Junius W. Williams oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Newark, New Jersey, 2011-07-20.
JW: So, eventually, uh, we formed - I was a part of the civil rights group there, and we were in support of [15:00] civil rights. But at some point or another, it was time for me to go south, so that’s what happened in 1965.
JM: Yeah, let me ask about, let me, um - this is all so interesting I want to move with some care and a little bit more slowly.
JW: All right.
JM: I’m interested in, in, uh - you’ve just mentioned this incident with your folks, where they’re looking out for their child and wanting to make sure that you’re clear of the tensions and prospective dangers of these early sit-ins in Richmond.
JW: Um-hmm. Um-hmm.
JM: Um, what was the relationship that prevailed between you and your parents on those kinds of questions, and how were your views and perspectives developing in these years, just towards the end of high school, around the civil rights question? [Siren sounds in background]
JW: Well, first it was Emmett Till. Uh, then it was news about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the rise of this man called Martin Luther King. And so, we talked about all those things. It was clear that things were changing. And, of course, we all knew about the Brown [Brown v. Board of Education] case. But, other than those small victories that we had, such as the Armstrong-Walker versus Thomas Jefferson-John Marshall little duel, uh, we didn’t see much change. So, there was talk about it until the students demonstrated. And, of course, my parents were in favor of that, but they thought that was dangerous.
There was one other moment. At some point after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the lawsuit came about that integrated, said you got to integrate bus transportation throughout the South. So, Richmond complied. [Laughs] So, uh, one day, the word went out that buses are now desegregated. So, my parents got hold of the news and told Johnny and me, because they knew we were going to try it. [Laughs] They said, “Now, when you get on that bus, I want you to be careful. Don’t do this; don’t do that.” And I’m sure that was the conversation held in many homes around Richmond that day, with black parents trying to protect us.
[Laughs] So, we got on the bus. And, sure enough, we sat down in the closest seat we could to the driver. We sat down so close that we could see the color of his neck, which was red, [phone rings] when we sat in those seats, because nobody else had done it. [phone rings]