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Discussion on Birmingham Campaign, 1980 February 23 [Box 138, Item 1, Side 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Andrew Young recalls the Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign and his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. Topics include: Nonviolence, the influence of Gandhi, the structure of the Movement and division of labor within the SCLC, Fred Shuttlesworth and personalities within the Movement, description of the demonstrations, use of the media, local leaders and youth in the Movement, and the March on Washington.
00:00 – Tom Dent interviews Andrew Young [at the airport. Background noises are present]. Discussion of the Birmingham Movement. Young talks about Gandhi’s influence. Pacifist Jim Lawson provided training for the movement in Nashville. He pastored a church in Birmingham after getting out of jail. He had been leading workshops in pacifism before the sit-ins started. They had been reading Gandhi, and thought of the sit-ins as part of a comprehensive nonviolent campaign. They saw it as an experiment in adapting nonviolence to the American situation. Students from the Nashville movement merged with the SCLC in Albany in 1961. They had trouble agreeing and had a federal injunction put on them by the Kennedy administration. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not want to violate it. 02:50 – The people in Albany felt like they had reached a stalemate in 1962. They decided to go to the toughest city in the South to show that nonviolence was still relevant and would work. Fred Shuttlesworth invited them to Birmingham, Alabama. They thought that if they desegregated Birmingham, it would prove that they could desegregate anywhere. 04:00 – They sought a breakthrough in public accommodations. Young talks about the history of violence in the city. They created a Birmingham manifesto, outlining their priorities as the desegregation of lunch counters, employment of black people in all the downtown stores, voter registration, and desegregation of public schools. 06:30 – There was an upcoming election, so they went in early to try to register voters, but had very little luck. SNCC and CORE were not there at the time. Shuttlesworth and Arthur Shores were there. Shuttlesworth had no support from the churches, which considered him a publicity seeker. Things changed when A.D. King accepted a church in Birmingham in 1962 or 1963. Demonstrations started in March of 1963. Reverends Porter, Cross, and Lindsey had also recently arrived. Martin (Luther King, Jr.) built a bridge between them and Shuttlesworth. 09:58 – Dent asks about the problem with Fred Shuttlesworth and encourages Young to talk about personalities within the movement. He says Shuttlesworth was dedicated but had a big ego. He took a back seat when SCLC moved in. Shuttlesworth and King shared the duty of speaking, but had nothing to do with mobilizing the public. [James] Bevel, Dorothy Cotton, Diane Nash, Bernard Lee, and Young did that work. Wyatt Walker coordinated the media effort, bond money, and the national movement. 12:50 – Walter Fauntroy headed up the Washington D.C. base. Stan Levison worked in New York. 14:30 – More on Fred Shuttlesworth and his arrest. He was in jail or the hospital during much of the Movement. 16:30 – Young had started negotiating with local ministers, including Bishop Carpenter who had initially condemned King’s presence. Carpenter convened a meeting of local leaders. 17:50 – They saw the media as necessary to the Movement. He describes the demonstrations, which included both marches and sin-ins. They wore blue jeans. In the afternoon, the youth would post handbills regarding the boycott. The media would cover the Movement. Black radio stations would advertise the mass meetings, but that was all they could do. The news gave them free television time to convey their message when they covered the demonstrations. Young, Walker, and Bevel planned this. 23:15 – Local leaders and youth in the Movement, including James Orange and Andrew Morissette. They screened the film Nashville Sit-in Story and the films the Quakers did on Gandhi and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to educate them on nonviolence. [Cheryl?] Marcus also emerged as a leader. 26:15 – They had less support from students at Miles College, possibly because they had the support of the president Lucius Pitts. It became fashionable to go to jail. There was an older group that was also willing to risk their lives for the Movement. Others supported the boycott but would not join the demonstration, though they would drop their kids off to demonstrate. 29:40 – The March on Washington. [Recording ends 31:27, continues on Side 2.]
Young, Andrew, 1932-
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Box 138, Item 1, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
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