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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 15, 2011 8:00pm-9:00pm EST

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there is a lot of amazing stuff going on right now. watch very carefully a certain ratio of innovation versus soap reservation measures. you can look at any industry and see what ratio between the two you see. journalism, for a long time journalism was was no invasion but it has shifted a little bit. the content industry, hollywood, 80% of the record is to try to defend their business model and 20% is to improve it. you watch that racial and it starts to shift and it starts to get abusive when they start to exclude or destroy their rival. that is the moment where i think the law of -- that is the moment antitrust --. >> the last question. >> before you made the comment or insinuated that people in the reporting world nowadays look down on things because of the
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situation in terms of newspapers in and the media business etc., and i was curious, couldn't you say that we may be now in a trough that things are going to co-opt? and we had them before. in other words you had newspapers. they worried about television, and movies causing problems, but then television created more jobs for journalists. couldn't we have the same thing happen now? ..
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or things they don't know will always be a function people will be fasting for. the function will always decide what your objective liberalism can survive, whether of objective journalism can survive, whether news rooms, truth role of journalism can survive that is a different question. >> and it's a question that in our history hasn't been solved by the miracle of the marketplace. it's been solved by all kind of monopolies and subsidies that are quite artful that have made possible the remarkable
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tradition of journalistic excellence. that was a central issue in though recent columbia journalism review piece. >> that's a good place to end. you want to make one more point? i hope that you leave this event stimulated, persuaded that all these kinds of regulatory issues matter to the future of journalism and to feel strongly you will come back to this room to hear more from commissioner copps. if you come he will hear him specifically praise your book in his speech. anyway, thanks a lot to both of you. i year to everybody to read these books and stay up all their stuff. [applause]
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presents the history of the great migration when approximately 6 million african-americans migrated to northern and western states from the south. from 1915 to 1970. ms. wilkerson recounts the reasons people had for leaving the south come visible the journey that many in doherty and the geographical shift in population due to the migration. she discusses her book of the atlanta history center. this is an hour and ten minutes. >> thank you so much. i am just giddy with a wonderful
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reviews and reception the book has received. i have waited 15 years for this moment. that is a very long time. i am honored and humbled to be here. i spent so long in the history of the great migration for a while i was stuck in 1947. i thought i would never get out of 1947. [laughter] for the record, just to be about to clarify what is the book is about, the great migration was the biggest under reported story of the 20th century. started in 1915 and it didn't end until the 1970's. all along the way people were thinking that must be over. end of world war i, it's done. and of world war ii, it's done but no one told the people that and so they kept coming. it carried away some 6 million african-americans to all points north and west to east gate of
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the southern system known as jim-crow in "the warmth of other suns." it was the and on recognized borders immigration and our own country and it was fast, literalists, a first step in the nation's placer took without asking. i spent seven years to begin this that it is so fitting that i am here in georgia in a land of all places it in my talks with the book is taken so much of my adult life. i came to georgia for reasons unrelated to the book and on a leader realized i needed to be here. i didn't realize i need to be here. i needed to be about to see camellia which i thought were roses blooming in january. [laughter] i needed to secrete mur rosenblum that last forever. i needed to be about to see the daphne that smells indescribably beautiful in january.
