WHITNEY M. YOUNG, JR., AND THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Nancy J. Weiss

WHITNEY M. YOUNG, JR., AND THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Having written a scholarly history of the early days of the National Urban League (The National Urban League, 1910-1940, 1974), Weiss (History/Princeton) now turns her attention to the life and accomplishments of that organization's most charismatic and controversial director. As in her earlier work, Weiss' approach to her subject is evenhanded, citing Young's weaknesses as well as his strengths. The result is a well-rounded, convincing biography that provides behind-the-scenes glimpses of the civil rights movement of the 60's and 70's. The son of a middle-class black educator, Whitney Young grew up in dose contact with many whites, this despite the strict segregation of the South during the 1920's. It was his ease in dealing with the White establishment that led to his success, as executive director of the League, in soliciting financial support from white corporate leaders and increasing employment opportunities for blacks. Not that this approach was universally admired--Young was frequently referred to as ""an Oreo cookie,"" black on the outside, white inside. This perception was particularly widespread when in the late 60's more radical blacks, such as Stokely Carmichael and FL Rap Brown, demanded insurrection rather than accommodation. Weiss captures these tensions admirably. She is also adept in summarizing Young's relations with the various Administrations with which he worked. Kennedy he found a footdragger; Johnson eager to advance civil rights; Nixon duplicitous. Weiss is forthright too in pointing out Young's limitations: his egotism, his persistent womanizing, his rather unbecoming delight in ""the good life""--lunch at ""21,"" first-class airline seats. An impressively researched and informative, if occasionally somewhat lackluster, study.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1989
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press