Carroll G. Barber
Carroll G. Barber
Barber, Carroll G.--Interviews
Civil rights movements
African American--Civil rights
Black Muslims--Race identity
African Americans--Race identity
United States--Race relations--Political aspects
Civil rights demonstrations
African Americans--Segregation--Southern States
White civil rights workers
Whites--Civil rights--United States
African Americans--Relations with Africans
Southern States--Race relations
Carroll G. Barber was a white civil rights activist and anthropologist. He became associated with Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1961 and was arrested on July 15, 1961 in Jackson, Mississippi when he participated in the Freedom Rides. In this interview Carroll G. Barber discusses African American identity and Black Muslims. He discusses his belief in nonviolence and his experiences with civil rights demonstrations. Barber describes difference between the progress of the civil right movement in the North and the South. He also discusses differences between Southerners and Northerners as well as African Americans and whites. Barber describes how whites or other "outsiders" are perceived when they try to participate in the civil rights movement and tensions that may arise. He describes an experience he had in Memphis, Tennessee with segregation and concludes discussing the influence of a mob.
Robert Penn Warren
Carroll G. Barber
OHMS Object Text
5.1 Interview with Carroll G. Barber, February 16, 1964 2003OH018 RPWCR 008 01:19:07 OHRPWCR Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project RPWCR001 Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries (Exhibit) Barber, Carroll G.--Interviews Fisk University Anthropology Civil rights movements African American--Civil rights Black Muslims--Race identity African Americans--Race identity Tennessee--Race relations United States--Race relations--Political aspects Segregation Civil rights demonstrations Nonviolence Civil rights--Tennessee--Memphis Civil rights--Tennessee--Nashville African Americans--Segregation--Southern States White civil rights workers Whites--Civil rights--United States African Americans--Relations with Africans Whites--Southern States Southern States--Race relations Human recognitions Negotiations Segregationists Jackson State University Robert Moses Carroll G. Barber Robert Penn Warren 2003oh018_rpwcr008_barber_acc001.mp3 1:|32(6)|49(7)|60(3)|70(9)|89(7)|98(6)|116(8)|133(2)|145(5)|163(2)|172(3)|188(13)|202(10)|214(13)|232(11)|244(5)|262(9)|272(1)|286(10)|297(8)|318(2)|330(5)|348(10)|369(11)|387(6)|396(13)|415(1)|426(11)|439(2)|457(9)|484(5)|497(5)|512(5)|531(5)|546(12)|569(1)|590(3)|613(9)|624(12)|637(7)|652(13)|671(11)|693(4)|717(5)|735(6)|758(2)|780(12)|792(6)|807(1)|831(10)|845(1)|857(5)|871(12)|887(13)|906(9)|922(1)|937(10)|953(2)|966(12)|981(1)|995(2)|1012(3)|1039(10)|1050(2)|1072(12)|1099(7)|1116(2)|1146(8)|1165(3)|1188(11)|1205(5)|1217(1)|1230(9)|1252(3)|1267(2)|1288(11)|1308(4)|1319(7)|1322(1) 0 https://oralhistory.uky.edu/spokedbaudio/2003oh018_rpwcr008_barber_acc001.mp3 Other audio 0 The African American identity I don't, uh--see, our conversation is, well, I guess a background one. Barber gives his views on the assimilation of African Americans into white society. African American culture ; Appearances ; Barriers ; Black chauvinism ; Black culture ; Development ; Expression ; General society ; Human reactions ; Impulses ; Muslim movement ; Negotiations ; Parallels ; Pride ; Prospects ; Psyche split ; Western culture African Americans--Race identity. ; African Americans--Relations with Jews. ; African Americans--Social conditions. ; Civil rights movements--United States 17 532 Black Muslims during the civil rights movement How much, uh, do you think is in (??) in Boudin's notion of the--the secret motivation--if that's the right word--in the Black Muslim's redemption of the outcasts and all of that pride... Barber discusses his views on the Black Muslims and violence during the civil rights movement. Action ; African American communities ; Black communities ; Bricks ; Facts ; Indifferent ; Intelligence ; Lawyers ; Middle class ; Philosophical principles ; Picketing ; Pride ; Protection ; Redeeming ; Rocks ; Sit-ins ; Values ; Western civilization Black Muslims. ; Civil rights demonstrations ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Nonviolence 17 1024 Problems in the North vs. the South I know one, uh, young lady that is very bright, who stands very high in her second master's in law school. Barber talks about what will become of African Americans in northern cities, looking at segregation in both the North and the South. Census ; Cleveland school board ; Colonies ; Economic systems ; Human recognition ; Law schools ; Leslie Dunbar ; Optimistic ; Population density ; Prejudice ; Segregationists ; Solutions ; The Reporter African Americans--Social conditions. ; African Americans. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Mississippi--Social conditions ; School integration. ; Segregation 17 1490 Resistance to change As you were saying, one of the standard gambits of the segregationists is to say to the Yankee: " ; See? When you get the problem, you act the way we act. You were just unrealistic when you didn't have it yourself." ; Barber discusses the resistance to change on both the white and black sides of the civil rights movement. Ability ; Anger ; Diffusion ; Efficient ; Expensive ; Flexible ; Intelligent ; Justice ; Majority culture ; Opinions ; Police departments ; Political systems ; Pressures ; Problems ; Realistic ; Reluctant ; Segregationists ; Systems ; Talent ; Vicious ; Worthless African Americans--Social conditions ; African Americans. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Mississippi--Social conditions ; Segregation 17 1937 The role of white liberals How much resistance would you find around here in Tennessee, uh, to the white sympathizer or the white liberal who wants to move in and take part in, uh, the negro movement? Barber gives his views on whites who take part in the civil rights movement, the resentment of African Americans, and resentment toward outsiders. Amusing ; Arrogant ; Attitudes ; Behavior ; Clarity ; Complain ; Conversations ; Criticism ; Culture ; Dr. Jacqueline Clark ; Emotional problems ; Envy ; Friction ; Inferior positions ; Jackson State University ; Judge ; Lingo ; Local African Americans ; Louis Jones ; Motives ; Neighbors ; Outsiders ; Resentment ; Robert Moses ; Standards ; Suspicion ; Trouble ; Vocabulary ; White attitude ; Wild ideas African Americans--Social conditions. ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Education ; Liberalism ; Race relations 17 2696 A comparison of the civil rights movement and abolitionism Do you see the differences or similarities between the old abolitionism and the present situation on psychological or other grounds? Barber gives his views regarding the similarities and differences between the civil rights movement and the abolitionist movement. Activists ; American Missionary Association ; Attitudes ; Cultural anthropology ; Culture change ; Differences ; Dynamics ; Evidence ; Historical movements ; Prejudices ; Segregationists ; Similarities ; Social problems ; Training ; Understanding ; War pathology Abolitionism ; Antislavery movements. ; Civil rights movements--United States 17 3026 Disorientation during the civil rights movement How would you respond to a notion such as this? Barber discusses the feelings of bystanders about civil rights activities, as well as what white people in the South can identify as. Afraid ; Charles Evers ; Christians ; Cultural roles ; Disorientation ; Future ; History ; Mad ; Modern world ; Negotiations ; Paradoxical ; Roles ; Self-respect ; Sit-in strategy ; Social changes ; Standard responses ; Symbols ; Thomas Jefferson ; Urban centers ; White bystanders ; White Southerners ; Woolworth's lunch counter Civil rights demonstrations ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Identity (Philosophical concept) ; Segregation 17 3785 Civil rights activity in Memphis, Tennessee Well, where were we? Barber talks about his time in Memphis, Tennessee and the information he has about the city. Black vote ; Changes ; Civil rights legislation ; Devious ; Influence ; John Lewis ; Labor support ; Lower class ; March on Washington ; Middle class ; Moral defense ; Newspapers ; Quality of life ; Student movement ; Suspicions ; Trials ; Unitarian minister ; White liberals African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee--Memphis ; Memphis (Tenn.) ; Politics and government ; Segregation 17 4174 The operation of the southern white mob There's a section in Baldwin's last book to this effect--a rough paraphrase. Barber gives his perspective on the white mob and how it operates, the police force, and the will of the majority. Authority ; Consent ; Hoodlums ; James Baldwin ; Majority ; Metropolitan government ; Misrepresentation ; Mobs ; Moral vacuum ; Nationalists ; New Orleans crisis ; Pressure ; Southern mob ; Thurgood Marshall ; Violence ; Will of the majority Civil rights demonstrations ; Civil rights movements--United States ; Desegregation ; Leadership ; Race relations 17 4661 [End] End, end, end, end of interview with Carroll Barber, Fisk University, February the 16th... This segment consists of Robert Penn Warren (the interviewer) saying 'end' over and over again. 