Seeds of Discontent, episode 8 (riots, African Americans, and the future)
- Publication date
Seeds of Discontent was a 1968 radio documentary series that explored discontented social groups and organizations attempting to improve their conditions in American society. Created by Hartford Smith, Jr. and Wayne State University’s WDET in Detroit, the series addressed topics including race relations, civil rights, poverty, youth, and crime. Smith’s connections with the community as a social worker allowed him to record hours of interviews with people about their lives and their opinions on contemporary issues. This episode, the last of three featuring interviews with older African American men who had lived in Detroit for decades, focuses on riots and the future of African Americans.
The series, distributed by the National Educational Radio Network, was made publicly available as part of the Unlocking the Airwaves project, a digital humanities initiative from University of Maryland and the University of Wisconsin-Madison launched in summer 2021. Learn more at https://www.unlockingtheairwaves.org/.
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- Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, Wisconsin Historical Society, 816 State Street, Madison, WI 53704, telephone 608-264-6466. For reference inquiries or questions regarding specific titles in WCFTR's collection, please email our digital reference service at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 2021-12-07 21:01:52
- Stephen P. Jarchow
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- Speaker 0 This is the eighth in a series of programs, entitled seeds of discontent here to present the program, Hartford Smith, Jr. Supervisor of the screening and intake unit maintained by the Michigan department of social services, delinquency rehabilitation programs. Mr. Smith, tonight seeds of discontent continues with his third part of this plays a programming, which deals with the feelings, the concerns and the plight of the American Negro. For those of you who are not able to listen to the first two parts of this subject, let me briefly summarize. Speaker 0 We have interviewed a number of older Negro men. Some of whom have lived in Detroit for upwards of 40 years. Some were truck drivers, some barbers, some factory workers. One was the transportation supervisor. Two others were retirees. We have attempted to gain through their eyes and voices, some kind of historical perspective on Negro life. It is our feeling that this kind of dialogue and perspective is most necessary. If this country is ever going to come to grips with the problems of massive discontent and to a degree rebellion. And part one, these gentlemen talked about why they came north as so many black Americans have done. So since their reply was very simple to get away from the oppressive system of the south to find a better living and to find better jobs, the north represented hope the north was the land of promise, the land of the promise. Speaker 0 However, it became a nightmare. As we listened last week to their discussions on red light districts, the Negro community and riots, many Negroes were crowded into rundown, dwellings and restricted from many vital aspects of social life and the larger society, their communities, which were created by force and racial restrictions became dumping grounds are playgrounds for vices, which the largest society would not allow. And its so-called clean areas. Many Negroes were viewed as criminals by police departments and were constantly harassed. Many were held in pockets of poverty. And so it was until the resentment level grew so high that it bursts forth across the country and urban communities and the form of riots and rebellions in the land and areas that had once been viewed as the gateway into greater self-realization and social betterment, Chicago, New York, LA Cleveland Newark, and finally Detroit. The voices on this third program will summarize the meaning of this existence for many Negroes and their final reflections about the riots in a way their statements represent the thread between that history of degradation and the hopes of the future, which they see in the young, angry people around them. Once you get out of this area, Speaker 2 Refer to some Curt, uh, events events we had here. Uh, I think this thing was basically, I mean, you, you, you hear people say this was a race riot, basically it wasn't a race riot. This was a matter of people wanting to face the facts and come up and say, well, if I have got to be this, I may as well make myself this, that when I say this, I mean, it's a name that we have to carry that somebody puts on us. Somebody blame us for somebody tagged us with, you know, now you've got these same people that 10, these names and these tags on you, these same people are the one that will come in your neighborhood, sell you food at double prices, Hughes at double per whatever commodities you have to have, they get, they sell you double the price. It should be, they'll take it back. Speaker 2 And they're building a home on the outskirts and the suburban areas. And the first time they see you drive through and the car, maybe you want to go through it's my house out there. First thing they do call the police, just like your third bump and the police go right along with her. They