Interviewer: Judy Richardson
Production Team: C
Interview Date: October 22, 1988
Camera Rolls: 2026-2028
Sound Rolls: 137-138
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Nancy Jefferson, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on October 22, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
OK, you were talking the Soldiers Field rally and the excitement that you had at seeing Mahalia Jackson and also that it was a turning point for you, can you talk about that. I'm sorry if you could mention in my--could you cut a second. Sorry, One thing I neglected to say--
If you can talk about the Soldiers Field and the sense of excitement and hearing Mahalia Jackson and that turning point you were talking point that you were talking about at Soldiers Field?
Judy, that's uh--
Just, don't mention my name.
That, ah,Soldier Fields rally was, was a great experience as I think about it, you know, it was a--it's, it's really hard to explain just how you felt about that because it was the height of the, of the Dr. Martin Luther King, it was the height of the excitement of him coming to Chicago to try t--kind of set things right. Um, it was, it was pleasing to know and see even though, ah,the mayor of this city was trying to, ah,thwart that, that operation of, of having that rally there, but there was enough people in Chicago that pushed forward. It was the Al Raby and the uh--Bill Berry[SIC] and that crowd, you know, of the--and, and people, ah,just made it so. And Mahalia Jackson sang that day as if she--as if the, the heavens were, were coming down on Soldier Field. But it was a hot day, it was just lots and lots of people, lots of us there, just there. Uh--you can, it's, you can't explain that feeling, you cannot explain, but you knew then that, that, ah,it was like um, things are going to change, ah,it, it must change. We, you felt that God was with us, ah,it was such an excitement that, ah,hard to explain. Ah, but I also think that what was done that day, ah,set the tone, the environment for a real movement in this city. I think that was, you know, that I, that was what happened.
And why did you decide to work with Dr. King?
Well, I, I understood that, ah,things were not right in the city. Ah, understood also that lots of us, lots of people, because of the, of the machine politics in this city and, and the Richard J. Daley trying to keep him out, um, that, ah,but we understood what was going on in the south, knew how he was trying to correct and bring the conscience to, to America. You know. And when he was, when he came here I knew that it was a--
I'm sorry we're having a technical--um--
Can you tell me why you decided to work with Dr. King?
I decided to work with Dr. King because I had followed his, his work in the south, having come from the south and understood that hard line in the south and what he was all about. And welcome the time that he came to Chicago kno--knowing that, that things were not right in Chicago, knowing that um, that people thought you know, we all came to the north to, for a better life. That's what we thought. And yet, ah,we, we understood that things that other communities took for granted was the things that we h--was hard for us to come by. Just simple things like garbage removal, ah,the slum condition. And Dr. King, we knew, were going to come-- When he came to Chicago I thought, well, this man has the courage, the leadership as to do what he was doing in the south, bring it to the conscience of this city of what they were doing and, and try to change some things. And I knew that's where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in that change process.
OK, Also, how did other Black people accept Dr. King? Where there problems, you mentioned that when you first started organizing block by block it was hard and you had maybe 17 people at a rally. Can you talk about them.
Yes. When Dr. King, I, I'll never forget-- The west side was harder than any other part of town. Essentially because the plantation politics on the west side existed, ah,I guess more prevalent than any other side of town. Ah, and that, and was a lot of reasons for that. We all came from the south to the west side. OK? Most, you know, most people, ah,when coming from the south came to the west side. So people on the west side was always determined as being, all of as being country, from the, you know, from the plantation. So, ah,the, and the, the machine politics took advantage of that, ah,you know, that environment of, of that kind of people. And so the, the, the, the plantation politics was, was very prevalent on this west side. You know, even though when the, when the area changed from Black to White it was still the ward committeemen, the alderman, were still White with Black precinct captains. So that was a form of, of you know, politics that were here. Ah. When Dr. King came to the west side one day for a rally, and I remember Katie Booth and, ah,Roberta Wilson, ah,ah, a couple of us. We were you know, organizing that rally. And I was organizing it through the Black club because the Midwest Community Council was a Black clu--it is a Black club organization. Um, we were on the corner of Horne and Madison, ah,in a vacant lot. And it was only seventeen people showed up at that rally. You could imagine how embarrassing that was. You know. Only seventeen people took that risk. Other folks were you know, walking on the street like ga--gauging in and saying you know, should they come in or not? But, but had some fear because the fear of the politicians on this west side was saying that you better not go to that rally. Um. Dr. King was always denounced. You know, he wasn't really accepted in Chicago by the, by the machine politicians. And, and a lot of the machine politicians at that time were Black in the machine. You know. Ah. The um, Metcalfs, they changed later. You know, after he, when Dr. King did that risk. So that was um, quite a day, quite a day for me.
