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Price, Hugh B. 1941–

Hugh B. Price 1941

National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer

At a Glance

Focused on Urban Issues

Reached a New Height

Desired an End to Separatism

Pled for Unity

Sources

Hugh Price understands the media, having worked in public television and having written editorials for the nations most influential newspaper, the New York Times. He understands philanthropy, having served as vice president of the institution that is synonymous with big-money gift giving, the Rockefeller Foundation. And he understands race and social issues, having devoted all of his professional career, his writing and philanthropic work, to helping solve the problems of poverty and despair among mainly urban populations.

It was those diverse qualities, all aimed at a common goal, that persuaded the National Urban League to name Price president and chief executive officer in the summer of 1994. The league has a grand history of activism, but by the time Price took control, it was beset with financial problems and a lack of visibility. After just a few short months at the helm, Price drew high marks from African American leaders for his ability to restore the beleaguered nonprofit organization.

Born in Washington, DC in 1941, Price first attended segregated schools, then integrated educational facilities in the 1950s. In a New York Times article defending multiculturalism, Price stated: In the newly integrated schools of the 1950s, we were taught one version of the Civil Warthe Southern version. Of course, there was another version of the war that we werent taught. And those contrasting versions clearly were the product of conscious decisions by historians, textbook publishers, and school teachers. I was an adult before I learned that [authors] Aleksandr Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas were partly black. No literary anthologies in my high school or college courses mentioned those facts. This pattern of denial and duplicity helps explain the deep-rooted suspicions among minorities and women about the accuracy of history taught in schools.

Price graduated from Amherst in 1963, then went on to Yale, where he received his law degree in 1966. He immediately went to work in the inner city, serving as an attorney for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association. He then worked as executive director of the Black Coalition of New Haven. While these were notable posts in the New Haven community, Price did not emerge during the 1960s as a national civil rights leader. That fact was not lost on many who were surprised when, a quarter of a century later, he was named to head the National Urban League. Its certainly not one of the well-known names, a league leader in Chicago was quoted as saying of Price in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal itself

At a Glance

Born November 22, 1941, in Washington, DC; son of Kline and Charlotte (Schuster) Price; married Marilyn Lloyd, December 29, 1963; children: Traer, Janeen, Lauren. Education: Amherst College, B.A., 1963; Yale University, LL.B., 1966.

Admitted to Connecticut Bar, 1966; New Haven Legal Assistance Association, attorney, 196668; Black Coalition of New Haven, executive director, 196870; Cogen, Holt & Associates, partner, 197076; City of New Haven, Human Resources Administration director, 197778; New York Times, editorial writer, 197882; WNET-TV, New York City, senior vice president, 198288; the Rockefeller Foundation, vice president, 198894; National Urban League, president and chief executive officer, 1994. Board of Directors, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, 198688.

Addresses: Home 21 Trenor Drive, New Rochelle, NY 10804. Office National Urban League, 500 E. 62nd Street, New York, NY 10021.

opined that Mr. Price didnt grow up in high-profile civil rights work, like most of his predecessors.

Focused on Urban Issues

While he may not have been high-profile, Price was high energy when it came to the problems of inner-city poverty. After his stint with the Black Coalition he joined the urban affairs consulting firm of Cogen, Holt & Associates in New Haven, specializing in the analysis of municipal government and foundation programs. He then went to work for the city of New Haven, administering its human resources department.

Price certainly knew the ins and outs of municipal government, as well as the problems involved in bringing services to poor citizens and creating opportunities for them. In 1978 he was given the opportunity to help craft national thinking on these matters in an indirect way. Named to the editorial board of the New York Times, Price was able to shape the editorial page policies of that influential publication, and, indirectly, the policies of the many influential Americans who read the publication daily. At the New York Times Price wrote mainly about domestic policy issues.

After four years at the newspaper, Price moved to the broadcast media, accepting a job at New Yorks public television station, WNET-TV. He was senior vice president there and director of the stations production center. Price spent six years at WNET, from 1982 to 1988, before accepting a position as vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation. In that post, Price managed the foundations Special Initiatives and Explorations grant fund and was responsible for helping minorities get more opportunities in groups served by the organization. Clearly, his history of managing large programs, and, more importantly, being able to get funding for them, caught the attention of the search committee set up to find a replacement in 1994 for retiring Urban League president John E. Jacob.

