Listen to New Voices on Studs Terkel our partnership with 826CHI-here! Read the Story

00 / 00

Studs Terkel interviews Professor Charles V. Hamilton on his book written with Stokely Carmichael entitled "Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America" ; part 1

BROADCAST: Nov. 21, 1967 | DURATION: 00:35:36


Using the backdrop of James Baldwin's "Nobody Knows My Name" and Baldwin's feelings that Blacks were ashamed of where they came from, Terkel interviews Professor and Chairman of the Political Science Department of Roosevelt University on his book coauthored with Stokely Carmichael entitled" Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America". Hamilton states that Blacks were taught to hate themselves and leave school believing that. Institutional racism and the deliberate oppression it creates, holds blacks back. Blacks are left out of crucial decision making processes that concern them. Killian and Grigg's book, "Racial Crisis in America" discusses integration and Hamilton believes that Blacks should not be ashamed of their culture and should not adopt the values of white middle class America. Hamilton believes the goal of Black Power is pride and to be successful, it is crucial to change the nature of society from institutional racism to an open society. He also believes that the Politics of Deference should be abandoned and Blacks should not apologize for being Black. Ends abruptly at 35:36.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel My guest is Professor Charles V. Hamilton who is chairman of the Political Science department at Roosevelt University, and who has coauthored a remarkable book, he and Stokely Carmichael together. The book "Black Power". Now those very words themselves, I'm sure, create an emotion immediately in the listeners. The subtitle is "Politics of Liberation in America". I think it's a profound book, a very provocative one, and a very important one indeed, and Random House are the publishers. And I thought, sitting with Charles Hamilton, who is seated here now, if we hear a voice from the past. When I say a voice from the past, it was 1961 when James Baldwin's essays appeared, "Nobody Knows My Name", and I had interviewed him and I got the date here: May 15, 1961 -- no I'm sorry, July 15, 1961. That's six and a half years ago, yet it seems like six and a half centuries ago, so much has happened. And he had just been listening to a Bessie Smith blues, "Backwater Blues", and I had asked him his feelings about Bessie Smith and this might be the catapult for a conversation, Dr. Hamilton. We hear this, here's Baldwin's comment after -- his comments about hearing the Southern dialect of this powerful blues singer Bessie Smith: "I never listened to Bessie Smith in America. In the same way for years I never touched watermelon. But in Europe, [unintelligible] reconcile myself."

James Baldwin Yes, well [how can I put that?] that that that winter in Switzerland, I was working on my first novel, which I thought I'd never be able to finish, and I finally realized in Europe that one of the reasons that I couldn't finish this novel was because I was ashamed of where I'd come from and where I'd been, and ashamed of the life in the church, and ashamed of my father, and ashamed of the blues, and ashamed of jazz, and of course ashamed of watermelon, because it was, you know, all these stereotypes that the country inflicts on Negroes, that yo- that we all eat watermelon, or we all do nothing but sing the blues, and all that. Well, I was afraid of all that, and I ran from it. And when I say I was trying to dig back to the way I myself must have spoken when I was little, I realized that I had acquired so many affectations. I had told myself so many lies, that I really had buried myself beneath a whole fantastic image of myself which wasn't mine, but white people's image of me. And I realized that I had not always talked, obviously I hadn't always talked the way I had forced myself to learn how to talk, and I had to find out what I had been like in the beginning. In order, just technically then, you know, to recreate Negro speech, I realized there was a cadence, it was a beat. Much more than -- it was not a question dropping s's or n's or g's, but a question of the beat, really. And Bessie had the beat, you know. And in this icy wilderness as far removed from Harlem as anything you can imagine, with Bessie Smith and me, I began--

Studs Terkel And white snow.

James Baldwin And white snow and white mountains and white faces, who really thought was -- I had been sent by the devil, it was a very stran- they'd never seen a Negro before.

Studs Terkel And as we're listening to Baldwin, James Baldwin, six and a half -- your thoughts, Chuck Hamilton, as you hear this?

Charles V. Hamilton My immediate thought, very simply, is that it was very important for the system to instill that feeling in Mr. Baldwin and and to millions of others. Now see, it's important to point out that black people in this country could not have been maintained in their position unless they did feel precisely the way that Baldwin says he felt. I think that what we have seen in the last six and a half years since that time -- and I want to try to state this quickly and as succinctly as possible -- is that we no longer have to go to Switzerland--

Studs Terkel Mhm.

