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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growing black radicalism in the mid-1960s

LeMaistre remembers the growing black radicalism of the mid-1960s, from a black minister, T.Y. Rogers, who used inflammatory language, to Stillman College students who burned a building on their campus. Most of their anger was directed against the Vietnam War, LeMaistre remembers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN J. GOING:
It was later in 1963 when the Reverend T. Y. Rogers became pastor there, and the Tuscaloosa Community Action Committee . . . Apparently that was closely related to Martin Luther King and the . . .
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
The Community Action Committee was made up pretty much of black preachers. There were some few white people who sympathized with them and met with them on occasion and a handful of black leaders who worked in various businesses; one or two had their own business. And they were taking a real risk in coming out front and demanding that something be done to correct the mistakes of the past, because what that meant was that their businesses were pinpointed by Ku Klux and people of that sort. I don't think there was any instance of a boycott or anything like that because most of the black businesses had only black customers.
ALLEN J. GOING:
The account that I read indicated that it was mostly a march from the Church to the courthouse. One of their targets was the segregated facilities in the courthouse. Ironical that the clash, where there was some violence there at the church, was less than a month before the Civil Rights Act went into effect.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
T. Y. Rogers was a smart man. He had worked with Martin Luther King. He was not any important cog in King's machine. He had certainly been attached to it and was under the direction of Martin Luther King in some ways, but he was much more given to strident language than King was. Rogers was younger, and I don't recall his ever making an open threat. But he made several speeches in which it seemed that he was simply trying to inflame his black brethren against the whites. I remember on Brotherhood Sunday the following year, which was some day in February—I don't remember what date it was—I made a talk in the First African Baptist Church on "brotherhood," and Rogers preceded it by going back to the times telling about the discrimination against his mother and how she had been forced to work for white women taking care of their babies and that sort of thing, and really made it a little uncomfortable for me to talk to this group of people who were my friends, most of them—people who I knew downtown. And ignore what he had to say, because you couldn't talk about brotherhood when you talked about how badly somebody treated your mother. I don't think it was malicious; I just think that was the way he was leaning, and he felt that way.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Were the students at Stillman involved in this?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
The students at Stillman were not involved in the situation with George Wallace. The students at Stillman became very much involved in the following summer. They burned a small building out there; Stokeley Carmichael spoke out there on the campus; Rap Brown spoke out there on the campus. There were a number of instances where students, in sort of a competition among themselves, were trying to show "We're tougher than you are" on the civil rights thing. And it got pretty much out of hand; we actually had to expel a couple of them. I was on the Board at Stillman, and we had a couple of instances where they left the campus to conduct some . . . what amounted to raids in the downtown white community. That was strictly against the rules, and they had no privilege that allowed them to do that. We also had a sizeable loss when they burned the little building. The building was not of great worth itself, about a ten thousand dollar building. It was not a school building. It was a building in which we had accumulated all the cards and pledges and information for a financial drive. It was all destroyed, and the work that had been done for a year or so by the College to try to raise funds was simply destroyed by the students that night. Obviously they didn't intend to do that; they didn't know what was in the building. But I would say that the school itself suffered a great deal more than the community did by the burning of that . . . At the same time, almost within two weeks of that, there was a building burned on the Alabama campus—an old gymnasium near where the Student Recreation Center is now. It was not being used for anything; as a matter of fact, it wasn't built for a gymnasium. It was more like a warehouse or a garage, but somebody had put a couple of basketball backboards up, and marked a track or something of that sort . . .
ALLEN J. GOING:
All of this was a part of the "rebellious sixties."
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeah. This was largely directed against the Viet Nam war. This had to do more with recruiting on the campus. Army recruiters or Navy recruiters would come through trying to sign the students up for the military. That's when this kind of thing took place. It did not relate to what George Wallace was fussing about when he came over here. But it was just a continuation of a rebellious spirit that was pretty much stirred up when Wallace came and never really died down.