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Stokely Carmichael, Charlie Cobb, and Courtland Cox discuss the philosophy of SNCC ; part 3

BROADCAST: Jul. 23, 1965 | DURATION: 00:32:06

Synopsis

Stokely Carmichael, Charlie Cobb, and Courtland Cox discuss civil rights and African Americans in politics. Discussing the philosophy of SNCC.

Transcript

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Stokely Carmichael Now what I see that that they do for SNCC, and I know about SNCC best, and not other things, they isolate SNCC by saying, communism, anarchism--

Studs Terkel Irresponsible kids.

Stokely Carmichael Irresponsible kids--and those are the labels that they give to them. Well, what I found out about all of that, is Charlie's theory on communism: that the guys who say this, those are the real communists in this country. Now, let us take, for instance, Evans and Novak, and I have to read those guys to find out who's who in SNCC. [laughter] They tell me. They start off with a fact, a conclusion, that SNCC is communist and they start off with that fact because they want to do something--they want to isolate SNCC. And, so, that's how they start off. They don't start off with let's know SNCC and see what it's about, if it is, indeed, communist; they start off with the fact that it is communist and now they have to prove it. But it doesn't really matter what they say once they've already formed their conclusion.

Studs Terkel It's the postulate they set. Yeah.

Stokely Carmichael So that's how they isolate people. And that's what happens. Now, it seems to me the job of SNCC people is to move around so fast and spread out, far out, that they--we won't just let them do that, because then they can isolate other people in the country, too. And we have to stop them from isolating people because the worst thing in this country is isolation, and that's what's happened to Negro sharecroppers.

Studs Terkel Or labeling, another way of labeling. I'm sorry--

Stokely Carmichael Well, the labeling is just to isolate them. That's what happened to Negroes in this society--they have been isolated. They've been cut off. They've been isolated for all sorts of racial myths, you know: they're lazy, they're dirty, they're filthy, they're prostitutes, and what have you.

Courtland Cox And they eat watermelon in the summertime.

Stokely Carmichael And they eat watermelon in the summertime, and drink wine on Friday night.

Courtland Cox And Saturday.

Charlie Cobb Saturday.

Studs Terkel This point of isolation, as you say, this isolation that, of course, it also stops conversation, stops thinking, of course, naturally. And, so, we don't know who man is, coming right back, so it's the uniform that, in a sense is [the barrier?].

Charlie Cobb Exactly. There's no way, I mean, that there really isn't, see, any way to see another person as another person. That, maybe, shows up sharpest in, say, the relationships between Negroes and white people in this country, and in the whole questions about our foreign policy. And that, maybe, because that I'm very much aware of what being a Negro means that I just sort of lump--I mean, all our overtly aggressive actions have been directed towards "non-white people"--wrap that in quotes--"non-white." So you have the Viet Cong, and the Chinese, you know, the Russians are moving closer to us, I think. And Latin America, and Negroes--

Stokely Carmichael DuBois was right.

Charlie Cobb I don't think there's any real way--

Studs Terkel That was DuBois' point.

Charlie Cobb There's any real way, say, to really put the people of the United States in touch with the people of Vietnam or Latin America simply because physical difference--distance. But it might be possible to use Negroes in this country. Because, see, I think that the United States is going to destroy itself if it keeps going the way it goes in terms of its foreign policy. And that the only hope for the country is Negroes in this country, and whether or not the country can use Negroes. As, I think, either Stokely or Courtland pointed out earlier, you know, as sort of a sharp, sharp reflection. And what the Negroes are trying to do, say, in the South. I mean, you got the, see, the country could mobilize around Reverend Reeb in Alabama cause he, he's white, he was middle class, and a minister, and was something they could tie into. Jimmy Lee Jackson was a Negro. That's the uniform, as Stokely said. There was no way for the country to mobilize. I didn't even expect it. I mean, there's just no way for the country to be able to mobilize around Jimmy Lee Jackson. It had to be Reverend Reeb, or Viola Liuzzo that caused the reaction in the country to that. Now, I just don't think that that can exist, if this country is to exist. I mean, it just cannot. And that [in?] some kind of way, people have to learn in this country how to see other people beyond the uniforms, or the labels, or the definitions. And what's implied in that, then, is that people, say, [in order to really get seen?] what--have to start, have to start doing for themselves, I guess. I mean, that's what makes people sit up and take notice at all. I mean, Negroes would have just been, like, I mean, just been a something there in the country and not--the country wouldn't have been aware of them. I mean, if they hadn't gotten into motion all around the country. I mean, nobody would have paid any attention to those folk in Alabama, Mississippi. Nobody's really paying any attention to anybody up on the South Side of Chicago, or the West Side of Chicago, or in Harlem, or in Bedford, Stuyvesant--

Courtland Cox Or in the Appalachia.

Charlie Cobb Or poor people in the Appalachian. Now, that's the perfect example and that's not, those are not even Negroes. I mean, there you have folk that are real poor, they're white, they're not "educated." I mean, you know, people look on 'em as trash--that's what they call 'em: trash. And it was a girl who wrote a poem, too. Jane--

Courtland Cox That's right.

Charlie Cobb Stembridge.

Studs Terkel Jane Stembridge.

Charlie Cobb And she was talking about white trash. She's a white Southerner and she said--I remember the last phrase of it--[in which she come?] and trash is something that's thrown away. There are comments about that.

