Whitney Young Jr’s Time in Omaha

Before Whitney Young Jr was a nationally known civil rights leader, he was a local leader in the Omaha chapter of the National Urban League.

Whitney M. Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League through the 1960s, was a leading U.S. civil rights leader during a turbulent era. Young helped propel the Urban League into the forefront of civil rights after assuming leadership in 1961. An editorial from the Omaha World-Herald (March 13, 1971) commented on his Omaha connections and said: “Whitney Young mixed idealism and practical good sense with an extraordinarily winning personality.”

Born in Kentucky in 1921, he received degrees from Kentucky State College and the University of Minnesota. He served as executive director of the Omaha Urban League in the early 1950s while teaching part-time at the University of Nebraska Graduate School of Social Work. He was one of the first black faculty members at the university. His accomplishments in Omaha included the addition of a nonsegregation clause to Omaha’s public housing code. He later taught at the Atlanta University School of Social Work and was a visiting scholar at Harvard.

Young was widely regarded as a moderate in the civil rights movement although he denied it. Among the most polished and articulate of black leaders, he served on a number of boards and commissions which sought to improve social, educational, and economic conditions for blacks. In 1963 he met with President Lyndon Johnson at the White House to launch an emergency public works program to put unemployed blacks to work. In 1968 President Johnson awarded Young the highest U.S. civilian award, the Medal of Freedom. In 1969 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Young died suddenly in 1971 at the age of 49 while attending a meeting of the African American Association in Lagos, Nigeria.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: Nebraska’s Big Rodeo

Marker Monday: Nebraska’s Big Rodeo

Making Rain

Making Rain

How pioneer trails shaped Omaha streets

How pioneer trails shaped Omaha streets

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.