Charles V. Hamilton To find out precisely that this was a deliberate lesson taught to us. Many of us are saying, "We are going to do it on our own now," in this time and in this land without having to have the experience of a Switzerland. I'm not suggesting that Mr. Baldwin's experience was highly contrived, I'm sure it wasn't, but if we are going to reproduce the Baldwin experience, the Baldwin experience of finding oneself for millions of black people, we can't send them to the white mountains of Switzerland. Now we're doing it here, you see, in our own indigenous place.

Studs Terkel So--

Charles V. Hamilton That's my original thought. Go ahead.

Studs Terkel So it comes to the theme of Black Power itself, in contrast, as an answer to the feelings that so many black people felt of shame--

Charles V. Hamilton We went to school--

Studs Terkel Shame.

Charles V. Hamilton We went to school, Mr. Terkel. We went to school. It was called a school of slavery and a school of segregation. And the lessons were very clear. Let me state it as bluntly as possible: You hate yourself. You are supposed to hate yourself because you are a quote "minority," you are different. You are lazy, apathetic, and so forth. And you pass out of this school and pass those lessons to the extent that you believe this, you see. Now a lot of people in this country, white and black, really don't believe that. They don't believe that the system deliberately did this to us. Because they individually they personally have never insisted that a black man hate himself, you know. And they personally have never really hanged or lynched a black man recently, you know. But that is not the point. That is not the point Stokely and I want to make in this book. The point we are trying to make in this book is that one's individual stance in relationship to the black man is irrelevant. It's what the system does and that's why we use the term "institutional racism".

Studs Terkel Throughout this book, the phrase appears -- not the phrase, also examples, very vivid ones [unintelligible] of institution- Of course, it's easy -- we hear of the madmen who bombed a church in Birmingham and five little girls were killed and all are horrified, or we hear about Sheriff Jim Clark in Selma, Alabama, or we hear about a Klux-er killing a black man and many many many instances. This is personal. Individual. You're talking about institutional. Would you mind expanding on this [at the present moment?]

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah. All we mean is that, the society, a lot of people in this system can get very upset personally when five little black children are bombed to death in a Birmingham church. I might add that when that happened in September of 1963, you note that we didn't see any massive moral indignation on the part of this country in regard to that act. But but no one -- and anyone wants to say something like, [tsking] "Wasn't that too bad?" But no one really says, "Wasn't that too bad that five hundred, let's say, little black children would die each year of malnutrition in that same city, or that countless hundreds of--"

Studs Terkel Or in a northern city.

Charles V. Hamilton Or in the northern city. That hundreds of thousands are relegated to absolutely despicable conditions -- and and you see -- in housing and jobs and so forth." So, it's it's the institutions, you know. It's the real estate boards, for instance, that work very deliberately at suppressing the housing market, and so forth.

Studs Terkel I like to play a little game. It's -- I notice it's it's recurring as a pattern, you pick up a newspaper you see a headline: Five Children Killed in a Fire. Invariably, almost inevitably, you know it's in a black ghetto.

James Baldwin Mhm.

Studs Terkel Occasionally in a poor white area, southern whites in Uptown. But, invariably it's in the black -- you see, they've got a fire. Where's the fire? South, whatever it is, St. Lawrence Avenue.

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm mhm.

Studs Terkel Almost with- nine out of ten times. This is institutional racism.

Charles V. Hamilton Sure it is, very clearly. They live in these rat traps, and a lot of people say, "Well, if they had any spunk they'd get out. If they had any drive they'd get out." Well, that's naiveté at its epitome. I think that a point that has to be made constantly on this program and every place else, is that some of the hardest working people in the history of this country have been black people. So now we have to ask the question, "If they have been so hard working, why in the devil haven't they improved themselves more than they have?" I think it's very clear that their condition, the condition they live in, is a deliberate, systematic result, you see. It's a result of deliberate systematic oppression and this has to be not done by particular individuals who decide at any go- given moment that they hate black people, so therefore they are personally going to do something. But it's the system. It's the nature of the way decisions are made in this society which relegate those little children to rat traps where they will burn up.

Studs Terkel We hear the word colonialism used a lot, the word colonialism. We think we know what it means: when when a country takes over another country and it exploits the population as Africa, until the resurging independent countries--

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah.

