A General Discussion on Race & the Movement
Howard University, March 4 1964

[Provided courtesy of the Who Speaks for the Negro?" archives, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. See Ezell Blair, Stokely Carmichael, Lucy Thornton, Jean Wheller for background information, the original transcripts, and streaming audio version of this interview. Some errors in the original transcript have been corrected, others have not been corrected. To ensure accuracy, researchers should consult the audio recordings available at the URL listed above. Time stamps are included in the retyped transcripts to aid in this process.]


Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (Greensboro Four)
Stokely Carmichael (SNCC)
Lucy Thornton (activist)
Jean Wheeler (Howard Univ. student activist/SNCC)
Jean Blair
Robert Penn Warren (Author & Moderator)


Greensboro Sit-InBlack Elite & White Acceptance
CORE & NAACP in GreensboroBlack Elite & the Movement
NAACP & Nonviolent Direct Action  Nature of the Movement. Revolution? Reform?
The New NegroWhat is "Negro?"
Race and the American CultureSouthern Whites
Identity and CultureNorth & South
History & DelusionViolence & Nonviolence


Greensboro Sit-In

Warren: Mr. Blair, you were one of the first sit-ins in Greensboro, weren't you?

Blair: Yes, I was.

Warren: Well, can tell us something about the origin of those sit-ins, how they were arranged beforehand, planned, how they came about?

Blair: Well, the sit-ins originated, the idea originated with my roommate, Joseph McNeil. We were all freshmen at [North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (NCA&T) College], and one day Joe — 

Warren: You said — again, the idea was your roomate's — whose name is what?

Blair: Well, his name is Joseph McNeil.

Warren: Joseph McNeil.

Blair: Yes. Right now he's a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force in Texas, but the idea came about one day when Joe came into the room and he had a disturbed look on his face and I asked him what was wrong with him, and he told me had had just come from, I think, the Greyhound bus station in Greensboro, and he asked to get served there at the lunch counter and he was refused. So I told him, I said, "Why you know how things are; you know how segregation is; it's just been here all the time. There's nothing you can do about it."

Warren: Was he from the South, or was he from the North?

Blair: He was also from the South. He was from Wilmington, North Carolina, and he graduated from — he went to high school; he graduated from Wilmington High School. And I asked him, well, what can we do? And he said, "Well, we ought to have something like a boycott," and I said, "A boycott?" And he said, yes, that we should go in and sit down at the lunch counter (and he named Woolworth) and he said, ask for service, and if they refuse us then we can continue to sit there. And if we're thrown in — we'll go to jail and then we'll ask the people not to buy in the place. {UNCLEAR} you should meet him.

Warren: And then what happened?

Blair: Well, we told our friends David Richman, who's from Greensboro, and Franklin McCain, who's from Washington but he went to high school with us at Delta High School where we went to school, David and I, and they liked the idea; so in the ensuing week which followed the day I talked with Joe, we talked about plans, things like the rights of man and how we felt, you know, about being Negro and what rights we felt should be ours.

And finally on January 31st, 1960, the night before we went down, Joe came to the room and he asked us were we ready to go. And well, we were — at first I thought he was kidding, so did the rest of us, so Frank was the largest guy in the group and he said, "Are you guys chicken, or not?" And we said, no, we're not chicken. And he said, "Well, we're going tomorrow down to Woolworth's and sit in," and I said, "O.K., we're going," like that.

And we told a local merchant there, {UNCLEAR} in NAACP, he's always acted as a go-behind ideas, maybe/mainly revolutionary ideas, but most of us who served in the NAACP at the time didn't like him because they said he was too much of a radical. So when we told him what we were going to do he decided he would help us. We went back and we talked to him about the idea and he said he would give us money to buy articles downtown in Woolworth's, and after we sat in he said he would contact the reporters and police department and everything like that. So the scene was set, and around four-fifteen there were ... we went downtown, we purchased articles at the merchandise counter at Woolworth's and then we proceeded toward the lunch counter and we sat down and we asked for service. So that's how the idea started.

Warren: Did this have any relation to the old March on Washington movement, its theorizing?

Blair: Well, no — 

Warren: Had you all read about that?

Blair: Well, no, we hadn't read anything about any of the previous movement.

Warren: That was a long time ago. That was back in '41.

Blair: Yes. I asked Joe where he'd got the idea from, and he told me he got the idea from a boycott which took place in Wilmington and I think in 1959, when he was a senior, when he was senior at the high school there. He said they had a townfolk show at the school in Wilmington, not at the school — and it was sponsored by a local soda pop firm (I think it was Pepsi Cola or Coca Cola) and, well, they felt that the Negroes — the prizes were given to all the whites and the Negroes didn't receive many/any prizes at all, so they felt there was some — started discrimination there, and they protested it by not buying the soda from the soda pop firm, and the soda pop firm reviewed its policies and they decided they'd — to give a townfolk show over again, and they gave out prizes to Negroes after that. So this is where Joe said he got the idea from.

I didn't know anything about a previous movement. Of course the only one we knew about was the [Montgomery Bus Boycott] movement, in, you know, in Birmingham — I mean in Montgomery, but otherwise than that was the only movement we knew about.

Warren: Have you read about the March on Washington movement since then, the old one? Twenty years ago?

Blair: Well, I read about it. I read about it ... and this was ... I think through the Nashville? paper or it was through a Nashville weekly magazine.


CORE & NAACP in Greensboro

Warren: Now CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] was the organization that came in to back you up, wasn't it?

Blair: Well, we had offers. I think it was on the second day of our demonstration, we called in for the NAACP, but CORE came down first. Dr. Simpkins, who was president of the NAACP at the time called and — 

Warren: The local president

Blair: The local president of NAACP at the time in Greensboro, called in CORE, Gordon Carey. And Mr. Carey came down and he offered his assistance to our Students Executive Committee for Justice {UNCLEAR}. This was the student group which spearheaded the movement. And at the time we told him that we didn't want any outside organizations come in because of what the town folk might say, that the movement was taken over by outside people. So we thanked him very much for his aid but we declined to take it.

And the next day, Herbert Wright, who was then the youth secretary of NAACP came down, but he couldn't offer too much in assistance; he only gave us more support like, "Good luck, we're with you," and so forth, but Gordon Carey, as we understood, had experience in — and CORE had experience with sit-ins and so forth, so we passed up both.

Warren: Now that — some of the reports on that, you know, are a little different from this account. Some of them said that CORE came in immediately, you see, and was accepted. Some accounts of it in print say that, you see.

Blair: Well, from being there at the meeting the night that Mr. Carey came down to — this was — 

Warren: You'd know because you were there.

Blair: I was there, and our Students Executive Committee for Justice went on record for — as having declined his offer, but we thanked him very much. We told him we wanted to remain, as one student said, " e appreciate your aid but we would like for it to remain a student movement at the time, and if we need your help we will call on you," and he thanked us and went on to Durham, I think, the next day.

Warren: Now this is a rather important point, in one way, in a major way, but some of the printed accounts say this, unless my memory tricks me, that the appeal was made — appeal, mind you, by your group, to Mr. Simpkins. Is that right?

Blair: That's true.

Warren: Your group. To Mr. Simpkins.

Blair: Dr. Simpkins.

Warren: Dr. Simpkins. Instead of going to NAACP as might have been expected, he called in CORE because he assumed, at least, that he would be too legalistic and not militant enough. That's the interpretation that's given in print sometimes.

Blair: Well, this is — to a certain extent this is true. I think the Greensboro chapter of NAACP was sort of written on the blacklist by the National/Nashville office, after Dr. Simpkins did this, and I remembering 1960, a convention that I went to, Greensboro was the last city to be recognized before the sit-in. Oklahoma City, I understand, I think a young lady {UNCLEAR} was given recognition to start a sit-in. We didn't do anything about this in Oklahoma because, well we didn't have to, I think {UNCLEAR} we didn't have to, so we were told {UNCLEAR} '58. Well, we found out later after we started the movement that Oklahoma had a similar demonstration and we got a CORE information book, we found out then that these demonstrations, even though they were NAACP groups, were organized by CORE, you see.

Warren: The earlier one, you mean.

Blair: Yes, in Oklahoma, yes, but we didn't know anything about this at the time, and so the NAA — NAACP, as we called it, tried to write in its minutes at this — its convention that the demonstrations were spontaneous and they were started back in 1958. The organization at that time didn't want to give credit to the Greensboro movement.

Warren: Which organization, now, NAACP?

Blair: Yes, this was NAACP didn't want to give credit.

Warren: The national organization.

Blair: Yes, to the national organization, and I think one reason was that of CORE — of Dr. Simpkins' actions and our actions, because when we left the Woolworth store on February 1, 1960, we were asked by a reporter from the Greensboro Record were we sent there by NAACP, and we told the reporter "No." Although some of us had been proud members of the NAACP when we were in high school, at the time none of us were members of NAACP.

Warren: But you had repudiated both organizations, as far as their help was concerned.

Blair: That's true. That's true.

Warren: You refused both, with thanks.

Blair: We wanted to sort of destroy the old idea that Negroes had to be told everything we do, by the NAACP or CORE. It wasn't that we had any disrespect for the group because we respected it very much. It was just that the idea that college students coming downtown sitting in, asked for service, couldn't do these things unless they were told to do them by somebody else.


NAACP & Nonviolent Direct Action

Warren: This was not motivated, the sit-in itself, was not motivated by a notion, a criticism of the NAACP's previous role, was that right?

Blair: Well, partially yes and partially no. One reason — 

Warren: You said partially yes and partially no, about the — accepting help from the NAACP.

Blair: Yes, from this standpoint: When we talked about {UNCLEAR} in Greensboro, we mentioned the fact that the present method, you know, the legal method which has been used by groups like NAACP, while it was a good method and a lasting method to be put on the books and so forth as law was concerned, it was not a good method when it came to immediate removal of discrimination, and we wanted something — we wanted to have a personal involvement in removing discrimination, which we thought NAACP wouldn't go along with, and if they did, the national office — it would be about two or three months before it gave its approval and by that time the idea would be lost, as many ideas of this nature have been probably lost beforehand.

Warren: I see.

Blair: And no, we didn't take a disrespectful attitude towards NAACP; we realized that it had been the forerunner of the Civil Rights Movement for a long time, and we respect the organization very much for what it has done, but we felt that it was time for new action to be taken in the South. You see to us, it appeared that it was something like the hierarchy, maybe something like the Catholic church — and no offense to the Catholics in that — you know in Italy giving all of the orders, you know, and none of its affiliates in other countries will make a move until maybe the ideas or suggestions {UNCLEAR} were approved by the head office in Italy, and that in the Vatican City, and so we thought the NAA was organized on the same basis, and we felt that many times Negroes felt discouraged in the South because it took too long for NAA or NAACP to make up its mind what to do.

Warren: Here's a remark attributed to Mr. Wilkins. They — they being SNCC, CORE, furnish the noise but the NAACP pays the bills, that is bail, legal costs and so forth, while CORE, SNCC, SCLC, [are] here today and gone tomorrow, that there is — be only one organization that can handle a long, sustained fight.

Blair: Well, does that mean NAAC — 

Warren: It's attributed to NAACP.

Blair: Well, I think at the time Mr. Wilkins made his speech, it was partly due to the reason that the NAACP was probably seeking a new membership fund. Now I really don't think Mr. Wilkins is sincere about what he says because I think as a result of groups like SNCC, SCLC, CORE and other groups working in the south, NAACP is giving many of its funds to fight the legal battles. I — not taking anything away from NAACP, I think it's doing a good job, a very good job, and will continued to do so, but the movement since 1960 can switch from a legal courtroom battle to where you deal with conformity of men on the basis of law to a battle between men when it comes to personal consciousness in regard to segregation. Now I think this is the basis of the present movement now.

