Partial Transcript: --I don't exhaust you too much at one time.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the concept of "separate but equal" in higher education during segregation. He talks about the prominently white and black universities that existed at the time of the interview and explores the question of justification for those schools to be prominently black or white.
Keywords: Anti-slavery movement; Baptists; Bellarmine University; Black schools; Brown University; Catholics; Centre College; Church schools; Churches; Contributions; Ford Foundation; Hand out; Harvard University; Inflation; Leadership ability; Necessity; Northern churches; Opportunity; Private schools; Privileges; Professors; Public schools; Scholarships; Schools; Shoes; Socialists; Spalding College; Students; Unemployment rate; Union College; University of Richmond; Vanderbilt University; Virginia Union University; White northern teachers; White people; Yale University; Yankees
Subjects: College integration; Education; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997--Interviews; Religion; Segregation in education.; Segregation in higher education.
Partial Transcript: What I'm asking is do you think there's a place in our society today for any institutions that are predominantly--and I--I don't mean legally, but predominantly because of choice--either black or white or red or yellow or whatever--or green.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the prejudices and stigmas that come with being part of a predominantly black institution. He talks about how white people degrade the accomplishments of African Americans because they graduated from a predominantly black institution, as well as limit the amount of success they can achieve when they are at a predominantly white institution. He brings up specific examples, such as his own experience at the University of Michigan when the highest grade a professor would give him was a 'C' because "that's a good mark" for a black student.
Keywords: "Totally black experience"; Banks; Byron White; Churches; Columbia University; Concepts; Connotations; Continental National Bank; Dartmouth College; Decisions; Direction; Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois; Eloquent English; Fisk University; George Wright; Howard Law School; Inferiority; Institutions; Medical schools; Philosophy; Prejudices; Quality; Reputations; Schools; Sports writers; Supervision; Thurgood Marshall; Traditions; University of Michigan; Yale University
Subjects: African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Segregation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997--Interviews; Race discrimination.; Segregation in education.; Segregation in higher education.; Segregation.
Partial Transcript: Well, I've talked a lot about Russia in my classes.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the housing demonstrations that occurred in Louisville, Kentucky, during which he met Martin Luther King Jr. He discusses King's advice for the demonstrations, as well as how King came to be thought of as a civil rights leader.
Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; Accommodations; Anchorage; Beneficiary of circumstance; Black leaders; Board of education; Bullets; Charisma; Civil rights; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Energy; Ghetto; Housing demonstrations; Human rights; Kentucky State University; Martyrdom; Mohandas Gandhi; Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National leaders; Real estate; Rosa Parks; Russia; Subdivisions; Violence
Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; African Americans--Housing.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Civil rights movements--United States; Discrimination in housing.; Discrimination.; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997--Interviews; King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1929-1968; Leadership.; Neighborhoods.; Race discrimination.
Partial Transcript: D-do you think his, his martyrdom was inevitable?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses different roles that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP played in the lives of people during the civil rights movement.
Keywords: Benjamin Hooks; Church services; Dr. Maurice Rabb; History; Martyrdom; Mockery; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Negro spirituals; Preachers; Reckless; Roy Wilkins; Slave owners; Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); Speeches; Thurgood Marshall; W. E. B. Du Bois; Walter White
Subjects: African American leadership; African Americans--Civil rights; African Americans--Social conditions.; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997--Interviews; King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1929-1968; Race relations--Kentucky; Religion; Slavery--United States.
Partial Transcript: That's what the communists said about religion in the first place. Said it's just an opiate of the--o-of the people.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses how he views the influence that religion has on people's lives as well as his struggles with depression and keeping up his mental health in his effort to fight for civil rights.
Keywords: Arthritis; Communists; Depression; Encouragement; Energy; Family; First National Bank; Pleasures; Problems; Satisfaction; Unemployment
Subjects: African Americans--Religion.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Communism.; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997--Interviews; Mental health.; Race relations--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: Oh, I, uh, I--I--I have reduced, uh, this almost to, uh--my philosophy almost to physics, terms of physics, scientifically.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses his impressions of Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader, as well as talks about his brother-in-law being the preacher at the same Dexter Avenue Baptist Church as that King preached at.
Keywords: A. D. King; A. D. Williams King; Arnold E. Gregory; Dexter Avenue Baptist Church; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Housing demonstrations; Impressions; Mohandas Gandhi; Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; Resources; Rosa Parks; Spokesman; Superintendents
Subjects: African American leadership; King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1929-1968; Louisville (Ky.); Protest movements.; Teachers
HALL: --I don't exhaust you too much at one time. We were talking about the, uh,the, uh, white--
JOHNSON: --yeah the white--
HALL: --northern teachers who came down.
JOHNSON: Um, this, this fellow for whom I'm named, uh, was so ostracized that hecouldn't buy--I think I told you the other day--he couldn't buy a pair of shoes out in town. The white people would not let him come in to buy a tie. "The damn yankee! Go home! You're not wanted in, in, inside the city of Nashville! Get out!" Now here was a man who graduated from Brown University with all sorts of degrees and had money enough to buy out the store down there and here he was giving away his life for the education of these Negroes. Just--just--how can--how could I be anything but a socialist with the tradition that I w--I--here's a man got mo--his--his people, rich, coming down South taking all 00:01:00that ki--and--and no wonder he could--he could say, "I don't work for pay. I work for the love of it. Just the love of it. With no pay attached." The poor little school didn't have but--but, uh, so much. And when he did get the little pay that the school gave him, on Sunday morning after--he would endorse his check and put it in the collection plate for the little church there on the campus. So he was working for nothing and taking all this indignity.
HALL: Are these schools still--uh, now which ones are still, uh, in existence?
HALL: Virginia Union is still in existence.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, Virginia Union is going over big right now.
HALL: Now is it--is--it is integrated now?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah.
HALL: But it is still predominantly--
JOHNSON: Predominantly a black school. And, uh, perhaps, uh, most of the, uh,most of the professors at all these places, uh--most of the personnel, administrative and professional--I mean and professorial are blacks now.
HALL: Because the whites--00:02:00
JOHNSON: The whites have taken--yeah, the whites have taken the attitude that,uh, well, this generation, this far away from the anti-slavery movement, from the freedom, uh, freedom bureau bunch, and the original, uh, founding of these colleges and, uh--it's so far away, uh, that let the eduated young blacks--
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: --the quality. Uh--(clears throat, sniffs)--are these schools stillsupported by northern churches, or are they--
HALL: --independent now?--
JOHNSON: --yeah. Schooling, schooling is, is--as, as you know from Bellarminethat is private school, private schools are taking a beating now, in, in this day with all the inflation and with people, uh, sort of tightening up on their, uh, contributions. Uh, most of these schools never, never got to the place to 00:03:00establish great endowment funds like, uh, like, the big established places, Harvard, Yale, and whatnot. Those schools would never--
HALL: --------- (??)--
JOHNSON: ----------(??) they, they will never--(Hall sniffs)--they will neverdry up because, uh, the--their endowment will keep them going forever, as long as there is, uh, an ever. But, uh, these, uh, these schools are taking a beating right in through here because inflation is--(Hall sniffs)--is, is making it more expensive to operate the schools, and, uh, with the terrible unemployment rate in the black community, the students are hardly able to pay anything. And I expect three-fourths of the students that go to these schools are on some sort of scholarship. Well, the schools are just hard-pressed to--(Hall sniffs)--to 00:04:00balance their budgets. And so, um--(Hall clears throat)--once in a while, the Ford Foundation will bail out this school, and some other foundation will bail out this school, and they keep going from year to year. Uh--(Hall coughs)--I think they call it the hand-to-mouth, uh, pro-, uh, process. And they--they're just about ready to fold up every year and still when September comes, here they are--
JOHNSON: --opened up just as big and, and grandiose as ever and, and, andsomehow, they keep going.
