The National Urban League Comes Home

The National Urban League is moving its headquarters to Harlem, the neighborhood where it was founded in 1910, and will open New York City’s first museum devoted to the American civil rights movement and one of few in the nation to focus on the struggles in the North.

The organization was founded in 1910 in the Upper Manhattan neighborhood, but its headquarters are currently in Lower Manhattan. With the return to its roots, the National Urban League will put a spotlight on the influence of the Harlem Renaissance on the civil rights movement in its museum, among other exhibitions.

To its president, Marc H. Morial, the move is more than a financial decision; it’s an opportunity for the civil rights organization, dedicated to the economic empowerment of urban communities, to practice what it preaches.

“When we began to think about where we wanted to locate and whether we wanted to buy or build, Harlem was always my first choice because it was where we were born,” Mr. Morial said. “But also because for an organization that’s mission-driven, office space is more than a place to work. It’s about being part of a community. It’s about having impact. It’s about working with partners and others who you are symbiotic with.”

A glimpse of the new center’s outdoor space.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times
The tenants of the new building are scheduled to move in by the end of 2024.Credit…Katherine Marks for The New York Times

The new headquarters will anchor a 17-story mixed-use development called the Urban Empowerment Center, on the 125th Street block flanked by Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards. The organization will use 81,000 square feet of space in the center for its offices and the new Urban Civil Rights Museum on the fourth floor.The museum will have a cafe, a 300-seat auditorium and 12,000 feet of exhibition space. In addition to the Harlem Renaissance, the museum will explore the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Great Migration.

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