Warren: Now not to deny you this question, but you don't mean to imply, do you, that a matter of direct action, of nonviolent direct action, should supplant the continued effort to set up a legal framework and a legal philosophy to underlie even the direct action?

Blair: Well, no, I'm not implying that direct nonviolent action to supplant the legal method and the legal means of eradicating segregation. I think while it is good to establish laws on the books, one of the main problems that we have been having now, that we have many laws on the books in regard to segregation and discrimination, in the schools and so forth, is that we have a problem of getting the people to accept these laws. And this is where I think direct nonviolent action comes into play, where the people, where we, as the oppressed, actually begin to practice what these laws say: no discrimination, so we're seeking equal equality — 

Warren: There's use — there's direct action there, a way of implementing of a law, is that we — /what — 

Blair: Yes.

Warren: A way of {UNCLEAR} method. Not a way of supplanting {UNCLEAR} a method of achieving a desired end.

Blair: Yes, I think you're right, that direct nonviolent action as a means, of, I think, of implementing the law — 

Warren: This is not always what is said, of course. Sometimes it's said you know differently; we've had enough of the law, now this.

Blair: I think you can't separate the two; you need both, but I am in disagreement with those who feel that the legal method is the only answer, and I'm in agreeing with those who feel that nonviolence method is the only answer.

Carmichael: I think you can still use the two, but where the conflict comes in is where one group feels that the other group is of no use to a movement any further.

Warren: There is this quotation from Mr. Wilkins, you say, Mr. Carmichael, is with the Times Magazine story of — 

Carmichael: Yes.

Warren: Tell that story.

Carmichael: Yes, New York Times {UNCLEAR} I think that was an unfair statement.

Warren: That they are to him or unfair on his part?

Carmichael: Unfair on his part. I don't think that he should have made a statement like that at all. While I agree with Mr. Wilkins that the NAACP organization has been there since 1908, or 1911, as the case may be, and has been fighting, has been doing, I don't think that he's completely correct where he ways that the other groups that come by here come by night. I think that he felt that the NAA was attacked by a lot of other groups for being conservative, and he felt that the way to fight the attack was to make this statement, putting the other groups on the defense. My personal feeling was that it backfired.


The New Negro

Warren: Let's change the subject a bit. Mr. Blair, how would you describe for us this so-called "new Negro," how do you distinguish this character from previous characters, or do you believe that this definition, that this phrase covers anything?

Blair: Well, to a certain extent I don't think there is anything {UNCLEAR} I think what it is, is that more people now in mass are adopting the idea of direct action and more members of the Negro race as well as many whites, are now seeking, or now want to know more about the history of the Negro and the part he's had to play in America, and this new idea of militancy, as I said, is being adopted by more people in mass numbers.

There have been many people before, such as {UNCLEAR} and Walter White and Roy Wilkins, James Weldon Johnson, {UNCLEAR} and so forth, who have been what they call radical Negroes, are new Negroes, so to speak, but they were only in small number. But now, since 1960, and since King's movement in Montgomery, they are people in massed numbers who are accepting these ideas imbued that we must take a — that we must do something personally to remove segregation. And so I think while the idea of the new Negro is still with us in many respects the idea is not a new one; it's something that existed all the time.

Warren: The very phrase "new Negro" dates back to the '20s, that whole group in the '20s, a group that Langston Hughes was associated with, where it applies, the phrase is applied to that group. That's a long time ago now, forty years ago. This has raised another question, though. You say 'mass movement.' Has SNCC or CORE or NAACP or any other organization actually worked in mass terms? Hasn't it been a matter of rather specialized leaderships, another of the spontaneous movement from the Negro masses, a movement in leadership groups, of special leadership groups, say, college students, would you say?

Blair: Well, to a certain extent, SNCC — a student of our coordinating committee, I can't speak very much for that. Maybe Stokely can give you information about it, but from my observations it has been primarily composed of college students and high school students who want to do something about eradicating segregation. CORE is made up —  basically the majority of CORE members are college students and high school students. The NAACP organization is made up mostly of professional people, but I feel that the movement now since 1960, has become one of mass numbers, since 1960, is mostly college students. But since then and especially since 1963, the movement has become one which we have adults involved, people who are old enough to register to vote, people who have jobs, people who are seeking all these things that we've been talking about, a better job employment, a release of police brutality, and so forth.

Warren: Two things like the registration drive and the boycotts, including the bus boycott, moved toward a mass base, is that it?

Blair: Yes, that's right.

Carmichael: Well, I'm not sure.

Warren: Yes, Mr. Carmichael?

Carmichael: I would assume up between — following the Montgomery movement, that started a mass movement and then everybody started it, but that was a passive action, they just didn't take the bus, it wasn't the same thing that's been going on in the street.

I think that the first mass movement {UNCLEAR} since 1960, started in Albany, Georgia. We have 700 people arrested from the town. There were some demonstrations against segregation, open facilities, it was in that case also the part of all ... of that town walking up and down the streets. Since then we've had Cambridge [MD], we've had Danville [VA], we've had Birmingham, we've had Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi, and it has become since then a mass movement ...

Now there are a few professional agitators, I don't have qualms about using the word "agitators," who do agitate, but once a movement gets going, in most cases now it's aimed at a mass movement. If we go back to '61, the Freedom Riders, for example, wasn't even — when we were arrested, we just went into jail, we wanted to get students into jail, a number of SNCC people came out and decided to start agitation in Jackson, to get Jackson people to go to jail, and they got fifty people from Jackson, Mississippi, to go to jail and that was a big step up, and from then it started the whole thing about mass movements to jail.


Race and the American Culture

Warren: This is from [W.E.B.] DuBois:

"The Negro group has long been internally divided by the mothers as to whether its striving should be aimed at strengthening the inner culture and root bonds for intrinsic progress, for offensive power, or whether it should seek escape wherever possible in the surrounding culture. The decision in this matter has been largely determined by outer compulsions rather than in a plan to this point."

In other words, over and over again DuBois writes, and in the writings of other people, we find this notion of a fundamental split in intention, actually divided desires to be associated with the negro tradition, even with the African mystique on the one hand to preserve the racial integrity; on the other hand to move into an integrated situation and adopt the Western-European-American cultural values with perhaps a loss of even racial identity in the end. Now for some people this is clearly, and for DuBois a problem; to others not at all. How would we/you react to that? Miss Thornton, do you want to say anything on that point?

Thornton: Yes, my first reaction, of course, would be, thinking of Socrates: 'Know thyself.' I think that the problem, the dilemma of which DuBois speaks of, is one which is very common to Negro Americans today because we do face the problem of amalgamation into the whole of American ideal, into the whole of American life, being Americans first, say, or being what I would like to term Negro-Americans or Black-Americans, I guess is even a better way of putting it, and I think that we as Black men have an obligation to, as I've said before, know ourselves; to know ourselves as Black men and be proud of what we are, and contribute to America what we could actually offer to this culture.

I think that there is something unique which the Black man offers to this melting pot, this melting pot that insofar as there is still a melting pot. I know that more and more today, Americans are tending towards thinking of themselves as one, let's see, some entity which is now, I guess, some figure like the Joneses or some idea/ideal set up as to what an American man or an American woman is, and I think that because this has been a tendency in America, it does not exclude what other racial minorities or ethnic groups could in time add to our culture to make it what America has always been in fact known to the world.

Warren: Mr. Carmichael, how do you feel about this? Do you recognize the problem here or do you just feel that the problem does not exist for you? As many people say? What about yourself?

Carmichael: Well, it sort of exists, but I don't go to the extreme that Lucy — Professor Herskovitz, in his book, "The Myth of the Negro's Past," tried to show that Negroes in America have some connection with the African ritualist/ritual and African culture. Frazier and Professor Parks at the university of Chicago, as far as I'm concerned, clearly answered him and showed him that he was just all wrong on that issue.

Warren: That the culture — the Negro is totally of the American culture?

Carmichael: Totally of the American culture, and that makes the Negro a unique specimen in America because he is the only one who is totally American, and I forgot the name of the psychologist out at the University of Chicago who contends he was a, he's Jewish, and he was in one of these camps in Germany and he wrote a book — I forget the name of it, also, which shows that people who are oppressed usually take on all the superficial and all the mannerisms of the oppressors.

This, for instance, could be a classic example of Bob Frazier's " Black Bourgeoisie," and that when the oppressed people take on all of the characteristics of the oppressed, they exaggerate. My feeling is that as far as the movement has developed, this far, it's not a revolution; it's not even a reform, all it has been is that the Negro has been trying to get into the established system as it is now. Let us get into your jobs, let us get into your restaurants, let us get into the housing neighborhoods, let us get into your schools. We just want to get into it. That's the way it's been so far, that's a fact.

Warren: Now there are some people, James Baldwin among them, who will say, in part, at least, that the Negro is prepared to offer a fundamental criticism of middle-class American values.

Carmichael: Baldwin is right and he's not right. The Negro whom he speaks about is not the Negro whom the white press allows to speak or the white man's communication allows to speak. The Negro who speaks as Baldwin says: 'Yes, I'm wearing a tie, a suit, I'm clean, I've been to a college in the South and I'm a college professor in the South; or I'm a Negro lawyer or a negro doctor and my accent is clear and my English is superb and I have a Cadillac in my garage, and what else can you expect of me?' That is not the Negro that Baldwin is talking about.

The Negro that Baldwin's talking about is the one that is down at the bottom who has nothing to offer. In that sense, then, you really have integration, when you talk about integration you talk about bringing two things together, you know: 'I have my chitlin's, I have my wine on Friday night, I'll come in your house, you have some of my fried chicken and I'll eat some of your a la carte whatever it is.' But as far as the scene now, it's just the Negroes just fighting to get into something. It's like you're giving up your jazz, you're giving up your soul music, your brainchild or whatever we say, your 'nitty-gritty,' to get into this.

Warren: Now we spoke earlier today you, and I, of {UNCLEAR} called he Black nationalists. He makes the point, if I remember the book correctly, that even the separatists and the black nationalists, like the Black Muslims, are actually seeing a new way, perhaps unconsciously moving toward a full acceptance of American middle-class values. This provides a conflict, a backstairs ladder, to the achievement of the middle class values, even though they're not specified by the {UNCLEAR}

Carmichael: I agree with that.

Warren: You think that's a fair diagnosis?

Carmichael: A fair diagnosis, because Negroes in America are not presented with any other alternative, like the — let's say the Italians don't have any trouble because the Italians have some old former culture to fall back on; we have no old culture to fall back on, none at all.

Warren: Now of course some Negroes will not agree with you.

Carmichael: Of course they would not, but I would ask them for an answer for the home culture: What have we got? We have a subculture within a main culture. And the main culture so suppressed us that, and I bet you if you went South and asked a Negro girl or a Negro boy to draw a picture of a man on the board they would inevitably draw a picture of a white man or a white woman, with features of a white man or a white woman.

Warren: The test that I know of at least that has been run at Negro schools in the South is to associate qualities with color.

Carmichael: The doll test?

[Referring to testimony about the psychologic harm of segregation that was given during the Brown v Board of Education legal cases.]

Warren: {UNCLEAR} a long time ago by Dr. Johnson, in one of his books he gave the results of it. I haven't seen it — this is back in the '50s. It bore this out, what you're saying, it bore this out.

Carmichael: Recently, for instance, they did a test, some psychologist — I think it was the Klockhorns, where they had Negro dolls and white dolls and they had Negro girls come and pick which doll was prettiest, and inevitably they picked the white dolls.

Jean Blair: Well, of course you know why. This Jean Blair, this is not Jean Wheeler.

Warren: What about that topic for you? Does that emerge as a real question to you, or a false question.

