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Alabama - Selma: J.L. Chestnut, Jr. Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews J.L. Chestnut Jr. in Selma, Alabama. Dent asks how Chestnut feels about the progress Black people have made. He answers that MLK had not promised that getting the vote would free all Black people in America. He did believe, however, it would get them into the ball park. From there they had to learn how to play the game. He says that Black people have mad e a lot of progress in Selma in a relatively short amount of time but that does not mean that their work is done. He says there is no question of there being water in the glass; the question is how full is the glass? Chestnut believes it is not even close to half way full. He says Blacks produce very little and consume quite a lot. Money does not circulate in the Black community, it flows directly in and back out. He says the focus of the movement has shifted. It is no longer dealing with overt racism but covert serfdom. He says the major problems lie in the money game. He talks about self-help and some co-opt initiatives he's helped with. None of them have succeeded. He says this might be due to the fact that Black churches won't get involved in the modern movement. Dent talks about the struggles of Blacks as voters and as elected officials. He says something that is different now is that no one is openly contesting the ideal of equality, but the financial reality does not match the ideal and people are not willing to put the effort forth to fix the real problems. He said the movement failed to address the real problems facing Blacks. They fought the ideological battles but not the actual monetary structures that keep Blacks down. Chestnut talks about Black icons in Hollywood. He says people like Eddie Murphy and Spike Lee achieved their success without denying their Blackness and that is a very new and powerful phenomenon. He doubts Hollywood will ever be the same after these people have gone through and that is the type of change he wants to see continue. Chestnut says there are an uncommon number of Black professionals coming out of Selma and he is very proud of that. He says Selma is the hub of the "Black belt." He says MLK did not stumble on Selma, he picked it deliberately. He says it is inevitable that Blacks will come to run Selma in time. Selma is one of the only places where the segregation academies did not thrive. He says the Whites would love to see Blacks leave Selma but they know the effect it will have on the tax base.
Civil rights leaders
Law & legal affairs
Dent, Thomas C.
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 151, Item 3, 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.