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When you have a public relations man almost all things are possible. In fact I'm told that Moses once had a public relations matter. Now this was not Bob Moses of New York City fame. This was Moses Moses. And. I am told that at one stage he had an image problem and he called in a PR man and said Now what can you do for me. The PR man said Ask not what I can do for you. Little. To a ok ask instead what you can do for me. I said you must give me something to peg the story off. I can't write the story in a vacuum. So what would you do. Moses thought and said Now let's see it all right. I tell you I'll swing one arm up to the heavens and the waters of the sea will part
so that the children can walk through on dry land. To the other side. Then I'll swing the other arm up to the heavens. And with an awful roar mighty waters of the sea will come together drowning their pursuers. How is that. The PR man said Moses baby. Said if you can pull that one off I'll get your four pages in the Bible. I was of the show with a public relations man almost all of it in the possible you know Black has been associated with the night and with darkness and with bogeys and with evil and with fear for such a long period of time. Many people assume that if you're talking about black power that means making all of these things powerful and thus they've been terrified by it. I don't think there's been much rationality in the reaction of many people to the slogan but there's been widespread
confusion. What do you mean by. That. Asked. We are asked to do you mean violence. Are you proposing violence. Does Black Power mean the riots in the street and the Molotov cocktails and the bricks and the bombs. Many people use the same words obviously to mean different things by them and sometimes opposing things. I remember when I was in jail once in Mississippi during the Freedom Rides the first day we would have a jail Amen and he came up to our bars of our cell block and said he wanted to talk to me. So I walked to the bars and held on the bars from my side the inside. He held on from his side the outside and he said You people have your nerve coming down here talking about freedom. We do I asked. He said yes because what you are really doing is taking away our freedom.
We are and quiet he said you are taking away our freedom to discriminate against Negroes. Well this was an indication of the kind of confusion and what the word meant to him was wholly different from what it had meant to me. It reminds me of a story I read some time ago illustrating how words are often used by different ones to mean different things. This is the story of a lady who had inherited quite a large sum of money. Several million dollars. She therefore engaged a historian to write her genealogy. And the historian spent several weeks of labor in the study. Looking into the family background. And he went to the lady to give her a progress report. And said he was coming along very well with the study but he had run into one snack. And what is that she inquired. He said Madam. I discovered that one of your grandfathers was electrocuted at Sing Sing. Well that's horrible she said simply deleted it cannot be included in the history. But he said
Madam I am a historian and a man of integrity. If I write the story it must be included. So she said. Well professor I understand that so please just gloss over that fact. So it cannot be recognised by the readers. I am sure that will do no violence to your professional integrity. So he returned to his study for further work and shortly came back to her and read her the following paragraph. Concerning her. Errant grandfather. One of her grandfathers occupied the chair of applied electricity. At one of America's well-known institutions. Little. He was very much attached to that position little. And he died in the harness. So I think that when we talk about Black Thought heat about civil rights and liberty and freedom we're apt to run into that kind of confusion. But it's a
worldwide issue out. It was negro scholars the boys who wrote some 60 years ago. The problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color of the relations between the light talk of peoples of the earth and Asia and Africa and America. And the islands of the sea. I remember when I was in Africa 958 and again in one thousand sixty five I was asked repeatedly by a black Africans what about the fight of our brothers in the United States. Are you winning or are you losing the fight for equality and for civil rights. And I remember addressing a mass meeting in what was then 10 then you got 4000 people in the audience all Africans. No one speaking English only Swahili. We had to use an interpreter.
But two words got across to the audience in English. This was in 58 right after the Little Rock school controversy. Those two words were Little Rock. Everyone in the audience. You were just talking about the images right in their mind. Yes. They raise their hands in unison and shouted WHO WHO WHO WHO WHO WHO which they later told me that freedom freedom freedom. It's become a tremendous issue we find in this country that the whole mood and the thinking of black Americans has changed drastically within the past few years partly as a result of the civil rights revolution. Partly I am sure as a result of Africa. Partly as a result of the arduous process of growing up in a society I believe that American Negroes
are seeking through all of their actions to find an answer to one critical question. That question is this what does it mean to be black. And America may sound like a very simple question but it's a question that has caused a lot of agonizing as one legal writer many years ago referred to it as the tunas of the negro. To soul to my use to aspirations struggling in one dark body. What am I. He asked. A black man who happens to live in America or an American who happens incidentally to be black. Jimmy Baldwin has posted another way.