HALL: Do you still--[phone rings]--
HALL: --I was going to ask if you still--
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: --do you, do see any purpose in these predominantly black colleges to--in 1979?
JOHNSON: I'm wrestling with that question--(Hall sniffs)--now. I'm wrestlingwith it. I don't know. I don't know what to say of them.
HALL: --had a purpose at one time.
JOHNSON: Oh, there's no question about it. When, when the South would not00:05:00educate, uh--(Hall sniffs)--their, their--in their public schools, when the South would not educate the black people with the same kind of education that they would educate their white children, then we have to have this.
JOHNSON: As a matter of fact, my people with all that cultural, classicalbackground--(Hall sniffs)--they just, uh, despise the makeshift stuff that the southern--(Hall sniffs)--legislators provided in the state schools for black people. So, uh, there was no question about it. Uh, in order to get a bunch of educated people with the leadership ability, they had to have these, these, uh, church schools. Now--(Hall sniffs)--I can remember at, uh, Richmond, over on one 00:06:00side of town was my school, Virginia Union, over on another side was the University of Richmond, both of them very good schools. But the white people did not want the students from the univer--from Virginia Union coming on the campus over there--over here. They always said, "You've got your school, you've got one just as good as ours, what do you want over here? What do you want, uh--or what do are you doing over here?" (Hall sniffs) And you couldn't say, "I have a right to come here." (Hall sniffs) And they would sometimes give some, some little handout to the Negro college to make it even better than it was so that there would be less opportunity, less reason, less rationale for black students to 00:07:00come over here. You've got yours, it's as good as ours, what are you doing over here?
HALL: Well, you, you mean the state would sometimes do that because Universityof Richmond is a private--is a Baptist school.
JOHNSON: I know. It's--both of them private schools--
JOHNSON: --but even so.
HALL: Sometimes Rich--the University of Richmond would, would, would give, wouldhelp out the--
JOHNSON: --would, would, would do--
HALL: --Virginia Union?
JOHNSON: --sometimes lend us a professor--(Hall sniffs)--and all that--
JOHNSON: --anything like that, anything to help the school as long as you keepthe blacks over there on that side of town.
JOHNSON: Don't let them come over here on campus. You--it, it, it would be aperfect embarrassment to us. Don't ever come over here to use our libraries, anything, nothing, don't come over here, don't come on the campus. Well, uh, uh, if you--I said--(Hall sniffs)--uh, if you, if you don't limit all those private schools--you said Baptist, if, uh--maybe they're predominantly, uh, in a sort of foundation or whatnot. Uh--
HALL: --(sniffs)--it's not public, you know, in other words.
JOHNSON: But, but if you're white--(Hall sniffs)--I don't think they'll put you00:08:00out if you were, were Catholic.
HALL: Oh no, no.
JOHNSON: But if you're black, they put you out--
JOHNSON: --I don't care if you're Baptist.
JOHNSON: You see the point?
JOHNSON: It's a matter of, of, of race. So if, if any white--(Hallsniffs)--student has a right, has a privilege if not a right to apply and matriculate at the University of Richmond, why do you draw the line on me because I happen not be white?
JOHNSON: So that's, that's one. Um--
HALL: --but it's--
JOHNSON: --but, but--
HALL: --it's a different ballgame now though.
JOHNSON: Yeah. But now--(Hall sniffs)--I--what I--look, I started--(Hall clearsthroat)--agonizing with that question you just asked as to whether the present-day school, present--whether there's a place for this, this mission school now. [car passes by] Uh, I've been agonizing with it for more than twenty-five years. I first started with this idea that the better I make my 00:09:00school, Virginia Union or any of the rest of these, Fisk or Talladega, Morehouse, Atlanta University, the more I--the better I make them, the more I tear down the reason of necessity for getting into the white school. If it's so good, why leave it? So then the better I make a segregated the thing, the more I get tied down with segregation.
HALL: Except that, they aren't segregated though. I mean you, you did have white students--
JOHNSON: --well, now, I said twenty-five years ago they were.
HALL: Oh, oh yes.
JOHNSON: White people wouldn't go to these schools.
JOHNSON: Now, over the twenty-five years, I have sort of, uh, adjusted my00:10:00thinking to the concept that now, they are encouraging white people to go to these schools.
HALL: I guess what I'm asking is do you see--
JOHNSON: --and, and, and, and on that basis--look, wait a minute--if some whitesare going then evidently they are finding--(Hall sniffs)--that they have something good to offer or else they wouldn't waste their time going to a second-rate school.
JOHNSON: They find that they are first-rate schools--
JOHNSON: --and therefore, they don't lose anything by going to them.
JOHNSON: Now, on that basis, maybe in the educational concept that we have inthis country as a whole, that private schools are free to experiment on a lot of things that the public school can't do--
JOHNSON: --therefore, we must have a Bellarmine--
JOHNSON: --a, a, a Spalding College--
JOHNSON: --uh, a Union College, a Centre College--00:11:00
JOHNSON: Why not a Virginia Union?
HALL: Um-hm. Um-hm.
JOHNSON: Why not a Virginia Union? Now, in that concept, yes--(Hallsniffs)--there is a place for it, but let's don't make it a place for blacks only.
HALL: Yeah, becau--because all these other schools that you've named arepredominantly white--
JOHNSON: --yeah, which is--
HALL: --so in a pluralistic society, should you not therefore have someinstitutions that are predominantly black so the person has a choice? If a person--if a black person--
JOHNSON: --I, I, I have this feeling, I have this--(Hall sniffs)--feeling thatrace--(Hall sniffs)--mores if not prejudice, which perhaps are the same thing by context, in this context. Race mores--(Hall sniffs)--are so ingrained that if you label it black--[car passes by]--you almost condemn it to -------(??) to a, 00:12:00a concept. (Hall sniffs) It maybe as--(Hall sniffs)--as excellent as anything else, but the concept that we have carried in our mind--anything black is inferior, and for that reason, I don't want anything else black, all black.
HALL: I don't mean all black, but, but now what I'm asking--
JOHNSON: --predominantly black.
HALL: Okay. What I'm asking then, and maybe you've just answered it--(Hallsniffs)--but I don't--I don't think you have. What I'm asking is do you think there's a place in our society today for any institutions that are predominantly--and I, I don't mean legally but predominantly because of choice either black or white or red or yellow or whatever or green? Take the church for 00:13:00instance, most people in Louisville go to what are, for all practical purposes, segregated churches or at least predominantly black or predominantly white churches. Do you think that's, uh, all right, or is that--(Hall sniffs)--counter-democratic--(Hall sniffs)--counter-egalitarian? (Hall sniffs)
JOHNSON: It's, uh, it's, uh--(Hall sniffs)--you've brought it in here, uh,therefore--(Hall sniffs)--
HALL: --you can think about it if you want to--
JOHNSON: --oh no, no, no, it's--(Hall sniffs)--it's, uh, it's part of the total,total, uh, concept of--(Hall clears throat)--race relations, the church and the school, bring it in very quickly, uh, in connection with the church. 00:14:00
HALL: Got black newspapers--
JOHNSON: I mean with--
HALL: --black banks--
JOHNSON: --in connection with the schools.
HALL: --is there a place for those things?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Um-hm.
