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Oral history interview with Jibreel Khazan by Eugene Pfaff


Date: December 4, 1980

Interviewee: Jibreel Khazan

Biographical abstract: Jibreel Khazan (1941- ) of Greensboro, North Carolina, was one of four students from North Carolina A&T State University to stage a sit-in for desegregation at the F. W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a December 4, 1980, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Jibreel Khazan, Khazan discusses the objectives and strategies of the demonstrations of 1960 and 1963, including the circumstances of the February 1960 sit-ins at Kress and Woolworth and subsequent negotiations. He also describes his involvement in student government at A&T and in the local chapter of CORE, and provides details about the group’s history, leaders, and actions. Other subjects include Bennett College, the role of Jesse Jackson, desegregation of the Hot Shoppes, incarceration of protestors at the polio hospital.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.535

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 Jibreel Khazan by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

Beginning with the end of our last interview, you—I mentioned that Woolworth's and Kress announced they were going to desegregate on July 25, 1960, and most of the A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] students had gone home by that time, and it was largely high school students. What did you do upon—did you stay in Greensboro during that summer?

JIBREEL KHAZAN:

Yes, I was in Greensboro during the summer of 1960. In fact, I was working with the group that was doing the negotiations. There were several meetings headed up by this committee of—

EP:

Was that under Ed Zane?

JK:

Yes, Mr. Zane. Mr. Zane was meeting like with Dr. [W. Lloyd T.] Miller, and Mr. [Vance] Chavis, and Dr. [George] Evans, and—

EP:

Was Dr. [Hobart] Jarrett in on that?

JK:

I think he was. He was here during the summer, I think, of '60. It was part of—what happened was, there was a committee formed by black citizens of Greensboro [Greensboro Citizens Association]. I remember Dr. Miller was on it, Dr. Evans, I think Mr. Chavis was on it, and also Dr. Jarrett—Hobart Jarrett—was on it with Dr. [George] Simkins and maybe one or two others. They were—they had taken it out of our hands, so to speak, the students. We met with them and we asked them what was going on, and they would talk with us, but they were like in between us and Mr. Zane.

EP:

Were the students upset by that?

JK:

Yes, we were somewhat upset by that. We felt that we were gradually being kind of edged out from direct negotiations with Mr. Zane, but—since most of the A&T students and Bennett [College] students had gone home for the summer, we still, we were still actively meeting between ourselves with Bill Thomas, and the students at this time who were from A&T as well as who lived in Greensboro, as well as students who also attended Dudley High School who were participating.

EP:

Was this the Student Executive Committee for Justice, or a more—a looser, broader group?

JK:

Well, it was what was left over from the Student Executive Committee for Justice during the summer, as well as the interest of the students at Dudley High School under the leadership of Bill Thomas.

EP:

Who were some of the principal people involved in these meetings?

JK:

You mean, with the—

EP:

Students.

JK:

Students. You mean among the students?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

Well, there was Bill Thomas. There was his sister Antoinette. There was my sister Gloria Jean Blair, at the time. There was a young man named—let me see, who else was there? Myself. Lewis Brandon was there during the summertime. When he could, David Richmond. Let's see, who else? I think Robert Patterson was there during the summer. Who else was there? Frances Herbin, in particular; she is a person that you have to talk to because Frances was very instrumental so far as marshalling support and doing the groundwork. She—Frances Herbin Lewis, that's her name now. And of course there was another young woman from Greensboro, her name was Ann Staples. Her last name is Shelton now; she lives in Georgia. Also, there was—I'm trying to think of others. A lot of people I can't think of right now. But I'm just naming some key people who [unclear]—

EP:

What sort of things would you discuss in your meetings?

JK:

Well, what we discussed was the strategy that we would take if, number one, we were not granted rights to eat at the restaurant—that'd be Woolworth's and Kress's.

EP:

Was it still limited pretty much to those two stores or was it broader?

JK:

Yes. It was limited mainly to those two stores, but the initial outlook or objective was to eventually try to get desegregation, or to remove racial segregation at all of the places of public accommodations in Greensboro. We didn't know exactly how successful we would be on it, but we had planned to—even when Woolworth's and Kress's finally decided to come in and agree to our objectives—we then planned to go on and test out individually other restaurants and places of public accommodation.

EP:

Now when you say individually, do you mean as individuals or as a group?

JK:

As a group. As a group, we would go to other restaurants like the S&W restaurant that was on Market Street; then we would go to McDonald's; we would go to Howard Johnson's; we would go to Hot Shoppes; we would go to the Tuddle House. These were our plans to test out every individual place we could.

EP:

When—how did you get the word that Woolworth's and Kress had agreed to desegregate?

JK:

I received the word in a meeting with Dr. Miller, Dr. Evans, Dr. Jarrett, and Mr. Chavis and others who were in the adult—who represented the black adults of Greensboro, who were the negotiating group between the students and Mr. Zane's group.

EP:

What was the response?

JK:

From us?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

Oh, the response was one of elation. We were very happy about it, but the way the plan was supposed to proceed was that they—the adult citizens—would go down and sit first—the blacks would, like Dr. Miller, whoever else it was on the committee. They would go in and sit down first the first day, along with, I guess, persons from the European-American community in Greensboro, as a testing group. And once the decision was made to desegregate the lunch counters at Woolworth's and Kress's, and later on, we had agreed not to rush down there all at one time. In fact, I didn't go down until a year later. [laughter]

EP:

You really didn't rush it, did you? [laughter]

JK:

No, the main objective was—I didn't normally go into Woolworth's everyday anyway—but that was the whole gist of the thing that people didn't understand. It wasn't the idea of rushing, rushing into the restaurant just to prove that we could eat there; it was like to do it in a normal way. If I was hungry, maybe I would stop there and get something to eat and then I'll go on about my business. That was the way that it was supposed to be and that was the way that we planned it.

EP:

Well, I am interested in the transition from the Student Executive Committee for Justice to the foundation of the CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] group. And the date that I have—we were lucky enough to get the microfilm rolls of the CORE papers here for the chapter in Greensboro. I have a couple of dates; one date I have is for May of 1962, and that came in a memorandum—May 15, 1962. But in another place, I found a letter from Wendell Scott to CORE that says—asking June 5, asking for information about forming a CORE group. And I was wondering, when did the CORE group become founded? Did it come as a gradual process of talking about it, or how exactly did it come about?

JK:

Well from what I can remember, it's like this. CORE first came on the scene during the spring of 1960, when we were demonstrating in Greensboro under the name of the Student Executive Committee for Justice. I think at this time, Dr. Simkins had contacted Gordon Carey of national CORE because he felt that—he knew that CORE had had experience with these types of demonstrations before, and they were experts at setting up demonstrations showing people how to picket and what have you. And that was not exactly the NAACP's [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] type of work. And CORE was somewhat like the shark tooth but—

Our initial reaction to CORE, from the point of the Student Executive Committee for Justice as a group, was that we felt we wanted to keep this movement basically a student-led movement and we did not necessarily want outside groups—even though they may have been positive in their outlook toward helping us—we did not want outside groups to come in and to take over leadership of the movement. The one thing we were very careful about was we had to deal with the arguments from the greater—from the antagonist point of view, we called it, of the greater community of Greensboro. To some store owners—this movement was actually inspired by outside agitators and we wanted to make sure that that point was not true, you see. So, at this time we thanked CORE for their suggested assistance, but we preferred to keep it a student-led movement.