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i needed to understand what people left to understand the great sacrifice that they made by moving to the north and west. this book was meant to be, and i could not rest until it was completed. there are many people who thought it would never be done in fact ever since this whirlwind has begun so many people have said you know, i wondered if he ever would finish it. [laughter] i hoped you would and i believe you might, but i just wasn't certain and so i am so delighted and may be more relieved than anything else to be able to stand here and say that it's done. the review has been astounding and i am so grateful for them. i am grateful for the response but i think i'm even more grateful that my mother is here to see this day. [applause]
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it is emotional for bea to be here because my roots run deep in georgia, very deep more than most people who live here because you are livre find anybody that is from atlanta. [laughter] my great-grandmother who we believe to have been born to sleeves grew up in marietta in cobb county georgia. my grandmother grew up in the marietta and was a master gardener and when i got here to georgia, something to over me. i could never grow anything anywhere before it out here to georgia. hostas grow like weeds everywhere else. i got here and something inside of me just took over. she used to grow american beauty roses that with the size of saucers the people wanted to buy for a dollar apiece that in the 30's and 40's which is astounding. she's a beautiful gardiner and when i got here i had this
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inexplicable urge to start digging in the soil, and i have planted almost every quarter inch of my house in the highlands as a result of this. even to grow the most difficult things, daphne's, which people say you have to plant five in order to get one and one is in these implanted exactly in a pot and it's still living which is astounding to me. so my grandmother has come through to me here and so this is a really special spiritual place for me, and it is the only place i could have written this book. i started a book in the north by talking to over 1200 people. i stopped counting after 1200 people who had migrated from the south to the north to new york, chicago and los angeles. i miss them there and all kind of places i can get into that leader. and i had gotten this exile perspective of the south. i had gotten this perspective of the hurt is the grieved in
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bittered turning one's back on the south perspective. and i needed to be here in order to be about to see what they left and they gave me a sense of the enormity of the sacrifices they made by leading all that the new and people and the family, the soil, the land, the plants, the things that made them southern to leave that for a place they've never seen in hopes for something better. and it is also here in georgia decades before i was born that the seeds of this book about the great migration were sound, and i want to tell you a little bit about that. the south was a jury different place from the time when my uncle when my brother left georgia the first in my immediate family to do so in the middle of a bleak era in american history. it was a depression and jim crow was all of the land in the south. let me share with you exactly what that felt like and why it
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was a tragedy for everyone black-and-white who lived under it. these are the facts of life from the 1890's to the 1960's and the american south. it's hard to believe now but these are the facts of their lives and we are not talking about slavery. we are talking about a casseaux system enforced during the lifetime of many americans still alive today during the lifetime of many people in the room with us tonight. there were days when whites could go to music parks in the day when blacks could go if they were permitted at all. there were right elevators and colored elevators meeting the freight elevators in the back right here in atlanta. there were white ambulances and black ambulances to bury the sticks and white hearses and black purses for those who didn't survive whatever was wrong with them. there were white and black
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waiting rooms for any conceivable place a person might have to wait for something from the bus depot to the doctor's office. an interesting story in "the wall street journal" in 1958 and described a new segregated bus station that had just gone up in jacksonville florida. it had two of everything including to segregated cocktail lounges left the races as the journal quoted, left the races, brush elbows over a martini. there was, believe it or not, a colored window with the post office in pensacola florida and there were white and colored telephone booths in oklahoma, a state we don't even consider to be the south but by many respects it actually is. white people and colored people went to separate windows to get their license plates in indianola mississippi. and separate tellers to meet their deposits at first national
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bank here in alana. there were taxicabs for colored people and taxicabs for white people in jacksonville, birmingham, atlanta and the entire state of mississippi. colored people had to be off the streets and out of the city limits by 8 p.m. in palm beach and miami beach. it was against the wall for a colored person, and this is the hardest for me to believe, against the wall for a colored person and white person to play checkers together in birmingham. at saloon's here minnelli into the bars were segregated, whites drink it schools on one end of the bar and blacks on this will set the other end until the city out all season that resulting in white only and colored only saloons. there were white parking spaces and colored parking spaces in calhoun mississippi, and in one of north carolina court house there was even a white bible and a black bible to swear to tell
