View the h-afro-am Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-afro-am's September 2012 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-afro-am's September 2012 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-afro-am home page.
*AMY GOODMAN:* "Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round," the SNCC Freedom Singers, a group that traveled the country singing and fundraising for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Congressmember John Lewis was one of the chairs of SNCC. This is /Democracy Now!/, democracynow.org <http://democracynow.org>, /The War and Peace Report/, as we return to my interview with the now 13-term Democratic congressman, John Lewis of Georgia, arrested more than 40 times as he fought for voting rights and against segregation in America. Just before Malcolm X was assassinated, John Lewis met with him in Africa. They spent several days together. I asked John Lewis where they met, what they talked about. *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* We met Malcolm in Nairobi, Kenya, at the New Stanley Hotel. He happened to be staying there—we didn’t know he was staying there—and we were also staying there. We were on our way to Zambia for their independence celebration. And we had an opportunity to talk and chat with him about what was going on in America. And I think at that time Malcolm was seeking to find a way to identify with the Southern civil rights movement. He wanted to be helpful, wanted to be supportive. And as a matter of fact, he came to Selma. He came to Selma, February the 14th, 1965. And we were in jail, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the local authority refused to let him come and meet with us. He spoke at the Brown Chapel AME Church with Mrs. King to a group of high school students. And seven days later, he was assassinated. *AMY GOODMAN:* On February 21st, 1965, he was gunned down. *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* I will never forget it, because February 21st is my birthday. And I was in a car on my way from southwest Georgia. *AMY GOODMAN:* You were 25 years old. *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* Twenty-five. And I was going from southwest Georgia through Atlanta back to Selma, when we heard that he had been shot. I came to New York, attended the service for him. *AMY GOODMAN:* What is your assessment of the significance of Malcolm X? *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* I think Malcolm played a major role in helping to educate, inform and dramatize the need for mass movement. People read about him. Many of the young people, black and white, read his story. Many did not agree necessarily with his techniques or his tactic. But if Malcolm had lived, I am convinced that he would have been part of the Southern nonviolent wing of the civil rights movement. *AMY GOODMAN:* And his relationship with Dr. King? What did Dr. King think? *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* I remember Malcolm being in the hotel, before we even saw him in Kenya, the night of the March on Washington—the evening before the March on Washington. He was at the Hilton Hotel in Washington. Now, he didn’t like the way the march turned out, because he said it was like a picnic and that it was not strong enough. *AMY GOODMAN:* And he wasn’t invited to speak. *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* He was not invited to speak. We—I didn’t have anything to do with that decision. *AMY GOODMAN:* After the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Act were signed, Dr. King increasingly started speaking out against the Vietnam War—his inner circle saying, "Don’t give that speech at Riverside Church," April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, the "Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam" speech. "You’ve got the president of the United States behind you. You got him to sign the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act," they said to Dr. King. "Don’t take him on in a war that is not ours." Yet he defied them and said it is. Were you a part of that circle? What position did you take, John Lewis? *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* I supported the position of Martin Luther King Jr. As chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, during that time, we had already taken a position against the war in Vietnam. So many of the young people in SNCC, so many of the young people that we were working with all across the South were being drafted and going off to Vietnam, so we came out against the war in January 1966. But I was there at Riverside Church on the night of April 4th, 1967, when he spoke. And I think that speech is one of the greatest speeches. A lot of people speak about the March on Washington. It was a wonderful speech. But the speech against the war in Vietnam, Dr. King—he said, "I’m not going to segregate my conscience. If I’m against violence at home, I’m against violence abroad." And he went on to say that America was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. He was—he was a preacher. He was a prophet. *AMY GOODMAN:* Do you agree with him? *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* I agree with him. *AMY GOODMAN:* That the U.S. is the greatest purveyor of violence. *REP. JOHN LEWIS:* We have more—we spend hundreds and thousand, millions and billions of dollars on weaponry. We’re supplying the world. We sell arms to everybody. Dr. King was saying that we have to put an end to this madness. He was influenced by Gandhi, and Gandhi said it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. Dr. King went on to say, "We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish as fools." He was saying, in effect, that we have enough bombs and missiles and guns to destroy the planet. He said it then, and it’s still true today.