The programme uses footage from the BBC archives to explore the USA Civil Rights issues of the 1950s and 60s. Includes interviews with Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.
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If there is anyone out there
who still doubts that America is a place
where all things are possible...
who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time...
who still questions the power of our democracy...
tonight is your answer.
It's been a long time coming.
But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election,
at this defining moment,
change has come to America.
My name is James Cross.
I am 17 years of age.
I was brought up in Harlem,
where things are not so cool.
And everyday when I pass by the school, I look up at the flag,
and I wonder, is there anything for me in that flag?
I just hope that ten years from now, those people won't have to live like these people live in Harlem,
that they have to go through the hell, the agony...
There's just no type of life left.
Take my family.
My mother used to have a job cleaning this white lady's floor.
She used to say, "Yes ma'am. Yes ma'am."
And my father used to say, "Yes, sir."
And I used to hate that man's guts for saying, "Yes, sir."
I hated my father's guts until I realised that he had to say it if I was going to eat.
What were you really prevented from doing as a child that a white child might have done?
Well, in my days in Atlanta as a child,
there was a pretty strict system of segregation.
For instance, I could not use the swimming pool,
so that for a long time I could not go swimming,
until the YMCA was built, a negro YMCA,
and they had a swimming pool there.
But certainly a negro child in Atlanta could not go to any public park.
I could not go to the so-called white schools.
There were separate schools.
And I attended a high school in Atlanta which was the only high school for negroes in the city.
And this was a real problem, because in Atlanta there are more than 200,000 negroes.
In many of the stores downtown, to take another example,
I could not go to a lunch counter
to buy a hamburger or a cup of coffee or something like that.
I could not attend any of the theatres.
There were one or two negro theatres.
They were very small.
But they did not get the main pictures.
If they got them, they were two years late or three years late.
By and large there was a very strict system of segregation,
and there was nothing called racial integration at that time in Atlanta.
I think if there was any one point or one event
in the civil rights movement that started in the '50s, you can
pinpoint it to the Montgomery bus boycott and Mrs Parks, who's here.
It was symbolised by this court room and her conviction in it.
Traditionally, white people have been able to manipulate us and get us to do whatever they wanted to do.
But notwithstanding all of the pressure and arrests and harassment,
black people stuck together for 14 months in the cradle of the confederacy.
If we could do it here, they could do it anywhere around the world.
I did this because I felt I was being violated as a human being.
I'd had a hard day of work on the job.
And I was physically tired, as well as just mentally vexed.
Sick of this type of thing we had to endure as people because of our race.
It did not seem right.
It wasn't right, and I felt that I was being mistreated.
We knew that she was going to be convicted.
But what was more important than her case per se, whether she was convicted or not,
was the fact that between the time she was arrested on Thursday, and the time of the trial on Monday,
the black community had become so upset and disturbed
over the bus situation and over Mrs Parks' arrest,
until we had concluded that this simply was it, the straw that broke the camel's back.
And that we were gonna stay off the buses until we could get some type of consideration.
In 1896, the Supreme Court had ruled that blacks should be treated equally but separately.
In 1954, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling.
It said segregation was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court ruling might have been simple.
Enforcing it against southern prejudice was not.
Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957, Governor Faubus called out the National Guard
to keep nine black students out of the all-white high school.
Compelled to enforce the law, President Eisenhower flew in 1,000 combat troops.
Ernest Green, now a New York lawyer, was one of those black children.
We went to school coming up the steps with a cordon of soldiers.
There were helicopters flying all around.
There were anti-tank personnel.
There were machine guns set up around on the ground.
And at that point, when we got up here, we finally knew
that we had cracked Little Rock.
We had finally gotten in the school.
And the psychological importance was the first time that black people had
seen the government using its full weight and force to enforce the '54 Supreme Court decision.
And the fact that they would bring out 1,000 troops to protect nine kids was an incredible
boost to blacks around this country.
More than 1,000 people from the mainly Irish and Italian community of South Boston are demonstrating
their refusal to submit to a federal judge, who has ruled that Boston schools must now be de-segregated.
It's a decision which has brought the worst racial violence
any North American city has suffered for the last eight years.
The worst of the rioting in Boston centred around the bussing of black children from the ghetto of Roxbury,
to two formerly white high schools, one in South Boston and the other in the suburb of Hyde Park.
Mobs stoned cars and buses, and within a week at least 50 people
had been arrested and many more injured.
It's a disgrace. They should be in their own section.
Everybody in their own districts to go to school.
They're just taking the schools over.
Our kids haven't got a chance.
But why haven't they got a chance?
Because the parents don't fight hard enough.
We don't have the backing.
The coloured folks all have organisations that will back them.
The whites just don't seem to get together and get things done.