So when did that
You mentioned that it was hard and that you only had 17 people in a Rally: when did this start changing?
Well, I think it, it, it changed in the gradual process, that when Dr. King--
I'm sorry, could you say, "people started coming--" as something to intro it.
OK. Ah, when, ah,you know, we had 17 people at a rally. That was disappointing. But, ah,the change began to, ah,as, as Dr. King continued he, he was, he, he continued. He understood that, that people was afraid of him or anything new, anything that they were not accustomed to. And he understood that. And there were a few people that, that u-understood that. A few of us understood that also. Said if you dealt with, with the truth long enough that, that things would change and that the people would change, the people stee--see. And I think, I remember that we, we started using, ah,the, the religious background of all of us, is that you know, when the Lord said I have twelve disciples, he didn't have but twelve. And, and he says, now you twelve boys got to go to the four corners of this world and preach this gospel. And, and that you and I and anybody else been sitting around at that time would have said you know, he's got to be out his mind. How can twelve people do this? And, and that's the concept that we began to move on, that, that twelve of us in the community decided well, we are, we're going to have to do it. Ah, Dr. King understood it. He was a mild mannered man that understood that fear of that man on the street. He understood the plantation politics. He understood the why that, ah,Richard J. Daly was co-opting everybody that was, ah,ah, into any inkling of change. And so, ah,but we knew that we had to continue. We couldn't stop. Ah, that people would change once they understood, once they understand. People knew that they were hurting, didn't know how and why they were hurting, was afraid to take that risk of, of, of do I get in this movement or, ah,am I better off where I am? And then when people began to, you give people the kind of, of, lect--of like the kind of meetings that we had, we just continued to have meetings. Dr. King um, set up shop in, ah,a church over on--Every church didn't accept him. Especially, the, the Black church did not accept him at first. A lot of the Black church, you know. Ah, on the--particularly on the west side. But that was a, ah,church on the corner of Warren Boulevard and Albany. And that was a White minister over there. He set up shop in his, his, ah,basement. Ah, that's where Dr. King started working out from. He was at Warren Avenue Congregational Church. And um, people-- You kept doing it. And you, you don't really know when just at the time. But it was a, it was a gradual process and then people began to understand and it changed. It just, ah,it was that perseverance of, of Dr. King continued to work at it. Ah, his soldiers. He had a lot of young lieutenants out, ah,the Bevells and, and the Jesse Jacksons and, and those folks was door to door, people to people. And, and people began to move in.
OK, talk about how he pitted the machine, pitted Blacks against Blacks.
Well, I--it, when Daley, how Daley was very cleverly um, was doing, just putting.
OK, if you could just start it over again.
Yeah, lets start.
Richard J. Daley was a very clever politician, you know with machine politics, he was a mastermind at it, and how he--
That's a great beginning, lets start over one more time.
Richard J. Daley was a mastermind at machine politics, he was clever, he knew that, you know, he denounced all the time Martin Luther King coming to Chicago, they called him a carpet bagger, ah,"he should stay in the south" and all this, um. He took, um, first of all he co-opted very smart mind--
Do you mind if you could you say, Richard Daley co-opted minds.
