Interview with Marian Wright Edelman

How about the pressure to push Whites out of the movement?


Well, it was very hard for Whites to come in as partners, ah, as equal partners or even as partners where they would not be leaders. It was very important, ah, despite the fact that the Whites coming in for the summer project of 1964, under Bob Moses, and others responded to the call, and got the country to focus. You know, there's always a double side to that. Why should it take Whites to have to come in to get the country to look and see its Blacks who are all equal before God. So there was always this edge in all of us about why it takes a White kid to make the country look, look at a Black kid. And always underneath the surface and secondly when you had lots of eager and, and wonderful young people, ah, come and I remember Reed College particularly because I think I recall that Reed sent more kids down to the summer project in '64 almost than any other college. And many of those remain my good friends today. It's very hard for them to be patient and to work under and, and to take the, let the local people take leads. That's still a hard job for many organizers today going in and really responding and following local people as opposed to asserting themselves. And so tensions develop rather early, ah, and there came a point, ah, I think with Bob Moses and many others when it was very clear that Blacks would have to begin to do for themselves the kind of leadership which they had been doing for years and years and years, ah, but without the kind of national response that was required, if they were to going to move on the next stages of development so that there became a period when it was clear that it was best for Whites to begin to withdraw for Blacks to begin to assert more leadership. And you know, things go in cycles, ah, and, ah, I think that the role of the Whites in '64, in '65, terribly important. But it was time to go. I mean, there was a time for Mr. Ghandi, told his young White advisors to leave so that it, you know, because it, it had to be.