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Oral history interview with John F. Hatchett by Eugene Pfaff


Date: circa 1980

Interviewee: John F. Hatchett

Biographical abstract: John F. Hatchett, a Bennett College professor from 1959 to 1963, also served as spokesman for the Greensboro chapter of CORE.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of an oral history interview conducted circa 1980 by Eugene Pfaff with John F. Hatchett, Hatchett continues to discuss the leaders, leadership changes, and differing ideologies within the Greensboro CORE chapter. He summarizes the effectiveness of demonstrations and other activities organized by the Greensboro chapter of CORE in the early 1960s. He also discusses the Human Relations Committee report, CORE’s response to it, and the subsequent role of the national CORE director.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.521

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with John F. Hatchett by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

I just wanted to clear up a few points that we touched upon in our, our first interview.

One point that I wanted to clear up was, I got the impression from you—and please correct me if I'm wrong—that you, and Reverend [James] Bush, and Lois Lucas had tried to influence the executive committee [of the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE] to look toward broader goals beyond just the opening up of the restaurants and the theatres, to greater economic improvement and the economic situation in the black community, greater employment of blacks in Greensboro, but that you, and Reverend Bush, and Lois Lucas were more or less shunted aside in favor of the group that wanted to focus directly upon the places of public amusement. Is that correct?

JOHN F. HATCHETT:

Well, all of us discussed the possibility of doing other things. I think that what may have taken place was that certain priorities were seen at that particular time.

I think that everyone involved, to my knowledge, did see the need for doing many other things in that area. I think it was primarily a matter of priorities rather than, than any basic disagreements or even basic differences in terms of philosophy. And I—that, that is essentially what I saw taking place at that particular time.

EP:

But you and Reverend Hatchett—oh, Reverend Bush and Miss Lucas were asked to not be the spokesmen for CORE any longer. Is that correct?

JH:

I don't think it was in connection with that. I think that a differing kind of leadership may have been emerging, and certain differing perspectives were also emerging. I don't think, I don't that our not being able to press for a particular direction in and of itself had anything to do with our not continuing as spokesmen. I think one of the reasons was a, a need for exposing other people to positions of responsibility within the group and giving them the kind or kinds of experiences that would enable them to function as we had functioned. Because I think that in the case of both Reverend Bush and myself, I think he had, was going to leave to take a position elsewhere, and I was contemplating going to graduate school. So that in order not to create any sort of vacuum that would not be filled, it was felt that other people should be given that kind of exposure. And so—

EP:

So this—

JH:

Much of it was—actually there weren't, there was no indication of any sort of precipitous removal from that position. I think it was more or less a willingness—now, I'm going to have to speak for myself now—a willingness on my part to step down and to get myself ready to do certain other things.

EP:

Oh, but you weren't asked to step down or cease speaking for CORE or anything.

JH:

No, no.

EP:

I see. Would you say that you, and Reverend Bush, and Elizabeth Laizner formed kind of a Bennett block in CORE? Did you speak with one mind? Did you see eye to eye on, on issues? Or, or did you have differing points of view?

JH:

There were bound to have been differences that would emerge, I think primarily because of background, temperament, things of this nature. We tried to—I think as with most of the organizations at that time, whether they were operating in Greensboro or elsewhere, we attempted to be as unified as possible in terms of the greater goals that we were attempting to achieve. But as, as with any organization, I think that certain differences of opinion would crop up from time to time. But I think that these were basically resolved within the framework of the organization. And it was not a matter of their having to degenerate into, let's say, personality clashes and what have you.

EP:

I—last time we spoke, I—the reason that I'm asking these questions is I sensed from you a sort of atmosphere of conflict, particularly around '62, late '62 perhaps, where there were, there was this new leadership emerging and a sense of the older leadership being shunted aside. Is this an inaccurate assessment?

JH:

Yes, because the new leadership that I, that I'm assuming you may have reference to, that leadership—I never came directly in contact with the people who would have comprised that. These are persons who, to my knowledge now, were outside of CORE. They, they were beginning to, to I guess see the need to do certain things themselves. And I never had any real direct contact or even confrontation with persons who would have comprised that group.

I think I had mentioned—if I'm not mistaken, I think I had mentioned that certain of the ministers were becoming more active and that they had taken a not too kindly look at what we were doing, because we had—we, meaning Reverend Bush and myself in particular—had been termed as being outsiders. But that, but that leadership, if I could use that expression, that leadership was not a part of CORE.

