Interview with Rev. Frederick Reese
Interview with Rev. Frederick Reese


Production Team: C

Interview Date: December 5, 1985

Camera Rolls: 564-567
Sound Rolls: 1530-1531

Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965).
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Rev. Frederick Reese, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on December 5, 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.

INTERVIEW
FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Sound Roll 1530

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Camera Roll 564

[reference tone]

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Ok this is an interview with Reverend Frederick Reese

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Ok this will be the beginning of the interview with Reverend Frederick Reese

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

Sound Roll 1530, 564 Camera Roll

QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

REV. REESE - LET ME START OFF BY ASKING WHY WAS SELMA CHOSEN AS THE SITE FOR VOTING RIGHTS CAMPAIGNS, FIRST BOTH IN 1963 AND THEN LATER IN 1965.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Selma was chosen because of its uh commitment on the part of local people here who were displeased with uh, the number of persons in this community who had been denied the right to vote. Out of some uh, one thousand uh, one hundred fifteen uh, fifteen thousand rather, people in the county who were eligible to become registered, only about uh, 300 were really uh registered and were on the rolls. And that percentage caused a lot of alarm on the part of the people here in the city and county. And then of course a commitment to push for the right to vote. Also we had as a sheriff at that time, Sheriff Jim Clark who was the symbol of resistance in the South and he was a prime uh, target to agitate in order to get uh, the type of opportunities to have the public and the whole country aware that what people in the south, particularly in Selma Dallas County who had been denied the right to vote.

QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

SO THAT COMMITMENT AND SHERIFF JIM CLARK UM, TOUCHED SNCC AND SCLC AND DREW THEM TO SELMA THEN?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Yes um, because of the local commitment we invited SNCC in '63, and '64 and then at the end of '64, December of '64, because of the dwindling resources of SNCC, uh, toward the commitment for the drive and the demonstration for the right to vote, I as president of the Dallas County Voters League, uh, signed invitation and request to Dr. King and the members of SCLC to use their resources in helping us to keep alive that commitment to gain the right to vote.

QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME GO BACK A LITTLE WHILE AND ASK YOU WHY DID YOU AND OTHERS DECIDE TO FORM THE DALLAS COUNTY VOTERS LEAGUE?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Dallas County Voters League uh, is and was an organization that time that had been in existence some 20 years. Only about uh, 100 people who were registered voters kept that uh, organization alive uh, it was comprised of people who really were voters and of course uh, when I returned back to Selma in 1960, then I uh, joined the Dallas County Voters League after getting the right to vote myself. And then I was chosen as President of that uh, league and then uh, a type of enthusiasm was developed to forge ahead in a more dynamic manner to gain the right to vote under my leadership.

QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

NOW, WON'T YOU JUST, FOR PEOPLE WHO JUST HAVE NO CLUE AND IT'S REALLY NOT CLEAR WHEN YOU READ IT IN HISTORY BOOKS, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU WERE A BLACK PERSON AT THAT TIME AND YOU WENT TO THE COURTHOUSE TO REGISTER TO VOTE, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

You would uh, if you were a black person, and went to the courthouse, first of all, more than likely you would have to stand in line um, because of the number of persons who would be there to get registered. uh during the commitment in 1964, efforts were made to really get as many people as possible to stand in line at the courthouse uh, to uh, get access to the Board of Registrars Office, however, in the run of a day's time, out of three or 500 people standing in line around the courthouse you'd have about 25 would get into the Board of Registrars Office uh, during that particular day. And out of the 25 that would get in, to fill out applications, only about uh, two or three might receive their registration certificate. Uh, you would have to undergo written uh, written tests as well as an oral test. The oral test comprised of questions relating to the Constitution of the State of Alabama. And of course uh, at some time it would get uh, quite uh, obnoxious, uh, dubious questions um, like how many bubbles in a bar of soap. It got to a point of being ridiculous and you felt that really when you finished that your application would be thrown in the trashcan as soon as you walked out the door. So really it was a matter of resisting to try to dramatize uh and to get people to understand there were people who were being denied the right to vote in Selma, Dallas County who really wanted the right to vote and who were willing to pay the price to get that right.

QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT DO YOU THINK WHITES WERE SO AFRAID OF, I MEAN WHY GO THROUGH ALL OF THIS ASKING PEOPLE HOW MANY BUBBLES IN A BAR OF SOAP, TO KEEP THEM FROM REGISTERING TO VOTE? WHAT WAS THE BIG DEAL?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

The big deal, particularly in the Black Belt of Alabama, you have uh, concentration of black people and counties, uh, in Alabama and the resistance to the right to vote is greater in those counties that have a majority black population than in other counties in the state of Alabama. And that is true throughout the South. And consequently, uh, uh, the white uh, power structure suddenly feared what might happen if blacks in large numbers got the right to vote. Uh, because of the type of treatment and discriminatory practices that had uh, existed prior uh, to the quest for the right to vote, they felt that uh, many of those persons in power would uh, suddenly be uh taken out of power by the vote.

QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME JUST, SO I CAN BE REALLY CLEAR, HOW WAS IT THAT SOME PEOPLE LIKE YOURSELF WERE ABLE TO GET THE RIGHT TO VOTE, I KNOW MRS BOYNTON HAD VOTED IN 30'S OR 40'S, OR WHATEVER, HOW, WHY WERE THERE A FEW BLACKS THAT COULD GET THE VOTE AND OTHERS, PRIMARILY WERE DENIED THAT RIGHT?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

At some point I think, it was an understood um, thing with the members of the Board of Registrars that in the city and county there were certain blacks who were chosen as um, persons who had great respect, who earned great respect by the white power structure. And those persons, um who be asked if they would recommend certain persons to receive their voter registration certificate. In others words, they had to recommend the persons who would be accepted. And this took place for quite some time uh, prior down to 1960 uh, that I was aware. And if a person did not recommend you, then you certainly would not get registered, uh, these were quote, uh the good black people who were making the recommendations. Now, I became registered uh, when I joined, uh, connected myself, connected myself rather, with the Dallas County Voters League. Uh, because of my resistance, I went up, uh, several times myself, uh, to file application and because of my, um participation in civil rights and so forth, uh, and my commitment then they felt that uh, they would certainly allow me the privilege of receive my registration certificate and I would just go home, and, and be quiet and be thankful. Uh, however, there were persons who were teachers who had masters degrees who had gone down 5 and 6 times and had not been registered. Uh, their applications were thrown in the wastebasket and uh, some did not get registered until after I really began to uh, wage a campaign for the right to vote for teachers. I was an instructor at R.B. Hudson High School at that time in 64, 65 and also President of the Selma City Teachers Association and I made a point to get teachers interested in going down, file an application to become registered voters. I asked the question, how can you teach and, teach citizenship, and you're not a first-class citizen yourself? So therefore, we waged that campaign and we were successful in getting many teachers the right to vote.

QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

ALRIGHT YOU MENTIONED TO ME EARLIER THAT UH, SCLC WAS CALLED IN BECAUSE SNCC'S FUNDS WERE DRYING UP, UM, WAS THERE ANY OTHER SENSE THAT BRINGING A MARTIN LUTHER KING TO SELMA IS GOING TO ELEVATE THE STRUGGLE TO A NATIONAL ONE, WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

I think that we were primarily concerned about continuing the struggle because we knew that uh, it would take uh, financial resources as well as personal sacrifice and commitment to be successful in obtaining this right, and that was foremost in our minds. And knowing that uh, SCLC, Dr. King had waged successful campaigns in other towns and cities, uh, we felt that uh, SCLC was the most appropriate organization uh, to approach, to have them come in and continue with the work that SNCC had begun here with us in the community.