Charlie Cobb I think it's interesting that Charlie Cobb, and Stokely Carmichael, and Courtney [sic] Cox are here, three SNCC field workers talking about the situation just, not too long ago, Berman Gibson, and John Blair, and Joan [Oric?], three Appalachian miners were here, talking almost the very words, the very language you're using right now; almost a parallel. It was incredible. The very thing about being considered nothing in the fight for sense of personal worth. This parallel again is--

Stokely Carmichael Now that's, see, you gotta broaden that across the country, because people in the country just think that it goes on in the South. I mean, that's how SNCC people view things, and that's how the country view things. All the people in the country view Mississippi and the deep South as an illegitimate state of the United States and therefore it must be brought into the United States real quick. We view Mississippi and the southern states as a very good mirror for the United States. And that the things that go on in Mississippi and Alabama are precisely what goes on in the United States but it's stripped of all its sophistication. It's just very crude. Very, very crude.

Charlie Cobb The guy gets an ulcer on Madison Avenue in advertising rather than a bent or a broken back picking cotton in a Mississippi cotton field. That's what happens.

Stokely Carmichael Racially, I mean, I remember when James Meredith was applying for the University of Mississippi, and I looked through every newspaper, and I listened to every radio and every television thing because I think that the highest title in this country is Mister. That's a fact. That's the highest title in this country.

Studs Terkel Mister?

Stokely Carmichael Mister. And there wasn't one newspaper, including all the liberal, so-called liberal newspapers, one television commentator, one radio announcer that said Mr. James Meredith. They all said Negro James Meredith. And when he became a student they said Negro student James Meredith.

Studs Terkel So we come to uniform again, don't we?

Stokely Carmichael Back to the uniform.

Studs Terkel Back to uniform.

Courtland Cox Negro Meredith, too. I mean, I think that Reverend Reeb also had a uniform, but that uniform was something that the country could identify with, and that they liked, and had a--I mean, it's like when Kennedy got killed, when Adlai Stevenson died. I mean, people could identify with that uniform and they--and they didn't identify with the man. I mean, I mean, they just, I mean, I mean people could give a lot of emotions for causes, and images, and stuff. I mean, we live on images.

Studs Terkel Perhaps, this is almost the basic, if--there are several themes, several credos involving the Student Nonviolent Coordinating--but this theme of breaking away, of looking at--for one thing you're presenting a mirror to us. And the other thing is, in the mirror it says the uniforms must go if we are to survive--what you were saying, Charlie, and Stokely, and Courtland were saying--in a sense, the Negro revolution, and certainly as articulated by SNCC, is our salvation, really, in a sense. Or else we're sunk, is what you're saying. You know what I was thinking? We could, perhaps, talk about, you mentioned Fannie Lou Hamer, and she's a remarkable woman. There are many Fannie Lou Hamers, aren't there? Where you've been, see. Aren't there?

Stokely Carmichael Yes, certainly.

Studs Terkel I'm sure each of you, I know you have countless, each of you has countless experiences and incidences. But just arbitrarily--vivid recollections of certain people that come to your mind, somewhere in Mississippi, Alabama, anywhere. Certain guys who [unintelligible]--

Stokely Carmichael I'll tell you about a guy--his name is Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is 82 years old. I'm working in Lowndes County now, in Alabama. That's the county where Mrs. Liuzzo got shot, and it's supposed to be the worst county in Alabama. Mr. Jackson is illiterate. Cannot read and he cannot write. On the first day that we went canvassing to get people to go down to the courthouse I met Mr. Jackson. I remember very vividly. He was an old man and I sat down and spoke to him about voting. And he kept saying, "Son, I wants to vote." He said, "I wants to vote. I've been wanting to vote for the longest time cause then I could be a first-class citizen. And I'm tired of being pushed around." And I asked Mr. Jackson, I said, "Well, Mr. Jackson, you know, if we want to vote what we got to do is you've got to go on down to the courthouse and bring a lot of people together, and more people will go down and then we can have meetings, and people can start talking about a lot of things that affect their lives." He came down. And I didn't know he was illiterate at that time, but it didn't make any difference to me because I feel everybody's got a right to vote, illiterate or not illiterate. Of course, some of the cats that run the country--I wonder about them. So, Mr. Jackson came on down. Then we were going to file a suit against Lowndes County, and they decided that they wouldn't use the literacy test anymore, you just write your name. And I went back to see Mr. Jackson and I told him about it. And Mr. Jackson said he'd be glad to come down. He went back in and they sent him out. I asked him what was wrong. And there were tears in his eyes and he said, "I can't read or write." Now, I thought he was crying because he couldn't read or write. So I began to explain to him that, you know, we just began to talk and he told me about how when he was young he couldn't go to school, the white folks made him pick cotton on their land, and--see, I have my own thinking about that--that if white people don't educate you then they don't have the right to turn around and make education a requirement for voting. Now, I don't agree with education as a requirement for doing anything in this country. I mean, that's all it becomes anyway--a criteria for status. But, anyway, Mr. Jackson started to cry, and when I was consoling him he said, "That isn't what's bothering me." He said, "I just wants to vote. I just wants to vote." I remember that very clearly. Of course, he said, "Can you teach me how to read and write?" He wanted to vote so badly, 82 years old, and Mr. Jackson wanted to learn to read and write.