Established in 1911, the National Urban League was created to end discrimination and to help all minorities especially those in the citiesfind economic opportunities. Based in New York City, regional offices and local chapters are scattered throughout the nation. During World War II, the league was instrumental in helping end segregation in the armed forces. Under the leadership of its executive director Whitney Young in 1963, it organized the March on Washington, which culminated in Martin Luther King, Jr.s stirring speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an audience of more than 250,000. Another past executive director, Vernon Jordan, presided over an active and well-staffed Urban League in the 1970s. Since then, however, the organization had lost some of its prestige.

Upon the May of 1994 announcement that Price was manning the helm, the Wall Street Journal reported these facts about the National Urban League: 30 percent of its staff had been cut since the mid-1980s; the leagues board had decided to sell its share of an Upper East Side Manhattan high rise in which the league was headquartered; the national office operated at a $3.6 million deficit in 1989, and in 1992, grants and government contracts dropped off 5.8 percent from the previous year. The Journal noted that under the 12 years of John Jacobss tenure as presidentcoinciding with the U.S. government administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bushthe league suffered through government cuts in programs for the poor. Moreover, the organization, which relies heavily on corporate donations, has also weathered cuts in general support and gifts during recent years of corporate belt-tightening.

Aside from financial problems, the National Urban League was facing a spiritual crisis of sorts: no one was paying much attention to it anymore. The organization had always gained media attention for its annual Black State of the Union report, and for its annual convention, but the days of massive civil rights marches and stirring rhetoric seemed to have passed. The league needed a proverbial shot in the arm.

Reached a New Height

When he was named president of the National Urban League, Price was thrilled. This is like being asked to come to the mountaintop for me, Price was quoted as saying in Jet magazine. When youve spent a career relating to social justice and equal opportunity, this is the pinnacle. He also recognized that he faced a series of challenges, especially in the area of fundraising. In that arena he felt his experience with the Rockefeller Foundation would help him. There are new sources to pursue as the league tries to continue to get support, Price was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal. I think there are enormous challenges. But Im not pessimistic. Im not on a fools errand.

Black Enterprise reported that Price was interested in focusing on three key issues: The academic and social status of children, unemployment in the inner cities, and rising racial isolation. The magazine went on to quote him as saying, I [want] a team of colleagues who are experts and players in these areas [who can] talk about this agenda and devise programs that respond to it. So Price set about publicizing his goals. His first major speech as Urban League president, delivered in Indianapolis in July of 1994, received national attention, for it addressed a number of controversial subjects and sent the league down an entirely different path from that which it followed earlier.

Desired an End to Separatism

In his speech, Price moved away from a position held by some civil rights leaders, namely that the poverty of inner-city blacks is due to white racism. The New York Times noted that Prices message de-emphasizing racism as the key issue faced by blacks reflects a sharp difference from other civil rights leaders. We must not let ourselves, and especially our children, fall into the paranoid trap of thinking that racism accounts for all that plagues us, Price said in his speech, as quoted in the New York Times. The global realignment of work and wealth is, if anything, the bigger culprit.

Price went on to criticize any form of racism, and to say that there is no future in so-called black separatism. He declared: I fully understand the instinct to separate when we are incessantly under economic siege, when were still discriminated against some 40 years after the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision, and when, thanks to those recurring images on evening newscasts of black youngsters being hauled off to jail, even our honor students are trailed like common thieves when they enter stores. Even so, its suicidal economically to become so bitter that we isolate ourselves from others.

Price said that he would have the National Urban League continue to focus on its traditional concerns of poor schools, idle youngsters, and high unemployment. But he noted that the league would address the issues with the understanding that these problems cut across racial lines, that the changing economy as a whole is disenfranchising whole populations. The New York Times called the speech noteworthy because it did not stress goals that other civil rights groups championed, namely set-asides of government contracts and affirmative action programs.

