Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Dr. Horace Huntley for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral History Project.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Horace Huntley is introduced.
Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Partial Transcript: First, we're going to ask you a pretty general question. Where were you born?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley begins by detailing his family history. His father worked for US Steel, but was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, which resulted in him leaving for Michigan. Afterwards, Huntley's father was not involved in the family.
Keywords: International Mine, Mill, and Smelter workers; Ku Klux Klan (1915- ); Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company
Subjects: African American families; Working class African Americans
Partial Transcript: Okay, you've pretty much set the pace for my next question. What was your first contact with Blacks?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley recalls several instances in his childhood where he discovered the differences in treatment between people of different races, including segregation in entertainment, transportation, and derogatory treatment in shops.
Keywords: Alabama State Fair; Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Segregation in transportation--United States
Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Racial analysis
Partial Transcript: What elementary school did you attend?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley states that he went to Riley Elementary and Wenonah Middle and High School. When he started high school in 1957, he notes that he did not have much exposure to the events of the Movement, and was not involved in them. After high school, he had planned to attend Tuskegee, though he was not able to due to family finances, so he instead joined the military.
Keywords: Riley Elementary School; Wenonah High School
Subjects: African American elementary schools; African American high school students
Partial Transcript: I joined the Air Force to see the world, and they sent me to Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley describes his time in the Air Force, where he was stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although the military was desegregated at the time, other white members exerted social pressure to segregate themselves from other Black members in the same flight. He describes social acceptance being dependent on the area in which he was. He refers to a time where he rode at the front of a bus in Winnipeg, and a white woman sat next to him. He also relays how the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church was a topic of conversation at the military base.
Keywords: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963; Grand Forks (N.D.); Winnipeg (Man.)
Subjects: United States. Air Force--African Americans
Partial Transcript: What did you do after you left the Air Force?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley recalls how he and his wife eventually moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enrolled in the Computer Data Institute for computer technology, and afterwards worked at Honeywell. He and his wife became involved in their local community center.
Keywords: Careers in computer technology; Community centers--Minnesota; Control Data Institute; Honeywell Inc.
Subjects: Minneapolis (Minn.)
Partial Transcript: Okay, let's talk a little about your time at the University, to go back to the University of Minnesota.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley recalls how he and other African American students involved in the Afro American Action Committee petitioned the University of Minnesota to develop an African American studies program by facilitating a sit-in protest inside the main administration building. The President of the University eventually relented and the community held a student conference that invited prominent Black figures, and the Martin Luther King Scholarship Program was created for the University. Huntley then states that he was one of the first people in the country to graduate with a degree in African American Studies.
Keywords: Ali, Muhammad, 1942-; Diplomatic protests; Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund; Moos, Malcolm, 1916-1982; Turner, Emeritus J.
Subjects: Afro American Action Committee; University of Minnesota; University of Minnesota. Department of Afro-American and African Studies
Partial Transcript: You were very much a part of the Black Power movements that were going on in '65 directly.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley states that the Black Panther Party was involved in the community at the time and that he personally met Stokely Carmichael. He credits them for assisting the students at the University when they held the protest in the administration building. Huntley then discusses how the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. affected the Black community.
Keywords: Assassination--United States; Black Panther Party; Carmichael, Stokely; SNCC; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.)
Subjects: Black power--United States--History--20th century; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Partial Transcript: Okay, now you graduated from the University of Minnesota. You have one of the first degrees in African American Studies. Where did you go from there?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley shares the journey of his higher education, which included studying at Syracuse, teaching at State University of New York at Oswego and University of Maryland, Eastern shore, and then pursuing his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh. His dissertation was on the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter workers, and included gathering oral histories from labor workers.
Keywords: Labor unions, Black; Labor--History; Montgomery, Dave; State University of New York at Oswego; Syracuse University; University of Maryland, Eastern Shore; University of Pittsburgh
Subjects: African American doctoral students; International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers; Oral histories
Partial Transcript: Now you have your Ph.D. What do you do from there?
Segment Synopsis: Huntley describes how he taught African American History, American History, and Urban Studies at UAB, during which, he tried to advocate for the development of an African American Studies department. After the administration argued that there was no funding available, he spoke with Senator Fred Horn, who stated that he could provide funding; however, the administration instead opted to retain the same courses that were presently available. Huntley later testified in a case against institutions of higher education to reveal the inequality of education that was being developed.
Keywords: Clemon, U. W., 1943-; Horn, Fred, 1925-2018; Murphy, Harold Lloyd; University of Alabama in Birmingham. Center for Urban Studies
Subjects: Discrimination in education--United States; Studies in African American history and culture; University of Alabama in Birmingham
Partial Transcript: I know you requested your FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley details how he discovered that he was put under surveillance when he uncovered the existence of a nearly 300 page FBI file on him.
Keywords: United States. Freedom of Information Act
Subjects: Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance files
Partial Transcript: Okay, now let's go ahead and talk a little bit about the things that went on, not at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but within the city itself.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley discusses how the predominately Black population of students in Birmingham could be traced back to UAB purchasing the land for its campus, displacing some African American communities who then moved into white neighborhoods; as a result, many white people moved out to the suburbs. Huntley then highlights how those in the Black community are not fully represented in the school board in proportion to the amount of Black students who are the Birmingham education system.
Keywords: Birmingham City Schools; University of Alabama in Birmingham
Subjects: African Americans--Education; Proportional representation--United States; School board members--United States
Partial Transcript: I know you also got involved with the city government of Birmingham.
Segment Synopsis: Huntley describes his political involvement in the city of Birmingham when he ran for the city council. He states that his main platform was about the development of Black businesses He further discusses the inequality that Black businesses faced in comparisons to businesses own by people who are White.
Keywords: Birmingham Historical Commission; Birmingham Historical Society; Blankenship, Don; City council members; Million Man March (1995 : Washington, D.C.); Muhammad, William
Subjects: African Americans--Politics and government
LIGHTNER: This is an interview with Dr. Horace Huntley for the Birmingham CivilRights Institute's Oral History Project. Dr. Huntley is the Director of the Oral History Project here at the Institute. The interview will be conducted by Kecia Lightner and Eric Watson. Today is May 26, 1998. We are currently at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. First we would like to thank you, Dr. Huntley for taking time out of your busy schedule and talking with us.
HUNTLEY: Thank you.
LIGHTNER: First we're going to ask you a pretty general question. Where were you born?
HUNTLEY: I was born here in Birmingham. In fact, I was born at the, what is nowthe University Hospital, then it was the Hillman Hospital.
LIGHTNER: Oh, okay.
HUNTLEY: I was born in 1942 in the city, which, of course, was the height of thesegregationist era. Black people were not allowed to come in the front door. That day, December 5, 1942, both my grandmothers actually walked into the front 00:01:00door of the Hillman Hospital and they decided that this was a new day and they were not going to go around the back that day.
LIGHTNER: Oh, they pretty much started a desegregation movement themselves.
HUNTLEY: They started it in 1942 on December 5. So, we celebrate it everyDecember. (Laughing)
LIGHTNER: What community were you raised in?
HUNTLEY: In the Riley Community, which is a southwestern community about a milesouthwest of Powderly.
LIGHTNER: Exactly what type of jobs did the people engage in, in that type of community?
HUNTLEY: Well, I actually lived on a dead end street. On my street there weremostly working class people. My, see, I lived with my grandmother, who was a 00:02:00domestic, my mother, who was a licensed practical nurse and I lived with, there were three of us, my brother and sister. Then, there were two first cousins. So, another aunt, she didn't live there, but her children lived with us. She worked out of town and she would go back and forth between Birmingham and Hale County. She taught at Hale County. So, our family was, more or
less, teachers and nurses. My uncle, he was a mechanic. He repaired cars. Otherpeople on the street were steel workers. There was a miner. In the wider 00:03:00community there were other people who were teachers, ministers. Most of the people in my community were domestics, like my grandmother.
LIGHTNER: Now you mentioned your mother was an LPN.
LIGHTNER: What type of educational background did your father have?
HUNTLEY: My father was a welder. He had a high school education. My mother andfather were divorced very early. I never remembered them living together. So, before I started first grade they were separated. I'm not sure if they were divorced at that time. So, I was raised by my grandmother and my mother. It was rather interesting because he moved to Michigan. The reason that he did was 00:04:00because he worked in the mine after he got out of the navy. He went in the navy. He worked in the mine and in the mine, in the mid to late ''40s, again this is Birmingham, Alabama.
He had a dispute with a White worker and he beat this man up. About 4:00 in themorning, I was told that the police came to the house, arrested him and took him to the Brownsville Jail. Brownsville is a little place just southwest of Riley. That's where his folks lived. That's where he and my mother were living at the time with his folks. My grandfather was a member of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter workers. He had very little education and someone told him that they had come and picked his son up to take him to the jail. He said to 00:05:00them, "Well, they can't do anything to that boy until they get hearing from across the water."
Everybody wanted to know what that meant. The only thing that I could figurethat it meant was that he was a member of the International Union. So, he figured the union was going to handle it and they wouldn't harm him or anything. The Klan told my father that he had to get out of town or they were going to do something to him. So, as a result, that was part of why he left and went to Michigan. My mother went and spent some time and as a result of that they really never did make up. She came back home to Birmingham.
LIGHTNER: Now what company did your father work for?
HUNTLEY: It was US Steel, TCI at the time, Tennessee Coal and Iron. He was aniron ore miner initially for a brief time after getting out of the military. He 00:06:00was following the footsteps of his father. My grandfather was an iron ore miner. Then, he went to. Michigan and worked for General Motors and he became a welder.
LIGHTNER: And your parents were both born and raised in Birmingham?
