Pickens, William, 1881-1954

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Author, educator. William Pickens was Dean of Morgan College in Baltimore, Md., 1918-1919; Field Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1920-1942; and employee of the United States Treasury Department, 1941-1951.

From the description of William Pickens papers, 1906-1954. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122608256

From the guide to the William Pickens papers, 1906-1954, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

Author, educator, official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1920-1942; employee of the United States Treasury Department, 1941-1951.

From the description of William Pickens papers (Additions), 1909-1950. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122465862

William Pickens was born in Anderson County, S.C. on January 15, 1881. When he was seven years of age, his parents moved to Arkansas, where he graduated from Union High School in Little Rock, in 1899, as the valedictorian of his class.

Following high school Pickens entered Talladega College in Alabama and finished the Bachelor of Arts course in 1902, after which he entered Yale University, where in 1904 he earned a B.A. degree in linguistics. At Yale, Pickens received the Phi Beta Kappa Key and was in the highest ranking group of his class.

Upon completion of his degree, Pickens began teaching foreign languages and other subjects at Talladega College. He spent ten years there and then went to Wiley University in Texas where he served as head of the departments of Greek and Sociology for one year. In 1915 Pickens accepted the position of Dean of Morgan College in Baltimore. He remained at Morgan for five years, serving as Vice-President in the last two years. Although his tenure as dean of Morgan College was brief, he would be known for many years after as “Dean Pickens.”

While pursuing his career as a college professor, Pickens also received the following degrees: a diploma from the British Esperanto Association, 1906; a Master of Arts degree from Fisk University, 1908; a doctorate in Literature from Selma University, 1915, and an L.L.D. from Wiley University, 1918.

In 1905 Pickens married Minnie Cooper McAlpine of Meridian, Mississippi, who had earned her B.A. degree from Tougaloo University. They subsequently had three children, William Jr., Harriet and Ruby.

In 1913 Pickens made his first of many trips abroad to attend conferences and deliver lectures in England, Scotland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Austria. An inveterate traveler throughout his life, he traveled through most of Europe, Central America, the West Indies and Canada.

It was also during this period that Pickens acquired a reputation as an author and lecturer. He wrote The Heir of Slaves, an autobiography; The New Negro, a collection of essays; The Vengeance of the Gods, short stories; Bursting Bonds, another autobiography; American Aesop, after-dinner stories, and other works. He was a well-known contributor to the press and leading periodicals, and was a contributing editor of the Associated Negro Press for twenty-five years.

Abandoning the field of education in 1920, Pickens became Field Secretary and then Director of the Branches for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Always intensely interested in the welfare and progress of black people, Pickens had been a member of the noted Niagara Movement, which antedated the NAACP. He remained with the NAACP officially until 1942. During his tenure he successfully used his organizing and oratorical skills to raise funds and increase membership.

While with the NAACP Pickens also served as a Leader in the Federal Forums Projects conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior during 1937 and 1939. In addition, under appointment by Governor Herbert H. Lehman, he served as a member of the Selective Service System on draft and appeal boards in New York City.

At the request of the Treasury Department of the United States, Pickens took a leave of absence from the NAACP in May 1941 and went to work for the Defense Savings Staff Section. He was designated Chief of the Interracial Section, the National Organization Division of the Treasury in 1942. At that time, he officially severed his employment with the NAACP and became the first black person affiliated with the Treasury Division in twenty-five years.

During World War II, Pickens led black bond buyers through eight successful drives - seven war loans, and one Victory loan. When the war ended, rebuffed by Walter White in his attempt to return to the NAACP, he continued with the Treasury Department selling to blacks the idea of thrift through government securities. His duties took him all over the United States, traveling from 15,000 to 40,000 miles a year for the ten years he was with the Treasury Department. He gained prominence as one of the nation's top war and savings bond salesmen.

After his retirement from the Treasury Department at age 70, in 1951, Pickens traveled extensively throughout the world, writing articles for various newspapers. He died aboard the S.S. Mauritania on April 6, 1954, off Kingston, Jamaica, while on a Caribbean cruise. At his wife's request, William Pickens was buried at sea.

