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Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson

Civil Rights leader, Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson, made an influence on the African American culture. She was a helping hand in keeping the fire going for the Civil Rights Movement.

Ruby Doris Smith was born in Atlanta, Georiga on April 25, 1942. She grew up in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, which is actually the oldest black community in the city of Atlanta. Also, it is between what is now the Atlanta Zoo and the old Turner Field.

Summerhill neighborhood Atlanta, Ga 1960s
Summerhill neighborhood Atlanta, Ga 1960s

She was one of seven children born from Alice and J.T. Smith. She was the second oldest out of her siblings. Her mom was a beautician and her dad was a furniture mover and Baptist minister. They raised their children to be strong and independent by earning their wages off of black patronage (support from the church). Her parents made them feel like it was normal to have their own race’s churches, schools and social activities.

Her mother raised her to want to further her education and be involved with extracurricular activities instead of only becoming a housewife that knows only how to cook. Ruby graduated from Price High School and proceeded to attend Spelman College in 1959, which is still to this day one of the most prestigious black colleges in the United States.There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. Spelman College also played a huge role in the Civil Rights movement by holding conferences there on behalf of the movement.

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Ruby Doris Smith’s participation at Spelman College

At Spelman College, she became involved with the Atlanta Student Movement after the sit-ins at the lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. While being involved with this movement, she attended multiple sit-ins and was arrested a few times. After the Atlanta Student Movement ended on campus, Ruby continued to organize economic boycotts and kneel-ins at white churches.

After being involved with the Atlanta Student Movement, she continued to make integration possible in Atlanta by being part of  the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She worked with Ella Baker (Southern Christian Leadership Conference representative) to help start the SNCC. Ruby organized chapters in Charleston, South Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and Macomb, Mississippi.

While in the SNCC, Ruby was arrested multiple times for believing in equal rights for all races. In February 1961, J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, Charles Sherrod, and Ruby Doris Smith Robinson decided to participate in Rock Hill, South Carolina city’s sit-in movement. This particular sit-in was a “Jail-No-Bail” sit-in tactic that lead to a 30 day jail sentence for Ruby and her fellow SNCC group leaders, as well as hundreds of other participants.

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Ruby Doris Smith’s mugshot from Parchman Penitentiary in 1961

 Here is a picture of Ruby’s mugshot from when she was arrested for her involvement in the 1961 Freedom Rides. She served a 45 day jail time in Parchman Penitentiary, and while inside she and the others were beaten and abused by the guards.

Another achievement Ruby received was that she was the assistant secretary of the SNCC in the Atlanta office. While there she conducted the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi, and directed the SNCC’s Sojourner Truth Motor Fleet.

In 1964, Ruby married Clifford Robinson from Atlanta, who was also a Motor Fleet mechanic. They had a son in 1965 named Kenneth Toure.

In the remaining years of her life, she replaced James Forman in May 1966 as SNCC’s executive secretary. This put her as the first and only woman to serve in such a huge organization. She later died on October 7, 1967 from terminal cancer at the age of 25.

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I am a senior at Kennesaw State University and I am a Communication Major.

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