A professor and civil rights activist, Robert Singleton has spent his life advocating for equality. He was one of the original members of the Freedom Riders, who challenged racial segregation in the South and were placed in a maximum-security prison in Mississippi for “breaching the peace.” Born and raised in Philadelphia, Singleton joined the army and served in Europe. At UCLA, where he earned his BA, MA, and Ph.D., Singleton was president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He organized sit-ins at local Woolworth Stores and investigated racial discrimination on and off-campus. He continued his activism with the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the organizers of the Freedom Rides. Singleton also organized food drives for southern sharecroppers who lost their land for attempting to vote and was the chief researcher on a pre-Watts rebellion study at the UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations (now the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment). He worked as an economist at the California State Assembly Office of Research and later returned to the UCLA Graduate School of Business as an assistant professor of labor economics. During his first semester, two students were killed in a dispute over who would be named founding director of the proposed Center for African American Studies. The surviving students asked the chancellor to appoint Singleton founding director, and he worked in that position for two years. Currently, he serves as faculty emeritus in the Department of Economics at Loyola Marymount University.
“We wanted to stand up not only in places that we live like in Los Angeles but we wanted to go to the belly of the beast we knew, … you have to have a critical mass if you’re going to create change, you can’t just go in and run in and run out.”