Jean Blair: Well, it poses as a real question, because many of us in the Movement are going through the experience, we're going through the experiences, you know, whether we should adopt the full values of a white middle class society or whether we should develop within ourselves through this thing we is the Movement, an idea or an image of what we like to think of as being our ourselves and being accepted as Negroes, and not as whites. I know many times I have confronted this problem of whether I should adopt the values of a middle-class American society or whether I could be myself as a Negro. I don't think all values, all of the white man's values, are good for Negroes at this point.

Warren: Or for white people.

Jean Blair: Or for white people. Now such things as many instances are given a monetary value for all things, I don't think that we should establish that value because, while this is a capitalist society we live in, Negroes who are in many instances on the bottom of the income bracket cannot accept the idea, I mean could not make it on a — may be wearing a hundred dollars — down the street every day, or driving a Cadillac; we just don't have the economic ability to do these things.

Well, I think — I don't think integration is the best thing for us or that desegregation is good. We already have interracial marriage — if you look around and you see Negroes of many different complexions. I do feel that we, as a group of people, should try to adopt more unity among ourselves. And I feel this is one of the things that the Movement is doing, that the Civil Rights Movement is doing. Many young people now are beginning to feel proud of being black. There was a time — there still is, I should say, to a great extent, of Negroes trying to imitate the whites; they used straightening combs, they process their hair, they used to imitate everything the American white society does.

But I hope to see that out of this Movement a realization of the fact that the Negro — to recognize the fact that once and for all they're Negroes, that we're black, and there isn't anything that we can do about changing that we are black, and that there are some values and many things that we can contribute to American society which is good, and that there are already many values in the contributions that we have made to American society. I hope that this is something that will be brought out.

Thornton: If you're not going on to the next question, I'd like to add something — 

Warren: Please, Miss Thornton, go ahead.

Thornton: It's amusing, in many instances, in listening to you Stokely, ... I'm very much aware, of course, of the people who even within my own family, for example, who would very strongly say that we're so much American until European background or the English background which other man can claim when they say yes, we're white Anglo-Saxon Americans. So can so many Negroes, to a certain extent, stand in America and say the same thing.

But of course they've had a problem which has stuck with them throughout, they were Black men, after all, in spite of ... yes, we have had imposed upon us the white man's society but we have continued throughout that blackness, even though there might have been a certain amount of mutation over into the other side and gotten a certain amount of ... acceptance, we've got all of this, but the Negro or the Black man in this country still has to know and accept and be proud of himself as a Black man and have Americans who accept him as the same because this — an example which I used to like to look at when I was in college. The Black man can find himself lost in the white man's America.

In other words, he can do everything under the sun which would make him an ordinary A-1 American man, and he thinks that he's been accepted not only by Negroes, but over {UNCLEAR} of society as just another American. He's reached the top of the ladder, he's become the peace leader for the world [referring to Ralph Bunche], he's listed {UNCLEAR} where he's a great man in everybody's book. But it's going to come back to him over and over and as much as he wants to abandon the idea of 'I'm a member of a minority, I'm just another Black man,' when he gets to the top of it all there's going to be somebody who's in that majority — white, and probably not worth one-ninetieth of what he's worth, he's going to step on his toes and spit in his face and say: 'Look, you're still black,' and that really, that really, I guess, really brings home the message to him that he is, yes, he's an American, very much an American, probably more American than the person who's just said to him: Let's keep in mind you're an American, yes, but a Black American, and you have a place, you know.

Carmichael: You see I agree with you, Lucy, but I think the whole thing shows precisely what I was saying, that one, the whole question that you're posing is whether white people want to accept Black people. See, so, you know, I'm not sure, you know, the question isn't whether I mean they're going to accept me. I want to decide whether I want to accept them, and that's an important point. The whole development is that because we don't have the culture, you know, what do — we can sit down and talk certain in-jokes, for instance we can say 'nitty-gritty' and stuff like that, and amuse a few white people — it's getting nowadays we can't even amuse them when we talk, and we can eat chitlins, and Mr. Penn Warren probably knows more about chitlins than we do.

Where's our culture? Jazz, we can listen to Ray Charles, but where is it? It's all so bound up in the American system. All our aspirations are typically American. We are more American than the American. And that's a fact whether we like it or not, whether we like it — it is still a fact, you can't prove contrary to that.


Identity and Culture

Warren: Let me ask you another question raises this or say something, for what it's worth. I was talking a few weeks ago to a very able lawyer in a southern city. He's a northern-trained, from one of the better northern university law schools, practicing in the South, a man of middle age. He said,

"I have in late years had to school myself when reading English literature or simply listening to sermons, and many aspects of life, to refuse the metaphorical thinking which is implicit in that literature, and in that way of life." He says, "live in a world where the metaphors are insults to me: black versus white; values — sin versus virtue; life the wisdom — the intelligence darkest ignorance. This whole world of metaphors that I'm living in that I've got to school myself to invert them."

Now interesting here is that he feels this so keenly, he's schooling himself to invert them. Every time he encounters in his reading of literature, or in any common speech or in a sermon — he's speaking very honestly and fully about his views, you see, about the white society in which he is living. That reaction/expression certainly is extreme?

Thornton: Well, I can say this about it: We do in fact live in times when Black men can in fact be proud to be black, that is Black Americans. I'm sure the times which Stokely spoke of when he spoke of our beginnings, when he spoke of what Negroes historically have been, in America, and why there are so terribly American, I guess that part of it being also that in white America we knew what standards represented, what is, in fact American. And usually they are contrary to what is in fact black, or what is in fact the Black man, so that the Black man had to usually think in terms of the white doll with all of the Caucasian features as in fact being beautiful. Anything separate and apart from them, or anything that smacks of Black or Negro just happens, not to be too kosher.

But today at least, the Black man can stand with his head erect and say: 'You know I am a Black man; and I expect to be accepted for what I am.' Black is not inferior. I mean we've had all the scientific theories, we've had, as you say, been set to rest that the Negro, like any other man, has the capacity, the ability and he in fact deserves to be accepted, he's not something that looks on from the back door at what happens in the big house and you know, can say that's what I want to be one day, including I want to be white, in a sense. This is what some of the reactions, I mean can be in a society where being what you is is not acceptable.

Mr. Barker: Well, Carmichael, what is — 

Warren: Yes, Mr. Blair.

Blair: May I comment on what you said, Lucy? I believe it too, to a certain extent, that while many people most of the newspapers criticize {UNCLEAR} the Black Muslims, I feel the Muslims are having some good points about their organization. Now I don't agree with them about the bit about separation, but I do like some of the things that they're doing. I can {UNCLEAR} having a Muslim state. I think what the Muslim is trying to do is using religion as a means of binding the people together, and while the NAA and other groups are using their demonstrations and so forth, as a means of binding the people together, people in unity, they're using religion as a means of binding the people together. And so far as a criminal is concerned, or juvenile delinquents are concerned among the members of the Muslims, it has been proven that most of their members, there is a great decline in delinquency among those people who are Muslims.

Warren: That they have actually redeemed a great many people.

Blair: They have redeemed a great many people, so I think it's not all bad, and as a part of this organization. I think if we look at it from an objective point of view, they have some good things which if American society will look at, it could be useful to sort of straighten out some of the ills that we're facing today.

Warren: You mean for whites as well as Negroes.

Blair: Whites as well as Negroes.

Warren: It's a question of achieving a sense of self-acceptance and identity that would prevent the man in the gutter from his doom; save him from his doom.

Blair: Yes. I think this is, see — what I was taught in school, everything that I saw was of the middle class value, even in our school there were mostly predominantly Negro schools or segregated schools back in the South, is the Negro students are taught by middle-class people.

Most of these students, the majority of them, come from low-income families, and therefore are tucked — separated away from the middle-class, and many of these kids can't straighten up to this, and so in many respects I was told by some of my instructors; well, I have my idea that you have to get, and this is the attitude of many of the Negro students come out with. And so that many of them coming from these homes, they can't help it if they're dirty when they come to school. And so what happens? They automatically reject the authority of the school because they say 'I never can be able to stand it.'

And what I think that what we really need among ourselves, among Negroes, is a sense of racial pride; not so much of racism, but a sense of accepting who we are and what we are, and the roles that we have to play in our society, and not an inferior role.

Warren: Let me ask a question relating to that: Is it possible to argue that the southerner, whoever the southerner is, we'll say the segregationist, who's sort of a fanatic in it — image — 

Thornton: It's not a good definition of a southerner —  if I can interrupt, since I also call myself southern.

Warren: Yes, all right, all right, your {UNCLEAR} definition, you see. You know that.

Blair: Your southern dialect!

Warren: Well, our southern segregationist who thinks he's defending, he says, the way of life, the way of life you see all of this when he's saying those things he's going to try to defend a cultural identity himself. He's got mixed up with his view of a whole package of things, including segregation. Now if he doesn't, if he could be led to see that his identity does not depend on segregation, his cultural identity, then the whole pattern might change for him. Does that make any sense? I'm not saying that it will; do you see what I mean? He feels defensive, the white southerner feels defensive. He feels his culture's being attacked, his identity's being attacked, he's being robbed of his identity, his history, and he has as his notion the unlettered man or poorly lettered one, or unreflective one, sees part of his tradition and part of his identity {UNCLEAR} doesn't necessarily {UNCLEAR} identity.

Carmichael: This whole thing is very, very ironic. And if the white southerner knew anything about his history, number one, he would, know that after Reconstruction there was not official segregation, or state-law-backed segregation, that the Negroes and whites went to school together because the South at that time just received free schools.

Warren: In the Civil War generation, they thought segregation was preposterous.

Carmichael: They certainly did, and it didn't come until Mississippi started instituting the Black Codes, so that his whole tradition — he talks about tradition, he talks about institution; you can change institutions but you can't change people. His whole feelings were molded by institutions.

Warren: A generation back.

Carmichael: A generation back, so that when he tells me now that institutions, you can change the laws but you can't change the people, he evidently doesn't know what he's talking about.

Thornton: I agree with that. If I could — the non-recognition of the existence of the Black man in the South is quite an interesting thing for the Southerner, because, as Stokely has said, there has been a time when — 

Warren: Can a white southerner come in here now?

Thornton: White southerner, although by the way few Negroes would say they're southerners. There are very few who would dare say they're southerners, and this is non-recognition of the Black man, I would agree with Stokely, that there has been a time when in fact the white man has recognized the Black man's existence and now all of a sudden he wants to erase from his mind something that he thinks he's forced by law to put up with or something to segregate out of his society, to keep out altogether.

He thinks that it would be in the mind of the new southerner the person who is interested in bringing the South out of what in fact has gotten itself down into non-recognition of a good part of its society and its nonrecognition bringing with it running away from the South — not, I don't mean running away, as such, but moving away from the South, of a good part of the population, that is the Black man too, I think, when the new southerner with a new set of rules, will realize that the Black man has a place there in the South and that the Black man can, in fact, help to make the South a great South again. In other words they'll have to recognize that more than just the brawn and the labor of the Black man, which made what they call the Old South great, they've got to recognize that this Black man can stand side by side by them, in education and everything else, and make the South what it ought to be today.

Warren: Ezell Blair?

Blair: I'd like to comment on what Lucy and {UNCLEAR} Stokely is saying. I agree with everything they say, especially the part of what Lucy said about many people being afraid to be called southerners. I think what has happened is that — 



History & Delusion

Warren: We were talking about the delusions that white southerners have about their history, the problem that delusions among Negroes, according to some writers, this being Arnold Rose {UNCLEAR} collaborator I'm quoting from:

"The whole tendency of the Negro history movement, not as history, but as used as propaganda, is to encourage the average Negro to escape reality, the actual achievements and the actual failures of the present. Although the movement consciously tends to build race pride, it also may cause Negroes unconsciously to recognize that group pride is built partly on delusion and therefore may result in devaluation themselves or being forced to resort to self-deception and certainly their own history."