At first of all Richard Daley co-opted smart minds, of the young Black men particularly, into his camp, so that he could control the others of grassroots people. They were the Erwin Francis, and all those folks, very smart, articulate people. Ah, he co-opt us by putting them in his camp and they became, and wi-with the programs, of, of, of all the social programs that were: they were became the heads of those programs. We became the contractors of those programs: the grassroots people. Ah, he did it for two things, Mayor Daley did it for two reason, so that Blacks could spy on Blacks. Those that were, were coming out with, ah,potential activist such as the Nancy Jeffersons. I got a file knee deep, you know the Red squad, you know we finally got those files, you know. And, ah,it's knee deep, it's how they were following me all the time, and I was only talking about, ah,independent politics and all that stuff.
I'm sorry could you pause just a second. I'll tell you what I'm looking for particularly.
If you could talk about how Mayor Daley manipulated people on a real basic level.
Mayor Daley was able to manipulate, ah,people in--through his machine politics by having others to spy on others, particularly in the projects, the housing projects. People were threatened, you know thats where the masses of people were residing. And people were threatened through Mayor Daley, that if you participate with Dr. King, you'll have to move, because you know that was city owned housing. And that was a threat, you know people could not participate, it's either "I'm outdoors," or "I'm in the movement," and that was a hard decision for people to make, so they couldn't participate. And yet, spies in, though Mayor Daley spies on each floor to see who was participating. That was one level of intimidating the, the people. The other level, was you know "we will cut off your check," people were absolutely afraid of getting checks, and they would cut them off. Because it was, He owned, he owned that system, Richard J. Daley did, and with those of us, you know, that was living in our own house, I was living right here in this house, ah,when the time was with Dr. King., ah,I remember that I had just put in a whole new kitchen, the kitchen you see right in my house right now. I had just put that kitchen, had got a FHA loan and put in new kitchen cabinets, new sink, new bathroom and all that. And I remember all the inspectors were going door to door, to those of us who were participating with Martin Luther King, and they came to my house and I had, that kitchen was three weeks old. Um, the inspectors, and you know everybody if you showed your badge, you had to let him in your house. Some of us knew that we didn't have to do that, and I was one of those that knew that, and when he, this inspector came to my house and said I want to inspect your kitchen, your plumbing, and I says "I've got new plumbing, uh and I'm on my way out to work."And he says 'you can leave--' And we know that too, that they were leaving them in their houses. He says "I'll close the door." I says "not in my house, you cannot come in my house unless you get an appointment with me and inspect." You know, we had the argument at the door um, and I didn't let him in. He left, but the next week, I got a seventeen page violation for, ah,ah, for kitchen sink rotting. And most, peoplepeople's kitchen sinks, were, you know, that. But he wrote up all the violations, the plumbing was bad, ah,I need new bathroom fixtures, uh needed, ah,uh the violation. I had brand new, you know. I had to go to the building court, I had to go to court at that time, and I was able to give my contract of what I had just done with my kitchen. You know people were harassed at that level, ah,inspectors, for violations that they couldn't fix. So, who, when you got a violation, ah,who did you have to go to? One of Daley's men to fix, fix the code. Or else you know, you were fined**. It was a conspiracy that you could never think of that was going on down during the time that Dr. King came here, and how Richard J. Daley was organizing the politics of that machine.
Could you talk about the um the slums campaign, at the start of that did you believe that he was really serious about that?
When Daley mentioned. Daley had to, he was clever he always was coming up with something that he thought could fit in and was fooling the people. And so, when the, the Martin Luther King came through with the union to end slums. And, ah,I think James Bevel[SIC] and uh some of those guys was in charge of that, um, ah,that and, ah,Mevereti[SIC] Gilbert, uh who was from Lundale, who was a local person, ah,was in the team. And, ah,they started the union to end slum, which Daley claimed that he would-he certainly was a part of. That he also wanted to end slums, and he made all the great speeches, and all that you know, that he wanted to end the slums in Chicago, you know. And that, first of all he did not, there were/was any slums Richard J. Daley said that there was "no slums in Chicago," you know that. And that, but when it was proven that there were slums, and that they--
Could you hold just a second--
What did you think about Daley's, um, "End Slums Campaign," and how was that trying to run counter to Dr. King?