17 Carroll G. Barber was a white civil rights activist and anthropologist. He became associated with Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1961 and was arrested on July 15, 1961 in Jackson, Mississippi when he participated in the Freedom Rides. In this interview Carroll G. Barber discusses African American identity and Black Muslims. He discusses his belief in nonviolence and his experiences with civil rights demonstrations. Barber describes difference between the progress of the civil right movement in the North and the South. He also discusses differences between Southerners and Northerners as well as African Americans and whites. Barber describes how whites or other " ; outsiders" ; are perceived when they try to participate in the civil rights movement and tensions that may arise. He describes an experience he had in Memphis, Tennessee with segregation and concludes discussing the influence of a mob. WARREN: I don' ; t--See our conversation is--I guess a background one, and though I should certainly like that--you may--might develop any part of it you can--you can--you' ; ll see the transcript and you can--you can look at it and see what you-- BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: --want. But all and all for background or background or for (??) if you want to. I would like to know to start with what you know of the genesis of the sit-ins in Nashville. BARBER: That I couldn' ; t tell you because-- WARREN: Okay. You were--you were-- BARBER: --I wasn' ; t here. WARREN: --you came in--you came in after-- BARBER: I came here in December-- WARREN: Um-hm. BARBER: --of ' ; 61 and the movement here (??). WARREN: As you had--after (??) you said two years ago-- BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: Now, you--you weren' ; t--weren' ; t here at the time of negations either, the windup? Well, this--this fact, I did not know until you told me a little while ago the things that--now, you' ; re an anthropologist and that' ; s great, that' ; ll--this is a--there' ; s a lot to hear you talk about it. The whole notion of this--the psychic split in the--in the negroes if there were anything, the pull toward the negritude in the mystic world, the black man' ; s cultural dream--about, any of those things, opposed to the impulse to enter, you know, the mainstream of western culture and in the end perhaps lose identity and I get all sorts of different replies to that--that notion, you see-- BARBER: I imagine you would. WARREN: All sorts of different replies. BARBER: My own ideas change on it most of the time (laughs). WARREN: They do? BARBER: Um-hm. Frankly, I feel that in the next few years we' ; re going to see an increase in black chauvinism or whatever you want to call it. I don' ; t think it can withstand the pull of the predominant culture at all, I just don' ; t think--I just don' ; t see it as an anthropologist, theoretically I don' ; t see it, and from the standpoint of people I know who are not, say, involved so thoroughly in the movement and who are not as prone to go all out on this. It just seems to me that it' ; d be a very unlikely development, but you would get a long-term--a long-term expression of this, maybe ten, twenty years I--I would be doubtful if it would last this long. WARREN: Let me try the--let me try the--Well, apparently this is a problem for a good many negroes to talk about it that way. Some sense of a real split in feeling. Some really are (??) problem. BARBER: I--I' ; m--I' ; m sure it is. I mean I can see it. I have a feeling and a sense that there--an expression of it really hasn' ; t been possible or permitted until but relatively recently and that--oh, it would-- it' ; s--it' ; s a very human reaction I think to the situation. I forget who it was that said, well, white people talked about color for so long that the negroes finally decided it was important. But this is the sort of thing that we' ; re getting now. But when you think of the--the figure I always like to use is, what is the world going to be like in the year 2000? And I just can' ; t see that a--I can certainly see an amount of pride in one' ; s background and so forth, I really can' ; t see negroes developing into a minority on the order of the Jews or anything of that kind. WARREN: You don' ; t see that? BARBER: No. WARREN: Well, certain Jews that I know--including a couple of psychiatrists--draw a parallel between the--the--this split that some Jews feel, even Jews who have no religion, and the negro situation in--in this moment. BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: But one other thing related to this--and I don' ; t know how much of a question this really is--you read and people say that the cutting edge of the present, you know, civil rights and the new negro and all of this pattern of things is--depend upon the fact that the negro has changed his view of himself, has accepted his identity--his identification with the negro race or the negro group or the negro culture or any of these things, however you want to say it. This discovery of the self has given him the cutting edge psychologically. If that' ; s true then it is not merely a detail, you see, then black chauvinism is not merely a detail if you want to equate that with black chauvinism which I don' ; t think necessary either probably. But how would that--what kind of lead would that give you to-- BARBER: Well, I think you-- WARREN: --remark on? BARBER: --I think you can make a distinction between-- WARREN: Did you say you can? BARBER: You can make a distinction between what I call black chauvinism or some most virulent expressions of the Muslim movement, and a simple feeling of worth, a feeling of pride. And I say this, I think there- -there is a difference. And what I was referring to in particular was that--the--the expression on the order of--of the Muslim movement I cannot see being a permanent feature. This other will last in varying degrees, there will be families that will be horrified when prospective white brides or husbands are brought home just as there will be on the other side of the line and I don' ; t--certainly don' ; t see a--a real quick physical amalgamation, no. WARREN: It could-- BARBER: --But I don' ; t think that the barriers aren' ; t nearly as strong and then areas--small areas, sort of marginal areas to the general society, where these things have lost their potency, there-- the obstacles disappear. So, (??) I think it will be an eventual prospect. I don' ; t think it' ; s a very important one from the standpoint of negroes and I think a great many negroes are beginning to look at this with a certain amount of fear that this may be. And-- WARREN: The fear of the loss of identity-- BARBER: The--the fear of--of the loss of--of the group, yes. And I wouldn' ; t predict a hundred percent because there are too many factors in the world that are going to influence this that we don' ; t even know about, we haven' ; t identified. This is too far in the future. I' ; m thinking partly in these terms because yesterday we had a group of students from Colombia, South America here, and they were looking for the solution to the problem -- (??) what they mean by " ; solution" ; --and finally I said to them, I said, " ; Well, at one time Colombia had approximately the same percentage of negroes and white people as the United States today," ; and I said, " ; you seem to have rather successfully integrated (laughs)." ; And in appearances it was--it was obvious too. WARREN: How much do you think is in invested in [Leonard] Boudin' ; s notion of the--the secret motivation--if that' ; s the right word--in the Black Muslim redemption of the outcast and all of that with pride and CORE as a way of channeling ambitions, aspirations to join the middle- cl--middle-class white world, to accept its values, a strange backdoor- way of getting into the--getting into the middle class rather than a way of withdrawing from American white middle class values. BARBER: I must confess I have not read his book. I read Lincoln' ; s books. WARREN: That' ; s about it. He was saying (??) apparently exclusiveness and--and chauvinism really conceals an impulse in their training schools (??) to come back into the--the established-- BARBER: It sounds very rea-- WARREN: -- (??) of values. BARBER: --it sounds very reasonable to me being--and this is the reason I said what I did at the beginning. The pull of western civilization, even on people who thoroughly dislike it, who thoroughly suffered from it, is so tremendous today that I can' ; t see it being withstood. And this is an--I' ; m gonna have to read the book now, I' ; m--I' ; m interested in this, I haven' ; t heard that something like this was in it. In a sense you can look at the Muslims and--and say, well, this is a substitute for this acceptance but after all, the Black Muslims are Americans. They grew up in America, their cultural background is American, and they can study the Koran and learn Arabic all they want to but they' ; re still Americans. And so I wouldn' ; t be surprised at all sorts of--of covert acceptance of ideals where at the same time these are being rejected overtly. WARREN: That' ; s one of his ideas in the book and you go over it at some-- some length. BARBER: You' ; re really digging at--in the area where you can' ; t prove anything, (laughs) I' ; ll say that much. WARREN: That' ; s right, you cannot prove anything. BARBER: And as