Looking for interviews with people who attacked Civil Rights protestors
May 18, 2011 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this FPP: Do we know anything about the individual people who attacked the Freedom Riders or otherwise stood on the wrong side of history with the Civil Rights Movement?

The names of those who participated in the civil rights protests of the 1960s are pretty easy to find, but the names of those who opposed them are harder, for pretty obvious reasons. I'm interested in learning more about the "bad guys," though, particularly if they've given interviews or otherwise talked about their role in more recent years. Anyone have any pointers?
posted by KathrynT to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Bull Connor has had lots written about him. He's interviewed in the "Eyes on the Prize" series.
posted by Melismata at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011

The story of Hazel Massery and Elizabeth Eckford is recounted at Wikipedia.
posted by jquinby at 11:36 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

George Lewis' The White South And The Red Menace: Segregationists, Anticommunism, And Massive Resistance, 1945-1965 (U. Press of Florida, 2004) and a recent essay collection, Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction (Oxford, 2005) both name names, make use of oral histories, and should be helpful.

American Radio Works' documentary "State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement" may also be of interest.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2011

Elwin Wilson, who attacked a John Lewis (then a Freedom Rider, now a GA state rep), publicly asked for forgiveness and discussed his past a few years ago.
posted by scody at 12:32 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bull Connor has had lots written about him.

George Wallace too, who is (a little) more complicated than a cartoon villain.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:08 PM on May 18, 2011

George Wallace is a good place to start. As the person above me said though, he is quite a complicated character. I have heard it put (having grown up in Alabama public schools), that he was not genuinely racist, rather, he was just a damn good politician. He knew that playing the role opposed to segregation would get him reelected.

Interestingly, he later apologized to major black leaders across the state, and he was reelected in part due to the so-called "black vote".
posted by BenS at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2011

Are you looking for historical figures/ringleaders, or just everyday people?

I'm faintly aware of the fact that my mom's parents were definitely "on the wrong side of history" in terms of Civil Rights. I don't think they participated meaningfully in any organized counter-protest*, and I'm pretty positive that my grandfather never waited outside any bus station hoping to beat or lynch Freedom Riders.

Where am I going with this? Well, if you're a sensitive person who is good at talking to people, and you know middle class white people with roots in the south during that time, there's a strong chance that you could have a one on one conversation with someone about this sort of thing. A lot of older southerners are not particularly ashamed of their anti-civil rights stance and don't find it un-PC at all to talk about.

*They may have been loosely a part of the Citizens' Councils thing?
posted by Sara C. at 2:32 PM on May 18, 2011

Response by poster: Are you looking for historical figures/ringleaders, or just everyday people?

Just everyday people, really. The folks who heckled the kids in Little Rock, the cops who held the firehose in Birmingham.

I grew up in Texas, but I live in Seattle now. I did, however, have a high school teacher who grew up in Little Rock and whose sister attended Central Little Rock High School during the period of forced integration. His Ph.D. was in history, specifically the post-Reconstruction South. I bet he has some good sources of information.

Basically, what's driving me here is that I believe that nearly everyone is essentially good, and I'm sure that the people who had their feet on the ground fighting integration thought of themselves as good people. I'm sure they loved their kids, didn't kick puppies, whatever. And yet, they did really totally reprehensibly violent and hateful things. That's an interesting dichotomy to me and I'd like to learn more about it.
posted by KathrynT at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2011

You might look up the defendants in United States v. Price and see whether any of them have done interviews in the years since.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2011

The Vanity Fair article on the Little Rock Nine (to which wikipedia links in my earlier pos)t is probably what you're looking for.
posted by jquinby at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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