Title: Southern Regional Council Conference, Day 1, Tape B [ SRC 33 ]
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Title: Southern Regional Council Conference, Day 1, Tape B SRC 33
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Language: English
Creator: Interviewer: Leslie Dunbar
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SRC 33
Day 1, Tape B

Leslie Dunbar: ....get away with saying such and such and that freed editors, too. It

freed business structures and I think is one of the crucial

developments in the post-1954 South. Patterson and I can claim to

have known Gene intimately. I knew him and worked with him. But I

know Patterson. If you read all of his things they just clearly

changed. They moved up a notch or two every year, that was

remarkable. He was a man of great decency. I know he called me

up, this was in 1964, I know this date, he called me up to say the

FBI showed me these tapes. They made me listen to this tape

about Martin King over in hotels. Well, I said, I don't want to listen

to them. But then I didn't. The good thing about Gene Patterson is

he never mentioned that. I don't think he ever mentioned that he

was one of the editors who heard this scandalous FBI tape. He was

a decent person. That was of great importance.

Paul Gaston: You used the wrong tense there, past tense. Present tense is a decent


Brian Ward: Is a decent person. (Some laughter)


John Dorsey Due: I was at the 1965 Conference of SNCC and I was not conscious of

some revolutionary things that was happening at that meeting.

Number one, I was in another room when Bob Moses said some of

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 2

us have been involved too long and we need to leave and he

walked out. We haven't seen him until just a few of years ago when

he came back to Mississippi in 1994. Also decisions and

discussions were made, and I was in another room, that whites no

longer be a part of SNCC. White folks need to go out and organize

white folks and this was the beginning of black power. Since

Ms.Curry was part of American Friends Service Committee, I

remember when I was interviewing for a job that you can burn out

by being involved in this kind of stress on a continued basis and

you need to recognize that and you can change. Connie, since you

were so intimately involved with SNCC at the beginning, can you

explain from your perspective as to what happened and what this

meant? And then Paul I'd like to know what did this mean to the

Southern Regional council when blackness became the thing in the


Connie Curry: Well, John, as you know, I had left SNCC and had gone to work for

the American Friends Service Committee by 1965 so I was not at

that meeting. There was sort of two generations of SNCC, the first

generation and then the second, and I was in the first one. Those of

us who were there in 1960 through Freedom Summer of 1964. In

that first group there was Cacey Hayden, (we're talking about white

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 3

people) Penny Patch, Joan Browning, Sue Thrasher, Bob

Zelner, and a lot of other white people who were involved. For

them the decision that white people should go to work in white

communities was very painful. It's very interesting now because if

you ask Julian Bond, and other people they'll say that it was a

political more than a racial thing because it was the beginning of

the top down, the more hierarchical, business, then the grassroots

up, which is what Bob Moses and a lot of other people sort of

believed in. It was a political rather than a color decision in many

way. Julian, and a lot of other people who were in and out of that

meeting, say that they didn't believe in it. It was not a black power

thing. It was a philosophy of how things should be run. That's when

Bob changed his name and went to Africa because he was very

upset about it. It was complicated because in 1964, which is before

all this happened, there was the advent of the thousand people

coming from the North. A lot of the women and people that I know

from that era, the white women, they came down and worked only

in the summer of 1964. It was the beginning of a lot of grassroots

people saying we don't like these white Northerners coming down

and taking over our agenda and telling us what to do when we've

been used to being led by the people in the community. So you had

sort of the first and second generation, the beloved community,

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 4

before the shift to what was called and, I don't think Stokely and

the people who were talking about it at that moment really saw it as

much of a black power thing as I say as they did the political thing.

The other crucial thing is the fact that you have to remember in

1964 there were 90-some church burnings in Mississippi. People

had been killed by Moses probably never got over the fact of

feeling responsible for Herbert Lee's murder. Schwener, Chaney,

and Goodman, I mean the murders, the violence. And then there

was Atlantic City which was the greatest set-back. Bus-loads going

up to Atlantic City with Fanny Lou Haymer and everybody singing

freedom songs. And what happens? They get to Atlantic City and

they're allowed two seats. It was great rejection. It was

disillusionment. It was heartbreak. A lot more than it was black

power. That's the way I see it. I want to say one thing about the

press real quick, about Claude Sitton. The other thing a lot of

people don't know is a lot of movement people used to say when

they were afraid they'd say God if we can only get the Cluade

Sitton's room.