Charlie Cobb Shortly after, you know, we began the vote drive a few years ago in Ruleville, and the violence stopped everybody. And after a few months, you know, it began to get people to dribble down to the courthouse again. We started to take them down again. And we had to go, three of us who were working the community, had to go somewhere for a meeting or something. And we had that night a community meeting, which we explained, you know, how we understood how, you know, everybody had scheduled, you know, a big registration day at the beginning of the weekend. This was a Thursday night. But that we definitely had to go, so that we could cancel it, if, since we wouldn't be there to take people down to the courthouse. And Mrs. Johnson, who is a very active lady in the movement--Irene Johnson--active lady in the movement in Ruleville, stood up at that point and explained, told us to go on. Said, cause it's time that white folks down there knew that it was them that wanted to register to vote. And that it was their town, and not our town, pointing to us, and they were going to go down by themselves from then on, you know, to show that it was them that wanted to register to vote. The same thing happened in Issaquena when we worked it, you know, that's a county that never had any Negroes registered to vote since Reconstruction, you know. And we brought down the first six to Mayersville, a little town of 187 people, to register and the word just spread in the county. And we were working from outside that county. We were working about four counties, so we'd be, like, driving around. And we never brought down anybody else after that; folks went down on their own, initiated their own action for a court suit, which is coming up for a hearing sometime this summer. You know, and have their own, had a school boycott and set up their own school system. See, the county didn't have any schools. You had to go to school in the next county. So they, some of the kids were expelled for wearing SNCC buttons to the school--

Studs Terkel But doing it on their own, now. That's the thing.

Charlie Cobb Yeah. That's the thing. See, now they decide, now they have the county broken up into f--well, I was just there two weeks ago--four areas. There's a meeting five--there's a meeting in, five nights a week, in different spots in the county. You know, held by different people in the county. And they just, that's the best, that's the significant thing, I mean, about all the work. Even the FDP, and the challenge.

Studs Terkel I want to ask about that challenge in a moment. Courtland, is there a, an experience that comes to your mind? Or a person?

Courtland Cox Well, I don't, I don't think so. I think that, I mean, I would like to, I mean the thing that struck me, I mean, most of the tales, the det--the specific instances you can give such as, I mean, a old woman about 82 years old, those people. I mean, those instances are probably the most beautiful. When a woman got up and just said that, I mean, that before we came she, she wasn't scared, she just didn't know any better. And that now that--they call her Miss Freedom in Itta Bena, you know? That, I mean, that now that, I mean, she knows better, and that she isn't scared anymore, and she isn't afraid to act. I mean, and, I mean, and that, that this whole thing that happens, say, with a woman like Miss Blackwell, who comes up from Issaquena Country, and people like Miss Palmer, who live in Jackson, that things like the FDP and the experiment--when they can get up and speak about the FDP as theirs, as they're acting in their interest, and their feeling that they can control, and move in that arena as they well please because it's theirs. It doesn't belong to anybody else.

Studs Terkel You know, you said something earlier. I forget, one of the three of you said something--that you learn from them as well. Now, something happens to them, quite conceivably--there are these people you talked about--for the first time in their lives, I imagine, something--there's somebody, you know? And you, yourselves, have learned, too. Haven't you? From them?

Courtland Cox It's true.

Charlie Cobb Yeah. I mean, I think that, say, if you were to compare the FDP--see, it's right--the FDP belongs to that membership. I mean, they can use it. I mean, that's the significant thing: that that's something that people can use. I mean, for whatever they want to do. Now, I think that, see, that that's really--that kind of work--has really, is really what's operating to make SNCC, say, what it is, because SNCC is what, say, the people in SNCC use it for. And people use it for different things, see? I used it just a couple of months ago to work in a political campaign.

Studs Terkel This is in Julian Bond, the poet, was elected to the Georgia state legislature.

Charlie Cobb Right. And Courtland, you know, uses it in his efforts to tie, you know, the Vietnam to civil rights thing. I mean, that's part of his work. And Stokely uses it for his field work in Alabama. And there are other people that use it for different things. And that it belongs to those 200 people in it to shape, and move in it, in our own--I mean, we move in SNCC in a way differently that we move in the FDP, cause in a lot of senses, you know, that we have to be outside of that.

Studs Terkel Yes. Well, since you mentioned, perhaps we should come to this, the challenge: the Freedom Democratic Party has a challenge forthcoming, isn't there?

Charlie Cobb The challenge is on. I mean--

Studs Terkel The challenge is on.

Charlie Cobb It's been going on

Studs Terkel for the last six months. I mean, what's the latest development in it?

Courtland Cox Well, you know, the clerk, they got so petty that the clerk just refused to print the depositions that were taken in Mississippi. And after a lot of pressure, including the sitting-in of 10, 11 Mississippians in the clerk's office, that they decided to print it. Now, what's happening now is that the people from Mississippi are now raising funds in the backwoods and so forth to come to Washington, D.C. at the end of August to see about their challenge. And they intend to bring about a thousand people up for that. And they're trying to think--they're trying to get a freedom train, they call it, they want to get a freedom train which they would bring the people from Mississippi to Washington to do that, to lobby for a challenge and try to get [help?]--

Studs Terkel When is this? Is there a date for that?

Courtland Cox It'll probably be at the end of August. And what, I mean, hopefully people around the country, you know, who will take the advice of that man and not just use their mouths to eat and say, "Yes, suh."

Studs Terkel Put their money--yeah.

Courtland Cox Yeah, it's time to act. And to move [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel In this case, if I may just rephrase that, put their money where their mouth is, too.

Courtland Cox That's right.

Studs Terkel If I may suggest to ask a question: where? A vital statistic, you know. I suppose some listeners would like to contribute. Where shall they send it?

