Production Team: B
Interview Date: December 2, 1985
Camera Rolls: 379-382
Sound Rolls: 1334-1336
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Tom Hayden, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 2, 1985, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
WHO WAS TOM HAYDEN IN ‘61, THE STUDENT AT MICHIGAN, TELL ME ABOUT HIM, TELL ME THE THINGS HE WAS CONCERNED ABOUT.
Well I was uh, one of the students in the last great uh, age of apathy on the campuses in the late 1950s and uh, I was an idealist with uh, nowhere to go, with no outlet that I knew of. Uh, I therefore was a student editor, I was, I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to cover uh, issues and world affairs. And uh, several things happened uh, that I guess made me put down my pencil and, and become an activist. One was the, uh, uh, simply the, the uh, arrival of John F. Kennedy and his presidency. Uh, I became involved in the first group to advocate the Peace Corps in Ann Arbor, uh, and candidate John Kennedy listened. He legitimized the idea that youth had a role to play in history which is very important. But uh, I think far more fundamental uh, in shaping my attitudes was the emergence of students, primarily of course black students in the South who were uh, marching, uh, getting beaten, uh, getting arrested for what they believed. And uh, I believed in civil rights but it was not the issue that attracted me, it was the commitment, it was the uh, sense of taking their lives in their hands that made me wonder what I was doing uh, uh, being neutral and, and made me look more deeply into what I ought to be doing. And, and become an activist.
OK, TALKING ABOUT THE, THE SOUTHERN STUDENTS AND THAT, THAT MOVEMENT, CAN YOU BEGIN TO TALK ABOUT HOW, BEING MORE SPECIFIC IN TERMS OF WHAT KINDS OF CHANGES BEGAN TO START TAKING PLACE IN TERMS OF NORTHERN STUDENTS, WHAT KIND, WHAT DID IT REPRESENT TO THEM, THAT MOVEMENT IN THE SOUTH?
Well, the movement in the South uh, represented uh, uh, the first great uh, student action in decades, and the first assault on the pillars of segregation in, in a hundred years by, by uh, mass action. And uh, it was very stirring, and, and uh, it mobilized a lot of conscience in the North. Uh, most of the students in the North were restless under their apathy and they wanted to do something and here was an opportunity. Some uh, started helping in the boycott by picketing uh, Woolworth's or Kreske's in the North and that had an effect. Uh, some, uh, became more involved in their own backyards in tutorial for kids in the, in the uh, slums in northern cities. Some uh, became involved in fundraising, send the money to SNCC or to uh, SCLC in the South. And gradually some started to make the commitment to go South. I was one of those. I wanted to be there uh, in the front lines.
WAS THERE AT, THROUGH THAT EXAMPLE, SAY, THE STUDENTS IN THE SOUTH WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT, THAT KIND OF SAID TO STUDENTS IN THE NORTH YEAH THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS A PART OF ME TOO. THERE WAS, WAS THERE SOME SORT OF AFFINITY, SOMETHING THAT CONNECTED THERE?
There was a closeness uh, between the students all over the country, uh, though obviously the leadership was being taken by black students in the South. I, I think it was not simply a race issue, it was a generational issue, that it was our time to do something that past solutions had failed, uh, that the old institutional remedies, like going to the courts, were exhausted and that it was time to go into the streets. And that no one would do it unless young people did it. And that had a very strong appeal across uh, racial lines to students all over the country I think.
OK, UM, TALKING ABOUT JOHN KENNEDY AT THIS TIME AND, AND UH, YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE PEACE CORPS AND, AND HOW YOU REPRESENTED A SENSE OF OPTIMISM. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THAT IN TERMS OF STUDENTS IN GENERAL AND WHAT HE REPRESENTED TO SAY THE STUDENT MOVEMENT AT THAT TIME?
