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National Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor: An Analysis of Organizational Decision-Making
Unformatted Document Text:  to examine the factors that allowed the NUL to engage in an organization-wide shift in focus. The national office’s new emphasis on maintaining programmatic cohesion with its affiliates, its restructuring to facilitate this goal, and its commitment to its unique role within the civil rights movement facilitated the NUL’s shift to anti-poverty activities. The National Urban League’s Unique Role within the Movement As opposed to the NAACP, the National Urban League was founded as a social service organization. Therefore, it existed to provide services to, not political advocacy on behalf of, African Americans. The group was diligent about protecting its tax-exempt status by refraining from explicit political activities. Nonetheless, the League considered social work to be a critical avenue to social change, and viewed one of its purposes to spark activism in its clients: It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a substandard budget. The social worker must plant the spark and seed of change and indignation in the mind of every citizen in want. The social worker who is not a catalyst is a failure, and the social worker who does not urge reform will not be a catalytic agent… 73 The League’s commitment to providing services to low-income African Americans was strengthened during the War on Poverty. Because of its experience with social welfare programming, the League considered itself unique among civil rights groups because it was “the one agency that has the know how to help communities draw up the kind of action plans that will change patterns [of poverty.]” 74 The organization situated its commitment to education and training in relation to other organizations’ approaches to social change: 73 NUL, Part II: The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series V, Box 35, Press Release, May 24, 1965. 74 NUL, Part II: The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series I, Box 42, Memo to Young, From: Evelyn Broidy, Re: Poverty Workshop – Birmingham, AL, February 26-27, March 5, 1965; also see NUL, Part II: The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series VI, Box 20, “Agenda for the Future,” Address by Whitney Young, 55 th Annual Conference, August 1, 1965. 35

Authors: Paden, Catherine.
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to examine the factors that allowed the NUL to engage in an organization-wide shift in focus. 
The national office’s new emphasis on maintaining programmatic cohesion with its affiliates, its 
restructuring to facilitate this goal, and its commitment to its unique role within the civil rights 
movement facilitated the NUL’s shift to anti-poverty activities.  
The National Urban League’s Unique Role within the Movement 
As opposed to the NAACP, the National Urban League was founded as a social service 
organization.  Therefore, it existed to provide services to, not political advocacy on behalf of, 
African Americans.  The group was diligent about protecting its tax-exempt status by refraining 
from explicit political activities.  Nonetheless, the League considered social work to be a critical 
avenue to social change, and viewed one of its purposes to spark activism in its clients:
It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a 
substandard budget.  The social worker must plant the spark and seed of 
change and indignation in the mind of every citizen in want.  The social worker 
who is not a catalyst is a failure, and the social worker who does not urge 
reform will not be a catalytic agent
The League’s commitment to providing services to low-income African Americans was 
strengthened during the War on Poverty.  Because of its experience with social welfare 
programming, the League considered itself unique among civil rights groups because it was “the 
one agency that has the know how to help communities draw up the kind of action plans that will 
change patterns [of poverty.]”
  The organization situated its commitment to education and 
training in relation to other organizations’ approaches to social change:
73
 NUL, Part II: The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series V, Box 35, Press Release, May 24, 
1965.
74
 NUL, Part II: The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series I, Box 42, Memo to Young, From: 
Evelyn Broidy, Re: Poverty Workshop – Birmingham, AL, February 26-27, March 5, 1965; also see NUL, Part II: 
The Records of the National Urban League, 1960-1966, Series VI, Box 20, “Agenda for the Future,” Address by 
Whitney Young, 55
th
 Annual Conference, August 1, 1965.
35


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