Whitney M. Young Jr. was selected as a keynote speaker for the 1968 AIA Convention in Portland, Oregon. This was a time fraught with social and racial inequities. The frustrations that arose often manifested in violence, from the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King to riotous protests in cities.
Despite national turmoil, Young’s activism reflected values of peaceful collaboration, engagement, and education. Selected for his dedication to social justice and equity, Young’s address called on architects to design fair spaces and create a profession that is representative of the society it is called to serve. These issues still ring true half a century later.
Shortly after his speech, AIA launched a number of initiatives, gathering a taskforce on equal opportunity, creating community development programs in impoverished neighborhoods, and launching a diversity scholarship.