While I never had the opportunity to personally meet Roy Innis, I felt like I knew him well. Due to my growing role as Director of Civics and Constitution Studies with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), I have been working with Niger Innis, Roy's son, quite a bit.
Roy Innis was seen as an anomaly in the Civil Rights Movement. Rather than take a Marxist position, or be a violent activist striking out against “the man,” he preached a more conservative message. Individualism and taking responsibility while accepting consequences was his missive, a message that was unexpected by his civil rights contemporaries. Roy Innis has repeatedly called for returning to the nuclear family by bringing dad home and eliminating dependency upon welfare programs, and stopping the destructive practice of abortion. He also had taken a conservative stance on energy, climate change, and the constitutional role of government.
I have a copy of his book, “Energy Keepers Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle,” of which his son Niger signed for me in lieu of his father. I had planned to have Roy on my Constitution Radio program on KMET to discuss the arguments he presented in the book in the near future.
On January 8, however, we lost Roy Innis, Sr. to complications from Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Innis was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, and had been since 1968. His son, Niger, has been the national spokesman for the civil rights organization during the latter part of his dad's incumbency.
Roy Innis' rise to national recognition began in Harlem during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. He had joined CORE, which was founded in 1942 by white and black students in Chicago.
He opposed busing, telling the New York Times in an interview that “you cannot define desegregation as the idea that black kids can’t learn outside the presence of white kids.” He instead advocated greater community control of school district finances and leadership, and blamed strong central governance for the problems in the cities and public education.
Gun control, he told blacks, “was not meant to protect your safety; it was meant to deprive you of your freedom.” The first gun control laws in the United States emerged when Democrats passed them in the hopes of leaving blacks defenseless against the KKK, and other anti-black groups shortly after the War Between the States. Innis was an active board member of the National Rifle Association.
CORE, under the leadership of Roy Innis, has focused on education and job training. The brand of conservatism he has brought to CORE is traditional, and in line with the style of governance originally intended during the founding of the United States, in terms of localism, and limited federal authorities. He believed that kind of traditionalism to be the “most decent and rational expression of the American personality,” Mr. Innis once told the New York Times. “I believe that the success of America has been the application of pragmatism in society, and that view is particularly unfashionable in the civil rights movement.”