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Tracy K'Meyer:This is an interview with Robert Douglas conducted by Tracy K'Meyer in Dr. Douglas' home on September 10, 1999. I know that you lived in Louisville growing up but could you tell me when you were born and where in Louisville?

Robert Douglas:1934 --

TK: 1934. And where in Louisville?

RD: Rose Lane --

TK: Rose Lane --

RD: That's in Smoke Town.

TK: Is that where you lived the whole time growing up?

RD: That's 513, I think, 513 Rose Lane and we moved from there in ( ) and then they just -- the government took over that area. We lived on 630 Lampton for about a year or two and then they brought the property, put the projects in there, and from there we moved to 611 Jacob Street.


TK: Ok, I know that area.

RD: And so we didn't -- within a block radius each time.

TK: That's all right in the same area.

RD: The same area. So from about seven, six or seven till I was eighteen we lived at 611 Jacob. So I watched the project be built and, you know, most of my grown up buddies lived there that I know.

TK: Which schools did you go to?

RD: Went to Booker T. Washington Elementary. And at the time I was a Jackson Junior -- I mean, Jackson Junior High. It was to become Meyzeek Middle School ( ) Central.

TK: Could you clarify the dates of your college and graduate school?


RD: I entered the University of Louisville in 1958 and I got my undergraduate degree in '63. And I took some graduate courses about '64 or '65. But ( ) of all people. And then I didn't go back to school again until '76. January of '77 when I went to the University of Iowa where I received my Doctorate. I was there from '77 to '83. Got my Master's about '81, I think it was '81. Well, it was an ( ) system. After you do you comps only do you get your Master's with your comps and then you write the dissertation.

TK: So was your undergraduate degree in Fine Arts?


RD: Yes, it was painting and sculpture in Fine Arts. It's a Fine Arts in a Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts.

TK: And the Iowa degree was in History or Fine Arts?

RD: No, that was in the American ( ) and my specialty was History in Art. You do four areas, I got my Master's in African American History and my final degree is in -- with a concentration of my dissertation concentrates on Literature and Art. So, I began researching as early as '68 on African American Art. They had been teaching courses and there was no one -- maybe there was one place in the 4:00country you could get something in African American Art and maybe it was Howard that I knew of that time. So it had to become a primary research. There were only two books out at the time. Dover came out in '60, he published in '60 and before that it was Porter who done one about six years earlier. Those were the only two in African American Art. There's only one two or creditable ones now.

TK: Really, in African American Art?

RD: In African American Art. And of course African Art. And there wasn't anything in the country on African Art that I knew of and I looked around and -- IU had something. They were doing African Art. I forget the guy's name. They did something in African Anthropology and African Art and he was doing something in African Art History. And then it began to take off about that time. But I just 5:00thought up the -- I'd ( ) around for syllabi and then do primary research ( ).

TK: Did you come straight back to UofL after you graduated from Iowa?

RD: No, I went from Iowa to Ohio University where I taught for two years and I taught in the African American Studies at Ohio in Athens.

TK: Before you came back here.

RD: Um hum.

TK: I just wanted to have that chronology straight because I wasn't sure where school fit in with some of the other stuff. A couple other background type questions, you had talked when we interviewed you a couple years ago a little bit about your father's ideas and your father's influence on you. What are your parents' names?

RD: Inez Boston Douglas and Ura.


TK: And what did they do?

RD: My momma was just a housewife and dad was a laborer for the railroad. Part of that was New York Central System at the time.

TK: Was he gone a lot doing that?

RD: Oh no. He worked here in town. He was a laborer there and he loaded and unloaded the box cars.

TK: When you mentioned that your father had influenced you in terms of your attitude on race relations and Civil Rights, could you explain that a little bit? How did he influence you?

RD: Indirectly, the way he dealt with his problems. The way I saw them unfold. . .No formal teaching. To treat you -- but taught to be suspicious of police and 7:00how to read crowds of white males. Be able to run or fight, and there was a lot of that.

TK: You just had one sister?

RD: Oh no. I'm one of nine children. I have two brothers older than I am and I have a brother and sister that's younger and I have four sisters that are older -- well, two are deceased.

TK: Were any of them ever involved in Civil Rights activities?

RD: My oldest sister was, Hazel. She's eighty years old. She could talk your ear off about being involved in demonstrations. Trying to get into the early -- they were ( ) group -- our area was the reason why they created a municipal. She wanted to go to UofL -- it wasn't the University of Louisville, I guess, was it 8:00a university at that time? But very early.

TK: So what ( )?

RD: It was a -- I guess she'd have to give you the dates herself. But I guess it would be in the -- she's almost eighty so she's fifteen years older than I am.

TK: And this is the Hazel Reed you had mentioned earlier. Is she still in Louisville?

RD: Yes, she's still living here.

TK: So I could get in touch with her?

RD: Oh yes.

TK: Ok, I'll put her on my list.

RD: And she could tell you about her activities. She can be very angry sometimes and then too -- she -- there are experiences ( ) a way to come and deal with them and I probably had my father help them with them, you know, how to act, how to behave. She could -- every now and then I hear her talk about some white male 9:00sexual experiences and how she dealt with them but nothing in depth. I haven't asked about in them depth.

TK: Well, I think she's already on my list. I just needed to confirm that she was who you had mentioned before. So I want to fast forward a little because like I said, we already talked about some of the early sixty stuff when you ( ) before. One of the first things I wanted to ask you, you had mentioned in passing an art workshop you did in 1964. Can you talk about that a little bit?