HUNTLEY: No, my mother was born in Tuscaloosa but raised in Birmingham. Myfather was born and raised in Birmingham.
LIGHTNER: Now, you mentioned a brother and a sister. Is that the only make up ofyour siblings? And if so, what line do you fall in?
HUNTLEY: Well, I was the oldest, I am the oldest. My brother is next and mysister is the baby.
They both still live here in Birmingham.
LIGHTNER: And your grandmother, you mentioned her and I understand, she'sprobably a pretty forceful lady, just give her a chance. What was her educational background?
HUNTLEY: Momma could not read or write. She was illiterate, but she was the00:07:00smartest person I ever knew. She was my hero. Well, in Black families there were always discussions of color. In my family my grandmother and I were the darkest in the family. Everybody else was light skinned. So, they would always tease me about being Black, but they were doing that in order to make me feel good about myself, you know. But they would always say, "You and momma are the Blackest ones in the family and you're not light skinned like we are."
They were really using reverse psychology, my aunt particularly. That was alwaysvery interesting, because I would always say, "Momma knows everything, so I'll 00:08:00be just like momma." So, I was proud of that. In fact, as I said, momma couldn't read. In fact, she couldn't read her name. When I was...the mailman would come and we would have to sign and I would have to sign for her and read it to her. But I remember as we were growing up she would always read to us every night. We thought she was reading. She would get a book every night and before we would go to bed she would read and one night my mother came home early and said she was going to read to us. She got the same book that momma was reading and she read.
We said, "No, no, that's not right. Momma didn't say that." So, we always had abig laugh out of that. But my grandmother was the matriarch of the family on my mother's side. She always said she wanted her children to go to school because she didn't want any of them working in any of those White folks kitchen. 00:09:00
LIGHTNER: Ok, you've pretty much set the pace for my next question. What wasyour first contact with Blacks? I know you mentioned your father had a run...well, not with Blacks, with Whites. I know you mentioned your father had a run in with the Klan here.
LIGHTNER: Was that your first contact with others of another race?
HUNTLEY: Well, actually in our community, we lived on one street and Whiteslived on the next street. There was a family that lived right in the back of us whose name was Zito. They owned a grocery store. My grandmother worked for them, took care of the children, cleaned there homes and everything. But the children and I grew up together. We were really like best friends, prior to going to school. And we were, I was in their house a lot and they were in our house a lot. At that particular time, of course, the issue of race was really not an 00:10:00issue for us at that young age. I can remember, though, that our parents, my grandmother and mother were real stricter than their parents were.
In fact, I remember being at their home one day and his mother, his mother saidsomething to him and he didn't like it. So he smarted off at her and she hit him and he hit her back. Then, the mother left and then we went on out to play. That's impressionable for a young mind, thinking oh, he got away with it, I better try this. I got home that afternoon and our mother said something to me 00:11:00and she hit me and I hit her back and boy she almost beat me to death. (Laughing) I said I learned a lesson then, that I can't do the same thing that Frankie does with his mother because there will be a little bit more consequences.
LIGHTNER: So even at that young age and with that little incident you kind oflearned that the races were different.
HUNTLEY: That's right.
LIGHTNER: Now I kind of read in other interviews that the Birmingham PoliceDepartment was pretty prevalent in neighborhoods during that time. Did you or your family members have any contact with the Birmingham Police Department? And if so, what were they?
HUNTLEY: Well, I never remember the police coming to our house. I remember anincident where the man across the street from us, his name is Mr. Robert. And 00:12:00Mr. Robert every Friday...he was a contractor, he would build homes and in the summer I would actually work with him. But every Friday Mr. Robert would get drunk. He had a, we lived on a dirt street, with gravel and his house was directly across the street from ours. We were on a dead end so he had to back out and then back out in front of our house and then pull onto the street. And when he was drunk we knew that we had to get out of the way because when he pulled out, he was going to put it into low gear and take off and throw gravel up on our porch, you know. I remember once he got drunk and he went out to the neighborhood store. The neighborhood store was owned by White people and that day when he went up there an old policeman was there. 00:13:00
Mr. Robert said something to the man and then took off running. The old mancouldn't run as fast as Mr. Robert, although Mr. Robert was drunk. He came out and he had his gun out. And Mr. Robert's wife and everybody else in the community was sort of watching. She went out and begged this policeman, cause Mr. Robert was sitting down at the end of the street cursing that policeman out. He was telling him everything that he ever wanted to tell a White person. She went out and she pleaded with him not to shoot Mr. Robert. I said he was drunk and he didn't shoot him and he allowed him to go into the house and go to bed or whatever. That was an encounter.
There was another encounter but not with a policeman. There was a grocery store,00:14:00no two grocery stores. One owned by a White family and the other owned by an Italian family. Then, there was another one that was a service station that was owned [inaudible]. Their son was a policeman, but they were known members of the Klan.
Momma would send me out to get whatever, to get a drink, washing powder, orwhatever. And also the mailman would come there and sit and that's where he collected the mail from. So, one day I went out and I was going to mail a letter, but I didn't have a stamp. So, I gave Mr. Pierce three cents and said, "Would you mail this for me?" I asked him if he would mail that for me.
He said, "What do you want me to do, lick the stamp for you, too?" So, I said,00:15:00"That's ok." I walked out and I didn't go back into that store for I don't know how long, but it seems like a long time. He said to my grandmother, "That boy of yours, he thinks he's something. He don't come back out here anymore." Momma came back and asked what happened. I didn't even tell her about it. I told her that I don't have to go out to his store and I would not go and be, what I considered to be, disrespected by him. Although I didn't have to say anything to him, but I didn't have to go out to his store. So, momma said, "You're right." She never did make me go back or anything. But the police in the neighborhood were treacherous. We had car number 51. When you saw car number 51 coming you knew that there was something going on. I remember that they picked up one of my 00:16:00friends, he was older than I was. We used to sort of hang out on the corner at this little delicatessen. They picked up this buddy of mine...well, he wasn't a buddy he was older, but I knew him from the neighborhood. I don't really remember what had happened but something had happened. They put him in the back seat of the car and in the back seat was a German Shepherd. That was not a pretty sight. The policemen were not in our neighborhoods to protect and serve. They were simply there to control the community and they did.
LIGHTNER: So, you pretty much realized this at an early age and you knew exactlyhow turbulent the racial situation was and everything.
HUNTLEY: There were all kinds of examples. Because I didn't have a fatherfigure, my grandmother wanted to make sure that I was manly, whatever that 00:17:00meant. I was 10, 11, or 12 years old she would send me downtown to pay the bills. We didn't have checking accounts at the time. I would go downtown to pay...I remember walking to Alabama Power, Alabama Gas, to furniture stores and other places similar to that. You really don't think much about it at that particular time but in retrospect, you know, I thought about that. You go and get on a segregated bus, you sit in the back of that bus and you ride downtown. It had the board on it saying "White" on one side and "Colored" on the other side.
You ride downtown and you get off the bus and go to Alabama Power and you have00:18:00to go to the second floor. You can't ride the regular elevator you have to walk up or ride the freight elevator. She would always give me enough money to go to the show, get some popcorn, or buy a record, or whatever. I would always go to Newberry's. I remember going to Newberry's and purchasing a hot dog and get that hot dog and once you purchased a hot dog then you would have to take it outside to eat it. You could not sit at the counter. There was the Leary Theater, where the Blacks sat in the balcony and the Whites sat on the first floor. We always said that was one of the mistakes that the segregationist made, because we would go to the Leary Theater and get some water and toss it down on them, you know. (Laughing) Then, we would take off and go to 4th Avenue to the Famous or the 00:19:00Carver Theater.
So, we always wondered why they made that mistake, why did they put us up therebecause we had all the fun. I remember getting back on the bus to go home, going pass the Fairgrounds and never being able to go out there. I always wanted to go out to the Fairgrounds because of the glamour. The scene was so glamourous. I always wanted to go to the Alabama Theater because of all of the lights and it was more glamourous than the Carver Theater. I actually had some friends that could pass for Whites and they went into the Alabama Theater and they would come back and tell us how glamourous it was. I never got a chance to go in at that particular junction. The first time I got a chance to go to a State Fair...well, here the Black people were given a day at the State Fair. My grandmother was a 00:20:00proud Black woman. She said, "If we couldn't go everyday, then we wouldn't go any day."
So, I never got to go to a State Fair until I was 23 years old in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I got a chance to go to the State Fair and I loved everything. I think I musthave eaten some of everything and I was sick as a dog. (Laughing) Those are the kinds of things you think about once you've gotten out of the situation that you are in. You don't really think about it while you're going through it.
LIGHTNER: What elementary school did you attend?
HUNTLEY: Well, I started first grade at Riley Elementary School. At that time welived probably eight blocks from Riley Elementary. At the school, and I remember there was a big white building. It's not the same Riley School now that they are 00:21:00rebuilding, but it was a big white wood structure. Well, it was a wood structure painted white. At the entrance there was a big sign that said, Riley Negro School.
I remember that just as plain as it was yesterday. At the school we had Mrs.
Davis was the principal and she was a pretty big woman and she had a strap. Wecalled that strap Black Magic. You didn't want to get out of line because Black Magic would come and visit you. I think she believed in corporal punishment.
LIGHTNER: Now what about the racial mix up of the teachers and the students. Yousaid it was all Black. So the teachers were all Black as well? 00:22:00
HUNTLEY: The teachers were all Black and the students were all Black. Thecommunity was all Black, primarily, you know. As I told you, my best friends during the summer, prior to going to school, were all White, well they were Italian. But when we started to go to school, they went into a Catholic School. Then, we went to our school and we would play in the afternoons up until, I guess, probably until we got to Junior High School, maybe. Of course, in high school we would never associate. We would see each other but we would never really...well, in the summers we would still play baseball together. Outside of just right there in the neighborhood there were really no good association between us.
