tv Panel Discussion CSPAN December 29, 2013 1:45pm-3:06pm EST
>> guest: the publisher found me. the incredible dr., publisher is a friend and we are both progressive activists in the publishing world. i do couple years ago about the project on abortion. he just called and said i want to do a book that captures the incredible trajectory. can you think of anyone who attended at? i was like iowa. that's how easy it is to do boats. they had it was a pleasure to do. it was a happy story. >> host: thank you first time. >> guest: thank you. >> my discussion about the legacy of rosa parks. this is about an hour 15
minutes. >> thank you. [applause] good to have everybody out this afternoon. we've got a distinguished conversation here with my professor, married terry, university of pennsylvania. [applause] barber ran speed, author of the biography on another of his vonda roseman. and the author of a new biography of rosa parks. [applause] would we know about rosa parks? >> i wanted to start with
november 271955. rosa parks came to a meeting at dexter avenue got this church to hear.tm howard talk about the recent acquittal of the two killers of evansville. dr. king introduced at me again. howard was there to spread the word. howard had been one of the key organizers in trying to get even a child of those two men. after those two not have been a way to, was on a tour through the countries that spread the word and to continue the organizing after the travesty have had a as the two men who had lynched emmett till have been found not guilty. so this is november 27, 1955.
rizal park sits there and he is talking about the lynching and had tried to register to vote and had been killed. she is angry and she is sad and she is despairing because she came to that night having spent more than a decade organizing around cases like this. and what was particularly sort of exciting and about this case that there had been a child under two killers go free. i wanted to start there because i think many people have made the comparison between the lynching of emma till and trayvon marked in.
to think about that as they comparison of sadness that are, but what follows. because i know all of you know what is going to hop in four days later. on december 1st, 1955. that is rosa parks am who i spent two decades organizing. she begins her adult political life from the scottsboro case. she spent the past decade turning the naacp and trimmer activist branch. she comes through december 1st , 1955, with a tremendous amount of organizing experience and activism. she comes with that evening rush in her mind. she is going home from work summer first, 1955. as a terry stop, the bus driver realizes that the bus and one
white man is left standing up for people have to get up. i she tells that, she thought about her grandfather who is a supporter -- [inaudible] she thought about the bus driver said you make light of yourself. she thinks, does not make unit right on us as a people. she aims about emma till and besides she's been pushed as far as she can be pushed back to get up would be consenting and she did not send. she said no. so i guess they wanted us to start there today because i think the comparison to be thinking about trayvon bartend in the light of that history. there's something very profound and that it's also the history of how people are moved to
action because she, and not moment where she takes that interested in into agency and turns into action. [applause] >> i only got a chance to meet rosa parks one time and it was quite an experience. but mary, did you get a chance to work with rosa parks? >> well, i was sitting here thinking that my rosa parks is probably different from most people's. i really liked your book because your book tells the public a lot
of things about her that most people don't know. they just see her sitting down on the bus over and over again. i was up at the congress on mandela spurt. they organized a great celebration. if you can see it on c-span, ca. it was terrific. i never heard that much noise in the halls of congress. speaker boehner, from the look on his face, he didn't have much either. i was thinking, we all spoke and wished our brother happy birthday. i was thinking about rosa parks. she came to the south african demonstrations that we are can i say couple years to get
sanctions and all that. the first time i encountered in vietnam. i came back and there was a people's inquiry set up in detroit and rosa parks was a member of the commission. she was on this commission. he's a radical. the guy who organized it. after that, i encountered today was a part is not just an icon. the act of the things we were all up to all the time.
not that dad now when she was told to speak. she spoke eloquently. before that, when all the civil rights people were denouncing us from having. she was there. rosa parks at the 25th anniversary and i was speaking because i was running education. i made a freudian slip in at some thing about the president i didn't mean to say. we sue all the time, the reason you have to go to about these things. we can see each other. i was used to seeing her and talking to all the time. to make a machine resigned joanne littles committee.
