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Kenneth Crooks

Georgian civic leader Kenneth Crooks, Jr. was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 12, 1931. He attended elementary school in Hampton, Virginia and secondary school in Jamaica, West Indies. Crooks graduated in 1957 from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelors Degree of Business Administration and received a Masters of Business Administration from Atlanta University in 1962.

Crooks went to work for the National Urban League in its Regional Office in Atlanta, Georgia, covering twelve southern states in 1962. His responsibilities there included providing technical support for local Urban Leagues and developing new affiliates in the South. Crooks remained at the Urban League until 1991, taking time off in 1972 to assist Maynard Jackson's first campaign for Mayor of Atlanta. During his tenure at the Urban League, he worked in Economic Development and Employment, Education, Housing, Counseling and Community Awareness programs. He also developed programs for youth in fine arts, creating the Summer Youth Academy, the "Do the Right Thing" Rallies and brought the Chattahoochee Court-Appointed Special Advocates program for deprived and neglected children to the community.

In 1993, Crooks moved to Columbus, Georgia to serve as President of the Urban League of Greater Columbus. He had previously held the position of Community Service Specialist and Assistant Director of Development at the Fort Valley State College. Crooks also serves as Special Assistant to the pastor at Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church. He has received several awards recognizing his service to the community, including "Man of the Year" for 2001, given by the Men's Progressive Club of Columbus.

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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Clark Atlanta University

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No - Negotiable

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Honorarium Specifics: Would accept honorarium, though not required; flexible on range
Preferred Audience: All


Knight Foundation



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If I’m Not Up To It, I’m Down On It.

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Nonprofit chief executive Kenneth Crooks (1931 - ) was the president of the Columbus, Georgia Urban League.


Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church

Urban League of Greater Columbus

Fort Valley State University

Urban League of Broward County

National Urban League (NUL)


Atlanta University

Grambling State University

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Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenneth Crooks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenneth Crooks describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenneth Crooks remembers his early childhood in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenneth Crooks describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenneth Crooks recalls an experience with segregation in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kenneth Crooks describes attending school as the son of the headmaster

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kenneth Crooks remembers his family's move to Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kenneth Crooks discusses his father's educational expectations

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kenneth Crooks talks about returning to the United States to attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Kenneth Crooks recalls the sights and sounds that remind him of Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Kenneth Crooks talks about segregation and cold weather at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his decision to major in business administration and other college experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Kenneth Crooks remembers being drafted into the U.S. Army as a medic after graduation

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his struggle to find a job as a black man in New England and moving to Grambling, Louisiana after his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his role in the Atlanta Student Movement while he was a graduate student at Atlanta University

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenneth Crooks talks about coordinating student sit-ins in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenneth Crooks describes how the Atlanta Student Movement focused on improving the economic power of blacks

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenneth Crooks talks about civil rights organizations and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s influence on them

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenneth Crooks talks about his effort to create a job placement office at Atlanta University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenneth Crooks talks about Clarence Coleman's role in recruiting him to join the National Urban League

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenneth Crooks talks about the roles of Lester Granger and Whitney Young in the history of the National Urban League

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenneth Crooks talks about significance of the National Urban League

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kenneth Crooks talks his role in the National Urban League and its impact on his personal life

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Kenneth Crooks talks about the National Urban League

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Kenneth Crooks talks about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s connection to the Urban League

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Kenneth Crooks talks about the expansion of the National Urban League and working on Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson's campaign

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenneth Crooks talks about Whitney Young and Vernon Jordan, presidents of the National Urban League

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenneth Crook's talks about National Urban League President Hugh Price's emphasis on sound economics

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenneth Crook's describes the untapped potential of the black church

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenneth Crook's talks about the future of the National Urban League

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenneth Crook's talks about his leadership of the Urban League of Greater Columbus in Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenneth Crook's talks about the National Urban League's agenda and its approach to AIDS in America

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenneth Crook's reflects upon his legacy







