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We Lost a Giant... Whitney M. Young, Jr.

Reprinted below are excerpts from a number of speeches made by Mr. Young on a variety of subjects.

"Black people are not the violent people in our society. They have never been, or else we have the longest time fuse known to man. It is not black people who have been violent. Lest you forget we have been the people who have been in this society for four hundred years. We have been the people who for two hundred and fifty years were forced to give free labor to this society. We are the people who have given America our blood and our sweat and our tears. We have been the hewers of the wood and the tillers of the soil, the workers in the vineyards of America, at the lowest wages. We have fought in every war, dying in disproportionate numbers now in Vietnam, and also the first to die in the American Revolution. We have been the people who have said more than anybody else that we believe in America, we have faith. We have no Benedict Arnold. We did not kill John Kennedy or Robert Kennedy, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King. We did not lynch people as we have been lynched as a people by the hundreds. We did not castrate and literally bury people alive.

"We have been brutalized, not by disruptive vulgar language like some black people have done, but our lives have been disrupted not by our buildings being taken over by temporary disruptive activity by a handful, but the destruction of our manhood and our people and of our families. And if Black America can put up with this for four hundred years and still not lose faith in America and in white people, then it seems to me that any decent reasonable, intelligent white person ought to be able to stop generalizing about all black people based on the actions of a few."
—71st Annual Dinner of the Pennsylvania Society, December 13, 1969

"Law and order is often linked to violent crime, but if it is not to be perverted into an instrument of racial repression, there must be the same concern for the law in other areas. What about the crimes committed against black people—crimes like discriminatory hiring and promotion, crimes like housing discrimination and ghetto exploitation? These are the crimes that are tearing our cities apart and injuring millions of black people whose only offense is the color of their skin. And the legal profession is deeply implicated in such crimes. Lawyers advise corporations on how to avoid the law, and lawyers advise homeowners on how to keep neighborhoods lily-white. They sit on zoning boards and local housing commissions. So the legal profession has a special responsibility to use its power to correct these abuses and to fight for enforcement of civil rights laws."
—American Bar Association, August 13, 1969
"The ultimate security of all American is dependent upon the success of our efforts to end poverty. The poor have placed their faith in the American dream. They have died in our wars—they are bleeding now in Vietnam. But the promise of America has not yet been fulfilled. It is time for that promise to be delivered. It is time for the adoption of a universal system of social security directed at the prevention of poverty. It is time to hear the cries of the poor—both black and white—and to bring our country together again."
—Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives, November 3, 1969
... that all people want to be self-sufficient and independent... that no man basically wants a handout; ... that every man, wherever you find him, whether he is a poor white in Appalachia, or a coolie in China, a native in Africa, or a dweller in a Harlem slum, has beneath his skin the same desire and hope for freedom, for dignity, for self-sufficiency as anybody else."
—National Citizens Conference on Rehabilitation of the Disabled and Disadvantaged, June 25, 1969

"Our street academies are well-known. They have taken young people whom the schools could not be educated, young people who had been claimed by the life of the streets, and given them basic and prep school educations. Now street academy graduates are in Harvard, Princeton, and in other top colleges all over the country.
"But we don't seek to create a parallel school system. The true purpose of the street academies is to teach the mind-destroying institutions our successful concepts so that the public schools themselves can be relevant to ghetto youngsters."
—National Urban League Conference, July 28, 1969

"I do have faith in America—not so much in a sudden upsurge of morality nor in a new surge toward a greater patriotism—but I believe in the intrinsic intelligence of Americans and of the business community. I do not believe that Americans are fools. I don't believe that we forever need to be confronted by tragedy or crisis in order to act. I believe that the evidence is clear. I believe that we, as a people, will not wait to be embarrassed, or to be pushed by events, into a posture of decency. I believe that America has the strength to do what is right because it is right. I'm convinced that given a kind of collective wisdom and sensitivity, Americans today can be persuaded to act creatively and imaginatively to make democracy work. This is my hope. This is my dream. This is my faith."
—American Iron and Steel Institute, Waldorf-Astoria, May 22, 1968

"'Black Power' needs to be seen, however, in its most positive light. It is less an assertion of domination, or violence, or a call for exclusion, than it is a rejection of the results of white power over black people and their communities. Without exception one can document easily the negative consequence of white domination... educationally, in housing, econimically, and socially. Black Power is a cry for dignity! It's a plea for recognition... that I'm somebody! That I have roots and pride. That I have rights! That I insist upon the opportunity to participate in my destiny, and the destiny of my children... and that I want a piece of the action! If I'm going to suffer the responsibilities, the horrors, and the dangers of this country, then I insist on enjoying some of the rewards."
—National Conference on Social Welfare, May 31, 1968

"It is unconscionable that in so rich a country, only the rich can afford the quality medical care for which this country is justly proud. because of the hard-working occupations in which black men predominate and the lack of adequate medical care, both before and after birth, the average black man cannot expect to live long enough to collect his social security benefits. Although he is more likely than the white man to pay social security taxes on all of his income, since he usually earns less than $7,800, his life expectancy is only 61 years, less than the 65 years at which he can begin collecting monthly social security checks.
"If a man cannot expect to live long enough to collect social security benefits, he certainly should be entitled to an adequate wage and standard of living before death."
—Citizens Congressional Hearings, May 14, 1970

"The black man's best hope lies not in a narrow separatism or in the cultural suicide of assimiliationism, but in an Open Society; a society founded on mutual respect and cooperation, and pluralistic group self-consciousness and pride.
"The Open Society toward which we must strive is a society in which black people have their fair share of the power, the wealth, and the comforts of the total society. It is a society in which blacks have the options to live in a black neighborhood or to live in an integrated one; in which blacks have control over decisions affecting their lives to the same degree that other groups have. It is a society based on mutual respect and complete equality. There isn't a reason in the world why we should settle for anything less. The struggle may be long and difficult, but nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved without a struggle."
—Ebony Magazine, June 5, 1970

"Africa needs black Americans, to be sure—as political and economic allies, mobilizing all of our strengths and resources in the pursuit of an American foreign policy (including economic and technical assistance) that will do for Africa what our tax dollars (both black and white) have done for Europe."
—Congress of African Peoples Conference, September 5, 1970
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