tv Book TV After Words CSPAN January 17, 2010 9:00pm-10:00pm EST
assisted in paving the way for future african-american political leadership. peniel joseph profiles the figures including stokely carmichael, monica mix and paul robeson. he discusses his bookda, tionale washington post". >> host: welcome to luke to book tv's "after words." we are talking to toss university history professor peniel joseph, who has a very compelling new book out, "dark
days, bright nights" from black power to barack obama. welcome, professor joseph. >> guest: thank you. west catullus with the title means. that is a very intriguing title. >> guest: the title talks about the first to wear her black people have come from in this country really from the dark days of slavery, segregation and jim crow all the way to having the first african-american president. >> host: there was kind of a little while dee dee during the campaign that went viral and you mentioned a durham leon in the book, and it goes rosa parks sat so martin could walk so barack obama could run so that your children can fly. and that became a kind of catch phrase toward the end particularly among african-americans. you cite this and say as
emotionally powerful as these words may be they make for poor history. explain that. >> guest: absolutely. the notion of rosa parks has become this iconic trope and the story of the civil-rights movement and it's a period i like to call the perot period of the civil-rights movement, and what i mean by that is may 17th, 1954 to august 6, 1965 and that it encompasses the period from the brown desegregation court decision all the way to the signing of the voting rights act by lyndon johnson. and in between what we are told both has students and a nation in terms of popular imagination is there is all kind of sit-ins' and marches and demonstrations that occurred. but they are done by these famous iconic people. basically it's rosa parks who was so tired she refused to get up from the bus in montgomery alabama and sparked the boycott and basically a young preacher who even though the president
referred to during the election as a young preacher from georgia which is dr. martin luther king, jr. who leads the masses of african-americans from racial oppression so this notion that rosa sat and martin could do this stuff and jesse could run and then barack obama could fly are all these things that sound good but they really simplify and much more complicated history and the complicated history involves so many african-americans, women and men who proactively dismantle racial segregation including rosa parks. rosa parks was an activist. she didn't just refuse to give up her seat by accident. it was a concerted strategic effort to try to transform space institutions so the lesson we have to in part to our kids and the nation is that this isn't just something that happens by accident by these iconic figures like the dr. martin luther king,
jr. who has come down from high and helped the rest of us. it was a debate during the election because remember hillary clinton said during an election even though martin luther king, jr. was important it took a president to sign the voting rights act because that is after when the then senator obama kept invoking dr. king because he kept invoking dr. king and the fierce urgency of now and hillary clinton thing senator clinton said hold up a minute. it took a president to sign that bill so she was invoking this notion that look at politics are still run in a top-down way even though king was a seminal figure her point was you still need a president to transform this institution, transform this nation. and really i think the most transformative parts of his streak especially when we dig up the civil rights movement and black power movement and social movements of the 60's and 70's and post war period it is
ordinary people who transform this period. it's sharecroppers, seamstresses, people who were in prison. its students come its regular people who then converge with these figures become iconic. >> host: one of the things i love to buy your book was the complexity of it and how you have taken the history of african-americans and have drawn a complex portrait particularly of the iconic figures that you cite. martin luther king, jr. for instance also was a critic of racism and protest against the imam war and called attention to the poverty and he had a different actable life than often as described and remembered as kind of this figure who somehow gave this
great i have a dream speech but there was a hard edge parts of dr. king's portfolio. >> guest: that's an important point and one worth mentioning we are about to celebrate dr. king's birthday january 18th. dr. king has been shorn of his complexity and having a radical edge. king is one of the most vociferous critics of american democracy. he describes america as the biggest purveyor of violence in the world by 1967. and we have to take note that his riverside speech, april 4th 1967 when he first comes out against the vietnam war mike in a very robust public way is given one year to date before he is assassinated in memphis. when we think about king between 1965 to 60 even two years before river site by the time king is going to chicago and he's in chicago to try to transform the slums he talks about islam clarence campaign and desegregate housing in chicago. he's talking about poverty.
