Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Influence of Civil Disobedience

BOND: Why did -- do you think that you and your classmates and others -- why did you not think that you could do something about this? Or did you ever envision doing something about this? Before thinking about being a lawyer, why did you have this feeling that you couldn't do anything about it?

MARSH: Well, before becoming a lawyer – before wanting to become a lawyer to help Oliver Hill and Spot Robinson, I didn't understand how the process could be changed. When I heard them argue the case and heard what they were trying to do, then I realized that this was a way we can change this and that was one of the reasons I wanted to be a lawyer. I mean, I saw him and I liked the way he handled himself. I didn't understand what he was saying but it sounded good. And I liked the way they respected him. This was Spot Robinson.

BOND: Did you know of people who did resist the system? For example, people who wouldn't get up on the bus and move or who resisted in some way or the other? Did you hear of those or people talk about those kinds of things?

MARSH: Yeah. They were fair-skinned African Americans who passed. And I knew -- some of them I knew. They would go in White Tower, which was a local fast food hamburger chain. We all knew that – I won't call his name because he's still around – but blank-blank could eat at the White Tower. And he looked white. Or there were fair-skinned people who went to the Mosque, the seating arena, and went in and sat with white people and no one ever knew the difference. We knew about that, and we laughed and joked about it. But -- and there were instances of people getting arrested, but they were rare.

BOND: Do you know about the Irene Morgan case? The woman who --

MARSH: Yes. Well, I read about it. Mr. Hill was involved.

BOND: Yeah. It was her lawyer. Eleven years before Rosa Parks. I just wonder if there were other incidents like that that – in the paper or in common knowledge or talked about in the community or the barber shop or other places where you know Joe Blow wouldn't put up with this. He said no. Were there things like that?

MARSH: A classmate of mine, Bruce Boynton, was going back to Alabama --

BOND: Yeah, Selma.

MARSH: Alabama.

BOND: Yeah, Selma.

MARSH: He stopped in Richmond, and they tried to segregate him and he wouldn't move. He wouldn't use the black facility. And they arrested him. He called Oliver Hill -- and they called Clarence Newsome because Oliver wasn't available at the time -- and they represented him. They went to represent him. That became a case that led to the Freedom Rides. That effort. So there were people like Bruce who was in the Howard University Law School environment.