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Andrew Young Interviewee: New Orleans, Louisiana, 1980 June 30 [Box 138, Item 10, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Topics include: Continuation of comments regarding Thomasville, Georgia. Voter registration and problems with the Ku Klux Klan. Young meets Martin Luther King, Jr. for the first time.
00:00 – Maynard Jackson’s grandfather was John Wesley Dobbs. He had led the fight against the Democratic white primary in 1948. The Prince Hall Masons had been trying to encourage black people to vote. Young was invited to a voter registration meeting in Macon, Georgia. He agreed to sponsor voter registration for the Thomas County Business and Civic League in 1955. The league existed because the NAACP was so controversial that members would be fired. Politically conscious black people belonged to the league. 01:45 – Dobbs agreed to come down to Thomas County to speak to kick off the voter registration drive. Episcopal Priest Father Perry was also politically active. Young and Jean had been shopping and were driving back through Doerun, Georgia when they came across a group of Klansmen, who had been gathering in Georgia to intimidate them at the voter rally. 05:30 – Young had been interested in nonviolence and had also been reading Reinhold Niebuhr, who believed in negotiating from a position of strength. They had once stopped at a shooting gallery in Coney Island and did well shooting moving targets. They both had rifles. They were not safe in the house because it would burn easily. Young’s plan was to meet the Klan in the yard if they came to the house and for Jean to sit in the window with the rifle. He would identify the leader and let him know that he had a gun on him. 09:45 – Jean said she would not do it because she believed in pacifism. Young expressed concern for their baby, but Jean pointed out that he himself preached about the resurrection and that he needed to live it. They decided leave the house and go stay with Mr. and Mrs. William Morris instead. The Klan was gathered around the courthouse. African Americans were also gathered, unafraid of the Klan. 11:20 – This was the first time Young had to think about the possibility of his faith meaning death, not only for himself but also his family. He had begun reading Kierkegaard around this time and thought of the story of Abraham and Isaac in terms of his own willingness to sacrifice his family. He thinks their willingness to trust in God is why Andrea is so independent today. 14:20 – Dobbs preached at the rally and they had their voter registration drive. Business leaders decided to tell the sheriff not to let the Klan com into the black community. This was the first time Young was aware of the business community’s power to control the political community and to eliminate violence. This stuck with him throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Hubert Thomas, Elijah Hill, and Bill Morris were black business leaders. 16:25 – The meeting was held at the auditorium at the high school. Dobbs spoke about maintaining a close relationship with white America but being wary of it, saying “stick with this blue-eyed boy, but watch him.” 17:30 – Young still knows a lot of the people in Thomasville. He learned some of his first political lessons there. He talks about his struggles building an indoor toilet. He learned to discuss his ideas as possibilities instead of presenting them himself. He also became more comfortable in his preaching. 21:30 – He was invited to a youth conference in Lakeland, Florida. While he was there, a position opened up at the National Council of Churches and he was invited to become the Associate Director of the Department of Youth Work in 1957. His ministry was about helping young black people go to college to become middle class. The youth fellowship wanted to visit colleges. Most went on to school. He recalls some children who went on to become successful adults. 27:10 – Young decided to go to New York because he felt things in Thomasville were stable. They decided to go to New York for 2-5 years until things started happening in the South. They ended up coming back to work with SCLC. They knew the future was in the South. 28:00 – Thomasville was an incubation period for ideas. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was there. He went to Tallahassee to hear him speak during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Later he was invited to Talladega. King was the chapel speaker and he was the evening speaker and they were on a panel together. He invited Young and Jean to Montgomery. King had done his thesis on Paul Tillich, but he did not want to talk about academics. He was still controversial. [Recording ends 31:38, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 138, Item 10, 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.