WARREN: New tape, new tape, new tape. Proceed. New tape, new tape.
This is tape one of a conversation with the Reverend Galamison, June
[Pause in recording.]
WARREN: I may provoke something. Do negroes want real integration or
what Eric Lincoln calls, and quoting him, "a conspicuous, superficial
integration which relieves them of any self hatred and insecurity but
allows them to lead a life separate from white society"? Let's talk
toward that, that general--
GALAMISON: Well, of course, integration doesn't mean leading a life
separate from the mainstream of society. Integration, on the other
hand, may not mean assimilation and loss of identity and this is what
I think negro people are trying to make clear. That negro people don't
want to feel that they have to completely lose their identity to the
degree that there is a cultural difference or a, a color difference.
The color difference, of course, we cannot lose. There must be
integration and acceptance in spite of whatever differences may exist.
And what disturbs many negroes in terms of talking about integration is
that it's felt by some that we must completely lose our, our identity.
So I would put it this way, that I think the negro wants integration
00:02:00into the mainstream of American life in terms of jobs, in terms of
education, in terms of the ability to purchase a home and live where he
wants to live, and to really partake of the , the fruits and advantages
and opportunities of American society. He does not, however, want to
sacrifice being a negro, or to feel so much disrespect for himself that
he doesn't accept himself as a person in order to achieve this, and I
don't think it's necessary that the negro completely lose his identity.
WARREN: Do you remember the article by Norman Podhoretz in Commentary
a little while ago in which he said the only solution for the race
question is assimilation? Do you remember that article?
GALAMISON: I remember the article and I've heard the point of view
00:03:00expressed before, but I don't agree with this point of view. I feel
that if, well, that we are not that limited as human beings that
we cannot accept people in spite of differences, and if complete
assimilation means losing our identity, then this we will never do
as a people. And there may be some question about what the word
assimilation means in its , in its deepest aspects, but assimilation
even to me--if this is the term we want to use--doesn't actually mean
losing one's identity.
WARREN: He's talking about actual blood absorption, of course, Podhoretz
GALAMISON: Well, there's been a great deal of that already.
GALAMISON: I think only a small percentage of negroes in this country
are now actually whole-blooded negro people, as it were. And, yet, the
00:04:00negroes who are not altogether negro, that is, who, who apparently are
the result of some kind of intermingling, are, are still regarded as
negro. And I think that this will continue to be the situation, and I
don't see that anything is particularly wrong with it. But negro people
are going to have to be accepted as negro people. We can't wait till,
till the whole human race in, in the United States is so intermingled
and so confused that everybody has lost his racial identity.
WARREN: That is, you view it as a kind of pluralistic society with
individual choices being the criterion of all basic relationships, is
GALAMISON: This is true. And I understand that there are other cultures
where the differences of people are respected and where the differences
of people do not represent insurmountable barriers to unity and to
living together and to sharing all the other things that human beings
00:05:00share. I feel that we in America are going to have to get to this
point where we will accept people not because they're like we are
necessarily, but because they're people.
WARREN: This leads off in several directions. One is, DuBois's
old notion of some split in the negro psyche, the pull toward the
absorption into the Western European American cultural complex,
the other being the pull toward the African or the American negro
tradition, is a real problem for some negroes and still is for some
negroes by their account. You don't feel this is an issue, I gather?
GALAMISON: It is an issue in a sense, but only because we're passing
00:06:00through a certain period in American history. My feeling is that the
extreme leaning toward African culture among negro people is based
on the rejection and the lack of acceptance that the negro has felt
in his own culture. It's also due largely to the fact that negroes
feel that everybody has to have a home base and just as the Jewish
people, for example, have reestablished Jerusalem and, or Israel, as
it were, and have the right now to call this home, negroes need some
place to call home in order to give them a, a complete feeling of,
of identity and, and status as human beings in the world. Now this,
00:07:00however, this whole idea of the relationship to Africa, I think, has
been grossly exaggerated. I think, for example, that the American
negro is much closer to American culture than he could possibly be to
African culture. That we cannot write off three hundred years, however
horrible they may have been in the experience of any negroes, and
however unwelcome the negro may have felt in this culture over these
three hundred years, he certainly is much more closely related to the
American scene and the mainstream of American life than he is to the
major ways of life in Africa at the moment. And if many negroes were
to go to Africa, they would, they would see this.
WARREN: As Richard Wright found out, for instance.
GALAMISON: Yes. Richard Wright, after being disillusioned in America
00:08:00went to France and after being disillusioned in France went to Africa
and died a disillusioned man, realizing that he didn't have the kind of
affinity with African culture that he, he thought he would have.
WARREN: On the matter of integration again, Oscar Handlin's recent
book A [Fire] Bell in the Night makes a sharp distinction between
integration and equality, and he goes on to say that the emphasis on
integration can actually turn that word into a shibboleth while the
real focus should be on problems of equality. Does this distinction
concern you? Does it seem to be a fundamental distinction?
GALAMISON: Yes. It may be a meaningful distinction, but so long as
the negro feels that his failure to achieve, achieve equality is due
00:09:00basically to his race, then he has to work in other areas. My opinion
is--and I'm trying to turn this over in my mind--my opinion is that
the only real equality for negroes in America is integration. That is,
short of integration he has no equality. Short of his participation in
the mainstream of American life in terms of the same education everyone
is getting, in term, terms of the same kind of housing everyone else is
getting, and in terms of the same kind of employment that everyone else
is getting, he can't have any kind of equality. And these areas of
life are denied him basically, we feel, anyway, because of our race.
WARREN: Undoubtedly that's true. That's, say, the, the race, the racial
difference has made for inferiority of opportunity of various kinds.
GALAMISON: Exactly so.
WARREN: We know, we know that beyond a shadow of a doubt. I think he
has in mind some specific problems that arise. Now one problem would
be the problem you have been intimately associated with, that is the
integration of New York schools. The problem of just the ratio, of
negro and white children of school age in public, in the public school
system. How can you integrate, you see, or, in an absolute sense,
given that situation. This is a problem you have given a great deal
of thought to. Out in, oh, in Washington, DC, for instance, where
integration as such, he would say, is not the prior concern because
it's a special, just numerical problem. It has to be approached on
00:11:00terms of equality then, not in terms of integration as such.
GALAMISON: Well, you see, if you accept the philosophy behind the
Supreme Court decision that apart from integration in the public school
system there can't be any equality, then it's difficult to accept this
premise that this particular gentleman is holding forth. I agree that
there are some areas in which the negro problem must be solved apart
from integration. Education, I would contend, though, is not one of
them. I agree, too, that in some areas in the educational system, we
have a growing number of negroes in proportion to white. This should
not be a barrier to integration. It should not be assumed that white
00:12:00people always have to be in the majority in a particular situation
before integration should be attempted or--or affected. This is
another bad philosophy, I think; that we are victims, of which we are
victims; let me put it that--
GALAMISON:--let me put it that way. The statistical problem or the
logistics problem in most areas is not at all insurmountable, and there
is hardly any area, however urbanized it may be, where a, a meaningful
degree of integration cannot be achieved. Now, if this particular
author is saying that there are some problems in America which even
transcend the race problem, I would certainly agree with this.
WARREN: Like class, in a sense.
GALAMISON: Class, yes, indeed. I, I certainly agree that there are some
that transcend the race problem. The thing stopped the--the thought.
00:13:00I would, I would agree that we have a class problem, too, that needs
to be overcome, that discrepancies in income and disparities between
classes of people have not been resolved by the democratic system as
many people felt they would be resolved. However--
WARREN:--both black and white you're talking about?