Well, I, I think at the time John Kennedy uh, was, was thought of as a generational symbol because uh, he too spoke of the need for a changing of the guard. And uh, in terms of the image, there was a great difference between a young, aggressive, activist, presidential candidate uh, as against uh, President Eisenhower who had seemed to be older, uh, to be representative of the silence and the apathy in the country. At least that was the image. And so uh, Kennedy, by his very presence in the race in the election campaign, tended to mobilize and excite young people. And he did some very specific things. He met with uh, students from Ann Arbor, uh, and endorsed the proposal for a Peace Corps, which these days might, might not seem like much, but then, it was, it was saying that students could play a mature, serious role in the world, and that was extremely important. Uh, and he did so despite the fact that we didn't have the eighteen-year-old vote. Secondly, uh, when Dr. King was in jail he placed a phone call to Mrs. King, that too seems uh, minor in the historical landscape, uh, but it made all the difference in terms of the, the uh, black vote and the liberal vote in the country from uh north to south, and was seen at the time as a, as a, as a major sign of commitment, and probably won John Kennedy the election. Uh, I don't know what, uh, what else we wanna—let me say one other thing about it. The …
I don't want to say that President Kennedy took the lead. Uh, that's not the way it seemed at the time and that wouldn't be accurate. Uh, many of us in the Civil Rights Movement felt that we had to push the administration, that uh, their response in the South to brutality and beatings was token or was too slow, uh, that at times uh, they wanted to recommend uh, that the movement stop. I remember when the Assistant Attorney General of the United States told me that uh, he thought that I should leave Mississippi and persuade others to leave Mississippi. I know that uh, as Attorney General, Robert Kennedy uh, hoped that the Freedom Rides uh, wouldn't happen. That's, that's uh, uh, the perspective, but if you look back uh, through time, uh, and not just how it appeared in the perspective of 1960 to '63, if you look back through time, uh, given how conservative this country was, uh, and how uh, unimportant the black vote or the youth vote had been uh, to past administrations, the Kennedy's really were uh, advancing a cause and legitimizing a cause far more fundamentally than we who were on the front lines thought at the time.
NOW YOU, AT, AT THAT TIME, YOU, YOU FELT THAT THIS COULD ALL BE CHANGED WITHIN THE SYSTEM. UM, WAS THAT, TALK ABOUT THE STUDENTS AT THAT TIME AND THAT FEELING THAT THIS, THIS WAS A SYSTEM THAT COULD CHANGE, THAT COULD BEND, THAT COULD DO THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT YOU WANTED, THAT YOU FELT HAD TO BE DONE IN THE COUNTRY, AND UM, HOW THAT BEGAN TO CHANGE SOMEWHAT, ER, IF IT CHANGED AT ALL.
Well, to what extent uh, it could be changed through the system was a c-I think a course of ongoing debate uh, within the movement and between generations of civil rights activists, between those who favored uh, nonviolent civil disobedience, those who favored voter registration, uh, those who favored alliances with the National Democratic Party. It was never finally settled, I think uh, uh, you'd have to be uh, a genius to tell what was the most important uh, method used, because in the end, it seemed to take uh, something of everything. Uh, but I think at the time there was a greater wellspring of hope and belief that if you acted, this system, with its commitment to democracy, would respond, uh, than there was say, five years later, when uh, many of us felt that the system had failed the test and uh, uh, we turned to more radical paths, or we felt more disillusioned uh, or we felt that uh, hope had been killed with the, the death of King and the Kennedys. There was a certain uh, springtime of idealism and great hope in the early 1950s.
OK, LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND.
WE'RE CONTINUING ON CAMERA ROLL 379.
ARE YOU READY? OK, TALK ABOUT FIRST GOING SOUTH AND HOW YOU GOT THERE.
