Rev. Dr. Raymond R. Wilkinson
Roanoke, Virginia's Civil Rights Pioneer
Rev. R.R. Wilkinson's parents Reverend Isaiah I. Wilkinson and Lavinia Wilkinson in 1912 holding their firstborn daughter Martha; Rev. R.R. Wilkinson's oldest sister.
Rev. R.R. Wilkinson siblings: (top row from left )Susie, Fannie *Raymond, Roberta, Alice, Connie, Mabel. (bottom row from left) James, Martha, Howard, & William.
Reverend R.R. Wilkinson was born Raymond Rogers Wilkinson on June 18th, 1923, in Amelia County, Virginia to the Reverend Isaiah I. Wilkinson (1886 -1949) and Lavinia Wilkinson (1887-1941).
Raymond was their ninth child and youngest boy born out of eleven children who were all raised on homestead farm. As a child Raymond experienced racism, poverty and segregation. Raymond and his siblings grew up in the racist Jim Crow south in Virginia. In the south segregated laws kept most African Americans from many of the same opportunities that white Americans had, including education. Despite living in a time when African Americans were being racially discriminated daily, Raymond's parents were strong in faith. They instilled great pride in all eleven of their children and a deep unyielding faith in God. They were poor in material things but were rich spiritually. Through it all the Wilkinsons had each other.
The Wilkinson Homestead
Raymond's father the Reverend Isaiah I. Wilkinson was pastor at Little Union Baptist Church in Amelia County, Virginia. He was a prominent figure in the community of Amelia County.
As a child Raymond would often minister to the farm animals after church mimicking his father's Sunday sermons. Raymond would grow up to become pastor of his father's church in the early 1950's.
Back in the 1920's and early 30's, there were not many high schools for blacks due to segregation laws in the south. Many black families including the Wilkinsons sent their children off to schools out of state up north where there were no segregated schools. Some of Raymond's older siblings were sent up north to attend high school in New York City where schools were integrated. The north provided better education opportunities for African Americans because Jim Crow laws did not exist there. Some southern states would fund black students so they could afford to travel to school by busing, however this was not always the case. Black children would often walk for miles to attend overcrowded black schools in the few counties that had them.
Local black churches in the community decided to take charge when southern states would not pay all black students to go to high school up north. Black churches came together united in their goal to see that their children obtain a higher education. The black community began raising money to invest in building their own schools for their children. This was done through many contributions made from several black church congregations in Amelia County. In the 1930's and 1940's African American communities raising money to build their own schools became a movement. One of the black churches in Amelia County to do this was Little Union Baptist Church where the Rev. Isaiah I. Wilkinson pastored. In 1933, Rev. Isaiah I. Wilkinson raised money along with the black church community to build and establish the first black high school in Amelia County, Virginia named Russell Grove High School. Because of his father Rev. Isaiah I. Wilkinson contribution in establishing a school, Raymond and his younger siblings were able to stay in Amelia County. Rev. Isaiah I. Wilkinson paved the way for his children to ensure that they all receive equal education so that they could thrive.
Rev. R.R. Wilkinson's father Rev. Isaiah I. Wilkinson help establish Russell Grove High School in 1933 which was the only black high school in Amelia County, Virginia. The Wilkinsons teacher Mabel Patterson taught Raymond and four of his siblings at this high school.
REV. R.R. WILKINSON HISTORY MAKING SIBLINGS
NAACP EXECUTIVE director of Virginia conference
HOWARD MARION WILKINSON
1922 - 2002
Howard Marion Wilkinson was Raymond's older brother who was a year older than he was. They were both described as "Two peas in a pod." Howard Marion Wilkinson would serve in World War 2 and later join the Virginia NAACP branch in 1958 just as his brother would.
Howard Marion Wilkinson (left) Raymond R. Wilkinson (right) in the 1940's.
Mabel Wilkinson Thornton age 16 and Raymond R. Wilkinson age 18 in 1941.
