Interview with Stokley Carmichael

What did you see your direction being when you took over? How did you want the organization to move?


Our direction was clear. A heavy emphasis on nationalism. Strong, as strong as Malcolm had it, as strong as we could get it. Clear, a strong policy on organizing the mass of the people, putting first before us the political organization of the masses as the only route to clearly solving our problem. A strong emphasis on the point of the fact that nonviolence for us was a tactic and not a philosophy as it was for SCLC. Thus, since it was a tactic we were at any time, had a right as an organization to choose the appropriate tactics that would lead to the people's liberation. That meant that we were giving ourselves the free choice of taking arms and using violence as a legitimate tactic to arrive at our noble ends, the liberation of our people. So, on these three, just these three beginning clear bases, you can see a clear distinction. It demonstrated itself or manifested itself in clear policies. For example, Lyndon Baines Johnson who was the president of the country invited SNCC staff to a White House tea to discuss some, something or the other. But John's position was we should go. My position was, we didn't talk to this racist pig who was bombing Vietnam. That we had no discussion with him at all. And this was just really the gap. So even John, who before being elected, who before the elections in SNCC had agreed to go to this, when I became Chairman of SNCC, I refused absolutely to go. And SNCC sent a very terse message to Johnson, which he will not forget, because, by a coincidence, the very same date that he picked for the White House Tea with us was the same date that a bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, while the Vietnam war was occurring. So we told him that until he stops dropping bombs, we're not even talking to him.