Paul Gaston: One very quick answer. John asked me a question (and then you're

question Brian). Blackness did make a difference at the council

after Paul Anthony resigns about 1971, 1972. The executive

committee was determined that it was gonna hire a black executive

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 5

director. There had always been that kind of, well that was the

beginning I think of that kind of that tension. It wasn't black power

but the executive committee was divided and they were determined

to find a black executive director. Andy Lewis said he wouldn't

take the job, and Harvey Gant said he wouldn't take the job. Then

George Esser appeared who, quite white, but with very good

contacts with the Ford Foundation and they said he'd be good.

(Laughter) So he would be good. One other personal thing. I was in

a university in Richmond, Virginian, a black university at about this

time and I had gone over to do some consulting. One of the

students said would you like to come to a rally? We're having a rally

tonight. I went to the rally and they were talking about what things

they were going to do: poison the water supply and so on. I said

well look I'm getting a little anxious. Yeah don't worry we got bottled

water for you. Question Brian?

Brian Ward: Yeah I've got a couple of questions. We've been working Les pretty hard

on this press theme and you've given us a long list of very distinguished

journalists who worked with or for the SRC quite intimately. Yourself and

David Chalmers given good testimony about the power of new South and

then of Southern changes as SRC publications, but it occurs to me this is

all print media. I'm just wondering how much effort the SRC actually made

to court radio and television, which, in many ways, were as important for a

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 6

different constituency during the 1950's and 1960's. You could argue more

important than the print media.

Leslie Dunbar: Your question is what did we do with radio and television, and we

did darn little, partly because we didn't know how, mainly.

Television was just itself coming in and came in in a rush during the

later 1960's. I don't think we had on the staff or anybody who really

knew how to do radio and certainly nobody who knew how to do

television. So we didn't. There used to be a man named Ed

Friendly who had something called Friendly World Broadcasting

or something like that and Ed would make these tapes and ship

them around to the network radio stations that he had contacts

with. They were all race relations, brotherhood, peace kind of

things. Details are a little foggy in my head now, but at SRC we did

sort of subsidize him once, for a good purpose I hope, but

essentially we did not know how to do radio and we did not know

how to do television and we didn't do it. I appeared on radio several

times. There was one radio station over in Birmingham, Alabama,

which us. And our lawyers actually got me equal time.

It had never happened before, so I got equal time over at this

station over in Birmingham, Alabama. We're not Communists or

what not.

Brian Ward: Actually it's just anecdotally, Pacifica actually once read out the whole of

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 7

one of Les's articles in the journal of politics which I'm sure was riveting

listening. They certainly gave you good air time there, but it was someone

else reading out one of your articles. So Pacifica may have been a radio

network that you had some success with. The second question is really for

all the folks up there and it's sort of something that's been gnawing away

at me as I've been listening to many of the papers today and the panel

session. By the 1950's and into the 1960's you've got an organization in

the Southern Regional Council that is in various ways pushing for

integration. And yet one of the stories that hasn't emerged from what's

been said today is what was going on within the Southern Regional

Council and the councils for human relations themselves. What was race

relations like within the body of the council and within the human relations

councils. And then, picking up actually on something Les has said again,

what were gender relations like within those organizations during the

1950's and 1960's and was there a discernable change over those


Paul Gaston: Brian has his schedule to end at three thirty and so there's thirty eight

seconds to answer that question. I'll take a part of those to

welcome the president of the Southern Regional Council who just

walked in. Greetings, Charles. Do you want us to take time to

answer that?

Charles: I want your best five minutes, Paul.

Paul Gaston: Well, I'll give it to someone else. John's ready to go.

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 8

John Dorsey: I just want to say that, when I got active with the Unitarian Fellowship

which was kind of a sponsor of the Tallahassee council in human

relations, I was the first black who was not part of the academic

world at FAMU that wanted to be part and interact with whites.