never stopped to ask you. Well, what, what? You probably love anything like that. They never try to find out what your problem is. They grabbed you to sometimes drag you out of your car and shoot you, knock you in the head, beat you with a black jacket here out here for no good purpose. See, Speaker 4 Do you feel that things in this area now are about the same as they were then, or you feel that things were worse than in terms of things you're talking about? Speaker 2 Well, figuratively speaking, I can say speaking personally, I've had more things to happen to me behind. Shall we say these current events than I've ever had happened before? For instance, I've been driving. I got my first driver's license in the city in 1932. And I've gotten more tickets in the last two or three months than I did in the last 10 or 12 years. Speaker 4 Uh, I'd like to make this comment just last week. I think president Johnson was speaking at the well, he makes me, he make mini speeches. I don't exactly where, but anyway, I was listening to the radio and one of the things that he loved on that the American people are getting tired of hooliganism and they're going to start doing something about it. I don't know whether you fellows read it or heard it, but he, he, he, he made a big thing of the American people are getting tired of rioting and wholism and destruction. Now he did not say, uh, it didn't, it didn't make any, this was a general statement. I'm going to say now, but we know because the white man, since last summer, since the riots, they have been making much to do about, uh, unsafe the industry's about the streets being unsafe and about, uh, about, uh, for tests about what legal has done. Speaker 4 We know as needles we know, but now all of a sudden the American people, and when you said American people, we know that he was talking about the American white man, because we know that there have been things that happened to Negro people in the south, by the KU Klux Klan. I have seen some things, as I mentioned before, being from Selma, Alabama, I saw many things happen and you couldn't go to the policeman and, and mentioned this because if you did, because of the white man did it, then you told the policeman about it. You go, if you didn't get killed to begin with, then you was just about dead. So he's saying the American people are not able to get into going to take over, are they going to do something about it? But yet on the other hand, the American people didn't think about doing anything about any violence. Speaker 4 Until we, as Negro started to doing some of the things that we are doing because of the treatment that we have gotten, the treatment that we have gotten over the years has for a minute, the attitudes we have to make the things that the youngsters are doing. I can't tell my daughters that I had a very good childhood. I have children that were born in Detroit. And when they were young, I used to look at radio TV programs. And my daughter was said to me, daddy, why can't I go to that? Can't you take me there. But during the inception of TV, when they had kids programs, they grow children. Couldn't go, you may apply. And I did night for tickets. I tried to get when they knew your nigga, you just weren't invited. So the youngsters now tired of that. See if you, if they can't get it and they go a little fight for something that is not realistic. Speaker 4 And, uh, they'd rather die here and I can understand it. I'm all out. I ain't even mismatch gentlemen missing his age. I'll be 57 years old, very shortly. But basically I have the same thinking that the youngsters have because I'm a Negro and I can't separate my self from the Negro people, no matter whether they are poor or whether they're rich, because we as Negroes have wanted to go on some of the same treatments. There's no way to get around it. It's amazing to me why the white man can conceive and fact that in this nation 25 or 20 million Negroes, who is a part who is a part of the total community can spend 100 years here after emancipation working with him around him, seeing what he accumulates, seeing what he enjoys and yet not have the feeling that we will have the desire to have the same thing. Speaker 4 It's amazing to me how he can think of. We can continue to be satisfied with him, enjoying all these things. I mean, we are human. We have a brain to see the thing. As, as humans, we have same as, as anyone else in the communities where as your neighbors, we aren't really has. I say neighbors because we in the same cities all over. You're not living next to each other in many places, but we see how he lives. We help him to make his living. He's growing rich off of our sweat. And then he thinks we are going to be satisfied. Just letting him have everything, not even giving us an opportunity to get an education so that we'll be prepared To, uh, demand or to ask to accept this type of job. See, he's created a monster for himself. There's no one. Everyone now is looking for solutions, but there's no one solution because this thing is, to me, this has tremendous implications. It's, it's a monster with a lot of hairs in his glory, and these heads are reaching out in all directions. He does know which one to cut off for us, and it wouldn't make any difference, which one he cut off because the next one was going to bite him. Speaker 3 You've been in business for a number of years, and you've lived in Detroit now for about how many years? 