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Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 June 22 [Box 138, Item 8, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
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.
00:00 – Continuation of Howard and the ministry decision. Young attended the United Christian Youth Movement conference in Lake Brownwood, Texas. It was the first time he had met white young people whose religious commitment made a difference in their attitude on race. Young saw a “theological schizophrenia” in Southern white churches, where Christian beliefs did not apply to their relationships with African Americans. There were about sixty people there all together, including two other black people who arrived after him. 02:00 – It ended up being a good experience. A Bible study series put together by Reverend Nicholas Hood was the first time Young had read the Bible. The passages they studies are still some of his favorite passages. He quotes from the sixth chapter of Matthew and other passages. He describes their classes, which included time to read and meditate privately. 05:00 – Having time to think about his life in relationship to a particular scripture passage stuck with him. Meeting white people in whose lives religion made a real difference and their commitment to doing something for someone else had an effect on him. They were mostly from Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. They were all the kind of people Young had been brought up to think of as “prejudiced crackers.” Through Christianity they found something in common. 07:40 – By the time he left, he was trying to decide if he should go to seminary. Dent remembers Young coming back and talking about it with him. Sylvia Harper had come to New Orleans to visit and they were talking about getting married. Young was not sure what to do. She was looking to him for emotional security, but he was in spiritual and emotional turmoil. He had still been planning to move to New York City to focus on his running, which Harper supported. While she was there, he got a call from the National Council of Churches Youth Department, who were looking for volunteer field workers. They would spend six months recruiting young people to United Christian Youth Action. 10:58 – Young jumped at the opportunity. They sent him a ticket to report to Camp Mack in Indiana, near Fort Wayne where Vernon Jordan was just shot. Training was a two week project. He was the only black person except for an African from Mozambique named Eduardo Mondlane, who ended up becoming the founder of FRELIMO. 12:45 – Frustration at graduation, his experience at the top of the mountain, the Bible study course, and his volunteer experience all led him and all he had to do was follow. He felt there was a being helping to direct his life. He was assigned to work Connecticut and Rhode Island. Dr. Edwin [Tullah?] and Edith [Welka?] in Hartford worked for the Council of Churches. They called Hartford Seminary and arranged for him to stay in the guest suite there, which was in the girls’ dormitory. 15:00 – Veterans were coming back to the seminary, who also did not fit Young’s idea of typical seminarians. Young was very religious at this point and was not even drinking coffee, tea, or Coke. He had not made a firm commitment, but decided that his life was not in his hands. He decided to postpone running and take some courses at Hartford Seminary to see if the ministry was for him. Camp Mack was in the Peace Church tradition of Quakers and Mennonites. 17:55 – He met a young engineer named Don Bowman there who talked to him about nonviolence. Young thought the idea was crazy and argued with him. Bowman gave him one of Gandhi’s books, and Young spent the rest of the year reading Gandhi. His New Testament professor was a Quaker and he used to go to Quaker meetings. By this time he had enrolled as a part time student and moved into the men’s dormitory. His training for his volunteer work lasted two weeks, but for a half year afterward he was working and going to school. 21:00 – His parents and girlfriend were upset. His girlfriend wanted him to come back to Howard University for graduate school and his father wanted him to be a dentist. He got into an argument with his father about his plans to be a preacher. Hood was on the periphery and was helpful to him during this time. He helped his parents accept his choice. Young’s brother Walter was at Baldwin Wallace in Ohio, where he minored in Religion. Walter said that if Young was going to be a preacher, he would open a barroom across the street and outdraw him even on Sundays. He was entering Walter’s space and they switched careers. Walter became a dentist. 24:00 – Dent sees this decision as a good out of dentistry for Young. There was no question that his interest in religion came from his parents, who were extremely religious. It was “one shot that kills three balls.” It feed Young from his parents’ psychological control without violating their value system. 26:40 – Young got a part-time scholarship from the seminary because his father would not pay for it. He also worked three jobs. He recalls some of his friends. 29:00 – One of the first things he had to do at Hartford was make a speech in front of four thousand young people at the Bushnell Auditorium. He had worked out a presentation about the program including 35mm slides. The slides did not work, but he continued to read through his script. He realized it did not make sense, so he just started talking and it came out all right. [Recording ends 31:34, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 8, Side 1, 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.