Interview with Paula Giddings

Why did you go to Howard University? What were you looking for? You mentioned the Freedom Ride.


I grew up on Yonkers, New York. And in a predominantly White neighborhood, feeling that sense of isolation that so many Black people felt in that period of time. Yonkers was always, a, a racist city. And I remember from the very beginning, name calling and that kind of thing that happened. To the point that even my mother had to go to school to give a civics lesson to the young children there because of everything that was going on. I remember always wondering the reasons behind all this. I think that, that kind of questioning was more important to me even than actually what was happening. And that became particularly intense by 1961. And I remember this very clearly. It was the first thing I really remember in terms of the movement and everything that was going on. And it was the Freedom Rides of 1961. And the thing I guess that was so compelling about it was, not only because I was then 13 years-old, so I was old enough to begin to get a sense of things. Ah, but again those questions. What would make this happen? What would create that kind of violence? What gave those young people, I think I related to it because there were young people in my generation. What gave them that courage to continue on those rides at the expense, maybe, of their, of their lives? And when I think back. I think it separated me from even a lot of the Blacks that I began, that I knew in Yonkers. No one seemed, else seemed to be asking those questions. And I was determined and I don't know if I intellectualized it or had a great racial analysis in this period. But I knew I needed to find a community of like minded Black people. And this certainly was very much on my mind in 1965 when it was time for me to go to school, to college. And, ah, at that time, the UNCF, if I remember correctly, had a, it was interesting they had a program to help Black students get into predominantly White schools as well. Because this was the period when White schools.


Say United Negro College.