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Stoney Cooks Interviewee, 1981 May 28 [Box 139, Item 15, Side 1]
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 – Tom Dent interviews Stoney Cooks. Cooks talks about Bernard Lafayette. He was the first civil rights worker to show up in Selma, AL and develop leadership. He worked for SNCC and was nearly killed in Selma. He was there 18 months before James Bevel came as the first SCLC person. Lafayette had convinced him that Selma was the place to make a stand about the right to vote. John Lewis, Bevel, and Lafayette went to the American Baptist Seminary in Nashville. Jim Lawson was teaching at Vanderbilt; Diane and Marion Barry were at Fisk. 03:50 – Lawson was responsible for encouraging Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Memphis for the garbage workers’ strike, where King was killed. Lawson went to Los Angeles and “freaked,” feeling responsible for King’s death. Lawson tried to tape Cooks and Brady Tyson with a hidden microphone to try to prove that Andrew Young and others were intimidated by the F.B.I. into not talking about the assassination. 05:58 – Before Lafayette and Bevel became involved in Selma, there were laws restricting assembly of black people. 07:10 – Cooks stresses the importance of talking about Lafayette, early SNCC involvement, and the collaboration between SNCC and SCLC when talking about the Selma Movement. The SCLC people who had been to seminary largely had a different perspective than the old NAACP people and the new ideological perspective coming from the Howard University contingency in SNCC [Stokely Carmichael, Charlie Cobb, Courtland Cox, and Rap Brown]. They introduced new conversation, which was a positive development. 09:28 – The SNCC group gave the impression that it was at odds with King, but this was not true. They discuss [Amelia?] Boynton’s book and her involvement in the Selma Movement. 12:20 – SCLC worked with Boynton because she was already in Selma and willing to be used. Before she connected with the movement, she was “probably a negative force” and worked for personal profit. 13:00 – SCLC always focused on local leadership, even when the leadership was inadequate. In the Selma Movement, they used Reverend [Frederick D.] Reese (who was caught stealing from the Movement), Boynton, and a doctor. These people had their own bases upon which they could build the Movement. 14:50 – Cooks talks about the first march, the day they marched over the bridge and were beaten. Leadership included Ivanhoe [Donaldson], John [Lewis], Hosea [Williams], [James] Bevel, local leadership, and other members of SNCC. King was in Atlanta. He did not feel that they were prepared for the march to Montgomery that day, but leadership on hand decided that it was the right time. SCLC leaders could not talk SNCC out of it. 17:40 – Dent talks about his desire to speak with Williams. Cooks says he can arrange it. Cooks says that after Young failed to stop the march, he found a way to save face and not participate in it. Dent recaps what Young told him about the incident. 19:45 – There was a series of phone calls between those in Selma and King. He refused to come lead the march because he knew it was not the right day for the march. Cooks came down then next day from Indianapolis after he saw a piece about it on television the following morning. The coverage followed Judgment at Nuremberg. 21:30 – Dent asks about deaths in the Movement. [Jimmie Lee] Jackson was in Marion. [James] Reeb was in Selma. Jonathan Daniels was in Lowndes County. There was more news coverage of the white deaths than of the black deaths. Viola Liuzzo was killed following the Montgomery march. 25:53 – Cooks talks about Williams and the SCOPE [Summer Community Organization and Political Education] project. 30:10 – Dent asks about the Meredith March. Cooks talks about it as a movement that nobody wanted to respond to. [Recording ends 31:10, continues on Side 2.]
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 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.