And as time went on, during the summer of '60 and particularly '61, CORE came down, I think, during the summer of '60 or '61, with Gordon Carey, a fellow named Rudy [Lombard]—I don't know his last name but he was a black guy who was into labor organization, and there were several CORE members during the summer of '60 and spring of '60—I mean during the spring of '61—who came up from Louisiana. I'm trying to think of their names now. I can tell you who can give you more information about that. If you check with Marian Dansby, that's attorney David Dansby's sister, because she was very active with us during the summer of '60, along with people like Paula Jewel, who is the daughter of Mrs. Jewel who teaches at A&T. Also Evander Gilmer; he was with us during that time in the summer of '60 and '61; he's down in Washington now.

But this is how CORE came to get more influence within Greensboro: because we found out that we could not necessarily—as students, we felt that the NAACP was basically an adult group and it was kind of slow toward what we called demonstrating and carrying picket signs. And CORE was more suited for many of us in the area of tactics and strategy; they were more experts in that. And CORE came down in the summer of '61, I think—in the spring of '61—to help us deal with voter registration and organizing. We were still picketing at the Hot Shoppes and also at the S&W [cafeteria].

EP:

If I could ask you, Jibreel, at this point, you were doing this as more or less kind of a loosely organized organization, what was left over of the Student Executive Committee for Justice, rather than as CORE members, is that correct?

JK:

Yes, we were not official CORE members, right. What had happened is, see, when the movement started at A&T in 1960, many of us were NAACP card members. We belonged to the NAACP Youth group, you see, even though we were members of the Student Executive Committee for Justice, and I became president of the NAACP on campus like during the fall of '60 and '61. But as I became involved in other activities, Lewis Brandon, Donald Potts, and other fellas—students on campus—they became more active with the NAACP leadership role so that I could relinquish [it] and do other activities on campus and still be a part of the movement.

CORE actually came into existence in Greensboro during the spring and the early summer of 1962 when Wendell Scott, who was a nephew of the Reverend Marion Jones—we met at his home, Reverend Jones's house in Greensboro at the time, on Larkin Street—and we invited Reverend Elton B. Cox, the minister there from High Point, who was the CORE representative in the State of North Carolina, to come and speak to us. It was a handful of us; it was Reverend Jones's daughter Sara [Jones], Betty, myself, Bill Thomas; there was Evander Gilmer—there was at least about twenty, twenty-five of us students who were in high school and college at the time.

EP:

Was Evander Gilmer and these other people you mentioned, were they high school or college students?

JK:

Well, Evander was two years behind me, so Evander was, I think he was a freshman at the time, in the summer of '62—oh, no, wait a minute, he was a sophomore, he was going into his sophomore year. Bill Thomas was going into his sophomore year at A&T. And Wendell Scott was like a freshman or sophomore at A&T.

But most of the—but we still had high school students who participated from Dudley, and we even had a couple of junior high school students, like—I'm trying to think of his name—Bryce Smith. Bryce Smith was only in the seventh grade at this time at Lincoln Junior High School, but he was active, you see. And later on, Bryce, as I remember leaving Greensboro, Bryce was active in the student movement down in Atlanta, Georgia, at Morehouse [College] back in the late sixties and early seventies. So we had this type of—this chain of student leadership from college all the way down to junior high school.

EP:

When Reverend Cox came over to talk to you, did you form then or was it just to get information?

JK:

It was just to get information, but we had finally decided to form a chapter of CORE in the summer, in the late—like I say, May is around that time, May '62 is when we finally decided to form it. But Wendell, I think Wendell became the first president of a CORE chapter, and then during the summer of '62 he relinquished it because I think he either had to go to working full-time or something came up, and then I became the president during the summer of '62 up until the fall of '62. And at this time, I was chosen to be the president of the student government at A&T, so I gave up the position and Bill Thomas became the president of CORE.

EP:

Had you been elected that spring or were you elected that fall [as] president of the student body?

JK:

I had been elected during the spring of '62.

EP:

I see. So you knew that this was just a temporary appointment for you?

JK:

Yes, I knew that was a temporary appointment. I wouldn't be able to take on both positions at the time. But since Wendell wasn't able to take it on, I volunteered to take on the position of being the acting president during the summer of '62, and then Bill took over, Bill Thomas took over the position during the fall of '63. He proved to be more effective than myself [laughter].

EP:

Well, I don't know if that's true, but certainly things picked up. So, were you—you say you all were you picketing, before your formed as a CORE group, the Hot Shoppes and several other places. Was this just every now and then or was this on a regular basis?

JK:

It was on a regular basis.

EP:

Like daily? Like at Woolworth's?

JK:

During the summer of 1962, it was like once every day, every other day for about two hours; we would go out to a place, maybe like McDonald's, out near the Greensboro Coliseum, you see, or a Hot Shoppe out in that area. We would choose different places to go to, and if we couldn't get served, we took out the picket signs. And we would have Reverend Marion Jones there with us some time, Reverend [James] Bush from Bennett College, and [Reverend John] Hatchett who was also teaching at Bennett College at the time, they were regulars who supported us. Then there were others; I think Reverend [Cardes?] Brown who would join us, sometimes Reverend Otis Hairston, who would join us at these various places.

EP:

Well, it's interesting, because the paper at that time largely ignored these efforts, because you get the impression that things quieted down after the announcement by Woolworth's and Kress.

JK:

Well, it was true that for the larger mass movement things quieted down, but those of us who lived in Greensboro—and like I said, there was a handful of activists, maybe twenty-five or thirty of us, between the college students at A&T, particularly those who lived in Greensboro during the summer, and the students from Dudley High School—we had at least thirty five or forty students who helped us because they realized that the movement had to go on. And this is why Bill Thomas's role was so important in the movement, because he was somewhat like the leader of this group from Dudley High school.

EP:

I get the impression from, once again, this CORE archives, that when CORE began, there were really about like nine originally and then about—it says twenty-seven by August. How did this grow? Did you solicit people to join CORE or did they just come to you and say they wanted to join?

JK:

Well, we talked to other students and we talked to the people in Greensboro, those who were there in there during the summertime, or anyone. We invited people to join the CORE group because we found it more advantageous, because we needed a group that we could mobilize easily without having to go through a lot of red tape and CORE offered us this option.

Plus, that we had people from the national organization who were very much concerned and came to Greensboro, like Gordon Carey. And he had, they had, CORE had people like Henry Thomas who came out of Washington, D.C.; Hank Thomas originally was from Florida, but he was very active in the Freedom Rides in 1961. He was a young black fellow on the bus with James Farmer that was bombed in Anderson, Alabama—fire-bombed, he was shot, and he had mustard gas poured on him.

EP:

Would these people just come for like a day or two or did they stay for quite some time?

JK:

Well, like Hank Thomas would come, he would come; Hank came, he stayed for like a month or so.

EP:

Helping y'all organize and that kind of thing?

JK:

Yes, help us organize. And you know the brothers from—I think his name was Jerome [Smith], but I don't know his last name—Marian Dansby could tell you more about him. The ones from Louisiana who came up during the summer of '61, you see, they would come for a couple of weeks. They were like roving representatives of CORE throughout North Carolina, like to Greensboro then High Point. They would go to Winston-Salem. They would go to Durham one week. They would go to Chapel Hill another week. They were like coordinators for the CORE movement that was in North Carolina.

EP:

You mentioned that these change of officers in the summer and fall of '62. How often were elections held?

JK:

Well, elections were only held in case of a new officer—we lost a person because he had other activities or other duties to attend to.

EP:

Oh, it wasn't like an annual election or anything like that?