he's talking about economic marginalization of poor people, laborers. king makes a very famous speech where he talks about labour has dignity which is one of his last speech in 1968. king's poor people campaign is something that we shunt aside as well. we really keep dr. king frozen on august 28th 1963 with the i have a dream speech in his washington, d.c. and we don't think about the king who was much more combative even though he was non-violent because he believed he could use of violence as a moral and political force, really a battering ram to transfer of democracy. so it wasn't that king wasn't combative, he was very combative. the difference between king and african-american critics was heated and believe that violence was acceptable politically or morally. >> host: it also was true everybody praises him now back in the time even among
african-americans a lot of people didn't want him coming in to their towns and neighborhoods because when he left he made life more difficult for many of those who had stayed behind. >> guest: absolutely. when we think about king and the sclc, the southern christian conference. they are not sncc led by john car-mart -- carmichael. he goes to places like albany, georgia, like chicago, memphis tennessee and he stirs things up and that is what is interesting about dr. king. terrie combat if demanding dozens of things from mayor daley in chicago in 1965, 66 of the slum clearance in the early version of affirmative action for the city and he precipitates and loathing among the white
population but also certain black power brokers who have their own relationship with city hall and mayor daley and looking as an outsider who is upsetting the delicate balance of power in their own recipe. was with me pause on this conversation just ask you what compelled you to read this book? >> guest: i was really transformed and impacted by the 2008 election and in a way but i wanted to do was connect election him results with my own network compost war african history especially civil rights and black power movements. i think one of the least reported stories of the election was the impact that black power radicalism had nomination in terms of transforming to elect the first black president. and when we talk about obama during the 2008 election most
people talk of a civil rights including the then senator obama peaden fact one of his most famous speeches with in 2007 commemorating selma and the demonstrations that occurred in march, 1965 that really, needed in the passage of the voting rights act several months later and famously king and others are turned away from edmund pettis bridge there's going to be a lot of the racial violence against the demonstrators. john lewis, head of the student nonviolent coordinating committee is quick to be brutally britain to be competing to read it one of the images of a civil rights era and what obama says, senator obama said then at that speech was that the new generation of support activists were the joshua generation. he called dr. king's generation the moses generation and was the joshua generation. people like him who were going to see the promised land. so he put himself directly as an air and beneficiary of the rights movement. now in contrast we never talked
as a nation about black power during the by-election and when we did it was only in a negative context connected to reverend wright and racial controversies. one of the things i wanted to show and are doing this book is that the black power movement even though it was a very combative movement even though it was very forceful in its criticism of racial segregation, racism of american donner proceed it really did lay the foundation along side of the civil rights movement while transforming this nation to have the first black president. >> host: you write the black power movement remains the most misunderstood social movement of the post war era. >> absolutely. when we think about black power in a popular imagination still we usually think of black power as a movement of violent gun toting black panthers and others, a movement that was antiwhite, a movement that really dragged down successful
counterparts, namely civil-rights for social justice. basically a movement that practice politics without portfolio and the civil rights movement evil twin that wrecked dr. king's dream of a beloved community. when in fact when we think about the black power movement and look out what it occurred empirically black power grows out of the same historical context that produces civil rights. it is growing out of early 20th century african-american activism, people like marcus garvey, hubert harrison, harlem renaissance and in its postwar context it's growing out of activism of malcolm x and nation of islam also secular radicals, people in the trick like the reverend albert, james and grace lee, james baldwin and leni. when we think about it it's got a very ecumenical, very secular side and it is decided that
people don't discuss. one of the most interesting aspects of studying the black power movement is the way in which there is an intellectual social, political cultural component and so on on one score blood pub activists try to transform curriculums and high schools and colleges. on another day trip to transfer african-american consciousness through cultural centers, poetry and prose. on another score the try to push for anti-poverty and welfare rights so when we think about black power in the popular conception we don't think of black women being at the forefront of that movement but black women were some of the key activists in that movement and not just iconic figures like angela davis and cathleen cleaver who were very important but also poor black women who work welfare rights and tenants' rights activists in places like durham north carolina and baltimore maryland and in places like philadelphia. certainly black women participated in that movement and organizations like sncc and
the black panthers. but for the most part more black women and black people per dissipated just an ad hoc grassroots organizations both on university campuses and especially of campuses in the 1960's and 70's. >> host: we mentioned a number of people who were kind of in the shadows. i want to take a kind of as a personal notes to cite one, william worthy, who turns out was an advisor to the black student newspaper boston university when i was a student there and we found it and bill worthy was there. you mentioned him in another -- a number of instances where he was one of those people kind of in the forefront among the african american radicals and got to know malcolm x and played a role as an african-american journalists. he first wanted to go into china when it was -- you couldn't go to china. >> guest: absolutely.
