Interview with Bernard Lafayette
QUESTION 17
JUDY RICHARDSON:

Why did SCLC-- Why were you pushing for SCLC to come to Chicago?

BERNARD LAFAYETTE:

Well I was pushing for SCLC to come into Chicago as opposed to some of the other communities, ah, for this period, number one, because I was there and had been sent actually to work for the American Friends Service Committee to experiment with non-violence in a northern urban community. And we had already started some things there--

JUDY RICHARDSON:

BERNARD LAFAYETTE:

OK.



JUDY RICHARDSON:

Why did SCLC decide to come to Chicago?

BERNARD LAFAYETTE:

Well, there were several reasons that SCLC decided to come to Chicago, number one, the American Friends Service Committee had already started a project here in the area of housing and, ah, a lot of the documentation and studies had been done so there was, ah, documentation in terms of discrimination in housing, that was very clear. The other reason was because there was a CCC--ah, CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organization. The community was united, its leadership and organizations were there. So they extended an invitation to Martin Luther King. The other interesting fact was that the Urban League had done a study and it showed that 42 percent of the Blacks in Chicago were either first or second generation from Mississippi. So they were familiar with us. They knew the freedom songs. They were part of the movement in many cases because there was a lot of interaction between Chicago and Mississippi in terms of Blacks keeping in touch with each other and that kind of thing. So you had a receptive community. Also because you had the, ah, ah, Daley machine which was considered a, a liberal machine and there was support. There were many Blacks who were in elected positions on congressional levels, where we had our Black congressmen, strong Black congressmen, strong civil rights, ah, you know, legislators. Ah, so there was a feeling that we would be able to succeed because we had a great deal of support here in Chicago. We also had large numbers of people coming from Chicago to participate in the movement besides giving funds and that kind of thing. So Chicago proved to be much more ideal in terms of support and because of the conditions. And we thought that we would be able to gain something here that perhaps might not be possible in some of the other communities. So, there was also familiarity. We had a lot of the ministers and many of them were very much a part of the SCLC clergy network. And, ah, so for those reasons, SCLC decided that Chicago probably would be good.

JUDY RICHARDSON:

Cut.