Interview with James Bevel

Just before the march started, of course, President Johnson was on national television addressing a joint session of congress and made the immortal line, "We shall overcome," and how did that make you feel when you heard President Johnson use that line?


Well, I don't think it was that line in particularly that that really set me off. I think it was the, I don't know whether you read the whole speech, but in my estimation that speech, I think it's entitled now "We Shall overcome", I would suspect, unless, in my ratings, if I was to rate the Civil Rights speech of the '60s as the most potent, best speech, I would give that speech the, the number one place out of the whole speech. I think it's a classical, in terms of a man rising above being a Southerner, being white, and being anything and just in that moment was possessed by the spirit of being man looking at America, looking at the Constitution, looking at the struggling people. And I think there was a genuine sense of love and respect that went from Johnson to all people. And I think it's very clear in that speech that it is not a political speech. It's more or less a sermon. And it was the same effect that I get when I hear good preaching. It's, you know, it's like this guy is really saying it and he's not playing, and because he is saying it and because he is not playing something is going to be done. And it was like that's the law. That the President is speaking, he is not politicking, he's very serious about what he's saying, and people hear him and they know that he is right and they're going to address the problem. And it was like, yeah, well, the movement, that movement is solved. Yeah, that's, we've solved the problem.