Home > Uncategorized > February 11 – Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

February 11 – Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

Yesterday we talked about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the role that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson played in bringing it about. Today, I’d like to focus on a certain individual who served as President of the National Urban League during both those presidents’ tenures (as well as Nixon’s) and had considerable influence in shaping their views and policies on Civil Rights and national poverty until his untimely death on March 11, 1971. Who was this man?…

Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was Executive Director of the National Urban League from 1961 until his untimely death in 1971. Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to racial equality and the war on poverty.

Whitney Young Jr. was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on July 31, 1921 to Whitney Moore Sr., president of the Lincoln Institute, and Laura Young, the first African American (and first female) postmistress in Kentucky, and only the second female postmistress in the United States. Young was raised and educated at his father’s Institute, and later graduated from Kentucky State University. While at Kentucky State, Young was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by and for African Americans. He would later earn a Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota.

During World War II, Young was trained in electrical engineering at MIT and assigned to a road construction crew of black soldiers supervised by Southern white officers. After just three weeks, he was promoted from private to first sergeant, and he successfully used this position to mediate between his white officers and the black soldiers angry at the poor treatment they endured. This experience, no doubt, was an early step in the path towards a career in race relations.

After the war, Whitney worked tirelessly, seeking solutions to the racism that plagued Americans and allowed Blacks to be relegated to second-class citizens. He was a key figure in organizing the 1963 March on Washington and a major catalyst for bringing black leadership together in a united front for progress. In fact, many of the advances by blacks and black-owned enterprises in the business world were made possible, in large part, by Whitney’s eloquent testimony in front of Congressional committees and his powerful appeals to business, professional and civic leaders.

In 1961, Young became Executive Director of the National Urban League and swiftly began expanding the size, budget and scope of the organization. In only four years, he grew the League from 38 employees to 1,600, he increased the annual budget from $325,000 to $6.1 Million, and propelled the traditionally moderate organization to the forefront of the Civil Rights arena while maintaining the support of influential white business and political leaders. In addition to serving as the Executive Director, Young was also President of the League from 1961 to 1971.

Seeing racial inequality and poverty as intertwined issues, he also became a relentless advocate for the poor, and he dedicated much of the League’s attention and resources to merging the principles of social work with social activism. Working as a close advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, he visited rural and urban communities and advocated their cause to the nation, effectively guiding the development of the War on Poverty. He was the President of the National Association of Social Workers from 1969-1971.

Sadly, Young drowned while swimming with friends in Nigeria on March 11, 1971 where he was attending a conference sponsored by the African American Institute. Then-President Nixon sent a plane to retrieve Young from Africa, and personally delivered the eulogy at his funeral, saying “he knew how to accomplish what other people were merely for.” Who knows what more he could have accomplished had he never drowned.

thanks for reading, and happy birthday Nancy!

francis

“Black Power simply means: Look at me, I’m here. I have dignity. I have pride. I have roots. I insist, I demand that I participate in those decisions that affect my life and the lives of my children. It means that I am somebody.” ~ Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

Yesterday we talked about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the role that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson played in bringing it about.  Today, I’d like to focus on  a certain individual who served as President of the National Urban League during both those presidents’ tenures (as well as Nixon’s) and had considerable influence in shaping their views and policies on Civil Rights and national poverty until his untimely death on March 11, 1971.  Who was this man?…

Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was Executive Director of the National Urban League from 1961 until his untimely death in 1971.  Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to racial equality and the war on poverty.

Whitney Young Jr. was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on July 31, 1921 to Whitney Moore Sr., president of the Lincoln Institute, and Laura Young, the first African American (and first female) postmistress in Kentucky, and only the second female postmistress in the United States.  Young was raised and educated at his father’s Institute, and later graduated from Kentucky State University.  While at Kentucky State, Young was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by and for African Americans.  He would later earn a Masters in Social Work at the University of Minnesota.

During World War II, Young was trained in electrical engineering at MIT and assigned to a road construction crew of black soldiers supervised by Southern white officers.  After just three weeks, he was promoted from private to first sergeant, and he successfully used this position to mediate between his white officers and the black soldiers angry at the poor treatment they endured.  This experience, no doubt, was an early step in the path towards a career in race relations.

After the war, Whitney worked tirelessly, seeking solutions to the racism that plagued Americans and allowed Blacks to be relegated to second-class citizens.  He was a key figure in organizing the 1963 March on Washington and a major catalyst for bringing black leadership together in a united front for progress.  In fact, many of the advances by blacks and black-owned enterprises in the business world were made possible, in large part, by Whitney’s eloquent testimony in front of Congressional committees and his powerful appeals to business, professional and civic leaders.

In 1961, Young became Executive Director of the National Urban League and swiftly began expanding the size, budget and scope of the organization.  In only four years, he grew the League from 38 employees to 1,600, he increased the annual budget from $325,000 to $6.1 Million, and propelled the traditionally moderate organization to the forefront of the Civil Rights arena while maintaining the support of influential white business and political leaders.  In addition to serving as the Executive Director, Young was also President of the League from 1961 to 1971.

Seeing racial inequality and poverty as intertwined issues, he also became a relentless advocate for the poor, and he dedicated much of the League’s attention and resources to merging the principles of social work with social activism.  Working as a close advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, he visited rural and urban communities and advocated their cause to the nation, effectively guiding the development of the War on Poverty.  He was the President of the National Association of Social Workers from 1969-1971.

Sadly, Young drowned while swimming with friends in Nigeria on March 11, 1971 where he was attending a conference sponsored by the African American Institute.  Then-President Nixon sent a plane to retrieve Young from Africa, and personally delivered the eulogy at his funeral, saying “he knew how to accomplish what other people were merely for.”  Who knows what more he could have accomplished had he never drowned.

thanks for reading, and happy birthday Nancy!

francis

“Black Power simply means: Look at me, I’m here. I have dignity. I have pride. I have roots. I insist, I demand that I participate in those decisions that affect my life and the lives of my children. It means that I am somebody.”   ~ Whitney Moore Young, Jr.

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