N.A.A.C.P., Energized by Liberal Activists, Dismisses Its President

“We are in a transitional moment,” Mr. Johnson said. “This is the opportune time to begin to look at all our functions as an association and see, are we the right fit for the current reality?”

In the interview on Friday afternoon, Mr. Brooks said that he convened a meeting a few weeks ago to study how the organization could both engage the Trump administration on issues and oppose White House policies that went against the group’s beliefs. He also said that since January, membership has risen by 87 percent and donations are up 200 percent.

“I’m somewhat mystified and disappointed because I love the work,” Mr. Brooks said. “Relevance is about authenticity and impact, and we tried to do that. So it’s been a tough ride.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, expressed gratitude for Mr. Brooks’s “service in the fight for justice, the moral clarity that he has brought to bear on the challenges we face, and the sacrifices that he has made while resisting injustice across the country.”

But a younger generation of activists, while not criticizing Mr. Brooks, said there needed to be changes.

“I don’t think the N.A.A.C.P. is ready for this moment because they have been too risk-averse to engage,” said Symone D. Sanders, the former national press secretary for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, who is black. “If folks aren’t ready to shut it down, to challenge this White House, to challenge Congress, to do more than just march, to do some real direct action, then they will not survive in this moment.”

Benjamin Jealous, who was N.A.A.C.P. president from 2008 to 2013, was far more confrontational than Mr. Brooks, and remains a presence in liberal circles.

When pressed on why Mr. Brooks could not help the group usher in a new phase of activism, both Mr. Russell and Mr. Johnson demurred, saying only that the board had decided the organization needed a new leader.

“We have to work together with other folks, young folks, old folks, in-between folks to ensure that we stop the kind of cynicism, the kind of relapse to a bad old situation that Trump represents,” Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Russell did say that the outcome of the presidential election, Mr. Trump’s governance and fast-moving news cycles had led the century-old organization to do some soul searching.

To Mr. Brooks, the criticism seemed misplaced. He said he got pushback from some members of the organization’s board for his arrest at Mr. Sessions’s office.

“I’m not ashamed of a mug shot that we earned standing against Senator Sessions and for voting rights,”…

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