They just wanna start trouble. They think they own the place.
I got news for 'em - they're gonna be dead if they try anything else.
If they built new schools here, there wouldn't have to be no bussing.
Just build some schools here. We don't wanna go out to the suburbs to go to school.
We wanna go to school right here. These schools are inadequate, so we have to do this here.
You know, there's the buses, we gotta do that. That's the whole thing.
Well, they're taking our children out of an area where I know everybody. I've known the teachers.
They have gone to school here.
And they're putting them into an area where the schools
are too far away from my home in the first place.
And in the second place, two of the schools are in a dangerous area.
Everybody in Boston, including the suburbs, are starting to rebel.
They're rebelling against social workers,
do-gooders, telling us how to live, what we must do with our children.
Nobody is going to tell me what to do with my children.
They were given to me by God, and I'm gonna raise them in the way I was taught and the way I was brought up.
And nobody is going to tell me what's good for my children.
My wife and myself will tell our children what's good for them.
We have to live with the titles of racists and bigots and what have you,
because they're using these cliches as weapons against us. We're standing by our rights.
We want neighbourhood schools, what this country was predicated on in the beginning.
How much prejudice against black people do you think there is in South Boston?
I think there's a lot of racism, but mainly because of fear.
I mean, the whites are afraid of the blacks, the blacks are afraid of the whites.
Two weeks ago, blacks went into South Boston High
chanting, "We've got your school, we'll get your neighbourhood."
That's bound to get a few people mad.
So you've had incidents of stoning down there a couple of blocks.
And you've had incidents at the school involving whites and blacks.
The whole plan is really stupid anyway because it hasn't been planned out.
I mean, if you're gonna have that, fine.
But you're not having any education done.
You have set up two standards - one for white, one for black.
They're in the same building, but the whites and blacks want a different prom,
they want a different school, That isn't integration.
That's putting them in the same building and saying, "Learn something." But you can't.
You have so many boycotting, and the others just don't wanna learn.
Or they're sitting there or they're scared. How can you learn when you're shivering?
They're only getting mad at the black people
because they feel they're coming up there to get their education.
They feel like the black person's getting smarter than the white person, and they wanna stop it.
That's why they're going out in South Boston and stoning us
out of their town, because they don't want us trying to get their education.
They're finding out that we're getting smarter than they are,
and they don't like it so they're gonna stone us out,
back into the black community where we have nothing.
They have all the things to make them smarter, and we have all the leftover things.
And they want us out there with those leftover things,
so we can remain our stupid niggerish selves, as they should call it.
The real issue in this city is prejudice.
It is racial prejudice.
It is not opposition to forced bussing, as it is called.
It is opposition to de-segregation.
It is not that whites in Boston are against courts.
It is that they are against courts that make decisions or hand down orders with which they disagree.
You are to be ready to accept violence
if this becomes a part of the retaliation of the opponent.
But you never inflict violence upon another in the process.
You are willing to accept blows without retaliating.
When a non-violent movement starts, when the oppressed people rise up against their oppression,
the initial reaction of the oppressor is to respond with anger.
But I think if you persevere in the non-violent way, and you continue to make it
clear that your aim is to change the situation, and to save not
only the negro race, so to speak,
but the whole social situation, this eventually arouses a conscience.
I think the greatness of non-violence is that it
has a way of disarming the opponent, it exposes his moral defences, it weakens his morale,
and at the same time it works on his conscience in the process.
You would take seats quietly at the lunch counter.
You would not say anything to anybody.
You sat there until you asked to be served.
There was the waitress who was very panicky, walking up and down, and very confused about what to do,
and very clear that she was not going to serve us.
I'm sorry but our management does not allow us to serve niggers in here.
Then there were these fellas with the duck tail haircuts and they were walking behind us.
So they would make catcalls. They would say, "What are you doin' in here, jungle bunnies?"
"Get outta here - you're not gonna get served in here!"
And we sat at the counters.
I was praying when this white lady came and put her cigarette out on my arm.
So I calmed myself down.
While I was calming down, she lit the rest of her matches and pulled my poncho out.
She dropped the lit matches down my back.
He was pulled off the seat at the lunch counter.
And he was kicked and beaten on the floor.
They decided they were going to make an example out of him because he was white.
I was going to sit in the front of the bus with Paul Brookes.
Paul sat by the window, I sat by the aisle.
The rest of the blacks and one white girl,
-were going to sit in the back.
-We had placed 16 state trooper cars
in front of those buses and 16 state trooper cars behind them.
We also had an air reconnaissance flying over those buses
just in case they put out some bridges or tried to sabotage those buses.
All of a sudden, as we got to the city limits of Montgomery, Alabama, all of the protection faded away -
no more state troopers, no more helicopters.