Black folks really didn't want to interact with white folks in

Tallahassee. It was only through the movement

we saw white students who reached out form the University of

Florida and FSU to reach out to Patricia. Patricia was also a

different kind of person. You have to realize that you can't just

blame the white folks in the council of human relations not reaching

out to blacks. A lot of times the blacks didn't want to reach out to

whites. It was just that way. It was the mis-education of Negroes by

Woodson was the reality in the South. And fear. What do they

want? They must be Communists, you know, that kind of thing.

Leslie Dunbar: I don't know what I'm supposed to say. We had a wonderful staff at

SRC made up of a lot of accomplished and talented people.

Accomplished and talented people sometimes find ways to rub

each other. So we used to have, now and then, little flair ups of the

staff and we'd have to deal with them. We also had them with the

councils in human relations. I spent a lot of my time on that. I just

remembered one woman who worked running the memiograph

machines and, let's call her Jane Doe, for a moment. I can

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 9

remember in frustration sometimes saying my god I wish we had

more Jane Doe's around here. I never have any problems with

her. She leaves precisely at five o'clock every night, she's gone.

She never works over time. She causes me no trouble. Right after I

left she led a black power movement at SRC, so you can't always

tell. I don't remember what else to say...

Connie Curry: Like I say, I really never worked at SRC, but my perception of it was

that it was mostly white male led, but there was some women like

Maggie Long and certainly Mrs. Tilly who had been there. There

were a lot of women who were deeply involved.

Paul Gaston: My staff experience was only one year from 1970 to 1971 and that may be

illustrative of some of the tensions it had. Vernon Jordan had just

left the staff. John Lewis had recently left the staff. One other

distinguished black leader had just left the staff. Almost over night

the staff had changed from being integrated at the top level with

project directors and so on. The year I came down as a visitor that

as not so. We were all a bunch of white boys. I was the research

director; Pat Watters was information director; Reese Cleghorn

edited South Today. So it was really illustrative of the problems the

council had. Those things came and went and one could find that

kind of example at other times and dwell on it a long time. It's a

very interesting topic. But there is another side of it and that is for

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 10

the council membership itself. I thought of this this morning when

we were talking about how people change over time and what

opportunities were presented to them to change over time. Now

one of the cliche's about the Southern Regional Council is that it's a

family. We often talk about the Southern Regional Council family

and from almost the beginning it was a membership organization,

and then it became a hundred men and women of good will. So the

members would come together once a year, the executive

committee more often. It was a large family of people who felt a

certain kind of kinship because they belonged to this organization.

Like many families they had a lot of quarrels, and the quarrels they

had from 1944 to 1951 we've already discussed. Those were

significant quarrels, and some of the people left the family. We

talked about how Virginia Stabney couldn't stay in the family.

Others were strengthened by family ties and developed good family

values 'cause they learned. The point is that over time, and you

would meet these people all over the South or you'd meet them, oh

you're an SRC person, whether black or white. It was a bond, and

I think, for someone who might want to write a book about the

Southern Regional Council, I would suggest that he, well she if

there is somebody, but if a he was writing this book, I would

suggest that he explore that dimension of the council and how it

thought of itself as a family and how all over the region you could

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 11

drop in a town and meet somebody who was a member, black or

white, and learn from them and be educated because of that


Connie Curry: I want to say something real quick. John Boone, I know you have to

leave and I was just wondering if you'd like to say a word about the

work that you did with SRC on the prison program 'cause I don't

think a lot of people know about that.

John Boone:

Yes Connie, I'll say a word or two. I think that after I was appointed at

Indiana, and encountering J. Edgar Hoover fighting what

me and Merlin Alexander director was doing. He said nothing like that

would ever happen. I had the authority to implement a furlow law. Of

course he said you can do that only over my dead body. We did get a

chance to do it though, but after he had died (Laughter) in the District of

Columbia. In the District of Columbia they had a four hundred long school

with only ten men enrolled. I got there and walked and walked and walked.

They had had a riot after Martin was assassinated. Every time they had a

riot in the District it would spill over into the prison. So we caught hell

trying to keep that stable. Anyway, to make a long, long story short, I sat

day and night telling the guys look, I'm going to invent a new law come

hell or high water. If you can assume the responsibility I'm gonna send

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 12

you in school after you get your GED to get an education. So we did. The

other day they inaugurated the Cleveland in Art College in Atlanta.

