Stanley Branche

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Stanley Branche (1933-1992) was a civil rights leader from Pennsylvania who worked as executive secretary in the Chester, Pennsylvania branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and founded the Committee for Freedom Now (CFFN). In the early 1960s, he and George Raymond partnered to challenge minority hiring practices of businesses and initiated large civil rights protests against de facto segregation of schools which led to Chester being labeled the "Birmingham of the North". He worked with Cecil B. Moore to desegregate Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left the civil rights movement in 1965 and ran multiple businesses. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Chester in 1967 and twice for U.S. Congress in 1978 and 1986. In 1989, he was convicted of participating in an organized crime collection scheme.

Pennsylvania State of the United States of America

Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a state located in the northeastern, Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains run through its middle. The Commonwealth is bordered by Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and the Canadian province of Ontario to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east.

Chester, Pennsylvania Place in Pennsylvania, United States

Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. With a population of 33,972 at the 2010 census it is the largest city in Delaware County. Incorporated in 1682, Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania and is located on the western bank of the Delaware River between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.

George Raymond was president of the Chester, Pennsylvania branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1942 to 1977. He was integral in the desegregation of businesses, public housing and schools in Chester and led civil rights demonstrations in 1964 which earned Chester the nickname "the Birmingham of the North".


Early life and education

Branche served as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 127th Regimental Combat Team in the Korean War. He was decorated three times. After the war, he attended the Combs College of Music and the Pennsylvania Institute of Criminology with the intent to be a policeman. [1]

Paratrooper Military parachutists functioning as part of an airborne force

A paratrooper is a military parachutist—someone trained to parachute into an operation, and usually functioning as part of an airborne force. Military parachutists (troops) and parachutes were first used on a large scale during World War II for troop distribution and transportation. Paratroopers are often used in surprise attacks, to seize strategic objectives such as airfields or bridges.

82nd Airborne Division Active duty airborne infantry division of the US Army

The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement to "respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours." Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 82nd Airborne Division is the U.S. Army's most strategically mobile division. Some journalists have reported that the 82nd Airborne is the best trained light infantry division in the world. More recently, the 82nd Airborne has been conducting operations in Iraq, advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces.

Korean War 1950–1953 war between North Korea and South Korea

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border.


In 1962, Branche's wife Anna introduced him to George Raymond, president of the Chester branch of the NAACP. Branche was initially assigned to the campaign to desegregate the Great Leopard Skating Rink. [2] Branche and Raymond partnered to successfully challenge the minority hiring practices of large department stores, clothing shops, shoe stores and other specialty shops in downtown Chester. [3]

By the fall of 1963, Branche became frustrated with the gradualist approach of Raymond and the NAACP. He resigned and created a new activist organization named the Committee for Freedom Now (CFFN) along with Swarthmore University students and Chester parents to end de facto segregation of public schools and improve conditions at predominantly black schools in Chester. [4]

In 1962, Branche and the CFFN focused on improving conditions at the predominantly black Franklin Elementary school in Chester. Although the school was built to house 500 students, it had become overcrowded with 1,200 students. The school's average class-size was 39, twice the number of nearby all-white schools. [5] The school was built in 1910 and had never been updated. Only two bathrooms were available for the entire school. [4]

In November 1963, CFFN protesters blocked the entrance to Franklin Elementary school and the Chester Municipal Building resulting in the arrest of 240 protesters. Following public attention to the protests stoked by media coverage of the mass arrests, the mayor and school board negotiated with the CFFN and NAACP. [6] The Chester Board of Education agreed to reduce class sizes at Franklin school, remove unsanitary toilet facilities, relocate classes held in the boiler room and coal bin and repair school grounds. [4]