The first time that I went uh, south into the heart of segregation was in response to a call by uh, sharecroppers who'd been denied the right to vote and had, had set up a tent city. They were living in tents, uh, Fayetteville, Tennessee, I believe it was, it was in the winter of '60/'61 and a group of students in Ann Arbor, uh, responding to their call, put together a lot of food and uh, supplies, clothing, and we took several vehicles and, and went down. I went as the editor of the Michigan Daily, the Ann Arbor student newspaper. And uh, we spent several days there. And uh, uh, the, the first thing I remember was the idealism and the commitment of the sharecroppers, the people who were putting everything on the line. And secondly, uh, the uh, blind insensitivity of the, of the uh, city's fathers, if that's what you wanted to call them. I remember the first time we were confronted by the sheriff, who wanted us off the, uh, off the land, uh, it was at night, and this had never happened to me before. I took a look at him and uh, his equipment and my legs caved in. Uh, uh, it, it, it it, it, the fear had never hit me like that, and I couldn't imagine what it would be like to spend 50 years or 75 years under that kind of fear of the law. Later that night uh, we went dow—we were downtown trying to, uh, find the telephone to file a story over the phones the Michigan newspapers. And a crowd with bats and clubs uh, found us and descended on us and, and uh, uh, we, we uh, got in our cars and left that town, I don't mind saying at about uh, twice the speed limit with uh, uh, this little mob chasing us. So that was my introduction to the South.
THIS WILL BE CAMERA ROLL 380. THIS WILL BE TAKE FOUR.
OK LET'S FINISH THAT STORY, COMING DOWNTOWN.
So immediately afterwards, uh, I went downtown looking for a telephone to file a story back to Ann Arbor, uh, over the phone, you know, to meet the deadline and, and uh, while I was trying to do that with my… a couple of friends, we got surrounded by a group of really mean, uh, looking people with bats and uh, clubs and uh, cars and it looked like I wouldn't be able to file that story, you know, right on the spot, so we decided to uh, uh, jump in our cars and I believe we left that town at about double or triple the speed limit and filed the story a little later about a hundred miles down the road.
YOU WERE HOW, WHAT? NINETEEN AT THE TIME?
Uh, I was probably twenty.
TWENTY YEARS OLD. UM, WHAT, WHY, WHY DID YOU GO DOWN THERE? WHAT MADE, WHAT MADE TOM HAYDEN FEEL LIKE HE WAS A PART OF THIS THING? WHAT UM, FROM MICHIGAN, THIS IS FAR FROM YOUR HOME, YOUR NEEDS, I MEAN, WHAT, WHY, WHY DOWN THERE? WHY DID YOU GO?
Well Mi-uh, why did I go? Michigan was a fairly liberal state, politically. And I had been brought up and gone to the university and edited the newspaper and had, uh, liberal ideals. This was the first time that those ideals were put to the test. Uh, would I give token support to this cause, uh, where others were taking big risks, or would I take risks myself? It became a test of commitment, and uh, in those days it was relatively simple, if you wanted to do something you could send food, uh, you could raise money, you could boycott uh, Woolworth's, or you could go south. And if you went south, you could live on virtually nothing, and you could register people to vote, and periodically you could go to demonstrations where you would get beaten up and go to jail, uh, and so it was before you. If you didn't do it, uh, uh, it was difficult on your conscience. Uh, and, and so I, I chose to finally move to Atlanta, uh, for at least a couple of years, and try to be some kind of communications link between what was going on among students in the South, communicate that back to students up north.
UM, I WANT TO JUMP AHEAD A LITTLE BIT AND GET INTO MISSISSIPPI AND UH, I'D LIKE YOU TO, YOU WERE IN MISSISSIPPI AS AN OBSERVER, YOU OBSERVED WHAT WAS GOING ON AND WRITING BACK. UH, DESCRIBE FOR ME WHAT YOU, UH, WHAT YOU SAW IN MISSISSIPPI, WHAT YOU THOUGHT MISSISSIPPI REPRESENTED IN TERMS OF THE MOVEMENT AT THAT TIME, WHAT YOU SAW.