They sat on the bus for a little while and I saw the mob begin to just build like a river.
Just growing, growing, growing.
You can see things in their hands.
It was a frenzy. They just went wild.
"Get the nigger lover." I mean, I was the only white guy there.
They were screaming and hollering, and their faces were all frowned up.
They grabbed Jim Zwerg and they took him and knocked him over the rail.
They picked him up and knocked him over the rail again. They knocked his teeth out.
I remember getting kicked in the spine and hearing my back crack.
And the pain.
I passed out again, and I woke up.
I was again in a moving vehicle...
..with some very southern-sounding whites,
and I figured, I'm off to get lynched.
We're dedicated to this. We'll take hitting, we'll take beating.
We're willing to accept death.
Segregation must be broken down.
Tomorrow, if all goes well, the United States of America puts another man into space.
Another major scientific achievement in a field that
only nations of wealth and vast resources can command.
America in space.
And yet there are other sides to America,
as difficult and frustrating in their way, perhaps, as any problems of the space age.
For example, how do you make your white citizens
and your coloured citizens understand and love each other?
Today, federal troops are standing by in Alabama to take over this city
of Birmingham if new violence should flare up between coloured and white Americans.
Panorama takes you now direct to Robin Day in Washington.
A colonel and 15 men have already set up an advance federal headquarters
in the city of Birmingham.
But there's been no repetition of the OAS-style bombing which provoked the race riots on Saturday night,
although there is other news this afternoon of mounting racial
tension in the south, from Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee.
But first, this report from Birmingham, beginning with film of the riots there on Saturday night.
The rioting raged for more than three hours after bomb attacks on an integrated motel
and the home of a negro leader, whose comment was,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Some 50 people were injured, including a policeman and a white taxi driver who was stabbed.
The bombings followed a Ku Klux Klan rally, but there's no evidence yet of any connection.
It's reported that the situation became ugliest when Alabama state patrol men,
armed with carbines and automatic shotguns moved, in to take over from the Birmingham city police.
More than 2,000 negroes joined the rioting crowds, who attacked white police and firemen.
Fires blazed up in six shops and an apartment house.
The night sky of Alabama glowed red with the flames of racial strife.
It was the ferocity of these riots which caused the President
last night to order federal troops to the area.
During last week's rioting, when police used fire hoses and dogs to quell mass negro demonstrations,
the President said he could not legally intervene, though he called it an ugly situation.
Children were used in the negro demonstrations. Over 2,000 negroes were jailed.
At night, negroes crowded into churches to listen to their leaders,
who were negotiating for the de-segregation pact, which may now be in jeopardy.
This is St James' Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Tonight, it's the rallying centre of the Negro Equality Movement.
This tiny church is packed with clapping, swinging negroes, waiting for their leaders
to tell them the outcome of the negotiations, to tell them if their demands have been won.
The tiny church is insufferably hot.
I see the end, I'm not talking about pie-in-the-sky, by and by when you die.
I'm talking about some pie in Birmingham.
These are the American citizens on whom, says President Kennedy,
very real abuses have been afflicted for too long, in the sunny, southern city of Birmingham, Alabama.
I'm talking about pie for our children and our grandchildren,
I'm talking about a little pie for Grandma and Grandaddy.
The name of the local police commander,
Public Safety Commissioner Eugene T Connor, is notorious among Birmingham negroes.
Known as Bull Connor, he's been the virtual boss of Birmingham for 23 years.
This full-blooded segregationist was persuaded to give his first TV interview of the crisis to Panorama.
Commissioner Connor, what's your responsibility in this situation?
-To enforce the law.
Fairly and squarely on all peoples.
-Do you personally, Mr Connor, consider the demands of the negro leaders unreasonable?
For instance, why? Say the one about lunch counters and so on?
Why do you consider that unreasonable?
That's up to the merchants. If the merchants wants them to eat at the lunch counters
that's the merchants' business, that's not the law enforcement.
Mr Connor, President Kennedy said that the negroes in Alabama,
in Birmingham, Alabama, have been subjected to very real abuses.
He said that at his press conference the other day. What do you say about that?
I didn't understand it that way.
The President, the way I understood it, said that nobody's rights
had been violated, nobody's civil rights had been violated here.
There have been some criticisms, Mr Connor, of the use of
water hoses and dogs in controlling the demonstrators.
Would you care to explain why that was necessary in your view?
Because it was violating the law and starting a riot. We don't want any riot.
Do you think you can keep Birmingham in the present situation of segregation?
As it is now?
I may not be able to do it, but I'll die trying.
I understand Bull Connor very well.