Studs Terkel Came to be, were colonies of the Portuguese, and many still are, or the British or the French, but I notice I.F. Stone, the correspondent, and Dr. Kenneth Clark, the sociologist, speak of a "colony within our country."

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm.

Studs Terkel Where Negroes are now colonials within a country.

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm.

Studs Terkel This is a rather unique phenomenon here, isn't it?

Charles V. Hamilton Very clear. They get the -- colonial subjects get their decisions made for them. Colonial subjects get their economic and political decisions made for them. Colonial subjects are victims of that psychological suppression we talked about a little earlier. And no matter whether you're talking about South West Africa vis-à-vis South Africa, or the Gold Coast prior to 1957 and the Londion [sic] London Colonial Office, or whether you're talking about Southside Chicago, you're talking about essentially the same kind of relationship where people get their decisions made for them by forces outside themselves and for the purpose of subjecting those people, you see.

Studs Terkel Aren't we coming now to a key idea, the question of decisions. Decision making. You know we we hear a great deal of welfare programs -- of course they're -- right now we know they're a charade, they're almost clown activity in view of the expenditures in Vietnam for the napalm, et cetera. But even welfare at it's best, the idea it's uplifting like the missionaries who would uplift colonial people, rather than the people themselves having power to make their decision to change their condition.

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm. Let me say something here. If you'll recall, and your listeners will recall, Governor Romney made a 19-day tour of the ghetto. I might add here, because I feel very comfortable and I'd like to just relax, okay?

Studs Terkel Go ahead, oh please do.

Charles V. Hamilton You know it used to be, and it still is, that if you want to run for office and if you're if you're a Republican you make the Gettysburg trip. And it used to be also, and still is, that you must make the Moscow trip and, you know, getting to be now of course that you must go to Vietnam, lo and behold now we're seeing you must also make a ghetto trip. Okay. Now well, Governor Romney made his, and you remember -- he likes that -- Governor Romney made his, and you remember, and you can check the "Chicago Sun-Times," October 21 of this year. Oh you know, they were talking about Mr. Romney and he had a major confrontation with a Puerto Rican leader on the West Side of Chicago. Okay. And the news highlighted the fact that he shouted down, I mean, this Puerto Rican engaged him in a confrontation, and so forth, but buried deep in the story -- I'm going to get to your point in a moment.

Studs Terkel Go ahead.

Charles V. Hamilton I hope we have enough time.

Studs Terkel Oh, go ahead. Plenty of time.

Charles V. Hamilton Buried deep in the story was a sentence that said, "off to the side, a half dozen young Black Power militants shouted, 'We don't want your houses, we want to be equal.'" Unquote. I'm suggesting that until those in positions of authority, until those in positions to make decisions come to terms with the nature and the essence of that statement, they have not come to terms with the ferment that's going on in the ghettos. What I'm saying is this: an awful lot of the programs we see projected -- look at the McCone Commission report, and I'm going to dare--

Studs Terkel On Watts, you mean.

Charles V. Hamilton On Watts, and and look at all these other reports that come out after the rebellions, and I would say you can just about predict what the president's Commission on on Civil Disorders, interesting term, are gonna say. They all deal in some -- and Dan Moynihan, for instance -- they all deal in something called "equitable distribution of goods and services." You know, "still a perpetuation of that welfare colonialism. Those people are rioting? Give them a few houses. Give them jobs. Give them a little better education." But you'll notice, Studs, nobody talks about an equitable distribution of decision-making power. Nobody talks about that, you see.

Studs Terkel It really comes to that, doesn't it, as to what equality really is. It's the power. So if we can return for the moment -- this is all a free wheeling conversation -- James Baldwin's comment about sense of shame. Black Power is the reply to that sense of pride and what you and Stokely Carmichael call "sense of people-hood."

Charles V. Hamilton No question about it. You see, I don't care how you slice it, you're never going to -- we could talk about this a little later -- but when people have been talking about integration, they haven't been -- first of all, you can't -- how in the world are you going to integrate people who are ashamed of themselves, who are taught to be ashamed of themselves, into something else? First of all, I want you to be the prompted moderator and ask me what I what we are being integrated into, but we'll get to that.

Studs Terkel We'll come to that.

