Interview with James Bevel

OK, based on what you were telling me, I sense that compared to Birmingham and similar campaigns, Selma was a whole new way of thinking. If that's true, would you expand on that a little bit and tell me about the difference?


Yeah, the other movements had faced, was focused on public accommodations—the right of a person to eat, the right of a person to ride the bus, and the right of the person to use a theater. The Selma movement was to address the specific problem of disenfranchisement, which was different in terms of it wasn't asking for an accommodation, it was asking for a basic constitutional right. It was addressing the violation of a basic constitutional right, which is the right to vote. My thinking on that was that the American people would be more responsive to that than say, the right to eat or the right to ride a bus because that is more basic in terms of an American principle—the right to govern yourself. That's very basic. There was a lot of debate and argument as to whether people, would respond to that. My position on it, was that if you clarify for people in terms of the need to vote, people understood that. The problem was that they didn't see a way or means by which that could be accomplished. I think once we showed that that was possible, if they wouldn't settle for nothing less, the question becomes what's possible? What's possible is what you want. What's yours is right for you to have if you don't settle for nothing less. And, and the point was in getting people to agree to settle for nothing less than that because there was no rational reason why any segment of the population should be denied the right to govern themselves. And it was, it was pretty easy to sell the people on that.