HALL: I mean is there a place for--
HALL: --those things?--
JOHNSON: --but, uh, I, I, I, I still work on the established philosophy. Andwhat's wrong with the--this nice little bank that we've started up here, the Continental National Bank, uh, the biggest thing we've got to fight is getting the general idea over that it's a black bank. Although, it's--(Hall sniffs)--under, under the, uh, general supervision, uh, direction, and, and whatnot of a lot of black people. But we must not let it become a black bank because then somehow just to call it a black bank is going to make somebody with 00:15:00a million dollars think, "I would like, I would like to put it down there, but, but, but, uh, it won't be as safe as it would be in a white bank."
HALL: (laughs) Yeah.
JOHNSON: And, and, and as long as you got that connotation, uh, he graduated, hegraduated from a law school, but you understand, that was the black law school.
JOHNSON: He graduated from Howard. He--oh, he's a good, he's a good physician,but he didn't graduate from Michigan. He graduated from, uh--(Hall sniffs)--Meharry, you know? Do you understand? And then, uh, you know, with an asterisk down at the bottom of the page, you see a black school. Now--now why--why tag him? (Hall sniffs) And, and, and the same thing about, uh, there's a lot of, uh, fuss being carried on in the daily paper, uh, about, uh, an article that one of the sportswriters wrote, and then Schulman jumps on the 00:16:00sportswriter for writing it about, uh, this, uh, predominantly, uh, black college down there in Mississippi that went up and played such a good game, and, and, uh, Schulman says that the writer was showing his prejudice by saying, "You know, they're damn good for, for a black college."
HALL: (laughs) Yeah.
JOHNSON: Hell--Schulman said, "Hell, they're damned good for any kind of a college."
JOHNSON: "But why do you have to put in the footnote"--
JOHNSON: --"all blacks?" So, so let's, let's--if, if we could just get peopleto, to accept the physician who graduated from a black coll--black medical school--
JOHNSON: --uh, or a lawyer. Uh, can, can they get over the fact that ThurgoodMarshall is on the Supreme Court, but he didn't graduate from a white law school? I wonder, I wonder if they ever hold, uh--kind of have a little reservation when he hands down his decision that, you know, he doesn't know what 00:17:00law is. He graduated from, a, uh--(Hall blows nose)--black law school. Now, Byron White graduated from a white law school--(Hall sniffs)--I wonder if, wonder if, if there's any better decision, if, if there's a finer grade of decision from the black school law school grad and Byron White, Byron, Byron White who, who graduated from a white school? I don't know. And how would you ever prove it--h, how, how--(Hall sniffs)--can you ever prove that you're on level as long as there's a connotation that, uh, "Oh, he's a nice fellow." What did the professor tell me up there at the University of Michigan even up there? One of them wanted to, wanted to chew the fat with me. I had the same, the same answers on my paper as the white boy had, but he said, "But you see, C is as good as a colored man can make in my class."
JOHNSON: "I don't care what you put on your paper. C, that's a good mark for,for a Negro." 00:18:00
JOHNSON: "C, well that's, that's, that's tops for a Negro." Huh, are you goingto say that same thing about--(Hall sniffs)--about my college? My college is good for Negro colleges.
HALL: But aren't those--but those concepts of inferiority because they--the, theschool is black or the medical school is black or the bank is black, aren't those concepts changing?
JOHNSON: Yeah, they've got to change.
HALL: Well the--well the new--
JOHNSON: --but they're only going to change when enough white people go overthere and find out that, uh, to, to get out of Meharry Medical School, they, they, they, they, they got to really know some medicine. Or to get out of, uh, Harvard Law School--I mean Howard, Howard, H-o-w-a-r-d--
JOHNSON: --to get out of Howard Law School, you've got to know some law. Andbear this in mind, with that early tradition of trying--here's the, the eastern university professor bringing the eastern university down here to these free people--(Hall sniffs)--with that tradition in mind, remember these young blacks 00:19:00who are running these schools that once were run by white people are trying to hold the line. And they said, "If we lower the standard one bit from what these white teachers handed it over to us, if we lower the standard, then we will be proving that a black school isn't as good--(Hall sniffs)--as a white school." So for that reason what we've got to do is get some white students to go to these schools and see if they're going to catch just as much hell at, at, at, at, uh, Morehouse as they would if they'd gone to one of these white schools. And so therefore, the quality of stuff is there, but we've got to get also, the reputation. We've got to establish--(Hall sniffs)--in the minds of white people that, uh, it's a pretty good school. 00:20:00
HALL: Is that being done though? It seems to me it is.
JOHNSON: I think so.
HALL: And, and, and it--
JOHNSON: --I think so--
HALL: --seem to me--
JOHNSON: --I think all the students who have gone to, to, uh, any one of theseNegro colleges comes away with a--with his eyes open, and he tries to get over. It maybe in self-defense. Uh, as a ma--as a matter of fact, after you spent four years at Fisk University as a white student, uh--(Hall sniffs)--i-, i-, it--it's too late now to spend another four years in the white school to, to, to say that you--
HALL: --(laughs)--or do the graduate s--
JOHNSON: --graduated from a first-rate school.
JOHNSON: So you--in self-defense, you've got to say it's a first-rate--------(??). But, uh, I think, I think in all fairness, they will readily admit that it's very good.
HALL: The reason I asked the question and this is--we're going to have tostop--------(??). But the reason I asked the question, remember the night that, uh, George Wright spoke t--at the Links? I was there, and you were there. (Hall sniffs) Somebody, and I don't, I don't know who it was, somebody back of that room-- 00:21:00
HALL: --with--with the question and answer period said, "Can't you justify theblack church on the basis of this is where--(Hall sniffs)--a black person can have--can go at least once a week and have"--what he--what this man called--"a totally black experience?"
JOHNSON: Yeah, I--that is--
HALL: --I mean that, that was an interesting point of view--
JOHNSON: --there's a lot, there's a lot to that. It's not only the church.There's a--(Hall blows nose)--have you been to the Palm Room?
HALL: No, but I've heard of it--
JOHNSON: --Joe's Palm Room--
HALL: --Joe's Palm Room.
JOHNSON: Well, now--(Hall sniffs)--sometimes, sometimes, you just want to get,get off to yourself and let your hair down. And, and I hate to, I hate to use this language, I hate to use the word "nigger," I hate it. It, it--it's been 00:22:00drilled into my head, to, to resent it. But there are some blacks that just say, "Oh, what the hell, come on, niggers, let's get together and have a ball. Shut the white man out and just let him go on back over on the other side of town, and let's just get down here and let our hair down. Just go on and say, 'I ain't gonna do this,' and, and talk about this and that, all, and let this white man's vaunted concept of elegant English go to hell. Let's just go on--(Hall laughs)--and talk insiders' talk. Let's just go on and be ourselves," and some people are just so relieved. And but, uh--(Hall sniffs)--there again, I get back to, oh, uh, man here, uh--Phillips--professor--Dr. Phillips, historian--one of his nasty statements that he said at Columbia University when my uncle was, uh, 00:23:00up there for a lecture that he was going to give, he, he decided that he'd go over and listen to him, to Dr. Phillips give this lecture. He came from Yale down to, to conduct several lectures and so he went there. And he said, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not saying that the black man doesn't have some, some very capable exponents." He said, "Now, now, take for instance the, the, the, the famous Dr. Edward E. B. Du Bois." He says, "He is by all means cultured, refined, well trained, well educated. He is a very keen thinker, and frankly, I don't know whether I would choose to enter into a debate with him on any subject, not before a public forum." He says, "However, even among the most 00:24:00cultured and refined of the black race, they wear the habiliments of civilization loosely." (Hall sniffs) "They, they can come out one evening in their tails, their standing collars, and their stiff shirts, and they have all the elegance of a refined society, the manners of elegance--(Hall sniffs)--for an evening, but they're never so relieved as when they get home and walk to their closets and take the habiliments of civilization off and hang them in the-------(??) and then go back to their savagery. And then there, then you find 00:25:00where they actually are." He said, "And that goes for Dr. Du Bois."