GALAMISON: Yes. And there are some black and white people suffer from
the, the class stratifications in the culture. But the negro not
only wears the badge of an inferior class because of his color, no
matter how comparable he may be in every other respect, culturally,
00:14:00educationally, and , and monetarily, he is still an inferior misfit
in the minds of other people within the framework of the culture.
What disturbs me most though about the thinking of many people in our
society is they think that class prejudice and class discrimination is
more forgivable than race discrimination. And my contention is that
any kind of discrimination or any kind of prejudice is bad no matter on
what superficial basis it may be exercised.
WARREN: To what extent would you accept the present program of the, of
the New York school system? What reservations do you have about that
GALAMISON: My feeling is that there are two school systems really in
00:15:00New York City, not one. One system is the all-white school system
and to a degree the integrated school system and the other system
is the segregated school system which certainly is not producing the
best in terms of our negro children. That is, the discrepancy is
seen mostly in the academic performance, and the academic performance
of the children in the segregated schools is invidious by comparison
to the academic performances of children in the first system that I
allege to exist. Now, my major criticism is that if we don't solve
the segregation problem, we haven't solved any basic problem because
00:16:00this is the basic problem. My feeling is that all the prejudices and
discriminations of the culture which affect the negro in housing and
in employment and in areas of social life, that is, "I don't want a
negro in my home," or, "I wouldn't want a negro to marry my daughter,"
are also brought to bear on the negro in the educational system.
Tragically enough, people refuse to recognize this, and that we need
an integrated school system not only to protect the negro from what
happens to be a, a white dominated school system, but we also need an
integrated school system to protect white children from the arrogances
and the racial supremacy feelings that they are inclined to feel, being
"defended"--I put that in quotation marks--from contact and classroom
00:17:00relationships with negro children. The whole culture, unfortunately,
the pattern of the culture dictates the impossibility of having an
equal educational system that's segregated. Now, New York City has
not made meaningful steps in the direction of desegregating the school
system. They are hedging and avoiding and procrastinating and managing
all kinds of, of efforts which are not bringing about the, the timely
and the planned desegregation of the school system. They , they feel
free to place the onus for integration on some negroes in terms of
open enrollment, but they do not feel that white children apparently
00:18:00should be inconvenienced in any way to help bring about a desegregated
classroom, and this is the thing that distresses me.
WARREN: What about the acceptance of, of the present proposal by the
various organizations? How do you react to their acceptance?
GALAMISON: These proposals, of course, have not been accepted at all,
as far as I can see. That while the board of education publicly cried
that organizations that were interested in desegregating the school
system ought to submit plans, it is not my feeling that these plans and
programs submitted by the organizations were ever taken very seriously.
Secondly, everyone knows that it would be almost illegal for the board
of education to take a plan or a program submitted by a secular group
00:19:00or a, a layman's group or a civil rights group and to impose this plan
upon the city. So there wasn't really, I don't feel, much sincerity
behind these demands for plans and programs to be submitted, but they
did manage with these demands to divert the public of-, from the real
issue, and that is that the board was not desegregating the school
system. Now to further dramatize what I accuse to be insincerity,
our board of education dumped the responsibility for developing a
plan ultimately on the state, and Commissioner Allen of New York
State appointed a three-man committee here in New York City to work
out a program. This program was worked out and printed up within the
space of about two months and became known as the Allen Proposals.
00:20:00Then Dr. Gross came out with a plan behind the Allen Proposals after
saying, "This is the kind of thing around which we ought to rally,"
which almost completely bypassed the Allen Proposals and which was a
diametrical contradiction, actually, of what Commissioner Allen had
proposed. And this is about where we are at the moment. His plan has
been modified to a degree and some embellishments have been placed on
it, and some of the civil rights groups have said they will now support
Dr. Gross's plan, but it still falls far short of the Allen Proposal
which was supposed to have been some kind of an official proposal with
status. And there just doesn't seem to be any serious intent on the
part of, of educational officials to implement with purposeful and, and
deliberate speed a desegregation program in the city.
WARREN: That is, you would not go along with the other organizations in
the, in the, in at least provisional acceptance of the Gross Plan?
GALAMISON: In a sense I must go along because some of my people were
involved in the deliberations and I was not, when perhaps I ought to
have been. So I , I must, out of necessity, support the Gross Plan
because I indicated that everyone should exercise his own judgment in
relation to the Gross Plan. However, personally I am far from satisfied
with it and I still think it's a complete betrayal of the Allen Report.
WARREN: Here's the kind of problem that we often get stuck with, the
question of your relation to your own children and your relation to the
00:22:00public school system, if my information is correct about the private
GALAMISON: I only have one child.
WARREN: Well, one child then.
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, now, about the public school system. Of course,
the public school system here as in many areas of the country is
deficient, and one would wish that people might unite to protect
the school system or to improve it as it were, I meant improve it.
(laughs) But one of the reasons why whites don't realize how badly the
school system needs improvement is because the negro situation is so
much worse, and because there is some playing of the negro community
against the white community. And it's been difficult to achieve
unity because of the integration struggle, and the school system does
00:23:00not generally improve. Frankly, I would say that the profession of
teaching is suffering as are many professions. We seem to be getting
more and more people today in all kinds of work who are only salary-
conscious--(laughs)--and clock watchers and who do not take professional
pride in their work, who are not artistic about their professional
activities. And, of course, workers like this don't produce the best
kind of results. So I think the school system is suffering from the
kind of professional deterioration that almost every profession is in
this, in this country. I think this would be true of nursing, I think
it would be true of the ministry; I think it would be true of medicine
and a number of other areas.
WARREN: On the question of your own son, you felt you could not
sacrifice his development in terms of supporting an abstract principle,
00:24:00is that it?
GALAMISON: Well, let me put it this way. My son's being in private
school was not at all related to this struggle in the beginning. I
don't think I was involved in this struggle, if I remember correctly,
when we first put our youngster into a private school. He started in a
nursery school. It was simply a matter of having him in school, and my
wife was working, and we felt it was time to sort of wean him away from
home. Now, when he got to the age where he was ready to enter public
school, there came a question of whether he should go to my wife's
school where she taught, or whether he should go to some other public
school. Well, now, if he had gone to another public school there
would have been no one home to care for him in terms of lunch and that
00:25:00sort of thing. And my wife didn't feel that it would be an objective
situation to have him in her school where she was teaching. So we
continued him on in private school. Then by the time he got to the
age of, when he might have gone to public school, I was so involved in
this struggle and I was being so vilified by many people in the school
system that I did not feel that I should expose my child to the kind of
attitude which I knew prevailed in the school system against me among
many principals and teachers. I did not feel he could be dealt with
objectively, and I think he's paid a high enough price for what his
father is doing simply in terms of, you know, absence from home and all
this sort of thing. At, at least he's entitled to the best education
we can give him and this is what we're trying to do.
WARREN: Now let's try to find a parallel problem on the part, or see how
00:26:00far we find a parallel problem--just let's explore it--on the part of
a parent who says, "I believe in integrated schools," who honestly does
believe in integrated schools--let's say, let's posit this man--"but I
don't want my child now put in the schools as they exist to support the
matter of integration. I want to keep the child here because I protect
his interest next year and the year after and the year after, whatever
year you say." Now, he's over kind of a barrel, too, isn't he, as I was
over, as you were over?
GALAMISON: Well, it depends on what our motivations are and whether--
WARREN:--assume this man is honest, you see, and, and really wanted
integrated, integrated schools, integrated society. (??) him say,
"No, I won't permit this. I'll fight it because the school he'll go to
00:27:00can't be made decent within three years or four years."
