Nonviolence in the Current Era
A Discussion
October, 2017


Chude Pam Parker Allen    Bruce Hartford
Cathy CadePhil Hutchings
Hardy FryeEugene Turitz
Miriam Glickman 
If you were part of the Southern Freedom Movement, and are listed in the Veterans Roll Call, you are encouraged to add your comments to this discussion by emailing them to (If you add a comment, please indicate where in the transcript it should be inserted.)


How Nonviolence is Taught and Presented Today
Violent Provocation as a Strategy
Issues and Tactics
Self-Defense & Nonviolence
Pacifism & Nonviolence
Aggresive Violence
Nonviolent Coercion
Violence Against Us
Who and What People Wanted to Be


How Nonviolence is Taught and Presented Today

Hardy: {Tape garbled & unclear}

Cathy : I don't understand what he said. Could somebody else say the same thing in other words?

Bruce: Well, I don't want to speak for Hardy, —

Hardy: Go ahead, speak for me.

Bruce: I think we both strongly object to the way that nonviolence is described and taught to the American people — in schools, in PBS documentaries, and movies and stuff like that. Nonviolence is presented by the mass media and education system only from the point of view of people who were philosophically nonviolent as their way of life, Dr. King being one of them; Gandhi being another one; Bernard Lafayette — 

Hardy: That whole group.

Bruce: — That whole group. John Lewis, Jim Lawson. And the main thrust of that kind of nonviolence is that through nonviolently enduring suffering you win over the hearts and the minds of the people who are evil and racist — you change their minds. But the people who practiced that kind of nonviolence were always only a small part of the Freedom Movement.

In 1963, Dr. King gave an interview to a reporter during the Birmingham crisis in which he said that by his estimation, only 10% of the people active in the Civil Rights Movement held to that philosophical nonviolence. By 1965, it was probably down to maybe 5%. All the other people in the Civil Rights Movement held to tactical nonviolence. Using nonviolence — 

Hardy: As a strategy.

Bruce: — As a tactic and a strategy. I was one of them. With tactical nonviolence, if we changed the mind of a racist that was fine; that was wonderful. But that was not our strategy. Our strategy was to build a political movement that could force changes in laws, in government and institutional structures, and the social-culture within which we all exist. Our goal was to change the behavior of racists through the force of law and socially-acceptable custom. If we could change their hearts and opinions that was good and great. But our focyus was changing their behavior.

That kind of nonviolence is not talked about or taught in schools. They do not talk about using nonviolence to build political movements, to force political change up from below. They talk about nonviolence as a way of being a saint and winning over people's hearts. But what young people particularly need to hear is that nonviolence is a strategy for gathering, organizing and using political power to force change — whether it is a boycott of Woolworths to get them to desegregate their lunch counters or a mass movement around voting rights to tell Congress, "You either pass a voting rights law, or we do not re-elect you."

And this is a crucial disctinction because most people cannot be saints. They won't accept or practice nonviolence as a philosophy of life. So if philosophic nonviolence is the only type of nonviolence they learn of, they reject nonviolence as a method of social change. They never hear about tactical — political — nonviolence as a method of social change that they can practice.

Was that what you were trying to say, Hardy?

Hardy: Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, in the first place, I do not think there is any time or situation when I laid down and let somebody beat me up or whatever. Wher I said, "I am going to stay here and take it, because I believe I am going to change your heart." It did not happen. I mean, I remember when Danny Beagle got [hit] when we were in [Fayette?] County, Tennessee. We went in this place, and a guy drew a knife on us, and Dan lay on the floor, and I said, "Get the fuck out of" — excuse my language — I said, "Get the fuck off the floor, man! What, are you crazy? Get up." And then they started pushing, and somebody got between us, and we got up and got out of there.


When you go up against the state it is much more difficult. What the state can do and get away with. Now, in Gandhi's case and Martin's case, it seems to me that they were, as much as trying to talk about nonviolence they were trying to control the population that they figured the violence would get totally out of hand. Now remember now, in 1956 I was about 17, and when they bombed Martin's house before he became famous — shit, Martin and them, they all had guns.