HALL: But--well, of course, you could make the same statement for all people, Imean, I mean the veneer of civilization may be very, may be very thin, I, I mean if you want to look at it, you know--
JOHNSON: --I haven't seen--
HALL: --in a jaundiced way--
JOHNSON: --I haven't seen, I haven't seen a white man yet in, in, in standingcollar and tails and, and, and highly polished, uh, shoes who didn't re--relish a chance to unbuckle.
JOHNSON: And even the women that I referred to, you know, the black women--
JOHNSON: --but white women, they just enjoy, just enjoy sort of just, justletting loose. I, I, I went to one meeting of the teachers, teachers union back in the days when we had to be very careful for fear the, the establishment would--
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: --a limited amount of time today.00:26:00
JOHNSON: Well, I've talked a lot about Russia in my classes.
JOHNSON: And at times, I've gotten myself in a lot of trouble. (laughs) Theboard of education, they asked me, "Why don't you stick to the facts?" I said, "Well, you put them in the book, and I will." (Hall laughs) A lot of this stuff in the book, they're not fact, and I don't, I don't, I don't--(Hall sniffs)--teach. Uh, when I bring up what's in the book, if it's wrong, I debunk it right on the spot.
HALL: Hmm. So you--------(??)
JOHNSON: --and a lot of--there a lot of stuff about Russia that hasn't been told.
JOHNSON: And, and, and this country doesn't want it told.
MALE 1: I'm sure it's true.
HALL: Yeah. Lyman, could we, uh--since we have a limited amount of time today, Ithink we're still--we're in Virginia. When we, when we stopped off last time--(Johnson clears throat)--we were in Virginia still. Could we interrupt that and maybe talk about--and we, and we probably can't exhaust this subject today, but let's talk briefly at least about some, uh, black leaders that you 00:27:00have known. Could we do that?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah.
HALL: Uh, you've, you've been involved in, uh, human rights or civil rightscauses just about all your life--(sniffs)--officially and unofficially. (sniffs) And, uh, you have, uh--(sniffs)--I'm sure worked with or--(clears throat)--other, other civil rights leaders, in addition to yourself of course. Did you know Martin Luther King?
HALL: You did?
JOHNSON: Knew him personally.
HALL: Ho--how did you--do you remember when you first met King?
JOHNSON: First met King, when he came to Louisville, I don't remember the year.
HALL: Was he already known then--
JOHNSON: --it was, it was in the sixties, oh yes, yes, yes. He's well on, on theway then. And, uh, he was here to help promote a, uh, housing demonstration, 00:28:00which, uh, that in itself would, uh, put it somewhere in the sixties and, uh, maybe, uh, anywhere after '63. Now, the housing demonstrations didn't start until about '65--
HALL: --now what were the housing demonstrations?
JOHNSON: Uh, open housing.
JOHNSON: Uh, Negroes can live out in this West End and, and have almost freedomof choice of any place down here in the West End. But, uh, if you want to get out of this West End, which is becoming more and more a ghetto and has been since 1940 becoming more and more a, a, a place for blacks, if you want to get out of that place, you find it difficult. You--people won't sell you a house out away from down here or, uh, the real estate, uh, concerns, uh, won't, uh, won't 00:29:00lend you the money for, uh, a payment on the place. Um--
HALL: --is that still true, do you think?
JOHNSON: No, it's, uh, lightening up now--
JOHNSON: --after these demonstrations, you see. I'm going back to, to thesixties. Sixty-five, you asked what were these demonstrations, and in '65, the demonstrations were, uh, to open up places and, and actually to demonstrate, to actually show how difficult it is for a black person to get a place, uh--
HALL: --where did blacks live in Louisville, or where could they live shall I say--
JOHNSON: --well, mainly--
HALL: --before '65?--
JOHNSON: --mainly from, uh, from Tenth--or from Sixth Street west to the river.From Algonquin Parkway north to the river. Just this West End. 00:30:00
JOHNSON: That was, that was the pocket there, and they dropped us all in. Now,there's a big batch of us living over on the east side of downtown over near the Clay and Jackson Street. All out in that area, there is a sizeable Negro community.
HALL: Now, were they living there before '65?
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They--
JOHNSON: --up, up around Jackson Junior High School, which is now Meyzeek JuniorHigh School--
JOHNSON: --uh, east of Male High School, uh, a big, a big batch of Negroes. Now,uh, that and this West End were the two places as a whole where Negroes could live.
HALL: But in the county, there are, there are other pockets though?
JOHNSON: Practically nowhere, except out at Newburg.
JOHNSON: Newburg was the main pocket. Uh, there were a few who were beginning tobranch out. There's one place out on--off of Breckinridge Lane, uh, near almost 00:31:00down to Bardstown Road, out in that area. Uh, Nachand Lane, uh, and Greenwich Way, there are some--uh, just one little, little, um, subdivision that, uh, there's some very nice homes out there. It's a little pocket, another little Negro pocket--
HALL: --what about Berrytown?
JOHNSON: Well, Berrytown and Griffytown have been there for ages. They are justoutside of Anchorage. One is on, on one side of Anchorage, and the other is on, on the--this side on, I guess you would say, the north, northeast, and southwest sides of Anchorage. Berrytown and Griffytown, little, uh, communities. Uh, I 00:32:00guess the, the people worked over in Anchorage, but couldn't live in Anchorage and, uh--
HALL: --so, so they were servants--
JOHNSON: --I would-I--
HALL: --most of them?--
JOHNSON: --would say to a--(Hall coughs)--to a large extent, uh, they were, theywere. I, I, I want to be, uh, fair to them. Uh, some of them commuted in town to rather nice jobs and had some--
JOHNSON: --uh, one or two real nice homes out there.
JOHNSON: But, uh, by and large, I, I think the, the, the people worked over inBerrytown--I mean over in, uh, Anchorage and of course were domestic servants. And I think, uh, Anchorage--(coughs)--either tolerated or even better, uh, promoted those two towns, those two, uh, settlements for blacks. Uh, I'm speculating now-- 00:33:00
JOHNSON: --but it would be more likely that their servants would, uh--
JOHNSON: --would get to, to Anchorage a little quicker if they lived right onthe edge of Anchorage--
JOHNSON: --than if they lived over in town.
HALL: Those are pretty old settlements, aren't they? Don't they go back to, uh--(coughs)--
JOHNSON: --just about as old as Anchorage itself--
HALL: --yeah, yeah--
JOHNSON: --and therefore, uh, uh, I, I--I've got to su-, suppose that there's,uh, a, a connecting link between servant and, uh, and, and gentry.
HALL: Um-hm. Well, we were talking about the--(Johnson coughs)--reason thatMartin Luther King came to Louisville was to open up the county--or the city and the county too--
JOHNSON: --well he--
JOHNSON: --the, the movement, uh, in, in Louisville had, had been a progressive,constant plugging away as far back as I can remember. And, of course, it has been--it had been our, uh, local strategy to keep in touch with the national 00:34:00movement and bring in national leaders, uhh, whenever, whenever we wanted to shake up the town, then we'd bring in top timber, and this was one of those cases.
HALL: What, what was--were you in an official capacity at that time with the--
JOHNSON: --oh yeah--
JOHNSON: I've always been--for, for forty years, I've been right in the middleof any of this and, and in an official capacity. I've been a member of the executive board of NAACP local branch, uh, just about forty years, and I've been president of it, uh, four different times.
HALL: So you-all decided to bring in, uh, King at that time to--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah.
