The NAACP's national board on Saturday unanimously approved a tourism boycott of South Carolina until the state stops flying the Confederate flag from its Capitol.
The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People also asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether official display of the symbol infringed on the civil rights of blacks.
The aim of the boycott is to use the full force of the nation's oldest civil rights organization, with 500,000 members in 2,200 branches, to pressure the South Carolina Legislature to lower the flag or risk losing the estimated $280 million that black travelers spend in the state each year.
The NAACP's tourism boycott will officially begin Jan. 1. The South Carolina branch of the organization first sought the boycott in July, and the controversy has already prompted 42 state and national organizations to cancel meetings or conventions in South Carolina, NAACP officials said.
The NAACP resolution calls the flag "an unspoken symbol of resistance to the battle for civil rights and equality," the symbol for numerous groups advocating white supremacy and an "affront to the sensibilities and dignity" of the state's blacks. Blacks are more than a third of South Carolina's population.
"For people of African ancestry in this country, the flying of the Confederate flag and the symbolism of it represents one of the most reprehensible aspects of our country's history," said NAACP President Kweisi Mfume.
Supporters say the flag represents Southern heritage and honors South Carolinians who died in the Civil War.
South Carolina is the only state to fly the Confederate battle flag over its statehouse. Legislators, who have the sole power to remove it, have quashed attempts to remove the flag, including a lawsuit by business leaders.