Bruce: There is a famous story. Bayard Rustin came down to Montgomery to advise Dr. King about the boycott and nonviolence. He was about to sit down on the couch, and Dr. King said, "Don't sit there," and he looks down, and there is a pistol on the couch. He was about to sit on it.

Hardy: So all I am trying to say is that it is one thing to talk about it as a strategy; you had to make a decision. When I led a march in Holly Springs — Hey man! They'd beat the shit out of the marchers [if the protesters used violence].

But on the other hand we only had to go about two blocks [into the Black community], and [the people there] had shotguns and dogs and all kinds of shit. Yet we knew [Sheriff] Flick Ash and some other people like that, that I can say, "Hey man, cool it, we'll call the FBI. Yeah, we're gonna do this; we're gonna do that. Leave it alone."

And we had a kind of a relationship that he {UNCLEAR}. I didn't have a lot of people who are willing to lay down and get beat up. And when I'm talking to lay down to get hurt, when you get bonked just like that, that's one thing. But I'm talking about being in a situation where you have to make sure you don't get hurt and you don't get the followers hurt. And that's what complicates the question of nonviolence it seems to me.

Cathy: Say that last sentence again? And the sentence before that. You'd get hurt or — 

Hardy: Are you getting hurt people that you loved. When we marched in Holly Springs.

Bruce: He's saying that there is a responsibility of people who are leading, to lead in a way that doesn't get the people who trust them and follow them hurt.

And if I could give an example. I led a sit-in in rural Crenshaw County, Alabama, 1965. I think there was like eight of us, there was me, and all the others were high school or college-age kids. And before we went on the sit-in I put them through a whole tactical nonviolent training session of what to do under this circumstance, what to do under that circumstance. It wasn't about the philosophy or winning over any hearts; it was, "If we're attacked, here's what you do. This is how you nonviolently protect yourself."

And a mob formed; there were about 50 men in the mob, and they attacked us. And as I trained them, we all went to the ground and curled up, right? Not because we were trying to win over their hearts, but because against 50 men armed with God-knows-what, me and seven children had no chance of winning any kind of physical fight. And the safest thing to do was to curl up. And as it happened, none of our people were hurt seriously. Bruises, yes; some bloody noses, yes; but we were not hurt seriously. And the parents of those children were ecstatic, because their kids had not been hurt, but they had defied the Klan.


Violent Provocation as a Strategy

Bruce: And that's the opposite of people who I encountered when I came out to San Francisco State College — radicals, leftist, "revolutionaries" — who thought that the way to "radicalize" students was to maneuver them into situations were the police beat them up. So from the back of the crowd, they would throw rocks at the cops.

Cathy: I can remember that, and it's clear to me what you're saying.

Chude: I think that's an interesting digression, just to bring it up to the North and say that there are actually people who thought the way to radicalize people was to get the police to hurt them. It's a very different approach than to say, "We're going to go, and we're going to take and make a challenge to the status quo, to the institutions of the town and of the state, and chances are that either the actual representatives of the state will attack us, or they will allow the thugs and the racists to — "

Bruce: Well, that mob that attacked us in Crenshaw was organized by Sheriff Horn. He recruited them.

Chude: — Right. But that's a different way of saying it. You don't say, "We're going to do something to make them attack us." But you say, "It may happen, and this is how we will protect ourselves." It's very different from having the cynicism and really the lack of any respect, to say, "We'll cause a crisis, and they'll attack the innocent people, and that will radicalize them."

Which I don't think works, by the way. I think some of the people never come back again.


Issues and Tactics

Gene: I think one of the problems now is that I think part of this discussion is used as a diversion. Because it's like that thing with the football players.

[Referring to professional athletes led by S.F. 49er Colin Kaepernick kneeling rather than standing during the national anthem as a protest against racist police violence.]

Taking the knee has become the issue; whereas the issue for Kaepernick when he started, the issue was that Black people were getting killed. And now too much of the discussion is about the demonstration and not about the issue. And that's what bothers me is that suddenly the question of the nonviolence becomes a more important question than the issues about which the protests are supposed to be about.

