Interview with Rev. Andrew Young
QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

BLOODY SUNDAY?

Rev. Andrew Young:

Bloody Sunday was… one of the incidents that made the Civil Rights Movement. It was also one of the things that not only did we not plan the way it happened, ah, we were trying to call it off right up to the last minute. Dr. King had decided that we would move the movement from Selma to Montgomery and that we would march to Selma, from Selma to Montgomery, but, ah, we really didn't set a particular date. And Albert Turner, who was our field secretary in Marion, Alabama, figured the best day to do it was a Sunday. It turned out that that was the Men's Day in Dr. King's church, and he had to be in ah, Atlanta, because he pastored his church and he went back to preach just about every Sunday, wherever he was, ah, and so we were all back in Atlanta when people began showing up in Selma to march from Selma to Montgomery. So they called me about 9:00 o'clock in the morning, and um, I jumped on a plane and went to Selma. And when I got to Selma, I saw, driving in from Montgomery, I saw all of the State Troopers on horseback, ah, and I saw them with their teargas masks, ah, but they were all standing around. There must have been a couple of hundred of them, and they were all standing around, you know, in a very relaxed sort of manner, not looking menacing at all. And ah, so when I went across the bridge going to the church, ah, they didn't bother me and I didn't stop and bother them. But we called Dr. King, and we—he had asked us to call off the march. And we persuaded him that since there were about three hundred people there, maybe they could go ahead and march, that they weren't going to get far anyway. That we had seen the State Troopers and they were going to probably stop them and turn them around, or maybe they would—people would get arrested. So he said, "Well, OK, go ahead and march," he said, "but don't you all go to jail." And we thought that what was going to happen was that we would march over there and everybody would be arrested. So, John Lewis and Hosea Williams and I, and James Bevel decided that only two should go. Well, John said, "Well, I represent SNCC, so I'll go, and one of you all decide which one will go." So we played odd man, and we flipped a coin and the odd man got to march, and the odd man was Hosea Williams. And… but nobody anticipated the kind of savagery and brutality that occured. When the…when we heard the shots, the shots of the teargas canisters, I mean, you almost can't tell from a distance, they sound like gunshots, and it sounded like somebody had opened fire on people, and then we saw people coming back screaming. We were about two blocks away from the bridge, and we went back to try to help people back, but the police were riding along on horseback beating people, and the teargas was so thick you couldn't get ah, to where people were… were in need of help, and people, I mean really three hundred people being teargassed unexpectedly panicked. Teargas not only burns your eyes, it upsets your stomach, ah, and it was a kind of a combination of teargas and… and the same sort of nausea gases that they were using in Vietnam, and people were just wrenching and… and… ah, and totally panicked. And so we… we really had to turn the church into a hospital, ah, just to get people back to their senses. And it was a… it was a horrible two or three hours. Fortunately, I don't think there were any bones broken and not too many… not too many perm—permanent injuries, but there was a tremendous amount of shock. Ah, and ah it… it panicked the demonstrators, but it also panicked the nation. That happened to occur right in the afternoon, right after the movie "Judgment at Nuremburg" on the Nuremburg trials, and people saw what happened in Nazi Germany side by side with what was happening in America in Selma, and they made the connection, ah, and it was shortly after that that Lyndon Johnson made his famous "We shall overcome" speech.

[unintelligible background conversation]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

MOVING ON TO CAMERA ROLL 505 ON SOUND ROLL 1502. TONE. NEXT TAKE WILL BE 08.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS IS SOUND ROLL 1503, BLACKSIDE, EYES ON THE PRIZE, CAMERA ROLL 505, CONTINUATION WITH ANDREW YOUNG. NEXT SLATE NUMBER WILL BE 008.