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Series VII: Tape Recordings
At a Glance
Selected materials cataloged.
Correspondence, speeches, reports, testimony, press releases, and articles of Young. The files document Young's leadership in many social welfare and urban sociology organizations, as well as his activities as a columnist and speaker. Cataloged correspondents include Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, Roy Wilkins, and John W. Gardner.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
Box A, cataloged correspondence, is located on-site. Boxes 1-229 are located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Whitney M. Young papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
National Urban League Records. Columbia University Libraries.
Margaret B. Young Papers. Columbia University Libraries.
Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Foundation Records. Columbia University Libraries.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 09/--/89.
Finding aid biography written Bryan Rosenblithe, GSAS 2012 09/--/2010.
Photograph of Young and John F. Kennedy in box 234 was removed from frame and placed in "dupe file" box 4/3/2019. kws
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
One of the most influential yet inconspicuous leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Whitney M. Young, Jr. was born in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky, on July 31, 1921. Young spent his childhood on the campus of the Lincoln Institute, an all-black boarding school where his father worked as a teacher and later served as principal. Young attended Kentucky State Industrial College and received a bachelor of science degree at the age of twenty.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Young joined the U. S. Army, where his educational background enabled him to join three other black recruits in an electrical engineering program at MIT. While in the Army, Young married Margaret Buckner Young, whom he met at Kentucky State, and they had two children. Young quickly rose to the rank of First Sergeant in the all-black 1695th Engineer Combat Battalion. Upon returning to the U. S. in 1945, Young rejoined his wife and pursued his masters degree in social work at the University of Minnesota.
It was in Minneapolis that Young first started work for the National Urban League (NUL), but he left the organization in 1953 to serve as Dean of the School of Social Work at the all-black Atlanta University. After six years in Atlanta, Young returned to the Urban League as Executive Director in 1961, a position he held until his death by drowning in 1971.
Young's lifelong experiences in elite, albeit segregated, institutions placed him at the edge of America's color line, and throughout his career in the military, the academy and the NUL, Young acted as an intermediary between black groups and powerful white people. Young deployed a combination of intelligence, charm and the threat of confrontation to persuade American corporate leaders to pay more attention to the needs of urban black people. Although Malcolm X and other radical black leaders initially associated Young with the "foxy white liberals" whom they believed to control the mainstream civil rights movement, Young gained Malcolm X's respect and was able to use the threat of action by more militant groups to extract meaningful concessions from begrudging white elites.
While head of the NUL, Young acted as a close advisor to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson while lobbying corporate leaders like Henry Ford, Jr. to hire more black workers. The Domestic Marshall Plan he helped to develop and pushed to the front of the NUL's official agenda influenced the social programs of Johnson's Great Society, particularly the War on Poverty. Young's ability to maintain cordial relations with the Nixon administration despite the President's hostility to the civil rights movement is a tribute to his flexibility, and he ultimately prevailed upon Nixon to allow established black agencies in America's inner cities to administer some federal urban relief projects.
Young drowned on March 11, 1971 in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria where he was attending a conference on foreign relations between the U.S. and Africa.