I have--I' ; ve--I mentioned--that we don' ; t really have all the facts and we don' ; t know how to deal with them, certainly the--the fact that negroes are pulled every which way today is true. WARREN: The reason for probing in--in my modest way into such a question is based on a notion that the attitude towards such questions modifies the line of action the negro will take. Do you see what I mean? BARBER: Well-- WARREN: His opinion or his--his inclination towards the question, again, is modified by what he' ; s gonna do (??) action. You find a strange thing like this, I talked the other day--a week or two weeks ago--with a very well-known negro lawyer in New Orleans who is a man of fine intelligence and--and very good education and--and with instincts, you see, and he' ; s been a lawyer for one of the social (??) civil rights groups and one of those that is certainly not the Black Muslims and it' ; s nonviolence, you know, and--and he finally burst out and said after a long conversation--the white man can' ; t be redeemed, they are all the same. There are gonna be a few but not many. He said, " ; I' ; m beginning to feel the Black Muslims are right. It' ; s against my feelings and against my philosophical principles but this is the way I' ; m being forced and I' ; m actually getting allured to it now and--and joining not in the organization but into it--the other-- the other-- other group. This--I hate to say it but it' ; s true." ; BARBER: Well, certainly, you see, as--as the past few years have gone by--particularly the last year and the Lord knows what we' ; re gonna see this year in some places, Congress or no--this is--this is one of the reasons I feel and I said that this is going to be heightened for a period. I can feel it myself, I' ; m not close to it. I' ; m not nonviolent by--(coughs) I' ; m nonviolent tactically in other words, this has been a good tactic and it' ; s worked and so-- WARREN: You say you' ; re for nonviolence as a tactic? BARBER: Yes. It' ; s not a--really a part of my philosophy of life in every--in every respect. And I' ; ve watched--well, it was in Nashville when I first saw people throwing bricks and rocks at people and you get to the point where I was--I was saying to myself, well, I don' ; t want-- I' ; d like to see some heads cracked myself if I could just guarantee they were the right (laughs) ones. But, of course, in a sense there are no right heads. Everybody is doing what they feel they have to do but-- WARREN: What was the-- BARBER: --this is--this is the sort of feeling that this was the end result of a sit-in, in other words. The--the police protected them while they were picketing but when they left--when they left there was no protection. That' ; s very often when the trouble begins. And it' ; s--I have been in a sense close to the civil rights movement in one way all my life, but mostly as an interested reader. And I hadn' ; t been in the South for years and I came back and this happened about four months after I' ; d been here. It took a week to get over it, I had just never seen people behaving that way. And when you go through this over and over again and--it' ; s almost easier to forgive the people that are throwing the rocks than it is the people who just stand by watching, doing nothing. And this is why I think people begin--do begin to feel, well, the white race is worthless for a person. I can' ; t ordinarily think in terms of redeeming a group of people ; I mean--these terms mean really nothing to me because I don' ; t look at people that way. The white race is no worse than any other race. They respond to their culture and their culture has been particularly unfortunate in this--in this particular regard and that' ; s that. I mean--but certainly I see white people feel this way. And I think this feeling is probably a lot stronger in the North than it is in the South in negro communities. WARREN: That apparently is true. That leads me to an anecdote-- BARBER: There, again, you see it' ; s the--you can almost forgive the guy that--that hits you but the guy that just stands by and is completely indifferent to your fate which is what usually Ne--Northern negroes put up with-- WARREN: He doesn' ; t know you are there? BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: That' ; s the greatest insult on you possible. I know one young lady that is very bright, who stands very high in the second master' ; s in Law School--she' ; s a negro--she says that she is very optimistic about the settlement(??) in the South in the relatively near future. She said, " ; The common history with the white man and the negro and (??) raised being on the land that long together, gives some basis for human recognitions even in the middle of brick-throwing or gun shooting," ; she said, " ; human recognitions are possible." ; It' ; s not what you were saying, indifferent and detached. It' ; s real, it' ; s personal. She says, " ; With this basis there is some hope for our society to come out of it in reasonable time." ; She went on to say well what scares her is Harlem or Detroit or Chicago where she sees no basis for human recognitions. Does this make any sense to you? BARBER: Yes. WARREN: She has done her bit, she has been to jail, she' ; s been in the picket lines, she--she' ; s had it rough. She is not just speaking from an academic point of view. BARBER: Yeah, it does in some ways and I felt this way before I came back to the South, believe it or not, and I' ; ve probably been as guilty as anybody is--(coughs) laying too much stress on the sins of the overt segregationists and not knowing enough about what was going on in--in the North and in the West. But it' ; s questionable to me whether Nashville, for example, would become a community of that sort. Before it would merely become an American big city and go through what the North is going through now. Now, there' ; s indications in Louisville, for example, that this is going on. There was a very good article in the Reporter called, " ; The Southern City with Northern Problems," ; and the mere solution of the--knocking down the--the customary barriers of segregation, the legal ones and the ones that have been so insisted on in the South, does not seem to have produced this kind of rapport that we had hoped for. And I' ; ve heard Leslie Dunbar say the same thing, that we who think that the South should do better can keep hoping but there doesn' ; t seem to be any basis for this. Now, I am generally an optimist on the whole situation but I--I was thinking--as we were talking about--as I put it so far forward--what are negroes going to be thinking about it in ten or twenty years. I do have a certain amount of feeling that our system may break down on this point, in which no telling what anybody will be thinking about it in ten or twenty years. We--we have become so close to it over and over-- WARREN: The breakdown of our system? BARBER: Yes. WARREN: In what way? BARBER: Politically, economically, although this may be in that sense more of a contributory factor than a direct one, certainly it' ; s showing up the strains in our economic system. WARREN: You mean the problem of unemployment? BARBER: Yeah, the--the differential in unemployment rates. But politically, you see, it' ; s just really touch and go now when the president has to be sending troops down South every once in a while. And you can find northern examples within city governments where the wheels are just practically ground down. Nobody can figure out what to do and the pressures seem to be so evenly divided that nothing gets done. And when you find an incident like the Cleveland School Board they can' ; t really decide what to do. Cleveland is--is supposed to be a pretty good community--no, no white person was arrested for molesting negroes outside of that school, it just--so, you might took--look at it the other way around. Maybe the North is going to get the South' ; s problems (laughs) too on this where--the--the real overt expression of--of a prejudice which has been there all the time but had never been really been called into--it never really had to be exercised in this fashion. WARREN: Because the personal contact wasn' ; t there, was that it? BARBER: No, I know that' ; s--that' ; s been one of the standard gambits of the segregationists (??) North-- just the North didn' ; t know what they had to deal with. WARREN: That doesn' ; t mean the segregationist is--is wrong in that point, though? BARBER: No, I think--I--I certainly think that--well, you can see it in the--when you see a map of where schools are desegregated there is certainly a correlation between feeling and negro population density so you would then--you could carry this further--but in metropolitan areas where this density begins to reach a point of as it has in Washington and it' ; s going to in Chicago and in a great many other cities--of course, complicated by all kinds of other factors, but where--this is- -this is a factor certainly. I mean that after all, it would never come about if there had not been a fairly large number of negroes. And I- -there is one statistic I always quote to foreigners--and I usually try to quote it to people here--it' ; s that not many white Americans realize that in the original thirteen colonies one quarter of the population was negro and it was still at 14 percent at the time of the Civil War. WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: I don' ; t know how many states at that period in the South had a negro majority but I know there were several. WARREN: You know, Alabama has (??)