Interview with David Dawley

Tell me how you came to be on the march and why you went and what you thought you could accomplish.


When Meredith was shot, ah, I was at Michigan in the School of Social Work studying community organization. We were activists. I had been in the Peace Corps for two years, I had grown up an Eagle Scout in a small New England town, a tenth generation Yankee. I was taught to stand up for what I believed, to do right. When I was growing up, every morning we said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I believed that we lived in a nation with liberty and justice for all. In United States I learned the values of democracy. When I went to Honduras, I learned the practice of democracy by working with campesinos. In Honduras I began to see my own country as people asked me about the United States. They asked why Blacks and Whites had to use separate bathrooms, why there were signs that said, "Mexicans and dogs keep out." These were new questions for me. I'd grown up in an all-White environment. I went to Dartmouth, um, where I met my, where I met, ah, classmates, ah, ah, when I went to Dartmouth, there were, there were two Negro classmates. I'm uncomfortable using Negro when today we say Black, but before 1966, ah, Blacks were Negro and that was better than colored or something else. At any rate, there were two Negroes as at Dartmouth and then I went into the Peace Corps so I hadn't had any experience really with urban America, with the South, ah, or with Black America or with Black/White relations. I, our class was a transition from the Eisenhower years to the Kennedy years, from the '50s to the '60s, from sort of a, a comfortable, passive citizenship to activism. Mississippi summer started in the year that I went into training for Peace Corps. Um, I began to learn about civil rights and, um, Vietnam, um, through Time Magazine, a free subscription, and the Voice of America, ah, both filtering propaganda to us, with Henry Luce's Time Magazine and the Voice of America run by the government. So we learned about events from one particular perspective and it was very troubling because a couple of things we were picking up in Honduras where the people were bothered about the way we treated Blacks, the way we treated Mexicans, the way we treated anybody different, that was not in my personal experience. When I came back to United States, ah, I came back with new awareness and I began seeing what was around me in a different way--