WARREN: This is the first tape of a conversation with, uh, Mr. WyattTee Walker, March eighteenth, Atlanta, Georgia.
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: All right, sir.
WALKER: Well, why don't you get me primed with a question?
WARREN: All right, a question like this: to many people it's astonishingthat, uh, the leadership, by and large, of the negro movement has, uh, come from the South or has come from people living in the South at that time. How do you explain this? Do you have any theories about it?
WALKER: Well, I don't know whether it's altogether geographical or no.I think, uh, there's a large degree of coincidence involved here.
WALKER: I think, uh, as I'm sure everybody else has said, that the1:00nonviolent thrust of the negro community in the South that we have seen, say within the last decade, uh, has been a part of the history of the world, the rise of the nations, uh, in Africa toward independence. I think, uh, there's something about this moment of history which has caught this present generation.
WARREN: This typewriting soon (??)
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: (??) You said it's a moment in history, one thing, the rise ofthe African states.
WALKER: Yes, I--I just think, uh, the negro in the South, I think oneof the biggest contributing factors to it is that we have come into a day of instantaneous communication. That one of the things that kept the negro community in the deep South insulated against, uh, even knowing something better to want was the fact that he didn't have the information. There's an old expression, you can't miss what you never 2:00had. Uh, so, this day of instantaneous, uh, reporting news events, uh, has given the negro a chance to connect himself up with the whole stream of history in a sense. I think the other, another contributing factor is that in a very real way the minds of, uh, negroes have been unlocked in a sense. For instance, uh, I think the white Southern races uses a lot of sophisticated arguments as to why the negro is inferior and why there ought to be separate facilities and separate education facilities, which are not at all the real reasons. I think, uh, the more insidious reason is that he's wanted to keep the negro ignorant. You can't lay open a man's minds to the truth of the humanities, uh, to the trend of civilization of the western world in the last five hundred years. You can't bait his mind in thinking of 3:00Aristotle and Plato and Diogenes without him wanting something better in life. Um, maybe what I'm saying in short would be, that to keep a man a slave you've got to keep him ignorant. Uh, unslave his mind and you unslave inevitably, inevitably his person.
WARREN: As Frederick Douglass put it.
WALKER: Yes. Uh, I think, if you, as you're making an analysis of negroleadership, I think the people who hold the titular responsibilities, whether they have come by them out of design or by accidents in history, they are all people with finely tooled minds who have a sharp sensitivity to, uh, the humanities. Uh, they are generally literate and well read men who do their own thinking. Uh, I think if you would make just a spot survey or spot check of the people with whom you've 4:00talk, uh, that this is the general stripe of people you talk with.
WARREN: That's true. This raises a question: uh, in 1935, would such aleadership have been available among negroes?
WALKER: Well, I, I personally doubt it. I--it's difficult to secondguess history. I do, I do not think it was possible in 1935 because a lot of what has been produced has come about out of the response to what World War II produced. Uh, you had a new temper developing on negro boys who served in World War II. Uh, got to see the world in a sense. And they had made an investment in making the world safe for democracy, et cetera, all of the slogans we had. And, uh, they came back with certain questionings in their minds. They had been overseas and had freedoms that they never even conjectured in Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and Louisiana, and then in their own minds say, 5:00'Well, if I fought and ran the risk of dying for all of America then I ought to have some share of it here.' Uh, this shift in the South had a lot to do with it; from an agrarian economy to an urban industrial economy has had a lot to do with the, uh, groundswell of discontent of the negro community. The negroes leaving the deep South in droves, and going to other large industrial cities in the North during the war. This is another ancillary force I think.
WARREN: What about the notion that we encounter sometimes that the negrois just discovering his identity, this is part of this whole movement?
WALKER: Well, I think it's a very critical part--
WARREN:--discovering and accepting of his identity--
WALKER:--yeah, I think it's a very critical part because I've seen in myown lifetime. I'm not an old man, as you know. Uh, I have been as a child, I can remember being aware of an internal color discrimination in the negro community. And being a mulatto, uh, I guess I was 6:00sensitized to it because I had brothers and sisters who--I don't know why--uh, gave to being light skinned some special, uh, value.
WARREN: You mean some of your brothers and sisters did feel this way?
WALKER: Oh, yes, they felt a lot. I know two sisters particularly, andone brother in particular, who felt that, uh, being a light skinned negro assigned to them some special values. Uh, I think fortunately for me I rebelled against this. Maybe this was my inquiring mind that I wasn't (??), wasn't aware of it at an early age and I rebelled against it. And I thought people were people on the basis of their intrinsic worth, the fact that they were humans. And I think this could've been one of the things that, uh, made me get the issue of humanity square in my own mind. Um, I have seen that change sharply in the last fifteen 7:00or twenty years. I have known dark skinned people in whose presence I would be afraid to say the word "black," seriously or humorously--
WARREN:--you mean now or in the past?
WALKER: No, in the past fifteen years ago. Now I feel no reluctancewhatsoever. Uh, in fact, uh, it's a part of the built-in humor of this movement that, uh, we kid each other about it, you know, calling each other "half-white negroes" and "black negroes," uh, in--in affectionate terms, you know.
WARREN: Uh, some weeks ago I was having an interview with a quitedistinguished lawyer who is a negro, and he was saying to me that it's a real problem for him, living in a world of white symbolisms. Symbolism of white and--and black, and dark and light, as value symbols through English poetry, uh, French poetry, uh, American fiction, and God knows what, in casual conversation. He said bitterly, 8:00"I find myself schooling myself to invert these symbolisms that are hidden in all literature and in common speech."
WALKER: Yeah, I think this is symptomatic in the, uh, Muslim movement,you know--
WARREN:--this man is not a Muslim.
WALKER: No, I know, he may not be, but this is the other extreme.
WALKER: That, that within this movement, uh, they are exalting black,which is the reverse of exalting white. And I can certainly sympathize with this, uh, lawyer because I know when I am watching television I-- and reading stories, and in some of our expressions, I, maybe my antenna is out, you know, to pick up these little value assignments on the basis of color. You know, we talk about, uh, a little white lie, but a terrible lie is a black lie. Uh, I saw a television story about a good horse and a bad horse, and the good horse was white and the black horse was bad, you know. And it's so, uh, skillfully woven into the 9:00whole fabric of, uh, our value judgments that, uh, I think sometimes it almost happens to us unconsciously.
WARREN: Now let's think of this in this connection, these, uh,oppositions, uh, light and dark, run through all sorts of things in our society--
WARREN:--in our literature. Well, it also is found in Africa.
WARREN: This makes a change, now when you have, uh, African tribaldances which predate--
WALKER:-- (??) I would qualify, uh, I would qualify, uh, what I havesaid earlier by saying that you must understand, I'm sure perhaps you do, that this is the normal emotional response for the American negro because of the frame of reference in which he has been forced to move--
WARREN:--yes, yes, yes--
WALKER:--though it may not be when you trace it to its historical originone, something that grows out of race or color prejudice, but because of the box in which the negro has been moved and this is his immediate 10:00interpretation of it.
WARREN: He interprets it that way, though the symbolism was made, assome anthropologists say, antedate any contact with, uh, white European culture.
WARREN: As in the Chinese theater, uh, literally (??), a face isdarkened for a villain and, and whitened, uh, for, uh, a hero.
WALKER: Yes, well, I think this goes back even to, uh, Platonic dualism.Uh, it's reflected in the New Testament writings of Paul. He talks about the children of light and the children of darkness--
WARREN:--there we are--
WALKER:--and we can even go back to the business of day and night--
WARREN:--day and night, back to the--
WALKER:--and with the primitive mind, uh, not really quite grasping whatmakes night and what makes day, and of course the night was unknown to him and of course beasts of prey and all of the dangers of jungle life, I guess, uh, uh, this seems to me that this would probably be the origins of this.
WARREN: Then we have a very strange situation, don't we--of a social,11:00the conditioned attitude toward natural symbols.
WALKER: I think one has been superimposed on the other.
WARREN: Oh, yeah.
WALKER: We've taken the natural symbols, uh, and then--as the structureof race and color concepts developed, we superimposed this on, on nature symbols that were already available.
WARREN: There we are. Now, what reaction's appropriate, then, forsay a, a cultivated negro or a, a not cultivated negro facing these symbolisms?
WALKER: Well, uh--
WARREN:--what's reasonable and logical?
WALKER: Well, I would, I would hope that, uh, I could be consideredcultivated, but, uh, I don't think any negro, no matter how much he's cultivated, ever really becomes emancipated. You know, no matter how much my mind has been opened, no matter how much 12:00academically I recognize the fallacy of race, so much has been done to my emotional pattern by, uh, what we call the system, segregation and discrimination, that I never really am free of it. And so you get sometimes in fleeting moments the reverse response, you know, discrimination the other way. For instance, I think negroes like myself have developed almost a, a mental catalog of the tone of voices of how a white face speaks to them which, which in another circumstance when a negro speaks it would get no response whatsoever. But everything that a white person says is interpreted by the nuance of the tone of voice, or maybe the hang of the head, or the depth of tone, or the sharpness of the tone/tongue (??), you know. Things that in the ordinary, normal ethnic frame of reference would have no meaning, takes 13:00on tremendous and deep and sharp meaning.
WARREN: In other words, you are documenting the remark made by more thanone negro, that to be a negro is to have a touch of the paranoid.
