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About Urban League

of Philadelphia

Our Mission and History

Since its inception in 1917, the Urban League of Philadelphia has steadfastly labored to shape the trajectory of history, emerging as a venerable affiliate of the National Urban League—a cornerstone within the pantheon of the nation’s oldest and most expansive community-based movements devoted to uplifting underserved urban communities. Within the sanctum of our collective aspirations, we fervently believe in the supremacy of shared dreams over the divisive elements that seek to fracture our unity. The realization of economic autonomy and upward social mobility materializes only when the threads of collaboration are deftly woven between individuals, civic entities, corporate entities, and public stewards. In our capacity as a nonprofit bastion of civil rights and advocacy, this noble task is our raison d’être.

Our Mission

To help Black-Americans and others in historical underserved and marginalized communities achieve their highest level of social parity, economic self- reliance, power, and civil rights. Urban League of Philadelphia promotes economic empowerment through youth education and job training, housing and community development, workforce development and reentry, entrepreneurship, health equity, and quality of life.


Our Purpose

To eliminate racial segregation and discrimination and helping Black Americans and those historically disenfranchise to participate in all phases of American life. In the Greater Philadelphia Region, we stive to have more inclusion in homeownership, small businesses, and family sustaining jobs. Providing support for those formerly incarcerated, youth education, community scholarships, health and wellness, and protecting the right to vote.

In the tapestry of our organizational fabric, we boast:

  • A dynamic Board of Directors, resolute in furnishing sagacious leadership and guidance.

  • A cadre of talented staff members, endowed with knowledge and expertise to impart.

  • A legion of dedicated volunteers, emissaries of empowerment, disseminating transformative change within the community.

Together, we stand on the precipice of possibility, poised to chart a course towards a future where the aspirations of all, regardless of background, find fulfillment in the symphony of progress we collectively compose.


The National Urban League, which has played so pivotal a role in the 20th-Century Freedom Movement, grew out of that spontaneous grassroots movement for freedom and opportunity that came to be called the Black Migrations. When the U.S. Supreme Court declared its approval of segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, the brutal system of economic, social and political oppression the White South quickly adopted rapidly transformed what had been a trickle of African Americans northward into a flood.

Those newcomers to the North soon discovered they had not escaped racial discrimination. Excluded from all but menial jobs in the larger society, victimized by poor housing and education, and inexperienced in the ways of urban living, many lived in terrible social and economic conditions.

