Interview with Richard Hatcher
QUESTION 1
SHEILA C. BERNARD:

I wanted to begin by asking you about the Congress of African Peoples in Atlanta in 1970, and the significance of that meeting, and more than that, the significance of you're deciding to go. Who was there? What did it mean that you joined them.

RICHARD HATCHER:

Well, the Congress of African People, ah, meeting, ah, involved a lot of people who considered themselves nationalists, and, ah, who were at that time were, ah, considered, ah, extremists almost. And, ah, so for a so-called mainstream, elected official, such as myself, to attend such a meeting, ah, was a little unusual. Ah, many people felt that a certain stigma would attach if you became associated with people, ah, who in some instances were even advocating, ah, the violent overthrow of the government. And, ah, so there certainly was not a, it was not an unusual situation. But I went, for a number of reasons. Ah, first of all, I felt, ah, ah, very comfortable in working, ah, with any Black people. And I felt that, ah, nationalists had a very important, ah, message, and one that should be listened to. And, ah, that it was important that some of us who were in elective office, ah, ah, have a clear understanding and a relationship, ah, with, ah, individuals who perhaps might not be at all interested in running for elected office, ah, themselves. And, ah, so, ah, it, it, it was an interesting, ah, place to be at that particular, at that particular time. And, ah, the speech, ah, that I delivered, ah, there as I recall, ah, today, ah, was not necessarily, ah, a great speech at all. But, ah, it certainly was a, a, a speech that talked about some of, ah, the concerns, ah, that Black people had, ah, at that time. Ah, the James Baldwin, ah, quote from his Stranger in the Village essay, ah, Blacks at that time truly did feel that even though they were citizens of the United States, they were strangers, ah, in the village. They were, they were not accorded the same rights and the same opportunities that other citizens of this particular village were accorded. And so, ah, it was a, a speech that basically said that, that the present condition of, of, of Blacks, ah, in the United States was unacceptable, and something needed to be done. And there had even before that meeting, among nationalists particularly been a growing movement towards some kind of national, ah, Black political convention. And, ah, in that meeting, ah, at the Congress of African Peoples meeting, there certainly was further talk and definition and refinement of the idea of calling this massive convention of Black people and plotting our political strategy, planning what we would do, and, and looking at perhaps a new political institutions. There was great discussion at that time about, ah, ah, the possibility of a third party. And, ah, there was some discussion, ah, at that point even about, ah, a Black running for President of the United States, ah, as a democrat. Ah, all of that was swirling around, ah, that Congress of African Peoples meeting.