Ah, Richard J. Daley was a very smart, shrewd politician. Machine politician. Every time that Dr. King would come with a program, Richard J. Daley would counter act with another program. Foolery, ah,with the people. He was clever with that "Union to End Slum," at that time it was 3 or 4 young men that was local, it was on the street to work in that Union to End Slum. He was counteracting by saying "yes I approve that we should end slums" but set up another system of, of, of, the way he worked at it you know. He was very clever to, ah,do that counteracting everything that Dr. King, ah,every program that Dr. King brought to the people. Ah, he would co-op the program through Black people that was a part of the slum, he was clever to do that. But Dr. Martin Luther King was, perseverance with what he was doing, understood that and still moved forward with what he was doing, you know. So that was very--
Can you talk about the marches too, and a sense of the trying, the um, the fear of crossing a certain line, into into the White areas. Particularly like for example, OK tell you what, lets cut a second. Um--
OK, if you could talk about, um how, what expectations you have when Lyndon Johnson announced the war on Poverty, how Daley co-opted that--
When Lyndon Johnson announced the war on poverty, it was a great sense of relief and hope that, that we had, um, ah because, one is that we felt that Lyndon Johnson was key to it because he was a southerner, he understood the remarks that he made abut, he understood where Black people where when he was a child and he wanted to change some things. Um, so when the, ah,war on poverty programs hit Chicago because you know it was more than, you know it was more, because the cities were in trouble Richard J. Daley quickly co-opt that hose programs by putting top Blacks in charge, also a slew of community workers on the street when from door to door. So people had hope about, about the program, um, it was never really real, it was um, um the people was on the street were the people that you know, ah,it was very smart. So you believed what they said.
Yeah, that was great.
OK, you can talk about um, the Gage park march where Dr. King got hit, and the fear of it, particularly the fear of crossing that line into the White area.
Well, I think that was the most fearful day of all my time in Chicago participating with Dr. King--
I'm sorry, can you say, the marches. I'm sorry if you could say, the marches were. Or, I'm sorry, something to intro it.
OK--The marches were many in Chicago, you know 'em, whatever it was, little streets and all that. But I think the most fearful of the time my participating in the marches was we crossed that line to go into the White Gage Park. We all knew what Gage park was all about, but we did not--none of us knew that when Dr. King was going into that, the hatred that was really there. I think that um, I think everybody was surprised, everybody was surprised. One is that we thought that by Dr. King being here, and being present that this city was, was more acceptable to him than what it was. Ah, but it proved that it was not. Um, when you saw that the, when we moved crossed that line into Gage Park, and saw the look of the--those people in face. You didn't absolutely didn't see that kind of look with the Ku Klux Klans in in, the south, 'cause a lot of us had been in the south and had encountered Ku Klux Klan. But you had not seen that kind of real hatred, and a lot of young people. You know what was really frightening was the older people jeering on, you know the older Whites, and it was the young people saying you know "kill that nigger" do, and you saw it so intense in those faces. And I was scared to death, I was absolutely scared to death. One is I was afraid that Dr. King would get killed, right there, I wasn't up close, you know in the line with, where Dr. King was you know, we was, you know, I was way, you know, far back. But I knew, we all was afraid, everybody was afraid in our section, "are they protecting Dr. King?" "Will Dr. King get hurt?" you know. I think we thought more about Dr. King than we did our own safety just hoped that really got him. We hoped that, you know, and we saw that what they were going to do. And when Dr. King was really, you know knocked to his, his knees. Ah, ah,that was scary, that was scary! And you knew that that White police was not going to protect us or him. Ah, that was, it was amazing. What was going on at that time.
We can cut--um--
So when you saw Dr. King go down, how did you feel.
Well everybody in our in our line--
When you saw Dr. King go down, how did you feel?