Emboldened by the success of the Franklin Elementary school demonstrations, the CFFN recruited new members, sponsored voter registration drives and planned a citywide boycott of Chester schools. Branche built close ties with students at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania Military College and Cheyney State College in order to ensure large turnouts at demonstrations and protests. [7] Branche invited Dick Gregory and Malcolm X to Chester to participate in the "Freedom Now Conference" [8] and other national civil rights leaders such as Gloria Richardson came to Chester in support of the demonstrations. [9]

In the spring of 1964, huge protests over multiple days ensued which resulted in mass arrests of protesters. The mayor of Chester, James Gorbey, issued "The Police Position to Preserve the Public Peace", a ten-point statement promising an immediate return to law and order. The city deputized firemen and trash collectors to help handle demonstrators. [10] The State of Pennsylvania deployed 50 state troopers to assist the 77-member Chester police force. [4] The demonstrations were marked by violence and charges of police brutality. [11] Over six hundred people were arrested over a two-month period of civil rights rallies, marches, pickets, boycotts and sit-ins. [12]

Branche acted as press spokesman, community liaison, recruiter and chief negotiator. Governor William Scranton convinced Branche to obey a court-ordered moratorium on demonstrations. [13] Scranton created the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to conduct hearings on the de facto segregation of public schools. All protests were discontinued while the commission held hearings during the summer of 1964. [14]

In November 1964, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission concluded that the Chester School Board had violated the law and ordered Chester School District to desegregate the city's six predominantly African-American schools. The city appealed the ruling, which delayed implementation. [4]

In June 1964, Chester city leaders formed the Greater Chester Movement (GCM), an umbrella organization intended to coordinate activities of groups working toward the improvement Chester. When President Lyndon Johnson initiated his War on Poverty, the GCM became a conduit through which federal dollars were distributed in Chester. [15]

In 1965, Branche formed the Black Coalition Movement [16] and worked with Cecil B. Moore to desegregate Girard College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [17] Branche and seven others were arrested when they tried to trespass in the school. [18]

Branche was arrested approximately 225 times during civil rights protests. [19]

By 1965, Branche left the civil rights movement, moved to Philadelphia and ran several businesses. [5] Branche ran for mayor of Chester in 1967 and for Congress in 1978 and 1986. [17]

In 1985, Branche partnered with the activist lawyer William Kunstler to file a lawsuit on behalf of MOVE member Louise James in an attempt to force Philadelphia District Attorney Ed Rendell to investigate the Wilson Goode administration's controversial bombing of the MOVE headquarters in West Philadelphia. [17]

Branche was convicted in 1989 and was sentenced to five years in Federal prison for extortion. [20] A key piece of evidence was an FBI recording of Branche and George Botsaris, a leader of the "Greek mob" in Philadelphia. [17]


  1. Bigart, Homer. "Hope for Racial Peace in Chester, Pa, Rest with State Inquiry Opening Tomorrow". Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  2. McLarnon 2002, p. 314.
  3. Mele 2017, pp. 87-88.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "African American residents of Chester, PA, demonstrate to end de facto segregation in public schools, 1963-1966". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  5. 1 2 Holcomb, Lindsay. "Questions surround student activism fifty-two years later". Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  6. Mele 2017, p. 90.
  7. Mele 2017, p. 93.
  8. McLarnon 2002, p. 318.
  9. "Chester NAACP Scrapbook 1963-1964". Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  10. Mele 2017, p. 94.
  11. "RIOTS MAR PEACE IN CHESTER, PA.; Negro Protests Continue - School Policy at Issue". Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  12. Mele 2017, p. 95.
  13. McLarnon 2002, pp. 325-326.
  14. Mele 2017, p. 96.
  15. McLarnon 2002, p. 335.
  16. McLarnon 2002, p. 341.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Griffin, Sean Patrick. Philadelphia's Black Mafia: A Social and Political History. Clemson, South Carolina: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 78–80. ISBN   1-4020-1311-6 . Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  18. McLarnon 2002, p. 328.
  19. "Stanley Branche, 59, Civil Rights Advocate". Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  20. "Former civil rights leader convicted of extortion". Retrieved 25 October 2018.

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