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NAACP announces plan to relocate its headquarters from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

The NAACP announced plans Monday to eventually relocate its headquarters from Baltimore to Washington D.C., after moving to a new location in the city a few months ago.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a letter of intent to move the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People into the Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs, which is home to other government agencies and is set to undergo new development.

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“Washington, DC, sits at the epicenter of change,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO said in a news release. “This exceptional opportunity to bring our national headquarters to DC will allow us to be even more proactive in serving the Black community, and confronting the serious challenges facing the nation.”

The decision to relocate comes only four months after the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, moved its national headquarters from Northwest Baltimore to the Wells Fargo Tower in downtown Baltimore at the end of February.

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Johnson said the move to the nation’s capital is something the NAACP envisioned three years ago. He said it will help the organization amplify Black voices as it fights for “crucial policy changes and economic empowerment needed in communities across the country.”

Democratic nominee for Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott was disappointed with the decision, saying the organization’s history “runs deep in Baltimore.”

“The symbolism of the Association headquartered in a city of the south that tore families apart during slavery, but later became a place of [emancipation] and hope for so many is incomparable,” Scott said in a statement. “Baltimore has always been and continues to be a city on the frontlines of civil rights. It is my hope that we do not run away from our history, but continue to build upon it.”

Scott pointed out that Baltimore has cultivated influential civil rights leaders including Thurgood Marshall, Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Parren Mitchell. And two of the NAACP’s most recent presidents, Ben Jealous and Kweisi Mfume, have also come from Baltimore, Scott said in his statement.

“This city has been on the front lines in the fight for justice and equality for people of color for generations,” he said.

Scott has reached out to Johnson about the decision, he said.

Through a solicitation to be issued this year from Washington’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Reeves Center is supposed to transform into a transit-oriented, mixed-use development with office space, affordable housing and neighborhood-serving amenities.

Benjamin L. Hooks, center, and William E. Pollard lead a song at the celebration of the NAACP's new Baltimore headquarters Oct. 18, 1986.
Benjamin L. Hooks, center, and William E. Pollard lead a song at the celebration of the NAACP's new Baltimore headquarters Oct. 18, 1986. (Robert K. Hamilton/Baltimore Sun)

“The Reeves Center stands in an iconic and culturally significant area of the U Street corridor with deep connections to the NAACP,” Bowser said in a release. “As we continue fighting for change and working to build a more fair and just nation, we look forward to welcoming this iconic civil rights organization to Washington, DC.”

The NAACP came to Baltimore in 1986 from New York City. And this isn’t the first time the organization has thought about moving to D.C.

Former NAACP chairman Julian Bond said in 2006 that the move was “all but definite” but cautioned that it’s not something that would happen quickly.

”It has nothing to do with the city of Baltimore,” the late Bond told The Sun. “We love the city of Baltimore, except its location. It’s not located in Washington, and Washington is where we need to be.”

The NAACP said the reason for wanting to relocate back then was that it wanted more space, easy access to train stations, major roads to Washington, hotels and other amenities.

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The Baltimore Development Corp. offered the organization a $500,000 grant in 2009 to help with relocation costs within the city and helped compile a list of 15 possible locations within the central business area. One year later the NAACP announced that it would stay in Baltimore but directors said it was not contingent on a “financial package” from the city.

The final decision to stay in Baltimore came after three mayors encouraged the organization to stay and under a new NAACP chief executive.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lillian Reed contributed to this article.

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