WHITNEY M. YOUNG, JR. Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


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Whitney M. Young, Jr. American civil-rights activist                                   
born July 31, 1921, Lincoln Ridge, Ky., U.S.                                           
died March 11, 1971, Lagos, Nigeria                                                   
Articulate U.S. civil rights leader who spearheaded the drive for equal               
opportunity for blacks in U.S. industry and government service during his 10           
years as head of the National Urban League (1961–71), the world’s largest         
social-civil rights organization. His advocacy of a “Domestic Marshall               
Plan”—massive funds to help solve America’s racial problems—was felt to have   
strongly influenced federal poverty programs sponsored by Democratic Party             
administrations in Washington (1963–69).                                             
After army service in World War II, Young switched his career interest from           
medicine to social work, in which he took his M.A. from the University of             
Minnesota (1947). Starting as director of industrial relations for the Urban           
League at St. Paul, Minn. (1947–50), he moved to Omaha, Neb., where he served as     
executive secretary (1950–54). Becoming dean of the School of Social Work of         
Atlanta (Georgia) University in 1954, he was instrumental in improving relations       
between city and university.                                                           
Appointed executive director of the National Urban League in 1961, Young won an       
impressive reputation as a national black activist who helped bridge the gap           
between white political and business leaders and poor blacks and militants.           
Under his direction the organization grew from 60 to 98 chapters and shifted its       
focus from middle-class concerns to the needs of the urban poor. He was               
particularly credited with almost singlehandedly persuading corporate America         
and major foundations to aid the civil rights movement through financial               
contributions in support of self-help programs for jobs, housing, education, and       
family rehabilitation.                                                                 
Young, who had been a consultant on racial matters to both Pres. John F. Kennedy       
and Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson, was in Nigeria at a conference sponsored by the           
Ford Foundation to enhance Afro-American understanding when he died.