Production Team: NA
Interview Date: 1900
Camera Rolls: 2-3
Sound Roll: 2
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Rudolph Lee, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on DATE?, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). 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.
Sound Roll 2, Camera Roll 2-3
COULD YOU JUST SAY YOUR NAME?
OK, WE SORT OF NEED YOU TO UM, GIVE US COMPLETE, YOU KNOW, COMPLETE SENTENCES. AND I'D SORT OF REALLY LIKE TO GET YOU JUST TO START OFF WITH, UM, YOU KNOW THAT, YOUR NAME AND THE FACT THAT YOU WERE INVOLVED A—AS A NINE-YEAR OLD IN THE THING. AND THEN JUST GO ON.
Oh, kind of like in the sense of sayin', like tell a story and jus-just describe
UH YEAH. JUST WHAT YOU WERE TELLING US EARLIER, IS, WAS FANTASTIC.
OK. So starting out with my name?
OK. My name is Rudolph Lee. During the time of ‘63, I was, I was nine years old. OK? Um, can you hold it for a minute? I'm just losing train of thought.
SURE. DO YOU WANT—IS THAT DISTRACTING? I MEAN
Yes, turn it off.
OK. Let's start from the top again. OK. My name is Rudolph Lee.
SORRY I JUST… I WASN'T QUITE READY. GO AHEAD. SORRY.
OK. My name is Rudolph Lee. During the year of 1963 I was about nine years old. And, and participating in the demonstrations I used to follow my mother to Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. And from there we would leave and go to Kelly Ingram Park as far as to start our demonstrations. OK. I can remember at that time, as seeing the Police Commissioner, Bull Connor, standing on the corner of—I guess that's Fifteenth Street, with the Fire Department and the Police Department. With the police holding their dogs and the fire department holding their fire hoses. And as for us at the time cut, cut, cut.
WHY DON'T YOU JUST CONTINUE, JUST PICK UP THE THOUGHT OF, REFRAME THE SHOT.
OK. As far as those times I remember as far as like I said before, that police standing on the corner with Bull Connor telling people to get back and I can remember my mother saying "Come on son, get out of the way before these police dogs get you." And all along he kept saying, "Get back, you have no rights to be here, disband, or go back to your church and have your meeting. But you will not demonstrate on these streets."
REFRAME, UM, HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN THEY STARTED SPRAYING THE HOSES AND THE DOGS STARTED COMING?
OK. YOU SORT OF GOT TO SAY, "WHEN THE DOGS WERE COMING AND THE HOSES" …
When the dogs were coming I was very frightened and very terrified, the only thing I could think was to run and to try to protect myself to cover myself as far, getting away from the dogs. Because durin', I can remember times that they would sick the dogs, but they never would turn the fire hydrants on, they just let the dogs and the police beat and the dogs tear away at people.
REFRAME, DO YOU HAVE, UM, DID YOU HAVE ANY FRIENDS WHO GOT BITTEN BADLY?
Well one friend that I remember that got bitten, but this was a little later than the time of maybe, uh, a little later in '63, it was during in Enslee when we had a, a demonstration that we were marching against the merchants of Enslee and a friend of mine named Jerome Nixon, got bitten and almost got his foot or his leg bitten off by the dog.
HAS HE RECOVERED?
OK. UM DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL AT ALL DURING THAT TIME?
Off and on when my mother did let me go. Sometimes she was very frightened of me going to school because well, I used to live in a community called "Enslee." And well, there, there lived a little section next to Enslee called Sandox—Sandoscy. And there was supposed to be there, a chapter for the Ku Klux Klan. And they would ride horses through our community at night breaking out windows and shooting and so forth and so on. You know.
DID YOU GET EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL?
No. To, uh, to tell again about what happened during
DON'T DO IT THAT WAY. WHAT, UH, HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN THE DOGS WERE LET LOOSE AND THE HOSES WERE SPRAYED?
When the dogs were let loose, I was very terrified, very afraid and all I could think to do was to run, to try to hide. And I could hear my mother hollerin', telling me to get out of the way before the dogs get me. And to try to go back to the church.
OK, UM, HOW DID YOU WAS EVERYBODY AT ENSLEE, HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH, WITH OTHER KIDS, WHO WERE YOU KNOW, THE SAME AGE, WHO WEREN'T INVOLVED WITH THE DEMONSTRATIONS, HOW DID YOU TELL THEM ABOUT WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
Well, my mother had told me to just to look over those people because she said, well, their parents was sayin' they didn't want to be bothered with, they considered it as mess, or that it was just tryin' to start trouble. And well, the friends that I hung with, most of them, uh, they participated. Which were most of my friends at the time were ladies, anyway. Girls, little girls.
LET'S JUST GO THROUGH THAT, JUST ONCE MORE. UM, OK. UH, WHAT, WHAT YOU DIDN'T GIVE ME WAS WHO WE WERE TALKING ABOUT.
SEE, I ASKED YOU ABOUT PEOPLE WHO… SO YOU GOTTA SORT OF TAKE IT FROM …
WHEN I TALKED TO, WHEN I TALKED TO PEOPLE WHO, WHO WEREN'T INVOLVED IN …
NOBODY KNOWS WHAT MY QUESTION IS.
OK, um, would you reframe, or repeat that question?