He asks Who am I. Very simply and he roamed around the world trying to find an answer to that. Who is he. Other American Negroes have gone to Africa seeking an answer to that. I think the history of the negro struggle in the United States has been a history of his effort to find an answer to that question. He is an American and there's no getting around it. Not like other America. Because he has the visibility which they lack. There is no denying that the Negro in this country is an American. All the late Malcolm X. And the Muslims have denied that. I have insisted that the negro the black man is not an American. That he is a black man. I heard Malcolm in one debate in Chicago I forget now who was opponent was what an out of debate Malcolm insisted the black man is not an American. His opponent insisted his opponent was black. I am an American. How come I asked him why do you consider yourself an American.
And said because I was born in America. Malcolm shot back these words if a cap has kittens in the oven does that make them biscuits. So in spite of their claims to the contrary. Oh I hope the black man is an American his whole history his experiences have been indigenous to America. Whatever African culture he had before coming here. Was ripped from him. Torn from him and the sub culture that he adopted grew out of his experiences and his agonized way on the American continent. The black man in the rural area without have infinitely more in common with his white counterpart in a rural area of the South culturally speaking than he has with his black brothers in Africa off. Or indeed that he has with his black cum Patriarch in the cities of our country. So he
is irrevocably out of America. His blue his other songs the gospel songs the folk song his dances have been less derivative of Africa than they have been a response to his life and his experience in the United States. So we use in America. Then what does it mean for him to be in America. And most of all what does it mean for him to be up. Black America means something different than it means to be a white American. I was recently looking at the preschool books used by my little girl. She had gotten a gift of a large stack of them and I looked through them. Thumbing page by page trying to find out how she would see herself. What kind of an image would get where she would see a black face. I found that in most of them the only time she would see herself was when she was carrying somebody else's back or was in some absurd position with a string tied around the top and other kids
pointing fun at it and laughing and mocking. So the black man the black child. Is white society where the culture the mode of Being is white he looked at the billboards and what does he see. Unless he is in the ghetto and within the past few years receives a white image. One might say he ought to identify with that. White man. That is the image of America and can he say I too am an American. When you find that the whole and American society has said to him but that is not you and you must not identify with it. So the black man has been an American who is not an American or a not American who is an American and he's been trying to find an answer to his dilemma. What does it mean then to be black and America. Does it mean that we must persuade ourselves to forget our blackness and
bathe ourselves in a wash of colorblindness as it were. Does it mean that we should seek to persuade America to become colorblind and to forget our blackness. For many many years that has been tried and as a result of the trying it we have found that most of the black people in our country have suffered greatly and self-esteem self pride self understanding. It's beginning to change but the change has not yet been crossed the board. When Tom a boy or young statesman from Kenya was over here a few years ago I asked him as he was about to board the plane to head back to East Africa. What do you think of the American Negro. And he said Brother farmer. What does the American Negro think of himself. Up until recent years the negroes
thought very little of himself. This began to change a few years ago as a civil rights revolution got in the way. His change in mood and change in self-image sprang from a number of things. First I would say that was World War 2 during World War 2 the black soldiers in uniform were told that they were fighting against the master racism of Hitler like everyone else and they were not stupid. Inevitably those black men would stop and ask themselves at some point. Now wait a minute. If it's asked the reason that we are fighting against. What about Master racism back home. Back many of them said they didn't know which way to point a gun. And they tell a story about one negro lad uniform during the war who was seated on a train headed south and as a train crossed the Mason-Dixon line the conductor came to him and said boy get up out of that seat and get into the front coach where you belong. Those of you who are old
enough to remember those of the Jim Crow cars which used to be on the trains next to the engine reserved for Negroes. Well this young man in the uniform of his country burned up inside. But. Did not deign to answer. The conductor repeated the order ignored again repeated again. Finally the lad looked up and said Do you see this uniform. Doctor said Ya you see it why he said I didn't ask him for it. They put it on me now are they going to send me to the Guadalcanal or some other place to fight and die for democracy. He said What have I got to fight and die for democracy over there Mr.. I just assume is not here. And the conductor walked away. The feeling was very intense and bitter. During World War Two and these lads got out of uniform. Their indignation did not decline. I would say that the angry young men who came out of World War 2 have now given
birth to angry children. And these are the angrier children who are leading the movement and the fall and many parts of the north. Today there's a difference between their pop and their their fathers. Did not have the education they have. As one student city and leader in the South said in response to a reporter. Who asked him what accounts for the difference between your father and you. He said Well papa had only the Bible said I've got the Bible and a college education. That made a difference. And that's a second reason for they new almost revolutionary change in mood among American Negroes the increasing education of the U. As they read in their texts We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created free and equal. They ask you really mean all of them or you just mean some men. All in all men but black men.
