014, as an earlier version of the timeline read. The timeline has been updated to reflect the correct year.