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the truth on. what is meant is people who might have gotten along famously had it not been for the color of their skin never got the chance to know one another, to truly know one another. and one of the south's greatest resources, its people, and in particular, the black people whose forbearers helped build the south without pay did not get to be themselves. my mother who grew up in georgia once said that there was a really nice white leedy who brought laundry to my grandmother and they used to have -- she used to have a wonderful time talking with my grandmother. my mother said that they got along so well that they might have been the best of friends in another time and place. the test system of jim crow meant they both knew that they could only take it so far. they are both dead. it's too late. but what a shame and a lost to
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both of them coming and you think to millions of other people who lost out on getting to know one another. it is a listen to all of austin let that not be a barrier. so what propelled my uncle, who i mentioned earlier, to lead georgia in the 1930's and plant the seed for this book long before i was born? he was a teenager working for the head of an insurance company in rome georgia. he drove them in and around in big cars and ran errands for him. it was a good job, believed to be a good job for a black teenager in the jim crow south. he spent many hours with the man driving them to miami for business trips and felt comfortable and at ease with him. one day he was cleaning out the office and he opened the door. he saw some fabricant he unfurled it. it was a white hood. he went home that night and told his parents and of little
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sisters he was leading georgia, he would go to detroit and work for chrysler like a cousin of theirs. years later my mother just out of college would for the silver, and, right, to washington, d.c. where she would get a job in the government and later become a teacher. she would meet the tuskegee airmen from petersburg virginia who had migrated to washington too and that is where i command. [laughter] i wouldn't be standing here today if it were not for the great migration because i would not exist which is a classic american story because all of us in some way or another are descended from people, someone in our past, who took a great leap of faith to leave in place, the only place the it ever known, whether it was coming across the atlantic or across the pacific or the rio grande in hopes for something better, not
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for themselves but for their children. and it's that amalgamation, that coming together of multiple people who might have never met otherwise creative american as we know it because many of our forebears wouldn't have met if the head and made that leap of faith and in some ways that is the book is about. my parents wouldn't have met had it not been for the great migration and in fact, excuse me, a majority of african-americans that you might meet in the north or west are actually descended from people who did this very thing, who migrated from the north, from the south to north. and in fact, many people you might need in the south have relatives in very particular place that could be very, very much predicted. they have relatives in the north or the west because the migration was so beautifully predictably and organized around the train lines and bus lines. so we all have so much more in common than we have been led to
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believe. we begin a redistribution of a good portion of an entire people inside the borders of our own country. at the beginning of the 20th century, 90% of all african-americans who were living in the south. by the end of the great migration in 1970, nearly half were living outside the south. that means in the north and west. there are now offered simple more black people living in the city of chicago than in the entire state of mississippi from where they came from to begin with. that is astounding. now, as for the book, which took me 15 years -- [laughter] i was really greatly informed by the grapes of wrath. the grapes of wrath was written by john steinbeck, published in 1939, and that was really right
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in the middle of the great migration. the grapes of wrath was of course about the dust bowl migration of people from oklahoma and arkansas to california. there were about 300,000 people the participated in the migration, and was a massive and an important watershed event in american history. however, the great migration involved 6 million people, and was occurring at the exa time, and yet there was no grapes of wrath for this great migration. and i often wondered why that was the case. i also knew very little about my own family's migration. i grew up in washington surrounded by people who were from north carolina, south carolina, georgia, virginia who migrated to washington. all of my parents friends were from those places. they all ate the same southern a shrewd comic grits or scrap, whatever it might have been,
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they broke the southern accents when it got together and southern after muslims. they were extremely ambitious and competitive about what their children were doing. the spread might have been sending their children to catholic school. my mother sent me across town to an integrated school in a cab and told the cab driver make sure you do not stop for anyone else, to pick any one up. i was five. you couldn't see me to be looked like an empty cab whenever i was in and she made sure to get the number i was brought home safely. they were extremely competitive. classmates, chile, ecuador, finland, nepal, el salvador, in the integrated school my mother sent me to the public not bhatia from memory looking for a way to describe me or people like me called me a southerner once removed. i really liked that.