GALAMISON: Well, this may be and, of course, this is a right of, of
private choice for people to send their child to public school or to
WARREN: Or to fight, or to fight the, or to fight the--the transfer?
That's his right too, legally.
GALAMISON: Well, he can fight a transfer, you see, if it's not at
the expense of what you're trying to do to the school system or what
you're trying to do to other children. You see, when you, when you
talk about sending children to private school, I contend that for
many white parents in the New York City community, they, they have a
private school anyway. The only difference is everybody is paying for
it, and not only is it a, a--(laughs)--private school, it's, it's the
kind of school from which they are, in which they are protected from
00:28:00anything that they may not want in it, including negroes. So, this is
my argument. You know, when it comes to the, the integration situation
here in, in New York City, that my contention is that we, we don't even
have a public school system in many respects. That it's, it's being
operated for the benefit of some at the expense of others. And, of
course, it's being operated, I would contend, at the expense of the
children who are not faring well or who are being deprived because of
the pattern of the culture and , and the feelings in the culture which
generally exist toward negro and all minority group children.
WARREN: That's clear. I would, that, that's, there's no argument about
that, I think. I don't think anybody reasonably could say there is an
argument about that. It's a question of how you deal with a man who
though, may, he may be mistaken or thinks he's acting for the good of
00:29:00his child even against his, a certain set of principles he may believe
in. It's not a question of good guys versus bad guys, is what I'm
getting at in this matter.
GALAMISON: Well, this, of course, is a matter of opinion. I don't think
that, you know, I'm not interested in categorizing people as, as bad
guys necessarily, but I, I think that we have lived too long in America
where we are willing to entertain the prejudices and discriminations of
some people, however much they may exist to the disadvantage of other
people, and still we're willing to label these people decent people.
Now I think we've just got to get to the point in this culture where
we realize that people who do not treat other people as human beings
00:30:00because of their race or their color are not functioning as human beings
themselves, that you can't dehumanize someone else without dehumanizing
yourself to a degree, that you can't be dishonest and unfair to other
people without being dishonest and unfair innately as a person, and
that we can no longer accept this as something that just happens to
people and accept it as a perfectly normal , normal thing, you see. So
I, I couldn't agree with you in terms of your description of the kind
of person you're talking about. Such a person is , is objectionable to
me as a person, and I think that, you know, too long we've , we've paid
the price for people like this in the culture and allowed then to feel
that they're , they're wonderful people when really they are not.
WARREN: Well, now, what about the person--another hypothetical case--who
elects the private school, say, as, as I have elected on, against my
principles? But I still pay my taxes, but I put my child and my own
enthusiasm into the private school, against my will.
GALAMISON: Well, this is an individual right. On the other hand, I
would argue--and this is--(laughs)--not a criticism of you--
WARREN:--please, please, you're not talking about (??).
GALAMISON: Yes. I would, I would argue that we have a responsibility,
though, to correct those things in the public school system which may
have prompted us to send our children to private school. In other
words, we still have a responsibility, I think, to all children, and
if we do try to salvage our child--(laughs)--at least we still ought to
continue fighting in the public school area.
WARREN: Suppose the man down the road who fights the transfer system
is still fighting for the improvement of schools so he could transfer.
He is in the same moral position as I would be or you, wouldn't he
be? He's still working to change the schools, make them adequate up the
road there. Change the school he doesn't want his child to go to now.
Excuse me just a minute. I've got to change the tape. This is the
end of tape 1 with the Reverend Galamison. See tape 2.
[Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.]
WARREN: Tape 2 with Reverend Galamison. Proceed.
GALAMISON: Yes, we are affirming the right of people to send their
children to private or public school. Beyond this, the motivations
and the truth or inaccuracy behind the motivation must be considered,
and in terms of the question you raised I would say this, that a man
may have a right to take his child out of an integrated school because
00:33:00he feels that the standards are going to go down because the school
becomes desegregated. I'm saying this is his right--(laughs)--but
there would be almost no scientific data to support his supposition that
the standards are going to go down. That is, let me put--(laughs)--it
this way. While the standards of the school generally may be lowered
because you're bringing in a group of children who are below standard
in terms of overall norms, the standard may go down. The standards of
the individual child do not go down, that is, in those experiments and
pilot projects that have been attempted in various places around the
country. The last two reports came out on pilot projects in California
on Christmas Day. It's indicated that those children who were
00:34:00performing continued to perform, that these standards of those children
that are up to norm and above norm continue at the same pace, and that
over a period of time those who are behind in their standards catch up.
So while I'm saying that this is a very realistic and understandable
fear, that people ought to understand whether their fears have any real
foundation before they operate on the basis on these fears.
WARREN: My point, Mr. Galamison, is a little different; though I'm glad
you spoke to that one, too. The man who believes in integration and
says, "If you come to the school where my child now is, I welcome you.
But if my child is transferred, I will protest it. I will fight it
because it'd be to an inferior school."
GALAMISON: Well, you see, it isn't the school--(laughs)--the school
00:35:00itself, the building, that's inferior--
WARREN:--I mean the building, too.
GALAMISON: It's, if, if the negro child is behind standards , below
standards--(laughs)--let me put it that way, he's going to be below
standard whether he moves to the white school or whether the white
children move into his school. I contend that this is not the issue
behind the refusal on the part of people to transfer. Only one
construction can be put on the kind of attitude which says, "It's all
right for negro children to transfer into my community, but I will
not have my children transfer or travel to a, a negro school." And
that construc-, and the construction that I would put on this is just
race arrogance. This is all it is. That and , and an assumption that
integration is completely to the benefit of the negro without realizing
that there are many other values apart from academic values which
00:36:00would accrue to the white child in a situation like this, you see.
And I contend that it's only a--a lopsided, master racist feeling that
allows people to make expressions like this, "I don't mind if negroes
transfer to my school, but I will not support any integration effort
which involves the movement or inconvenience of my own child." I mean
children are children. Why, why--(laughs)--should a, a white child be
any better to transfer to affect some desegregation than a negro child,
you see? And it's because these school systems support this arrogance
and this lopsidedness that we protest because this is precisely what
the New York City school system is willing to do, transfer negro
children all over the place even on a compulsory basis, but refuses to
transfer white children. Do you understand what I'm saying?
WARREN: On the question of transfer, I think what is sauce for the goose
00:37:00should be sauce for the gander, as far as inconveniences are concerned.
I wasn't raising that question. I was thinking of the case where a
child, a white child in the School "A" would be transferred to School
"B" which is, for the moment, an inferior school irrespective of, of
race, you see.
GALAMISON: Yes, you see, but the school is inferior because no white
children are in it. Now, by this--(laughs)--I don't mean that negro
children are inherently inferior. This is not what I'm saying at all.
WARREN: I (??).
GALAMISON: The--the question goes right to the heart of why the negro
school is inferior, and the negro school is inferior because of the
racial and cultural attitudes and ethnocentricisms that the average
teacher brings to the school. And the school is inferior because there
are no white children in the school to protect the negro child from a
white school system.
WARREN: All, all, all right. Now let's say, say this. If, how long
00:38:00would it take to make that school equally good? School--bring the
School "B" to School "A"; that is to say, Negro school up to school "A"
which is predominantly white, say, at the moment.
GALAMISON: If it were done in the right way and with real purposefulness,
this can be done with the repopulating of the school and the revising
of the curriculum over a summer; that is, when the school opens in
the fall. The--the standards are set , new standards, the , the
curriculum, which is a comparable curriculum has been devised, the ,
the teaching staff has been carefully selected and all the elements
that go into the making of a good school can go into this school.
Now maybe you still have, you have the negro children in it, you see.