RD: What we were doing here with it is Sam Gilliam. When I went to the University of Louisville in '58 I knew Sam in high school, he was a year or so 10:00ahead of me. But he went to Louisville. I got married. But in a way fought my way back to lots of reason to finally get to the university. But I wanted to be just a commercial artist. So I studied on my own. They didn't have senior art in high school. But I got some additional ( ) and other things and kept running into ( ). And the ( ) is still there. What we call polite racism. They won't say it but they give you another excuse, and so I kept ( ) excuses -- well, you don't know how to do this. So what I learned how to do was a tremendous a lot of things in art and commercial art. First in ( ) and washing drawings and fashion drawings. I was trying to get a job as an artist. And they kept giving me 11:00excuses and I would go back and learn something and go back again and then someone said, have you had any training. Well, I took correspondence course, yes. But do you have any, do you have a degree? And because I was determined to be an artist -- by this time I had two children and it probably frustrated the hell out of my wife too. Because, why don't you just get a job but I couldn't, I was a very small person. If I could have gotten a job in the factory I probably never would have gone. Because I'd still make the money. So I took correspondence course and then I took the courses from Leo Zimmerman. He's still around here. And then I decided to take courses at the Oral (???)Arts Center. And then I just decided to take the jump and get a degree. Because like I said, 12:00if you get a degree then you can get a job as an artist. So in the process of getting that -- when I went to the first -- when I went to take my test and stuff for the necessary entrance and I picked up Sam, who had just come back from the service and he said he was going back to UofL to get his Masters. So he said, why don't you try to for a ( ) Scholarship. I said, no one said anything about that. 'Cause all I had saved was about $500.00 and I had to pay my whole year tuition. And I was going to get an evening job and somehow I'm going to get this degree because I'm going to be an artist. It was crazy. I didn't know that it couldn't be done or that you shouldn't try it. A lot of people said -- I quit a job making about $10.00 week as a salesman. But it wasn't for me. I was determined to be an artist. But all this leads into the workshop and that kind 13:00of thing. So Sam said, why don't you bring your work around and I'll look at it and tell you what to take in. So he did. We separated what he thought -- because he had been there four years so he knew something. So he was instrumental. And then - so ( ), I took it in and they were, it was -- school was about to start by two weeks. But he had told it to another friend of mine, this guy over here, Ken Young. So what they did was they give us both the scholarship. He got half and I got half. So we met each other and said, man you got my half of the scholarship. I'm just ( ) it because it was $500.00 a semester, not a year. So if I got half I can go this first year. So in the process I worked out a number 14:00of things and got an evening job and a lot to break out from. But anyway, all of us who got it became working in the art and then Bob Carter ( ) he was there. And Bob Thompson. And Bobby K'mec. And I had Bob and I had taken courses at the art center. But Bob was a very aggressive -- and anyway, a lot of people had fallen in love with Bob there. And I worked across the street at the Brown ( ) in the evening. I worked at the YMCA as a desk clerk and went over there. And I started doing some drawings of the waitresses. There are some bar paintings I've done over the years. But it's fascinating, watching people at what they do. And so the guy asked me, when he asked me to do something on the back portion of the 15:00bar which was not being be used, it was just making ends meet I guess. So my idea -- since Sam and the rest of us -- because we had dominated the art ( ). We came into all this new -- I don't know what it was -- but I guess the same kind of ( ) went to Sicily. It's a big ( ) of art. It's overpowering. But we, as a group. So we revitalized the Art League and what we talked about -- but we also talked about our own problems as black artists. And we talked about -- with the ( ) thing. So we created our enterprise. But there were about three or four whites in the group. They didn't know what to say. And we put the group together ( ). We met at a couple taverns out there but it didn't work. But the one down 16:00there we thought we owned it because the guy said -- we told them that we ( ) have it as a meeting space when we came in. And it was exciting. We had ( ) there and then the place began to just flourish. Because not only were we there but everybody heard about it. Artists and all. Women had followed around for some reason. And men followed women and so it was just a hustle bustle thing. So that went on for about a year and a half. Bob was a part of it. Sam. We were putting together a happening group. We were going to get into theater and poetry and music. We had one theater person, John -- I can ( ) John's name. I think he did some stuff in New York, he told me. A white guy. But after -- we ( ) with 17:00the owner. He wanted this space and everybody wanted it. Because it was exciting space. He put us upstairs. And we said, that's great, because we had the whole upstairs to ourselves so we could have some theater. And we did have a couple happenings up there and they were great. But then the guy said, hey you know, people went up -- he showed people the upstairs and people wanted to rent it out for parties. So he said look, if you all come here you got to pay me. And man, we couldn't believe that. We had made this guy. And we -- needless to say, we gave him a piece of our mind as a group. And we stormed out and took everything with us. But then seven or eight months he begged us to come back and we said no. By then we began to show in churches and other places. We didn't stop. So we 18:00created a following. We ended up -- one of the women went back, her life needs to be written, her story needs to be written too. But anyway, the group more or less broke up. Sam went to D.C., Ken went to D.C. and Bob went to New York, both Bobs went to New York. But joined the, became a ( ) by himself, Bob Thompson did. Bob Carter went to ( ) to study design. He teaches up in New York. And so the only person left was me from the group, basically as an artist, and then ( ) myself and Fred Bond. But before we finished -- before we stopped we had a 19:00culminating thing about this time of the year, about the first part of September at Central Park. And we had an art show for children, for professional artists. WE had a chamber music group come out and we had a black theater group, Reeds did, black theater or whatever it was came out and did a play. And at the time the Carriage House Players by Doug Ramey. We used to help him with the sets. So he was doing Shakespeare. So we said come and do our show. He said that's crazy. Nobody does that kind of stuff in no park. So we raised hell, told him look, you either come and do that or we won't help you with the sets anymore. So he came out and it was great. He never left. He made a fortune out of it.

TK: Was that the origins of the Shakespeare in the Park, maybe?


RD: Yes, Shakespeare in the Park.

TK: I've seen some of those productions.

RD: Ok, we created that. It was our impetus. We forced him to come out there. He only admitted that one other time that I know of to me and another person. We were sitting down with a group, sitting there back in '75 or '76 when he was turning it over to someone else. But it became a life for him. But he went back the next year and the other guy, I don't know how it happened. But anyway, that was happening part. We didn't have another one because the group fell apart. They left. But in '67, after I had been an organizer and other thing, and I didn't live too far from there at the time, that Fred and I began to talk about 21:00groups and what was needed, what happened -- we knew we needed our own place. They wanted to put us out. We needed an organ to project ourselves because we couldn't rely on the paper to do a continuous and fair job. So we needed to tell people who we are. We got to write our own thing. So that's what we created. We rented a little shop along Dell Park Terrace. He was an English teacher in the ( ). But he wanted to be a potter. And his wife agreed. They rented a store front with apartments in the back. So he was going to have a little showing space. But until you get it together, let's have a show. So he said yes. So he decided then to put his work area in the basement and we would have a gallery. So I was at GC 22:00Joinders. The ideas grew out of myself, Fred Bond, Merv Aubespin and James High who wanted to be a photographer. Then with GC involved and two or three white people joined our group, Robin Logsdon joined us. So we had our first show. We had a number of shows down there from I guess it was '68, '69, it must be in the paper of when our first was. And I asked him to ( ) some work. But that was a workshop and it lasted about two or three years. I did most of the printing. We 23:00bought the press. I learned how to use -- at first we used the press at Anne Braden's ( ) the place we used the press. She invited the community to come in when they had that press there, to come in and use it and you can use it when they wasn't using it. Because she was trying to politicize ( ) come in.

TK: She knew people were going to take advantage of it.

RD: So she called me because she and I went back before that when I was working with the community.

TK: Actually, between the organizing stuff, this is stuff I wanted to ask about next or may come back to that later. . .I've done a little bit or reading on West End Community Council but it's not very detailed in terms of stuff.

RD: Robin, not Robin, Robin's another person -- but Lodgson across the street still lives there and one of the members.


TK: What's the name?

RD: Norman Lodgson. Lives right across the street.

TK: How do you spell that?

RD: L - O - D - G - S - O - N or something like that. Lodgson. I guess he's there now. But he was the treasurer.

TK: Ok, I've got to put him on my list.