JK:

No, it wasn't. Like when Bill came in, it was understood that Bill would be the CORE president until—oh, there was an annual election. I think it was held like every year there was [one held to determine] who would be the president or who would be the new officers. But this always depended on the situation that arose. In case of Bill Thomas, he was considered to be the CORE president until he was removed from office or until he stepped down himself.

EP:

Why were there more Bennett students who were members than A&T students?

JK:

You mean of CORE?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

I think one reason is because, you have to understand, the Bennett girls had as their model Dr. [Willa] Player, and Dr. Player was a very independent person in her capacity as president. Bennett College is not a state-controlled college, and these young women, these young women were leaders in their own right before they even joined the movement at A&T. During the time of 1960, and also all during the sixties, they were, I would say, more organized than the students at A&T were. They were a smaller group, but they came from various parts of the country, both north and south, rural and urban, and they had been told that they were the elite, the elite among the black students and the females. The only other school like that in the south was Spellman College in Georgia, and the girls, the young women at Bennett, they were—they had a banner to carry, you know.

EP:

Had they been actively involved all along with these activities you were talking about like the sit-ins at Woolworth and Kress, the picketing of those stores, and McDonald's and Hot Shoppe, and so forth?

JK:

Yes—

EP:

So they were in it from the very beginning?

JK:

From the very beginning, first week of the movement. In fact, if it had not been for those students at Bennett College, we probably would not have had a movement like in '63, because they were steadfast all of the time. The majority of the people arrested during the spring of '63 were—they had over three or four hundred young women from Bennett College; the majority of the school was in jail.

EP:

I hate to ask these pedestrian, small details, but I was trying to get a sense of—for instance, how frequently would the Executive Committee meet and how often would the membership as a whole meet?

JK:

You mean the CORE group?

EP:

Yes, of CORE.

JK:

I would say we met, well, we met at least once a week—the Executive Committee. And of course, depending on our activity, we would meet like at least two or three times a week. If we were demonstrating every day, we would have to meet before we would go out; we would have to meet to plan our strategy for that day. And also, when it was over, we would come back to a particular spot and discuss what went wrong, what went right.

EP:

The names I have for members of the Executive Committee were: Dr. Elizabeth Laizner—

JK:

Yes, Elizabeth Laizner [Bennett professor], yes, she was one of the people on the group. Correct, yes.

EP:

James McMillan [Guilford College professor];

JK:

Yeah, James McMillan.

EP:

James Bush;

JK:

Yeah.

EP:

Reverend Hatchett. Were there any others?

JK:

Was that during the—

EP:

Oh, Reverend Stanley.

JK:

Knighton Stanley, yeah, he was there. I think he—Knighton came on campus, A&T's campus, in 1961, and he became active, I think, during '62. Let me see. Well, Bill [Thomas] had to be in there, on the Executive Committee. You mean like during the fall of '62 or the summer of '62?

EP:

Well, when I first spoke to Dr. Laizner for instance, I concentrated on the spring of '63 and then I began working my way backward.

JK:

Okay, well that CORE group was under a different Executive Committee then, during the spring of '63, than the one we had during the summer of '62.

EP:

Who would have been there in the summer of '62?

JK:

Well, in the summer of '62, you would have had Wendell Scott, myself, Bill Thomas; you would have had, I think, Dr. Laizner, she would have been around. Let me see. Reverend Bush, also Mr. Hackett [Rev. Hatchett?]—

EP:

Were these—I'm sorry.

JK:

Reverend Marion Jones. Very particularly Reverend Marion Jones; you should talk with him.

EP:

Were these people asked to serve on it or did they—were they appointed to it or how exactly were they made members of the Executive Committee?

JK:

Let me see if I can remember. My memory's kind of vague about that. People were asked to serve; they were asked to serve or volunteer if they wanted to serve on the Executive Committee, because sometimes those who were on the Executive Committee were also on other committees. It was like—

EP:

Was it because of their role as advisors stretching back to Student Executive Committee for Justice, that kind of thing?

JK:

Yes, it was related—well, see now, Mr. Hatchett and Reverend Bush, they were on Bennett's campus, and Dr. Laizner, they were at Bennett's campus; they represented the people who were like somewhat advisers to the female students at Bennett.

Now, A&T had an entirely different group of people there. They were not that active with us like in the spring of '60, you see. They came more into play like during the summer of '60—more so like during '61 and '62. Mr. Hatchett, Reverend Bush, and Ms. Laizner became stronger personalities during that time.

EP:

Was there a resentment of new people coming on at that time or taking other people's places or anything like that?

JK:

No, no, we welcomed them; the more the merrier, because we knew that we couldn't take—we couldn't continue being in the leadership role. Remember, Frank[lin McCain] and I, and Joe [McNeil] and David [Richmond], we all agreed upon this, we were never really leaders. We just happened to be people that the group respected to allow us to be spokesmen. But every day, a new leader could be appointed. Do you see what I'm saying? Or every week, a new leader—Lewis Brandon could be the leader for the whole month—one month—because the rest of us may have been in school, we may have been working, we had other activities.

EP:

When you resigned the chairmanship to become president of the student body, did you remain a member of CORE?

JK:

Yes, I was like an ex-officio member of CORE understanding certain legal, legalities about being part of outside groups of the college. I had to—I never did disassociate myself from CORE or CORE members, but you have to learn how to put on different coats. You know what I mean? So while I was president of the student government at A&T College, I was not officially a CORE member. However, everyone knew in the CORE group that I had a connection with CORE as well as the NAACP. And if I was called upon to support any CORE effort, I could speak to the student body through the student government, but at the same time, I knew if I was an official member of CORE, that may jeopardize the college.

EP:

Did you continue to sit in on Executive Committee meetings or general membership meetings?

JK:

When I could, but that year, '62-'63, I had my hands full just being on A&T's campus, and—

EP:

Were you privy to any strategy sessions or anything like that?

JK:

Well sometimes, if there was an emergency or if the CORE group was planning a particular project and they needed help from A&T's student body in any capacity, Bill [Thomas] would come and talk to me about it. But as time went on, I became what you might say—I was only contacted in case the CORE group really needed help on a mass level like from the student body. Otherwise, Bill Thomas and the Executive Committee that took over in the fall of '62, they planned CORE strategy according to their own methods because I was not able to go down and demonstrate like I was before, you know, during the summer of '62. [tape recorder malfunction] So they only contacted me when something really big was getting ready to come off, like in the spring of '63.

EP:

Excuse me. Just a minute, Jibreel.

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

EP:

Well, one thing I am interested in—forgive me for rushing, I don't want to tie up too much of your time—

JK:

No, I want to give you the information that you want. I don't know. You have to—you tell me if I'm not exactly giving you what you want because I want to make sure you get—

EP:

I was kind of interested in the personalities of the people involved. For instance, Dr. Laizner says that she would consider the real activists would be—she said they were people that they designated as “activists” and “moderates” within CORE, and specifically within the Executive Committee, and she said she would consider herself an activist and James McMillan, and Reverend Bush, and Reverend Hatchett.

JK: They were the activists.
EP:

And she said the moderates would be like Bill Thomas, Pat Patterson, Lewis Brandon. Would you agree with this?

JK:

Well, it all depends on her definition of what an activist [is]. I do—I would have to say that her analysis of it is fairly correct; but all of them were activists, it was just a matter of who was more forceful. Now, the group that she classified herself with, they were more forceful. You know what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

Being that—Bill was an organizer, but Bill would stand up to all of them if he didn't agree with them. See, none of us were passively activists. We were all—Bill [Thomas], Pat Patterson, Lewis [Brandon]—they were all specialists in their own right when it comes to participating in the movement. And so, whether it be as spokesmen or whether it be as foot soldiers, or whether it be as assisting someone else, they could all change what you would call their “political coat” when it was necessary. Lewis could be just as hard as Hatchett or Bush if he had to be. Pat Patterson, who was quiet, could do the same thing if it was necessary; if he had to take a hard stand, he could do it, but—

EP:

What exactly do you mean by “a hard stand”?

