Skip to main content

tv   Selma Alabama  CSPAN  June 8, 2018 6:45pm-8:01pm EDT

6:45 pm
he was very helpful today. i also want to congratulate you. i'm reading what's going on in france. you've got great courage, you're doing the right thing. nothing's easy. but what you're doing is the right thing. and it's a wonderful consider. it's a special country. and you -- country. it's a special country. and you have a special president. i can tell you. thank you very much. president macron: thank you. president trump: thank you, everybody. we haven't brought that up. >> thank you, thank you, thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2018] >> president trump also had a one-on-one meeting at the g-7 with canadian prime minister justin trudeau. we'll show all of our coverage from the summit tonight at 8:00 eastern here on c-span. >> up next, a book tv exclusive. our cities tour visits selma,
6:46 pm
alabama, to learn more about its unique history and literary life. for seven years now we've traveled to u.s. cities, bringing the book scene to our viewers. you can watch more of our visits at see -- ♪ pick 'em up and lay 'em down ♪ >> i think the greatest victory of this period was not in times of an external factor or an external development, but it was something internal, the real victory was what this period did to the psych of the black man -- psychee of the black man. the greatness of this period is that we armed ourselves with dignity and self-respect. greatness of this period was that we've straightened our
6:47 pm
backs up. and a man can't ride your back unless it's bent. >> selma really suffered as a consequence of its contributions to rights of people. not just in this nation, but in the world. selma has given more to this nation and to the world than it has done for itself. and as a consequence, selma needs help. and i'm absolutely convinced that washington owes selma a debt that has not been paid. >> welcome to selma, alabama. located on the banks of the alabama river in the heart of the state's black belt. the area was key to the cotton industry in the 19th century. during the 1960's, the city was at the center of the fight for civil rights are several marches and protest, including the march that became known as bloody sunday. >> we understood a plan had been work out where the marchers would be allowed to go
6:48 pm
from brown chapel church across the pet us bridge to 200 yards beyond the bridge and they would stop there, kneel and pray and then go back to the church. when we saw what was beyond that,, state troopers, and so forth, we looked at each other and said, we have a problem. because plans were not going as we had been told they would be. >> with the help of our spectrum cable partners, for the next hour, we will learn about the city's history from local authors. we begin with a visit to the jackson home. martin luther king's headquarters from the selma to montgomery march. >> more than 8 thouff us started on a mighty walk from selma, alabama. they told us we wouldn't get
6:49 pm
here. there are those who said we would get here only over their dead bodies. all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of alabama we saying, with -- saying, we ain't going to let nobody turn us around. >> we continue with a visit to the jackson house museum. where martin luther king planned the march from selma to ontgomery. >> even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. what happened in selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of america. it is the effort of american egros to secure for themselves
6:50 pm
the full blessings of american life. their cause must be our cause too. because it's not just negros but really it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. and we shall overcome. [applause] >> the night that president lyndon johnson addressed the nation, march 16, 1965 he ended that speech by echoing the words that dr. martin luther king jr. used so often in the civil rights movement. here was a photographer here who wanted to capture dr.
6:51 pm
king's emotions, as he watched on television president johnson exit ining to -- committing to signing the voting rights act. this is the chair that dr. king was sitting in that night, watching that television. president johnson addressed the ation. uncle martin, as i knew him, the world knew him as dr. martin luther king jr., first started coming to this house in the late 1950's, early 1960's. as a young minister, that's when he met my parents. he was ministering in montgomery, his first church, dexter. and he would come to selma and to selma university, which is directly across the street from the house, to participate in classes and to give lectures at selma university. so he would come and spend the night here in the early years.
6:52 pm
during that time you probably had a 30% african-american population. 70% caucasian population here. and there was some racial tension here. selma was a product of the south. it had come through the early part of the century. into the 1920's and 1930's and 1940's under jim crow. the races had gotten to the point where everyone was existing and things were somewhat fragile during that time. my father moved here from indiana, was raised in anderson, indiana. my mother had deep, deep roots here in selma. and in alabama.
6:53 pm
so she was a native. and they made the decision to make selma their home when they married. in 1958. because of my mother's family connections. my mother was an educator. she loved being an educator. my father practiced dentistry in selma for 42 years. and they had a vested interest in this community. for many, many rbs. not only because -- reasons. not only because of their careers, but because they both were committed to community and peace and justice. and i think that's where the two paths of dr. and mrs. king and my parents came together. as i said, dr. king was a young pastor in montgomery. my parents were a young, newly married couple. and, you know they talked about affairs of the day and issues that would effect families and
6:54 pm
raising children and just issues common to all people that had a vested interest in making this society a much better place in which to live. that's how friendship started. it grew. over the years. and then when dr. king made the decision to stage the selma to montgomery march from selma to montgomery, he asked my parents if they would allow him to come to this house and use this house as a planning base for the selma to montgomery march. and the rest is history. because quite literally the world came into our house that had previous by been occupied by a mother and a father and a little girl. all of a sudden it became the house where the world came to. through this room is the actual room in which dr. king held a meeting one night with some of his top advisors. this room is special also
6:55 pm
because it happens to be my room. and there was a photographer imbedded in the home that night from "jet" magazine that took this picture that appeared in "jet" in early 1965. this is the actual bed. this bed happens to have the actual mattress and box string -- box spring that was still here when dr. king slept on it in 1964 and 1965 during the months that dr. king lived in this house, of course he slept in every bed in the house. but over the course of years, my mother changed out mattresses and box springs in other bedrooms, but kept the original mattress and box spring in this room. in the picture that was in "jet" with dr. king in this bed, he was wearing these particular pajamas that night, that is in the same picture, that is displayed in the room. i must say, though, that my
6:56 pm
parents never thought about the danger. hat's not something that the principals, you know, they never lived their days and their lives thinking about the dangers. they lived their days and their lives with hope and with dreams about making this country a more just nation. same with my parents. yes, there were dangers every day at every window, around every corner. but again, the shared hope and the dreams of making selma and this nation a place of peace and prosperity overruled fear. the world was quite literally -- he had the world on his shoulders and if i had only known what this man was committed to doing and how much he had on his shoulders, i
6:57 pm
probably one day would not have tugged at his pant leg and begged him to have tea and mud cakes with me. and he stopped, because my mother was going to intercede and pull me away and he stopped and he looked at my mother and he looked at me and he said, i must have tea and mud cakes with the baby. and he did. and for about 45 minutes we sat in the living room and, as reported, the questions that i asked him were, out of the mouth of babes, again, i wish i had understood a little bit more, because i asked, uncle martin, why is the dirt brown and why is the sky blue? and, you know, the principles that he carried with him, he was very easy to explain to a little girl about how my life would be and how i needed to be committed to making the world a much better place.
6:58 pm
this room is significant because this is the bedroom in which dr. king would receive telephone calls from president johnson. president lyndon johnson would call into my parents' home and my mother was the receiver of the calls. the operator during those years would announce that she was the operator from the white house, calling on behalf of president johnson to speak with dr. martin luther king jr. this room was chosen because it was the most insular room in the house and the phone calls sometimes lasted for hours. so that is the actual phone in which dr. king would receive the president's phone calls. that came into this house. things were very volatile. the country was aware of how volatile things were in selma. and in the south. so, dr. king and the president
6:59 pm
kept, i don't want to say regular calls, but they did have a direct connection on a semifrequent basis to discuss what was going on, what would repair the country, and exactly what both men needed to keep this country on track and to keep violence down. >> then we've got to come up with the qualification of voters. that will answer 70% of your problems. >> that's right. no tests on what chaucer or browning said.
7:00 pm
you will have to take it to the postmaster >> the dining room in the jackson museum is very much a foundation for this house.
7:01 pm
it is not only the place where my mother and father and i shared so many wonderful dinners, but it is the only place in the world that hosted the first jew african-american nobel peace prize recipients. they held private meetings and private meals here in this room at this table, on this china, for three days and two nights as they discussed the planning of the selma t montgomery marcho. -- to montgomery march. dr. bunch, at that point in his life, was ailing. received, dr. bunch the nobel peace prize for brokering the peace agreement between israel and palestine. dr. king received his in 1964. but my mother finished high
7:02 pm
school in washington dc. during her high school years, she lived two doors down from dr. bunge. there was a connection. she said, my father wants very and talked to him about this upcoming march. she assured she would take excellent care of him. bunch up tocked dr. the train station. he and dr. king shared similar
7:03 pm
wishes for people in the united states and around the world. he knew this was such an important march for loading he wanted to give dr. king as much help as he could. the possible passage of the voting rights act would transform not only the united states, but the global world house. the third bedroom in the jackson museum is the actual bedroom, the morning of the selma to ndntgomery march, dr. king a many of his closest associates came into this room that morning, held their prayer session, put on their marching boots before going to the chap
7:04 pm
theefore going to bridge for the selma to montgomery march. he put on his marching boots in that chair, and led prayer. prayer was so much a part of dr. king, being a baptist minister, but it was so much a part of the american civil rights movement. without prayere and faith. there was so much apprehension, but there was so much hope in the air. no one knew what was going to theyn the moment approached the edmund pettus bridge. of course history has shown us that things did work out,
7:05 pm
however that morning -- it was a very very tenuous time in the life of everyone here that had any connection to the civil rights movement in the selma to montgomery march. they did not know if their lives would end on that day. with the prayers held in the third bedroom, putting others .nd going to round check after four days, the march was successful. >> there is no constitutional issue here. the command of the constitution is plain. there is no moral issue. wrong, deadly wrong, to
7:06 pm
deny any of your fellow americans the right to vote in this country. >> [applause] >> dr. king was still living in the home the night that president johnson delivered a major address to the nation, and quite simply reaffirmed that he intended to sign the voting rights act, which we all know in august of 1965, he did sign. daughters consider the legacy of their father the greatest piece of their father's legacy, the -- father's legacy, the 19 tuesday five voting rights act. dr. king was still sitting here in the living room as he witnessed president johnson told
7:07 pm
the nation his commitment to the voting rights act. i must say that both lyndon johnson and martin luther king jr. were two distinctly different individuals. they came together in a very critical time in the life of this country. both of these men were committed to a more just, a more equal, and a more democratic america. so they came together to make america much much stronger. 1965.e back in late to have a weekend with my parents, and to discuss a move. he came to ask that my parents consider moving from selma to atlanta.
7:08 pm
it was so interesting, because my parents told him that they pretty much knew what they wanted to tell him, their decision. him for thehanked offer to relocate us to atlanta and to continue our lives there, but there was so much history in this house relating to my mother's family, relating to the civil rights movement, my father wanted him to know that they were going to stay here and keep a light shining in this house. you mayr knows, martin, need to have another march, and we will be right here with the house. 4, 1968, of august the
7:09 pm
my parents and i were here having dinner. and as most americans, every night you had to listen to how many people were killed in vietnam, and you had to listen to the rest of the news. i neverat was playing, shall forget the news commentators broke in and said, i just learned that in memphis, tennessee -- my mother looked at my father and said, martin's dead. my father said, we don't know that. walter cronkite continued to say, it has been reported that martin luther king jr. tonight has been assassinated in memphis, tennessee. it changed our lives again. the three of us went into
7:10 pm
different parts of this house to reflect, to think about what we had just heard. together andack family -- together as a family in the kitchen. i never shall forget what my father said to us. world, he was martin luther king jr. to us, he was a very dear friend that we will miss dearly. this house, after being built in now, over 100 years old continues to welcome individuals in the world and people who are committed to the global community. this house deserves to continue
7:11 pm
to be preserved. for generations yet unborn, so aey can see and feel and hear story about people who are connected to a community, here and all over the world. my goal is the final preservation of this house and all that it contains. and there are not that many places like the jackson home, still intact, still telling a story, and still welcoming all who are committed to justice, peace, and freedom. >> selma was one of the major arsenals of the confederacy. by the time the war ended, there were only two arsenals
7:12 pm
continuing to operate in the south. one was in richmond, of course, the other was in selma. selma was producing major artillery. one ofok can, which was the more fearsome cannons at the time. also simple artillery shells and bullets -- they were producing a wide range of weaponry. i am struck by the irony of it, because selma was not a secessionist stronghold. stephen douglas, who of course was the northern democrat candidate for the president, campaigned through the south in the last months leading up to the vote, he went down to the alabama river. his last major speech was in selma.
7:13 pm
a went up the steps and made speech about saving the union. he knew that he wasn't going to win, but he hoped whoever had won would the union together. he was mistaken, but he tried. i am surprised at how enterprising some of selma's go-getters were. tosee once they were made secede, by golly they petitioned that the capital of the confederacy be moved to selma, because of an ideal location of the railroads, the mississippi river running over in a direction and alabama and tennessee running in the other direction, so that they could and make thee
7:14 pm
weapons and ship them out to mississippi and to georgia, where most of the battles were taking place. i think about 400 young men from selma and the surrounding dallas county went off to join the confederate service to fight for states rights and whatever else they don't they were fighting -- else they thought they were fighting for. the battle for selma came about by orders from general richard taylor, who was a confederate officer commanding what was left of the southern army. the arsenal was here, and and of course the
7:15 pm
cotton shipped in from neighboring counties. a little bit of cotton was valuable. it was w hite gold, in effect. taylor gave orders that the cotton not reach yankee hands, and he set fire to it. he ordered nathan bedford forrest to defend. forrest knew the situation. he knew he didn't have the men. so there are occasions had been built -- so they retaineds -- so builtades had been around the city. they could have held off the union army for a considerable
7:16 pm
time. they didn't. most of our fighting men were far from home, north carolina in fact. they ordered everyone, even if you are a petticoat, into the barricades. two waves of union troops were repelled, but not the third. later compared it all to the charge of the white prepaid in thehe white brigade crimean war. once one fell, of course, they had to retreat. there was a second round of barricades closer to the town,
7:17 pm
but they weren't. fled downd his men the road and got out of town. after which it was difficult to get much cooperation from the soldiers to keep the town from burning to the ground. selma revealed after the war. war.built after the andebuilt its railroads, added more railroads. at one point, it had five railroads or railroads to-be then, running into selma. from theght in cotton whole surrounding area to ship down to mobile. or once more connections were made to ship by rail all the way
7:18 pm
to savannah, on to the dr. king s.- on to the cotton mill one advantage is it was able to take the county seat away from cuyahoga. -- away from cahaba. of cahabaed the size during the war, because they had the arsenal there and they had .he railroad connections cahaba had the idea that railroads were many them. what they learned too late. in the civilole war significant? yes, because the south could
7:19 pm
not carry on as long as it did without their arsenals. contributions helped keep the south going for a year longer than it would otherwise. wonderll, sometime i wonder ♪ i >> ♪ is there freedom in this world? ♪ >> ♪ tell me where i want to know alabama, tennessee, walking and savannah me where ♪
7:20 pm
aroundarch 21, 1965, 3200 marchers left selma to montgomery. when they reached the capital on march 25, the marchers had grown to 25,000. of next, we speak with henry allen as he recalls his participation in the civil rights movement. >> i was in selma basically all my life. i was born on december 30, 1944. i lived in the east part of selma. in the community where we grew up in, it was a black and white neighborhood. we were poverty-stricken. it wasn't just my family, but basically the families that lived in that area.
7:21 pm
even though it was a black and white neighborhood, the whites had no bragging rights. they were a little step a bove. accepted the lifestyle we were living in. that was basically all you knew. i had a friend who went to an all white school. we were both in the 11th grade. and said, henry, your books, i had those in the ninth grade. what i had in the ninth grade, you are doing in the 11th grade. we started discussing about that . we came to the conclusion that something is not right. during that same year, the spring of that year.
7:22 pm
dr. lafayette from student leadership and the student coordinator, they arrived in selma. they met some friends of mine whose car broke down at the airport. they spoke to them about the rights we were not receiving. we were not enjoying all of our rights. he sat down and talked to them. we were in 11th grade. they said to me, you need to come to a meeting with us. i went to the first meeting with them. i listened to their conversation. understand.nning to in the 11th grade, i'm doing ninth-grade work, because we are two years behind them in education. we are being held back because we are black, we can't compete.
