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Black History Month

History-makers of Southeast Louisiana

Andrew Young

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Young -- Civil Rights activist, politician, and diplomat


Andrew Young was born in New Orleans in 1932. He was an activist for the Civil Rights Movement who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a member of Congress, a two-term mayor of Atlanta, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. 

As a young man, he considered a career in dentistry like his father. He graduated with a degree in biology from Howard University in 1951, but then took a different path. He earned a divinity degree from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, in 1955. While serving as pastor of a church in Alabama, he became interested in Mohandas Gandhi's concept of nonviolent resistance as a tactic for social change. During this time he met another ambitious preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he befriended. 

Later that year, he became pastor of a church in Georgia and got involved with the Civil Rights Movement by organizing voter registration drives. In 1957 he moved to New York to work with the National Council of Churches, but returned to Georgia in 1961 to help lead the citizenship schools program of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The program provided instruction for African Americans in literacy, organizing, and leadership skills. Young also began working closely with Dr. King, coordinating desegregation efforts all over the South. 

In 1964 Young was named the executive director of the SCLC. He was one of Dr. King's principal lieutenants for the duration of the civil rights era. He helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Young was with Dr. King in Memphis, the day he was assassinated. 

In 1972 Young was elected Georgia's first Black Congressman since Reconstruction. He was re-elected in 1974 and 1976. In 1976, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. While ambassador, he advocated for human rights on a global scale.  He resigned in 1979 amid controversy. Two years later, Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Young was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1981 and re-elected in 1985. Years later, he was co-chair of the committee which brought the 1996 Summer Olympics to Atlanta. Young continues his activism in favor of human rights and is co-chair of Good Works International and a director of the Drum Major Institute.

The books listed below are available for you at Sims Memorial Library.