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Wilkins was born August 30, 1901 in St. Louis. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in sociology in 1923. He worked as a journalist at 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 worker Aminda "Minnie" Badeau; the couple had no children.
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 Bois left the organization in 1934, Wilkins replaced him as editor of Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP.
Leading the NAACP
In 1955, Wilkins was named executive director of the NAACP. He had an excellent reputation as an articulate spokesperson for the civil rights movement. He 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.
In 1967, Wilkins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon Johnson. During his tenure, the NAACP led 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. He died September 9, 1981. In 1982 his autobiography Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins was published posthomously.
The Roy Wilkins Centre for Human Relations and Human Justice  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
- Roger Wilkins, his nephew, another prominent Civil Rights activist.
Arvarh E. Strickland. "Wilkins, Roy"; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
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