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Atlanta Urban League papers

 Collection — Box: 1-328
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0025

Scope and contents

The Atlanta Urban League is a private, non-profit social service agency, affiliated with the National Urban League, an organization based in New York City. The Atlanta Urban League services are geared towards community development, health care, and employment and housing opportunities for African Americans. The agency is staffed mainly by professional social workers who administer its programs and report to a board of directors.

The Atlanta Urban League papers document the agencies activities since its founding, although the bulk mainly consists of material generated after World War II. A notable exception to this are the agencies annual reports, most of which cover the Leagues earliest years of operation. The collection is divided into three groups of records: the records of the board of directors; executive director's files; and departmental records.

The material relating to the activities of the board of directors is further divided into five series. Minutes of meetings, correspondence, reports, budget information, and other miscellaneous documents constitute this part of the collection. The second group of records are correspondence and administrative files of the executive directors, beginning with Grace Hamilton and proceeding with Robert Thompson, Harold Arnold and Lyndon Wade. Most of the material pertains directly to the operations of the League, however there is some documentation on the outside activities of the directors, such as their memberships and affiliations in other organizations. These records feature a sizeable amount of correspondence with prominent Atlanta figures such as Mayors William Hartsfield, Ivan Allen, Jr., and Sam Massell, along with others such as Whitney Young, Thurgood Marshall, and Atlanta attorney Morris Abram. Other material in this group of records include a newspaper clipping file, printed material and photographs.

The last group of records are material generated from the departmental staff, including the community services department, the housing department, and the employment department. The organizational structure of the Atlanta Urban League has been static over the years, and while these three departments have not existed as such throughout the agencies history, they do represent the Leagues major units of operation. Included in these three series are administrative records of department heads, records of programs and initiatives administered by the League, and material relating to the League's affiliates.

The Atlanta Urban League has played an important role in the city's development and adaptation to a more equal role for African Americans in the important areas of housing, employment, health facilities, and community development. The Atlanta Urban League papers offer insight into the operations of one of Atlanta's most important institutions. The collection also presents unique information on community-based affiliates of the League, their memberships, deliberations, and actions. Finally, the collection features correspondence and personal records of some of Atlanta's most influential figures.


  • Creation: 1920-1990


Rights statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright and/or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Historical note

The Atlanta Urban League was established in 1920. The reasoning behind its founding revolved around the belief that Atlanta needed a formal, organized vehicle for addressing the social and economic problems that beset black Atlantans. Such conditions as poor housing, inadequate employment opportunities and health services, and limited participation in the vital areas of community decision making were viewed as the major challenges confronting the League and the constituency it served.

The Atlanta Urban League is an affiliate of the National Urban League, which is head quartered in New York City. Established in 1911 as the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, its name was changed in 1917 to the National Urban League. As one of many social organizations that sprung out of the urban scene of the early twentieth century, its general program concentrated on social work and community organization rather than on reform of existing governmental structures. Like its parent organization, the Atlanta Urban League focuses its efforts in the direction of community planning and presses its demands through quiet negotiations with employers and government officials.

The Atlanta Urban League is a private, non-profit, interracial community service organization governed by a board of directors, and staffed by professionals in the fields of social work, public administration, social sciences, accounting and business education. Originally located in the heart of Auburn Avenue, the agency relocated first to Piedmont Avenue, and then to Edgewood Avenue. Over the years, its list of contributors grew from private donations, membership dues, and Atlanta Community Chest funds, to large corporations, the United Way, and the National Urban League itself.

The roster of prominent Atlantans past associated with the founding and operation of the Atlanta Urban League was indicative of the agencies importance in the community. Atlanta University president Dr. John Hope, and Jesse O. Thomas, two individuals long associated with the Urban League movement were pivotal players in establishing an Atlanta affiliate. Members of the board of directors included Heman Perry, Jesse Blayton, attorney Austin T. Walden, George Mitchell of the Southern Regional Council, Dr. Rufus Clement and Jacob R. Henderson. It's executives included Reginald Johnson, who later served in the National Urban League; Grace Towns Hamilton, who served from 1942 to 1960; Robert Thompson, who involved himself in practically every function of the organization, and Lyndon Wade, who served as executive director for over 25 years.

The list of accomplishments of the Atlanta Urban League include cooperative efforts which resulted in employment of African Americans during World War II in segregated work places such as Lockheed Aircraft. After the war, the League acted as sponsor to several land development projects to improve housing conditions, dozens of community groups were organized in programs of civic education and neighborhood improvement, and the agency took great responsibility in directing fund raising through the Atlanta Community Chest. Leaders such as Grace Hamilton were instrumental in the planning and governing of the Hughes Spalding Pavilion of Grady Hospital, and in implementing a graduate program to increase the number and quality of African American physicians. Through the 1970's and 1980's the League, under the leadership of Lyndon Wade, sponsored several job training and referral programs to place underemployed and unemployed individuals in entry-level positions at several Atlanta businesses. The Atlanta Urban League continues to address the needs of its constituency as it has for over 75 years.


133 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into three groups of records: the records of the board of directors; executive director's files; and departmental records.



Atlanta Urban League papers, 1920-1990
Finding aid prepared by Paul Crater, 1996.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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