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Andrew Young Interviewee: Atlanta, Georgia, 1980 August 5 [Box 138, Item 17, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Topics include: Selma Campaign, March to Montgomery, conflicts between SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and the murders of James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo.
00:00 – Selma, Alabama. They held an SCLC meeting in Birmingham, Alabama after returning from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, before Christmas. Amelia Boynton said Selma was in bad shape and an injunction prevented any civil rights meetings. Even children walking home from school were told to disperse. [Sheriff] Jim Clark was strict. John Lewis and SNCC had been beaten for trying to register voters there. 02:30 – King was asked to come speak in Selma at the Emancipation Proclamation Day service, which was against the law to even hold. He agreed, and went on January 2, 1965. They decided that would be the beginning of the Selma Movement. They wanted to attack voting rights. James Bevel and Diane Nash had already been working around Selma and Montgomery, and mapped out the GROW or “Get Rid of [Governor] Wallace” Movement. Their plan included demonstrations in ten places, including three thousand people each. 04:24 – Following the plan, SCLC had been working in Montgomery, Selma, Tuscaloosa [T.Y. Rogers], Marion [Albert Turner], Anniston, and Tuskegee, Alabama, preparing for a right to vote movement. King was to speak in Selma, and then they would go back to challenge the demonstration ordinance by deliberately violating it. Individuals to be involved were given a week’s training in nonviolent action. 06:30 – They began periodic demonstrations. The first group, made up of anyone who wanted to register to vote, tried to register and was denied. King had spoken on the second and Clark decided to ignore it, making no arrests. There were no arrests during the first few demonstrations, which were marches to the court house. They began arresting people who would not leave, but they chose to leave. 08:15 – Next they began a boycott on the town. James Bevel, James Orange, and Albert Turner were leading. The group would fly to Montgomery and drive over. 09:55 – Young describes the city of Selma and the types of work the people did. 11:30 – They knew the demonstrations would make the national evening news, so they saw it as an opportunity to communicate to the public that African Americans were not able to vote. They had group marches with teachers and veterans, etc. to drive the point home. Their media strategy was developed in Birmingham and refined by the time they got to Selma. 13:20 – King went to jail. Jim Clark was the sheriff of Dallas County and Wilson Baker was the chief of police for Selma. Baker was more intelligent. Clark controlled the political power. Baker did not want King under Clark’s control because he did not want anything to happen to him. Baker put him in the city jail. They tried to get national attention while King was in jail. John Conyers and Charlie Diggs organized a group of Congressmen to visit Selma. 15:00 – Walter Fauntroy mostly worked on it. Young was mostly in touch with Ramsey Clark. They worked to build a case for legislation through demonstration. When King was out of jail, they began demonstrating other places, including Lowndes, Perry, Wilkes, and Marengo Counties. 17:15 – Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed after a demonstration in Marion. They held a funeral march demonstration. Young recalls getting caught in the rain. 20:20 – They started going to Marion regularly. Young talks about a time they were almost caught by the Klan. SCLC staff worked in surrounding counties, as well. Many members of the staff and Young’s family were from surrounding areas, giving SCLC active connections there. 23:22 – It was during the Jackson funeral march that they began to talk about a march from Selma to Montgomery. Judge Thomas in Mobile had jurisdiction in the area and was not fair. They tried to get cases heard in Judge Frank Johnson’s court in Montgomery. By marching from Selma to Montgomery, it would put them in Johnson’s territory. They also hoped to move the focus of the movement to Montgomery. This was part of their plan to consider Selma part of a state-wide movement to get the right to vote and get rid of [Governor] Wallace. 26:00 – Beginning the march to Montgomery, they thought they would be turned around and were prepared to face Judge Johnson’s court. The idea of marching across the Black Belt was to politicize the people in the small towns along the route. This was their first long march. Young worked on overall coordinating. SNCC members also assisted, and they got along very well [John Lewis, James Forman, Charles Sherrod, Faye Bellamy, and Stokely Carmichael]. 28:12 – Before this, Malcolm X came to Selma while King was in jail. He met with Young, Coretta Scott King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel. He could not get in to see King in jail. They held a mass meeting and he spoke. The younger members did not know who he was and his “Northern message” was did not cause tension in the community. He told Coretta that his militant public position made it possible for people to appreciate King more. 30:40 – There was continuous national focus. Dick Gregory had also come down. Setting the date for the march, King had to be in Ebenezer church on the Sunday. He had wanted them to start the march on Monday. [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 17, 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.