Interview with James Bevel

OK, tell me about the adult response to your use of the children.


Well it was good. A lot of adults would come out. One of the things we were interested in was getting the American black community involved. And in a city like Birmingham, you can't hardly go to a church, say in Chicago, where there is not a member in that church that is not related to Birmingham. So if you put several thousand children from Birmingham, say in jail, you sort of affected the religious community in Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, so you wanted to get the black community involved in it. We wanted to get the black community in Birmingham involved and the way you get the people involved is get their children involved.** A lot of people were afraid to come to mass meetings in terms of the—the Alabama Bureau of Investigation would be around taking pictures and harassing people. So when the children became involved, they became involved, which meant they started coming to workshops and mass meetings. And our position was, rather than, kind of, get your children out of the movement, join the movement with your children. That the reason we had was faced with segregation because they themselves hadn't assessed the responsibility of breaking the attitudes and the patterns of misbehavior, say from their parents, and if the students didn't break those patterns then they would live a life of degeneracy in that kind of state. So, it was like the parents pretty much agreed that, and most parents even when it's dangerous and risky, they have a deep sense of appreciation and respect for young people when they're doing what's right. I mean, all of them knew it was potentially dangerous, but they knew it was honorable, and they knew it was noble and they knew it was right. So they didn't fight against it. And then you had myself, and Fred Shuttlesworth, Abernathy, and Martin King preaching, and it's very difficult to go against the logic and the reasoning of a preacher who is really in the—about the business of preaching and all.