william is an example of one of these unsung heroes of the period. bill worthy was born in 1921. he is one of the key radical black journalists of the 1950's and 60's. he goes into the soviet union in the late 1940's. he goes into china in the 1950's , when of the key black journalists in cuba during the cuban revolution. he is a friend and ally of malcolm x. his key domestic idea is something called the freedom now party and it's really going to be one of three black independent political parties in the 1960's. one is the freedom now party and the other is the mississippi freedom democratic party led by trail hammer the sharecropper from mississippi who was not allowed to be seated at the 1964 democratic national convention in atlantic city new jersey. and the other is going to be the lowndes county freedom organization which is nicknamed
the black panther party which is an bonds county alabama, and that started with grassroots locals with the help of sclc activists especially stokely carvel. when we think of william worthy it's interesting because he's a black power activist who's also a pacifist who went to jail in world war ii for refusing to fight in the war. but he wants a foreign policy that is based on human rights. way before president jimmy carter talks about a foreign policy based on human rights, william worthy was talking about this and he is one of the people who is part of the ropes in generation and i call it the robeson generation the group activists to come of age during the prime political time korologos and was the key african-american political and cultural figure of the 1930's and 40's and 50's and is going to be marginalized by the cold war between 1951 to 1958. paul robeson's passport is
revoked and he is not going to be able to earn a living outside of the country because of his left-wing beliefs. robison never joined the communist party of the united states of america certainly is very sympathetic to the marxism and communism and he is going to suffer because of that. but for these extraordinary and provides a different genealogy of black power. people like william worthy, richardson who was the activist from cambridge maryland who really was called the leedy general of the civil rights movement who waged an unprecedented struggle in cambridge maryland and 63 and 64 to help desegregate the city, met with attorney general robert f. kennedy to sign a peace accord in the early 1960's but also goes to malcolm x's nov grassroots leadership conference in detroit where malcolm delivers his famous message to the grassroots where he lays out a secular vision of domestic
national but also international global political revolution. >> host: you read malcolm x was nothing less than a civil rights era's invisible man. >> absolutely. in the terms of the way which historians view malcolm x, malcolm isn't part of that heroic work of the civil rights movement. he usually only pops up are not 1963, 64 and serves as a foil to dr. king. he's more characterized or characterized as this profit of rage was not a brilliant political strategist, who isn't a local and national political organizer is not one of the most important figures of the post war period. >> host: and as you note that back in the 50's who is probably the most important political grassroots political organizer in harlem. >> absolutely. malcolm x is released from prison in 1952 after serving six
years in prison for burglary. he transforms himself from malcolm little to malcolm x. while in charlestown prison in massachusetts. he comes out of prison and works a number of different odd jobs while also working as a muslim minister. in 1954 he is opening up the mosque in philadelphia that he also becomes the head of muslim mosque number seven on the west 116th street in harlem and right away he becomes the key muslim black muslim figure in the entire group. the group goes from several hundred when he joins in the early -- late 1940's and early fifties to have an 20,000 by the time he leaves the group. but what is really important about malcolm is between 1954 to 1964 when he is his most active in the group he leads the nation of islam by january, 1964 he transforms the group from the secretary in group to a secular
group. he transforms a group that is not on anyone's radar to a group that is considered by the fbi to be one of the leading subversive groups in the country about 1959 there is a mike wallace documentary news beat five parts. a decade who produced it makes malcolm an international figure. >> host: police louis lomax? >> guest: the key african american reporter of the 1950's and 60's before his untimely death is one of the key black journalists who interviews malcolm but becomes an expert on the nation of islam. >> host: one of the things about malcolm and all of those things are true the you said, but there was a kind of role language that was a piercing he would say these things. here is something a quote during
a press conference and he was obviously somebody who thought that american democracy was just not equipped to protect black americans and that was not made for african-americans at the time. in a press conference in washington, d.c. he said if anyone since adolf on a black man, the black man should kill the adult whether he is a four leggitt all were to leggitt bald. that's her to sing in public. i'm sure at that time and maybe you can put it in perspective. even today we don't get important african american leaders standing of saying things like that. yes, absolutely. one of malcolm's most important characteristics was the ability to speak truth to power and he's quick to be probably the most eloquent article critic of american democracy during the post war period.