Does that make any sense to anybody here?

Thornton: I think it does, in a way. Sense probably not in the way that you mean does it make sense. I'm thinking now — 

Warren: I'm not interpreting it. I'm saying does it make sense to you? Miss Thornton, will you speak again about the matter of delusion and Negro history, or the possibility of delusion in the Negro history movement?

Thornton: Yes, I think that the Negro has heard so little which in fact as — so little from the Negro historian which is in fact padding or which is in fact delusion, as compared to what the white American has in fact heard of his heritage and his background and his history. For example, take any southern school in the United States and take the history books that we in fact read in the public schools (I'm a Virginian myself) — 

Warren: I know, you told me that some months ago.

Thornton: — and I know the history that we in fact have in school. I know what our legislatures — I know what the white southerner wants and feels that we should in fact know and believe about history. I also know that my brother is now teaching college history in the South, and I know also efforts on the part of people who are supposed to be scientists or something moving pretty close to it, that these people who are historians who want the truth and the facts are to be told, people who have deliberately put themselves into positions across the country wherein they can {UNCLEAR} pages of history, see to it that the South gets a good shapeup and see to it that history is written so that we don't look so bad, or see to it that history's written with a sympathy for our cause.

I mean this doesn't happen as far as the Negro history is concerned. By and large, the Negro hears mainly the black side of his history, and what he is getting today, if it contains any delusion, I would submit that there's very little by comparison with what we get as history. If you've been writing out of history the Black man up to most recent times, you can now condemn what the Negro is getting by way of black history because it contains delusions or a bit of padding or gives him a false sense of pride, I think that's absolutely absurd when the whole system of history before then carried with it the idea of — cutting out the idea that anything good — 

Warren: It may indeed; it may indeed.

Thornton: — cutting can come out of black — 

Wheeler: I'd like to add this, though. I don't — 


Warren: This is a conversation with Miss Lucy Thornton, Miss Jean Wheeler, Mr. Ezell Blair, and now for this tape: Mr. Vincent and Miss Schneider. Miss Wheeler you read the quotation again from {UNCLEAR} Rose, on the matter of the Negro history movement and the possibility of delusion.

Wheeler: Now two things are important. One is that I don't think there is a significant Negro history movement in the sense of a propagandist movement. I think that this {UNCLEAR} think that Frazier, John Hope Franklin are good examples of good Negro historians, and I don't think that that's what Mr. Rose is referring to.

As far as this kind of thing that you find in the, say, Negro periodicals, this is what we used to be. I don't think that — that the information hits the people hard. Maybe one of the reasons being that it is not of sufficient scope to hit hard. One article once a month can't make a lot of difference.

Now especially in the South I don't think there's been any kind of Negro history movement of — the people I've met in Albany [GA] and in Greenwood [MS] were starved to know what happened before 1950; you know at least they knew we were in slavery and so on, but to name Negro writers, I don't think you could have gotten many people to name a couple of Negro writers to name — to tell you {UNCLEAR} and so on. So I would say that the mass criticism is a good guidepost for people who are going to bring the history to these people, because it is a necessary part of developing a spirited movement among people, that is we can avoid the problem he suggests.

But I don't think that they exist, because I don't think there is a large- scale propagandist in the Negro history movement.

Warren: Mr. Blair, do you want to talk on that for a moment?

Blair: So far as Negroes having delusions — 

Warren: That's not exactly what Mr. Rose said; that's the other — you know that passage that was only quoted. This danger of history as propaganda breeding delusion — leading to delusion.

Blair: Well, I think to a certain extent. Now Negroes ever since the Reconstruction period, most of the history books dealing with the Reconstruction period of America have been somewhat onesided, that of the — most of the white historians and they haven't given too much credit to the Negroes. In my state, North Carolina, I always hear of the dark days of the Black Reconstruction.

But in John Hope Franklin's book of the [From Slavery to Freedom], he seems to have given a different point of view. In my school, in college it's mandatory for all students who are in education or social sciences or literature, to take Negro history. This is the book we studied, John Hope Franklin. I don't think it's propaganda. I think it's — maybe if it is propaganda it's a good thing that Negroes get this, because it's not the — I don't think Franklin is the type of historian who would delude anybody as to the facts concerning the part of {UNCLEAR} Negroes.

Warren: His reputation is very solid, of course.

Blair: It's very solid, and I think this is what we need as a group to sort of what-do-you-say, build pride within ourselves as to the contribution that we've made to America. I think that a certain amount of propaganda is needed, after all, with 300 years almost of injustice I think it's about time that we begin to see those of us who have played a part in America's society, played a role.

Warren: Mr. Blair, have you read DuBois's [Black Reconstruction in America]?

Blair: No, I have not read it.

Warren: Have you read Van Woodward's work on Reconstruction?

Blair: No, I haven't.

Warren: Or have you read the (this isn't an examination but I was rather curious to know — )

Blair: Yes, I know.

Thornton: That one I know.

Warren: Did you know Woodwards' The Strange Career of Jim Crow, that book?

Thornton: Yes.

Warren: I gathered from something that you said earlier that you'd read that. I assumed that from something you said earlier. The whole reevaluation of The Reconstruction is is one of the strange developments of history.

Thornton: DuBois?

Warren: Well, I mean Dubois did not — was almost alone, but not a general evaluation. It didn't have an immediate effect. Now it's only in the last few years that this has become a matter of — he was a voice alone, you see, for years and years and years.

Thornton: {UNCLEAR}

Warren: That's what I said, I mean. And a reevaluation of the general sort, as a general matter now, it's fairly recent, I should say it's in the last twenty years. He was alone; he was almost alone in it.

Thornton: {UNCLEAR} that I could make of Reconstruction and the people I respect could make with that — I mean the significant {UNCLEAR}

Warren: You mean it looked like DuBois.

Thornton: Yes, the information is there. Now you would have to read around Marx's reinterpretation, but if you could read around that then you've got more meat there than you're likely to find in most history books, and therefore the book should be worthwhile. That's my understanding of how it goes, and I can't make a generalization about the Reconstructing or Reconstruction, but I would say that that was a very valuable contribution, even with that reinterpretation that you have to deal with.

Warren: I think DuBois's book is a great book, a great, monumental work, I mean in my opinion of the book, but I personally think it's a great rhetorical thing too, a great piece of writing.


Warren: Lost to posterity.

Thornton: It probably will be. No, I was thinking in terms of some of the latest historical writings which I've in fact come across, the writings of people who are new in the field of history or who have just gotten their doctorate or who have gotten their masters who would dare to delve into such a subject {UNCLEAR} which probably have never been covered before, or have been covered and left on the shelves of their university, unnoticed.

They've gone into details as to what might have appeared to be just an ordinary American historical occurrence, and now they go into anything — yes, there was a Negro involved here, and here's how. I have the facts and figures to prove it. While George Washington — I'm just using this as an example of course; I have no proof of it — while George Washington said one of his aides was a darkey. I know about that man.

And the historian has in some way of checking it down, and {UNCLEAR} historians are Negroes and are able, I guess, using whatever fragmentary documents are available, whatever can be recreated they have rewritten, I guess what has been left out of history all along, so it might be fairly {UNCLEAR} to a person looking at that, because it would of course, put some pride in a youth when he reads the books, say, like {UNCLEAR} called The Black Man or that after all there were all these Negroes involved in the American Revolution, and he finds out that after all, there were all of these Negroes involved in the Revolution, and I thought that Christopher {UNCLEAR} was just an isolated incident. So that he does give the impression that even at that day Negroes were involved and that historians now are bringing this to the forefront.


Black Elite & White Acceptance

Warren: Let's turn to another topic for a moment. I used a quotation again, to start us on this. This is a quotation:

Negroes of wealth and education whose only barrier to unrestricted participation in the complete life of the community is the fact that they are Negroes probably constitute the largest single class of social neurotics; that is, life is fantasy for them as regards reality.

Does that make any sense? Do you want me to read it again? Do you think that makes some sense, Miss Wheeler?

Wheeler: I think there's a lot in it. I agree. I think that Cadillacs in the society that are {UNCLEAR} but I think that if I had to make it into a percentage I would say it was 60 percent of this kind of people, but there are 40 percent of Negroes with money, have had a hard time getting it and know that that which they don't have to do now they would have to do but for their — if the money is gone, and are conscious of it to keep a pretty close hold on reality.

I think the 50 percent dominates. I think you see them in the newspapers, and so on. But I can't help but remember a friend now that I knew — the older people in this place I was from, Detroit, and this friend, an old American Negro man, and he had a sense of understanding of what the people are, of how far they can go, and they can be pushed, of what was important, I think, even though he was participating in this culture, within the Negro culture, and I think that there is a good number of them, and {UNCLEAR} 40 percent. And I think out of this 40 percent comes a few who stand up and say, well, I've made it and I'm going to help the other people.

And I think that Booker T. Washington is an example. I think he had money and his concern {UNCLEAR} And so I agree with the writer's general statement but I think it doesn't have enough flavor of the people who even though they have the money, may be laughing inside themselves at the antics everybody's going through. Ezell wants to say something.

Warren: Yes, Mr. Blair.

Blair: Well, I certainly agree with ... I would agree with her wholeheartedly. I think Negroes are going through a sort of a fantasy inasmuch as that they have a problem in trying to be — it's an obstacle being a Negro {UNCLEAR} to be able to, you know, as she said, in education and so forth, and being {UNCLEAR} to a Negro, and then you still have to fall back to the same {UNCLEAR} whites seem to look at Negroes all alike: If you're once a negro, you're always a Negro; you never change, even if you have all the education you want.

This is the type of people in the community that I live in now. Most of them are teachers or they may be doctors or lawyers, and so forth, but they still can't, they still can't reach the point where they fit in completely with —  contribute anything to the community. They can't be accepted as being lawyers or doctors, except for being Negro lawyers or doctors. And [that] seems to bother them. And many of them have expressed to me the feeling that they just don't know where they fit in.

They have all the education that they can get, they are professional people, but at the same time they're still considered Negro, and while they want to get patients regardless of whether they're Negroes or white, they're still confused. They don't know where they fit in, so they have to fall back into the position of just taking on Negro physicians — patients or teaching in Negro schools where many of them are qualified at teaching or working in positions which have not been heretofore what you might call Negro positions. They're eligible to teach anybody how to work in jobs which have not been traditionally Negro jobs.

Thornton: I'd like to just — 

Warren: Yes, Miss Thornton.

Thornton: I'd like to look for a minute at the source of this neurosis, really. In many instances it's because, as the author has very rightly said, the Negroes are not accepted into the larger community. But it's also because of the attitude in which, as Ezell has pointed out, most of society has towards Negroes in general and because of this attitude much of it has, I suppose gone over to the men whom he has termed are the most {UNCLEAR} [neurotic?] group in America, mainly because all of society is saying within this group you've got so much that's no good, so much that's unacceptable and that `uthat statement.

Thornton? Wheeler? But in thinking in terms of the sources of neurosis, I was thinking the whole of society has a way of looking at a Negro and where the Negro has gotten into a position where he has, "arrived", and he finds that he has arrived but arrived where? Who's going to accept him? So I can see where this neurosis would set in, and not just because now that he has arrived, as a Negro is still a Negro, he's above what I guess mostly society thinks is Negro or what most society thinks is the Black man of the country, but yet he knows that the major part of society will not accept him still as a man, so you've got a neurotic on your hands.

Warren: Within his dream of achievement, without the denying the fact that he's not accepted outside, I gather that's a topic, is the point that has been made here.