-- BARBER: Yeah. Mississippi still had one in 1930-- WARREN: Yes. BARBER: --and I don' ; t know when the switch took place. WARREN: Well now, some negroes in Mississippi will say--and these are responsible people--that they' ; ve--they have lost negroes on the census. There are more negroes--a higher proportion in Mississippi than the census showed. BARBER: I expect that' ; s true. WARREN: I don' ; t know all the arguments--this is a statistical argument issue based on the correlation of figures. BARBER: Well, I heard at one point that any census that could be considered accurate within 20 percent was a good one so I assume we have a good one. But sure, people are lost all over. And considering the type of life of Mississippi negroes in particular I would suspect this is true. WARREN: As you were saying, one of the standard gambits of the segregationists is to say to the Yankee: " ; See, when you get the problem you act the way we act, you were just unrealistic when you didn' ; t have it yourself." ; But is there the possibility that as the race difficulties become national that the Southerners--some anyway- -will take a--a different view from that, that they will feel it' ; s a national problem, the Yankee is stuck with it too, I am no longer--I as a Southerner--at the end of a pointing (??) finger but now we must deal with a different spirit, the--the more re--realistic spirit he is relieved then of his burden of--of anger and resentment as being (??) scorn. Is there some possible release in the rationality because of the fact of a--of a national problem emerging rather than as opposed to a sectional problem? BARBER: Well, I think--I would hope so and I think you can see signs of--I' ; m not certain that' ; s the only motivation for it but you certainly see signs all over of--in many cases it' ; s very reluctant and from the standpoint of negroes very pathetic and half-hearted and in a sense worthless (laughs) change in opinion. In other words, you see this gap of five years or more that white people have accepted what negroes were saying ten years ago-- WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: --but they haven' ; t accepted what they' ; re saying last month yet. In fact, I--I couldn' ; t help but laugh. One of the groups here was actually told last year: " ; Why don' ; t you have that nice kind of demonstration (laughs) you had in 1960?" ; (Warren laughs) Well, you know what they were telling them in 1960 but now all they were asking was a nice demonstration, they didn' ; t want any rowdy people downtown. (laughs) I think this may be part of it and then it' ; s so tied up with so many other things too, all the other pressures that are pushing--that are erasing the division, and the industrialization, the urbanization, all those things that were viewed with such alarm from across town in the late ' ; 20s. You can' ; t avoid them. I mean they' ; re here, we' ; ve got to learn to live with them in every aspect of our lives. And then, of course, there' ; s the--the foreign push. And I' ; ve always felt too that it wasn' ; t so much that intelligent outsiders anyway, were putting us down for being mean, being unjust because all they had to do really was look around in their own country. No country guarantees absolute justice. But the fact that we were claiming to be so efficient and here we are, this wonderful system and, as I say, we' ; re at the point now where there is, I think, ground for wonder whether it' ; s gonna pull through, whether it' ; s flexible enough to make the changes our attitudinal systems, our political systems across the board here. And I think that this is where we really begin to look silly, as I say to people outside of the country is that we claim to sort of know everything and here we are with what in many of their countries is a--is a relatively simple problem. They got serious problems of other kinds and here we are tearing ourselves apart over it. And I think this--the idea, the irrationality of maintaining this kind of system in the kind of world we live in today is entering into people and I hope it may come a little quicker in the South because of--they' ; ve been thinking about it longer and they' ; ve tried every other idea, none of which have worked in a sense. As vicious as segregation was it was really very half-hearted attempt--and--if you want to look at it in one way--to do what the politicians said had to be done. Of- -in one sense the fact that it didn' ; t work over the long period. Well, it might have if the South had been isolated, we don' ; t know, that' ; s an iffy question. But it certainly permitted far too much exercise of initiative and ability to really keep this situation stable I think. WARREN: Even when [Senator Theodore G.] Bilbo finances negro boys going to school the jig is up. BARBER: Yeah, in a sense it is. WARREN: Or [Senator James] Eastland sends kids to school as he does I have been told on a pretty good authority in Mississippi now. BARBER: His daughter I have heard but-- WARREN: Well, that' ; s a--be that as it may but-- BARBER: And, well, that' ; s another factor too. I mean, which is a minor one I think, but it certainly is there too. WARREN: The way Frederick Douglas put it, you--you know, (??) he said: " ; (??) the game is over." ; And it was-- BARBER: In a way--certainly-- WARREN: --starts-- BARBER: --certainly over the long run that' ; s true. In other words, you can look on segregation as an attempt to prevent what we call diffusion in anthropology. In other words, to prevent-- WARREN: I didn' ; t hear you. BARBER: --to prevent what we call diffusion in-- WARREN: Diffusion, yes. BARBER: --in anthropology to prevent the transmission of those democratizing items from the--from the majority culture and it certainly slowed them down and created tremendous psychic havoc. But, as I say in a sense, you can even call it a failure, if only very pragmatically because it' ; s breaking down. Well, of course, this is because the South is in--is part of a larger country which is also part of a larger world. And I think that in the long run this same type of rational approach these same stresses are going to operate in a somewhat different fashion on the northern situation because how much longer can we--can we afford to make paupers that we have to support in this country? It' ; s a ridiculous system. You keep people from getting ahead and then what happens? WARREN: It' ; s expensive. BARBER: It' ; s very, very expensive. And I don' ; t think we' ; ll ever know the--the true expense of how much of our--what we put into the police departments, relief programs, the--the waste of ta-- talent in general all--all across the board, is out on the streets making trouble instead of doing something constructive. But this is, of course, all part of what I was saying was that, we are--our system is certainly under serious stresses. WARREN: How much resistance would you find around here in Tennessee to the white sympathizer or the white liberal who wants to move in and take part in the negro movement? In Mississippi this is very commonly said--I mean people who have been in the very center of it and were very deeply involved in it, well, I mean people like Robert Moses will say it, you see, And others say it and there--there was a professor of sociology took me aside and began to explain this to me-- BARBER: At Jackson State? WARREN: Yes. Miss Clark, Dr. Clark--Jacqueline Clark. BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: Do you know her? BARBER: I' ; ve met her. WARREN: Well, she--I suppose (??) talk about this but it' ; s not just one place. It might be a teacher at Jackson State or it might be Robert Moses or it might be this person or that person--seven or eight have people come to this point. The outsiders, you know--white or negro but primarily white--who come in with better educations, most of them, and in--very soon friction develops, serious friction in some of these cases, resentment from the local negroes who are in the movement, not- -not the (??) outsiders, you see, but the people who are active in the movement and even educated. BARBER: I can--there are all kind of things that can happen. I feel here almost--my feeling has been--and this you find in other places too, that white people who are presumably friendly to the movement are accepted with a little to--with not enough criticism. In other words, there are still-- WARREN: Not enough--not enough criticism from the negroes you mean? BARBER: Yeah. There is still enough, it seems to me, of the old feeling that--well, we' ; re glad there are some of them that are decent or however you want to put it--that they are not judged in a sense the way they would judge their neighbors. And, of course, it' ; s very difficult too in one way--you haven' ; t been brought up from their part of view to judge white people in this way. For all of the fact that in--it' ; s very true, I think, the negroes know more about white people than the other way around, there is still areas of white life that the negroes have not been able to--to see with any clarity. And I haven' ; t seen any cases of real friction though I know there are certain kinds of white behavior which would certainly bring it