EP:

Whom, whom would you characterize as being a part of this leadership?

JH:

I wouldn't be able to call them by name. I just, I just don't recall the names of, of any particular individuals. But I do know that, that at least—I should say, not one other group, but there were other groups that were coming in a sense to the forefront by that time. We were talking about 1962. Now whether CORE itself, meaning in terms of its own executive committee, had any direct dealings with these particular persons, I'm not sure of. I do recall one instance in which Reverend Bush, I believe, was invited to attend a meeting that had been called by a group of ministers.

Now, as I said before, I can't call any names, because I don't know them. But he did attend that meeting. Now, whether it was in connection with his involvement with CORE, or whether it was simply because he was a minister and they were trying to maybe bridge some gaps that had been established, I'm not sure. But he did attend such a meeting. Now, I didn't go to that meeting.

EP:

Do you recall when that meeting took place?

JH:

Not, not specifically. I would, I would say some time during 1962, but I can't pinpoint it.

EP:

When you began your association with CORE, had it already been formed or were you part of the formation process?

JH:

I was basically part of the formation process in the sense that we talked about establishing such a group in Greensboro. I don't know whether I said it before, but there was a—we felt there was a need for an organizational structure that had some national stature to it, and that we did not—in other words, we, we didn't view our struggle as being simply an isolated one confined to persons who either were living in Greensboro at that time or who were native to Greensboro. We viewed our struggle in connection with the larger struggles that were taking place across the country at that time.

EP:

Do you recall the sequence of officers? I went back through my notes, and as I can understand it—that, as you mentioned, there were, I think, two CORE organizers that came through Greensboro, that they really had not planned to come to Greensboro with the idea of forming a CORE chapter, but were asked to speak to the people who had been involved in picketing and testing of various places of public access. And that with—between them and the assistance of Reverend B. Elton Cox in High Point, groups that had been meeting at Reverend Marion Jones's house evolved into the CORE chapter, and that Wendell Scott was either the first or second chairman.

And then Ezell Blair, Jr. became more or less an interim, second chairman in the summer of '62. And then when he left to assume his duties as president of the student body at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University], Bill Thomas was elected and served through '62-'63, during that period.

Does that sequence sound correct, or are there individuals that I'm leaving out or not mentioning?

JH:

I don't think so. It sounds correct to me. Along towards the end of—I'd have to say—when I say the end of '62, I don't mean literally the end of '62. I would say that some time after the series of major demonstrations and arrests had taken place, I was not as actively involved in the group. But the sequence of officers as you mentioned seems to be correct.

EP:

When would you characterize as the period when you ceased being as actively involved as before?

JH:

As I mentioned, near the, say, during the last three or four, maybe a little more than that, months in '62. And there wasn't that much activity going on, as I recall, in '63.

Now, we left Greensboro in—let's see, it was either July or August of '63. I had to initially come to New York City to look into housing and other situations here in preparation for graduate school. So I would say that for a good seven or eight months or so, I was not that active.

I kept up with what was going on. And if my memory serves me correct, as I said before, after the massive demonstrations of the spring and summer, if I'm not mistaken, of '62, then activities sort of slowed down somewhat. So there was not that much going on in terms of direct demonstrations, et cetera. I think a period of assessment had begun to take place.

EP:

Was this '62 or '63 that you're talking about?

JH:

I'm talking overlapping both.

EP:

I see.

JH:

Some of '62 and a bit of '63. But most of my—most of my energies were involved, as I said before, in preparation for graduate school.

EP:

So you were in Greensboro at the time of the massive demonstrations in May and June of '63? Is that correct?

JH:

Of '63?

EP:

Yes.

JH:

See, now that—see, I'm thinking that the massive demonstrations took place in '62.

EP:

Well, according to my newspaper accounts that I sent you and my notes that I've made, the large marches through downtown, the incarceration of all the students at the polio hospital occurred in May of 1963.

JH:

Oh, okay. No, see, I just couldn't—I didn't recall the sequence in that precise a fashion. All right. If the demonstrations took place at that time in '63, I was still there, yes.

EP:

Did you participate in them?

JH:

I participated, but not to—at that time—not to the point of being arrested. I think if—again, I'm trying to recall the sequence of events and all that transpired. There was no unilateral decision made that everyone who participated would have to participate to the extent of being arrested.

