Joseph Echols Lowery oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-06-06.
JL: Well, you know, we were talking the other day. And I noticed for the first time during the Freedom Riders film I heard Bobby Kennedy say that there’s going to be a black President one day. Now, somebody said he said “forty years.” I didn’t hear the “forty years,” but I did hear him say there’d be a black President. We all felt one day that we’d have a black President, but none of us thought we’d live to see it. It just - the way things were at that time, we just couldn’t foresee a black President.
And here, in 19--, uh, in 19--, what year was that we had the -? Anyway, when Barack Obama decided to run, something happened to me spiritually, and I became one of his early supporters. When hardly any other civil rights leaders were supporting him, I was out there supporting him. And I just felt like God was moving in history, and the time had come. And I wasn’t sure he could be elected, but I thought the time had come for him to run.
Unlike Jesse’s campaign [Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign], which was purely symbolic - none of us ever, you know, nobody ever thought Jesse was going to win. But it was a symbolic run, and it was a good thing. But Barack Obama’s campaign took on a different hue, and it appeared he might have a chance to win. And so, I went all over the country and went to Selma in March of - now, what year was that?
JM: 2007, I think - Brown’s Chapel [Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma]?
JL: Yeah, Brown Chapel. It was 2007. And, uh, I was supposed to speak at First Baptist Church. I had spoken at Brown Chapel the year before. And Barack Obama was scheduled to speak at Brown Chapel. When I got to First Baptist, I heard Obama was supposed to speak at Brown Chapel. I got a headache. And I - [laughs] I said, “I can’t. I’m going to send you to somebody.” So, we sent somebody, and I went to Brown Chapel [laughs] to hear Barack Obama. And, uh, he made an interesting speech.
Uh, I said in my remarks - they called on me to make remarks before he spoke. [55:00] I hadn’t counted on that. But I said that, uh - I talked about “good crazy.” There’s “good crazy” and “bad crazy.” The YouTube picked it up, and people have seen it all over the country. But I said that I was going over to Brown Chapel to meet with the crazy people who talked about a black President. And I said, “People are saying you’re crazy,” said, “but there’s good crazy and there’s bad crazy. And, uh, good crazy, uh, you know, is on the right side and the right side of history.”
And he spoke that day and he said that he represented the Joshua generation. He looked back at me and John Lewis. He said, “You guys represent the Moses generation.” I thought that was a sneaky way to call us old, you know, [laughs] but he was right. And he said he represented the Joshua generation, and something happened in me, that this guy’s inspired, and I think God is moving. And, uh, I decided at that time that I would support him and I marched across the bridge with him that day, my wife and I together.