Thornton: Yes, I could understand it very clearly.

Wheeler: {UNCLEAR} find it a little silly achievement.

Thornton: I can understand a Negro very clearly making this statement because many is the time that I've come across Negroes who have bent over backwards to "arrived", and when they've arrived, where are they? Arrived to what? You know, especially if they're willing to {UNCLEAR} immediately {UNCLEAR} arrival, forget the fact that, try to forget the fact that they are Negro or Black.


Black Elite & the Movement

Warren: On the question of the class structure of the Negro society — we find another quote here:

The entire Negro middle-upper class is caught in a dilemma. On the one hand they find that a caste-wall blocks their entrance into general white society. On the other hand they have sometimes a vested interest in a social segregation that it gives them the only opportunity they have.

Now that is to paraphrase that this is another — this is {UNCLEAR}, by the way.

Thornton: Yes, I can understand if he's looking at {UNCLEAR} southern society, I guess this is true.

Warren: Not the southerner.

Thornton: You're a northerner, so you would know also what vested interest the Negro leader in the North would have in keeping things as they are. But looking at it from the southern point of view, I said southern first, even more so than northern, because the vested interest which the Negro has in segregation there is that you've got the dualism which goes through all phases of life from the cradle to the grave. So that you've got a Negro businessman who has a chance to arrive. When in the white society, it's not as clearly defined and whites — 

Negroes cannot, after all, go some places in town, so that the Negro businessman or the Negro business might be extremely limited. Now they might have as much of an interest in a segregated society or in the whole system of segregation as the southern {UNCLEAR} because after all, as I've said, you've got southern Negro teachers, and when you stop to look at this class of {UNCLEAR} to the same degree you won't find it in the North, you won't find it in {UNCLEAR} segregation {UNCLEAR} except in the {UNCLEAR} so I guess, though, I would think that on one side where these same people yearn for more segregation too, in fact, will say they on the other hand realize that moneywise which, after all is some standard in the country, this might also mean their ruination to a certain extent.

Warren: This has divided minds in certain Negro groups about segregation.

Wheeler: This is a manifestation of the situation that the Negro {UNCLEAR} find themselves in that when people go into a town to organize, you start with people who are, who are against a certain civic mindedness, and so on. But you don't spend your time trying to convince the whole business community or the whole minister community or even a part of it, that they ought to be on your side, because you know from past experience that ministers — there are going to be two or three ministers and two or three of the {UNCLEAR} who are going to step up and there are going to be a few businessmen. But other than that are going to have to come in when the thing is big enough so that they can't afford not to come in, and it's really {UNCLEAR} where it's — I would say it might not be so consciously {UNCLEAR}

Warren: Do you think there's less of this split between, say, Negro business leaders and Civil Rights Movement than there was a few years ago, and what is the basis for your opinion there? The split between — of certain groups of "successful" Negroes. You see that we're talking about — of the upper class — upper-middle class, who do not want to be identified with a civil rights group because they {UNCLEAR} segregation. Is there less of that now than there was?

Woman: [Wheeler? Thornton? other?] Yes, very definitely. I think they can afford to voice it. Right! It's popular now.

Blair: It's popular now to be in a movement. Like in Greensboro, North Carolina, for instance, there once was a time when Negro leaders would oppose integration because Negroes themselves, as a whole, were not in favor of it. But now, since the idea of integration — or rather desegregation has come about through the masses of the Negro community, many of them are jumping on their bandwagon, they've gone along with it, and so now you see maybe this outstanding attorney in New Orleans or this Negro businessman supporting desegregation within the community, or integration or desegregation of the lunch counters, or jobs and so forth; they've come in on it.

Wheeler: But the thing is that I think they recognize, too, that desegregation is not a real threat to them. I don't think Negroes are going to go outside the Negro community, as long as we live together, I think, and socialize together, I think we're going to pray together, and so on. And I think that probably having seen a few integrated situations and having found the Negroes still come back to the cafe, and so on, because they — I don't know why, I'd sooner go back to the cafe, I think they have seen the realization of the integration and realize that their interests are not so much endangered as they thought. And I think a further point is that — I had a — 

Thornton: Along those same lines, too, I think this same group would realize that what they might in fact lose as a result of {UNCLEAR} war for segregation {UNCLEAR} probably is lessened to a great extent not only in the particular {UNCLEAR}. Jean has just said, that is that what they have to offer might, after all, still have a certain validity, Negroes might still want to come to the cafe, but also because of the society which they've lived in, they've been forced to, in many instances, to prepare themselves to greater degrees than people in the other — say the white society, so that the teacher who once was threatened with possibly losing her job, she's got a master's {UNCLEAR} Columbia or N.Y.U.

I mean I would feel less threatened by becoming involved in segregation in that she knows now that we've got the system itself coming in, we'll be looking at things in terms of who's prepared — and not who's white or who's black. So that I think less and less there's been a more comfortable feeling on this level in that let it come, I think we'll get adjusted. And I think that the popularity of the movement that is the outcry against segregation, has probably lessened a good deal.

Wheeler: Well, the point that I want to make is that the emphasis itself along with desegregation of public utilities, is getting people registered and getting people voting. Now I don't know why people keep talking about desegregation as opposed to the movement. I think that's surely a part of it, that they at least, of the other, at least they're proud of that, is evidence {UNCLEAR} at least to strengthen itself, and the people, the business people, know that when it comes time to find a leader, they're going to be the one. It's only because the things that they represent are things that Negroes in general want to have. Everybody respects a man of education; everybody, especially if you're American. So these business people, I think, can see how many gains where they couldn't see before for themselves, because when it comes time to redistrict the town or when it comes time to send somebody to the Congress, there's — it's going to be one of them.

Blair: I'm inclined to agree with you, Jean, because most of the people in the Negro community realize that even though this is a movement of the mass of people, when it gets down to it it's going to be those people who've had education and training, and this is something that the Negro community looks up to.

Woman: Invariably.

Blair: Invariably. They look up to the man who has training, but they are skeptical of the man who has had training and who does not use it to the advantage of the freedom movement at present; they're skeptical of the Uncle Tom.

I think what is involved in the movement is the realization of Negro leaders who have training and who have experience in the political and business life of a community, who are making a sacrifice and who {UNCLEAR} stand for equal rights and desegregation and the protest movement as against those who have training and who have knowledge of a business and so forth and of the economic worth of the community who have heretofore taken a backward stand and who have sided with the majority of the white community and are keeping the Negro community disfranchised from this right.

I think, for instance, in North Carolina and other states, we can expect to see more Negroes {UNCLEAR} state and national {UNCLEAR} and run for public offices, and we can see the Negro mass who will vote for them. It's the same people, the educated people are still taking over leadership in the movement, but there seems to be a new image on the part of educated Negroes, to realize that they're fighting for the masses of the people, and that they're representing the people. Now if they're representing only a limited number of middle class people {UNCLEAR}

Warren: Let's try this "vested interests." This is a paraphrase and a quotation, I won't distinguish, as given by James Baldwin of the African Congress in Policy seven years ago {UNCLEAR} well, you know what happened there.

The greatest problem facing us, that is the African Negroes, was that we, all Negroes, what did we do among ourselves, when there was no longer any colonial horse to ride that he {UNCLEAR} pointed out that this was the horse of which a great many Negroes who were in what he calls the skin trade, hope to ride to power and prestige, power which would be in no way distinguishable from the power they sought to overthrow. To paraphrase that, the career of anti-colonialist in Africa, was a power {UNCLEAR} was a power gained, not to be distinguished from colonial power in the end.

Now this, can we transfer this to possible danger in the civil rights group? {UNCLEAR} careerists who were exploited and then when it's over, what career did they have? If they could maintain it, the — were interested to maintain it, that means you're keeping it going {UNCLEAR} Is that a real dangeer?

Woman {UNCLEAR} it's not peculiar {UNCLEAR} illustration {UNCLEAR}. I think it especially applies, if applied generally, I would say it becomes {UNCLEAR} people who will consciously be involved in — to always scrutinize themselves and their reasoning and to the {UNCLEAR} Martin Luther King is scrutinized, I mean is scrutinized very closely, and I {UNCLEAR} hope with power of suggestion, but I tell you at least once a week a bunch of us radicals sit around and make some statements about him and leaders and so on. I think that kind of scrutinizing goes on at least among those who regard themselves as leaders or potential leaders, there's always going to be — I think there's always going to be some guard of people who are consciously involved, maybe because they're young idealists or something who will at least be criticizing.

Warren: This danger, then, is simply a human danger in all movements?

Woman I think so.

Warren: It's part of history, is that right?

Thornton: Our history, definitely, as a matter of fact; as you read that I kept thinking about a little analysis that we set up in our history courses {UNCLEAR} "The Anatomy of a Revolution," {UNCLEAR}

Warren: William Brenner.

Thornton: Yes. When you analyze any great movement, it's just the kind of danger which is inherent in it, really, and the kind of successes and failures, it seems to be at least something that you could fit into a pattern, and I would think that levelheaded people aware of the history of this kind of thing can, in fact, at least to a certain degree, maneuver it that in a given situation that happens to a lesser degree; but I do think it's a danger, yes.


Nature of the Movement. Revolution? Reform?

Wheeler: I'd like to {UNCLEAR} ask a question; I don't know if it fits into the pattern. I'd like to know what you, too, Mr. Warren, think, would you call this a "revolution" "reform" or "keeping people busy," or what? I'd really like to know your opinion.

Warren: I think it's a matter, I hesitate, because it's a matter of how you're going to use a word.

Wheeler: Well, would you call it a movement toward a broad-scale change in the nature of — 

Warren: Society. No, I wouldn't call it that, no. As I see it now, and I may change my mind tomorrow, I should say that it's a matter of not changing the essential order of American society, but absorbing a peripheral element into the American society by their own efforts, not by solely, as an act of society, but by their own efforts, into an identity.

Wheeler: What do you think about the argument that in general, that we still, number one, you can't solve the Negroes' problem, and the employer can't solve, without solving the problems of how the money is {UNCLEAR} how the economy is run {UNCLEAR} income, how the money is distributed when it's going into [national] defense, into maintaining the Cold War front.

Warren: You can't solve any single social problem separately {UNCLEAR} action on these matters.

Thornton: But that still doesn't give it a greater significance.

Warren: No, it means you can tie them together {UNCLEAR} How are you going to solve the school problem in Harlem without solving a lot of things like housing and jobs, you know. These things all — {UNCLEAR} but that doesn't mean you should be excused on the whole, in the meanwhile.

Wheeler: No, but it does give a greater impact to the school's efforts. Now what I'm wondering — I'm not arguing on either side, because I'm obviously wondering without thinking, can you say that the momentum given to a particular issue by its relevance to the other issues make it important — can you say that this problem is so deep and its relationship to other problems is so tight that nothing's going to be done until they all get done, and that that would constitute a big change of structure in society?

Warren: Well, I think we have to go back to the actual definitions of what we mean by, say, "revolutions" opposed to a "fundamental reform." Would we call in the 1930s a revolution in American society, or not?

Thornton: I think the most revolutionary thing about the whole movement {UNCLEAR} when you think of the minority group being accepted and assimilated into American society, that maybe this is a novel idea. In other words, America has always been known as the melting pot, and minorities who have such a hard time eventually make it into the American mainstream. I think the most novel and probably revolutionary, is that now you have the Black man achieving a kind of self-realization, who has been not only moving into American society but also standing and saying, yes, I'm willing to come into the American society, I've always wanted to be there; in fact I've always considered myself as being a part of society even though you sort of put me over to the side. On the other hand, I'm standing tall and saying I'm a Black man and — 

Warren: In other words, and this is what I was about to say a moment ago, that it's partly — it's not a revolution for a total society. It may be revolution merely in terms of the Negro society as separated to distinguish it logically and otherwise from American society. This represents a real shift of attitude, a revolutionary shift in Negro society, a Negro movement, but its effect on the whole of society will be a matter of, we might say a fundamental matter of reform but will not change the order of society. Is that what you're saying together, or not? Particularly is that what you're saying?

