In this WSB clip dated July 1966, several African American leaders respond to questions at what appears to be a press conference, the location of which is unknown. Reverend Hosea Williams, speaking on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), expresses his opinions on the SCLC's role in mitigating an outbreak of violence during recent demonstrations in Mississippi, on the importance of a strong SCLC presence nationally, on the loss of hope in the efficacy of nonviolent protest, and strategy to regain support for the SCLC and nonviolence.
The clip begins in silence. Three African American men are seated in front of a table where a series of microphones are arranged. On the left, Reverend Joseph E. Boone is speaking. Reverend Hosea Williams is in the middle; the man on the right is unidentified. This is followed by a shot of an audience of young, mostly white people, then by a shot of Williams speaking emphatically to Boone. The camera then focuses in on the small table of microphones, and on a camera operator looking through a television camera. The next shot opens with sound. Here, Hosea Williams says "if it hadn't have been for SCLC, I'm certain that the march in Mississippi would have finally ventured into a shooting war." When asked "why" by a reporter, Williams responds "Because there are forces that do not feel about nonviolence--the power of nonviolence--like SCLC," presumably referring to civil rights organizations such as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who recently began to accept violence as a means of self-defense. He continues, noting "unless the Southern Christian Leadership Conference widens its scope in this nation, unless the Southern Christian Leadership Conference becomes more vigorous in its activities in this nation, there's not only going to be riots in Chicago and riots in Watts (referring to the Watts riots of August 1965 and Chicago's West Side riots in July 1966), there are going to be riots in Georgia and Alabama because this country has so desponded and frustrated Negroes now that they themselves are losing hope in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But I think with an exaggerated program, with us putting more impetus into nonviolence that we can still lead the Negroes in a nonviolent manner."
In the summer of 1966, James Meredith, the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi, organized a "walk against fear" from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi, with the intent to encourage voter turnout and demonstrate that African Americans could prevail over white violence in the region. The march lasted for approximately three weeks, beginning on June 5, and ending on June 26. On June 6, the second day of the march, James Meredith was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt. Upon the discovery of Meredith's injury, leaders of SCLC, SNCC and CORE came to Tennessee to support Meredith and continue the march. Although the leaders of these organizations initially made a good faith effort to demonstrate unity to the press and public, tensions between the three civil rights groups were exacerbated during the march, largely induced by the intense violence and racism that surrounded them in Tennessee and Mississippi. Martin Luther King, Jr. objected to the use of the slogan "black power," which SNCC chairman Stokely Carmichael popularized after an altercation with law enforcement officials along the march route in Greenwood, Mississippi. King believed that such rhetoric worked against building constructive coalitions with white civil rights sympathizers, which he felt were necessary to achieve success. King had also become discouraged with the increasing acceptance of defensive or retaliatory violence by members of SNCC and CORE, as well as the spread of that acceptance amongst members of the national civil rights movement, who were wearied by the violence enacted against them. Tensions between the three organizations at the end of the march were financial as well as ideological; SCLC was held responsible for costs incurred by all three organizations, as CORE and SNCC had failed to raise any funds. Frustrated SCLC aides had become embittered by the strains endured in Mississippi, and began to reveal a sense of discord in the movement to the press.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Hosea Williams speaking about the possibility of violence in the Civil Rights movement, 1966 July, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1343, 4:54/06:15, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.