7:23 pm
and i listened to dr. lafayette. that came into our mind. we are not enjoying all of our freedoms. there are some things we are not enjoying. he said, that is why i am here in selma. he shared with us about the right to vote campaign. he said, there is a lot you have to learn. you have to commit to nonviolence. we had to commit to nonviolence. we were not violent kids. the thing is, you strike me on cheek -- i committed to myself that i would be nonviolent. once i accepted nonviolence, we had not met dr. king during that
7:24 pm
period. finally we had the opportunity to meet dr. king in 1965. we got started in the spring of 1963. dr. king came in 1965. during this time we had dr. lafayette. we had john lewis. .e had three or four people dr. lafayette was the number one guy teaching. we were a part of his assignment. he was teaching us, if they hit you, you fall a certain way, how to get up. he was teaching us various things you have to do to be nonviolent. never strike back. we were taught, you have to maintain a certain level of
7:25 pm
respect. they did not accept him when he first came to tell. he was labeled as a troublemaker. we don't need a troublemaker coming into our community. they rejected dr. lafayette. that is why he turned to the youth, because they were governed. afraid.were lafayette had a tough time to get into the church. all of our training went on in the basement of the church, some of which went on all night. word came out that he wanted to have a mass meeting. that was when the deacons met and said, we can't have a mass
7:26 pm
meeting at this church. they were fearful that the ku klux klan, every racist group possible, they are going to burn that church, they are going to do some drastic stuff. that was the fear. churchastor, he told the members in a minute. he said, wait a minute, go back and think over, because we are going to have a meeting here. we are going to have a mass meeting here. for a period of time, they came back. they don't the courage -- built the courage up and came back. he came and addressed the first
7:27 pm
meeting. i think it was in may of 1963. the ku klux klan, everyone you could name -- they were there around the building. one group came with baseball bats in their hands. yelled, leave here. e blacks wereth not nonviolent. that was not a good thing for nonviolence when dr. king went to that meeting. when the discussion took place after this meeting -- wait a minute, you are going to lead them home with one bullet, two
7:28 pm
bullets, what are they going to do when they run out? that was the discussion, if you are not going to be nonviolent, you don't need to attend these meetings here. lafayette was in the same neighborhood. he was almost killed. the ku klux klan was pretending they needed some help. they beat him up pretty bad. it with a saw shotgun, if you don't stop, we are going to put some bullet holes in you. that was the first incident he had of being attacked. i never told my mother we were involved in civil rights. we were going to get a flat word -- no. because of fear.
7:29 pm
this was a dangerous town during that era. if you did anything out of the ordinary, if you stepped out of line, you could be killed. your house could be burnt down, you could go in jail, lose your job, everything you own. why most families work your during -- were fearful during that time. we were poor kids. we did not have anything to lose. but we did not tell our parents. the only time my parents knew that we were involved was when my sister and brother were in jail. i had to go home and told my mother. the very first march, we all put our name in the book.
7:30 pm
to let them know who was in jail. when i saw that book with my name, i said all three of us can't go to jail, someone has to tell mama. i said okay, you go to jail, and i'll go the next go around. then i had to tell mama what happened. buses already waiting on you to put you in jail. i couldn't tell where they were in jail. my sister was in jail 36 miles south of selma. my brother was in jail 60 miles west of selma.
7:31 pm
all the other camps were filled up. jail,illed up the city every camp they could fill up. when i told my mother that, she grabbed her heart in fear. she went to a downtown restaurant, making $15 a week. kid was part of the march, they would have fired her. they let her know, come see the probate judge. walked downtown, went to the courthouse. she told the judge who she was. he was arrogant.
