President 1982 - 1994
The 1980's was the beginning of a new era of challenges that threatened the progress of the civil rights movement. Under the Reagan administration, the War on Drugs marked the beginning of mass incarceration that disproportionately impacted the Black community.
John Edward Jacob entered the Urban League as social worker by trade and served as the director of education and youth initiates in San Diego and Washington D.C. affiliates respectively. When he became President of the National Urban League in 1982, he outlined his strategy to protect the progress of African Americans from the civil rights movement in an address in Greenville, South Carolina.
Out of that address, a series of programs addressing teen pregnancy, single female-head households, crime, and voter apathy manifested themselves in the form of public awareness campaigns. When Congress proposed substantial cuts to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (AFDC), the National Urban League and sixteen affiliates held public hearings on how the cuts would impact poor families.
The release of the report, Don't Just Stand There and Kill Me, along with pressure from partners, led to Congress reducing the number of cuts. Under Jacob, the Urban League emphasized the responsibility the Black family played in protecting our progress.
In 1984, the Urban League jointly convened a Black Family Summit at Fisk University with the NAACP. The Summit brought educators, social workers, community activists, and other professionals together to layout at a strategy on how to protect the black family.
His focus on protecting young people and ensuring that they had opportunities to advance their lives, led to the development of The Crime Prevention Program, Youth Speak Out Days and, in 1990, the National Urban League Incentives To Excel and Succeed (NULITES).
In a 2010 interview Jacob praised the election of President Barack Obama and the work the Urban League has done to protect programs to benefit the Black community, but said there is work to be done.
"The problem is not only how do we maintain public attention for our movement, but also how do we use our power wisely?"
Curated by Michael Tomlin-Crutchfield