Oral Histories

Interview of Clifford McClain

Founding member of the Brotherhood Crusade. Manager of the Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center.
Twenty-Five Years of Community Organizing and Institution Building in the Aftermath of Watts: 1965-1990
African American History
Social Movements
Community Activism
Biographical Note:
Founding member of the Brotherhood Crusade. Manager of the Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center.
Stevenson, Alva Moore
McClain, Clifford
Persons Present:
McClain and Stevenson.
Place Conducted:
Vera Davis McClendon Center in Venice, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alva Moore Stevenson, Series Coordinator, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; B.A., English, UCLA; M.A., African American Studies (Latin American Concentration).Stevenson prepared for the interview by perusing the files of Congress member Alfred S. Moore and various primary and secondary sources related to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 and urban unrest in the United States.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. McClain was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents community organizations and institutions that arose in the aftermath of the Watts Rebellion to address issues such as education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and police harassment. The first phase of the series involved interviews with key organizers of the Black Congress, an umbrella organization of Black activist groups whose purpose was to reconstruct the community.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma—Childhood in Los Angeles and Stockton, California—His grandparents—His mother Juanita Stevens’s activism—His father Reverend C.C. McClain—Racially mixed social circle in junior high school—Conflict between Blacks and Whites during schooldays in Stockton—Tulsa Race Riot (1921)—All Black towns in Oklahoma and California—Role of religion in upbringing—Movement should have maintained closer ties with religious community—Emphasis on education in McClain’s upbringing—Recollections of Central Avenue—Political views of mother and grandparents--Comparison of racial dynamics in Stockton and the South.
Familial connection with Rosa Parks—Post-high school education—First jobs—Becoming an activist—Influence of class at USC taught by Professor Bill Williams—Interest in becoming an aeronautical engineer—Tracking of Black high school students.
Beginnings of McClain’s activism—Position at U.S. Post Office—Lack of Blacks in Politics—Running for office in Twenty-fifth District—Misperceptions about marriage—Watts Rebellion of 1965—Operation Bootstrap—Correlation between pigmentation and “Blackness”—Education in Black history—Disillusionment with and responding to the Rebellion—TALO [Temporary Alliance of Local Organizations]—Coming together of local African American organizations—Black Congress—Friction caused by media--Philosophy and organizing principles of the Congress—Role of Walter Bremond—Causes of the Rebellion—Post-Rebellion institution building—Ten Schools Program in Los Angeles Unified School District—War on Poverty—Lack of institutional support—New Careers in the Schools—Operation School Bill—Mayor Thomas Bradley’s contributions—Missed opportunities in addressing community problems—Community policing and the LAPD—Re-culturing of the Department—Working with Police Chief Bernard Parks—African American officeholders who supported the Congress—California State Assembly campaign against Charles Warren—Frederick Roberts— Type of officeholder McClain would be—Republican politics—Family values—Augustus Hawkins—McClain’s political platform—Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.—Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.—NAPP [Neighborhood Adult Participation Project]—Position as director of Exposition Outpost—NAPP’s community programs—New Careers in the Schools program—Advocating for the program at Department of Labor—Programs for youth in the community—Working with RTD—Councilman Billy G. Mills as advocate for the community.
Legacy of Black Congress—What is instructive for the community today—Value of collaboration—More on McClain’s involvement related to at-risk youth—Salience of race—Becoming politically engaged—African Americans taking responsibility—Youth Gang Services—Breaking down stereotypes among African American youth—Teachers and other adults at Jefferson High School who expected excellence—Influences on McClain’s becoming a counselor—Helping along those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder—McClain’s philosophy—Role of church—Need for leadership—L.A. Bridges—Need for training in basic skills—New challenges in working with at-risk youth—Brotherhood Crusade.
United Way’s reservations about the Brotherhood Crusade.
Danny Bakewell—Neighbor to Neighbor—Similarities between African Americans and Latinos—Baja California—Immigration and regulation—Bernard Parks—Community policing—The LAPD culture—Future of Brotherhood Crusade—Convening African American leadership to address community needs—Necessity for no-strings funding.