Andrew Young Essay

One of the most influential black politicians in American history, Andrew Young has made countless contributions towards the advancement of civil liberties across the globe - Andrew Young Essay introduction. In the third chapter of Andrew J. DeRoche’s biography Andrew Young: Civil Rights Ambassador, he successfully details how Young applied his experience in the Civil Rights Movement to his political career to help achieve peace and promote human rights in the United States and throughout the developing world. DeRoche’s research uses many primary sources such as a personal interview, excerpts from Young’s own autobiography, and direct quotes from speeches he made in Congress, making his study both thorough and reliable. Ultimately, DeRoche’s biography helps to signify the impact Andrew Young made in the broader context of the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement and United States’ foreign policy in the 1970s.

DeRoche begins chapter three by explaining how Andrew Young decided to immerse himself in the world of politics. In 1968, as the debate over American presence in Vietnam raged, Young led the Poor People’s Campaign which urged politicians to concentrate spending on helping impoverished Americans instead of fighting the North Vietnamese. The following year, Young served as vice-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, helping to organize marches, boycotts, and demonstrations for civil rights activists. Young quickly realized that the best way for him to promote peace and human rights was to run for Congress himself, and after losing his first election in 1970, he was voted into office two years later. As soon as he was sworn in, Andrew Young made an immediate impact on the progression of human rights, setting a strong precedent for the years to follow. During his tenure as a congressman, Young applied lessons he learned during the Civil Rights Movement “to influence U.S. foreign relations and to advocate peace and racial justice around the world” (DeRoche, 41). Young joined the Congressional Black Caucus, and within weeks of being elected to office, he began to criticize President Nixon for disregarding underprivileged families in rural America, claiming that the lack of funding in these areas was forcing residents to move to cities to find work.

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Young later led the opposition against a proposed amendment that would approve a 45 day long bombardment of Cambodia. Inspired by a civil rights movement strategy, he along with twenty-five other new congressman marched into the Speaker of the House’s office “to demand [a] vote on the cutoff of funds for the bombing of Cambodia” (DeRoche, 45) Thanks to his “demonstration,” the amendment went to a vote. With an eloquent speech during the debate before the vote, Young declared that the attack would be a “waste of resources and human life” (DeRoche, 46), and argued that the $202.5 million that it would cost would be far better spent on schools and homes in America.

Still in his first year in Congress, Young turned his attention to Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, who were struggling to gain independence from Portugal. Portugal was desperate to stay in control of their remaining African colonies, and was receiving financial and military aid from America which they used to help their cause. Young was a strong advocate for these fledgling African nations, and immediately pointed out the numerous human rights violations they suffered at the hands of the Portuguese. In 1973, Young proposed an amendment that would ban Portugal from using American aid towards colonialism, with the ultimate goal of eradicating their “policy of terror, massacre, torture, and violence [and leading] our country on a consistent and healthy new course against injustice in the world” (DeRoche, 47). Throughout his time in Congress, Young repeatedly led the charge in support of human rights both at home and abroad.

DeRoche successfully displays that Andrew Young was a prominent figure in global human rights by giving numerous examples of his campaigns and accomplishments while serving in Congress. DeRoche proves that Young was successful by detailing congressional voting outcomes and the aftermath of the decisions he helped influence. Thanks to Andrew Young, the House of Representatives ruled against the bombing of Cambodia, and even went as far as to ban future attacks on the country. The House passed Young’s amendment that eliminated American funding of Portugal, and in 1974, Portugal withdrew its presence from its colonies, and finally recognized their independence. By showing actual results, DeRoche effectively exhibits Andrew Young’s impact on the advancement of global human rights.

Andrew DeRoche’s sources for the chapter are numerous and thorough. DeRoche researched official congressional records to convey the congressman’s exact stances and opinions on issues throughout his career in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, DeRoche cites Young’s own memoir and even took the time to interview him in order to provide a more personal understanding towards events that took place during his stint in Congress. The only way DeRoche could have possibly conducted a more detailed research would have been to include interviews with other prominent Civil Rights leaders, or congressmen who opposed Young. It would be interesting to learn how he is remembered by fellow activists and former political rivals.

DeRoche’s biography obviously provides a more detailed background on Andrew Young’s contribution to politics than Present Tense and American Dreams; both books only briefly mention him. More importantly, DeRoche’s accounts of Young’s contributions as a Congressman help put America’s progress towards issues of foreign policy and race relations during the 1970s in better perspective. With Young’s help, America began to make foreign policy decisions to advance human rights instead of only seeking benefit. Only 8 years after the Civil Rights Act passed, Andrew Young became the first black Congressman from the Deep South, showing conclusive progress of our country in terms of racial equality. For all that he has contributed throughout his long career, Andrew Young will forever be remembered as a brave pioneer for human rights both in America and abroad.

Work Cited:

DeRoche, Andrew J. “Taking King’s Vision to Congress.” Andrew Young: Civil Rights Ambassador. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003. Print.

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