rosa parks believed like malcolm that you should use everything that comes to hand for freedom. [applause] so to define her as the woman who sat down on the bus. i want to say about that is beaten in the congress and going through statuary hall, where she is now in looking at sojourner and the emancipation hall and so on. i thought to myself, if people know what we know about rosa parks, she wouldn't be in there. if they know what i'm saying about rosa parks, she would be on the stand. but these historians have done is recovering the real deal about people.
in her own right was a wonderful hack to this and intellectual person. they have recovered them like some years ago i recovered callie house of the reparation struggle. the first meeting of the reparations. you ought to know. so, when i think about rosa parks, i think of her and all the side conversations and places and i think of her in the full-bodied kind of reform are radical she really was and how wonderful it is to have her out there, sort of like a secret when i passed through statuary hall. i smile at bay if they only knew.
[applause] >> speaking of recovery, what are we recovering in terms of islam the ropes in. >> first of all, it's great to be on the panel but such fine historians and mary has fought the good fight for a long time with such integrity. when i think of a comparison, on the surface it might not be a lot in common. they were in the shadows. dr. king and how historians have treated her. in the shadows of her husband, paul robeson and rosa parks seen as one-dimensional and away. i can't tell you how many people said paul robeson's life. i knew we had a wife, but i did know much about her. the vendor robeson was a
remarkable person and a biographer because he is such a red flag. that made my job a little easier. she began and quickly shifted to serve but the manager, publicist, et cetera. that's not her main contribution or accomplishment. i was most drawn and interested and excited to do this work. i mean that on a global stage. the importance of telling her story in particular and rosa parks of the international significance of their political contributions. the colonial activist, a writer, a u.n. correspondent, anthropologists. she traveled to travel to africa
in 1936. after italy had occupied ethiopia, she took a ship down to uganda. at a time when not only difficult they met with some of the anti-apartheid struggle close to my heart for many, many years. what is sin the free states in south africa. that began the emergence as a world citizen if you will undermine to solve a very rich tradition of black internationalism. she also goes to the congo in 1946 after she writes a book and becomes quite a public activists. and congo, she solid a british
relationship in that family. and that was remarkable. the first woman president of the u.n.general assembly. and when her mother was in prison in india, their daughter considered ropes their second mother. so this broadbased third world sederity came at a price. she is called before the anti-communist committee.
and people think she was called because of the connection to paul, but when they grill her about the political affiliation he asked her about the african journey book she wrote. they asked her first are you sure you wrote this book? and she was somebody who was very tough and not short on attitude and she said do you think i could not write a book like this all by myself? how dare you ask me this and the other thing she does to the committee is flip the script and say i don't recognize this committee. it has on it southern senators who don't allow black people to vote in their state. as she went into dangerous political terrain.
people were going to jail and exiled. and she was outspoken about women's issues as well. >> i wanted to ask how does it come to pass all of these great women are invisible in text books at school? >> i don't think rosa parks of course isn't invisible. just the sitting down on the bus part is everywhere. but all of other stuff i told you because they don't want to children to understand that you can make good triumph over evil by doing things and this woman had many dimensions. they don't want them to get ideas in their heads. the other part is when people write books they keep writing
the same thing. when they write about the history of black people and the period after reconstruction up up until the great migration to the north, they write about booker t and w.b.. and then recently there is people writing about the colored club women who founded social organization. even after recovering callie house and documented this washer woman started an organization with 300 people collecting dues. that was documented and everybody gave me praise.