That is what propelled those four freshman in Greensboro North Carolina. February 1st 1980 to sit down at a lunch counter and World War II and demand coffee or more coffee to demand dignity the right to sit there. They set in motion a chain reaction that swept you out and has not died yet. When our third reason for this new move angrier more militant mood among Negroes and for their change in self-image has been Africa the new emerging nations of Africa it is no accident that the emergence of new nations in Africa began about the same time as the civil rights revolution in this country. They sprang from the same sources from World War Two and the type talk about freedom and the talk against Master racism and each development has spurred the other one before going out.
Before the Gold Coast became bought and independent. Most American Negroes have little interest in Africa. Let's not. We have the same stereotyped Hollywood picture of Africa that most people have you know that picture image of a few half naked Black Sabbath is dancing around the holy pot with a missionary and that was Africa. And a common saying in the black community in the pre-dawn days was Man I ain't lost nothing in Africa. I'm no African. I remember when I was about 10 years old living in Austin Texas. Every Saturday afternoon my pal and I would go downtown to the movies. We would sit there on the front row up in the balcony that is chewing popcorn peanuts and watching Tarzan is half an hour cereal each Saturday. And they would show the missionary in the pot with the sweat dripping from his brow as the heat built up on the knee and he awaited the timely and inevitable arrival of
tires and they would then show the Africans dancing around the pot and flash a close up picture of the face of one of the articles. And I would elbow my friend and say Irving had you. Written. The old I don't need to tell you we're having this reaction. His response was immediate and electric. Oh man I mean me. I didn't come from no Africa. Well Irving then 20 million or we're indulging in some project. We alone among the American people were people who lacked roots which we acknowledge who have no no umbilical cord into the past. And I suggest that no people can have a sense of destiny for the future without some consciousness or some aware. Of routes into the past. This way of life
many shuffle along aimlessly going no place because they felt they come from nowhere and therefore were nothing. Self esteem suffer. Pride was aborted. We shuffle along. This began to change as the new nations emerge when American Negroes took a new look. So now is that Africa. Or is the boiling pot of Africa. And as they saw the new image grow said Why that man is me that proud black man who is wrestling with nation building. Maybe wrestling badly Australia but rest. He's me. If he can do it so can I. I am somebody. This feeling began to grow and spread in the black community. On my first visit to Africa in 1958 I was then working for a trade union
and when the word got around I was going to Africa. Some of my shop stewards came to me one. Also a black man thrust in my hand a bottle and said Jim you're going to Africa when you get there. You just bottle with one hour from the River Nile and bring it home to me. Another one thrust into my hand a box and said you know this box with soil from Mother Africa and bring it to me. Emotional stuff. It is truly irrational. But it indicated something of the depth of feeling. I mean my father was not sad about all that. But as a scholar. Told me he thought you were going to Africa when you get to West Africa look up our relatives and tell them that I'm doing well. But he had no idea who his relatives were or where or what part of the continent they came from but he was expressing feelings and emotions. And the depth of feeling. I imagine that something like the
Irish would feel like a third generation returning to the old spot. And that by picking up some of the stuff or indeed as many Jews might feel going for the first time into Israel. It tremendously experience. When I landed then I think of the first time in 58 I had a compulsion to fall on my knees on my stomach and kiss the earth. I must confess that I resisted that compulsion but the compulsion was there. And as I was leaving some of the Africans saw saw me off at the play in Nigeria and said Brother Farma when you return home tell our relatives that we are fairing well and tell them to come home. Now this was the same kind of emotional sentimental nonsense which had no rationality at all. But it has. Helped spur the change in the thinking of black people in this country. More studying African art African culture.