Now by that time, and I think that even a little earlier, one of the very effective things that CORE had been able to do was to involve the black community as a whole in the movement in terms of active participation in the demonstrations. Now many of the people from the community who participated in the demonstrations participated but not in terms of wanting to be arrested. But many of us who were demonstrating, et cetera, demonstrated up to that point. We didn't sit down in the street, for example. Because the group that did that, they were fully prepared to do that and fully prepared to accept the consequences, which led to their arrest. Now, I hope that answers the question. Yes, I was still participating, but I didn't get involved in terms of being arrested, not at that time.

EP:

Do any marches or demonstrations in which you did participate stand out in your mind as to what occurred?

JH:

[pause] I think at that particular time [pause] what stands out most in my mind—I can't pinpoint it in terms of a particular demonstration. But the demonstrations that were taking place then were very massive, were well-organized. There was a great deal of solidarity involved and a great deal of commitment to what was being done. Now that, that is the kind of picture that is still very vivid with me.

EP:

I guess what I would like to get from you is, is kind of an understanding of how the decisions were made within the executive committee of CORE, selection of targets, type of tactics to be used at particular targets, and how the final decision-making process was made.

Certain key things stand out over this period as far as I've been able to discern them. One, of course, was the Freedom Highways Project in the summer of 1962. Again, the decision to march downtown and have a large demonstration outside the S&W in the fall of 1962. And then the decision to suspend activities in the late fall of 1962 and await the announcement of the mayor's committee under Bland Worley. And when that report came out somewhere in January or February of 1963, then the decision was made to resume demonstrations.

And Lois Lucas told me that it was her idea to, to picket City Hall during the lunch hour on three days in—spread out, I think, one day a week over a three-week period in March of 1963. And then the massive meeting—or I don't know if it was massive or not—but the meeting that Elizabeth Laizner recalls as taking place on Pfeiffer, in Pfeiffer Hall on Bennett campus in May of 1963. And out of that decision—meeting came the decision to picket McDonald's, which precipitated the nightly massive demonstrations.

Could you give me a kind of a sequence of, one, is this how you recall the sequence of the major events? Have I left any out? And what were the decision making input in each of these?

JH:

I don't recall anything being left out. One thing I'd like to emphasize here is that there was nothing either mystical or dramatic in terms of the manner in which decisions were made. They were basically made in an atmosphere of discussion.

In other words, even though an executive committee existed, it was understood that whatever ideas were discussed within that committee, before any sort of definitive action could be taken on those ideas, they would have to be—those particular ideas would have to be taken back to a larger grouping. And there, more discussion would ensue, and then some final decisions would be reached.

So what I'm saying here is that to my knowledge, and during—[clears throat] I'm sorry—during the entire time that I was actively involved in both the executive committee itself and the organization as a whole, I don't recall any one, or any group of persons, unilaterally making decisions and taking them to the main body and saying—taking them to the main body and saying, “This is it, and this is what we're going to do.” I think that was one of the things that I admired about the committee at that time, that we were not into making precipitous decisions and then saying to the major grouping that, “Okay, we're the executive committee. We've made these—we've made these decisions, and you're just going to have to follow them.” It just didn't work that way.

I don't think the larger group would have allowed us to function in that manner. If anything of this nature occurred, I would have to say that it occurred after I left, because I just don't recall any one person or any group of people saying that we, as an executive committee, have decided we're going to do thus and so, and that was it. There was a great deal of discussion. The larger meetings were quite open. And there was nothing that anyone attempted to hide. There were no hidden agendas involved, as far as I know.

EP:

Were, were things put to a vote by the—

JH:

Yes. Yes.

EP:

And the decision was to abide by the, how the vote came out?

JH:

How the vote would come out, yes.

EP:

And was there any time that the membership rejected recommendations of the executive committee?

JH:

I can't recall any out and out rejection. There would, of course, always be some people who would not want to do a particular thing. But once there was a majority vote, then a very refreshing kind of solidarity emerged. Very, very few people, to my knowledge, became so disgruntled or disenchanted with what was going on that they would, that they actually pulled out completely and refused to participate.

EP:

Where would these meetings of the executive committee take place?

JH:

On various sites. I can't pinpoint any one site in particular. We met where we felt it was convenient for us to meet. I'm sure some of the meetings took place on Bennett's campus. I can recall some meetings taking place in someone's home at some point.

EP:

Would that have been Reverend Marion Jones?

JH:

The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I myself don't associate any of the meetings with his place. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, some of the meetings could have taken place either at Bill Thomas's home or at least a relative of his. It seems like I do recall that. I'm sure that Bill was born in Greensboro.