He's a victim of a culture
which has taught him, a victim of mores than folk ways, which taught him that
segregation was the right way and he couldn't be a man unless he defended
this system and I think this is a part of the love ethic,
that you understand the surrounding and the environmental conditions
that make people like they are,
and the fact that you go out to change the system means
that you're trying to bring about the kind of structural change in the architecture of a society which will
cause the individual to change so that they'll mend their way.
Dr King, how big a victory is this for the American negro?
Well, I think this is a very significant victory, not only for the American negro, but for the country.
I have always felt that a victory in Birmingham would mean a great deal in breaking down the barriers
of segregation all over the south because Birmingham has been the most thoroughly segregated city in
the United States and I think it'll cause many to see now the futility of massive resistance to desegregation.
The Attorney General of the United States, the President's brother, Mr Robert Kennedy, has criticised
the use of school children in these mass demonstrations, which he said could be very dangerous.
-What do you say to that?
-I can only answer by saying that school children are the victims
of segregation, discrimination and all of the injustices that go along with them as much as adults.
Their personalities are often distorted by this unjust system.
They develop feelings of inferiority and I think by their engaging
in these protests, they have a creative channel
through which they can let out their pent-up resentments and these latent, bitter feelings which may develop.
Have you had enough help from the Attorney-General and the President in this crisis?
Well, I think there's more that can be done.
I think there are definite federal issues involved and the federal government
has not made it clear to the south that it will not stand by and allow First Amendment privileges...
Would you explain for a British audience what a First Amendment privilege is?
Well, the First Amendment deals with certain basic
freedoms such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of press and the right to protest for right.
This is one of the sacred traditions of American democracy.
I think that the failure on the part of the government to protect
these rights is one of the great failures that we face.
What do you think they should have done or should do in another similar case?
Well, I think the federal government could come in
through the Justice Department and file a suit in the federal court
against the constant arrest of persons who are engaged
in non-violent protest for their constitutional rights.
I think also the President, with his great moral...
I mean with his great influence and popularity, could use
moral suasion and say to the nation that these things are wrong and something must be done about it and
I think that he has some executive power which he could use to declare segregation itself unconstitutional.
The Reverend Martin Luther King said to me in Alabama that the Justice Department,
your department, should do more, it should have filed a suit to protect the privileges of
the negroes, freedom of assembly and so forth, which may be infringed by state laws. What do you say to that?
Well, Martin Luther King isn't a lawyer.
We've done everything over the period of the last two-and-a-half years
to bring all the rights that we can under the constitution,
under the laws of the United States, we've made a major effort.
We realise that this is the great problem in the United States
and we want to move ahead in it but I'm sure in England
and in countries of Europe you have rules and regulations about
having a parade, about having a group meet in the middle of the streets. You have to get permission.
Well, Martin Luther King and his followers felt they didn't want to get permission,
they didn't want to get a permit to stage a parade with 1,000 people
marching down the middle of Birmingham.
The authorities said if he didn't get a parade then he was going to be arrested.
You have the conflict between the First Amendment, the right to freedom of speech,
right to freedom of assembly, versus the right of the local authorities
to control their situation, the police powers.
That comes in conflict so that's where the problem is.
All of us have great sympathy for the effort that's being made to obtain all the rights for negroes and we're
involved in that but this situation is more complicated than just coming up with a simple answer.
Apart from the legal question, Martin Luther King asked
for the President to use moral persuasion and to condemn segregation,
and he says, to use his executive power to declare segregation unconstitutional. What about that?
Well, of course he's made a number of statements condemning segregation.
I suppose he can make one every week, but he's made it continuously.
It's quite clear how he feels, it's quite clear how the administration feels, it's quite clear how I feel,
the responsibility for enforcing these laws.
You can't just pass an executive order ending what's happening in a drug store in Birmingham, Alabama.
They have control of the situation in their own state.
The federal government doesn't have any authority in this sphere,
so we can't just pass an executive order and have it go automatically into effect.
In Birmingham, when 250,000 black men refused to buy anything except food
and medicine, they changed the nature of the economy.
And people's hearts didn't change necessarily but they realised that
if they wanted black men to spend their money again,
they had to enter into a new relationship economically where instead of just taking money from
the black community, they began to give jobs
and treat people courteously and give them equal services.
Every time you'd go down there, they would make you come back,
come back next month, come back in two months' time,
or you may have to come back next year
and they intimidated us so much so and some people just wouldn't go back.
The number one trick was to ask questions
that no-one can answer,
like how many bubbles in a bar of soap, right?
They asked blacks that but they didn't ask whites that, so you asked impossible
and stupid and inane questions of people you didn't want to vote, knowing that these had no answers.
On this side, right here,
you interpret, you tell what it means, you write your meaning, your understanding of it.
' "Can you explain the constitution?'
"Can you tell us what the constitution means,
"every word of the constitution?"