JK:

Well say, for instance, if it came down to issue as to whether to demonstrate at a particular time or not to demonstrate, and if the group would say—say for instance—Pat, for instance—if the group would say, "We are going down tomorrow and demonstrate at such-and-such a time." Pat would sit back and listen, but he would make his point known. And if he didn't agree with it, he would come out and say right away, bluntly, “I don't agree with this”.

And of course, if we had to vote a consensus, if everybody had to say, “Yea” or “Nay”, then it was very important that Pat would make his statement and no one would go against him. They may argue for hours over a situation until they finally resolve it, but everyone had respect for the other person. It wasn't like even though Bill may have been the president, he just didn't have his way. You know what I mean? Or Liz [Elizabeth Laizner], even though she may have been very strong, she just didn't have her way. She could talk all day, but she would not get past the rest of the group. You know what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

Does that make sense?

EP:

Yes. The sequence of events is very interesting to me, particularly these early things when CORE was first getting formed, and, I gather, while you were still in it. For instance, I am very interested in the training session for the Freedom Highways Project that was held at Bennett campus. Why was something of national significance, or at least throughout the South, why was it held at Bennett?

JK:

Well—

EP:

As opposed to, say, some other black campus or some other city?

JK:

I think it's because of the leadership of Bennett's campus at the time. Dr. Player was a nationally known educator and she was respected throughout the nation, particularly by the people who were blacks in education, as well as those in the business community in Greensboro, as well as the political leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. And even among the predominately European-American schools in that area, they respected Dr. Willa B. Player and her opinion.

She stood up during the conferences that we had with Woolworth's and Kress's during the first week in 1960 to the business leadership in Greensboro. She told them she supported these students 100 percent. And that really—that made us feel good, because she said, “These students,” she said, “they were only practicing what they have read about in the Constitution and there was nothing Un-American about what they were doing.” And she was going to support them.

EP:

Was the national office of CORE contacted to have it held here or was it their idea to have it held here?

JK:

I don't exactly know. But another thing I wanted to say is that it's because Bennett College was, like I said before, an independent black school—

EP:

Yeah. Not subject to pressure from the state.

JK:

—not pressure—not subject to pressure, and plus it was supported by the Methodist Church on top of that. It was a church-affiliated school, and the policy was there: you have an open door to discuss things, but there is a way that you go about doing it. As long as you played by the rules of the administration and you respected everyone involved, there was no—there would be nothing against having a CORE meeting there. Because as long as you didn't do anything to bring a negative image upon Bennett campus—that was very important.

EP:

Do you remember what was discussed and what was done during this two-week training session?

JK:

Well, from what I can vaguely remember, there were workshops in nonviolent tactics, you know, what to do in case someone comes to attack you. We had to learn to—we learned how to protect our bodies. There were shock troop sessions, shock sessions—shock therapy sessions in which people actually had to act out various situations, say, for instance, being on the picket line. Some of us acted as the protagonist, others acted as the antagonist, and we changed positions. There was learning how to conduct negotiation sessions, where everyone had to learn how to be a negotiator who attended, to learn the techniques of interviewing, of giving and taking. There were sessions where we sang songs of public spirit.

EP:

So this just—I'm sorry—this wasn't just local was it? People came from all over the country?

JK:

I—what I can—I have a vague recollection of this. But I do know there were people there—yes, there were people there from different parts of the country, but more importantly, there were a lot of people there from the area of North Carolina, from the different cities.

EP:

I gather the Freedoms Highways Project was concentrated in North Carolina? Is that right?

JK:

Yes, it was concentrated in North Carolina, and I think it was either—I think it was during—later on, it was during the spring of '63 or the summer of '62 that we had a big meeting down in Durham. We demonstrated there against the Howard Johnson restaurant. There must have been at least two, two thousand people that marched down the highway in Durham. We had a big rally down there, and CORE—it was a combination of CORE groups, the NAACP, and all the other different movement groups throughout the state of North Carolina.

EP:

How about Howard Johnson's here in town? Was that the object of demonstrations, too? Here in town?

JK:

We were concerned about Howard Johnson's, but one of the most important ones we were concerned about, I think, was the Hot Shoppes that were out on Summit Avenue.

EP:

I have listed here the dates of—four days—July twenty-third through the twenty-seventh in 1962. Does that mean that it desegregated quickly?

JK:

You mean the Hot Shoppes?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

Well, let me put it like this. Hot Shoppes—I think the management stated [that] business stores wanted to come in and desegregate, but they wanted to find out who would be first. They wanted to see what it would be like for the other stores. So when Woolworth's and Kress's came around, Hot Shoppes had to talk to its management and they had to see the reaction of the clientele, how the patrons would react to blacks or coloreds starting to go to their shops. But eventually they came around, and when we went out there initially to get served, it was already planned in advance what would happen. A couple of us would go out there in a car and we would ask to be served and we would not go inside, I think, the first day—we would just go out and test out the cars first.

EP:

Where you drive in and the little speaker was there on the tray and that kind of thing?

JK:

Yes. We would go drive in first and stay in the car, and someone would come out to serve us and that was like a—we went out as an integrated group.

EP:

Well in a situation like that, it's interesting. Presumably, over the intercom, they may or may not know that you were black. Did they refuse to serve you over the intercom or was it when they got to the car or what?

JK:

No, well, see what happened was—it was pre-planned. The management knew we were, somebody was coming out on a particular day.

EP:

Oh, you would call him and let him know you were coming?

JK:

Yes, right. When they finally agreed to go along with the desegregation thing, they—it was pre-planned in advance that we would go out—so many of us would go out—in a car at such-and-such a time, on such-and-such a day.

EP:

So, Hot Shoppe didn't hard line it like some of these others, say. They capitulated pretty easily?

JK:

Well, first thing they said [was] no. They didn't want to come around. But we were out there picketing like every day just about during the summer. They decided that, after having negotiations, that they didn't want the scene of picketers in front of their restaurant and they didn't want the pressure being put on them by people saying, “If you let the niggers come in, we won't serve you.” You understand what I'm saying? [laughter]

So, what happened was, they got together with the committee that represented, I think, the CORE group and the other leadership in the black community, as well as Mr. Zane's group, and they decided that they didn't want to have any more problems with demonstrations, and they would serve us. But they didn't want any publicity out of it; they wanted us to come out like at a certain time during the day and just come out and order and they would serve us, and we would eat and we would go away. And that's how it came off and it was very successful, I think, for everyone involved. And the management made a statement that they served everybody on an equal basis, first come, first served, as long as they are peaceful and they don't come bringing any trouble, any violence.

EP:

Did CORE ever go back in large numbers to these places once they desegregated, or was it kind of understood that blacks would come back as patrons just little by little, gradually, one, or two, or three at a time, that kind of thing?

JK:

Well, from my recollection it was understood that we would not go back in mass, in mass numbers.

EP:

Okay. How about—one final question. The newspaper mentions that you and a woman named Joanne would act as spokesmen for the group, either to speak to the police, or to speak to Armistead Sapp, Senior and Junior, who were representing Hot Shoppe.

JK:

Oh, yes. [laughter]

EP:

Do you remember any of these conversations?

