He added 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.
“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?”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s order to federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects crystallized the decision to press for change at the civil rights group. The order reversed Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations and was a 180-degree pivot even for the Republican Party, which had warmed to criminal justice reform.
Mr. Russell said he was also worried about Mr. Trump’s executive order to nullify President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts and revive the coal industry, as well as efforts by Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, to push for more school choice programs while cutting resources from public schools. The president’s budget, to be released next week, is expected to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from school-based mental health, advanced coursework and other services, and plow much of the savings into a $400 million program to fund vouchers for private and religious schools, and to expand public charter schools.
While other organizations that have taken stands against Mr. Trump have seen huge surges in membership and contributions, N.A.A.C.P. leaders would like to be more central to the so-called resistance. The N.A.A.C.P. president who led the organization for the four years before Mr. Brooks, Benjamin Jealous, was far more confrontational, and remains a presence in liberal circles.
Mr. Russell said the group has seen an increase in membership since…