National NAACP postpones election at NC chapter amid claims of misconduct

NAACP Field Director Curtis Gatewood in 2016.
NAACP Field Director Curtis Gatewood in 2016. mschultz@newsobserver.com

The National NAACP has postponed an election scheduled for this weekend for the North Carolina branch of the civil rights organization, amid claims of misconduct within the ranks.

The Rev. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP, said the national group took the step on Wednesday. The election of a new president had been planned for Sunday, the last day of the annual state convention, to be held this year in Winston-Salem.

Spearman became the only candidate for the position last week when the national office suspended the membership of his opponent, the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, a day after a former NC NAACP worker held a news conference to say Gatewood had sexually harassed her.

A second woman has since said she also was sexually harassed by Gatewood.

Gatewood, pastor of Faith, Hope & Justice in Oxford, has denied the claims. He has not responded to The News & Observer’s requests for interviews.

Rev. William Barber, former president of the state chapter, stood with Jazmyne Childs and others during her news conference last week. Both said that Childs had complained about Gatewood’s behavior in 2017, when she was a new employee at the NAACP. At the time, Barber ordered an investigation by an outside attorney, whose report said Childs’s complaint was credible.

Gatewood worked at the NAACP at the time. He left the organization while the investigation was underway.

The state chapter sent the report to the national office, asking it to take action against Gatewood, but Barber, Spearman and Childs said the organization did nothing.

The second complaint came from Courtney Sebring, who posted on her Facebook account that she believed Childs’s claims, because, she said, Gatewood had sexually harassed her in 2014 when she worked at the state chapter.

“I was 17 years old,” Sebring wrote. “Curtis Gatewood is a sexual predator. And the NAACP doesn’t actually care about the safety of black women and girls.”

The national organization’s suspension of Gatewood’s membership rendered him ineligible to run for office.

The NAACP has not said when the state chapter’s elections will be held.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.