Interview with Diane Nash
QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

OK, THAT WAS A ROLL OUT ON CAMERA ROLL 357. WE'RE GOING TO 358. CONTINUATION OF INTERVIEW WITH DIANE NASH IN CHICAGO. I WANT YOU TO TAKE YOURSELF BACK, GET IN TOUCH WITH HOW YOU REACTED TO—[unintelligible]

Diane Nash:

Well, on the Sunday when the girls had been killed in the bombing in church, in Birmingham, my former husband and I, Jim Bevel, were sitting in Golden Frank's living room. There was a voter registration campaign going on currently, that we were involved in, and we were crying, because in many ways we, we felt like our own children had been killed. We knew that the activity of the civil rights movement had been involved in generating a kind of energy that brought out this kind of hostility. And we decided that we would do something about it, and we said that we had two options. The first one was, we felt confident that if we tried, we could find out who had done it, and we could make sure they got killed. And we considered that as a real option. And the second option was, that we felt that if blacks in Alabama had the right to vote, that they could protect black children. And we deliberately made a choice, and chose the second option. And, at that time, promised ourselves and each other, that if it took twenty years, or as long as it took, we weren't going to stop working on it and trying, until Alabama blacks had the right to vote. So, we drew up that day, an initial strategy draft for a movement in Alabama designed to get the right to vote. Bevel continued working in the local—he had responsibilities in the local voter registration drive, and my job was to get on an airplane and have a meeting with Dr. King, and Fred Shuttlesworth, and encourage them to have a meeting with the staff to make a decision on what to do. Our strategy could be a draft, but—wait a minute—well, we tried for some—well, the first time I remember being in direct touch with the Justice Department, of course, was with the Freedom Ride. And their response was to try to discourage us from going, and of course, we had decided to go, and we weren't asking them if we could go, we were informing them of what we were going to do, so that they could, you know, offer protection, or whatever they wanted to do. And their response had been, well, don't do it. All right, so then in Birmingham, I remember calling the Justice Department one day to tell them that the Birmingham Police had police dogs, and were, had brought the police dogs into the demonstrators. And their response was, "Well, have they bitten anybody?" And I said, "No, as far as I know, unless they've bitten someone since I left in order to come and make this phone call." So, you know, the Justice Department's response was, well, if they haven't bitten anyone yet, there's nothing we can do, until they actually bite people. Which wasn't the case, because there had been the incident of the, I think they were called RAM, who were making plans to blow up the Statue of Liberty, allegedly making plans to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Well, they certainly arrested them, before they actually did it. And so I—I really felt impatience with the Justice Department, because if United States citizens were getting discriminated against, they had a responsibility to act like a government, and assert themselves. Civil rights laws were the only ones—later, after Kennedy offered the Civil Rights Bill—violating civil rights laws and discriminating against blacks, you couldn't get in jail for doing. Nobody was jailed for violating those laws, or, or seriously fined. It was like they were playing. So, we realized that we had to really show the responsibility to our movement ourselves, and not count on Washington to do that.