I've written that I've written history. But to top it all Mr. Davies I'm not he's European and his book he reports on more than a half century of archaeological expeditions and sub-Saharan Africa where they uncovered ruins of ancient and medieval cities. I viewed some of those ruins and they're quite fabulous impressive. Many of them comparing with the ruins of Athens in Rome. When they first started uncovering these ruins many of the scholars had a predictable reaction. They took one look at the photographs and said Why gosh. The Romans must have come further south than we thought. They went on with the diggings However I'm soon uncovered tombs and came upon some of the remains and called and the anthropologist took one look and said Why these people were in Detroit it was a black hole. And Davidson tells us in some of the cities they have highly developed cultures and civilizations.
They had judicial system libraries universities scholars and that and some of them they were indeed smelting iron while most of the world was in the Stone Age. This of course is not to say that Africans are superior. That would be the height of nonsense. All it is to say is that you cannot judge superiority or inferiority on the basis of what people were doing at a certain time or place in history. While these things in my opinion have converged to create the new militant movement and to start the changing self image on the part of the negro in the United States he is now beginning to feel that he is somebody he is coming to the conclusion that before you can answer that question the question which is often articulated obsolete before you get to the question what does it mean to be black and American. He must find out what it means for him to be alive. He must learn that blackness is not evil and not black not the
counterpart of not is not an affliction. Twenty years ago if you walk through Roxbury or Harlem and it called a man a black man he would have been very angry with you. He would have been offended insulted because he'd been told that black was bad it was a deformity. He would insist no I'm not black I'm brown I'm bronze I would tan. I mean you know what I'm like. Now that man would assert I am a black. And with considerable pride I submit that there is nothing wrong with self pride and group pride on the left that group pride becomes chauvinism and how to hate. And there we must draw the line when the Irish came to this land in vast waves migration the immigration a century ago they ran into discrimination jobs housing everyplace
signs on windows saying Man wanted no Irish need apply. They opposed it. They cried about it and they fought against it. They sang songs to an one folk song telling about the situation and in the song they said it's an honor to be born an Irishman. Well that's fine. There's nothing wrong. It's an all art to be born whatever one is so long as it's not a dishonor to be on what the other person is. It is only when group pride becomes out I hate that it becomes dangerous and destructive and suicidal. I think among the masses of black people in this country who are questioning for an answer to that critical question it has not yet become chauvinism and counter. There are sharp and ugly indications and many of the community is that it is moving in that direction. Whether it does move in that direction fully depends upon what we
in the nation do in the meantime. I am not greatly concerned about the polarization that is taking place as Negroes are trying to find out who they are because as a negro the black American finds out what it means to be black. Then the white American can find out what it is to be an America and white America. I have seen this dilemma face in court at. A couple of years ago out on the West Coast I heard there was much turmoil of black and white like within the chapters of the organization. So I flew out to San Francisco called a meeting urged the offices of the leaders of those chapters to come and join me. We sat down in a hotel. I said all right brothers and sisters Now let's let our hair down. And put our cards on the table to mix a couple of metaphors and find out what this is all about. What is it. One negro hit the floor and said Brother FARMER We've got to dig being
black We've got to dig being black. Well I knew precisely what he was saying. He meant that we've got to find an identity and stop being ashamed of what we are not. And he repeated it over and over again. What happened at that meeting is what on largescale could now happen in America. We found that people began to examine themselves. It's black and white. And I asked. Why did I do that or say a lot about what propelled the music but there were residue of the prejudices within myself that I had not been aware of and this self-examination on the part of black and white was a creative tension without which I am convinced at this stage in the nation's history there cannot be proper today unfortunately.