HALL: What, what, what did he do when he came here?
JOHNSON: Well, uh--(clears throat)--he gave--he added, uh--he gave them, uh--hehelped, helped to bolster the morale of the local forces. In private, I remember 00:35:00we met down at, uh, Frank Stanley's home, Frank Stanley Sr. who was the editor of the Louisville Weekly Defender.
JOHNSON: Uh, we met down at his home for a little close chit chat with him. So Iguess about twenty of us, uh, so-called Negro leaders who met down at, uh, Stanley's first. He had very, very good accommodations for us, uh, a very, very nice home. Uh, and one set--one, one, one room he called the recreation room incidentally is on the third floor not in the basement. Usually, I'd be saying the basement. This was on the third floor, but we got--we went up the stairs, we climbed -------(??). We got up there, and, uh, the party didn't begin until 00:36:00eleven thirty, and we ran until about three o'clock in the morning. And King was the, uh, was the center person and--
HALL: --what did he do? What, what was it that these--tell you how to organize a demonstration?
JOHNSON: Well, just, uh, it was--
HALL: --or for morale--
JOHNSON: --giving us, uh, just encouraging us not to back down and not to letthe thing get out and, and became a violent situation. Keep it under control, uh, don't back down but, uh, but, uh, but don't water down your, your aspirations at all. Just, just, uh, let the people know where you stand, what you stand for and, and be determined about it, and, uh, and, and know that, uh, not only are the people across the country of goodwill supporting you but, uh, there are people around the world who are supporting you. And just, just, just 00:37:00don't, don't, don't give in, uh, and be intimidated. And his point was to keep, keep the blacks encouraged without getting impetuous and, uh, getting, uh, uh, despondent and think things are hopeless and go out and commit rash acts of vandalism, uh--(Hall clears throat)--rowdyism, uh, and, and, and, uh, violence leading to riots. No, no more Watts. Watts isn't the answer to the equation.
HALL: Do you think that King was the right man for the time to lead, uh, theblacks in the civil rights? 00:38:00
JOHNSON: Oh, I--
JOHNSON: --I, I don't want to get myself in trouble with my fellow blacks. Tome, King was just another one of the leaders, but there are a lot of people who were blinded to his charisma--
JOHNSON: --and fell for him as if he was the messiah--
JOHNSON: --the savior, the, the one and only.
JOHNSON: Well, I don't subscribe to that. We--uh, uh, there, there were otherleaders on the scene-------(??). He was a good orator. Uh, he was a fine, uh, uh--he's good at, uh, marshalling, uh, sentiments and whipping people up into a--an emotional frenzy. Well, I like, I like that to a, to--to a, to a point, 00:39:00but see, I like, uh, Gandhi's philosophy. Gandhi over in, uh, India whom, uh, Martin Luther, uh, patterned his life so much after. (sniffs) Now, um, Gandhi was a, was a great politician, and he's a great preacher. And when he's got, uh, a thousand or five thousand or ten thousand people out there in front of him, a hundred thousand people, when, when Gandhi was, was lecturing to a bunch of people, you couldn't tell whether he was preacher or demigod. King is very much alike.
JOHNSON: And, uh, yeah, it, it takes a powerful person to, to whip people upinto an emotional pitch and then, then say, "Now, now, wait just a minute, calm 00:40:00it, cool it right now." I, I saw him do it up at, uh, Kentucky State College. He was up there for a commencement exercise and, uh--
HALL: --what year would that have been approximately?
JOHNSON: I don't know. It, it was in the sixties, '60--somewhere up in, in thesixties. But, uh--it may have been '61 or '62. But he, uh, he had the, the whole audience just shouting and, and saying, "Amen, glory, hallelujah, uh, tell it like it is, tell it like it is," and then when he got them all whipped up, and he, he sort of had them all in his hands, then he said, "Now, wait a minute, wait a minute," and, and he quit his, his preacher, uh, twang--
JOHNSON: --and came down to plain, cold, hard reasoning, uh, philosophy. Hesaid, "Now, wait a minute, now as much as energy as you've got to, to, to, uh, uh, be carried away, come on down out of the clouds. Now, we got to walk on the 00:41:00streets here. You got, you got to use that same energy tomorrow and the next day. You want housing and you want the schools and you want"--he just went down the whole, "you want jobs, you want these things, and you're not going to get them up in the clouds. Now, come down, let's talk about these things," and, and--(Hall coughs)--after having gotten his audience with him and then he preached like hell the hard, cold economic facts--
JOHNSON: --of why black people are, are, are at the bottom of the pole.
HALL: Well that was an effective technique, because--
JOHNSON: Oh, excellent--
HALL: --because it was like a--
JOHNSON: --I said I liked it--
JOHNSON: --it, it--that was, that was the thing that made him, uh, sooutstanding. Now, when he got down to these hard problems, one man can't solve it. King can't solve it.
JOHNSON: And it takes, uh, a, a multitude, it takes all these other people to,00:42:00to complement him or else, uh, he, he, he--he's just left or rather, the audience is just left with, didn't he make a good talk?
JOHNSON: Didn't he make a good talk? But what, what did he do to help get you onthe, on the, on the road to a better way of life?
HALL: He was a general not a soldier and, and--
HALL: --soldiers have to do the work, don't they?
JOHNSON: Well, he, he, he, he, he--he'd put on--he was a good leader.
JOHNSON: He was a good leader. He, he, he showed his exam--he'd get out and walkas far as anybody.
HALL: That's true, um-hm.
JOHNSON: And he would go to jail as quick as anybody, and if he had to be beatover the head, he'd be beat as, as, as well as anybody. And when he's in jail, uh, and, and they were cursing him saying all manner of ugly things to him, uh, he would, uh--as a good leader, he'd say, uh, for Bull Connor or any, any of those other, uh, police or sheriffs or chiefs of police or whatnot, governors or 00:43:00whatnot. While they were saying all sorts of ugly things and hissing dogs on him and all that kind of business, he would, he'd be praying for their salvation, "Lord, show them, they don't know, forgive them. They, they, they don't really--really don't understand what the score is," and, and that was very effective.
HALL: That was a very clever technique too.
JOHNSON: --oh, that--
HALL: --I mean I'm sure he was sincere, but that was a good--
JOHNSON: --that is--that was--
HALL: --------(??) technique--
JOHNSON: --that's excellent.
JOHNSON: As a matter of fact, what more could he do?
HALL: Yeah. He was--
JOHNSON: --if he'd double up his fists, he'd be beat more.
HALL: He was helpless, wasn't he--
JOHNSON: --yeah, he's--
HALL: --in a sense--
JOHNSON: --he--actually, he was showing the people, showing these black peoplethat fighting back is, is nonproductive. You're not going to win. I tell, I tell these blacks all along, uh, when we had a little li--uh, race disturbance here in '68, I went out there with them. I, I paraded out there and walked around and 00:44:00around. They had all kind of rocks and guns and, and, and everything, sticks and whatnot. I said, "Look, fellows, you can't win. Even, even though that we have guns, as soon as you set--as soon as you shoot up all the bullets you got right now and you want to buy some more bullets, you've got to go to a white man to buy them."
JOHNSON: "There isn't a black man in town making bullets." (Hall laughs) "Andwhen you run out of bullets, you're going to go down to the, to the, to the gun store, and you're going to want to buy you a gun, and you'll, you'll want to buy some ammunition, and the white man is going to say, 'Black boy, what you going to do? What, what, what are you going to do with these guns?' And, and you are so mad and all steamed up, 'I want a gun so I can shoot these whites. I want to shoot whitey,' and then you've got to buy a gun from a whitey to go shoot whitey? That doesn't make sense."
