He’s quite forgotten today, though there seems to be a lot of high schools across the country named in his honor. But I’m willing to bet that if you asked every student in all those schools and about 90% of the teachers, they would have no idea who Whitney Young was.
And that’s a real shame, because, back druing the 1960’s, Young was one of the most famous men in America, and was as important as Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle, and the fight for equal rights. But they worked on competely opposite ends in their fight to achieve equality.
While King was using the methods of civil disobedience and protests, Young was in the boardrooms of Fortune 500 compaines and Wall Street, negotiating with Presidents and policitans for equality and opportunity.
Needless to say, Young’s approach wasn’t particularly popular, with many black people seeing him as a sell out, a lackey of the white business establishment and worse – the very antithesis of the Black Power Movement.
But one can legitmately say that Young was very much ahead of the time, and that his influence was genuinely far reaching even today in so many aspects, even leading up to the election (and re-election) of President Obama.
Though, what he could have even further achieved is still unknown, if he hadn’t died so young, before his time in 1971, when he suffered a heart attack while swimming at a beach in Lagos, Nigeria, while there for a global conference.
And now there’s a new documentary about Young, The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights, which will be broadcast this month on the PBS documentary series, Independent Lens.
The film was produced by journalist Bonnie Boswell Hamilton (who is Young’s niece), her son Taylor Hamilton and Christine Khalafian.
However, there will be an advance screening of the film in Chicago on Saturday Feb. 16 at 3PM, at the Chicago Cultural Center, located in downtown Chicago. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion with local political strategists and educators, on the life and legacy of Young, and if he and his methods would be still be relevant today. What Would Whitney Young Do? will be moderated by Sylvia Ewing.
For more info about the Chicago screening go HERE.
Here’s the trailer for the film: