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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black activists counterbalance the benign neglect of politicians

McKissick believes that the efforts of black politicians and activists have been an effective counterbalance to the Republican strategy of "benign neglect" of the African American community. As he considers the future of the civil rights movement, he offers some thoughts on definitions, such as of the word "soul" in "Soul City," which he thought was erroneously assigned a racial character.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd B. McKissick Sr., December 6, 1973. Interview A-0134. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
What has been the effect of what has commonly been referred to as the "Republican southern strategy", as far as blacks in the South are concerned? The slowing down of enforcement, not only slowing down, but in some cases, a discontinuement of enforcing title 4 of the Civil Rights Act?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
I don't think that strategy might be…
JACK BASS:
I might throw in here the idea of "benign neglect."
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Benign neglect, yeah. I think that strategy has been in operation in certain places, but I think where there is strong leadership again in a black community, they could overcome the benign neglect concept. I also think it becomes necessary to carry on the struggle for intergration to all parts of the system, to be able to really be in functionary roles to puncture the benign neglect theory. I think that with the rise of a number of black elected officials throughout the south, that we've had…while we have not made the great amount of progress that we seek to make and there's a whole lot that needs to be done now…I think that the entire image and attitude of the people has moved to a point that once the laws are on the book, and once that we know how to use the laws, then you have a method to deal with people that attempt to prevent you from using the laws to your advantage.
JACK BASS:
Some people like to use a sort of popular concept, saying that the civil rights movement is dead.
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Yeah, I've read that a number of times and I think that's a misnomer. In fact, I started doing an article on that. I think that's based upon what they conceived as the objectives of blacks within a limited period of time, not as how minorities actually view themselves.
JACK BASS:
Right, that's my question. How do you perceive the movement at this point? Where is it and where is it going?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Well, now once again, if you define the term of movement, that could be wrong too. And if you define the term, "civil rights" that could be wrong. It's a question of man's attitudes. It's just like someone asked me about Soul City, the name of Soul City, saying that it implied blackness. I said, "Why?" Soul is a religious concept and it's because of the racial attitudes of outward America that make it black. But the real meaning of "soul" and where it came from, is the Christian church where people expressed themselves by shouting and giving true expression to their emotions. And the same music and beat was taken into the popular vein and they called it "soul."
JACK BASS:
Is this how you view "soul" when you speak of Soul City?
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
Oh Yeah. We come from a religious concept. That's what it is. Period.
JACK BASS:
Which is within the movement that I have referred to, for want of a better term, as "black awareness." Soul sometimes, is projected as…
FLOYD MCKISSICK:
That's contemporary. That's a contemporary meaning of the word "soul" as with pop music and etc. But it was laying around a long time in a religious context. And that is its real meaning and where it really was devised.