JOHNSON: And then, and then whitey will tell you the reality of the thing,"Well, Joe, look, I'd like to sell you some guns, and I agree with you. You're in a bad fix, and you need protection, and you--uh, but I just sold out. I sold 00:45:00all the guns, all the bullets, all the ammunition I got to, to, to whitey, and he's standing around the corner waiting for you. He's got all the guns." So, I tell them, "You can't win."
HALL: -------(??) um-hm.
JOHNSON: And some damn fool went on and, and said, "Well, I'm--I'm going to showwhitey what I mean." Oh, hell, you're not going to get very far. Two of them got killed, and two of them got sent to the penitentiary. Uh, and, and, and, and all the little Negro neighborhood got--the business section went out of business in '68. For eleven years now, that whole area down there has been devoid of, of any kind of business life because nobody wants to go down there for afraid--for fear they'll start all over--
HALL: --what, what area is that? It's, uh--
JOHNSON: --twenty, uh, around Twenty-, uh, Twenty-Eighth and Dumesnil--
HALL: --and Dumesnil--
JOHNSON: --anywhere from--
JOHNSON: --Twenty-Eighth and Garland. The thing broke out at Twenty-Eighth and Greenwood.00:46:00
HALL: Yeah, I remember that.
JOHNSON: Now, from Twenty-Eighth and Garland down to Twenty-Eighth and, uh, and,and, and Dumesnil, there used to be a lot of little businesses down there doing a, a nice, nice little neighborhood job but, uh--
HALL: Were--were any of them owned by blacks?
JOHNSON: Very few, and the white people who did own them and were giving Negroesjobs helping them to run the place, they all said, "Well, if you don't want us down here, we're gone." And when they closed up, then the vandals went by and tore down the boards and broke out the windows, and it's a, it's a disgrace all down there. And no question about it, I, I saw it right straight. I said, "You can't win, you won't win, and, and, and you'll make things worse." That's what they did.
HALL: Uh, do you think that King was, uh, uh, to, uh--to some extent everyone is00:47:00a victim or a beneficiary of circumstances, but do you think he was particularly, a, a--say, a beneficiary, if you want to call it that, of, of circumstance?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. I, I think King and, uh--King and AbrahamLincoln were made by, by just hap--happening to be at the scene when they needed a leader, and both of them had the qualities of leadership.
HALL: Do you think Rosa Parks, uh, in a sense, made King?
JOHNSON: Yeah, without Rosa Parks, uh, King would've been just another youngintellectual on the scene, another young intellectual, and they would've, uh, downplayed him as a, as, uh, an impetuous, uh, young fellow for whom there is no 00:48:00place in this white man's civilization. He would've, he would've gone down the drain like, uh, thousands of other young blacks who have just given up.
HALL: But he was--he was there, he was available--
JOHNSON: --that's right--
HALL: --and he rose to the occasion.
JOHNSON: He'd, he'd already gotten his education. He was, he was already on thescene. He was, he was just the man at the time for the job.
HALL: Do you think his, his martyrdom was inevitable?
JOHNSON: What's that?
HALL: Do you think his martyrdom in, uh--
JOHNSON: --well, uh, I, I--
HALL: --in Memphis was inevitable?--
HALL: --it--it's--it almost seems like part of a pattern--
JOHNSON: --I told Mr. King when we had this little meeting go down there at, uh,Frank Stanley's house. I said, "Dr. King, you are too reckless with your young life." I said, "I'm getting old." Now, this is in the sixties I'm talking about 00:49:00being--getting old. I, I guess, I--(Hall laughs)--I, I--how old I am now.
HALL: You're younger now.
JOHNSON: Uh, I said, "Dr. King, think of it. We don't want you to die." He wastalking about, "If, if, if I were to--if, if it were my, my, my fortune or misfortune to have to leave this world tonight, there'll be no hesitancy on my part. I'm ready to go." I said, "Dr. King, we need you, and bear this in mind, you can help us more alive going around making these emotional speeches that you do than you can dead." I said, "And if you get bumped off, just think now, it 00:50:00will take about thirty-five or forty years to get another Martin Luther King, and we need you for the next twenty years. We need leaders like you for the next twenty years just constantly on the battlefield. We don't want to be, uh, uh, constantly going out to the cemetery putting a wreath on your grave. We want you to work. You are educated for a job, and, and, and the easiest way out now--you, you've gotten to certain heights on the mountain and the easiest way for you now is if somebody bumped you off"--
JOHNSON: --"and you'd go down in history as a great man." I said, "But from hereon up to the top of the mountain, we need some leaders, and you ought to help us get on up the hill."
HALL: Do you think he made it to the top of the mountain?
JOHNSON: Oh, I don't know how long. You see, uh--00:51:00
HALL: --what I'm saying is was he finished?
JOHNSON: No, no, he wasn't finished, but I, uh--I, I, I don't know. You see, thedifference between his Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP is that the NAACP is an organization run by about sixty very prominent, very, uh, capable leaders. CLC is, is, is, is Martin Luther King. But there are just about a half dozen people would rally up around King, but when you take King out, CLC almost falls flat. But, uh, uh, Benjamin Hooks is now the, uh, executive secretary of the NAACP. Uh, uh, Roy Wilkins was, uh, executive secretary of the 00:52:00NAACP. Uh, Walter White was the executive secretary of the NAACP, uh--
HALL: --did you know both--
JOHNSON: --W. E. B., W. E. B. Du Bois. But each one of these executivesecretaries had the shots called back there in the executive meeting in New York City where this council of sixty outstanding people draw up the plan. And they meet at least once every three months from all over the country, and they plan the strategy, and the executive secretary carries out the strategy that's worked out in those, uh, national executive board meetings. Uh, one--we are, we are fortunate, one of the outstanding people on that committee lives right here in 00:53:00Louisville, Dr. Maurice Rabb. You may have heard of him.
HALL: Yes, I know him.
JOHNSON: Dr. Ra-, R-a-b-b. Now, Dr. Rabb will be going up to one of thesemeetings this weekend to New York, and they will appraise what Mr. Hooks is doing--
JOHNSON: --and they will point the direction. Now, it takes a, a great man likeMr. Hooks to carry out the work, but it isn't Hooks', it isn't Hooks', uh, plan and pattern. He's just carrying out the plan and pattern that has already been worked out by this great, big, uh, board of, of thinkers. You don't have that for, for King, and I'm, I'm not so sure--
JOHNSON: --King could have made it if he played, uh, uh, his solo game. He was asolo. He was a--
HALL: --he was larger than his organization, I'll -----------(??)00:54:00
JOHNSON: --he was n--he was the organization.
HALL: But if, if he had been--if he had worked through the NAACP, he would've been--
JOHNSON: --he would've been carrying out the, the--he, he would have been a goodfellow if he had been under the discipline.
HALL: But could he have done what he did under the discipline of the NAACP?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Yeah. He could have done it.
JOHNSON: Now, Thurgood Marshall did it, but--
HALL: --But Marshall was never as cha-, charismatic a leader, was he, as King?
JOHNSON: He got about as much done as King.
HALL: Well, but yeah, that maybe, that maybe a crucial point, but he was not--
JOHNSON: --Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer, and he, he, he--everything he lookedat was, was through the eyes of, uh, uh, of, of legalism. Uh, King, uh--I mean Thurgood didn't have the, uh, religious fervor thrown in.
HALL: Marshall didn't have, you mean.