Charles V. Hamilton Okay. [laughter]

Charles V. Hamilton This question of the values of our society.

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah, but you see, no one has come to terms with the fact that in order to be integrated, we had to be be white. Killian and Grigg in their book "Racial Crisis in America" talked about integration has always had with it the modifier "white American," you see? Now, so we are saying, "Look, if we are going to be integrated into this society, first of all we're going to have to do is understand that we are black people and not ashamed of that." You see? This becomes very crucial, very relevant. Being brought into the mainstream has always implicitly, or indeed explicitly, meant adopting the values of middle class white America, and we want to say categorically, as we point out in our book, that we reject those values. Those values are subhuman, you see.

Studs Terkel Now now perhaps we come to one of -- the book has several cores, and that was one of the cores -- integrate into what? This is the question. So it seems to me that, my my impression reading your book -- Chuck Hamilton wrote this, coauthored this with Stokely Carmichael, Professor Hamilton is chairman of the Political Science department of Roosevelt University -- is that "Black Power" is saying the very nature of people achieving their people-hood so long denied and submerged, will make them, will enable them to make decisions, and by virtue of their becoming fully human in every way, the society, by its very nature, will change. The white society will by its very nature change too, for the better. The val- we must reeval- What are we look- What are the values of our society? Is it the dough? The thing more than the man? The property more-? Isn't this basically what it amounts to?

Charles V. Hamilton It's certainly the materialistic as opposed to the human being, there's no question of this. We have become to idolize in this society property, you know, in all of its connotations. We've- to the extent that if a person even begins to talk in terms of "people-hood" or "human beings," right away, he's naive, you know, he's less than realistic, you see. And unless he strives for all of the consumption goods that everyone else strives for in the suburbs and out of the suburbs then there's something abnormal about them. But we're saying, the heck with that. We're saying that there are higher, if I might use that term, greater, better values on which to predicate a society, you see. Look at the discussion that went around the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the public accommodations thing. Here we here we were talking about treating people as human beings, so that they might maintain their dignity and go sit and have a cup of coffee. Those, a lot of people were arguing private property rights, you see. So I'm suggesting that if this is what we want to integrate into, into this kind of, let me borrow your term, banal kind of existence, then I'm going to say it, I hope a lot of other people are going to say with me: no, thank you.

Studs Terkel Yeah, because basically, again if we could turn from a white man's point of view, my point of view, this represents to me a salvation, or let's say, a better life for me, that is, for the society of which I am part. [laughter] I don't know how much I'm part of the power structure? Not. But part of this society. It must alter my very life. This is the point. Just as your life is altered for the better, and you are able to make a decision for yourself, so my life, by the very fact that we live in the same society, would be altered, so the society would become a better society.

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah, I'm going to -- let me give just an example, an illustration of this. Go back to 1964 and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party when they were clamoring to get seats in the Democratic convention. A lot of people were saying to me, "But look, don't you, didn't you realize then and don't you realize now that they were trying to get into a rather corrupted or corruptible political party?" Well see, what they failed to understand -- that is, those critics of that action -- they failed to understand was, that if those 67 delegates for black delegates for Mississippi did win their fight and get in, the Democratic Party would have been absolutely transformed.

Studs Terkel It would have altered the whole structure.

Charles V. Hamilton Precisely.

Studs Terkel We come to that again, using that as an allegory, that particular instance allegorically. We come to so many aspects in the book, "Black Power," the theme, of course, people say, "but some made it," what I call the "Ralph Bunche syndrome." Let's talk about this for a moment, the black elite and the manner in which the black elite is used. Of course we know there are some doctors and there are lawyers and they're good people, no one denies this, and they live in good communities and there are integrated communities, but something is not -- there's a half truth being spoken here, isn't there?

Charles V. Hamilton Well, it's no question of that my mind. It's very clear, as we point out in the book, that you scratch a middle class, you scratch most middle class black people, and you find a captive leader, first of all. And this fellow, he knows how what he had to do to achieve the "success", quote unquote, that he achieved. I might also point out that we make this statement in the book. Dr. Percy Julian very clearly said that there is a little bit of Stokely Carmichael in all of us, all of us blacks, you see. We know, as John Killens pointed out, we've all had to do a little soft shoe once or twice and our life. Well, we are tired of doing the soft shoe to get where where we feel we should be. Sure, there are a lot of middle class black people who "made it", to use that term. They've got that home, they've got that second car and so forth, they can take their European trips and so forth, but they're still black, and they are still operating at the sufferance of their white bosses. They have no legitimate base of their own. They are Sambos in Oxford grey suits with attache cases, you see. And if any one of them, or if any one of us, really believes that these people can in fact be free and be their own men, then they're living in a dream world.