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[unintelligible background conversation]

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[ok, we're going to Camera Roll 565, 565]

QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, UM KING HAS COME TO TOWN AND IT'S JANUARY 2nd 1965, CAN YOU TELL ME SOMETHING OF THE SPIRIT OF THAT FIRST MEETING, THAT COMING TOGETHER OF KICKING OFF THE CAMPAIGN OF '65, WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

When, uh, Dr. King was invited, to come to Selma in December '64, it was first, uh, thought that he should come on January the 1st which was the day that Selma Dallas County celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation uh, signing. However due to the fact that we had already planned a program for the first of January, we asked that he would come on January the 2nd. At that time we were under an injunction. We had been on an injunction since 1964 by the Circuit Court here in Dallas County which prohibited uh, the members of the Dallas County Voters League from holding mass meetings in the churches or for congregating on the streets of Selma in groups of five or more, if so you'll be arrested. That uh, injunction kept us from meeting and it somewhat slowed uh, the momentum of the movement. However, there were those of us who were officers of the Dallas County voters League met uh, in groups at homes and so forth to keep the fire burning so to speak. And we were at Mrs. Boynton's house in December of 64 when I as President of the Dallas County Voters League, um made the request and signed officially the request for Dr. King to come to Selma and because of the commitment for January the 1st, we decided we would uh meet at Brown Chapel Church January 2nd, uh, and at that time to break the injunction, to keep a piece of paper, so to speak from uh, from allowing people to congregate for mass meetings and so forth. We were ready to go to jail, or whatever it took, we were ready to break that injunction at all costs. And we felt that Dr. King would be a most appropriate person to come and uh, to speak at that meeting that we had chosen to uh, break that injunction. And so, January the 2nd, I vividly remember it snowed and there were those who felt that many people who not show up at that meeting because of the fright, the fear of being jailed, or whatever the case might have been. However, at 3 o'clock, January the 2nd at Brown Chapel Church uh, that church began to fill up, it was packed people was sitting in the windows and the law enforcement agencies instead of arresting us for meeting, they only directed the traffic around the church to make sure that everybody had a parking uh, space. And from that point on due to the fact that there were so many people there and having to arrest that number of people, then it would have caused uh, would have been a liability on the uh city to feed all those people in jail and to house them and so forth. So therefore, we said nothing else about an injunction, we kept meeting from that point on, and of course the momentum of the movement uh, was renewed and that it moved toward March the 7th.

QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

WAS THERE A LOT OF EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR BECAUSE KING WAS IN TOWN AND THIS WAS GOING TO BE SOMETHING PROMISING FOR THE COMMUNITY.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

There was a lot of excitement, yes. Uh, Dr. King had a very dynamic, uh, uh, magnetic personality. Uh, he could uh, draw people, uh, many people wanted to not only see him but to be a part of any meeting that uh, he shared because he was an inspiration uh, he was very articulate, uh, very uh, in a sense convincing uh, to remove the fears that people might have had in standing up for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and to opening the eyes of people to their rights and so forth and somehow injecting into them a commitment to want to go and to do those things that they felt would be necessary to obtain the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. So therefore, there was a lot of excitement on that particular day, and of course a lot of skepticism, not knowing what was going to happen, however, uh, the kind of uh, inspiration that was received in all of these mass meeting is like the you know, the Indians when before they would go to war, they would have a war dance and they would get, uh, you know spirited uh for the battle. And these mass meetings served as that type of thing. And so once you get in a mass meeting with Dr. King and other persons who were there, uh, you, you just kind of picked up a kind of commitment and you wanted to come to the next mass meeting and you then uh, sensed the kind of commitments the others have, you want to become involved and that's the kind of spirit that was exhibited in that January 2nd meeting.

QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

YOU TALKED A LITTLE BIT EARLIER ABOUT THE TEACHERS, UM, AND WE KNOW FROM READING THAT THE TURNING POINT IN THE SELMA CAMPAIGN WAS THE TEACHERS' MARCH. I WONDER IF YOU COULD JUST TELL ME HOW THAT CAME ABOUT AND WHAT HAPPENED AT THE COURTHOUSE WHEN YOU GOT THERE WITH THOSE TEACHERS BEHIND YOU.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

On um, during the months of uh, January uh, we had you know, mass meetings after that particular January 2nd meeting and I was just in the right place, I guess at the right time with the right commitment. I was President of the Selma City Teachers Association, I had developed a kind of confidence of the teachers in my quest

QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

I'M GOING TO HAVE YOU START AGAIN WITH THAT STORY.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Okay, in uh, January 1965 I was President of the Selma City Teachers Association and had developed the confidence of the teachers in my quest for the many advantages for teachers with the Selma City School Board and what have you. However, at the same time I was President of the Dallas County Voters League and that gave me an opportunity to uh, have influence uh with teachers as well as with the common laborer, or people you know, in the community in general. And I used that influence to try to get teachers registered, uh, and one of the things that uh brought about that commitment was the fact that many teachers had gone down and been denied the right to vote. I felt that that was a good uh, indication that there was some discrimination in their efforts because teachers who have degrees and who had masters degrees had been denied and so, working with teachers then would have been uh, more of a type of justifiable uh position to take requesting the right to vote. And on January the 22nd, uh, I had asked that teachers would uh meet at Carr Elementary School at 3 o'clock at which time we were going down to the County Courthouse to ask the Board of Registrars to have the Board Office open so teachers could get registered. We knew that on Friday that the Board is not open, in fact the Board only was open on the first and third Mondays of each month. But I had written a letter to the chairman of the Board of Registrars requesting the office to be open because I felt that if we could go to the Courthouse to pay our taxes any day of the week that we oughta be able to go and get registered any day of the week. And of course, when we got to the courthouse, and by the way, uh, there were many people who just didn't believe that teachers were going to march, the middle class professional group had uh, somewhat divorced themselves from participating in the movement at that point, and the common laborers and you know, people who were uh, workers were carrying the main load for uh demonstrations and marches at that time. But to say at a mass meeting prior to that march, I told the mass meeting, I said, On Friday, teachers would march to the County Courthouse. They said, we don't believe that. However, that Friday at 3 o'clock there were only one car on Carr school campus and then the [unintelligible] began to fill up with cars of teachers. 99% of the city teachers came and participated in the march. There were several teachers who were elderly, who came and sat in the meetings and said, now we, are not able to march to the courthouse, but we came here to give you moral support. And when we came out of Carr school which is in the area of the housing project, there were parents and people standing on the outside they couldn't believe that teachers were marching for the right to vote for the first time in the United States. I led the group down to the Courthouse and when we got to the Courthouse, we encountered Sheriff Jim Clark and his deputies who had in line across the door at the Courthouse. And we marched uh, in pairs went up to uh Jim Clark, uh and his deputies and we al, almost rubbed noses. And he informed me that I should get off of the steps

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[We're going to 566]

QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

I WANT YOU TO START WHEN YOU GOT TO THE COURTHOUSE

Rev. Frederick Reese:

