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Discussion on Birmingham Campaign, 1980 February 23 [Box 138, Item 1, Side 2]
Dent, Thomas C.
Andrew Young discusses the March on Washington and his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. Topics include the differences between the SCLC, Urban League, and NAACP; Bayard Rustin; King's leadership; citizenship schools, and the Birmingham Movement.
00:00 – [Dent and Young in a car.] Young continues to discuss the March on Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the obvious leader of the March on Washington. He discusses differences between SCLC, the Urban League, and the NAACP. SCLC was a mass movement, said that they themselves had to make the changes in. 01:40 – Discussion of Bayard Rustin. He had been a leftist and dealt with scandal, but made peace with the labor movement, was always the voice of AFL-CIO. Between Montgomery and the March on Washington, he “copped out” or “began to mellow.” He had to make peace in order to survive and ended up becoming more of an elder statesman, giving conservative advice. Dent talks about some of the older leaders who did not like King. 06:00 – Young took it for granted to that King was there to stay as a leader. King knew the people surrounding him were looking for a way to dump him. Thurgood Marshall gave credit to Johnson, Kennedy, and the NAACP, ignoring King, Malcolm X, and the SCLC. 08:00 – Young talks about his current relationship with other Civil Rights leaders. There are some negative comments. King was always aware of such comments. Young talks about mobilizing people along the way during the march. 10:35 – Young talks about recruiting people for citizenship schools. They were teaching people to read and write. The program started at Highlander Folk School. When Highlander closed, the American Missionary Association continued. They started in New Orleans and hit small towns through Mississippi, contacting leadership. Dent comments that this should be a chapter. Young says that they trained close to 6000 local leaders between 1961 and 1966. Hinesville was the biggest town. It was an AMA school. 13:22 – Dent suggests Young talk about what he was doing there, but also his perceptions, contrasting with New York City. Young felt that he was back home, after his time in Thomasville, GA. Dent mentions a letter he received from Young about his decision to leave Thomasville. Dent wishes he had the letter. The two men used to talk to each other when making decisions. 15:55 – [No longer in the car, now indoors.] The black middle class in Birmingham. Young talks about an initial opposition from [A.G?] Gaston. He bonded King out of jail the first time he was arrested. They all stayed at his hotel. He charged them regular rates and they filled almost every room for ninety days. John [who owned an insurance agency] and Deanie Drew went out on a limb. A segment of the upper middle class regularly raised funds and supported the boycott. Deanie Drew and Ruth Pendleton organized a group of middle class women with automobiles who would carry demonstrators to different locations. They were all friends of King. Many people welcomed the movement, and they got support from the black middle class, but they were not “aggressively active.” 20:50 – The school teachers privately encouraged the kids to be involved. The principals were obligated to work against the involvement of the students. The teachers did come to meetings and participate financially. Young does not believe any lost their jobs, due to the success of the movement. They did not have the support of the more successful preachers. The Baptist Ministers Alliance passed a resolution condemning the demonstrations. Young thinks they may have been hostile because they did not understand the movement and resented the new leadership under King. Many of the younger leaders were instrumental in forming the Progressive Baptist Convention. 24:08 – The turning point in Birmingham. They had mostly left Atlanta, and were prepared to stay in Birmingham until change came. They actively began around March 13 and settled toward the end of April and moved on to Savannah. They had met with a group from New York, including Harry Belafonte and Stan Levison, who had agreed to raise $150,000 in bond money. They decided they would try to recruit about fifty people per day with their demonstrations. They would ask people to stay in jail at leave five days before being bonded out. 26:45 – The money was exhausted a week or so before Easter. There were a thousand people in jail and no more money. They were in Room 30 at the Gaston Hotel with the steering committee on Good Friday. They debated if they should slow the movement down or give up Birmingham as too tough. Another group advocated calling a temporary halt to the demonstrations so that King could go north and raise the money to get the people out of jail. 28:58 – The people involved included a steering committee of local Birmingham black middle class. SCLC staff was committed of going on regardless. There was even pressure from the Kennedy administration to call it off. King listened to everyone’s point of view and said nothing. He went into the bathroom with Ralph [Abernathy?]. When they came back out, he said they had no choice but to go into jail with the thousand who were already there. [Recording ends 31:35.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
New York, New York
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 1, Side 2, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. Copyright laws.