The History of AUL
The Akron Urban League has been serving the community for almost 100 years, starting in 1918 when Akron was tasked with meeting the social needs of its increasing black population.
A Long and Local History
A group of black citizens asked the local Y.M.C.A. for assistance. Attorney Thomas E. Green, Reverend R.A. Jones, Reverend E.J. Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Williams Hardy, and Mrs. Elbertha Turner headed the initiative.
In response, the Y.M.C.A. hired George W. Thompson to coordinate black activities.
Unfortunately, very little was accomplished during this timeframe.
Homer C. Campbell, Assistant Treasurer of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, met with T.M. Fletcher, who was advocating for black youth. Campbell ultimately brought the problems of this population to the attention of Harvey S. Firestone, Sr.
- The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company pledged $10,000 administered by the Better Akron Federation for work with black community citizens.
- The money was governed by a Board of Trustees responsible for intelligently allocating the public funds.
- A five-member committee was also appointed to study and make recommendations on the social needs of blacks in the community.
- The committee consisted of:
- University of Akron President, Dr. Park Noble
- Vice President of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, C.W. Seiberling
- President of Babcox Publishing Company, E.S. Babcox
- President of Depositors Savings and Trust Company, Charles Herberick
- Attorney J.B. Huber
- Assistant Treasurer of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, Homer C. Campbell
- A meeting was called at Firestone’s home to reveal the committee’s work, where George W. Thompson, the black secretary at the Y.M.C.A., was in attendance. That night, the Association for Colored Community Work, also known as “the Association,” was born.
- In the beginning, the Association operated under two separate boards:
- The Board of Trustees – a white governing body responsible for the agency finances and controlling property titles.
- The Board of Directors – a group of black men responsible for creating programs to meet black community citizens’ needs while maximizing the agency’s limited facilities and budget.
During these years, the Association was established as a clearinghouse for overseeing problems where black people were involved. For example, the Association helped aid adjustment in places of employment where race was a factor. They assisted in developing projects, such as Elizabeth Park, and advocated for blacks in workplaces like public schools and rubber factories.
Before the formation of Akron’s Association, a policy-driven organization was founded in New York in 1910 called “The National Urban League.” The guiding principle of the Urban League was: “Let us not work as colored people nor as white people for the narrow benefit of any group alone, but together as American citizens for the common good of our common city, our common country.” Akron became the newest National Urban League affiliate in March 1925.
Thompson continued to see more in the future for black people in Akron.
Thompson hired University of Akron student Raymond R. Brown to help run the Association. Under the leadership of Thompson and Brown, the agency’s name was changed from “The Association for Colored Community Work” to “The Akron Community Service Center”. However, the Center’s impact was significantly hampered due to its Perkins Street location.
The new Akron Community Service Center and Urban League were constructed at 250 E. Market Street included all the amenities that were lacking for the black community. The community center was fully equipped with a gymnasium, swimming pool, meeting rooms, classrooms, library, lounges, and a kitchen. In the 1960s, an auditorium was added. The new location became a safe haven for the black community, offering recreational programs for children and adults when no other facilities in Akron would allow them through the doors.
The Akron Urban League has served the community for more than 50 years. The Akron Urban League moved to its new facility and remains a solid foundation in Akron. Throughout its history, it has served thousands of people by providing programs and services that emphasize education, job training, economic development, anti-violence, health and wellness, and mentoring. It remains one of 88 affiliates of the National Urban League and continues to be a driving force behind the employment of minority workers in the community.
In our new home on Vernon Odom Boulevard since the early 2000s, we are dedicated to creating new programs, expanding our reach, and investing in the economic success of the community. We strive to connect and build community. It is our goal to prepare our citizens for rewarding work and careers, entrepreneurship and small business growth, and homeownership/ wealth creation. Every day we work to reduce health and racial disparities; improve services for people of color and marginalized populations, and increase the inclusivity of our environment for staff, clients, and Akron. We continue to underscore these efforts when we host community conversations, workshops, and training, as well as special events that highlight civic engagement. We are the voice for the underserved in our community!