Famous Person: Andrew Young

Related Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights

Grade Level: 4th/5th

Author: Shanna Howell

Link to:

Time Allotment
Resources Needed


"We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome, someday.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday."

(Roberts, 1983)

These are the words of a song from the Civil Rights Movement. Andrew Young was one of Americaís great leaders for this movement. He felt very strongly about the rights of Black Americans. He felt that everyone, Black or White, should have equal rights. Andrew fought along the side of Martin Luther King, Jr. and continued the work after King's death. The Civil Rights Movement required many dedicated and determined souls. Andrew Young was one of these determined souls. Andrew believed in using love instead of hate to settle disagreements. He accomplished many wonderful things to help Martin Luther's Dream live on.

On March 12, 1932, Andrew "Andy" Young was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Andrew came from a very rich background. His father was a dentist and his mother was a school teacher. His parents were always very supportive of Andrew and his brother Walter. His parents always taught them the importance of religion and education. Andrew was always taught to treat others with respect. When Andrew was very young, he noticed that some people did not treat others with respect. He began to realize that Whites and Blacks were treated differently. Andrew, his family, and his Black friends were not allowed to go to the same schools, restaurants, or use the same public bathrooms as the White people. This made Andrew curious as to why someoneís skin color should make any difference. He wanted to know how he could change this.

As a child, Andrew was very small in stature. His father often worried that Andrew couldnít fend for himself. His father hired a boxer to teach Andy how to fight. But, this is when Andy decided that there are better ways to settle a fight. He decided he would talk it out instead of fight it out. Andrew's motto was, "Don't get mad, Get Smart! "Andrew believed that the most powerful weapon you have is your mind (Young, 1996, pg. 24). He indeed lived up to these words. In 1947, at the age of fifteen, Andy graduated from Gilbert Academy, a private school in New Orleans. He attended a year at Dillard University, a Black University. In 1947, Andy transferred to Howard University, in Washington D.C. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree at age nineteen. Andrew was still very uncertain what he wanted to do. He felt that he had another purpose in life. The following summer he volunteered to work for six months with the United Christian Youth Movement.

While working for the United Christian Youth Movement he decided this was the best work anyone could do. He knew it was important for people to help each other and he loved working with teens of all races. By the end of his volunteer assignment Andrew had made a very important decision, he wanted to be a minister.

In 1952, he attended Hartford Theological Seminary. Andrew enjoyed learning about the worldís great religious leaders, especially Mohandas Gandhi, This was a man who had shown the people of India how to settle their disagreements peacefully. This was the first time Andrew learned of Leaders settling problems peacefully. Andrew really liked this idea.

Each summer the students were assigned a community to preach and work at. The summer of 1952, Andrew was assigned to Marion, Alabama. This is where he met his future wife, Jean Childs. They had many of the same beliefs and the same goals for life. They were married in 1954. Andrew received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1955 (Roberts, 1983). Now his work would begin. He was convinced that he could "change this country without violence" (Current Biography, 1977 ).

Andrew began preaching religion throughout Georgia. He would visit poor rural communities that were in great need of a minister. After preaching religion Andrew believed he needed to do more. He decided to talk about voting. In the South, the Blacks were not allowed to vote, but Andrew was determined to change this. He taught and encouraged the Black people to vote. He wanted to spread the message that "we are as free as we dare to be" ( Young, 1996).

Andrew returned to the South and settled in Atlanta, Georgia with Jean and his three daughters. He was the director of a voter registration project. He would with talk with Martin Luther and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) on certain issues. Andrew decided to join the SCLC in 1971. He was a very strong leader of this organization. Andrewís main job was working behind the scenes, usually organizing marches and planning demonstrations.

In 1963, Martin Luther gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Andrew participated in this. During this time Andrew was actively involved in many organizations and committees. He helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He often marched front line with Martin Luther King, Jr. and was the director of many of the demonstrations.

