Junius W. Williams oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Newark, New Jersey, 2011-07-20.
And, ironically, the music program was so bad that I put my saxophone down and didn’t pick it up for most of the four years I was there - until one day. This guy came up from the Movement one day, because my place was always available for people who needed rest and relaxation. This guy came up from Mississippi; I won’t mention his name because of what I’m going to say about him. Well, he had a harmonica and he was blowing it. He thought he was a bluesman, but he couldn’t play that harp. So, the next day, which was a Monday, I went over to the music store, which was next door to my, my, where I was staying in the fraternity house, and I got a C-harmonica. I brought it back. I just took to it, it took to me, uh, and I’ve been playing it ever since. [Laughter]
JB: Did you cross-play in what is it? What’s the cross-tuning for C?
JB: So, you could play blues in G?
JW: I could play it mostly in G, because that’s where you get the full blues effect. And if you play it in C, you’re only on a limited basis. So, most of us play a fourth above the piano. Most blues harps are tuned - are playing one-fourth above, uh, the, the piano player or the guitar player, whoever’s got the concert C.
JM: Before you, even though before you - even before you departed for Amherst in the fall of ’61, the active phase, the demonstration phase of the Movement had come into your world, and I, I, um, I’m interested in your recollections about events around Virginia Union in 1960.
JW: Yeah, Virginia Union, 1960 or early 1961. Charles Sherrod, who was the head of the black students up at, uh, Virginia Union University, led a series of, uh, demonstrations and sit-ins at the department stores in downtown Richmond: Miller & Rhodes, Thalheimer’s, Kresge’s. I’m not so sure where it was, because I never got that close. I told my parents I wanted to join, and they said, “Oh, no! Uh, the college students said they don’t want any high school students involved.”
When I met Charles Sherrod, I asked him, “Was that true? Did you guys really say you didn’t want high school students because we couldn’t be nonviolent?” He said, “No.” So, that was just my mother and father’s clever way of keeping me out of harm’s way, as they saw it. Little did they know! So, they whisked me off to Amherst College in 1961. And, uh - but the fire was still burning, because I knew I had to do something, because I couldn’t just let everybody else do it and I wasn’t going do it.