Well, the, the places that I, I thought were the most foreboding, and that America knew the least about were the rural areas, uh, southern Georgia I spent a lot of time and uh, southern Mississippi, and uh, these were the heartland of segregation, this was the, this was the black belt, this is where the arm of the United States government didn't seem to reach, and uh, to take uh, responsibility for going into these areas to knock on doors, to set up an office, to call yourself a civil rights worker was tantamount to signing uh, a suicide note. There was just no protection. Uh, and I found the people who went into those areas uh, to be exceptionally brave, uh, to, to be uh, certainly the moral equivalent of uh, of, of veterans uh, in any of our wars. Uh, and if it was not for them, uh, uh, what we called the iceberg of the Deep South would never have been broken open; the country never would have seen anything. Uh, I went to Mississippi once in 1961 uh, with another white student, Paul Potter uh, and we followed Bob Moses uh, uh, into Jackson and rented cars and followed him down to Macomb, uh, a drive of several hours. We had been up all night, and we checked into a motel. And, uh, Bob went on to their, to their office headquarters and we met later. And I'll tell you how we met to give you an example of how tough it was. We met in the middle of the night by driving into the black community with the lights off, uh, into the gas station parking lot and then lying down on, on the uh, floor of the car waiting for another car to come and pick us up to take us to a meeting uh, which was in a home where there were just a couple of dim lights on and blankets pulled up over all the windows of the house so the house looked dark. This was merely uh, to have a discussion of what we were going to see the following day. There was gonna be a march of 16 and 17 year old high school students one mile, uh, asking for uh, uh, some students who had been expelled from school for civil rights work to be returned to school. That was in the United States in Mississippi in 1961. Now when we went uh, down to the, to the demonstration, uh, it was clear that the police already knew that these two northern whites were in town up to no good. Uh, we even went around to, in our innocence and introduced ourselves to the newspaper editor, to the chief of police, Mr. Emerick, Mr. Guy, and told them our business. And, and the chief of police had photographs of everybody who was a member of SNCC right on his desk, uh, the way a general does wi—uh, with his opponents. And when we went to the demonstration, uh, we were sitting in the car uh, thinking the doors were locked, and all of a sudden, bang, the doors were ripped open and a, a mob of people uh, tore us out of the car, one at a time and just uh, beat us and kicked us in, in the streets. And uh, it happened that a photographer was there, and he hid the photographs, he was a brave fellow, and uh, he said that they knew where we were staying, what motel, and that we, we were going to be killed that night if we didn't get out of town. We were then taken to the police station and interviewed by a gentleman from something called The Sovereignty Commission who wanted to know why we were harming the image of the state of Mississippi. And he encouraged us in no uncertain terms to leave, which uh, we said we would, uh, and we then went uh, uh, on to Atlanta and Washington. Talking to the FBI, asking them to do something, and we were told in Washington by the Assistant Attorney General, a good man, Burke Marshall, that uh, probably nothing could be done and he advised us never to go to Mississippi again and to use our powers if we could to persuade the SNCC workers to leave, because it was just too dangerous to their lives. Uh, we didn't take his advice, uh, because if the SNCC workers had left, I was thinking well what would have happened to all the people uh, who wanted to vote there, who would have, who would have stood for them?
NOW YOU DESCRIBED THE UH, SNCC WORKERS THERE AS UM, ALMOST LIKE WARRIORS, AND, I GUESS, WHAT I'D LIKE TO GET TO IS, IS OTHER STUDENTS, STUDENTS WHO MIGHT NOT HAVE HAD THAT FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE, DO YOU—UM, AND THEIR, THEIR IDEAS AND UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE SOUTH, THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THESE PEOPLE THERE WHO WERE FIGHTING IN THESE STATES, WAS IT A ROMANTIC IDEAL? WAS IT, OR DID THEY HAVE A [unintelligible] THEIR DESIRE TO BE A PART OF IT ALL, WHAT, WHERE DID…
You mean the northern students?
THE NORTHERN STUDENTS.
Well I think in any kind of uh, social revolution like this you get people who have all kinds of motivations. Uh, uh, not all of them pure, and certainly none of them simple. Uh, I think there was some uh, romanticism on the part of white students who wanted to come down. I think there was probably some guilt at work. Uh, but I'm not a psychologist I don't look at motives, I try to look at behavior and what are the consequences. And for all the, the uh, problems that the students might have borne with them, uh, uh, after all they were, uh, trying to deal with responsibilities that the adult generation had failed to deal with for a hundred years. I think that the results were, historically, very, very significant. That is in a short period of time, we didn't solve all the problems of America but we did away with the system of legalized segregation that had prevented millions of people from being able to think of themselves as human beings, citizens with the right to vote. And, uh, I think that was one of the great achievements of the 20th century, and it was these students, with all of our frailties, with all of our uh, inexperience, there were in the forefront of, of making that happen, and that's something that I think uh, that generation can rightly be proud of for all time.