Studs Terkel Well, they're very similar, then, to the Portuguese-controlled colony of Angola. You used the phrase "assimilado". The black elite here are the assimilado of Angola--

Charles V. Hamilton You've got to become in in in Angola -- in order to really have made it as a black African, you must give up your heritage as an African and become Portuguese.

Studs Terkel Mmm.

Charles V. Hamilton Now I think that this is very unhealthy, you see. To deny yourself, to deny who you are, Wha- you know, before you can, quote, "make it".

Studs Terkel So now we come to another aspect. In other words, this man of the elite, or this black man who has made it, yet at the same at the sufferance of the power structure, accepts the values of that society. We talked about that is--

Charles V. Hamilton Yes.

Studs Terkel Banal--

Charles V. Hamilton Yes.

Studs Terkel That needs a change.

Charles V. Hamilton Sure, he accepts it, there's no question of that. [throat clearing] We see that daily. I mean every day, not in--

Studs Terkel Whereas Black Power itself, involving a sense of pride, sense of being, selfhood, or as you and Stokely Carmichael call it, a "sense of people-hood," by the very nature, when this segment of the population achieves that, in a -- I suppose working at the moment, at parallel rather than [sequentially?].

Charles V. Hamilton In many instances, in very many instances. Yes.

Studs Terkel It must alter the very society [itself?].

Charles V. Hamilton I don't believe I don't believe, and this is what a lot of people had better give a lot of thought to, because if we who are in the Black Power contingency are successful -- and see, let let me put it this way: a lot of people say, "Well look, it seems to me you wrote a very mild book and you're not calling for guerrilla warfare and so forth, and that what you're really doing is the same thing that other immigrant groups did, you know, you just, quote, 'get yourself together' and then you're going to be another pressure group in this society." Well, that's absolutely incorrect, and that's very shortsighted on the nature of those people who see the book in that light because look, we're saying, before we can be successful in our venture it is absolutely crucial that the nature of the society changes. In other words, it will have to change from an institutionally racist society to a more open and viable society, you see. That's what we're really interested in. Now, it's very clear to me that for black people to actually become self-sufficient and psychologically stable, that the society as we know it, as we experience it daily, will have to undergo substantial change.

Studs Terkel Now I ask you a leading question Chuck. This is often, I'm sure you hear this, it's a cliche by now. Doesn't Black Power in itself -- because it involves black people working with black people -- isn't this a form of reverse racism? I'm sure that's a question you hear continuously--

Charles V. Hamilton I hear that question all the time, sure sure. And very clearly we state in the book, and there's a substantial difference between the Black Power people and the racists. The racists predicate public policy on the basis of race for the purpose of subjugating another people, you know? I have yet to hear a Black Power person say, "you can't mo- you white person can't move into my neighborhood." And if one did move next door to me, I certainly wouldn't harass his children, or let my tell my children to break out his windows. There's a substantial difference. The difference lies in what we are interested in in obtaining. We say in the book that ultimately we are interested in a free and open society. I'd like to hear any white racist say that that's his goal: a free and open society. I got compared the other day with Miss Louise Hicks, you know, in Boston, largely because I'm against busing. So okay, fine, you know. "So what's the difference between you and Miss Hicks?" this person said. Or, they said, "what's the difference between you and a lot of the people against whom the marches were conducted in in Chicago, you know, in the summer?" Well, the very clear difference is that our emphasis on race is a very positive emphasis. It's for the purpose of overcoming centuries of subjugation and development of a viable personality.

Studs Terkel Chuck, could you explain, since this is a specific question, why you are against busing?

