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Walter White

AKA Walter Francis White

Born: 1-Jul-1893
Birthplace: Atlanta, GA
Died: 21-Mar-1955
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Multiracial
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist, Author
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Worked against lynchings

Fractionally African-American but blonde-haired and blue-eyed, Walter White could have lived his life as a white man and never been questioned. Instead, after living through race riots in Atlanta and seeing his family's home nearly burned to the ground as "too good for a nigger family", he always considered himself black. He worked for a few years as an actuarial and salesman for an insurance company, and organized his local chapter of the NAACP after the city's school board announced plans to end public education for blacks after sixth grade. Later he worked for the NAACP national office, and -- posing as a white reporter -- actually attended lynchings, to write the gut-wrenching anti-lynching novel Fire in the Flint. By the best estimates, the American South had more than one lynching per week when White first joined the NAACP, but the book and his activism increased awareness and public condemnation of such savagery until, by the time he retired, lynchings were a rarity.

As a lobbyist, White worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to end discrimination in military and government hiring and equalize education for blacks and whites. He headed the NAACP's court case that forced the University of Missouri to accept blacks at its law school, and he helped lobby the US Senate to block John J. Parker, an outspoken opponent of voting rights for blacks who was nominated by President Herbert Hoover for the Supreme Court.

His daughter, actress Jane White, was a regular on the soap opera The Edge of Night in the late 1960s, appeared in the original Broadway cast of Once Upon a Mattress with Carol Burnett, and had a small role in the film Klute with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. White and his first wife, Leah Gladys Powell White, were divorced after his long extramarital affair with the woman who became his second wife, Poppy Cannon. She was a well-known author of numerous cookbooks and a South African-born Jewish white woman, in a time when mixed marriage was still controversial. After his death, she wrote a book about their marriage, titled A Gentle Knight.

Father: George White (postal carrier)
Mother: Madeline White (school teacher)
Sister: Madeline White
Sister: Alice White Glenn
Brother: George White Jr.
Sister: Helen White
Sister: Olive White
Wife: Leah Gladys Powell White (NAACP clerical worker, m. 1922, div. 1949)
Daughter: Jane White (actress, b. 1922)
Son: Walter Carl Darrow White
Wife: Lillian Gruskin Cannon White ("Poppy Cannon", author, b. 1907, affair 1930s-40s, m. 1949, d. 1975)
Daughter: Cynthia Cannon (stepdaughter b. with Cannon's first husband Caesar Cannon)
Daughter: Claudia Philippe (stepdaughter b. with Cannon's second husband Charles Claudius Philippe)
Son: Alf Askland Jr. (stepson b. with Cannon's third husband Alf Askland)

    High School: Atlanta University High School, Atlanta, GA (1912)
    University: BA Mathematics, Clark Atlanta University (1916)
    University: City College of New York (attended, 1920)

    NAACP Executive Secretary (1931-55)
    NAACP Asst. Executive Secretary (1918-31)
    Guggenheim Fellowship 1926
    Spingarn Medal 1937
    Risk Factors: Smoking

Appears on the cover of:
Time, 24-Jan-1938, DETAILS: Colored People's Walter White

Author of books:
The Fire in the Flint (1924)
Flight: Voices of the South (1926)
The American Negro and His Problems: A Comprehensive Picture of A Serious and Pressing Situation (1927)
Rope and Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch (1929)
A Rising Wind: The Negro Soldier in the European Theatre of War (1945)
A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White (1948, memoirs)
How Far the Promised Land? (1956, published posthumously)


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