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the lie was abandoned by the murders of the great migration, nobody ever talked about it. they never called it that, and nobody ever said i came up in the great migration or remember when the great migration started. no one ever talked about it because these were individual decisions made by individual people for particular reasons there were special to them but all driven in some ways by the central pass system that they were seeking to escapes. there might have been a particular thing setting one individual of the was different from another person, so people that view themselves as a part of a large event they view themselves as making a decision that was the right thing for them and that is what is so inspiring about the great migration. this is about the power of the individual to change so much in their own individual life and change in the aggregate of the country as a whole. you don't necessarily need to be looking to a leader or receive
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your word hero. we all have that within ourselves which is the duty of this entire movement. they don't view themselves as part of any great movement, they view it as a decision that is best for themselves and their family and that is the power of the individual. now, when i began writing this book, i decided that i was not going to write about my own family or any one particular family, and the reason for that is because i wanted to be able to show the scope of this migration. it wasn't just one person or stream it was multiple streams of the great migration. there are people that went up the east coast from georgia, florida but the carolina and virginia up to washington, philadelphia, new york and boston. that was the east coast we there's a middle stream a lost the country along the mississippi which took people from mississippi and arkansas and also parts of alabama to the midwest, chicago, detroit,
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cleveland, and then there was the west coast migration which is the least known of them all which is one of the great delights of my being able to work on this book is to explore that. and that was a migration from louisiana and texas to california and the entire west coast. and so these -- this migration was in a haphazard believe the people just searching with a might land. it is organized and predictable as the fact is to go to minnesota you ran into a lot people from scandinavia. to find these people, i went everywhere i could come everywhere that i could think of where senior citizens whom i have left the south would be. i went everywhere i could think of. i went in new york, chicago, los angeles to high school reunions, baptist churches, a catholic mass, meetings of retired postal
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workers, bus drivers, transit workers and other retirees. i went to the state clubs, yes, there are steep clubs for all of the southern states, georgia was represented in detroit and cleveland quite well and in washington, d.c. and in chicago there are multiple mississippi clubs, there is a greenville mississippi club, greenwood mississippi club, there's the brookhaven mississippi clough, grenada mississippi glove, there are individual club is a mississippi represented in chicago and an los angeles there is safe lake charles louisiana club, monroe louisiana club, multiple clubs because it is so vague and there are many ways the catholics and baptists and there are many clubs as you can imagine and even in new york there are churches where everybody is from south
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carolina. [laughter] i interviewed more than 1200 people. i say i generally stopped counting after 1200 people. over the 18 months that i took to begin what i call a casting call, a kind of audition for the people who would ultimately be the protagonist in the book. there are many interesting things that happen along the road to finding people. i would show up at some of the senior centers and find that many people wanted to talk. lots of people wanted to talk. more people were interested in this ceremony being served up the time. there were all kind of things i ran into. in one case, i remember i would often be part of the program, you know, and have to get on the list. there's a lot of organizing and planning before it could begin speaking to a group of seniors.s angeles, i was on the program,
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but by this fall when someone from the l.a. county extension service, and that person, when he came to speak to the group i am waiting to talk to these people he made the announcement to the seniors he said i am here passing of these brochures as a warning to you that we are getting reports of unscrupulous people going to seniors and asking them all kinds of personal questions about their lives. [laughter] they are asking where they came from, where they were born, what kind of work to do, with a retired, how many children did they have, do they own their homes, how do they find their homes, pretty much all the things i kind of wanted to know. and it was after he sat down it was my turn to go up and speak. and i had to say basically i am here writing a story, writing a
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book rather about the great migration. you could see i had to make a transition from the newspaper reporter to being an author. that is a transition that took many years but in any case, had to make the announcement that i was here writing a book about the great migration and that if you migrated from louisiana or texas between these years the you were part of a major moment in history, and i would like to talk with you about to see how you got here. and there wasn't one person who seemed to listen to the man from the l.a. county extension service. i had no trouble at all, thank goodness. i got through that one. [laughter] i settled ultimately on three people. three amazing people. characters unto themselves, people who could have been books unto themselves, and they were reported as such which is another reason the book took so long. they are amazing characters. one of them was ida mae glad me,
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she was a sharecropper's wife who was terrible at picking cotton, all of lot picking cotton. you think about someone being good or bad but she was mad at it. she hated it. her family in the pleasing mississippi in the 1930's. when a cousin was nearly beaten to death for a theft he didn't commit. it was after that that her husband said this is the last we are making. the second person was george darling, he was a college boy that had to leave school when the money ran out because the colored college that he was going to, florida a&m, was hours from where he lived at the state schools where he lived in central florida didn't admit colored students so he had to go back to picking oranges and grapefruit like most everyone else in the town of florida. he grew that the perils of the job and the low wages that came from those perils. to climb into the trees they
