By Cheryl Oestreicher, Project Archivist, Jean Childs Young Papers
A surprise while processing the Andrew J. Young Papers was the extent of the material from his wife of 40 years, Jean Childs Young. Though her role as Andrew’s wife raised her to prominence locally, nationally, and internationally, she also forged her own identity and career, now reflected in the Jean Childs Young Papers. Her activism extended to the Civil Rights Movement, education, children, women, African-Americans, and many other political and social interests.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Jean participated in voter registrations and marches, picketed Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta, and also developed curriculum for the Citizenship Schools (coordinated by Andrew Young, Septima Clark, and Dorothy Cotton) of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She also opened their home to members of the movement for meetings and meals, including student volunteers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During and after the Civil Rights Movement, Jean worked for the improvement of education. With both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education, Jean served as an elementary school teacher, coordinator of curriculum for Atlanta Public Schools, helped establish Atlanta Junior College (now Atlanta Metropolitan College), and founded the Mayor’s Task Force on Education. She was also involved with Teacher Corps, APPLE Corps (Atlanta Parents and Public Linked for Education), Georgia Alliance for Public Education, and Outward Bound. In honor of her contributions, the renovated Southwest High School was renamed the Jean Childs Young Middle School.
Jean’s most notable contribution to children’s welfare was when President Jimmy Carter appointed her as chair of the 1979 International Year of the Child, a program where more than 100 countries participated to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Other organizations she participated in include the Children’s Defense Fund, Georgia Council on Child Abuse, Inc., Families First, Council on Children, Child Abuse Task Force, UNICEF, Girls Club, and Jack and Jill, Inc.
In 1970, Jean founded the group “Women for Andrew Young,” the first local campaign geared towards women, which reconvened for all seven of Andrew’s campaigns. She was active in the Atlanta-Fulton League of Women Voters, Georgia and National Federations of Democratic Women, Equal Rights Amendment, Team Defense Project, Inc., Coalition of Black Women in Atlanta, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, SCLC/WOMEN, Cambodian Crisis Committee, and the African Liberation Movement. She was also honored as Georgia’s 1983 Democratic Woman of the Year.
Above: Notes about integrating black studies into elementary school curriculum, late 1960s
Above: Brochure from the League of Women Voters of Atlanta-Fulton County, 1970
Above: Kindergarteners at a milk break in Moundou, South Chad, 1979
The Jean Childs Young Papers are currently closed to researchers and are expected to be open in late 2010. The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History is the first library of its kind in the southeast offering specialized reference and archival collections for the study and research of African cultures. For more information visit our website.
"Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations" is a collaborative project between Emory University, the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University and the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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