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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Influence of poverty on radicalism

In this excerpt, Nakell explores the connections between poverty and radicalism, and concludes that a lack of understanding of the legal and political process might lead the poor and uneducated to direct action to work for change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. 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

MM: Well, it’s interesting that a sense of political radicalism doesn’t always accompany greater poverty, but in certain situations in the country during this time those two things seemed to work together. I’m just sort of curious about your thoughts or perceptions of why that combination might have happened among the Tuscarora in the ‘70s. BN: Well, that’s a good question. When we say radicalism, that’s kind of a loaded, weighted term. The Lumbees were certainly ready to stand up for their rights. I mean the time was right, and all they needed to do was throw off some shackles. One of those shackles they needed to throw off was white control of the county school board. Once that shackle got thrown off, we were successful in the double voting suit, that made a huge difference in the political power of the Indians. It made a huge difference because many of the natural leaders of the Indian community who had been held down, burdened by that shackle, felt free to soar. So they began to express themselves politically, become active politically and so that’s kind of a form of radicalism if you will. They really threw off an oppressive system. I think it’s probably to some extent had more to do with level of education and economic level although those are associated. I think the more educated people may have been able to understand the legal process and perhaps the political process and the importance of those, more than some of the less educated people who were more accustomed to just taking more direct action. MM: Because I think when people hear this interview, they’re going to be reminded of the split within the African American community between say Malcolm X and Martin Luther King although the parallels aren’t exactly there. That’s sort of the general historical trend that on the surface of it the Lumbee and Tuscarora conflict would kind of fit into. Would you have anything to add to that or a way to kind of make that more specific or more local for other people doing research? BN: Well, I think my sense is that one characteristic of the human condition is that we try very hard to divide ourselves and to find differences, and we try to elevate ourselves by that and no group is immune from that. Every group does it and that that’s kind of what happens when people get a little bit of power. In that sense I think it is a, you draw a fair parallel even though the exact definition of the difference between the groups may be different. But of course, there is another parallel is the difference between the more radical or direct action or action-oriented group and the group wanting to take more of a legal and political process and use non-violence to achieve their ends. That is a natural difference as well.