Still, in the degree of difference between South and North lay opportunity, and that African Americans clearly understood. But to capitalize on that opportunity, to successfully adapt to urban life and to reduce the pervasive discrimination they faced, they would need help. That was the reason the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes was established on September 29, 1910 in New York City. Central to the organization’s founding were two remarkable people: Mrs. Ruth Standish Baldwin and Dr. George Edmund Haynes, who would become the Committee’s first executive secretary. Mrs. Baldwin, the widow of a railroad magnate and a member of one of America’s oldest families, had a remarkable social conscience and was a stalwart champion of the poor and disadvantaged. Dr. Haynes, a graduate of Fisk University, Yale University, and Columbia University (he was the first African American to receive a doctorate from that institution), felt a compelling need to use his training as a social worker to serve his people. A year later, the Committee merged with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded in New York 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 later shortened to the National Urban League. The interracial character of the League’s board was set from its first days. Professor Edwin R. A. Seligman of Columbia University, one of the leaders in progressive social service activities in New York City, served as chairman from 1911 to 1913. Mrs. Baldwin took the post until 1915. The fledgling organization counseled black migrants from the South, helped train black social workers, and worked in various other ways to bring educational and employment opportunities to blacks. Its research into the problems blacks faced in employment opportunities, recreation, housing, health and sanitation, and education spurred the League’s quick growth. By the end of World War I the organization had 81 staff members working in 30 cities. In 1918, Dr. Haynes was succeeded by Eugene Kinckle Jones who would direct the agency until his retirement in 1941. Under his direction, the League significantly expanded its multifaceted campaign to crack the barriers to black employment, spurred first by the boom years of the 1920s, and then, by the desperate years of the Great Depression. Efforts at reasoned persuasion were buttressed by boycotts against firms that refused to employ blacks, pressures on schools to expand vocational opportunities for young people, constant prodding of Washington officials to include blacks in New Deal recovery programs and a drive to get blacks into previously segregated labor unions. As World War II loomed, Lester Granger, a seasoned League veteran and crusading newspaper columnist, was appointed Eugene Kinckle Jones successor. Outspoken in his commitment to advancing opportunity for blacks, Granger pushed tirelessly to integrate the racist trade unions and led the League’s effort to support A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement to fight discrimination in defense work and in the armed services. Under Granger, the League, through its own Industrial Relations Laboratory, had notable success in cracking the color bar in numerous defense plants. The nation’s demand for civilian labor during the war also helped the organization press ahead with greater urgency its programs to train black youths for meaningful blue-collar employment. After the war those efforts expanded to persuading Fortune 500 companies to hold career conferences on the campuses of Negro colleges and place blacks in upper-echelon jobs. Of equal importance to the League’s own future sources of support, Granger avidly supported the organization of its volunteer auxiliary, the National Urban League Guild, which, under the leadership of Mollie Moon, became an important national force in its own right. The explosion of the civil rights movement provoked a change for the League, one personified by its new leader, Whitney M. Young, Jr., who became executive director in 1961. A social worker like his predecessors, he substantially expanded the League’s fund-raising ability and, most critically, made the League a full partner in the civil rights movement. Although the League’s tax-exempt status barred it from protest activities, it hosted at its New York headquarters the planning meetings of A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders for the 1963 March on Washington. Young was also a forceful advocate for greater government and private-sector efforts to eradicate poverty. His call for a domestic Marshall Plan, a ten-point program designed to close the huge social and economic gap between black and white Americans, significantly influenced the discussion of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty legislation. Young’s tragic death in 1971 in a drowning incident off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria brought another change in leadership. Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., formerly Executive Director of the United Negro College Fund, took over as the League’s fifth Executive Director in 1972 (the title of the office was changed to President in 1977). For the next decade, until his resignation in December 1981, Jordan skillfully guided the League to new heights of achievement. He oversaw a major expansion of its social service efforts, as the League became a significant conduit for the federal government to establish programs and deliver services to aid urban communities, and brokered fresh initiatives in such League programs as housing, health, education and minority business development. Jordan also instituted a citizenship education program that helped increase the black vote and brought new programs to such areas as energy, the environment, and non-traditional jobs for women of color-and he developed The State of Black America report. In 1982, John E. Jacob, a former chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C. and San Diego affiliates who had served as Executive Vice President, took the reins of leadership, solidifying the League’s internal structure and expanding its outreach even further. Jacob established the Permanent Development Fund in order to increase the organization’s financial stamina. In honor of Whitney Young, he established several programs to aid the development of those who work for and with the League: The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Training Center, to provide training and leadership development opportunities for both staff and volunteers; the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Race Relations Program, which recognizes affiliates doing exemplary work in race relations; and the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Commemoration Ceremony, which honors and pays tribute to long term staff and volunteers who have made extraordinary contributions to the Urban League Movement. Jacob established the League’s NULITES youth development program and spurred the League to put new emphasis on programs to reduce teenage pregnancy, help single female heads of households, combat crime in black communities, and increase voter registration. Hugh B. Price, appointed to the League’s top office in July 1994, took over the reins at a critical moment for the League, for black America, and for the nation as a whole. In the early 90’s, the fierce market-driven dynamic of “globalization,” was sweeping the world, fundamentally altering the economic relations among and within countries and reshaping the link between the nation’s citizenry and its economy, fostering enormous uncertainty among individuals and tensions among ethnic and cultural groups. This economic change and the efforts of some to rollback the gains African Americans fashioned since the 1960s made the League’s efforts all the more necessary. Price, a lawyer with extensive experience in community development and public policy issues, intensified the organization’s work in three broad areas: in education and youth development, individual and community-wide economic empowerment, affirmative action and the promotion of inclusion as a critical foundation for securing America’s future as a multi-ethnic democracy. Among Price’s most notable achievements was establishing the League’s Institute of Opportunity and Equality in Washington, DC, which conducted research and public policy analysis of urban issues and the Campaign for African American Achievement, a community mobilization and advocacy initiative created to raise awareness and promote the importance of achievement through the formation of the National Achievers Society, “Doing the Right Thing” recognition in local communities and the National Urban League’s Scholarship Program. On May 15, 2003 the Board of Trustees of the National Urban League voted overwhelmingly to appoint former New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial as the League’s eighth President and Chief Executive Officer. As New Orleans Chief Executive, he was one of the most popular and effective mayors in the city’s history, leaving office with 70% approval rating. After being elected as one of the youngest mayors in the city’s history, crime plummeted by 60% a corrupt Police Department was reformed, new programs for youth were started and stagnant economy was reignited. Since his appointment to the National Urban League, Morial has worked to reenergize the movement’s diverse constituencies by building on the strengths of the NUL’s 95 year old legacy and increasing the organization’s profile both locally and nationally. In his first year, Morial worked to streamline the organization’s headquarters, secured over $10 million dollars in new funding to support affiliate programs, created the first Legislative Policy Conference “NUL on the Hill’, revamped the State of Black America report, created profitability for the annual conference, and secured a $127.5 million equity fund for minority businesses through the new markets tax credit program. He introduced and developed a stronger strategic direction of the organization with a “five point empowerment agenda’ that focuses on closing the equality gaps which exist for African Americans and other emerging ethnic communities in education, economic empowerment, health and quality of life, civic engagement, and civil rights and racial justice.