they are still writing about wb and booker t. black people swung people them and then migrated to the north. it is really hard part it is it she was a washer woman and the ex-slaves were poor people. i think roverson has a better chance of getting in the narratives than making a full picture of rosa parks. since roverson wasn't, you know, she was a working-class woman, down home woman. she didn't go to college and all of that stuff. but she wrote things. and if you write something, historians write you more seriously and will put you in
books versus just records of people in the movements and pictures of the old people and all of the rest of them and they were poor and ragged. so i think that is it. unless you write radical things. because i was just thinking in one of the contradictions. paul ropeson was black listed during the mccarthy area and i think he and she have been blacklisted in history. they were educated at a time when most black people were not. my parents didn't know about most of the places they traveled. but when they embraced socialism
over capitalism, that would have been dangerous. i think that is why rosa parks is reduced to one dimensionality and the others are kept in the wings. but people that don't leave a paper trail, or don't have the skills and the luxury to do that, are written out. >> one of the other ways i think we see the civil rights represented over and over and we are seeing it again coming to the to the march on washington and that is it is as a southern movement. if we talk about the rosa parks full political history it has to include more than half of her
political life in the norted north. they have to leave montgomery because they are getting death threats. they leave for detroit because that is where her brother lives. this tends to be the epilogue in the books. like it is a vacation home. she calls it the promise land that wasn't. and that she will then spend more than half of her life, more than half of her political life fighting the jim crowe north. and i think keeping rosa parks in the south and the one dimensional picture of the bus,
the bus, it is a southern bus, right? because part of what she does for the second half is talking about housing, transportation and police brutality and criminal justice in the north. these were issues she was working in montgomery but they don't stop. she doesn't find too much difference between what she leaves in alabama and what she find in detroit. and yet, i think we are more comfortable with a civil rights movement in the south because that has a happy ending and an ending. we have a civil rights and as a voting rights act and they are important. but the struggle continues. and not just in montgomery and
atlanta, but in new york and pittsburgh. and rosa parks is in all of those places, right? and she keeps struggling against the death penalty. against the apartheid in south africa. against the vietnam nam war. she is looking at all of the issues that face us today and as mary sa mary i think it -- said -- gives us further history to deal with and face. i think that is what again this history of recovery -- part of what it does is helps us see
today differently. >> that was another thing. and that is a number of folks, if you think about it, no one ever let rosa parks speaks. she and i talked about that. she would be at all of these things and she would be the symbol people would stand up and say rosa parks sat down on the bus. the only place where she gat got to talk about what she felt and believe was which she came and got arrested on embassy we were having on the apartheid. we said you have to speak. you have things to say. talk to the people. but no one was interested in all of those things. it is like dorthey heights. i said you go to all of these things and the men don't let you say anything from the beginning. and usually people don't want
you to say anything in the old days. they wanted her to be there. and rosa parks they wanted her to be there so they could say rosa parks sat down on the bus and no one asked her about what she thought. some people knew what she would say if they did let her talk so they were not going to let her say anything. >> a lot of people in response to the horrible verdict are thinking about how do we organize ourselves. and part of cutting these stories out of a woman like callie house who organizes a movement or rosa parks and all of the washer women and the working people in montgomery who marched and boycotted the buses. one way to demobilize us after
these victories and elections is to take away the tools of how did he get to the triumphs in the first place. you have to be organized. and that is why i was so glad you wrote about house. it is embarrassing to realize you are always a beginner. one civil rights leader, i was at his memorial and they said he was not literate and always late. and i saw they didn't realize where he was. and jesus didn't write books,
but he made history. and just like jesus all of these people are making history. and they rejected by first book the first time. so who are these people? they are the people that made history. i think that is part of why i think that we get one image and not another because it is part of trying to demobilize us. >> you raised the question of book publishing and mary talked about before why is it that history has been distorted and repetitious in terms of repeating certain myth and not including others. and that reminds me of the way in which ropeson approached the work. she resisted elitism. she was trained but never got her ph.d. she was never
recognized as a scholar and that liberated her to say what she wanted to say outside of restricted boundaries and that is part of the myth making. there are knowledge groups that regulate and censor others. they don't publish that because it isn't interesting or speak to me. if you are a publisher and you have that power or you are hiring somebody. we have to look at issue of myth making and recapturing history and historical narratives and see that as a political act in resistance to the myth-making that goes on. >> i think fothe focus on the bk