Bruce: So you're saying we should not criticize the Black Bloc when they — 

Gene: No, I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that in terms of the work I'm doing, I'm less concerned at this point about talking about whether people are nonviolent or not than I am about talking about the issues, whether it's housing or whether it's about police killings. I think that especially for white people, rather than discussing whether they're going to be nonviolent or not, they should talk about their role in a society, their part of acquiescing to governments that do the things they do.

The fact that the police do what they do is because many, many people support what they do, or have ceded their responsibility in the society to the police or to their city government. Instead of saying, "I'm going to be at the City Council to talk about why high-priced housing is wrong in our community." That's the issue.

And we need to say we're fighting that, not waiting until there's a fight in the street to be had. And so, in the Civil Rights Movement we thought we had certain understandings, and we were organizing people, not around demonstrations; we were organizing around voting; we were organizing around schools. The question of how you demonstrated was in the context of those issues. They weren't issues in themselves. And whether you tactically decide whether, because there are only seven of you protesting a certain issue, how you're going to protect yourselves is what's important, not the fact of how you protect yourself. The issue is what was important. It would've made no sense to just be out there.

Hardy: Well, I agree with what Gene said. I mean, sometimes the issue came down to why a strategy, why a part of a program had to do with how much problem you had in the way. And in the NFL situation, the issue is not whether they kneel or not kneel; the issue is, that nobody wants to talk about, is that 70% of the football players are Black. Young Black kids who have gone through a period in which they have had Afro-American courses, all kinds of stuff on campus, they didn't know shit about none of this stuff until some of us in the University went in and rewrote the curriculum and everything else. And so then that's the issue here.

If 70% of the football players walk out, what are they going to do? That's the issue. All right? Now what I'm saying is that when the kids were killed, when Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were killed, Jim Foreman didn't spend any time, do you remember that? The shooting that went through {UNCLEAR} a day and a half or two days and then {UNCLEAR}. It had something to do with the treatment(?), a strategy to be not hurt.

And Jim was saying, you know he was talking to you but what he was doing was explaining to people what could happen as well as saying, "You don't go and lay down in front of somebody. If you do lay down, here's a strategy to keep a lot of people from going to jail and a lot of stuff like that." So all I'm saying is, the reason I can't follow this issue is because people are talking about — 

I don't know the group that you're talking about going down. I don't know what is behind it? What do they mean when they talk about nonviolence? I guess that's what I want to know. Do we talk about nonviolence as a strategy? Or do we talk about nonviolence as this or that and what changes have been going on. And people will tell me about Gandhi; they'll tell me about King; they'll tell me about Bernard Lafayette and that old Nashville school. Sure. But is that really, really something that the Movement, of groups you take it up with when it involves several communities of people.


Self-Defense & Nonviolence

Bruce: Well, let me make one defense of Dr. King. One clarification. Dr. King, in my experience with him, was always very clear that pacifism was his personal belief. That his personal belief was that he would—he had grown from Montgomery. After Montgomery, he adopted Gandhian philosophy. He would be nonviolent no matter what.

But he was very clear. I remember him saying this in mass meetings. People in Grenada would get up and say, "Dr. King, if the Klan comes, and they're shooting in my house, I can't defend my family?" And Dr. King said, "Pacifism is my personal belief. It is not required for you to participate in this movement to have those beliefs. Self-defense is an American right, to defend yourself and your family against attack."

I never heard him preach, not in Selma or in Mississippi, he never told people that they had to be philosophically nonviolent. Tactically nonviolent on a demonstration, yes, that was required and he told people who couldn't be nonviolent on a protest that they should support the Movement in some other way. But outside of a formal Movement event, he recognized the right of people to defend themselves from terrorist attack. He explained, proselytized, his philosophical nonviolence. He advocated and tried to win people to it. But he never made it a condition of their participation in the Movement. They had to be nonviolent on a protest, but outside of a demonstration or other public Movement event their private life was their business.

