Interview with Richard Hatcher

What made this special, different from a traditional democratic or republican convention?


Well, I think first of all, it, ah, Gary was different because the nationalists and so-called mainstream Black politicians came together at Gary. Ah, there weren't that many Black elected officials, maybe, ah, 2-300 or so. But, ah, ah, they really had not communicated very well with the nationalists, and the nationalists with them. But Gary represented maybe the first time that these two came together, agreed on something, agreed to work together on something, and in some instances even agreed on goals and, and objectives, although there was much disagreement also. Ah, so that made it different. It, it, it really was our total community that was coming together. Ah, some, ah, just before the convention opened, ah, unfortunately Roy Wilkins, who was then the head of the NAACP, ah, really denounced the entire convention. He said that, ah, it was not legitimate, that the people who were involved were not, ah, ah, the really influential people there, and there were articles, I believe in The New York Times and other, other publications quoting him as saying this was not a good thing that this meeting was taking place and that he would not participate. In all fairness to him, one of his major objections was that the convention, ah, the planners made it clear that this was a convention for Black people, and that the Whites would not be permitted to attend or to be inside the hall. And, ah, that, ah, Roy Wilkins felt was inconsistent, ah, with the NAACP's commitment, and, ah, to a, ah, an integrated society. And so he, he criticized it on, on that basis. But that criticism, interestingly enough I think, ah, gave the convention more exposure, more public exposure, and caused more people to come. In other words, local members of the NAACP chapters across the country came in full force, as did members of the Urban League, and so forth. Vernon Jordan, who was then the head of the Urban League, himself came to the convention. Ah, he did not play a truly active role in the convention, but he was there. So, he made a statement, ah, by being there. And, ah, other members of the civil rights leadership, ah, of our country, ah, certainly came. So it was this, this idea of all these people coming together, first of all, this wonderful--