American Experience: Partners of the Heart
Breakthroughs: Protest and Resistance

Kwame Lillard: video | transcriptprevious 2 of 4 next

When we looked at what we did, '61 summer. We went through all of the different attacks. The last major issue was jobs. Jobs at the stores we were protesting. Well to get jobs, the first jobs we wanted were the jobs at the AC Hill's food chain - it was a big food chain in Nashville called AC Hill's. They were everywhere. That summer of '61 we decided to attack AC Hill's for jobs -- not to pee in the toilet, not to eat in the place, but to become part of the economic wealth of the nation.

And that was a serious departure from public accommodation to the right for some economic parity. That's a whole different movement. And that was frightening in Nashville was frightening to the folks in the senior positions in the movement because at that point we had to depart a little bit from non-violence. Because what would happen is that we would go to the stores to get a picket line started at AC Hill's, the cops would come, the hoodlums would come, paid by AC Hill's to annihilate us. And that got to be very disturbing.

So what I did, was get by my high school buddies, since I was Nashvillian, to serve as a National Guard for us. Well that violated all of the non-violent principles of King's movement and Gandhian thought. But we were able to sustain the movement and break the AC Hill's chain policy of not hiring black folks. But it was a clear indication that we were not following non-violent principles. And I think that was a real departure for us. And when you look and think of economics you've got to find a way to break the back of the economic system.

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