EP:

Were there—was there anyone who was influential in CORE but who was not either an officer or a member of the executive committee?

JH:

Not that I know of. I can't recall anyone offhand outside of the executive committee who wielded or exerted a great amount of influence. The executive committee was approved by the general body. And there was a great deal of cooperative interaction between that executive committee and the general membership.

EP:

You mean specific members were put to the general membership as wanting to be placed on the executive committee, and it was up to them to either approve or disapprove?

JH:

Yes. You see, many, many of us who served on the executive committee served by virtue of the fact that we were part of the original group of persons who had sat-in initially when—in 1960. I suppose that in the eyes of those who were part of the membership, we had demonstrated the ability to do things, to get things done. And therefore, it was not a matter of having to compete with someone in order to get on the executive committee.

And we were quite willing to work. And that's really, basically, what it would have taken to be a part of that committee—the willingness to work, and to do things, and to be involved. To give one's time freely, and to be committed to the ideals of the organization. I think that these series of things probably led to the consideration for the executive committee.

EP:

When—

JH:

But, but in the case of—the reason I keep mentioning Reverend Bush and Lois Lucas is because they were part of Bennett's campus. We had all participated from the very beginning. And we were known, very well known, as a matter of fact. And therefore, there was no basic opposition to our serving on that committee.

EP:

Do the—who were the initial members who were officers and members of the executive committee? I've named, for instance, Wendell Scott, Ezell Blair, and, of course, David Richmond, and Frank McCain, and Joe McNeil, yourself, Reverend Bush. Were there others?

JH:

The composition may have changed from time to time. I just don't recall. Without your having—other than Bill Thomas, Ezell Blair, Reverend Bush, Lois Lucas, I would not—the other names would not be that familiar to me.

EP:

I see. Well, I think you've given me a pretty good idea of, of how things were, were—decisions were made.

One thing that still remains a question in my mind is [clears throat] this meeting in May that Dr. Laizner mentions, in which Bill put it to either the membership or the executive committee of, “Come on, we got to do something. Do we do it in the spring, or do we do it in the fall?” Was that a full member meeting or was it just a meeting of the executive committee? Do you recall that?

JH:

I sort of vaguely recall that. And my recollection says that this was not a full meeting that was taking place at the time.

EP:

So it would have been just the executive committee?

JH:

Basically, basically.

EP:

How frequently did the executive committee meet? Was it regular, or was it just call meetings?

JH:

They met fairly regularly. We did not—we felt that in order to keep the momentum of things going, it was imperative to meet as often as possible. Now, I would say roughly maybe once a week. Not more than once a week, and perhaps not less than that.

EP:

Do you recall, or could you assign certain concepts or strategy or whatever to specific individuals? Like, were there some people who advocated concentrating on the cafeterias and others on the theatres? Were there some that said, "Well, let's get arrested," or were there some who said, “Let's just march”? I guess what I'm trying to do is get a sense of the nature of the discussions within the executive committee.

JH:

They were basically above board discussions. I don't recall any person who stood out for one particular thing over against another.

There was also a lot of work that went on in that committee in terms of formulating plans for the future. There was a lot of written material that I would not be able to tell you where that material is now, because I simply don't know. But we did draw up a series of documents which we had planned to use at some future event at that time. I mean, I'm sorry—which we had planned to use after the demonstrations had achieved their purpose. We were, we were then going to move in the direction of economic concerns in terms of employment and gaining a better and more equitable way of life for black people in Greensboro in particular.

EP:

So it was well planned beyond just the opening up of the restaurants and the theatres?

JH:

Yes. That's why I said earlier that there may have been minor differences of opinion, but there were no major differences in terms of a future focus. It was a matter of timing and how we could best implement that.

And I'm sorry that I don't know where those documents are now. But we did spend a great deal of time doing research, pinpointing places that we felt would be targets that we could deal with, et cetera. But I have no idea who would have those particular documents at this point.

EP:

Were you a part—very active in the executive committee at the time that the pro-integration group, let's see, the Coordinating Committee of Pro-Integration group was formed, once the massive demonstrations began?

JH:

I don't recall that group. The only thing I can remember in connection with that was that there was a church, a white church group, out in the area—I'm guessing, but it's an educated guess—out in the area of Guilford College. And they were interested at that time—and I can't even give you the year.

EP:

Would this have been something different than the Greensboro Community Fellowship?