Stokely Carmichael Send it to the Atlanta office for the funds--

Courtland Cox Well, if they wanted to, if they wanted to contribute to the FDP they would send to 507 and 1/2 North Farish.

Studs Terkel 507 and 1/2?

Courtland Cox North Farish Street, Jackson, Mississippi.

Studs Terkel Farish? F? Yeah, Farish street. In Jackson, Mississippi?

Courtland Cox P h a r--F a r i s h.

Studs Terkel

Courtland Cox F? Yeah, Farish street.

Studs Terkel P h a r--F a r i s h. Farish. Oh, Farish? In Jackson, Mississippi?

Stokely Carmichael 507 and 1/2

Studs Terkel North. 507 and 1/2 North.

Charlie Cobb While we're talking about funds--

Courtland Cox If they want to talk about--

Charlie Cobb Yeah, now, if they want to contribute, see, SNCC is fifteen thousand dollars in debt.

Studs Terkel I think we should point out--can I ask you a question?

Charlie Cobb I want to point that out for your listeners.

Studs Terkel How do you guys live? I

Courtland Cox want to ask this--perhaps the audience can-- Well, we didn't get paid this week. And last week. We didn't get paid last week and we won't get paid, probably, until two weeks from now.

Studs Terkel Yeah, what is your munificent salary?

Stokely Carmichael Ten dollars a week is what it [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel That's, I think we should [unintelligible]--

Stokely Carmichael See, a lot of people talk about that. Now, I think that's the greatest thing for SNCC. And that I would never want to see that salary raised because, in my own mind, I think that a lot of other people who do this type of work, and get a lucrative salary, they begin to make a profession out of that.

Courtland Cox They work for the salary, not for the work.

Stokely Carmichael Yeah. And, see, I don't think that anybody in this country, aside from Mississippi sharecroppers, [would? will?] work for $10 a week.

Studs Terkel I think I'd like to emphasize that point, though, if I may, to the listeners--that the SNCC field workers, they get 10 bucks a week, when they get paid. And, so, SNCC is 15 grand in the hole and you have, naturally, there are many places people can send their dough to, but SNCC, it's S N I C K, you don't spell the whole word--Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee--where? Where should we say?

Courtland Cox 360 Nelson Street Southwest, Atlanta, Georgia.

Studs Terkel 360 Nelson Street Southwest, Atlanta. Atlanta, Georgia.

Courtland Cox What we're doing now, the staff in Atlanta there, they're buying--what do they have now? They have, I get, cornbread mix. They're making cornbread, and a lot of beans, and, I think, franks. And they alternate, you know.

Studs Terkel That's your diet? Well, that's very--that's your Chateaubriand.

