President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer.

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Young with Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Baines Johnson, and James Farmer:  Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum

Audio courtesy of the University of Kentucky.

Whitney Young

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Whitney Young
Whitney Young Bio

Whitney Young (1921-1971) was a civil rights activist.  Young was born in Shelby County, Kentucky.  His father was the president of the Lincoln Institute in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky.  His mother, Laura Young, was the first African American postmistress in Kentucky.  He earned his BS from Kentucky State University, a historically black university.  His experiences during World War II led him to a career in race relations; as a first sergeant he witnessed the racial tension first-hand as he had to mediate between African American soldiers and Southern white officers.  Following World War II, Young became the Executive Director of the National Urban League (NUL) and led the organization through its most prosperous period by transforming the NUL from a relatively passive civil rights organization into a more aggressive force in the civil rights movement.

Image: Original caption: Whitney M. Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, reads a statement condemning the racial violence sweeping the country as unjustified during a news conference here July 26th. Aside from Young, the statement was also signed by three other civil rights leaders: Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph, and Martin Luther King. July 26, 1967. Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.

Abstract

Young discusses the history of the Urban League, and he reports on the interracial aspect of the organization.  He describes the group as social engineers and strategists.  Young examines how, in the civil rights movement, issues of race and class intersect.   He is concerned with the split between the African American masses and the African American upper class.  Warren asked Young to consider Gunnar Myrdal's hypothesis concerning Reconstruction.  Young discusses inclusive and exclusive groups of both white and African American organizations.  Warren and Young discuss the “old split” between the ideals of W.E.B. Du Bois's "talented tenth" and Booker T. Washington's “self improvement” strategies.  Young argues that the problem with integration is that 10% of white Americans support integration, 10% oppose integration, and 80% are indifferent.  Thus, the problem lies with the 80% that “ignored” African Americans.

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