JH:

I think so. This group had ties with the Friends, the religious organization known as the Friends. And I think they were interested in discussion and dialogue around what was going on and what role, if any, they could play in terms of the overall situation. And if there were mounting tensions, could they be effective in easing those tensions. Now that's—as I said, I cannot give a very clear picture of this group. But I do recall my association with the Friends organization. And I believe there was one in Greensboro—

EP:

American Friends Service Committee, would that have been they?

JH:

It could have been. But when I say the Friends, I guess I'm thinking primarily of the Quakers.

EP:

Yes. Do you—were you in on the planning of CORE's coordination with the press? Did, did CORE cultivate the press for the necessary publicity?

JH:

Somewhat. I think that at times there was somewhat of a disenchantment with how things were reported. But I would say that overall there was a basic kind of rapport between CORE and the press.

And we would phone in information that we felt needed to be publicized, and generally it was. And I think that the general coverage was good. I think that some instances, as with any newspaper, organization, what have you, there were the inevitable distortions of what may have been said or a slanting in terms of interpretations of what may have been going on. But I think that the overall sense of rapport was there, because we were news at that time. And the press was involved in reporting news.

EP:

Could you characterize—you've characterized Bill Thomas very effectively, I believe. How about some of the other people, such as Lewis Brandon?

JH:

I can't—it's been such a long period of time that the name does not stand out. I think one of the reasons that Bill's name stands out is because he was very active, very effective in terms of what had to be done at that time. And in spite of his views, I think there were many very good, very positive things that he achieved.

I worked very closely with him. I am almost positive that I did not work that closely with anyone else. Not out of any ill feelings or anything. It's just that I did not work that closely with any other person in a leadership capacity at CORE.

EP:

Did you remain as a member of the executive committee until you left Greensboro?

JH:

I don't think so. I think that the pressures, as I said before, of getting ready for school, and maintaining a beginning family, and my work, of course, at the college, which had suffered a little bit, not that much—I think that all of that led to a lessening of my active involvement. Now, my interest was always there. But I don't think I was as actively involved in those months that led up to my leaving to go away to school.

EP:

Where did you go to graduate school?

JH:

To New York University and to Columbia University.

EP:

Is that why you left Bennett—to return to graduate school?

JH:

Yes.

EP:

Did you ever experience any animosity from the Bennett administration for your activism?

JH:

Not one bit. The Bennett College administration at that time, particularly in the person of the president, Dr. Willa B. Player, was very positive. If any animosity manifested itself at all, it would have to have been within the ranks of some of the faculty. And I'm just saying that at a gut level of feeling, without having anyone in mind.

I think that even though Bennett was a very small institution at that time in terms of number of faculty, I was surprised, Reverend Bush was surprised, that so few of the faculty got involved. In fact, other than—let me make sure I'm recalling this clearly. I think other than Dr. Laizner, no other faculty person or persons were involved directly in the movement. Now this goes from 1960 through 1963.

EP:

So you more or less voluntarily took yourself off the executive committee, is that correct?

JH:

Yes.

EP:

Had the leadership or the members of the executive committee fundamentally changed at that time?

JH:

There were some changes that took place. I again have to apologize for not being able to call any particular names. But I think there were some changes that did take place. And I believe if I can project this, that that was inevitable as other people came in and other people became involved in what was going on. I think that this called for certain other perspectives, certain kinds of leadership qualities.

EP:

Did you—I'm sorry.

JH:

That's okay.

EP:

Did you agree with and advocate the various points that were taken, specifically the suspension of demonstrations in the late fall of '62 to allow the mayor's committee to work—try and work things out, the decision to do something that very spring, and again, the decision to suspend demonstration after the mayor's statement on June seventh, I believe. Were you in agreement with all that, or did you hold out for a different point of view?

JH:

I was not in agreement with that.

EP:

You were not?

JH:

I was not in agreement with the suspension of demonstrations after they had begun to be effective.

EP:

Now you're talking about late '62, or in the spring of '63?

JH:

Primarily about late '62. And I don't know if we had talked about this in a different context in the first taping. But I do recall mentioning to you that the decision or decisions for the suspension of demonstration did not come from the local body. That was a decision that came from the national office. And I was vehemently opposed to that, as were some of the other members of the executive committee.

EP:

Oh, so the word came down from New York to suspend demonstrations.

JH:

Yes.

EP:

I didn't realize that the parent demonstration exercised that much control over the local chapter.

JH:

They could. Because—now I can't spell out the charter to you and exactly what it says. But the gist of what happened is that—now I hope I'm getting—again, I'm not mixing '62 and '63 up.

