William Pickens Papers

Manuscripts, printed works, and photographs documenting the life of William Pickens.

William Pickens, the son of liberated slaves, came to Yale University having already earned a B.A.in 1898 at Talladega College, Alabama. He graduated from Yale with a second B.A. degree in classics in 1904, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. He helped organize the Louisville branch of the NAACP, and after a career in academia, became NAACP field secretary. During his tenure (1920–1942) the number of NAACP branches grew to more than 350. Pickens later became an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department, traveling across the United States in, urging the sale of U.S. Savings Bonds. 

The collection includes writings of Pickens and others on African-American culture, emancipation and civil rights. The collection also has scrapbooks, ephemera, and commemorative items documenting Pickens’ academic accomplishments, including with Phi Beta Kappa, career as a civil servant in the United States Savings Bonds Program of the Treasury Department, and civil rights activist. Photographs of Pickens’ Yale College class and of Pickens at an unidentified 1948 reception for W. E. B. Du Bois are also present.