RD: He was the treasurer. He was a white member. One of the few families left in the area. But he was the treasurer of the West End Council. Because the idea out there was of course to try to stop the flight and with the community. And there were a bunch of them at the time. When I joined it was still -- I never joined because I didn't live in the area. I went to work for them and they got the contract.

TK: How did you find out about them?


RD: I had, two ( ) ago when I got my degree, this was in between the art enterprises, so it's about '63 I got my degree. I worked as a social worker for the state. Then I worked as a relocator for Urban Renewal in the area. They were clearing out six to fifteen ( ) Negroes were moving out. I didn't understand the dynamics. But it slowly came out. All this had been politicized at meetings. And then I heard about where the ( ) was coming. My dream at the time -- like I said I had a family, I had five children -- and I said if I could ever back just $7,000.00 I'd be able to save money for college and all sorts of things. Because 26:00you could get five pounds of potatoes for twenty cents. So you can imagine what that kind of money would do. So that was a job as a community organizer. Paid $8,000.00 a year. I said wow, you know. I had been an insurance salesman and I had been involved in these groups. And of course the University of Louisville -- one of the things I had been doing -- I fell in love with the philosophers and Rousseau and the social philosophers, they fascinated me. Because now I'm beginning to look at the condition of black people and coming aware of the Chinese Revolution. And I read Marx. So I met Marx and ( ).


TK: This was all in school?

RD: Yeah. I decided when I was in school I was going to read anything. My apartment I was going to -- I'm a graduate so I didn't have all the time to do all the things I wanted to do. So we read Marx and I read -- well, I didn't have a group but I read all of those. So I had some idea of community involvement and what I wanted to do. So applied for the job as a community organizer. So I heard about it and we interviewed. And I guess because of my stability with the family or whatever I don't know ( ) they hired me. And I gave them, I had some theories about how I was going to organize the community.

TK: What theories?

RD: Simple ones. I realized, I said you either go -- all the great ones are grass roots. You need the masses to make the changes but the masses don't have 28:00time to organize themselves. But the masses understand what they're up against but they don't understand it collectively. So what all the great movements have done is they brought the masses together and gave them that collective consciousness. Made them aware of that collective consciousness about whatever their problems are. Because they all suffered them. They're all poor. They all don't have this, you know. Anyway, my idea -- you go to door to door. You have time to do it. They let me have -- the idea was a community organizer and two resident, three resident people. Hire one over in the South Wick and one in Cotter Homes. So I got the two ladies who were most vocal over there and they became -- two of them, after we met another young lady that was out here and 29:00needed the job so we, I hired them. They hired me and I hired my helpers. And then I trained them. What we did was go door to door with a number of questions. How do you feel about so and so? You already got some idea about -- if you got people out of these -- anybody who's been in some sort of group have been there and they've heard and they went there because they were already seeking help. And they've already made the connection with other people. So what you do is, you analyze what all those questions are. You break them down to simple questions and you ask people. And then you ask them would you come, could I come and meet with the group? We could be willing to meet. And you find somebody who will have it at their house. And you're the only ( ) in any block only one or two would want to do it. But the others will have it and others will come. So you organize them and you organize them around what they see is their most basic 30:00needs. If it's a sewer ( ) off of the thing, how do you go about getting, find out who's responsibility it is. . .



RD: So what you had to do was you take them from where they are and you move them where you think they ought to go. Or, where you would help, all of you would make a decision. And so pretty soon from then, you would have them involved. Once they solve the problem of a street lamp or a street light and the steps -- and you write those people then you go visit them. Then you have people to call. They don't do anything. And then you have the right to demonstrate. And 31:00you do it that way because then no one can accuse you of being provocative and ( ). You have the community, you have the masses, you have the large community on your side because you have exhausted all of the steps that a reasonable person would pursue and you've shown that the people aren't reasonable. And once you do that, you publicize it, politicize it, you talk about it. Then you demonstrate. You talk about all the things you've done. You call the people. And down here, we were the most -- I had this area down here was the most, I was scared to just sit at the desk. They would -- come to election they called up -- because they didn't see it. It's interesting that people in power destroy themselves and don't realize it. They're so arrogant and insensitive that they dig their own 32:00hole. They really have put together all the things. They accuse people like me for making the anger but they have created the anger. They've created the fundamental reasons for the discontent. After you read ( ) or whoever, what's that thing -- Social Discontent. And people, because day to day, conflicts and contradiction is really frustrating. And they either turn them inward and become sick or you came help them to move and that becomes a part of them, the 33:00political thing. When people -- there are always personal things. But the attitude about all other social things around them they deal with and are frustrated by.

TK: Now, when you were going door to door and you'd come up to someone's door, how did they respond to you? How did they react to you?

RD: They're you. How are you doing? Good day. And I sold insurance. Just selling insurance. You don't sell insurance. No salesman sells anything. The first thing he sells is himself. If people don't buy you, if you don't have a positive, cheerful attitude, if you can't sell you, you can't sell nothing else. So the first thing you do is you're pleasant. How are you doing? And you look around at ( ). And the first ( ) you should ( ) the rest of them. Well, who else you think might be interested? Have you talked with anyone else? A lot have meetings talking about some of the problems. How do you feel about this? How do you feel 34:00about the government? Whatever it is. It will be no problem to politicize this, from Louisville and First Street to the river to Algonquin by separation of this area. It's right for it. Because none of the people in that area have been treated correct. And you can't draw them away just because they're angry because there are a lot of other things involved. You have to talk about all the possibilities. But the reason why they would be involved in it is because they have been left out. And they didn't leave themselves out. Someone pushed them 35:00out. Black have been left out and excluded and set aside from people in society. Except for poor whites. But as long as poor blacks are there, they're tricked into not seeing it. ( ) the conditions.

TK: Were there any poor whites in the neighborhoods? Well, what were the geographic boundaries of what you were responsible for?

RD: Yeah, we had middle-class whites. My boundaries were the boundaries that the West End Community Council's boundaries was I think 34th to the River and from Broadway to -- maybe it wasn't that far down. Maybe it was 4th or something. I don't get what theirs was. But they got the contract that also -- because the city got cut up with the community organizations and so they -- South -- so 36:00Wilson or 26th Street -- somewhere along there Wilson or 34th Street was the area that the Community Action Commission had set up and the idea was to give it to groups to organize. And so what they did, they became my boss, the Council.

TK: The West End Community Council?

RD: The West End Community Council became the person that hired me. But what we did over there was the Park Duvalle Center was the creation out of my organization, my organizing. We organized with people what they wanted. Because what we did then, we forced the -- the first thing I did was to force, to encourage, not to enforce, but encourage the need for the Louisville Housing Authority to give us an apartment so we could help these people over here. So we brought someone in 37:00-- I asked someone to come in, I realized that there are family problems. So we got somebody from the Children's Family Agency to come in. And then some of the employment people to come down. What we needed was someone -- and we had a -- what we had was -- I said, we used to have a community and ( ) would come around at least could see what the problem was and get you in. You couldn't get a doctor to come down so we had visiting nurses. We ( ) the visiting nurse concept and the employment people came out and the women came over. Because what you would do is -- all you would do there is interview people and then move them back to your staff. You couldn't come down there and be an advisory. But you could spend a day -- we'd put out the information, if you have a community problem, and so and so is having problems -- and so man, the Children and Family 38:00Agency was amazed by the people that didn't -- Ms. Sanders. So her ( ) she did some research. Their caseloads and stuff went up tremendously.