It's interesting, he would go to places like St. Augustine, Florida; Greenwood and Grenada, Mississippi to speak, where people there would say, "Dr. King, we're going to put armed guards around your house wherever you are sleeping." And he always said, "Well, I'm uncomfortable with that." And they said, "We're going to do it anyway."

Now, he could have said, "You put armed guards around my house, then I don't show up to speak." But he never did that. He always respected the right of the community to say, "You are our guest, and we are going to protect you."

So I think Dr. King's understanding of nonviolence was very subtle and nuanced and I think very sophisticated. There's one other thing I want to raise which is that I'm currently drafting an article on the Meredith March in 1966.

Hardy: A mess. I remember that shit.

Bruce: The Meredith Mess? [general laughter] One of the issues on the Meredith March was that after Meredith was shot by a white racist, SNCC and CORE invited the Deacons for Defense and Justice to come to protect the March from Klan terrorists. And the NAACP national leaders and the Urban League said, "If the Deacons are there with their guns protecting the March, we will not support the March." And there was a big political fight.

Phil: Who said that in fact?

Bruce: Roy Wilkins of NAACP and Whitney Young of Urban League. And so they were all in this meeting. And they said, "Look, you guys" — meaning CORE, SNCC and SCLC—"You guys are broke. We are the ones who can finance this March, but we're not going to participate if you allow the Deacons. Not only if you allow the Deacons to guard the March, but if you allow them to sit in these meetings."

CORE and SNCC argued the other side, both the right of the Deacons as a legitimate Freedom Movement organization to participate and also the validity of self-defense against terrorism. King sided with CORE and SNCC. The Deacons were allowed in the meetings and were welcomed to protect the March. The national NAACP and the Urban League did pull out, leaving SCLC, CORE and SNCC to bear the whole burden.

But here's the important thing, the Deacons were not macho posturers. When I got to the march I looked around because I was reading all this shit in the paper about the Deacons. I looked around for these guys strapped with guns and bandoliers and everything. Never saw them. They were quiet; they were subtle; they protected people. They were not the kind of macho, aggressive types, like you have with these Black Bloc and these anarchists who are in their masks, and they're all dressed in black with their shields, and they are provoking violence. The Deacons never did that.

And the last thing I'll say is that the Deacons were very clear about another thing. They said, "We will protect you against Klan terrorists. We will protect you against people going into the community and shooting into the churches, but we are not capable of engaging in armed warfare with the State of Mississippi, and if the police attack you, we cannot do anything about it." And that was extremely intelligent. It was a brilliant tactical use of defensive nonviolence, which is the complete opposite of what I see with these Black Bloc macho hooligans.


Pacifism & Nonviolence

Phil: I have one observation, the distinction between pacifism and nonviolence. I think there is one. I don't remember Bayard Rustin, for example, ever coming out in favor of pacifism. I'm not sure about King. And pacifism maybe, I don't even think the American Friends Service Committee uses that term today. In terms of what has happened since the 1960s through the present time, I think pacifism as a working ideology, however it is defined, doesn't get used by anybody. But that is cause for some kind of confusion around what is meant by nonviolence though.

Bruce: Well I've been to some of the nonviolent trainings that are offered around this day, and some of them are from that philosophical point of view. I don't recall if they refer to themselves as "pacifists," I think they now use the term "Principled Nonviolence" as opposed to "Strategic Nonviolence" which is what I'm used to calling "Tactical Nonviolence."

Anyway, the nonviolent training they offer is how to de-escalate interpersonal violence, they do exercises in seeing other people's points of view and coming to consensus, and so on. As opposed to training in here's how you organize a demonstration, or a community organization to effect political power, here's what you do if a bigot attacks while you're on a picket line.

Phil: Well I guess the distinction I'm making is that I find some people doing some of what you were just saying, being able to understand where other groups are coming from even if they are opposed to you, but they don't call that "pacifism."

Phil: I guess what I was trying to raise is that there are some distinctions. The time difference of where we were in the 1960s and what is discussed today, I mean I've never heard Black Bloc call themselves nonviolent. They talk about what's called "diversity of tactics" maybe, but they don't talk about nonviolence at all.

