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Stoney Cooks Interviewee, 1981 May 28 [Box 139, Item 15, Side 2]
Dent, Thomas C.
Interview with Stoney Cooks. Topics include: Bernard Lafayette, Selma (Alabama) Movement, deaths in the Movement, SCOPE project, Meredith March, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) organization, Martin Luther King Jr. and his desire for administration to run SCLC, "Black Power" and Stokely Carmichael, Young's influence inside SCLC, Hosea Williams, Randolph Blackwell, Bill Rutherford, Chicago Movement, Al Raby, staff involvement in Vietnam Peace Movement, how MLK was addressed by staff, and impressions of MLK.
00:00 – Stoney Cooks continues discussing the Meredith march. Everyone in the Civil Rights Movement was forced to respond [when James Meredith was shot]. “Black Power” came out of that march. Cooks talks about the emergence of the movement and Stokely Carmichael. Willie Ricks originated the phrase. 04:27 – Dent asks Cooks to talk about comments Hosea Williams made in My Soul is Rested regarding Andrew Young and James Bevel being on the same team whereas Young and Williams had an adversarial relationship. Dent wonders if Young and Bevel were always on the same team and Cooks confirms that their relationship was often adversarial as well. The intellectual battle in SCLC was always between Martin Luther King, Jr., Young, and Bevel. 06:57 – King wanted Young and Bevel to present two different sides on the issues. Dent talks about the previous interviews with Young emphasizing King’s philosophical leadership of the group. The administrative work was left to someone else. First, Ella Baker, then Wyatt Tee Walker, then Young, then [Randolph] Blackwell, Bill Rutherford, etc. 09:45 – Blackwell began focusing on economics in the Movement after Selma. Northern Whites had influenced him to take this course, and then they went on to become the Weather Underground. Blackwell was first brought in to add structure to SCLC, probably during Selma. Young moved up to Executive Vice President. 12:45 – Bill Rutherford was next. He came from Sweden. Others came afterward, as King kept trying to bring order to the organization. 14:25 – Financial decisions had to go through Young, though if he blocked anyone they could appeal to King. It was difficult to move a project forward if Young decided against it. He argued well in meetings, and the meetings were very democratic. 16:25 – Discussion within SNCC about responding to the Meredith March and a call from Charles Evers about the importance of the march convinced King to come to Selma. Young saw it as a diversion from Chicago. Cooks conjectures that Bevel would blame involvement on Young trying to detract from the Chicago Movement, but Young was a great supporter of the Chicago Movement. When Cooks got to Chicago, he was seen as Young’s “man on the scene.” 19:55 – Al Raby. They unified organizations in Chicago, creating the CCCO [Coordinating Council of Community Organizations], as a way to get King to come to the city. Raby was the titular head of the CCCO. He was a “created” leader, which was a problem. 21:34 – How people on the SCLC staff addressed King to his face (they called him “Dr. King.”). In public and in executive staff meetings, Young called him Dr. King, but in private he called him Martin. Cooks does not know if King demanded this or not. In private, Bevel and Abernathy also called him Martin. 24:00 – Reverend Abernathy was always called “Reverend Abernathy” before he came into leadership. After he came into leadership, he asked to be called “Dr. Abernathy.” This leads Cooks to believe that King also desired to be known as “Dr. King.” King was very formal in meetings but very informal in private. He was not an easy person to get close to. 25:50 – Cooks tells a story about SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] inviting King to speak at their first Peace March in Washington in 1965. He declined, but Mrs. King spoke and marched with them. At the second march in October, SCLC staff wanted to be involved. They had made a statement on the war in Vietnam at that point. Cooks anxiously met with King, who to his surprise authorized the money quickly and with no problem. Staff did not just walk into King’s office. 29:10 – Story about Thurgood Marshall talking about Idi Amin. Dent talks about working in his office. [Recording ends 31:21.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Civil Rights Movement
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 139, Item 15, 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.