rosa parks has been politically active for two decades. she is making stands. people she knows are making stands. and they have gone nowhere. part of the lesson of these activist is how much courage is about persevering. she talks about her arrest being annoying and irritating. and i think in that she decided this is a line that is too far. but she has no sense this is the
beginning of a new chapter, right? and so i think part of what we learn from the histories is that you to do things again and again and you don't see the moment that history moved until we are well into it. and so i think part of what we might call is the children's book or story of rosa parks, you make a stand and everybody rises up. except that is not how it works usually. so part of what the histories allow us to see it work of having to do it again and again and there is no sign this act is the important act. and yet, and still, part of why
i wanted to start with the november 27th mass meeting, right? on sort of the acquittal of emit till's murderer and if we interviewed king and rosa parks they would have no idea history was moving in a different way. and part of that is taking the fact that you have done things before and not letting that be the stopping place, but the starting place. >> the other thing i think is valuable of your treatment of rosa parks and your life is the connectivity of the people working. they get narrowed over time and
issues get shrunk over time. rosa parks was concerned about labor, war and economic issues. not just the seat on the bus. and similarly, ropeson didn't confine her notions of black freedom and black politics which were her starting point but not end point to the united states borders. she was concerned about africa and asia. there was a sense of connectiv y connectivity of struggles. i was in bellfast and there are mu murals with a road that celebrate the black freedom struggle. and it reminded me of those periods in time when we
appreciated radicalism. without that we are always going to get the crumb victories we are seeing. in the rosa parks, the larger rosa parks story and the work mary francis berry is doing with haiti and it is that big picture we have to embrace if the histories are meaningful. in the light of the zimmerman decision and the fact the world is on fire from syria to all over. and those are struggles we have to be connected to and they are an extension to the black freedom movement. >> i think the thing we take out
of this or the takeaway from all of this is that we quote a lot. and i do it in speeches all of the time. we quote fredrick douglas. people can recite that. but when it comes to struggle, we act like we don't believe that is what you have to do. that it ought to be easier and easier as time goes by. somebody said to me, i would not have thought that since we got obama that the supreme court would be decided things against us and zimmerman was free, we got obama! we were celebrating. years agree -- ago -- i wrote a
book along with a partner that said black people would learn you cannot get everything from blacking. it is important and you have to do it. but the protest is an essential ingredient of politics. so let's think about mrs. parks and others and realize when people tell you you don't need to have a moment or protesting or doing this and that and the other because all you need to do is vote -- first of all they are trying is suppress the vote. but the lesson is you have to need a movement and be persistent and not give up. and you need to be strategic and think about what you are doing so that you can make change by doing that. and you don't have to, you know,
be violent. it can be totally non-violent. there are many ways to make change. these are the lessens i learned >> at the memorial for vicky who did at 95 they did a video and she was in a nursing home. and she said i am telling you you have no excuse for not being active because i am at the home writing letters and educating. so the women were long distance runners. i don't think rosa parks missed a step. >> one of the amazing things about writing a biography of rosa parks is it the struggle of 1920. it is scovoter registration,
montgomery issues, the war of poverty, vietnam nam, an apartheid, to the death penalty to united states policy in central america and to the million man march. >> she is cutting newspapers and reading about the world? >> part of the papers are at wane state and part of what is there are rosa parks' clippings from the 1960s-1970s. what you would do if you were a committed political actitist is you would read something and clip it out so you could have it and find it for your friend. so rosa parks was an avid reader
and won multiple black newspapers and periodicals and she saved them. and they are at wayne state university. it is sort of an amazing look at what she is thinking about. and the whole variety of issues again from economics to labor to sort of international issues to criminal justice and seeing those issues as being connected that it wasn't just one, but many, and so yeah, it is an amazing sort of -- >> but jeanne, you would imagine everybody knows who rosa parks is. so if she went into an employment office after the victory she would be the first
to get a job, right? what is the truth on that? >> one of the hardest parts of writing the book is the chapter in the middle which i call the decade of suffering. and that is, i think, part of the kind of accidental bus lady as one of my students called her. part of the problem with that myth is that it misses the amount of sacrifice that these kind of stands take. and in rosa parks' specific situation, what a sacrifice her bus stand was for her families economic and physical health for a decade at least. so literally they never find steady work again in montgomery
and they moved to detroit and still have trouble finding steady works. one of the heroes of my book is john conners. he can not say no to rosa parks and comes and wins the primary by 40 vote. imagine the american history if he had not won! one of the first thing he does is he hires rosa parks in 1965. she is working in a glorified sweatshop doing peace work. part of, i think, and again, i am echoing what barbara has said, we know the fredrick
douglas quote, but the sacrifice it took and the sacrifice it goes on and on and the willingn willingness to do it. she goes to highlander folk school and they get red bated and some people walk the other direction. and highlander asked her to be a public sponsor in the mid-60s and rosa parks said i would like to do something and she walks into the fire. highlander has been shutdown in part of the red betting that happened. so grappling with this is the grappling of what these activist
faced. >> it isn't you are making the sacrifices for the people even if you have to lose your job. >> or the notion of a single solitary person. mary mentioned that obama was a s savior, and that is consistent can king being one as well. but that mentality as opposed to collective movements is the key. i am always struck by the way young audiences view cartoons and poplar culture prepare us for that because it is single hero that zooms in is saves somebody. so there is that idea of a hero as leader and saver and we
mature and have that immature view of politics. and i want to pick up on what you said about the times of position people take. i was born in detroit the year rosa parks came to detroit. my political awakening was in 1967 with the detroit rebellion and all of the struggles as a teenager. and i think we would be amiss to not focus on detroit's issues with the bankruptcy today. and detroit was a place where black people had a decent life but it was a place of struggle on racism and police brutality. and we had a group that was a decoy unit that would set up young black people and shoot them or throw them in jail when they responded to a ridiculous
situation. so the struggle continues, but these women remind us of the importance of taking difficult decisions. speaking out against mao's reign when that was seen as not okay. and i think people asked today what would they do we don't get to ask that. we should ask what would we do and speaking about the complex issues and that includes what is happening in south africa and the difficulties of an apartheid where you have mass unemployment
or the situation in haiti or palestine. these are the issues we need to embrace the courage these women had. >> mary i don't want to out you as a long distance runner, but what would you tell young people who are looking at the verdict and thinking about learning how to work in a movement? >> if they are trying to learn -- i would say to the young people, not just young people, but anybody, who is concerned about it that they should be organizing and bringing the -- the legal system responds to pressure. you might think that is a fair think but if you think that you are crazy.
the legal system responds to pressure rather the justice department is going to find means of prosecuting him is going to depend on how much of a movement there is. it isn't going to depend on the little things people are reading over. if you think that i have a bridge i want to sell you between brooklyn and manhattan for $40. the movement has to keep bringing pressure to bear and organizing and sounding out on what you believe. and when people coo you out saying it isn't that bad well it is that bad. some liberal friends were trying to cool us down because we were upset about trayvon martin
saying it wasn't so bad we have a lot of problems to work on. and yes, we do, but we have this problem to work on. telling people to organize and be consistent and spend your time. you might think you could spend your time doing a bunch of other things that would be more fun. but i have to tell you being somebody who has been movement person all my life, i have never been happier when i was involved with other brothers and sisters engaged in a struggle no matter how long or how hard it was the best high you could ever get. so it is important work to do. it can always be fun. that deserves applause. [ applause ] >> i have been looking at the
discussion of color blind and post-racial and i guess there are a lot of other terms. i remember at the ivy league schools there was a conversation i thought was odd. instead of talking about abolishing racism some people say we needed the brazilian solution and not talk about race. and that is a big program the rulers have pulled out. we cannot take about race and i hope i am not the only one that saw that >> i don't think people believe that. and having been in brazil i remember when a couple times i was there and in the capital of brazil and i was doing something for the united states government of education and i was going
around doing meetings. i kept seeing all of these white people. and i said i thought brazil had a lot of black people. and i said are there any black people in brazil? and they said oh, yes. and i said how about in the governor? and they said we have a woman who is in the government and she is black. and i said maybe i could meet her. i finally did. she was the only one in the government. and then they had all these people i would go around and meet with who i thought were black when i went back to rio. and they told me were not black because they don't have race in brazil. and i am looking at them and thinking well you look black to me. i think denying that there is race means that you can have racism and it doesn't have to be counted or talk about it and say
people shouldn't remedy it. it is like people that say zimmerman's killing of trayvon martin had nothing to do with race. well it did. and obviously, you know the reason why he was following him in my opinion and looked at him and bothered when he was told not to had to do with race. but every time i have said that to people, you didn't say it, but others say you should not talk about race. we are in post-racial america. and then the president, you know, finally had to say something about it. i think he said race. i heard the word. so i don't think -- we now have a proposal to stop counting people in the census to stop keeping track of that because it is about race.
