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Founded in 1910, the National Urban League is one of the oldest African American social service, research, and advocacy organizations in the United States. A group of sociologists, social workers, and philanthropists founded the Chicago League in 1916 to address the rapidly increasing needs of the African American community during a time of voluminous migration. The specific focus of the Chicago League's programs has changed over time from the provision of social services to advocacy and leadership on citywide efforts to open jobs, housing, and public accommodations to black citizens. As a reform organization, the League has attracted criticism from the right and the left. Conservatives have often suggested that the League was pushing for too much change too quickly, and have especially criticized individual League leaders for being overly aggressive. On the other hand, the more militant labor and civil rights leaders have criticized the League for protecting the interests of its white supporters rather than the needs of black workers. With its connections to the University of Chicago's School of Sociology, the CUL was at the heart of efforts to use community studies and statistics to shape public policy.
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