Interview with John Lewis
QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT PERSUADED THE NAACP AND THE URBAN LEAGUE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE MARCH?

John Lewis:

I think perhaps more than anything, I think more than anything, the NAACP, its membership, the youth membership and people at the, the base, local people, people in the South wanted to charter buses, get on trains and come. I think more than anything started putting pressure on the national office with the Urban League. I think Whitney Young happened to be sensitive to the mood, and they saw the march—I think people had, they had a problem with SNCC true enough, but they had problems also, real problems, with SCLC and particularly Dr. King. Well, I could tell you some stories and some meetings that—unbelievable, leading up to the march in, in 1963. Another meeting in New York I guess this was called the, the Unity, Civil Rights Unity Council, where, I have never before in my life seen a group of people—Dr. King hadn't made it to the meeting but it was Mr. Wilkins you know, who's a good man, decent human being, and, and Whitney, I think James Farmer was there, and I think our Jim, Jim Farmer was there, and maybe Floyd McKenzie. But it was almost—it was the worst kind of red baiting I ever heard, I ever witnessed of, of Dr. King. It was like a conversation going on between Whitney and, and Mr. Wilkins about Martin saying in the sense that he was naive politically—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

End side 2, Team B&C, side 3.

John Lewis:

—and that he kept all these sort of left people around him, and they thought that was bad, bad for the movement and he was not politically in tune or sophisticated in it. But they had some problems with him. And apparently, during that whole period, and when I look back on it, I didn't know it at the time, but seeing what I've seen today in the Freedom of Information file, and my own file, and other thing I'm sure, I'm convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was a great deal of sharing of information between the FBI, people within the Justice Department, between certain committees in the Congress, and people within the hierarchy of some of the old established civil rights organizations. And they got information and on different people, and then whether they used it or said—well, we understand that maybe you should get rid of a certain person, what representatives of the NAACP and Urban League were saying to Dr. King, that you had to cut some people, cut certain staff people, cut some of your friends, some of your associates, because you're being tainted.