Interview with Harry Belafonte
QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

You were also in Africa, playing that role between the SNCC kids and Sekou Toure, later.

HARRY BELAFONTE:

That was, ah, ah, SNCC, and the young people of SNCC going to Africa was a different, ah, ah, set of circumstance. When Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney were discovered missing presumed murdered, before that information had become fully ah, ah, be-before it had been evident, I mean before, before all the facts had fallen into place, ah, I was called by Jim Foreman and, ah, Jim said, we were at the tail end of the summer, three civil rights workers are missing, ah, all the students are going to go back to campus. I believe that the people of the South, here in Mississippi, are going to feel, are not going to be able to understand all of the, facts that the program had come to an end and all the students were leaving to go back North and they assumed that all the students would be there going back North but not because of the new school year, because of the three civil rights workers were murdered, that would look as if this act of intimidation had successfully aborted the, the voter registration campaign. And that if this became evident, that, that, that, if this was interpreted as a fact, that it then have it's ramifications to, ah, the Ku Klux Klan and others, wishing to do evil, doing it all over the South and using murder as an important weapon to, ah, to impede the movement. And what was required was a huge sum of money to be put in place by those students who would volunteer to stay on past that semester, stay in the South and, ah, continue to work, especially in the face of the, the civil rights murders. And that the decision had to be arrived at very swiftly, ah, because the passion was there and the students were going to vote on it very shortly. Ah--




HARRY BELAFONTE:

With this, with, with this state of emergency, ah, I asked Jim, how much did he, how much money was required here? He said, between 50 and 60 thousand dollars. And I had only a matter of few days in which to raise this money. Ah, you have to understand that if it were just that one event alone that required monies, it would not have been as difficult. But you have to understand that we were busy supplying money to so many levels of the movement that it was becoming more and more difficult to find sources, ah, to give. Much of our money had been tied up in bail, ah, that was just not being returned by the courts for people who were, were on bail. Much of it had been given to other mobilizations. And so when Jim called for this amount of money after having raised the, the, the, the initial sum for the voter registration for the students to begin with, it was a difficult thing to do. So I had to hook up with, with people in various parts of the country. And I had to get individuals, because there was no way to mobilize a rally or a benefit, it had to be gotten from individuals. With the understanding that, ah, it was quite possible that the money would not come back, unlike bail and other things. So, ah, I set for myself another goal and that was I had become sensitive to the fact that many of the people in SNCC were on burn out. They had really been on the front line for so long doing so much and had been beaten and battered and, and intimidated and still held the line. But they were beginning to make mistakes. Decisions were being arrived at in, in, in, in ways that, that didn't sit well. Ah, and that what became very clear to me was that they really needed a hiatus. They needed to get away. They needed to, to just stop for a minute and, and, and just do something very natural, rest the body, put the mind to bed for a second. Ah, and, when I thought about all the places in which that could possibly be done, for me to do it in Africa and to be able to take, at, at, at their selection, a group to Africa, to just go to stretch out, to become part of an African environment in the country that was noted for its political progress and for its ideas in where it was going, ah, I then took this fund raising moment to raise additional funds, ah, that I then gave to SNCC. And I said the 60 thousand is for the voter registration needs and the additional 10 thousand that I've gotten here is really for your transportation to take people who are the most in need of it, and I know it's a difficult decision to make, but it had to be made, to just to on to Africa for two weeks or three weeks and just really cool out.