Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with C. Vann Woodward, January 12, 1991. Interview A-0341. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Woodward reflects on the importance of nonviolence to the civil rights movement

Woodward reflects on the importance of nonviolence to the civil rights movement and remembers his horror at the racial violence of the mid- and late 1960s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with C. Vann Woodward, January 12, 1991. Interview A-0341. 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

C. VANN WOODWARD:
I did not foresee, and was appalled, at what began at Watts and went on for four summers after, following Lyndon Johnson's civil rights and his voting rights bill. Actually it just seemed to me preposterous and outrageous. But that's not what you're asking about.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, I'm really wondering whether in '50, '51 and '52, even when you were working on the background for Brown, or even when Brown came down, was it possible for you to look ahead and say, "At some point the masses of blacks or large numbers of black people who live in the South are going to go to the streets to reinforce this court decision to bring about social change."
C. VANN WOODWARD:
I may have misunderstood you, but I thought you used the term violence. I don't consider that it became a movement of violence. It was nonviolent.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, I didn't mean to. Not at all.
C. VANN WOODWARD:
It was nonviolent and I think the most important thing about it, it would have failed if it hadn't been. It failed to do what the black power guys wanted to do, but that was doomed to fail anyway. They'd have been shot if they had carried on. But no, I knew that kind of person and I knew Martin King and the type of person he represented with a northern education and a southern background, so that didn't surprise me. And I went to the march in Selma and all that without any fear of any violence.