Andrew Young the Ambassador

By Cheryl Oestreicher, Project Archivist, Auburn Avenue Research Library

“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, 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. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.

For more information about the collection described in this post, please contact the Archives at Auburn Avenue Research Library, aarl [dot] archives [at] fultoncountyga [dot] gov

After winning the 1976 Presidential election, Jimmy Carter said he had one person in particular to thank – Andrew Young, and appointed him to United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Winning Senate approval with an 89-3 vote, on January 30, 1977, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall swore him into his new position. As Carter joked Young was the first Cabinet member to receive more applause then the President, Young became the highest ranked and, at times, the most controversial African-American in the country.

While Ambassador, Young helped develop of foreign policies across the world, focusing on human rights issues. He met with leaders from many African nations, including Namibia, Nigeria, Mozambique, and South Africa, and was involved with Southern Rhodesia’s transition to the new nation of Zimbabwe. He also facilitated relations with Mexico, the Caribbean nations, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. While he traveled to many of these countries, he also hosted world leaders in his apartment at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Andrew Young in Africa, undated.  Click image to enlarge.

Never afraid to speak his mind, he talked with foreign groups and offered his opinion about domestic issues, sometimes outside the scope of established protocol. While he believed his comments and actions were in the “best interests of the country,” he was often criticized by leaders, politicians, and the media. In August 1979, Young spoke to a representative from the Palestine Liberation Organization, violating an agreement with Israel where the United States would not work with the PLO if they did not officially recognize Israel. Amidst the controversy, Young resigned his post.

Draft of Speech, undated.  Click image to enlarge. Mike Peters cartoon, Dayton Daily News, May 24, 1978.  Click image to enlarge.

Though only serving 33 months as Ambassador, Young’s work opened up and created a strong foundation for United States relations with many other countries, particularly in Africa. Young continues to work with African nations, most recently through GoodWorks International and his Emmy-award winning documentary series, “Andrew Young Presents.”

The Andrew J. Young Papers contain speeches, interviews, press releases, articles, correspondence, reports, and travel documentation about his term as Ambassador. The Andrew J. 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.