JOHNSON: Marshall didn't have it, but King did.00:55:00
JOHNSON: And, uh, King could walk into a church and, uh, uh--oh, he, he was apreacher, and he, he preached to the people. And, and, and he had quite a bit, quite a bit, uh, going for him when people came--uh, black people to a large extent are very religious, and, uh, and, they are emotional. They have a kind of an emotional, uh, fervor to their religion. Uh, they--it's, uh--they haven't had a real good church experience on Sunday if the preacher doesn't say enough to make them just feel good.
JOHNSON: Uh, and th--part of it is to be explained in, in the history. What elsedid the black people have in, in slavery days? Nothing, nothing. They couldn't go to anything. There wasn't any, any operas for them to go to. Hell, they didn't have any opera for black folks. They didn't have anything. No--what they 00:56:00could go to but the church? And when they did get to church, uh, one of, one of the Negro spirituals, "I'm going to tell Jesus all my troubles." I--all my troubles, I'll tell Jesus all my troubles. And, uh, somehow, uh, I think the slave owners sort of, uh, sympathized with them and said, "Well, if they can get--I'm going to work the hell out of them tomorrow. I'll work them from Monday morning until Saturday night. Now, if they can have a little fun on a Sunday, let them go ahead. Uh, to the white man's culture and, and whatnot, uh, it was a mockery. It was a religious mockery to go to, uh, uh, Negro church. Now much of that hung on, uh, in--into my day. I, I can remember hearing white people say 00:57:00that they were going slumming, and, uh, they always, uh, threw in not only going to the Negro nightclubs and just, just to look and see, see, see how do they, how do they, how do they let their hair down. But part of it was to go to, to a church service and, and watch people shout and, and, and, uh, pray aloud and talk and carry on and show their emotionalism. Uh, they just want just to see how, how did black people--
HALL: --but see--
JOHNSON: --go on--
HALL: --poor whites also had some of the same.
JOHNSON: Well you see, it's, uh--it, it shows the touch of nature there when,when you, when, when you don't have any other way to, to get relief from the 00:58:00exasperating problems of this world well, maybe, maybe that's the main point of religion. That's, that's what the communists said about religion in the first place. Say it's the opiate of the, of, of the people. It's just something to console you in, in this world and help you bear through all the economic problems of this world, uh, un--until finally when Jesus comes and takes you to the next world, and then you'll have everything your way.
HALL: But you're not saying that you believe that necessarily?
JOHNSON: You're not saying that I, I believe now, which? There are two things there.
HALL: (laughs) Uh, you're not seeming to, to--
HALL: --agree, uh, with the position that, uh, this is role of religion. You,you know, are you agreeing with the communists?
JOHNSON: Uh, since I'm on tape, I've got to be careful. I plead the Fifth00:59:00Amendment when you get down to that question. On the other hand--
JOHNSON: --on, on--
HALL: --I'm going to ask you later--
JOHNSON: --on the other hand--
HALL: --about that--
JOHNSON: --on the other hand--
HALL: --about religion.
JOHNSON: No, I'm--no, I'll, I'll face, face, uh, you and the rest of the world.I really believe that religion is the opiate of the depressed. It may serve a good purpose. I've, uh--when, when the pangs of arthritis is bothering me, I, I, I find that it's mighty good to have some aspirins around to help me bear the pains. And I think that it's mighty good, it's mighty fine when I can't solve the problems of this world, when I can't get a better place to live, when I can't get the various things that I see other people having. Uh, maybe it is a 01:00:00little relief to go to a church and listen to one of these religious leaders talk about how nice, by and by, all my troub-, and this is another one of the Negro spirituals, by and by, soon it will be over all the troubles of this world, all the troubles of this world. Soon, soon, soon it will be over. No more mourning, and no more groaning. Well now, that, that just helped me live another--
JOHNSON: --day but, uh--
HALL: --helps us all--
JOHNSON: --but when I get up the next morning and look out, and you see allthat, all that nice stuff that I went through at church yesterday didn't move, didn't move this ugly situation. Black people, black young people sixteen to 01:01:00twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty percent unemployed. I don't--I, I wish, I wi-, I wish to just wipe the church out the way and get busy. I think the communists have a better answer for it. The communists have a better answer for it than---------(??)
JOHNSON: --than the, than the Christian churches, I'll, I'll put it that boldly.
HALL: Well, but isn't there a place though in, in society--even in a societythat tends to oppress certain segments, isn't there a place for, uh, the encouragement that religion gives you because you're not--we're not going to ever solve all the problems. But you need--does it give you the, uh, energy, the guts or whatever you want to call it to go on from day to day?
JOHNSON: Uh, I, I think that is the main purpose of the religion, and I think01:02:00it's doing a pretty good job of it. It's, at least, keeping us from committing suicide.
HALL: I was going to ask you about the only other alternative is to--
JOHNSON: --commit suicide--
HALL: --commit suicide--
JOHNSON: --get just so despondent, you go up on top of a hill, up on top ofthe--go down to the, to the, uh, First National Bank building, go up as if you're going up for lunch at the café on top of--------(??) or at the Jefferson Room at the other bank. You don't need to eat, just jump out the window. Bust the glass open and jump on out and call it quits.
HALL: Have you, have you ever gotten that that--so depressed that that seemed tobe a viable alternative?
HALL: You have?
HALL: When would that have been?
JOHNSON: Practically all my life. I've always wondered, "What in the hell am Ihere for?" Every day--I solve ten problems today and wake up tomorrow and see twenty-five of them. I say, "Where in the hell did all these problems come 01:03:00from?" and I find out that the ones that I killed had babies just before they died, and there they are, a new, new, new, new batch. What am I living for? What am I living for? I've been working all--for forty years right now, I've been trying my best to make conditions better for the black people, and now, to read the paper and see--when I was working so hard at the very beginning we were talking about unemployment, 10 percent. Now, it's 45 percent. What, what have I done? What have I accomplished? What in the hell have I accomplished?
HALL: You done, you done what you do--don't you take satisfaction in doing whatyou could do?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That's the only reason why I haven't, uh, uh,jumped out--
JOHNSON: --out. You see the, the, the--oh, back in, in the thirties, back in the01:04:00thirties, I, I, I was indoctrinated to what it looks like to have a depression. I went through that depression in the thirties, '30 to '35, and frankly, I don't think we've solved the problem yet, not yet. And I just wonder what's the use of trying when you've been, been working so long and so on? I, I won't give up and, and I know if I give up, if all these people that I've been trying to help all these years, if I give up, then they'll say, "You see, we, we tried to get him to--(laughs)--commit suicide-------(??) but now he's ready to, to go with us."
HALL: But, but--'course you've had a lot of pleasures too, life is worth living01:05:00and for taking pleasures. You have a beautiful wife, uh, and a handsome and, I assume, intelligent family, and you've had all kinds of satisfactions, I would think, that co--that come from, uh, your family--(Johnson coughs)--from your, uh, profession, and from the accomplishments that you have, uh, had as a civil rights leader. Haven't these been--I won't say enough, but they've been something, haven't they?
JOHNSON: Yeah, they've been.
HALL: Maybe shoring up against the, the flood.
HALL: You do take pride in your, in your children, don't you?
JOHNSON: Absolutely. I think they've come along nicely. They, uh, they have high01:06:00regard for me and respect me very much. They, they give me all the reason to believe that they like the way their mother and I reared them and, uh, supported them, took care of them--
HALL: But what about--
JOHNSON: --tried to encourage them to have, uh, faith in the future and to beprepared for it as well as they could, yeah. So that they could help, uh, make their contribution to, to the society.
[Pause in recording.]
JOHNSON: Oh, I, uh, I--
HALL: --would you--
JOHNSON: --I, I have reduced, uh, this almost to, uh--my philosophy, almost to01:07:00phys--in terms of physics, scientific. I say that life is in reality the result of friction. Life in itself is because of friction. In other words, when you no longer resist, you're dead.