Price also rejected racial set-asides in jobs and training; that is, he believes that a more politically practical approach is to help entire neighborhoods and census tracts regardless of raceget jobs. Price called on blacks who can afford to, to donate $500 to $1,000 each to pay for inner-city programs for young people. The money would be spent by local churches, YMCAs, and neighborhood groups, and monitored by the Urban League. There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, Price was quoted as saying in the New York Times. Well the black middle class has moved out of the village. Thats the natural order of things. I dont ask the middle class to move back. But they have to move back spiritually, or at least financially.

Pled for Unity

One part of Prices groundbreaking speech drew the most attention. Throughout 1994, black-Jewish relations had been strained by harsh comments directed at Jews by, among others, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. According to the Detroit Free Press, Price called Jews the long-distance runners in the civil rights movement, and went on to say, Just as we denounce misleading media stereotypes of African Americans, it is morally repugnant to impugn an entire people, especially long-standing allies like Jews, because of the unconscionable behavior of some of them.

However, Price also answered those critics who say that more mainstream black leaders should reject Farrakhan. In the Indianapolis speech, Price defended the right of African Americans to confer with whomever they wish even if that means conferring with those with whom we vehemently disagree on other issues. Prices comments gained the National Urban League the attention it was lacking, and he generated anew the debate on how best to address issues of poverty. Price has said he wants government to set up a jobs program that will put people to work on infrastructure projects, and he has begun to court major sponsors to support the league, as well as cutting some league programs to get the agencys budget in order.

Its a moral imperative, Price was quoted by the New York Times as saying of his work to help the urban underclass. And as a pragmatic matter, their pain affects us. The cynicism of kids growing up in the inner cities contributes to behaviors that are reported on the evening news, which ensnares all of our kids in negative stereotypes. Price sees it as his lifes work to end those stereotypes and reverse the trend.

Sources

Black Enterprise, August, 1994, p. 19.

Detroit Free Press, July 25, 1994, p. A1.

Jet, June 13, 1994, p. 26.

Newsweek, August 15, 1994, p. 57.

New York Times, December 14,1977, p. 11; November 13, 1988, p. A32; September 22, 1991, Sec. 12 WC, p. 3; September 23, 1991, p. A17; July 24, 1994, p.18; July 27, 1994, p. A21.

Wall Street Journal, May 26, 1994, p. B10; July 27,1994, p. A2.

Additional information provided by a National Urban League press kit, including a biographical sketch and Prices Keynote Address, July 24, 1994.

John LoDico

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Price, Hugh B.

Hugh B. Price

1941—

Executive

In his distinguished career, Hugh Price worked in public television and journalism, including a stretch on the editorial board of the New York Times; he worked in philanthropy, as the vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation; and he served for nine years as the head of the National Urban League (NUL), helping to revitalize one of America's most important organizations aimed at improving the economic welfare of African Americans. When he retired from the National Urban League in 2003, Price was widely credited for restoring the non-profit organization's fiscal health and reviving its strategic vision.

Price was born on November 22, 1941, in Washington, D.C. His father was a physician and he enjoyed a middle-class upbringing. Price began his education in segregated schools, then moved to integrated facilities in the 1950s. In a New York Times article defending multiculturalism, Price stated: "In the newly integrated schools of the 1950s, we were taught one version of the Civil War—the Southern version. Of course, there was another version of the war that we weren't taught. And those contrasting versions clearly were the product of conscious decisions by historians, textbook publishers, and school teachers. I was an adult before I learned that [authors] Aleksandr Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas were partly black. No literary anthologies in my high school or college courses mentioned those facts. This pattern of denial and duplicity helps explain the deep-rooted suspicions among minorities and women about the accuracy of history taught in schools."

Established Skills as Low-Key Activist

Price graduated from Amherst in 1963, then went on to Yale, where he received his law degree in 1966. He immediately went to work in the inner city, serving as an attorney for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association. He then worked as executive director of the Black Coalition of New Haven. While these were notable posts in the New Haven community, Price did not emerge during the 1960s as a national civil rights leader. That fact was not lost on many who were surprised when, a quarter of a century later, he was named to head the National Urban League. "It's certainly not one of the well-known names," a league leader in Chicago was quoted as saying of Price in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal itself opined that "Mr. Price didn't grow up in high-profile civil rights work, like most of his predecessors."

