Wilkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1901. His mother died when he was four years old, after which Wilkins and his siblings were raised by an aunt and uncle in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wilkins graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology in 1923. In 1929, he married social worker Amanda "Minnie" Badeau; the couple had no children of their own. The couple did raise the two children of Hazel Wilkins-Colton, a writer out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Leading the NAACP
Wilkins backed a proposal suggested by Dr. T.R.M. Howard of 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 Bank of Memphis, Tennessee. By the end of 1955, about $300,000 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 (August 1963) which he helped organize, the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965), and the March Against Fear (1966).In 1955, Roy Wilkins was chosen to be the executive secretary of the NAACP and in 1964 he became its executive director. 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.
In 1967, Wilkins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by 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 1964, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.
|“||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.||”|
Paul Robeson "Lost Shepherd"
"USIE in the Gold Coast, and I suspect everywhere else in Africa, badly needs a through-going, sympathetic and regretful but straight talking treatment of the whole Robeson episode...there's no way the Communists score on us more easily and more effectively out here, than on the US. Negro problem in general, and on the Robeson case in particular. And, answering the latter, we go a long way toward answering the former.