malcolm is also a bold enough to criticize president kennedy for not acting productively enough in birmingham alabama. what's interesting when we study malcolm x and look at his that malcolm really serves as a counterpart to king but in a way people usually don't think of. its counterpart to king has the good black man and malcolm is the bad nasty and high white black man. malcolm is a counterpart saying things king can't say very boldly in a very confrontational manner but that actually gives king of room to negotiate and not just king but also roy wilkins of naacp and whitney young of the urban league to negotiate because people are looking at all, as being so extreme of his robust criticism of american democracy and politicians but also the politics of white supremacy that it gives these other support its leaders room to maneuver but this notion, though quote that
you take from malcolm had agreed gift of speaking to people. jimmy baldwin, the great african-american writer, genius richard of the 1960's and 70's has often said that malcolm had such a love for african-american people that he spoke to them in the language that he understood. one of the reasons malcolm was able to effectively communicate with african-americans is he was really from the black working class. malcolm had been hanging out with hustlers. he was in roxbury, each right, harlem. before he becomes a muslim mosque minister in harlem he was selling people illegal substances in harlem and so malcolm knew how ordinary everyday people in harlem felt. he knew how african-american culture in barbershops and beauty shops -- he understood the african-american church not just the nation of islam but the
black church as well so when we think about malcolm x. he becomes a singularly important figure but not just this some kind of profit of rage or icon. he's actually an important grass-roots local organizer and not just in new york but in detroit and chicago and other places as well. >> host: and long after his death, he becomes enough of an american figure to get a stamp, postage stamp. >> guest: certainly. there is a rehabilitation of malcolm x. this occurred over the last look-see 20 years. we start with spike lee film malcolm x in 1992, the real issue of the autobiography of malcolm x and also this stand. but even barack obama, and barack obama's autobiography, dreams from my father he expresses admiration for malcolm x. he says he admired mulken's self determination and ability to recreate himself. so when we think about malcolm x. he is the quintessential
self-made african-american man of the post war period. >> host: and embraced regardless where you lie on the ideological spectrum. i am reminded that justice clarence thomas also embraced malcolm x and haditha collected recordings of malcolm x and felt something important in malcolm x's herraiz himself. discuss absolutely. i think the conservatives admire his notion of bootstrap plan. pull yourself up by your bootstraps political self-determination and this notion that malcolm would also say that black people had to do for themselves. malcolm and the nation of islam in their parliament refused handouts from the white man and parliaments. so conservatives would definitely find that something that was a great attribute. >> host: another important figure in your book, and duty coach considerable chapters to
stokely carmichael. >> guest: stokely carmichael i believe is one of the most important african-american political activists of the post war period and certainly the civil rights and black power period. he is going to be a key civil-rights activist who becomes a black power icon. and what i mean by that is that stokely is one of black power figures who has also been a civil rights organizer in the deep south. he's from the caribbean born in trinidad june 29th, 1941, immigrates to the united states to weeks before his 11th birthday in 1952. he lives in the bronx. he's one of the only african-american students who test into the bronx science high school in 1956 and that's one of the most prestigious high schools in new york city. even as a high school student he's an activist. by 1960 he enrolls at howard university and joins the
nonviolent action group that howard which is a friend of sncc, an affiliate of the student nonviolent coordinating committee and really it 19-years-old stokely carmichael becomes a freedom rider, goes down south and is arrested in mississippi and spent 49 days in parchment for mississippi's worst prison farm and he celebrates his 20th birthday in prison for civil rights activity and that's going to be the first of 27 arrests between 1961 and 1966. what's really important about stokely carmichael and that i try to convey in this book is that carmichael is one of the few americans domestically during the 1960's who bleeds for democracy. and what i mean by that is undergoes physical terror and violence at the hands of hate groups and domestic terrorists in places like the mississippi delta and rounds county alabama, a cambridge maryland, washington, d.c., to promote
voting rights and citizenship rights for all african americans. >> host: we want to get into -- we are getting close to the break time and i want to get into some contemporary thoughts and get your opinion on what is happening now in the current scene but we will be back in a couple of minutes and can talk about current events a little bit. >> guest: absolutely. >> "after words" c-sn programs e available for download at podcast. more with peniel joseph and kevin merida in a moment.