Charles V. Hamilton Oh yeah. I'm against busing for a number of reasons. I'm against it first of all because, logistically, in most of the major cities of this country where you have, in say in Washington D.C. for instance, 95 percent of the public school population black or a lot of cities where 85 percent, 75 percent -- there ain't enough white children to go around to technicolor those classrooms. Now, you can you can integrate specific classrooms and I'm not against that, but I am against all this manipulation that will result only in a handful of whites sitting in classrooms with a handful of blacks anyway. Secondly, secondly, I am thoroughly convinced that what we must really begin to push for is like what we get it at I.S. 201 in Harlem, where we get parents in the black communities intimately involved in those schools. Now now, can I talk--

Studs Terkel Please do--

Charles V. Hamilton For a second about the Redmond report?

Studs Terkel Please do.

Charles V. Hamilton The Redmond report is talking about transporting students all around, and I'm sure your listeners here in Chicago have become very familiar with that. On page B20 of the Redmond report is a statement that says -- yo- you know it sets up the quotas that no elementary school will be more than 15 percent black and no high school be more than 30 percent black and so forth. And then, dig this -- or maybe our professor shouldn't say dig--

Studs Terkel No dig it, please dig it. [laughter]

Charles V. Hamilton Or get this, man. He says, they say, "Look, we must try to get the black parents to understand that this busing, this transporting of their students, of their children, quote, 'relatively long distances from their homes is good. If we cannot get them to accept this, the plan must proceed without popular consent.'" Unquote. Now I'm say--

Studs Terkel So from the top down. Decision from the top down again aren't we talking about. Uh huh, now we come to it.

Charles V. Hamilton Precisely. Now I'm saying a plan that is predicated on that kind of notion deserves to be defeated. Now, So you bus these little black children all over the city. Are you gonna tell me, or is Mr. Redmond, or anybody gonna tell me that the parents are then going feel involved in the school system? Are they going to go to nightly school meetings halfway across the city? No! So I'm suggesting that we've got to implement a program that will look upon education not just as child-oriented, and where a school is not something from nine to three, September to June with time off for good behavior, which is precisely what it is now, but we've got to devise a school mechanism where the black parents can actually be a part of the decision-making processes in these schools.

Studs Terkel So we're coming back to the crux again. The matter of having a say--

Charles V. Hamilton I'm getting too emotional.

Studs Terkel No, having a say. Making decision.

Charles V. Hamilton Yes sir.

Studs Terkel So it seems that at every level of life this applies.

Charles V. Hamilton Yes sir.

Studs Terkel You're talking now about a decision made from top down, for the good of, and again, this question of integrating busing into a white society. You talking about quality education, no matter where. For black as well as white. Qual-, of course, we know the quality of education suffers in the white communities, too, as a result of this.

Charles V. Hamilton Well I mean, when the book came out, "Why Johnny Can't Read," I assumed they meant white as well as black. [laughter]

Studs Terkel Yeah, "Why Johnny Can't Read." But this is a co-, the theme, then, that recurs throughout the book "Black Power" by Charles V. Hamilton and Stokely Carmichael that Random House has published, is this very point: that it's the top down. That is, a decision filtered from top down by its very nature [unintelligible].

Charles V. Hamilton And what you're really doing, yes, and what that really does is it simply perpetuates a recipient mentality. As long as decisions are constantly handed to people on a platter, they will develop a welfare recipient mentality. And I'm going ask anybody to tell me how you can build a viable body politic, when one group of people are constantly being the recipients of -- as we say in our book, we not only -- we don't want to be recipients of the system we want to be participants in it.

Studs Terkel Of course, this applies incidentally, if I may say, Chicago being the city it is, there's the community of Uptown where many Southern poor whites are, and they too are recipients. And this lady I know, a remarkable one, Peggy Terry, edits the paper there, an Appalachian-run paper called "The Firing Line," says, "we are" -- as far as the power structure, particularly authorities, police are concerned -- "we're called, we're a 'hey you' neighborhood, whereas a white middle class neighborhood is a 'sir' neighborhood."

Charles V. Hamilton I think this is very descriptive. I think that people who have never lived in a "hey you" neighborhood would never understand what that means. I think this is very important.

Studs Terkel Shall we come to a question now of trying to set up a single standard? Isn't in a sense Black Power seeking to set up a single rather than a double standard of behavior as far as authority toward the individual or toward the community is concerned?

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I really do.

