Civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. to be featured on PBS's The Powerbroker
When you think of the Civil Rights Movement, you likely think of Martin Luther King Jr. -- for good reason. The role he played was monumental -- and because of that, monuments have been erected, pages in textbooks set aside and a national holiday named in his honor. So much attention has been given this single icon, it's easy to forget that the hard work of countless individuals, not just one man, made the fight for civil rights in the mid-century a movement. One such individual was Whitney Young Jr., one of the "Big Six" in the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the focus of The Powerbroker, a documentary set to run on Rocky Mountain PBS (channel 6) tonight at 9.
Young "worked with Lyndon Johnson very closely to develop the war on poverty and the Great Society," says Lauren Casteel, vice president for Philanthropic Partnerships at the Denver Foundation, Young's daughter and cousin of The Powerbroker's filmmaker, Bonnie Boswell. "Lyndon Johnson's leadership around poverty and race relations was to a large degree based upon his relationship in particular with [Young], who had a vision that was known as the Domestic Marshall Plan...based on the way that we rebuilt Germany after World War II, that there would be a rebuilding of blighted communities and people who had been ravaged by poverty and discrimination.
"I think it's always important in history to see as many contributions and different approaches -- and I think in particular for the civil rights movement -- to recognize many leaders," says Casteel. "Oftentimes, we will create one icon, and people don't realize, for example, that A. Philip Randolph was the one who initiated and came up with the inspiration for the  March on Washington."
As for the Big Six, "A. Philip Randolph brought labor," she continues, "Martin Luther King brought the church, John Lewis and James Farmer brought students and young people, Roy Wilkins brought legal expertise...and I think there's an inspiration for the roles that each of us can play individually as well as collectively."