7:32 pm
he wanted to frighten her. he told her, woman, your children are marching, so i'm going to tell you one thing, i don't want to ever see your face themhere again, nor with children. you better take them back home, and they better not be caught anywhere marching anywhere. do you understand? i really did not like the way he was talking to my mom. it was better that i hold my peace. usy brought all three of together. we said mom, as soon as we get back home, we are going back to brown chapel. it was something in our bones, something inside of us that did
7:33 pm
stop us from going. church aftere school every day. we didn't have a phone. to schoolosed to go that day -- i went to school that day. ain't nobody here except a few kids. every black parent, they did not allow their kids to participate. job, theye an upstate did not allow their kids to participate. enrollment. you might have had 400 at
7:34 pm
school. chapel, youto brown walk straight down the walkway of the brown chapel church. as i came down the sidewalk, i said, something is not right. i don't see anybody. things are too quiet. something is wrong. by that time, i looked to my left. i saw three state troopers in hunchback. we made contact with each other. i began to run down the sidewalk as hard as i could run. they had three horses. with billyitting me clubs. a woman opened her doors up. i dove for those doors like i was off a diving board. on thede up their horses
7:35 pm
front porch. those guards would have killed me that particular day. they were going to do something serious to me. when i dove through the door, i laid on the floor crying. it was the first time i came this close to being killed today. i don't want to die. lying on the floor, i had to make a decision. lord, i don't know what i want to do. he said, you are going to keep marching. [laughter] imade my mind on the floor, wasn't going to quit. i tell you what, you can stay inside the house until they leave the area, then you can head towards home.
7:36 pm
meanwhile, all my classmates were locked inside of brown chapel church. they looked the doors, they beat people, ran people off the street. this was a beating day. that is why there wasn't anybody on the streets. that was what took place that day. that made me start a lot of thinking. i can't do crazy things. it is no laughing anymore. we kids had a lot of fun out of it. we gave them fits, we did. after that, i took it more seriously. sister, they had no fear in them. placeas what took . that incident there could have
7:37 pm
cost me my life. we had done everything humanly possible that could be done to get the rights to vote. we thought birmingham was going to do it. the dogs and fire hoses didn't do it. lafayette volunteered to come to some. -- to come to selma. it was all in jim claw's hands. that on that particular bridge on that particular day, something was going to happen. this was the climax here for selma. they needed something to happen.
7:38 pm
we did not know what their strategy was. we later learned their strategy was, we've got to provoke something, something has got to happen. you will make him do something foolish. that particular day -- nobody lost their lives. that day he delivered the voting rights act when the rest of the world saw what happened in selma , alabama. the voting rights act august 1965. i turned 19 and had a right to vote. thing during the era. jim crow was still in selma.
7:39 pm
1964, when the 1964 civil rights act was passed, we as kids went down to these same stores and thought we could sit at the soda fountain. n jail, or hiti with billy clubs. we had not yet gained the rights, even though it was there. it was during 1964. people didn't want to change. it was a very very slow change. very slow changing. when you look at selma today, you look at selma as a city that is struggling economically.
7:40 pm
a greater race issue, the issue in selma is enjoying the american dream, the right to own property, the right to live what we call a good life. people in selma a strugglingre. the city is selfies struggling. -- in selma are struggling. the city itself is struggling real hard. going back and looking at our history, we got a failing grade. we are not passing, because the older generation don't want to teach the younger generation where we came from. from myking at yearsating in 1964, 54, 55 ago, and two generations beyond
7:41 pm
me, not many knew much about selma. we don't have a curriculum here in our school system to really remind our kids, to teach our kids where they came from. we won't forget about what happened in the past. we want to improve the quality of life for our children. therefore we are struggling. we need to do a lot of work. i myself do a lot of volunteering in the schools teaching black history. there are not that many men in my age group that history. we know the history because we are the history, we are the beginning of the civil rights era. i tried to motivate my classmates. we can't quit on them. we owe it to the younger generation to volunteer and
7:42 pm
teach them all the things to enlighten their lives. mr. wallace, can you talk about the first sunday in march in 1965? >> i sure can. it was kind of a unique situation opening up, because we have friends in the governor's office who kept us in the loop, and we understand a plan had b een worked out where the march ers would be allowed to go across the edmund pettus bridge two yards across the bridge. kneelwould stop there, and pray, and then go back to the church. we were leisurely following the march that day. when we talked to my friend, a
7:43 pm
brilliant young journalist -- when we saw what was beyond the bridge. state troopers, posse members and so forth. we said, we have a problem, because plans are not going as what we told would be. >> if we could get a bit of your background. where were you from, and when did you start working for the selma times journal? >> i started working there when i graduated from college in 1958. ironically on a trial basis. i was eligible for the military draft, and no one would hire anyone eligible for the draft, because they felt like they were going to lose them. they hired me on a trial basis. that trial basis lasted some 17 years. [laughter] >> what were you in charge of covering? >> general news assignments.
