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Roy Wilkins, NAACP Leader

For more than 30 years, southeast Queens has been home to Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans, but for three decades before the park was created, the region was home to the man himself, a long-time leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Wilkins, who died in 1981 at age 80, served on the executive staff of the NAACP for 22 years, first as executive secretary and later as executive director.

Wilkins began his career as a journalist, writing for the Kansas City Call, the leading black weekly newspaper. Once he joined the NAACP, he served as editor of The Crisis magazine.

Wilkins worked with Thurgood Marshall, who acted as chief counsel for the NAACP before he was appointed the first black justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Wilkins was an influential member of the NAACP when Marshall filed Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, which became the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case that ruled segregation of public school unconstitutional.

Wilkins and his family moved to Queens Village in 1951, where he stayed until his death in 1981.

In the late 1970s, the southeast Queens community voted to name a newly formed park after Wilkins. The park, at 177th Street and Baisley Boulevard, is home to various athletic facilities, the Black Spectrum Theatre, the African-American Hall of fame, and the Roy Wilkins Family Center.

— Courtney Dentch

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