LIGHTNER: Now were you involved in any extracurricular activities at Riley00:23:00Elementary School?
HUNTLEY: At Riley I was always active in...we always had to do speeches,different kinds of programs, assembly programs. I was always very active in those. I don't remember having clubs of any kind, like math clubs until we got to high school. I was pretty active. Whatever was going on I was pretty involved in it in elementary school.
LIGHTNER: What high school did you attend?
HUNTLEY: Went to Wenonah High School. Prior to going to Wenonah High, I actuallywent to Wenonah Middle School. Riley went from 1st to 8th grade. Then, in the 6th grade I got in a fight at Riley and got kicked out of school. Then, I 00:24:00decided not to go back to Riley, I went to Wenonah Middle School. It was rather interesting what the fight was about. My brother was mentally retarded and another family that lived in Riley had a brother that was mentally retarded.
They got into a fight and I interceded the other girls. It was only girls inthat family. We got into a big to do. Their family, both their grandmother and grandfather worked at the school, so they were much better known than my folks were. So the fight then was blamed on me and I got kicked out of school and they didn't get kicked out of school. I was upset and I said I was not going back to that school. I asked momma if I could go to Wenonah and I did.
LIGHTNER: What were your experiences like at Wenonah Elementary School?00:25:00
HUNTLEY: Well, Wenonah was a larger school and I got to meet kids from othercommunities. Like at Riley we basically just knew each other in the community. But at Wenonah there were kids from other adjoining neighborhoods. So, I got to know a lot more students. Still I was a pretty good student, not at the top of the class but pretty close. I remember we had, we always talked about if students learned better with other students with their capability or do you mix it up. A lot of times we had a guy in our class, his name was Bull Man, that was his nickname. 00:26:00
Bull Man, you always had a child in class that can't learn, well, Bull was oneof those people. But we wanted Bull to be just as good in school as we were. So, we decided, cause he never participated. So when we got together we said, "Bull, this is going to be your question." We had a number of questions we had to answer. Number eight was going to be Bull Man's question. So, we said, "When Mr. Henry asks for number eight nobody else raise their hands, that's Bull Man's question." So, when number eight came around Bull didn't raise his hand and nobody else raised their hand. (Laughing) Then, all of us looked at Bull Man and then finally he said, "Oh, that's mine." He raised his hand and he answered the question. He learned it. He actually learned it and we were all excited about 00:27:00Bull Man participating. That was sort of a highlight of the academic experience, to get somebody else involved in the process. The elementary school was down the hill from the high school.
All of the bigger kids would walk through the elementary school grounds going tothe high school and you always thought, man I would like to be able to go up that hill at 8:00 in the morning. So, we always had this idea that it was so much more glamourous to be in high school than it was in elementary school and, of course, eventually we would make it there.
LIGHTNER: So, what were your experiences like at Wenonah High School?
HUNTLEY: It was good experiences. I enjoyed Wenonah High. We were still in the9th Grade, we were not in a special class. This of course meant that there would 00:28:00be students from most of the southwest Birmingham. A larger geographic area than what had been at Riley or Wenonah Elementary School. I met people from Roosevelt, Bessemer, Raymond, Powderly, Shades Valley and those kids that came from a distance were bused in. We had about 15 bus loads that were brought in everyday to the school. In the 10th grade, well, actually from about the 7th or 8th grade I always wanted to be an astronomer. I was pretty good in math. 00:29:00
Then I got to 10th grade and I got the big head. I was good and I made goodgrades but I don't think I learned very much after the 10th grade. Although I still, out of about 200 I was probably about 20 or something, maybe the low ''20s. I was good in math but after the 10th grade one of my instructors told us that anybody that sells "x" number of ads will get an "A" in the course. This was for Algebra. So, that was no problem. So I went and sold my ads so I didn't have to learn Algebra then. I thought I was getting over. Of course, that would come back to haunt me because I never got any more math. 00:30:00
You know I couldn't do Algebra and to this day I still can't do Algebra but Ipassed. I got "As" and "Bs" in all of my classes from then on. Then, when I got to college I needed that Algebra and couldn't do it. I was a member of the Honor Society and I was a member of a couple of other clubs. I was a big sports enthusiast. I played a lot of sports in the neighborhood. In the 9th grade I was titled as one of the better athletes in the community. So, when I got to high school, 9th grade, my reputation had sort of beat me up there. So, what I did, 00:31:00again I sort of got the big head and I was playing one day and the coach of the junior varsity saw me playing and told my cousin, "I would like for him to play for me." So I told my cousin, "if he wants me to play for him he can come and ask me." He never did come and ask me to play. So, I never went out for the team in the 9th grade.
The 10th grade I went out and I always say he didn't let me make the teambecause of the 9th grade...or in the 11th grade. I probably wasn't as good as I thought I was. In the 12th grade I finally made the team and then I had my first attack of asthma. Then, the doctor wouldn't allow me to play and I was really sick then. (Laughing) I never did compete in athletics in high school.
LIGHTNER: Now when you're in high school that's the early '50s, mid '50s?00:32:00
HUNTLEY: I graduated in '61. Started high school in '57.
LIGHTNER: So, a lot of things had taken place in Birmingham by the time that youarrived in high school. In '54 we have Brown versus Board of Education, '56 NAACP is outlawed in Alabama and the formation of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights gets off the ground. Did you have any knowledge that these events were going on? And if so, were you involved in any of them?
HUNTLEY: I did not. Of course, the Brown versus Board decision I don't rememberthat, didn't know anything about it happening. In '56 when the Movement started and the NAACP was outlawed I had no knowledge of that. I did know vaguely about the Alabama Christian Movement and people going to jail, riding the bus and that 00:33:00kind of thing, but I was never involved in any of it. We lived really on the outskirts, in fact, at that time we were in the county. We were about seven miles from downtown.
So, most of the movement of those early days sort of by-passed us. We were notinvolved. No one in my family was involved. However, later on in the '60s, my wife, who would become my wife, her father and her grandmother were very actively involved. So, there were two or three of her siblings that were involved. But in those days before '61, before I graduated I didn't even know anybody that was involved in the movement.
LIGHTNER: Ok. What did you do after high school?00:34:00
HUNTLEY: I had planned to go to Tuskegee, we were in the accelerated class so wegot these diplomas and there were ten of us in my homeroom class that were going to go to Tuskegee. One day our advisor, we were talking to her, she said, "I know all of you are planning to go to Tuskegee, but one of you are not going to go." We looked at her kind of strange because we knew that all of us were going. She evidently had already talked with my mother. My mother couldn't afford to send me to Tuskegee and I didn't know anything about the work programs. So, all of them went to Tuskegee and I joined the military. I joined the air force to see the world and they sent me to Grand Forks, North Dakota. 00:35:00
LIGHTNER: Pretty far away from home.
HUNTLEY: I left here on August 11th and spent two months in Texas, Lackland AirForce Base for basic training. Then, I came back to Birmingham for leave about 30 days and then left Birmingham sometime in October. It was about 75 degrees, so I wore my summer uniform. I got to North Dakota and it was 20 degrees. The wind chill was about 10 below. I had never experienced anything like that in all my days. That was, happened to have been one of the warmer days that I would experience in North Dakota. It was nothing for the temperature to get down to 35 00:36:00to 40 below 0 and with the wind chill 90 to 95 below. So that was quite an experience from Birmingham, Alabama in mid October to Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was more than I had bargained for.
LIGHTNER: Other than the weather adjustments what other adjustments did you haveto go through in the military? This is, of course, after the armed forces is desegregated but at the same time there is still a lot of forces working within that.
HUNTLEY: It's interesting because in basic training all of us Blacks and Whiteswere made to feel like nothing, like dirt. Then, they would build you up. I remember when I was waiting during the summer I had taken the test to go into 00:37:00the army and two of my other buddies took the test. They were older than I. They took the test and they passed it but the army sent back and said I didn't pass the test. I was really upset. So, I went and took the test for the air force. It seemed like it took forever to get the results back and I was impatient and said, "if I don't get my results back tomorrow I'm going to go take the test for the navy." So, that day I got my results and I passed. I remember going to Montgomery for my physical. I thought I was going to be able to go back home. From Montgomery they sent me directly to Grand Forks Air Force Base. I was the only Black on the train going to San Antonio, Texas. The train was interstate, 00:38:00so it was not segregated. All of us were, more or less, together. But I remember all those guys, all the White guys and they would sort of huddle up in the compartment and I was just part...This one guy looked at me and said to me that I needed to go some place else. Everybody else sort of said the same thing. So, I left. So, I was basically by myself all the way from Alabama to Texas. When we got to Lackland Air Force Base we were going to be a part of a flight. Evidently what they had done they had all Whites from Alabama, with the exception of myself, and all Blacks from Philadelphia. 00:39:00
So, I got with the brothers from Philadelphia and we took care of some businessbased upon what happened on the train. While there, we became very close, Black and White. I remember one of myWhite friends, he was not a best friend, but we were members of the same flight. He was from Savannah, Georgia, I believe, somewhere in Georgia. We left the base after the two months and we sat together on the bus going to the airport and then we sat together on the plane. The plane took off from San Antonio and we had a stop at Shreveport, Louisiana. All this time we had been spending a lot of time together and everybody is the same, basically.
We got to Shreveport and we go into the airport and we both sit down at a table00:40:00to order and this waitress came over and she said to me, "I can't serve you here, you have to go over to the other side." That hit me in the face like a bowl of grits, hot grits. And still, I didn't say anything, I just got up and left. I thought he would get up and leave as well. He didn't leave he just sat there. We got back on the plane, this was the same plane. Rather than sitting in the seat next to me, he moved and sat at another seat. That said an awful lot to me about, of course, about him, but it also said a lot about the pressures on him to conform to what we thought we had left. We never said anything else to each other.
