Interview with Bayard Rustin
QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT ABOUT THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, MOVING OUT TO LITTLE ROCK WHERE YOU HAD EVENTUALLY A CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, DIRECTLY, AND THE STATE?

Bayard Rustin:

First of all, I think we have to bear in mind that Ike did not want to send troops to Little Rock. But he had no choice because he was then being faced with the same kind of resistance that Abraham Lincoln had been faced with. And it was a matter of making it quite clear to the South at that moment that we were not going to have them rebelling in the Union. And therefore he had to send the troops in. Now increasingly the federal government took more and more of a responsibility for policing the situation, because there was now a build-up in the country where it was not only black people who were saying the federal government has to be responsible. It was Catholics, Protestants, Jews, the trade union movement—as a result of their finally seeing us as the underdog. I think also that television played a very major role. Because now you were having brought into every living room in America the brutality of the situation. So, I think if we had television fifty years earlier, we would gotten rid of lynching fifty years earlier. Because it was made concrete as against reading the paper that a black had been killed. You saw the brutality. People saw Bull Connor, people saw the fire hoses. People saw the cattle prods. And this made a totally different response on the part of the general population.