Interview with Harry Belafonte

Take me to a point to in late '65-'66 about beginning to exclude Whites from the movement, and how it was a position of great stress.


It was a position of great stress because, ah, it was around a very specific individual when it erupted. It was around a young man by the name of Bob Zellner who was a White member of SNCC and had certainly evidenced his deep commitment to the struggle and his willingness to go wherever anyone else went in the quest for, ah, ah, the end to racism. He was not the only individual but he was a primary force because he was certainly one of the most upfront of any of the Whites who had been involved in SNCC. And when the question arose, most people thought it was, it, it was a decision that had been reached based upon racial factors and had been defined it almost exclusively as such, which was not the case. The case was really in the beginning quite tactical. Ah, the question was, with the Whites who were in SNCC involving themselves directly in the Black community of events. Wasn't it more beneficial to the movement to have these very same White people who were quite astute by now and very sensitive to a host of issues and had learned a great deal out of the Black aspects of the movement, wouldn't it have been more beneficial for them to move into the White communities and to do organizing in the White communities as obviously Blacks could not do that effectively? What the White communities needed was White leadership and what better leadership was there available for that than the leadership that came out of the Civil Rights Movement, ah, in SNCC and in other aspects of the movement, SCLC as well. So that this rather tactic--this rather meaningful and I think substantive discussion, criticism, yielded the result that, ah, SNCC would purge itself, ah, which was, I, I always thought it was unfortunate that, that SNCC's position on this had not been more clearly, ah, described. Certainly that was the way I understood it, ah, because when I had to talk with and discuss these events with Dr. King that was the position that I represented to him because when I spoke to Stokely and when I spoke to Rap and I spoke to others in SNCC, ah, and speaking to Bob Zellner himself. Zellner felt, as he expressed to me then, he expressed to me then that, ah, it was an important crossroads in the movement and that he felt that SNCC's position was, was correct.