Andrew Young, civil rights icon and close friend of MLK, visits OC Feb. 4 This is the fifth consecutive year OC has hosted a civil rights hero

Feb 04, 2019

Andrew Young stood side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. after joining the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1961. Young became a good friend and a close associate up until King’s death in 1968, and he continues to fight for King’s dream of equality to this day. 

On Apr. 4, 1968, Young watched in horror as King was fatally shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Since King’s death, Young continued to fight for civil rights while becoming an influential leader in America. He became the first African American elected to Congress from Georgia following Reconstruction and later became a U.S. ambassador for the United Nations for two years. From 1982 to 1990, Young served as mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, and he continues to advocate for civil rights through publishing books and producing documentaries about overcoming discrimination and oppression around the world.

Gary Jones, the multicultural and service learning coordinator and associate dean of students at OC, is particularly thrilled about this event.

“This is the first year we’ve had someone from Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle, so we will have a fresh, new perspective of what life was like during the civil rights movement,” Jones said. “I hope the community will take away a greater understanding and appreciation of the sacrifices people made to promote diversity and equality in this country.”

History Speaks will be Feb. 4 in the auditorium at OC’s Garvey Center. Tickets are free but must be reserved online or at the Hardeman box office. The event is open to the public and groups may reserve seats by contacting Jones at gary.jones@oc.edu.

To learn more, visit www.oc.edu/historyspeaks. Past speakers have included Terrence Roberts and Carlotta Walls LaNier of the Little Rock Nine, as well as Claudette Colvin and civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who led the fight against bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama. OC also hosted John Carlos and Tommie Smith of the 1968 Olympic protest, Freedom Ride organizer Diane Nash and Emmett Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker Jr.

In the 1960s, Young organized voter registration and marches and led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as executive director. He endured multiple arrests and was the last person to speak to King just before he was killed. Young is now one of the last living members of King’s inner circle, and he will share his first-hand account of civil rights activism, leading alongside King and impacting race and cultural relations.

As a Georgia pastor, Young advocated for civil rights and led "citizenship schools" tutoring African Americans in literacy, organizing and leadership skills. Within the SCLC, Young coordinated desegregation efforts throughout the South, including the May 3, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, march against segregation during which participants were attacked by police dogs and pushed back by fire hoses.

SCLC appointed Young executive director in 1964, where he helped negotiate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Young went on to be elected to Congress in 1972, appointed an ambassador to the U.N. and was the first black mayor of the city of Atlanta.

Young authored three books: "A Way Out of No Way," "An Easy Burden," and "Walk in My Shoes." As an esteemed civil rights activist, he has received accolades that include the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Springarn Medal. Morehouse College named the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership in his honor, and Young has taught at Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.