Interviewer: Madison Davis Lacy, Jr.
Production Team: X
Interview Date: June 2, 1989
Camera Rolls: 1105-1106
Sound Rolls: 148
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Debra Webb, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on June 2, 1989, 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.
Um, t--tell me, tell me about the Panthers in the late '60s where you grew up in Chicago. What did you think about them and what they were doing?
Well, the way I think of them, they were.
No, frame your answers, "The way I think of the Panthers--"
The way I think of the Panthers were--
Start again. No problem.
I got scared. The way I thought of the Panthers were, the things that they had did for the people, ah, as far as the feeding, the hunger of the children in the area. I was raised in Henry Horner Projects and I attended Cr--Crane and McKinley School, so I got a chance to see them. Because I would come down to Western and Madison and right at Madison and Western there was a Vienna hot dog stand and they lived, they're, well their center was next door. So you have to go up stairs. So, I, many times I want to be quisitive[SIC], go up there and see what they were doing, which I did, which I wasn't supposed to be over there but I was there and I thought the things that they were doing was really marvelous because it was just like, which would we need today, people feeding someone. I felt like it was a great deal because they had it there, where children shouldn't have been hungry. I know a lot of mothers didn't want to feed the child so they sent them to school hungry. But, here was a place that fed them. You could go there anytime to eat. I imagine even with the bums later in the evening, they went up there but, how did I know? I don't know, but I'm just saying maybe that was on too.
Now, you're living in the community, you heard a lot of things about them. What did you think about their dress, the language that they used and their kind of, whole being, the way they carried themselves?
Well, at first it was kind of weird but not what's called weird weird. It was just a new style, OK, a new image and, ah, that style didn't bother me because I didn't fear for them, you know. I didn't think they were going to do anything. They never seemed to harm anybody, only saw the need of help. That's all I saw or survival.
When you heard that Fred Hampton and Clark were killed, how did you feel? What did you think?
First, what came into my mind was those, at that time we called them pigs, "Those pigs did it." Because it was like, looked like everyone that helped somebody has to come down. You know, you up today but you're down tomorrow and you're gone. And that's the way I felt.
Did you actually tour the house?
Yes, I did.
Tell me about it.
I went from the front door to the back door. Ah, where we walked into the front door it was all in shambles, like they had tore up the couch, as though they were looking for something in the house. And we went to the bedroom, we toured in the bedroom, where I saw all the blood just splattered across the walls, from where the bed was lying and the mattress was still soaked of blood, when I got there. It was just like these boys did not have a chance. Ev--I don't even believe they had their eyes open. If one had a eye open there was nothing he can do because he was just, he was gone. And, e--even to the back on the porch, it was just like a dump yard, i--they went through the cereal boxes, um, corn flakes, ah, it was just all destroyed, all over the back porches, the boxes open, the cans was open. What can somebody put in a, a sealed can, I would like to know today but I don't know what they were looking for.
Now, there was a lot, there was a different story in the press, in the television from what you saw there and the reason it happened there. Did you guys talk about that, you and your friends talk about it?
Yes we did, far as, um, the paper stated one thing and the news cast stated one thing. Everybody's version was different than the other. By me going there to see for myself, I got what I felt was the answer, that these boys were murdered by the big hit mens and it was just like, it was just like something was set up because they didn't have a chance.
Thank you. OK, lets just stop down.
What did you do during the Harold Washington campaign? Tell me about that?
During the Harold Washington campaign I was one of those floaters. I worked with the campaign office, which was, I was sitting in at the central office. And during this time, there were calls be coming in, as far as they, they needing a poll watcher or someplace didn't have a judge or they needed food or catering back and forth or they needed somebody there for trouble, if things broke out. So I was a driver and at the time I was in use of a car so I got a chance to go out into the field as a trouble shooter.
Now, tell me that story about how they, how you had to go help the seniors go to the polls that day.
OK, they got a call in through the central office stating that, ah, they wouldn't let seniors go down to vote and the seniors were afraid to come out of the apartments because there was brutality by the, I guess they were wine-heads or whatever, whoever set them up to do this. So, at this time, they, the call came through by me being as driver, as I stated, that we decided to go out. When we got there it was four, it was four of us as women, and when we got there, they said, "We didn't call for you. We called for some backup." And I said, "Well what do you think we are? Why are we out here?" They said, "You're not no backup!" So my supervisor said, "Well we are going on in anyway. I say, we're, I'm not scared and I got something in the trunk. So I know I'm not afraid of them." So by this time when we walked through the building there were a lot of men standing outside, um, far from the fence on the curb and then you had to walk, I guess, about 100 feet back towards the building. And there were a lot of them standing there. And they're saying, "We don't know how to do this but we'll just go in front and we'll just surround you all, as though they were going to cover us." I say, "Well, I tell you what? If something breaks down, we're a gang, we're going down to."
Stop, we ran out of film. We got to go back. That probably went down all over town.
OK, pick up the story. You go into the building?
Yeah, at this time, we're going into the building. It's like a walkway, a pathway, and by this time there were, they were all standing around. The group that we were met, they were waiting for us. So when we got into it, everybody formed in, you know, going in as twos.
OK, let me stop you right there. I think people are going to get kind of confused with this answer. Start with, "We, we had to go to the building to get the seniors to take them to the poll, but when we got there--"
We had to go to the Senior Building to take some senior citizens to the polls, due to the fact that something was going on that they couldn't get to the poll. Somebody's stopping them from getting to the poll or coming out the building from their floor. So when we arrived there, our group was there, the man that had called and said, "Why are you, we didn't call this group, we called for some backup." And we said, "We are backup. We can take whatever comes down." So they say, "Well, I'll tell you what, we're going to go in there but please, whatever happens, you know, they were afraid." But we said, we wasn't afraid. Because we was there for a reason. And our purpose was to get those seniors down to that poll. So, that's what we did. We went in and those seniors got a chance to vote that day.
OK, stop down. Good. that's just perfect. I think we're done.