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Walter Collins interview, Part 5
Rogers, Kim Lacy
Topics include: blacks in the south, university, organizations, university of Michigan
Collins begins by mentioning his grandfather's involvement in liberalizing voting. His mother became involved as well and he ended up working at her office. His mother was involved in initial desegregation attempts at places such as Benjamin Franklin school. She believed it would make things better for everybody. There was an NAACP Guinea pig program where they selected black students to attend except they ended up backing out of the program because it was too high risk. The kids happened to be ones who were violently inclined and could not be trusted to stay out of trouble. the kids who were chosen weren't the ones who really wanted to go so it wasn't worth pushing it. Collins mentions others who were involved in the Civil rights movement who were still around like Aretha Hailey, Lolis Eli (an attorney), Neil Douglass, Sherman Copeland, and Don Hubbard Goldberg who he mentions didn't have much influence on the city government. They worked for the southern organization for unified leadership to use the black vote for power and convince candidates to agree to certain things. For him going to whichever institution you wanted was a basic human right. In terms of political opinions, Collins said he could tell you what he believed in/ opposed but had no particular strategy and wasn't well versed in history. He described himself as not fitting in the mainstream Civil rights movement. He also said it was difficult getting people interested and motivated to desegregate the schools. Collins saw interracial organizations as exceptional and not the general norm. He thought it was naive to project it as the way life was lived when it wasn't, and this led to problems. In terms of larger white southern society Collins saw it as capable of change because the basic living conditions between masses of whites and masses of blacks were similar whereas in other parts of the country that wasn't true. He said that white southerners were the hardest people to reach but once you did there were less cultural differences because of the similarities in ways of life. The south was the only part of the country where blacks have an infrastructure to govern and where black institutions exist. He says that Michigan was where he experienced the worst racial experiences of his life. He describes Ann Arbor as being anti-student even though it was a university town. The houses were all on a year's lease so you were responsiblefor finding someone to live in and pay rent for your house for 3 months out of the year. UM didn't have enough housing so people were encouraged to live off campus and they had a monopoly over the real estate. The prices in Ann Arbor were also sky high he says, and Michigan was a reactionary state. He had a gun pulled on him there and was run off of public land. He says that the education blacks get outside of the south was bad, and he never met a black person from Michigan who had grown up in Ann Arbor and went through their school system- they were all from Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery, or Gainesville. The blacks from Ann Arbor typically went to eastern Michigan instead. He finishes by talking about the Tulane social workers who created an agency for improving poverty. A few Tulane professors tried to get people who were already doing social work to join them and they worked with the NAACP. The agency has become an arm of the democratic party and tries to control things, according to Collins.
Politics and government
The southern states
New Orleans (La.)
Amistad Research Center
Roger.Walter Collins 5.20.1979 Tape1-01
Box 4, Item 3, Side 1, Kim Lacy Rogers collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
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