Bruce: Yeah, they are opposed to nonviolence.

Chude: But I think you could talk about the pacifists. There were the pacifists, like the group that marched from Quebec to Guantanamo. They were marching against nuclear bombs, right? And they were committed to giving their lives. They were committed in the whole thing. We used to have some of them come to meetings that had been on it, and they are completely pacifists.

When they got to Albany, Georgia, they were put in jail because they were an integrated group and they refused to segregate. And they stayed in jail, and that was their whole philosophy. And they were, in their own small little way, an activist group doing a particular thing. But they weren't trying to convince everybody to join their movement. They were just saying, "This is who we are, and this is what we believe, and we will stand with it; we will go to jail before we will change; and we will die before we'll change."

That is what pacifism is to me as a political thing. But in the overall Southern Freedom Movement, there was never that kind of groupings coming together where that way of being, as a group, was the most important thing, right? It always was this larger thing. It was a tactic that was essential, because there was no other way to win. And in that, it was perfectly possible to have people who totally believed they would defend themselves in situations where they were being attacked that weren't on that particular demonstration. There were other people who might be like Dr. King, for themselves, they might choose to not fight back.

But I feel privileged that I learned about those pacifists from Quebec to Guantanamo, because it made a distinction for me, that there really were those kinds of people. And I come out of the Christian tradition, so also, especially with the pacifists, there was the concept of redemptive suffering, which is very much a white-folk thing. Yes, but I think it was especially appealing to whites. There was this horrible thing; I used to call it the sin of racism, and I mean I wrote my parents and said, "I know you would be willing to even give up a daughter, if in my dying, it would end the sin of racism." You see, I was very caught up in the pacifist concepts when I was under Staughton Lynd's tutelage at Spelman. But, you know, that is an approach.

Of course, I began to very quickly figure out that it was really hard to take that stand and to live a pacifist point of view, but I did. I went to Mississippi still with that belief, and I think a lot of whites did, whether or not they came out of that Christian tradition of going on the cross like Jesus, because that's what we're talking about. But still, if we died, our deaths would contribute to the Movement moving forward, that our sacrifice—and that had less to do with the — I mean, there is a philosophical aspect to that, that some whites, and I was one, believed in. That it was worth dying for to move things forward.

Phil: They must be led to believe that.

Chude: Yeah, but I was still part of a political movement. It was going to move forward, not because everybody was a pacifist, but because it was actually a political movement that I was a part of, of which the Mississippi Summer Project was one thing. But it was the sense that if especially the Northern whites were killed, it would move this country to be more supportive. And that verges on the pacifist, nonviolent, direct action. There's a dialectic there between those two things, because that's pretty amazing when you're looking back 50 years to think that some of us actually went South knowing that if we died, we were helping the Movement move forward.


Aggresive Violence

Cathy: Well, at a certain point I was living in New Orleans, and a group of us went to the town where the Deacons for Defense and Justice started and were located.

Bruce: Jonesboro Louisiana?

Cathy: Jonesboro. Thank you. And we met some of the Deacons. We went, and we wanted to meet them, but it was hard for us to believe that the Deacons could just provide protection, and that it wouldn't turn into — I mean, why wouldn't the Black community want to kill a lot of people? Because of how they had been treated. So there was a lot of kind of confusion and uncertainty. It was kind of another side of what you were just saying. Why wouldn't they? Why wouldn't they start killing lots of white people?

Gene: Well, I think because some people don't believe in killing. I mean I don't.

Cathy: But I mean the Deacons. I was saying the Deacons would do it.

Gene: No, but even people—look, I don't consider myself a violent person, and I often have thought about this whole thing. There was that period of time we all thought about whether we should take up arms or not. And there were a lot of people around here who were going taking target practice and had guns and stuff like that, and some of the people I knew would say, "You know, when we have enough people armed who can take on the government, we won't need the guns. We'll have won already."