WALKER: Oh, yes, we have a, I think we have almost a total ambivalence,even in this, this moment of history for the negro, when he really accepts his identity more than he ever has before, there is still a retention of this ambivalence, which, uh, has many roads by which it has come. Some of it came out of survival. Some of it came out of, uh, hatred for the white man, just the, just the pure joy of saying one thing that you knew he wanted to hear and really meaning something else, you know.
WARREN: Even the folklore.
WARREN: Even Uncle Remus.
WALKER: Yes, um-hm. Poking fun of the master without the master ever14:00really understanding what he was saying. And this runs through the, uh, idiomatic expression of the negro and the negro spirituals and, uh, negro religion even.
WARREN: What about this, uh, question then of the relation of, uh,white men to the negro movement? We have very violent statements here and there. Baldwin says, uh, the white liberal is an affliction. Or others have said, 'We will have no more connection with the, uh, white sympathizer, the white liberal. He has no place; he's a curse.' This is carrying, this is logic, a logical extension of that attitude, isn't it?
WALKER: Ah, yes I would agree with that (??).
WARREN: What is the, uh, what is the role, what role can, uh, say, uh,the white man take toward?
WALKER: Well, of course--
WALKER:--I understand in the American nonviolent tradition, as it issymbolized in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., understandably so, uh, I 15:00do agree, I do agree with, uh, Adam Powell, one person whom I know has said this again and again, that the day has come when the white person has no role to play in the policy decisions of the negro movement. Uh, but I do not go all the way with him to say that we do not need white allies. Uh, so maybe I'm a middle of the roader on this point of view. I say that there are some decisions that the negro will have to make tactically and strategy-wise, as far as the direction that his movement is going to take, and there are certain kinds of decisions in which I don't think, uh, a white man's attitude can have any impact whatsoever. And they ought to be left alone to the negro community. But if he wants to help with our revolution, he must come and join with us. Uh, I think we have passed the, uh, we have come through the stage of the 16:00Southern white liberal of fifteen years ago. I have an expression I use about the, we are afflicted with outworn white liberals, or worn out white liberals, who fifteen years ago what they were saying, uh, could have cost them their life, but they're saying the same things now that they were saying fifteen years ago, and as James Russell Lowell has said, uh, time makes ancient good uncouth. We are at a different moment in history.
WARREN: Is there possible, is it possible that the negro movement couldhave success without a white consensus, though, in its favor?
WALKER: Yes, I do think so.
WARREN: Without the white consensus?
WARREN: How would you explain that?
WALKER: Well, I know this is a minority opinion. But I sincerely believeit, that the negro has just enough pivotal position in the economy of our nation, the free enterprise system, and just enough visible 17:00identity, that, uh, generally in a united effort, uh, we could produce so creative a crisis that the consensus in a sense might be forced--not a consensus of consent, but a consensus of prodded by practicality.
WARREN: In other words, a rising political and economic force?
WALKER: Yes. Strategically used and applied.
WARREN: And applied.
WALKER: Now, this coupled with I would say, uh, the guilt burden thatthe white community, uh, must bear, or that they do bear, particularly within the frame of reference of, shall we say, white Christianity or white religious life.
WARREN: You mean you're coupling, uh, the question of, uh, guilt burden,18:00which is another way of saying, uh, potentiality of consensus--
WALKER:--yes, I suppose so, I guess--
WARREN:--turning it upside down, so in other words--
WALKER:--but you may not emotionally want to be ready to accept it, butyou recognize intellectually that this is the proper thing.
WARREN: But guilt's in the guts, though. If you have a feeling of guiltyou already, already have an awareness of a moral issue and a desire for another attitude in yourself. Is guilt the feeling for desire for another attitude in yourself?
WALKER: Well, I had not, um, defined it as closely as that. Forinstance, this is the, uh, feeling that I was trying to get at, or that I, that I am referring to. When a white person says I know what the right thing is to do, but I just don't have the power to do it.
WARREN: It's an old story.
WARREN: To any complexion.
WALKER: Yes, and I don't, uh, that to me that has not yet approachedconsensus.
WARREN: Well, (??) action means consensus, but the potentiality of19:00consensus lies, say, in the, the recognition of, uh, a responsibility.
WALKER: Yes, I could, uh, I could, uh, buy that as the expression goes.We started down one lane once, uh, that I'm trying to recall, and I know I hadn't quite exhausted, uh, my nitpicking ideas about it.
WARREN: Well, let's go back.
WALKER: Uh, I believe it had to do with, uh--I think it began with aquestion as to whether this, whether negro--oh, yes, it had to do with the negro accepting his own identity, and I wanted, I remembered in my mind, I wanted to say a few more words about that. Because, uh, I think this is half of the battle, for the negro to accept himself as he is. Now, uh, maybe my philosophy or attitude about this is a 20:00little structured because I've talked about it a good bit on the public platform. But this business of this internal colored discrimination, as I say, was very sharp fifteen or twenty years ago when I was a youngster, in high school (??) and I was very aware of it. And as I indicated, I have seen sharp disappearance, you know. You do not find negroes today who are light skinned who assign to themselves any special value. And you do not find its counterpart, the sharp sensitivity of negroes who are dark skinned. In fact, it has gone a little--it depends on the (??)--a little bit the other way. There's a little more pride taking, being taken now in a negro being a visibly, visible negro, you know. Whereas some (??), if you're on the borderline, like some of us mulattoes are, we feel a little bit embarrassed. Kind of like we've been cheated, you know, in this movement of the rise of the nations in Africa and, um, the respectability of being black and 21:00having kinky hair, you know. Uh, I think it's healthy even though the pendulum has gone the other way because I think the natural response is going to be, it will even out. Uh, but I think more than anything else, this has given to the negro, this is, this is what the nonviolent movement has given the negro: a basic belief in his own personal worth. No matter who he is, there is a means now by which he can make his witness for what he believes, uh, without cursing and swearing and clubbing and shooting. Uh, you know, using any of the traditional violent means when one wants to, uh, react against, uh, oppression. Uh, he has found identity not alone for himself, but he has found identity with the group. The negro has a new solidarity. This is true not only of one negro with a hundred other negroes, but it's also true 22:00of negroes South and North. I think Birmingham, uh, meant this more than anything else. There were many negroes in the North who kind of felt sorry for those poor negroes down South, but didn't, didn't really feel a bond. But the bond has been forged now as never before.
WARREN: In fact, there was, by all reports of sociologists and otherobservers, a great withdrawal on the part of Northern negroes from Southern negroes as they came North.
WARREN:--they wanted to feel (??)--
WALKER: They wanted to cut off not only from the stark circumstancesthat they had left, but they also wanted to cut themselves off from their historical roots (??) of having been slaves. Uh, I think this is reflected in another way in the middle-class negro who begins to develop enough economic security that he, uh, wants to cut himself off from the negro community. He finds himself unacceptable to the white community, and so his frustration is lost in--as I think Dr. 23:00King describes it--conspicuous consumption. Uh, completely devoid of any spiritual or moral values, you know. And, um, it has been a kind of entrapment that he has wandered into. Uh, I think it has been reflected in the early days, maybe even now in our present revolution, that a lot of the goals, the movement has been directed toward have been in a sense middle-class goals. They are middle-class goals and not so much things that affect the simple and plain people of the land. But more and more the, uh, the center of the movement, the focus of the movement is shifting, uh, particularly in economic terms, to matters of employment, those things which are going to be the day by day flesh and blood considerations of the people of the land.
WARREN: Moving away from, uh, civil rights as such toward the economic,uh, substructure, the psychological substructure, is that it? 24:00
WALKER: Yes, from civil rights to human rights. The right to be freefrom the fear of want, and hunger, and free from the fear of not having shelter, free from the, uh, of ignorance.
WARREN: Cutting back a second to the matter of identity, we know alongback, at least as far back as DuBois, talk about the split in the negro soul. The division of impulses, sometimes for some people, an almost irreconcilable division of impulse. One toward an extreme form, uh, Africa, uh, toward the mystique noire as we have it now, or negritude.
WARREN: Or, the notion of, uh, the negro culture as separate from andantithetic to and--and resisting of the white, uh, Western European, 25:00uh, Judaic Christian culture. All this withdrawal was an extreme form that becomes a kind of black chauvinism of the Black Muslims, for instance. On the other hand, the impulse to enter into, to, uh, absorb, and be absorbed by, and integrate with this other, uh, Western European, uh, cultural tradition, and perhaps lose the whole, even, even lose blood identity in this absorption. Does this split--is this for you a split of impulse?
WALKER: No, I think, uh, this present movement that we have is going tolead toward a synthesis of the two. I don't--
WARREN:--Dr. King--excuse me--Dr. King this morning was saying that herecognizes this as a real problem, you see--
WARREN:-- (??) there are very sharp divisions of feeling on thisquestion, you see, and many ways of discussing it. I do hope you will discuss it now.
WALKER: Yes. Now, I, I feel as Dr. King does, that it is a problem.26:00And maybe I'm going out on a limb by giving my own personal conjectures.
WARREN: Oh, please do.