JK:

[laughter] I remember a conversation with Mr. Sapp. I do remember a conversation with him.

EP:

What was that?

JK:

That was like, I think it was in '61, '62. I remember meeting with Mr. Sapp in 1960; it was a running dialogue. And he told us this time that—I think that he was representing Woolworth's and Kress's also, but they split with him and he represented the other group [Center and Cinema Theatres and the S&W Cafeteria], but he told me that in no way could the stores serve us at the time. And we said—I remember my response was that I would go back and talk to the Student Executive Committee for Justice and the CORE group.

I'm trying—I don't want to get it confused. I know that the first time I talked to him was in 1960 when we were demonstrating, and he accused us of being agitators. And I told him, I said, “As a lawyer, you should know that the Constitution guarantees people the rights under the law.” He said, “I'm sorry, in no way; you just cannot be served.” So we didn't get arrogant with him, but it was like a running dialogue. He said, “I'm a lawyer. I know what I am talking about.”

And we told him politely, “Yes, but we know that we are right in our efforts.” He would get hot and he would do this, and say, “I'm their lawyer.” He really did it to make money off of the Hot Shoppes.

EP:

Well, was there antagonism between you or was it kind of a professional, cut-and-dried thing in your conversations?

JK:

It was like matching wits with each other [laughter]; it was more—sort of like the famous debates between William Jennings Bryan and I forgot the other attorney's name [Clarence Darrow]. I wasn't a lawyer, but I always enjoyed talking with him.

EP:

Where would you talk? A&T campus? His office?

JK:

Right, it was his office. We would go to his office and meet and talk with him. His line was: “By no way would these stores integrate at all.” And he took on the job, and he influenced several of the businesses that he would represent them in keeping us out—keeping the places segregated. He did a poor job—he made some poor statements in the newspaper that really made the stores take a hard-line stand in the manner in which he approached the Student Executive Committee for Justice or later on, from the representatives of CORE. And so finally, I think McNeill Smith, an attorney for something like the Human Relations Commission, he would meet with us and talk with us, and then we, in turn, we would get together and then we would talk with Mr. Sapp or whoever else his representatives were. McNeill Smith did a very good job in handling the situation; he was an attorney, also. I don't know if he's still in Greensboro or not.

EP:

Yes.

JK:

But, he'd be a good person to talk to about that.

EP:

Well, if I could move on then to “Operation Door Knock.” Do you remember what this was?

JK:

Was that in the summer of '62?

EP:

I think so, yes.

JK:

Operation Door Knock, I think, had to deal with voter registration. And also, it had to deal—I think voter registration and also, I think, getting served at the Hot Shoppes or McDonald's. We were asking people, we were asking people not to trade at certain places at the same time.

EP:

So you instituted a selective buying campaign?

JK:

Selective buying campaign, that's what it was all about.

EP:

Was it an ongoing thing or was it instituted every now and then?

JK:

It was only instituted when it was necessary. It was never our aim to cause economic disruption to the businesses in Greensboro. [It was] only the places that we felt we had a grievance against who we asked people to carefully not purchase any goods where they were not allowed equality of service.

EP:

What I'm going by is there was a report in the fall of '62 about events that CORE was involved in summer. This campaign against the Hot Shoppe was one, Operation Door Knock was another, and another one was the removal of discriminatory signs downtown. Do you recall that?

JK:

Yes, I do remember we asked that signs like “colored water fountains” and “colored restrooms” and “white only”—these kind of signs be removed. Particularly in all places—particularly city government [buildings] or wherever the city had an interest.

EP:

Was this in cooperation with some adult members of the community? Because Mr. Chavis and several others recalled—they said they were on a committee that went around and talked to store managers.

JK:

Yes, yes. They were part of the adult group that went and did this because we couldn't get to all of these places and we knew that there was sometime—you know the adults—it was cooperation between the adults and the students.

EP:

Oh, so the students would go along with the adults in some cases to these stores?

JK:

Yes, in some cases we would, because we did not have charge accounts there. In some cases, it was more—it would be more significant if an adult went who had been purchasing goods there or had an account there all along, who had influence on other adult members in the community. And whatever the results that the adults received from these businesses, then they would come back and tell the students. And if it was not favorable, then we would start—we were the foot soldiers—we would go start the selective buying campaigns, and we would put on the picket signs and demonstrate in front of a particular establishment.

EP:

The impression I get is that down around October of '62, the picketing of the S&W and the Mayfair and the theatres began. Is that true?

JK:

Yes, somewhere along that time. It was like there was something going on from 1960 all the time, all the way up to 1963, even though it was only a handful of us at times. We made sure that the spirit of the movement was not lost, that there was something going on, because there were a lot of, there were a lot of still racial barriers that were there in Greensboro.

So, we only had a handful of people at times, because the majority of the students would participate if school was going on, and also if they considered themselves having time. But there was a certain core group, there was a group of people—not exactly CORE members—but there was always a certain core of people on A&T's campus, or Bennett's campus, or Dudley High School who were out there weekly and monthly, from 1960 all the way up until '63.

EP:

Well, I got the impression that this picketing of the theatres and the cafeterias—was that going on at the same time, or was it sometimes the theatres and sometimes the cafeterias?

JK:

Well, we took—we didn't try to take on too much at one time, depending on the number of people that we could count on to participate. We would select like the restaurants at one time and then we selected the theatres later. And the theatres were always on our list from 1960, but we couldn't get to them all the time, so during '62 and the fall of '63, we began to also picket at the theatres, but particularly during the spring of—not the fall of '64, but the spring of '63—everything became stepped up. So not only like S&W, but then it became the Center Theatre, and the National Theatre, the Carolina Theatre.

EP:

I never heard too much in the papers about the National Theatre. Is there any reason that it wasn't selected? I know one—it was a pretty rough section, pretty rough theatre.

JK:

The National Theatre, you had to walk up so many flights of stairs before you can get to the ticket booth, and downstairs, they only had a small door anyway for people to go in. So the National Theatre wasn't like the Center Theatre, which was wide open and which had a larger front, I should say, and it wasn't like the Carolina Theatre, which was a larger theatre, too.

EP:

I get the impression that this picketing went on and there were two times when there were major arrests. The—I have a notation here that there were fifty-one arrested on November fifteenth, in which Reverend [William] Brown led a “pray-in” in front of the S&W, and Captain William Jackson arrested about fifty-one people. Were you a part of that demonstration?

JK:

No, I wasn't a part of that one that day. I wasn't down there that day. I remember them discussing it and—but see like this was during the time when I was very much involved with the student government activities on A&T's campus. And I think that Bill Thomas, along with Reverend Brown and others, this was their project. So, when I could, I would participate in the picketing, what have you, but I was not part of the arrest during that day.

EP:

So, there really not any large-scale student involvement until after the arrests of the four CORE members, CORE officers, on May eleventh at McDonald's in 1963. Is that a fair assessment?

JK:

I would say so.

EP:

I mean it terms of like—we're talking about thousands now.

JK:

Yes, thousands, yes. That's one of the things that began to kick it off. Plus that it was almost at the end of school and many students were like in their finals, some were graduating. So they figured well, the springtime is here, you know, and it's time to get back in there.

See, the students at A&T and Bennett never did forget that they had a responsibility to help get freedom in our time, our lifetime. That was always the commitment, but we were not always able, sometimes, to participate every day. We always invited them to come down: “If you are able to participate for the cause of freedom, give us one hour out of the week. When can you come down?” We had a schedule of people who would come down. Sometimes, this was the main activity, because it's very hard in the springtime to get people to do certain things because there is a quotation: “In the springtime, the sap rises.” In other words—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EP:

I've been trying to get a sense of what went on in '62 and '63, and the CORE archives just have very spotty, kind of personal correspondence. And most of the correspondence was after Bill Thomas became president and things picked-up in the spring of '63.