These children may not catch up right away, but over a period of time
they will, if history is accurate in any way, catch up to the others.
WARREN: I think that clarifies some of the things I had in mind. Let's,
let me ask you about the present collision between Dr. Kenneth Clark
and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. What seems to be at stake in that
collision in terms of, of social good?
GALAMISON: I have been avoiding dealing with this question publicly
because there are so many aspects here that can be verbalized and
misunderstood. I would--(laughs)--suggest first of all that much of
the-- (laughs)--I, I hate to say this; don't, don't have this typed
00:40:00out. I mean what I'm saying, I hate to say it.
WARREN: You'll have a transcript anyway.
GALAMISON: Yeah. First of all, there appears to be a problem of
controlling the funds. This is a , a natural problem that would arise
over a , a , an hundred- million-dollar grant to a community, and I
think that basically this is the--the local struggle--who will have
charge of distributing the funds and who will control the personnel
that handles the purse strings. But secondly, the question about the
00:41:00degree to which this is political is, well, it's a question that almost
doesn't require an answer because my feeling is that this war against
poverty operation represents a new kind of political patronage anyway.
That, you know, no longer do we have a , a number of jobs and old
types of patronage to distribute as political powers, but this idea
of , of social work, this idea of , of getting into the community and
involving as many people as possible and making large grants in terms
of funds, is pretty much a political operation. I'm not saying it's,
it's bad. It's, it's very good in its effects and it's very good
00:42:00in it's, in what it intends to do. But I don't think anybody should
overlook the, the basic motivation behind it. And the basic motivation
behind it is, is, I think, a political motivation. I had a hard time
getting that out. I've been dodging this question, of course.
WARREN: Congressman Powell told me that all the old leadership is dead;
they are finished. That is, all the organizations, the Urban League,
NAACP, and all the rest of them all are dead. The new leadership will
be recruited from other sources. How would you respond to that remark?
GALAMISON: I would say that this depends on the manner in which
WARREN:-- (??) he included (??) name, you see, in this (??).
GALAMISON: I agree that there is a movement among the people that
transcends at this moment, movement among the constituted civil rights
organizations. However, I would take the position that the degree to
which the civil rights organizations survive depends on how they will
keep pace with what goes on. That is, I'm not at all convinced that
the established organizations are going to let the people completely
go by them and not fit-in in any way in terms of serving the needs
and aspirations of the people who are on the move. My feeling is
that they, they may well do this. I think that there is a, a place in
00:44:00the struggle at this point for all kinds of levels of, of operation.
For example, I think that the white community has great confidence
in the established civil rights organizations, much more so than it
has confidence in the smaller organizations or in the new movements
which are springing up. This means that they will continue to support
the established organizations, and it also means that the degree to
which white support is won to various efforts may depend on the degree
to which the established civil rights groups will involve themselves
in this effort. It's just a little difficult for me to believe that
00:45:00established civil rights groups are going to allow themselves to be
left by the side of the road in this struggle.
WARREN: How do you define the, the nature of the new impulse you say
that is, that is manifesting itself in the masses? What is the nature
of that impulse? How would you define it?
GALAMISON: It is, I think, a growing feeling of frustration and a
growing intolerance with injustice. That is, for a long time, I think,
the negro people did not protest against their own plight and felt
that there was no way out of their own plight. For a long time, I
think, negro people accepted the image of, of themselves that had been
00:46:00projected by a white society, and regarded themselves in many ways as
undeserving and inferior and white society as superior. However, I,
I think that these attitudes no longer exist among the masses of the
people, and that negro people are beginning to more and more realize
that their deprivation is not due to any inferiority on, on their part,
but due more so to a moral lapse on the part of white society, and that
they have, or their predicament has been created by the, the cultural
and social and economic influences which are hangovers really of, of
the slavery era. And that with this new image of himself and with this
new understanding of the perpetration of injustices and discriminations
00:47:00on the part of white society, the negro masses are moving to, if
not redeem themselves, certainly to rescue their children from these
WARREN: Did you see the review of the New York Times book review two
weeks ago of a new book on the race question, Crisis in Black and
White, a review by Mr. Saunders Redding?
GALAMISON: No, I didn't, I didn't see it.
WARREN: That rather undercuts my question, but he, he was saying this,
quite the opposite of what you were saying. He was outraged because
the author of this book had said that the great crisis in the negro
revolution was a redefinition of identity.
GALAMISON: Well, this is pretty much what I have said--
WARREN:--what you have said. Yeah. Yeah.
GALAMISON: Yeah, this is not at all far afield from the same thing
00:48:00that I am saying, and I believe infinitely that a man's own opinion
of himself is a very important thing. And if you have a feeling of
pride and self respect about yourself, then you do not allow people to
do to you some of the things that you would permit when you don't have
a sense of pride and a sense of self respect. And I think that the
negro people have grown in--in pride and have grown in respect and have
altered their own image of themselves considerably, and they have also
altered their image of, of white society, and that with this altered
image of society generally, the negro has found motivation to fight and
not accept the kinds of situations in which he permitted himself to be
WARREN: Yes, that's the question I had hoped you would speak to. A
00:49:00moment ago you were talking about white, it wasn't acceptance or, it
may had been cooperation with the established organizations. This
implies that the efficacy of the movement involves somehow a white,
white attitudes and white activity. Now what is the role of, say, the
white man--liberal, I almost said--who is spoken so badly of by James
Baldwin and others in relation to the movement, the person who has some
sympathy with the negro aspirations and in some sense of the justice of
their claim? What's his role?
GALAMISON: I happen to be one of the people who feels that this
struggle will not and cannot be won without the active participation
of white people. In fact, I have said jestingly sometimes that I
00:50:00think white people are going to take the civil rights movement over,
and perhaps this is not a jest. Perhaps this is the way it ought to
be. I remember after a meeting in Sheepshead Bay one evening being
interrogated by a number of vociferous white parents in the school
lobby who were distressed by some of the things that I had said, and
there was a white man in the community who stood beside me and who
said, "This is our fight," you know, "This is my fight with you, this
is our fight with each other. Don't badger him with these kinds of
questions." I don't know that he wasn't right, and I don't know that
there isn't a great deal of work to be done among white people and also
with negro people in the civil rights area, that white people cannot
involve themselves in very effectively. So when you inquire after the
00:51:00role of white people in this struggle, I feel that white people have a,
an indispensable role in this struggle. And I think a good bit of it
is among white people as well as with negro people.
WARREN: That's not quite James Baldwin's remark that the white liberal
is an affliction, unless we stop to redefine liberal then.
GALAMISON: Well, I think the word "liberal" has become so distorted
that it's almost-- (laughs)--impossible to define what a white liberal
is at , at the moment. I don't know that I would agree altogether
with Mr. Baldwin. I don't know that he would expect me to. Max
Lerner complains--he's a great admirer of, of Baldwin's literary
genius-- (laughs)--but he complains that Baldwin doesn't leave him
00:52:00any alternative. That is, that Baldwin both condemns him for what
he hasn't done, and then accuses him of some peculiar motivations for
what he might do so that he doesn't know what to do. (laughs) I , I
think what Mr. Baldwin is , is saying in essence--and I'm , I'm taking
a great liberty in trying to say this--what , what Mr. Baldwin is
saying in essence is that a , a great many white people bring to the
civil rights struggle the same kind of paternalism and the same kind of
rugged indifference--(laughs)-- to the feelings and the aspirations of
the negro that they have exercised in other areas, and that this is not
a good place for feelings of paternalism and feelings of domination.
