Interview with Jesse Jackson

Once the Black community in Chicago to react to Byrne excesses, how did PUSH begin to work with organizations and what was your role? REV.


You know you really must put the Chicago scene within the context of a, of a glorious history. I mean Oscar de Priest, one of our first African American Congresspeople from Chicago, Bill Dawson from Chicago, the, the Daley, Dawson combination which delivered to Kennedy the Presidency in 1960 and then the modern period would have to be, Dr. King coming to Chicago, leading open housing marches and that's when it, I really emerged on the scene. I had been with him as had many others in Selma in '65, the year before and he made the judgment, really based on appeal by Al Raby, ah, and Bill Barry and the combination of people to come to Chicago and It was said that you could not expose segregation in the north because it was subtle. The fact is it was everything except subtlety. It was dynamic. It was real, blatant, ugly, violent.**And as he marched toward Gage Park and marched toward the southwest, bricks were thrown and there was this great confrontation between the police and the residents there because they had somehow been taught, ah, that African Americans were, ah, were dirty and indecent and, and violent. They had these fears. They, their fears had not been relieved and there was a struggle for a, an empowered political community, the silent six. Dr. King came to give voice to those fears and frustrations in Chicago and then Mayor Daley died and one of his loyal servants, Wilson Frost was the mayor pro tem, should have been acting mayor. They locked him off of the 5th floor of City Hall. Well then, ah, Bilandic, ah, ah, was given that job in that arrangement. Well Mayor Byrne beat him but in part because a significant number of, of independents, African Americans, Hispanics, progressive Whites went with Jane Byrne, she had a, a little pizazz, a little gusto and we knew it was a break. And I remember when several aldermen who went with her for the first time said, now that she has won she has met with George Dunn and that group before meeting with us. We are afraid. And there was a meeting in my office with Harold Washington and several aldermen. They said, we need somebody to help us. And so Harold and, and I think Nancy Jefferson, two or three of us, went down to Jane Byrne's transition office and after meeting with her it was so clear that she had no special sense of obligation to the element that made the break to elect her. Harold said, we're going to have trouble with her administration unless something fundamental changes. And there was a sense that we had to keep organizing because we had not yet been recognized with, with parity, ah, that we were still somehow less than peers and so the organization continued. Because she had a lot of exciting activity, ah, ChicagoFest and because she did reach out in ways that say, Daley and Bilandic never had, there was sense that somehow you couldn't beat her and she was female. She was not hostile. She was not polarizing the city, per se and yet we were not involved in the equation. So I used to do a morning, a talk show, every Sunday morning, and on this particular Friday, Dorothy Tillman and Marion Stamps, Lu Palmer were arrested at the Chicago Housing Authority. Ah--


I think we better stop now.