Kenneth Crooks talks about coordinating student sit-ins in Atlanta, Georgia
Kenneth Crooks talks about Clarence Coleman's role in recruiting him to join the National Urban League
As the, as the president of the student body for Atlanta University [now Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia], (unclear) the graduate school, I got involved with the youngsters from Clark [Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University], Marshbon (ph) Spelman [Spelman College] and Morehouse [Morehouse College]. These were young, aggressive, tuition-having-been-paid-by-parents-kids (laughter). When I was a graduate student struggling, working on the weekends at the Jewish club out on, I'm not sure where the location is, but I had waiter's jobs on the weekends where I was waiting tables, trying to survive to make it in those tough times. And so there was--although I felt strongly in support of what they were doing, I didn't have the wherewithal to--I had to watch out where the next meal was coming from (laughter). No father and my mom [Adele Crooks] was working as a counselor and I was a grown person at that time, and didn't feel like I should burden her with that responsibility. And so I was really caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in fulfilling my role as an African American, which I was, who I just happen to have spent some time in Jamaica and the Jamerican, which we like to call ourselves, we had a (unclear) little group trying to make it in the great country of opportunity. The kids would take a rally club approach to some solutions and I would try with others to meld--mold that so that it didn't have to be as dramatic as they like to see it happen. I think I spent a lot of time on the telephone in Reverend [Joseph Everhard] Boone's church payphone directing kids to where the police were not, 'cause the police couldn't be everywhere at the same time. So we'd the find the location where there were no police cars; we'd send the kids from that location to the place where there were no policemen and they would try to sit-in. And when the cops got over there, then we'd (unclear), and in fact they were not at Sears, then we send the kids back to Sears. So for a couple days there we had an exciting play with the, with the police. And they did arrest the kids and they took them to jail and we'd take them food baskets and take letters back and forth for their--to their parents and they'd write theirs in jail and we'd spend the time doing that. I saw myself in the coordinating, functioning, assisting role and not being in jail with the kids. Somebody had to do the other part of it and I think that's where the T.M. Alexanders [Theodore Martin Alexander, Sr.] and the wealthy black Atlantans tried to make sure that they had a vehicle for solving the problems.$So did you feel these were sincere efforts on the part of these businesses? Did they really want blacks--$$No, no,$$--in their--$$(Laughter). When the guy come to town and he, and he--well there were exceptions. The guys who were on the liberal end of the totem pole said, "where is the place that I can stay, no I don't want to stay at the Hilton, what's the nearest hotel to the school, what's Paschal's Motel [Paschal's Motor Hotel] like, I can't find it in the book, how do I get there", etc, etc. Those guys did get cabs and came to the Paschal's and stayed there and did their things, did the interviews, some in Paschal's, and some on campus [Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia]. Others stayed downtown, came to the campus at nine o'clock in the morning, left at four and didn't invite us over as they did the other placement officers, I learned later, and that was kinda were we were. But the basic--the largest majority of them were complying with, with what seem to have been a directive from somewhere upstairs that said, "let's get some folks hired".$$Did this create any frustration in you?$$I wouldn't call it frustration. I take each of these experiences as challenges. I recognized that there's an education that white America needed and the only way to give them the education that they needed was to kinda put them in a setting in which they had as little fear as possible. And that they did not expect to be jumped on if they asked the wrong question. In each of the other settings, if they asked the wrong question, they get pounced on and in other settings they found themselves kinda afraid of the environment. I try to put them at ease and when I did that I able to get through them, I think, to them. And this has been the hallmark of my approach to life and that's how I got involved with Whitney [Whitney Young], and Whitney at the School of Social Work [at Atlanta University], and when I got the call from Clarence Coleman at the Urban League in Atlanta--National Urban League in Atlanta--that said, "how would you like to work for the Urban League"? I said, "doing what"? He said, "doing for Atlanta University for 40 other schools". I couldn't turn it down. So I became the liaison for black schools for the South, to try to get them to put their placement offices in some kind of an order so that we could go ahead and build a schedule. And part of my job, having linked up with some of the big industries was to get that information even down to LeMoyne College and some of the other schools all over the South, an exciting experience.