Indianapolis Urban League

Mission & History


The Indianapolis Urban League’s mission is to empower African-Americans and disadvantaged individuals to achieve social and economic equality and improved quality of living through programs, services, and advocacy in education, workforce development, entrepreneurship, health, and housing.

Five-Point Strategy

The Indianapolis Urban League employs a five-point strategy tailored to local needs in order to implement the mission of our movement:

Education and Youth Empowerment: Ensuring that all of our children are well educated and prepared for economic self-reliance in the 21st century through our signature programs.

Economic Empowerment: Empowering all people to attain economic self-sufficiency through job training, good jobs, home ownership, entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation.

Health and Quality of Life Empowerment: Working to build healthy and safe communities and to eliminate health disparities through prevention, healthy eating, fitness, as well as access to affordable healthcare.

Civic Engagement and Leadership Empowerment: Empowering all people to take an active role in determining the direction, leadership, public policy and quality of life in their communities by full participation as citizens and voters, as well as through active community service and leadership development.

Civil Rights and Racial Justice Empowerment: Promoting and ensuring civil rights by actively working to eradicate all barriers to equal participation in all aspects of American society, whether political, economic, social, educational or cultural.


The Urban League Movement

The Urban League is the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream. It is the premier social service and civil rights organization in America.

The Urban League movement was founded in 1910. The National Urban League, headquartered in New York City, spearheads our nonprofit, nonpartisan, community-based organization. The League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community based movement. The heart of the Urban League movement is our professionally staffed Urban League across the nation. In 2019, there were 90 Urban League affiliates nationwide.

The Indianapolis Urban League was founded in the fall of 1965 as a non-profit, non-partisan, interracial community-based social service/civil rights organization. The Indianapolis affiliate is one of three affiliates in the State of Indiana and is funded by the United Way of Central Indiana, individuals, organizations, businesses, and government bodies.

Leading to the establishment of the Indianapolis Urban League, committees were established, made up of numerous influential business, religious, civic, and community leaders. As local interest to establish this affiliate intensified, the National Urban League provided the needed leadership and organizational expertise. When the Indianapolis Urban League was organized, the Association for Merit Employment turned over its role in equal employment opportunity to the League.

Thus from its earliest beginnings, the Indianapolis Urban League has provided job counseling, referrals and advocacy for equal employment opportunity for minorities, information and referral to other social services, housing counseling, dissemination of information regarding the special concerns of our community, and has been a leading “Bridge Builder” for improved race relations.

During the early history of the Indianapolis Urban League, the community was hostile to such a social service agency being organized. Nonetheless, the League persevered and hired Mr. Sam H. Jones, a young man from a small town in Mississippi with previous Urban League experience, to be its Executive Director, later changed to President, in 1966. The first few years were difficult.

Through perseverance and with the support of many churches, organizations, and individuals, the Indianapolis Urban League has become a strong and respected entity in Indianapolis. In 2001, the League realized one of the long standing visions of its President. It moved into its new headquarters on Indiana Avenue, The Sam H. Jones Indianapolis Urban League Center.