about. WARREN: From people who have come in to-- BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: --to--to help. BARBER: And I' ; ve--I' ; ve been--as a matter of fact, I can see it myself. I resent certain white people that drop by here with wild ideas, and they--well, they head for every trouble spot there is. You' ; d be surprised, there is Louis Jones. Have you met him? A sociologist from Tuskegee? WARREN: I know who he is but I have never met him. BARBER: Well, he calls them wandering minstrels anyway (laughs). When the trouble was going on in Fayette and Haywood counties all kinds of strange people wandering around there. And some of them are end up doing good work and some of them are worse than no good ; you' ; d be better off without them. Now, with regards to the school situation I suspect that--I don' ; t think there is much of it here but I could see how a certain amount of resentment could spring up if only in a sort of envy: well, if I had really had been able to get the kind if education this guy did I' ; d be a hell of a lot better scholar, or something like this. WARREN: The breakdown as far as I can make it from these various conversations in Mississippi on this topic, which I did not initiate, this began--this being volunteer, is something close to the surface, you see. BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: One, what you' ; re saying, this kind of envy--the general envy, you see--some resentment about inferior positions. Second, the specific resentment is because the outsider probably better trained by- and-large tends to drift into command positions--if not top, at least, you know, command posts here and there and--and this puts him quickly in a position where some negro has been yearning for-- BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: --humanly and expecting perhaps. Then as Dr. Clark said--Dr. Jacqueline Clark, it' ; s the girls. She said a lot of negro girls tend to take up with these outsiders, either the white outsider or the negro outsider. These are romantic (??) characters who come in. This has been a matter of real trouble-- BARBER: Well, and--and I know. WARREN: --and that there are some other (??) on that. BARBER: I was thinking on the women in particularly, in a sense you' ; re damned if you do and you' ; re damned if you don' ; t. WARREN: That' ; s right. No-- BARBER: If you hold yourself aloof, (??), that' ; s how it is assumed if you don' ; t date locally. If you do there' ; s always somebody that' ; s not gonna like it, so-- WARREN: There' ; s no way out of that one. BARBER: Oh, you just operate the way you feel like operating. There are things too, that a lot of white people are--come into the situation. They think they know what it is. They--I' ; ve never heard a negro complain about this but I' ; ve seen it--this is another point I haven' ; t really thought too much in general terms here--they are very upset when they find negroes behaving just about the way they would behave in that situation, they have a very romantic approach to the thing. And sometimes it takes a while for this to get over. Well, during this period they' ; re likely to have rather extreme standards of--of behavior for negroes. In other words, they should be putting their nose to the grindstone and folding those leaflets down at the NAACP instead of out getting drunk or something. And--well, there' ; s all kinds of things. They' ; re usually more amusing than anything else because with goodwill and a reasonable amount of good sense this, I think usually will get straightened out. It depends so much on individual cases. It' ; s--I- -I' ; d--I' ; m interested--you must be able to get pretty deep with people that it did begin to come out in your conversations. But as I say from--well, I' ; ll come back to my original statement because I want to stress it, it do feel that by-and-large there is not enough suspicion of white people by negroes. We had Billie Sol Este' ; s speaking at (??) meeting once. They didn' ; t care really who he was. All he was, was a wealthy white man who was with them today and I was pretty upset about it. (laughs) But--now, I could have made myself unpleasant by running around and screaming and hollering, I didn' ; t. I just--I just said, " ; Well, you know, he' ; s an unsavory character," ; and let it go at that. WARREN: But another type of resentment that was reported to me--this is reported by Robert Moses in Kentucky, what was told off-the-cuff (??)- -the resentment against this certain sentimental kind of white attitude to the white man who wants to move in and adopt, to go negro, to adopt a certain vocabulary, to adopt certain stances, to adopt a certain attitude, to get the lingo of the--the music, the lingo of this, the lingo of that and he said this is mixed with contempt rather than as- -as much as with resentment--it' ; s mixed with contempt it' ; s mixed with resentment by people who didn' ; t really have the lingo, didn' ; t really have the--the sense, didn' ; t really have the--the feel of what they were trying to move in on-- BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: --there' ; s some contempt, then resentment of the fact that the white man is trying to take our ball and run with it. That-- BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: --that abomination of attitude-- BARBER: You see--you see that--and frankly, sometimes you don' ; t know what to do. You--you do have--just like on the question of women--you have the feeling that whatever you do some people are gonna think you' ; re stilted if you don' ; t lapse into it, it seems to be, the current language or they' ; ll think you--you' ; re trying--you' ; re being silly. And then they know darn well that a man is not gonna turn himself into a negro in thirty days or thirty years for that matter if he wasn' ; t born one. This is just--we can see it over and over again, you' ; re dealing with a different culture and you learn that culture in your childhood and if you don' ; t learn it then you never will without the fact that, of course, without doing a Mr. Griffith' ; s trick, you' ; ll never gonna look negro enough. WARREN: That' ; s one of the aspect of it--though this (??) remarked on to me but I wonder about it--some sort of contempt or distrust, what I think they call the pathology of the left, people whose motives clearly are not anything except the kind of distortion of personality brings them into seeking aid and (??) from the other underprivileged, I' ; m hurt too, if you' ; re hurt too we' ; ll club together in some sense. That--you know what I mean, of course. BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: And I have heard of--this is--well this is--this is--Ralph Ellison once say, you see, his--his anger has (??) kind of (??) liberal, you know--who--who was clubbed up and-- BARBER: Yeah. Yeah. WARREN: --and out of his own infirmity moves into a clubbed-up (??) negroes that we--we all are hurt together-- BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: --by a non-understanding world. That sort of (??), this was kind of a resentment that comes out of that. (??) some of that too as far as you-- BARBER: Well, there' ; s certainly plenty of--of course-- WARREN: I don' ; t mean only homosexuality, I mean all kinds of --all kinds of BARBER: Oh--oh, yeah, all these--all these things. WARREN: --neurotic or pathological--other (??) elements. BARBER: Well, I think that a lot of negroes quickly sense these things in people when--and if the--if this seems primary and the commitment to what' ; s being done is secondary, there--there will undoubtedly be contempt. In other words, people have come down to take a freedom ride to solve their emotional problems. WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: It doesn' ; t work and they know it right away. I' ; ve--I remember hearing a specific example, just what you' ; re talking about. We' ; re a little bit more immune to that here because this isn' ; t one of these things where people come and go and people get to know you and they see you around in--in this community. And then, of course, I don' ; t know-- though here again, I think that probably feeling they ought to be doing a lot more although they' ; re happy they' ; re around. Or the white people in this community that are in organizations like the National Committee for Relations Council, I think they feel they' ; re nice to have around. I don' ; t really think they really do very much. But they--they--this other--this wouldn' ; t come in on that, you see, these are just well- meaning people who don' ; t always really know-- WARREN: Just ordinary well-meaningness-- BARBER: But, you see, the--the assumption that--because I have a problem, whether it may be a big one or not, therefore, I know what your problem is and feel the way you do, is--is an arrogant one and people come in with that it' ; s undoubted they' ; re gonna have trouble. WARREN: It' ; s probably even worse they don' ; t know they have a problem and act unconsciously on that--that motivation. Do you see the differences or similarities between the old abolitionism and the present situation on psychological or other grounds? BARBER: I haven' ; t thought much about that. Well, I guess I can get-- take the easy way out and say I can see them both. WARREN: And that is (??)