Roy Wilkins

Roy Wilkins, Location no. por 18703 r1, Negative no. 93801Roy Wilkins, one of the most prominent leaders of the Civil Rights movement, began his career in St. Paul editing a small Black newspaper called the Northwest Bulletin. Before long, a larger Black weekly in Kansas City—The Call—hired him first as a reporter and columnist and later as managing editor. By 1931 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the most prominent civil rights organization at the time, took notice of the young Wilkins and brought him on board. He was made an assistant secretary and began working for The Crisis, the NAACP's monthly journal, where he quickly rose to the rank of editor. After serving in various high administrative positions with the NAACP for twenty-four years, he was made its leader in 1955. From that post he fought for such important legislation as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. He also held various important leadership and consulting positions outside of his NAACP duties as an advisor to the War Department (1945), a consultant to the American delegation to the U.N. Conference in San Francisco (1945), Chair of the American Delegation to the International Conference on Human Rights in Teheran (1968), and President of the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights (1969). For his work in civil rights, the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal in 1964, and President Lyndon B. Johnson bestowed upon him the country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Wilkins retired in 1977 and died in 1981 at age 80. Minnesota has several memorials in his honor: the St. Paul Civic Center Auditorium was renamed the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in 1984, and a memorial to him was erected on the Minnesota State Capitol mall in 1995


  • 86th Annual Convention, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: July 8th- 13th, Minneapolis, MN, Convention Center.
    This brochure for the NAACP's 86th annual convention consists mostly of letters from dignitaries, a program, and advertisements. Roy Wilkins is on the cover along with a picture of the memorial in St. Paul built in his honor. There is a description of the symbolism of the monument on the second page.
    MHS call number: E185.5.N27 N3 1995n.
  • "Roy Wilkins, 1909-1981: A Tribute," by Sylvia Lyons Render.
    In Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, vol. 39, no.2, pp. 116-125.
    MHS call number: Microfiche 118 v.39:2.
  • Roy Wilkins: The Right to Dignity.
    Produced and directed by Peter Rosen; Executive Producer, Tim White.
    Washington, D.C.: United States Information Agency, [198_].
    MHS call number: Videotape 157.
  • "Remembering Roy Wilkins: The University Alumnus Was One of the Nation's Leaders in the Fight for Civil Rights," by Tim Brady.
    In Minnesota (Minnesota Alumni Association), vol. 105, no. 2 (Nov.-Dec. 2005): pp. 24-27.
    MHS call number: LD 3369.8 .M63 v.105:2.
  • Minnesota History index terms:
    • Roy Wilkins
    • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


  • Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, by Roy Wilkins, with Tom Mathews.
    New York: Viking Press, 1982.
    MHS call number: E185.97.W69 A37.


  • FBI File on Roy Wilkins.
    Copy of Roy Wilkins' FBI file covering the years 1958 to 1969. The file has been redacted (the Freedom of Information Act allows the FBI to blacked out any information it deems necessary). Though the FBI knew that Wilkins was anti-communist, it observed some more radical Black groups through Wilkins' dealings with them; some of those observations are in the file. There are also records of death threats made against him and much other information as well.
    MHS call number: Microfilm 1847.
  • Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
    • Northwestern Bulletin
      A Black newspaper published in the Twin Cities area and edited by Roy Wilkins through April 1, 1922.
    • Minneapolis Star
    • Minneapolis Tribune
    • St. Paul Pioneer Press
    • St. Paul Dispatch
      Indexes for articles published in the Twin Cities daily newspapers start in 1967 for St. Paul papers and in 1970 for Minneapolis papers, and are located in the Hubbs Microfilm Room.
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.