Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Philosophy of Struggle - Albert Camus and civil rights movement

BOND: But let me change places. In 1964 in an interview with Robert Penn Warren, you said that [Albert] Camus's views were central to your own thinking. How did that come about?

MOSES: In college, I picked the teachers in part because I thought I like them and they would appreciate me as a student, so we had this great French teacher, Professor Hamlin, and I think the last three years I took courses with him and so my senior year, there was a course of 20th century French literature and so we read different works and Camus at that time had just— He had published The Stranger and then he published the big book, I'm blanking on the name of it, that really outlined a kind of philosophy that struck me as kind of minimal in the sense that the issue of walking this line that you had to be engaged but you didn't want to be a victim but you didn't also want to cross the line and become an executioner. So how to walk that line was the way I thought about the work that we were doing. How to do that work so that I'm not in the role of a victim but I'm also not trying to cross it and somehow be an executioner.

BOND: And was the concept of being an outsider included in this thought?

MOSES: In terms of Camus's thought? So, The Stranger, the idea I think of how do you overcome estrangement is in there, but it's the estrangement of one person against another and how do you build that bond of inaction of actual relation. How does real relation happen in an action, in the action which is living, so the idea of living with purpose, and I think that was reinforced by Amzie and C.C. and E.W., so these were people, and certainly Ella, although Ella's living at a different level but Amzie, C.C., and E.W. are living in communities, in families, but still really living a life of struggle, so I think that's the thing with Camus because he's writing about people who live a life in struggle and so how do you live that life in struggle and balance it and so I got examples of that through Amzie and C.C. They did it in different ways, but they had figured out how to live a life of struggle in the country. And in some sense, that's what I think really has made my own life have some kind of sense to it, that it's a life in struggle that I first learned about living such a life through the movement.