Leading The Charge


As the Chairman of the Board of The Urban League of Philadelphia, I am committed to advancing its mission of empowering all underserved residents as they enter the economic and social mainstream.

As Chief Growth Officer for Aramark, I understand that Philadelphia–with its diverse community, rich culture and robust economy–is well positioned to bring corporations, public officials and civic organizations together to maximize the potential of individuals and support healthier, more equitable communities. The Urban League’s activities and advocacy for the economic, social and educational growth of residents is a critical resource within our city. I am honored to support the advancement of the Urban League and expand its reach and impact within Philadelphia.  


Our Partners

At the Urban League of Philadelphia, we're proud to work with a variety of partners who share our commitment to empowering communities and individuals. Our partners include government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals who are dedicated to creating a more just and equitable society. Together, we're able to make a greater impact and help more people achieve economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights.

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September 29, 1910 

New York, NY 

The genesis of the National Urban League can be traced back to the demographic shifts observed during the 19th century Black Migrations. The pivotal juncture marking an intensified migration of African Americans from the Southern regions to the Northern territories occurred subsequent to the U.S. Supreme Court's endorsement of segregation in the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. The resultant surge in migration was emblematic of a transformative shift from a modest migration pattern to a substantial influx. In this context, the salient contrast between the socio-political climates of the South and North presented a discernible opportunity for African Americans, a realization that resonated prominently in their collective consciousness. However, the realization of these opportunities necessitated external assistance. Consequently, recognizing the imperative of collective action to harness the prospects afforded by Northern migration, the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes was inaugurated on September 29, 1910, in the metropolis of New York City, with George Haynes assuming the inaugural presidency. This strategic establishment served as a pivotal institutional response to the exigencies imposed by the altered racial landscape, encapsulating the aspirations and endeavors of the African American community during a period of significant societal transformation.


The National Urban League (NUL) boasts a long and impressive record of supporting and enabling African American migrants in urban settings. By bringing together three smaller organizations, The National League for the Protection of Colored Women, The Committee for Improving the Industrial Conditions for Negroes in New York, and the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes in New York, the NUL was established to offer newcomers from the South access to employment, housing, healthcare, and education. Its mission of fostering positive interracial relations has been a source of optimism, encouraging cooperation and mutual advantage between diverse communities. Presently, the NUL remains committed to promoting economic empowerment, fairness, and fairness, working together with policymakers, corporate partners, and community leaders to enhance the quality of life for historically marginalized populations. The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment, equality, and social justice. Founded in 1910 and headquartered in New York City, the Urban League collaborates at the national and local levels with community leaders, policymakers, and corporate partners to elevate the standards of living for African Americans and other historically underserved groups.

