Interview with Rev. Andrew Young
QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LOCAL BLACK LEADERSHIP IN SELMA? I'M THINKING OF MRS. AMELIA BOYNTON AND FREDERICK REESE.

Rev. Andrew Young:

Well, the local black leadership in Selma was really responsible for the Selma movement. Selma was not a place that we picked out. We did not choose them, they chose us. I had been to Selma, my wife is from thirty miles from Selma, and we had our first date in Selma. So I knew Mrs. Boynton. We had trained some of the people, including Mrs. Boynton, in our citizenship education program, some years before. But Mrs. Boynton's background goes all the way back to the early NAACP days, before the NAACP was outlawed in Alabama. And John Lewis, who is now in the Atlanta City Council, and Bernard Lafayette, who I think is teaching at Tuskegee, were a part of going down with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to attempt to register voters. Well, they were beaten up pretty badly, and then the local courts put a total injunction on the city, where it was unlawful for more than three people, no, more than two people to even walk down the street together, where no more than four people could be in a public meeting without permission from the sheriff's office. I mean, it was really a very repressive kind of South Africa-type situation. And Mrs. Boynton came to the SCLC Board meeting, just after Dr. King won the Nobel Prize, and she told us about this incident, and this situation, and she asked us if we would come over there to work with her. I think the meeting was scheduled, there was a traditional Emancipation Day service, which was scheduled normally for the first of January. This year, since the second of January was on a Sunday, they had scheduled it for the second of January. And to hold that Emancipation Day service was a violation of this particular injunction. And we decided that that would be the way to come to Selma, that we would come to the Emancipation Day service. We would let everybody know well in advance that we were going to do it, that we were going to hold it, and we would publicly announce that we were going to defy this injunction, and then from that time on, begin to work in Selma.