Interview with William Hastie, 1964
Project: Who Speaks For The Negro? The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project
Interview SummaryThis interview is available in transcript only.
William Hastie (1904-1976) was an African American lawyer, federal judge, and governor of the Virgin Islands. Hastie was a graduate of Harvard Law School and served on the faculty of Howard University Law School. He was a race relations advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in 1933, Hastie became Assistant Solicitor of the Department of Interior. Hastie was appointed as a Federal District Judge in the Virgin Islands by FDR in 1937 and served as a civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry Stimson from 1941 until 1943. During World War II, Hastie resigned from his position as civilian aide to protest the racist policies of the American military during the war. In 1946, he became the first African American governor of the Virgin Islands and was nominated in 1949 to serve as judge for the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This was the highest judicial position attained by an African American at that time.
Hastie discusses his views on the meaning of the civil rights movement as a revolution and a as push for more rapid social change. Hastie observes a split in the role of Civil Rights leadership and is followers based on economic status noting less economically successful African Americans tend to support Malcolm X's philosophy. Hastie also explains his belief that organizers of the civil rights movement often over simplify very complex concepts. Hastie further discusses school integration and school busing, noting that racial issues and economic issues are often intertwined. Hastie discusses Martin Luther King, Jr.'s nonviolence philosophy and briefly offers an explanation for the lack of slave uprisings during the Civil War. He continues by addressing Gunnar Myrdal's ideas for Reconstruction and his belief that, given more time, it may have been successful. He also briefly expresses his opinions of important political figures of the Civil War period including Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. Going back to the contemporary issues of this interview, Hastie states that he feels that residential neighborhoods will be among the last things to integrate. Hastie also explains how preferential hiring and employment quotas could be possible approaches to paying debts to African Americans, but emphasizes the need for occupational training.
Interview Partial Date
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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.
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