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often had to splice letters together and go up 30 or 40 feet into these large trees in order to block the fruit from the trees and they would be paid ten or 12 cents a box. he was smart enough to be but read the papers and he could see because there was no hiding -- one of the things that the reporting for this book the research, it was actually not as difficult to get information about the things i've described to you here about the disparities and the way people were treated, there was openness about it, so it was very clear it was in the papers that these boxes of fruit for being sold for ten or 12 cents a box to the pickers were going for several dollars a box to the open market so people were very aware of the disparity between what they were getting and what was going on in the open market. this didn't mean they thought
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they should get $2 a box but could we get another nickel is what george darling was saying so she began organizing the pickers to demand higher wages. they would say we aren't going to take on less you pay us another 2 cents a box. seemed simple enough. that was not acceptable to the voters in florida in the 1940's. so one day a friend came up to him and said you have been so good to me helping me figured out the numbers, because a lot of people couldn't read, and he was one of the few people who had gone to school and he said i overheard them talking in the garage the other day about planting something to do to you that they were going to take you out to black water creek and they were going to have a lynching party for you. so he left florida for harlem in 1945. and the final character or robe. he was a surgeon, gamblers, love
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life he left monreal louisianan in the 1950's because he could practice medicine in the army where he had been a captain but couldn't practice and his own home town hospital in monroe, louisiana. so he set out across the desert by himself to get to california but he was not able to stop past the state of texas as he had expected he would be able to do and he had to drive the full length of multiple states without rest because nobody told him that jim crow was not just in the south but was also in the west. it was a journey that i attempted to recreate in order to experience what he had experienced. this is all part of the research that i did for this book. you can begin to see why it took 15 years to get this done. i wanted to know what was like to drive through the desert
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along the same route he had taken to have your fingers swell up, you're eyelids grew heavy from exhaustion in the pitch black of night. mike pence road with me. it was all my father could do to take the wheel from me but i wouldn't let him because i told him i must do this myself. i must experience what he did. dr. foster didn't have anyone in the car with him. he was driving alone. he didn't have anyone to relieve the burden of having to drive across the desert by himself, so it is determined to try to do it. i told him up front, told my parents of front i was going to be doing all the driving and i thought they had accepted that. [laughter] on the terrapin curve, my mother said you know, he must have been about ready to cry right here. by the time we got to you my arizona, they insisted that we stop. they couldn't take it anymore. [laughter]
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and because it wasn't 1953 any more and the country changed so much, we had no trouble finding a place to rest and was sacked the needed even more difficult, that made it more clear how difficult his journey had been and it made me appreciate all the more the despair he must have felt because he didn't have that choice as i did. i want to say a little bit about the effect of the great migration before opening up to questions which you may have. there are many ways to look at the great migration. one of them so is there is so much the into the bleeding and so much that they took with them. the in the that transplanting southern culture when they left. they took the blues and gospel and spiritual music with them to the north and create a whole new art forms which we now know as
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rhythm-and-blues, janis, even as hip-hop. there are so many people who are descended from the great migration, the list goes on and on. but i will talk about a few things that absolutely wouldn't exist without the great migration. motown wouldn't exist without the great migration that all and that is because i can't imagine, you can decide for yourself, berry gordy, the founder of motown, his founders were born and raised in georgia. they decided to become a port of the great migration and chose to go to to detroit where the plane from their part of georgia went. there, berry gordy was raised and he decided as a young man he wanted to go into the music industry and where did he get talent for his new business? he chose his talent from the young people around him who were also children of the great
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migration. many of the names we recognize, diana ross, aretha franklin, the jackson five, the jackson family as a whole, all of them were children who were born in the north to parents who had migrated from the south and therefore created the opportunity for a whole new art form and a company which has become almost a sound check if the 20th century motown. jazz as we know it is almost unfathomable i did have been had there not been the great migration. miles davis was the child of parents who had come from arkansas, migrated to illinois and that is where he was raised and became exposed to the music, the metabolism of the north and began practicing becoming a musician. the erroneous monk, his parents migrated from north carolina to new york when he was 5-years-old and he got opportunities he
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wouldn't have gotten in tobacco country of north carolina. and john coltrane left north carolina as well when he was 17, went to philadelphia where he got his first alto sax. what would have happened if he had never gotten his alto sax and philadelphia? hard to imagine. and the three of them often got together and created -- these are the greek legends of jazz. what would have happened without that? it's hard to imagine what would happen. they carried the full cuevas, the language, the music, the food and recreated these enclaves that i've described to you. working on this book i interviewed people with collard greens and growing in their backyards and oakland. oakland, california. this is how far the transplantation occurred.