WALKER: Uh, I do not think that negro in the foreseeable future is goingto lose his ethnic identity, if that's the proper way to describe it. I think for three to four to five and maybe six generations there's going to be a visible negro community. But I think the temper of history in the world, particularly with the rise of the African and Asian nations, is such that the color factor is going to recede in its importance. Uh, now, I know this is, perhaps, I don't think it's an undue optimism. Uh, and so I see here as a synthesis between the two, that color will become an incidental, uh, means of identification. And 27:00a negro will find his place in America, uh, in a very real sense as the Jew has, as the Irish, as the labor movement. That the, the tide of history of our times is going to demand so much for human rights that the negro will in a sense integrate himself into this new stream of history in such a way that he will not be lost visibly but yet the stereotypes and the discrimination and the artificial obstacles that, uh, that hampered him in his first one hundred years of emancipation will, will recede almost into insignificance.
WARREN: That is, you envision a pluralistic society in America, uh,rather than, uh, an unified society in that sense?
WALKER: Yes, I think what we're going to see in America is what theworld is like in miniature in one place. It's going to be, uh, a kind 28:00of United Nations because, uh, even with the, uh, restrictions being imposed on, uh, new people coming from other countries, I think we're still going to have them come. Some way's going to be found. The technological advances of this nation, the agricultural skills, uh, our reputation and, uh, our bent as builders, we get more out of the land. Uh, we have the largest leisure class, you know. It's going to be a Mecca toward which people who have an opportunity are going to find their way. And I think you're going to have more of a melting pot in America. I, I envision something like maybe, uh, a larger Hawaii, or a larger Jamaica, something like that. And I think this is my hope for America, that it will become like Jamaica. I was in Jamaica last year. And you could clearly distinguish orientals and, uh, people of English 29:00stock, or European stock I should say, some Americans, West Indians and negroes, but everybody had the concept, not that they were Jewish or English or Chinese or oriental or that they were negro, but that they were Jamaicans.
WARREN: What about the notion that we encounter that the negro, theAmerican negro is more like the old white American than like anybody else, the old white Southerner or the old white Yankee?
WALKER: Well, I don't think it's entirely true. I think we have tostart with the basic premise that the negro is an American. Uh, there is very little, uh, I think that we have been able to retain from our so-called African or jungle heritage other than the, uh, blood lineage 30:00which we naturally have to trace. By and large, if you take the negro, nine-tenths of him is a product of American culture. And then because we have existed as a subculture in American society, we have become imitative of what we have seen, and in many instances we are, as George Kelsey said, an exaggerated American.
WARREN: That's the same idea, you see, one, one aspect of it.
WALKER: Yes, so in this wise you see in the negro merely a mimicry oran imitation of what he has seen in the rest of Americans, uh, who out of the circumstance of history have had privileged positions. And our values and ideas, uh, reflect it, so in this wise I, I think it's true.
WARREN: Have you read Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust?
WARREN: Do you remember that very ambiguous section about the Southernnegro and the Southern white and the theory of homogeneity, that they would represent somehow against an outside world? 31:00
WARREN: What sort of sense does that make to you, if any? How do youinterpret it?
WALKER: Well, I don't think it's, uh. (laughs) I think here you have areflection of the provincialism of a, uh, a geographical provincialism that still pervades to this day, uh, in the South. For instance, the South feels it stands against the rest of the nation politically and maybe in a real sense economically. Uh, I think this is a, uh, to a large degree the same kind of thinking which causes us to have this Southern bloc in Congress. I, I don't think in practical terms it really works out like this. Uh, as I recall, vaguely, they were saying that the--the utopia of the South would be that the, the negroes would go along their slow course to whatever their goals were, and the white people would go along their course to whatever their goals were, and in one Southern homogeneous setting the two would, uh, exist separately 32:00but side by side.
WARREN: That isn't apparently what Faulkner meant a formal, uh, a formalsegregation. He meant something else, whatever--
WALKER:--something that's (??)was voluntary.
WARREN: Not voluntary segregation. Not segregation at all. In, inFaulkner's work segregation is not the point. Excuse me. I have to change the tape.
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: Now, excuse me, this is the end of tape 1 of the conversation,uh, with Mr. Walker. See tape 2.
[Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.]
WARREN: This is tape 2 of the interview with Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker,proceed.
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: We were talking about Faulkner and homogeneity. And if thismeant some vision of reconciliation after the present conflict, then some, uh, special relationship based on a common history, how would you 33:00respond to that notion?
WALKER: Uh, I have said this, uh, at different times, and I think I'veheard who have others who have worked with us in the revolution, in our nonviolent revolution say so, that we believe that the South is going to be a better place to live for negroes and whites than perhaps the North. That the, even though we are passing through a period which is very tenuous and in a sense very costly emotionally to both whites and negroes because of the sharp social changes being demanded and forced, but when after a period of reconciliation, that, uh, because of the--and maybe this is, if I'm, I'm following your guess at what Faulkner meant--uh, if his, uh, projection was that negroes and whites would live together in a warmer relationship than they would anywhere 34:00else because of their common bond, I think this, uh, this is generally true. This is what I think. Uh, I think so because, uh, well, a kind of sentimentality of the South and the, the ease with which relationships are, have been built. The fact that neg--white children were reared by, uh, negro wet mothers. Uh, that perhaps both of us were refined in the cauldrons of the Civil War and Reconstruction and now the nonviolent revolution. And that maybe because of that, out of our common geographical history--and this is what I was saying poorly before--I just misinterpreted it, as I recall, what Faulkner said about this idea of homogeneity. I was going the other way and, uh, trying to interpret your guess at it. I, I could agree very strongly 35:00that I think, uh, there will be a unique relationship that negroes and the whites in the South will enjoy after the reconciliation of the revolution than is presently or can be hoped for to be enjoyed by negroes and whites in the North. I think the level of interpersonal relationships is closer than it could ever be in the North.
WARREN: You referred to Reconstruction, do you remember Myrdal's, uh,sketch, uh, of what would have been, uh, his recommendation for policy?
WALKER: You mean the swift change?
WARREN: No, after the Civil War. He gave a, uh, uh, a five or six pointpolicy that he thought would have saved us the last hundred years of, of race troubles. The policy runs like this: first, for compensation to Southern slaveholders for emancipating slaves. Two, expropriation 36:00of plantations as needed but payment for the, for the land taken. Three, the sale of land to landless, uh, freedman and landless whites- -sale, not gift--over a long period of time, with education and some supervision, uh, in this period of transition, and other details, too. Uh, do you feel any, uh, emotional reaction to the fact that payment was proposed--to the, uh, slaveholders for the emancipated slaves?
WALKER: No, I wouldn't--
WARREN:--that somehow incident to that (??)--
WALKER:--I wouldn't have any at all because, uh, I guess I'm enoughbusinessman and practical headed enough as a student of history to know that the negro slave represented dollars and cents to an economy which was being crippled by the dissolution of slavery. Uh, now, I suppose 37:00it would be federally subsidized--
WARREN:--yes, one US government tax money (??).
WALKER: But I, I would have no emotional response whatsoever, and Idon't know just why other than what I said.
WARREN: Now, many people, many negroes do have a violent response tothat. People you know, some you know.
WALKER: It wouldn't, it wouldn't bother me at all.
WARREN: They'll say no; this is compounding a sin.
WARREN:--and--and actually have a violent, a violent emotional responseimmediately.
WALKER: How do they, how do they say it's compounding a sin?
WARREN: By paying the man, uh, who--
WALKER:--see, as small as the--(laughs)--well, as small as the investmentmight have been, maybe he didn't pay anything for the slaves, but at least he had a sense of housing, as poorly as it was, and fed them, and his whole, uh, economic venture depended upon the exploitation of free 38:00labor. I mean, there were some dollar and cents involved, whether it was right or wrong, and as I say at this point, I'm a pragmatist.
WARREN: Well, you answered my question.
WALKER: Yeah, and further than that, if I may push the point, thoughthis may, uh, I don't know whether this would have been the panacea, but I think this would have been far better than what they did do.
WARREN: Well, now, we can't--I, I don't think it would have beenpossible. You couldn't have expected the Northern taxpayer to say we're going to, uh, to put two billion dollars in compensating Southern slaveholders we were fighting last week.
WALKER: Well, I--
WARREN:--that's not, that's not probable, not likely. But we have totake the big "if" it could have been done and it would've had some--
WARREN:--no, I (??)--
WALKER:--I think it would have probably wrangled a hundred years to, youknow, to get that answered in some form.
WARREN: We've had a hundred years anyway, though.
WARREN: On the matter of history, uh, let me ask you, uh, Mr. Walker,39:00what your, uh, estimate of and feeling about Lincoln.
WALKER: Uh, to me, Lincoln was, I guess I could say from where I stand,the greatest President we had. Um, and I am aware of some of his earlier statements on the slave question, but I am convinced as I read different works, uh, and different historians' assessments of him, and within the context of what doing away with the slave system meant to the nation, you know, it could have been that this nation might have gone down the drain. And I think, uh, Abraham Lincoln took a dangerous risk solely, almost solely on a moral principle. Uh, now, I, a lot of 40:00people don't agree with me on this. They say he was forced to do it; I don't think he was forced.
WARREN: He was a racist, apparently. You have, uh, even after--
WALKER:--he was a racist in a day when it was perfectly acceptable andChristian to be a racist--
WARREN:--that's the point I'm getting at. Now, you're, you're takingthe view of a reader of history who realizes that things change and the, the context changes. There are many people who think these things are absolute and reject Lincoln because of these elements in his career.
WALKER: I--I think you would have to say he was a racist in terms thatperhaps he, uh, accom--accommodated slavery intellectually--
WARREN:-- (??) segregation, he said so--
WALKER:--but not a racist--at one stage of his career, he did.
