Interview with James Bevel

After Selma, many things about the movement were never quite the same. SNCC sort of changed its philosophy within the coming years. So, and in some ways the energy disappeared. Did you feel that slipping away at that time? Did you sense that maybe you were at a turning point in the movement's history?


Well, yeah, see what happened—it's not to me—it's never the change in the philosophy, it's the abandonment of principle. What keeps the potency in a movement is the principle being applied. And, and applied to the need and the problem. The need at the time was for the blacks and whites in Alabama to be reeducated to participate in a democratic government responsibly. And I had proposed that we boycott Alabama and call for a new election. And in the proposal it stated that the universities, like say, Boston U. would take say Jefferson County, and each university would take a County and would engage in social education, and political education, economic development education, which would cause the people to think scientifically and academically about living in community rather than the age old pattern of black and white. I lost that struggle within the movement and Hosea Williams came up with a scheme called, Scope, and when King got caught up in that and spent a half a million dollars, wasted time and money, in a scheme called Scope. And to me, that is what threw the movement off because we should have pursued the educating of people so that they could functionally carry out good government from the precinct, through the beats on up to the legislative districts, in the, you know, in the counties. And to me, we failed the people when we didn't complete, completely take them on to a process of democratic government. When King made that decision, to put the staff and the money under the auspices of Hosea, I simply decided that I would come to Chicago and apply nonviolence to the whole question of open housing. So that's what I did.