When we saw Dr. King go down in that line everybody in that line, that day, including me, that I didn't realize that I could be so mad at the world I thought that if, whatever, if lets, lets go to it. Lets, lets go to the point killing everybody on that line, I'm telling you we, it was, we were angry. Because we knew that man was doing nothing, Dr. King was doing nothing but marching, trying to demonstrate "we're human beings," and for them to hit that man I think everybody in that line wanted to kill everybody on the other side of the line to the point that, you know, when we got, when we got home and really assessed that. It took me for days and months to get out of that anger, and I'm still not out of it. I think it, you know it still, when you, we think about it, even when we think about it transmitted into the Harold Washington time in this city. When we think about it, that, ah,all we were doing was trying to prove that we were human beings and right people. You know you got so angry about that that, ah,it's hard to even explain that anger: not only in me but everybody that was in our line there on that line you know. Ah, ah,its hard to even explain that anger, because you knew this was a--Dr. King was only trying to say to America, trying to say to Gage park: "we are human beings,"** "we have a right to live here," "we have a right to come through here" that's all he was demonstrating, he wasn't demonstrating any violence.
Some people would say, you already have a home, why would you want to live in Marquette Park?
Its not that, I haven't moved to Marquette park, Gage Park. I have not moved there. I still have a home, I'm still living here. But I think I have the right to do it, I think it was that right: I am a citizen of this city, I'm a Black American. I have the right to move wherever I want to move if I have the money to move in. What was wrong with that, you know? And I think thats what it was all about, it was that. I dare one part of this society to say that you can't move wherever you want to move, I think that was the anger that was in us.**. And we didn't realize ourselves, what it really meant until Dr. King was marching there and if they could do that to Dr. King, what about me, you know.
Can you talk about the ser--the differences in services between the Black and the White communities, in terms of city services, and what they didn't do in Black communities.
Absolutely, and its, its very you know, it was that day and it's still today.
Hold, can you cut. Just a moment.
Just a sense of the difference provided in the Black community, and what was provided in the White, from the city.
When you ask about the services that provided--
I'm sorry, assuming I'm not here--
OK, ah,the services in the, ah,Black community versus the services in the White community: is very very pronounced. The Black community, the things that we have to program for, the White community you know takes that for-granted, that's given, but we have to develop a program around moving the garbage. We have to develop a protest around the garbage not being moved. That's taken for-granted in the White communities. The streets, holes in the streets, the sewages, the things that are basic service. In other communities thats taken for-granted: we have to develop a program around those kinds of services. So, you know, it's obvious, it's not--everybody can ride down the street and see that the street's not swept. Ah--
Can you cut just a second--
If you can talk about what the differences in services provided by the city between the Black and--and programing--
The difference in the service between the Black community and the White community is very obvious. Ah, the, the things that the Black community--just basic services, the White community take for-granted. Ah, the same services that we have to develop programs around. Just basic things like moving the garbage:, ah,you pick up garbage, once a week. Ah, we have to develop a program around garbage not being picked up. We got to pick-it we got to develop a committee to call the city and says, you know the garbage is not picked up in three weeks. We just talking about basic services, you talk about the streets being cleaned, streets being swept, you know. Boulevards being swept in Black communities. It'll go for six months that boulevards are not swept. In the White community that's for-granted, that you do that. The things are just basic services, that causes you to move as a citizen in your community. Has, you know, the police protection, serves and protects a White community, in the Black community harasses a Black community. Ah, just basic things that that that other communities take for-grated are the things that we have to develop a program around: that's not right.
If you could talk again about the "War on Poverty," and, and what you expected when you heard, um Lyndon Johnson first announce that and how it got co-opted by Daley.
Well, when Lyndon Johnson first announced the "War on Poverty--"
If you could talk about how you felt when Lyndon Johnson announced the "War on Poverty," and the expectation that you had, and then how Daley took that over.
Um, When Lyndon Johnson announced the "War on Poverty" it meant an awful lot to us as a hope that we had because, first because Lyndon Johnson was a southerner and the remarks that he made that he understood where Black folks were all his life and that just gave everybody a great sensation a great hope. Ah, but we also, noticed very quickly is to how that Richard J. Daley was a very smart politician, and how he took that "War on Poverty" to promote his machine politics, was he cleverly done that by putting the right people in charge, the right Black people in charge of those programs, and put in the, ah,ordinary people on the street as community workers, people you knew, your next door neighbor, people that lived in your house--
OK, cut, we've got a roll out here. OK.
