Interview with Bernie Schweid
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT-I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT NEXT, IS I'D LIKE TO GET TO THAT MOMENT WHEN THE MERCHANTS DOWNTOWN FINALLY DECIDE THAT THEY HAD TO DESEGREGATE. I WANT YOU TO TELL ME WHAT - WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES THEM MOVE THAT WAY?

Bernie Schweid:

Business got -uh- worse and worse over this period of the boycott, and -uh- with the violence that was going on and everything else, there wasn't hardly anybody coming into town. Finally, the students had a -uh- large, 'nother, maybe the largest march yet, where they went down and confronted Mayor Ben West. Now Mayor Ben West was a really consummate politician, but I think basically, this issue, he was a decent man. And, when -uh- he was asked, I think it was by Diane Nash, you know, -uh- "Do you really think that the merchants in town should sell -uh- things to people and then not let 'em sit at a lunch counter or try on dresses or whatever, this-'n'-that." He said, well, he thought about it, and he said, "In my heart I have to say I think that's wrong." And that seemed to be kind of a turning point, because I think the merchants who were afraid to move on their own were almost looking for an excuse for say, "Well, if that's what the mayor thinks, then we ought to go ahead." Because -uh- it's very hard for -uh- most everybody-it's-it's-in… a merchant wants to make money and they're afraid to change things or do something different. 'Cause it could –uh- hurt their business. This is the thing they think about, and people worry a lot about… have fears of stuff that never come to pass. And this is true that people that travel abroad or anything else are always afraid of something foreign. And -uh- so here, this was an excuse they had… it kind of… the time just all seemed to come together and they decided to go ahead and start -uh- integrating some of the lunch counters and then the skies didn't fall in when that happened.