Well, we didn't know.
It did not matter whether you had a PhD degree or no degree, they just would not register negroes.
This courthouse is a serious place of business.
You seem to think you've taken it to be a Disneyland or something on parade.
Do you have business in the courthouse?
We just want to pass by.
Do you have any business in the courthouse?
The only business we have was to come by
to the Board of Registers to...register.
The Board of Registrars is not in session this afternoon, as you were informed.
You came down to make a mockery out of this courthouse. You're not going to pass.
If we're wrong, why don't you arrest us?
-Why don't you get out front of the camera and go on?
-It's not a matter of being in front of the camera,
it's a matter of facing your sherriff and facing your judge.
We're willing to be beaten for democracy.
The idea was to beat people down, beat them away.
Destroy them physically.
Destroy their right to even work in a town if they had the...
the courage to even try to register to vote.
And you misuse democracy in this street.
You beat people bloody in order that they will not have the privilege to vote.
-You don't have to beat us.
-Get out of here!
The act by Sheriff Clark was the normal act of the South.
This is the kind of violation of the constitution,
the violation of the court order, the violation of decent citizenship.
You can turn your back on me
but you cannot turn your back upon the idea of justice.
You can turn your back now and you can keep the club in your hand
but you can not beat down justice.
And we will register to vote
because as citizens of these United States, we have the right to do it.
I'm looking down the line seeing all the people who have been in jail for felonies.
Precisely right. And if they're not fit to vote, you'll be able to find that out,
but you'll not know it until they're on the register.
And many of those have a felony action because Sheriff Clark made them a felony action.
Not because they were rightfully issued. All right, here I am.
I'm standing here. I have a right, according to Judge Thomas's orders...
I have a right, according to Judge Thomas's orders to be here.
Come on, let us go.
When do you want it?
Now, I'm gonna ask you again. This time, we want to say it so loud we want Mr Wallis to hear.
-What do you want?
-What do you want?
-When do you want it?
In Alabama, a long jumpy week of raw nerves and tension drags on.
It's the fiery youngsters who keep Selma's protests boiling.
Jimmy Webb is 18.
He came from Nashville, Tennessee, to join up here.
He's typical of those not old enough to vote who handle a crowd and the politics of protest with easy skill.
They bob up at intervals to arouse the flagging spirits and thaw the fear
of those who will stand day and night out in the open under flimsy protection from the rain.
A prominent shield for the younger and darker faces in the rear are growing numbers of clergy men
who've come from all over the US in answer to Martin Luther King's appeal for help
and have stayed on to see it through.
Dr King, how significant has been the involvement of what appear
to be large numbers of white people in what's been happening in Selma?
Well, I think this is most significant.
I think it is the largest number of white people
that we've ever had in a local movement in the South.
And this reveals that we are developing
a real coalition of conscience on this issue.
It reveals to me that we may be nearer the day
of bringing about a truly integrated society.
What effect do you think it's going to have
on future plans for the civil rights movement?
Well, I think it will be most helpful.
I have always contended that if we are to make a significant thrust,
it must be a bi-racial thrust and not merely a racial thrust.
And I think, with the great involvement of white people
in the movement that we are presently getting,
we will be able to make strides and progress
in areas where we haven't been able to make it before.
I think this will have a tremendous impact on Congress.
And I think it will have a tremendous impact
in the sense of bringing other people into the movement
who have been on the sidelines.
The dilapidated shacks of the sharecroppers.
Here is poverty and ignorance.
Systematically, deliberately, since the turn of the century,
the negro here has been denied the right to vote in any numbers.
In Selma and its surrounding county, 300 negroes are registered to vote
out of a total population of more than 40,000.
Where violence is a recent past and a threatening present for rural Alabama,
who are the people the demonstrators cry for and try to shake from their apathy?
There are those like this young woman of 30 with 11 children and an out-of-work husband.
She is not one of the leaders, but one of the led.
Slower and less assured, but with a life that she's going to change.
What have these civil rights demonstrations achieved
for you in this house with 11 children?
Well...it makes it possible
for the average negro to become first-class citizens.
If...we could ever get in the courthouse
and be processed.
If they could get in and be processed,
maybe the voter registrar won't pass them, just like a few weeks ago.
My husband, he was processed and they sent him a statement back
saying he didn't pass because he made a false statement.
But they didn't say what the false statement was.
But after the demonstrations are over, after everybody goes,
will life continue as it was? Or will it be better?
I think it will be better for the negroes.
I speak tonight for the dignity of man
and the destiny of democracy.
The constitution says
that no person shall be kept from voting
because of his race or his colour.
We have all sworn an oath before God
to support and to defend that constitution.
We must now act in obedience to that oath.
Their cause must be our cause too.
