Concept

Whitney Young

Summary
Whitney Moore Young Jr. (July 31, 1921 – March 11, 1971) was an American civil rights leader. Trained as a social worker, he spent most of his career working to end employment discrimination in the United States and turning the National Urban League from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively worked for equitable access to socioeconomic opportunity for the historically disenfranchised. Young was influential in the United States federal government's War on Poverty in the 1960s. Young was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, on July 31, 1921. His father, Whitney M. Young Sr., was the president of the Lincoln Institute, and served twice as the president of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association. Whitney's mother, Laura (Ray) Young, was a teacher who served as the first female postmistress in Kentucky (second in the United States), being appointed to that position by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Young enrolled in the Lincoln Institute at the age of 13, graduating as his class valedictorian, with his sister Margaret becoming salutatorian, in 1937. Young earned his Bachelor of Science in social work from Kentucky State University, a historically black institution. Young had aspirations of becoming a medical doctor at Kentucky State. During his time at Kentucky State, Young was also a forward on the university's basketball team, and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, where he served as the vice president. He became the president of his senior class, and graduated in 1941. During World War II, Young was trained in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was then assigned to a road construction crew of black soldiers supervised by Southern white officers. After just three weeks, he was promoted from private to first sergeant, creating hostility on both sides. Despite the tension, Young was able to mediate effectively between his white officers and black soldiers angry at their poor treatment. This situation propelled Young into a career in race relations.
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