Studs Terkel Now this is by its very nature must help the entire community. I mean, I'm trying to find somebody to buck me on this. Power itself is a marvelous thing. You know, Walt Whitman used the phrase, "myself I sing, immense impassioned pulse and power." The feeling of power and of -- we know that power, when used by one man against a group of people or by one society against another society, and this is contemporary right now, that power is bad, but power then in an individual -- it's powerlessness isn't it? When we hear, when we hear of crime in neighborhoods. It's despair and powerlessness that [unintelligible], not sense of power.

Charles V. Hamilton Which can only lead to alienation. Which can only lead to a schism between people and the system and the society, nothing else. I'm not impressed at all with people who eschew the use of the term power, you know, because I do know that from the time when man began to organize himself into social units called government, it seemed clear to me that some form of power would have to be exercised. I mean, you know, it's a wh-. Now we're talking about the equitable distribution of that power, you see, which can only benefit the larger system.

Studs Terkel We're talking about, just touching upon the book, this is round and about the book. The themes we're discussing right now, Professor Hamilton and myself, are in the book itself, "Black Power.", but there are so many chapters I find deeply moving. For example, when the Negro sharecropper began to register: the difficulty, the terrors. On occasion we played various tapes. Georgia Turner, a woman who lived in tent city, as a result of registering she was evicted. Fannie Lou Hamer, of course. This is -- something happens to the man as he goes, he -- there's a great deal of courage involved, of course.

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm.

Studs Terkel And you describe these scenes and their excitement of the preparations, the Election eve rally, Lowndes County.

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah.

Studs Terkel You contrast -- could you talk about this a bit? The politics of deference which was at Tuskegee in contrast to the politics of non-deference which happened in Lowndes County. Would you mind describing the two differences here?

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah, it seems to me that when when we get a situation -- and you see it's not just Tuskegee. We find black people pursuing a deferent political path in many places. What they are really trying to do is to prove to the white man or to the, yeah, to the white system, the white society, that they can be very nice and they can be "like white", which is really not true at all, of course. And what they really, they're looking for is -- oh, what's the word to use -- they're looking for approval from what I would consider to be a very despicable society to begin with. I'm saying that when black people get in a position to control their lives, their communities, they have nothing to apologize to, about. They have no reason to apologize at all. The black people who first formed to push Dick Hatcher's candidacy in Gary have no apologies to make whatsoever for acting black, you see. And a lot of people said to me, "Well look, well, they needed white support over there and Gary, too." Well, this is true, but what they fail to understand is that, and the same thing is true in Cleveland, that this wasn't deference politics. This was a situation where blacks first had to organize themselves in terms of their perceived interests, and then if whites want to come along, fine. Now, if however you continue to play a deferent game, you will wait for the white political machine to give you the green light. You will moderate your platform and your demands and so forth, and you'll end up being supplicants all over again.

Studs Terkel You know something, as you talk a strange thought occurred, a certain memory I'd never thought of till this very moment. I had been to South Africa.

Charles V. Hamilton Yeah.

Studs Terkel About four years ago, on my way to see Chief Albert John Lutuli. Durban, road to Durban. To Stanger, Indian suburb of Durban. We stopped at a Indian -- Durban, there's a great many East Indians living there from India -- and we stopped to fi- ask for directions, and the Indian told us where the house was, but there was a black woman with a baby on her back and she looked at my friend, my white friend Jack Wallace, [sets to go examine?] and she says, "my baby doesn't like black faces. She likes your faces." And this horrible memory came to me this very moment, I guess I put it out of my mind till you spoke now about deference, what a colonial, again we speak of colonial, the colony in America, here are colonial people of Africa run by the Afrikaners and the British and the acceptance of the ghetto mentality, that I am something less.

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm.

Studs Terkel And deference politics, in a sense, is saying I'm something less, too, isn't it?

Charles V. Hamilton Mhm. Yeah, you know Ken Clark, you mentioned him earlier, Ken Clark, Professor Clark of CCNY did these studies that were subsequently one of the pieces of evidence that was introduced into the Civil Rights [finger snap] into the Supreme Court decision 1954. Series of studies, series of white dolls and black dolls, and he would present a white doll to a little black girl and say, "Well, would you like to be like the white doll or the black doll?" Invariably, the little black child would choose the white doll, and he would ask -- series of studies on this -- he would ask, "Isn't this doll beautiful?" pointing to the black doll. No, no, uh-uh, couldn't be. "Well, what if I were to tell you that you were like the little black doll?" The little black girl would break down and start crying, you see.