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Rubye Smith was born on this date in 1942. She was a Black civil rights activist.
From Atlanta, Georgia, Rubye Doris Smith had little direct contact with whites while growing up. At 13, she watched television coverage of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. The sight of this large number of African Americans refusing to submit to racist policies made a strong impression. When Smith entered Spelman College in 1959, she soon became involved in nonviolent demonstrations to integrate Atlanta, being one of the first participants in Atlanta's lunch counter sit-ins.
In 1961 she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). While protesting student arrests in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Smith was arrested and, per SNCC's "jail no bail" strategy, served a 30-day jail sentence. Following her release, she risked mob violence by joining the Freedom Riders in their mission to revoke state laws that mandated segregation on interstate travel. She was again arrested on a charge of "inflammatory" traveling. In 1964 Smith married Clifford Robinson.
Even after becoming a mother, she continued to work as a professional activist and, in 1966, became SNCC's first female executive secretary. SNCC had become increasingly militant, but Robinson continued to give the organization her full support, although she only partially agreed with chairman Stokely Carmichael's outspoken endorsement of violence.
In April 1967, after being diagnosed with leukemia, she resigned from her post with SNCC. Rubye Robinson died on October 9, 1967.
2,000 years of extraordinary achievement
by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1994 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI