Longtime Bay Area journalist Belva Davis sat down with KALW to discuss her recollections of covering the 1964 Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace.

    It was a mean-spirited crowd up in the galleries where we were … there was a speech by former President Eisenhower that was like lighting a match, in which he talked … the words he said could have been interpreted as being racist. And after that, all hell broke loose. 
    Reporters were being, I mean really big-name reporters, were being taken and arrested, really – one of the leading reporters was arrested on that night. So, we watched all this from up high, and finally we heard somebody from down below yell, “What are you N-word people doing up there?” And he screamed it in sort of a chant. 
    The next thing we knew, there’s a mob of people screaming all kinds of things. Up there, isolated where we were in semi-darkness, we felt threatened. We started down the stairs and garbage started being thrown at us. 
    I didn’t really get nervous until I could feel a bottle whiz by my head. It crashed against the concrete, and my knees started to shake as we were walking down the ramp to get out of the Cow Palace. 
    [Davis’ boss, KDIA News Director] Louis [Freeman] said to me, “If you cry, I will break your leg.” Just like that! And I looked at him, I was shocked! Straightened my back, and we both kept eyes straight ahead and got down to the bottom. 
    And then we looked at each other because we saw uniformed officers, but coming from the South, we knew that was no safe passage. And we knew we still had the outside to the parking lot to go.
    We were both terrified. We were at a political convention, or you know, one of the two organizations pledged to protect the rights of American citizens and feeling that our lives were in danger. But that’s the way it was that year.

Davis was interviewed by Holly Kernan of KALW’s “Crosscurrents.” Davis has a new book, “Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism,” which is available at amazon.com.

Bay Area Media News,


  1. Nothing in Eisenhower's speech to the 1964 GOP convention was racist. See for yourself. Here's the full text.


    Ike praised the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and said Republicans had a better record of civil rights than the Democrats. Which was actually true up until 1964.

    'Our party, let us never forget, was born out of protest against the supreme indignity to mankind – slavery – the story of which is found on the darkest pages of America's history, both North and South,' Eishenhower said that day.

    'It persisted as a social cancer even in this land of liberty, until Abraham Lincoln eliminated it a century ago, supported by our party, which he led. This Republican Party, then, was conceived to battle injustice.'

    I'm not sure what passages of the speech were 'racist.'

  2. What were Ike's words that could have been "considered racist" and made "all hell break loose?" Belva, please give us the rest of the story.

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