And there's a part of me—I mean, what I understood Hardy saying at the beginning is that when you have enough people, you don't have to do this stuff. I mean part of my feeling about what's gone on with the Black Bloc and all,

I think we had a demonstration, and when 20 Nazis show up and 5000 anti-Nazis show up, why do you have to pepper spray them? Why do you have to do anything? You can just walk up and push them away or not. I mean, you so overwhelmingly outnumber them, what's the point? Now, am I going to fight the police that way? Well, I don't know. Even if you have more people, and they're armed, and they're going to use the arms against you, no, you use certain nonviolent things. You lie down; you do stuff. I pulled people away from the police when the police grabbed people. I grabbed them and tried to get them away. I mean, so we use different tactics.

I think that the reason people don't kill a lot of people is because they don't believe in it. They're totally opposed to it. I could not see—I don't understand when I read of people killing other people. I just don't understand it. I don't understand this [mass killer] in Las Vegas. I don't understand suicide bombers, I always think of the film The Battle of Algiers, where the radicals go, and their test to become part of the organization is to kill a person on the street, a particular person, and then he finds out that the gun is empty. But that was the test. I could never do that test. I would fail it.

And yet, I feel like the belief I have is as strong as anybody's, but I couldn't see doing that. And I would much rather have someone hit me over the head than think about hurting somebody in that way, yet I'm willing to go stand toe to toe with them. I just won't hit them. So I don't think I'm unique, so I think there are a lot of us that think that, and that's why we don't kill people. And that's why these movements don't kill people.

The Deacons believed in defending themselves; they didn't believe in killing other people. It might happen, and I was in a position where I was given the gun to watch a black man and a white woman go off in a car together to have a discussion, and I was told, "You're following them, and you're protecting them." And I had no idea what I would do. I had the gun. And I was certainly the wrong person to give it to, but I was the only other person there.

Phil: Who were you protecting them from?

Gene: Well, the sheriff or whoever. It was at night, and it was after a meeting. It was in Tallahatchie County [MS], and it was after a meeting. And they said, "You have the gun. We need to talk."


Nonviolent Coercion

Gene: I certainly think that to me, again, the discussion is what we're fighting for. I mean, is it nonviolent to — I always thought that the question of nonviolent demonstrations was an interesting question, because certainly the people against whom you are demonstrating feel the violence of your demonstration, even if you're nonviolent.

When they realize that when a town that has a majority Black population that they have been oppressing sees part of that population demonstrating, they are feeling the violence, the possible violence that could be used against them in the way they respond. I keep thinking that one has to recognize, even on a nonviolent demonstration, that many people feel like you're being violent; you're violating their ethics.

Just as for two women to get married or two men to get married violates the ethics of some people, who take it very violently; it's a real affront to everything that they believe, that you're doing it. Now, that doesn't say you should stop doing it, and you certainly have to have a notion of your strength and the possibility and to say that I have a right to do this, and you border on what could be violence.

Bruce: No, I don't buy that. I don't see how advocating for something that other people disagree with or oppose is in any way a form of violence against them. Violence is about blood and bones and killing and destroying, it's not about disagreeing or doing something that someone else is offended by. "Nonviolence" doesn't mean not disagreeing, it means not committing physical violence.

Chude: I want to make two comments. One is that we had never talked about what Gene raised about the way in which nonviolent direct action is coercive. Extreme pacifism was always against coercion. It was just, "This is who I am. This is what I believe. And I will not be moved. And I will keep loving you, and you can do what you want." But nonviolent direct action was coercive.

Bruce: Yes, it was.

Chude: It was, We are going to force change [politically]. You may not like it, but we're going to force you to change [your behavior]. We're going to force you to integrate. We're going to force you to allow your children to go to school with Black children or come up with some other alternative. But we're going to force change. There was that coercion thing.



Chude: And the other thing we haven't talked about this time is the issue of self-discipline, that part of the reason when Cathy raised the question of if the Deacons were armed, they might start killing other people. No, they were disciplined. They had self-discipline.

