Reference Entry

Young, Whitney Moore, Jr.

Robert Fay

in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170559
Young, Whitney Moore, Jr.

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When he was named executive director of the National Urban League (NUL) in October 1961, many observers believed Whitney Moore Young, Jr., was not qualified to hold the position. He had served as industrial relations secretary for the St. Paul, Minnesota, branch of the NUL from 1947 to 1949; as executive secretary of the Omaha, Nebraska, branch from 1949 to 1954; and as dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work from 1954 to 1961. Still, by traditional NUL standards, he was young and inexperienced. As its executive director during the 1960s, however, Whitney Young Jr. guided the organization through one of the most socially and politically tumultuous decades in U.S. history.The NUL was much less militant than many other organizations involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its inception in 1910, it had sought to promote African American participation in the U.S. political system, rather than to change the system itself. In the 1960s, though the NUL did not embrace the direct action of other civil rights organizations—it did not sponsor Sit-Ins, protest marches, bus boycotts, or voter registration drives—under Young's leadership it took a more active stance that better aligned it with black political and social thought of the day. The NUL provided support for civil rights activists, including cosponsorship of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.Young was born in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, and grew up on the campus of the Lincoln Institute, a vocational high school for blacks where his father was the principal. The faculty of the institute was integrated, and Young was accustomed to interracial cooperation. He used his considerable social and political skills to become an unofficial adviser to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. Johnson drew on some of Young's ideas for his War on Poverty. Young's relationships with white business leaders brought increased employment to blacks and increased funding for the NUL.Young, who held a master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, also called for a “Domestic Marshall Plan” for blacks. In 1968 he introduced the NUL's “New Thrust,” a program designed to help eliminate ghettos, and to increase affordable housing, health care, and educational opportunities for the poor. In addition, Young wrote a weekly column, “To Be Equal,” for the New York Amsterdam News. In 1964 a collection of those columns was published as To Be Equal. Young died in 1971 while swimming during a visit to Nigeria.See also March on Washington, 1963.

Reference Entry.  477 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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