LIGHTNER: Now what will be your next destination after Louisiana?00:41:00
HUNTLEY: Birmingham. That was just a stop off in Shreveport and then toBirmingham. Then, after Birmingham I would get my assignment to Grand Forks, North Dakota. That was rather interesting because in Grand Forks there were no Black folk, except those who were on the base. I remember going to a restaurant when I first got up there. This lady was sitting across in this booth from me with two small children. This little boy kept staring at me. Finally, she was trying to stop him from starying, finally, he couldn't take it no more. He said, "mom, look at that funny kind of man." She apologized, but she said she was sorry but he had never seen a Black man before. I was just taken aback, you 00:42:00know. I thought everybody had seen us some place. (Laughing) You could go downtown in Grand Forks, in fact, when I got to Minneapolis you would go downtown and you wouldn't see any Black folks. There was some difficulty between Blacks and town people. They didn't really care for Blacks to come downtown to spend the day and they made that known. Every year the Red River would flood and then they would call and the base would send volunteers down. So, they've always asked for volunteers. So, every year before I got there they would go down and they would call it sand bag.
My first year there, after finding that the people didn't want us downtown00:43:00during the rest of the year, they would ask for volunteers, but actually they were preparing us to go downtown. I refused to go. I told the other guys that, "if you go you're crazy. They don't want us down here any other time." So, the other guys then in my squadron, anyway, decided not to participate. Nothing happened. They didn't reprimand or anything, but we decided we were going to take that stand. This may have been one of the first times that I had taken a stand on an issue where a race seemed to have been paramount.
LIGHTNER: So, although you are in another geographic region it's kind of muchlike being in Birmingham?
HUNTLEY: Yeah, when it came to interaction, it was very much like Birmingham.00:44:00There was little...Now, we could go to Canada and it was totally different, like day and night. That's where many of us would go on the weekends, to Winnipeg [inaudible]. People there were seemingly totally different where race was concerned. This was White people and there were some Blacks there, too. They looked at us very differently than the people in the states. I remember I wanted to go to Canada so I could sit on the front of the bus (Laughing) and I did. I went, that was the first thing I did when I got there.
I got my hotel and I went and sat on the front of the bus. I was just riding,enjoying myself. A few blocks down the bus stopped and this White female got on, 00:45:00a young girl, I guess probably about my age. She got on the bus and the bus wasn't crowded or anything and she sat down right next to me. I almost had spasms. This was a White woman sitting next to me, don't you know I'm from Birmingham and you can't do that. I was actually rather scared, you know. All I could think about was that I knew that Bull Conner had me on camera someplace and was watching every move and I sat just like this. Not only did she sit there but she started to talk to me. After awhile I got comfortable and I think we had a pretty good discussion, but I was terrified.
LIGHTNER: So that mentality was still pretty much engraved in you?00:46:00
HUNTLEY: You could take me out of Birmingham, but you couldn't take Birminghamout of me at that particular time. Not in that sense. I remember that just very, very vividly that I wanted to go, cause I wanted to sit on the front of the bus. I never imagined this White woman was going to come sit next to me. I did know that White women were dating Black men because that's why the brothers were going to Manitoba, for the women. They were basically White women and I knew that. I guess that probably had something to do with my wanting to go. The first thing I wanted to do was sit in the front of that bus.
LIGHTNER: Now, did you keep in touch with any of your relatives back home as towhat exactly was going on here? I know in the '60s a lot of things were happening in Birmingham. In '63 was a really turbulent year for Birmingham. The 00:47:00bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. A lot of the demonstrations with the kids were going on trying to desegregate the stores downtown. Did you have any awareness of that going on?
HUNTLEY: ...I actually kept a running tab. I would get the Minneapolis Tribuneeveryday and I made a scrap book with every article that the Minneapolis Tribune 00:48:00had on that particular era between April and May of 1963. I kept all of those articles. I was in constant contact. In fact, I would request leave in May of '63 and the officer I worked for said he wouldn't give me the leave because I didn't need to go to Alabama at that time. I told him whether you give me the leave or not, I have to go to Birmingham. He understood that I was going to come anyway so he did give me the leave. So, I did get to come home, probably right after the children's demonstrations. I was home probably about a month at that 00:49:00time. Normally when I would come home I would stay 30 days. So, I spent time here in Birmingham, but my girlfriend was at Tuskegee. So, I spent as much time in Tuskegee as I did in Birmingham.
LIGHTNER: Do you remember the day that the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed?
HUNTLEY: I don't remember the day but I remember that we...I don't know if itwas that day or sometime that week, but I can remember sitting in our day room. That's where our TV was in the barracks. We, I don't think we had any disturbances, but there was some discussion about Birmingham. What most people 00:50:00would ask is what was it like to live in Birmingham. Everybody thought that. They just couldn't believe that I was from Birmingham, Alabama. I can not recall that specific day that it happened, but I know that there were discussions about it. It may have been that day or a few days after. I had a clipping of that as well. When I first got to North Dakota there were very few Blacks from the South. I would just ask people where were they from. Everybody was from Cleveland, Chicago, or Philadelphia. I noticed that there were guys that had 00:51:00Black southern accents. So, there was this one brother and I said, "I know you're my homeboy." He said, "No, I'm from PA." I said, "PA?"
I was kind of puzzled. A few days later I saw him again and I said, "Where didyou say you were from?" He said, "I'm from PA, man." I said, "Man, you know you're from Mississippi." (Laughing) He said, "No, I'm from PA." Finally, I guess it was a few days later, I said, "Come on homeboy tell me where you are from." He said, "I'm from PA." I said, "Well, what does PA mean?" He said, "Pine Apple, Alabama."(Laughing) Those guys who were from Mississippi, Alabama, from Georgia they would always say they were from someplace else. It was not until myself, a buddy from Jackson and another buddy from Mississippi and one from Virginia we would always say where we were from. There was one guy who swore he was from Cleveland, Ohio. 00:52:00
We just accepted it. One day they put our serial numbers on our doors. Ournumbers started with 1476 and this guy, we got home that evening from work and we looked at all the doors and on his door, we knew that he was not from Cleveland, but we didn't know where he was from. He had the same first four that we had. And 1476 was Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. It turned out that he was from Meridian, Mississippi. He was so upset that we found out that he actually cried. He did not want to be from the south. For obvious reasons no one wanted to be associated with the brutality and the supposed subordination that Black folks had to encounter in the south. So, he didn't want to be from the south. 00:53:00
WATSON: What did you do after you left the air force?
HUNTLEY: When I left the air force I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota and I wasenrolled in an electronics school, Control Data Institute. In fact, I was in the very first class that Control Data ever had for computer, it wasn't for computer programming, although we had programing. It was for computer technology, I guess. I finished school there. But while there we were, Barbara and I, my wife, we were married in '64. She was a senior at Tuskegee and I was going on my last year in the air force. She went back to Tuskegee and I went back to [inaudible]. 00:54:00So we were apart for that one year. Then, when I got out of the service I went to Minneapolis and she finished school and then she came to Minneapolis. So we met there and that's where we really first set our household. We were young, 22, I believe. That summer we both volunteered at a community center because she was going to be teaching in the fall. So, she started teaching in the fall and I started school in the fall at the electronics school.
We stayed at the community center in the evenings. After finishing thatelectronics school I then went to work for Honeywell. I worked for Honeywell 00:55:00part time. Part of the time I was in the school and then I went to [inaudible] Control Data and I finished there. We still volunteered at the community center in the evenings. This was with young children. I was associated with the community, but the community was associated with the church. It's a Baptist Community Center.
The kids were from elementary to high school age. It was rather interesting,because we were rather young ourselves. Barbara was, she looked like she was in 9th grade or something. She looked real young. We had a good rapport with the kids at the time. So, I went on and worked for a year at Control Data and after 00:56:00that year I decided, with some encouragement from Barbara, to go back to the University of Minnesota. So, that's when I started at the University. I was a 25 year old freshman during that time.
WATSON: Ok, let's talk a little about your time at the University. A lot ofimportant things happened while you were there. First of all what was the racial make up of the University of Minnesota when you entered?
HUNTLEY: When I entered in 1967 there was about 47,000 students at theUniversity of Minnesota. Out of 47,000 there were 87 Black students. The vast majority of those were from Minneapolis or St. Paul even. It was rather curious because in the south when we saw people we always spoke. The people in Minnesota, Blacks in Minnesota, if you see them on campus they wouldn't speak to 00:57:00you. There were I guess three or four of us from the south. I remember when I first met sister Rose Freeman. We became real good friends. She spoke and I spoke, I think, probably, simultaneously.
It was a great feeling because we had been ignored. Nobody would speak beforeand we started talking and it was like we had been close friends for a long time. Then, we started, well actually she started a year before I got involved in the organization, Afro American Action Committee and I got involved with the group. Rose was president at the time. I got involved and remember I'm a little bit older than most of the students. I knew what I had to do to get out of 00:58:00there. We spent a lot of time in the rec room. I would sort of tell the youngsters, "you need to get out of here and go to class." So, we spent a lot of time together and then, trying to develop some of a cohesiveness with some of the Black students on campus. A lot of them were athletes and athletes were not involved at all. I got involved with the athletes through a fraternity. I joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Most of the athletes were confused as well. As a result of that bond, we then got them involved in the Afro American Action 00:59:00Committee. That would lead to some real unified efforts on campus in relationship to a number of issues that we were involved in.
WATSON: Okay. Could you just tell me a little bit about what the committee did?
