In the 1980s, writer Tom Dent sat down with his good friend Andrew Young to talk about his life. The two were close. They had grown up together in New Orleans, and Dent even served as Young’s best man in his 1954 wedding to first wife Jean. In the time following, the two had both gone on to follow different paths, but both remained passionately engaged in their work and communities. Dent was a poet and playwright. He was a vocal participant in the Black Arts Movement, working with the Free Southern Theater and Umbra Workshop, and serving as director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Young attended seminary and served as a pastor in Marion, Alabama before joining the National Council of Churches and then the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and went on to become a Congressman for Georgia, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Mayor of Atlanta.
Dent and Young met several times from 1980-1985. Dent created 50 audio recordings of their conversations, and hoped to use the interviews to craft a biography of Young. Ultimately, Dent’s version of the biography was never produced, but the material went toward Young’s autobiography An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America, published in 1996. Thanks to a grant from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, Amistad has now digitized these candid interviews and made them available online through the Tulane University Digital Library.
The Young interviews provide a firsthand account of the events, leadership, and various campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as Young's childhood, work in the National Council of Churches, and as a Congressman and Ambassador. The interviews provide numerous portraits of the SCLC leadership and civil rights workers including Hosea Williams, Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Randolph Blackwell, Dorothy Cotton, Stan Levinson and of course Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The events and campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement are detailed for St. Augustine (Florida), Albany (Georgia), Selma (Alabama) and the Voting Rights Campaign, the Chicago Movement, and the Meredith March. Young provides detailed accounts of the FBI's harassment of Martin Luther King and SCLC staff, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis in 1968, and comments on what Young believes were the factors that produced the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. Additional topics within the interviews include the Poor People's Campaign, the Vietnam Peace Movement, Young's Congressional Campaign and work as the UN Ambassador to Africa. Additional interviews within the oral history collection include interviews with Young's wife, Jean Childs Young, Dorothy Cotton, and Stoney Cooks.
The Andrew Young Oral History Collection is one of several digital projects at Amistad funded by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation with the goal of linking new digital technologies to student learning. Also included are Tom Dent’s Southern Journey interviews with participants in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
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