That white people who , who get in the struggle must bring their
00:53:00cooperation and they must bring their gifts and share them with the
negro people, but that they must not try to take over, as it were, you
know, within negro groups the , the , the leadership or the , the pace
at which the movement, you know, would , will go, and they must not try
to , to dictate and fall back on these same old patterns, you see, of ,
WARREN: Right. Let me read a question--a statement, rather, by
Dr. Kenneth Clark about Dr. King's philosophy. "On the surface,
King's philosophy appears to reflect health and stability while black
nationalism betrays pathology and instability. A deeper analysis might
reveal that there is also an unrealistic, if not pathological, basis to
00:54:00King's doctrine. The natural reaction to injustice is, is resentment.
The form that such resentment takes need not be overtly violent
but the corrosion of the spirit seems inevitable. It would seem,
therefore, that any demand that the victim of oppression be required
to love those who oppress them, places an additional and intolerable
psychological burden upon the victim." How does that strike you?
GALAMISON: The remark amazes me because Dr. Clark is a psychologist,
and it would just seem to me that a psychologist, of all people,
would know that hate is a consuming passion, and that hate does
00:55:00as much harm, if not more, to the individual who entertains that
hate, who internalizes that hate, than it does to the objects of the
individual's hatred. That when we are motivated by hate or any other
consuming passion, we do not function objectively, we do not function
realistically, as it were, and that no man can afford to live motivated
by hate. In other words--(laughs)--let me put it this way. It's--it's
one thing if a, an enemy tries to destroy you, but he has driven you to
00:56:00the supreme destruction when he can drive you to self destruction which
is a consuming hatred of him or of anybody else.
WARREN: That is, you support the philosophical basis of Dr. King's
nonviolent policy as well as a tactical basis, is that right?
GALAMISON: Yes, I think I would support both. I would also add that one
can act against a wrong or an injustice or an enemy without hating the
enemy. That is, the fact that I do not-- (laughs)--hate the person who
is exercising some kind of evil against me doesn't mean that I can't
rise up and--and fight him and defend myself against him and move to
00:57:00correct the injustice that I think needs righting. I mean it does, in,
in other words, activity doesn't have to be born of hatred.
WARREN: Nor, nor does it have to be violent, is that the, also a
GALAMISON: Yes. No, it doesn't have to be violent. I would say this,
I am not sure that every effort of this magnitude might not be served
in some way by some segment of, that's willing to retaliate in kind.
But I think that history teaches us that violence begets violence and
that ultimately and in the long run, violence isn't the real answer
WARREN: If I understood you correctly, you were saying that you were not
00:58:00certain but that some violence, a dash of salt in the stew, might serve
a good end, is that right?
GALAMISON: Well, let me put it this way--
WARREN: --some is going to happen anyway.
GALAMISON: Passive, yeah, passive resistance and nonviolence assume a
civilized enemy, a humane enemy or, at least, the human enemy. And
this, of course, is not always true. There are, as the scripture puts
it, some adders that cannot be charmed. And it does give some people
comfort in their exercising of evil to know that nobody is going to
strike back in kind. Therefore, I--I contend that this is not a , a
certainty in which a man--(laughs)--should be allowed to rest, that
nobody will ever do onto him as he has done onto them. And while I
00:59:00believe that violence is not the ultimate answer or the best answer
to anything, I think that violence can have a certain restraining
effect on the person who is doing the evil. That is, if a man who does
injustice or exercises injustice against a group of people or against
another man is not quite sure whether he will suffer the same in
retaliation, he will be restrained.
WARREN: That is, a few rifle clubs is okay, is that right?
GALAMISON: Well, we have a few rifle clubs, and about this rifle club
business, that is, whether we are for rifle clubs or against rifle
clubs--(laughs)--I ask people have they ever been against the existence
of rifle clubs before? That is, if we are against rifle clubs, or are
we just against negroes having rifle clubs? And it seems to me that
01:00:00people who intend to live by justice and , and by truth and by mutual
respect and decency should not have to fear negroes having a rifle club
anymore than they fear existing white rifle clubs, don't you see?
WARREN: Yes, that would be true enough. What I really meant to say is
this: in, say, a place like Mississippi, if we want a little violence,
a little salt in the stew, just to keep it straight, you know, the
records straight, then someone should, Machiavellian, in Machiavellian
spirit, have a kind of stern gang, a little gang of dedicated
retaliators, or would that follow, or just trust nature to take care
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, what I'm , what I'm trying to say--(laughs)--is,
while I'm not , I refuse to advocate violence as a principle, that some
01:01:00group--and almost all oppressed people have had such a group--that will
retaliate in kind might serve some kind of purpose in bringing about a
swifter resolution of a problem that exists. This is what I'm trying
to say. In general about rifle clubs, I am not opposed to anybody's
having a rifle club.
WARREN: But actually on the matter of Mississippi?
GALAMISON: In Mississippi, if, if white people are permitted to have
weapons, then negro people ought to be permitted to have weapons. In
other words, I just refuse to separate people racially in terms of
the right to bear arms. This is, the right, I think, of every person
01:02:00in this country, and if we're in the kind of situation where some
people might have more respect for the rights of others and might be
less inclined to commit violence against others if they had arms then,
certainly, these people have a right to have arms just as everyone else
does. I'm, I'm trying to answer you but you're pushing me in a--
WARREN: --I have heard it advocated--this is the Conference on
Nonviolence at Howard University last fall--that perhaps there
should be a calculated policy among negroes of their brinksmanship of
violence, to use the phrase used then, to toy with violence, violence
as short of lethal, to keep this threat in the air, even though not
forced all the way.
GALAMISON: Well, I think that nonviolence does this. I think that
passive resistance does this anyway, that the objective end of
01:03:00nonviolence and the passive resistance defined by sitting-in and
demonstrating is to precipitate the opposition to violence.
WARREN: End of tape 2 of the conversation with Mr. Galamison. See
[Tape 2 ends; tape 3 begins.]
WARREN: This is tape 3 of the conversation with the Reverend Galamison.
GALAMISON: All set?
WARREN: Yeah, all set. You mentioned demonstrations. Do you distinguish
in your mind between an illegitimate type of demonstration and a
legitimate? To be, for example, certain organizations oppose the stall-
ins as demonstration, and many individuals did, as being illegitimate,
01:04:00yet at the same time supporting other types of demonstration. What
kind of distinction do you make in your mind on such a point?
GALAMISON: In my own opinion, any demonstration short of violence is a
legitimate demonstration. I think one of the mistakes we make is to
suppose that we should only have those kinds of demonstrations that
are going to meet with general approval. And my contention is that
the demonstrations of the type which meet with general approval are the
demonstrations that are least likely to accomplish anything. That is,
one doesn't devise a demonstration on the basis of the degree to which
it is going to please people. One devises a demonstration on the basis
01:05:00of necessity. That is, will this get the job done? And a civil rights
struggle is not a popularity contest that we are waging in hope of
winning as many friends as possible. (laughs) A civil rights struggle
is a , an effort that we're waging to bring in justice, and it's not
expected that those who advocate injustice or who have stood by the
status quo are going to approve of any effort that's exercised to get
the job done.
WARREN: Well, we could scarcely assume that Mr. Farmer was defending
the status quo when he opposed the stall-ins, or Mr. Whitney Young.
Their motives must have been different from that.
GALAMISON: Well, I refuse to speculate about Mr. Farmer's motives.
I will say this about the stall-in. The stall-in gave a left wing
01:06:00to other activities on the day of the opening of the World's Fair,
which meant that the sit-ins and the arrests in which Mr. Farmer
participated in, in himself didn't get the kind of general public
denouncement that they might have gotten ordinarily. It must be
understood, too, that there is a difference between established civil
rights groups and the smaller civil rights groups, the local civil
rights groups. There's a difference in terms of whom the different
groups are responsible to. There's a difference between the kinds of
funds that these groups handle, a difference between who contributes
01:07:00these funds to the various organizations, so that every organization is
not at liberty to function as every other organization.