Thornton: It might be. I had one other thing that hit my mind and when I thought also in terms of the Black man standing, you know, a self-realization of the Black man. I also thought in terms of world order, because over the centuries now, when you look at how things have stacked up the power structures, more and more of this self-realization, I guess, has been in ferment throughout surely, we would say in Europe first and then it spread throughout the world, so you've got now the Black man in Africa not only realizing or achieving his own goal, standing as the man who will in fact control and rule his homeland but also you have throughout the world now, and especially in the United States, in which the majority of the people are in fact white, you have a Black man who's there in that land saying, yes, but I'm a part of the society, and these two things can harmoniously be a part of each other. And the Black man can in fact be a part of the whole; he does not have to be something that — he's a problem here and he's set off to one side instead. It's revolutionary for America to be, because after all I think he's taking — the whole of society or American society is taking another look at the Black man. He's not just something that's humorous, who's — 

Warren: That's true, that's true.

Thornton: We accept him or we don't or we may not accept him and he's just here and he's a thorn in our side, and if we didn't have those {UNCLEAR} I think one, more and more America itself is taking a look at the Black man, and sometimes he appears to them to be violent; sometimes he appears anxious and restless, but over all I think they're getting a picture of us and they're getting a picture — at least they know no matter what picture they get, that the American Negro intends to be here and he's fighting to fit into the over-all scheme of America, to find his place.

And it's revolutionary, probably, that the Black man is doing it in terms of stand up and saying yes, I'm a Black man, but as a Black man I do in fact have something to offer; I don't have to. In fact this is something that's always puzzled me — Jean, you might be able to probably work it out;

I used to argue this bit with some of my friends {UNCLEAR} always — sometimes say, I can go sometimes just so far over way to the left, in saying — talking about the Black man with great pride and what he's achieved and how he's doing it and what we want him to identify with other people on the other side {UNCLEAR} have people who I supposed they think, white friends who, for example, will say, well, I would think in 25 years you won't have this problem because by then everybody will look pretty much alike because by then we'll have sufficiently integrated marriages and you won't be able to speak any more in terms of the American Black man. In other words you'll just have the American Negro or simply fighting to be a part of that America, and what we'll do eventually is to {UNCLEAR} view of himself {UNCLEAR} instead of {UNCLEAR} seems to me lopsided, it somehow doesn't sound quite like {UNCLEAR} willing to accept — 


What is "Negro?"

Blair: The Negro in the Congo will lose his identity {UNCLEAR} in a hundred years' time {UNCLEAR} new Negroes won't be Negroes anymore. Instead of being dark they'll be what we call mulattos; it will be difficult to tell who's Negro and who's not Negro. I think that {UNCLEAR}

Woman: We think so.

Blair: I might be a hundred years old, but I think — one thing I was in favor of the integrated {UNCLEAR} but you know everybody will look like one person, but the older I get and time passes, I'm beginning to realize that there are certain {UNCLEAR} like I say racial pride {UNCLEAR} identity.

You have the feeling that you are what you are. Even though you are in the culture, you have certain characteristics. Like the Jewish people, for instance, they are in the American culture, but that they have preserved this identity that they have had over thousands of years. Now that is something that the Negro in the culture should be.

And I realize that an interracial marriage — not interracial marriage, but what you might call a concubine {UNCLEAR} — there are a million Negroes, for instance, who are of different complexions and eventually these traits may bring about a person who's probably Negro but who is so fair-complexioned that it would be difficult to tell Negro from white. This is how eventually it will come about. But until that time Negroes can feel proud of themselves.

Warren: What is a Negro?

Wheeler: I was trying to — 

Thornton: We might become a lost race or something, well, as Negroes. That's something too, this {UNCLEAR} of terms, what is a Negro. I have friends, people who would prefer not to be called Negroes. "I'm not a Negro; mainly, I'm a Black man." Some others: "I'm not colored, don't call me colored," you know, and very good-humoredly, you know. Negro is simply something vague attached to — I won't have it, you know. I'm just another man. You know you get these reactions over and over again to — True, some of them I must admit come from the feeling that the name Negro attaches a stigma — 

Wheeler: Or worse than that: that's a nice little name.

Thornton: Yes, that is a nice little — although they're colored, but in fact Negro has such a stigma to it until — 

Warren: It simply means black, doesn't it? Its accumulative from other meanings, perhaps. MISS Yes, yes, but the accumulation of it is ...

Thornton: And that's probably where the reaction comes in too, in fact.

Blair: {UNCLEAR} you are born and it may be where segregation {UNCLEAR} a white neighborhood, or black is a symbol of evil, people die and are buried in a coffin that's white; everything that is white is white; if he is {UNCLEAR} he is white, if you go to heaven it's in a white gown, that type of thing. Even if you're an angel, the angel's white and is dressed in a white robe, and you're going to be drinking milk and honey, and you're walking down the street all purple and gold and everything. This is the image Negroes constantly have to face and this is the image that I faced in growing up in an American society. You know a black cat is said to be evil; everything white is pure. So you begin to wonder. You say, well, what am I? You feel you're rubbed out and you see, you feel like you're an invisible man, nobody even seems to see you, as if you never existed.

Wheeler: Do you think it's a true definition, a true statement — I didn't know but what might be misquoting somebody, but there's an old saying" "Nobody knows my name, don't" — you know, "they call me that but I know really, I'm — 

Blair: Nobody knows me and — 

Wheeler: I think that a Negro in the United States is anybody who is of a tint or color who is less than white-looking, and I think I think {UNCLEAR} isn't apparent {UNCLEAR} you come to the conclusion who is less than white-looking and who cannot prove that he's of — not race. Like any time I see a — 

Thornton: Indian. Indian or Puerto Rican — put those in — Indian or Puerto Rican. They're not people — 

Wheeler: Yes, I know that, but whenever I see a Negro in New York — whenever I see a Puerto Rican in New York, until I find out that he has an accent I think he's a Negro, that's what I'm trying to say. Until — if he can show that he's something less than — it's all right, but as long as he's anything less than white then he's a Negro.

Thornton: Well, I think  — caught in this terrible blinding doubt  — British Guiana and other countries, right away, sometimes that's going on it's so funny, when you're taught this kind of thinking. You go down the street and say that's a Negro — oh no, he's not, that's a white man. In other words, somehow Negroes think they can tell other Negroes and then my friends {UNCLEAR} I don't know how he can speak that way because in my country now this person may be Black, typical — I mean you'd never call him an American anything, but a Negro, but to the natives from this country they would prefer not to attach a name Negro or anything else {UNCLEAR} part Danish part Spanish or part anything, so {UNCLEAR} how could that be Negro when Negro in the United States will mean something quite different?

Wheeler: But until he suddenly comes out with that accent he's a Negro.

Warren: Actually, the legal definition of Negro has changed from time to time in this country. In Virginia {UNCLEAR} gone less and less quotes "Negro blood" is required to make a person legally a Negro {UNCLEAR} by the statutes, and gradually they decreased the amount of Negro blood that makes a personally legally Negro. Now it's come to the point where I notice {UNCLEAR} where any demonstrable portion, it started out as three-quarters, or something like that {UNCLEAR} legally — 

Thornton: I think {UNCLEAR} go as far as even if he's go one-eighth of a drop of Negro blood, I think that `usomething about the drops of blood might still mean {UNCLEAR} the language, because I remember once I was going into court and the charge was that we sat in some place which was supposed by law to be segregated, Negroes and whites, and we took the position that — our attorney got up and said, "I want you to prove that my clients are Negroes, in court, because we looked like {UNCLEAR} we were United States and some who were clearly, you know, not obviously Negroes, and he read off a statute that — 

Warren: {UNCLEAR} grandfather's white — 

Wheeler: Well, I won't tell you about my — 

Thornton: My brother used to take some kind of a I don't know whether it was pride or anything, but he used to try to stir up {UNCLEAR} you know, one of my relatives on my grandfather's side, not too far down the line, a few generations back {UNCLEAR} that used to kill 'em right away {UNCLEAR} I know he always says {UNCLEAR} talking that way. I'm sure everybody in Virginia would be shocked if they heard him say that, you know — 


Southern Whites

Warren: May I change the subject a little bit? James Baldwin says this:

The most trenchant observers of the scene in the south, those who are embattled there — you-all — feel that the southern mobs are not an expression of the southern majority will. Their impression is that these mobs fill, as it were, a moral vacuum.

Wheeler: I don't believe that. I have sat and thought in jail and later just {UNCLEAR} a feeling {UNCLEAR} and what is happening, all these people hate me that much, and I mean I was afraid, I'd never seen a mob like it, so that everywhere I went down South I had a feeling {UNCLEAR} at me {UNCLEAR} before I went down here.

Warren: Here being Washington, D.C.?

Wheeler: And Detroit.

Warren: And Detroit.

Wheeler: I was treated very nicely in Detroit.

Everywhere I went [in the South] I just had a continual, unless I was {UNCLEAR} ... or just surrounded, I had a continual feeling that there was a white person around the corner waiting for me to step the wrong way, to hit me, and I didn't know, I didn't feel like that policeman was an exception; I thought that he was the generalization of being {UNCLEAR} to cross over Fourth Street or downtown across on the other side of downtown, and I might not speak for — I'm really speaking for me, but I never had a feeling when I talked to people who lived on — put out a canvas, say, trying to get people to register to vote, an easy subject — 

Warren: Where was this?

Wheeler: In Albany, Georgia, and Greenwood, Mississippi, an easy subject of conversation: 'Gee, those white folks sure hate us,' and we could talk about that for hours. I don't think it was just the mobs, I really don't. I think it was probably every one of them that ever lived.

Thornton: I think it was kind of — then too, on the other side, it seems the fashion to think, too, even if you had any kind of feeling, any good feelings about Negroes or any feelings at all about demonstrations, I suppose it was the most fashionable people, was to keep {UNCLEAR} barge in, pray that something will change one day. I suppose I'm really just imposing, {UNCLEAR} with a white southerner, I'm trying to hard — On the other side, thinking that if they had these feelings {UNCLEAR} there might be some majority but the manifestations of this feeling; I mean a feeling that's different from the mob, are so slight and so few and far between that the person within himself saying: God forgive me.

Or saying: if I have wounded any southerner I know full well you help everybody step on top of every Negro you saw in sight, doesn't help me, and so the more you do this kind of thing, the more guilt you get thinking about yourself and the less of a chance there is for a white individual to come across on the other side {UNCLEAR} And of course these people probably come up within the white person from his birth on up, I guess; even from within the society he has learned a certain way , and most people are such social beings, they want the {UNCLEAR} adjusted to their society {UNCLEAR} if you want to rebel against {UNCLEAR} so that if the mob is not representative, in fact, of what the majority of the people are, the fact that the majority sits back and silently okays it or looks on and every once in a while is ashamed that only when the most blatant things happen, says to himself, this has to change; and then on the other side of his mouth says, oh yes, it has to change, but who they are — far too radical;

And on one side he's hoping for the safety and security of what he knows to be white society, even if that seems okaying the mob and — or sitting back silently and watching what happens. So that if you've got this feeling over all, it will take {UNCLEAR} the manifestations of this mob aren't very, very encouraging, I would say you've got {UNCLEAR} wouldn't dare speak out against it, and as {UNCLEAR} usually they are ousted by the society and the rest of the society realizes this, so that the other souls who again would speak, know of the examples, so you know

Warren: Let me just break in here a moment, Miss Thornton, When I sat by you at lunch back in November, the first thing, if my memory doesn't trick me, that you said that you had some optimism for a settlement in the South, that you felt that if the white man and the Negro had been on the land together, if they had a common history, there would be some basis of a reasonable settlement, some human recognition in terms of this common history, despite the violence of the present situation, that this gave you some optimism for a settlement in the South that would be reasonable. You also said, if I remember correctly, and it was your saying , so you remembered it better than my memory, that you were frightened of the economic situations in say, Chicago, Detroit, New York {UNCLEAR} cities you named. Is my memory playing me false on that?

