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Andrew Young Interviewee, 1981 May 7 [Box 139, Item 10, Side 1]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Dent, Thomas C.
Portraits of Key people, including Septima Clark, Randolph Blackwell, Dorothy Cotton, Harry Belafonte, and Stan Levison. Other topics include Marcus Garvey, Highlander Folk School, Robert Williams"' Violent Movement, SCLC, James Bevel's firing, Young's decision to run for Congress.
00:00 – Tom Dent interviews Andrew Young. They discuss who Young will talk about in this interview. They review what Young has said about Septima Clark on previous tapes. 02:49 – Septima Clark. Young calls her a “strong black woman in the tradition of Harriet Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune.” She was a schoolteacher from Charleston, SC who was fired for refusing to give up her NAACP membership. She went to work for Highlander Folk School, where she taught literacy. Young worked with her on the Citizen Education Project, which she founded. Together with Dorothy Cotton, the three of them trained over six thousand community leaders, assisting with voter registration. 04:25 – Robert Williams’ “Violent Movement” began in Monroe, North Carolina. Clark, in her 60s, got a on a bus to go try to help in the situation, as did Wyatt Walker. The sheriff hit Walker with a billy club and threw him in jail. Clark talked with the sheriff and those who were left, disarming the movement and negotiating a settlement with police. She was fearless. 07:00 – She identified with the grassroots leaders and considered herself “an early Marcus Garveyite.” They danced in parades down the streets, much like the second line in New Orleans. She left the Garvey movement when he bought a boat and she had to face the idea of actually leaving the United States. 08:50 – She had been married and had one son. She raised her granddaughter. At the time of the interview, she is still active in Charleston and leading voter registration. A new [health center?] was dedicated to her student Esau Jenkins, who was active with voter registration and literacy. 11:17 – Young traveled with Clark in Mississippi. She had moved to Highlander by 1960. She already knew Aaron Henry and Vera Piggy, but the rest of the people were recruited from scratch. She was religious, but anti-clerical. She was Methodist. 13:03 – Randolph Blackwell. Young met him around 1961. He was the program director for the Voter Registration Project. He had been a Political Science professor at Alabama A & M University in Huntsville and was a graduate of Howard University Law School. He was also a Garveyite. His parents were active in the movement when he was a child. 15:15 – They repeatedly ran into him while they were traveling around the South. He was leaving Greenwood, MS with Jimmie Travis and Bob Moses when a car pulled alongside them and opened fire with a shotgun. Travis was hit in the neck, but the other two were not hit. That started to movement around Greenwood, led by Sam Block and Willie Peacock. 16:38 - Blackwell became program director of SCLC around 1964. He had a good sense of how movements ran. He purchased a printing press for SCLC. He developed SCLCs strategies for developing small businesses. The strategy worked temporarily. The people would become politically independent, but would move into politics instead of staying with their businesses. 19:45 – Young liked Blackwell. He understood the importance of the economic aspects of the movement. Young saw the brick-making machine Blackwell set up in Plains, GA. He describes the setup. Blackwell is now dying of cancer. There was a large black population in Plains. 22:30 – Blackwell tried to find an economic project in every area of black concentration in the South. They had maps outlining these areas. The first sewing factory was in Crawfordville, GA. Whites had fired all the black people who wanted to send their children to integrated schools in Taliafero County. They started a program called Aid to Maids, which developed a factory and put those who were fired to work. 25:29 – Blackwell tried to make these factories cooperatively owned, but they ended up falling apart. One person would buy the others out and they could no longer get federal funding. Blackwell went to the various chain department stores and got contracts for one item for each (shirts, slacks, etc.). 27:20 – Dent talks about other projects that did not survive. Young says they were victims of their own success. When people became settled, they moved away. Young would help encourage financial donors to give to the Southern Rural Action Project. 29:20 – Southern Rural Action began as the economic development division of SCLC. Blackwell split the project off in order to get government grants. 30:03 – Dorothy Cotton. She had been a speech therapist. She had a degree from Virginia University and a Master’s from Boston University. She was working as an assistant librarian when Wyatt Walker began his bus boycott movement in the late 1950s. He brought her as his administrative assistant when he came to SCLC. [Recording ends 31:16, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Civil Rights Movement, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Tulane University Digital Library
Amistad Research Center
Audiocassette, mono. 16-bit
Box 139, 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.