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Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1981 May 7 [Box 139, Item 11, Side 2]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Dent, Thomas C.
Portraits of key people continued: Stan Levinson, Jack O'Dell, John Lewis and Cleve Robinson. Other topics: The Poor People's Campaign, FBI surveillance.
00:00 – Poor People’s Campaign continued. [Martin Luther King, Jr. said] up until that point they had been raising social questions. It will be more difficult to deal with economics. They ought not to go to Washington seeing it as just a black movement; it was a movement to end poverty. It was the end of President Lyndon Johnson’s term. All of this was formed in the meeting with Marian Wright Edelman and the laid off workers, and in the discussions following. Edelman was not much involved in the subsequent discussions. 02:30 – They saw marches as unable to succeed in that year, but expressing an agenda that might be successful in 1968. They were thinking ahead to a new president, and there was a strong Anti-War Movement. There was unanimity on the SLCL staff. [Randolph T.?] Blackwell talked about involving Appalachian whites, American Indians, and Hispanics in the Movement. They expected to prepare for longer jail sentences and going beyond traditional nonviolent demonstrations. 05:15 – The establishment was scared by their seriousness and the provocation of confrontation different from than the racial confrontation. They were raising issues fundamental to the American economy, including full employment and free food stamps. It frightened people like Senator [Harry] Byrd. 06:20 – They did not see the negative feedback and were unaware of the seriousness of the opposition. Senator Russell Long was nervous to meet with them and lectured them. Young told him they were trying to get the federal government to do what his father [Huey P. Long] did in Louisiana in the 1930s and 1940s. They did not have Congressional support. President Johnson was upset with them about their stance on the war in Vietnam, so they had no communication with the White House. 08:06 – [J. Edgar] Hoover escalated his attacks on King, although not publicly. The FBI charged that the SCLC was “heavily infiltrated” by communists, King was stealing money, and there were serious questions of “moral turpitude” within the movement. Information about what the FBI was saying came from many sources, including reporters such as John Herbers from the New York Times. 09:30 – Herbers asked Young about the charges against King. SCLC met with members of the Washington Bureau of the New York Times, but they were unwilling to reveal their sources. They said the rumor was that the FBI had photos of King in compromising positions. Herbers had not actually seen the pictures. Only one person Young had asked had ever claimed to have seen the pictures, saying they were blurry photographs of someone engaged in sexual intercourse, but that the person was unidentifiable. 12:55 – Reporter Morley Safer told one of their contributors, Bill vanden Heuvel, that they should be careful about raising money for the SCLC because King was syphoning money off to a big Swiss bank account. 14:30 – They decided not to get excited about the FBI claims now, though it was clear that Washington was getting more excited as the Movement moved north. The Movement was becoming economic and was no longer only focused on black people. 15:20 – Young talks about SCLC living in the Hyatt House in Los Angeles and noticing someone watching them. It happened again in Washington when he was with Walter Fauntroy, and they spoke to the men to make sure King would be safe. They did not show them identification, but they figured they were FBI. 20:40 – There was pressure on women in King’s church who he had dated before he got married. Someone used to call one of the women every day, possibly the FBI. Young thinks they had identified her as mentally unstable and were trying to encourage her to create an incident. Young also goes over again an incident that occurred at Young’s secretary Edwina Smith’s house. The fire department and police knocked, saying a fire had been called in. Likely, the FBI had sent them thinking they would catch King with the secretary. 25:40 – The SCLC would also get anonymous calls from people in the FBI saying they had run across a transcript from a conference call, and describe it just to make sure they know they are being monitored. 27:30 – They did not take it seriously enough at the time. After all they had been through, they were not afraid of the FBI. The FBI later told Young that they had 35,000 items in their core files on King and Young. They ended up destroying the files and did not give them to Young. [Recording ends 31:20.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Civil Rights Movement, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
New York, NY
Los Angeles, CA
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 139, Item 11, 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.