WARREN: After emancipation (??) as a, as a straight segregationiststatements.
WALKER: But not a racist within, uh, the context or the connotation of41:00what racist means today, I don't think.
WARREN: A hundred years make a difference in general climate anyway.
WARREN: That is, you think there has been--and I gather from what yousay--a fundamental change in the whole attitude toward race from the time of Lincoln to our time.
WARREN:--a man like Lincoln who has, has racist attitudes.
WALKER: I don't know, I'd have to, I'd have to think about that a littlebit as to whether, as to whether, I think you're asking, whether I think the concept of race has changed in the hundred years since Lincoln?
WARREN: Yes, whether--the notion of inferior races and superior raceshas been, uh, modified.
WALKER: Oh, yes, yes, I would say that very readily.
WARREN: What has modified that, uh, that notion?
WALKER: I think to a great degree, uh, anthropological studies. Uh, I42:00don't think we have erased all of the emotional--
WALKER:--loyalty to the concept of race. And you see, prejudice in asense is a religion of its own, of its own kind, and man's nature is such that the last things he gives up, I think the last two bastions of change to which he will submit, is, uh, that of his religion and that of his personal prejudices. And religion is last, you know. And, of course, our anglo-saxon Protestant concept of race was infused with racism, see. Uh, well, even until recent days here in the South, you know. There've been so many apologists, still some exist--Billy James Harkness is one--who have a rationale worked out for race within the 43:00context of the Christian church. There're some Southern white Baptists who they logically, sincerely believe that when Jesus--within the frame of reference of our Protestant theology--spoke of redemption and salvation, that he never really had the negro in mind, you know. The negro was not an entity then, and so Jesus wasn't talking about us, you know. Or them, as he would describe it. And so he has a kind of a mental bloc, almost a psychic trauma, when he sings the hymns of the Christian church and reads the text of the New Testament. He has, he has a bloc when he has to be confronted with the fact that this may mean black folks, too, you see.
WARREN: You were saying the clinging to religion, the clinging toprejudice, those things can be symptoms of a clinging to identity, can't they? Clinging to religion, clinging to prejudice, is a clinging 44:00sometimes to, to identity, isn't it?
WALKER: Well, I think--
WARREN:--closest to me (??)--
WALKER: That's right. It's a subjective, uh, it's a subjective vehicleby which we enlarge our identity, we enlarge it through our religious posture--
WARREN:--or even know our identities.
WALKER: Yes, yes.
WARREN: Now I'm getting something like this, which is a, a matter ofspeculation. And I want to see how you feel about it. The Southern white man is a man in one way, uh, in a situation parallel to that of the American negro. He is a man who's been having identity trouble.
WARREN: That is, he is on one hand, uh, a Southerner with a specialhistory, a nationalism (??). 45:00
WARREN: And with a special body of beliefs and prejudices and sentimentsaround this fact. On the other hand, he is pulled into the American orbit in many strong ways. Now, to be himself, i.e. to be Southern. The naive, uh, Southerner feels he must cling to a certain number of prejudices and attitudes which have symbolic value for him.
WALKER: Um, and to his history.
WARREN: And to his history. Segregation, for one. Segregation becomesthe symbol of identity. To be i.e. Southern.
WARREN: Now, this I should say is a mistake. It's abandoning ofhistory. Uh, there are many Southerners who, uh, did not--segregation is a very late idea, anyway.
WARREN: If he once sees history in a different light, he sees that to--46:00to defend segregation does not mean to, uh, necessarily to be Southern. You can be Southern without, without being a segregationist. But the point I am getting at in asking your view of, do you see a parallel of the sort of I've, I've mentioned? The, the Southerner is defending an identity, a cultural identity, uh, which is, which is threatened, and the negro is seeking an identity, which has been, uh, weakened. So the Southerner is defending--he's having a weakened identity, too--he's trying to defend his weakened identity.
WALKER: Well, I think the difference is that the negro has in a sensehad no identity. It is not a matter of change for him as it is to crystallize an identity.
WARREN: Yes, the difference is there. But they are both concerned withidentity problems.
WARREN: Does that make sense to you?
WALKER: Yes, but I think they come out of different roots.
WARREN: Different roots, yes.
WALKER: And, uh, that is where I would see the significant differences,47:00and where the negro, I think would have a, a lesser problem of adjustment, psychologically and emotionally, than the Southern white.
WARREN: All right. The negro is moving toward, successfully towardidentity. The white man in the South is fighting a somewhat losing battle to maintain that identity.
WARREN: A falsely conceived identity.
WALKER: A falsely conceived identity, and he's also in a sense beingdragged forward by what a, uh, what I would call a, a new identity with the concept of a total United States, a total America, see, which he's got to keep up with because of automation, industrial, uh, advances, uh, the space age, and all this. If he's going to get in the mainstream then he's got to give up some of this so-called Southern identity.
WARREN: He's stuck with it.
WALKER: And this is the thing that is, is giving him such a tremendousproblem, where you have such sharp variance in response to the whole 48:00integration question. So you don't have a solid Southern posture any more, you've got degrees of differences ranging from white all the way to black, with a lot of different, a thousand different grades in between. There are many, many Southerners who say, 'Well, yeah, I think the schools ought to be desegregated, but I don't think they ought to come to our church.' Or they say, 'I think they ought to be able to sit anywhere they want on the bus, uh, but I don't want them living in my block.' Or, or 'I think they ought to have the right to, and, uh, have good schools, uh--but, uh, I don't think they ought to participate in sports together,' you know, There's so many contradictions at this point.
WARREN: Speaking of schools, let me give you a quotation from ReverendGalamison.
WALKER: Reverend Galamison.
WARREN: on a TV interview not long back. "I would rather see it"--the49:00public school system--"destroyed than not conform to a timetable for integration" --his timetable.
WARREN: And he added, "Maybe it has run its course already"--the publicschool system. I don't--I'm just taking a few, a couple of sentences out of a, you know, a debate, but now, forgetting whether this represents his considered views or not, how do these views strike you?
WALKER: Well, uh, first of all I would say as a practical man, I, Ithink, uh, both of us must understand every prophet exaggerates his point of view. It would be difficult for me to believe that, uh, Galamison means literally to destroy the public school system. What he means, I think--and maybe I'm hazarding the wrong guess here--is that the board of education in New York, as I'm familiar with it, says that it would cost so much and would disrupt the normal routine smooth 50:00running of our school system to do all you say do right now. Galamison says, 'Well, so what if it does cost all of that and you lose a month or a few days, the ills that its creating in the community and its deeper entrenchment is so severe that I think you ought to go to that awkwardness and inconvenience that it may cost.' I don't--I can't see him, um, meaning literal destruction. Now, if he means that, then I can't go that far with him because I think there are some things about the public school system, um, that are good, and--
WARREN:--the idea is good anyway.
WALKER: Yes, and as entrenched as some of the, some of the ills are,I, even as a militant, would understand out of practical purposes that it must be transitional. That you cannot say tonight it's one way and tomorrow morning it's another way. You just have people and, um, administrative problems and geography, all of these things enter 51:00into it. And particularly in a city like New York City, where it has problems that are unique to itself by being, by the very nature of it being New York City. There's no other city like it anywhere in the world.
WARREN: Do you regard a busing program as a tactic to dramatize a need,or do you regard it as a device that has, uh, positive, long range advantages--
WALKER:--I think it has positive, long range value and I endorse itheartily.
WARREN: What would you do about Washington, DC, where there, I assumedyou'd have almost entirely, uh, an entirely negro population in the public schools? Where would you get the white children to bus in?
WALKER: Well, you see, each city's program has to be geared to thatcity's particular problems, and if Washington, DC in fact does become a negro city, uh, it's a different problem altogether from a situation where the negro would be in the minority. 52:00
WARREN: Well, would the negro be in the minority in the New York Citypublic schools? Not now.
WALKER: Yes, he still remains now. The nonwhite--
WARREN:--in--in a certain, in--in--the nonwhite (??)--
WALKER:--the nonwhite, yes, yes, you have to add in the Puerto Ricanfactor there--
WARREN:--yes, that's what I say, the nonwhite.
WALKER: And that's why I say, each city, you know, there's no one ruleof thumb for each city.
WARREN: Um-hm, um-hm.
WALKER: So, uh, I don't know that I have altogether worked out a--
WARREN:--how far would you be willing to bus children? All children ridebuses some--
WALKER:--I would say, uh, just as a rule of thumb--and this is rightoff the top of my head--anything more than a half hour bus ride for a child. I'd say a half an hour to forty-five minutes seems to me, um, beyond the normal duress of what would be needed.
WARREN: Anything beyond that is--is--
WALKER:--I think would be unusually burdensome, yes. Now that, as Isay, that's right off the top of my head. I can't imagine a child 53:00having to ride an hour in the morning to school, and an hour in the morning back from school.
WARREN: That is, you would see the busing system, then, as a device togain certain ends but not a, not a solution to the problem--
WALKER:--not as a, no, I would only be an interim program by which itwould get certain results and at the same moment dramatize--I think it's a both/and situation rather than an either/or.
WARREN: But the, but the dramatization would be ultimately--I'm askingyou this--I'm putting it as a statement--the dramatization would be of the need for decent schools, decent system (??).
