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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Medical doctor and Civil Rights leader I. W. Young was born January 2, 1874, in Glencoe, Louisiana, to John and Elizabeth Young. He attended the Methodist schools Baldwin Academy and Gilbert Industrial School and acquired his medical degree at New Orleans University's Flint Medical School. He also acquired a doctor of letters degree from Wiley College in Texas. Young held the distinction of being Oklahoma's only African American otolaryngologist (ear, eye, nose, and throat doctor) in 1920. He served two controversial terms as president of Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) from 1923 to 1927 and from 1931 to 1934. Under his guidance Langston became an accredited university.

Often called the "Father of Black Democracy," I. W. Young held sway as Oklahoma's undisputed black Civil Rights leader of Negro Democrats in the 1920s and 1930s. Young called for social and political reform of Oklahoma's status quo for marginalized blacks. Because of his influence he was often called "the Black Governor." He personally campaigned for John C. "Jack" Walton's 1922 Democratic gubernatorial run, focusing on the black farmers and union workers, and succeeded in securing more black votes for Walton than had ever before voted in prior Oklahoma elections.

Organizer of the Louisiana Medical Association, he also served as president of the Oklahoma Medical Association and as mayor of Boley, and he headed many fraternal associations. During World War I he was appointed chairman of the black Oklahoma County Four Minute Speakers Bureau, and he also trained Red Cross nurses. Young was chairperson of the Oklahoma Welfare Association, president of the Negro Democratic State Convention, and chairperson of the National Democratic Negro Voters League. He published one book, Food Fellowship and Culture, and prepared three brochures on philosophy and social education. He was lay delegate to two General Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He married Adelia Ambler and reared Leonelle and Bradford Young. I. W. Young died June 27, 1937, in Clovis, New Mexico.

Cecelia Brooks


Robert Cook, Presidents of American Colleges and Universities (New York: Robert C. Cook Co., 1933).

O. D. Hall, "Langston University Remodeling a Race," Harlow's Weekly, 31 December 1934.

"I. W. Young Dies, Father of Black Democracy," Tulsa (Oklahoma) Eagle, 12 June 1937.

Zella J. Black Patterson, Langston University: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press 1979).

"Walton For Governor Club Organized, Dr. I. W. Young Heads State Body," Black Dispatch (Oklahoma City), 17 August 1922.

Isaac William Young, Food, Fellowship and Culture (N.p.: Privately printed, 1927).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Cecelia Brooks, “Young, Isaac William,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=YO002.

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