Interview with Hodding Carter III
QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

OK, JUST ONE FINAL THING, IF YOU WANT TO TAKE A MINUTE TO THINK ABOUT THIS, WE NEED A KIND OF A WRAP UP THING HERE IN THE LARGER PICTURE OF U.S. HISTORY IN THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT OF THE SIXTIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPACT WAS LEFT BY THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT? WHAT, HOW DID IT AFFECT THE [unintelligible] AMERICAN SCENE?

Hodding Carter III:

The civil rights movements was one of those rare movements which touched—starting over. The civil rights movement both tapped the American conscience and it piqued the American conscience. It appealed to it and it developed it. It came out of a consensus that you couldn't allow what was going on in the South to continue, but it also focused that consensus. It forced the nation to go from a bland statement of we don't really want to have racists involved in setting the laws of our country, to saying we can't allow racist laws anywhere in our country

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS IS THE HEAD OF SOUND ROLL 1303, FOR THE HEAD OF CAMERA ROLL 305, BSI, EYES. AND WE'RE CONTINUING THE INTERVIEW WITH HODDING CARTER III. COMING UP, SLATE NUMBER SIX, AND THIS IS OCTOBER 30, 1985.

Hodding Carter III:

OK, sure. The civil rights movement gave focus to a very deep American sense that you could not have a society which was half free and half slave. It gave more than focus though, it gave impetus. It gave impetus, both the national legislation almost forcing the hand of a reluctant government. It gave impetus to a whole people to quit looking to good whites, or to Washington, or to somewhere else to do their speaking and their fighting and to speak up and to organize on their own behalf. But it went beyond that. It gave a tremendous thrust to a whole wave of similar movements affecting not just blacks or other racial minorities but women, spilling over into the organizing efforts against the war, into the environmental movement, which I remember only too well because it took two of my reporters. It became, in a way, the model for what was the organizing principles of the 1960s and early 1970s. And it left behind more legacy than some of us who are sometimes nervous about the fact that we seem to have receded so far, left behind more than we sometimes are willing to admit. There are books—there are laws on the books now, which are never gonna come off because of that movement. There is the Voting Rights Act, which despite the best efforts of the reactionaries who set racial policy in this administration, is not going to be taken away. There is the basic question of public accommodations, which seems so primitively obvious in 1985, but in 1964 meant breaking down a structure and a code which had existed since the 1890s. It means really that that movement I think, was the most important single force that the country had seen perhaps in this century in ways that mattered, because that movement said to America, if the constitution means anything, if your own religious heritage means anything, if your protestations about what we're supposed to be doing in the world means anything, then the country's got to change. And it did. We've still got a long away to go, but if it hadn't been for the movement of the late fifties and the sixties we wouldn't even be debating the length of place we had to go. We'd be in chaos right now.