While he may not have been "high-profile," Price was "high energy" when it came to the problems of inner-city poverty. After his stint with the Black Coalition he joined the urban affairs consulting firm of Cogen, Holt & Associates in New Haven, specializing in the analysis of municipal government and foundation programs. He then went to work for the city of New Haven, administering its human resources department.

Price certainly knew the ins and outs of municipal government, as well as the problems involved in bringing services to poor citizens and creating opportunities for them. In 1978 he was given the opportunity to help craft national thinking on these matters in an indirect way. Named to the editorial board of the New York Times, Price was able to shape the editorial page policies of that influential publication, and, indirectly, the policies of the many influential Americans who read the publication daily. At the New York Times Price wrote mainly about domestic policy issues.

After four years at the newspaper, Price moved to the broadcast media, accepting a job at New York's public television station, WNET-TV. He was senior vice president there and director of the station's production center. Price spent six years at WNET, from 1982 to 1988, before accepting a position as vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation. In that post, Price managed the foundation's Special Initiatives and Explorations grant fund and was responsible for helping minorities get more opportunities in groups served by the organization. Clearly, his history of managing large programs, and, more importantly, being able to get funding for them, caught the attention of the search committee set up to find a replacement in 1994 for retiring Urban League president John E. Jacob.

Lead National Urban League

Established in 1911, the National Urban League was created to end discrimination and to help all minorities—especially those in the cities—find economic opportunities. Based in New York City, the group has regional offices and local chapters scattered throughout the nation. During World War II, the league was instrumental in helping end segregation in the armed forces. Under the leadership of its executive director Whitney Young in 1963, it organized the March on Washington, which culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.'s stirring speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an audience of more than 250,000. Another past executive director, Vernon Jordan, presided over an active and well-staffed Urban League in the 1970s. In the 1980s, however, the organization had lost some of its prestige and a great deal of its financial support.

Upon the May of 1994 announcement that Price was manning the helm, the Wall Street Journal reported these facts about the National Urban League: 30 percent of its staff had been cut since the mid-1980s; the league's board had decided to sell its share of an Upper East Side Manhattan high rise in which the league was headquartered; the national office operated at a $3.6 million deficit in 1989, and in 1992, grants and government contracts dropped off 5.8 percent from the previous year. The Journal noted that under the 12 years of John Jacobs's tenure as president–coinciding with the U.S. government administrations of former presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush–"the league suffered through government cuts in programs for the poor. Moreover, the organization, which relies heavily on corporate donations, has also weathered cuts in general support and gifts during recent years of corporate belt-tightening." Adding to the financial problems, the National Urban League was facing a spiritual crisis of sorts: no one was paying much attention to it anymore. The organization had always gained media attention for its annual Black State of the Union report, and for its annual convention, but the days of massive civil rights marches and stirring rhetoric seemed to have passed. The league needed a proverbial shot in the arm. Clearly, Price had his work cut out for him.

At a Glance …

Born on November 22, 1941, in Washington, DC; son of Kline and Charlotte (Schuster) Price; married Marilyn Lloyd, December 29, 1963; children: Traer, Janeen, Lauren. Education: Amherst College, BA, 1963; Yale University, LLB, 1966.

Career:

Admitted to Connecticut Bar, 1966; New Haven Legal Assistance Association, attorney, 1966-68; Black Coalition of New Haven, executive director, 1968-70; Cogen, Holt & Associates, partner, 1970-76; City of New Haven, Human Resources Administration director, 1977-78; New York Times, editorial writer, 1978-82; WNET-TV, New York City, senior vice president, 1982-88; Rockefeller Foundation, vice president, 1988-94; National Urban League, president and chief executive officer, 1994-2003.

Memberships:

Minority Corporate Counsel Association; American Philosophical Society; NAACP; Council on Foreign Relations; Academy of Political Science; Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, board of directors; Bell Atlantic, board of directors; Sears Roebuck & Company, board of directors; Educational Testing Service, board of directors.

Awards:

Honorary degrees, Yale University, Amherst College, and others; Yale University Law School Medal of Honor; Hunter College President's Medal; Distinguished Service Award, Council of Chief State School Officers, 2000.

Addresses:

Office—c/o National Urban League, 120 Wall Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10005.

