Interview with Roger Wilkins
QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

When Stokely Carmichael started yelling for Black Power, you talked about it as a cork erupting. Can you tell me about the sense that this was just going to blow?

ROGER WILKINS:

I remember watching it on television, and it was--

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry, I remember watching--

ROGER WILKINS:

I remember watching Stokely Carmichael at a, at a rally in Mississippi on the Meredith march, shout "What do we want? Black Power! What do we want? Black Power!" And I said to my wife, I said, "This is it. White people all across this country are going to be scared to death." But all kinds of Black people who have been bottled up for years are going to feel, "By God, we've got to go out and do something now. We've got it in our hands, and we can't be passive anymore. We've got to be active shapers of our own destiny. Ah, I'm sure I didn't say it as eloquently as that. But that's what I felt, that it was the unleashing of energy and the unleashing of rage. And that's what it became.



ROGER WILKINS:

In the cabinet room before we were sent to Detroit when the President had decided to send U.S. troops in, he wanted to make sure that the U.S. troops didn't kill anybody. And he said it in colorful language. He said it to us, who were going out there to direct the operation, he said it to the general who was in charge of the 82nd airborne. "I don't want any bullets in those guns! I don't--do you understand me? I don't want any bullets in those guns!" He got worked up, and "I don't want it said that one of my soldiers shot a pregnant ni-." And he looked at me and his face got red, and I understood. I understood that Ja--that Johnson was a coarse guy, he was a southerner, he said "nigger", but, he was embarrassed and he was ashamed of himself, and he later apologized.

INTERVIEWER:

Thanks so much.