If anyone grows up in a land be black or white it is extremely difficult well nigh impossible for him to grow to adulthood without having at least some residue of racial feelings and indeed prejudice. Because we've lived in a segregated world. Two separate societies. Black city and white city like state and like state like nation and like nature one can move far toward bridging that gap. If he has sufficient sympathy if you can understand but it it almost impossible for us to wipe it out. Then at this stage of increasing polarization I think we ought to examine ourselves like and find out what we are in America understand that we cannot be completely colorblind until we have rid
ourselves of the residue of the racial prejudice which it becomes so integral a part of American culture. When I was Black Power means something else to its advocates and to all of us. I am not to say of course that black power is the best possible of all choices of words. I cannot say that it is the best possible slogan that is a slogan that indeed invites misinterpretation and misunderstanding. But we have it and more attention ought to be paid to the ideas behind it than do the words and their connotations. It means in a dish dish and to unity group prime. Identity a development of strength economically and politically in the ghetto community. Understand that other groups in our nations history other immigrant groups have not found their way into the mainstream of the nations life soley by appealing to
the conscience of their fellow Americans. They have done that too and we must continue appealing to conscience that we might then prod and hope consciences to grow. But in addition to appealing to the consciences they sought to develop economic spring and political strength so as to poorest respect for themselves as Martin Luther King put it once the law may not make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and that's a terribly important contribution as far as I'm concerned. And this is a. The economic strength does and political strength may not make a man love you. I do not think when the Irish the Italians. And indeed the Jews developed economic and political strength in a land that it thereby made people love them but it forced respect they had self-respect. And others thereby had to respect them and respect the strength that they have developed.
That is what is being said under this slogan black power no. We have as black people a market of twenty eight billion dollars a year. That's not an awful lot in American terms but it's an awful lot in all other places in the world. It's the amount of money that we spend them that we are not using as a tool as a weapon as a vehicle. We are not starting up businesses. We are not pooling resources. We are not using whatever forms we have in gaining some measure of influence within the existing building through purchase of stock and who will be in that pause to talk to people and hoping to determine the policies of those companies. That's what is meant by gaining the economic strength within the ghettos and the political strength. Yes we have a tremendous voting power. Once it's fully realized I'm not concerned about the primary election in Alabama and
Mrs Wallaces victory everyone knew the governor was going to win. Mrs. Wallace we had hoped however that we would have enough votes to get the attorney general of the state into a runoff as a lot. We did not have that many voters. We did in Alabama. However our elected least one negro sheriff and at least one representative to the state legislature and that's a first since the reconstruction days. We have only one half of the potential voting wise in Alabama. If we had 90 percent that power would be irresistible. I disagree with any who claim that the use of that power in the Black Belt area of the South should mean voting exclusively for Negroes that to me is nonsense I do not see how we can call for that kind of use of pot where we have a majority and then in the places where we have a minority say we want proportional representation it must be one or the other. I think instead that
the black people in the south as the vote is fully realized. Most qualified persons who are set to 0 at. 0 0 0 0 will mean that more people will be at war and will be unlike what it ultimately is that many of the politicians are going to change their mind on segregation. If there's one thing that politicians have in common it seems to me it's a desire to get elected. And once elected desire to stay in office and. I think they have considerable flexibility in their views when they consider the electorate. It's like Louisiana. The city attorney a boat came up to see me some time ago of New York. He said the mayor had sent him and I was astounded. He came by he said you know the mayor is now willing to sit down and talk and negotiate the grievances which the Negro community had. I ask why.
Why is he willing to do it now when he has refused for so long. He said he has no choice. As negroes are registered in large numbers. Now the mayor is back to the wall and he's coming up for re-election and he has no alternative but to sit down and negotiate and try to work this out and he said you know what the mayor tells me that's just what he's always wanted to do. You are. The salesman. He then asked me the attorney asked me if I had heard the story of the salesman in the new. I assured him I had not. And he says once I was a salesman driving through the south looking for Johnsonville. I don't know whether there was any significance to the name of that town or not. But unable to find Johnsonville he stopped his automobile climbed out walked over to the next feel where he saw an old negro farmer plowing his field. He walked up to the farmer and said Boy how do I get to Johnsonville the farmer didn't like his attitude so he kept on plowing.
