MILITANT MEDIATOR by Dennis C. Dickerson


Whitney M. Young, Jr.
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 A thoughtful study of an often overlooked figure in the American civil-rights movement, by a professor of history at Williams College and historiographer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Whitney Young made his most important contributions to the causes of integration and equal rights as the executive director of the National Urban League--a moderate organization when compared with Stokely Carmichaels SNCC, James Farmers CORE, or even the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as guided by Martin Luther King. Raised in Kentucky, Young was influenced greatly by his educator father, who shared Booker T. Washingtons conservative view of race relations. His subsequent educational and social-work experiences in St. Paul, Minn., Omaha, Neb., and at traditionally black Atlanta University ultimately led to Youngs appointment as the league's head. In this position, he walked a fine line between courting wealthy white interests, such as the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller families (the latter helped to fund his graduate studies at Harvard), and acting as a liaison between government and African-American communities in distress. For his high-level white contacts, which included presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Young was often labeled an Uncle Tom and called 'Whitey Young' by more radical black detractors. In return, Young was not shy about publicly expressing his distaste for the likes of Carmichael, Harlem politician Adam Clayton Powell, and Malcolm X (though he maintained a private correspondence with the Black Muslim leader). To his credit, Dickerson doesn't write hagiography; he points out Young's naivetÇ in believing he could enter the upper echelons of political power despite his color, and Youngs support of LBJ's escalation of the Vietnam War because of the president's support for civil-rights initiatives--perhaps Young's greatest political miscalculation. What Dickerson's work lacks is a fuller exploration of Young's personal life. Militant Mediator is likely to rekindle interest in this influential civil-rights advocate. (34 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8131-2058-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998