Interview with Stokley Carmichael

There was a disagreement about having whites on the march. Why did you not want whites on the march in Meredith?


On the Meredith march? No, the disagreement was not on having whites. The disagreement was on having white leadership on the march. And this goes back to a long fight that SNCC had. As a matter of fact, John Lewis represented best at the March on Washington. The March on Washington, if you remember correctly John Lewis had a line in a speech which a Jewish rabbi was giving the, also on the platform on the March on Washington, did not agree with. And because he did not agree with this line of the speech John Lewis had to change the line. Of course, needless to say, when John Lewis came back to SNCC and told SNCC what happened, SNCC lambasted him and Courtland Cox, I remember Courtland Cox was dodging as best as he could, and said, "Well, we got what we wanted because while the line didn't get in the speech, it got in the newspapers all over the world and people knew exactly what the line is." So we thought we won. But while we appreciated that, we did not appreciate the fact that anybody could dictate to SNCC what they could say to their people on a march that they themselves had organized. So, the question of white leadership in SNCC was one which had already raised conflict since 1963 on the March in Washington. And SNCC was very clear here. Because as white liberals can work with SNCC but they cannot tell SNCC what to do nor what to say. So to insure this on a march on Washington, we wanted to make sure that, so white labor unions were excluded.