37 Facts About Whitney Young


Whitney Young was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on July 31,1921.


Whitney Young enrolled in the Lincoln Institute at the age of 13, graduating as his class valedictorian, with his sister Margaret becoming salutatorian, in 1937.


Whitney Young earned his Bachelor of Science in social work from Kentucky State University, a historically black institution.


Whitney Young had aspirations of becoming a medical doctor at Kentucky State.


Whitney Young became the president of his senior class, and graduated in 1941.


Whitney Young was then assigned to a road construction crew of black soldiers supervised by Southern white officers.


Whitney Young was then appointed as the industrial relations secretary in that branch in 1949.

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In 1950, Whitney Young became president of the National Urban League's Omaha, Nebraska chapter.


In 1960, Whitney Young was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation grant for a postgraduate year at Harvard University.


In 1961, at age 40, Whitney Young became executive director of the National Urban League.


Whitney Young was unanimously selected by the National Urban League's Board of Directors, succeeding Lester Granger on October 1,1961.


Whitney Young served as President of the Urban League until his death in 1971.


Whitney Young pushed for initiatives like scholarships to recruit black people into the architecture profession, which has been and continues to be predominantly white.


Whitney Young pushed for federal aid to cities, proposing a domestic "Marshall Plan".


Whitney Young described his proposals for integration, social programs, and affirmative action in his two books, To Be Equal and Beyond Racism.


In doing so, he fostered close relationships with CEOs such as Henry Ford II, leading some blacks to charge that Whitney Young had sold out to the white establishment.


Whitney Young denied these charges and stressed the importance of working within the system to effect change.


Still, Whitney Young was not afraid to take a bold stand in favor of civil rights.


For instance, in 1963, Whitney Young was one of the organizers of the March on Washington despite the opposition of many white business leaders.


Whitney Young had a particularly close relationship with President Johnson, and in 1969, Johnson honored Whitney Young with the highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Whitney Young, in turn, was impressed by Johnson's commitment to civil rights.


Whitney Young publicly supported Johnson's war policy, but came to oppose the war after the end of Johnson's presidency.


In 1968, Whitney Young was invited to address the American Institute of Architects National Convention in Portland, Oregon through the keynote speech.


At the time, Whitney Young was the executive director of the National Urban League and had spoken before on the concerns of the AIA regarding social and racial inequality in housing and cities.


Whitney Young's speech served as a driver for those that were previously frustrated with architecture and urban design.

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Whitney Young served as president of the National Association of Social Workers, from 1969 to 1971.


Whitney Young took office at a time of fiscal instability in the association and uncertainty about President Nixon's continuing commitment to the "War on Poverty" and to ending the war in Vietnam.


Whitney Young spent his tenure as President of NASW ensuring that the profession kept pace with the troubling social and human challenges it was facing.


Whitney Young was the Dean of the school of Social Work at Clark Atlanta University, which now bears his name.


On March 11,1971, Whitney Young drowned while swimming with friends in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was attending a conference sponsored by the African-American Institute.


Whitney Young was originally buried in Lexington's Cove Haven Cemetery, but his widow had his body removed to Ferncliff Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York, due to the condition of Cove Haven, and the possibility of vandalism.


Whitney Young's work was considered instrumental in breaking down the barriers of segregation and inequality that held back African Americans.


Many sites across the country are named after Whitney Young or have memorials dedicated to him.


Whitney Young was honored in 1981 by the United States Postal Service on a postage stamp issued as part of its ongoing Black Heritage series.


Also, Clark Atlanta University named its School of Social Work, where Whitney Young served as Dean, in Young's honor.


The documentary, The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights, directed by Christine Khalafian and Taylor Hamilton, chronicles Young's rise from segregated Kentucky to the national movement for civil rights.


The film includes archival footage, photos, and interviews compiled by Whitney Young's niece, award-winning journalist Bonnie Boswell Hamilton.