25 years. Uh, I wonder if you can just hang back for a moment and just look back at life as you've lived in Detroit, and maybe just tell us something about your experiences in your major problems that you've had, um, and, and earning a living as a businessman or just living your life as, as, as a free human being. Speaker 5 Well, uh, I was a businessman. I haven't had too much, any more than like I've heard numerous other say with biggest of my trouble with the white man's police department, I've had to come in and abuse my place. And I've never done one thing, niggly at no business place I've ever caught me in one, such everybody. I remember one incident back in the year of 1944 and then operate the barbershop on John Thomas at a very outstanding and prominent Negro minister. And my barbershop police came in and had everyone to stand up, to stick their hand all in their pockets. It's incidentally this minister. I don't remember his name off hand now, but I happened to remember that he was a graduate of university of Illinois with all the letters behind his name. I think he possessed a PhD degree. So after they left, he wanted to know what kind of place was I running here. So I told him, I said, I'm running a Negro barbershop. That's all I'm running. And, and, uh, you as a community leader, I would think would have been the first to tell this man that he was wrong. When he went to stick his hand in everyone's pocket in the break, didn't come back. That's exactly what I did. I insisted they carried me down after they finish meddling or looking around whatever they didn't find anything. So I, they put me in Scott Conn brought me to one station. Speaker 5 So, uh, right away in the walk then, man, all this one, what do you want to bring him into your phone? I said, well, he resisted arrest, but it happened to be born in that. And he was up there at dark complexion. I I've heard that he was Spanish or something to that effect. However, he walked right up and spoke up and said, well, the other man just said he wasn't going to be set in his place. And he came down for us to search him here in the station, which I felt was proper, not on this one. We're taking him on back there and snatch him. So that's what they did. But now so far as my living, I've had police to meet me in the street. Like I had one fellow said back here and I've smelled the whiskey on the breath and I've had him catch me like late at night, nobody on the street and around, and absolutely abused me to the extent that I would almost do something crazy, you know, and like sticking out of my pocket and, and trying to provoke me into saying or doing anything. Speaker 5 So didn't have the opportunity to beat my brains out, out there in the streets, but being from the south and knowing this type of thing. So, I mean, I know it does make a difference whether it's in Alabama, whether it's in Detroit, New York or where have you bought now as for the ride, I say, I'm not a young fellow, but I believe that the thing that caused the ride in 1943 in the city of Detroit and the one that caused Robin chard in 1967, I believe as one fellow said, it's an awareness. I believe that we've as colored people have had no alternatives and to tell our kids the true facts of life today. And I think the thinking very well see without means of communications did television and sit in it. And in more recent years, things have been put in the papers. For instance, like the fella in Mississippi who shot Medigap was in the back and didn't do a day that the, uh, Martin Luther king trying to work for the benefit of everybody, not only the United States, but throughout the world, bring about some peace. And he has to do five days. So that, that situation with, uh, Adam Clayton Powell in New York, who is one of the pioneers in the trying to do something for his people, the type of abuse that he got in Senator Dodd and the white man, didn't hesitate to put all this into paper, sending it back there years ago when we were afraid, didn't know what way to go. There wasn't anything we could do about these things that happened to Paul Robeson and all our people that we respected. Speaker 5 But seven of the young fellow today, he sees this and he's damn mad about it. So am I, for that matter? I don't like it. I've never liked it. And I think that was one of the main things that brought about these conditions is the very history here is hearing it from older people around barber shops and then the pool rooms and, and seeing the man come in and abuse everyone. And there's nothing they could do about it. For instance, when I first came to Detroit, I happened to be down on Hastings street in a pool room one day shooting game pool. Police came in such everybody. Speaker 5 So I know why he happened to look at me and pass me up. And truthfully, I was the fellow that was standing there. So step the deaf, because I definitely had a weapon in my pocket, but he didn't search me. So he asked me, so I don't know what it is then after they pile up all these knives on the table, I see you don't want, how would you feel if constantly you went seeking employment? Like I happened to know numerous colored fellows who went down up and down Jefferson