-- BARBER: It' ; d be pretty difficult to compare historical movements. Now, working in an organization as I do which was--has its roots in the American Missionary Association, I guess I should say I see some similarities. The commitment of certain branches of Northern Protestantism has never wavered on this score. There--there are so many other historic facts-- WARREN: Except at home? BARBER: -- (??) different. Hmm? WARREN: Except at home? BARBER: Yeah. Oh yeah, but-- WARREN: Excuse me. BARBER: Well, you' ; re right there. I am--I do not stem from that background myself, I-- WARREN: (laughs) I--I' ; m kidding, you know. BARBER: Well, when one hears about Mr. [Higginson' ; s] private social life, and so forth (??). Beyond that I--it' ; s something I' ; ll think about now but I--I can' ; t really-- WARREN: I don' ; t know what I think about it. I don' ; t even know if I know enough to have any very considerate opinion about it. I must say on the whole as a guess, just my certain--slight acquaintance with this business, there seems to be now two differences--I' ; ll try this anyway, I don' ; t know whether to believe it or not--there' ; s probably been more pathology in the old abolition movement. BARBER: That was one thing I was going to say that I was certain that one of the similarities was that you got a lot of strange white people in both of them. WARREN: Yes, but the more (??)--I mean it is--you can' ; t get, you know, a Garrison(??) is really, you know, way out in left field and a lot of the others were too. That is more obviously there are many people who are now concerned with it, that' ; s now more central to--the issue is more central to a standard social problem. BARBER: I think--one thing that' ; s not really relevant to the particular question you asked--one of the things that enters in here is the recent convert to the movement so to speak, the white person who has somehow or other shaken prejudices that he was taught in some fashion or other as a younger person and just like any self-made man he--he can never quite understand why other people can' ; t do it too with the same--with the same kind of attitude (??) person in this case where you--you like to have him but it doesn' ; t--it doesn' ; t work for a very clear understanding of the situation that you' ; re dealing with. And I think that the negroes despite the fact that I see all kinds of evidence to the contrary somehow do have--and despite the rhetoric used at mass meetings, somehow do have a perception of this as a conflict in the social system much more than a lot of white people do. WARREN: They see the--the--you might say, the dynamics of it more clearly than the white man who tends to moralize it? BARBER: Yeah, who sees it as a--as--though as I say the rhetoric--you' ; ve been at negro mass meetings you certainly hear things put in terms of white and black very frequently. But, as I say, I would suspect that a--a clear understanding of this, even my understanding with all the kinds of training I have had which should make me see it clearly, there are things that I just sit and wonder about. WARREN: Such as? BARBER: Oh, how could it--I can' ; t understand how it--how it came about, how it stood--I can' ; t understand the--the depth of white feeling on the subject myself. [Tape 1, side 1 ends ; tape 1, side 2 begins.] WARREN: The segregationist feeling? BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: See, I fall into using the terms very inaccurately here. And other things too but--in fact, some of them there--I can' ; t even phrase the question very well, I just know there is something here that-- that doesn' ; t work out well, some nice little scheme of--take out of cultural anthropology. But as I say, I do--I do have a feeling that, rare though, a clear understanding of this is a question of culture change, whatever you want to call it, that there may be a little more subconscious understanding of this on the part of--of negroes than on the part of whites who are in the movement, so to speak, thinking of people in terms of activists, so to speak. I don' ; t know, I may be all wet. WARREN: How would you respond to a notion such as this: you take the part of the situation of the negro with his loss of direction and his self-respect, he was deprived of a culture--whatever culture he had he was lost, he was a man without a mooring, without an identity. And by reading the right books or talking to the right people part of the situation now--and he has recovered his identity, his sense of--of a place in our culture and an acceptance of his role as negro, see a senior role as negro. Now let us take the same line of thought applied to the white Southerner with a certain (??) of changes. The white Southerner feels he has the identity as Southerner, he also has the identity as American but he feels his identity as Southerner as many of them really do, " ; our way of life," ; and all of this sort of thing. Now, if he' ; s uncritical and doesn' ; t know very much history he' ; s inclined to have to buy the package of the way of life including what is the--the present practice of segregation which has been very different from the things from the past, of course, many changes have taken place. So, he' ; s really in a sense not merely keeping the negro in his place, but he' ; s trying to keep himself in his place. He' ; s trying to keep his identity. He feels his identity threatened, not merely by the fact of a change in relation to the negro but by, this is a symbol-- (??) of symbols, of his basic identity. This is part of his own--his own role. He' ; s acting out something to keep his identity, to keep his--his cultural role. It' ; s not just in isolation, " ; What do I think about that negro?" ; or " ; What do I think about segregation even?" ; Except as--as far as segregation means as part of the package of thought instinctively or--or as--accepted without criticism, as his identity, his role. (??) put it this way, do you see what I am driving at? BARBER: Yeah, I do very clearly. And I can--if I had that little machine with me on several occasions during our demonstrations I could document it. There is a surprising lack of--well, not lack, there is--to me there is a surprising lack, after all to me it is surprising- -there was much less of what you call racial vituperation among white bystanders and I would expect there is a tremendous amount of nostalgia and the feeling that the world has just gone mad. There is no way--no place to stand anymore. WARREN: That' ; s what I' ; m getting at. That' ; s the-- BARBER: This wouldn' ; t happen twenty years ago and I guess the timing (??) we' ; re taking over and (??) always get into it but this isn' ; t--this is just a--a nasty word for the future to a lot of people. WARREN: Is it a--a fear of disorientation? BARBER: Now, of course, social change is always (??) on by the people that it' ; s happening to. But in--in our urban centers, where most people live today, it' ; s much more on the surface. There are more ways to handle it in a sense. You see--you see changes much more rapidly. Well, sure, the South is seeing them too but the change that has come has moved at a slower pace, it' ; s been harder, and it' ; s paradoxical that--there will be more changes this year and there will be twice as many more next year but-- WARREN: So, that does-- BARBER: --that doesn' ; t make it--doesn' ; t make it any easier to take. As a matter of fact, you may be so upset by the changes of this year that you' ; ll be completely floored by the ones that are gonna come next year. WARREN: Now, what I' ; m getting at is this, is a col--is corollary of that or a consequence of that. If you can indicate to your Southerner that to be southern doesn' ; t necessarily involve segregation-- BARBER: I thought James Dabbs tried to say that. WARREN: He is--that' ; s--but this is the--the old story of--of Thomas Jefferson, of course, But somehow just integrate this block conception, the general notion into its elements, that your identity does not depend upon that, even your identity as Southerner, that the attack is not on--say, you are an American first or say you' ; re a Southerner first but what does being a Southerner mean? Do you see what I' ; m getting at? BARBER: Um-hm. WARREN: It doesn' ; t necessarily mean that. That isn' ; t--isn' ; t necessarily part of the picture. That' ; s--that' ; s another part of the picture. Is there any validity in that approach? BARBER: I think--well, as I' ; ve--I would say over the long-run, no, for the simple reason that the--not because theoretically it couldn' ; t be true with all except that it--I do have the feeling that the other things which are considered part of the southern way of life are casualties just as much as segregation is of the modern world. WARREN: Some of them are, yes, sure. But you could--that does-- (??) at a different level. BARBER: Yeah (??). I--I certainly think it is--it' ; s a short-term, long-term thing again. Just like my comments on black chauvinism. I think that it' ; s--it' ; s a good ploy. I don' ; t know how well it' ; s working. I would suspect the people like Mr. Dabbs get pretty discouraged and the people that-- that' ; s--it' ; s corollary with those men with the belief that the South has it in it to be better than the North, to answer this question. And I don' ; t know, I-- WARREN: Some negroes say that. Charles Evers said that to me a week ago, otherwise he wouldn' ; t be in Mississippi. Said, " ; I