Courtland Cox

Studs Terkel Now what I see that that they do for SNCC, and I know about SNCC best, and not other things, they isolate SNCC by saying, communism, anarchism-- Irresponsible kids. Irresponsible kids--and those are the labels that they give to them. Well, what I found out about all of that, is Charlie's theory on communism: that the guys who say this, those are the real communists in this country. Now, let us take, for instance, Evans and Novak, and I have to read those guys to find out who's who in SNCC. [laughter] They tell me. They start off with a fact, a conclusion, that SNCC is communist and they start off with that fact because they want to do something--they want to isolate SNCC. And, so, that's how they start off. They don't start off with let's know SNCC and see what it's about, if it is, indeed, communist; they start off with the fact that it is communist and now they have to prove it. But it doesn't really matter what they say once they've already formed their conclusion. It's the postulate they set. Yeah. So that's how they isolate people. And that's what happens. Now, it seems to me the job of SNCC people is to move around so fast and spread out, far out, that they--we won't just let them do that, because then they can isolate other people in the country, too. And we have to stop them from isolating people because the worst thing in this country is isolation, and that's what's happened to Negro sharecroppers. Or labeling, another way of labeling. I'm sorry-- Well, the labeling is just to isolate them. That's what happened to Negroes in this society--they have been isolated. They've been cut off. They've been isolated for all sorts of racial myths, you know: they're lazy, they're dirty, they're filthy, they're prostitutes, and what have you. And they eat watermelon in the summertime. And they eat watermelon in the summertime, and drink wine on Friday night. And Saturday. Saturday. This point of isolation, as you say, this isolation that, of course, it also stops conversation, stops thinking, of course, naturally. And, so, we don't know who man is, coming right back, so it's the uniform that, in a sense is [the barrier?]. Exactly. There's no way, I mean, that there really isn't, see, any way to see another person as another person. That, maybe, shows up sharpest in, say, the relationships between Negroes and white people in this country, and in the whole questions about our foreign policy. And that, maybe, because that I'm very much aware of what being a Negro means that I just sort of lump--I mean, all our overtly aggressive actions have been directed towards "non-white people"--wrap that in quotes--"non-white." So you have the Viet Cong, and the Chinese, you know, the Russians are moving closer to us, I think. And Latin America, and Negroes-- DuBois was right. I don't think there's any real way-- That was DuBois' point. There's any real way, say, to really put the people of the United States in touch with the people of Vietnam or Latin America simply because physical difference--distance. But it might be possible to use Negroes in this country. Because, see, I think that the United States is going to destroy itself if it keeps going the way it goes in terms of its foreign policy. And that the only hope for the country is Negroes in this country, and whether or not the country can use Negroes. As, I think, either Stokely or Courtland pointed out earlier, you know, as sort of a sharp, sharp reflection. And what the Negroes are trying to do, say, in the South. I mean, you got the, see, the country could mobilize around Reverend Reeb in Alabama cause he, he's white, he was middle class, and a minister, and was something they could tie into. Jimmy Lee Jackson was a Negro. That's the uniform, as Stokely said. There was no way for the country to mobilize. I didn't even expect it. I mean, there's just no way for the country to be able to mobilize around Jimmy Lee Jackson. It had to be Reverend Reeb, or Viola Liuzzo that caused the reaction in the country to that. Now, I just don't think that that can exist, if this country is to exist. I mean, it just cannot. And that [in?] some kind of way, people have to learn in this country how to see other people beyond the uniforms, or the labels, or the definitions. And what's implied in that, then, is that people, say, [in order to really get seen?] what--have to start, have to start doing for themselves, I guess. I mean, that's what makes people sit up and take notice at all. I mean, Negroes would have just been, like, I mean, just been a something there in the country and not--the country wouldn't have been aware of them. I mean, if they hadn't gotten into motion all around the country. I mean, nobody would have paid any attention to those folk in Alabama, Mississippi. Nobody's really paying any attention to anybody up on the South Side of Chicago, or the West Side of Chicago, or in Harlem, or in Bedford, Stuyvesant-- Or in the Appalachia. Or poor people in the Appalachian. Now, that's the perfect example and that's not, those are not even Negroes. I mean, there you have folk that are real poor, they're white, they're not "educated." I mean, you know, people look on 'em as trash--that's what they call 'em: trash. And it was a girl who wrote a poem, too. Jane-- That's right. Stembridge. Jane Stembridge. And she was talking about white trash. She's a white Southerner and she said--I remember the last phrase of it--[in which she come?] and trash is something that's thrown away. There are comments about that. I think it's interesting that Charlie Cobb, and Stokely Carmichael, and Courtney [sic] Cox are here, three SNCC field workers talking about the situation just, not too long ago, Berman Gibson, and John Blair, and Joan [Oric?], three Appalachian miners were here, talking almost the very words, the very language you're using right now; almost a parallel. It was incredible. The very thing about being considered nothing in the fight for sense of personal worth. This parallel again is-- Now that's, see, you gotta broaden that across the country, because people in the country just think that it goes on in the South. I mean, that's how SNCC people view things, and that's how the country view things. All the people in the country view Mississippi and the deep South as an illegitimate state of the United States and therefore it must be brought into the United States real quick. We view Mississippi and the southern states as a very good mirror for the United States. And that the things that go on in Mississippi and Alabama are precisely what goes on in the United States but it's stripped of all its sophistication. It's just very crude. Very, very crude. The guy gets an ulcer on Madison Avenue in advertising rather than a bent or a broken back picking cotton in a Mississippi cotton field. That's what happens. Racially, I mean, I remember when James Meredith was applying for the University of Mississippi, and I looked through every newspaper, and I listened to every radio and every television thing because I think that the highest title in this country is Mister. That's a fact. That's the highest title in this country. Mister? Mister. And there wasn't one newspaper, including all the liberal, so-called liberal newspapers, one television commentator, one radio announcer that said Mr. James Meredith. They all said Negro James Meredith. And when he became a student they said Negro student James Meredith. So we come to uniform again, don't we? Back to the uniform. Back to uniform. Negro Meredith, too. I mean, I think that Reverend Reeb also had a uniform, but that uniform was something that the country could identify with, and that they liked, and had a--I mean, it's like when Kennedy got killed, when Adlai Stevenson died. I mean, people could identify with that uniform and they--and they didn't identify with the man. I mean, I mean, they just, I mean, I mean people could give a lot of emotions for causes, and images, and stuff. I mean, we live on images. Perhaps, this is almost the basic, if--there are several themes, several credos involving the Student Nonviolent Coordinating--but this theme of breaking away, of looking at--for one thing you're presenting a mirror to us. And the other thing is, in the mirror it says the uniforms must go if we are to survive--what you were saying, Charlie, and Stokely, and Courtland were saying--in a sense, the Negro revolution, and certainly as articulated by SNCC, is our salvation, really, in a sense. Or else we're sunk, is what you're saying. You know what I was thinking? We could, perhaps, talk about, you mentioned Fannie Lou Hamer, and she's a remarkable woman. There are many Fannie Lou Hamers, aren't there? Where you've been, see. Aren't there? Yes, certainly. I'm sure each of you, I know you have countless, each of you has countless experiences and incidences. But just arbitrarily--vivid recollections of certain people that come to your mind, somewhere in Mississippi, Alabama, anywhere. Certain guys who [unintelligible]-- I'll tell you about a guy--his name is Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is 82 years old. I'm working in Lowndes County now, in Alabama. That's the county where Mrs. Liuzzo got shot, and it's supposed to be the worst county in Alabama. Mr. Jackson is illiterate. Cannot read and he cannot write. On the first day that we went canvassing to get people to go down to the courthouse I met Mr. Jackson. I remember very vividly. He was an old man and I sat down and spoke to him about voting. And he kept saying, "Son, I wants to vote." He said, "I wants to vote. I've been wanting to vote for the longest time cause then I could be a first-class citizen. And I'm tired of being pushed around." And I asked Mr. Jackson, I said, "Well, Mr. Jackson, you know, if we want to vote what we got to do is you've got to go on down to the courthouse and bring a lot of people together, and more people will go down and then we can have meetings, and people can start talking about a lot of things that affect their lives." He came down. And I didn't know he was illiterate at that time, but it didn't make any difference to me because I feel everybody's got a right to vote, illiterate or not illiterate. Of course, some of the cats that run the country--I wonder about them. So, Mr. Jackson came on down. Then we were going to file a suit against Lowndes County, and they decided that they wouldn't