avenue, Fort street. And what had you asking for jobs? White man, right behind him, Negro fell in front. We are not hiring today. Maybe the Negro in the white fellow had been standing in the yard for two hours talking the white fellow did a job and he has to go back. His family is home crying, need new medical attention of what has it, all this essentials of life. Speaker 5 How would then what you feel if you come back in, the best you could do is, is try to hustle up a quarter and hang in the pool room to try to make enough money to buy milk for your baby. How would you feel? So, I mean, this is the thing, I think that more than anything else, I don't want her, uh, claim to be no authority on this, but this is what my experience has taught me is working in public life for 25 years is an and I have seen this up and down Jefferson avenue because a short span of my life, I did work for the union in a capacity as an organizer. And I have been up and down Jefferson avenue and I knew this same conditions existed in numerous other areas of the city of Detroit, where they had a small factories that employed up to a thousand, 2000 people. Speaker 5 And many times I've had them to point when, uh, that the representative charged them with discrimination to point to the Negro that had the broom, but swept out the toilet and kept the toilet clean and said that we are not discriminating here. You can't charge us with discriminating and half out of 2,500 people, two or three Negroes. And I think this is the thing that, that, that has caused. And, and, and the fact that the younger Negro is, as I said before, have had opportunity to study the history of the Negro people. And then they're becoming more and more the lightening lightening to the true facts of life as to the attitude and the real feeling of the white man towards the Negro. And that's the thing that is going to cause the very next try. And that's all I have to say. Speaker 0 This is history as seen through the eyes of the older generation is rather common on the part of many to refer to the Negro over 35 as an uncle Tom or a person who has swallowed his pride and refuse to look at reality based on what these gentlemen have said, this does not appear to be the case. They are very realistic and assessing their environment and the odds placed against them throughout history. They are angry and have passed it on through generations. And it's also frequently said that there was a loss of pride of culture and identification on the part of the older Negro and listening to these men when one somehow gets the feeling that this was not true, the sense of pride of culture, of being proud, and somebody is there. It has always been there. It seems rather to be a case of maybe American society, not wanting to recognize it after all a man doesn't fight and struggle in both peaceful and unpeaceful ways, if he feels that he is not worth fighting for. Speaker 0 And he grows old and young have been fighting throughout history and for many, and it has meant death under the most tragic of circumstances. The symbols of protest to recent years do not exist in a vacuum and are not the results of a few fiery speakers on street corners, yelling hate Whitey. It is rather a case of history and the realities of the present coming to a head and a more massive and spontaneous form, why this massive and spontaneous form history also gives us a clue. Let us pause at this time and listen as a freedom singers, recreate some history, which lies at the heart of what is happening now. Speaker 6 Yeah. In Jackson, Mississippi in 1963 . Speaker 0 There have been too many Medgar Evers. There has been too many Emmett Till's Medgar Evers was the peaceful leader, a very sane man who fought conditions for both white and black and until was a child. And yet society wonders why there are some Negroes who are ready to fight violent. Speaker 6 Uh dignity company. . You take this legacy of hateful Speaker 0 Treatment of degrading restrictions and unjust taking of human life and place it in the body of a young American who by the very nature of his culture needs to rebel. And the dimensions of the problem begin to emerge. This then is the historical perspective of the Negro in America. Labels such as extremist hoodlums lawbreakers will not make these things of history go away will not erase the bloodstains will not erase it from the minds of millions of men. This can only be done by a new commitment and action towards justice for every man. Next week, we will move away from history and confront the present question of the Negro in America. In spite of his history, existence, attitudes and feelings are not the same for all Negroes. There are as many shades of opinions and feelings as they are shades of color. We will therefore attempt to get points of view from different professions and economic levels. We will attempt to look at various factions and cleavages in terms of political and social action strategies for the future. You've just heard Hartford Smith Jr. Supervisor of the screening and intake unit maintained by the Michigan department of social services. Delinquency rehabilitation programs, seeds of discontent is produced by David Lewis for a w D T radio and engineered by David Pierce. This is Wayne state university radio.
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