The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

John Bradley on shifting the narrative of social movements to create change

Excerpt Description: John Bradley explains that when movements stall, there is a need to shift the public narrative in order to create and sustain a public conversation about the issue. Bradley cites the success of the BCC movement and the housekeepers’ movement as a result of changing the public narrative of the movements.

Interviewee Name: 
John Bradley

Interviewer: Charlotte Fryar

Excerpt Transcript: “The housekeepers movement, where it all started, when you looked at the facts on paper, you looked at the wages that they were being paid, looked at the comparisons throughout university, it’s just clearly wrong. There was clearly inequity. There was no logical way to make it seem fair or right, but you had to get enough people to read it, to digest it and understand the inequity there to make any kind of movement. So there has to be something that changes that narrative, whether it’s, you know, making that issue bigger, whether it’s bringing it to a certain group that doesn’t necessarily know about it or has the ability to make that change. So for us, realizing with kind of the structure on the campus with the Black Student Movement and how things typically happened, how can you make that narrative different and a little more compelling where people can have a path to act.
If I bring it to present day, when I look at the whole issue with Silent Sam, we were talking about Silent Sam when we were here, you know. There are no new facts. There’s nothing different about it. It was wrong then and it’s still wrong now, but again, there’s been no movement towards anything. So, for me in that situation, I would say there has to be some type of a different approach, because just standing in front of Silent Sam and saying it should be taken down because of x, y, and z, has proven not to be effective. So what are other ways that this can occur? If it has to come through the legislation, through the state legislators, what is the process with bringing it to light to them and making it very uncomfortable for them for not acting? You know, election time is coming in 2018. Is this the opportunity for those things to happen? That would be how I would kind of look at it and how I think that we tried to look at any type of things that we did, is are we truly making a move or taking an action that is going to cause some type of difference or are we just sounding the alarm? The alarms have been sounded for forever, and like I said, the facts don’t change, so you’re going to have to change how you present them or who you present them to.”

Organization: Black Awareness Council, Black Student Movement, BCC Movement

Excerpt Length: 2:18

Interview Date: 12/2/2017

Interview Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Campus Space: The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History

Citation: Interview with John Bradley by Charlotte Fryar, 2 December 2017, in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007), Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.