Campbell discusses the views of University of Mississippi students concerning desegregation, and he also considers the recent trials of Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers and of Elmer Otis Kimbell for the murder of Clinton Melton. Campbell describes the growing power of the White Citizens Council and its talent for expressing opinions that are impossible to disprove. Campbell discusses the recent gubernatorial election in Mississippi, efforts to register African American voters, and the possibility of electing black legislators. Campbell discusses the social reformers who he claims are working "as buffers" between white people and African Americans who espouse more militant tactics. Campbell also discusses anti-white sentiment among African Americans and the possibility that African American leaders will gravitate more toward violence. He also considers the extent to which disagreements between white and black southerners might constitute a mutual recognition of humanity. Campbell discusses busing as a solution to segregated schools, the role he believes churches should play in resolving racial conflict, and the additional work that colleges and universities could do to prepare rural African Americans in the South to be leaders. Campbell and Warren discuss the nature of prejudice, consider African Americans who have embraced Islam, and describe how southerners perpetuate prejudice. Campbell ends the conversation by returning to issues of Christian theology, race, and social action.
Warren states the date as Feb. 13 in this recording, but it appears that a label on the tape held in Yale's Historical Sound Recordings collection gives the date as Feb. 14.
Audio Note: Campbell is, at times, fairly faint during the interview, but his voice is much more audible than the transcripts make it appear.
Will Campbell head shot courtesy of McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.
Image of Will Campbell and Ralph Abernathy from Getty Images, photo credit: Henry Groskinsky.
Audio courtesy of Yale University.
Will D. Campbell
Will D. Campbell (1924- ) is a Baptist minister, author, and civil rights activist. After receiving degrees from Wake Forest University and Yale Divinity School, Campbell briefly served as a minister in Taylor, Louisiana, before becoming director of religious activities and chaplain at the University of Mississippi. Campbell served in that capacity from 1954 to 1956, resigning because of hostility toward his support of the civil rights movement. Campbell began working for the National Council of Churches in 1957, in which position he was one of four people who escorted the “Little Rock Nine” into Little Rock's Central High School. He was also the only white person to attend the founding of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He directed the Committee of Southern Churchmen from 1963 to the late 1970s. Campbell is the author of many books, including Brother to a Dragonfly, which won the Lillian Smith Prize, the Christopher Award, and a National Book Award nomination.
TAPE 1 Searchable TextCollapse
Q; How’s that?
A: Well, make a speech, you know, ________recorded ________ actually a friend of mine,
Q: Was the ________
A: A little thing called
(INAUDIBLE -- CAN’T GET ANYTHING OUT OF THIS)
Q: What happens to people like some of the students that I encountered there in ’55 and ’56, whose opinions are strong, ________ this is an attack on my ________, I don’t want to be told by ________ - A+ what I’m gonna think or do, I’ll be anybody, will be anybody I want to be, or read any book I want to read – I’m a ________ all the way up to the ________such as being, you know, not resigned to integration [integration], but for integration. Now, what’s happened to those kids, this is only 8 years ago. What’s happened to them.
A: When I left in /54 [‘54], this was strong, ________oh, I would say, represented 75-80% of the student body, and a vast majority of the students would say, yes, I favor desegregation. But before I left, I was only 3-1/2 years, before I left there, ________ White Citizens Council just that strong.
Of course it is much stronger now that it was when I left there, back in ________, so that you still have a few students, are in this position, but not very ________
Q: What happened to them, how do you ________
A: When these kids were growing up, of course, I wasn’t too far ahead of them, when I was growing up, this wasn’t really an issue. There were white kids and Negro kids. And we assumed that we would go to school together, and would talk about it. So when I got grown and went away to college, and sorority, and so on, I was really free to make up my own mind. But these ________ they get in the school, in the church, in the home, from the day they’re born, and so that ________issue with them, and a closed line, it’s not really, ________ so that’s they get to college, and ________
Q: The ones in college now.
A: The ones in college now, what happened to those kids that you’re referring to, ________
A: Even when I was there, there was room to fight. Didn’t get much support, but you could, you could fight, ________
Nobody denied me freedom of speech. The only way to do it, you know, was just a matte r of whether or not I want to pay the price. Well, the price at that time, I was willing to pay, it was a very modest price. You know, some folks didn’t like to, but ________ some folks would try to get you fired, but that ________ price. ________But the price now, is really, ________
Q: Well, there’s a good chance that a colored man won’t survive physically.
A: Yes sir.
Q: What about Dr. ________.
A: Of course, Jim is in a better position now, so far as job security is concerned.
(I CANNOT TRANSCRIBE THIS MAN’S SPEECH -- HE’S NOT ON MIKE)
Q: Do you have any notion about the jury on the Beckwith trial, do you have any guesses about that? We got a straight verdict ________ or was it rigged.
A: ______I doubt if it was rigged. ________
one of the prosecutors in this case, ________Fox, I know he was he was one of the crowd, you know, ________
and Waller ________
So the fact that they got a hung jury, may ________
when I was a kid.
Q: Some Negroes have said to me, that even if it was rigged, the fact of rigging it, indicated something, considered ________ putting on a drama, indicates something. But the cynicism about it is pretty widespread, as far as I could make out, among Negroes.
A: There’s no question about that.
Q: Some kind of deception.
A: Yes. Yes. Well, of course, the man will go free. The fact that he has been detained so long, that it’s been this much of a nuisance to him, indicates that something is on its way, you know, something ________
I think there’s no question about it, ________
man usually had a certainty that he would not be ________
Well, of course ________
can’t lose ________
Q: What do you make of this, the editorial in the Clarksdale paper after the acquittal of Kimball, the man who killed the young Negro, ________unknown man ________later he said , it’s not fair the others getting all the publicity. I want some. The Clarkdale papers, came out after the acquittal, and said there was some excuse in the ________case, if not for the verdict, at least for the motive behind the case, some interference in pressure and conflicting evidence. In this case, -- it was clear, there were eye witnesses and ________.
A: Well, in a sense, yes, but I don’t remember the exact editorial, but I was there________
the old noblesse oblige, which I don’t ________
there was a time when you looked after your own, ________very important, because this was the aristocratic white proud people, you know,
I was a part of this white aristocracy, I came from the ________, you know, folks did the best they could under the circumstances, ________ there was nothing ________
(I WILL STOP TRANSCRIBING, SINCE IT MAKES NO SENSE)Collapse
TAPE 2 Searchable TextCollapse
A: What bothers me about a lot of the younger Negro youth movement, ________do something. I heard a kid who ________ state patrol and offer us protection in this thing, why don’t they ________.
Really, the system of government, ________
is the same to what the ________
strong man on a white horse.
It’s true that the system
and weaknesses in a given situation, is of course,Collapse