Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Whitney M.Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1989)

Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights (1989) by Nancy J. Weiss is an autobiography of the late social worker and civil right activist during the War on Poverty movement. Weiss stated in the epilogue that "Whitney Young spent his life making the needs and interests of black Americans comprehensible and compelling to the whites who had the power to do something about them. Consummate politician, salesman, and interpreter, he goaded and challenged the white establishment to redress the effects of segregation, discrimination, and poverty" (p. 230). This classic autobiography also contains black-and-white photographs of Young's time in the army, civil rights movement and Kennedy and Johnson administration.

As executive director of the National Urban League, Young pushed major corporations to hire more blacks and co-organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. To improve the economic conditions of African Americans at the time, he proposed a domestic Marshall Plan that would rebuild cities, reduce poverty, and provide job training programs to millions of Americans. This plan, which called for $145 billion in spending over 10 years, was partially incorporated into President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. Young described his proposals for integration, social programs, and affirmative action in his two books, To Be Equal (1964) and Beyond Racism (1969). Despite his reluctance to enter politics himself, Young was an important advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. In 1968, Young refused a Cabinet-level position in Nixon's administration, believing that he could accomplish more through the Urban League.

For a documentary on Whitney Young's life, click the video below:

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