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low i think the moment was seriously out of control in birmingham because once they saw the police were going to be no effort at all to control it it just rapidly escalated into this kind of situation the police would have had difficulty controlling you know i think that's true that there was it's obviously that the that there was an understanding between the police and the leaders of the mob that there would be some time given to them i don't know that i just say it's obvious i don't really know and what it is in my humble for asking is going from there
he used it is and again oh wait yes we're very very concerned you have a repetition you sang in whenever a concern that after birmingham that there would be a repetition of birmingham and then cambrian ever nearly was i'm a little more time that that happens when you hear that martin luther king has come right i don't remember that at all before he met i don't remember i remember is talking to them in the church i just don't remember every girl probably tried to discourage him from cumming would be what i would expect or because of the fact that the his appearance there might create
more of a temptation for disorder doing was not a popular figure among the way to know how the palestinians was the work well so field says warner's oh a nervous about montgomery because of birmingham and because of that fear and also i think because dr king had determined to preach in birmingham that meant a big crowd of blacks in the church in birmingham which was always risky we're a nervous about montgomery because of what happened in birmingham
and because that the king was coming to preach in montgomery and that meant a crowded church and always the potential for danger when that occurred or near her guess i didn't have i think that time bobby kennedy sort of public hearings as was saved by the marshall showed up there and i think that's true that there have been fascinating about this whole kind of era is that is domestic things happening here but also this is having internationally the cold war and one that i will never come to understand clearly is why did it matter then
that these civil rights those days so that that's a lot of times is that the sea is happening two weeks before heading is going to meet with who spent twice that was in that i don't know that that civil rights really makes no difference in the cold war as far as the russians are concerned i think it does make a lot of difference in many countries in africa and many countries in asia because we're the racial discrimination that we houston employed was something which the russians criticize quite strongly and used to exploit in terms of communism moving into those countries so it had an effect of the cold war in that sense
so the same with the russians the american democracy is folly because american democracy doesn't include blacks doesn't include asians doesn't include any foreigners or european and we don't treat them equally bleak treat them as inferior people and they eat the russians treat everybody equally which may in a sense have been true so some ways russia is using the civil rights movement against it using the civil rights movement against the united states' embryos and the civil rights movement for the united states or mini the extent to which we back to blacks and the center which we eventually were
successful had a huge impact in lots of countries around the world so some ways you have to understand the candies reaction of government action in terms of this kind of squeeze this deal between russia yes you do have to say as kennedy's attitude to some extent as and civil rights is based connected with the core and connected with the objectives of the united states in terms of trying to prevent communism from from a coming into a lot of countries
it's funny isn't it move came in the church did you know that that there might've been a curator alison and water wiretap was a recall that you know i don't know for example there are some heated nor would i care very much i was given the humanities and the answer is the fire marshals and the alabama national guard or lee allen was a white man oh yes i was so what matter would try to prevent a confrontation between the two and ungentle graham was very much a segregationist themselves
and of course most members of the cards were marshals were not that they've been handpicked them volunteer i think for that kind of duty and there i mean they weren't alabama marshals they were over the country marshals and border patrol in prison guards and alcohol and passionate people and people swarm a locally as marshals and i think there was a real danger we didn't want that we certainly don't want to remove the marshals and leave it up to general graham and his forces to what was going to happen to the blacks in the church i think they were very reluctant to try to do anything as long as the marshals were surrounding the church so we have a stalemate there you know
after they agreed that everybody could go home safely and would be protected the alabama national guard took over and we remove the marshals so in the end it is on the alabama national guard was kind of protecting martin luther king yes it ended up with a card protect him ms dale organized a lot of things ms walter and mrs oh a difference in essence was that we knew when they went in them as simply the free to raise what'll be arrested but was we had some assurances that would be no beatings
so no violent so on the part of many of the most of his thirties they were taking the bottom in jail then release them the difference between the way and yes there was a difference you know i don't think anybody in the white south and the good when the television cameras show do you approve freedom riders corpses for that matter but free riders particularly because it was a combination of whites and blacks until think that helped establish anything good politically as far as the states are concerned i think that ms sophia police were smart enough to say they didn't want that to happen
tomorrow no one's ever talk about is that this is that you know that the city was like the police they saw they want because it goes away comes out when he realizes and the city's ban on our twitter to latvia but part of mississippi's so painful they're able to say ok we're not going to control it that's a richer getting at an unnatural agree with it but i don't i think mississippi was far worse than obama has four is it its degrees of different splits there was worse you could negotiate as burke marshaled in birmingham with some of the white leaders to get some rights production
but i think that i think that alabama could prevent a well have control in the rioting in the bidding up if they felt like doing and i think they could control or police force just as opposed to us citizen yes on that occasion that then subsequently alabama learn from the mistakes and the integration of the universities i was honored that was a deal between our justice department and hang out in the city say you know look in marilyn jackson it wasn't it wasn't really a deal a body was told by senator eastland that's what would happen
you said you're about to do i don't think that i would not call in any deal between bobby in salary slots in the race and told him that the freedom riders would be arrested and they got the jackson but they would not be hurt anyway they wind up ensured that they would be arrested and put in jail he told them agreed to what about it was in a position to agree or disagree that was better than they're being beaten up yet he was known to do right now the us justice department in this as the justice department that you knew perfectly well that few writers
we're not breaking laws try and and his own surf rose but you lose your head so it without explaining why say well we didn't feel that at that point that was what we're told what happened and center we didn't feel at that point we should therefore bring in the army bring in buses of military around that time and to help the freedom riders completed their ride what was the point of that he would not produce a result that helps the free riders when the produce a result that helps the government would not produce a result that helps our rights
