Interview with Albert Shanker

Okay, could you talk about your conversations with Mayor John Lindsay during the summer of '68 period?


We had, I had many conversations with John Lindsay and, and hoped that he would, ah, use his influence as Mayor to pressure the School Board, the Superintendent, indeed, to pressure Ocean Hill-Brownsville, ah, and, and to say, that, "Look you've, ah, these teachers have now been before a judge and he has ruled that they have a right to go back and you've got to take them back. Otherwise, we're going to have act against you the same as we would against a principal or anybody else in the school system who is violating the law." He didn't do that. All I ever heard from John Lindsay is, "Al, you're absolutely right. Those teachers are innocent. This never should have happened, it's terrible. But think of the city. I can't force those teachers to go back there because otherwise the city will burn down. They will burn the city down. We've got to keep the city cool. Look what's happening at other cities across the country." So the whole thing was kind of a, a, it was always, "You're right, but you're not looking at the big picture and the big picture is violence." And I said, ah, ah, "Mr. Mayor, you can't govern a city on the basis of constantly being threatened. I mean what's the next thing that's going to happen? What's the one after that? You can always have a threat hanging over you, the place is going to blow up, will be burned down. I can't run a union that way. You can't run a city that way. And that's precisely why I'm going to stand up here because if I don't stand up on the issue in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, there is not a principal in the city who won't say, 'I'm transferring you out,' meaning transferring you to where? Ah, this will be copied all over the place. And what, what kind of a school system do you have, what kind of a society do you have with everybody going around doing this without, without any decency and without any procedures and without any rights?"