The National League of Urban Conditions Among Negros

The National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (the National Urban League) was an important social welfare organization aimed at improving the lives of African Americans in northern cities. It formed in September 1910. The two people credited with creating the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes were George Edmund Haynes, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and philanthropist Ruth Standish Baldwin, wife of the president of the Long Island Railroad. Financial support came from John D. Rockefeller and Julius Rosenwald. Sympathetic attorneys donated legal advice. Progressive Era reformers played critical roles in the early direction of the organization.  In 1911 the Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes merged with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded 1906) and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (founded by Frances Kellor and S. Willie Layten in 1905).

From its inception it was an interracial organization, dedicated to improving the social conditions, labor opportunities, housing prospects, and recreational options for African-Americans. The organization particularly reached out to those who had moved to the North during the Great Migration hoping to take advantage of jobs as World War I began. The organization also conducted research into the widespread discriminatory practices of the day and trained a large number of African-American social workers.

Theodore Roosevelt commended the goals of the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes.  In turn, the organization and many of its most prominent leaders supported Roosevelt’s 1912 third-party presidential bid.

In 1917 and 1918 the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes worked with the American Federation of Labor to encourage the organizing of African-American workers. The effort met with little success.

By the end of World War I, the League had branches in thirty cities. The League exists today as the better-known National Urban League, a name it adopted in 1919. It has continued to battle on behalf of the rights of African Americans.