The Family Firm
The Family Firm
This chapter examines Wilkins’s early years and the profound influence this period had on his life and career. Wilkins was born in St Louis, Missouri, but moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with his maternal aunt and her husband following the death of Wilkins’s mother when he was five. The neighborhood in which Wilkins grew up consisted almost entirely of European immigrants and informed his lifelong belief that racial integration was right and achievable. Wilkins began his working life as a journalist before leaving the Midwest for New York City in 1931 to become Assistant Secretary working for Walter White, who had recently been appointed Secretary of the NAACP. During his early years at the Association he worked to secure antilynching legislation and equal economic opportunities for African Americans, many of whom had not been able to take advantage of federal relief programs during the Great Depression and the economic prosperity that came with the manufacturing boom of World War II. The chapter ends as a new post–World War II world looms in which no one, least of all Wilkins, knew how to satisfy the militancy that had emerged as black troops returned home to segregation and discrimination.
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