Los Angeles Urban League
Since 1921, Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) has been a leader in the civil rights movement, identifying and addressing issues that are of concern to African Americans and other minorities in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California.
Under the leadership of Michael Lawson, today’s LAUL is focused on being at the forefront of social advocacy, entrepreneurial enrichment, and workforce development.
As we approach our 100 year anniversary, The League will continue to build coalitions, work with best-in-class partner organizations, and create connections through supportive networks.
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Tuskegee Industrial Welfare League
Before there was a Los Angeles Urban League, there was The Tuskegee Industrial Welfare League, which was organized in April 1921 in Los Angeles by Dr. A. C. Garrott , a black dentist, and Katherine J. Barr, its first Executive Secretary, to help Negroes participate to the fullest extent in American life by helping to change the social and economic conditions of their environment.
In June 1921, the Tuskegee Industrial Welfare League merged with the National Urban League and became known as the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) with Katherine Barr as its first President. Under her leadership, the Urban League developed a professional and business-like approach to its mission and objectives. As a result, the organization was able to effect change expediently with winning results.
Always looking for an opportunity to create a broader financial base for operating funds, the LAUL became a Charter Member of the Los Angeles Community Chest in 1925, now known as the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, a collaboration that continues to this day.
Under Floyd Covington, who served as Executive Director from 1931 to 1950, the Los Angeles Urban League grew at an exponential rate. Executive Director Covington departmentalized the activities of the organization by developing Industrial Relations and Community Organization departments. Under his leadership, the Los Angeles Urban League established its own radio broadcast where more than 36 different programs were presented for the weekly Urban League Reports.
Wesley Brazier, former Industrial Relations Director of the Los Angeles Urban League under Floyd Covington, became the Urban League Executive Director in 1950 and served as such until 1968. The decade of the ’50s set the tone for expansion and change which determined the momentum for the Civil Rights Movement in the ‘60s. The Urban League’s agenda included employment development, training and placement, civil rights, discrimination in housing, health, and education.
Brazier sought more ways for the Urban League to extend its outreach to the youth in the community. Consequently, the LAUL became involved in more youth projects and issues. In 1952, the LAUL joined the newly formed Welfare Planning Council Committee which focused on institutional care of Negro children by social service agencies. A year later, the Urban League’s efforts were realized when the Willowbrook Health Center was opened to provide prenatal and well baby services as well as traditional health center service.
In 1952, ten ladies formed the Los Angeles Urban League Guild. A volunteer arm of the LAUL, the Guild included women with experience and knowledge of business, health and welfare, education and social-civic organizations.
During the early ‘60s, the population of Blacks increased by 111.8%. The total population of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Metropolitan area was 6,742,696 of whom 464,717 were Black. The Los Angeles Urban League engaged in programs aimed at providing more adequate services for the Black population by developing training programs for skilled and semi-skilled workers and initiating projects designed to provide solutions to the problems of ghetto residents in the areas of employment and education.
The John Mack Era
In 1968, the Pasadena Foothill branch of the Los Angeles Urban League opened to support League operations throughout the San Gabriel Valley. This same year, Brazier resigned as Executive Director of LAUL to head an equal opportunities program for the Los Angeles Defense Department; and the leadership of the Los Angeles Urban League was awarded to the Honorable John Mack who served from 1968 until his retirement in 2005.
A consummate bridge builder, Mack was able to create connections with disparate groups and he made sure communities of color were represented in both, the corporate board rooms and city hall. From Mayor Tom Bradley through Mayor Richard Riordan to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, he always worked to find common ground and create positive change.
John W. Mack retired in July of 2005 after serving as President of the Los Angeles Urban League for 36 years. During his tenure, the LAUL experienced incredible growth, offering numerous programs and services at six sites and 33 Headstart locations throughout the area, a total staff of 280 and an annual budget of $25 million.
The Los Angeles Urban League is now poised to begin, again, the journey that started in 1921 under its first leader Katherine Barr – to help the underserved communities in Los Angeles to participate to the fullest extent in American life by helping to change the social and economic conditions of their environment
Thanks to the support of our corporate and community partners, donors, volunteers and staff, Los Angeles Urban League continues to educate and empower African Americans and other minorities to secure economic self-reliance and civil rights by providing targeted social programs and advocating for issues that benefit our communities.