Interview with John McDermott

When we had talked before you told me that one of the frustrations was that every time King would raise the problem of dealing with quick profit. Can you tell me about that, what was frustrating about that?


Yes. Well this was, ah, the beginning of the marriage between Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the local Civil Rights Movement. And, ah, Dr. King had been accustomed to coming into very overtly, hostile, southern communities and analyzing the situation in terms of who ran things and raising issues--this is a problem and that is a problem. The reaction of the establishment in those communities almost always was negative: "No, it's not a problem. It's none of your business. Get out of town." And that negativism would arouse the supporters, would arouse the Black community and their supporters and help to build the movement. Building a movement is a little bit like ju jitsu. You have to use the strength of your opponent. Well here in Chicago under Mayor Daley, you, he did not identify at all. I don't think this is fully understood, he resented the notion that he and the city of Chicago were like these southern cities. He had a sense that we were Democrats. This was a liberal community. We had a human relations commission going back to the '40s. His theory about Chicago was that the system was fair. All you had to do was cooperate with him and it worked for you. And that this was not a hot bed of racism. So when King would raise a problem, he would come up with some kind of remedy, often a superficial remedy but a remedy nevertheless. And it is true in the minds of the people and the press, ah, it became hard in the minds of many White people, it became hard to see Daley as some kind of enemy because he would always respond.** If Dr. King moved to the West Side and there were rats , the apartment, the place was deteriorated, why within a few weeks, the wheels would turn and the landlord--