Anyone familiar with the history of Andrew Young knows it's the story of a civil rights legend. Born in New Orleans, by the late 1950s Young had joined the freedom movement, registering voters in Atlanta, GA.

He joined and later directed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, became a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., and was jailed in Selma, Alabama and St. Augustine, Florida for seeking the right to vote for African-Americans. In 1972, he became Georgia's first black member of Congress since Reconstruction; his political career went on to include serving as a U.N. ambassador and mayor of Atlanta.

So to many, the fall was steep and shocking when, in February 2005, Young accepted a position as chairman of "Working Families for Wal-Mart", which Wikipedia accurately describes as

an organization sponsored by the corporate giant as a public response to widespread criticism that many of the company's American employees and their children are on public assistance, that the company uses child labor, that the company discriminates against female and African-American employees, and that workers manufacturing Wal-Mart products are subject to abusive conditions and sub-poverty wages.

Today, the Associated Press reports that Young has fallen even further:

Civil rights leader Andrew Young, who was hired to help Wal-Mart Stores Inc. improve its public image, said early Friday he was stepping down from his position as head of an outside support group amid criticism for remarks seen as racially offensive.

In the Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.

"Well, I think they should; they ran the `mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

As the AP story notes, Young was going to bat for Wal-Mart even before he took a job with them:


Young came under fire from the civil rights community after his company, GoodWorks International, was hired by Working Families for Wal-Mart to promote the world's largest retailer. Young's company, which he has headed since 1997, works with corporations and governments to foster economic development in Africa and the Caribbean.

In an April letter to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, Young said it was wrong for the church and others to blame Wal-Mart for world ills.

"I think we may have erred in not paying enough attention to the potentially positive role of business and the corporate multinational community in seeking solutions to the problems of the poor," Young wrote at that time.