Andrew Young @ ASU!

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Ambassador Andrew Young speaking at ASU's Abernathy auditorium (photo credit: David Campbell/ASU).

Civil Rights Icon Andrew Young Keynote Speaker at ASU's Civil Rights Symposium

- A top aide to Dr. King, the Alabama native also gained prominence in government and diplomacy.

- ASU and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education co-sponsored the Black History Month event.

By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU 

A top aide to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the Civil Rights Movement, Ambassador Andrew Young, was the featured speaker at Alabama State University's Civil Rights Symposium, which was held on Feb. 16 in ASU’s Ralph David Abernathy Auditorium. 

Young spoke of his reverence and love for Alabama State University. 

"Every time that I am blessed to be on the campus of Alabama State, I get chills up and down my spine - including today -  which is because of my personal memories of the magnificent and important role that it, and its faculty and students played in the history of Black folks in the creation of the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, and its leadership throughout the nation's modern Civil Rights Movement," said Young, who served as the country's first Black ambassador to the United Nations.


The symposium began with a welcome from Dr. Carl S. Pettis, ASU's provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, who along with associate provost, Dr. Tanjula Petty, did the 'heavy lifting' in coordinating the program. The  Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE), under the leadership of the organization’s president, Dr. James Purcell, provided a grant to help fund the symposium.  

"We are thrilled to hold this symposium on our campus with the support of ACHE, so that we may impart the knowledge of the past to our students who are the leaders of the future," Pettis said. 

Associate Provost Petty spoke to the origin of the program. 

"University President Ross came up with the idea for the campus wide symposium after spending some time with Ambassador Young and delegated it to us to 'make it happen.' The event is important for ASU because it helps the school live up to its mission and vision of the core values of our Strategic Plan, which is all about us providing a positive impact for our students and our community," stated Petty. 


During his speech, Young reflected several times on ASU's importance to both himself and the civil rights movement, which he witnessed firsthand on the campus beginning in 1960.

"I was here at Alabama State as a young man and as a member of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee); and using ASU as a sort of headquarters for Central and South Alabama, as we worked on such momentous projects on campus as the voting rights campaign for the Black Belt, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and so much more," said Young. "Dr. King, who lived just blocks from campus, SNCC's John Lewis, and I recognized ASU as unique because of its students and faculty who many were the foot-soldiers of the movement. It was also incredible how many of the Civil Rights Movement's top echelon of leaders were graduates or faculty of the University."

Young recited the names of many of those courageous University alumni, including King’s right hand “general,” Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy (Class of 1950); King's lawyer, Fred Gray (Class of 1951), recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the fearless leader of the Birmingham Movement, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (Class of 1951); and the leader of the Selma Movement, Rev. F.D. Reese (Class of 1951), recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. Young also spoke about several ASU professors — Jo Ann RobinsonThelma Glass and Mary Fair Burks — who were central to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.


At the age of 95, Ambassador Young still retains the passion of a young man in his quest for equal justice.

"If anything that I say here today is remembered, it is that student activism must play a larger role in the modern human rights movement if we are to see Dr. King's ideal of a 'Beloved Community' take place and transform the old ways of jealousy and hate to love and acceptance. I expect no less from ASU's students and of those others enrolled in any of the nation's HBCUs. Our HBCUs were the citadel for most all of the student protests of the 1960's. They helped us get the right to vote for Black citizens, they were among the leaders present at Bloody Sunday on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge, and we need them to again rise up, make some noise and help modern America keep its eyes on the prize."


Among those in attendance at the symposium was Montgomery's first Black police chief and the first Black president of the FBI National Academy, Art Baylor, who said he came to ASU to pay homage to someone who helped change his life for the better.

"I am here today to honor Mr. Young because he served as an advocate for me and for so many other aspiring Black men and women…Before Young's peaceful fight for freedom, the only time a Black man ever saw the inside of the Montgomery Police Department was when he was in handcuffs or when he was washing its floor,” Baylor said. “Because of what Young and…Dr. King did in standing up for millions of born and yet unborn Black children, I became the chief of police in a city once infamous worldwide for racial strife and segregation. Thanks for your bravery, Mr. Young.”

Following the symposium, attendees lined up for autographed copies of Young’s latest book titled “The Many Lives of Andrew Young,” which chronicles the life and legacy of the influential civil and human rights activist, politician and historic icon.


Andrew Young, a native of Marion, Ala., was one of Dr. King's top-aides and is a nationally acclaimed Civil Rights Movement leader who was active in almost all of the struggles for equality during the 1960s, including voter registration in Alabama's Black-Belt counties, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the Birmingham Freedom Movement. Young was with Dr. King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. 

Ambassador Young’s lifelong dedication to service is further illustrated by his extensive political leadership experience of more than 65 years, having served as a member of Congress, as the first African-American U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as mayor of Atlanta. Young also is an ordained minister.

To view the full program, visit Youtube link

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.