|About the Book|
William Pickens was born January 15, 1881 in Anderson County, South Carolina. His parents were liberated slaves who migrated to Arkansas when he was a young boy. Young Pickens worked in cotton fields and in sawmills while attending the local segregated public school. Pickens entered Talladega College in Alabama in 1898 and left four years later as the school’s most illustrious graduate in its history. In 1902 he entered Yale University and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa where he won the Henry James Ten Eyek Prize over thirty seven competitors in 1903. Pickens became an expert linguist and graduated from Yale with a second B.A. degree in classics in 1904. In 1905 Pickens married Minnie Cooper McAlpine.In the 1930s Pickens, as an NAACP official was involved in the Scottsboro Case and the campaign to support Ethiopia after its invasion by Italy. Pickens’s daughter, Harriett was one of the first black naval officers in World War II. Once charged with subversive activities by the House Committee on Un-American Activities because of his friendship with Socialist leader Norman Thomas and his work with the League for Industrial Democracy, Pickens by 1941 left the NAACP and became an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department. In 1946-1947, for example, he traveled across the United States in 1946-1947, urging the sale of U.S. Savings Bonds.Pickens once said, “Color had been made the mark of enslavement and was taken to be also the mark of inferiority- for prejudice does not reason, or it would not be prejudice…If prejudice could reason, it would dispel itself.”William Pickens died in 1954 aboard the Mauretania while taking a pleasure cruise with his wife off the coast of South America.