WHEN YOU TALKED TO PEOPLE WHO WEREN'T …
OK, when I talked …
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN …
As for instance, tryin' to relate what was happenin' to my friends, well, I really didn't, really try because I was told by my mother to, just to look over those people because their parents had informed them to just to, that they were part, that we were trying to start trouble and was just trying to make things worse than what they were. And like my friends, like Patricia Harris, and uh, Murphy, that we all just kind of hung as a group and most of the time we spent our time either going to church or trying to participate in like cooking breakfasts or something to that effect to help people that came in to help us in our demonstrations.
SO IT WAS A REAL SENSE OF COMMUNITY AMONG ALL THE PEOPLE WHO WERE INVOLVED IN THE UH …
Among the people that were, I associated with, there was a sense of closeness, or a sense of togetherness.
WOULD, WOULD THAT APPLY TO LIKE EVERYBODY WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THE, IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE DEMONSTRATIONS?
Well, among the people that were in the demonstration, or that… that came to the meetings, there was a sense of togetherness. But there was still a lot of people that were, they just kinda hung on the outside, or they had very—they liked to criticize. Because they thought we were wrong. They didn't understand what was going on. And I would say they were kind of naïve.
HOW DO YOU THINK IT'S AFFECTED YOU?
As far as the affect it's has on me now, I think it has made me kind of very biased toward people, sort of prejudiced. Like I've worked in different jobs functions, since that time, as as being a manager and an assistant manager, and I've tried to be impartial toward employees, or even in my hiring practices, but yet it's still, I still see myself being biased or not being impartial.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS. WHEN YOU WERE NINE AND YOU USED TO GO TO THOSE MASS MEETINGS, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
Well it was, it was a lot of fun, it was a
THE MASS MEETINGS …
As far as the mass meeting, it was a, it was a great feeling, or, to singing and the togetherness of the people and everybody seemed like they were all into it, you know? It was just a fantastic feeling. It was a sense of joy, in a sense, just to go and participate, even just to sing. And to even like, in that time I was singin', they had, they had started a little uh, junior group as far as to sing with the Alabama Christian Movement Singing Choir. We call it the [unintelligible] now. And I got in that group and I got in the [unintelligible] was to, to help, you know, see people and all. When we wasn't singin'.
OK, UM, STOP FOR A MINUTE. CAN YOU THINK OF ANY, OK, ROLLING.
As far as my feeling …
SORRY. I WASN'T, I WASN'T READY. OK.
OK. As far as my feeling during that time, I was as far as to tell people now what to say to people now, those were times that to me, that people were very together, as far as the people that participated within the demonstrations or the movement, and it was a feeling of believing in their brother where now people are so disbanded. And I wish people would look at those times and see how people got together and worked for a cause and accomplish that mission or that goal, which we all as black people now, can, can go to restaurants, can ride the bus and do other things that, if it hadn't had been for, my mother, myself, my friends, and others, that this never would have came about.
TELL ME THIS: WHAT WAS IT LIKE, WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE EIGHT OR NINE AND AND RIDE THE BUS AND HAVE TO GET IN THE BACK ALL THE TIME?
Well it was, it was confusing because really, my mother…
RIDING THE BUS WAS CONFUSING? I'M SORRY.
Riding, riding, having to go and sit in the back of the bus was very confusing. Because I can remember times that my mother would take me to town on the bus. And, well, as far as the bus would be crowded in the back, but there would be seats in the front and she was, I would say there are seats. And she would say, you can't sit there. And yet it still, she would try to explain, but I never could understand at the time, what it all meant, as far as to have to sit in the rear of the bus, or to have to stand up.
DID, WHEN, WHEN, WHEN SHE GOT YOU INVOLVED IN THE DEMONSTRATIONS, HOW DID YOU PERSONALLY GET INVOLVED? UM, IN TERMS OF HOW DID SHE EXPLAIN TO YOU WHAT, WHAT WAS GOING ON THROUGH THE DEMONSTRATIONS?
Well, in a sense, the way she explained it to me as far as what she was doin', she sayin' and she motivated me to, to take part was that she said well, as far as like you, riding the bus. Or you bein' able to go in restaurants and sit down and eat with whites, she said, this, what we are doin', we hope that as a result of this, that we as black people will have equal rights as everyone else. And somehow she got the message across as… because maybe her motivation alone, motivated me to participate. Because she was very much into it. Because she believed in freedom for blacks.
YEAH, UM, UM, I WAS JUST WONDERING IF YOU COULD, I MEAN HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE MASS MEETING, IF YOU COULD TALK ABOUT HOW YOU FELT MAYBE WHEN YOU KNEW THAT THERE WERE BULL CONNOR'S MEN GOING TO, OR WHEN THE COPS WOULD COME TO ARREST YOU. AND ALSO GOING OUT, WHEN YOU MET THE LINE COP. ANSWER TO ME THOUGH. YEAH.
OK. As far as in going to the meetings or uh, just being there, as far as knowing that seeing policemen come in, or policemen say, y'all stay in here, if y'all know what's best, it was, well it was a frightening feeling, but as far as the people, all together, sticking together, gave courage to everyone, and as far as me being a child, it gave courage to me with me really not, really understanding or, being able to really feel what was going on or to know.
Did that pretty much answer what you want?