I'm almost certain that in '62, James Farmer, who was the national head of CORE, came down to Greensboro ostensibly at that point to give us encouragement, and to be a part of demonstrations, and to reassure us that there was not going to be any interference on the part of the national office in what we were doing. But after he got here—now I don't—I honestly do not know what happened to cause this change of mind.

EP:

Oh, but you all were fully prepared to continue on.

JH:

Oh, yes, we were. Because we knew that what we were doing was very effective. And all of a sudden—and that's the only way I can characterize it—all of a sudden, Mr. Farmer suggested to us to, to have a moratorium on the demonstrations. And there were some very subtle, but obvious—I guess I should—that's a contradiction in terms. I'll stick to subtle. There were some very subtle threats made that if we did not suspend the demonstrations, we would lose our status as a CORE chapter.

EP:

Oh, so you more or less were told or even forced to suspend by the national office?

JH:

By the national officers, yes. I have to say very emphatically that that was not a local decision.

EP:

How much influence did Floyd McKissick [civil rights attorney who replaced Farmer as director of CORE] and Gordon Carey [assistant director of CORE under Farmer] over in—I guess Gordon Carey was still in New York. But how much influence did Floyd McKissick wield over in Durham?

JH:

At that time, not a great deal. He was—if I can recall, again, looking back over this span of time—he was basically supportive of what we were attempting to do. But—

EP:

He didn't act as CORE spokesman then, the national office.

JH:

Not to my knowledge. Not to my knowledge.

EP:

So—well, I gather then that you were one of the active voices for starting up demonstrations again following the mayor's committee's report. Is that correct?

JH:

Yes.

EP:

Do you recall when that report came out, and what CORE's reaction was to it?

JH:

No—

[End of Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EP:

Well, by way of conclusion then, could you summarize what you think the effectiveness of the demonstrations were, and CORE's activity in Greensboro during this time?

JH:

I think that basically what we were able to achieve was a welding together of a number of diverse groups in Greensboro, that by dent of very hard work and perseverance, we were able to convince the community that what we were doing—limited though it may have been at that time—was important, important enough to merit their direct participation.

As I stated before, we were at that time very idealistic, very optimistic, very hopeful that a nonviolent but direct confrontation type of demonstration would be able to beat down the walls of segregation, of discrimination, et cetera. If I'm allowed to look back in hindsight, I would say that, that although we did achieve a modicum of success, the very deeply ingrained racism that permeates our entire society was not dented that much, and that one of the lessons that I think emerged from such a movement is that you have to begin to develop some very sophisticated tactics in order to deal with an economic power structure that is quite widespread and quite formidable.

EP:

When you say sophisticated tactics, I gather what you're talking about is that you don't think that these direct action tactics of marching in the street and picketing and so forth were that sophisticated. What sort of sophisticated tactics are you talking about?

JH:

Well, the marching and the other demonstrations served the purpose of calling attention to many of the problems that we felt were important. What I mean by more sophisticated tactics would have been a very, very sustained boycott, not only of places of public accommodation, but of business establishments, sustained to the point that it would achieve the goals that we had in mind.

Now that was initially done. It was done primarily in connection with the five and dime chains. And it was done so effectively that they eventually capitulated—not necessarily because we were sitting-in, but because we were also encouraging people not to enter and not to buy. Now, once we took that particular turn, then the powers to be that govern Woolworth's and Kress, and the Kress chain, made a decision that, okay, if this is what they want, then we'll open up.

I think that if we had extended that kind of tactic into other areas, in the long run it would have been far more effective. Demonstrations are, are exciting. Demonstrations get press headlines. When people are arrested, people sit up and take notice, but then they soon forget. But it's an age-old adage that in a country that is based on a free enterprise system, if you want to make certain basic changes, you hit the free enterprise system in its pocketbook. And then it will yield. But you cannot appeal to that system's sense of morality or fair play, because that's not how it works. And I think that this is part of what I'm talking about. This is not—I don't want this to be interpreted as a blanket criticism of sit-in demonstrations, because I certainly am not criticizing that which I myself participated in. But I'm saying that there were deeper issues involved. And those deeper issues called for more structured tactics to deal with—in order to deal with them. And I think that's the—what I'm loosely calling an economic boycott would have been such a tactic.

EP:

I want to thank you very much for participating in the oral history program of the Greensboro Public Library, Dr. Hatchett.

[End of Interview]