The National Urban League

The National Urban League is the nation's largest community-based organization, providing direct service, advocacy, and research on behalf of African Americans and other individuals of color.

The National Urban League, which played a pivotal role in the 20th Century Freedom Movement, grew out of a spontaneous grassroots movement for freedom and opportunity known as the Black Migrations. The 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson sanctioning the doctrine of separate but equal drove millions of Southern blacks northward to escape the brutal economic, social, and political oppression of the White South.

Newcomers to the North soon discovered they had not escaped racial discrimination. Blacks were excluded from all but the menial jobs and were subjected to poor housing and education. Inexperienced in the ways of urban living, Blacks lived in terrible social and economic conditions. Still, in the degree of differences between South and North lay opportunity, and African Americans clearly understood that.

To capitalize on that opportunity and successfully adapt to urban life in order to reduce the pervasive discrimination they faced, Blacks would need help. In response, The Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (CUCAN) was established in New York City on September 29, 1910.

In 1911, CUCAN merged with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded in 1906) and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (founded in 1905) to form the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. In 1920, the name was shortened to the National Urban League.

Today the League has a network of 105 affiliates in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Visit the National Urban League's website.