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i want to close with two things. one is what is it that they left? the enormity of the departure is hard to fathom on so many levels. it is spiritual, it was the emotional, familial, geographical in every way it was a departure that took great bravery. it's not simply moving for a new job or where your job has relocated to read these were people leaving in place never be able to see it again, never to set the table, the kitchen table and have a cup of coffee with your mother as you might have before because it was so much more difficult than to even get back and forth. and i am haunted by a story that my mother told me about one of the things she never saw or experienced again after she left and there was about my grandmother. my grandmother, again, as i said was a master gardener although she wasn't called that. she lived for her garden. she grew everything committing
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so difficult to grow even african violets which i understand aren't difficult. i never even attempted that. i growth and still grow in the georgia smile and they are very happy but i've never tried what she's tried. one of the things that she grew was a plant called the night blooming cereus. how many of you have heard that? is it not of the most dingley, saddest orphan of the plant? i mean, i've seen pictures it's just what is the point? [laughter] welcome to the point is on a single night usually in the summer, as dingley as it once it has snakelike branches and come anyway, on a particular night, in the middle of the night when no one would see, it unfurls its petals and is a beautiful plant like a lily. you must be awake at 2:00 in the
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morning on the day it starts to bloom in order to see it, and apparently my grandmother lived for that moment, so she watched the might of living serious closely and when she knew that it was time for it to bloom, she would tell everyone up and down the street one night and plumbing cities is about to bloom you should come over tonight. so amanda poindexter and all these other women came to the house on a given street at the appointed hour about midnight in order to watch this or wait for it to open up. my mother said that she -- that is the day she could stay up late, my mother let her steeply and they stood on the porch with sweet tea and homemade ice cream and sat and waited for this thing to bloom. hours go by and finally it would begin to unfurl. it was said that if you looked closely enough you could see the face of the be jesus and the bloom which is what they were
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looking for. all of the women would always say i see the face of the baby jesus in the gloom. my mother said she never saw it. no matter what. my mother has always been one of those honest people and she admits that she never saw. but she also never experienced that again after she left and she made the ultimate sacrifice ultimately not just for herself but for me and for that i am intensely critical as her daughter. the title of the book, "the warmth of other suns," comes from a little-known passage that i discovered. there was a point i was reading one book a day and one of the books i had to read was the autobiography is essentially of richard wright, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and his autobiography was called originally american hunter but then black boy, and in the footnotes of the current version is what has become the
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epigraph of the book, and i'm going to read that to you. i was leaving the south to fling myself into the unknown. i was taking part of the south to transplant and the alien soil to see if it could grow differently. it's a good drink new and cool rain, bend in strange land, respond to the warmth of the other sons, and perhaps bloom. to me, it's not just beautiful but it is a message about transformation on any level a person might have inside of them, whatever you might want to become aware that for you might want to do there is a message in that for all of us. but ultimately, it's an indication of what they were all hoping for when they left, and it turns out when they left the south the south never truly left them. they created communities of
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like-minded people from back in the old country from which they came. they made the same trip greens and sweet potato pie. i grew up with all of that with my mother. the south never left them, so i have come to the conclusion there really are no other suns. you are the sun and you find or make your happiness wherever you decide to plant yourself. thank you for listening and i hope that you enjoy the book. [applause] [applause]
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>> if you have questions please come to the microphone. >> when you begin this beautiful journeyed then became the book were you aware that it would be 15 years and was there any point which you said i am giving up or that the seal kind of left you? >> i have to say there were many difficult moments particularly when the people i was writing about got sick and when i would arrive to los angeles and instead of going to the home of dr. foster, which i loved, had to go to the hospital. those were the most difficult moments of course because i had grown to have such affection for them and they for me. benign one of the people who just never gives up and once i was into it i wasn't going to let it go. if someone told me what to 15 years, this wouldn't exist.
