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Andrew Young Interviewee, 1980 July 7 [Box 138, Item 11, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Young talks about training community leaders for voter registration in Dorchester, Georgia and his work with Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Victoria Gray, Annelle Ponder, June Johnson, Vera Pigee, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Eldridge Steptoe, Rev. Alan Johnson, and James Bevel and Diane Nash. The arrest of Hamer, Johnson, and Ponder in Winona, Mississippi.
00:00 – Andrew Young and Tom Dent discuss the assassination attempt on Vernon [Jordan?]. Detroit, etc. produced fear on the part of white people, shifting social programs to the suburbs. Young and Dent discuss funding in the black community in the 1960s. Young talks about a group possibly funding assassinations to provoke black people to riot and shift the country to the right. He says you have to “deromanticize” violence in the black community because it plays into the hands of the worst elements of the white community. 06:23 – Young had become comfortable with the National Council of Churches by 1960. They had a house in Long Island and Jean had gotten a Master’s Degree. Seeing a story about the Nashville Sit-in on the news made him realize it was time to move back to the South. Shortly after, Chuck Boyles had begun to write him about Highlander Folk School. He invited Young to lead Bible study at the school. He did, and found himself in a conference with the same students he had seen on television, and he was impressed with them. 09:15 – Young was no longer a student and knew there was no place for him in SNCC. He wrote to Martin Luther King, Jr. about it, who asked Young to come join SCLC. He was nervous about joining. Miles Horton and Chuck Boyles invited him to come to Highlander Folk School to train adult leaders to read and write to register to vote. That was more what he wanted to do. He would be involved, but removed enough from the movement to write about it. 11:05 – Jean’s reaction was good. She was ready to go back to the South. Young accepted the job at Highlander. He had concerns about Highlander’s leftist reputation haunting his career down the road. Lawyer Bill Stringfellow wrote to the House Un-American Activities Committee and others on Young’s behalf asking if they had any evidence that Highlander was communist or that Young should not be associated with it. Everyone wrote back saying they had no evidence. As soon as Young sold his house, they state of Tennessee moved to close the school and confiscate the property. 13:15 – The NCC encouraged Young in his return to the South, but assured them that he could have permanent future in the organization if he wanted to stay in New York. The state of Tennessee charged Septima Clark with running a bootlegging operation. Young talks about Clark’s background. 15:25 – Highlander was closed, but Young’s replacement had already been hired and they had to leave their house. Wes Hodgekiss and Bob Spike of the National Council of Churches helped Young set up the training project as cosponsors with the SCLC. Young administered the project from Atlanta and Dorchester Center. They trained about 4,000 community workers to register voters and do literary training from 1965-1966. 17:10 – The Youngs bought a house in Atlanta. Dorchester was a former AMA school, “Dorchester Normal College,” founded after the Civil War. White Congregationalists had migrated South and it was a liberal region. In 1948, the Dorchester Academy was turned over to the AMA and used by the Congregational Church and used as a conference center. 20:00 – There were no programs going on in Dorchester when Young arrived. They got money to renovate and set it up. There was room for about sixty people to sleep in the building. Once a month, they provided a week of training there. The rest of the month, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, and Young, who made up the staff of the center, would travel the South recruiting. Bernice Robinson joined them shortly afterwards. 21:50 – They were looking for natural leaders from the South, people with “PhD minds,” but had not had the opportunity for education. In 1961, they drove to New Orleans, and started back through the South. They stopped in small town in Mississippi and other states, including Greenville, Macon, Thomasville, Mobile, Natchez, Canton, Jackson, Clarksdale, Mound Bayou, Greenwood, Meridian, Tuscaloosa, Marion, Birmingham, the SCLC convention in Nashville, and then back to Atlanta. They tried to get a contact person in each region. 25:00 – Some of the people they met on that first trip were Aaron Henry in Clarksdale, Amzie Moore in Cleveland, and Reverend Alan Johnson in Hattiesburg. By the next trip, James Bevel and Diane Nash were living in Cleveland with Moore. They introduced them to Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, and Victoria Gray. They also introduced them to [Eldridge?] Steptoe and Vera Pigee in Clarksdale. 26:20 – They arranged with the local contacts to start talking the program up, then arranged for a Greyhound bus three months later to start in New Orleans and drive to Dorchester, picking people up in Mississippi for training. A few people also came in from South Carolina. The first trip took them about ten days. He had been to most of those places before, but never all at once. They drove Cotton’s Pontiac. She had just left Virginia State College to come to Atlanta. 29:00 – Dent expresses his desire to meet Annelle Ponder. When Young became Director of Voter Registration and Program Director for SCLC, and then Executive Director, Ponder, Bernice Robinson, Devine, and Gray took over. Dent would also like to speak to Gray. Herbert Colton in Tidewater, Virginia was also on the staff, and Reverend Harry Blake in Shreveport. 31:13 – In 1963, Ponder, Hamer, and June Johnson were beaten in Winona, Mississippi coming back from a meeting. They were arrested and Lawrence Guyot had to get them out. [Recording ends 31:51, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 11, 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.