Andrew Young Oral History Collection

Description

The Andrew Young Oral History Collection encompasses 50 individual interviews conducted from 1980 to 1985 as part of writer and oral historian Tom Dent's research on his childhood friend, activist, congressman, and ambassador Andrew Young. As early as 1979, Dent was conducting research toward the autobiography of Young, though he wasn't officially hired as a consultant until 1981 to 1982 and continued to work on the book until 1986. Dent traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to conduct a series of interviews with Young, then researched New Orleans and civil rights era history for the draft of the book, with the working title "An Easy Burden." The Young interviews provide a firsthand account of the events, leadership, and various campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Young's childhood, work in the National Council of Churches, as a Congressman from Georgia, and United Nations Ambassador. The interviews provide numerous portraits of the SCLC leadership and civil rights workers including Hosea Williams, Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Randolph Blackwell, Dorothy Cotton, Stan Levinson and of course Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The events and campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement are detailed for St. Augustine (Florida), Albany (Georgia), Selma (Alabama) and the Voting Rights Campaign, the Chicago Movement, and the Meredith March. Young provides detailed accounts of the FBI's harassment of Martin Luther King and SCLC staff, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis in 1968, and comments on what Young believes were the factors that produced the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. Additional topics within the interviews include the Poor People's Campaign, the Vietnam Peace Movement, Young's Congressional Campaign and work as the UN Ambassador to Africa. Additional interviews within the oral history collection include interviews with Young's wife, Jean Childs Young, Dorothy Cotton, and Stoney Cooks.

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1980-02-23, Discussion on Birmingham Campaign, part 1
Andrew Young recalls the Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign and his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. Topics include: Nonviolence, the influence of Gandhi, the structure of the Movement and division of labor within the SCLC, Fred Shuttlesworth and personalities within the Movement, description of the demonstrations, use of the media, local leaders and youth in the Movement, and the March on Washington.
1980-02-23, Discussion on Birmingham Campaign, part 2
Discussion on Birmingham Campaign [continued], 1980 February 23 [Box 138, Item 2, Side 1 and 2]. Andrew Young recalls the Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign and his work with Martin Luther King, Jr.
1980-05-22 and 1980-06-22, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 May 22, June 22 [Box 138, Item 7, Side 1and 2]. Topics include Howard University, Young's experience on the track team and in a fraternity, graduation, and his friendship with Reverend Nicholas Hood and emerging spirituality.
1980-05-22, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 May 22 [Box 138, Item 4, Side 1and 2]. Topics include: information about father's family, Cleveland Street Neighborhood, and Cleveland House.
1980-05-22, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 May 22 [Box 138, Item 5, Side 1and 2]. Topics include: Valena C. Jones Elementary School and Gilbert Academy.
1980-05-22, Andrew Young Interviewee
Reflections on education. Valena C. Jones Elementary School, Gilbert Academy, USC, and Howard University. Not passing for white, being younger than the other students, train travel after desegregation., 00:00 _ [Dent interviews Young in an airport. Background noise.] Young recalls an incident riding a train to California shortly after the dining cars were desegregated."n03:00 _ Young rarely went to the French Quarter. He would bring guests there and visit the museums."n04:20 _ Young√™s father wanted him to be a dentist and he assisted pouring models and casting bridges. He worked in dental laboratories in the summer during high school, as well as with his aunt in her photography studio. He hung around at Levi√™s Barbershop on Rampart Street and at the pool rooms and pawn shops there. He felt most intimidated at Valena C. Jones School and developed his self-confidence there."n07:10 _ Xavier Prep. It was mostly Creole and he did not feel a lot of support. Gilbert Academy had more dark skinned students. BTW [Booker T. Washington]. Dent remembers going to the orchestra at their auditorium. He used to go to basketball games and Tulane√™s football games. His father took him to the Sugar Bowl."n10:40 _ The neighborhood on Cleveland Avenue. Young sees it as critical to his development. They talk about people who could and could not pass for white. Young says half of his mother√™s family passed for white, which he did not know. Young did not attend Grinnell despite being offered a scholarship because he knew he would not pass for white."n16:15 _ [Continues on 6/22/1980.] Graduation from Gilbert Academy. Young did not know what he would do next. He thought he would be a dentist because his father wanted him to be. His father encouraged him to apply to Ivy League schools, but his test scores were too low. Young went to Tulane√™s campus for the first time to take the test. He was the only black person there. Young would have liked to have gone to prep school first, because he was only fifteen, but his father had a heart condition and wanted him to attend college while he was sure he could send him."n21:15 _ Education was important to the black middle class. Education was emancipation. Young took another test at Dillard and ended up in the top three of all incoming freshmen. He was much younger than the other