would rather deal with segregation in the end," ; whatever that means (??) irony in that. And many Black Muslims say that. BARBER: Oh yeah. This is a--well, it' ; s almost a standard response I think nowadays. I don' ; t know if it' ; s all very well thought out or anything. WARREN: I don' ; t know, I have no idea but if I hear a negro saying that and I take him at his word if he feels that and try to explore what he means by it so far as I can in my blundering way. I think--how- -how Evers argued it, if you' ; re interested in it, he said, " ; insofar as--there' ; s a lot of--what is it--cowards around" ; --of course, there always are--he said, " ; by-and-large these Mississippians have a sort of a simple code and one of the things they admire is nerve, is courage and if they don' ; t admire it they feel they ought to admire it. And they feel trapped into acting courageously even if they' ; re afraid, they' ; re caught in this so they have an old fashioned code about this. Therefore, however grudgingly, if the negro stands up to him he begins to say, " ; This guy' ; s got nerve." ; You get a (??) from it right there. He' ; s not afraid. He may be infuriated at the fact, at first, that the negro is not afraid but he begins to respect him. This (??) is a base of conversation, it' ; s a base of dealing with the man because he respects you simply in terms of this raw courage (??)" ; . " ; Second," ; he says, " ; that these people tend to keep their word when they cross the line and make an agreement on some point. They tend to keep their word," ; said, " ; they have crossed the line when they make the agreement at first but--but the big line has already been crossed. He said, " ; Once we get to go to the table for negotiations," ; said, " ; we' ; re going to be fair because they will keep their word, they won' ; t try to trick you," ; he said, " ; yeah, it isn' ; t--isn' ; t in their approach to things once they have crossed the line." ; Now, he may be dreaming. BARBER: Yes, I was--I was thinking that (coughs) certainly some of the most astute, trickiest politicians in this country is (??) (laughs) have come out of this background. WARREN: Oh, I' ; ll say, I mean this--these are politicians (??). BARBER: Yeah, and I would--I would like to believe this, of course, of everybody but I really cannot see it much here anymore than any place else. It seems to me that in--I--I will go along wholeheartedly with the first part of it though it' ; s the sort of thing that--I think that the individual white Southerner has to have a personal knowledge of because this is, of course, one of the--one of the bases of the whole sit-in strategy was that by not hitting back, by taking it you made these people respect you. Well, I' ; m not all so sure that' ; s true. Some people like to beat on people and they don' ; t give a damn whether they beat back or not if they can think they get away with it. WARREN: Some people do clearly in the world. Also, some like to be beat up-- BARBER: Yeah. WARREN: --with the same token. I don' ; t know what--I don' ; t think the relevant part of Evers' ; remarks is a matter of the comparison because he hasn' ; t been around. Who' ; s been around at the (??) stick. The fact he did it true there I thought it was--was of some significance (??) right or wrong, the fact he believed in some significance. But I don' ; t know exactly. I' ; ve heard here in Nashville on people who have something to do with the sit-in negotiations or had some information about them, that the dealings with the southerner white owners, the local owners, was much simpler, much more clear-cut, much more straightforward than that with outside owners. BARBER: That' ; s certainly what I know about it, it' ; s been true and it' ; s still true today. Part of it, of course, is just that they' ; re around, that you have-- WARREN: Yes. BARBER: --the people right here that can make the decisions. Part of it is that they don' ; t, there aren' ; t all kinds of bureaucratic problems involved. In other words, if a store is a chain store they might be very willing to open up in Nashville but they' ; ve got a branch in Jackson, Mississippi too and this is gonna create problems. I think this was what Woolworth' ; s got hung up on because basically Woolworth' ; s doesn' ; t care one way or the other, they have no personal commitment or any point of view on this but they felt that they would get into all kinds of trouble in other areas. WARREN: Hang on please sir. [Tape 1, side 2 ends ; tape 2, side 1 begins.] BARBER: --in the sense they used to run right through town but as the town grew--I hate myself on tape recording. WARREN: Well, it makes you human, I guess everybody does. (laughs) In fact I pretend it' ; s somebody else. BARBER: Some people sound good on tape recording. WARREN: The voices tend to even out, you know, because they' ; re much-- they' ; re very much alike. I must say that your president, he has a voice coming over very handsomely on tape recorder. BARBER: He' ; s a good speaker. WARREN: A good speaker anyway. I mean the--the quality, the timbre of his voice is right, it get--it comes right over very--He has a fine voice anyway. Well, where were we? I think we have to start to pick up where we left off or we can start again. Let' ; s go on with Memphis. BARBER: Well, I don' ; t really know enough about it. I--I got stuck there in the snow over at Christmas and I landed on one of these people and stayed there and I--I' ; d heard about it and I always wanted to go down there and see a little bit for myself. But the--the quality of life, you might say--it' ; s much more segregated there than it is here. There are a few white liberals, they do have a struggling little chapter of the National Community Relations or the Tennessee Council on Human Relations, but I was very impressed over and over again with this dentist. WARREN: Willis-- BARBER: [Vascell] Smith. WARREN: [Vascell] Smith. Yes, yes, yes. BARBER: He--well, Willis started it and Avon Williams, he and Willis, dreamt it up and I got in on making a reservation at the Holiday Inn downtown for Smith to make a test case. And I picked him up at the airport and we went there and he was refused, of course. Then the local Unitarian minister went in afterward to verify the fact that they indeed had rooms when they said they did not. And he has--Dr. Smith has said, any number of times, he said, " ; You know, we just don' ; t have people like you in Memphis." ; WARREN: Like the Unitarian minister? BARBER: And myself. I said, " ; Well, it doesn' ; t seem strange to me because I' ; m sure we have a great many here in Nashville, I may be wrong but I think we do." ; So that--as I say, the--Well, I can' ; t think of a better term, than the--the quality of--of negro life is much more segregated there--on the middle-class level now, of course, I don' ; t suppose there' ; d be too difference on the--the lower-class level. WARREN: Did you see the editorial in the Press (??) this week on the civil rights bill? BARBER: No. WARREN: Complete endorsement--very positive endorsement, said, if the Senate doesn' ; t pass it immediately it will be immediately part of the mandate of the people. BARBER: Well, that' ; s stronger than the Tennessean has been. They had one but it was--it wasn' ; t the lead editorial and it wasn' ; t--it wasn' ; t that forthright. WARREN: This was forthright. There was no possible shadow of a doubt about this. There was no " ; if" ; " ; and" ; or " ; but." ; It was prominently displayed. BARBER: Well, this would go along with what you said [Charles] Evers had said that once people commit themselves on that--because those papers at the beginning were not (laughs)--were not very helpful at all in Memphis. WARREN: Well, I' ; ve also heard it said that this may have some tie with the local political situation. BARBER: Well, they endorsed--both papers endorsed negro candidates in the last election. WARREN: Yes. It' ; s always a question about--of a juggling for position with the negro vote. I don' ; t know how this is argued because I don' ; t know enough about the--the tie-in there, but this is--one of the suspicions, I' ; ve heard, about this editorial. BARBER: Well, Memphis politics is very devious locally. I don' ; t attempt to understand it (laughs) but--certainly all kinds of things are happening in Tennessee now because of the--of the negro vote. It' ; s apparently--and almost everybody accepts the fact that if it had been withheld from [Frank G.] Clement he would not have been governor. And it' ; s--Ross Bass has senatorial ambitions so he has--he voted for the bill. Richard Fulton has been very forthright all the way along in favor of civil rights legislation. I hope it doesn' ; t kill him but-- WARREN: How old is he? BARBER: In his 30s I think. WARREN: Well, he can plan for the future then? BARBER: He has strong labor support and he has the Tennessean solidly behind him. WARREN: What line is the Banner taking on this? BARBER: Oh, the Forest(??) Bill--the civil rights Forest(??) bill-- WARREN: (??) BARBER: --very vicious and they lose no opportunity to discredit it or anybody that' ; s for it as often as they can. WARREN: That was why I thought it was true. It--it was true in their past but I haven' ; t--haven' ; t thought of it in the last-- BARBER: We heard all about Bayard Rustin' ; s peccadilloes in the Banner and the Tennessean just glided it over and things like that, you know. WARREN: What sort of peccadilloes? BARBER: Oh, he had some kind of moral defense in Pasadena, I' ; m not telling anything on the man--I never met him--but it was--it is documented some. And the Banner went on and on about this during the March on Washington period. And they' ; ve been--they re--reluctantly accept changes once they' ; re made here but they always fight them. And the Tennessean exerts influence behind the scene very often, very little. They don' ; t editorialize very often. WARREN: But they are behind the scenes influences in--in favor of quotes " ; rational change" ; ? BARBER: Um-hm. Yeah, an awful lot of things that go on now go on--pass through John Siegenthaler' ; s office. For instance, John Lewis--have you interviewed him yet? WARREN: No, I have met him but I haven' ; t talked with him. I met him-- BARBER: He' ; ll be back here this week. He has some trial coming up again. I just heard he would be back. He wanted a particular young businessman here -- whom, if you ever had the time--Inmanoti(??)