I'm delighted to welcome you to the course. This is the first in a series of conversations with Dr. Bernard LaFayette. Throughout the course we will have different guests and visit several historical sites throughout the southeast. Today we're at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. My name is Pellom McDaniels and I'm the curator of African American Collections at Emory University. Today we will discuss Civil Rights Movements and campaigns. Dr. Lafayette, welcome. >> Thank you. >> We'll have a couple questions for you, and just answer freely. I think part of what we wanna establish is that this is a conversation, and you and I are just talking and allowing the audience to participate. So the first question I have for you, tell us about yourself and how you became involved in Civil Rights Movements. >> Well I'm a native of Tampa, Florida and I grew up in a multicultural community, Ybor City. They call it the Latin quarters of Tampa, but we also have a number of other ethnic groups. For example, we have the Italians. We have the Irish. Of course we have the Cubans, and we also have a number of Jewish people who live in that area, when I grew up that is. So I'm used to having that opportunity to interact with different ethnic groups. And I worked a lot, and so I worked in different businesses along the way. I lived one block over from the main business area in Ybor City, so I had a chance to actually get to know people in a very close up way as a worker and an employee of these different businesses. So I worked at a furniture company. I worked at a grocery store, and I used to be Mr. Coffee when I was like seven years old. My experiences had a lot to do with my attitude. For example, when I went to get the coffee, I used to take a tray, and I used to take orders for the coffee from the merchants who were opening up their stores in the morning. So I was out of bed like 5:30, 6 o'clock when I was seven years old, working, okay? But I enjoyed it, doing things. Always had a pocketful of money, that kind of thing. But I used to go to the restaurant before they opened, and put in the orders for the coffee. So I got to know the coffee maker there, really intimately. And I used to lean up against the counter. And then I started leaning against the stool cuz they had a lunch counter there as well, other stools. And I used to put my hip there when I was waiting, kinda resting, and eventually I put my leg up on the seat. And then one day I decided to go ahead and ease up and sit down straight on the stool. And my eye caught the eye of the fellow who was making the coffee for me. And there was a moment of truth where we stared at each other. And then he looked out the window to make sure no one was looking. And from that point on, I sat on those stools. So, sitting on stools was not something new to me. I got accustomed to it, and I realized that was a defining moment as well, cuz we are not supposed to sit on those stools and be served. And I was being served coffee, but I wasn't drinking any of it. >> Okay, so you would say that that would be your first involvement in the Modern Civil Rights Movement? >> Yeah, defiance of segregation in terms of sitting on stools. So when the idea came up in Nashville, it was something that I'd already tested and had conquered, in a sense. >> That's interesting. >> Yes. Now, the other incident was where my grandmother and I were on the streetcar and we used to have to put our money into the receptacle and then walk to the back. And my grandmother fell one day and I was trying to open the back door. And I was like seven years old and she was very heavy. So, I couldn't get anywhere. I felt like a sword had cut me in half. And I said to myself, and I remember I said when I get grown I'm gonna do something about this. So I had some defining experiences at an earlier point in my life. So when the started in Nashville, I emotionally was ready for it because I had already experienced the breaking barriers, so to speak, etc. >> So, when we say Civil Rights Movement, when that is used to talk about marching or non-violent action, how do we define that? I mean, Civil Rights Movement, it could be a number of things. So, how do you define Civil Rights Movement? >> A Civil Rights Movement is different from maybe civil rights cases and that's the law. One thing is changing the law, the other thing is changing the behavior of the people. And I think what Martin Luther King offered was the whole challenge of making the law real, in terms of folks' behavior, because you got the masses of people involved. So the idea of movement literally is the fact that people are moving, and they are part of the action. Because, unless the people change, change will never come. And we had laws that had already been passed prohibiting desegregation, for example, Supreme Court had ruled on the Freedom Rides and much earlier. In fact, Bruce Boynton had won a case earlier, but nothing had changed. So people have to practice the change in order for change to come. So movement means masses of people involved. >> So as an activist, as someone who is teaching, someone who is actively changing the world, that everything that you're doing, everything that you're pushing for, can you describe some of the organizations that you've participated in actively pushing for these movements? >> [LAUGH] Well I started with NAACP. I was about the 13, 14 years old I joined the NAACP, and then I was involved in SNCC, in Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when I went to college. I also got involved with CORE, Congress of Racial Equality. And so these organizations, American Friends Service Committee, which was a social services organization, but they also pushed non-violence and social change as well. So it was pretty much those organizations that I worked with directly.