school, I need to interview two people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. I
understand you were?
Well, we were, yes, but in a different way. We
never marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. or even went to the South where all the
violence happened. We stayed in New York State where there were many exciting rallies with large
crowds who yelled and screamed ... there were a lot of angry
What were you
We were protesting the brutalities the police force
imposed on the negroes of the South. We attended meetings, handed out leaflets, collected money,
and tried to get signatures for petitions.
They were against many things, including the literacy test
and the polling fee. We didn't like the fee because most black people in the South couldn't afford
to pay a large tax just to choose whom they wanted to represent them.
took buses to Washington to support the case of two black children accused of a crime they didn't
commit. It was obvious to anyone who looked at the facts that the boys were innocent, so we went to
the Capitol to protest.
So, Yu Yu, why did you
become active in the movement if the violence hadn't spread to New
It didn't matter where the violence and injustices were. All
that mattered was that it was going on. What was happening in the South so long after slavery ended
was terribly unfair. I guess we put ourselves in their
Papa, what about
It wasn't American! I was in the Army during World War II and saw
how black men were treated. The men who fought for the very country that was oppressing them
couldn't eat at the same places as whites or even train with us. It was terrible.
I guess the main reason we both did as much as we could for the Movement was
that we were very idealistic, as I think most young adults
I know how that is. I'm idealistic, too. But
during these rallies, you said there was screaming, yelling and angry faces. What other emotions
would you associate with the rallies?
The first one that comes to mind
is fear. Fear of everything. We were always afraid that people who didn't support the Movement
would attack us. We were afraid of violence, which was everywhere. The police beat up a few of my
friends and would yell at us, "You're a bunch of Reds! Go back where you came
from!" Except we were where we came from!
The police were a big part of
our fear, but that was different though.
Well, in the North, the police and people against the Movement
said they were against Communists, not black people. They brought the politics of the time into
social events. So we were constantly afraid of being hurt by those who were anti-Communists, not
just anti-blacks. Although emotions were coming from the police and the anti-Communists, the
greatest emotional response came from us. We had the most terrible anger in our hearts. Black
people were humans just like us, but were being deprived of their basic
What did you and your friends face when
marching? In the South the police would use fire hoses on marchers. Did anything like that happen
No, no fire hoses! But yes, the police did try and confine us.
For example, we needed a permit to protest, and if we didn't have one, we could be arrested for
being on the streets. But the permits they gave us said we weren't allowed on certain streets. Most
of the time, those streets were the ones right in the middle of everything, which was where we
wanted to be.
The only streets we could protest on were back roads that nobody
even knew about! The purpose of the demonstration was to call attention to the issues at hand, but
nobody would let us.
Although there were restrictions, sometimes we didn't
listen to the police, or a rally got so big that it spilled over onto other streets. Then the
police would start using force. I said before how some of my friends were beaten up, well, that was
when it happened.
In the end, why do you think
the Movement succeeded?
I think its success was definitely because of
the strength of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters. They were the bravest people in the
Movement. It was also just common sense. Americans realized that what was going on was very wrong.
There were so many atrocities, with men and women being lynched, shot ... It all built up like a
soda bottle being shaken. It got so bad that America just exploded. Robert and John Kennedy,
President Johnson, they all realized that they couldn't ignore the Movement anymore. Something had
to be done. And something was.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.