Interview with Marion Barry


Marion Barry:

Well, that was all that we knew. I mean, well, as I said, none of us, those of us in the South particularly were faced with all the power, either subtle or not so subtle power, the white power structure. In those days, I didn't think that you could organize anything violent. On the other hand I think we were dissatisfied with the slow pace of the legal route. That the NAACP had done about as much as they could I guess, but that had been a very slow process, that the Brown decision had not accomplished very much when we could see it. In the south, also it didn't deal with public accommodations, it didn't deal with voter registration, it didn't get at the kind of things we were very, very much concerned about, and so we didn't think the legal way was any way of getting it done. Plus it seemed to have moved the country to have these thousands of students marching, demonstrating, being put in jail, in some instances being beaten with national publicity on it, and so we thought that was what was necessary at that time. I couldn't think of any other way and I don't think other students around—I know at subsequent times, in the movement when there was a big debate about whether you ought to be nonviolent, you ought to be defensively violent, or you ought to do this or do that. I mean that, that was a natural growth, outgrowth out of that kind of movement. But it was just exciting and it made you feel good to see hundreds of students from all over the country, particularly in the South. Black students too who were ready to mobilize themselves and ready to demonstrate and to stay out of school and to face expulsion, particularly from the state schools. There were a group from Montgomery, from Alabama State, who were, had been expelled and there were others on the verge of being expelled from most of the state schools, but even some private schools, and so that just made you feel good. That maybe what you were doing was the right thing to do and the right technique at that time.