Interview with Rev. James Lawson


Rev. James Lawson:

Then, as negotiations began, the mayor called upon his sort of biracial group to resolve the issue and we said "No thanks, negotiations will have to be directly with the Nashville movement, and not through any second or third parties. We want the merchants eventually [to] sit down with us directly." So we started our own process of having people go in to talk with the managers where they could and visit with them about how soon you gonna want to sit down. We continued then perfecting the sit-in. We basically called for an economic boycott of the downtown area. By the end of the month, the city leadership was so persuaded that they could make it disappear that then the police became the enemy instead of clearing, keeping thugs out of the stores and off the streets and moving, the police would do, now began to do disappearing acts, so that our first incidents against violence against our people began. And on the 27th, as I remember a Saturday, we had checked with the mayor and the police. In fact, I myself led a group to the police chief. From talking to him, I became quite convinced that we would have violence and arrest on the next big demonstrations which were that last Saturday in February. And we prepared for that then. We worked out our strategy accordingly and made it clear that everybody recognized who went on the sit-ins and on that last day on that Saturday that we would have, there would probably be violence and that there would probably also be some arrests. So everyone had to be committed who went out to be prepared to face both. And we organized our strategy accordingly, and recruited as many people as we could who would realistically understand this. And when that Saturday arrived, we were ready for it.