Meridian Star

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February 24, 2013

New film tells story of unsung civil rights leader

(Continued)

WASHINGTON D.C. —

Young influenced a number of anti-poverty programs such as Job Corps, housing counseling and Head Start, Morial said.

"He was one of the earliest voices who said to corporate America ... that business leaders and the business community had a stake in the development and rebuilding of urban America, but also in the success of civil rights," Morial said.

Born July 31, 1921, in Lincoln Ridge, Ky., Young learned to negotiate with whites from his father, an educated man who ran the all-black Lincoln Institute boarding school, said Bonnie Boswell, the filmmaker and Young's niece.

There, Young's father surreptitiously educated black students to become doctors, lawyers and teachers to escape segregation and poverty while tricking white financial backers of the school into believing he was training the black students to be nannies, maids, janitors and mechanics.

The school campus had been something of a shelter for Young from the everyday cruelty of segregation, but he encountered it head-on when he served in a black Army battalion led by white officers in World War II.

After that experience, Young dedicated himself to race relations. Later he borrowed on the postwar rebuilding of Western Europe to push with President Lyndon B. Johnson his proposal for a domestic Marshall Plan providing $145 billion to improve education, employment and welfare for black communities. Johnson folded some of his ideas into his Great Society programs.

Young overcame the broken relationship between blacks and President Richard M. Nixon to persuade him to heavily support social programs that assisted the poor. Nixon lauded Young's work when he spoke at his funeral.

Young's desire "was to help America live up to her ideals," Boswell said, quoting her uncle.

"He would say, 'I could become more popular if I got off the train in Harlem and shouted bad things about white people, but can I be more effective if I go downtown and help get jobs from white people to give to minorities,'" Boswell said in an interview in Washington with The Associated Press.

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