HUNTLEY: The committee was basically interested in getting more Black studentsenrolled at the University. We developed sort of a campaign to get that done. It was rather difficult because the administration didn't see the need in allocating funds for that. What we wanted to do was to set up in...'68 as a 01:00:00result of Dr. King's assassination. We want them to set up a Martin Luther King scholarship fund. They didn't see the need to do it at the time. We also were developing a national Black student conference, where we were attracting people from all over the country to come to the University of Minnesota.
If people come here and find out what's here then some would probably enroll.The University wasn't interested in that as well. We also...I had an experience in one of my classes where, in an American History class. The professor's name was Professor Burkhoffer. Professor Burkhoffer, he didn't like students, period. (Laughing) He was very arrogant and no one ever spoke in his class. He lectured for 45 minutes and he left. If you wanted to talk about any issues you talk with 01:01:00his teaching assistants. So, one day he talked about slavery for about five minutes. That's the only time he mentioned Black folks in class. So, when I raised my hand, he didn't acknowledge my hand. So, I stood up. He still didn't acknowledge me. So, finally, I just interrupted him.
I said, "Excuse me, Professor Burkhoffer." He just looked at me and everybodyelse was just looking at me, too. I'm the only Black, there were only two of us in the class out of probably 400. I asked him, "You just covered the subject of Black history in 5 minutes. The only time that you've talked about Black people in this class is when you talked about slavery. Are you going to cover anything else where Blacks are concerned? Any Black history?" He said, "Oh, is there more?" very arrogantly. I said, "Sure there is and I started talking." He said, 01:02:00"Well, I'll give you equal time." I said, "Well, does that mean that I will have the rest of the term to clear up many of the things that you've been saying that's incorrect?" He didn't like that.
He said, "No, I'll give you a class period." So, he gave me a class period. Ihad, prior to coming to the University I had met a guy by the name of Mahmoud El-Kati.
Mahmoud was a historian and he became my mentor. So when he told me he was goingto give me a class period, I was kind of frightened, you know. I've got to talk in front of people that I had never met before. So, I went and talked to Mahmoud. Mahmoud then gave me some advice on how to do it and where to get my material from. [inaudible] I don't even remember what I talked about but I 01:03:00remember feeling very good about it.
After it was over...well prior to then, prior to my doing the talk, he tried tofrighten me. He said, "Well, you know I'm going to have all my TA's here and I will probably invite some of my colleagues over to listen to your lecture." I said, "Well, that's fine." I couldn't back up then. I said, "Well, do you think you could get Williams Arena and could you get WCCO TV here to tape it?" You know, I'm just going on, you know.
Anyway, I gave the lecture and then afterwards I felt good about it and Ithought I had done a good job. I went over and asked him. He said, "You did a good job." Everybody was coming up and praising me and everything. I knew that, now I'm getting arrogant. I said, "Since I did such a good job, I would like 01:04:00that to be in lieu of my final exam."
He said, "Oh sure." He did and he gave me a "C" out of the class. We thenstarted clamoring for a development of an African American Studies Department. This time then there were three issues on the table. There was the African American Studies Department, the development of the Martin Luther King scholarship fund and asking the administration to assist us financially in carrying out the Black student conference. And on all three counts they said no. So, the Afro American Action Committee then went into session and we talked about what we were going to do to get them to change their mind. So, we decided then to go to the president. A delegation of us, I think three or four of us 01:05:00went up to his office to see him. When we got there they told us that he was out of town and that he would be back tomorrow or the next day around 1:00.
We said, "We would like to have an appointment with him." So, we sat up theappointment. We then went back to the rec center, the student union. That next meeting we had another meeting of the organization and this time there was probably 40 to 50 people there, because we had gotten the word out that we were going to talk to Malcolm Luss, who was the president of the school and we were going to demand these three items. So people were excited, you know, because this was the first time this had happened at the University of Minnesota. 01:06:00Somebody said, "What happens if they say no?" We couldn't decide on what we were going to do. We kept talking and talking and about a quarter to 1:00 we said, "We have to go."
So, we decided to leave. We went on to [inaudible] Hall, the administrationbuilding. There were probably 30 or 40 of us. We went into, I guess the board room. That's where we were going to meet. The president eventually came out and he sat and talked with us. We told him what we were demanding. And he said, "I really understand what you're saying, but I don't have the authority, but I can't do those things." So, we said, "We pay our fees and we abide by that and the other and we thought it was necessary that we have an African American 01:07:00Studies Department. That it is only right to try to get more Black students here through a Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund. We can assist you in doing that. We also thought it was necessary that the University would have some Black program on campus and this Black student conference would bring some Black programming." They said, "No, we couldn't do that either." So, there were myself and sister Rose we got up and we walked downstairs.
While we were walking we were just talking about what we were going to do. So,rather than leaving the building we then decided to go into the Bursar's Office.
Everybody followed us into the Bursar's Office. Now you can imagine this is theUniversity of Minnesota. You've never seen this many Black folks together. You've got 40 Black folk walking into the Bursar's Office and people are just 01:08:00amazed and startled.
Once we got in there we decided that we were not going to leave until some ofthose demands were met. So we remained in the administration building. We allowed people to leave, but we didn't allow people to enter.
They basically corded off the doors and did a sit-in. We were there overnightand overnight we then started negotiating with the administration. The administration sometime around 12:00, 1:00, or 2:00 in the morning they agreed on all three points.
That next morning, it was day when we left. There were White students outsideand they were really upset because they were saying you can't shut down our 01:09:00University. Our refrain to them was we've been shut out of society for 300 years and they can't be shut out one day without saying they are going to charge the building and do some damage or bodily harm to us, you know. That never came before that morning.
They surround, the White students surround the administration building and thebuildings at Minnesota were connected by tunnels. So, rather then us going out through the crowd, we went out through the tunnel to the other side of the mob and all the way down to the end of the mob and back across to another building 01:10:00and then out to the outside. When we got down there we looked back and there was a huge crowd of White students. We just turned around and we waved at them. (Laughing) I think if we would have come out, directly out of that building there probably would have been some disturbances. So the administration suggested that we take that route and we did. We got that done. We got the department, the African American Studies Department.
We were on the community that developed it. We basically, we didn't have a voteor anything, but we were very forceful in how we wanted the department to look because they were saying that there were not people qualified to teach. So, we 01:11:00brought Mahmoud and we recruited several other people from out of town. Three of us were arrested as a result of the take over. The administration said they were going to deal with us but the city government...The mayor's name was Stenven. Mayor Stenven decided, I don't guess it was Stenven but anyway, the grand jury indicted us. That then made for a unified force on campus because the campus, at that time the Vietnam War was going on, so White students were actively involved in that. So, they supported us and we had a demonstration, the day that we were 01:12:00arrested there was a demonstration about 10,000 students marched from the University to the downtown courthouse. We had a huge, massive inside and outside the court house.
The White students, the student government association, the students for ademocratic society and a number of other organizations were very supportive and that sort of galvanized the activist on campus anyway. So, we were tried and we were found not guilty on destruction of property and whatever. I think we got a misdemeanor. It was an experience that really galvanized that campus for Black 01:13:00and White students against the administration and in favor of change. As a result of that, we got Martin Luther King Scholarship Program that created slots for Black students.
We developed the African American Studies Department. They actually paid for thestudent conference that we had. During that conference we had Jim Turner, who's now a professor at Cornell University. At that time he was a graduate student at Northwestern University. He's in local science, I believe, or maybe Urban Studies. He was one of the speakers that we invited up. We had Muhammad Ali. We 01:14:00had a dance troop from Harlem, we had several brothers from Washington D.C. start an organization called Pride and we had students all over the country as far as California that came to that student conference.
So, we were very proud of being able to pull that together and to organize it tothe extent to show the administration the necessity for developing those kinds of programs.
As a result of that, the department actually recruited people from all over thecountry and it became one of the premiere programs. As a result of that, myself 01:15:00and sister Rose became two of the first graduates with a degree in African American Studies in the country.
WATSON: You were very much a part of the Black power movements that were goingon in '65 directly. You were doing some of the same things that were going on at other campuses.
HUNTLEY: Right. We had relationships with other campuses. The Black powermovement...in fact, I remember meeting Stokley Carmichael for the first time on campus. Right after he, in '66 on the march of the Mississippi, where he talked about what Black people need, Black power. I guess it was probably '68 when he came to campus and gave a speech. Sister Rose knew him personally because she was in "SNICK" in Mississippi. She was from Greenville, Mississippi.
So, they knew each other personally and she got Stokley up there to speak. There01:16:00were a number of individuals that we got to come to speak. Yeah, it was right in the...the Black Panther Party, of course, was very active. There's an active Panther Party in Minneapolis. We knew all those guys and they were very closely associated with us. So, when we went to the administration building they were there to help us out. Supposedly, they were there to protect us. So there was a real close knit Black community in Minneapolis at the time. Since I was working in the community, I didn't live on campus. I lived in South Minneapolis.
Sister Rose worked at a community center in North Minneapolis. That's whereBlack folk lived in North and South Minneapolis. So when we went to the 01:17:00administration building, people from the community came to our rescue. So, it was really rather uniquely developed in that we had those, that we were not isolated from the community, that we were actually apart of the community.
WATSON: Ok, I want to back up a little. One of the demands that the group madewas for a scholarship fund in Martin Luther King's name. I just want to ask you, do you remember where you were and what you were doing when Martin Luther King was assassinated?
HUNTLEY: Yes, we were at the community center. I remember that the kids werereally excited.
They wanted to get out in the street and some did. It wasn't like Chicago oranyplace but there were some throwing at cars and that kind of thing. I remember initially we took all of the kids downstairs in the church and we sat and talked 01:18:00about it, what it meant. Once we left then sort of all havoc broke out.
