The National Urban League is the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering underserved communities. It began in 1910, when Dr. George Edmund Haynes and Ruth Standish Baldwin–a Black man and White woman–found themselves both “deeply concerned about the health and welfare of the African-American migrants,” They started the Committee on Urban Conditions among Negroes (CUAN) in New York City, for those who moved north to escape segregation but did not escape implicit bias as Black newcomers in White urban centers. The charge of CUAN was to help those succeed. Like minded organizations joined the Committee, growing it to 81 members in 30 cities by the end of World War I (the named changed to the National Urban League in 1920). Currently, the National Urban League has 95 affiliates in 300 communities and 35 states, and provides services that have a positive impact on more than 2 million people nationwide.
With pivotal roles throughout the entirety of the 20th-Century Freedom Movement, you can imagine the Urban League’s imprint on the Civil Rights Movement. As a full partner in the movement unable to protest (in order to keep a tax-exempt status) the League worked to nurturing future leaders and activists, efforts which continue today.
The Memphis Urban League Young Professional (MULYP), a local auxiliary of the National Urban League, supports the development of young professionals in Memphis and serves through community action in areas of: financial literacy, youth mentoring, civic engagement, and various forms of advocacy. The same grassroots approach employed by the National Urban League and Civil Rights Movement is at work in MULYP, as they move to attract and retain the future leaders of the city of Memphis. MULYP Social & Cultural Chair Rhonnie Brewer:
“As young leaders it is paramount that we walk the path of where we have been in order to appreciate the journey of where we are going. For those who have come before us, their plight for civil rights was fought on the front lines of Selma, Alabama, or marching through the streets of Memphis. Our generation’s plight is fought in boardrooms, in our artistic expressions or even in the halls of colleges and universities.”
The Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, in conjunction with This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, has partnered with the Brooks to bring a unique film series to the museum. This series aims to “encompass the struggles of past generations, yet relate to the challenges of the current generation, creating symmetry between past and present.”