Atlanta Student Movement Activist Dr. Mary Ann Smith Wilson; Civil Rights Freedom Rider and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activist Ruby Doris Smith Robinson (1942 – 1967); and minister, author, and executive producer Catherine Smith Robinson, M.Ed.
Photo Courtesy of Catherine Smith Robinson and Catherine Smith Robinson’s Collection.
Atlanta Student Movement Activist Dr. Mary Ann Smith Wilson
By Timiza Woods, daughter of Dr. Mary Ann Smith Wilson
Dr. Mary Ann Smith Wilson was born July 1, 1940, in Atlanta Georgia. She is the eldest of seven children born to Alice and John Thomas Smith and was raised in the Summer Hill Community.
Mary Ann graduated valedictorian of Luther Judson Price High School class of 1957 and matriculated to Morris Brown College where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1961 earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She was cited in Who’s Who in America’s Colleges and Universities.
It was at Morris Brown College that Mary Ann became intensely involved student government. As student activism against racial segregation began to grow across the country, Mary Ann was inspired to become involved in the Atlanta Student Movement. A major achievement of the Atlanta Student Movement was the formation of the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights (COAHR) in which Mary Ann was elected Secretary. In 1960, Committee members drafted “An Appeal for Human Rights”. The document, a full-page ad, was published in several Atlanta area newspapers and directly challenged the segregation of business and facilities in Atlanta. Mary Ann was one of the six original signers of the document representing Morris Brown College of the Atlanta University Center. The publication served as the catalyst for mass, organized civil demonstrations that served to desegregate Atlanta. In 1985, the Georgia House of Representatives honored Mary Ann for her contribution to Atlanta through the Atlanta Student Movement. House Resolution 416 sponsored by Representative Bruce of the 61st District reads, ‘Mary Ann went to jail, participated in freedom rides, and consistently led picket lines protesting segregation.”
After graduating from Morris Brown College, Mary Ann received the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship for graduate study and was accepted at the University of California in Berkeley California where she would pursue a Master’s degree in Zoology. In 1965, following graduate school, Mary Ann taught Biology at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill California. It was during this time that she married and had two children.
Mary Ann received the Regents Scholarship and began medical school in 1971. Her interest in medical school was heavily influenced by an overwhelming sense of helplessness that she felt by the premature death of her sister Ruby Doris Smith Robinson at the age of 25. Ruby Doris was also a civil rights activist and served as the Executive Secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Mary Ann earned her M.D. degree from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine in 1975 followed by three years of pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital on Oakland California.
Mary Ann returned to Atlanta in in 1978 where she worked a staff pediatrician for the Atlanta Southside Community Health Center. In 1983, she established the North Avenue Medical Clinic and began private practice with the goal of providing quality healthcare to children and families. Mary Ann’s career in medicine also includes a long tenure with the Fulton County Health Department (1987- 2012) where she held several positions to include Medical Director of the Fulton County Tuberculosis Program.
Mary Ann is currently retired from medicine. She is the proud mother of Timiza Woods and Samory Wilson. She has five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She currently lives with her family in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Ruby Doris Smith Robinson
“A Freedom Fighter for Life”
“If you think free, you are free”
By Catherine Smith Robinson, M. Ed., Sister of Ruby Doris Smith Robinson
Ruby Doris Smith Robinson was born in Atlanta, Georgia on April 25, 1942. She is the second child born to John Thomas and Alice Smith. They lived in a segregated middle-class community. It was called “Summerhill.”
Ruby’s first exposure to racial discrimination was in her own neighborhood, and the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. She had a desire to be a part of it, but was too young.
Later, she graduated as an honor student from Luther Judson Price High School, and received a scholarship to Spelman College at the age of 16. Her sister Mary Ann was a senior at Morris Brown, and had joined a new group focusing on the inequalities of Black people. Ruby started secretly attending their meetings. Shortly thereafter, she became a member of this group, the “Atlanta Student Movement.”
Ruby’s purpose began to blossom quickly. She started assisting with the planning of protests and sit-ins. In April, 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC, Ruby attended a student meeting. They formed a group, the “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).” She became one of the founders of SNCC and was designated as a SNCC Field Representative. She assisted in organizing chapters in Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Albany.
As an 18-year-old sophomore, Ruby participated with 3 other students in a sit-in in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They were arrested and sentenced for 30 days She assisted in creating the Jail-No-Bail strategy for the entire student movement. All students who were arrested, would stay in jail without bail.