In 1968, King was assassinated. Andy began thinking about the future and how he could make changes for the Black people. Young was made Executive Vice President of the SCLC where he began the Poor People's Campaign. This campaign was to help the poor. Towards the end of 60's the peace movement began growing and the SCLC was no longer strong enough to take on any national issues. Young became convinced that the only way to make a difference was in politics. Andrew decided run for Congress. There had been no Black representatives for the South since the 1880's. He lost the election because many of the White people were unsure about some of his opinions. In 1972, Andrew decided to run again. This time he won. Andrew and Barbara Jordan, were the first two Blacks to be in Congress for a long time. He served very diligently and fought for many rights. The first year of being in Congress, Andrew became a father to his only son, Andrew Jackson Young III. He was reelected again for two more terms. During his third term, Andrew was asked by Jimmy Carter, the President of the United States, to be an Ambassador to the United Nations. After giving this much thought, he decided he could help other countries understand the United States better. He spoke out on many different issues. He made friends all over the world, especially in Africa. Andrew resigned from this position in 1979.

After leaving the United Nations, Andrew began a group called Young Ideas. He helped groups and organizations to work on public issues in the United States and other countries. Andrew decided to run for mayor of Atlanta, Georgia and he took office in 1982. During this time he continued to peacefully fight for and protect the rights of all people.

Andrew Young has indeed been a great example to all. He is a man of great self-control, service, dedication, and leadership. Andrew received a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. There are numerous lessons to be learned from such a great man as Andrew Young. And hopefully, someday the song that Andrew sang will become a reality, "We shall overcome."



(1977). Current Biography Andrew Young. New York: H.W. Wilson.

Roberts, Naurice. (1983). Andrew Young, Freedom Fighter. Regensteiner Publishing Enterprise, Inc.

Young, Andrew, (1996). An Easy Burden The Civil Rights Movement and The Transformation of America. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc



  • Students will recognize how the Blacks were treated before the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Students will recognize that one effective way to voice your own opinion is through peaceful marches.
  • Students will make a visual representation of the contributions Andrew Young made to the Civil Rights Movement by making a timeline of his life.
  • Students will identify the contributions Andrew Young made to the Civil Rights Movement and what it would be like if this Movement never took place.
  • Students will gain an understanding of the rights they enjoy now and how Blacks in the past did not have some of these rights.

Time Allotment:

Approximately five to six days will be need to complete this mini-unit.

Resources Needed:

  • The book, Andrew Young, Freedom Fighter
  • Purple and orange paper and string to go around the childís neck to hold the paper
  • Supplies to make posters (poster board, markers, sturdy sticks, etc.)
  • Picture of Andrew Young at a demonstration (there are pictures of Andrew in both books in reference section)



  1. Think-Pair-Share: Individually, have students think of various rights that they have. In pairs have students share the rights that they thought of. In a large group have students contribute to a class list of all the various rights that people in the class have.


  2. Mini-lecture: Explain that for many years African Americans were slaves and that even after they were freed, they did not have the same rights as Whites. Many people worked to get Blacks equal rights. Show the students a picture of Andrew Young at a protest or along the sides of Martin Luther King. Explain that Andrew Young was one of the many individuals that helped the peaceful demonstrations be a success. Explain that Andrew worked for civil rights, the basic rights and freedoms of citizens.


  3. Timeline: Read the students the book, Andrew Young,Freedom Fighter. Have the students listen for major events in Andrew's life. Discuss the contributions Andrew made for the Civil Rights Movement. The students will then make a timeline of Andrews life and his accomplishments (an example of a timeline is in the Appendix). Place the timelines through out the room for the students to see Andrew's accomplishments and contributions to the movement.


