Interview with Thomas Atkins

Now, can you give me a sense of why was the NAACP that was the organization in the Black community that sponsored all this, this movement and activity?


Well, the NAACP wasn't the only organization ah, involved. Ah, the NAACP was initially one of several organizations that were heavily involved in ah, addressing the problems of education. Ah, back in 1963 when I first got involved, the NAACP had an education committee that was just really getting off the ground. It had begun trying to gather information. It had started talking with parents. It had begun talking with people in the school establishment but it was certainly not a, a, a well-oiled machine. Ah, there were ah, program efforts under way at the Urban League. Ah, the Minister Alliance[SIC] had held meetings and had tried to bring parents together and bring other folks in the community together. Ah, the Northern Student Movement ah, was a very important voice in addressing northern problems of school segregation. Ah, there were a number of ah, settlement houses. Ah, the South End settlement house was ah, for instance, was one that, that ah, had begun to address issues of race and education. So what happened was all of these various people and/or groups that had been working each in their own little corner came together in June of 1963 as part of a coalition to go to the school committee and ask for what we thought was a very simple thing. We want--We just want them to say yes, there is segregation in the schools and we wanted them to acknowledge that the problem exists and to commit themselves to do something about it. That meeting came to be known as the NAACP's ah, meeting. It was not. NAACP was one of many. The thing that made the NAACP eventually come to play a and then the dominant role was that it was the biggest organization in the Black community. It was the biggest. It was the oldest civil rights organization. And it had resources available to it. Ah, from time to time--