Because it's not just negroes,
but really it's all of us
who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome.
It was very rare for black people in those days to have the experience
of having white people with enormous power...react...
positively to their...perceptions, their insights, their instincts
and to adopt their vision.
He did and he also adopted the call of the movement, "We shall overcome".
I almost went limp. I was weak.
We had a lot of people in the streets down here at Brown Chapel.
It was a pretty, sunshiney day.
We heard him on the radio and when he said, "We shall overcome"
it was like somebody just stuck a knife in your heart.
All you fought for to oppose this thing...
Cos you're up into a battle then and it's over with now.
Our President's sold us out.
Today, there are many rural towns in the Deep South
with a black majority which is elected to the local courthouse.
Black mayors, black sheriffs, black judges and black councillors.
Only ten years ago, this would have been impossible,
but here in Camden, the prosperous county seat of Wilcox County, it seems it still is impossible.
Despite three quarters of the population being black, there are no black officials at all.
Ten years after and only 50 miles away from Selma, here in Camden, blacks can vote.
But as a local pastor, the Reverend Threadgill explains, they can but they don't.
It's not difficult in a real physical sense now.
But since it was for so long forbidden...
some of the people still view it as a barrier
because this is not what the great white fathers would allow
even thought the federal government has ordered it
and they've agreed to it, but you know.
In order to be the kind of submissive child that you ought to be
in order that things will go along well as they described...
..you've got to not worry about registering to vote
and if you do register, don't bother yourself about voting.
And if you do vote, "Check with me before you vote."
Don't you have a secret ballot?
Doesn't that iron out all the problems?
No. There is actually no secrecy in our balloting.
We do not have the booth nor the voting machine.
We have a paper ballot
that's spread out on a table at the voting place.
When you go in to cast your ballot... COCK CROWS
..polling officials, referees and all...
..one just might happen to be the merchant
from whom you buy your groceries.
One just might happen to be the banker
from whom you borrow your money.
One just MIGHT happen to be your landlord
who owns the house where you live
and the land that you till for a living.
So then, the way you vote,
he does not have to tell you to vote for his candidate.
You just know that you had better vote for his candidate,
not vote at all, or be prepared for the consequences.
At the extremes of the negro revolt
are the temples of the Black Muslims,
and the followers of Elijah Muhammad,
a movement that began in Detroit in the '30s.
The mosque was a Jewish synagogue in the suburb
but as the negro frontiers on the south side expanded,
the white population moved out and it was abandoned.
No white man is admitted and doors are closed to all but the faithful.
Next door to the mosque is Elijah's University, headquarters of perhaps
100,000 black Muslims in America,
who believe that Martin Luther King's Christian Soldiers are dupes,
led by a man who's at the forefront of a revolt
and yet ties the hands of his people by non-violence.
The Muslim propaganda is a mirror-image of white racism.
If its radical solutions and strict moral codes keep active followers small in number,
what the Muslims say and how they say it has captured the sympathy
of large numbers of negroes in the north.
Elijah Muhammad, the man from Georgia they call
"the Messenger of God", gave this rare interview to Panorama.
The poor so-called American negro has never been taught who he was.
He came here and was put under slavery and there,
his knowledge of self was buried.
And he has been trying to act and imitate his master,
not himself nor his kind.
And he lost all knowledge of self and all love for self.
He has not even had any love for self nor his kind.
He was robbed of all of that.
His love went for the white man and not for himself and his kind.
And he became a hater of himself.
We want to live on this Earth as a nation as you.
We don't want to be you.
We, the Muslim, we don't want to be you.
If you want to be us, that's up to you.
And it's up to us to let you in.
But we think everything was all right
when God placed us in our respective spheres.
And ever sense of the white man come out of Europe
and started mixing among the black man,
brown, yellow and red races, he has had a hell of a mess out of it,
to tell you the truth about it.
He has mixed himself up so today
that he has more trouble trying to unmix himself,
if he would attempt it,
than he had trying to get in among our people.
Mr Muhammad, the negro in America does live in a multi-racial society,
-and in teaching him...
-He had no society at all.
What sort of society are you saying?
Multi-racial? Where did he ever have a society?
But, in teaching them hatred of the past, do you feel perhaps
you're teaching them hatred for the future when there is some hope.
-Most people hope.
-What sort of hatred?
This is charged to us because we teach the truth
and if the truth actually causes hatred,
it is only among the guilty.
Truth don't make hatred.
Truth brings understanding.
Truth brings true friendship. Truth brings true brotherly love.
It don't bring hatred.
Only to those who oppose the truth.
The 600 children who go to Elijah's school will be taught to fight for a separate state,
that the white man is incapable of dealing with them fairly.