JK:

Did you talk with Bill yet?

EP:

Yes, I have. But he wasn't so much—he was very much, very helpful in terms of the overall philosophical concept and the goals, but not particularly on the specifics. And one thing I was very anxious to get is could you characterize the people who constituted this core element of CORE? The people who were on the Executive Committee and who constituted the officers? You know, we've talked about Elizabeth Laizner and James Bush.

JK:

Are you talking about them personally?

EP:

Yes, and also as a CORE officer.

JK:

Well, when I was president of CORE during the summer of '62, I don't remember them [Elizabeth Laizner or James Bush] being like on the Executive Committee; they were not on it then. They were actively participating. They came on the Executive Committee, I think, later on during Bill's administration.

EP:

How about the people that were on it during your administration?

JK:

Okay. Well, the ones I remember was the Reverend Marion Jones, there was Bill. I think there was—I do remember Reverend [James] Bush; now Reverend Bush was a very forceful man, he was very resolved in his ideas about “Freedom Now.” He had a lot of influence with the students at Bennett campus. Also, Dr. Elizabeth Laizner. I do remember her during the summer of '62. She was really for equality for all people. She had been criticized by some people in the community as being what they called a troublemaker. But she was a thinker; Elizabeth Laizner is gifted with a very astute political mind, and she's very analytic in making her decisions and planning strategy. Well, Mr. Hatchett, [laughter] I have to say that I consider him to be a warrior.

EP:

A worrier?

JK:

A warrior. A warrior.

EP:

Warrior.

JK:

He's like a soldier. If he believed in the principle, excuse me, nothing could move him. He was willing to put his life on the line for his commitment and what he believed in. And he showed that later on after he left Greensboro and went to New York City.

EP:

I noticed that he left that following year; do you know why he left?

JK:

Well, there may have been—I don't know—there may not have been too much into it. There may be—he may have had differences of opinion with various Bennett faculty. There were some people who felt—who did make themselves known to the Board of Directors of Bennett College. And both he and Dr. Laizner and Reverend Bush were controversial figures in Greensboro as well as on the campus of Bennett College.

EP:

Because of their activism?

JK:

Because of their activism. I can imagine that Dr. Player had received complaints, probably from members of the Methodist Church, about their participation.

EP:

It seems—there was some talk that Bill Thomas had some trouble with his legs; do you know what the trouble was?

JK:

Well, unknown to many people, Bill Thomas, as a young man in junior high school and high school, had a very severe blood disease which affected his skin to the point whereby Bill had to have a very serious operation on his legs. And it wasn't certain whether or not he would be able to even maybe walk again; that's when he was in high school. But he had to have a series of operations, at least two or three; he had to have so many skin grafts. I have forgotten what type of skin condition that he had, but it was so terrible that his skin was always dry and cracked. I don't know what they call it; it wasn't psoriasis. It may have been a form of eczema, I don't know.

EP:

You know, you keep mentioning Lewis Brandon. Would you mind characterizing him?

JK:

I like Lewis Brandon. Lewis Brandon was—he was kind of quiet-spoken; he had an easy-going manner about him, but—as I knew him then, and he still has. He is a seasoned worker for the cause of freedom. Over a period of time, we all evolved.

EP:

Was he older than the average student?

JK:

No.

EP:

He was about the same age as you all?

JK:

Yes, he was about the same age as we were—one year, two years, older or younger. Lewis was there with his brother.

EP:

What was his brother's name?

JK:

I can't think of his brother's name, but there were a group of fellows from Asheville who went to A&T. One fellow named Charles Bates, who was very active. Charles Bates was a year behind us, but he was very active in the freedom movement during '60, '61, and '62. There was a fellow named Donald Potts from Washington, D.C. who was with Lewis and them.

EP:

How do you spell his last name?

JK:

Donald Potts?

EP:

Yes.

JK:

P-o-t-t-s.

EP:

Okay. Did you know Alvin Thomas and their sister [Antoinette]?

JK:

Yes, Alvin was very active, he was a high school student at the time when Bill was in college. And Bill's sister, Antoinette, she was a high school student, and I think she attended Bennett, I'm not sure. But Antoinette Thomas was very active during the summer of '60, '61, and '62. She was one of the leaders of the young women.

EP:

Over at Bennett or A&T?

JK:

I think Antoinette went to Bennett; I'm not sure. I think it was Bennett College. When she was a high school student in '60, she was very active, and in '61. Whenever anyone needed help, Antoinette would help organize, along with Marian Dansby, attorney David Dansby's sister, who's now I think in Durham, but they would help organize the women students, along with Mrs. Frances Lewis, Mrs. Frances Herbin Lewis and Ann Saunders Staples.

EP:

There's been some question—

JK:

I'm sorry.

EP:

I'm sorry too. There's been some question that some people weren't as committed to the concept of nonviolence as others. Was there ever any conflict about this?

JK:

Oh, yes, this was always a running debate. There were some of us who really believed, thought we were nonviolent in our hearts. But there were others who would go, who would say, “Well, I'll be nonviolent to a point. If anyone attacks me, I either leave the line or I have to deal with the person, because I don't want anyone attacking me.” Some had that attitude.

Some people used the strategy of nonviolent resistance as a tactic. It was not a way of life with them, but it was a means to getting to the goals which they desired. There were some fellows I would not push very far, some of the A&T football players and others who were like, they were like our bodyguards during the time that we were demonstrating. And of course, some people who were antagonistic against the movement decided that they would attack the students, and they would attack one of these football players, these athletes, and these guys were not necessarily nonviolent. And there were some incidents where one or two of the football players elbowed a couple of the antagonists who were against the demonstrators.

EP:

So there were some times when the two groups came into conflict. I mean, between the white hecklers and the black demonstrators. Is that right?

JK:

[laughter] Yes, those incidents did happen.

EP:

Was this in '63 or earlier?

JK:

Well, 1960, when we were demonstrating at Woolworth's and Kress's; incidents may have happened like in '62, '63, but they were like minor incidents. Sometimes when these things would happen and we would have to pull a guy off or pull a person off the line and tell them to go back to the campus. Or, if you couldn't be nonviolent, we would tell them to leave, which they did. But sometimes the hecklers would follow this person away from the lines, and if they turned the corner, the heckler would catch a fist maybe or something like this from this athlete or this person who was not necessarily nonviolent.

See, what we're saying was that nonviolence was a tactic for most of the students, but, you know, we basically believed in nonviolence. We didn't believe in violence, attacking anyone, but—

EP:

If you were attacked, you might respond in kind.

JK:

Yes, some of them might respond in kind, but generally, this was not the principle.

EP:

Well, the reason I ask is because everything I hear on the radio, I mean newspaper accounts of the time, and people I've interviewed, they suggest that the police did a pretty good job of keeping the hecklers on one side of the street—I'm talking about '63 when thousands were involved.

JK:

Well, that's true, and of course our main objective was always to cooperate with the police authority. We made sure before we went down to any demonstration, we would call the police and tell them where we would be, what time the demonstration was going to be, who was involved, how many was involved, how long it would go on, and then how we were getting there and how we were going to leave.