The boy didn't you hear me talking to you how do I get to Johnsonville. He kept on walking. The salesman reached into his pocket and got out a shiny new revolver and fired one shot at the ground near the pharmacy. The farmer looked down but kept on plowing his hand plow behind it. The salesman fired a few more shots at the ground in the same general vicinity of the feet. Bang bang bang bang bang. As a farmer was moving around to avoid the bullets and the gun said click click click. That point the old farmer said to his new wall. Pull the mule up reached into the pockets of his overalls and got out a rusty old pistol. The single older type walked back to the salesman put it to the salesman's head and said Now Mister Did you ever kiss a mule. The salesman said no I never did that but I'm always going to do a little for him
to this. TO is a little polka and has the potential of political power of three thing. Self Prayag economic strength and political strength. Others have used it. I think we must now use it. The other appeals have not worked. Our revolution has won victories which have applied mainly to the aspirations of the middle classes and chiefly in the south. We have not changed the life situation of the average negro especially the poor negro especially in the urban centers as yet. If one worries about self-love and remember the words of Shakespeare and I think King Henry the Fifth. Self love my king is less vial a sin than self neglecting for three and a half centuries American Negroes have been indulging in self
neglect by force of habit or because they had no choice. Now that area of neglect is over I urge you friends not to lose your conviction and commitment and faith in the civil rights revolution. There will be excesses. There will be aberrations. I do not know in history of any social revolution which has not had its excesses and its revolution and its aberration. Gandhi had more than we. It was more violence per capita and his movement than there has been in the civil rights revolution in this country. But we should not judge the thrust of the revolution by its excesses in rhetoric or by its aberrations but by its main motion. For now it will be extremely difficult for all white friends.
I want to see more white persons not only work among white persons but join us in our efforts to organize the black ghetto community. I realize the difficulty that will be involved there because of the current polarization because of the growing tendency toward identity and self coalition. But it can be done. It is essential not as the bright man as asserts himself. And finds that we is that there be a sense of community and a maintenance of communication. Now if you would join us in our efforts a community organization and corps welcomes white people in Baltimore Maryland some of the staff are white their working organizing the ghetto community organizing for economic strength political strength and self-esteem through the study of Negro history and African
history. But if you try you must understand that the black man now insist upon being faced not as a warred of mission as a lonely creature to be helped. But he insists upon being faced as an equal. I dealt with as an equal. He has more pride now he is not the on drop integration what integration can there be between the proud and the on about so integration of the master in the service of the black man now insists upon being confronted as an equal and when the white persons working with him have oriented their thinking to facing him not as a child but as an equal. They can be accepted. I was talking with a young woman social worker from Watts who worked right through the riots. Teaching classes in a community center. She became a part of that community.
They did in a sense become colorblind during the riots the youngsters who were rioting didn't want to miss a single plaque in her community that they went there each day carrying their loot along with oh she had to do a lot. She had thought looking at people in a paternalistic practice no more pattern ization but in completely quiet now as the negro finds himself. All of us might find out what the Negro must not become an up and anti-Semitic anti. ANTI. Cap. The greatest self pride is the self pride that does not need the crutch of chauvinist anti negro ism among anyone is bad and evil. That ties Semitism and hyped up politics is just as unconscionable about me or any person
in the community as Hillel put it if I am not for myself who will be for me if I am for myself alone. What am I and if not now when. Why are is encouraging Negroes to register and to vote. And thus to wield some political influence. But in 1964 when other civil rights leaders called for a moratorium on demonstrations. I did not. And did not not contradict. The development of voter strength and voter registration openly among Negroes. I think not. You see I oppose the moratorium and so did John Lewis was speaking for Snick there and we were the only two in this so-called summit meeting who refused to go along with a
moratorium on demonstrations in the first place. I did not believe at that time that any substantial number of Americans who used to be for the civil rights movement are now against it. And that was the current interpretation in the press of the white backlash that people had switched. They used to be Forest now they were against us because they were fed up with the demonstrations the marches and sit ins and so forth. I did not believe that to be true. All that I believed was that those persons who had been opposed to us all along but had not been vocal are articulate. Now that the lines were more sharply drawn had become more vocal and articulate. Similarly many had become more vocal and articulate on our side when heretofore they had been quiet. Now it as it turned out the white backlash failed to snap for Goldwater. You remember that he counted on the backlash. He was expecting the backlash to sweep him into the White House. But there was only one place in the country where there peered to be a backlash in