Let us agree that the blow must be struck
and let us agree what type of blow must be struck
and whom the blow should be struck
and then those who don't go along with that strike,
we can strike them first.
Black people should realise that freedom is something they have
when they're born.
Anyone who stands in their way of freedom is their enemy.
who stands in the way of your and my freedom, our human dignity,
is a cold-blooded, blue-eyed enemy.
We need an organisation that no one down town loves.
-We need one that's ready and willing to take action.
-Any kind of action.
Not when the men down town sees fit but when we see fit.
By any means necessary.
This will be an organisation that will give the black man
in this country the right to defend himself.
It will encourage him to defend himself and it will teach him how to defend himself,
-by any means necessary.
And we can never acquire human dignity until we eliminate
that which stands in the way of us and our dignity.
-The men that kidnapped us and brought us here.
-Who made a slave out of us.
Who hung us on trees.
-Who raped our mothers. I don't have to tell you which man.
Because we intend to fire our people up so much until, if they can't have
their equal share in the house, they will burn it down.
One of the most powerful and in many ways the most perplexing movements
in the United States of America is the Black Muslims.
They're negro extremists and they're not only a political movement
but they're also a religious movement and a way of life.
Their followers, at least 200,000 of them,
embrace the faith of Islam and its customs.
They want nothing less than a separate Negro state within the United States.
Like all revolutionary movements,
they face a challenge because one of their most forceful leaders has now broken away,
dissatisfied with the policy of the Black Muslims.
And he's now the leader of his own independent group,
the Muslim Mosque Inc.
Can I first of all clear up your name, was it in fact Malcolm Little?
I don't think it was in fact, if it was in fact I would let it remain.
Little was the name of the man who formerly owned my grandfather,
as a slave. So I gave it back.
-So do people now address you as Mr X?
-Mr X, Malcolm X.
The black Muslim policy, as I was saying, was completely separatist.
They wanted this separate state within the United States.
Now as I understand it, you don't.
The policy of your group is now that you don't want this separate State.
How do you want... What do you want?
Well, the... Number one, there are two groups of us now.
There are those who broke away have formed into two groups.
One OF which is religious and based upon the orthodox Islamic teaching
and the other is non-religious.
And the name of it is the Organisation of Afro-American Unity.
We want to be recognised and respected as human beings.
We have a motto which tells somewhat how we intend to bring it about.
Our motto is, by any means necessary.
By whatever means is necessary to bring about complete respect and
recognition of the 22 million black people in America as human beings.
That's what we're for and that's what we're dedicated to.
By ANY means... By ANY means?
-By any means.
Well, I think that, as deplorable as the word bloodbath may sound,
I think the condition that negroes in America
have already experienced too long is just as deplorable.
And if it takes something that deplorable to remove
this other deplorable condition then I don't think that this...
I think it's justified.
But don't you think there's also justification in the case
for the gradual white and negro coming together?
This gradual integration policy because after all it's a change
of heart and mind and everything else for both sides.
In America I don't think there's any gradual coming together.
There may be a gradual coming together at the top.
A few hand-picked upper-crust bourgeois negroes are coming together
with the so-called liberal element in the white community.
But at the mass level
I don't think there's any real honest sincere coming together.
If anything, there's a widening of the gap.
Now if there is this widening of the gap, then,
when do you see this explosion taking place?
Well, there doesn't necessarily have to be an explosion
if the proper type of education is brought about
to give the people a correct understanding of the causes
of these conditions that exist
and to try and educate them away from this animosity and hostility.
-But education takes a long time.
-Not as long as legislation.
Education will do it much faster than legislation,
you can't legislate goodwill.
Now you said at the end of 1963 that 1964 will be a very explosive year.
In many ways, Mr X, it has.
Has it been as explosive as you would have hoped?
That's not the question. Has it been as explosive as I would have thought?
It wasn't as explosive as I would have thought.
I think the miracle of 1964
was the ability of the American negro to restrain himself
against extreme unjust provocation and dilly-dallying
on the part of the United States government
-where his rights are concerned.
-Will he restrain himself so in 1965?
I very much doubt that he will restrain himself so very much longer.
Harlem's famous bookstore is a rendezvous for agitators
but it's not the place you'd find real conspirators.
Such people do exist, young people in burning little minorities
such as the one I contacted called the Revolutionary Action Movement.
They preach and plan the use of violence.
They refused to let us take their pictures, but they recorded bits of their manifesto.
Our movement aims to give Afro-Americans a sense of purpose.
We aim at a world revolution of black and coloured rising against former slave masters.
It aims to free us from the universal slave master which is capitalist oppression.
The world is divided into haves, who are white, and have-nots who are coloured and newly emerging.
Our movement aims to give Afro-Americans a sense of pride and dignity.
To give Afro-Americans a new image of manhood and womanhood.