October 11, 1910 

New York, NY 




New York, NY 

The Urban League emerged as a response to the limited economic prospects available to African-American men in American urban centers. New York City was chosen as the hub for the organization's operations due to its substantial African-American population, which was the largest outside of the South at the time. By 1910, approximately 75,000 black residents resided in New York City, resulting in a 50% growth rate from the previous decade. This trend was replicated in other major cities during the Great Migration of the 1910s and 1920s, with the black population in Harlem alone growing to 165,000 by 1930. Similarly, cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit experienced comparable rates of expansion. The majority of those who migrated to these northern cities did so in pursuit of better economic opportunities and to escape the discriminatory policies of the Jim Crow South. As the black population in these cities continued to rise, the Urban League expanded to twenty-seven affiliates by 1919, with all but one located east of the Mississippi River. While most affiliates were situated in the Northeast's industrial corridor, a few were established in Southern cities such as Atlanta. 


The formal establishment of the Urban League in 1911 is commonly traced back to the preceding year, 1910, and the genesis of the Committee on Urban Conditions, serving as the immediate antecedent to the Urban League. In this pivotal juncture, leaders from three prominent organizations convened with the objective of unifying their efforts. Despite initial resistance encountered from the Committee on Urban Conditions, a consensus was eventually reached, leading to the formation of the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes on October 16, 1911. The organization assumed its present appellation, the National Urban League, in 1920, with the NLPCW and the Committee on Urban Conditions persisting as enduring subagencies within the Urban League framework. The National Urban League, rooted in the Progressive Era and established in New York City in 1911, materialized through collaborative initiatives of black and white social reformers. These efforts were directed at addressing the economic and social challenges faced by African Americans, particularly those in northern cities. Scholarly observations highlight the complementary roles of the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), delineating the former's focus on facilitating economic integration for African Americans and the latter's emphasis on legal rights advocacy. The Urban League, colloquially referred to as the "State Department" of African-American affairs, and the NAACP, known as the "War Department," are recognized for their distinctive contributions in advancing the interests of the African American community.


New York, NY 




Philadelphia, PA

The founding of the Urban League of Philadelphia constitutes a significant chapter in the historical narrative of urban advocacy and socio-economic empowerment. Civil rights leaders and advocates recognized the necessity of concerted efforts to enhance opportunities and ameliorate the conditions faced by the African American population. The Urban League of Philadelphia, akin to its national counterparts, became a proactive agent in fostering collaboration between black and white social reformers, aiming to confront and rectify the systemic inequities prevalent in the city. The organization's founding marked a deliberate and strategic response to the prevailing socio-economic disparities, reflecting the broader goals of the Urban League movement nationwide.


In 1918, Dr. Haynes departed from the National Urban League to assume the role of director for the U.S. Department of Labor's Division of Negro Economics. Prior to his departure, he established a well-structured foundation within the National Urban League aimed at guiding African American migrants toward improved education, employment, and housing opportunities. Dr. Haynes appointed his chosen successor, Eugene Kinckle Jones, who hailed from a lineage of accomplished Negro leaders. Jones, educated at Virginia Union and Cornell, had been recruited by Dr. Haynes in 1911 as the National Urban League Field Secretary. In this capacity, Jones played a pivotal role in organizing a landmark 1913 meeting between Negro leaders and American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers, marking a seminal step in the nascent efforts to organize Negro labor.


New York, NY 



New York, NY

Eugene Kinckle Jones assumed the role of the second Executive Secretary of the National Urban League in 1918, maintaining this position for a consequential span of twenty-three years characterized by remarkable organizational expansion. At the inception of his tenure, the National Urban League operated with a budgetary allocation of $2,500. Over the ensuing two decades, this fiscal constraint underwent a transformative evolution, culminating in the establishment of 58 affiliates and a substantially augmented annual budget reaching $2,500,000. This period, marked by exceptional growth, underscores Jones's stewardship as pivotal to the organizational development and fiscal maturation of the National Urban League.