When about 300 uh, teachers who participated in the march arrived at the courthouse, we encountered Jim Clark and his posse lined up across the door of the courthouse. And we marched directly up to Jim Clark and his posse almost rubbing noses and he informed me that I was making a mockery out of his courthouse and I was asked to, to take those teachers back to the school where they came from. And I reminded him that uh that Courthouse did not belong to him, the Courthouse belonged to us also and we were there, citizens to see if the Board of Registrars was in session as we had requested. We had a right to go in the Courthouse and I would not back down from that right. And of course he informed us that if we did not get off those steps he would move us. And of course by the way, I had, before hand asked teachers to come prepared, to bring their face cloth, toothbrush and what have you so that if they were arrested, then uh, by Monday, we would try to have them out uh, to attend school. However, he gave us one minute, at the end of that one minute, he, along with his posse took their billy clubs and knocked us down the steps. I asked that the line would not move unless they were moved. And 6 couples that uh, occupied the steps, then regrouped and I gave the command that we would go back the second time. We went up to Jim Clark again, he gave us another minute and uh at the end of that minute, he knocked us down the steps again. So then I said we would try it a third time and of course, after thinking about my partner who was the incoming President of the, uh, Selma City Teachers Association. He had uh, somewhat big eyes and so forth and he just wanted to know whether or not I really meant what I said during the third time. And I assured him that we were going back a third time. And when uh, getting on the steps again, he gave us another minute about 45 seconds had passed and someone out of the Courthouse came and pulled Jim Clark's coat and took him into uh the Courthouse door. I know exactly what they told him, but I could imagine, he was told not to arrest those teachers as he said he would do if we were not off those steps in that, uh, that minute. And so, he came back out of the courthouse and jabbed us down the steps again, so I saw then that he was not going to arrest us as I really wanted him to do, therefore we asked that the teachers then would regroup and we marched back not to the school but to Brown Chapel Church at which time there was a rally held** commending those teachers for the first time to march for the right to vote in the United States.

QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

THIS PULLED MORE MIDDLE CLASS PEOPLE INTO THE STRUGGLE?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

More middle class people certainly. This um, march by teachers, middle-class uh population, teachers, the largest profession uh, professional group in the city and county then uh, enlisted others to come and join uh, in the movement. There were all kinds of groups after the teachers march then the undertakers got a group and they marched, the beauticians got a group, they marched. Everybody marched after the teachers marched because the teachers had more influence than they ever dreamed in the community.** And those students who had been arrested in 1964 and 65 then saw their teachers marching, so that teachers uh, participating in demonstrations and so forth, and this just uh, was a turning point in the momentum for that movement. After those teachers marched then, everything just uh, went upstream.

QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

NOW, VOTING, OR THE WHOLE QUESTION OF THE REGISTRARS AND THE OPENING AND THE REST OF THAT AND REGISTERING TO VOTE WAS REALLY NOT A CITY ISSUE, IN OTHER WORDS, IT WAS A STATE ISSUE SO WHY PROTEST LOCALLY?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

It was a local commitment. All that we were aware that uh, that there were many people in many counties, in this state, and in the South who had been denied the right to vote. But because of a local commitment and we wanted in Dallas County to address the issue of the right to vote on a local level with state and national implications. To start here, then because of that, uh, we enlisted uh, the others to come and share in uh our desire to get that right to vote. And we uh, invited uh, other persons to come in and speak at mass meetings uh, from out of town, and different places uh, and other states. Uh, officials from the various civil rights organizations came in to speak. To try and give uh, motivation to the people to want us to persist and not give up until something really happened to gain that right to vote.

QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

CAN WE STOP? WHAT'S THAT SQUEAK?_[overlap] WE'RE SKIPPING AHEAD TO MARCH 7TH AND I WANT YOU VERY BRIEFLY TO TELL ME WHAT DID YOU FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU GOT UP THAT MORNING. YOU DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. DO YOU REMEMBER BACK TO WHAT YOU FELT LIKE WHEN YOU GOT UP ON MARCH 7TH?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

I got up, uh, early on March 7th. I went to church to um, the church that I was pastoring at that time in Summerfield, Alabama. Um, Masadonie Baptist Church. We knew that uh, we were going to have the march, and of course I cut the service short in order to be back in Selma to uh, give direction and so forth for the march. Uh, I felt some anxiety, you know, wondering just uh, whether or not we would get off as we had planned to get off on time or not, and to I was thinking about my commitment in getting people uh, in companies and groups uh, for the march. So, there was uh some desire on my part to make sure that everything went out as we had planned. Not knowing exactly what would happen. But we had an idea that, uh, the possibilities however, uh we had discussed certain possibilities, but we didn't know what would happen.

QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY I'M SKIPPING AHEAD AGAIN ON MARCH 7TH, UM THE FIRST ROW OF THE MARCHES HAS BEEN AFFECTED, THE TEAR GAS HAS STARTED, WHEN THE TEAR GAS FIRST HIT YOU WEREN'T AFFECTED RIGHT AWAY, WHAT DID YOU SEE BEFORE IT REALLY GOT TO YOU.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Um, when the tear gas was lobbed over into the crowd, um, but prior to that time, um, the state troopers had made their advance on the crowd and there were persons on the ground who had been uh, beaten to the ground. Some were injured and the State Troupers were asked to regroup and then they put their gas mask on and then they uh, lobbed the gas canisters over into the crowd. And this, you were in a state of disbelief, you just couldn't imagine that uh, such atrocity was happening in the United States of America. That such inhuman, uh, inhumane treatment was uh, in effect at that time. You had pandemonium breaking out in uh, the crowd of marchers that was screaming, crying uh, in disbelief. And of course, uh, when the gas was lobbed over into the crowd, they were, those of you who have been gassed know that you cannot just remain, you have to move out and then the crowd dispersed to either side of the highway, preferably to the east side of the highway into a field, but it was quite a, a state of disbelief on the part of most people.

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[Ok this is going to be a sound rollout—I didn't hear anything—this is a sound rollout on 15 interview with Reverend Frederick Reese.]

QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

AFTER ALL THE UH, PANDEMONIUM, THE GAS AND PEOPLE WERE TURNING TO BROWN CHAPEL YOU SAID WHEN YOU GOT BACK TO THE CHAPEL AND SAW THE FACES OF THOSE PEOPLE THAT NON-VIOLENCE WAS ON TRIAL. HOW, WHY WAS THAT?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

There were many people who participated in the march and some who had relatives in the march who viewed the violence and there was a great question in the minds of many people whether or not the nonviolent method really was a method that should be uh, employed continually in the movement. There was some uh, indication that there were those who really wanted to take up uh, whatever arms they had and retaliate with violence. And of course, this had to be uh, subdued and also discouraged. And when looking in those faces of those people who had seen their, some children, some relatives injured, gassed and so forth, the question was, is it worth all of this and should we continue to take this? I think that uh, that human nature somehow aroused uh, the uh, the need to retaliate or try to, to get even somehow. But we had been uh, teaching and preaching nonviolence throughout the movement and just a question, and I remember vividly about 6 o'clock that evening Dr. King called me at Brown Chapel and uh, he called me Mr. President because I was the President of the Dallas County Voters League he said, Mr. President, I understand that uh, you had a little trouble. I said, Dr. King that's the understatement of the year. I said, we have encountered a lot of trouble down in Selma and of course uh, he was somewhat being facetious because he had heard really what had happened. But he told me that he had uh, sent out a call to people in America, those who want to come to Selma to share in and participate in the struggle that we were engaged in at the time. And about 10:30, 11 o'clock that night, we were still at the church, there was a group of people who came from New Jersey, they had chartered a plane and they walked into the church. That was one of the most exhilarating experiences that I think I've been a part of. The rejuvenation that took place on the part of people who had just before questioned whether non-violence would continue to be the method or not. Uh, then their hopes and dreams were somewhat renewed and enthusiasm, uh, arose in their minds and uh, there seem to have been a consensus of great determination now because they felt as if they were not fighting this fight alone, there were people who were willing to come and share in. And from that point on, uh, many groups came in, many people came in to Selma. Selma was a place of ecumenical gathering of all races, uh, creeds, uh, and religions. And people came in to share with us. And to me that saved non-violence

QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

REVEREND REESE, WHEN YOU TOLD ME THAT STORY ON THE PHONE, ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE COMING IN, YOU TOLD ME SPECIFICALLY WHAT THEY SAID WHEN THEY CAME IN THE CHURCH AND WHAT YOU ALL SAID BACK. AND I WANT YOU TO JUST REAL BRIEFLY WHAT THEY SAID WHEN THEY CAME IN THE CHURCH AND GIVE ME MORE SENSE OF THE SPIRIT OF RECEIVING THEM FROM THE PEOPLE.

