Interview with Rev. Andrew Young
QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

THERE'S A STORY CIRCULATING THAT UH, THE PLANS FOR SELMA WERE REALLY OUT THERE, BEFORE, ENOUGH FOR WILSON BAKER TO GET COPIES OF THESE PLANS. UM, AND GO AND SEE BURKE MARSHALL IN LATE NOVEMBER OF '64 IN AN EFFORT TO GET HIM TO STOP THE CAMPAIGN IN SELMA. WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT?

Rev. Andrew Young:

I'm not aware specifically that—let me—there has been a rumor that the plans for Selma were already out in 1964 and that Wilson Baker took copies of them to Washington to Burke Marshall to try to get him to intercede or to stop the campaign. I don't know that to be a fact, but it's quite possible. In fact, it's even probable that that was the case. The plans for Selma grew out of a lot of the thinking of James and Diane Bevel and it was a part of a strategy that they began to develop in response to the bombing of the church in Birmingham. When the four little girls were killed in the church in Birmingham, we felt that that was directly a result of the kind of inflammatory political rhetoric that was coming from George Wallace at the time. And we then knew that even though we had a Civil Rights Act, that integrated lunch counters, and that made it possible for us to work in new places, it eliminated the signs on restrooms and public facilities, but that incident convinced us that unless you changed the politics of Alabama, that you couldn't really change the society. You really didn't want to have to go out and demonstrate every time there was a grievance, and the only way to avoid that was to elect the public officials yourself. So Jim and Diane Bevel began to talk in terms of getting rid of Wallace, and they had all of these little buttons that said GROW, G-R-O-W, Get Rid of Wallace. And they didn't tell anybody what they meant. We just had them made up and we were passing them around. And a part of the thinking was that in small groups, all across the state, that people would plan simultaneous demonstrations. We felt that to change the political structure, in Alabama, we couldn't go back to Birmingham. Birmingham had borne about all of the strain that it could bear. And that in the smaller towns, like Selma, and Montgomery, we would probably have to operate in as many as five or ten communities simultaneously. So there was this plan to mobilize the entire state, and it was evolved really, by the grass roots participants. And this was done before it came to Atlanta, with the Executive Staff and Dr. King, but it was typical of the way the Southern Christian Leadership Conference operated. We didn't see ourselves as putting plans into other people's lives. We brought people out of the situation in a citizenship education program and we gave them a week off by themselves, to discuss their problems. And we discussed them with them and they then began to devise, well, they began to come to some of the same conclusions: that they had to vote. And that when Selma did this, we brought some people from Montgomery, and then some people from Anniston, and some people from over in Marion, Alabama, and Demopolis, and Tuscaloosa, and Lowndes County, throughout the Black Belt. So it was, it was a plan in evolution. But I should say that nothing like that ever disturbed us. We operated under the Gandhian notion that we were completely open. During the Selma movement, the John Birch Society and the White Citizens' Council had people in our meetings, taping our meetings, and making films, and we didn't put them out, and we knew who they were. We would take the microphones off from wherever they would hide them, under the pulpit, and put them right out on top, and Reverend Abernathy got quite famous, every night, for preaching to the little "doohickey," which is what he called the bugging device. And he would say whatever he wanted, either President Johnson, or J. Edgar Hoover, or Governor Wallace, or Wilson Baker, or anybody he felt like preaching to, he preached to through this little recording device. So that it didn't disturb us that everybody knew our plans. We wanted them to know our plans.