We did not, at any instance, play any tricks with the police department, as I can remember, because we knew that what we were interested in was to preserving our integrity as individuals, to preserving integrity, even though we knew, quote—we considered ourselves to be the protagonists and the people opposing were antagonists; we tried to make sure that the means justified the ends, and that in our seeking equality in Greensboro, that we did not cause overt or covert acts of violence that would ruin our cause, a chance to obtain our goals as quick as possible. At the same time would cause the city—a violent act to take place in the city because we knew we had to live there, this was our home. We couldn't go anywhere else, and it wouldn't do any good for any violence to take place or bloodshed that would harm anyone. The most important thing was life and the preservation of life and not to injure anybody, if possible. That was our most important thing.

EP:

Well, as you said that after the fall of '62, when most of your time was taken up as a student and as president of the student body, were you contacted by CORE, new CORE officers, to speak to the students to try to get them to come out and support the picketing in the fall of '62?

JK:

Yes, I was asked a couple of times.

EP:

Did you address the students in mass meetings?

JK:

Sometimes I did, like after, on Saturday after a movie on A&T's campus, or I would allow a representative from the group that was in charge of demonstrations or a particular project to come forward and speak to the student body about it. As in a democracy, it is a free forum, a discussion. And I wasn't there to protect them, the group that was asking for help; I just made a way open for them so they could come and talk to the student body.

And generally, the student body at A&T's campus and Bennett, we had an understanding; there was a general respect for me, and I had respect for them, and it was always like that. If they didn't like something, they would come and tell me right off the bat—the student body would—how they felt, it was that type of a relationship. I was only—I don't consider myself to be a leader, but I just happened to be a person there at the time, and the students at A&T's campus felt that maybe I could be a representative for them, but at any time I knew that I could lose my position or I was up to be criticized like everyone else.

EP:

So, I assume that they contacted you in the fall—I mean in the spring of '63, when they decided to make it a massive effort, and you provided this service again—gave, provided them a forum to talk to the students? Is that right?

JK:

That's right and, also I didn't do it by myself. I consulted Joe, and Frank, and David, because we were all seniors and we knew we were up for graduation and we had about two weeks to go until school was out, and we knew that someone had to go with the students; in fact, we had to get involved directly. It was not our purpose to get involved directly but we knew that the students at A&T related to us from 1960 and, at this time, there were students from A&T and Bennett who were getting arrested, on the mass level. And, although Jesse [Jackson] had joined the movement at this time, he did not consider it was his duty to go to jail.

Now, we had about two or three hundred students from Bennett College and A&T in jail in Greensboro, and there was nobody in jail with them who represented the leadership of the movement at the time. There was a lot of confusion going on and a lot of people were getting depressed; they were frustrated. So Joe and I had a talk with Frank, and we had to make a decision that we had to go in jail, too. [unclear]

EP:

As kind of symbols?

JK:

As symbols, but because we had a commitment, even though we were getting ready to graduate. Because, like I said, Jesse came up out of nowhere in the spring of '62, when they were having weekly or daily speeches being made at the Providence Baptist Church at the time, which was near Market Street; it's not there any more.

But one day he came up while the students from Bennett and CORE were speaking—I don't know if he was asked to speak, but he was prepared and he came and he made a speech about freedom and that began his involvement in the movement in Greensboro. But, he, even though he was speaking, the students there still considered that the four of us—I mean, David, Frank, Joe and myself—were considered to be the true leadership of the movement from 1960. And it got down to the point whereby a decision had to be made whether or not to go inside of the jail so that the students in Greensboro and the students at Bennett would know that there was somebody there who they could relate to from the initial movement of the sixties, because Jesse wouldn't go.

EP:

Was this before he had the prominent role as being a leader of the marches?

JK:

I beg your pardon?

EP:

The sequence, as I understand it, was that Reverend Stanley said that he would—he, among others, would talk to Jesse Jackson and that at first, he [Jackson] was reluctant to join because he was into other things and one thing and another. And he was finally asked to participate because he was an athlete, he had just been elected president of the [A&T] student body for the next fall.

JK:

Well, he had been preparing himself for three years. Jesse had been preparing himself to get involved for three years. But the thing that kept, that held him back was that he knew that the four of us were on A&T's campus. And during that time he did not see it as feasible for him to become involved in the civil rights movement because I had asked him personally, around March of '63, would he help us, and at this time he turned it down. He said, “We were wasting our time.” Those were his exact words. So I told him, I said, “Well, Jesse, I know that you're preparing yourself for something.” Because he would be up late at night learning and speaking all of Dr. [Martin Luther] King's speeches and others who at this time, like Robert Weaver, who came to the campus to speak. Every time a national speaker came, he would take the speech and remember it by heart. And he would be practicing on his tape recorder in his room late at night making Dr. King's speeches.

So this is why I approached him, because I knew that he was a very influential person and that he could do a lot to help the movement, because we were graduating in the spring—I was anyway, and Joe was. And we needed someone who had a strong personality to continue to help and we knew he had the ability to do it, but he would not help at the time.

I don't know. It could have been also that—at this time, also, he was in preparation of getting married to his wife, Jackie, and they were expecting their first child, and he had a lot of pressure on him. I don't know all of the ramifications, but I can only tell you what he told me. And when he became active in the movement, still there were a lot of students at Bennett and A&T who couldn't understand how he became involved in the leadership of the movement because he was not active in CORE or the NAACP. And the Bennett women, who were like the active leaders, didn't like the idea of him coming in and taking over a leadership position, you see. There was some discussion about that by the women of Bennett College and some other members of the CORE group because Jesse had never been in on any planning sessions. You see what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes. If I could ask you just two more questions, Jibreel. You've been very, very patient.

JK:

I hope, I hope that I'm helping you out.

EP:

Oh, immensely, immensely.

JK:

I've tried to fill in—I hope you don't—I'm not trying to be biased in giving my answers about certain personalities. I'm trying to be as objective as possible.

EP:

Well, I think you're being immensely helpful and very objective. I was wondering, Elizabeth Laizner made a point in her interview of emphasizing that one time, when they were all out at the polio hospital, that you got a counterman's cap and coat and you came in with this huge tray of sandwiches.

JK:

[laughter] Yes, I remember that.

EP:

And she said you used this opportunity to tell her, kind of privately, that she was more or less in charge of the female students and that a man named Jim Warrant, or Joe Warrant—

JK:

Joe Warren, yes.

EP:

Warren? Is it W-a-r-r-e-n?

JK:

Yes, I think Joe Warren.

EP:

—was—more or less be in charge of the men. Do you remember that incident?

JK:

Yes, I remember it. I was asked to go in because they had like two or three hundred, three hundred students from Bennett College in there and these women, these girls, they were put in rooms out in the polio hospital, which was not sanitary, and they had like fourteen women crowded in a room that was only meant for like three or four people. And they had no chance to bathe or no proper toilet facilities, and the morale was getting low and we were afraid that somebody was going to get sick there. So it was the strategy that I was chosen by the group to go in and talk to them.

EP:

By the CORE leadership?

JK:

By the CORE leadership, yes, a combination of Bennett and A&T students because they could easily recognize me, although the guards and policemen didn't know who I was. I was—they had people coming in and bringing them food, so I put the clothes on and went in there, and that was a great morale booster.

EP:

How did you get the food and get the outfit and all that? It sounds like a fascinating story.

JK:

Well, it was a part of the strategy session that we had, because there was no leader in the movement who had gone in behind the bars with them. And all of the students at Bennett knew me; my sister Jean, Gloria Jean, she was in jail with the students. So when I came in, the guards didn't know who I was. They let me inside of the hospital and then I went in and I carried food to them and around the table I began to talk with them and tell them, “Build your confidence up, we'll have you out in a little while.” And after that, that made them have more stamina. Then Dr. Player also went in later on, and she went to talk with the students. She told them to stay there because they wanted the students to leave, and she told them that she was very proud of them. It was a great morale booster, where Dr. Dowdy had been forced to do just the opposite. He signed a statement that required the A&T students to come back to the campus.