two top finishers."n25:00 _ He did not have to take certain freshmen classes and was placed in advanced classes. He felt like a "u201aÄìmascot."u201aÄù He was anxious to get away from Dillard and home. He transferred to Howard the next year. He rode with Pat Cayette and his wife to California over the summer. It was his first time driving a long distance and he never forgot the feeling of freedom. It was the first time he felt he had been treated like a man. Dent thinks that going through school so young was destructive. Young talks about being small in high school."n30:45 _ One of the reasons he wanted to take a year in prep school was because he wanted to mature physically. He felt that if he was as old as the other guys, he would be as big and as strong as the other guys. He felt that they had to cuss to survive. Dent thinks that Young could hold his own with his unusual athletic ability. Young recalls having problems with girls. He also sometimes felt protected by his youth. He was able to observe without participating."n33:30 _ He began to fight to participate when he started at Howard. He had attended USC the summer before when he had driven out to California. He passes a senior lifeguard test, but decided not to be a lifeguard at the ocean and to go to school instead. He took a concentrated botany course. He had no friends there and was the only black person in the class. He would swim, run, and sleep. He spent his time with people visiting from New Orleans. Sybil Haydel [Morial] and her sister visited and they went to the amusement park in Santa Monica. Many people in New Orleans have relatives in Los Angeles. He went to beaches and amusement parks because he could not do either in Louisiana. Going back home on the train was when they had integrated the dining cars. He went off to Howard then."n38:28 _ Howard University was important to him as a maturation rite. It was the first time he had been on his own completely. A friend of his father√™s was a librarian who lived in the area, but other than him he had no other connections to Washington D.C. Impressions of segregated D.C. Studying and dating at the Library of Congress. Life at Howard. He resented the prejudice against Southerners he encountered. He had trouble with oversleeping during his first year. He was confidant and focused on getting along with people, but less concerned about getting As. He met the first Nigerians and Jamaicans he knew there."n[Recording ends 45:20. Continues on the next tape.]"n
1980-06-22, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 June 22 [Box 138, Item 8, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include: Hartford Seminary and ministry decision. Young's friendships with Reverend Nicholas Hood and Eduardo Mondlane, founder of FRELIMO. The international focus of Hartford Seminary. Young's introduction to Gandhi and nonviolent protest. His first public speaking experience. Meeting the parents of Jean Childs, and the principle of letting God guide his life.
1980-06-30, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 June 30 [Box 138, Item 9, Side 1and 2]. Topics include: Andrew Young's father and time in Thomasville, Georgia.
1980-06-30, Andrew Young Interviewee: New Orleans, Louisiana
Andrew Young Interviewee: New Orleans, Louisiana, 1980 June 30 [Box 138, Item 10, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include: Continuation of comments regarding Thomasville, Georgia. Voter registration and problems with the Ku Klux Klan. Young meets Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time.
1980-07-07, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 July 7 [Box 138, Item 11, Side 1 and 2]. Young talks about training community leaders for voter registration in Dorchester, Georgia and his work with Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Victoria Gray, Annelle Ponder, June Johnson, Vera Pigee, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Eldridge Steptoe, Rev. Alan Johnson, and James Bevel and Diane Nash. The arrest of Hamer, Johnson, and Ponder in Winona, Mississippi.
1980-07-07, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 July 7 [Box 138, Item 12, Side 1 and 2]. Young discusses leaving Thomasville, Georgia to go to the NCC (National Council of Churches); his work for the NCC; international travel with the World Council of Churches, including refugee camps in Austria, the challenges of Bible study in East Berlin, and meeting leaders of the African Liberation Movement. Young and Dent discuss violence in the Civil Rights Movement and its effect on progress.
1980-07-08, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 July 8 [Box 138, Item 13, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include: St. Augustine Movement, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) staff, and comments on Hosea Williams, James Bevel, Ralph Abernathy, and Wyatt Walker. Mississippi Freedom Summer.
1980-07-08, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 July 8 [Box 138, Item 14, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include:  Albany,Georgia and the Movement structure, the structure of Birmingham workshops, Young in jail in Savannah, Georgia, factors that produced sixties, the Southern Rural Action Project, Albany's Sheriff Pritchard.
1980-07-19 and 1980-08-05, Andrew Young Interviewee
Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 July 19, August 5 [Box 138, Item 16, Side 1 and 2]. Young discusses Martin Luther King, Jr. Africa. Selma, Alabama and Greenwood, Mississippi. SCLC's relationship with other organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and SNCC. Ella Baker.
1980-07-19, Andrew Young Interviewee: New Orleans, Louisiana
Andrew Young Interviewee: New Orleans, Louisiana, 1980 July 19 [Box 138, Item 15, Side 1 and 2]. Young discusses Martin Luther King, Jr. J. Edgar Hoover, King's Nobel Peace Prize, FBI accusations against him, phone tapping and hotel bugging, and his relationship with Malcolm X.