Cleveland had his first when he was at D.C. University basketball team,

predominately prisoners that went in. What happened, I was courting my

wife, and I went to visit her and there was a thunderstorm. My daughter

called me and said the superintendent wants you to come out there.

There's a riot here; all the lights are out. When I got out there the only

lights there were fire trucks and police trucks from all over the jurisdiction,

but I didn't see a riot; I didn't feel a riot. I said I'm going in to see what's

back here. Ken Hardy was the director back then and he said you better

stop that rioting. I walked in and told them to go get Ken Hardy to see if

the superintendent will give me that bull horn. So he did and I said I'm

going to walk in and see what's wrong alone. That's what I eventually

did, but I heard a prison guard in a powerful union said let

the son of a bitch go in there and he'll find out what's wrong when he gets

in there. So I slowly walked to that prison guard afraid under the bed

doing everything. Before I left Delbert Jackson, who later on became

the director, said John can I go in with you. I said yes Delbert you can go

in with me, but on the way in I remembered Delbert carried a .38 all the

time and I didn't want any firearms in there, so I slowly went in the back

door because I knew behind the front door was nothing but state police

and everything. So I went slow, went in the back door, the guy was

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 13

afraid. I said look, when I give the signal I want you to come up front,

that's where the light is. I went in by myself, but just as I was about to get

out of the prison compound seven white guards were coming toward me.

There were three guys who called themselves thugs vowed to support me

and they saw these white guys coming. They started throwing bricks. A

brick hit me in the back. I took it to Massachusets with me after that, but it

didn't hurt. Anyway, after that the prison was revolutionized, but I was too

much for them. They had to get rid of me, so they terminated me and I

was sent to in Indiana. In Massachusets the same thing

happened. They say they had a prison guard riot going on. I went there

and I didn't hear a riot, didn't see a riot. So I walked through that prison by

myself and nothing wrong. Those so and so and so don't

know what they talking' about. And so sure enough I told them I said look, I

don't feel no riot. I selected twenty five guards, I said go over there, get a

ball out of the dormitory, go on recreation field and stay there until it

stops raining and the lights go on. The prison guard union had destroyed

the auxiliary system so the prison was completely black, on reservation

otherwise. But to make a long story short, that morning the sun was rising

bright. One man had escaped. He got a guards union and walked out of

prison. He came back the next day though. He went to visit his wife and all

of that. He came back and that prison was revolutionized, but they had to

get rid of me 'cause they had to keep these jails and prisons. So I went

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 14

down the drainpipe in the prison guard union, but what we started thanks

to Leslie Dunbar, when I went to Massachusets he gave me a $250,000

grant I think to help us educate the public. And that's what it is, Bill

Farmer, who is now dead, was a deputy of the public corrections in

Massachusets. He was a prisoner, I got him out, but I made him my

associate in Massachusets. You know how they made that terrible

hard-hitting union system was. Bill Farmer died not very long ago.

Ninety-five percent of the men went out on furlows and came back so I

think the system is gone with the wind now. We do not need to pay all of

that money on jails and prison cells. And I think the Georgia governor, my

governor, realized that the other day. I was to him we gotta

shut down some prisons. So the time is right for some organizations to

focus on doing that. It's a waste of time. I mean you can do some other

things. Prisons eighty percent black. You know what that's second

Sunday plantation system and all of that. Well that's enough said. I'll have

to do it another time. Thank you very much.

Paul Gaston: Thank you, John. (Applause) Now we focused all day today

...[unitelligible]....this afternoon on the past of the SRC and we're

only up to 1960, or 1970. Tomorrow we're gonna do the 1970's and

1980's. After you get a little refreshment we're gonna hear about

the SRC of the future and Louis Berrarow is going to tell us about

her plans and how you can help her with it. But we're going to serve

SRC 33, Day 1, Page 15

refreshment now.

Brian Ward: We'll talk half an hour and we'll take Lou's after four fifteen. Thank you all

so much. Thank the panel. (Applause)

[End of Tape 4]

[End of Day 1, Tape 3.]]

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