Interview with Wyatt Walker, March 18, 1964

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: 
Interview Date: 
Interview Keywords: 
LC Subjects: 
African American clergy   African American leadership   African Americans--Civil rights   African Americans--Communication   African Americans--Cultural Assimilation   African Americans--Economic conditions   African Americans--Education   African Americans--Historiography   African Americans--Race identity.   African Americans--Relations with Africans   Busing for school integration   Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama--Birmingham   Civil rights leaders--United States   Civil rights workers   Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914-2005.   Educational equalization   King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968   Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865   Miscegenation   National Association for the Advancement of Colored People   Nature and nurture   Nonviolence   Race relations   School integration--New York (State)--New York   Segregation   Southern Christian Leadership Conference   Southern States--Race relations   United States--Race relations   Walker, Wyatt Tee   Walker, Wyatt Tee--Interviews   Whites--Southern States  

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