If you can talk about how you felt when Lyndon Johnson announced the "War on Poverty" and how you felt when Richard Daley took it over.
Well when Lyndon Johnson announced the "War on Poverty" there was a lot of hope in all of us, me and all of us that was out here as leaders. That we understood Lyndon Johnson felt he understood what he was doing because he was a southerner. He talked about that he had always watched how Black people were treated in the south and that he wanted to change those conditions. And that he was setting down programs that would help to, to alleviate the pain that we all was suffering for so many years. We also's watched Richard J. Daley use his announcement and his "War on Poverty" as a program to promote his machine politics. He very cleverly did that. By making sure that he, ah,handpicked certain people so that they could promote machine politics. Ah, it looked like you know--it looked like the truth but it was not really the truth, what he was doing. He was clever in his promotion of the machine politics to maintain and contain the Black people in Chicago, under the disguise that it was the "War on Poverty." It wasn't Johnson's fault, it was how that Richard J. Daley could use that program, and he did that very clever--cleverly.
If you could go from that into--back to the marches and talk a little bit about Marquette Park and marching and that, and talk about how you returned and found all the cars overturned, and a sense--just very briefly about that march.
Well you know, you still even connect that with the--
I'm sorry, if you could--
You can still connect Sorry, OK. You know, when the marches were how that, how that, the soldiers that was dispersed to the marches--
I'm sorry, what I need is really the Marquette Park March.
When we take Marquette park for instance, how does that relate to the other part of what we were doing? When we went to Marquette park on the housing issue, you know open housing issue that's what it was all about. An open communities act that's what it was all about, and that's what the war on poverty was doing was those different acts. And then when we was marching in Marquette Park, when we came back to our cars, our cars was turned, burning--our cars was burning. But that was allowed, that was allowed by the police department, that was part of this city that was part of Daley's machine. That was allowing those cars to be turned over and burned, and they looked the other way, they didn't protect the citizens over there that was marching in Maquette park that day. So those was the real acts of what Richard J, Daley was allowing to go on in this town, he was not serving and protecting the citizens right to go marching out there.
How did you feel when you came back and saw those cars.
Well it was another step that we new that we had to overcome. We, you know, it was devastating to see that, it was anger--
If you could in your answer say "It was devastating to see whatever--"
It was, it was, it was devastating to see all those cars being burned. Our cars, you know our cars! And we knew that the police let that happen. But we also knew that this was one more step that we had to take.
If you could tell me how you felt about the agreement between Daley and the movement.
The time of the agreement between Dr. King and Daley when they signed that accord, it was a great day. A great feeling. Because you, we understood the hardship that Dr. King went through to get that done. Whatever utterance of change that Daley had to do, weather it was--I'm sure that to Daley it was superfical, he wasn't real. One thing thatwe learned, and htat Dr. King always said so very cleverly was that: "you cooperate, I'll operate; you get the same result." So we were getting the same result, out of Daley having to operate, in spite of his non-cooperation. And I think it was a reat day for us to just say "keep on, you can do it." I think that's what it meant to us.
OK, thank you!
Going back to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. How did feel about the Panthers, did you try and cool them out.