These are little things that came up. I am not trying to say this to build up my image in this, but it just something that came down. If I didn't go, Joe would have gone. Joe went to jail in the mass arrests, along with Robert [Pat] Patterson and a lot of other students from A&T and Dudley High School.

EP:

How many times were you arrested?

JK:

Maybe over a period of three or four years, maybe about three of four times in Greensboro.

EP:

But you weren't arrested after they stopped refusing bail and filled up the polio hospital and National Guard Armory and that sort of thing were you?

JK:

Yes. I was arrested—I was put in the National Guard Armory.

EP:

And how did you get released? I mean, was that when they were taking all the A&T students back to the—

JK:

They were taking all of the A&T students back to the campus.

EP:

How many nights or days were you in there? Do you recall?

JK:

We were in there like about two days, two-and-a-half days, something like that. They let us go on the third day.

EP:

Well, what was it like when—I gather that it was very late at night when they said that they were going to move you all back.

JK:

Yes, well, it was like about seven o'clock in the evening, something like that, seven o'clock, seven-thirty. It was nightfall, I do remember that.

EP:

Was there any problem or did you just get into vehicles and go back? Or was there any thought about refusing to go, or anything like that?

JK:

Well, we were—the spirit was very high. And after being in for about two days or so, we had a regular system set-up about food coming in and clothing, we were chanting and singing constantly that kept our spirits high. Pat Patterson was one of the song leaders. And the students didn't want to go, they didn't want to leave because they thought they would be tricked. So, they began to take guys out and the guys began to resist, so—some of the policemen were going to get rough with them. So I talked with I think Mr. [Jimmie I.?] Barber and Dean Gamble came, William Gamble; he came there. We talked it over and he said that they were taking everybody out, because the president had signed the order telling everybody to come out and come back on campus.

So a lot of people were very upset over that because of what happened to the female students and the ones from Bennett, they were still there. And many students felt that we had been “sold down the drain,” so to speak, that A&T's administration, Dr. Dowdy had not—had given in to the governor's request.

And many of them were determined to go back to jail if necessary, as soon as they got out. So we had a big, mass meeting, we had a mass meeting on—at A&T's [Harrison] Auditorium later that night because all of the students were released there. The students were demanding that someone would speak to them. Well, no one wanted to speak to them. Attorney [Henry] Frye came, he spoke to them. Darwin Turner, Dr. Darwin Turner was an English professor, he was on the stage. Jesse was supposed to speak to them, but he didn't go out on the stage, and—

EP:

Do you know why?

JK:

Well, something happened. He couldn't face them. And he had been speaking, but that particular night, he just, he froze. So the students were yelling and chanting, and so they came and got me and asked would I come and speak to the student body. I still wasn't the leader—I wasn't the leader of the movement, I wasn't the leader of the movement.

EP:

When you say they came and asked you to speak; who was they?

JK:

I think it was Attorney Frye and Darwin Turner and maybe one or two other leaders. Because what it came down to was, the students didn't really recognize Jesse as being their spokesman. And even though he had won the election to become president of student government, the movement was something altogether different—

EP:

I see.

JK:

Because it's like, it's the difference between being the person who is steadfast constantly and someone who perhaps at the moment may have captured the news media. You see the analogy?

And those of us who had been with the movement from sixty—for three years straight, we had had a rapport and those students had been at A&T for three years straight, along with us four years, from 1960. So they knew, in essence, when it came down to rock bottom, the tried and true leadership of the movement, who were not out there every—who were not what you might call the spur-of-the-moment spokesmen, but someone who had gone through the fire like they had gone through for four years. You see what I'm saying?

EP:

Yes. So you did speak to them?

JK:

Yes, I spoke to the student body.

EP:

What did you say to them?

JK:

Well, everybody was chanting they wanted to go back. The president, he—Dr. Dowdy was there, but they didn't want to hear what he had to say. And the tension was very high. So I— whatever I said to them, I told them, “You know, first of all, you know we are all brothers in this, and we all want our freedom.” And I know everybody was tense, so I said, “You know I wouldn't lie to you. Nobody wants to go back more than me, but we are in a tight situation here.” I said “The president is under pressure from the governor; he's only trying to do his job.” I said, “Now, we have an obligation, also, as students. Graduation is coming up, and your parents will be coming here over the weekend, the next couple of days, and you've got to get ready.” I said “We've proven our point, now let's put it to a vote. Who wants to stay? Who wants to go back?”

Well, first they voted, “We want to go back!” We put it to a voice vote.

I said, “Okay, let's talk this thing more.” So as we talked it over, there was group consensus, all in favor. So, finally, everybody calmed down to the point whereby they reluctantly agreed—it's like twisting their arms, right? They reluctantly agreed that they would abide by the order of the president. At the same time, they also agreed that they would continue to picket.

EP:

Was this the end of the attempt to jam the courts through the mass arrests? At this point, you did not realize that, as I understand it, there was a meeting going on at Providence Baptist or AME [African Methodist Episcopal] Zion, and they called in Mayor Pro Tem Trotter—by they, I mean the Coordination Committee—and got a concession from him that he, the city would appoint a new committee under Dr. Evans.

JK:

See I didn't know this. See I didn't know any of this was going on.

EP:

Did you later know about it?

JK:

Yes, I heard about it, but my main interest at the time was being concerned about the students at A&T and about the ones who were at Bennett because we didn't know what was going on. We just knew that we were being taken out of jail and carried to the campus and a lot of the guys were very much upset by it. They wanted, some of them, they were really downgrading the president and all of who were with the administration for doing such a deed because they felt that their cause was just, that it was just a trick to break the back of the movement. So it just came about like that.

EP:

Well, you've been very patient, Jibreel.

JK:

[laughter] I think you've been very patient.

EP:

Can I ask just one final question?

JK:

Yes.

EP:

Did you, after your graduation, did you leave Greensboro or did you stay in town?

JK:

Well, I was in Greensboro during the summer of '63. And I was undecided just what I was going to do; I was working with my father on a project, painting for houses and stuff, because he was a contractor. And in September, the first week of September 1963, I got this call from Dr. [Samuel] Proctor at this time, who asked me what were my plans for the fall of the year, and I told him, “Well, I am trying to work to save money so I can probably either get a job or go to grad school.” He said “Well, how'd you like to go to Howard Law School? Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.”

And I told him, “Well, it's kind of late.”

He said “Well, school's only been going on there for over a week.” And he said, “They'll take you there. How would you like to go right on up?” Because he wanted me to go on and get a graduate degree.

But I was having problems with my health all along, for about three years, and I was just tired. But I wanted to go on to school because I did take my law exam, pre-law exam, entrance exam to go to school back in November of the previous year. And I was accepted to Howard Law School, but it was a matter of financing. So finally, I agreed to go to law school in the fall of '63, but when I got there, school had been going on like about ten days, almost two weeks when I got there. I had to catch up the two weeks; it was very difficult to do. I stayed there up until April, April 1964. I had to leave, I had to leave law school. There was too much pressure on me and my health wasn't holding up very good. I haven't been back since, because when I left there in '64, I came back to Greensboro to work for about eight or nine months, and then in the spring of '65 I joined the Job Corps as a teacher here in New Bedford and I have been here ever since. So—

[End of Interview]