TK: So they would send someone out to this park area --

RD: Well, what my idea was -- I had to go and convince them --

TK: Convince who?

RD: Those agencies. It was part of my job too. I realized you just can't educate people. Because they have many concerns. The idea of the organization was to help people help themselves. And you got to help them help themselves. And some of it has to do with just some basic information but some of it was -- now, either give me the funds to get them on the bus to get them there or give me 39:00funds to fund, to pay her baby-sitter because you can't the babies with you. Or else, let me have a place where I can bring someone in. So I went to the agencies and said, look, this is what we're facing down there. Would you be willing to come down one day and here's as I see it the possibility. So you can convince people and you can convince the agencies. So we did that.

TK: So where did you set up this office?

RD: This office was set up on Young Street. They gave us an apartment, I forget the address, but it was an apartment. About a six room apartment. And so we had -- and so now we had a place where they can come. Then they brought us school problems. So we had to go in and impact Duvalle. Show them to Mr. Long, who was 40:00the principal. I said, man -- he never had any parents come to him before. Because he dealt with them one on one. Nobody took an en masse meeting. He said -- look, I taught you at Jackson Junior High. You will not tell me what to do. I said, yes I will tell you what to do because I'm talking for me. Now, if you don't do these things here's what's is going to happen. And man, he had never -- the School Board called up and said what's going on? Long, you've never had problems with the school. So he had to laugh about that later on. He said, things are changing. So whatever the school -- he said, well I don't have those services. Well, who does? So we impacted school, we impacted everything that 41:00affected that family. And other people got in on it two. If they had a problem, it's like down here -- the whole ( ) or something or whatever. And they cheered that when they got it in. And then, so once you move from there now you talk about the overall how the political process plays into that. Because this is what this city should be doing for you. That should be an agency in the city that helps you with these things. So you'll probably find that the aldermen did not become as vocal and as permanent until after that period.

TK: You mean the aldermen from this area?

RD: From all the areas. Check it. There's a lot of research to be done on that. 42:00Of course, the first thing that they attacked all over the country and poverty programs they get rid of those community organizers.

TK: Oh yeah. That's one of the first things they did.

RD: They realized that hey -- once you work people up you got a sleeping giant. Kennedy and them knew that. ( ) but they knew that.

TK: It seems to me that they set the point first was the empowerment stuff but the charity stuff stuck around. You know, the food stamps. . .

RD: Yeah, what they did then was pacify you. We'd politicize for a small center to meet people's needs. Clothes and etceteras, etcetera. And they promised us that. When I left -- I left after about a year because I moved as far as I could go. Because we come to a brick wall. And the next step is another form of 43:00community organization. The next form is to become more militant. You have to. They forced you become it. If I don't get what I want you either go through the court and the courts work ( ) after you. And then you have to start destroying those things that stand in your way. Honestly. I don't know enough to take people to the next level. And I don't know, I'd like to see my records somewhere because I think Art Jive came open and so I left and took a job at Fort Knox as an artist by chance. I said look, this is the sad thing. I really want to be an artist. I want to be a community organizer and a revolutionary. I want to be an artist. That's revolutionary enough. But there's no difference. No different. 44:00Because I had applied for a job at Fort Knox and they gave it to someone else. So I complained. They didn't give me a job. But I want someone to do research on this and say hey, you did -- let's give this guy this art job he's been after all this time. I don't know. I never looked at my records. I know they had records for me at the police department. A friend of mine who worked over there told me that the next time a ride come I'd be one of the first people to be picked up. That's what he told me. He said you're on the list. He said I was on the list. So, I imagine I got a record. I wouldn't be surprised if I had something in the CIA office. Are you going to do that kind of research?

TK: Well actually someone did suggest it do me recently.

RD: I think you ought to. Because Bryant, Ruth Bryant --

TK: Yeah, I'm going to interview her. We just had to postpone it.

RD: Because Ruth Bryant is there. I know she' on the list. Because I was with them. Ruth called me in. They had the volunteer services, the --


TK: Vistas?

RD: Vistas. A couple of them. And so they was militant. They wanted to create black studies within the schools. And I was a part of that group. They came to me because --

TK: Was that BULK?

RD: Huh?

TK: Was that the Black Unity League?

RD: Um hum.

TK: I was going to ask you about that.

RD: I was adviser to them when Hawkins was still around.

TK: Yeah, people keep telling me that. I haven't been able to find him yet. But I haven't been able to find a specific phone number or address.

RD: He has been threatening to come to the university. He keeps telling me. I said, you're not going to do anything. But anyway, I was the one who had the educational background because I'd been doing all this studying, I'd done all this research on black history. One of my first -- at the University of 46:00Louisville, a young man, you have to read DuBois. I haven't read DuBois. I heard about him but I hadn't read him. So I moved from DuBois to on and on and on. So I had this background of information and Africa and stuff from DuBois. I moved to Africa and did some studying and discovered Blight and this and I discovered all sorts of thing. And ( ) go ride to the city I remember going into the library at Chapel Hill and find some books, copying pages. And I was in New York -- books I read about and they wouldn't let them out in New York. But that was the kind of primary research I was doing.

TK: What was taking you to all these places, Chapel Hill and New York?


RD: Trips. I went to Chapel Hill when I got divorced. But that was later. But other trips. . .

TK: I guess is this in the same time period?

RD: Yeah, all the trips. I took a trip and met with a family once. I was there three or four days and I spent a half a day -- because I heard about the 5th Street library. And I went over there and asked about books about Frankfort and ( ) other people who had written on early Africa. Because at that time the workshop was going then and I was teaching. I was teaching art painting and 48:00sculpture and also history. Because after the ( ) then Jefferson Community College guy called me up there and wanted somebody to teach there. There was nothing there about black people. So he came to the workshop because he read about the workshop and said, what can you teach? What do you know? Most people ( ) and I was the only one there -- even Fred was a much more, well that's massive, had read very little about black people. I was the only one in the workshop who had read DuBois. So I taught up there and my research continued.

TK: So you were doing all this research -- how did you get in BULK? Because I know BULK came up in about what, '68? Maybe a little earlier than that? The Black Unity League. It forms about '68 or so?


RD: Yeah, about '67 we started meeting and Ruth was involved too because we got Ruth -- Ruth came involved when I was -- she was probably community Council. But she though of us -- she came up there and she became involved with South Wick. And she got here ladies groups. And they funded stuff, sorta. Not really fund but if you wanted to something Ruth always had some money. She'd give $25.00. That's a lot of money. And so we talked a lot. We began meeting and Ruth was interested in the education thing. So we started meeting in her basement. So I 50:00was outline approaches to the schools -- the same thing. You can't just go to school and say look, teach this. You got to know what you want the kids to learn and what should be taught. So I put together outlines, reading outlines, syllabus for the teachers. And we were making demands. It was really meeting to make demands that they include. . .that the public school ( ) what was happening in your ( ) that started. Because BULK -- I'd work with them.

