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1980-08-05, Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia [Box 138, Item 18, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
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]. 03:00 – 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. 06:30 – 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. 08:40 – 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. 10:28 – 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). 12:13 – 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. 15:45 – Meredith March. James Meredith decided to walk from Memphis to Jackson in 1966, calling it “The March Against Fear.” 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. 16:50 – 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. 18:45 – 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. 20:12 – 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 “Fear.” Young says he never felt afraid in Mississippi, only in Chicago. Young did not understand Meredith, although he did respect him. 23:20 – 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. 25:28 – In Greenwood, MS Carmichael began talking about “Black Power,” 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. [Recording ends 27:41.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 18, 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.