There were some disturbances and actually there were some Whites that camethrough the community at that time driving suspiciously, you know. I don't know whether they were attempting to cause some problems or what. But I remember our following one of the cars and it had two or three White boys, or men, or whatever to see that they were just going to go on through the community, rather than stop and create some problems. It was a rather difficult time. As a result 01:19:00of that we...at Dr. King's funeral we were able to take, I don't know how many kids we took, but we took a lot of kids to Atlanta to the funeral. General Mills, Three M and several other big companies donated their planes. We were able to take some kids to Atlanta to the funeral.
WATSON: So you were able to attend Dr. King's funeral?
WATSON: Ok, now you graduated from the University of Minnesota. You have one ofthe first degrees in African American Studies. Where did you go from there?
HUNTLEY: Well, actually we had volunteered for Peace Corps. We were going to01:20:00Ghana. We were due to leave for two weeks to come to Atlanta for orientation, but prior to that, we had to take physical exams. When we took the physical exams, we found out that Barbara was expecting our first child. So, that changed our whole lives. We didn't make the trip to Ghana. Then, I had a fellowship offer to go to Syracuse University. We took that. We went to Syracuse where I did my masters. I was in school for a year and then the program had another year where we would actually teach. So, I went to school the first year and the second year I taught at the State University of New York at Oswego. It was upstate New York, about 40 miles, I guess, northwest of Syracuse. 01:21:00
WATSON: After that did you go on to get your doctorate?
HUNTLEY: No, from there I took a job at the University of Maryland, EasternShore. I was there for a year. From there I then received another fellowship to do the doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh. At the University of Pittsburgh I met David Montgomery, who was the chairman of the History Department at that time. He was a labor historian. Now he is the number one labor historian in the world. David and I became very close friends. So, I then started to do African American Labor History. My topic was the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers as it was organized here in Birmingham 01:22:00in the 1930s. It was an interracial experiment I always say. An interracial labor union.
WATSON: Ok then, you said you went to the University of Pittsburgh for your doctorate?
WATSON: Ok. Once you were in Pittsburgh what did you do your doctoraldissertation on, what was the subject?
HUNTLEY: The International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers. I did thatbecause there was really very little that was written about Mine Mill, particularly in Birmingham. I found several pages in a book that talked about Mine Mill in Birmingham. My grandfather had been a member of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union and I remember very vaguely while I was growing up something about labor.
I remember something about the barber shop and old men coming in, oh they were01:23:00probably 30 at the time. They would come in and talk about what was happening at the mine. I didn't, of course, pay any attention then. As I started the study it was like I remember some of those men at the barber shop. So that began my first effort to really digging into the history of Black labor. I did that as an oral history project. So, my dissertation was based primarily on oral histories.
WATSON: This was one of your first experiments on oral histories. A time when itprobably wasn't very popular to do.
HUNTLEY: That's right. It was not very popular to do oral history at the time.Labor history and Black history both were not looked upon very favorably even in the academic community. Dave Montgomery, who was a popular historian and we just 01:24:00became real good friends, he then became my mentor in terms of labor, because he knew his labor history. He sort of corrected what didn't wreck my dissertation.
WATSON: Ok. Now you have your Ph.D. what do you do from there?
HUNTLEY: I, in June, well actually, I had come home the year before, a year anda half before I finished up. I went over to the University, UAB, to the history department to see if I can find sources. I couldn't find any sources, but I was approached by the chair of the department. She asked me if I ever considered coming back home after I finished up. Of course I had, but I played hard to get. 01:25:00So she said, "why don't you call me when you get close to finishing. We would like to talk to you." So, I decided to, I did. They sent for, they wanted me to come down for an interview.
I was talking to Barbara, she was just the opposite. I always said I was goingto come back to Birmingham once I finished up and she said she would never live in Alabama again. So, as we discussed coming back she said she didn't want to come back to Birmingham, that she wasn't coming back. So, I called UAB and told them that we decided that we were not going to come. They asked why. I told them. They said, "why don't we send for your whole family, your wife and your children?" So, they did. They wined and dined us for three days. I promised 01:26:00Barbara we would just be here for a couple of years. If you don't like it we can leave. When we got here, we were at a party at some sort and somebody said, "Oh, you're back home. How long are you going to be here?" I said, "We're here to stay." She never let me live that down. We've been here now for a long time, since '76, that's 22 years.
WATSON: I know you've been involved in a lot of different things since youreturned to Birmingham. So, let's just start with things you've done at UAB. First of all, I would like to know about the courses that you taught when you came back to teach at UAB.
HUNTLEY: Initially, I started teaching African American History, AmericanHistory and Urban Studies. What I was trying to do, I was developing a sequence 01:27:00in African American History, a three course sequence. It went very well. I taught an American History course one term and then, next term I would have to teach a graduate level Urban Studies. Eventually, then, I would start teaching the Urban Studies because I had a joint appointment between History and Urban Studies. So, I teach...a full load is two courses per term. I had not finished the doctorate when I arrived here. I still had to finish the dissertation. My first term here I completed the dissertation and I would go back to defend it in December.
That's when I would be awarded the degree the following term. So, my with01:28:00appointment being both History and Urban Studies I taught in both departments. By the same token I had taught, I had talked with them, prior to coming, about establishing an African American Studies program. In '78 I started writing a proposal for that program. It was finally, I guess in '79 or so it was instituted. It was an interdisciplinary program and I established a three quarter sequence in African American History. Other people from various disciplines would offer courses periodically. For awhile it worked ok but what happened was that after a time my courses were the only courses that were not being offered on a regular basis. So students then would have difficulty in completing the 18 hours. So, I then, I had to start giving independent studies 01:29:00to have people to be able to complete the minor.
We did that and I'm not sure how many students actually minored in that, butthere were quite a number. I knew that, that simply couldn't last. So we started talking about a necessity for a department of African American Studies. This is probably after ten years or so. The administration would never permit the resources to do that. So then, they would always say they just didn't have the money because that's a commitment to me. So, myself and a couple of other Black faculty members went to the State Senator and asked him if he would allocate money to develop a department. We talked and he researched it and he came back 01:30:00and said he would put in a half million dollars a year for our Black studies department. The administration was livid.
They said that they didn't want him to do that because that would take away fromother programs and they would not go along with it. The Senator was Fred Horn. He said that he would see to it that the money would in fact be there. They fought it.
Eventually what it really came down to was Fred would lose the election and thatwould be the end of that money. We couldn't get the other legislators to be as 01:31:00forceful as Fred was. Fred was chair of the financing within the state. He held the purse strings and he could have done it, but the administration was totally opposed to it. What they decided to do was, what they call, enhance the program. So they hired someone else and brought that person in and now they are supposedly enhancing that program with a list of courses about the same number that I had and they are having the same problems that I was having, is that the courses are not offered on a regular basis. Our argument was that if you had a department then you have people, you bring people in specifically to teach African American Studies.
What is happening is that they look upon African American Studies in the sameway that Whites looked upon Blacks, that's being negatively, because I doubt 01:32:00very seriously that if a person simply had an interest in history or a history buff would be allowed to come to the history department to teach a history course. That would not be allowed in any other department but for African American Studies. The only thing a person would have is an interest in the disciplines, not necessarily in the training. See, I'm the only one on campus that had the degree in African American Studies. What they would do is send out a letter that would ask people would you like to teach a course in African American Studies.
That is what the administration allowed. So, I then sort of disassociated myselffrom that process because it obviously was not meeting the standards that were being set by agencies that were looking at African American Studies. Of course, 01:33:00it didn't meet my standards.
WATSON: Alright now you were now challenging the status quo and the UABadminstration. Did you feel any personal repercussions as a result of your actions? Or was there any problems between yourself, or the administration, or the faculty over that?
HUNTLEY: Well there's been a court case, trying to think of the name of it,Higher Education Court Case in the state of Alabama that was looking at the inequities in the development of education in Black institutions and White institutions. I actually testified against White institutions because, you know, 01:34:00for obvious reasons. The Universtiy of Alabama in Tuscaloosa made a statement that they never had a policy of segregation. (Laughing) It's very obvious that the funding has been inequitable.
So, I was brought into the case and made statements, that is public informationright now, about how education had saved Alabama and what had happened, also about Black studies. The judge...what had happened, initially, Judge U. W. Clemmons was a city judge on the case. They removed him from the case, because he said he had been a civil rights lawyer and he was Black. What they had put on the case instead was an old White man from Rome, Georgia, Judge Murphy and he's 01:35:00probably in his late 60s, probably 70 years old. What kind of....
HUNTLEY: Judge Murphy was anti-black for anything but how could you suggest that Judge
Clemmons was going to be bias and that Judge Murphy would not be bias fromanother perspective. So, I then testified, as a result of making that testimony, there were actually people in my department who stopped speaking to me. There 01:36:00was a number of other things that would take place. I got the impression that the department was attempting to isolate me. I always told them that you can not isolate me because I'm at home. My life was not totally focused on what you're doing here. I have a life outside the university.
Of course, they attempted to change my title to adjunct professor; that alonewith other things, the letter writing campaigns.
I had to write the dean. I had an encounter with all the vice-presidents. Thevice- presidents once came to one of the Black history programs. The program was 01:37:00titled something like, "What was it like being Black on a White college campus." He invited himself to participate. He came over with all kinds of statistics and how much progress UAB was making and that we were, had increased by x number. I just asked him, "well [inaudible] if you're giving those statistics I would like to know some names. I've been here for 15 years. Tell me who are these people you are talking about that you've added to the faculty, because I don't know any of them."