TK: I'll come back to that.

RD: I worked with them before they decided to -- well, shortly after. I can't remember now ( ).

TK: Well I know that the black student union sit in is the same, almost the same month as the riot. That they go on almost the same time.

RD: The same time?

TK: Yeah. So you're working with BULK's ( ) Vista workers to talk about going to 51:00the schools. Who else besides -- I know Sam Hawkins' name.

RD: ( ) what's ( ) Sims. I know I keep thinking ( ) name.

TK: His name is Bob.

RD: Bob Sims.

TK: He's no longer around.

RD: I heard, the last thing I heard Bob went back down south. Simms. . .who else was it?

TK: How big was the group?

RD: It was about. . .it was the Vista workers and a couple of women in the group. It must have been five or six at least. Ruth, myself, four -- there must have been at least another three or four. At least another. At times other people would come in because they wanted information. But we met a couple of times. And Ruth -- the reason why I didn't get ( ) was because I working at Fort 52:00Knox as a -- working with -- we were getting the workshop started and I was working at Fort Knox as an illustrator. But I picked up something out there and strained myself and had a slight hernia. So I had to go into the hospital for this operation. So I missed the last two meetings that they had, I guess when the police monitor them. I guess they must have been monitoring all along. Somebody was. Because my name was on the list but I wasn't there. And so when I was finally recuperated I talked with Ruth on the phone and stuff like that because she gave me information. And they called a rally when they, Charlie Todd and other ( ) police abuse. ( ) Because it was ( ) same thing ( ). So I said, 53:00well yes, we must get everybody out, get the word out. Let's do it. Let's have a rally. What you going to do about this? And they're going to have a speaker in because you have to politicize the community. All those ( ) because you do is you deal with conflicts and you assess and you -- the contradictions are there. Conflicts and the contradiction and the reassessment. It's a synthesis. ( ) The antithesis and the ( ). So you're moving, you're moving, you're moving, you change, you move. So my wife said, well the boy -- my older son -- needs his 54:00haircut. So we took him to the barbershop. I said, well the rally's today. Well somebody's got to take him. So I said Ok, I'll take him. So I took him to the barbershop. But the barbershop -- so the guy's ( ) his hair I'm going to take him with me, we're going to go down to the rally because I wanted him to see it too and be at the rally. And this would come out of the barbershop. All these sirens and things are going off and on and I can't get into the rally. So had to back home and that was the only reason I wasn't there. If I had been there then it would have been the Louisville Seven instead of the Louisville Six. Because I was slated to pick up Carmichael. Me and somebody was supposed to pick him up 55:00because I had a van. That's another thing I did, I bought a van which would help in the organizing because you could take groups places. So I had one of the first Volkswagen vans because my family had five children too, but my work -- that van would stay loaded with people. Going up to ( ) going all over the place. It sat about six or eight of us. About ten or twelve in there sometimes. That's ( ) on the porch. ( ) tell you the rest of the community Council. That's ( ) right there.

TK: Oh, that's easy. So you were supposed to pick up Carmichael but you couldn't go? --

RD: We had arranged --

TK: Because there's a question about whether he was really coming.

RD: I don't know. I didn't arrange it. We were talking about bringing a name ( ) front pages. He was head, he was the one. If you get him --

TK: You'd be ( ).

RD: So we [interruption] all over the country.

TK: Trying to organize to bring Carmichael in.


RD: Yeah, my assumption is that -- because the Vista workers made contacts when they were being trained. So everybody knew somebody to call somebody somewhere else. They kept in contact at home and ( ). How you doing there, Louisville. .and so ( ) Hawkins and somebody -- it wouldn't have been me ( ) or Ruth knew I don't think. I wouldn't have known how to reach him. He was out of Atlanta. So I think one of the young ladies or somebody in the group was ( ) they didn't call. But I think he was in D.C. or something. So it was just arranged. ( ) call 57:00Snick. You just call Snick. How do you reach him? So it was obvious to me we were already being monitored because I was at the meeting where the guy sat in. . .and I'd like to look into that.

TK: You mean Cortez?

RD: I think Cortez was a plant. I think he was a provocateur.

TK: From whom?

RD: The CIA.

TK: The CIA, FBI, that type of thing?

RD: I think he was a provocateur. He hadn't been with the ( ) or nothing. Nobody ever heard of a Cortez. He came in and riled the group up. What you do is, if you're a provocateur, you move the group further along than they should so you can break them off. The reason to get rid of everybody. So I think he was used as a provocateur. And I don't know whether I would have recognized it at the time when he was sitting there. Because I wasn't in on what was happening. Whether Carmichael was going to come and who was he and what do we know about 58:00him and ectera. Would I have known, would I have asked questions. I certainly knew about how to break up a group and stuff and ( ) down. That was the reason why I had left community organization. I was not going to become a -- duped into becoming a provocateur and move the group, move the people beyond their capacity to deal with what they needed to deal with at the time. I had already -- Carlton and other people about the Vietnam War and stuff. People are not ready for real guerrilla warfare. You don't want to become an agent against your people. ( ) to 59:00become one.

TK: What happened with the -- how did the -- after the riot, at what point did these people start getting arrested?

RD: Almost immediately. The city was shocked. And within two days they had their names. But I guess the names weren't hidden anyway. But they had been monitoring, they said they had been monitoring conversations. I don't really know if the house was bugged, I don't know. I came back involved in Counciling and stuff ( ) people doing the process and stuff.

TK: I know that there was sort of a campaign to support them, how did that get --




RD: -- involved in that kind of thing for years. So yeah, we said we got to do 60:00something. So we started raising funds. And I guess I was involved in it -- I'm pretty sure. Because about that time Carl and I talked a lot and he would suggest things that I read. I remember he gave me the ( ) conference on art and that type of thing. It's interesting. Because it's where people are. What is the political use of art and the costs really involved in promoting and celebrating your own culture or someone else's. And you can either do it consciously or unconsciously. I was politicizing -- my thing was art at the workshop. My art was going to be about my people. And I'm going to celebrate who they are. And so 61:00I stayed with figurative art. That's why I stayed with ( ). Something that the masses can recognize. Abstract figurative. Abstract with figurative.

TK: Is that your work?

RD: Yeah, that's my work. Both of those are my work. My other work is this, these particular ones of the Freedom Fighters. Douglas and Malcom and all of those. I did them. I started doing them at that time because -- and to do them in pen and ink so they can be easily and cheaply reproduced. And the idea was to maybe make some money but at least put some images in people's home. People would say who is that? What did he do? Who was he? And so you can look at them. They're all ( )

TK: I noticed some when I walked in the room.