use the literacy test anymore, you just write your name. And I went back to see Mr. Jackson and I told him about it. And Mr. Jackson said he'd be glad to come down. He went back in and they sent him out. I asked him what was wrong. And there were tears in his eyes and he said, "I can't read or write." Now, I thought he was crying because he couldn't read or write. So I began to explain to him that, you know, we just began to talk and he told me about how when he was young he couldn't go to school, the white folks made him pick cotton on their land, and--see, I have my own thinking about that--that if white people don't educate you then they don't have the right to turn around and make education a requirement for voting. Now, I don't agree with education as a requirement for doing anything in this country. I mean, that's all it becomes anyway--a criteria for status. But, anyway, Mr. Jackson started to cry, and when I was consoling him he said, "That isn't what's bothering me." He said, "I just wants to vote. I just wants to vote." I remember that very clearly. Of course, he said, "Can you teach me how to read and write?" He wanted to vote so badly, 82 years old, and Mr. Jackson wanted to learn to read and write. Shortly after, you know, we began the vote drive a few years ago in Ruleville, and the violence stopped everybody. And after a few months, you know, it began to get people to dribble down to the courthouse again. We started to take them down again. And we had to go, three of us who were working the community, had to go somewhere for a meeting or something. And we had that night a community meeting, which we explained, you know, how we understood how, you know, everybody had scheduled, you know, a big registration day at the beginning of the weekend. This was a Thursday night. But that we definitely had to go, so that we could cancel it, if, since we wouldn't be there to take people down to the courthouse. And Mrs. Johnson, who is a very active lady in the movement--Irene Johnson--active lady in the movement in Ruleville, stood up at that point and explained, told us to go on. Said, cause it's time that white folks down there knew that it was them that wanted to register to vote. And that it was their town, and not our town, pointing to us, and they were going to go down by themselves from then on, you know, to show that it was them that wanted to register to vote. The same thing happened in Issaquena when we worked it, you know, that's a county that never had any Negroes registered to vote since Reconstruction, you know. And we brought down the first six to Mayersville, a little town of 187 people, to register and the word just spread in the county. And we were working from outside that county. We were working about four counties, so we'd be, like, driving around. And we never brought down anybody else after that; folks went down on their own, initiated their own action for a court suit, which is coming up for a hearing sometime this summer. You know, and have their own, had a school boycott and set up their own school system. See, the county didn't have any schools. You had to go to school in the next county. So they, some of the kids were expelled for wearing SNCC buttons to the school-- But doing it on their own, now. That's the thing. Yeah. That's the thing. See, now they decide, now they have the county broken up into f--well, I was just there two weeks ago--four areas. There's a meeting five--there's a meeting in, five nights a week, in different spots in the county. You know, held by different people in the county. And they just, that's the best, that's the significant thing, I mean, about all the work. Even the FDP, and the challenge. I want to ask about that challenge in a moment. Courtland, is there a, an experience that comes to your mind? Or a person? Well, I don't, I don't think so. I think that, I mean, I would like to, I mean the thing that struck me, I mean, most of the tales, the det--the specific instances you can give such as, I mean, a old woman about 82 years old, those people. I mean, those instances are probably the most beautiful. When a woman got up and just said that, I mean, that before we came she, she wasn't scared, she just didn't know any better. And that now that--they call her Miss Freedom in Itta Bena, you know? That, I mean, that now that, I mean, she knows better, and that she isn't scared anymore, and she isn't afraid to act. I mean, and, I mean, and that, that this whole thing that happens, say, with a woman like Miss Blackwell, who comes up from Issaquena Country, and people like Miss Palmer, who live in Jackson, that things like the FDP and the experiment--when they can get up and speak about the FDP as theirs, as they're acting in their interest, and their feeling that they can control, and move in that arena as they well please because it's theirs. It doesn't belong to anybody else. You know, you said something earlier. I forget, one of the three of you said something--that you learn from them as well. Now, something happens to them, quite conceivably--there are these people you talked about--for the first time in their lives, I imagine, something--there's somebody, you know? And you, yourselves, have learned, too. Haven't you? From them? It's true. Yeah. I mean, I think that, say, if you were to compare the FDP--see, it's right--the FDP belongs to that membership. I mean, they can use it. I mean, that's the significant thing: that that's something that people can use. I mean, for whatever they want to do. Now, I think that, see, that that's really--that kind of work--has really, is really what's operating to make SNCC, say, what it is, because SNCC is what, say, the people in SNCC use it for. And people use it for different things, see? I used it just a couple of months ago to work in a political campaign. This is in Julian Bond, the poet, was elected to the Georgia state legislature. Right. And Courtland, you know, uses it in his efforts to tie, you know, the Vietnam to civil rights thing. I mean, that's part of his work. And Stokely uses it for his field work in Alabama. And there are other people that use it for different things. And that it belongs to those 200 people in it to shape, and move in it, in our own--I mean, we move in SNCC in a way differently that we move in the FDP, cause in a lot of senses, you know, that we have to be outside of that. Yes. Well, since you mentioned, perhaps we should come to this, the challenge: the Freedom Democratic Party has a challenge forthcoming, isn't there? The challenge is on. I mean-- The challenge is on. It's been going on for the last six months. I mean, what's the latest development in it? Well, you know, the clerk, they got so petty that the clerk just refused to print the depositions that were taken in Mississippi. And after a lot of pressure, including the sitting-in of 10, 11 Mississippians in the clerk's office, that they decided to print it. Now, what's happening now is that the people from Mississippi are now raising funds in the backwoods and so forth to come to Washington, D.C. at the end of August to see about their challenge. And they intend to bring about a thousand people up for that. And they're trying to think--they're trying to get a freedom train, they call it, they want to get a freedom train which they would bring the people from Mississippi to Washington to do that, to lobby for a challenge and try to get [help?]-- When is this? Is there a date for that? It'll probably be at the end of August. And what, I mean, hopefully people around the country, you know, who will take the advice of that man and not just use their mouths to eat and say, "Yes, suh." Put their money--yeah. Yeah, it's time to act. And to move [unintelligible]. In this case, if I may just rephrase that, put their money where their mouth is, too. That's right. If I may suggest to ask a question: where? A vital statistic, you know. I suppose some listeners would like to contribute. Where shall they send it? Send it to the Atlanta office for the funds-- Well, if they wanted to, if they wanted to contribute to the FDP they would send to 507 and 1/2 North Farish. 507 and 1/2? North Farish Street, Jackson, Mississippi. Farish? F? P h a r--F a r i s h. Farish. Oh, Farish? Yeah, Farish street. In Jackson, Mississippi? 507 and 1/2 North. 507 and 1/2 North. While we're talking about funds-- If they want to talk about-- Yeah, now, if they want to contribute, see, SNCC is fifteen thousand dollars in debt. I think we should point out--can I ask you a question? I want to point that out for your listeners. How do you guys live? I want to ask this--perhaps the audience can-- Well, we didn't get paid this week. And last week. We didn't get paid last week and we won't get paid, probably, until two weeks from now. Yeah, what is your munificent salary? Ten dollars a week is what it [unintelligible]. That's, I think we should [unintelligible]-- See, a lot of people talk about that. Now, I think that's the greatest thing for SNCC. And that I would never want to see that salary raised because, in my own mind, I think that a lot of other people who do this type of work, and get a lucrative salary, they begin to make a profession out of that. They work for the salary, not for the work. Yeah. And, see, I don't think that anybody in this country, aside from Mississippi sharecroppers, [would? will?] work for $10 a week. I think I'd like to emphasize that point, though, if I may, to the listeners--that the SNCC field workers, they get 10 bucks a week, when they get paid. And, so, SNCC is 15 grand in the hole and you have, naturally, there are many places people can send their dough to, but SNCC, it's S N I C K, you don't spell the whole word--Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee--where? Where should we say? 360 Nelson Street Southwest, Atlanta, Georgia. 360 Nelson Street Southwest, Atlanta. Atlanta, Georgia. What we're doing now, the staff in Atlanta there, they're buying--what do they have now? They have, I get, cornbread mix. They're making cornbread, and a lot of beans, and, I think, franks. And they alternate, you know. That's your diet? Well, that's very--that's your Chateaubriand. Ha-ha. Could I ask, because sometimes, because of lack of funds, sometimes the actual people, themselves, you eat with them, don't you? I mean, the sharecroppers who live [and pray?]. I suppose sometimes you're their hosts, too?