WARREN: I talked recently with Mr. Farmer about this point. He made
a distinction of this sort for the, for my interview, for the record,
but the stall-ins would partake of the nature of a general strike, not
justified by the occasion. But the time might come when paralyzing
tactics would be necessary, but not as long as there was some
communication, some basis for, as it were, negotiations, which he felt
existed at that time.
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, Mr. Farmer is, of course, entitled to his point
of view. It ought also to be remembered, though, that the actual
leaders of the stall-in were four CORE branches in New York City--
01:08:00(laughs)--which apparently disagree with Mr. Farmer.
WARREN: That's quite on the record. This raises another little
question. In any, in any popular movement there is bound to be a,
if not a struggle for leadership, at least a natural competition for
leadership, and among different policies that are proposed. Do you see
a drift towards a centralized individualized leadership in the civil
rights movement, or may I say more generally, the negro movement? A
drift towards the man, you know, will appear?
GALAMISON: I would say first of all, though, that this is not true of
the CORE organization. I don't think they are--
WARREN:--not CORE. I mean in general.
GALAMISON: Any, yes, I know, but I want to bring this comment in. I
01:09:00don't, I don't think there any local CORE branch leaders who are trying
to displace Mr. Farmer in any way. But generally about a drift toward
any individual leadership, I would say no, I don't think that the
negro people will arrive at a point where they have one leader with
whom everybody disagrees , I mean agrees, and whom everybody follows,
anymore than white people have. All the people following Goldwater,
or all the people following Johnson, or all the people following any
thinker among the white race. In fact the competition in the civil
rights movement gets keener all the time, and I think that it's good.
I think that the differences may be good. I think it's good in the
sense that we should have various strategies and various tactics of
operation. I think it's good in the sense that there should always
01:10:00be some groups outside the pale, as it were, who are not controlled
and who are not predictable in terms of what they may do next. But
my experience over the past several months working closely with civil
rights groups is that the rivalry will , will continue and that, you
know, that there will not be any one person who's , who's running the
whole show, and I think it's good.
WARREN: Do you see any tendency, as has been stated to me by Congressman
Powell, that the mere fact of white money getting into the big
organizations or some of the smaller ones has the tendency to draw
their teeth, to modify their basic policies, to soften them?
GALAMISON: I think that this is true of any effort, not only the civil
rights effort. I think it's true of the church, I think it's true
of any institution that, "He who pays the piper will call the tune,"
or try to call it, and if he is not able to call the tune, he's going
to stop paying. And I think one of the interesting things about our
struggle here, as people involved in the civil rights effort, although
I don't call myself a civil rights person--I'm, I'm a clergyman doing
what I ought to be doing--is that we have been able to get so little
in the way of funds from people who generally contribute to other
organizations and to other efforts which lie at a distance. That is,
people who have given generously to movements in the South, people who
give generously to major civil rights organizations, people who have
01:12:00supported monetarily, for the most part, the struggle of , of negroes,
have not supported this confrontation that we have waged here in the
City of New York. And I think there are reasons for it.
WARREN: What are those reasons?
GALAMISON: I think that they don't want commit, number one. I think
for the first time in many years, whites in the North are actually
confronted with the problem that they tried to pretend only existed
in the South, and that many whites have been able to call themselves
liberal because they would send money to Mississippi. And if there's
a school integration effort in Alabama, it appears in the newspaper
that the negroes in Alabama are struggling for equality. If there's
a school struggle here in New York City, and the New York City
01:13:00newspapers print that some irresponsible leaders are , are trying
to get publicity, you see, there's , there's a distinction when the
battle gets nearer to home. And I think that the white people in
the North have had to sit back and actually examine themselves and
they don't like what they see, and I think that they are projecting
their anger and their frustration on the people who are making them
face this question. And I think, basically, they have indicated, by
their failure to support financially the efforts, that they're not
particularly in favor of the effort. Now they'll, they'll say, of
course, they're all confused about the school desegregation problem.
Even many of the most liberal white people are confused about this.
But in other areas they will say, "I'm in favor of the objective, but
I'm not in favor of the method," as if there were any other way to gain
the objective apart from the method that's being employed.
WARREN: Switching to the South for a moment, some commentators including
Mr. Evers, Charles Evers, have said that they are optimistic for a
settlement in the South before one in the North; does that make any
sense, that speculation?
GALAMISON: This may be, and some Northerners say this with a sense of
sophistication, but there is a truth in it if the South does not find
ways of evading desegregation and integration as the North has found.
That is, let me say this--(laughs)--there are many tricks and evasions
being exercised constantly in the North to which the South may resort.
That's why it behooves us in the North to clear up these discrepancies
01:15:00as quickly as possible. We owe it to our Southern brethren rather than
pretend that all is well here and, and everything is wrong there.
WARREN: So they can't be exported? James Baldwin, James Baldwin says
that the Southern mob, the gang in the streets of Birmingham or Little
Rock, does not represent the will of the Southern majority.
GALAMISON: This may be true. I would not be in a position to know,
WARREN: (??) Who is, in a position to know?
GALAMISON: Yes. However, a statement like this appears to be predicated
on a feeling that it's the majority of people who get things done and,
of course, this is contrary to truth--(laughs)--and in most instances
01:16:00it's a , a militant minority in any area that decides the direction of
things. And certainly it's a minority of negroes who are deciding the
direction of the civil rights struggle, who are adamant about school
GALAMISON:--who support even the major, major civil rights
organizations. The, this small minority of negro people man the picket
lines or do the sitting-in and what-have-you. They are creating a
rather formidable effect. Well, the same thing is true of the minority
of white people. They are, however, vociferous and however in error
they may be, are certainly creating a, the major impact on our society
at this point. If there is any lesson to be learned from it, it's not
01:17:00only that a minority pe-, of people gets things done, but that people
who straddle the fence and people who don't take a position are not
effective in the movements of a society. But no revolution certainly,
however peaceful or however violent, involves the majority of people.
WARREN: Following this line of thought, we would have the notion of
a majority of white people, say, in Mississippi or the South, who
are uninvolved or have no focus for expressing their opinion, or
are afraid. Over against that would be some massive apathy or lack
of concern among a certain percentage of negroes. Is that a fair
01:18:00description or not, following what you said?
GALAMISON: Yes, I think there are apathetic people on both sides. I
think there are unconcerned people on both sides. I think there are
cowardly people on both sides. I would agree.
WARREN: Let's go back to another topic of pure speculation. Myrdal
says in his book, The American Dilemma, that there could have been
a decent policy for the Reconstruction after the Civil War. Then
he outlines what he would consider a decent policy from '65 on. The
first stipulation is compensation to the ex-slave holders for the
01:19:00Emancipation. Second, expropriation of land for settling the freedmen,
but payment to the ex-landholders. Three, the sale of such land to
the freedman on a very small rate and amortized over a period of years.
Those are the first three elements. I would like to know how you
would respond to those three proposals. Not whether they would have
worked or not. Let's assume they would have worked, would have helped
matters. Let us say, let us assume that. What would you , assuming
they would have worked, would have helped matters, that we'd be over
some of the humps that we are not over yet in the South and elsewhere,
would you still object to any of them?
GALAMISON: I wouldn't object to any of them. I, I think that they would
01:20:00have been helpful programs to the plight of the negro at that juncture.