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i mean really, i'm glad i didn't know. [laughter] >> thank you for persevering. >> thank you. >> hi, have a quick question. one, i just started reading your book today and it's an amazing -- i already love it and i am looking forward to using it in my own class is at spellman, but i have a question about the people who remain behind if you got any insight into what motivated people who decided to stay in the south while so many people were leaving to go to other places. >> i think there is a spirit of that venture and there's something about the immigrant spirit of a migrant heart that a lot of the people -- one of the things that runs true for a lot of the people we interviewed for this book who did leave was they felt for whatever reason that they would die if they stayed,
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interesting i would not lift a state, you can see it in a spiritual way or factual where someone is actually leaving on the heels of a threat of death. there was something happening to their spirit that would allow them to stay. there's someone in the book of course one of the most well-known people in the book was the president -- longtime president of atlanta university, and it was rufus clement and he decided to stay because he actually believed -- there was an important believe that there needed to be people here to stay to retain the culture that had been built over the decades -- over the century by the people who were here. someone said there is an aggression one of the chapters this as someone needs to stay here so you have a place to come back to when you need to and says the beautiful fought. >> hello. your book -- i heard your interview with valerie jackson
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and while you were speaking, fostering through my head. on and music educator and working on some projects looking at american history through the creative artist, and that idea came from research i did for my doctoral work, robert allin said expatriate composer from texas, and when i saw i began to study that the migration from texas, his parents took him to berkeley california, totally different mind set. he was a child prada just composer and pianist, and the opportunities afforded to him in california were interesting but that's another story. [laughter] both of my parents are from mississippi, my dad from jackson and my mom from holly springs and they met in chicago at high school. >> where would you be. [laughter] >> yes. and i always wondered, my
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mother, wherever she lived after -- well, she would always ask the owners of the building in her apartment if she could have a plot of land to plant her collard greens, her turnips and her onions until the day she died she always had a plot of land to carry -- to bring mississippi. the third thing is finch you for your document. >> thank you. [applause] >> it's a brilliant book. i finished it. i couldn't put it down. >> it's only been out for three days. >> if i didn't have to sleep -- i couldn't stop reading it. some of the first part of it has the most gut-wrenching, unbelievable episodes, and frankly if you didn't have the credentials that you have, i would find them really hard to
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believe. how much of that were you aware of given your upbringing before you started the book and did that have any influence on you, on your desire to write the book restarted? >> i really appreciate you asking that question because in order to create what it was like to live in that era i had to read as a told you a book that day and some of it was hard reading, very difficult reading. i mean, there was a period, there was like a lynching period and which i had to read about the lynching and it made me not very popular at dinner parties as you might imagine because they would say how was your day? wallen ready to tell these stories which are not easy to tell, obviously very difficult. i think that the answer to your question is it is necessary to understand the context, and it is our history. it is american history. it's not southern history. this is the united states of
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america and american history and we must all deal with it also. as you know there were not pleasant things going on the non-off as well as you know that there were some difficult outbursts that occurred in the north as well, so this is not to point fingers the south, no one can point at any other part of the country as it gets to answer your question about to make sure many inserting it. >> how much of the did you know before you started? >> i didn't know any of this. this was coming from the reading. and as i was saying before, this isn't hidden history. this was covered in every -- these things are covered in every major newspaper. one of the worst of lynchings and the worst atrocities i had ever heard of in my entire life. it's not easy reading.
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but it's something every american should know about because it happened on the borders of this country, it happened in florida, and just to give people a sense of it, it was a lynching but it was the way that it happened. i'm not going to go into the details of the physical part of it with the fact is the policy was so determined to find this man that of the authorities found it impossible to keep him protected from the policy. they had to transport him from pensacola to all over the panhandle and every time they got him to a jail the posse was right on their tail said they eventually had to take him to alabama across the state lines and they actually came and got him. it's a sad moment in american history. but i had never heard of him before and it is my belief all americans -- we need to confront
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the good and bad of what's happened within our borders and i did not know anything about that. >> i grew up here and i didn't know a lot of that. thank you. >> thank you. >> i remember reading some time ago that the chicago defender who was instrumental in a lot of the migration to chicago. did you find anything on that? >> absolutely, the chicago defender was one of the first to document. the first reference to the migration actually is in the chicago defender from 1916 in which it is referring to a small party of african-americans who left selma saying it's not worth staying any more. it was just a paragraph. and so was the first documented indication that there was a migration of foot. they were instrumental in that
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they brought news from the north that gave hope to people who were here in and on that channel situation and was almost contraband because it wasn't illegal to even have the chicago defender. a very threatening of course to the caste system here in the south to have workers, the bedrock of the economic system for wheat to the north. you should know also that there were tremendous efforts to keep black people from leaving the south particularly their early years of the migration, the early decade of the migration. trains would be stopped. if there were black people on board they were pulled off the train and accused of the currency and having some unsettled debt. some trains where there were many black people waiting to board a train in the pot from the train is waived through some people couldn't get on the train. people were prevented from buying tickets in order to leave, and there were great
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efforts on the north to try to recruit the cheap labor because if you think about it, the south in that time was in some ways like an undeveloped country from their perspective, from the north perspective so there was a cheap labor that could be exploited so the send recruiters. the african-americans who went in the first wave of migration didn't just go on their own, they were recruited not to the pennsylvania railroad, pittsburgh, chicago, and when the north got wind of that, they began exacting extreme measures. one of them was at georgia charged $25,000 for a licensing fee in order to recruit black people to the north. how many people in 1918 were going to face the six who would do it now, much less than it is a you can imagine how that would have had been a dampening effect on the recruitment and if people were caught they were facing one year of hard labor.