In their teen years Raymond R. Wilkinson and his sister Mabel Wilkinson Thornton who was 2 years younger than he was shared the same classes together in high school. She often witnessed Raymond recite poetry to the girls in class. They both graduated high school in 1941.
THE FIRST WILKINSON TO ATTEND COLLEGE
MABEL WILKINSON THORNTON
1925 - 2018
Photos courtesy of Mabel Wilkinson Thornton Descendants
Mabel Wilkinson Thornton was the first Wilkinson to attend college. At age 16 in 1941 she went on to attend Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. There she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, the same sorority that Vice President Kamala Harris pledged as a member. Mabel graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
This is a voice recording of Mabel Wilkinson Thornton the younger sister of Rev. Raymond R. Wilkinson. Mabel tells the Wilkinson children and grandchildren about herself and her siblings experiences with busing and segregated schools. She also spoke about their father, the Rev. Isaiah Wilkinson who helped establish black schools in Amelia County, Virginia.
THE courageous FOUR Pioneer
FANNIE WILKINSON FITZGERALD
1930 - 2016
Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald was born in Amelia County, Virginia on July 27, 1930. Fannie is Rev. R.R. Wilkinson's youngest sister. Fannie attended Virginia Union University and received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education in 1952. Her first teaching position was at a two-room school in Amelia County, Virginia with no cafeteria or indoor plumbing.
After teaching for three years, she applied for graduate school but was denied entry to Virginia Universities because of the color of her skin. She was, however, granted a full scholarship to attend Columbia University in New York City where she completed a Master’s in Special Education in 1960. Before completion of the degree, Fannie was offered a job at Antioch-McCrae school for African-Americans in western Prince William County. After completion, she began teaching at the Jennie Dean School in Manassas.
Mrs. Fitzgerald was a pioneer during the integration of Prince William County Public Schools. In 1964, she was appointed by the county board of education to transfer from Antioch-McCrae to Fred Lynn Elementary and Middle School in an effort to integrate not only students but teachers as well. Fannie and three of her peers became known as the Courageous Four in Prince William County Public Schools becoming the first African American teachers to integrate Prince William County Public Schools. Steps such as this led to a fully integrated school system by September of 1965.
When asked about being one of the first black teachers to integrate in Prince William County, Fannie replied “Children are children. It doesn’t matter what color they are.” Mrs. Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald became the first African-American to teach at Manassas Park Elementary School, and in 1968, was selected to be the first African American elementary supervisor of the integrated schools in Prince William County. Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald passed onto glory on April 7th, 2016 at age 85.
Raymond, Euphesenia, and Fannie (right) as a bridesmaid in her brother and sister-in-law's wedding in 1951. Fannie, Raymond, and Euphesenia all received their Bachelor's degrees from Virginia Union University in 1952.
A young Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald.
In 2008 as a result of Fannie W. Fitzgerald's historic contributions to Prince William County Public Schools, the school board voted unanimously to name an elementary school for her. Located on Benita Fitzgerald Drive, a street named for her oldest daughter, an Olympic gold medalist, the school stands as a testament to academic excellence. Her youngest daughter, Kim Fitzgerald Lennon, has been an educator at the school since its opening in the fall of 2008.
Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald 2014 Interview
OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL CHAMPION
BENITA FITZGERALD MOSLEY
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley competed for the United States in the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, where she won the Olympic Gold medal in a time of 12.84 seconds, beating favorite Shirley Strong by 0.04 seconds. Benita Fitzgerald is only the second U.S. woman, after Babe Didrikson, and the first African American woman, to win a gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles. Benita is the oldest daughter of Rodger Pierpont Fitzgerald and Fannie Wilkinson Fitzgerald. In 1996 a street was named in Benita's honor. The street was named Benita Fitzgerald Drive in Woodbridge, Virginia. A school which is named after her mother Fannie W. Fitzgerald Elementary School is located on the same street at 15500 Benita Fitzgerald Drive in Woodbridge, Virginia. Benita Fizgerald Mosley is the niece of Rev. R.R. Wilkinson.