WALKER: Yes, quality education for all children, regardless ofneighborhood. And I think it would also, uh, dramatize the existence of residential segregation, which, about which--
WARREN:--ah, that's something else, now; that's something else. Inother words, it dramatizes a deeper ill--
WARREN:--than the mere fact of, uh, of unintegrated schools.
WALKER: Exactly so. See, the last battleground is the residentialsegregation that is perhaps the most difficult to get at because the 54:00money-lending institutions and the city planners and the people who decide what the neighborhood is going to look like even twenty years from now are all, for the most part, white people, who have, uh, their own anglo-saxon, if I may say, Protestant heritage, to protect.
WARREN: Yes, they do. By their own definition.
WARREN: You're a Protestant?
WARREN: And by your statement, part anglo-saxon, I presume.
WALKER: Yes, I suppose I am. (laughs) But, uh, I do not interpret whatmy--my heritage is not what they interpret it, the same--different. Of course, because I have an old friend, uh, a preacher friend, who says, a lot of people criticize me for not having religion, and when I see what they think it is I'm glad I ain't got it. (laughs) 55:00
WARREN: What is a negro in America?
WALKER: Oh, that's a, that's a question which is antithetic (??). I,I really, uh, don't know. From a negro's point of view it is a person who moves within the negro community, societally speaking. Uh, for the white man, it's any person who has a drop of negro blood.
WARREN: By the law of Virginia--I once looked this up--it's changed overthe years, the percentage--
WARREN:--getting smaller and smaller percentage each time, each new lawdefines, uh, uh, negro blood, uh, defines negro.
WALKER: It's down to one/thirty-second now, I think.
WARREN: Something like that.
WALKER: Yeah, and, of course, I don't know how they measure that, youknow.
WARREN: What happens, uh, if a negro man, say, marries a white woman andshe lives then, societally, as a negro? 56:00
WALKER: She becomes accepted. A, a white person is, uh, becomesassimilated into the negro community in such a way that no white and no negro could ever become assimilated into a white society. We haven't gone that far yet.
WARREN: Aren't there some negroes who have by losing their identity?
WALKER: Well, yes, that's what we would call passing--
WALKER:--of course, that's not assimilation, uh, that's, uh, in a sensedisappearing.
WALKER: Yeah, see that, that negro, he becomes "The Invisible Negro" ofRalph Ellison.
WARREN: Yes. What is your, uh, view of a person who passes, a negrowho--a so-called negro, shall we say, who passes?
WALKER: This--this may surprise you. If that's what he wants to do,more power to him. And I say--
WARREN:--no, it doesn't necessarily surprise me or otherwise, I just--57:00
WALKER:--irrevocably, if I, you know, there's always the irrevocablequestion, if you could come back, would you come back as a white man or a negro? I'd come back as a white man every time.
WARREN: Now, I heard the other day a, a professor of law in adistinguished law school saying, "It must be great to be a negro now."
WALKER: Well, this is a great hour for him.
WARREN: This man is, this man is a white man, you see. He says, "Itmust be great to be a negro now; you must have a sense of significant action which you couldn't have as a white man now."
WALKER: I think, uh, the white man may feel--I don't know; I neverthought about it really--he may feel that he's in a sense at the mercy of history, whereas the negro in a sense is guiding or directing--
WARREN:--making history, is that it? Well, this has some, I'm sure hassome at least truth in it for a large number of people.
WALKER: And now (??)--
WARREN:--it's an interesting formulation--
WALKER:--the assessment that I made about, the theoretical question--andit must always be kept in context with the theoretical--
WALKER:--is that if a man, if a person selfishly wants to have theidentity which would give him the greatest breadth of fulfillment at the stage America is now--for instance, I know people say to me, 'Well, you've done pretty well. You know, why are you bothered with this? You know, you've developed some of the culture of our nation. You're highly educated. You're not doing bad,' you know.
WARREN: Summa cum laude.
WALKER: Yeah. My response is, "Well, suppose I had not had theobstacles to face that I've had as a negro. There's no telling what I might have, you know. I might have been attorney general of the United States."
WARREN: Let's reverse it. There are some negroes who say thatin special cases--not as a general principle--in special cases, segregation has meant a spur to achievement, to self-fulfillment--
WALKER:--yes, I think that is true--
WARREN:--Mr. Farmer says that.
WALKER: I, I think that is true in special cases. But if the human59:00spirit is what I think it is, uh, I do not really believe that the coincidence or the accident of color really changes the nature of a man. And I think I would have had the same kind of ambition and the same kind of drive and the same kind of incentive in striving for perfection that I do, as I happen to be a negro. I don't, I think, I think a human personality is something that is genetically and biologically fixed.
WARREN: You don't think the--you take that view--you don't take the viewof--psychologists, the environmentalists (??)--
WALKER:--I don't think environmental environment plays as much, uh,is as much a factor in, uh, personality as many modern thinkers would suppose.
WARREN: Well, now the argument, the chief argument, I guess, uh, thechief, uh, non-moral argument against segregation is that it does warp 60:00personalities and limit--it, it gives an environment which is bad.
WALKER: Well, I think that's true--
WARREN:-- tainted environment (??)--
WALKER:--I was trying to be precise and say I don't think it has as muchinfluence--
WALKER:--as many might say. It does have an impact and does haveinfluence, but I think the bent of a man's life--here again I'm falling back on the psychologists with whom I, some of whom I disagree--they say the bent of a person's life is usually set around four- or five-years-old, when the concept of race is barely beginning to break through, you know.
WALKER: Prejudice, white and negro.
WARREN: Speaking of psychologists, um, you're familiar no doubt with Dr.Kenneth Clark's attacks on the nonviolence theory. He says for one thing that, uh, the practice of nonviolence, to ask your, uh, someone 61:00who has been oppressed to love his oppressor is putting on that person an intolerable burden.
WALKER: Well, I think the first problem Dr. Kenneth Clark has is thathe has a semantic problem. He doesn't really know what we mean by love within the context of a nonviolent revolution. Secondly, he is a man who--and I don't know him very well, so I have to qualify that--I would judge that he has only a naive religious orientation. And for one to understand what we are saying, he must be basically religiously oriented, and he must have some knowledge of what we mean by love. When we say love we're not talking about an emotional attachment that you like somebody, as I'm sure Dr. King would say.
WARREN: Yes, (??) I've read his, uh, notes.
WALKER: But you have, that you recognize this person's worthfulness as afellow human being, despite what he may do, see. 62:00
WALKER: You may be a hardcore racist, and our point of view is that as,that you are misguided or misdirected or a product of your training and education and culture and whatever--
WALKER: Yes, I say, it is, it is a factor, but not the factor. (Warrenlaughs) And, uh, that this, uh, makes you do the things on to others that you do. Now, our point of view is that even at a practical level, the weapons with which I fight you of necessity must neither be physically violent or must not be a violence of the spirit because neither will, can reconcile us. The only thing they can do is for one or the other or both of us to be annihilated.
WARREN: You look toward the motive of reconciliation as the aim of thewhole project (??)--
WALKER:--in other words, what were saying is this: that we have maybe63:00a dangerous optimism about the resiliency of the human spirit, that if it can reflect in enough instances, and in repeated terms, a kind of heroism or courage, that layer by layer we can peel back the hard core of what years and years have built up. Now, we may not convert in every instance, uh, or at the moment. With some it may be short term, with others it may be long term. Some it may be never. But, uh, as Matt Dillon says, "You can't win 'em all." But at least my personal moral position is strong because at least I tried, you see. Uh, somebody, I think Woodrow Wilson said it, it is better to lose, it is better--how does he have it? It is better to have lost in the cause that will ultimately win than to win in the cause that will ultimately lose. Something like, paraphrase. 64:00
WARREN: Yes, yes.
WALKER: Let me, uh, can I take a break here?
WARREN: Please do.
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: End of tape 2 of conversation with Reverend Walker, continue ontape 3.
[Tape 2 ends; tape 3 begins.]
WARREN: This is tape 3 of a conversation, uh, with Wyatt Tee Walker,Atlanta, March, um, eighteenth, continue.
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: Where were we?
WALKER: I don't recall. Let's see.
WARREN: Well, let's, let's start something. Just (??) pull a cardout of the deck. This is a quotation on negro history. "The whole tendency of the negro history movement"--not as history, but as propaganda--"is to encourage the average negro to escape the realities. The actual achievements and the actual failures of the present. 65:00Although the movement constantly tends to build race pride, it may also cause negroes unconsciously to recognize that group pride is built partly on delusion, and therefore may result in a devaluation of themselves for being forced to resort to self-deception." This is from Arnold Rose, Myrdal's collaborator.
WALKER: Well, I, I see a couple of holes there. I, I think we musthonestly face the fact that almost every page of history--and I know that generalizations are bad--are romanticized to a degree. Now, what I am saying is that I would imagine that as the new move for negro history is developed. And I am, uh, intimately involved in just 66:00such a project myself. Uh, that some of the negro's history and his contributions and the establishment of his historical roots will be romanticized to a degree, maybe overdrawn. But this is nothing more than that which is natural. I think some of us say that, uh, it is a character of the human spirit that the further removed you become from a event, uh, the more and more it becomes embellished. And I think this is something that is a part of our humanity rather than, rather than to say that something unique is now happening to the negro because he has an interest in negro history. I'm about to, uh, take a leave of absence, uh, from my work with Dr. King, uh, by a project that I kind of backed into. I really had no interest whatsoever earlier because 67:00I, my appetite was one of being an activist, a militant. Uh, but the offer kept on coming, and then I began to be interested in what these people were trying to do. We are, I am planning to go to work with a company that's putting out a sixteen volume encyclopedia on negro life and culture. Either I have persuaded myself or I have become persuaded this in a sense is the next frontier, to give the negro of this present generation and next a sense of historical roots which he has never had. It's in a sense going to solidify this new identity that he's building. Um, I, I don't know whether you've been able--I guess you know that I am a damned Yankee.
