A Mississippi chapter of the NAACP has made history by selecting a White man as its president.

According to Newsone.com, the 60-member Jackson State University (JSU) chapter elected Michael Teasley, who is in his mid-30s, last spring for a year’s term that ends in 2011.

State NAACP president Derrick Johnson described Teasley, who enrolled in JSU three years ago, as a committed leader whom he has seen grow.

“And this is a great opportunity for people to see that our organization is not about race,” Johnson was quoted as saying to the Associated Press. “Many people forget that White people helped organize the NAACP . . . I think Michael’s acceptance within the organization shows we practice what we preach – that no person should be discriminated against because of race.”

Teasley, a divorced father, is a political science major. Raised in rural Rankin County, he said assuming leadership within the country’s oldest civil rights organization was achieved by two defining moments in his life.

He explained that when he was eight years old he and his father were invited for dinner at Teasley’s grandparents’ house but his father declined.

“And I knew why,” Teasley said. “I had a Black friend named Leonard in the car with me. My grandparents were very much into segregation and didn’t allow Black people into their home. We didn’t stay and eat because they would’ve never accepted Leonard. That sparked something inside of me.”

Teasley continued that soon after entering JSU, he was invited to a campus NAACP meeting. He said he joined and agreed to participate in voter registration that week at the university’s homecoming football game as the presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain approached.

During that time he also helped an elderly man selling T-shirts — and who could not read or write — to sign up to vote. He said that on the day Obama won, the ecstatic man called him, proclaiming that voting was something he always wanted to do.

“That is when I decided I was going to be fully committed to the NAACP and not worry about stigmas or what anybody was saying, including my family,” Teasley said.
However, news of Teasley’s selection has been slow to spread across campus.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Daniel Watkins, dean of the College of Education and Human Development said in a Dec. 12 Clarionledger.com article. “But we would like to be more diverse. And the fact that he was elected tells me his peers saw something in him . . . some sort of unique leadership quality.”

Teasley said one of his first tasks as president surrounds organizing a movement to change the state flag that is a reflection of the Confederacy.

“It’s offensive to a lot of people,” Teasley told the Associated Press. “It has to go.”