The early success of the NCRA was short-lived. After the first dramatic numbers, applications began to fall off sharply.
In some letters and articles, Tourgée attributes the lackluster response as a sign that some leaders of the African American community were advising people not to join; in other instances, the low numbers were attributed to fear of retribution and; still others suggested that there were too many different directions in which the African American citizens were being pulled when the very day-to-day struggles to survive were enough of a challenge.
In a letter to J. T. Robinson, Tourgée observes:
The Citizen’s Rights Association goes steadily on, especially with the white Republicans of the North and the colored people of the far South.
The colored people of the North and of the border states are generally indifferent or cowardly – particularly their leaders and prominent men.