OK, CAN WE CUT FOR A SECOND? TALK NOW ABOUT UM…
THIS WILL BE TAKE FIVE.
AND LET'S FIR—TALK ABOUT THE IDEA OF THE FACT THAT THEY SHOULD BE PROTECTED HOW? WHAT, WHO, WHO'S RESPONSIBLE? WHERE'S THE RESPONSIBILITY? OK, UM, YOU READY? OK TALK ABOUT WHAT YOUR EXPECTATIONS SAY OF THE GOVERNMENT, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN TO PROTECT CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS.
My expectation of what my federal government uh, should have been doing was the protection of civil rights workers and the enactment of legislation to protect the right to vote, uh, both of them. And, and I think that we were, many of us were shocked by the uh, slowness, if, if uh, for lack of another word, with which the federal government moved. Although there were competent uh, federal officials in many areas, uh, it was also true that the FBI under, uh, J. Edgar Hoover, uh, had no great sympathy with this cause, many of their agents were on cozy terms with uh, Southern state officials. Uh, many of them were uh, absent at the scene of the action, or if they were there uh, they filed uh, completely uh, innocuous reports or sometimes uh, blaming the victims for the, for the uh violence. So we came to feel that the uh, arm of the federal government simply didn't reach to the South, uh, that some political arrangement superseded the Constitution, that political arrangement uh, respected the power of the Southern segregationists uh, in, in uh, Washington.
OK, I GUESS WHAT I'D, I'D LIKE TO ALSO, UH, TAKING YOURSELF BACK THEN…
THIS WILL BE CAMERA ROLL 381, TAKE SIX.
SO, SO TELL ME …
Where are we?
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT …
Back to the FBI, all right.
…GOVERNMENT PROTECTION. AND I WANT YOU TO BE ABLE TELL ME THEN WHEN YOU BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT THESE THINGS WERE NOT, THEY WERE NOT THERE TO, GOING TO BE ABLE TO PROTECT YOU…
Friends, these are not your friends, right. Well there was a suspicion that uh, the FBI were not our friends in the South, uh, uh, certainly that came from the top. The views of J. Edgar Hoover uh, were that Dr. Martin Luther King was a Communist and a dangerous agitator who ought not to be uh, honored or respected and that must have filtered down. In addition, uh, the FBI had friendly relationships with a lot of the local law enforcement in the South that we were directly confronting. It came home uh, most dramatically to me after being beaten up in uh, Southern Mississippi talking to the uh, FBI agents who came to interview me in Atlanta, uh, myself and Paul. It appeared that uh, they must have thought we were from outer space. Uh, we certainly thought that, that uh, that they were because it appeared that, that they thought that we were the cause of this problem and they were looking for uh, an explanation for our behavior. When, uh, what I thought was since they were federal law enforcement officers, they ought to arrest the people who broke the law by violating our rights and beating us up. Uh, there was no communication, uh, that the uh, perspectives were that far apart.
UH, WHEN, WHAT, WHAT DID THIS, WHAT DID THIS TELL YOU, WHAT DID THIS MAKE YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS?
Well I think the lesson th—-uh, that was learned very uh, rapidly was that the FBI in the South could not be counted upon to enforce the Constitution, that they had other priorities. And that secondly, uh, they were doing everything they could uh, to distort the true aims of the movement and uh, cast negative uh, aspersions on Dr. King and, and others. How far this reached into the Justice Department or the Kennedy administration, we didn't know, but it certainly uh, tarnished our original belief that the federal government, particularly with its law enforcement arm would be there uh, to uh, uh, uh, stop the violence and ensure the right to vote. We were very much on our own, now that was the conclusion that we drew.
OK, JUMPING A LITTLE, A LITTLE BIT FURTHER UM, AHEAD, UH, TALK TO ME ABOUT THE SUMMER PROJECT, ABOUT STUDENTS COMING INTO MISSISSIPPI FROM THE NORTH, WHAT YOU FELT THAT WAS GOING TO DO FOR THE MOVEMENT AND FOR THE UH, S—SPECIFICALLY MISSISSIPPI AT THAT TIME.
