Interview with Bernard Lafayette

Talk a little bit about Black folks and their receptivity to you and also the Black clergy. What kind of response did you get, first from people and then from clergy?


There was, ah, ah, in many areas there was very warm response and a good deal of support from some of the, ah, clergymen for an example in Chicago. That's where we had our mass meetings and they would open up their churches, et cetera. But that was a different kind of thing that, I realized, which I had never realized before, and that was there was a conservative attitude on the part of some of the clergy and people involved in the leadership of the Black church. In the South we understood that what would be considered quote, conservatism, unquote, was actually fear. Because they really understood what we were about and they believed in what we were trying to accomplish but they were actually afraid for their lives and they were afraid their churches would get bombed. That was not the situation in the North. They were certainly, you know, would find support for this kind of thing, but their conservative attitude had much more to do with their values rather than, you know, the fear. And that was, a conservative Black person, that's the first time I heard it. It was funny to me because it was sort of antithetical because most of the Black people I know, you know, wanted to be free, and would, you know, do what they could, you know, to participate if they could overcome the fear. We served mainly as a catalyst to try to raise the consciousness of these people with whom we were working, and, ah, in many cases we were successful with them and ultimately we were successful in the long term. But in many cases we met cold resistance among some of the Blacks who did not, you know, really appreciate what we were trying to accomplish.