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Mary Ann Smith Wilson - Ruby Doris Smith Robinson collection on student activism

 Collection — Box: 1-4
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0078

Scope note

The Mary Ann Smith Wilson - Ruby Doris Smith Robinson Collection on Student Activism spans the dates 1948-2008 with the bulk of the material dated 1960-1967. The collection documents both Ruby Doris Smith Robinson's and Mary Ann Smith Wilson's participation in the civil rights movement and the organizations with which they were affiliated. Although the collection documents both sisters activities, the bulk of the collection reflects Ruby Doris Smith Robinson’s activism activities in the civil rights movement. Also included in the collection are photographs, correspondences, news articles, programs, reports, and flyers.


  • Creation: 1942-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1967


Rights Statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Biographical note

Born on April 25, 1942 in Atlanta, Georgia, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson was a civil rights leader. She and her sisters, Catherine Smith Robinson and Mary Ann Smith Wilson, were three of seven children born to Reverend John T. and Alice Smith. Ruby attended Atlanta Public Schools and later earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Spelman College in 1965. Atlanta’s racial discrimination, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins of February 1960 all spurned her activism in the civil rights movement.

In April 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Robinson attended a mass meeting that resulted in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), under the guidance of South Christian Leadership Conference representative, Ella Baker. Robinson became a SNCC field representative and worked in newly-formed chapters in Nashville, Tennessee, Charleston, South Carolina, and McComb, Mississippi.

Robinson is also known for her participation in the Rock Hill, South Carolina sit-in movement in February 1961 with SNCC leaders J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, and Charles Sherrod. They initiated a “Jail-No-Bail” tactic in a show of solidarity with the local South Carolina demonstrators. As a result, they and hundreds of other participants were jailed for 30 days. After her release, Robinson continued her activism by participating in the 1961 Freedom Rides that led to a brutalizing 45-day jail term in the Parchman Penitentiary near Drew, Mississippi.

Robinson also served as assistant secretary of the Atlanta branch of SNCC, where she performed duties such as bookkeeping, organizing the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi, and directing SNCC’s Sojourner Truth Motor Fleet. She married Clifford Robinson from Atlanta, Georgia; he was a Motor Fleet mechanic. They had one child, Kenneth Toure Robinson, in 1965.

In May 1966, Robinson replaced James Forman as SNCC’s executive secretary and became the first and only woman to serve in that position. The following year, Robinson was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and she died on October 7, 1967 at the age of 25.

Mary Ann Smith Wilson was the oldest child of Rev. John T. and Alice Smith. Like her siblings, she attended Atlanta Public Schools, and she graduated in 1961 from Morris Brown College. While at Morris Brown, she was intensely involved as a leader of the Atlanta Student Movement for Civil Rights. She later obtained her Master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, where she taught biology for several years. She later received her M.D. degree from the University of California Medical School in 1975, followed by three years of pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California.

In 1978, Dr. Wilson returned to Atlanta and worked as a staff pediatrician at Southside Community Health Center. She later ran a private practice at North Avenue Medical Clinic in Atlanta from 1983 to 1988. Dr. Wilson worked at the Fulton County Health Department before resigning in 1996 to care for her mother and aunt. She later served as assistant professors at Georgia Military College and Atlanta Metropolitan College from 2001 to 2003. After living in Nashville for a brief period (2004-2009), she returned to Atlanta and received an Honorary Degree from Morris Brown College in May 2010. She is the mother of two children.


3 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged into five series: 1. Ruby Doris Smith; 2. Mary Ann Smith Wilson 3. Organizations; 4. Photographs; 5. Oversized materials.

Mary Ann Smith Wilson - Ruby Doris Smith Robinson collection on student activism, 1942-2008
Finding aid prepared by Melvin Collier and Stacy R. Jones, 2012.
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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