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Yeah, if you could imagine a congregation being somewhat subdued and the spirit flow. And all these question marks whether or not we wished to continue in this same vein or not. Then you hear the door of the church opening and here are a group of people, black and white coming to the church walking down the aisle to the front and saying to us, We are here to share with the people of Selma in this struggle for the right to vote. We have seen on the television screen the violence that took place today and we're here to share it with you.** And there was a round of applause in the church and you could feel a change in the atmosphere, a spirit of inspiration, uh, motivation and seemingly hope coming back uh into the eyes and into the minds of these people. And then renewed commitment to the non-violent, uh, method.** And from that point on it was just uh, a matter of uh, uh executing whatever commitment had been made on the part of the leaders uh, you know, of the movement.

QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

I WANT TO ASK YOU ANOTHER QUESTION. UM, WERE YOU AWARE AT THE TIME THAT SNCC AND SCLC WERE FEUDING, AND WHAT KIND OF POSITION DID THAT

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[200 feet remaining on this camera roll.]

QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

WERE YOU AWARE THAT SNCC AND SCLC WERE FEUDING AND WHAT KIND OF POSITION DID THAT PUT YOU IN AS A LOCAL ACTIVIST?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

I was aware that uh, there were philosophy differences. In many instances, uh, uh, logistical differences, even on projects that uh, you know, had been approved by SCLC and uh, SNCC at any one time. My role was more of a mediator. As a local person who had, in a sense, uh, invited these uh, national organizations to come in to assist to try to uh, reach consensus and agreement on policies and procedures. Often time, I would uh, be in the middle trying to lead uh, the two groups into uh, consensus.

QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

DID YOU EVER THINK IT WAS THREATENING ENOUGH TO SPLIT THE MOVEMENT APART? DID YOU FEEL THAT IT, DID IT EVER GET THAT INTENSE?

Rev. Frederick Reese:

Well, I felt that all persons on both sides really were concerned about the success of the movement. However, uh, at some time they did not want to give on certain points. But I felt that they really were concerned about that movement being a success regardless uh, to whom might have been the person uh responsible for initiating you know, the uh, the movement itself. So they had arguments and so forth but uh, we would uh mediate and then we would come out and find grounds to proceed and this was done quite often

QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

[unintelligible] FEELINGS ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED THAT DAY. [overlap]

Rev. Frederick Reese:

At the end of that day, March 7th, after leaving the church about 12:30 that night, I went home. I had the feeling that the day had been quite an unusual day, however. But it ended with uh, a sense of, of satisfaction; knowing that I had participated in an effort that uh, had aroused at least the conscience of a nation to all of the discriminatory practices with regard to the right to vote for blacks and minorities, not only in Selma, but throughout the South and the country. I felt very tired, but I felt as if something good had been accomplished on that day. I went to sleep shortly after I lay down, I felt real good the next morning. [unintelligible background conversation] …On that final march, I felt that we were in a march that uh, was a victory march because it was a victorious moment after having gone through all the violence and so forth from the previous march.

QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

[overlap] I'M CURIOUS IF YOU COULD TELL US ABOUT THE WIND ON THE 7TH OF MARCH? [overlap]

Rev. Frederick Reese:

On March 7th, there were those who felt possibly it might rain after getting across the bridge, there was a wind that had come up and of course, it was somewhat strong at the point of confrontation and many of the coats and wraps that the people were wearing could be seen you know, flaring in the wind. But uh, that was nothing compared to the gas that the wind brought over the crowd. [overlap]

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[Ok this is room tone. Reverend Reese's interview.]