To free them from colonialist imperialist bondage by whatever steps are necessary everywhere.
To train peoples in what real revolution mean and what it's going to take.
We need a black people's police force to defend us.
We are at war with white America and its racist government.
Our struggle in the north is an economic struggle.
But economics and racism in this country go hand in hand.
We feel that the Afro-American is strategically placed
to cause complete chaos in American society,
and stop the machinery of government.
The black man has no choice.
He is backed up against the wall.
He is like an animal who has been wounded.
Who wants to stay alive.
His only choice is now to fight back. This is coming very soon.
This summer will probably be the last summer for non-violence.
We consider ourselves a nation under colonial bondage.
Our position is one of two nations inside of the United States.
If violence is necessary for freedom of the black man in this country,
then violence will become
a part of the Afro-American's movement.
We have to control if we want black power.
We want black power. We want black power.
We want black power! We want black power!
How did black power evolve at that time in Greenwood, five years ago?
Well, we had talked about it.
We had discussed it and we decided, well, Greenwood would be the place.
So I just made a speech building up to it.
Building up, building up, building up.
Showing that it wasn't a question of morality.
It wasn't a question of being good or bad,
it was simply a question of power.
And that we black people had no power. We had to have some power.
The only type of power we could have was black power. Black power.
Why do you think these ordinary people, sharecroppers and the like,
did respond so quickly to the suggestion of black power?
We knew their problems, we lived with them, we slept on their floors,
we picked cotton with them. Our job was to organise them.
We knew that they knew that they were powerless.
They just couldn't find a way to articulate it
but we knew that they knew they were powerless.
Thus we knew once they knew the question was power.
Once they were able to see and understand the concept of power
they would of course respond. And they did.
They did immediately. Not only them, but people all over the world.
Dr King 's feeling was that although he had no problem with
the concept of black power,
he just didn't think it was a tactically wise slogan.
But it did catch on.
But the fact that it did catch on in the way it did,
you have to accept the press is the press.
Wasn't it a mistake to retreat from it and allow Stokely Carmichael to come running through with it?
I think his sense was that slogans basically are substanceless.
And that the important thing is to develop real power.
And he used the phrase that the Catholics in America had power
but you never talked about Catholic power.
The Jews in America had power but nobody ever said anything about Jewish power.
In fact, people who were really attaining power
were always very anxious to deny it.
And it was only people who had no power
that went around sloganising about power and I think he's saw that...
I think he liked Stokely.
And he really didn't want to oppose Stokely,
he saw Stokely as a very promising young man.
And he didn't want to oppose him personally.
He was always anxious to see young leadership emerge and grow up.
But black power since then has taken on overtones of violence
in nearly all its varieties.
Surely this, right from the beginning, was a fear
that Dr King had and was one reason for him opposing it?
Well, I guess so.
But even then it was defensive violence.
And I doubt, I really believe that the connotations of black power
were supplied by the white community.
And when white Americans heard blacks say "black power"
and clench their fists,
in their mind, blacks were now going to do to them all the evil things
that whites had done to blacks during the last 200 years.
Now, I don't think that was in the thinking
of even the most militant black men.
I think black power for them meant the right to determine
their own destiny. It meant power over their own lives.
It meant power to influence their community and to make changes
in their nation which brought about
a better economic and political life for them.
And so, you really had two groups missing each other very literally.
Lucy Davies, wife of a sharecropper earning £7 a week
remembers that it was in Lance County that black power first began.
Yes, it was. Because we had all-white power here
and it weren't a radical a word as they used it but the white
had all the power because they were in office and we had no black,
therefore we had no black power.
We had no one to represent us.
We were just playing tax without representation.
What have you achieved with this black power?
We have achieved great,
we have achieved around 2,500 registered voters.
More, but I can say 2,500 to be exact.
How many did you have before?
Before Stokely came? Not a one.
-So you moved from none to 2,500?
And we move into various programmes.
We learn a lot about law.
We learn our rights. And we learn where to...
What source to tackle to get our rights when we needed them.
I can't express the words and the meanings that I was when I heard that he was coming.
He taught us how to organise ourselves.
He would walk from door to door and he would tell us people,
"Get registered to vote.
"That's one of the first steps towards progress.
"When you register, when you vote, you have control.
"You have power".
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd.
E-mail [email protected]
Programme which uses footage from the BBC archive to provide a rich primary source of material for students who are studying USA Civil Rights issues of the 1950s and 60s. As well as on-the-spot reports from the demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama 1963 and the voter registration drive in Selma 1965, the programme contains in depth interviews with Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and Rosa Parks. There is also footage of Little Rock 1957, Lunch Counter protests, Freedom Riders, the Nation of Islam and Black Power.