They would not, however--had all three been affected--spoken to the
basic problem in which the negro found himself which made this kind
of program impossible, that is the recognition of the negro as a human
being. You see, the difference between other institutions of slavery
and the American institution of slavery is that in no other instance,
to my best knowledge, was a slave actually dehumanized and deprived of
the image of being human, so that in other instances in history when
01:21:00slaves were freed they became people like everyone else. In America
this was not true. Apparently in order to justify slavery, the early
Americans found it necessary to dehumanize and completely emasculate
the negro so that even after he was freed he was not recognized as
a human being, and his efforts even in court to gain rights as a
human being met with failure. For example, in the Plessey v Ferguson
decision, it was adjudicated that no negro had rights that a white
person was bound to respect, and we are living in the backwash of this
concept today. So that no matter what we had given the negro, I don't
01:22:00think it would have brought an ultimate resolution to his problem
unless we had also revised our propagandized concept of the negro.
WARREN: You wouldn't have felt any resentment at the notion
of compensating the slaveholders, the ex-slaveholders for the
Emancipation, this, as an affront to your dignity as a negro? This ex
post facto recognition of slavery, of slavery as property holding?
GALAMISON: Oh, no, I would not object, have objected to his being
compensated for the years that he spent as a slave. I think--
WARREN:--no, I, I mean a slaveholder being compensated for the price of
the slave who has now been turned into a freedman.
GALAMISON: Oh, well--
GALAMISON: Yes. Yes. Well, I think Lincoln intended to do this
and proposed it, and it would've been a fulfilled intention had not
the slave masters, many of them, through their participation in the
Revolution , not the Revolution, the Civil War, violated their right
to get these grants from the government. Of, of course, if the slavery
institution were recognized as a moral wrong, then no man should have
been reimbursed for surrendering what he had no right to in the first
place. This intention to even do so was a, a political connivance
based on a hope that the South might somehow be appeased, but it was
not, of course, right.
WARREN: We are up against the problem then, aren't we? If we assume
01:24:00that such a policy would have been of real value, then on one hand
we're recognizing, as you put it, a moral wrong. "Conniving" was your
word, I believe. On the other hand we would be actually advancing the
situation of the negro freedman?
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, it's a dilemma. Maybe there's--(laughs)--there's
something in it--
WARREN:--it's a dilemma all right.
GALAMISON: Yeah, to be said for both sides. That is, if the nation
sanctioned the slavery institution at the outset and people invested
their money in the slavery institution, and reimbursement would have
01:25:00quietly ended the thing. Of course, money would maybe have been a
small price to get rid of the slavery institution, and also appeased
those who had been deprived of slaves. I mean there's something to be
said for that fact, but my, my whole argument is that if this nation
had taken a strong position in the beginning, which it never did--
WARREN: What kind? What--
GALAMISON:--at the time of the Civil War, if it hadn't , if we hadn't
taken such a quasi position, such an appeasing position towards the
South, and if we had resolved this problem when we fought it out, that
we would not be in this predicament today. You see, President Lincoln
was not at all as much in favor of emancipating slaves as he was in
01:26:00keeping the, the nation together. And he said in essence that if
to maintain the--the unity of the country he had to free the slaves,
he would free them. If it, if it meant he had to keep the slave, he
would, he would keep the institution of slavery. So this was not an
altogether a, a moral decision on his part. But the North was ready
to make any concessions to the South, even in terms of slavery. It
was only that the South felt driven to the point that nothing the North
could do would appease them, that the South was driven to the brink
of, of the Civil War, as it were. But certainly there was no great
emphasis on morality here, or no great emphasis on the, the, the rights
of negro people. The, the whole thing was a kind of freak which grew
01:27:00out of circumstances that nobody had, had anticipated.
WARREN: That is, the Emancipation was an historical accident then, is
that the idea?
GALAMISON: I would call it that. It was an historical accident. Yes,
it was that that almost nobody could foresee. In fact, Frederick
Douglass spells out in his autobiography his despair, his absolute
and abject despair, after the hanging of John Brown at Harper's Ferry,
that the negro problem in this country, the slavery problem would be
resolved. And the Civil War to him was as much an amazement as, as
it was to anybody because it was something that could not be foreseen.
But through this peculiar convergence of circumstances when the, the
North realized that as long as the South had free labor and a slave
01:28:00institution to help the South support its war, that the North decided
that the negro had to be involved in the war and began to move to the
point where they recruited free negroes even from the slavery areas of
the South to help fight for their own freedom.
WARREN: Against the will of the top brass of the Federal army, of course.
GALAMISON: Oh, yes. There were many problems in the army of, there
were many instances when the negro was first involved in the army where
the negro was relegated to the worst and most subservient positions,
and only after much protest on the part of some negroes like Frederick
Douglass, and only after some white people like General Grant put their
foot down, did the negro find himself designated to a station of any
01:29:00stature in the, in the army.
WARREN: Your remark about the , the Emancipation being an accident
relates to a theory of all negro gains in this country up to the
present, not including the present, that negro gains by and large have
been a byproduct of a general historical situation. But the present
situation is different. It is not a byproduct. It is created by the
negro will to create it. Does this make any sense?
GALAMISON: I think I'd be inclined to agree with the premise that the
negro gains have basically been a byproduct, but I would carry the
premise straight through. I think even the negro gains in America
currently have been pretty much due to byproduct, you know, have
01:30:00been pretty much a byproduct of what is transpiring in the world. I
think the , the rise of the black nations in Africa to positions of
independence and freedom, the feeling in Asia against America because
of America's treatment of negro people, the widespread knowledge of the
, the heinousness of race relations in our country, the , the threat of
, of communism and our effort to maintain on our side the , the black
nations and the yellow nations of the world against the communist camp,
all these have been, I think, factors in creating an atmosphere in
which the negro could carry on this struggle.
WARREN: Do you detect a change in the atmosphere, the general
01:31:00atmosphere, say, attitudes of the, of the white society towards
legitimate aspirations and moral claims of the negroes, some actual
change of attitude or not, in your time?
GALAMISON: Yes, I think there's been a decided change perceptible in
many areas. It's only since I've been an adult, for example, that
these public service commercials were played on radio and television
of, in-, invoking people to a concept of brotherhood and exhorting
people against feelings of prejudice and discrimination against other
people. Not only so, there have been many other developments which
01:32:00have created a , a change of attitude reflected in the , in the daily
press, reflected in the kinds of , of programming one sees on television
and hears on the radio today which are race relations stories spelled
out in , in a race relations context. There are in our time, too.
Yeah, well, let me put it this way. Nearly every pronouncement of
church and government today bears the words, "Without regard to race,
religion, color, national origin." In other words, there is a, a
01:33:00growing atmosphere in which hatred and discrimination and prejudice are
becoming less popular, let me put it that way. And it's just evident
in, in so many areas that, you know, I can very easily see attitudinal
differences today as over against when I was a, a boy growing up.
WARREN: How much optimism does this give you in considering the whole
GALAMISON: Let me say I really don't know, and let me place my
agnosticism over against what I understand to be the pessimism of the
01:34:00most rabid racist in the South. (laughs) That is, my understanding
is that even the rabid racist in the South feels that the dawn must
inevitably break and that the negro must achieve full equality here,
and that the most he is doing with his activities is procrastinating
and holding back the inevitable. (laughs) Now this is the way
he feels. I am not sure I feel this way. I take the position
that I don't know, and that my struggle in the school effort is a
confrontation that I am trying to put America to the test so that I can
learn for myself whether those who, you know, advocate isolation and
separation are right, or whether those who advocate the idealisms of
01:35:00democracy are right.
WARREN: This is the end of tape 3 of the conversation with Reverend
[Tape 3 ends; tape 4 begins.]
