Interview with Harry Belafonte

It may have been healthy, but how do you raise money around something that's that assertive?


The ability to continue to raise funds from a source that had been traditionally given, traditionally given to us, became much more difficult because the quest for Black power put a language into the mix and they, the people who were White and supportive of our cause, who saw it in non-racial terms, ah, began to take a position that, ah, ah, this became a little too sectarian, too alienating. Ah, it was now specifically towards a goal that suggested, ah, ah, non-integration. It was much too much into the Malcolm X camp. It was moving too, it was going too radical. And, ah, no matter how much one tried to explain that away, even accepting some of those definitions as applicable but it had to be placed in a much larger context to be understood and therefore continue to command a moral and ethical giving by those same sources. It was very hard and consequently, it fell upon me to begin to look to the sources of funding that the movement had never examined before and that was what led me to do a whole special trip throughout Europe to identify specific countries and identify specific governments and identify specific leaders who were deeply sensitive to our cause, who would not be turned off by the emergence of certain slogans or words or definitions, but, ah, and that would feel the commitment to our, to our, ah, to our movement. And I, I selected two places in which to do a sampling as to the success of that possibility for new resources, not just economic but also moral and political support from an outside place. The first was in France, a huge, ah, ah, benefit was given in Paris, ah, which at first had come under the auspices of the American Church, under the clergy of the American Church, and then when the State Department and the FBI got through doing its mischief on Dr. King and it intimidated the, the Americans in Paris, they, they withdrew, left us with a date and left us with time and left us with organization but were no longer really committed to it. And it was interesting because it wasn't as if we had gone to Paris with a broad cross section of the movement. I mean we went only with Dr. King and, ah, even in the face of that, ah, ah, the Church, the American Church withdrew its support. But French allies, got hyped, I explained to them what happened that we were in this rather difficult and precarious position, the Church had withdrawn its support of Dr. King and our presence there under the guise of somehow, according to FBI records, we were doing mischief with the communists. And this French community stepped in and the leading artists of France and the leading sports figures of France all came together, at the Palais des Sports, and they saved the day. That turned out to be hugely successful, ah, made all of the French press, the international press and we received large contributions and set up our bases to be able to continue to do this. Our next stop after that was in Sweden and got the King of Sweden to be our patron. We got the Prime Minister to be our Chairman. We got the Bank of Sweden to be the receptacle for our fund raising. We got the Post Office of Sweden to be our conduit. Then we did, we did a whole Scandinavian hook-up for all of the Scandinavian countries focused on one event, which was to be the first of many. And a concert was given and Dr. King spoke and, ah, ah, about a week later after we returned to the United States, they had a meeting at the Swedish Embassy, ah, they presented Dr. King with, I think it was a 250 thousand dollar check as the first offering from our efforts. We were somewhat encouraged by all of this because it was not only a new source of revenue for us at the moment but it was also a new source of power, of, ah, we were beginning to touch the conscience of, and give legitimacy to people who wanted to support us on the outside but didn't know quite how to do it.