Jump to navigation
Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 August 20 [Box 138, Item 19, Side 2]
Dent, Thomas C.
Topics include: Young's relationship with his brother Walter Young, the Watts Riots, and the Chicago Movement. [Some audio distortion.]
00:00 – SCLC felt they had to go to Watts in response to local leaders who had raised funds for their work in the South. Their strategy for dealing with violence was to draw media attention. They held hearings in Watts, allowing locals to articulate their grievances in the presence of the press. King had written a statement saying that violence was the “language of the unheard.” 02:30 – After New York, Bayard Rustin created a statement condemning rioting, which he asked King to sign along with other leadership. SCLC negotiated changes in the statement, but it ran without the changes. King then wrote his own analysis, so they had already been working on an official SCLC position on urban violence for over a year. 05:45 – The first thing they did in Watts was meet with the local leaders, the preachers who invited them and were scared. Then they toured the community and met at the community center, rounding locals up. The city did not look as bad as he thought it would, though it was obvious that there had been fires. It was not a community of the same poverty level of New York or Baltimore. It was lower middle class California, and looked like a suburb. 08:50 – They met with ministers, Mayor Sam Yorty, and Governor Pat Brown. Young got ill and spent much of the trip at the hotel. Robert Kennedy made a statement saying that the black national leadership had concentrated on the South and had not addressed the problems of the North, which King took as criticism. They began to address the problem 10:50 – James Bevel, Bernard Lafayette, and John Lewis had been close in SNCC in Nashville. Lafayette went to work for the Friends Services Committee when he left SNCC, and was working in Chicago. He invited Bevel to Chicago to work with him, and he eventually moved there and worked with the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations [CCCO]. They were trying to get rid of School Superintendent Willis. Bill Berry of the Urban League and Al Raby of CCCO invited SCLC to take part in a march. 12:30 – SCLC used the march to organize, but the group in Chicago was marching but not organizing. There was no economic boycott attached. They had a meeting at the new Hilton in Atlanta. Bevel argued that they should go to Chicago to see if nonviolence would work in the North, which the white establishment denied would work. Bevel’s point was that everyone in Chicago had come from Mississippi anyway, and the people were not that different, the city was just larger. 15:35 – Rustin tried to keep King in the South. The “New York Group,” which included Rustin, Stanley Levison, Harry Wachtel, Cleveland Robinson of District 65, and Chauncey Eskridge, had come to Atlanta for a meeting. Rustin thought SCLC’s real work was in the transformation of the eleven Southern states, and that they were not strong enough to take on the North as well. 18:00 – Young suspected that his hidden agenda was to avoid a clash between Mayor [Richard R.] Daley and the Civil Rights Movement. The Chicago labor unions were also nervous about King moving into the North. Young was not inclined to get involved in Chicago due to the size of the city and SCLC’s staff limitations. James Orange, who moved into Chicago, had previously been running the whole Black Belt of Alabama. Young thought it was important to focus on voter registration in the South. 20:18 – Hosea Williams saw James Bevel’s involvement in the North as an opportunity for him to take over in the South. There was tension between the two. King finally made the decision to become involved. He wanted to prove that nonviolence would work in the North. There were about eighty members of SCLC staff and a half-million dollar budget. 23:00 – The chose four areas to focus on in the city: Operation Breadbasket, an open housing movement, and rehabilitation of housing, and voter registration. They succeeded in three of the four, but did not have the same dramatic success. They did not produce a Civil Rights Act. There was no money for economic reform in the North due to the war in Vietnam. They failed in voter registration. 25:00 –Mayor Daley would only let them register on one day on the 30th of January, when it was cold and snowed. Operation Breadbasket was a program designed to increase jobs in the black community. Young elaborates. The program had worked well in Atlanta and in Philadelphia, where it was modeled by Leon Sullivan. 28:00 – Ministers helped negotiate the issues with individuals businesses. If business owners did not agree, the ministers would call for a boycott of their products from the pulpit. The first companies were bread companies, giving the movement its name. Reverend Fred Bennett led the project in Atlanta. Jesse Jackson was hired in Chicago while he was still in school, along with Dave Wallace and Dr. Al Pitcher. 30:06 – Open housing. Chicago’s neighborhoods are divided ethnically. [Recording ends 31:09.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Los Angeles (Ca.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 19, 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.