Afterwards, he came to me and he said that was intellectually dishonest. I said,"you're right. Everything you presented was intellectually dishonest." He got upset and I got upset and we almost went to blows. We didn't but that was part of the encounters I was having. I basically would tell whoever raised some 01:38:00issues, if they were not telling the truth I would raise questions about it and that's not something you do as a Black man in this country. You accept it and you go with it tail tucked. I refused to do that. As a result, a number of things happened.
WATSON: I want to talk a little bit about the things that you've done in thecity. Before that, I just remembered something. I know you requested your FBI file through the Freedom of Information Act. I was wondering if you could tell us if you found...I know you've done a lot so, I was wondering if there were any interesting things in there that you might want to share with us about...
HUNTLEY: Well actually they did a very good job in following me everywhere.(Laughing) I remember once when I was at home early, early morning about 2:00 or 01:39:003:00 in the morning. This voice from someplace, I was dreaming, I guess, it said, "get up and look out your window." I did. I got up and looked out my window and there was a guy underneath my car. It was in the winter and there was snow on the ground and he was underneath my car. I recognized him. He was one of the guys that was in our organization. So the next morning I went out, I didn't go out that night.
I thought it was going to blow up or something. So I went out and they had alittle device. It happened to be a homing device, I guess, just to let them know where I am or whatever. He was obviously working undercover within the 01:40:00organization. When we were in the administration building we found out during the trial that he was on the phone the whole time giving whatever we did, he was telling someone. I don't know who he was talking to. All that was in the file. It didn't name the person but I happened to put two and two together and could determine who it was. It was amazing because although I was active, there were a lot of people that were a lot more active than I. I had nearly 300 pages in my FBI File.
So they were...one of the things that they consistently did was they just triedto follow whatever you did. When I left Minneapolis and went to Syracuse they 01:41:00followed me there. I wrote a letter to the insurance company because the insurance company had dropped my insurance. I don't know why, I may have gotten a ticket or whatever but I wrote them a very heated letter about how the Black community would not look very favorable upon this. They sent a guy from Minneapolis to Syracuse to talk with me about that. That is in my files. You name it and if I did it, it's in my file.
WATSON: Ok, now let's go ahead and talk a little bit about the things that wenton, not at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but within the city itself. I wanted to start with the Board of Education of the city. I know that because the city is predominantly Black, the school system certainly is predominantly Black that you favor an Afrocentric education and that you've pushed for that. I 01:42:00wanted to know sort of the specifics of that and what your position is and what you've done to try to get that.
HUNTLEY: Ok, Birmingham proper is about 65% Black. The school system is 93%Black. But we've been under core for a long time now to have the faculty, it's 50/50. The faculty usually is about 50/50 but the student population is 93% Black, which meant really that's...there's a reason for that because you have to look at how the neighborhoods are situated. In the '60s when Blacks started to move, actually when UAB bought all that property on the Southside that was a neighborhood, that was a community. Sixth Avenue Baptist Church was right 01:43:00where...it was on 6th Avenue and 16th Street South.
On the same corner on the north side, 6th Avenue and 16th Street North, wasSixteenth Street Baptist Church. They were sister churches you know but UAB came in and purchased all that land. Sixteenth Street and the whole community was displaced. So then, African American people started moving into West End and other neighborhoods that happened to have been White. As soon as they moved in Whites moved out. So, of course, that created then a situation just as in many other urban areas when Black folks move into the area, White folks start moving out to the suburbs. I remember when I moved back to Birmingham in '76. I moved into the West End area and right next to me was an older White man. 01:44:00
A week or so after I moved in a for sale sign up. We were out one day and Italked to him and asked him, "Why are you moving?" He said, "Oh, the community is just deteriorating." Here I am a Ph.D. my life is in line, but the neighborhood is deteriorating because Black folk moved in next door to you. So, that then will result in the city becoming a predominately Black city. The school system becoming overwhelming Black. Still in Birmingham and some other places you still had to fight to get courses on Black history, Black culture or whatever in the school systems. You can still talk to kids today and they still 01:45:00don't have a lot of it, although Black people are in control of the system now. So there are some...if we are in control of the school system then why not look at an African centered curriculum just as been done in other places.
We are clamoring mostly from Black folks the authority.
We are apologetic to Whites because we were raised in this kind of issue.
Another issue that we raise is that White people move out of the city and Blackpeople will be in control, but we're still retaining 40% of the school board for Whites. I said, That's ridiculous, you know. Why should White people have 40% of the school board when they are only 7% of the student population. Those parents 01:46:00and those people who live in the city lives here. They need to have that control of the city. Even some Black people disagree with that because they want to be multi-cultural. I don't have any difficulty with that, but I'm looking at the reality of it. The reality of it is, it's a Black system and that we need to be able to control our own destinies. It appeared that we were doing the very same thing that we had done even during the segregation era. Like when Dr. King first came to Birmingham, there were Black folks that said that he was an outside agitator and that he shouldn't come in because all he's gonna do is hurt the progress that we had made in race relations, even though we hadn't made any.
These were people that were in prominent positions, Blacks in prominentpositions. I see the same thing happening. So, I was actually appointed, I don't 01:47:00know why they appointed me to this advisory committee to the board to advise them on the development of a strategic plan. One of my issues was that of African centered education. There were student representation on the board, I mean on the committee, who happened to have agreed with me. There were others on the committee that agreed. They would only agree in private. In fact, we had a meeting at my house and there were probably six or seven of us there.
All of us agreed that this was our strategy and we would see that this happened.We got back to the big meeting with 30 something people. There were two that would speak. The others just sat there, didn't say anything. The point is what we were attempting to do is to make the system reflect the history culture of 01:48:00the people that is was serving. That became very difficult to do. We still have not achieved that, we're still working on it.
WATSON: I know you also got involved with the city government of Birmingham. Youran for city council, but before we get into that I would like to know a little bit about some of the things that you did, to the efforts that you made in relation to the government of Birmingham before that time.
HUNTLEY: Well, I've been involved with the community for some time. We've beenactive in our neighborhood with just everyday amenities, talking about those kinds of things. I've been actively involved, like the Birmingham Historical Society, a trustee for the society. I was also a member of the Birmingham 01:49:00Historical Commission. What we did, we looked at historical sites and tried to get places renovated rather than torn down. One of the things that really...one of the most devastating things that was happening with the historical sites is that the terminal station, which was a very historic site was demolished.
We only have pictures of that now. So, the commission was developed to see thatthat would not happen any longer. Originally, as I've been involved with the Million Man March, I've been chair of the local organizing committee of the Million Man March. Of course, there was a lot of controversy in that because Minister Louis Farrakahn called the Million Man March in '96 and just as we 01:50:00reacted to Malcolm X in the '60s people still reacted to Minister Farrakahn the same way. They tried to paint him one way. They tried to paint him as anti-Semitic and anti-White without really listening to what he was saying. I think that we have to really start making determinations for ourselves rather than allowing people outside of our community to make decisions for us.
We have to make decisions about who we are supportive of. I can remember in the'60s when Malcolm was talking, there would be people who were prominent who would agree with him in private, but in public they were afraid. We have the same kind of situation today. As a member of the local organizing of the Million 01:51:00Man March we've developed a present support group. We've developed a mechanism by which Black kids could be adopted because we found that Black kids are usually the last ones to be adopted. Many didn't have homes. We have, the local organizing committees also, one of the initiatives have been the development of an African centered education in the public school system. So, there have been a number of issues that we have attempted to focus on and we're still doing those things.
WATSON: When you eventually ran to try to become a member of the city council,how exactly did you get involved in that? How did that happen? What were some of 01:52:00your reactions to the whole process?
HUNTLEY: People had approached me a year and a half before the election andasked me if I would run for city council. I told them I really didn't have interest in running for city council. So, they said don't make a decision now but sometime before the election, you know, a year or so before the election you should let us know if you will or not. It came down the year before and I told them that I still hadn't changed my mind, but I would give them a definite answer by the first of the year. That gave me eight months, no, ten months before the election. So the first of the year I still didn't want to run.
So, I told them, "I really appreciate you asking but I was really not interested01:53:00in a political career." So, they wouldn't take no for an answer. So in June they asked me again. I said no and I went away on vacation in July. When I came back, I had been drafted to run. I sat down with the people who drafted me. It was a coalition of organizations. I really couldn't dispute what they were saying. So, I then said, "ok if you can gather the troops I will sit with it." So, that's really the way it happened. Then, it was really late. It was five weeks before the election.
We gathered the troops and I had really good people working with me. I was01:54:00[inaudible] in the political arena. I didn't know anything about it. William Muhammad and Don Blankenship sort of lead my, the campaign. They had experience. We just got to work and what happened they knew basically how a campaign should be run. They started the process and I was very comfortable in going out talking to people. So, we walked the neighborhoods every evening. Sometimes I would just walk it by myself just talking with people. I had approached some people and they said, "Horace you're too late. If you would have come earlier I would have supported you. I have committed to someone else." I understood that because I 01:55:00did wait too late. Finally, what happened of course is that the day of the election the front runner, she was enormous, she had about 49% or something like that and I came in second.
So, there was a run off between us. I think we had another three weeks to runand in those three weeks I gained momentum and she added 300 votes to her numbers and I added close to 1100 votes to mine. I still fell short, ran out of 01:56:00time. I didn't have money. In fact, I borrowed $5,000.00 and then we solicited funds. There were people that came and wanted to donate to the campaign that I didn't want any donations from, so we refused those. There were people who came and wanted to do things for us, but they had ulterior motives. Everybody has an ulterior motive, but there are some, you know, you see the writing on the wall and I didn't want to go that route. Don and William were very protective of me, because they wouldn't allow certain people to get to me. A lot of folks would go through them to try to get to me. They wouldn't allow that to happen. What I learned out of the whole process is that people will do whatever it takes to 01:57:00control the Black community. There are some complicity by Black folk because at the end, after the election I was in fact...well, the main focus of my platform was that I thought that we should be developing Black businesses in the city.