Stokely Carmichael Oh, I eat with them all the time.

Charlie Cobb We eat with them.

Studs Terkel Yeah. I suppose the agony and the triumph, both, is that they share their meager, festive, quote unquote, board with you.

Stokely Carmichael Of course, I mean we live with the people. That's our job. We don't live in New York, or Chicago, and then tell the people what to do, or try to decide policy that's best for them. We live in the same house that they live in, and we eat the same food that they eat. You couldn't subsist, actually, in reality, on ten dollars a week. So you have to live with them and depend upon them to feed you. Now that's great because if you aren't doing the things that they want you to do then they won't feed you. So, if in reality, they really viewed us as communist, then they wouldn't feed us and we couldn't exist. So, my own thinking about that is, that they must see us as something good.

Courtland Cox But that also gives them a role to play. I mean, just, I mean, it makes them feel that they, I mean, that you have to depend on them and they have to depend on you.

Studs Terkel Of course, of course. Yeah. Again, the sense of self-worth.

Courtland Cox Yeah. That's the type--

Studs Terkel And pride comes out.

Courtland Cox And develop some sort of symbiotic relationship, and really--

Stokely Carmichael Sometimes it's parasitical. [laughter]

Studs Terkel You know, I was thinking, as we're talking, perhaps, it's almost two hours, it's a two-day program with our, I think, three deeply, tremendous insights here into what the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is about. And that, in short, what we are about, too, with Courtland Cox, and Charlie Cobb, and Stokely Carmichael. Perhaps one last go around, observations, reflections by each of you. We'll begin with Charlie Cobb. And this is a moment of triumph, too--Charlie was campaign manager for Julian Bond, one of the first--there were eight Negroes elected to--

Charlie Cobb Right.

Studs Terkel The Georgia state legislature, and you were Julian Bond's campaign manager. So, just reflections now as we're, before we say goodbye for now.