1980-08-05, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 August 5 [Box 138, Item 17, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include: Selma Campaign, March to Montgomery, conflicts between SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and the murders of James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo.
1980-08-05, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia [Box 138, Item 18, Side 1]
Topics include: Conclusion of comments regarding the Selma March. The Meredith March and SNCC. The birth of "Black Power., 00:00 _ Tom Dent interviews Andrew Young. They continue talking about the Selma March and the differences between the SNCC and SCLC tactics. [Following the aborted march attempt] SNCC wanted to a massive confrontation. They thought that if it came down to that, they would win. King thought they would lose and wanted to be in control of any confrontations. They did not want to violate an injunction. They argued and listened to SNCC [Willie Ricks, Jim Forman, Ivanhoe Donaldson, John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, and Faye Bellamy]."n03:00 _ SNCC went along with the policy, but afterwards at the church tried to take over the Movement. Speakers at the church were Fred Shuttlesworth, Malcolm X, and James Bevel. Shuttlesworth and Bevel were more relatable to the crowd. "n06:30 _ They were worried about Malcolm√™s image of violence. The prevalence of guns in the South could make it dangerous if they were instigated. The decision not to violate the injunction was unpopular among those who had come from out of town. They divided SCLC staff and had mass meetings inside and outside of the church."n08:40 _ Forman was the leader of the SNCC group. There had already been a number of compromises SNCC did not approve of. Young points out that many of the people who are now elected officials disagreed with a compromise in 1964. They would not be in that position if they had not developed a good working relationship with Lyndon Johnson."n10:28 _ Some of the well-known people who came down to Selma: Ralph Bunche, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Marlon Brando (who did not want to stand in the front). "n12:13 _ The march was responsible for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It demonstrated that voting rights for black people were not protected. Young was in Congress when it was extended in 1975, but they could only extend it for another seven years. It has still not been fully implemented. It provided federal referees. It also required submission of a reapportionment plan to the justice department before any state could reapportion and demonstrate that it was not with the intent to discriminate. There has only been partial implementation. Part of the deal, to keep Richard Russell from filibustering, Johnson agreed not to send referees to Georgia."n15:45 _ Meredith March. James Meredith decided to walk from Memphis to Jackson in 1966, calling it "u201aÄìThe March Against Fear."u201aÄù Young could see no political significance to the march, though it may have had personal significance to Meredith. SCLC had just made a major commitment to Chicago, where they were raising the economic issue."n16:50 _ Senior SCLC executive staff was in a meeting [Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, James Bevel, Bernard Lee, Bob Green] when they heard [erroneous] reports that James Meredith had been killed. [He was shot but not killed.] They decided to take up where he left off, which was their consistent strategy, demonstrating that violence would not stop them. Young tried to stop them because he thought they were unprepared."n18:45 _ Green and Williams decided to go. Whitney Young went to Memphis, along with SNCC and others. Young was not supportive and did not think SCLC had the resources to cover the project. King went to Mississippi and had meetings, then called Young who went also. "n20:12 _ Young still thinks it was a distraction and was used by Meredith and SNCC to seek attention amid their internal power struggles. Dent asks about the issue of "u201aÄìFear."u201aÄù Young says he never felt afraid in Mississippi, only in Chicago. Young did not understand Meredith, although he did respect him."n23:20 _ Young talks about a photo from the beginning of the march, which he considers representative, in which Green is grabbing Carmichael, who is trying to fight state trooper who had made a comment to him. Young thought it was immature. Carmichael was struggling for a leadership role and wanted distinction from King. They wanted press attention for SNCC separate from King."n25:28 _ In Greenwood, MS Carmichael began talking about "u201aÄìBlack Power,"u201aÄù a phrase he had borrowed from Ricks. King thought that if you had power or wanted to develop power, you just do it instead of shouting about it. Carmichael and King√™s positions really were not that different."n[Recording ends 27:41.]"n
1980-08-20 and 1980-08-21, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 August 20 - 21 [Box 138, Item 23, Side 1and 2]. Continuation of comments regarding the Vietnam Peace Movement, the Poor People's Campaign and Memphis, including events leading up to King's Assassination. Additional topics covered include Lyndon B. Johnson's attitude toward Martin Luther King, Jr. and the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.
1980-08-20, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 August 20 [Box 138, Item 22, Side 1 and 2]. Topics include: SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), and the Vietnam Peace Movement. Young and Dent discuss the nature of compromise, the Birmingham Movement, Violence vs. Nonviolence, the tactical level vs. the philosophical level of the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s views on the war in Vietnam.

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