  4. Creative Writing: Give the students the following writing assignment to be completed in their journals or as a separate, individual assignment: Pretend you are a Black fifth grader living in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. During the past week you have been treated very poorly by some of the Whites in your town. For instance, your best friend is White and has informed you that she/he is not allowed to play with you anymore because you are Black. You and your family are not allowed to eat at your favorite restaurant because they no longer serve Blacks and you have to give up your seat on the bus to a White person. Write a letter to Andrew Young expressing your feelings (examples of feelings; sad, treated unfairly, unjust, different, unequal, etc). Explain what you would like him to do to help you (examples of what Andrew can do: continue to demonstrate peacefully, continue fighting for the rights of Blacks, etc) and what you are willing to do to help other Blacks (examples of what they are willing to do:write letters, attend protests, learn more about peaceful demonstrations, encourage other Blacks to fight for their rights). Express in this letter how someday you hope to have the same rights that Whites have (examples of what they might hope for:: hope that someday I will not be judged by the color of my skin, I hope I can go to the same resturants as the Whites, and I hope I can play with my White friends).


  5. Simulation: Give half of the students a purple sign to place around their necks. Give the rest of the students an orange sign to place around their necks. Tell the students that for the entire day the students with the purple signs have to sit in a designated area of the room (they will be placed in the back corner of the class). They also are not allowed to use the same drinking fountain and during lunch all the purple people need to sit in a certain area. The orange people always get to go first, they line up first, they go to recess first, they get to eat first, and they have all the rights. Have a limited area on the playground for the purple people to play on. Towards the end of the day, bring all of the students together and have them remove their signs. Discuss how they felt during this activity, both the purple and orange people. Discuss how it relates to how the African Americans were treated. Discuss how they would feel if this is really how they were treated. Ask the students how Andrew Young and other leaders helped change the rights of Blacks.


  6. Protest: The students will learn the reason that Andrew participated in peaceful demonstrations (to fight for their rights, to send out a message, to make changes). Have the class brainstorm ideas on what they want to change in their school. Discuss an issue that the majority of the class agrees on. Discuss what changes need to be made and how they can bring about this change. Have students make up posters and prepare speeches on the issue that they want to change (if some students do not agree on the change have them peacefully protest against it). Have the students march around their school with their signs and have them give their speeches. After the students have their peaceful demonstration have a class discussion. Discuss feelings about their speeches and what they can accomplish by doing peaceful demonstrations. Discuss why this was an effective way to voice an opinion.


  7. Learning Journal: Have students write in a learning journal. They should record three important things that they learned about Andrew Young and the Civil Rights Movement. They should also record what life would be like if the Civil Rights Movement never happened.



  • Assess the students contributions to Think-Pair-Share informally by observing the group lists of rights.
  • Assess the students understanding of Andrew's role in the movement by the questions and comments made during the mini-lecture.
  • Assess the students timelines by checking the dates and events listed.
  • Assess the students understanding of how the Blacks were treated by reading their independent writing. Informally assess their understanding of what Andrew Young can do to help them have the same rights as Whites.
  • Assess the students participation in the simulation informally. Make sure everyone follows the rules. Informally assess how doing this activity changed the way the students normally interact.
  • Assess the students ability to protest peacefully by ensuring that it is done peacefully and thoughtfully. The teacher will also assess their understanding by the speeches given and the posters made.
  • Assess the students understanding of the Civil Rights Movement by reading their learning journals. Check for understanding of how Blacks were treated before the Civil Rights Movement and how it would be today if the Movement never took place.






Time Line


Andrew Young



1932 Born March 12, New Orleans, Louisiana

1947 Graduated from Gilbert Academy at age fifteen

1951 Graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

1952 Began working as student minister in Marion, Alabama

1954 Married Jean Childs, June 7

1955 Graduated from Hartford Theological Seminary

1961 Joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC

1963 Helped organize march on Washington

1964 Worked on passage of Civil Rights Act

1965 Worked on Voting Rights Act

1968 Helped organize Poor Peopleís Campaign

1972 Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, first black congressman from Georgia in 101 years

1974 Reelected to Congress for second term

1976 Reelected to Congress for third term

1979 Resigned as U.S. ambassador on September 23

1980-81 President of Young Ideas; columnist for the Los Angeles Times

1981 Elected Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia




Roberts, Naurice. (1983). Andrew Young Freedom Fighter. Regemsteiner Publishing Enterprise, Inc.