The South Antelope Valley Branch of the NAACP was founded by Lois and Patrick Patton in 1956. Minutes of the NAACP Board of Directors indicate that its chapter was approved on June 27, 1956, alongside chapters in Roselle, New Jersey, and Milton, West Virginia.
SAV-NAACP was the smallest of 24 NAACP branches in Southern California. Records indicate that the branch had 69 dues-paying members in its first year, then subsequently 73, 61, 22, 35, 135, and 112 in 1962. But it participated in NAACP regional meetings in Los Angeles, and its members travelled to national NAACP gatherings as well.
One of the first activities of the SAV-NAACP was to support NAACP organizing in Little Rock, Arkansas. Patton and Freedom Fund Drive chairwoman Mrs. Edward Turley helped the branch raise money for the NAACP’s Freedom Fund, which was supporting NAACP organizing in Little Rock, Arkansas. The chapter made the “Honor Roll of Branches Contributing to the Freedom Fund” in 1957 with a contribution of at least $100. The branch also had a youth council with reports of roughly 20 or more participants during the late 1950s and early 60s. NAACP Field Secretary Althea T. L. Simmons visited the youth conference in late May, 1962.
Another key area of work was Sun Village’s Negro History Week, which was held yearly during the late 1950s and early 1960s. SAV NAACP held teach ins during the week to educate audiences about sit-ins, freedom rides, the local problems in the Antelope Valley.
In 1960, Patrick Patton, as Housing Chair of SAV-NAACP, wrote a report to the US Commission on Civil Rights, outlining key issues facing Black residents in the Antelope Valley: fair housing, de-segregated education, and fair employment practices.
SAV-NAACP first campaigned in support of California’s Rumford Fair Housing Act, an earlier precursor to national fair housing legislation. The Rumford Act passed in 1963, banning discrimination in much of the sale and rental of property. But it was swiftly challenged in courts and by white institutions and voters. SAV-NAACP campaigned against Proposition 14, the statewide ballot initiative overturning the Rumford Bill in 1964. Despite their efforts, Proposition 14 passed, and the cities of the Antelope Valley were among the areas most in favor of it. Although Proposition 14 was struck by courts in 1966, it would take 1968’s Fair Housing Act for the issue to be finally settled.
SAV-NAACP also worked on fair employment throughout the 1960s. In the valley, Black workers were excluded from the best jobs of the Antelope Valley economy – those in the aerospace industry. They were either restricted to working in peripheral service jobs, like such as at local grocery stores, or restricted to the worst jobs in the aerospace industry, such as working as a janitor at Lockheed or Boeing. They pressured the aerospace giants to open the ranks of engineering and other skilled and well paying jobs to Black workers. These efforts were met with intense recalcitrance and these campaigns continued throughout the remaining decades of the aerospace industry prominence in the valley.
Finally, the third main area of struggle for the NAACP was around education. The paradoxical nature of educational segregation meant that this battle occurred in unusual ways. First, all children in the Antelope Valley were covered by the Keppel Union School District, and legally had to be served by the region’s schools. Unable to legally segregate students within the existing schools of the Keppel Union School District, the segregationist strategy was to build a new school in Sun Village, which would become Black students’ assigned school to attend, leaving Palmdale’s schools de-facto segregated. The NAACP protested this plan with achieved some success, but ultimately lost the battle by the end of the 1960s.
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