Pete Seeger oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Beacon, New York, 2011-07-22.
PS: Yeah, and I didn’t do a very good job. I remember -
JM: Why do you say you didn’t do a good job? [Laughter]
PS: I said, uh, “You should know that all kinds of people have different songs.” Uh, and I said, “For example, white people came over here with old ballads from England,” and I sang them some English ballads. And, uh, somebody leaned over to Cordell Reagon, who later married Bernice. He said, “If this is white folks’ music, I’d say I don’t think much of it.” [Laughter]
JM: Yeah. So, you didn’t get quite the crowd response that you thought you might down there, addressing all these civil rights SNCC folks down in Albany?
JM: Yeah. But out of that came your relationship with Bernice Johnson.
PS: That’s exactly right. Uh, she and, uh, Cordell and that tall man, who now lives in Kentucky, a good songwriter, and another man, but I can’t remember their names. Oh, I’d gone to the office of, uh - in Atlanta and said, “You know, just like the Fisk Jubilee Singers, these singers could raise a lot of money for you, traveling around.” And that’s when they started the Freedom Singers.
And in ’63, Toshi and I were getting ready to go overseas. I think we left in late July, went to Hawaii first, or maybe we went to the West Coast, sang in California, and then Hawaii, and then went on across the Pacific, stopped at Samoa, two Samoas, and, uh, then to Australia, and so on.
PS: Uh, sang for our supper, as I said, it was over thirty countries.
PS: Uh, but Toshi had the names and addresses of all the colleges I’d been singing to, so it was a matter of just a couple of days work to send out letters or recordings, maybe, uh, of the Freedom Singers to large numbers. It could have been over a hundred she sent and gave them the address or the telephone number of Bernice. So, Toshi set up their first tour. And, uh, that’s why a year or two later, Bernice named her daughter Toshi.
JM: That’s right.