WARREN: Yes, I know your origin.
WALKER: And I went to integrated schools all my life. And the onlything I can recall reading in history books about negroes is that we 68:00were slaves and that slaveowners for the most part, there were a few- -I'm paraphrasing now--there were a few slaveowners who didn't treat their slaves well, but for the most part a genuine warm relationship existed, you know. And that's all I can really recall, and I'm sure I have a (??) mental block about it because I've never had any, uh, I've never had any feeling about denying, uh, the slave experience of the negro, and this has become, grown out of my deep appreciation for the, what is almost, uh, the only thoroughly American music we have, the negro spiritual and folk songs. Uh, rather to me, despite the terrible experience slavery was, it was an ennobling experience for the negro because he has been, he has proven that he could rise above it. That he took the rigors that it produced and somehow kept his spirit and soul together. Uh--I have become convinced that whatever efforts 69:00I have, that more people are reached through the written word than the spoken word in a sense. And so this new project is really fascinating to me. That if we can get into, say, two-fifths, two-tenths of the negro church community, we can get in a tenth of the public school (??)get in half of the libraries, get in a tenth of the civic and human relations groups with these volumes which will talk about the negro and his contributions to medicine, which is a kind of neo-nationalism. Uh, in sports, in religious life, uh, negro womanhood, you know, uh, essay, literature, you know, the whole gamut of experiences that he 70:00has been able at best to develop within his subculture. Uh, this is really fascinating.
WARREN: It is. Uh, problematic/programmatic (??) history, uh, can bethe kind which was written by the South about the Reconstruction.
WALKER: Yes, which guided their thought (??) patterns for the next twogenerations.
WARREN: That's right. It guided them, uh, very unfortunately.
WARREN: Now we are finding a crop of Southern historians who arerewriting it.
WARREN: New researches.
WALKER: Yes, and it's been very shocking to some.
WARREN: Very shocking to say that. Vann Woodward has rewrittenReconstruction history. He's a Southerner, from Arkansas. Now, the question I'm getting at is, there's a danger in the program, isn't there? The danger of, of the delusion? (??)
WALKER: Yes, over romanticizing it. Of building a, uh, deep71:00nationalistic spirit. Making black better (??) than white, you know--
WALKER:--or developing the martyr complex.
WARREN: That, or even doing something else. Over promoting. The greatAmerican vice in the American history.
WARREN: That's right. You said something a moment ago which, uh, struckmy ear in passing. It was this--before we come back to history--this bears on it--you said you regarded the slave experience as an ennobling one for the negro. Now, in Faulkner's character of Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury, we have the only noble character in this novel. She's noble, understanding, powerful, enduring, pitiful, compassionate--I mean in that sense, pitiful. For some negroes this character is an 72:00affront; she is a character painted as being ennobled by, uh, history and by her condition. Now when Faulkner, a white man, says that, this caused resentment among certain negroes including James Baldwin.
WALKER: Well, I think James--
WARREN:--now you said it could in no sense cause a resentment. You wereabout to say that James Baldwin what.
WALKER: I was going to say that James Baldwin--I recognize James Baldwinmechanically and artistically as a great writer from my own judgment, but I cannot, uh, accept James Baldwin as the last word on negro expression and what I feel. James Baldwin can speak for James Baldwin and what he feels, but, uh, that does not make him the archetype of expression for the negro community. I don't think there's any person who speaks for the negro community, not even Martin Luther King Jr. I think he'd be the first one to say it. We are as individual as we 73:00are different. Uh, and we reflect a heterogeneity of attitudes and responses as does any group of people; white, black, yellow or brown. Uh, James Baldwin, uh, you kind of intimated that he did not find any comfort in the character of Dilsey.
WARREN: "Southerners have an illusion, and they cling to it desperately.And Dilsey is such an illusion that justifies the Southerner in saying, 'Oh, everything is all right because she's so nice and she comforts me.'" I won't read the whole thing.
WALKER: Yeah, yeah. I think, uh, a part of what he's saying may betrue. Uh, Faulkner was a novelist, basically, or maybe all together. He drew some of his characters from experiences that he had had. Uh, I am sure that these ennobling qualities that Dilsey had, and I'm not familiar with this particular book. 74:00
WALKER: I mean, I know the name but I've never read it.
WALKER: That she might have been the composite of qualities that a slaveperson could develop despite the slave experience, and this is what I am getting it.
WARREN: That's what he's presenting, too (??), I should say.
WALKER: Um, and I'm not saying that if I want to be a noble, make mea slave. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that in spite of, it developed in the negro, which might have developed otherwise and maybe at a more accelerated pace, but it did not kill his spirit; it only broadened his, the resiliency of the human spirit, and it was by some accident or fortuitous circumstance that it happened, that it occurred in the negro experience. In other words, uh, it did a lot of bad things to him, to us, but it didn't decimate us as did the Indian's inflexibility, you see. In other words, if I had to 75:00choose between the two courses, I'd take the negro's lot anyway and undergo the slave experience and survive, rather than be relegated to a reservation as has the Indian.
WARREN: Yes. You were speaking of the heterogeneity among, uh, negroesand among, uh, negro leaders a moment ago. This is an interesting fact. Most revolutions tend to move toward a single focus of leadership.
WALKER: Well, I have a little, uh, maybe this explains it, I don't know.My attitude toward the revolution is that it has not quite gelled yet. It's finding its way. Uh, and I agree with you that any significant historical turn of events must move on the vehicle of personality; it does not move on idea alone. It must have substance, it must 76:00have personality, it must be substantive by a personality. Uh, I, my feeling is that the revolution is like a child who is making its first few steps. A year ago I was saying we were just landing on the beach, digging in. I think Birmingham stood us up, and we're like a toddling child. Because when I think that the revolution is full grown we're going to have such things as removing the prerequisite of literacy as a right to vote, and that's right around the corner. We're going to have, uh, a demand for an economic reorganization of our whole free enterprise system. To me that is the revolution full blown (??).
WARREN: Now, to get back to leadership. Is there any tendency, uh,77:00toward not a single person now visible, not even Dr. King who has become more the symbol than any other single person, but clearly does not dominate the whole impulse. There's a vast amount of, uh, energy in the movement. It is not, or even outside the movement there's random violence but he does not dominate. Is there any, uh, logic in the situation which would lead toward the, uh, domination by a single personality? There always has been in a revolution. Or, can you swing a revolution with, uh, a democratic control? Is that, is that a problem, the force of the--
WALKER:--I would say no to the latter question, and say not necessarilyto the former. Now, to be specific, what I am getting at is, I don't, I don't think there are rules for revolution, you know.
WALKER: That there is a possibility of a revolution occurring whichdoesn't conform to any of the other previous revolutions recorded in 78:00history. I think our span--
WARREN:--that's a good pragmatic view, anyway, isn't it?
WALKER: Yes. Uh, so, I would not be dismayed if there does not emergeon the American scene in race relations, one negro leader who towers above all else.
WARREN: It might be very dangerous, as a matter of fact.
WALKER: Yes. On the other hand, uh, um, I think I might--I don't know.I have a kind of reluctance to agree that Martin Luther King does not now dominate the scene more than any other single individual.
WARREN: More than any other person but not the whole scene. He doesn'tdominate the Muslims (??).
WALKER: Not the whole structure.
WARREN: He doesn't dominate a great many factions and, and randomfeelings, too.
WALKER: Well, let me ask you this--what do you think the Muslimfollowing represents really?
WARREN: I have no way of knowing. I read the papers and I read thebooks, and the articles. It's all what I read, how do I know?
WALKER: Well, let us say, for instance, my feeling is that the Muslim79:00movement and its so-called impact and its (??) in race relations is almost nil. It's a spectra; a paper target that the white press has created--I say the white press because that's the only press that exists in a real sense. Uh, for instance, I have a serious question as to how strong they are with all of the fear that they strike in some people's hearts. When I know in Birmingham they say they've had a temple there for ten years, and they have to scrounge around to get fifty people. Now, a movement that is no more vital than that in ten years, I have some question about. In Atlanta, the same thing is true. Uh, the only place, the only place. And you can, you can document it. The only place where Malcolm X can get a crowd is Harlem. That's maybe Newark because it's in the shadow of New York, but you get him anywhere else he's lost. Half, 50 percent of the negroes don't even 80:00know what the Black Muslims are. They never heard of them. They don't know who Malcolm X is. But 90 percent of negroes know who Martin Luther King Jr. is.
WARREN: Yes, I know that for a fact. I mean, that is, that's beyonddispute. It's a question of what impulses, uh, implicit in these appetites and angers, you see, an instinct for violence and revenge would be implicit but (??) have not dominated the idea (??).
