Whitney M. Young, Jr.
The "Voice of the Voiceless"
"/ a7n not anxious to be the loudest voice or the
most popular. But 1 would like to think that, at a
crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the
voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless . . ."
N a morning in the fall of 1946, seated at my desk in the
National Urban League headquarters office in New
A'ork City, I was reviewing the morning's mail. My
duties included handling correspondence from persons seeking
employment in the Urban League movement. Little did I realize
that one letter among those on my desk was to profoundly change
the direction and future of the entire Urban League. The letter,
postmarked St. Paul, .Minnesota, was short, simple, and to the
point: "Dear Miss Tanneyhill: I am interested in working for the
Urban League. Please send me an application for employment.
Whitney M. Young, Jr." The application was sent by return mail.
Often we do not know, and cannot foresee how insignificant
acts or events become the catalysts to change the destiny of men
and of nations. So it was with that simple letter. For it began the
steady and inexorable journey of one man from obscurity, to na¬
tional leadership, and then to a tragic death on the beach at Lagos,
Nigeria, twenty-five years later.
Whitney Moore Young, Jr., was born on July 31, 1921, at Lin-