RD: And there are others around. I did those. I call them Freedom Fighters and I 62:00was selling them to all the ( ). Because people took them down. They're all over the country. I've even seen them in movies.

TK: Really! Wow, that's interesting.

RD: And I didn't make no money out of it. One guy was selling them back in '70, I found out that some ( ) in Iowa. And somebody showed me a calendar. Where do I have that calendar? All my images are on that. I said man, what is this -- some guy in Jersey had my images on a calendar. I called the guy up. It was my art. He said man, I don't make enough to give you any money. I said man. But we were in ( ) so she wrote him a letter at that address and told him to cease and told him we'd sue him. I went to New York man, and there was Malcom up on the wall and he had him blown up. I said look man, why don't you let me work with you, we can sell these things. He said, why should I cut you in? I'm making money off 63:00what I got. But it was a distortion of it because it was blown up too large and it didn't have the original to work from. So it breaks apart. So my art at the workshop was political. It was meant to be. And we had these discussions. Is there such a thing as black art? And I was the only one there saying yes, it has to be. If you can identify your music there are reasons to identify your art. And that's why I'm debating now about my ( ) art all over the country. Some people say, no you don't want that. You don't want that. If you do, there's no difference between black art and the other art. There's no difference between us. Because the difference. . . But I said, you do that, you buy already into 64:00the concept if there's a difference in somebody -- you know what Europeans are always thinking about how I could go ( ) and that power which you're ( ) to that power potential but then subordinating you to them. I said, but you just have to -- that's something that they have to deal with and you have to deal with that. And you can't say that you're not, you're the same. You deserve the same political opportunities and the same number of opportunities and the same citizenship but I'm different than other people. And the group is different. This block is different from the other block. And there's no problem. But anyway, that's the big debate in the black community.

TK: Well actually I was wondering about the -- because in the late '60s with the black power ideology and the sort of culture associated with that black pride ideology. What kind of influence did that have on Louisville in terms of the struggle here?

RD: What it did have at the workshop -- we were debating theory. And most of the people there we was integrated ( ). They said no, no black art. Even G.C. at the 65:00time. But the theories that I come up with clearly places them inside. Now you can -- it's true. I can go away and study 17th Century Chinese art and become a master at it. But all I'm doing is promoting someone else's culture in their own time. Yeah. And no one would ever know I'm a black person that became a master in Chinese art. You should look into your own culture. And so at that time just beginning to go back and reassess slavery and to deal with it in the black community. I said, I'm ( ) the intelligentsia, the so-called intelligentsia is still unable to come to grips because of the opportunities that they are given and it shuts them down. Shuts them down.


TK: Did nationalism or any idea of separatism have much influence in Louisville in the late '60s?

RD: Not en masse. But there were many of us who had no problem with -- I'm a cultural nationalist. I'm not a political nationalist because I'm not talking about military struggle in order to create a separate system. But either you have to change society drastically to accept you or you have to become -- doing drastic separation. It's simple. In any kind of marriage you either learn to get along or you separate. And we have not gotten along. So we ought to be dealing with still trying to get along but at the same time talking about how we're going to separate. Somebody get my ( ) and say help me get out of this mess. You've got to. If you're married and your marriage becomes abusive or becomes unfair. But if you can get -- it depends on how it happens. You can become 67:00involved in it so suddenly that you don't know you're being abused.

TK: That's a good analogy.

RD: Yeah. I tell my classes all the time the most effective way to keep a man in prison is ( ) making things not there. And then you can throw away the locks and the doors can go away and never move. Put him in a velvet cell. Up in the paper they wouldn't print that. I did an article a couple of weeks ago --

TK: Courier Journal you mean?

RD: Courier Journal. They didn't print what I said about Skinner and a lynch and how those things are effecting how we see ourselves in terms of separation 68:00things. I'm not saying one or the other. But I'm saying have an open, honest debate. You don't let people tell you what's west. The way I always looked at it, west Louisville starts at First Street. And most of the people who live west of First Street are black. From First all the way to the river are black. And if they have a honest ( ) then they decide. Those businesses in those area ain't got nothing to say about it. Only the people who live there can vote. Now let's put that out there. Some people understand that. If they ( ) that debate in a way -- and the papers aren't printing them. They limit that debate.


TK: What's your feeling -- I just want to ask this quick and then we can go back to the past --about the merger issues that's coming up?

RD: It's absurd! He's told ninety three other citizens that if you don't want to become a part don't worry about it. You can stay, you can control and do what you want to do and I'll also give you a vote to help me control and do what I want to do. And what we'll do is we'll swap off. I won't bother you if you'll help me to do what I want to do. So the only people who are going to be -- who have no say in about their lives will be black people again. Because other people will have majority say what happens to us. It's just that simple.

TK: I can't imagine how it ever passed any kind of court review because it's so blatantly discriminatory.

RD: Not if the majority of people vote for it. And he's going to allow -- put those people in the counties in the other cities and allow them to vote. But yet let them out of being controlled by it. Hell, I'd vote. I've got nothing to lose.

TK:Right, ( ) a vote to have someone else ( ).


RD: Yeah. And all of the subtle language the only people that are going to be affected are the black people anyway. And we know we need to keep them in check because we don't know when they're going to run down here and take up my city. All of those absurd -- and the only reason why the black masses haven't ( ) the law ( ) because basically they want the same thing that everybody else wants. They do settle, it seems -- they're all Rodney Kings. Can we just get along. I want to send my kids to school, I want to enjoy a pleasant. . .It's just so simple. Because they want me to say, well you can't afford it. You don't have a tax base yet. That's absurd. Every home here is taxed. And I said, all of those 71:00businesses, who gets -- where does that money go? If that's not a tax base -- but they limited the debate and so most people talk about this say well -- immediately we've been trained not to think beyond the things we're not allowed to think beyond. And I said, in a marriage you can suddenly be duped into thinking that he's not taking advantage of me. Those honey moon periods or whatever happens.

TK: I better get back to the ( ). I had a few questions about the last sixties again, we sort of strayed into today. But I always want to ask people that question. When we started off we were talking about the Black Six Trial and you told me Anne and Carl Braden and you talked about what we can do to support the 72:00people who are trial. What kind of actions were taking to support them?

RD: They got a lawyer. I'm sure Dr. Bryant -- because he was a doctor, that was money in there. So I imagine the main finance ( ) the initial finances. I don't know, we raised money but I don't know how much. You can talk to Anne too about this.

TK: Yeah, I'm going to eventually talk to her.

RD: So they were very good at passing the word out. And everybody -- the masses -- you could tell them to call me and get money. People were giving nickels and dimes or whatever to the trial. We did the ( ). We raised millions of dollars for her bond. And I said, I got my six dollars back. It was well organized.


TK: That's with Angela Davis? She came here, right? Or was that later?