Well the panther's were an exciting group as I look back on it, ah,ah Fred--you know I was afraid of them, really didn't understand them. Ah, ah,Not really afraid, but trying to cool them out, you know. I wasn't afraid of the fear, but just really afraid of what they were going to do, they weren't going to do it right. I understood it thought, understood where they were trying to go politically, and felt that they were going to change things. When I talk about fear, I was afraid that they weren't going to do it right, and I was always trying to cool them out, saying "that's not the right way to go," they were too direct**. I thought that you had, had to be more subtle in what you were doing, go a different direction. And they understood me, they really did, you know they tollerated my trying to cool them out. But it was also, a kind of a bind, when you--I look backwards at it, a it was kind of a bind: they needed me too, they needed me to say somethings to them otherwise they wouldn't have kept coming back to me, you know. Ah, ah,they understood that, ah,"'Ma Jefferson, you I know you, we're cool, don't worry about it," when we'd hear about them having guns, you know in the, ah,because they had a place at Western and Madison. They used to tell me, "come look, there's no guns," you know. I really was worried about, if I come up and look would I find them? You know? It was that kind of thing that was going on between us. But, but, but honest, it was--I don't think it was until--honestly, after they were murdered that we, that lots of people really understood, how what it meant how they politically where dealing with the politics of the time, 'cause if they had not been dealing on a real real true issue, they wouldn't have been killed. I think we all understood the why better what was going on with those young men. But they were an exciting group--I remember the breakfast program: they started the first breakfast program with our young people right here on the west side, and got me to start it for them. I remember them how they came up to me, "because you are who you are--
I'm sorry if you could start again and just mention Fred and the Panthers. And starting the breakfast program--
I remember that Fred, and, ah,ah, Bob Brown came up to me to start a breakfast program for the young kids. And I said "what about a breakfast program--" and he said "Mrs. Jefferson, you know that these kids are hungry, they go to school, they can't learn, if they go to school hungry they, at 10 O'clock in the morning they laying on their desk, sleep because they're hungry." And said "We want to start a breakfast program, and because of who you are, and how the people believe in you, if you help us start it, they'll know it's real," And I was saying "ya'll I don't understand this breakfast program." and they said "just trust us and work with us, and start the breakfast, program."
Just cut please.
Tell me how they--how the the Panthers and Fred--approached you about the breakfast program--
Well Fred, and Bob Brown, and Mark Clark came to me and said "Mrs. Jefferson. Because of who you are we need to start a breakfast program for the kids," and I said "Breakfast program? What about a breakfast program," and he said "Mrs. Jefferson, the kids are hungry, by the time they get to school at 10 o'clock in the morning they' laying on their desk they ain't hearing, they sleeping. That's because they're hungry, they haven't had breakfast. We're going to start a breakfast program to show that kids ought to have breakfast to get started off in school right. And I was saying, all right, that's some more mess. And they was laughing, and they said we want you to help us because of who you are, the people they believe in you, they think we're about something else, and they said help us to start a breakfast program. And I trusted their sense about it.
You can cut.
Can you talk about Fred coming to you with the breakfast program?
Yeah, Fred was, ah,ah, unique person, he was delightful. I like to talk about Fred. Fred, he, Fred came to me with Mark and Barbara--I'll never forget--came to me and wanted to start. Fred said to me "We want to start a Breakfast Program." I said "Fred, What a breakfast program? What is a breakfast program?" So Fred so, "Mrs. J. you gotta understand, Kids are in school hungry, and about the time 10 o'clock comes around in school all the kids has their heads on the desk," he said. Because he was always in the school, Fred was always in and out everything. And he says, "these kids are hungry," she says "if you ask the kid, 'why are you sleepy?' he says, 'I'm hungry,'" and he said "If we feed these kids before they go to school, give them a good breakfast program, that's going to affect their learning." And I was saying "Fred, With all this mess? But, I'll help you, I will try it." But I thought Fred had another angle, always thought fred. He said "you always think I have something else in mind. No." "OK We're going to go it." It was sort of a trust that Fred and I had with each other, you know. Not quite--I wasn't trusting him as much as he was trusting me. I--I understood, that what he was doing, but I wasn't quite sure that I want--
OK, cut. That's beautiful.
Keep talking about the trust you all--you and Fred had.
Yeah, Fred and I had a unique trust, a very unique level of trust, you know. I understood what Fred was doing, but I wasn't, I wasn't always sure I agreed with the method, of what--how he was going, his method--
Can you talk about the trust you and Fred had with each other.
Talk about the trust with fred?
