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Interview with Aaron Henry, February 10, 1964

Part of Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project

Interview with Aaron Henry, February 10, 1964
Aaron Henry; interviewee. Robert Penn Warren; interviewer.
oral histories
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Aaron Henry (1922-1997) was an African American civil rights leader and politician. Born in Dublin, Mississippi, Henry enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Hawaii. After serving in the Army, Henry attended college at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana on the G.I. Bill and graduated with a degree in Pharmacy. In 1951 he co-founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) and in 1959 he became President of the Mississippi branch of the NAACP. Henry also participated in founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). From 1982 to 1996 Henry served as an elected member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. In this interview Aaron Henry describes his first experience with segregation as a child and becoming a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in high school. Henry mentions his experience with racism while serving in the military and describes organizing his local branch of the NAACP after getting out of the military. He addresses criticism of the NAACP and its legal-based approach to the civil rights movement. Henry describes his close friendship with Medgar Evers and the impact Evers death had on him. He discusses threats against his own life and the important role his family plays in keeping him active in the civil rights movement. Henry talks about the relationship of age and social class with involvement in the civil rights movement. He also discusses African American image and identity and assimilation into American culture. Henry describes white attitudes in the south toward African Americans and explains that he feels the racial problems of the South have prevented new employment opportunities in Mississippi. He discusses the trial of Byron de la Beckwith and also considers Gunnar Myrdal's proposal for reconstruction of the South after the civil war. In addition, Henry provides his views on the nonviolent philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the relationship between religion and nonviolence, and the lack of involvement of the Jewish community in Mississippi with the civil rights movement.
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
University of Kentucky
Henry, Aaron, 1922-1997--Interviews, King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1929-1968, Evers, Medgar Wiley, 1925-1963 --Assassination, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Nonviolence, Civil rights movements, African Americans--Civil rights, African American veterans, Mississippi--Social conditions, Discrimination in the military, Voter registration--Mississippi, Civil rights workers--Violence against, Police--Mississippi, African Americans--Employment--Mississippi, Discrimination in employment--Mississippi, African Americans--Mississippi--Relations with Jews, Beckwith, Byron de la--Trials, litigation, etc., Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877), Myrdal, Gunnar, 1898-1987, African Americans--Race identity, Blacks--Race identity, Africans Americans--Cultural Assimilation, Jews--Cultural Assimilation--United States, Race relations--Case studies, Leadership, African Americans--Segregation, Segregation--Religious aspects, Civil rights--Law and legislation--United States, Whites--Southern States, Southern States--Race relations
Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project
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