Interview with John McDermott

Can you talk about Black Power and when you as a Negro person first started noticing this new, new wave?


Well, the Chicago Movement did begin to decline in power and attractiveness to a broad part of the community when the issue of Black Power presented itself. We first began to hear it vocally, ah, during the, ah, Meredith march, the James Meredith march to Mississippi, the march where he had been shot and then pulled himself together and people came to his defense to continue that march. We first began to hear it, but hearing it from Mississippi simply opened a door that had been closed in Chicago. The fact is, that, ah, how- whatever the strength of the movement, there were people who were not entirely comfortable with the religious dimensions of Dr. King's leadership, with his sense of forgiving the sinner but not the sinned, making the distinction between the evil of racism and the basic decency of people, and his hope for the possibility of an integrated society of interracial harmony. There were people who were trouble by that, who thought that was too other worldly and it might not work. And at the way America really worked and the way Chicago worked was that some people power, had power and some people didn't. Some people were haves and some people were have-nots. And the way they saw Civil Rights was how quickly can we become haves? How quickly can we become ins? How quickly can we become winners? And of ta- the talk of Black Power touched that desire in my judgment and took over gradually and led to the weakening, in my judgment, of the Chicago Civil Rights Movement and its inability to make the establishment deliver on the commitments of the summit agreement reached in August of 1966.