Interview with Rev. Andrew Young


Rev. Andrew Young:

Mrun-hmm. When Martin finally decided that ah, he would have to be involved, ah… Iet me start over.

[unintelligible background conversation]

Rev. Andrew Young:

When… when… when the high point of the movement for me At was the moment where Martin took the leadership of the movement and essentially threw himself into the forefront. Ah, we had written out a plan which he had been a part of, but it wasn't his plan. Ah, he had gone along, done everything we'd suggested doing. We'd raise money. We had about 5 or 600 people in jail, but all of the money was gone and we couldn't get people out of jail. Ah, and the business community, black… the black business community and some of the white clergy were pressuring us to call off the demonstrations and just get out of town. Um, and um, we didn't know what to do. And he sat there in Room 30 in the Gaston Motel, ah, and he didn't say anything. He listened to people talk for about two hours. And then finetlly he got up and he went in the bedroom and he came back with his blue jeans on and his jacket, and he said, "Look," he said, "I don't know what to do." He said, "I just know that something has got to change in Birmingham. I don't know whether I can raise money to get people out of jail. I do know that I can go into jail with them." Ah, and not knowing how it was going to work out he walked out of the room and went down to the church and led a demonstration and went to jail.** Well, that was, I think the beginning of his true leadership,** because that Sunday the ministers published in the newspapers, a diatribe against Martin, calling him a troublemaker and a communist, and saying that he was there stirring up trouble to get publicity. And he sat down and took that newspaper, ah, and he had no paper and he was in solitary conf ineipent, and he started writing an answer to that one page ad around the margins of THE New York Times.** And ah, by the time it came out three days later it was what we now know as "The Letter to the Birmingham Jail." But he put in concise form exactly what the problems, the moral dilemma of segregation and racism. That I think led to a new resurgence of the movement nationally, ah, and ah, in another week we had thousands of people going to jail. Ah, and it was those events, I think, brought on the change in America non-violent action.