The National Urban League grew out of that spontaneous grassroots movement for freedom and opportunity that came to be called the Black Migrations. When the U.S. Supreme Court declared its approval of segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, what had been a trickle of African Americans northward turned into a flood. Those newcomers to the North soon discovered they had not escaped racial discrimination in jobs, housing, education, and more. Still, African Americans remained optimistic about opportunity, leading to the formation of The Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes was established in 1910 in New York City. A year later, the Committee merged with two other organizations to form the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (renamed in 1920 to the National Urban League.)
In 1963 four Madisonians commissioned a feasibility study on the burgeoning population of the city’s Black citizens. By the time the study was completed the following year, the Friends of the Urban League, which included a diverse group of people from different cultural and faith communities, had grown to almost 40 members. The group's first attempt to secure funds to establish an Urban League were rejected on the grounds that “discrimination as it exists in other communities does not exist in Madison.” However, on February 20, 1968, the National Urban League approved the application of the Friends of the Urban League for affiliation and a movement for justice and education was born in Madison. Click here to download a 40-year retrospective on the Urban League of Greater Madison.
To make Greater Madison the “Best [place] in the Midwest” for everyone to live, learn, and work by 2020.
The mission of the Urban League of Greater Madison is to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good in the 21st Century.
The ULGM will continue to realize its vision through a comprehensive strategic empowerment agenda that includes the deployment and expansion of programs and services, advocacy, partnerships, and coalition building within the following three Strands of Empowerment. Through these strands, we will build a stronger bridge between education and work; provide more pathways for young people and adults to secure a quality education, employment and grow professionally; and help transform Greater Madison into a place where everyone can succeed, thrive, and enjoy raising their families.
Live: Ensuring that citizens reside in healthy and safe communities that provide equal opportunities for social engagement, cultural expression, and healthy living. In October 2011, we announced our efforts to establish the South Madison Promise Zone Initiative. Through this effort, we and our partners seek to transform a low-income community with a legacy of limited community resources, high percentages of unemployed and underemployed adults, and high rates of underachievement among young people into a model oasis of opportunity, cultural exchange and success for children, adults and families who reside there. We will support and engage in other similar initiatives as well.
Learn: Building a pipeline of high quality cradle-to-career educational services that impact the entire family, eliminate the achievement and education gaps, move all children towards high performance, and prepare youth and adults for career success. Presently, the Urban League of Greater Madison is one of Dane County’s largest providers of programs aimed at increasing student achievement in core academic areas and preparing them to realize their college and career dreams. ULGM accomplishes this through school-based academic tutoring, college and career exposure, planning and preparation programs, youth leadership skill development activities, and much more.
Work: Making Greater Madison the best place for African Americans and others to work in the Midwest. The ULGM is already one of Greater Madison’s premiere providers of career development training and job placement assistance for unemployed and underemployed adults. We will work to expand our employment training options and business partnerships to serve more of this population. We will also address the needs for career advancement, professional development and job search needs of diverse management and executive level talent in the Greater Madison region.