64. That was in California. But the situation there was quite complicated by Proposition 14 the way it was worded. The strength of the real estate lobby and a lot of confusion that existed around that issue there. Furthermore I have never believed that demonstrations lead to rights are part of the call for moratorium was based upon the INS the assumption that if you demonstrate it you thereby increase the danger of riots which would in turn feed the white backlash. Demonstrations do not produce riots. On the contrary demonstrations help to prevent crowds. The demonstrations help to prevent riots by providing a constructive alternative to the violent. Explosions of riots and by serving as an escape valve for some of the tensions and some of the frustrations and by convincing people that something can be done about their problems. And it illustrates one of that is New York City 1963 the tensions were very great as
great as they were a year later 1963. Some of them want to ride one of the reasons is that in the spring and summer of 63 we had massive demonstrations aimed at construction industry discrimination building trade unions and so forth that was when many of the activists were climbing crane blocking bulldozers going to jail in large numbers. Many of the youth who otherwise would have been throwing bottles. And perhaps Botox cocktail cocktails were instead walking in picket lines and sitting down in front of bulldozers and being carted away to jail. The next summer. For various reasons. We did not have demonstrations. We do not have nonviolent peaceful civil rights demonstrations and it was that summer that we had the riots in Harlem and spread to a number of cities in New Jersey. Now the following saw in Watts there had been no wood demonstrations on civil rights organizations no marches
picket lines demonstrations of any size. It was then that the riots broke out in Watts. So I felt that the call for a moratorium missed the point in those regards. What role should the federal government play in the civil rights movement. It's only in recent years that the federal government has assumed that it should play a role in the civil rights movement. Up until the civil rights revolution began the federal government sat on the sidelines largely 957 we had the civil rights bill that was fairly weak that got through in 19 in 60. There was a civil rights bill in 1963 that was a civil rights bill. Most of the legislation centered around the activity that had taken place in the street there would not have been a Civil Rights Act of 1964 had it not been for the demonstrations in Birmingham for example. I think one role that the federal government can play is by responding.
Legislative. To the changing needs of the civil rights revolution. Such a response was a Civil Rights Act of 1964. Another similar response was the Civil Rights Act of 1965 the Voting Rights Act. It failed to respond. This last year legislatively. Now there's something else that the federal government can do and that is money they add to a poverty program. As I think essentially right in its conception. But unfortunately it's a puny little drop in the bucket. And very often it gets bogged down in red tape and bureaucracy so that the money does not get down to the hardcore poor for whom it's intended. Yes. I think it is certain. That we need vast sums of money to move into the next phase of the civil rights revolution as much as we need self-pride. Economic strength and political strength self-help programs within the ghetto community. There's got to be some program to get rid of this law get rid of housing's law and to
provide more jobs and not enough jobs to go around now for the jobless and the underemployed. The funds that are needed are so gigantic as not to be able to come from the ghetto community or probably from any private sources. Those funds will have to come through government sources fund such as Well Randolph has called for a hundred billion dollars over I believe a 10 year period as a freedom budget and his call he includes the demand for guaranteed annual income. Demand for a massive public works as well as a demand for a real program of rebuilding the cities and getting rid of the slums. I have some ideas on how slums can be rebuilt and I think it can be done fairly quickly by using indigenous lake and comparatively cheaply. I'd like to see Neighborhood Development associations develop within the ghetto communities the slums of the ghetto communities composed of indigenous folk. The
funds made available through city state and federal and private sources and training unemployed and underemployed indigenous people in that neighborhood to work with their hands. Carpentry painting plastering. What have you giving them a crash skills training program. Then putting them to work rehabilitating those properties that can be rehabilitated. Those which are structurally sound those which are not structurally sound then under skilled supervision have them help in ripping them down. It would be a way of providing new jobs a way of hopefully breaking down discrimination in the building trades unions and the construction industry. And by no means least our way of eliminating the slums of our cities. In a brief period of time. Question is what do I think of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and what do I think about Stokely Carmichael definition of black power. Well the core instict of work closely together and continue working closely together. I have great admiration for the thrust and the drive
and the dynamism. That stick. Through its large staff most of whom are volunteers and who are what we would call the true believers of the movement they have added a new motive pot to the movement and I applaud that. EARNEST now Stokeley Carmichael I think is on the right track as he is talking about Negro stopping being ashamed of being negroes all black people stopping being ashamed of being black. My own feeling is that Stokeley has on occasions indulged in some excesses of rhetoric. I do not condemn him for that. As I said earlier. I do not think there can be a clean up you are social revolution that has no excesses in rhetoric I'm not concerned about a few excesses and rhetoric that Stokeley Carmichael might make before a microphone or on a platform that doesn't bother me in the least. I would be more concerned if we had a revolution
