- Roy Wilkins
Roy Wilkins (
August 30, 1901– September 9, 1981) [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAwilkins.htm] was a prominent civil rights activist in the United Statesfrom the 1930s to the 1970s. Wilkins was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP) and between 1931 and 1934 was assistant NAACP secretary under Walter Francis White. When W. E. B. Du Boisleft the organization in 1934, Wilkins replaced him as editor of "Crisis", the official magazine of the NAACP.
In 1955, Roy Wilkins was chosen to be the executive secretary of the NAACP; in 1964 he became the executive director. At the age of 76, he retired. Wilkins was a staunch liberal and proponent of American values during the
Cold War, and denounced suspected and actual Communistswithin the civil rightsmovement. He has been criticized by some on the left of the civil rights movement for his cautious approach, suspicion of grassrootsorganization, and conciliatory attitude towards white anticommunism, which was significantly detrimental to the post-war civil rights movement.
St. Louis, Missouri, Wilkins graduated from the University of Minnesotawith a degree in sociologyin 1923. He worked as a journalistat " The Minnesota Daily"and became editor of " St. Paul Appeal", an African-American newspaper. After he graduated he became the editor of the " Kansas City Call". In 1929 he married social workerAminda "Minnie" Badeau; the couple had no children.In 1950, Wilkins—along with A. Philip Randolph[http://www.civilrights.org/about/lccr/founders.html] , founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Arnold Aronson[http://www.civilrights.org/about/lccr/founders.html] , a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council—founded the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights(LCCR). LCCR has become the premier civil rights coalition, and has coordinated the national legislative campaign on behalf of every major civil rights law since 1957.
Leading the NAACP
In 1955, Wilkins was named executive secretary (the title was later changed to executive director in 1964) of the NAACP. He had an excellent reputation as an articulate spokesperson for the civil rights movement. One of his first actions was to provide support to civil rights activists in Mississippi who were being subject to a "credit squeeze" by members of the
White Citizens Councils.
Wilkins backed a proposal suggested by Dr.
T.R.M. Howardof Mound Bayou, Mississippi, who headed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a leading civil rights organization in the state. Under the plan, black businesses and voluntary associations shifted their accounts to the black-owned Tri-State Bankof Memphis, Tennessee. By the end of 1955, about $280,000 had been deposited in Tri-State for this purpose. The money enabled Tri-State to extend loans to credit-worthy blacks who were denied loans by white banks. Wilkins participated in the March on Washington(1963), the Selma to Montgomery marches(1965), and the March Against Fear(1966).
He believed in achieving reform by legislative means; he testified before many Congressional hearings and conferred with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Wilkins strongly opposed militancy in the movement for civil rights as represented by the "
black power" movement.
Wilkins was also a member of
Omega Psi Phi, a fraternity with a civil rights focus, and one of the intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternities established for African Americans.
In 1967, Wilkins was awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedomby Lyndon Johnson. During his tenure, the NAACP played a pivotal role in leading the nation into the Civil Rights movement and spearheaded the efforts that led to significant civil rights victories, including " Brown v. Board of Education", the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 1977, at the age of 76, Wilkins retired from the NAACP and was succeeded by
Benjamin Hooks. Wilkins died September 9, 1981. In 1982 his autobiography "Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins" was published posthumously.
The Roy Wilkins Centre for Human Relations and Human Justice [http://www.hhh.umn.edu/centers/wilkins/] was established in the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in 1992.
:"The players in this drama of frustration and indignity are not commas or semicolons in a legislative thesis; they are people, human beings, citizens of the United States of America".:-Roy Wilkins
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Roger Wilkins, his nephew, another prominent Civil Rights activist.
Roy Wilkins Auditorium, an arena in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
American Civil Rights Movement (1896-1954)
African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
Timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement
*Arvarh E. Strickland. "Wilkins, Roy"; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
*David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "T.R.M. Howard: Pragmatism over Strict Integrationist Ideology in the Mississippi Delta, 1942-1954" in Glenn Feldman, ed., "Before Brown: Civil Rights and White Backlash in the Modern South" (2004 book), 68-95.
*David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "T.R.M. Howard, M.D.: A Mississippi Doctor in Chicago Civil Rights," AME Church Review 67 (July-September 2001), 51-59.
* [http://www.tccom.com/wilkins/ The Roy Wilkins Memorial] in
St. Paul, Minnesota: a virtual tour.
* [http://www.civilrights.org The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights]
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