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Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson

Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson (April 25, 1942-October 9, 1967)

Determined Leader and Change Agent

Former Executive Secretary, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson.

Smith-RobinsonThough her life was brief, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson left a legacy of leadership for African-American women to follow. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 25, 1942, she was the second oldest of seven children born to Alice and J. T. Smith. Her father was a bi-vocational minister and furniture mover, and her mother was a beautician. The Smiths lived in a middle class community in Atlanta and enjoyed a relatively comfortable life, yet they were always aware of looming racial and gender inequality. Ruby Smith entered Spelman College in 1959, where she quickly became involved in the Atlanta Student Movement [Founded by Lonnie King and Julian Bond in 1960 comprised of African-American college students across Atlanta’s University system calling for an end to inequality]. In 1964, she married Clifford Robinson, and a year later she gave birth to a son, Kenneth.

Mrs. Robinson regularly picketed and protested with other students who worked to integrate key Atlanta institutions. In February 1961, she became involved in activities sponsored by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Mrs. Robinson was a bold and daring colleague, the creator of SNCC's own, “jail, no bail policy,” and one of the original Freedom Riders. Mrs. Robinson, like many young activists, spent forty-five days at Parchman State Penitentiary in Jackson, Mississippi for her civil rights activism. Robinson remained in Mississippi after being released from prison to work on SNCC's voter registration campaign.  

While women played an important role in SNCC and other civil rights organizations, the administrative leadership was largely male-dominated. In 1966, Robinson broke the pattern of exclusive male leadership by being elected the first female Executive Secretary. Mrs. Robinson was considered hard and uncompromising as she courageously challenged both gender discrimination and racial segregation in society.

In April 1967, Mrs. Smith Robinson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Tragically, she died later that year on October 9, 1967, at the age of twenty-five.

Photo: Public Domain http://www.blackpast.org/aah/robinson-ruby-doris-smith-1942-1967  (Accessed 1/23/14)
http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.obits/66141/mb.ashx   (Accessed 1/23/14)
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/about_king/details/660616.htm  (Accessed 1/23/14)
http://www.atlantamagazine.com/history/story.aspx?ID=1200025 (Accessed 1/28/14)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

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