Interview with Diane Nash


Diane Nash:

You know, Gandhi actually developed a way to declare warfare without using violence, and it is efficient and effective. And I—I sometimes marvel that in spite of the success that we had with the southern movement, that we are not studying it and developing it and pursuing it more. It's—it's a process that a community goes through, that consist of five steps. One of the important phases of the movement in Nashville was the economic withdrawal, where the oppressed people really withdraw their participation from their own oppression. So there was a withdrawal of shopping, by the blacks, and by whites who agreed with us, and who would participate, from the downtown area. That while blacks couldn't be served at the lunch counters or in the restaurants of the department stores, we didn't shop downtown at all. That was the height of the Easter shopping season, which used to be even important to, to retail merchants than they are now. Everybody used to get brand new Easter outfits, that, that could possibly afford to. And that boycott was, I think, about 98% effective, or more, among blacks in Nashville. So that the next time—when we began negotiating with the merchants again, they were much more interested in talking to us than they had been the first time. And they had a real interest in working out how we could really resolve the situation. And I think the—the experience was important for me, personally, because we really began to see them as people, and try to hear what their reservations were. For instance, you know, they were concerned that there would not be a boycott of the whites, at the lunch counters, if they began to serve blacks. And we started really strategizing how we could avoid that. So, some of the whites in Nashville who were, who recognized that it was important to desegregate the city, figured into the, the strategy, because they made it a point to sit next to the blacks, who were being served, so that there could not be a white boycott. So, those kinds of experiences made me really look at the fact that bringing about social change through violence is probably not nearly as, as realistic. Because, who do you kill? Do you kill all whites? That doesn't make sense, because we had whites who were our opposition the first year, who the second year—who were merchants, even, the first year—the second year, they took an attitude with the merchants whose lunch counters we were desegregating of, kind of, I know how you feel, I felt that way last year. It's not that bad, in fact, it really makes sense. And they were, they were helpful to us the second year in bringing about desegregation.