WARREN: Tape 4, Reverend Galamison, proceed. Perhaps the problem in
one, at one level at an early phase anyway, is not the matter of the
extirpation of prejudice, racial prejudice, but a matter of confronting
it and deciding what to do about it in the individual or in society.
Does that approach seem to wash?
GALAMISON: Yes. There's no doubt but that it will take some time for
01:36:00people to be rid of their prejudices. That is, I, I get the feeling
sometimes that the best antidote for prejudice is experience and,
unfortunately, the people who have the prejudice close the door against
the kind of experience that might rescue them from these feelings.
There were some studies in the fall of 1963 by a , two, at least, of
the national magazines which illustrated beyond a doubt that people
who had had contact with negroes had much healthier feelings toward
negroes in terms of jobs and housing and what have you, than white
people who had never had such contact. So, apparently, in order to
be rid of the fear and the irrationality, one has to somehow take the
lion by the tail or face the ghost, as it were, to see how unrealistic
01:37:00these feelings are. But like the people who most need to go to the
psychiatrist, the person who most needs to get rid of the prejudices is
the least likely to avail himself of such an opportunity.
WARREN: And what about the fact, the contact in the South with the
negro? There we have in some aspects of life a very massive contact, so
mere contact would not,
GALAMISON: Oh, no, not mere contact. It , it must be contact on an
equal basis, on a man-to-man basis, not on a master-slave basis or on a
paternalistic basis, which is , which are the only circumstances under
which many white people have a deal with negroes even in the North.
I'm, I'm glad you pointed that out because this is certainly vital
to the whole question. But the point that I want to make here is that
negro children and negro people generally should not wait till white
01:38:00people develop healthy attitudes towards negroes. Therefore, prior
perhaps to the eradication of prejudices, we want the eradication of
discrimination. There is a difference. Discrimination is the denial
of the right to have, and prejudice may be the denial of the right
to, to be, as it were, let me put it that way. Because white people
entertain these feelings, which admittedly are wrong and unhealthy,
this is no reason why negroes should be deprived of jobs and housing
and, and other things which are fundamental to being a human being.
WARREN: What about, what about the matter of the negro prejudice against
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, of course, prejudice isn't good because it's
01:39:00prejudice against whites or wrong because it's prejudice against
negroes. Anywhere prejudice exists it's wrong, and as I pointed out
earlier in the interview, not only is racial prejudice wrong, class
prejudice is wrong, cultural prejudice is wrong, and these feelings
must be outgrown no matter who entertains them.
WARREN: What are the responsibilities or obligations of the negro,
whoever that hypothetical negro is, you know, the negro, toward
the achieving of a society without prejudice or certainly without
discrimination, and with a , a workable integration? What are his
GALAMISON: The negro has a responsibility majorly at this point to fight
for the eradication of these external circumstances which oppress him,
which victimize him, and which create many negroes in the society who,
by virtue of the structure of the society, fail or fall. Now I read
these criticisms in the newspaper and in magazines and other propaganda
areas of white people who talk about the number of negroes who commit
crime and who talk about every , and who exaggerate, really, every
01:41:00anti-social act, you know, in which a negro might be involved and
which is exposed by the newspaper. Now this gives people a false kind
of security in their wrong and in their maltreatment of people. That
is, people allow the existence of circumstances which create social
failures, and then they point to the social failures and say, "There,
see what kind of person you are." People will deny negroes the right to
survive as human beings and yet criticize negroes and further deprive
them of the right of being human beings because of what some of these
external circumstances have done. Now, don't misunderstand me. Some
negroes rise above these circumstances. But this does not justify
01:42:00the existence of the circumstances, and far more negroes are falling
victim. And people who criticize this out of context just happen to
be people who have no comprehension of the cultural and the social and
the economic and historic forces which tend to make up all people and
, and help create the kind of people that we find on , on the American
scene. I have said, for example, about the Bedford-Stuyvesant area
of Brooklyn, which comes under constant criticism in terms of , well,
any time a negro gets arrested or any time, anything happens, it's
dramatized and caricatured by the press. I've said that we couldn't
have a community with this kind of behavior if there weren't people
outside it who were far worse than the people inside it. And were
01:43:00there time I would go on and catalog an observation like this. But
there is this tendency always, I think, among human beings to overlook
and evade injustice, and then to criticize or find satisfaction in the
products of the injustice.
WARREN: Not long ago I had Dr. King--the last time I've had him--and he
wound up his speech at Bridgeport with a, "Be the best street sweeper,"
see, that line, something very much like the self-improvement line,
"Be the best , such a street sweeper that the angels in heaven lean
over," and so forth. This is to a three quarter or five sixth negro
audiences, of course, but he was recognizing one kind of responsibility
01:44:00in the whole question of civil rights and in the question of the negro
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, I, of course, do not disagree with this philosophy
that everybody ought to be encouraged to be the best of whatever he
is. However, I think that we as negroes have spent far too much time
trying to deserve approval; that is, trying to deserve love. (laughs)
Now, as a Protestant clergyman who believes in grace--(laughs)--I
don't believe anybody can deserve love, and we run the gamut in our
contentions about this. That is, there are some of us who believe that
negroes should dress a certain way and, and deport themselves a certain
01:45:00way and, and talk a certain way, and then white people will open up
all the doors. Well, this is not true. There are just as many white
people who resent a cultured, comparable, well-deported negro who, as
those who resent a, a disheveled, uncultured negro, you see. Or there
are some who prefer an unlettered negro to a lettered one. But I think
as long as we operate on this basis that we must do something in order
to be equal, we're operating on a fallacious basis. You, you know, we
--we are people apart, everybody is a person apart from these external
values that man might place on another man. That is, a man on relief
is , is , is still a person apart from the fact that he's on relief, or
a man who has no education is a , is a person in spite of the fact that
01:46:00he may not have an education. And I think that we are operating on a
very superficial standard of values, and, and that we fall victim to a
very fallacious way of, of thinking when we contend that the, the right
of the negro to be treated as a person and the right of the negro to
enjoy equality depends on something that the negro should do.
WARREN: One more question; a tough one, yes. One more question and
then we can spring ourselves. In this obligation, suppose a young man,
nineteen-years-old, eighteen-years-old, young negro in school or, or
university discovers he's a dedicated physicist, a great talent, what
01:47:00should he do? Stay with, in his laboratory or go on the picket line?
GALAMISON: I think he should try to do both, that we don't live in a
vacuum, and our most isolated interests are subject ultimately to the
ebb and flow of the social tide here in the United States. My feeling
about the whole social movement is that nobody is , is innocent, for
example, that nobody is a bystander and that nobody has a right not to
be involved in some way or another. This would apply to both whites
and negroes, and it would apply to an aspiring talented physicist as
well as to the pupil who flunks out of school.
WARREN: Well, suppose he's a medical student, and six months on the
01:48:00picket lines flunks him out of school. Take an extreme case.
GALAMISON: Yes. Well, this is a determination that an individual
exercising his good judgment must make for himself. That is, one is
not called upon, I don't believe, to destroy some great good or some
effectiveness that he might be able to give society if he develops his
aspirations for a , a momentary thing. But on the other hand, I don't
, I don't think a , a man has a right to hide from the social struggle
by deluding himself that he one day is going to be able to make a
01:49:00contribution that he would not be able to make if he had let the social
struggle go by. My, my experience has been that the people who don't
get in the struggle when it's going on, when they get where they're
going, don't get in it either, that only an ingrained selfishness
allows a man to remain aloof of, from the problems of his time and not
WARREN: End, end, end, end, end, end.
[Tape 4 ends.]
[End of interview.]