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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Howard Fuller, December 14, 1996. Interview O-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A continuous movement for social justice incorporates older and younger activists

Fuller refutes the notion that youth are disengaged from social justice work. Although the manifestations of poverty appear different from older generations, he maintains that the problems young activists face continue to exist. Fuller essentially argues that the social justice movement is a long continuum, with older and younger activists alike.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Howard Fuller, December 14, 1996. Interview O-0034. 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

A reporter asked me the other day, how did it feel to be an elder statesman? I said, I don't know, but there's always new leadership. All these people running around, talking about what young people ain't today. There are young people all over this country doing phenomenal things. Just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it's not happening. The older people get, the more angelic becomes their youth. [Laughter] We have selective amnesia. There are young people doing tremendous things, that when we were young, we weren't even thinking about. A lot of y'all lie about what you were doing anyway! [Laughter] To me, a nineteenth-century German philosopher named Schopenhauer said that the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but it is to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees. For the young people today—there's a qualifier, because I know there are some different issues. We weren't dealing with AIDS, or the kind of self-destruction occurring through violence, or the drug thing. People were into drugs, but it was nothing like what young people are dealing with today. We weren't dealing, I don't think, with the level of youth suicides. There was a different conception of the role of government. The technology that exists today did not exist then. There are differences, but the old issues are still there: jobs, education, housing, health care, and access to the levers of power. So what to the new, or I should say, current activists bring to the scenario? You bring a different vision, energy, perspective. The one thing that you can never do is to let the old activists start telling you why you can't do what you want to do, in the way you want to do it. We ought to be here to tell you, "this is what happened to us," not to tell you not to do it your way, but just so that if there's anything you can learn from this, learn it. But there's many of us who get old and are trying to hold on, who see young people as a threat. "I've been here for thirty-five years, where are you coming—?" [Laughter] And the reason why I know that is that's what they said to me. And so I swore that I would never say that to any young people who come along. Some people have been there thirty years, and it's been thirty years too long. [Laughter] You have to do it your way.