Price welcome the challenge that the NUL presented. He told the Wall Street Journal. "I think there are enormous challenges. But I'm not pessimistic. I'm not on a fool's errand." Black Enterprise reported that Price was interested in focusing on three key issues: "The academic and social status of children, unemployment in the inner cities, and rising racial isolation." The magazine went on to quote him as saying, "I [want] a team of colleagues who are experts and players in these areas [who can] talk about this agenda and devise programs that respond to it." So Price set about publicizing his goals.

His first major speech as Urban League president, delivered in Indianapolis in July of 1994, received national attention, for it addressed a number of controversial subjects and sent the league down an entirely different path from that which it followed earlier. He downplayed the importance of racism, and spoke instead about the challenges posed by poverty. Price claimed that the problems of poor schools, idle youngsters, and high unemployment cut across racial lines, and he supported policies that addressed the crisis in inner city unemployment and the failure of the black middle and upper classes to support those who were still struggling.

Over his years as head of the League, Price had a number of notable successes. He restored the group's financial health, in large part by winning the support of major corporations. In fact, during his tenure he help triple the NUL's endowment. He also made the organization more efficient by restructuring the board of directors and reorganizing the staff. Price conceived and launched the League's historic Campaign for African-American Achievement, a campaign that was coordinated with the Congress of National Black Churches and numerous other national black civic, social, and professional organizations. He helped to establish League's new headquarters in New York City and reintroduced Opportunity, the magazine that had once been a prominent voice for black economic issues.

Price did more than lead the National Urban League during the 1990s and into the 2000s. He was a board member on a number of prominent American corporations, including the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Bell Atlantic, and Sears Roebuck & Company. He contributed articles to major publications, and spoke regularly on issues of interest to Urban League members. He also published a number of important books, including Destination: The American Dream, a collection of his speeches and writings while with the National Urban League, and Achievement Matters: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, a book that offers to guide black parents as they try to help their children get the most of the education system.

Late in 2002, Price announced that it was time for him to step down from his post with the National Urban League. "I feel very strongly that heads of national organizations like the League should, to use a relay-race analogy, run hard, run fast, and then pass the baton before they get winded, before they start to stumble, not afterwards. And so I wanted to do that while I felt the organization was in terrific shape," Price told NPR correspondent Tavis Smiley, in a press release on the NPR Web site. After a career of public service, Price declared that it was time for him to devote more energy to his private life, including his wife, Marilyn, and his three grown daughters. Though Price was affiliated with the Piper Rudnick Gray Cary law firm in New York City, he was for all intents and purposes retired as of 2005.

Selected writings

To Be Equal, Lee A. Daniels, ed., National Urban League, 1999.

Destination: The American Dream, National Urban League, 2001.

Achievement Matters: Getting Your Child the Best Education Possible, Kensington Books, 2002.

Contributor to numerous magazines and periodicals, including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Review of Black Political Economy, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Phi Delta Kappan, and Chronicle of Higher Education. Author of weekly syndicated column "To Be Equal" and of weekly radio commentary.

Sources

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, August, 1994, p. 19.

Detroit Free Press, July 25, 1994, p. A1.

Jet, June 13, 1994, p. 26.

Library Journal, October 1, 2002, p. 112.

New Crisis, January-February 2003, pp. 10-12.

Newsweek, August 15, 1994, p. 57.

New York Times, December 14, 1977, p. 11; November 13, 1988, p. A32; September 22, 1991, Sec. 12 WC, p. 3; September 23, 1991, p. A17; July 24, 1994, p. 18; July 27, 1994, p. A21.

Wall Street Journal, May 26, 1994, p. B10; July 27, 1994, p. A2.

Washington Post, September 23, 2002, p. A19.

On-line

"Bio Page: Hugh B. Price," African American World/PBS, www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/society/bio_price.html (October 11, 2005).

"Hugh Bernard Price," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (October 11, 2005).

"Hugh Price Steps Down as President of National Urban League," NPR, www.npr.org/about/press/021107.hughprice.html (October 11, 2005).

National Urban League, www.nul.org (October 11, 2005).

—John LoDico and

Tom Pendergast

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"Price, Hugh B.." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Price, Hugh B.." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/price-hugh-b