Charlie Cobb Well, mostly, you know, see, I'm interested in revolution. But I don't think that it's the overthrow of governments as, say, personified by some of the countries. I mean, I really think that it, that it's people working in, you know, interests that they define, they have a say about, they can shape. And that, that it's just something that people never get a chance to do. And that is to live for their work. And that, in that sense, that's SNCC's revolution, with the 200 people that are part of it. That there's a real opportunity. And despite, you know, all the problems that arise in that, there's a real opportunity to live for what we do, and define what we do. And that the revolution is in extending and sustaining that. I mean, that's where it lies. And it means that it has to be extended across or through racial lines. It has to be sustained, you know, above, you know, racial lines. I mean, something that involves people. And the big question is, what kind of things can people grab hold to that they can consider theirs, and do it, because, you know, it's their work. I mean, and that SNCC, in my own mind, is one of a few, very small spots in this country and world, you know, where that kind of opportunity exists. Just one of a very few spots. And I think, organizationally, in terms of whether or not we'll be able to continue, I think the answer to that question lies, you know, in, you know, whether or not we can--where we can extend to, and what we can tie in to, and plug in to, in terms of other people working.

Studs Terkel Courtland Cox?

Courtland Cox Well, I think that my feelings are similar to Charlie's. I think that I'm also interested in revolution and I think that the first stage of that revolution is to release energy. And I think that's, by definition, destroying apathy and getting rid of nonviolence--I mean, I mean getting rid of violence and instituting nonviolence. Because I think that people who aren't included, and who can't use their energies for constructive things, use them to destroy. And I think that what we have to do is to have people to use their energy for their own benefits and to improve their own self. And the second thing I think that we have to do is to hook those people who are working, and interested in bettering themselves in terms of their working, and acting, and moving, is that we have to hook them up with each other, and to get them to know each other, and just to sit down and talk about how they can do that. And I think therein lies the revolution, there. It's possible.

Studs Terkel Stokely Carmichael?

Stokely Carmichael Well, I want to talk a little about hooking up. I remember Bayard Rustin very well. He's a man who I consider one of my tutors, and one of my mentors, and a man I respect. I disagree with him now, politically, however. Because Bayard talks about coalition, and he says that the only salvation for the Negro is the Democratic Party, and allies hooking up with Walter Reuther and people of that ilk. I consider Reuther to be the most treacherous enemy of the civil rights movement, as Courtland would say.

Courtland Cox I'll never get a job in labor now, boy!

Charlie Cobb Get him.

Stokely Carmichael I mean, as far as I see, labor is interested in people who work. They're not interested in people who are unemployed. Clearly they can't be. That's not their interest. That's one. People in what Rustin calls the coalition are interested in their interest, and that clearly isn't the interests of the Negro. It is clear to me that if Johnson, President Johnson, selects Governor Coleman, the ex-governor of Mississippi to be a federal judge in Mississippi, that his interests, it seems very clear to me, is not with that of the Negro. And when Katzenbach, supposed to be the most liberal man in this country--

Courtland Cox On the Justice Department.

Stokely Carmichael Of the, and the Justice Department, says that Coleman is one of the best people he knows for that appointment, then I think there's something wrong with that whole Democratic Party. President Kennedy, the most liberal--quotes--president in this country, his first federal appointee was Judge Cox of Mississippi. Judge Cox was the judge who set 17 men free for killing three civil rights workers. Now, I have my own problems about whether or not you send people to jail, or kill them because they kill other people. But within the given structure that now exists they set them free. He set them free. And set bombers free. That was a federal appointee made by Kennedy. And now Johnson is doing the same thing. It's clear to me, then, that their interests aren't our interests. I don't see how Rustin can see their interests as our interests, or our salvation tied up with them. I think that you need a coalition. Definitely. But I don't think you need a coalition of what they call the big civil rights leaders, whoever they speak for. People like the Urban League, and the NAACP, and that ilk.

Courtland Cox And SNCC.

Stokely Carmichael I think that you need a coalition with people who, like, people in Mississippi, hooking up with people in Alabama, hooking up with people in the Appalachia. That's the kind of coalition that you need. Definitely. Because those people will talk about the things that affect their lives. I wanted to say that about coalition because there's a lot of talk about that, and that people say that SNCC people are politically naive and they don't understand coalitions. Now, I think, that we're politically sophisticated, that we understand it much better than people in New York, who always tell us about national interest. I think the one of the reasons why it's hard for SNCC to communicate with the rest of the country is because we think so very, very differently from the society. Because we see the underdog, always, first. And we see the society stripped of all its niceties. I mean, all the people that I work with in SNCC, a lot of them came out of ghettos. I mean, a lot of 'em first-generation college people, but they grew up in that violent atmosphere, in the Harlems, in the South Sides of the Chicagos. And they came up through that life. So that their thinking now is entirely different, because they thought that college was the way out, and something happened to their lives somewhere, where it turned out that college definitely wasn't the way out, but rather a way to get trapped, to get more entrenched. And they broke that somehow.

Studs Terkel Thus, we have--go ahead, I'm sorry.

Stokely Carmichael I would think that the main thing that SNCC people want, I think that what people that we speak to want, is that they just want the right to decide about the things that affect their lives. It's like the man said, all the way down in the Delta of Mississippi, in a little town called Marks. He said, "I just want them to get off my back, and leave me alone, and let me do that which I wants to do."

Charlie Cobb That's terribly disruptive.

Courtland Cox I'd just like to say, I mean, the one thing that we know, or we've learned, is that the country can lie. And that we learned that in the civil rights movement when we heard all the flowing statements about freedom, how we die, and fight for freedom, and then people are not free.

Studs Terkel I think with these comments of Courtland Cox, and Charlie Cobb, and Stokely Carmichael we have an idea of what the Student Nonviolent Committee is all about, its basic philosophy, its approach. And I submit, its faith in people.