Interview with Gordon Carey


Gordon Carey:

OK, I think the reason that CORE was responsive to the idea of the Freedom Ride was that as an organization it had become somewhat frustrated by the fact that the problems in the North in the sixties and the late fifties were so hard to tackle. In other words, the problems in the North were not primarily those of public accommodations and that's where CORE had its, you know, strong suit. The problems in the North were housing, employment discrimination, and subtler kinds of things, and no good tactics had really been developed for coping with those problems, with—for dealing with them. On the other hand, direct action appeared to be very difficult in the South because of the massive resistance, because of the potential for violence and because states like Mississippi had such a—almost a police state. So that from the standpoint of the black living there, so that it was very difficult to do anything there. So CORE I think felt somewhat stymied organizationally because in the North it was facing very subtle problems, in the South it was facing a different kind of problem. It wasn't able to really penetrate the Deep South. The sit-ins had been primarily in the border states and in the Upper South, New Orleans, Florida, but they had not been in Alabama, Mississippi, and even where they had been, they were kind of sporadic. There had been no long, no long-lived organization that continued after a group of students might sit-in someplace. So, I think that we felt that something had to be done. That really conditions were more ripe for change in the Deep South than most of us had realized in the past and something dramatic was required and again it was, it was Gandhi. Gandhi was a a great showman, you know, he he was an actor—very dramatic—and we envisioned the Freedom Ride as something like that. And something that had too the potential for capturing the imagination of the country, and something that might be dramatic enough that it couldn't be completely ignored. In other words, this little bus load of kids, kids—some of them were in their sixties—this little bus load of people couldn't simply pass through, and they'd be thrown in jail with no recognition. As a matter of fact, if it was done properly it would have to get attention, and it would have to bring to focus, bring into focus the fact that you had major noncompliance with what was now federal law. So that's why I think we did it, I think the organization responded because the organization was frustrated in this way and it worked.