For those of you who always complain that Black History Month is a parade of the same names, well, you guys are running out of excuses. Premiering last night on PBS (and running throughout the rest of the month), the series Independent Lens profiled Civil Rights Era leader Whitney Young.
Young, a forgotten name by most history books, was a tireless fighter for black economic rights. He was one of Dr.King’s right-hand men, and was a member of the so-called “Big Six” (which also included John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, A.Phillip Randolph and CORE founder James Farmer), who worked together tirelessly to force white America to accept and respect black people as true citizens.
Young was the guy who made the sausage, so to speak. He was one of the main people responsible for the March On Washington, amongst other things. As is customary for all major events and initiatives, someone has to do the boring work of meetings, hand-shaking and negotiations. Young positioned himself as a conduit between the white business community, politicians, black civil rights agents and the burgeoning “black power” set that gained strength in the late ‘60s. Because of his focus on tangible ideas, he was sometimes at opposition with the more radical thinkers of the Civil Right Era. But he wasn’t a sell-out, he was an ideas person. In many ways, he was ahead of his time. Many of his initiatives set the pace for the workplace diversity programs we now see in corporate America.
Point is, you need to watch this. Check your local listings or catch it online. Do it now.