Ruby continued to work very hard for the cause of freedom. She became the full-time Southern Campus Coordinator for SNCC. By this time, she realized her purpose was to liberate Black people, and she dropped out of college. She planned many protests, sit-in, and marches in Atlanta, the home office of SNCC. In 1961, Ruby became a Freedom Rider. She faced mobs, was violently attacked, and spent 45 days in the Mississippi Penitentiary.
In 1963, Ruby served as the SNCC administrative secretary. In Mississippi, she organized the Freedom Summer Campaign, directed the Sojourner Truth Motor Fleet, and an economic boycott at Atlanta’s Rich’s Department Store.
Marriage bells rung in 1964 for Ruby, and her husband Clifford Robinson. They had one son Kenneth Toure. Ruby became the first and only female to lead a major civil rights organization. She was recognized as a woman of integrity, dedicated, with a no-nonsense approach. Ruby had strong work ethics, and demanded that the staff did their job.
Ruby was able to return to Spelman with a very high reference from Reverend Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. In 1966, She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. This was one of her heart’s desires.
Diagnosed with cancer and very ill, she tried to keep the office running from her bedside. In 1967, Ruby died. She was recognized as the “Heartbeat of SNCC.” She will be remembered for encouraging others to remain calm on the picket lines. Ruby also talked to the girls in jail, to remain calm when they got upset. She always believed her life could make a difference, and it did.
Catherine Smith Robinson
“Save Our Children”
Book: “I Am a Child … I Did Not Ask to Be Born but I’m Here.”
Catherine Smith Robinson, M.Ed. is a minister, author, poet, consultant, educator, founder / director of Save Our Children, executive producer and program designer. Robinson is the mother of a daughter and two sons and has three grandsons.
She is author of “I Am a Child … I Did Not Ask to Be Born but I’m Here.”
She is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and holds a master’s degree in education. Her unique style of parental involvement has successfully educated all levels of youth and children for almost fifty years. She received the Eagles’ Award for her outstanding service in the field of teaching.
Catherine Robinson is the founder and chief executive officer of Save Our Children (SOC), Inc. and Healing and Restoration, Inc. She also started her own radio broadcast as an outreach to the community and other states, to teach the importance of parenting. Her partnership with the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs assisted her with the success of major projects in drug prevention in high-risk schools and communities. She designed programs to build resilient children in an effort to decrease drug use in children. Several Georgia Governors have recognized SOC for its outstanding achievement in drug prevention.
Catherine Robinson started a family ministry on behalf of the children – “The Princesses and Princes” – focusing on the celebration of their identity according to Godly principles. She participates in the social media network ministry as a minister for “Healing Hearts,” focused on healing and restoration, and the “Save Our Children Mission.” She is the Bible teacher for “Rise and be Healed,” a weekly senior community ministry.
For the past 50 years, Catherine Robinson has worked with children and families in various roles as a teacher in daycare, pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, high schools, technical, and juvenile schools and centers in public, private and charter institutions. She worked at Grady Hospital with children of drug-abused mothers. Through working with the juveniles and the drug abuse mothers, she was enlightened as to what many children were truly suffering. She “felt their pain, deep wounds, and the hurt these children were experiencing.” They needed someone, and “God had sent me on a mission.” It was a very special journey.
In 1993, “God began to open up a new pathway for my life to be able to fulfill my true purpose in life. I had to be in a place where my heart was. To touch and have the freedom to reach out and to help these beautiful children know, that they could have a better life. God anointed me to teach children with low self-esteem, so that they could have confidence in themselves. They had to learn trust. My word was my bond. They depended on me, and I depended on God. I took them to church. I helped them to build a good foundation they could believe in and trust,” states Catherine Robinson.
In 1995, she sold her house and took the equity and started “Save Our Children, Inc.” Although the money went fast, the Lord showed her how to have faith and trust Him. God led her to the resources. “We received help with food, cultural events, transportation, community rallies, creative arts, drug Prevention workshops, and other activities and events. The children were taught about Drug Prevention.” She and her organization partnered with then- Georgia Governor Barnes and Governor Miller, participating in the state’s drug prevention plan.
“The organization was a blessing to me and the children in several project communities. They knew someone truly loved them. But God showed me that they needed their parents.” Catherine Robinson started a joint program and parents came, teaching them the importance of bonding with their children. They participated in many fun activities, and they attended school and community programs with their children.
Catherine Robinson wrote her first book, a parenting handbook entitled, “I Am a Child I Did Not Ask to Be Born but I’m Here.” The mission lives on through the Save Our Children Mission, Voice for the Children on Social Media, and her parenting book.
Last updated on September 28, 2022