WALKER: This is, this is where I think a great many people havemisjudged the real temper of the negro. For instance, I would raise a question: who can best say what the temper of the grassroots negro is? Can Roy Wilkins say it? No. Jim Farmer? No. Whitney Young? Certainly no. Who is it that enjoys titular leadership of the negro community, who really knows what the pulse of the simple and plain people are? The one man who has a following and who has the logical contact, even more, a man who moves at their level, who has any kind of programmatic thrust 81:00that ever touches them. And that's Martin Luther King Jr.
WARREN: Well, I say certainly in relative terms, there's no denyingthat. That's clearly true. Speaking of any--
WALKER:--what single, what single man--let me, let me press the point--
WALKER:--there is not a single negro leader, not a single white leaderwho touches as many people individually as does Martin Luther King Jr. I took a six weeks check, following, uh, oh, I guess when we came out of Birmingham. In less than ten days time, he personally, I mean, he saw hands and eyes and faces of nearly, of better than a quarter of a million people. There isn't anybody who commands the kind of response, individual physical response that he does. Now I'm not even counting the compounded contacts that he makes when they recorded his speeches and they play them over the radio, or if he's on television such as he 82:00was at the March on Washington. (??) And I think this is unique in a man, something that goes by--it's so, it's so ordinary for us that we are slow to detect it. [telephone rings]
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: Do you remember this quotation from, uh, Mr. Wilkins? "They"--that is, SNCC, CORE, SCLC--"furnish the noise, but NAACP pays the bills," for the bail and all the legal advice and so forth, and of CORE and so forth. "Here today and gone tomorrow. There's only one organization that can handle a long sustained fight."
WALKER: Do you just want my, uh, candid response--
WARREN:--reaction, candid response, not your uncandid response.
WALKER: Off the record or on the record. I've got two, I have two.
WARREN: Well, give me both of them and you have the script. You can,uh, one background and one on the record. Put them both here and we'll, you'll have the script anyway. 83:00
WALKER: Well, first I would say, uh, I think Roy Wilkins--I know Roypersonally, and, uh, I used to work under him for years until I got exiled to Siberia. Let me go into the off the record response.
WARREN: All right, all right.
WALKER: The NAACP has become bureaucratic or is bureaucratic. It haslost contact with the grassroots people, if it ever had it. It has lost it. I worked within, uh, the structure of the NAACP ever since I was eleven-years-old, so I know it pretty well. I mean I'm not somebody on the outside looking in. I was branch president for five years in Virginia, reputedly one of the best branches in the nation per capita.
WARREN: That's when you had a charge there, a pastorate.
WALKER: Yes, that's right. And, uh, I think I could pretty well84:00document that whenever, within (??) of the NAACP energetic and/or ambitious leadership begins to develop, you go to the guillotine. Why, I don't know, because, because it seems to me the life of any organization if it's going to exist in perpetuity, must have some transfer. But out of my own experience and what I began to look around and see in other circumstances, I found it to be true. Uh. They have almost a kind of an organization of determinism, and it's reflected in this statement--this is on the record, now--that the NAA, the NAACP because of its, because of its longevity is the only organization. I cannot subscribe to that view. I think the discontent of the negro takes many different forms. Here again I'm talking--this reflects the heterogeneity of the negro. Uh, and the NAACP's program 85:00is not versatile enough to take within itself all of these different impulses. Uh, now the first thing I would say about Mr. Wilkins's statement in Arlington, Virginia, is it was not factual. I remember specific instances when SNCC, to whom he refers, got involved in McCome, Mississippi. And, uh, and the students do go off sometimes without counting the cost. This is not because they are students; it's the rebellious age of the human spirit. And in many instances, uh, they have done things, uh, precipitate--precipitately, which, uh, were good, and in other instances they were ill-advised. But all of us make mistakes. In that instance in McCome, I don't remember, it was 86:00either twenty thousand bail or ten thousand bail. Whatever it was, Roy Wilkins called me personally and wanted to know could we help with the bail, and they had appealed to us, and we agreed on the phone that they would put up half and we would put up half.
WARREN: You being SCLC?
WALKER: SCLC. This was back in 1961. In the Freedom Ride, when, whichhe intimates, Roy is not completely honest at this point. Uh, in that he says NAACP and embraces a legal defense in education fund, which is something altogether different. Even knowledgeable white people who are students of the revolution are not aware of this. And it was the legal defense in education fund that took up the cudgel of the Freedom Rides legally. And this is what they exist for, so they should have done it. Birmingham, which has been the biggest single confrontation to date that I know of, the NAACP does not exist in Alabama. I do 87:00not know of any single thing they did or paid, save Mr. Wilkins's transportation from Tuskegee Institute over to Birmingham to speak and back up to New York. Now, that is the only involvement I know of with them with Birmingham. And I know I can speak with authority because I'm the, I'm the business head (??), I'm the man who handles the bills and okays the requisitions and this kind of thing. Um, any city he wants to name, there have been some instances where the NAACP branch has become involved or their youth chapters have become involved with the assistance, openly or quietly, by SCLC or inspired by SNCC, goaded by SNCC, prodded by us, in which they have had some responsibility, but the job was being done under the aegis of the NAACP. And I think we should have to face the practical realities that in these civil rights 88:00organizations with the diversified attack now on the system, the one point at which there is sharp competition is fundraising. Now, unique, uniquely enough, even though we stay in the red, I think we have a broader outreach in fundraising than any organization that exists. And this is because Martin Luther King Jr. He has a tremendous appeal.
WARREN: I've seen it in operation in Bridgeport two weeks ago.
WALKER: Oh, yes. Well, then, you know exactly what I mean.
WARREN: I have seen it elsewhere, too, but that's.
WALKER: Now that was one evening's work, which was a rugged eveningfor him, when you consider his overall schedule and the organizational responsibility he has. One that was a six thousand dollar night. Now, Roy Wilkins, it would take--I don't know if he could ever get up a crowd that big to come hear him speak. He admits he's not colorful; he's not a symbol. For this is the symbolism of Martin Luther King Jr. and we practically translate it into meaningful support for his 89:00organization. Uh, there's a whole ream of, uh, of untold stories about Martin Luther King Jr. --
WALKER:--as far as his income, he has not accepted an honorarium. Forinstance, uh, he raised in his appearances last year, raised better than four hundred thousand dollars for his organization, which was, uh, oh, 50 percent of the budget or more, the budget expenditure, for which he got a dollar, see. He gets no personal income from this organization, but yet the stories persist, you know, about this man is making a mint. He's stashing it away. Well, I think I know more about the personal finances of, uh, Martin Luther King Jr. than any living person save his wife and secretary. Uh, and I know of more offers that come to him, which are legitimate and which he has every right to accept, but because of his unique symbolism he is reluctant to do it. 90:00Many people do not know, and I don't know whether you (??) want to hear it, but Martin Luther King Jr. was born a wealthy man. He has, he has no need, you know. There's no need exists.
WARREN: I considered (??) he was comfortable anyway. I didn't know(??)--
WALKER: Well, I would say within the frame of reference of what thenegro community. Our scale, you know, our scale is considerably lower, but. With enough financial affluence not to ever have to hit a lick of work as long as he lived. Now, I could say that.
WARREN: Going back to the matter of, of, um, recent history, forinstance--
WALKER:--did I, I want to be sure that I made clear that--
WARREN:--you made it perfectly clear--
WALKER:--first of all, Mr. Wilkins's statement was not accurate. Itwas said in a moment of evident pique when he, it looked like NAACP was being displaced by the new vital--
WARREN:--the same thing was said by the local president of the NAACPat Bridgeport while waiting for Dr. King's appearance, two weeks ago in Bridgeport.
WALKER: He said the same thing about Wilkins?91:00
WARREN: completely (??) He wasn't there, I mean, the local president.
WALKER: And just to show you--if I may press this one point further--that same meeting Mrs. Anderson--I know her by name because I--and this is a practice of Dr. King and of many of them--they can't get a crowd unless they use the names of the movement, and it happens that King, Abernathy, Chelsworth, and Walker are the principal names. I went to Bridgeport for an NAACP rally, for expenses only, to raise money for the NAACP. Dr. King is going to Las Vegas at the end of next month on a 60/40 basis to raise money--60 percent for the NAACP, you know. If they had Roy Wilkins out there, they can't get $25 or $100 a plate for a dinner, but they can do it with Martin Luther King Jr. He raises more money for other organizations than the people within the organizations themselves can possibly do. Now, we have a letter, I believe--I haven't seen it but Dr. King remarked about it--the (??) wrote to us, thanking Dr. King, that they had the largest membership (??) that they ever had. And it was because of Birmingham, you know, the interest 92:00created. Jim Farmer of CORE said their income was strengthened. SNCC has benefited. Any number of organizations. We were the only organization--the legal defense in education fund had one ad in the New York Times that grossed (??) $110,000. We were the only organization who didn't send out a financial appeal on Birmingham, and you know why? Because we were still over there doing the job; we just couldn't do it.
WARREN: Some people say, um, people who are quite active and courageousin this movement, that Birmingham was a disaster.
WALKER: Well, without, uh--
WARREN:--Charles Evers for one; I put it on tape--
WALKER:--first of all, he isn't knowledgeable about the negro movementin the South. He's been away from Mississippi too long. Secondly, uh, you can't measure the results of a revolution altogether intangible results, and in the paper that I gave you, uh--
WALKER:--that it was a direction-turning event, not just for a single93:00city but for the South and even the entire nation.
WARREN: Was there a shock to, uh, your leadership, uh, in the outbreakof violence there?
WALKER: Not at all.