In the early 21st century, the Urban League has grown to 115 affiliates across thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, with a membership of 50,000 and an annual budget of $45 million, remaining pivotal in addressing socio-economic disparities and promoting empowerment in diverse urban settings.


New York, NY 



Philadelphia, PA

In the initial decade of the 20th century, the organization experienced notable growth, expanding its reach through the establishment of subsidiaries and active support for local businesses. The elevation of Spaulding to the position of vice president of the subsidiary in 1908 marked a pivotal development, subsequently followed by his appointment as secretary-treasurer in 1919, coinciding with the official renaming of the organization to the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. By the year 1920, the company boasted a workforce exceeding 1,000 employees and maintained several offices along the East Coast. In 1923, Spaulding assumed the presidency, a role he occupied until his demise in 1952. During the 1920s, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company continued its expansion by establishing additional black-operated subsidiaries. Importantly, Spaulding's adept financial restructuring efforts ensured the organization's resilience during the economic challenges of the 1930s.


Lester B. Granger succeeded Jones in 1941 as the NUL’s executive secretary and began redirecting the organization’s agenda by focusing on leading civil rights causes of the era. Granger, for example, played a major role in persuading President Harry Truman to desegregate the armed forces in 1948.


New York, NY 



New York, NY

Charles Clinton Spaulding, born on August 1, 1874, in Columbus County, North Carolina, and passing away on August 1, 1952, in Durham, North Carolina, was a distinguished American business leader. Renowned for his transformative role, Spaulding notably elevated the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, ultimately propelling it to the status of the nation's preeminent black-owned business at the time of his demise in 1952, with an estimated valuation of approximately $40 million.


In 1961, succeeding Granger, Whitney M. Young Jr. significantly augmented and operationalized many of Granger's conceptualizations, thereby elevating the National Urban League (NUL) to the status of one of the five principal civil rights organizations in the United States during the ensuing decade. Young played a pivotal role in orchestrating essential fundraising endeavors that provided critical support to the civil rights activism of the era. Notably, he emerged as one of the earliest black civil rights leaders to advocate for and advance affirmative action initiatives, a transformative stance that materialized during the late 1960s and early 1970s.


New York, NY 


1980 - 1990

Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC 

In the 1980s and 1990s, several Urban League affiliates recognized the imperative to cultivate a new cadre of leaders to steer the civil rights movement. To this end, young African American individuals in their 20s and 30s were specifically invited to engage actively and assume leadership roles within their respective Affiliate Urban League programs and activities. The establishment of professional auxiliary groups ensued, operating as integral components of affiliates in Detroit, MI ("The Blue Monday Network"), Chicago, IL ("The Metropolitan Board"), Philadelphia, PA ("Philadelphia Urban League Young Professionals"), and Washington, DC ("The Thursday Network"). These auxiliary entities played a vital role in bolstering the Urban League movement by enlightening young professionals about its objectives, facilitating membership expansion, providing volunteer support, initiating educational endeavors such as youth mentoring and tutoring programs, orchestrating fundraisers for scholarships and affiliate financial sustenance, and cultivating networking opportunities for young professionals within their local communities.


National Urban League Young Professionals is unveiled at the National Urban League Annual Conference in Houston, TX.


Houston, TX



New York, NY

On May 15, 2003, Marc H. Morial assumed the mantle of the eighth President and Executive Officer of the National Urban League. In continuity with the endeavors of his predecessors, Morial diligently upholds the organization's commitment to advancing affirmative action, fostering economic and political empowerment, and actively addressing the complex issues of violence and poverty within urban black America.


Throughout the selection process, what most impressed the Board, was Darrin’s singular commitment to the mission and vision of the ULP. He will be a valued partner for our Board, a dedicated and compassionate leader for our staff, a committed visionary for our donors and stakeholders, and a tireless champion for the communities we serve. Over our 106-year history, the ULP has served the Philadelphia region with professionalism, distinction, and an unwavering commitment to our core mission - to empower African Americans and other underserved people to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights. We are excited to welcome Darrin as part of that legacy and look forward to introducing him.


Philadelphia, PA

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