Well I was not in the Summer Project, I was, I was uh, doing similar work in the, our ghettos of northern New Jersey at the time, uh, but I knew the people well who organized the Summer Project and we thought of ourselves as, as doing uh, similar things. The goal of the Summer Project, had it been achieved, might have made a major difference for the rest of the 1960s. The goal was through legal means, within the system, to displace a party, a branch of the Democratic Party, the Mississippi uh, branch of the Democratic Party, which was clearly in violation of the Democratic Party's own civil rights stand, was clearly in violation of federal law, clearly in violation of the U.S. Constitution, and replace that party with an integrated black and white new party in the state of Mississippi. And had that happened, uh, I really think that it would have been to the, to the benefit of all and would not have been a political liability for the National Democratic Party, it would have been an asset. But instead, uh, the keepers of the National Party, the guardians of the gates, uh, decided, uh, I think for tactical reasons, that they could not offend, could not alienate the South. And by the South that was a code word for the segregationists. And so, uh, they embittered a whole generation of civil rights workers and of southern blacks by, uh, without reason, refusing to seat uh, the Freedom Democratic delegation. I remember being there then and driving away that night and it was just like a dagger had been driven into the heart of uh, of SNCC. Excuse me I'm losing my voice. You gotta ask that question, cause I don't know where to start on that, where are you starting?
WELL I'D, I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT THAT DILEMMA OF SAY, PROTEST AND POLITICS …
UM, AND HOW THAT BEGAN TO, TO BE A PROB—-YOU KNOW, A PART OF THE PROBLEM OF RECONCILING, GETTING ANY SORT OF SOLUTION TO THE CHALLENGE IN '64. OK.
Well, the conflict at the uh, Democratic Convention was very much uh, in, in retrospect between uh, pragmatic liberal leadership of the Democratic Party versus a new generation of activists who were basically possessed by a dream and by a vision and didn't want to hear about compromise. Uh, it was not over the uh, uh, direction of the Democratic Party from the delegates' point of view because the delegates uh, were for the seating of the Mississippi Freedom delegation. Uh, we had the votes, the people had signed up. What it was, was uh, uh, the pragmatic liberals deciding that it was not in the national interest of the party, the strategic interest of winning elections to allow this uh, to occur. Uh, and that caused a polarization, that caused a tremendous bitterness because it meant to the poor blacks from the South, the SNCC organizers, the advocates, that they were just seeing, uh, liberalism basically unmasked and turning itself into pragmatism without purpose. That's how it was seen. Uh, and it was, it was actually uh, in retrospect unnecessary. I think Johnson would have defeated Goldwater uh, uh, in any event, but what happened is that it poisoned uh, uh, progressive and liberal politics and set the stage for black power and for, for other uh, new developments because the basic lesson that these uh, p—possessed and uh, extremely idealistically driven uh, civil rights workers took from that convention was that you can't uh, trust liberals. They had already had it with segregationists, they knew conservatives, the last hope was the liberals, and uh, the liberals let, let uh, let them down.
UM, I WANT, GETTING BACK TO, TO THE SUMMER PROJECT I WAS TALKING ABOUT BEFORE TOO, UM, THE IDEA OF STUDENTS, WHITE STUDENTS COMING IN MISSISSIPPI EN MASSE LIKE THAT, UM, WHAT DID YOU THINK IT, HOW DID, HOW DID THAT AFFECT THE COUNTRY, HOW DID IT AFFECT UM, UM, WHAT, WHAT IMPACT DID YOU THINK IT WAS GOING TO HAVE ON THE MOVEMENT AND …
Well I was in Mississippi when there were very few white students or northern whites there at all. And I remember the thinking was, uh, if this simply remains a black thing, where the white official violence is visited upon uh, black sharecroppers or black civil rights workers, uh, how will a country that is significantly prejudiced respond? What's gonna make them interested? And the conclusion was uh, that for all the problems in it, it, it would be necessary to bring down the white sons and daughters of the country's middle class from the liberal north by the hundreds, by the thousands if possible, to uh, experience uh, whether—-the true nature of southern segregation. And that out of that clash, uh, there'd be a stronger message to the North. The idea of being that if you mobilize the North, it was kind of like a political civil war, if you mobilize the North, that then pressure would be put on Congress and on the administration, and then they would finally do something about these uh, strongholds of segregation in the South. And the—-I think that there was some truth to that strategy.