From the guide to the William Pickens papers (Additions), 1909-1950, (The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Gumby, L. S. Alexander, 1885-1961,. Collection of Negroiana, [ca. 1800]-1981, [microform]. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson papers, circa 1850-2005, 1900-1976 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Nannie Helen Burroughs Papers, 1900-1963, (bulk 1928-1960) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Asberry, Nettie J., 1865-1968. Nettie J. Asberry photograph collection, ca. 1917-1941 [graphic]. University of Washington Libraries
creatorOf Pickens, William, 1881-1954. William Pickens record group : preliminary inventories [microform] Emory University, Robert W. Woodruff Library
referencedIn Alexander Gumby Collection of Negroiana, [ca. 1800]-1981 Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Claude Barnett and the Associated Negro Press, 1976-1977 Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memoryhttp://www.indiana.edu/~cshm
referencedIn Johnson, James Weldon, 1871-1938. James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson papers, circa 1850-2005 (bulk 1900-1976). Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Pickens, William, 1881-1954. William Pickens papers (Additions), 1909-1950. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Harrison, Hubert H. Hubert H. Harrison papers, 1893-1927. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf William Pickens papers (Additions), 1909-1950 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
referencedIn Nettie J. Asberry Photograph Collection, ca. 1917-1941 University of Washington Libraries Special Collections
referencedIn Spingarn, Arthur B. (Arthur Barnett), 1878-1971. Papers, 1850-1967 (bulk 1920-1955). Library of Congress
referencedIn Papers, 1900-1961 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Burroughs, Nannie Helen, 1879-. Nannie Helen Burroughs papers, 1900-1963 (bulk 1928-1960). Library of Congress
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Proctor, Henry Hugh, 1868-1933. Papers. 1881-1971. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
referencedIn Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955. Papers. 1923-42. Tulane University, Amistad Research Center
creatorOf Pickens, William, 1881-1954. William Pickens papers, 1906-1954. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Arthur B. Spingarn Papers, 1850-1970, (bulk 1920-1955) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Gumby, L. S. Alexander, 1885-1961,. Alexander Gumby collection of Negroiana, [ca. 1800]-1981. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf William Pickens papers, 1906-1954 The New York Public Library. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born corporateBody
associatedWith American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born. corporateBody
associatedWith Asberry, Nettie J., 1865-1968. person
associatedWith Associated Negro Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Barnett, Claude, 1890- person
associatedWith Barnett, Claude, 1890-1967. person
associatedWith Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955. person
correspondedWith Burroughs, Nannie Helen, 1879- person
associatedWith CHARLOTTE EUGENIA (HAWKINS) BROWN, 1883-1961 person
associatedWith Council for Pan American Democracy (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. person
associatedWith Garvey, Marcus, 1877-1940. person
associatedWith Garvey, Marcus, 1887-1940. person
associatedWith Gumby, L. S. Alexander, 1885-1961, person
associatedWith Harrison, Hubert H. person
associatedWith Holmes, John Haynes, 1879-1964. person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, James Weldon, 1871-1938. person
associatedWith Ku Klux Klan (1915- ) corporateBody
associatedWith Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993. person
correspondedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith Morgan College (Baltimore, Md.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Association for the Advancement of Colored People corporateBody
associatedWith National Council of the Young Men's Christian Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Ovington, Mary White, 1865-1951. person
associatedWith Pickens family family
associatedWith Pickens family. family
associatedWith Prattis, Percival L. person
associatedWith Proctor, Henry Hugh, 1868-1933. person
associatedWith Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and History. corporateBody
associatedWith Socialist Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Spingarn, Arthur B. (Arthur Barnett), 1878-1971. person
associatedWith Spingarn, Joel Elias, 1875-1939. person
associatedWith United States Department of the Treasury. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Treasury corporateBody
associatedWith United States National Selective Service Appeal Board. corporateBody
associatedWith United States Selective Service System. corporateBody
associatedWith White, Walter Francis, 1893-1955. person
associatedWith Wilkins, Roy, 1901- person
associatedWith Wilkins, Roy, 1901-1981. person
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. National Board. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Alabama
Cuba
United States
Alabama--Scottsboro
Alabama
Baltimore, Md
Cuba
Subject
College
Race relations
Civil rights--United States--Societies, etc
African Americans--Political activity
Scottsboro Trial, Scottsboro, Ala., 1931
Socialist parties--United States
Civil rights--Societies, etc
African Americans--History--1877-1964--Sources
Universities and colleges, Black
Young Men's Christian associations--United States
Civil rights
African Americans--Civil rights
African Americans--Societies, etc
News agencies
Educational fund raising--Maryland--Baltimore
African Americans--Social life and customs
African American press
Young Men's Christian associations
Universities and colleges--Maryland--Baltimore
Trials (Rape)
Trials (Rape)--Alabama--Scottsboro
Educational fund raising
United States--History--World War, 1939-1945
News agencies--United States
Socialist parties
Lynching
Young Women's Christian associations
Ku Klux Klan (1915 -)
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1881-01-15

Death 1954-04-06

Americans

English

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