Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
Jim Crow Stories
A National Struggle
Interactive Maps
Tools and Activities
For Teachers


Jim Crow Stories

Introduction People Narratives Events Organizations


Urban League Founded: C.1911


In 1911, three organizations -- the Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded in 1906), the League for the Protection of Colored Women (founded in 1906), and the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (founded in 1910) -- merged to form the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. By 1919 the organization called itself the National Urban League. From its founding, the League was interracial. Its goal was to help rural Southern blacks migrating to the North find jobs and housing and adjust to city life.
Migrants to the North quickly discovered they had not escaped racial discrimination when they left the South. Most were shut out from all but menial jobs in the larger society, forced to live in poor housing and in run-down ghettoes. The Urban League trained black social workers to help migrant families receive educational and employment opportunities. The primary task of helping migrants gradually evolved into larger concerns as the organization grew. Women working
Signs: End Segregated Schools; We Demand Voting Rights; Jobs for All Now!
By the end of World War I, the Urban League had set up operations in 30 cities. The League dedicated its energies to find jobs for blacks the boom years of the 1920s, and the hard times of the Great Depression. Firms that refused to hire blacks were boycotted and picketed; pressure was put on schools to provide job training for young people.

Then and Now: The National Urban League started out as rather conservative and was aligned with Booker T. Washington. But under Whitney Young, Jr.'s leadership in the 1960s, it moved more towards the left. In the 1930s, the League pressured government officials to include blacks in the New Deal recovery program. The Urban League also fought to get segregated labor unions to accept blacks. Under Whitney Young's leadership (1961-71), the League emerged as a major player in the Civil-Rights struggle. It hosted the planning meetings of A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders for the 1963 March on Washington. Under Young's successor, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. (1971-81), the League turned it attention to causes as environmental protection, energy conservation, and the general problems of poverty.

-- Richard Wormser

Choose Another Organization

Historical Documents
First Meeting of the National Urban League
Review the minutes from the first meeting of the National Urban League held on September 29, 1910.
Related Pages
Great Migration

Great Depression

A. Philip Randolph

print this page
email this page
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - home About the Series Pledge Teen Leadership Site Map Resources top