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date: 24 February 2020

Wilkins, Roy

Abstract and Keywords

Roy Wilkins (1901–1981) was a writer and national civil rights spokesperson. He was assistant executive secretary and executive director of the NAACP for 46 years, during which time he struggled for justice and civil rights in all aspects of American life.

Keywords: Roy Wilkins, civil rights, NAACP, Crisis magazine, segregation

Roy Wilkins became a national civil rights spokesperson during his 46 years of leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and earned a BA degree from the University of Minnesota in 1923. Wilkins subsequently took a job in journalism at the Kansas City Call. His concern about segregation caused him to resume activities he had begun in college with the NAACP. In 1931, Wilkins became the assistant executive secretary of the NAACP. From 1934 to 1949, he served as editor of Crisis magazine, succeeding W. E. B. Du Bois. As chairperson of the National Emergency Civil Rights Mobilization in 1949, he worked for fair employment and other civil rights legislation.

In 1955 Wilkins was named executive director of the NAACP and during his 22 years in that position he struggled for justice and civil rights in all aspects of American life. Among the numerous awards he received were the Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1968 and the presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. His books include an autobiography (with Tom Mathews), Standing Fast (1982), and a book of public speeches compiled by Helen Solomon and Aminda Wilkins, Talking It Over (1977).