7:44 pm
we had a three, four person max staff. since we were a community newspaper, much of our focus had to be on that obituaries and weddings got in the paper, things like that. major events, such as the demonstrations, took an enormous amount of our time. we basically covered them 24 hours a day, 70's and week. e wwhen did you notice ther hile working at the paper some kind of shift? >> there were attempts made to register to vote at the courthouse. the board of registrars, in their infinite wisdom, complied with state law. the board could only meet twice a month. you registered maybe 12 people a
7:45 pm
day. there was one other meeting in the month. the other meeting was administrative purposes, where you made sure these people were actually eligible and so forth. while registrations were being made, it wasn't very fast. they tried to comply with state law, i think the best they could, but later on they extended the registration period, and they were able to register a few more people. all this time there were rumblings about it, how slow it was, how they were being treated when they want to the registrar's office. they had some pretty tough questions. when i went to register to vote say theas 21, i had to preamble to the constitution. i don't know if you can say the preamble to the constitution or
7:46 pm
not, but i knew they were going to ask that question, so i had to bone up on it. but they asked difficult questions. especially if you were a semi-educated black person, there was no way you could answer those questions, so they could not registered to vote. most people thought it was the poll tax. that was not really a factor. it was more like two dollars. it was really the difficulty in those questions. you also had someone to vouch for you. if you also needed another registered voter to vouch for you and you are an african-american, where are we going to find another african-american to come vouch for you? were afraid ifme
7:47 pm
they were found dumped by -- were found out by their employer to register someone to vote, they might lose their job. i don't know anybody that did, but i'm sure there were some. >> do you remember when any of the first gatherings or protests started over voting? >> there had been an ongoing movement. john lewis and his young crowd of what we call nonviolent coordinating council, they had been working in selma for eight or nine months. they were aggressive. they weren't as passive as some of the other organizations. a distance a bit of from dr. king's organization at one time. they had been working there for
7:48 pm
some time. they had been organizing people and trying to get people to go down to register to vote. so that was kind of an initial wave. leaguelas county voters 1964, thember of reverend invited dr. king to lead voting rights demonstrations. dr. king never went to a city where he was not invited. an invitationived as opposed lead it, to just coming in and taking it over, so to speak. his initial trip into selma for believe was in january. he was in and out of selma
7:49 pm
throughout much. dr. king spent a lot of time raising money. -- throughout march. he was still a pastor of the church in atlanta. he was on the road a great deal. he was not there on bloody sunday. he was back in atlanta preaching. that was another reason we felt like nothing much was going to happen. generally when he was not in town, the media was not in town to a great extent. that sunday, i think there was lot ofperson there, a print media perhaps, but most of them followed dr. king back to atlanta. >> as these protests are building up, do you remember any of the editorial meetings at the newspaper during that time? what was discussed during them? >> early on, when we found dr.
