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Whitney Young: The Inside Man of the Civil Rights Movement

"Don't Get Mad, Get Smart." Whitney Young got that advice from his parents, said Emmy award-winning journalist Bonnie Boswell Hamilton. She is Young's niece and the Executive Producer/Producer of a documentary about the former head of the National Urban League. "The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights," took years to make, said Hamilton.

Hamilton was on hand to offer personal insights and answer audience questions after a recent screening at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena.

Young was one of the visionaries some called the "Big Six" of civil rights leaders, along with Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, John Lewis, and Roy Wilkins.

The documentary describes Young as an "unsung hero" of the Civil Rights Movement. He set out to break the color barrier in corporate America. So, what Young did was carried out inside boardrooms, outside of public view. "He raised a moral challenge in a world where profits reign supreme," according to the film. Young enlisted conservative white businessmen in the push for integration.

"He was powerful because he had internal strength and vision," said Hamilton. Young called for a "Domestic Marshall Plan" to improve the education and employment of African-Americans.

Young also had a sense of humor that he used to ease tension and win over crowds. In a clip from the documentary, he said, "we desire to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps. But in the past, we had no straps, no boots."

The documentary includes riveting clips of the Black Panthers, Young family photos, home movies, and rare images from the 1963 March on Washington. Influential scholars and activists appear in the film.

Young, originally from rural Kentucky, grew up to advise Presidents of the United States. He died in 1971.

For more information about the film and local screenings, check out this website: http://powerbrokerfilm.com/.

[Reva Hicks is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles. She worked for Channel 4 News for more than 30 years as a writer, producer and guest booker.]


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