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not pleasant and many southern prisons at that time, so there were many things that would keep people from leaving which were implemented by the south. >> i would like to hear your reflections or faults on highway 61. if there is a road or highway that is associated with the migration and the blues folklore legend its highway 61. now obviously the migrants to california and washington didn't use that highway, and i haven't read your book yet, so if you have reached extensively i would apologize but i'd like your thoughts on what seems to be the most important route in the north of leased from mississippi and alabama. >> i actually took highway 61 on a trip back to the south back to mississippi with one of the characters, one of the protagonists in the book, from mississippi she wasn't from the delta which is where highway 61
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goes but she was from the hill country which is one reason i wanted to write about that part of the state because it doesn't get as much attention. this actually is a noble goal of cotton that we picked. this is what i talked with her in 1990 by keep it for good luck to remind me of her. what happened is we were driving back where she was from and chickasaw county mississippi and it was during the time she left wanted to go back at the exact same time she left mississippi and was cotton picking season, toward the end of it because they left toward the end after the cleared the land and we stopped and we were driving through and she saw this cotton and said let's stop the car and picks on. i called up mother glad me and i said are you sure it's okay? it belongs to somebody. she said they aren't going to care what little bit we are
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going to pick so she jumped out of the car and started picking. she heeded picking but for some reason because she didn't have to pick she couldn't stop picking at that point. [laughter] so we take all this cotton and came back and they're actually quite beautiful if you don't have to pick it. [laughter] this was little left over from it. but to get too high a 61 obviously that is a legendary road that has a great meaning. it's very different now from what it was at the time and has catfish farms and a lot of the gambling casinos are up and down and it's changed quite a bit. it's also become more commercial, a lot of blue's efforts to capitalize on the blues history. one of the goals of the book was to conduct expand the view of the migration be one of the mississippi delta to south side chicago view because was bigger
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than that and i wanted to be able to show that is but it was an outward movement to all over the country and it changed the entire country and i wanted the great migration to take its place in history, as a major watershed in american history so that was one of the goals of the book. >> thank you for the presentation tonight. it's just powerful. question. do you address in the book the class distinction -- the class that emerges from the migrant generation and a kind of better than the ones who were left behind. i can hear the murmur in to say
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that is a very good question. what is she going to see to that. [laughter] you know, i start the book by saying that at the beginning of this migration every african-american had a decision to make. if the african-american, and they had to think about all of the factors that they were facing and what they needed to do for their particular situation whether they were going to leave or whether they were going to stay. it is my belief that it was imperative that there were people to stay and people to go, and it's that opportunity the was there always off in the sunset in the north and the west for the people who stated that i think help give them a kind of safety valve, a kind of leverage as they went forth to fight for civil rights and face those dogs and those hoses. somebody needed to be here to fight that final battle.
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i think no one can say who was better and who was worse. each played a role. the people in the north provided, you know, the money. they were making more money so they could send more back to support the effort. they were praying for them, they would offer them a haven if people needed to get a weekend getaway to read there was a place to go now that there wasn't before, before the migration occurred. so there was a role for both sides in the situation north and south. there isn't room for anyone to say one is better than the other. >> what i am dealing with this being a product of that migrant generation as you talked about where the parents come out of the carolinas and meet in washington, d.c. -- >> you did that, too? [laughter]


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