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This Day In History: March 12th
Pastor, politician and activist, Andrew Young Jr., spent his career alongside the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and aided in the struggle to secure civil rights for African-Americans. Whether he was marching in the streets with the people, or serving as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Young made sure to place the needs of the community at the forefront.
Andrew Jackson Young Jr. was born into a middle-class family in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 12, 1932. Young graduated from Howard University in 1951 and continued his education at Hartford Theological Seminary. He became an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and began serving as a pastor at Bethany Congregational Church in 1957.
His role as pastor got him engaged in the civil rights movement due to his efforts in organizing voter registration drives. Young decided to relocate to New York City and work with the National Council of Churches in 1957, but he soon returned to Georgia where he helped lead the “citizenship schools.” These schools were run by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), so Young became a member of the organization and assisted with desegregation efforts throughout the South.
As a member of SCLC, Young developed a relationship with Dr. King and in 1964, Young became the executive director. He helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Young was even present during the assassination of Dr. King in 1968.
Young became executive vice president of the SCLC following the assassination, but he left the organization in 1970 to run for congress. He was unsuccessful in his first attempt. However, in 1972 he was elected to the House of Representatives and represented his Georgia district for three terms.
During President Jimmy Carter’s administration Young was selected to be an ambassador to the United Nations, although he had to resign in 1979. Two years later, he ran a successful campaign for Mayor of Atlanta in 1981. He served as Mayor until 1990 when he led an unsuccessful campaign for Governor.
Over the course of his career, Young has published books including: A Way Out of No Way (1994), An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America (1996) and Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead (2010). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including an NAACP Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.