National Urban League

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National Urban League
Nul logo circle.png
FounderRuth Standish Baldwin and George Edmund Haynes
Founded atNew York City

The National Urban League, formerly known as the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, is a nonpartisan historic civil rights organization based in New York City that advocates on behalf of economic and social justice for African Americans and against racial discrimination in the United States.[1] It is the oldest and largest community-based organization of its kind in the nation. Its current President is Marc Morial.


Houston Area Urban League building in Downtown Houston
Wall Street, New York

The Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes was founded in New York City on September 29, 1910 by Ruth Standish Baldwin and Dr. George Edmund Haynes, among others.[2] It merged with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded in New York in 1906) and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (founded in 1905), and was renamed the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes.[3][4] Haynes served as the organization's first Executive Director.

In 1918, Eugene K. Jones took the leadership of the organization. Under his direction, the League significantly expanded its multifaceted campaign to crack the barriers to black employment, spurred first by the boom years of the 1920s, and then by the desperate years of the Great Depression.[5]

In 1920, the organization took the present name, the National Urban League.[6] The mission of the Urban League movement, as stated by the National Urban League, is "to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights."[7]

Jones played a significant role in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, taking leave from the League to head the Department of Commerce unit for the study of "Negro problems", and serving as part of a group of African-American advisors known as the "Black Cabinet".[8]

In 1941, Lester Granger was appointed Executive Secretary and led the NUL's effort to support the March on Washington proposed by A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and A. J. Muste to protest racial discrimination in defense work and the military.[9] A week before the March was scheduled to take place, President Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Fair Employment Practices Committee.[8]

In the wake of World War II, Black veterans who fought racial hatred overseas returned to the United States determined to fight it at home, giving new energy to the Civil Rights Movement. As hundreds of thousands of new jobs opened up, shifting the economy from industrial manufacturing to a white-collar, service-oriented economy, the National Urban League turned its attention to placing HBCU graduates in professional positions.[8]

In 1961, Whitney Young became executive director amidst the expansion of activism in the civil rights movement, which provoked a change for the League. Young substantially expanded the League's fund-raising ability and made the League a full partner in the civil rights movement.[8] In 1963, the League hosted the planning meetings of A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders for the August March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. During Young's ten-year tenure at the League, he initiated programs such as "Street Academy", an alternative education system to prepare high school dropouts for college; and "New Thrust", an effort to help local black leaders identify and solve community problems. Young also pushed for federal aid to cities.

Clarence M. Pendleton, Jr., was, from 1975 to 1981, the head of the Urban League in San Diego, California. In 1981, U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan tapped Pendleton as the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, a position which he held until his sudden death in 1988. Pendleton sought to steer the commission into the conservative direction in line with Reagan's views on social and civil rights policies.[10]

In 1994, Hugh Price was appointed as president of the Urban League.

In 2003, Marc Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, was appointed the league's eighth President and Chief Executive Officer. He worked to reenergize the movement's diverse constituencies by building on the legacy of the organization and increasing the profile of the organization.[citation needed]

Current status[edit]

Today, the National Urban League has 90 affiliates serving 300 communities, in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The National Urban League provides direct services in the areas of education, health care, housing, jobs, and justice—improving the lives of more than 2 million people nationwide. The organization also has a Washington Bureau that serves as its research, policy and advocacy arm on issues relating to Congress and the Administration.[citation needed]

The National Urban League is an organizational member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which advocates gun control. In 1989, it was the beneficiary of all proceeds from the Stop the Violence Movement and their hip hop single, "Self Destruction".[citation needed]

In May 2017, the National Urban League produced the State of Black America TV Town Hall, which aired on TV One in 2017 and 2018.[11] The TV Town Hall elevated social issues related to African Americans through an interview style format with celebrity guests. The show was executive produced by Rhonda Spears Bell.

In February 2018, the National Urban League launched a weekly podcast, For the Movement, which discusses persistent policy, social and civil rights issues affecting communities of color.[12]


The Presidents (or Executive Directors) of the National Urban League have been:

Presidents From To Background
George Edmund Haynes 1910 1918 social worker
Eugene Kinckle Jones 1918 1940 civil rights activist
Lester Blackwell Granger 1941 1961 civic leader
Whitney Moore Young, Jr. 1961 1971 civil rights activist
Vernon Eulion Jordan, Jr. 1971 1981 attorney
John Edward Jacob 1982 1994 civil rights activist
Hugh Bernard Price 1994 2002 attorney
foundation executive
Marc Haydel Morial 2003 Current attorney

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mission and History". National Urban League. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  2. ^ Parris, Guichard and Lester Brooks. Blacks in the City: A History of the National Urban League. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1971. p. 28.
  3. ^ Dodson, N. "NEW CHAPTER IN SOCIAL UPLIFT." Afro-American (1893-1988): 2. Dec 30 1911. ProQuest. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.
  4. ^ Parris, Guichard and Lester Brooks. Blacks in the City: A History of the National Urban League. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1971. pp. 32-34.
  5. ^ Armfield, Felix L. Eugene Kinckle Jones: The National Urban League and Black Social Work, 1910-1940. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  6. ^ Parris, Guichard and Lester Brooks. Blacks in the City: A History of the National Urban League. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1971.
  7. ^ "Mission and History." National Urban League. Accessed 6 February 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Smith, Alonzo (2011). Empowering Communities, Changing Lives: 100 Years of the National Urban League. New York City: The Donning Company. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-57864-683-8.
  9. ^ Thomas, Jesse. "Urban League Bulletin." The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945): 1. Jan 25 1942. ProQuest. Web. 6 Feb. 2016.
  10. ^ "Notable Kentucky African Americans Database". Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  11. ^ "The National Urban League's State of Black America Townhall: How Far Have We Really Come?". TV One. 2017-05-17. Retrieved 2021-01-17.
  12. ^ For the Movement

Further reading[edit]

  • Carle, Susan D. Defining the Struggle: National Racial Justice Organizing, 1880-1915 (Oxford UP, 2013). 404pp. focus on NAACP and also Urban League.
  • Hamilton, Dona Cooper. "The National Urban League and New Deal Programs." Social Service Review (1984): 227-243. in JSTOR
  • Parris, Guichard and Lester Brooks. Blacks in the City: A History of the National Urban League. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1971.
  • Strickland, Arvarh E. History of the Chicago Urban League (U of Missouri Press, 1966).
  • Touré F. Reed, Not Alms but Opportunity: The Urban League and the Politics of Racial Uplift, 1910-1950. (University of North Carolina Press, 2008). online
  • Weiss, Nancy Joan. The National Urban League, 1910-1940 (Oxford University Press, 1974).
  • Wood, L. Hollingsworth. "The Urban League Movement." Journal of Negro History 9.2 (1924): 117-126. in JSTOR

External links[edit]