Interview with John Lewis

Well there did seem to be some divisions of thought there, that, and some differences that developed within SNCC, that may have lost the chairmanship of SNCC, for you to Stokely Carmichael. And I know I may be hitting on something that's a little sensitive to you, but I wonder if you kind of talk to me, why you think you lost to Stokely in that election.


Well in 1965, ah, Stokely Carmichael, along with 2 or 3 other people did mention the possibility of challenging me for the chairmanship of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Ah, I was reelected in 1965, and continued to serve until the spring of 1966. I think it was feeling in, in SNCC, on the part of some of the people, like, ah, Stokely and others, ah, that they needed someone who would, ah, maybe not be so non-violent, someone who would be, ah, "Blacker", in a sense. That would not preach interracial efforts, ah, preach integration. Ah, I remember very well, in the spring of 1966, I had been invited to go on a trip, to speak to Scandinavian students, to Sweden, Norway, and Denmark about the Civil Rights Movement, about the effort to end the war in Vietnam. And, ah, when I came back, It was almost like a coup, ah, people were saying that we need someone who will stand up to Lyndon Johnson, we need someone who will stand up to Martin Luther King, Jr.** And it was at that time that the real battle for the chairmanship of SNCC took place, and it was May 1966. Ah, I made a decision that it didn't matter what happened, I would, when I would continue to advocate the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence. Ah, that I, that I believed in the interracial democracy, that I believed in Black and White people working together.