Civil rights movement: a new chapter

A new, uncertain chapter in America's civil rights movement has now begun. What the passing of Roy Wilkins, retired leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the resignation of Vernon Jordan as president of the National Urban League will ultimately mean in terms of black progress through legislation, in the courts, and in urban neighborhoods throughout the United States is unknown.

But, according to a number of prominent civil rights and religious leaders, both leaders will be sorely missed.

Messrs. Wilkins and Jordan, whose careers sometimes crisscrossed in street demonstrations in the South and the corridors of the White House, were often branded "Uncle Tom" by more militant blacks. But both men, who ardently decried nonviolence and cooperation as keys to black progress, were hailed as both the most effective civil rights champions since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

But while blacks expressed misgivings about the future of the civil rights organization, Mr. Jordan said at a press conference Sept. 9 that he left "secure in the knowledge that the National Urban League is strong fiscally and programatically, and that it has the depth of talent to take a change in leadership in stride."

Coy G. Eklund, chairman of the board of the National Urban League, praised Mr. Jordan's leadership and agreed with him that the league has the strength and capability "to continue to thrive."

Jordan explained that his resignation "is based on the belief that it is time for a change, personally and institutionally. For the past 21 years -- all of my professional life -- the civil rights movement has been my vineyard. . . ."

having served the league since 1971, Jordan said he will become a partner in the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld in Washington.

Horace W. Morris, executive director New York Urban League, one of the largest chapters, states that Mr. Jordan's departure will create acute self-examination within the agency and will leave a leadership void.

He praised Jordan as a singular speaker, and said the absence of his dynamic voice would be particularly felt. Often likened to an actor, Jordan made some 1 ,000 speeches during his leadership.

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