Fred and I had a very unique relationship, you know it was a level of trust that was really funny. I always remember: I trust Fred, I trust his programs and things that he brought forward, but I wasn't always quite sure that I trusted his method. And he knew that, he understood that, because I guess I was more parochial[SIC], you know. And Fred was more direct. And I was always trying to cool him out, Fred says "you always trying to cool me out, you know, but just trust me, just trust me." But the breakfast program was a real example of Fred saying "We need a breakfast program in schools because kids are sleeping because they're hungry." And I was willing to set it up with him and help him set it up, he knew he had to use me to do this, and he, ah,we was--he was using me and yet I had to trust, really get down to trusting his method, I understood his, the reason, but I wasn't quite sure I understood his method, of how he was going about doing what he was doing, you know very direct. I think I wanted to be more cooled out. Ah, ah,just more porochal in the way we do things. And fred was saying "you can't change it that way." And it was a, ah hilarious way that we were operating. But, ah--
Can you talk about how you felt when you heard that fred had been killed.
Well, I, you know, it was--. When Fred was killed, that morning, the way he was killed, the way Fred was killed, wa--I absolutely said, "Poor Fred." because we had that trust between him. I felt that morning that Fred was trying to reach out to me, you know, I kept wondering if my phone was on the hook, you know. I know that Fred must have been trying to reach out to me, you know, come here, come here, come here. It was just an awful time for me, because I knew what Fred was all about. I knew that Fred couldn't have done--couldn't have been--a person that they should have shot down like a rabbit in that place. I was so hurt, so hurt. to the point that I thought that day, I cannot get up again, you know, just can't get up again. Do we really have, the police department in this city that would do a raid on that, that house as they did and kill poor Fred. That was about nothing, but sho--but trying to help us understand what was going on in this political world, you know. I think I was at my lowest that I've ever been in history. Because I, that was a young man, Fred wasn't about violence, that had a method, that he was trying to prove, Fred was trying to prove. I think I was at the lowest that America didn't understand that, you know, that's what. I think the worst thing was that, I felt that, I was, I know Fred must have. Cause as he always did, now he would call me in the middle of the night when he had to make decisions, and I would tease him, I always say "All right Fred are you telling me this so if your method ain't working I'm your back up?" I always say, because we had that kind of trust, we was always doubting each other. I was saying I know Fred was trying to call me, and I know fred was off the hook, I wasn't I was just going through all that.
Cut, I need you to--
OK, talk about walking through Hampton's Fred Hampton's apartment after he was killed.
Immediately that morning, because they was also sealing off everything. Because they also knew my relationship to Fred Hampton, walking through his apartment that afternoon. But I got a group of community people, went straight to the police, and straight up to that house and said, "we are going through here to see what was done at Fre--his place," because all sorts of rumors was going through: they had guns, they were shooting out, and all that. But before I went through Fred's apartment, I knew the next door neighbors, I knew everybody right there. In fact one of the little girls that was lived exactly next door, Earliene[SIC] was courting one of my sons, and she, and they were able to tell us exactly what was going on. How that it was, you know an Illinois Bell telephone truck that was, ah,sitting on the street, and they saw the police get out of that truck--We went into Fred Hampton's apartment and there was blood everywhere. There was blood on the mattress right were he was killed, young man didn't get up and shoot anybody because he was killed on the mattress, sleeping! On the mattress. and we saw that. Oh, lord, it was such a helpless day, at points I felt so helpless. Because I knew Fred was reaching out to me because we were so close, and I felt so hopeless. Ah, how, ah,why Fred, how were they able to do this to Fred. I was able to talk to one of the girls that was in the apartment, ah,as, what was happening, and they were just so confused, they were so hurt, they were saying "they killed us like dogs, we were running, we were trying to hide, and Fred didn't pull the trigger: he never had the chance, you know." It was, it was awful, it was just awful to know that we had a police or a city of chicago that ordered that. That knew that was going on, or order that. And we said, you know it can happen to any of us, and that was fear, shame, sorrsorrow, and what could we do? Why couldn't we help protecting Fred?** And I was reflecting back over, the things that I didn't trust him with, you know? Why wasn't I there to protect him, why didn't I protect him more? You know you was thinking all those things, if we had done more maybe he would have been protected, you know?