Remembering Whitney Young

Welcome readers to todays offering from The Philatelist. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. We have an interesting story to tell where we remember a civil rights leader from an important time in United States history.

The stamp today is from the Black Heritage series of USA stamps. There has been one a year of them since the late seventies. They are usually issued in January to be available in post offices during Black History month which is February. I especially like the early issues of the series as the often showed the subject looking up from his papers in a study. As if perhaps he is ready to discuss a stamp with The Philatelist.

The stamp is issue A1262, a 15 cent stamp issued on January 30th, 1981. As stated above it is the 1981 issue of the long running Black Heritage series of USA stamps. According to the Scott catalog, it is worth 25 cents in it’s used condition.

Whitney Young was the son of a black boarding school president and a postmistress in Kentucky. The school, Lincoln Institute, was formed by integrated Berea College as a way around mandated segregation laws in Kentucky that existed at the time. Whitney Young was also a graduate of the school. The school closed in 1966 after the desegregation laws then in effect was felt to leave the institution obsolete. The campus is now used as a government job corps center.

Whitney Young served in the wartime Army, married, and pursued academic opportunities. Soon he was dean of the Social Work department of traditionally black Atlanta University. Through this post he worked to bring more blacks in to the social work profession. To accomplish this goal he boycotted the professional organization of social workers in Georgia to pressure them to be more open to blacks.

At age 40 Mr. Young was made head of the National Urban League. During his tenure he greatly expanded the work of the organization. It went from 45 paid staffers to 1600. He worked hard through the institutions to open up opportunities for blacks.

In doing so, he somewhat became rather an institutional figure. He became close with higher ups of corporations, unions, and politicians. He was a major advocate for President Johnson’s expensive and failed war on poverty. He also controversially adhered to President Johnson’s pro Vietnam War policy, only to reverse course suddenly on the war when Nixon entered office. This can be a problem when you become a tool for one political party and forget who you are working for. Blacks were over represented in the conscripts sent to Vietnam and for the most part opposed it.

The esteem with which he was held by the establishment was shown when he died of a heart attack in Nigeria in 1971 while attending a conference there. President Nixon sent a government plane to pick up his remains and then gave a eulogy at his funeral. He has many monuments and schools named after him around the country which at least so far have not been attacked or threatened.

Well, my drink is empty on so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. Leaders like Mr. Young are not in fashion right now. Before they are condemned though, one should consider the real world help he gave individuals that were facing many barriers at the time. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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