that was completely clean and pure and nobody such as Stokely Carmichael was speaking their minds. Well the question is. Some did some didn't. Do I believe that demonstration as specially in the north have lost their usefulness and now the only thing that can produce social change is uprisings or revolts in the getto community as in Watts and as in Rochester. Well now that's a rather complicated question. I do not believe that the Watts riots or the Watts uprising has accomplished anything as of yet tangibly. There's been no change in what's the status quo. The situation is just as it was at the time of the riots some nine million dollars have been appropriated maybe more than that by now but it is practically all on the drawing board and has not yet become operational. It is true that in Watts there are some new buildings being built that is
buildings had been burned down are now being rebuilt. But this poses an additional problem because it's being done by all of white label lily white label little white work groups while the black kids from the Watts standing on the sidewalks watching those buildings and then ghetto going up with white label and they know very well that they could not get a job. In those construction industries and would not be accepted by those building trade unions. This merely act exacerbates the situation. I do not know what changes there have been in Rochester says but now in specific answer your question. The age of demonstrations is not over. They have not lost their usefulness. It is just is erroneous to say the demonstrations have lost their usefulness for civil rights. As it is to say that strikes have lost their usefulness for labor and are to be just as wrong for civil rights organizations to give up demonstrations as it would be for Labor to give them up. Can you imagine the United Automobile Workers announcing publicly before it goes into
negotiations with General Motors that we are giving up the strike here after the United Automobile Workers will not strike I think that would be disastrous. It would be similar lateness asters for us to give up demonstrations as a tactic. But I think what has happened here is just about what has happened in the labor movement. There was a time when the labor movement used the strikes and its picket lines and women in the fashion and sometimes for their own sake. But now they got to the point where they felt that they had lost their usefulness when they use them so widely they had to pick their targets had to use them in specific situations aimed at quite specific objectives and they would be more effective. I think that's where the civil rights organizations are now. We will pick it. We will march we will demonstrate. But around specific issues and realizable objectives. I think that there has to be a community organization that has to be a motion
from the getgo community. Now this motion does not necessarily mean uprising or a goal or right that does not necessarily mean that at all. Matter of fact the more effective kinds of movement in the ghetto. I look with considerable hope upon the current attempts by some of the civil rights people the more activist ones now to organize welfare recipients. I think this holds a lot of promise and using this new organization to mount a real drive for a guaranteed annual income. This too I think will have a lot to offer us now. But I would like to see constructive community organization tenant councils not to block political organizations as well as welfare mothers and other welfare recipients organize. And this I think would be far more effective than an explosion like what the question is about Vietnam. How do I feel about Negroes serving in Vietnam and how I myself feel if I were in that situation while I would be very sad obviously a
survivor in that situation. But. The question is one which certainly deserves an answer. I first of all do not agree with those who maintain that Vietnam is a plot to murder negroes. That McNamara is a part of some plot which would. Try to exterminate black people and that it is a conspiracy that sees large numbers of negroes in the armed services in Vietnam. This is not true certainly. And one is one hears that occasionally is not true. The draft as it's presently constituted always discriminates against the poor. And we a large percentage of the poor There will therefore be larger numbers of black people drafted touched by the draft. Furthermore 19 the late 1940s 1948 47 48 49. The campaign was mounted by civil rights organizations Phil Randolph was head of it then the
movement. To end discrimination in the armed services what Phil was fighting for was the right to fight. We were fighting against the fact that when black people were drafted into the army they were in service occupations service duties they drove trucks they clean they cook they served food and so forth but they didn't fight. So at that time the battle was give us the right to fight like anybody else. Well we won that fight. Through one issued his executive order 1949 which barred segregation in the armed services and consequently a much larger percentage of negroes serving in the armed forces will be in combat duty. Now do I think negroes ought to be in combat duty. I can understand and to a great extent sympathize with those who feel that because of discrimination and segregation here Negroes should not fight in the armed forces. I can understand that. I do not join them in that call. I
Listen Here
James Farmer
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Chicago: “Listen Here; James Farmer,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2019,
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APA: Listen Here; James Farmer. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from