The Texas Observer “Gus’ “” A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c `Hey-You’ in Huntsville Novel. Tactics in the Campaign Against the Southern Caste System–A Participant’s Report on Militant Negroes Winning Integration and Whites Going to Jail in Support of Them Huntsville, Texas It may have happened because a young Negro chemist named Wendell Baker who lives in Huntsville and works in Beauinont met a white minister named Bill Oliver. It may have happened because four high school students from Huntsville who attended the AFL-CIO interracial youth conference in . Austin this summer went home, in the words of one of them, “more ambitious.” It may have happened because a group of interested liberals took up funds to send the most highly motivated of the young people at the conference to Mississippi; two of them returned to Huntsville and made common cause with their colleagues from the conference. It may have happened because a young Austin Negro named B. T. Bonner had, by act and moral suasion, pressed some of his friends who live in metropolitan centers in Texas to focus their attention on rural East Texas. It may have happened because a number of Texans of both races have turned their efforts toward finding new tactics to cope with the resistant thought processes enduring from a 350-year-old caste system. It may have happened because there has been communication between the Texas Democratic Coalition and Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and activists in both have been studying the organizational theories of Saul Alinsky. Finally, it may have happened because a gray-haired man named Kermit Davison, caught in a swirl of events not of his own making, chose to withstand heavy pressures and stick with the students even though they rarely took his advice. These factors helped produce the tactically innovative civil rights drive in Huntsville the past two weeks that for sheer variety and intensity represents a new departure for Texas and, perhaps, for the South. These were the events of the first nine days: the birth of a direct action civil Larry Goodwyn rights organization led by high school studemonstrations over public accommodations; two mass meetings culminating in night marches to the courthouse; a series of “community meetings” for which the students fanned out in the county to explain to the Negro population the purposes and results of their actions; the formation of a new organization of young people and affiliation with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the arrest at a cafe on the courthouse square of 26 white persons from six Texas cities; a final, emotionally-charged night march by 250 students; the integration of public accommodations, after which there were demands regarding school integration and job opportunities; and, finally, on the ninth day, a counterdemonstration by the Ku Klux Klan. While the scope of the Huntsville movement can be traced to the number of participants from other places, the sheer thrust of the student movement here can not be explained in terms of young chemists, theological activists, gray-haired stalwarts, white liberals, SCLC, the Klanor even by the complacency of the ruling powers in Huntsville. A spirit is loose in the South that finds expression in the public acts of young people, but throbs no less meaningfully in their mothers and fathers who labor as maids, porters, and saw mill workers. Suffusing the moments of drama and confrontation is this spirit; after a week in Huntsville, one intuites that it pulses throughout East Texasin Nacogdoches. Conroe, Palestine, Marshall, Madisonville, Texarkana, and Tyler; indeed, in that whole tier of piney woods counties that is Confederate Texas. This spirit is often formless, directionless, but it is there, ready to respond to a 21-year-old Negro youngster from Beaumont, a 20-year-old Mexican-American student from Houston, a 19-year-old Anglo youth from Dallas. This story happened in Huntsville because three youngsters fitting this description went there, but it could be datelined anywhere in East Texas. The Background In March of this year a somewhat elaborate plan for a summer student project, involving 300 students every two weeks for a ten-week period, was laid before the Democratic Coalition during a statewide meeting in Austin. The idea was that 1,500 young people, drawn more or less equally from Texas’ Negro, Mexican-American, and Anglo populations, would get together to learn about political action and direct action. Youngsters who had spent all their lives in the same home town would meet each other for the first time. There were also plans for the students to implement various kinds of programs to fit their own wishes and their communities’ different situations once the conference was completed. The proposed program ran into various objections and difficulties and languished. The state AFL-CIO thereupon picked up the idea, reduced its scope, and arranged for a two-week conference for 75 students on the St. Edward’s University campus in Austin in June. The conference included, in addition to a number of labor speakers, both U.S. senators from Texas and several civil rights people with experience in direct action. Among the latter were Rev. James Bevel of SCLC, one of the key figures in the Birmingham movement, Bonner, who precipitated the march on the Texas state capital in 1963 with a 24-hour sit-in at Governor Connally’s office, and Reverend William Oliver, a white pastor of a predominantly Negro church in Beaumont. The conference was moderated by Dr. Cody Wilson, professor of social psychology at the University of Texas. Among those in attendance were two white students, Gilbert Campos, a University of Houston undergraduate, and Tom Lichten of Dallas,
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