OK. UM, I WANT TO TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER, ANOTHER PLACE HERE AND TALK ABOUT SNCC, AND WHEN IT WAS ORGANIZED, AND UM, UH, ITS MEMBERSHIP AND, AS A STUDENT COMING FROM THE NORTH, WHO DID YOU THINK IT REPRESENTED? WHERE—-DID YOU FEEL A PART OF IT? YOU KNOW, TALK TO ME ABOUT THAT, THAT TIME. AND HOW IT BEGAN TO SLOWLY CHANGE, HOW STUDENTS BEGAN TO COME INTO IT FROM THE NORTH.
Uh, I'm not sure how to…
LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND.
Yeah I'm not sure what the…
What answer? I have to leave in about fifteen minutes by the way is that…
THIS WILL BE TAKE EIGHT.
OK BEGIN, JUST TELL ME ABOUT UM, UH, SNCC AS A, AS AN ORGANIZATION AND HOW IT, AND ITS CONNECTION IT WAS MAKING WITH SAY NORTHERN STUDENTS ESPECIALLY AT THAT TIME.
Well every now and then uh, there's a surge of history in which a group of people uh, have the chance to determine events by taking uh, their lives into their own hands, their destiny into their own hands and SNCC was such an organization. It was not a bureaucracy, not the kind of uh, bureaucracy that exists between uh, uh crises, but it arose out of a crisis uh, and uh, it was composed of uh, students, high school and college students primarily, some dropouts from all over the South, uh, mostly black, some white, who uh, uh, sensed, the, the, suddenly sensed the opportunity to break down segregation. Uh, uh, that their, the previous generations had not felt the strength to do. Uh, and, I don't think uh, SNCC ever had a chance of becoming permanent or institutionalized or lasting because it was, it was a spontaneous uh, uh arising of, of uh thousands of people who, who wanted to come out of their private life of uh, unhappiness under segregation and do what was necessary to break it and then, and then return uh, hopefully to uh, to their personal lives. And so it was a very romantic, very appealing magnetic uh, organization because it was um, a spontaneous formation of conscience uh, that you just wanted to be part of…
THIS WILL BE ROLL NUMBER 382 ON CAMERA, TAKE NINE.
…back to private life, kind of.
[unintelligible background conversation]
Yeah, no no, but, we're talking hundreds and thousands of people, for the most part.
THIS WILL BE TAKE TEN.
UM, AND WHAT I WANT TO ASK YOU HERE IS, IS UH, BACK IN '60, '61 YOU'RE AN, A YOUNG ANALYST, A POLITICAL ANALYST AND A YOUNG STUDENT. DID YOU THINK THEN THAT YOU WERE A PART OF, A PART OF A, SOMETHING THAT WAS GOING TO ALEVIATE THE WAY IT WAS AT THAT TIME, THAT WAS GOING TO REALLY FORCE THE HAND OF THE GOVERNMENT SOME TIME? AND WHEN DID YOU THINK YOU, THIS, THIS MOVEMENT THAT YOU HAD PROBABLY WISHED FOR AND THINGS WAS REALLY HAPPENING.
I was drawn into this movement because, uh, among other things I thought that uh, it was uh, historical, that it, it uh, it it meant great things, it meant a fundamental shift, it meant uh, the coming of a new generation to uh, political and social responsibility in America. Uh, there was no question in my mind and the minds of uh, my associates that we were making history. Uh, did that lead us into uh, uh crazy thoughts or, or uh, uh utopian directions sometimes? Sure it did. Uh, but it was far better than apathy or cynicism. There was a, uh, an innocence to it that was necessary uh, uh, because it meant that, that uh, we could uh, dream of achieving great things and, and expect to.
OK. THAT'S A CUT.