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Andrew Jackson Young, Jr.
Andrew Jackson Young, Jr. (born March 12, 1932) is an American politician, diplomat, activist, and pastor from Georgia. He has served as a Congressman from Georgia's 5th congressional district, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and Mayor of Atlanta. He served as President of the National Council of Churches USA, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and was a supporter and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since leaving political office on January 2, 1990, Young has founded or served in a large number of organizations founded on public policy, political lobbying and international relations, with a special focus on Africa.
Andrew Young was born March 12, 1932, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Daisy Fuller Young, a school teacher, and Andrew Jackson Young, Sr., a dentist. Young's father hired a professional boxer to teach Andrew and his brother how to fight, so they could defend themselves. In an 1964 interview with author Robert Penn Warren for his book, Who Speaks for the Negro?, Young recalls the tensions of segregation in New Orleans, especially growing up in a fairly well-to-do household. He recalls his parents trying to "compensate for segregation" by providing for their children, yet at the same time being reluctant to help less wealthy black communities in the area. Young graduated from Howard University and earned a divinity degree from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1955.
Young was appointed to serve as pastor of a church in Marion, Alabama. It was there in Marion that he met Jean Childs, who later became his wife. Young became interested in Mohandas Gandhi's concept of nonviolent resistance as a tactic for social change. He encouraged African Americans to register to vote in Alabama, and sometimes faced death threats while doing so. It was at this time that he became a friend and ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1957, Young and Jean moved to New York City when he accepted a job with the Youth Division of the National Council of Churches. While in New York, Young regularly appeared on Look Up and Live, a weekly Sunday morning television program on CBS, produced by the National Council of Churches in an effort to reach out to secular youth.
In 1960, he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. No longer satisfied with his work in New York, Young moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1961 upon the invitation of Dr. Bernard Lafayette, jr. and again worked on drives to register black voters. Young played a key role in the 1963 events in Birmingham, Alabama, serving as a mediator between the white and black communities as they negotiated against a background of protests.
In 1964, Young was named executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), becoming, in that capacity, one of King's principal lieutenants. As a colleague and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., he was a strategist and negotiator during the Civil Rights Campaigns in Birmingham (1963), St. Augustine (1964), Selma (1965), and Atlanta (1966). He was jailed for his participation in civil rights demonstrations, both in Selma, Alabama, and in St. Augustine, Florida. The movement gained congressional passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. Young was with King in Memphis, Tennessee, when King was assassinated in 1968.
In 1970, Andrew Young ran as a Democrat for Congress from Georgia, but was unsuccessful. After his defeat, Rev. Fred C. Bennette, Jr., introduced him to Murray M. Silver, an Atlanta attorney, who served as his campaign finance chairman. Young ran again in 1972 and won. He later was re-elected in 1974 and in 1976. During his four-plus years in Congress, he was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and was involved in several debates regarding foreign relations, including the decision to stop supporting the Portuguese attempts to hold on to their colonies in southern Africa. Young also sat on the powerful Rules Committee and the Banking and Urban Development Committee. Young opposed the Vietnam War, helped enact legislation that established the U.S. Institute for Peace, established the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and negotiated federal funds for MARTA and the Atlanta Highways.
Young has been a director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and is also the chairman of the board for the Global Initiative for the Advancement of Nutritional Therapy.
From 2000 to 2001, Young served as president of the National Council of Churches.
In 2003, Young founded the Andrew Young Foundation, an organization meant to support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.
From February to August 2006, Young served as the public spokesman for Working Families for Wal-Mart, an advocacy group for the retail chain Wal-Mart. Young resigned from the position soon after a controversial interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, in which, when asked about Wal-Mart hurting independent businesses, he replied, "You see those are the people who have been overcharging us, and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs."
In 2007, GoodWorks Productions released the documentary film Rwanda Rising, about Rwanda's progress since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Young also served as the film's narrator. Rwanda Rising premiered as the opening night selection at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2007.
An edited version of Rwanda Rising served as the pilot episode of Andrew Young Presents, a series of quarterly, hour-long specials airing on nationally syndicated television.
On January 22, 2008, Young appeared as a guest on the television show The Colbert Report. Host Stephen Colbert invited Young to appear during the writers' strike, because, in 1969, Young and Colbert's father had worked together to mediate a hospital workers' strike. Young made another appearance on The Colbert Report on November 5, 2008, to talk about the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.
On January 9, 2015, Young gave the keynote address at Vanderbilt University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Day. The theme was "Dismantling Segregation: Race, Poverty, and Privilege", and Young spoke about his experiences in Selma, stories of traveling with Dr. King, Jr., and his advice to the next generation of leaders.