Thornton: No, you're almost all correct. I was also thinking that in terms of the something which I guess many southerners have tried to — or people who call themselves southerners {UNCLEAR} have tried to place their hands on some people who are segregated — 

Wheeler:{UNCLEAR} education for the poor, for anybody white in a town that is running a piano factory and {UNCLEAR} in a town like that doesn't it make sense {UNCLEAR} to start off excluding 40% of the population which is — put yourself into situations.

Warren: Given that situation yes, but there's a great general argument that segregation has cost the country vast sums of money.

Wheeler: {UNCLEAR}

Warren: All right, one little city in one little town, yes, but an over-all picture which would give an economic lobby for integration rather than an economic lobby for segregation, the statistics of it, long {UNCLEAR} If a man is fighting for his job, you know {UNCLEAR} at that particular moment {UNCLEAR} ut this over-all social lobby is, and I should hope that more and more people understand about it.

Wheeler: And again I think there's more than recognition — 

Thornton: We're talking about a local situation {UNCLEAR} we're constantly seeing outside {UNCLEAR} ertainly not outside could conceptualize himself as a part of the United States, and realize that there are other countries in the world, that aren't necessarily bad; I think it would be harder for most of them.

Warren: Let me tell you what Mr. Evers said to me on his recording session a few weeks ago. I asked him about Mississippi (I'll make this brief). He said, "I have some optimism here, that the one thing these segregationists, many of them, are raised on some respect for courage, that's in their tradition."

He said that once that they recognized that the Negro is standing up and showing courage and facing them down, you have a kind of respect that is there as a working basis for a settlement, was this respect, that his just straight rare courage is in the local tradition. He said the other thing is once he crosses the line and sits down to talk to you and to make an agreement, he'll probably tell you the truth. He said, apropos of dealing with him, and even the man {UNCLEAR} and slaps you on the back and says, "I'm really on your side." That's almost a direct quote.

Blair: I agree with him. Inasmuch as when we started the sit-in movement in 1960, we met the mayor of Greensboro, we met representatives from I think from the Southern Regional Association associated with Woolworth's stores, and they told us these representatives and {UNCLEAR} these represented the Woolworths told him the same thing. They were straightforward when they found out that we were, we weren't going to back down.

They asked us, they told us that we were giving Greensboro a bad name, and so forth, so far as the sit-in was concerned, and that this would hurt the city economically-wise, and we told them we weren't going to move and then this gentleman told us. He said, well, he respected — he came across, he said, well, look, he said, "We're not worried so much about you starting trouble. He said what we're worrying about is the poor whites starting trouble." He said the fighting and so forth, he said, "We know that you're not going to be violent." Now this was a great shock to me because this was the first time I'd ever come in contact with the middle class, upper white or the upper white of the community admitting that the poor whites would cause trouble, and this is where I think he came through in telling the truth on the matter.


Blair: I know this was the basis of it, this was a plot to keep the Negroes and the poor whites apart from each other. This was a standard plot; I realize it — 

Woman: Why didn't he tell you the truth, then?

Blair: {UNCLEAR} egroes. This is the first time I ever heard a white man admit to his guilt, and he was admitting the truth for once and for all, he was admitting this to us, you know, that he — going out on the white section, the poor white section and tell the poor white people this, you see.

Wheeler: And he was telling the poor white people about 'You niggers.'

Blair: I know, I know, {UNCLEAR} I realize what he was doing {UNCLEAR} He was telling on himself.

Wheeler: It was an indirect telling on himself.

Blair: An indirect telling on himself.

Wheeler: That doesn't make it true.

Warren: I'm afraid that this was not what Mr. Evers was talking about  — 


Warren: You were saying, weren't you, Miss Thornton, that America at least offered some theoretical background for the improvement of society, is tht right?

Thornton: Yes, that's quite true, and I was also saying that if the American or the Black man does in fact achieve his goals, he is actually/strengthens the theories of the nation's founded —  also it might strengthen what people, when they are talking in terms of a lost theology or lost ideals, lost goals, in fact it might even help to reiterate what we have always claimed to be true or what we've said is the nation's basis for existence.

It might help, in fact, to bring America into the greatness which {UNCLEAR} in our modern times, as far as world leadership is concerned, as far as the realization of — as far as self-realization is concerned, on an international level.

Warren: You mean the Civil Rights Movement has a possibility of provoking some moral regeneration in American society in general?

Thornton: Yes.

Warren: Paraphrase that?

Thornton: This I believe very, very strongly.

Warren: Miss Wheeler, you had something to say a moment ago.

Wheeler: I'm especially concerned about, as a matter of fact it was a good while ago, of the idea that there were {UNCLEAR} by people in the South who were courageous or not courageous Negroes and so on. The whole idea of conceptualizing people and leaving it at that and what I want to say is that both sides, because it — I'm calling it a conflict between Black and white people, both sides of the conflict use this idea of the mysterious unwillingness to change on the part of the other one to such an extent that often it obscures, I think, their own end and it hurts.

Warren: Would you be specific on that point, please? An illustration?

Wheeler: Yes. I think that for me to say that the white southern man has such a deep hatred for me that it will never change. Look, he would rather move out of town than live in a segregated town and let his child go to a — I'm sorry — live in a desegregated town and let his child go to an integrated school. I think when I do that I am giving him — making him so mysterious that I don't even approach — that the possibility of me approaching him has been lessened by the mystery that I surround him with.

Warren: You're giving him a stereotype, too.

Wheeler: And I think similarly, that we are stereotyped, you know, I think everyone — 

Warren: Indeed you are, yes.

Wheeler: — a general stereotype. Now what I'm trying to say is that on both sides the stereotype has to go because it blinds us to avenues of action that is, as long as I sit in the corner and wonder why he hates me, I'm going to say well, whether he hates me or not, he does want to keep his business open. Whether he hates me or not he does want his child to get educated in some school.' Now I think that when we start recognizing that we are being too mysterious about the whole thing (this is an idea which {UNCLEAR} puts forth in The American Scholar a couple of months ago), fully recognize that we're being so mysterious that the whole thing that we are losing track of what we're doing and get onto a track of making the white man choose what's most important to him, and I imagine it would go the other way 'round except I'm more sympathetic {UNCLEAR} in moderation.

Warren: You're stuck with it — 

Wheeler: Then I think we'll have — we'll have put ourselves into a better bargaining position, and when we do get to that glorious time when we have a problem of how we relate to white people themselves, and I think that will be a long, long way away, then we won't have that mysterious quotes hanging around him. (Howard {UNCLEAR} call it the southern mystique), they won't even allow us to approach him.


North & South

Warren: Let me refer to an article written some years ago in about '55 or '6 by Carl {UNCLEAR}, and in conversation at the same time, same period, he said the same thing: that all the trouble in the South might be a dress rehearsal of the big show in the North. How do you look at that?


Warren: He said that the big trouble of integration would come in the North, and that the southern situation was a dress rehearsal {UNCLEAR} an immediate dress rehearsal for/of the big problem when the real trouble starts.

Thornton: In other words — 

Warren: This is ten years ago.

Thornton: In other words, a more subtle problem which you have in the North, really, what happens onstage down South, in a sense.

Warren: I think he was referring to actual violence — that it's more potential in the North than in the South.

Thornton: More so than — 

Warren: I think that's what he meant — 

Blair: I think I would agree with that — what's going on in the South may — is actually a preview of what might happen in the North, and as a result there are more Negroes now living in the North and western areas of the United States that in the South. I think only about, well, in the last ten years or since 1941, about 51% of the Negroes live outside of the South nowadays, and most of them live in the North.

Most of them who come from the South are not educated, they don't have a college degree, they've gone to the North with the idea of the glorious North or the Canaan land where the opportunities are bright, and going there they find out that this is only just the reverse. In many instances, it's worse than what's in the South and they're having to face up to realities now. And even with Negroes having a right to public accommodations and so forth in the North, they still have to face the problem of getting equal job employment on the basis of their ability to do a job, and also of living in a — getting decent housing which is in defacto actual in reality there is still segregated housing.

And so then many of them can't face up to this problem. Many of them can't meet the educational standards which are needed to get decent jobs. And so you can't expect in cities like Chicago, Washington, New York or Philadelphia or Los Angeles and in many other cities {UNCLEAR} nature or whether it's in years, {UNCLEAR} populace is still growing of the population of Negro citizens, and as a result of this you can expect there to be more racial {UNCLEAR} there to be more racial imbalance and more racial conflict than there is in the South. I may be wrong in what I'm saying but I'd be willing to bet my top dollar on this, and I can say you can expect violence, at least more violence, in the North than you can in the South.

Wheeler: I think that it's right that the Negro in the North is not in any kind of paradise. I think the Negro has a bad time in the North because he's a Negro, but I think that you have to admit basic differences between the North and the South, and they tend to get obscured when people start talking about how when they lived in the North they lived in a ghetto and so on. I think that the fact that a judge in [the South?] could give a girl eighteen months in jail and twelve months of hard labor for whatever it was — trespassing or parading without permit — I can't remember the charge — I don't think he'd get away with it in Chicago.

Warren: That's a real distinction, isn't it.

Wheeler: I think it's a very big distinction; I think it's a distinction between a person being a person when he comes into court and a person being of black — of skin when he comes into court. When a Negro's arrested in the South a Negro's going to pay a fine or go to jail. You know that.

Warren: Alas, it's not true, in the North either. Sometimes it is, but take the Reed case in Connecticut — you — 

Wheeler: I don't know — 

Warren: You'd {UNCLEAR} find — 

Wheeler: Well, I agree, it happened, but I think it couldn't have — I couldn't have been raised with the idea that I was just as good as the man next (well he lived a block away), I couldn't have been raised with the idea that there was no difference between me and him, if I had been raised in the North, I don't think. It never occurred to me that I was a Negro — that being a Negro meant anything, until I came to Washington and got — you know, when people started talking about it.

I'm not trying to say the North is wonderful; I'm just saying that there's a big difference between the North and the South, and what I want to say further is that the conflict that you're talking about, the violent conflict and so on, if it comes it's going to be a national conflict, not just North. The things that people in the South are trying to do is get up — you might say that the Negroes in the South would like to get up at least to the level that the people — the Negroes in the North are at, and then we could all fight it out. But I don't believe it's going to be peculiar to the North.

Blair: But realizing that Negroes in the last decade or so or since World War II have drifted towards the city, and that the Negroes have sought the city as a refuge from suburban life in which they don't have too much chance as farmers, and so forth. I realize that a definite problem will be created. Instead of problem being ameliorated or the problem lessened, there's going to be more of a problem for Negroes who live in the cities, especially in the large city areas, and this is where most of us are going into: Washington, like in Detroit, New York — 

Wheeler: How about mechanization in rural areas in the South, in the farms?

