Rare Book & Manuscript Library

National Urban League records, 1911-1916

Summary Information


The National Urban League Papers document the early years of The National Urban League, a nationwide social welfare organization that strove to provide equal opportunities for African Americans. The papers deal with George Edmund Haynes' tenure as President of the organization and are mostly comprised of Haynes' correspondence with other important League figures including L.Hollingsworth Wood, T. Arnold Hill and Edward Ewing Pratt. The collection also contains a member list and surveys conducted by the League.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1466
Bib ID 6856662 View CLIO record
Creator(s) National Urban League ; Haynes, George Edmund, 1880-1960
Title National Urban League records, 1911-1916
Physical Description 0.3 linear feet (1 document box)
Language(s) English .

This collection is 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.



Correspondents are arranged alphabetically in ascending order.



This collection contains correspondence between George Edmund Haynes and other members of The National Urban League between 1911 and 1916. Correspondents include L.Hollingsworth Wood, T. Arnold Hill and Edward Ewing Pratt. Also included are a list of members of The National Urban League and some surveys conducted on living conditions for urban African Americans by the League.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is 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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); National Urban League records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Margaret B. Young Papers. Columbia University Libraries.

Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial Foundation Records. Columbia University Libraries.

Whitney M. Young, Jr. Papers. Columbia University Libraries.

Ownership and Custodial History

This collection was acquired through a donation from Elvin Montgomery in 1998.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed Darragh Martin (GSAS '11) 11/2008.

Revision Description

2009-03-25 File created.

2009-04-27 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
African Americans -- Civil rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
African Americans -- Education Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
African Americans -- Social conditions Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Haynes, George Edmund, 1880-1960 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National Urban League Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States -- Racial customs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Thousands of African Americans migrated from the rural south to the industrial north at the start of the twentieth century. Having left the country in search of better jobs and higher wages, many were disappointed with the conditions of urban life and labor: racial discrimination, exploitation, paltry wages and squalid living conditions. Several social welfare organizations emerged in the early twentieth century to address these problems and The National Urban League emerged in 1911 from three such predecessor organizations: the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (CUC); the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (NLPCW); and the Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions of Negroes in New York (CIICNNY).

The NLPCW and the CIICNNY were founded between 1905 and 1906 and set out to provide support for African American women (who often found themselves forced into prostitution to survive) and to ameliorate industrial conditions for African American workers respectively. These forerunners of The National Urban League laid important groundwork for the organization and many projects and personnel transferred over. However, both had narrow missions that failed to address wider issues that contributed to the problems facing urban African Americans and had limited access to funds and resources, with the CIICNNY's staff solely comprised of volunteers.

The CUC was established in 1910 to address a broader spectrum of problems and became the immediate forerunner of the Urban League. Two figures were the primary force behind establishing the League: George Edmund Haynes, an African American sociologist and Columbia University Ph.D. graduate and Ruth Standish Baldwin, a white social activist. A wealthy widow, Baldwin was an active member in both the CIICNNY and NLPCW and recruited Haynes to expand the mandate of both organizations to address broader educational, sociological and vocational issues related to African American migration.

Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1880, Haynes obtained his Bachelor's degree from Fisk University, Tennessee in 1903 and was subsequently admitted to Yale Graduate School on a scholarship to pursue his Master's in sociology. Having spent the following two years working as a traveling student secretary for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Haynes returned to graduate school, completing his Ph.D. at The University of Chicago and Columbia University's School of Social Work, where he became the University's first African American doctoral graduate in 1912. His thesis, The Negro at Work in New York City, was published by Columbia University Press in the same year.

The CUC merged with the NLPCW and CIICNNY in 1911 to form The National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes (a name shortened to The National Urban League in 1920). An interracial committee of 18 men and 7 women formed the first committee with Professor Edwin R. A. Seligman of Columbia University, serving as chairman from 1911 to 1913. The organization's initial projects included counseling new African American migrants, training African American social workers and expanding employment and educational opportunities for African Americans. It also conducted research into the difficulties facing urban African Americans, including housing, health and sanitation. By the end of World War I, the organization had 81 staff members working in 30 cities.

Haynes served as director of the National Urban League between 1911 and 1918, with Baldwin as his chairwoman between 1913 and 1915. Haynes accepted a position at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in order to organize a department of social science to train African American social workers. Haynes taught a course on urban conditions for African Americans and opened the Bethlehem Training Center in 1914, a League-supported center which trained African American social workers. He also corresponded regularly with important figures in the League including Board Chairman Hollingworth L. Wood, later industrial relations director T. Arnold Hill and his former classmate and economist, Edmund Ewing Pratt. In 1918, Haynes left for Washington, D.C. to work as director of Negro Economics for the Department of Labor. Eugene Kinckle Jones succeeded him as director of the League, retiring several decades later in 1941. Both The League and Haynes continued to flourish, with Haynes working as a Professor at City College, New York and the League expanding to a national organization with affiliates in 35 states in 2008. (Historical information provided by the website for the National Urban League.).