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Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 July 19, August 5 [Box 138, Item 16, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
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.
00:00 – [Recording begins 7/19/1980.] Young talks about Black Muslims. They [SCLC] met with Elijah Muhammed on a couple of occasions when in Chicago in 1966. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a committed Christian. He did not see the Muslim movement as “a force to be reckoned with.” He interpreted their stance as having psychological significance, but not religious or political. King thought music was important to African American religion. Young laments the lack of music in African culture following the colonial period. 04:50 – There is singing in South Africa. Black culture has been openly threatened there. 06:26 – King went to Ghana’s independence and often spoke about it. Ghanaians wore their prison caps at the inauguration. Young talks about hearing Tom Mboya speak at Howard University in 1959. He thought his tour of black college campuses contributed to the sit-ins. 08:20 – Nigeria had [Abubakar] Tafawa Balewa. Liberians were viewed as “Uncle Toms,” except for Angie Brooks. Harry Belafonte sponsored a luncheon at the United Nations with the African Ambassadors and Julian [Bond], King, and Young. They offered no statement, which bothered the press. 10:12 – [Recording continues 8/5/1980.] Dent begins by asking about Ella Baker. 11:00 – Dent asks about Young moving to the South to begin his work in Dorchester, GA. They considered SCLC a movement. They did not want to compete with NAACP or SNCC. His program was training leadership and they could train anyone. He trained NAACP branches to conduct literacy and voter registration branches. There was trouble in Mississippi because of the tension between all the organizations. They did a lot of work in Alabama because the other groups were not active there at the time they began. Albany, GA was more of a SNCC project. SCLC was always happy to make their money available for SNCC projects. 15:00 – They worked closest with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who were essentially their lawyers. Thurgood Marshall and others were reluctant to deal with direct action. Jack Greenberg and Connie Motley came around to the idea and they began to plan things together. They developed a legal strategy. From the Albany Movement onward in 1961, the Legal Defense Fund was involved. The lawyers would warn them if they were going to jail. They saw it as the lawyers’ job to get them out. 17:20 – Norman Amaker and Leroy Clark worked the Birmingham case. Motley worked mostly in Georgia and St. Augustine. Dent talks about how they divided up their cases. Jim Nabrit was one of the men Young called directly when they needed defense. Greenberg was also in Birmingham. Young acted as the liaison between King and the NAACP LDF. 20:00 – Young talks more about SCLC as a movement. They did not want to build a building. The Urban League and NAACP had historically represented the black community. They wanted to support, not replace, them. Their advantage was that they put everything into every case. Everyone worked in the field. He used his experience from the United Christian Youth Movement in the National Council of Churches. The influence of James Bevel and Jim Lawson. They worked from Gandhi’s principles. The Salt March to the Sea evolved into the March on Washington. 22:53 – Organizational conflicts in Mississippi were over egos rather than issues. SNCC was very active there, including Jim Forman, Ella Baker, and Bob Moses. They were trying to develop a leaderless mass. Moses was still the leader. They accused King of developing a personality cult. SCLC trained SNCC leadership and had no problem with their philosophy. 25:50 – Dent brings up the idea that another area of conflict might be the fact that SCLC was not living in the various communities on a permanent basis, but moving from location to location. Young says they had all done that before. Their strategy had evolved from the grassroots approach to try to impact the federal government. 28:00 – Young points out that it was not until SNCC left Mississippi in 1966 that the indigenous leaders took over. They fought with Aaron Henry and Charles Evers, both of whom are still there (along with others). SCLC trained Sam Block, Willie Peacock, and Lafayette Surney. They started the movement in Greenwood, Mississippi. When SNCC moved in, they moved on to Detroit. Dent talks about the reasons for their split with SNCC, which Peacock told him had to do with bringing so many whites into the movement. Young argues that it was not the fact that they were white, but the fact that so many aggressive people came into the community and took over. [Recording ends 31:52, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 16, 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.