The Black businesses should have the opportunity to compete with anybody, withall the contracts that were being developed. Since the city is a predominately Black city, 65% and people still talking about 10% set asides, I thought that was ridiculous. I think that we should have at least 50% of all contracts. Of 01:58:00course, people disagreed with that in saying that Black businesses just can't do big jobs. I would ask the question, "How do White businesses get the chance to do the big jobs then?"
The reason is because they had an unfair advantage during the segregation eraand they took advantage of that. So, there must be some creative ways in which you can help develop the Black community to level that playing field and without that we're all being hypocritical. After the election was over the mayor wrote an article in the paper saying that I was a member of the sale of Black republicans in town (Laughing) and that we met on a regular basis. I wrote a response to that and, in fact, I called him at his home and asked him about it. 01:59:00He said, "Well, Horace that's what somebody told me." I said, "Well, you should've had the courtesy to ask me about it before you put it in the paper." He said, "I'm sorry. I will..." He said he was going to make a statement about what I had said to him in his next column. He did.
He said exactly what I had said to him. Then, I wrote a response because he wassaying that my campaign was financed by White republicans and I get all kinds of technical assistance from them. They tried to give me some assistance but I wouldn't accept it. They, of course, didn't give me any money. I was appalled and I told the mayor that I was appalled because what you are saying is that all 02:00:00of these Black people that have worked so hard in that campaign, that you are not giving them the credit.
You're giving the credit to somebody that's exterior to us. I want to know howin the world that you can suggest that I'm a republican. I'm not a republican, nor am I a democrat. However, you suggest that I'm a republican and I'm talking about affirmative action, not this [inaudible] but really looking at the betterment of the community from a board perspective.
In fact, I pointed out my opponent received money from...about $30,000 dollarsfrom people who were in fact known republicans. These are the people that have been solicited by the coalition that the mayor is president of or has been president of. So, I raised the question that it seems to be rather peculiar that 02:01:00you accuse me, that I'm a republican and receive republican money when everybody knows that the money that Pat received was in fact republican money from the Drummond Coal Company and other areas here. As it stood it was obvious that the coalition may have decided that they needed people who would certainly listen to them without question. Of course, I had not been one that had a very good track record of certainly listening and obeying without question.
WATSON: Now we come to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. You've beeninvolved, I know, with the Institute since the planning stages. I wanted to know a little bit about how the whole thing got started. What was your involvement, just a little bit about the early stages.HUNTLEY: 19, I believe it was '81, Mayor Arrington had made a determination that we needed some type of memorial to the Civil Rights Movement. He appointed myself and former mayor, David Vann as co-chairs of the Civil Rights Museum task force, as it was called at that time. We then started to develop, trying to develop a concept about what all of this would mean and how it would be formulated. We spent a couple of years doing that and finally we ended that portion, that task force, because we thought we had come to a point where we had basically sort of hashed out what the Institute, or the Museum at the time this was called, would...the concept of it. We couldn't find money for it. Eventually, the city sold a building for, I say, a million dollars.
The mayor decided we could use that funding, so we constituted the BirminghamCivil Rights Institute task force at that time. I was apart of that. I was not chair anymore, but I was apart of that task force. We then took what we developed earlier and refined it. We worked from, I believe it was '86 to the opening in '92. I don't remember exactly how many people were on that task force, but I think most of those that were on that would become part of the first Board of Directors. I would be one of those on the first Board of Directors. I served as, from a historical perspective, I was looking at the material to make sure they were historically accurate. What we did, we actually hired three film makers and each of those film makers would take a gallery, I think one or two of them had two galleries upstairs.
They would develop the concept and all of the materials for that. They wouldthen bring it back to the task force. We would review it and make recommendations, corrections, or whatever. They would take it back and then come back again. Over a period of that four or five years this is what we would have. Those initial stages we simply had the...we would meet periodically. We would give charges to the various film makers and they would go out and do their work and send material back. We would read it and then they would bring in the final product. We would evaluate it and in most cases we would make some changes. That's basically the way the Institute then would primarily be developed, as far as concept was concerned.
WATSON: Now you'll later become the director of the Oral History Project of theInstitute, for which we are doing this interview today. I wanted to know a little bit about how you got involved with the Oral History Project, how it was first conceived and what's the purpose of the Oral History Project?
HUNTLEY: Well, the purpose, of course, is to be certain the stories of peoplewho were actively involved in the movement would be told. We would develop a mechanism by which that could happen. We talked about that really very early in the conceptualization of the Institute itself. Since I had, had experience doing oral histories and doing scholarly work in the oral history profession, I was asked if I would be willing to direct the Oral History Project here for the Institute. At that point I did resign from the Board of Directors to come on. I requested time from the University. So, I'm actually on half-time leave from the University doing the Oral History Project, while still teaching at UAB. So, I offer a course per term and I do this.
Now in developing with the process we looked at a number of other Oral HistoryProjects. I guess the one that had probably the most influence upon the way that we developed this one was University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They were doing basically the same thing from a national perspective. They interviewed people in various cities for, I guess, three or four summers. We have the material that they gathered here in Birmingham, well in Alabama. We have that here in our archives. The Oral History Project is necessary for the purpose of being able to gather the various stories, the various histories, of people that were actively involved and not just looking at the leaders of them, although we've interviewed leaders as well, but we wanted to look at grass roots individuals.
People that were faceless and nameless as we view the demonstrations. Todaywe've interviewed nearly 200 people, which consist of men and women, Black and White and many that were children during the time. We've talked about expanding the concept. Primarily, we looked at the Birmingham Movement. We probably want to look at that from a state, as well as regional perspective as well. Eventually we will.
WATSON: You're one of the earliest Ph.D.'s in African American Studies, who gotone of the first degrees. You helped to create one of the earliest programs. I just wanted to know what's your view of the future, not only of programs and departments for African American and African Studies but also for the future of Afrocentric education in younger Black children?
HUNTLEY: Well, I think it's...really we're just at a point now in Africancentered education where we were probably in the early '60s, with just talking about having a Black history program. We're in those emphasis stages. I think the future is very bright, although there are a lot of distractions when you start talking about African centered education, because many people look at that in the same way that they looked at anyone that was positively Black in the '60s. If you were positive about Blackness that meant that you were negative about Whiteness, which really was not the case.
That's the way many people viewed that. So, people are viewing African centerededucation as being anti-anybody else. That's not the case at all. What we're simply saying is that there's a necessity for our children, as well as others to be able to study the history and culture from a perspective that is different than the perspective that all of us have studied it from up to this day. African centered education is going to prove to them that it creates an atmosphere where children, not only appreciate themselves, but other folk will appreciate them as well.
So I think it's very, very necessary that we look at it very critically, but wealso look at it through the perspective that it's going to enhance. I think that with all of the difficulties that we are having in early [African] Americans now...one of the reasons that we are having those difficulties is because we don't know who we are. We think we are less than anyone else. The reason we think that is because of the lack of courage in us as adults to say to whoever is, is necessary to say it to that we don't care how you feel about this, this is what my child is going to be prepared in and will be prepared with. If we fail to do that other people will not do that for us.
The only people that will be able to do that is going to be you and I. Manytimes we find that there are many people that look just like us that are in fact in opposition to that kind of change. That's not unusual, but what we have to do is to be patient with them and go on and over time they will come, but you can not stop. You have to continue to be persistent in your demands and persistent in making certain that people understand your arguments and discussions. Simply start some programs in that area.
Without that we will, 20 years from now, 30 years from now we will be fightingthe same struggle again.
WATSON: In that same vein I want to discuss the African American and AfricanHistory Departments and Programs on college campuses throughout the country. There's been a lot of discussion even some of the former Civil Rights Leaders have made statements to the effect that Black students on college campuses today can't do anything with a degree in African American Studies or African Studies. I want to know how you feel about the future of these programs and these departments now that so many graduates are being given this message that they shouldn't be involved in that and that they should go with something more traditional.
HUNTLEY: Well, I was always asked the question, which really is a rhetoricalquestion, "what are you going to do with a degree in history? What does one do with a degree in sociology, any of the social behaviors or sciences?" What you do is you go to graduate school. You go to law school. You get a job in a...with the government or whatever. Whatever is being done in social behavior sciences now that's what African American Studies majors will do with a degree.
Some of the "leaders" that made those kinds of statements are very, rather shortsighted and I think they are being apologetic to White society by saying...I put them in the same category that those that came to Birmingham and said, well, when Dr. King came to Birmingham those people that said that he was an outside agitator and that they didn't need him here because things were not as bad as they thought had been reported. Those individuals will have to understand that we're not necessarily talking about anti- anything. We are very much pro-Black. Some people will say that you can't be pro- Black without being anti-White. I think that's a misconception.
That is not to demean anyone else's culture, but it is to enhance our own. Ifone is to understand that this is to be a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society then everyone, not just my children, but everyone is going to have to know something about me. If you don't, you don't have respect for me. So, I think we have to gather and understand that part of the concept. If we can understand that and then start a discussion about it then we [inaudible].
WATSON: Well, Dr. Huntley, we've covered a lot today. I wanted to know if thereis anything that we haven't asked specific questions about that you would just like to add for the record?
HUNTLEY: Well, I think we've probably covered the gambit, but I'm sure I'llthink of some things later on, but right now I think we've covered about as much as we need to cover.
WATSON: Ok. Well, I would like to thank you, Dr. Huntley, for taking time out ofyour schedule to talk with us today.
HUNTLEY: Thank you, sir and ma'am.