7:50 pm
king was coming, we would cover the news, we would tell the truth, good, bad indifferent. that is the plan, and we followed all the way through. of course, it wasn't easy. we had boycotts. with advertisers we had boycotts. we were ridiculed. you all had not covered them in these events, they would all just go away. we felt like we were doing our job as journalists. our editor had been a number of the biracial -- member of the biracial committee. a strong representation of black-and-white. he had been working for some time to effect plans that would lead to the registration of more
7:51 pm
black voters. he was placed at the table. we almost felt like we had a place at the table as well. ar managing editor, brilliant perceptive person, we loaned him to the city of selma to serve as one of their negotiators. so we had another person at the table. consequently throughout this entire time, a lot of the national media would come to ask questions and find out what was going on, because they knew we were in the. -- we were in the loop. we were probably able to help sometimes. lost a few friends along the
7:52 pm
way. they felt like friends. totally disagreed with what we did. we had a major newspaper in the state that had a person in selma that was so perfectly allied with sheriff jim clark, that when we got the paper in the morning, the story we saw of what was happening in selma made us look like we did not know what was going on, and we were trying to cover something up. we work a p.m. paper at the time. people would say, they have this and this, and you all didn't even cover that. one of the things was, a story of six in the streets in front of brown chapel. i am there every day and night. wantedlic, some of them to believe that was going on,
7:53 pm
there was some sort of sex orgy there. that anyway, for it. just didn't happen. we had to confront that kind of stuff. was the onlyimself people left the paper we would talk to. i looked at the bridge, and a sniper is on the building downtown. had we missed something? the sheriff had gotten word that demonstrators had planned to blow up the edmund pettus bridge. never happened. that was an example of what we had to chase around, because you had to chase those things down. rumors that lot of we spent time chasing to see
7:54 pm
what was going on. times there any point in in which yourself or other members of the paper became concerned for your safety? >> not really. there was only one time during the three months that i became a little concerned. we were at brown chapel, and malcolm x decided to come in. he was not a friend of dr. king 's. malcolm had been kind of a violent person. he brought guards. they did not allow him to take over the audience. mrs. king got up and spoke. in --ut him in a room behind the sanctuary of the church for a press conference. we were jammed into this little
7:55 pm
room. guy standing beside me, who is a red head. redheaded.e he was asking questions that would get you riled up. malcolm's bodyguards -- i could piece.m fanning their this police detective said, what are you trying to do in there? they said this guy is asking all these inflammatory questions. i said, not me, the guy beside me. later we found out this guy was an escaped mental patient from
7:56 pm
the hospital. he had broken into the hotel room of a birmingham newspaper reporter, stole his credentials and others things, got into the press conference those credentials. you could say that is enough to make you nervous. [laughter] that was the only time i can remember being nervous or concerns about my safety. to bloodygo back sunday? you said you were on the bridge, and you saw the state troopers there. what was going through your mind at this particular time? >> somewhere along the line, sheriff jim clark are the state public safety director had determined a new plan, and they implemented it right there. major john cloud, who was in
7:57 pm
charge of the state troopers, said kneel and pray and go back where you came from. they kneeled, prayed, and nobody moved to turn around. that is when state troopers came in with night sticks and started pushing people. when they started pushing people, of course they fell like dominoes. they were injured from scrapes a nd bruises. a short time later is one tear gas was thrown out. people begin screaming. panic,t fear was, in the they were going across the bridge, and some of them might jump off the bridge. fortunately it never happened. it was quite a tumult at that point.
7:58 pm
my friend and i had gas thrown at us. fortunately i had finished gas drills earlier for the military. eyes asdn't impair our much as it did the marchers. it was a sad moment for us because we had anticipated the fact that dr. king confided in his people that he was unsuccessful in selma, and was thinking of moving to jackson, mississippi or memphis. that was the friday before bloody sunday. when we saw what was coming down across the bridge, our immediate thoughts were dr. king is not going anywhere. we will have to go through this for weeks or months.
7:59 pm
>> when did the selma to montgomery march begin, and what was your role? did you go with them? >> no, we felt like we went pass them off to montgomery. we followed the afternoon, the results. >> what do you think is the responsibility of the press, in particular during really trying times in the nation? >> i had an old journalism right, theho had it story is not about you. i see all the time today media get themselves involved in the story. you cover the story, you cover it accurately, fairly, but the story is not about you. >> our visit to selma, alabama
8:00 pm
is a book tv exclusive. for seven years, we have traveled to u.s. cities, bringing the book scene to our viewers. you can watch more visits on >> next, some of the highlights from g7 summit in canada. supreme court justice sonia sotomayor talking about life on the court. after that, newsmakers as president trump was leaving the white house to attend the g-7 summit in canada he talked to reporters about a number of topics including trade issues, north korea, and his presidential pardoning power. this is about 20 minutes.


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on