Walter White


By Kenneth Robert Janken

Walter White

512 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 27 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5780-9
    Published: August 2006

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Walter White (1893-1955) was among the nation's preeminent champions of civil rights. With blond hair and blue eyes, he could "pass" as white even though he identified as African American, and his physical appearance allowed him to go undercover to investigate more than 40 lynchings and race riots in the years following World War I. As executive secretary of the NAACP from 1931 until his death in 1955, White promoted the Harlem Renaissance and led influential national campaigns against lynching, segregation in the military, and racism in Hollywood movies. In this first scholarly biography, Kenneth Robert Janken considers the man who embodied many contradictions. Walter White gained access to white elite culture, establishing friendships with Eleanor Roosevelt and numerous congressmen and Supreme Court justices, but he ultimately considered himself--and was considered by many--an organization man, "Mr. NAACP."

About the Author

Kenneth Robert Janken is professor of Afro-American studies and adjunct professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of Rayford W. Logan and the Dilemma of the African-American Intellectual (Massachusetts, 1993). White: The Biography of Walter White, Mr. NAACP was published in hardcover by The New Press in 2003.
For more information about Kenneth Robert Janken, visit the Author Page.


"This elegantly written and comprehensive biography, the first major work on its subject, is a model of nuanced scholarship and popular history."--Publishers Weekly

"A well-done biography of an extremely important man, . . . an excellent contribution to the scholarship on the early civil rights era."--Journal of African American History

"A balanced assessment of a very complicated and important man."--African American Review

"[An] important book about a largely overlooked, yet pivotal figure."--Paula J. Giddings, author of Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching

"Janken's spellbinding examination of White's extraordinary life . . . reminds us that race in America has never been as simple as black and white."--Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

"Walter White was the civil rights virtuoso of the mid-twentieth century. . . . This superbly researched, consistently perceptive, and long-overdue life and time of a voluntary Negro closes an inexplicable gap between W. E. B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King Jr."--David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 and W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963