Interview with John Lewis


John Lewis:

Well, I still, somebody asked me about that just a day or so ago out in, in Compton, California—what about our party? It's, well I still feel about the same way. Where's the party of the people? When you lo—well, that's a whole other discussion. But I suggested that as a movement that we could not wait on the President on members of the Congress. We had to take matters into our own hand, and went on to say that, that the day might come when we would not confine our marching on Washington, where we might be forced to march through the south the way Sherman did, nonviolently. And some of the people suggested that was inflammatory, that would call people to riot, and you shouldn't use that type of language. And Mr. Randolph really came to my defense, not that night, he was not present on that Tuesday night. But even after we got, after we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, people had problems with some of the changes. The use of the word "revolution." I used "revolution" in it, the word revolution in the speech, at least once, the word "masses." Mr. Randolph said "You know, I don't have any problem with revolution. I don't have any problem with the word. I use them. I use those words myself sometimes." I said in, in one part of the speech, "We are involved in a serious revolution." I remember that very well. "The revolution is at, is at hand. The masses are on the march" or something like that. People, they couldn't deal with that. And it was, you know, it's nothing. You look back on it, and, and in 1965, all of that, what we tried to suggest in that speech on the concern of voting rights, came to pass. The people in Selma, the people in Mississippi, made it real through the Voting Rights Act. And you know, all of the things that SNCC predicted and projected during that period came to pass in the Voter Rights Act 1965. And, but for that, you know, day, it was, tended to be looked upon as being radical and extreme.