JOHNSON: And therefore, whatever pricks you makes you move and, uh, makes youalive. So the problems that I have faced have been a challenge to me to face 01:08:00them head on. And the more difficult the problem, the more resources I've got to muster, I've got to marshal, I've got to control, I've got to call in to, to my assistance. The more resources I need, the more difficult--when the man at the board of education tells me, "Now, you've fought, you've fought these cases and you've fought these cases and fighting against segregation, uh, court cases and whatnot. Now, you better win this case." Oh, yeah. Well, now, that was a, a pretty good challenge there. Uh, wife, and two kids, and house, and not much money. The school isn't paying me but so much, but, but after all it does, uh, take care of the, the expenses around the house, don't it? Why, why lose my job? 01:09:00And then the, the thing comes back shall I let this little pipsqueak, uh, superintendent me cause me to back down? Why hell, no. I said, "Now, Mr., Mr. Superintendent, um, if I win this case, if the judge decides with me, where in the hell would that leave you?" Well now, my fellow teacher said, "Lyman, how do you expect to keep your job when you talk to the superintendent like that?" I said, "Well, hell, I don't give a damn." Now, whenever you felt like that, then you become a free person.
JOHNSON: But whenever you are worried about whether they're going to fire youtomorrow or the next day, or whether they're going to give you--not--won't fire you--this is another trick--give you the most, most difficult, most obnoxious work. And there's always, there's always some, some jobs that, uh, uh, you'd rather not do, some phases of, uh, almost any job. 01:10:00
JOHNSON: You know some phases that if, um, the supervisor wants to, he, he canmake it difficult by saving the, the bad jobs for, for this guy he doesn't like. Well, uh, the thing to do is to just--whatever you have to do, just buckle down and go ahead and do it and do it with all the efficiency you can, and, and it might be to your benefit.
HALL: Let me--to, to conclude this section, let me ask you very quickly a couplemore questions about King. Um, how many times did he--did you see him here in Louisville--did you meet him here in Louisville?
JOHNSON: Oh, I don't know. Uh, at least three rather definite, uh, situations,so--three. It could have been, uh, as many as, uh, five or six all for the distance. I, I could have been in, in, in an audience where he was.
HALL: But he came to Louisville several times--01:11:00
JOHNSON: --oh yeah--
HALL: --while you--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah--
HALL: --uh, no, I mean while he was active as?--
JOHNSON: --but, I, I, I had a chance to, to talk with him, uh, both in smallgroups and, and, uh, and one on one, uh, at least three times.
HALL: Three times. The first time was when he came to--for the open-housingdemonstrations you said, you said?
JOHNSON: Um, this seems to me like it was about '61--'62, '62 or '63--
JOHNSON: --which means that it was before the housing demonstration, but yousee, all of these things, uh, are the result of long, long-range planning--
JOHNSON: --long-range planning. So much of what he was doing in, in, in this--in'62 or ['6]3 could have, uh, uh, shown up, uh, in '65, '66, and '67. He was here several times--
JOHNSON: --in, in that, in that period.01:12:00
HALL: Well now, uh, what was the contact? He had a brother here, didn't he?
HALL: A. D. King?
JOHNSON: Pastor of the church just, uh, in, in, in this block up here, ZionBaptist, Twenty-Second and, uh, Muhammad Ali, Walnut Street, Twenty-Second. Uh, A. D. Williams King, he used to be the pastor of the church here.
HALL: And he was, uh--was he the contact, was he or was--would he--
JOHNSON: --well, um--
HALL: --or would, would you all--
JOHNSON: --well they were--
HALL: --contact him directly?--
JOHNSON: --they were on--they, they were quite brotherly--
JOHNSON: --they were on real good terms with each other, and, uh, quite often hewould come to, uh--it was a boost to the local preacher to have this outstanding brother to come by and fill the pulpit from time to time--
JOHNSON: --oh yeah, so--
HALL: --so he did preach in, in his church?
JOHNSON: Oh, quite often.
HALL: Yeah. Uh, what, what were your impressions of King personally? How, howdid you react to him as a person apart from his public image? (sniffs) 01:13:00
JOHNSON: I was very, very, very, uh, much impressed with his nonviolentapproach. First of all, he, he was a good example for me to hold up to the young, yo--young people. Here is a young man who went through high school and got his lessons. He wasn't a, a bad boy. His mother and father didn't have any trouble trying to make him behave himself. He was--he had good, good morals, and he had good, uh, good conduct, and, uh, he got his lessons. Now, maybe, uh--you would say that, uh, as smart as he was, uh, you, you didn't have to make him be good. He had sense enough to be good on his own. Well, uh, for whatever reasons 01:14:00he went on and, and did his college work, and he, uh, excelled there. Then he went on and did his university work, and he got his, uh, top degrees. And then he ca--he, he wasn't too sophisticated, he wasn't too elegantly, uh, conditioned that the couldn't, uh, meet and mingle with the common man. And then he became a, a spokesman for the common people, and, and that, that just impressed me. Here's a man following, as I've said, in the footsteps as, as much as, as applicable here in this country, uh, of Gandhi in India. Uh, by passive and 01:15:00civil disobedience, well, you can do a lot of things and so he, he preached that, and he practiced it, and he demonstrated it. Uh, he was a great man.
HALL: Well was he, was he a warm person--
HALL: --to, to you when you would--one on one?
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah, yeah.
HALL: Did you feel that he was interested in you as a person?
JOHNSON: He was a--he, he was very, very cordial, very, very, very good, very good.
HALL: Did you ever go to his church in--
JOHNSON: Never. In--
HALL: --I see--
JOHNSON: --incidentally, incidentally long before he--I, I expect before he wasborn, let's see--no, he may have been two or three years of age--I had a brother-in-law who was once the pastor of the same church, Dexter Avenue-- 01:16:00
JOHNSON: --Baptist Church. And I went down--
JOHNSON: --down--I've, I've told you before that I went down to visit some, uh,uh, relatives and friends down in Montgomery and in Tuskegee in 1930--1920-something, '28 or, '29. My brother-in-law was the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and I used to go--I would go when I'd go to visit him in Montgomery. I, I would go over to this, uh, church and, uh, sometimes during the week, I'd go with him when he'd go to the, to the church office. I would spend a day or two--I mean, uh, an hour or two with him sometimes over at the church in the church office. And while he was attending to his business in the office, I would, uh, look out the church window right across the street, uh, and see the, uh, convicts cleaning that beautiful lawn of state capitol. That's right across 01:17:00the street.
HALL: --out right there in full view. It's the last building on the--
JOHNSON: --many years later, many years later, Mr., Mr. King comes along, and isthe pastor of that church, and Rosa Parks made him, made him. I expect, I expect my brother-in-law could have been--could've, uh, carried out the same, same chore that, uh, King did if he did--
HALL: --if he'd been--
JOHNSON: --but it wasn't mo--it, it wasn't, uh, what is it, uh, Rosa Parks.
HALL: Um-hm. The, the fullness of time?
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, uh, Ro--uh--this brother-in-law of mine was very, verycompetent, oh, well educated--
HALL: --what was his name?
JOHNSON: Arnold E. Gregory, and he, he was an Oberlin grad, highly trained. Thatchurch has always had, uh, some good--------(??) people, I mean, uh, preachers. 01:18:00
HALL: Now, we better stop here because you have to get to the board meeting--
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: --the preceding tape was made on Tue-, Tuesday, April the third, the homeLyman Johnson in Louisville, Kentucky, between 2:30 and 3:30 in the afternoon.
[End of interview.]