"after words" with peniel joseph and kevin merida continues. >> host: welcome back to booktv's "after words." we are talking with professor peniel joseph, university history professor and has a very interesting book which i would recommend. "dark days, bright nights" from black power to barack obama. it's a great piece of work and congratulations to you again. let's talk a little bit about, you mention in your books some
of the media coverage. you reference president barack obama and some of his views and speeches about race. musette has not been as sharp, the coverage hasn't been as sharp and precise as it should be. tell me how you think obama has the first african-american president has been covered. >> guest: i think he's been covered in unique and interesting ways. in terms of the politics of race race is always shuttling this presidency. specifically what i talk about in the book and write about this when the president tries to talk and address race as president of the united states, how the media has read those speeches in ways that differently than i would have, for instance there is an naacp speech the president gave
last year in to those in line celebrating the 100th anniversary of the civil rights organization. and in that speech, he really does a couple of things. number one, he critiques african-americans who are not doing the right thing. people who are not taking their care of their kids, not promoting education for their kids but he also acknowledges that racism is still a huge part of the united states so he doesn't let me roll call of civil-rights activists but he talks about criminal justice systems and racial disparities and it's a well balanced speech. what was interesting is the reporting afterwards just says obama tells black people to get their act together. and so what is interesting is that the media when the president is talking about race, the most interesting aspect the find is if he is chastising african-americans and that is what happened during the campaign as well.
i think that has produced tension between jesse jackson and then senator obama to read another example in terms of race was the skip gates incident in cambridge where the president said cambridge police departments and acted stupidly and immediately and the media came down on him as sort of siding with african-americans or quote on quote even showing his true colors meaning he was definitely a partisan -- he definitely was on the sock of black folks because remember then senator obama runs as somebody above the fray cross somebody who can be an honest are richer or in higher in terms of race matters even though he happens to be black and probably the great example of obama as umpire is the famous race speech in march of 2008 and that was the speech the president made while he was still the center to become senator when his association with trinity church, 24 association of trinity church in chicago and its pastor
commager my right of jeremiah might basically harshly criticizing the u.s. domestic and foreign policy. and they said if this is obama's preacher than obama must share the same beliefs and so what obama did is it a very good speech on race that was perceived as being extraordinary , and he basically said he parsed very w he said on one level he disagreed right but on another level he could understand where he was coming from. on some level c criticized whites and blacks. >> host: would ultimately have to cut with his pastor loose and apologized for his choice of words during the gates episode how do you think he handled these controversy will wilentz
that you just cited? >> guest: she's handled the best he can in the since the first black president he's forced out of necessity to tread lightly on racial matters and to this as a candidate, too. he would say on the one hand does america have this history of racial slavery, this awful history of segregation. but on the other, she was a prime example of the progress that had been made. another great example is the three times he mentions race during his inaugural speech he talked about those of us who felt the lash of the weapon during the inaugural speech, the was a reference to slavery. he talked of segregation at one point and then he finally talked about his fothen. he said that his father might not have been able to sit at a restaurant in washington, d.c. decades ago because of his race and he was right about that.