Blair: Well, Negroes to a certain extent aren't attracted to the farms anymore. I think they're going toward the cities {UNCLEAR} in the cities, then in the cities

In the cities, then in the cities he's become a common problem, both in the South and the North. He's a common problem in the South and the North. But in the North more so to an extreme than in the South because Negroes are just beginning to move to the cities. And {UNCLEAR} in the South Negroes have a chance to own something. They have a chance to have something that they own, they have a chance to spread out, to at least own some property and so forth, whereas in the North they're still cramped up into {UNCLEAR} houses, I'd say in a building. Maybe I have a warped idea of the North, but for me here in Washington, D.C. has an advantage.

Wheeler: I have grass around my house but I haven't got any money.

Blair: I know, but living in Washington, D.C. I've seen the situation. I cannot view with much optimism as being the best place for Negroes to live, but of course home is home. And I would take a chance, I would rather live in the South than to live in the North, considering all the situations, and I know Negroes who get less payment in the South, but like I said before, I feel that there is a relationship between Negroes and whites when met at the tide or its ebb, that the Negroes and what's in the South will eventually work out their problems than those in the North.

I feel we're thirty years behind what's going on in the North, and eventually when we reach where the North is now, where the Negroes and the whites are in the North now, that we will have a definite problem to meet but I think that our problem will work out better, because we know where we stand and that the New South will build up, will be a South — I believe the South will rise again, incidentally. But this time it will be the Negroes and whites on an equal basis on solving a problem rather than just one ethnic or racial group or being in the forefront.

Wheeler: I want to make a criticism.

Thornton: Go on, Jean — no, because when I talk it will be a long time.

Wheeler: Well, what I say is we've fallen into a trap in the same way that nationalism, I think, is a trap for countries trying to achieve world peace, a trap of maintaining the glory of the South or of the productivity in progress, it's North, where we've got to you know, Negroes might end up in. I think it's significant that you know you can have a bad time in the North and a bad time in the South. What I'm trying to suggest is that it's just — it's the country, you know, and that after you get — 

I don't want to make it that general, but the problem of automation is not the North's problem; it's the country's problem, and with industry coming into the South, which may (I understand now the pattern is to come to one town, take advantage of the tax exemption and so on and leave — and go into another town), people still are still jobless here. Our people are going to be jobless. The problem is going to be common to the North and the South. Now maybe the Civil Rights Movement can speed up the pace at which the South has to face these problems, but I think that they can be faced on a nationwide scale, and I believe that any kind of fighting that's going to be done can be done on a nationwide scale. And, incidentally, I'm not against fighting.


Violence & Nonviolence

Blair: Awwwwww, you know violence is beginning now. Now this may not be in the interview, but several people have felt moving from a nonviolent to a violent scale, and I want to ask you all this question: Do you feel that the present Negro leadership can hold off the Negroes any longer from achieving the violence — I mean like now under the law that the man who is attacked has a right to attack, himself, if he is in fear of bodily harm.

Now this is a serious situation, no joke, should Negroes as a whole continue to take a nonviolent step or should we be like any other ordinary citizen, white and under the law, if he is in fear of bodily harm and if he retreats, to walk and can go no further, should he defend himself? Do you feel that this should happen? Do you feel that we should take maybe {UNCLEAR} in the courts against the restaurant owners of restaurants who use other persons to do us harm physically and maybe injure us, to assault us or cause damage or battery to us? I think — Lucy or Jean, how do you feel about it?

Thornton: Well, the only trouble is I'm going to really go astray, so Jean, if you want to answer to that immediate problem, I can say this, that — 

Wheeler: I've got an answer to that.

Thornton: — to the most immediate problem, O.K., good. Then I'll talk about both when I — 

Wheeler: I've been reading about revolution and I've sort of been disappointed, because they're not mass things, you know. The mind of the people doesn't come together, and try to right a wrong. Now I think any ordinary violence is going to be led and we're going to be one of the leaders. I think there will be a conscious decision to change the tactic. It might not be all the great leaders sitting in one room, but I believe that any change in the approach to the problem that has a wide effect is going to be a conscious decision on parts of the people who take leadership roles, the agitators and so on.

Now that's us and that's Martin Luther King, and that's Abernathy and Wilkins and so on. So I don't think that we have to worry so much about controlling violence; I think in one town to another there might be outbreaks that are to the disadvantage of the movement because you know then everybody has trouble in court and so on, but I think that any large-scale Negro violent movement is going to be organized, it's going to be somebody's fault. So I don't think we have to worry about controlling, except for our individual problems with maintaining the organization and the Civil Rights Movement in you know, Greensboro had.

Thornton: My comments are probably more in keeping with what we talked about for the last twenty minutes or the last half hour, but anyway, I think I'll probably encompass much of what we've been saying, at least what you've said, Ezell, and what you said, Jean, but I'd like to go all the way back to your comments as to what I said to you in November.

Warren: Try to reconstruct them.

Thornton: Yes, Back to that — my statements of course were very well rephrased by you. What I had in mind, then is a time which is not now, unfortunately; it's time when we in the South will have reached a point of mediation. When Negroes and whites can in fact sit down and say this is how the South will be or this is — 

Warren: {UNCLEAR} not now.

Thornton: Clearly, not now, not right now. And I do think that we have some very strong things in our background which in fact could help us to win a kind of victory which Ezell has spoken of as being much different from what, say, when we do come up to the level of where northerners are now, it might be a far better victory than northerners now in fact have, because the kind of subtle segregation or the kinds of subtle leaving the Negro out of society, would not pervade as they do in fact now.

Getting on, though, that we do as Jean has alluded to, have problems with the new Negro in a sense because there's a large amount of impatience now throughout the northern and southern Negro, because of course I guess it's part of the times, really, when a man has fought a couple of wars side by side and he still doesn't have — when he comes home and there's no peace of mind and he wants to know what in the devil did I fight for, you've got more and more larger numbers of angry Black men, as — This is the kind of thing which is not conducive to nonviolence, is not conducive to the kind of sitting down at a table and working with the basic things which we have in fact have, so that this growing impatience, unless things are worked out and worked out quickly, we've got — set gradualism aside and try to utilize what we in fact do have, and if communication does not — I could say again open up, or does not reach a better level in the South.

We might not ever be able to, without the advent of violence, get to the point where Negroes and whites could sit and in fact mediate — come up with the solutions coming from a common bond which they in fact do have or which they might feel towards them because now more and more you can't blame a man for abandoning something which has never meant anything to him in that sense that it's always been a curse upon him, or you realize more and more that the Southern way everything that has ever been taught, everything that has ever felt that the South believes has come from something that has cursed me, and I just want to get away from it as quickly as I can. Some people might still feel I'll stay here and fight, I'll try to change it, but basically the times are ripe for a man standing up and realizing that even though there might be some things that I feel, or there might be a certain amount of understanding in me for what happens or what doesn't happen here, analyze now I've got to live now and I'm impatient and I can't wait for this kind of thing, and the more things happen the further away the kind of victory that I'd like to see, further away this kind of thing becomes, so that the impatience and feeling that if it takes violence, O.K., so we'll go to bat.

But these are also the kinds of things which tend to annihilate really those — the groups — so that if you don't have in the South, if you don't have some very, very quick communication between the two sides, that the realization {UNCLEAR} on one side which might be right in now thinking, well if they adjust a little more gradually, and if they wouldn't raise so much cain, you know, we're going to give them something, or it's coming in due time. Instead of that if there were a clear appraisal of what the situation is in the South and really what the situation is in the nation and less of the attitude of oh we're going to fight this tooth and nail, I think that we might really get much further along not only in our civil rights and in our present race struggle, but as far as the whole nation's growth and welfare is concerned, you know — 

Blair: I would say that I agree with what you say, Lucy, but {UNCLEAR} I think one of the main stumbling blocks that we have is the moderate in the civil rights struggle, it has reached a point now — 

Warren: Excuse me, the main what?

Blair: I think one of the main obstacles that we have is the [white?] moderate in the civil rights struggle. He's the one who's known for violence, you know; he's the one who always wants the community to return to normalcy, but at the same time he doesn't want justice to prevail in the community. I mean he is the one — well there was a time when the moderate was a good fellow — 

I think we moderates — but I think at the same time we need a moderate in the community who's going to say, well, it's about time we come right, you know, to justice. We keep giving the Negroes tokenism and tokenism, and really even though we have desegregation tomorrow and freedom now, this is all we ever really get is tokenism each time, after each movement; we get a little bit each time. And I feel this is what the movement is working on: tokenism, but I think unless something is done very seriously, that tokenism won't work, and I think the whole idea of the negotiations and everything to break down racial discrimination in the community on a wide level or what we call across the board level, is really going to break down, and when this does I think we can expect the worst. Now the people say I'm a pessimist, I always expect the worst {UNCLEAR} I would ask, and even asked what is across-the-board segregation, that we're going to get tokenism each time.

Warren: Let me ask you a question, Mr. Blair. If we come to violence, what's the consequence of violence? What is the expectation or hope or prediction for violence?

Blair: Well, the way {UNCLEAR} now, I — the law is definitely against the Negro in the South. Violence would not work for us, even though in many instances, it may be the effort to amend the anxieties that Negroes have, amend the frustrations which we have, to really maybe vent our emotions against the white for the many years — 

Warren: It would be an emotional expression.

Blair: It would be an emotion — 

Warren: But what comes after that expression?

BLAIR: If we have violence, it would definitely be, I think it would be against the movement, unless there was some outside aid for many countries abroad to the desegregation movement. And I don't think we'll get this from Panama, from Cuba, from Russia or anybody else. When it comes down to it, Negroes are pretty {UNCLEAR} within their own country, and it's really going to be a fight where we have to stand alone.

Violence would not work, I don't think. It might work to a limited degree; we might get a limited answer or solution to our problems, but if we use violence, if we attack, which we don't have the weapons and everything to do, it will be like a — it's going to massacre, it would be — we're outnumbered numberwise; we're outnumbered with guns, we're outnumbered so far as the law is concerned, because in most communities, in reality, and disregarding the {UNCLEAR} concerning the law, the police, which supposedly is to secure the community peace, is really used in many instances to uphold segregation {UNCLEAR} in Princess Anne County {UNCLEAR} is a good — for example, in Birmingham.

Wheeler: I know that in violence, very well, we would be outnumbered in massacres and so on, and I agree with it and would plan, in terms of our inability to really put up a good fight, but I say as soon as you start saying we're beat before we started, then the whole — the depth of what you're doing, has been lessened because you're not willing to take it all the way. I personally am willing to take it all the way. If I've got to get shot, then I've got to get shot. And I think as long as you say, well, my back is up against the wall, even though I can't win I'm going to fight anyway; as long as you let whoever's pushing you up against the wall know that, you have a much better chance of the in-between negotiations winning and maybe of bringing you up against the wall and you start kicking back; maybe that'll win too, but I think there's a point at which Negroes start thinking, well, we can't win anyway — 

Blair: I'm not saying we can't win, Jeannie, I say — 

Wheeler: I say don't let it color — I mean let it color but let the main working base be I'm in it all the way.

Blair: I'm in it all the way, true, too, but if violence came and I had no other resort but to protect my home and my family, I would have to do this. I'm not — I don't read it the same way as Martin Luther King reads it. I read in the whole Civil Rights Movement more from the political standpoint of view. I am not a minister and I don't take the same view that many ministers take, a nonviolent attitude.

I think there comes a time when a man has to stand up, and in America, as it was brought out, people respect a man who is brave, who is brave and who will stand up for a cause. Now if these — this leads to violence, I say let it come. As Frederick Douglass said, those people who run away from violence, who want a social change, might as well be asking for it to rain without thunder and lightning; it's impossible for crops to grow without rain. It's impossible. You can't have the crops to grow without rain, you see. Or you can't have the sea without its mighty roar; these things are impossible. And so I say if violence comes, let it come. I'm here. I'm not going to stay away from it, but I don't advocate the situation.


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