RD: Yeah, but I'm saying Anne Braden ( ) had an organized thing. And we all put money in and they kept records. It was bond money. And I don't know who paid her. The lawyers' fees and whatever did happen. But I remember getting my three or four dollars back. Once the trial was over and when won all the money went back. And that was very interesting, I thought, because that's what it was. Bond Money. And you get it back. And we did the same thing for -- but this wasn't just bond money with Anne, with the six. It was legal defense fund. So we gave to the legal defense fund and for the bond. One or the other. Some people gave both. I guess I gave both.


TK: So people generally supported the Black Six here in the west end?

RD: Oh yes. The masses did. There must have been people who run ( ) color and investigated that.

TK: How did the traditional civil rights organizations, the KCLC, the NAACP, groups like that. . .?

RD: I think KCLC got in on it. They did. They saw that. I think KCLC was -- I don't know. But ( ) on it. And NAACP was finally brought in. They was persuaded. But my sense of it -- and I consider myself the ( ). My sense of it is that the masses identified with it. Like I say all the time, it's the only thing they put in the paper. I don't know a black person in this city that didn't have some direct or some indirect understanding of police brutality. They either have a 75:00relative, themselves or a relative, or a friend of a relative, or a relative of a friend. It's got to go five ways. But that's organization again. That's how you organize.

TK: What impact do you think the combination of the riot and then the trials had on civil rights activity or black liberation activity here in town?

RD: Oh, you know, you had the polite racism. They'd back up and say how much can we give and how much can we keep. Which is all negotiations. And that's how it happens. But like I said, the riots -- I got the job at the Courier. I was working at Fort Knox. And the trip out there was brutal, I thought. Wasted a lot of 76:00time. Not like in New York. Live in White Plains. But I said wow man, ( ) driving down. I had been trying to get a job at the Courier for twelve years. I had gotten a degree. And when I walked in there and they called me for the job, there wasn't a person in there that had ever had all their training. Well, one had art training. Nobody with a degree. I worked with people that were not my equals.

TK: Was that a direct reaction to the riot ( ) you getting that job?

RD: Yes.

TK: And what were you hired to do?

RD: I was a staff artist in the editorial department. I had been trying for 77:00twelve years old got no call. But I call within three or four weeks after the riot.

TK: Really, that quickly.

RD: Yeah! Let's see, the riot was in -- the riot was in May, wasn't it?

TK: Uh huh. The very end of May.

RD: By the end of May. . .By July or August I was working at the Courier.

TK: That's interesting.

RD: It wasn't interesting! The same thing happened in Detroit. 6,000 jobs opened up.

TK: Didn't ( ) get his job there around the same time?

RD: He got a job there before. ( ) got a job there about a month before. ( ) been the same thing but I don't know. But ( ) had been going there, ( ) is interesting. He's got political ( ) did. Bobby heard about the shift before I did. I was called and I was just going to stay at the Courier -- I mean the thing, the reason why I got called because Art Walters had been frustrated 78:00because he knew of my talents and everything. And for six or seven years Art had been trying to get me placed someplace as an artist. And I would call, Art have you found anything? He would say, Bobby, if anybody, I'm going to get you a job as an artist. Because Art and I were on committees and we go back I guess thirty years.

TK: I'm supposed to interview him eventually. He asked me to put it off a few months.

RD: But Art had been saying, I'm going to get you -- Art called me and said Bob, I got you a job. I'd go down there every four or five six months -- what you got? Because they were talking about -- the jobs for blacks were under qualified. They would -- they were making blacks who were qualified to be put in 79:00( ) positions where they worked and then qualified blacks did their jobs. And that's all he was asking for. And mine was an excellent case. He had taken my work and they said, oh you're ( ). They didn't have a place ( ) to put them there. Everyone looked at my art portfolio. It was good enough to get an entry job. Mine was an excellent case that he would probably use quite often. And his discussions ( ) went to the group and talked about what needed to be done and why. So he was tickled to death to --

TK: Get you on there.

RD: Uh huh. ( ) was in town. And I said yes.

TK: Once you started working there were you able to still stay involved in any kinds of RD: Oh, also then because it became so -- it became so ridiculous. And 80:00then there I became aware of the subtle forms of racism. It was obvious to them to keep me out even on the job. Because I was not going to play games. And sometimes I had nothing to do and sometimes I had too much to do. The idea was to either show me as not being capable or put so much on me that I can't do it. And so it was another reason to get rid of you. But it's not malicious I guess. I make people uncomfortable because I would not take any bullshit. Some people 81:00on campus speak to me and some people don't. Me and the dean fought tooth and nail over the development of the department.

TK: The African Studies Department?

RD: The African Studies, yeah. And I beat Hynes with that. Because Hynes --

TK: Was it that recent?

RD:Yeah. Hynes was trying to deal with inner university politics and I understood it ain't got nothing to do with nothing if you're powerful from the outside. The university is just part of the city. And what Swain was doing was connected to the larger city. And so you have to move -- Swain was necessary. Now Swain ( ) talk about his move. He's going to make -- you have bring pressures to ( ) whether you need to. Because when you make the commitment, because Swain made the commitment based on some mistakes he made during the fiesta thing -- but we had the dean there ( ) said something needs to be done with this department and asked me to take it over. We're going to need some more space, we're going to make it ( ) the department. This is ridiculous. This is an 82:00embarrassment. I was brought there because they needed to employ more blacks. But he knew -- how are you going to employ more blacks there when the one you have there you don't treat well. I understand that. So he said, we need to have to be a showcase so we'll bring people in and see that you're going to be treated fairly.

TK: So you were originally brought in to the Art History Department then?

RD: Yeah, well when I was brought in by Doyle because the state was under the mandate and so they were trying to bring black ( ) in and my name came up because I worked with Doyle at Ohio University.

TK: Worked with who?

RD: The provost. The provost was Doyle. He was there. And I got his attention 83:00because when I was ( ) there at that school I asked him for a certain amount of money. It wasn't much. I think it was $19,000.00, $20,000.00 or something. Because it wasn't paying much then. And that was fifteen years ago and that's still a lot of money. Things just jumped up in the last six years. So he said, but you don't have your degree. I said I'm finishing up. He looked at my record, he said this has been ( ) years. He said, everybody says that they're finishing. I said, when I come back -- that was in August -- I said when I come back in three months, in three weeks and show you that I've finished and been accepted will I get the money? He said yeah.

TK: This is up in Ohio?