--it' ; d be worthwhile interviewing him. So he tells John Siegenthaler that Inmanoti(??) ought to be on the mayor' ; s committee and within a few days Inmanoti(??) was appointed. Well, there may have been other people that wanted him on there but in any case, I think Siegenthaler had something to do with it. WARREN: Lewis has his headquarters now in Atlanta, isn' ; t it? BARBER: Yeah, he' ; s-- WARREN: (??) BARBER: --president of SNNC now. You see, he was head of the student movement here-- WARREN: Here (??)-- BARBER: --during the time most of the time I' ; ve been here and was heavily involved from 1960 on right here. WARREN: There' ; s a section in Baldwin' ; s last book to this effect, rough paraphrased: according to the best testimony, that of those in the embattled South, the southern mob does not represent the majority of whites but they represent the will of the white majority but merely feel their moral vacuum. Does that make any sense to you? BARBER: Yeah, I think it does. Be--you--this is almost a truism now that-- WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: --where--where the people who run the show or whatever--whoever they happen to be or wherever they happen to be in the community say there will be no nonsense there is no nonsense by-and-large. Now, Nashville is a little bit in between so you can find good illustrations of both--both here which in a sense proves the point. In other words, in the times when the officialdom has been lax there is trouble. If the officialdom is forthright and says we are not going to have any trouble here there isn' ; t any trouble. Now, the violence I mentioned soon after I came here the--the mayor had a tremendous number of problems. He was forced with this metro--white metropolitan government which he did not want. The police force was pretty demoralized partly because of this because they didn' ; t want it either. Because he told him they didn' ; t want it and things like this were happening. Then, of course, other things entered in too. Last spring--well, things were- -were almost more than anybody could handle but we had just gone over into a metropolitan government and nobody quite knew what was gonna happen, you know. The mayor was uncertain how far his authority ran in some questions. He had inherited this deplorable police department. Oh, they did by-and-large a pretty good job but still, there was not enough--enough obvious open pressure by the leaders of the community that this was a disgrace to the city. The Tennessean didn' ; t say enough. The Banner had headlines like " ; Police Quell negro Attack," ; which was, somebody wrestled with the policeman' ; s billy club and that' ; s a negro attack. Well, the behavior was certain not nonviolent in any cases but the total misrepresentation of the situation--if you come from--if you read that is happening in Cyprus you can imagine what kind of attack you would imagine that would be. And I think that--that by-and-large this is true. I saw this out West before I even came here. I was living in Arizona when it got in under the wire. Arizona desegregated in 1951 and they had had a rather patchy kind of segregation. Anyway, it was obligatory in grade schools and permissive in high schools. And the only communities where they had any trouble was the communities where the mayor said, " ; Well, geez, I don' ; t know, we' ; re likely to have trouble over this," ; the communities when they said, " ; This is the way it' ; s gonna be," ; no trouble. WARREN: Well, some people, of course, will say to this remark of Baldwin' ; s that silence gives consent, the mob is actually acting out the will of the majority, which is silent because it--it doesn' ; t have to speak, it' ; s--it knows its job--that the mob will do the (??) for it. BARBER: I think the mob thinks that. WARREN: The mob? BARBER: I think that' ; s the important factor is that, if the police get no instructions they will--this has been said too--in a southern community they will assume that an attack against " ; custom" ; even though it is not against law is an attack against authority and they will behave accordingly. If they have been told otherwise they will behave in a different fashion. WARREN: There' ; s another interpretation, different from that one, that the mob does not represent the will of the majority but the majority is so fragmented, so divided it has no point of focus for a statement of feelings or a statement of values. Let' ; s say you have fifty, si--sixty percent against what the mob is doing, what it stands for, it is no point along there where you could have a strong statement or--or a group action because there' ; s too much spread in that majority--it' ; s a negative majority then, not a majority for something, it' ; s a majority against something, it has no point of focus. BARBER: Well, I think--I think both have probably been true. I wouldn' ; t attempt to say which is probably what you get. But I would certainly agree that the mob does not represent the majority feeling at least in areas where I' ; m very familiar with it. It might very well in--in some black belt county. But even there I--I have serious doubts. I' ; m not quite so sure in thinking over the quotation that I like the phrase " ; moral vacuum" ; very well but at least I understand and I think what he' ; s getting at and I' ; ll go along with it. WARREN: I' ; m not sure I know precisely what he means but I have a general notion of his--what he means. BARBER: Well, I' ; ll just leave it at that. WARREN: Well-- BARBER: I can get moralistic about race relations all the time even though I--but I have learned that it doesn' ; t help (laughs) very much. WARREN: Yeah. BARBER: If, however, the people who pretend to be the guardians of the community' ; s morals keep quiet--and this, of course, includes the church and even the administration--Americans expect their--their leaders to make moral pronouncements, it' ; s part of the political life I--but this I will go along with it completely. In other words, there is a moral vacuum in that sense that these people do not speak out. WARREN: Apparent in a survey of New Orleans, the Advisory Commission for Civil Rights, they said that, what I read of their report, that not a single person of any significance as a community leader uttered (??) in the New Orleans crisis, not one that showed himself. BARBER: Yeah. New Orleans I thought was so bad that I' ; m inclined to go along with Thurgood Marshall' ; s charge that the school board picked those schools deliberately. That may be very unfair but in other words, they picked the places where they thought they could get the most commotion. As I said this seems very unfair but considering the situation that may very well be true. WARREN: It' ; s said in New Orleans, though, that the first day or so there was no trouble at all, it was only after it was worked up the second day that you got--it wasn' ; t a spontaneous reaction, it was a devised reaction. BARBER: This is true too because the mob--mobs just don' ; t happen. You could see it on a very minor scale here. There' ; s--there were always a few young--they call them hoodlums, is a little bit unfortunate--young white men wandering around downtown--probably they' ; d be downtown looking for a little mischief anyway, these old men on the sidewalks egging them on and patting them on the back, figuratively or literally, you know, and even then it took quite a lot to build up to--to action. And these things don' ; t happen--and those women didn' ; t all decide to go down there and scream on the same day at the same time. Somebody was behind it. Who? I don' ; t know. Well, that, of course, is why it' ; s so important in--in these cases if people who should speak out or who assume are supposed to do because that very often scares the people who are gonna get the mob up, or makes them feel it' ; s not gonna be a very worthwhile venture. WARREN: End. End. End. End of interview with Carroll Barber, Fisk University, February the 16th--February 16th. Stop--stop. End--end. 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Jackson State University
Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.
“Carroll G. Barber,” The Robert Penn Warren Oral History Archive, accessed August 14, 2020, https://www.nunncenter.net/robertpennwarren/items/show/104.