WARREN: No shock? This is sometimes said, you know. Even if theshock was great to, uh, your leadership, uh, there. After, after the bombing, when the mob broke, you know. I mean, after--after the, the bombing at the motel when the mob broke.
WALKER: You know what my shock was? I was on the scene in both instances.
WARREN: I know you were.
WALKER: I was in the motel when it was bombed. My shock was that wewere successful in containing it to what it was; that was my shock.
WARREN: The containment?
WALKER: The containment of it. I really thought that city was going toblow itself off the map that night and the next day. There was enough provocation to warrant it.
WALKER: The other thing is, the reason why this assessment may comeout, is here again we're at the mercy of--and I don't think they'd do it with any malice--white press corps who interpret it. They can only 94:00see it through white eyes. They cannot distinguish even between negro demonstrators and negro spectators. All they know is negroes, and most of, most of the spectacular pictures printed in Life magazine and in television clips had the commentary negro demonstrators, when they were not "negro demonstrators" at all. I could go through reams of pictures and identity for you pictures depicted as demonstrators, they were not demonstrators at all.
WALKER: Spectators. If I could share with a little, little intimacyoff the record of what gave the movement, what built the Birmingham movement was something, uh, uh, was an accident that we parlayed into its, uh, most useful application. When we went to Birmingham, as--I don't know whether you know--five months ahead I had started in, at 95:00Dr. King's behest, preparing the community, organizing, mapping out the streets, et cetera. Uh, we had four hundred people when we came to town April the second, who we knew were ready to go to jail for 10 days apiece and we were going to stagger them through a period of time. Uh, on the second, on the first Sunday of a demonstration, which I believe was a Palm Sunday, we had 23 people in the march, but you know how mass meetings are. Like they last a little while, and we were about an hour behind schedule, and with the demonstrations that had begun that week, with 15 and 8 and 12 and 20. The people who are free on Sunday, negro people in negro neighborhood begin to stand around and wait to see what was going to happen. Well, it swelled to about 1500 people. Only 22 people marched. See. But they followed these 22 down the street and when the UPI took the pictures and reported it, they said 1500 demonstrators, 22 arrested. Well, the 22 or 28 was all we had. 96:00So then we devised the technique, said, 'Well, this is the way we'll do it.' We'll set the demonstration for one hour and delay it by two hours and let the crowd collect. (Warren laughs) Now, this is a little Machiavellian. (Warren laughs) And I don't know whether I've ever discussed this with Dr. King--I doubt if I have--but some people say I'm the Richelieu or something, you know, uh. And it was the image of all of these people following just a handful, and it was the spectators following upon whom the dogs were turned. It was only until three weeks later that the hoses were actually used on demonstrators per se. And, uh, that was only done one afternoon, isn't that interesting? But there were reports over and over again of--
WARREN:--the dogs, you mean, only one afternoon hoses (??)--
WALKER:--no, no, the hoses--
WARREN:--only one afternoon--
WALKER:--one afternoon. After that, they saw that didn't stop them and97:00they just started to rented buses, and pulled buses up, and put them on buses. One afternoon, one Saturday, the Saturday before the truce, I remember particularly--out of which came some of the most graphic pictures--we decided, since they had been a little rock throwing on Friday, that we would not have any--
[Tape 3 ends; tape 4 begins.]
WARREN: This is tape 4 of the conversation with Reverend W. T. Walker,March eighteenth, continue.
[Pause in recording.]
WALKER: I was about to, uh.
WARREN: The crowd following, uh, the demonstrators in Birmingham.
WALKER: Yes, I was referring particularly to the Saturday before thetruce. On that Friday there had been some rock throwing by spectators. And we felt--
WALKER: No, no, no negro spectators.
WARREN: At whom?
WALKER: At the policemen.
WARREN: At police.
WALKER: Yes, um-hm. And, uh, this did not grow out of the demonstrationper se, but at the policemen's insistence to make them move back, get up on the curb, just rough treatment, generally, and they resented it. 98:00And I think a woman or so was struck. And, uh, so out of a crowd of a thousand people some rocks and bricks came. So, in response to this, we felt that in order not to have the nonviolent thrust scarred by rock throwing, which if the demonstration originated at the Sixteenth Street Church, it would naturally draw the crowd. So, what we did that morning, we began to distribute our spectators--I mean, our demonstrators to other points in the city to other churches, and they left the church in twos and threes. And that day, even though there were some three or four hundred arrested, not a single demonstration originated at the Sixteenth Street Church. Well, we couldn't let the spectators know what we were doing, nor did we want the police particularly to know because what happened, our picketers were beginning to show up downtown, they were down at the town hall, they were over at Sears & Roebuck. They're just coming from all quarters, coming from the train station. And the police couldn't figure out where they were coming from because they were not leaving the church 99:00in line as they had been. Well, the spectators waited from, say, 11:00 that morning--which was an off day--until about 4:00 that afternoon, you know, waiting to see some action, waiting to see the demonstrators, and none ever appeared. So, they had gathered in the park, which is a shaded area. And--the firemen had set up their hoses at two corners of the park, one on Fifth Street and one on Sixth Street. And, uh, the mood was like a Roman holiday; it was festive. There wasn't anybody among the spectators who were angry, and they had waited so long, and it was beginning to get dark now. So, somebody heaved a brick because they knew that--in fact, they had been saying, "Turn the water hose on. Turn the water hose on." And Bull Connors, then somebody threw a brick, and he started turning them on, see. So they just danced and played in the hose spray. This famous picture of them holding hands, 100:00it was just, uh, a frolic of them trying to stand up (??) and some of them wore getting knocked down by the hose. They'd get up and run back and it would slide them along the pavement. Then they began bringing the hose up from the other corner, and instead of negroes (??) they ran to the hose. It was a, it was a holiday for them. And this went on for a couple of hours. It was a joke, really. All in good humor and good spirit. Not any vitriolic response on the part of even the negro spectators, which to me, again, was an example of the changing, uh, spirit, you know. When negroes once had been cowed in the presence of policemen and maybe water hoses, here they had complete disdain for them. Made a joke out of it.
WARREN: What kind of people were in this crowd?
WALKER: Mostly marginal and sub marginal livers, people who came infrom--
WARREN:--the very poor?
WALKER: Yes, the very poor.
WARREN: Were they town people or country people?
WALKER: Primarily I would say townspeople, who did--were not inclined to101:00get into the movement per se, you know, to take the training and what not. Uh, with all of the more than thirty-four hundred people who went to jail, there was hardly an instance of anybody going to jail who was not signed up, whose accurate (??) record was not made, who did not receive two hours of instruction.
WARREN: Thirty-four hundred people?
WALKER: Yeah. A tremendous administrative responsibility, but we sawit. Nobody will ever know I guess until I get my Birmingham diary finished of what really went into Birmingham. But it's, uh, an operation that I was proud to have a part in, which, uh, I take a great deal of pride in the smoothness with which it operated.
WARREN: Albany is a, uh, episode is coming in for criticism of one sortor another.
WALKER: Well, revolutions are not resolved (??) in a single battle.Albany had no apparent gains per se, but in that paper that I gave you, published by New York University, I document the gradual--not 102:00gradual, but the perceptive change of the city fathers in their inflexible (??) position that they took at the beginning. The closing down of public facilities, the integration of public schools, uh, the abridging of constitutional rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. At every point they approximated their former inflexible position and whereas the negro did not have any positive gains that were visible, yet, the system of segregation had been successfully challenged. And I think, uh, the story of Albany is not over yet. Uh, the fact we have something going on there now, you (??) still have a movement. The fact that, uh, the Albany movement exists in the life of the negro at all is different.
WARREN: You know Lomax's analysis of that, of course?
WALKER: Yes, can I say something about Louis Lomax?
WALKER: One of the most informed chroniclers of the negro movement103:00alive. Uh, mechanically, Lou Lomax is a good writer, but Lou lacks integrity, and I would say this as quickly to him as I say to you. It is difficult to believe, but I can document it. With all of the pages that Lou Lomax wrote about Albany, Georgia, could you believe that he never set his foot in the town? With all of the pages that he wrote about Martin Luther King Jr., could you believe he never once interviewed him? And, uh, some people think, uh, that my criticism of Lou is because they felt he gave me a bad treatment in the book. I did not feel so. I felt that he was absolutely accurate in his description of me. He had one or two facts off, but as to my demeanor and my attitude, he was as honest as any man could be. So it, it isn't anything personal. It's a matter of his, what I call maltreatment of an analysis of the movement about which he is generally informed-- 104:00uninformed. I've heard some response to his lectures around the country on Birmingham. Um, Lou is not knowledgeable about Birmingham. He wasn't long enough there to know or to grasp or to understand all that was involved in Birmingham. And, uh, I think it's unfortunate that the general reading community, white and negro who are interested in the movement, look to Louis Lomax's articles on the movement--
WARREN:--many of them, they do, uncritically--
WALKER:--yes. But, uh, here again, this was another casualty of therevolution. Those of us who could do an interpretative job and are intimate about its workings have no time to write it because we are it. Uh.
WARREN: Only Caesar did that.
WALKER: Yes. (laughs) And, of course, that was in a day when arevolution was slow moving.
WARREN: Slow moving. Alas, I've got to go and I'm sure you're ready for105:00a little relief from this.
WALKER: Yes, I've got a few little things to do, too.
WARREN: I know you have.
[Tape 4 ends.]
[End of interview.]