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This Day in Georgia History

March 21, 1955

Walter White Died

Civil rights leader Walter White died in New York City. Born in Atlanta on July 1, 1893, the defining moment in White’s life was the Atlanta race riot of 1906, in which he and his father were forced to take arms to defend their home from an angry mob. From this point White decided to devote his life to bettering the conditions of African-Americans, though he was light-skinned enough to pass for white himself. White held various offices within the NAACP from 1918 until his death. He was instrumental in the founding of Booker T. Washington High School for Atlanta blacks in 1923. He investigated and wrote on lynchings in the 1920s, publishing The Fire in the Flint (1924), Flight (1926), and Rope and Faggot: The Story of Judge Lynch (1929). He often endangered his own life by posing as a white man in the course of these investigations. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow famed African-American opera singer Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall in 1939, White organized an open air concert for her in Washington, D.C. White acted as an advisor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman on civil rights matters, and reported on the conditions for African-American soldiers in Europe during World War II in The Rising Wind: A Report on the Negro Soldier in the European Theater (1945). After the war he served as a consultant to the U.S delegation to the United Nations. In 1948 he published A Man Called White, then in 1955 How Far the Promised Land. Both were autobiographical works, the latter published soon before his death.