And I keep thinking today, you know, I'm not ready to go into the question always of, are all the Antifa people wrong or something? But I do think for me, a bottom line principle in this country is that this is a violent country, and for anybody to be involved in social movements for change, the first and foremost thing is to learn about discipline and self-discipline. What you choose to do later is your business, but first of all, you can't be operating out of the same crazy, reactive stance that the entire society is built on. This is a society that loves death, loves killing. Now that may not be true of a lot of the human beings living in the society, but you only have to look at television to see that killing is the big thing.

Bruce: Our culture.

Chude: Our culture. And so I think that question of self-discipline, so that if I'm made angry, I don't react. I first have a way of having been taught. And this I've learned from Bruce, more than even when I was in the Movement, that if you have learned the ways to respond, when something comes up, and it's at that moment of crisis, you have training that you fall back on. And without the training, you're going to react in what ever is the least developed part of yourself, because you don't know how to respond.

And I used to think when I was first getting into these meetings and listening to other people, how did you always know what to do in a situation? Well, I learned from Bruce — there's training. It doesn't mean it solves every issue, but it sure makes a difference. And Hardy's brought up today that sometimes the training was a little off, because no, there are times when you don't roll it up and fall on the floor and let the person knife you, right? But if you know what the range of possible responses are, and which are the ones that allow you to remain a human being, then you can be part of a movement for social change that has humanity.


Violence Against Us

Miriam: I just want to say that Chude was willing to die for the Movement. I always felt, being 21, and it was age-appropriate, that I was invincible. [Laughter] And I never considered that bad things would happen to me.

Hardy: Yeah, but you see, there is one question that you have to look at. There's one person in this room that I have known since 1964 [referring to Chude], and me and that person came into Mississippi, came into the Movement with blood already—before we even left the Goddamn safety [of the Ohio training meeting]. Three people were missing, and everybody knew they were dead, OK?

And then by the end of the month, Wayne Yancey is dead [in Holly Springs MS]. And his body is laying out before us, in front of the Freedom House. So, to a certain extent, violence—we got baptized in violence. Now that doesn't mean that we went out and shot somebody. What are we going to do? When we were in Oxford, Mississippi and they had us [surrounded?] at the courthouse, and {UNCLEAR}. But anyway, they turned the mobs on us. So a lot of times, violence is just too cold a wording, I think. It is, do you have the right to self-defense? Because that's what we were confronted with within weeks.

Miriam: My denial powers are just great. [Laughing]


Who and What People Wanted to Be

Bruce: So coming back to what Cathy and Gene said, in the families I lived with in Alabama and Mississippi there was always a lot of discussion about violence and nonviolence and the Klan. And I initially had the same question you did. I mean, given the oppression, why wouldn't you go out and do unto others as they had done unto you?

After a while, I came to realize that, just as Gene said, most people don't want to do that. One of the things that struck me about being in these small counties — Crenshaw, Hale, Grenada — small rural counties, is that while it's an exaggeration to say that everybody knew everyone, it's not an exaggeration to say that everybody knew about everyone. Everybody knew who the Klan-people were. They may not have been able to necessarily recognize them by sight, but they knew it was that Old Sarum bunch, or the gang that hung around the Coffeepot Diner, or the Silver Moon in Selma. People knew about each other.

And over and over, Black families and local folk would tell me, "We know who those Klan-people are, and they are the most miserable, unhappy — they are the kind of people I don't want to become. And I sure as hell don't want my children to become that." And they were very clear that they did not want to do that kind of violence against white people or anyone else because of how destructive it was to the people doing the violence. They didn't want it for themselves; they didn't want to have the kind of life that's shaped by hate and anger; and they didn't want their children to have that kind of life.

So, I agree with Gene, that most people don't want to do that, which is why trying to organize them around macho posturing or revolutionary violence only attracts a small fringe element of angry young men. And it pretty much excludes women. You know, we have commented so many times that women were the core of the Movement. There may have been some men up at the front, but behind them were women and children. And the work was mostly done by women. Well, you look at these Black Bloc machos in their bandannas and their helmets, there are a few token women, but it's almost all men. Because organizing around violence that excludes half the human race.


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