Interview with Jesse Jackson

Let me take you back to 1980. It's May of 1980, the verdicts have come in the policeman who killed Mr. McDuffie and one of America's worst riots takes place. You go back there. Why did you go to Miami and what did you hope to accomplish? REV.


Well because there was a need and people with whom I had worked across the years were crying out for help for fear there would be even more killing and more rioting. Ah. There are two dimensions of the Miami scene as I reflect upon it. One is its history of being one of the places where, where African people, ah, landed. Ah, from West Africa to South America, Brazil to the Caribbean to forts in Florida and Virginia, up, up the coast. It's a long and proud history of African Americans in Miami. Also because it is so close to, to Latin America and to the Caribbean, there's a great sense of, of internationalism in Miami, a port city. Ah. In the deepest days of segregation there was some sense of a thriving African American community in, in southern Florida. Then with the cold war with Cuba, African Americans were made third class citizens. Whites were first class citizens in terms of, of access and opportunity. Cubans, in some sense, were encouraged to come here in the struggle with Castro, to undercut Castro. And thus, there was this kind of, ah, subjugation. And many promises made, almost no promises kept. Why no economic development, well you see a highway cut through the community which undercut them economically and, and humiliated then because they did not have the political power to fight back and to protect themselves. Banks and Savings and Loans Companies were red lining the communities. No money is available for affordable housing, ah, medium or small businesses. Ah, so there was great sense of, of economic exploitation. But strangely enough, even the riots of the '60s, never did pure poverty, ah, incite a riot. It was always some police people spark that set the flame into explosion. And that's exactly what happened when McDuffie was, was killed in, in 1980.