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Jean Childs Young
*Jean Childs Young was born on this date in 1933. She was a Black educator activist for racial justice and equitable education.
Jean Childs was born in Marion, Alabama. Her father, Norman Lorenzo Childs, worked at a family-owned grocery store and bakery in Marion, sometimes traveling around Alabama to sell the store's homemade peanut brittle during the Great Depression. Her mother, Idella Jones Childs, was an elementary school teacher. Young had four siblings. She spent her childhood and early adulthood in Marion, attending Lincoln Normal School, and later attended Manchester College in Indiana, where she received her bachelor's degree in education in 1954.
Childs met Andrew Young in the summer of 1952. He had come to Marion, Alabama to be a pastor for a small church in the area. Upon his arrival, he had no place to stay and was assigned to lodge at the Childs’ house for a week. Childs met Andrew during his stay at her house, and the two developed a relationship over the course of that summer. In the fall, Childs returned to Manchester College, where she was working towards a bachelor's degree in education, and the two kept in touch via letters. Young proposed to Childs in December 1953, and they were married in Marion on June 7, 1954. Jean and Andrew had four children: Andrea, Paula Jean, Lisa, and Andrew Jackson “Bo” Ill.
Childs Young initially taught elementary school in Thomasville, Georgia. After moving with her husband to Hartford, Connecticut in the early-1950s so that he could earn a divinity degree from Hartford Seminary, she began teaching at Arsenal primary school. The couple later moved back to Georgia, where Young taught at two elementary schools in Atlanta. During her time teaching in Atlanta, Young became a coordinator of curriculum for elementary public schools in the area. She also participated in educational advocacy and programs beyond the scope of the classroom, she participated in the Teacher Corps program that served as a means of enhancing education in impoverished or low-income areas of the United States.
In 1970, she wrote a parental guide titled “Bridging the Gap: Home and School” to encourage parents of students to incorporate education from the classroom into life at home as well. Young was involved in higher education as well. She was one of the developers of Atlanta Metropolitan State College and served there as a public relations officer as well as an advisor for a number of years after the school's establishment. While her husband held office as the Mayor of Atlanta, she took action through the resources available to her as first lady of Atlanta. In 1981, she founded the Atlanta Task Force on Public Education, this education task force greatly increased the funding given to elementary schools in Atlanta for a period of time.
Childs Young eventually extended her educational expertise to working with the technology company IBM to create “The Illuminated Books and Manuscripts.” This is a resource for analyzing texts digitally that is meant to be used as part of educational curriculum. Alongside her husband, she felt that their participation in the American Civil Rights movement was consistent with their beliefs and values as those involved in ministry. Childs Young had also been influenced by nonviolent and pacifist beliefs while studying at Manchester College. Her background in education— specifically in regards to creating curriculum for public schools— carried over to her work in Civil Rights, as she created curriculum for “the Citizenship Schools of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
She also aided her husband in his attempt to fight voter suppression for Blacks, including during the Thomasville rallies. Despite initially meeting resistance from the Ku Klux Klan, the 1965 voter registration rally was successfully carried out at a local high school in Thomasville. Childs Young had gone to the same high school as Dr. King's wife, Coretta Scott King, and the two later became good friends as their husbands continued their work in the movement together. According to Young, the work that he and Martin did would not have been possible if it weren't for the support of the women they married. She participated in some of the march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in spite of her husband's initial concerns and bring her two daughters, Andrea and Lisa, with her.
In 1970, she founded “Women for Andrew Young:” a campaign aimed at women that promised her husband's support of women's issues should he win the position of mayor of Atlanta. Both Childs Young and her husband expressed the sentiment that neither overshadowed the other person, and that Young worked alongside her husband, rather than behind him. She also resisted segregation in her personal life, and through the realm of education. Alongside Coretta Scott King, she attempted to enroll her daughters in schools that had not yet been desegregated. Her two daughters, Andrea and Lisa, were among the first Black children to attend newly desegregated private schools in Atlanta.
Childs Young worked for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund and Children's Defense Fund. In 1978, Young was appointed as chair of the American committee of the UN International Year of the Child by President Jimmy Carter. Childs Young received numerous awards and honors for her work for the rights of children, women, and Blacks. Young was named their honorary trustee and was later honored by the state organization in 1983 when she was named their Georgia Democratic Woman of the Year. In 1989, Young was awarded the NAACP Distinguished Leadership Award, the Y.W.C.A. Women of Achievement Award in 1993. A middle school, the Jean Childs Young Middle School in Atlanta, was named in her honor. She was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1991 Jean Childs Young later died from the disease at the age of 61 on September 16, 1994 in Atlanta.