Working with the group’s strong anti-lynching efforts, Wilkins also went undercover to observe and take part in the horrible job conditions African Americans toiled under as part of a federally funded river initiative in Mississippi. Wilkins’s ensuing Mississippi Slave Labor report was instrumental in producing change for the workers.
Wilkins continued his work as a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He believed in achieving social equality through legislation and Constitutional backing, and during speeches, urged African Americans to embrace U.S. citizenship. He went on to become an advocate of black-owned bank lending power and met with various U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, to advocate on his constituency’s behalf.
During the late ’60s, Wilkins was wary of the more militant Black Power Movement, and was accused by some of having too conciliatory a tone. After being asked to step down by some within the organization and initially refusing, he retired from the NAACP in 1977, with Benjamin Hooks taking over leadership.