Interview with Wyatt Walker, March 18, 1964

Project: Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Wyatt Tee Walker (1929- ) is an African American civil rights leader and minister. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, Walker moved with his family to Merchantville, New Jersey where he staged his first civil rights demonstration at a segregated theater at the age of nine. While attending Virginia Union University, Walker met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and soon became a chief strategist for Dr. King's civil rights campaigns between 1960 and 1964. In 1953, after graduating from Virginia Union University, Walker became pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia. During this time he was president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter, state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and served as a board member for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1960 Dr. King appointed Walker Executive Director of SCLC where he significantly improved the position of the organization. Walker organized some of the key demonstrations of the civil rights movement including the Birmingham campaign, "Project C", that laid the groundwork for nearly all future civil rights campaigns. In this interview Wyatt Tee Walker discusses how advances in communication technology and the Second World War have helped African Americans realize problems in their communities and have pushed them to become involved with the civil rights movement. He describes the symbolism associated with "white" and "black" and "light" and "dark". Walker discusses the role of whites in the civil rights movement and whether the movement could have success without white consensus. He discusses African American identity and its relation to Africa and predicts increasing miscegenation in the United States. He discusses what race relations may be like in the South after the civil rights movement and describes Southern white identity. Walker provides his opinion on Myrdal's proposal for reconstruction of the South after the Civil War as well his opinion of President Abraham Lincoln. He touches on the issues of school integration, busing, quality of education, and desegregation of neighborhoods. Walker describes his involvement with the creation of an encyclopedia of African American life and culture and considers cultural assimilation into white culture. He provides his views on financial responsibility associated with NAACP and SCLC. Walker also discusses nonviolence and addresses Dr. Ken Clark's criticism of nonviolence. He discusses the role of leadership in the civil rights movement including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s position as a centralized leader. Walker also describes demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama and how he and other leaders prevented an explosion of violence among black protesters.

Interview Accession

2003oh033_rpwcr022

Interviewee Name

Wyatt Walker

Interviewer Name

Robert Penn Warren

Interview Date

1964-03-18

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Walker, Wyatt Interview by Robert Penn Warren. 18 Mar. 1964. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Walker, W. (1964, March 18). Interview by R. P. Warren. Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Walker, Wyatt, interview by Robert Penn Warren. March 18, 1964, Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7gb56d2r46