Indianapolis Urban League


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NEW YORK (June 2, 2023) – Just a few weeks after taking the reins of the nation’s largest historic civil rights organization, Marc H. Morial delivered his first “State of the Urban League” keynote address at the Conference in Pittsburgh, laying out a bold, 5-point Empowerment Agenda that would come to define the next two decades of civil rights leadership.

Twenty years later, these five points stand enshrined as the National Urban League’s five pillars: Jobs and Economic Empowerment, Education and Youth Development, Health and Quality of Life, Housing and Community Development, Justice, and Civic Engagement.

As the first elected official to lead the National Urban League, Morial has brought an unprecedented political savvy and deep comprehension of the inner workings of government not just to the Urban League, but to the entire 21st Century Civil Rights Movement.

In that prophetic speech in Pittsburgh 20 years ago, Marc said “We must enthusiastically embrace our heritage as a civil rights organization that promotes racial justice, from employment to police violence, from redistricting issues to racial profiling.” Since then, Morial has marshaled the forces that mobilized to defeat the lynching brute “Jim Crow” to battle his treacherous, gerrymandering son “James Crow, Esquire,” and now stands just as defiantly against his tiki-torch-carrying grandson, “Jimmy Crow.”

Morial’s 20th anniversary will be reflected among the key themes of the National Urban League Conference in Houston on July 26, through 29, through an examination of how the nation has changed and how the racial justice movement has evolved.  As a literal child of the Civil Rights Movement whose activist parents’ courtship began over “an intense conversation about Brown v. Board of Education,” Morial’s perspective is sweeping and unique.

Key milestones:

  • June 2, 2003 — Marc H. Morial, former two-term mayor of New Orleans, becomes the first elected official to hold the office of President and CEO of the National Urban League.
  • July 27, 2003 — Morial outlines the 5-point Empowerment Agenda: Education & Youth, Economic Empowerment, Health & Quality of Life, Civic Engagement, and Civil Rights & Racial Justice, during the National Urban League Conference in Pittsburgh
  • March 24, 2004 — Inaugural Legislative Policy Conference opens with the release of the first State of Black America report to include the Equality Index, a tool to compare the social and economic status of Black and white Americans
  • May 2004 – Ebony magazine honors Morial as one of the 100+ Most Influential Black Americans
  • October 18, 2005 — Morial’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, a key element of the League’s successful advocacy for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.  
  • October 14, 2005 — Katrina Bill of Rights, establishes a framework for protecting and aiding Gulf Coast residents working to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina
  • 2006 –Launch of Project Ready, a comprehensive program to prepare high school students for college, work, and life
  • August 15, 2007 – Publication of Opportunity Compact: Blueprint for Economic Equity, detailing policy recommendations to empower all Americans
  • March 6, 2008 – Morial declares a homeowner’s state of emergency and issues the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.  National Urban League responds to the Great Recession, advocating for targeted relief for hard-hit urban neighborhoods and enhanced social service initiatives.
  • July 1, 2009 – A four-star rating from Charity Navigator places National Urban League in the top 10% of U.S. charities for good governance, fiscal responsibility, and other best practices.
  • March 2, 2010 – “I Am Empowered” centennial campaign celebrating 100 years of advocacy and empowerment, unveiled on NBC’s Today show
  • December 2011 – Induction to the National Parks Service International Civil Rights Walk of Fame
  • June 25, 2013 –U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision, gutting the Voting Rights Act, triggers an escalation of voting rights advocacy and civic engagement efforts.
  • August 24, 2013 – Realize the Dream March and Rally commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington
  • December 18, 2014 — Appointment to President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created in response to the unjustified use of deadly force against Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and others
  • November 9, 2016 – The election of President Donald Trump, prompted a unified response by legacy civil rights organizations, led by the National Urban League, to a surge of racial hostility, hate crimes, and discriminatory public policies.
  • August 2, 2017 – NonProfit Times names Morial as one of the nation’s Top 50 nonprofit executives
  • July 18, 2019 –National Urban League announces future relocation to Harlem and construction of 425,000 square-foot Urban League Empowerment Center
  • March 16, 2020 – National Urban League sounds the alarm about the racially disparate impact of the burgeoning coronavirus crisis, commencing an intense advocacy and direct relief campaign later to be called The Urban League Fights For You.
  • May 5, 2020 – Publication of The Gumbo Coalition: 10 Leadership Lessons That Help You Inspire, Unite, and Achieve
  • April 26, 2021 — 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Public Trust establishes a framework for criminal justice advocacy
  • November 12, 2022 – Premiere of Gumbo Coalition, a documentary on Morial’s work, along with Janet Murgia of UnidosUS, confronting the challenges of 2020