so on certain levels, sometimes obama please history professor and chief but not just commander in chief and he imparts a lesson on to the body of politics. but for the most part, he has tried to stay away from racial matters, which is very impact will the african-american community especially in terms of public policy. >> host: there was a recent flap disclosed in a new book by two journalists called game change, the book which revealed a private conversation. reed had in the senate democratic leader. especially backing obama pub and saying this was an attribute calling him the fact that he's a light skinned african-americans and did not use the maker
dialect unless he wanted to. and there was a lot of back-and-forth on that over the week and what do you make of that comment and the controversy that spurred? >> guest: i think it just shows the complexity, the african americans face when they are trying to judge the sincerity of even their supporters in terms of harry reid politically is not a right-wing politician. he is a democrat. he is one of the people pushing health care. he was neutral initially during the campaign but then when obama became the nominee she was a vms importer and now we know for this book behind the scenes he was a supporter who wanted obama to run. so on one level we can think of read as somebody who even though he is a great at gyroball mikey still had his own racial issues
in terms of the way in which he perceives black people and he is coming out of a baby boomer generation. this notion that obama is light skinned and not speaking at a negro dialect even the term negro is a very antiquated term and certainly is a pre-black power movement term. so, i think it just says when we think about our politics race still matters even people who publicly will proclaim that it doesn't privately their words show something different. >> host: the suggestion i guess was that him being white skinned on his skin color and how he spoke would accrue to his benefit and make him more palatable to a mainstream voting audience and make him a more successful. what are people saying when you
say someone does not speak in a black dialect or you focus on the skin color, what kind of person are they saying he is? >> guest: they are saying he is closer to what mainstream america would find acceptable and he's not a typical black person. and it's very interesting his comments because they were very, there was it within the context of support and they actually contrast with something former president bill clinton got into hot water for saying in the 2008 campaign when he said jesse jackson ran a good campaign in south carolina and barack obama has run a good campaign in south carolina so the inference was that or at least the inference taken by many was the notion that obama was another jesse jackson and that clinton was trying to sort of smear the obama campaign as the black tim kaine because everybody knows in the united states and american
history the black candidate never wins. you have to be a candidate who happens to be black to win. and obama flopped the script and became this phenomena. host dorcy the only african-american elected to the president? is he the only on the scene who could have gotten elected president? >> guest: i think so. in a certain -- in a certain context we could say he leapfrogged over certain people like harold ford jr. was considered an of and comer. cresco who was considering running for the senate race. >> guest: what is interesting about the party is that in 2000 and in 2004, back-to-back they gave these bright up-and-coming african-american man the keynote address. the first black person to do a keynote address was barbara jordan 1976 but back to back in 2000 and los angeles and this was a convention by the way barack obama could not attend.
he couldn't even get credentials by 2004 his fortunes changed and he gave an extraordinary speech -- >> host: catapulted three >> guest: -- the catapulted him to the senate because you wasn't a senator even when he gave the speech and then to the white house. i would say yes he was the only person in that context who could have won. >> host: colin powell who declined to run in 1996 was someone who pulled really well. was someone who could have been elected president of this country? >> guest: i think that colin powell would have had a tough time getting the party nomination and he knew that, too because colin powell is a republican who is much more in a moderate gain of a kind of republicanism that is now a while start and i'm thinking of people like nelson rockefeller. there is a republican party of rockefeller, the rockefeller wing of the republican party
which were moderates compared to republicans so i think colin powell is somebody who republicans love to look at and uphold and say this is such a great figure he was secretary of state, chairman of joint chiefs of staff. he is a role model but i think that he would have had a tough time getting his own party's nomination. >> host: after barack obama was elected president, there was a sense of that all things were possible. a lot of people felt there was great euphoria. they said a lot about the country and what it had come and how it had changed and evolved. one year into his presidency what do you see has happened in the country and has the country changed? >> guest: it is a mixed response in the sense that the
euphoria after november 4th has certainly receded in light of enormous political challenges that obama has faced. but i also think there was a notion which was erroneous the nation had become opposed racial nation in the age of obama and this notion was obama's election proved active racism was over and race didn't matter anymore. and when we think about some of the pressures the president is facing now not just responses to the president but things like unemployment, the on plan married in the country right now is very high, 10% unemployment rate for african-americans is double. in places like new york city for black men its triple. there were great recent news stories about how even african-americans who were college-educated disproportionately more unemployed than their counterparts. so we still see that even with
the euphoria of the obama victory and how as significant as that is and it is a watershed in american history and world history it's still not necessarily translating immediately into ending racial disparities in this country. >> host: some have criticized president obama particularly some african-american communities for not focusing enough on some of those disparities particularly the record on unemployment among african-americans in some places, give it concentrated attention what do you make of those critics? >> guest: i think they exemplify the alum about black americans face having the first black president because historically we have never had an african-american leader within the black community someone like dr. king who also had an elected office call let
alone highest office in the country. so when we think about obama for what they 2008 election season, he became one of the most powerful black leaders in the country as the obama phenomenon the fault. he went from pulling behind hillary clinton to dominating in south carolina and really receiving over 90% of the black vote in the election in november. now blacks are faced with the fact that he's not just a black leader to give he's also president of the united states. so black leadership and, this is everything from the congressional black caucus to grass-roots activists actually need to exert pressure on in this black president meaning that he can't wear both hats at the same time. when he's thinking about in employment and unemployment, he is trying to think of universal solutions whereas black leaders want him to focus rightfully so on racial disparities and they
are finding it pretty hard and it's a unique situation in terms of how do you criticize the first african-american president who has enormous reserves of goodwill within the black community. obama can go into any barber shop, in a black church in any place all across this country and he's going to be embraced yet at the same time some of the same people embracing him are suffering. so quandary this based -- and so far i don't think that black leaders have shown the right balance on how to criticize the president in a way that has traction with the larger black community. >> host: he grew up in large part in hawaii and embraced the whole notion that this is a multicultural nation and the possibilities of multiculturalism. you write in your book that he sees a black power as a kind of racial anachronism.
>> guest: absolutely. the president's vision of black power really subscribes to the popular vision. in his memoir he describes an older gentleman who serves as a mentor in hawaii who would always be talking about this black power stuff as obama puts it. he also describes meeting black nationalists in chicago and that he listens to them very carefully at the same time feels their view of the world is too narrow and static and it is an on changing view of racial discrimination and segregation and the one point he describes listening to a speech by the former stokely carmichael by the early 80's and he says that a woman is speaking and asks a question and he says the way in which he responds his eyes glowed with the guise of a mad man or st..
so obama's view of black power is something that is anachronistic, something that was suitable for the politics of the 1960's and 70's but is not flexible enough to take into account the changing racial and political demographics of our multi-cultural president. >> host: and yet he has opened the white house, made it available to people of different, you know, ideological and the wide range of the spectrum, al sharpton was somebody who has been at least in the popular imagination would be considered a kind of fiery black activist in he is someone who has access to the white house and has been down to see the president. what do you make of how obama has handled, been accessible and
how he has reached out to african-americans? >> guest: again this is complicated because on one level he's the first black president who hasn't necessarily have to do the same kind of outreach as his predecessors because he's so popular in the african-american community. i think one of the things we are seeing whether it is jesse jackson or al sharpton or even the congressional black caucus, they are all wondering how can they provide some kind of accountability for this president we is so popular within the black community, so on the one level his accessibility has been kind but it does access equal public polls, does access equal power and right now when we think about black issues that hasn't translated. there's been no discernible transformation in terms of the white house on trillion to specifically address african-american issues even though there is urban policy all
reached but not the kind of dramatic public policy initiative that people -- especially people in the cbc were hoping for. >> host: where do you think we are in this nation with race relations? >> guest: i.t. we are at a unique crossroads because on one level, obama's victory can be attributed to millions of young girl voters, white, black, latino, multiracial spectrum, voters under 25 under 30 who participated in the process for the first time in 2008 and who looked at obama as just another candidate. who even though they might have their own individual racial hangups the dessel the view that campaign and that candidate through the prism of race. at the same time, we have an older generation and we can get back to the harry reid, and an older generation who still is coming to grips with the
