As a student at Spelman College, Ruby Doris Smith participated in sit-ins in Atlanta, inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and the Greensboro, NC sit-ins of 1960. In April 1960, Smith attended a mass meeting for college students at Shaw University –– the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). .
At just 18, Smith traveled to Rock Hill, SC along with three other SNCC activists –– J. Charles Jones, Diane Nash, and Charles Sherrod –– to participate in the sit-in movement there. The group of SNCC activists decided not to post bail (“jail-no-bail”) in solidarity with local activists who were arrested, harassed, and beaten. .
Smith continued her activism by participating in the 1961 Freedom Rides, when she was again arrested and jailed. In addition to putting her body on the line, Smith served as administrative secretary of the SNCC Atlanta office, which included organizing the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi. In 1966, Smith became SNCC’s executive secretary, the first and only woman to serve in the position. .
Tragically, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson died from cancer on Oct. 7, 1967 at 25.