but i am for you to go and know you need the radio right yeah a lot i have i have said repeatedly and i've said on this program that the freedom riders were exercising rights that they weren't i don't exercise have no doubt about how those rights were entitled to be protected first by the local state authorities local authorities state authorities and eventually if it was possible by the federal room and that would've been nice if we had a woman needs to do it at any sense i would've been helpful would have been very nice but somehow rather in nineteen sixty one and two and three the world it wasn't that way i guess the reason why
is it for your question but that was i guess is that you know when we when you make up for what we missed oh we can do it when they arrest them and i'm not sure we could've done it then but all that anybody else could have done would have been bought a lawsuit against the false arrest and false imprisonment and hideous corpus action if they're still in jail and then it's so if they'd been falsely arrested and the legal defense fund i think i think i would be writers playing for the most part he was correlated defense hung where and i know the legal defense was more interested in putting those resources in the school cases and they were guarding him into these kids or i think was interested and i guess to some extent did i'm not sure that we have the authority i just don't remember
would require legislation to have given us in forty two of going on their behalf we did not have a car and school cases and let's forget the court delivers to its amicus friend of the court and i don't we didn't have it we haven't voting rights cases we could i don't think we haven't been in creator writer cases until we which of the end of the free riders we did do we brought the suit against the interstate commerce commission requiring them to to integrate all the buses and to enforce law commerce commission for slow dance the bus companies and the states it is said that that's that it happened and this was
when you know uses those areas and you know it and you just think well that's that you know kill kill is on twenty one for you i was at that point you really feeling in you're right yes i remember the feeling of feeling was one of frustration if you're going to get all the freedom riders and that's putting pressure on us to do something that we think is not the result have the results that they think and what i've read all of that the only the only juliet was to bring in the army if there
was violence that was the only tool we had nothing else that we could do and there is a point i think once again we're seeing this on court i don't remember that actually it makes sense to say that the port authority of freedom riders left they just listen we're starting off so at some point we're looking for things that we could do that would help to satisfy and vindicate what the freedom riders were doing thank you using troops to protect them every time there was a danger of violence even if we could do that was not going to accomplish very much how one of the people in my office came up and said why
don't we petition the interstate commerce commission have require them but the burden on them to require the bus companies to be sure that we're protecting integrated camp passengers and to make sure that there's no discrimination and no segregated facilities in bus terminals and so we went for two years the commerce commission testified do this and they said they didn't think they have the authority to do it and we said we thought they didn't hand so bobby kennedy sued them hand we went to court took a little while and the commission then unanimously decided that they didn't have the authority to do that and that was i think it was a victory for the freedom riders they felt they'd accomplish something and i think in
addition to that body kennedy went out of his way to try to help get some funding for some of the other projects that they had going books that these glaciers also be massive is so what you're into why activists in this thing was there well are petitioning the icc puts the burden on the acc to make the bus companies and the owners of the state if it is the bus company facilities make sure that their law has been complied so it shifts the burden off of a lawsuit by a core to something that the government could do we couldn't bring a lawsuit good that we were creating a situation where the
interstate commerce commission good bring the most just so that there's a concrete so that may even understand is that now the signs come to a little weight loss of interstate commerce commission required various things to happen including taking down signs a segregated restrooms and so forth and bus terminals but you know he can pinpoint a fact that even that took time i know the whole that what the civil rights groups were looking for and god knows they deserved it they built report for over a century they're looking for a quick solution and politifact there was no quick solution
we usually than the administration they were looking for if you look back on one of this discussion is is it was a three and fifty years and who is in that respect it was but i think they were looking for something immediate and they wanted to play one of the army to come in i think they certainly said that those who were usually say we didn't yet have the authority to bring it but i don't think we did get together is often within three years four years without
all of that happening at result never could've happened we never could have that legislation if it were not for what dr king had for all the others you know for for the record or the overthrow the state leaders for for everybody was involved in that would have happened in your book in the epilogue that we talk about the same kind of part of the book to kind of i'm paraphrasing but you can't talk about the bravery and the rise of what the freedom riders were fired no question yes
there's no question we never was a question in my mind that what the freedom riders were doing and what happened with them in particular and with so many others throughout the south were acts of incredible bravery because you do perfectly well that the chances were very very odd that you would be beet you could be badly injured you could be killed and i think without that and bravery and without that kind of demonstration of their bravery you never could have any resolution by the congress united states and by the people so the great parlor well hearing no question about the fact you say that there's no question about the fact that the demonstration of bravery and the demonstration of determination
a demonstration that no matter what you do to us or not gonna quit no matter how much were beaten up no matter how much or heard the matter how much were injured we won't give up we will continue to do this we'll continue to parents that nerve and do you can't stand and that's what happened oh your ten year old twelve year olds thirty year olds involved knowing that they too faced the risk demonstrating for their rights a very very moving
so if we just have to see what we're doing what the petition did was to make the bus companies comply with the law and take passengers and integrated fashion where they pay their fair to do and whatever the rest of the world it was required to do and the same was true of the trials a record to de segregate everything that they previously segregated to protect passengers within their inner days segregated way handler that was that was that accomplishing something whole foods just making that the fcc
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American Experience
Freedom Riders
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Interview with Nicholas Katzenbach, 3 of 3
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Nicholas Katzenbach served as Deputy Attorney General from 1962 to 1965, under Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He served as Attorney General from 1965 to 1966 under President Johnson. Katzenbach assisted in drafting civil rights legislation and played an important role in fighting segregation in the South.
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American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, segregation, activism, students
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Chicago: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Nicholas Katzenbach, 3 of 3,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 15, 2021,
MLA: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Nicholas Katzenbach, 3 of 3.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 15, 2021. <>.
APA: American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with Nicholas Katzenbach, 3 of 3. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from