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Roy Wilkins


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About the Author

Yvonne Ryan is managing editor of the Economist's annual World In publication. She holds a Master of Arts degree from the Institute of the Americas, University of London, and a Ph.D. from Leiden University.


"The Best Books About the Volatile 60sThe longtime head of the NAACP was long overdue for a deeply researched and elegantly written biography. This is it." -- The Daily Beast

"Although Wilkins's early life gets brief treatment, the book's true focus and achievement is in its highly detailed, richly researched account of Wilkins's role in the NAACP, and, tangetially, his time as head of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights -- quite fitting for a subject who devoted so much of his life to the organization." -- Publishers Weekly

"From the 1930s through the 1970s, NAACP leader Roy Wilkins was one of the most influential figures in the struggle for black freedom and equality. Forgotten by most Americans and dismissed by many historians as a 'bureaucrat, ' Roy Wilkins has finally found a judicious and empathetic biographer. Yvonne Ryan's book is an important contribution to civil rights scholarship." -- Manfred Berg, coeditor of The U.S. South and Europe: Transatlantic Relations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

"One of the "Big Six" civil rights leaders of the 1960s, Roy Wilkins has been relegated to a supporting role in most histories of the black freedom struggle. This able biography shows why Wilkins's prominence in the 1950s and 1960s was well deserved." -- Historian

"Ryan has done impressive work in filling a gap in the civil rights literature and adding nuance to Wilkins's story. [Her] well-researched account explores much-neglected aspects of the history of the civil rights movement." -- American Historical Review

"Ryan offers an insightful look at an influential but enigmatic figure in the civil rights movement, about whom little has been written." -- Booklist, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"The first bio of a crucial, if now-overlooked, figure. Solid and thought provoking." -- American History

"What distinguishes this biography from many of those civil rights warriors is Ryan's supreme skill at not letting any negative rumors or allegations hijack the memorable achievements of Roy Wilkins. She elevates the life of this disciplined, dignified, complex soul. Wonderfully written and illuminating." -- Neworld Review

"Yvonne Ryan has written a very fine biography of one of the nation's foremost civil rights leaders. Her prose is lively and engaging, presenting her subject as a man of dedication and conviction, one who committed most of his life to the NAACP and the cause of equal justice. Little has been written on Wilkins, and this book will certainly help to fill that void." -- Robert A. Pratt, author of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia

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