Interview with C. T. Vivian


C. T. Vivian:

O.K., uh, the, the march in Nashville, Tennessee , was by the way, the first march of the movement ever, and it was a turning point. It was what in many ways, we'd been leading to without knowing it. It was- it would decide a good deal of all the negotiations that followed it. Uh, we began at, at Tennessee A&I, for we had left uh, the church where we'd been thinking that morning together and we scattered out all over the city, mainly to the schools, to talk to students, uh, to put the messages on the loudspeaker system as Bernard Lafayette did so well at Tennessee A&I. And Tennessee A&I was the out uh, reaches of the city. It was city limits. And it was on uh, Jefferson, the main uh, street of black uh, of black uh, Nashville. And, and right after the lunch hour., people began to gather, and we started the march there and we began to march down that street and students came out from the lunch rooms and they came out from being on, on the campus grounds, and they joined and they came out of buildings and dormitories among the way right there at the beginning, and down the street we went. Uh, and uh, and that group of people who had been leaders of the movement were up front, so that everyone knew them and the symbols of it, they knew that this was serious and they joined, and we started down and by the time we got to uh, what was a uh, a, a very important corner for everyone to gather uh, uh, people had begin to join us in small numbers. When we got to 18th and Jefferson, which is uh, uh, the corner it was called, that's when Fisk University uh, students joined us. They were waiting and they fell right in behind with those that were there. Uh, when, the, the, the next block was 17th and Jefferson, and students from Pearl High School had walked over about four blocks and had come up because they normally out across to 17th Street and they joined in behind that. And the Pearl High School students uh, uh, uh, were, were enthusiastic as everyone else, but there was a certain silence, a certain seriousness, but the camaraderie and the sense of purpose is what pervaded everything that was going on and we marched down the street and pretty soon you could hear the beat and uh then that was taken over by cars coming and joining us along the way, as people came out of houses or people were in cars. And uh, I remember seeing uh, a, a man get out and join us and his wife drove the car on by. Uh, uh, there were, and then cars began to join us as we came down, moving very slowly so they could be with us as we moved. We filled Jefferson Avenue, it's a long, long way down Jefferson. And the more, and at first there was uh, uh, after a while there was a certain bit of singing, and as we came closer to town, it was merely the silence of the feet.** A good deal of, of right off of downtown had been cleared away for urban renewal and that sort of thing uh, and you could see across an expanse, and here we came. And I remember uh, what, uh, one of the things that stood out in my mind as we walked by a place where there were workers out for the noon hour, white workers, and they had never seen anything like this. And here was, uh, all of four thousand people marching down the street, and all you could hear was their feet as we silently moved and the, and they didn't know what to do and they moved back against the wall and they simply stood up, uh, against the wall, just looking. Uh, there was a fear there uh, there was an awe uh, there uh, and they did not know what to do, but they knew that this was not to be stopped, this was not to be played with or to be joked with.** And that sense pervaded—everybody was there. We marched on and, and made a, a cross to City Hall, and uh, we started up the steps at City Hall and we gathered on a, a plaza in front of the building. Uh, it was very clear.