Interview Clips: John Rousseau
What do you remember about the day when you met Marcus Garvey?
The day I met Marcus Garvey was one of the most exciting days of my life. It was filled with anticipation from the early, earliest part of the day because... Marcus Garvey was sort of an... a god, an idol for the black people in this area. Everybody was happy that Marcus Garvey outlined a program where he would help... help the black people and assist them to go back to Africa. And, ah, we had been so poorly treated by the white people. I was only 12 years old at that time, and in my 12 years I had experienced so much mistreatment at the hands of white people. When we'd walk along the plank walks... if a white person came along, no matter who it was, a white child, a white man, a white woman, if they came along, you had to get off the plank walk and stand in the mud until they passed. And I didn't... I didn't like that from a little boy... made me feel that the white people considered themselves so much better than me. In fact, I had gotten to the point to wishing that I would get in a position where I could treat the white people like they're treating me. And so when I got this chance to go meet Marcus Garvey, I was fully aware that he was our savior.
Why was the newspaper so important to the Garvey Movement?
The Negro World, ah, carried a message to the people, and a lot of people who did not know about the...about the, ah, Garvey Movement learned by The Negro World. And The Negro World in... influenced a lot of other people to read not only The Negro World, but the other black journals... And in New Orleans The Negro World just carried the message and, ah, it told not only what was happening in the United States, but it told what was happening all over the world, all over, say, Jamaica, ah, Africa, and other parts of the world. And it was educational. And it spread the... spread the Garvey Movement while it educated the people.
How did the Garvey Movement tie black people together?
The Garvey Movement made me feel that I was part of something. It made me feel that I was something. It made me feel that I was a human being. I was not, ah, something to be trod underfoot, but... Marcus Garvey awakened a pride in myself and made me feel that, ah, some day we would enjoy all of the benefits that the other races were enjoying. So the Marcus Garvey Movement was just a wonderful part of my life.
Did people here know about the NAACP?
Well, the UNIA [Universal Negro Improvement Association], ah, was a black man's organization. The NAACP in New Orleans, it included the black...the, ah, negro people as a race, but it included, ah, different color...color barriers, the light skins and the dark-skinned negroes, ah, had their own little things going in the NAACP. The UNIA, there was no color...no color line in it. You were black, you were just black. That was all. And, ah, the...the, ah, black people felt a sort of kinship to the...to the UNIA rather than to the NAACP... There was an old saying that "If you...if you are bright, you're right. If you're brown, stick around. If you're black, stand back." And that was the feeling and, ah, in the negro race itself there was that color line and, ah, Garvey made you proud to be black. That was all of it. And I don't think in any of his speeches he referred to the light-skins as being better or the dark skins as being better, because all of that was a hand-me-down from slavery.