Whitney M. Young, Jr. Biography

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

social reformer
Born: 7/31/1921
Birthplace: Lincoln Ridge, Ky.

As executive director of the National Urban League (1961–1971) Young focused on gaining equality for blacks in business and politics and improving opportunities for the urban poor. He appealed to corporate leaders to support job programs, low-income housing, and education for African Americans. He also promoted huge government spending—a “Domestic Marshall Plan”—to address the country's racial issues. Young advised presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon on race.

He graduated from Kentucky State College in 1941. He served in the army during World War II and earned an MA in social work in 1947 from the University of Minnesota. He began his association with the National Urban League in 1947, serving as the industrial relations secretary of the St. Paul, Minn., branch until 1949, when he moved to Omaha, Neb., to assume duties as executive secretary of that branch. In 1954 he was named dean of the Atlanta University School of Social Work. He held the post until 1961, when he rejoined the NUL.

The NUL expanded from 60 chapters to 98 under Young's leadership. The group also cosponsored 1963's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Young drowned in 1971 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Died: 3/11/1971