RD: Uh huh. Because that's what I told my daughter. She said, will you take me to Paris if I get my degree? I said sure. You're talking about ten years from now. You can say anything if it's ten years from now. And of course she kept it 84:00up and I had to take her. We just came back. We went to Paris this summer. So I went back ( ) dropped the ( ) at his door. He just laughed. He ( ). I said good, give me the money. He didn't have ( ) the guy said man you ( ) to give you that money. Then from that he became -- because he's dealing with a lot of game playing, all universities have a lot of game playing. And the department said that some many of us acquires, you know, oppressed groups. And the reason we were oppressed is because we sold out. So he put me on some committees because you want someone there that's not scared to tell you the truth. Because they know that they can get you hurt with the larger factions. You tell people that everything is going all right and then they do some investigating and no it's not. So anyway, when he got the job he knew about what he was expected to do to help find. Some he came to me, he called me and said I'm ( ) to Louisville. 85:00That's your home town. Do you want to go back? I said it's everybody's dream to go teach where they were born. I said, hey I got a career here. I don't want to sacrifice my own things. He said I'll keep you in mind. I said I'm not going to go with him because. . .but then ( ) won't be necessary and asked him to ( ) my area and so. . .my area was in literature and art ( ) as an artist and others was strong on that class, teaching and stuff. So I chose art history but I wanted to be -- because I helped create Pan-African Studies. They didn't know 86:00that. I wanted to be in Pan-African Studies. But they said Pan-African Studies is dead, all but dead. I said well bring it back to life. I said I want to be. . .Doyle said well. I said I want to be joint appointed with Pan-African Studies. They had joint appointments and I wanted to be my primary appointment. They said well we can't make it half and half. You got to go -- we don't half and half, we do primary and secondary, fifty one/forty nine. And so I said then make me fifty one in PS. According to some people no ( ) would want to do that. I said well that's what I want. Because I either stand by what I've created or. . .

TK: When did it originally get created?

RD: With Blaine.

TK: Back in '68, 69? And what involvement did you have with that?


RD: I was part of the ( ) community. Blaine and them knew me so I was part of the group. They said what to do. I was part of -- some other came out -- I remember myself and Eugene Perkins, we argued vehemently for Pan-African Studies as opposed to Black Studies. Because by then I read DuBois, I knew about Pan-Africanism. And someone has to know that our plight -- we can solve our plight in the United States just by itself. It has to be a world commitment. And you have the potential with all the African people around the world. In African and other places. And you either move that whole group like you did in China or you don't have people to move. So it must then be -- I can deal with that at an academic level. And academic is going to be a powerful arm to political. . .those were the ideas. So that is what I was concerned with, the Pan-African Studies.


TK: So it got set up right after the sit ins? Was it one of the conditions?

RD: They asked for Black Studies and one of the conditions. And more faculty, more students and a department to deal with the study and history of black people. It was Afro-American Studies or Black Studies. I wanted Pan-African Studies. There's only departments in the country that I know of.

TK: So they got all those right then, didn't they? Right after the sit-ins?

RD: They got it right then. And I also taught there before I left under Greene, I taught first courses in African American art there.


TK: So that would have been before you went back to graduate school?

RD: Uh huh.

TK: One question I wanted to back up to because I wanted to make sure it's clear in terms of the chronology again is this job at Fort Knox, what exactly was that job?

RD: I was an illustrator. I was called an illustrator. . .graphic. . .

TK: Did someone just come in?

RD: It might be my boy [interruption]



RD: What's it called. I think the illustrator and ( ) and maps and charts and signs and anything they needed to train soldiers at the training base. So I was in training aids. So we created all -- we created visual aids to train.

TK: Just curious, because you were there at Fort Knox, a military installation 90:00at sort of the height of the antiwar movement. Was there any evidence of --

RD: I became aware of because I wanted to -- I signed up to become an illustrator in Vietnam. And my wife at the time talked me out of it. She said, oh my, no. But my political vision about the war effort began into it too because it didn't make sense. Something was going on. They were talking about taking the hill and killing so many people. And then the next thing they said when they got there there was nobody there. They drug the dead off. Well if they drug the dead off how do you know how many you killed? And I realized that these figures were based on war pounds, pound per whatever explosion. Who said they was there? Ok, intelligence was there, but how can you then assume if you 91:00couldn't find the bodies then you can't really do an accurate body count. So I realized that something was going on.

TK: Something suspicious.

RD: Something suspicious was going on. So then I began to read -- well there's a number of very good books that have been written -- one by Carlton talked about, he was there. There's always people inside -- and then I understood what happened with the French. And then the role that Nixon played in putting us into that war. He never talked about that. Two or three people have talked about it. He was the first to be invested. Of course, Johnson was invested in that stuff there too.

TK: Was there any connection or any evidence of any connection between antiwar activity and black political activity here in Louisville.

RD: Yeah. There wasn't any direct but we began to discuss because it even, at 92:00the later part of the time King said that political activity here was tied to the political unrest abroad. That the imperialism and white discrimination and white aggression and racism was intimately tied and then you can make the jump. And of course Carmichael and the others and ( ) was writing a book. He and I talked about it when he came down here. He's writing a book about the colonies and the ghettos and call it a book called Ghet-Colony. And he makes the connection, the analogy between control of the masses on one scale and another scale. So while there wasn't -- when I was at UofL I was part of the organizing 93:00group that picketed the eating places around UofL.

TK: Oh really, because that was when you were an undergraduate? Yeah, I think we talked about that in the other interview and your work at the Y during the art posters for the. . .I'm just looking at my list to make sure we didn't skip anything earlier on that I wanted to ask you. We talked about your community organizing and getting out of that, and finishing that up. One question could I ask you that does go back a little bit but it is something I was just a little confused about is the structure of actually how the war on poverty worked. Clarify who was in charge of it, how did it -- what was the structure of it here in town?


RD: It changed. It was a community action agency. Was that the first name or the last name? Yeager.

TK: I've seen that name.

RD: It was really an action agency. You might want to talk with Ken Clay because he and Betty Taylor --

TK: She's on my list.

RD: Ken Clay who was the -- worked at the Art Center. Because he was part of our groups too. He learned culture organization under our group. Breaking into groups, bringing people and putting them together culture kind of things. And he was interested in that but he was just a junior person in college. He followed us around. He got a sense of that potential and stuff.

TK: How much of a culture component was there in the war on poverty work?


RD: ( ) because I aware that there was another black arts movement that you become ( ) because you can do visual and signs and symbols, icons, you ( ) kind of things at another level. You wouldn't have a church if you didn't do that. So it was necessary with the imagery. And that was why imagery went black. I did some objective stuff like that over there but most of my things have become black --

TK: Representative?

RD: Representative in some way. And so you use cultural events -- you tie cultural events into political things. You can have dances and groups and art 96:00shows. And you don't have to do it directly. It can be a spin-off. But there's a connection. But the imagery, of course the imagery is there. The bit problems I saw was not to directly deal with -- my own thing was ( ) deal with the imagery and the content that showed the action but a content that celebrated because if I'm valuable, if I'm valuable to me then I'm not going to let you do something to me. And one of the problems I saw is that the sense of self-value was taken. One of the last things I started at the time some years ago and it's twenty, thirty, sixty paintings that were ( ) in the basement now on the shades of earth mother. And the main value is always in the women. That's why they're attacked 97:00first and destroyed. Because man kind of reproduce themselves. But if you don't attack the home base then the women would grow up more sons. So that's why women are so brutalized in those situations.

TK: So you mean those are your paintings?

RD: No, those are ( )

TK: ( )