"The movement was very religious up until '64."

Ed King: The movement was very religious up until '64.

Charles Marsh: —up until Freedom Summer? What changed that?

EK: There would have been a few people who were secular Jewish background, but they were very, very sympathetic and tolerant of those of us who taught religion all of the time… even these people were almost devout and very, very moved by the religion of the black people… until that summer, almost through that summer, the language and the feeling was genuinely religious… But I try to be not just biased, it really is what I observed. And I was chaplain to the college and in a sense, saw myself as a priest to the more radical wing of the movement. Certainly in the 1st 2nd or 3rd years, scripture was very much in people's minds, in all of the church business and the other demonstrations we had, from the time of Medgar's death up until [    ], we would have meditation the night before people went to jail, we would have prayer and meditation in the morning before they went out to a demonstration and nobody would have thought not to do this, and those for whom things were unfamiliar were a minority. Gradually, more militant people came in, particularly northern blacks who were less religious… but many of the northern whites were religious and many of them became more religious when they were around the rest of us. The people knew the biblical basis and somebody would make a quotation, 'We shall overcome' is based on psalms and a number of New Testament references. 'We shall not be moved'.

CM: Now, what was the tone of the militant blacks coming down from the north to the south in '64?

EK: Well, they weren't that militant, they were just a little more secular, but they still were very respectful and they knew that it was the church that held the local people together. Only as they became politically discouraged, politically militant, overwhelmed, I think they had no religious resources in defeat… more defeat than disillusion, so they turned to cynicism and despair and turned to militancy. But they were worn out; they had given everything except their bodies and they, they had just given everything they had. None of us realized how strong the evil was that we fought, and how much a part of American power it was, and so were not able to grapple it… And to do that, you need religion and mythology and stories and poetry, praises and hymns, and you need a religious domain to describe the truth in another way. The disillusionment in the case of the struggle against powers and principalities, you are part of a long line. If you struggle against Lyndon Johnson in the betrayal of Hubert Humphrey, it's a different world, who said that Johnson and Humphrey had sold their souls and were part of the power for principalities.

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