multicultural and multiracial nature of this democracy. obama's victory is very important. the symbolism is very important. but it's also been exaggerated and it's been exaggerated in the sense of obama's victory equals on the end of racism. obama is a victory equals oppose racial united states. so there is one aspect of obama's victory that encourages a kind of pathology and met making the united states is completely turned a corner and if you don't make it in this country it's really based on your individual behavior and not any kind of racial institutional racism or any kind of racial discrimination or barriers. the positives to the victory are the way in which obama as president delivers a different image of blackness not only to the rest of the country and
globally but also to blacks themselves especially young black people. i think one of the best things about obama being president, and we go back to the homily that you started with with so barack obama could fly, he could windsor your kids could fly is the residence this is we do have an african-american children and children of color but white children, too is right now we can't calculate. we are going to have to see so that's going to be very important. you hope that residence is connected also with public policy because obama has a sociological cultural impact and anthropological impact but is it going to be a public policy impact meaning is it going to be an impact we can quantify it in ten or 15 years? because i think one of the interesting measures of a post obama united states where he serves one were to terms is what is the quantifiable transformation if any of his
presidency has on black people. >> host: one of the things you mentioned is the nightly news, to see a black family in places where that is coming out of the south lawn or whether it is pleading with the dog were getting ice-cream with the girls use ta portrait of a black family at the heightened level, i don't know how might we news is in your town but it's nothing but cry and in most towns. and so that's certainly has an impact image wise. >> guest: i think one of the biggest things obama's election did in terms of transforming the democracy is projecting that consistent image of this intact whole black family president of
first lady michelle obama, the children, sasha, the dog, and also the grandmother, meshaal's maternal, her mother is in the white house for the first time since the truman administration so that's been very important. and positive the same time those promoting racial backlash we've seen against this president, too when we think about the mind of movement and birth the movement and this notion the president is not a citizen -- >> host: signs with face like hitler -- siskel whiteaker but criticism but crosses the line from legitimate public policy differences into based racial stereotypes and racist caricatures.
>> host: what is next for you after this work? >> guest: i'm working on a biography of stokely carmichael. >> host: that's pretty compelling. your students, what do they make of this period? >> guest: i think they are fascinated. what is very interesting is now college students that you teach our 1822. many of them are born in the 90's at this point. this is way after civil rights act, voting rights act, it is way after the death of martin luther king. this is ancient history for them and they are very fascinated by this and many of our -- my students follow the election very closely and intently like students did all across the country and all are on a world so i think the race continues to be this important crucible for them to go through in terms of understanding the history of
this country and understanding our democracy. >> host: do you think that this sets the stage for the -- selection sets the stage for more african-americans to be elected president? is this something that can happen again and again or were these circumstances unique, the man, the moment? >> guest: i think it's both to it i think it can happen again but i also think it is unique. one of the things we are seeing is another african-american candidate who was like obama, man or woman, potentially could win and could run but at the same time can we get a black candidate who is considered very robust the dark skinned who speaks in the cadences of the walk black community, can that person when? right now i would say no because they would turn off a large
segment of the electorate and that is when to be the true measure and test our transformation as a democracy when again what harry reid was saying in his support just politics of realism of how the electorate is shaped and somebody again who is and light skinned and receive us speaking as if he were not a black person to win an election. >> host: did you believe a woman would be elected before an african-american? >> guest: well, you know, it seemed as if senator clinton was definitely placed and when we think about women around the country they are definitely ready for that, so in a way it seemed as if that what happened before an african-american especially because before barack obama arrived on the scene if we looked at the landscape of black elected leaders, political
leaders it didn't seem as if anyone knows of an imminent possibility of becoming president. >> host: we are just about out of time but i want to say i enjoy this a lot. we've been talking with peniel joseph, professor of history at tufts university, and has a very deep complex book, "dark days, bright nights" from congratulations and continued success out there. thank you. >> guest: thank you. i enjoyed the conversation.