but you cannot analyze or talk about it or prove it or remedy it. so there is lot of resistance to having people do that. yes, there is race. race is socially constructed but it is real. it has social construction. yes, there is race >> lynching is socially construction as well. >> well it is a social construction, it is real, political, social and violence. the thing about the trayvon martin case and the zimmerman trial it is an ordinary and
exceptional. it came to represent this larger question of the criminalization of black youth. we had a teaching about this in chicago. we had a room for a hundred people and we had to get a room for 500 people. and many young people came. some of them in the hip hop community and spoken word community and they cried. they really were not just trying for trayvon martin. because that suggest how could this happen in american. it wasn't how could this happen. it was this is all too familiar. we have a prison industry that has a hunger for young black and brown bodies and that is part of the challenge of what we have to address in responding to the trayvon martin case. the larger problem is there and the elephant in the room that we have to have the courage and compassion to address. >> since we are in new york i
have to say this. this problem of stopping black and latino kids you have in new york, it is in other places, well people like this is a new problem. i have been in meetings and people say they have a thing about stop and frisk in new york. when i was chair of the civil right commission we took evidence from the police report and did a report to show the black youth were being stopped and frisked. and the police station said we would stop doing that and never do it again. and they are doing it again of course. and i heard there is talk of making your police chief in
charge of this the head of homeland security in washington. i cannot imagine anyone thinks that is a good idea. but all of that is part of the attitude toward youth and because the president said there is a crime problem, you just tar, if i may use that word, everybody with the same brush and treat kids in a way they should not be treated >> i want to eco mary's point. in terms of thinking politically they are thinking ray kelly who presided over this massive numbers of stop and frisks, massive surveillance of the muslim community and i think part of making our voices heard has to be as new yorkers making our voices heard about what kind of leader ray kelly was here and
how that is not appropriate for, you know, to be elevated,right because of that work because that is elevating that work. [ applause ] >> i think the second thing to come back to the histories is i think they taper over sort of present day realities. it we think about rosa parks is people remembering she dies in 2005, right? and we have this massive state funeral for rosa parks. she is the first woman and second african-american to lie in honor in the capital. that happens less than two months after the travisity of
hurricane kartrina. part of the dangers of this m s histories -- it was a happy story -- look this woman was denied a bus seat and now she is at the capital. look how great we are. and we are going hear it again and again. >> for the question and answers you line up at the microphone if you have questions. one thing an a lot of people forget is no president attended king's funeral. there was a couple presidents living at the time. that is a wake-up call for where we are.
no president attended king's funeral. that is where we are. are there any questions or should we keep on talking? >> i want to thank the panelist. one threat i see is this is about black women and their activism. i was wondering if you could say something about gender and the role of black women's activism and how it departed from the black men during the period?
>> they called out leaderships of organizations she was involved in which was the truth of justice of journey. they were a group of black women that defended the right of black women with self-defense standing up for the case of the woman that attacked her attacker and went to jail. that organization of organizing women around the right to have leadership in freedom issues in general. she work would the all-african
freed freed freedom woman's freedom movement. they joind to talk about what liberation would mean in a post-colonial era all over the world. i think in terms of how we see black women in today's history we are still in a king and malcolm world. i think there is a way in which there is an exclusion. there is either a distortion in the case of rosa parks or deletion in the case of roveson. and woman who were married to men in the movement there is a distortion. i am still waiting for a
bioography of scott king's wife and women were who partners of were in the shadow and women who cannot be framed that way were left out. gender was a part of the consciousness and an issues around which she organized. another journal that was shortlived in the 1950s is called freedom. it highlighted black female issues and talked about woman quilters who were doing quilting
and the women who were protesting and women in south africa resisting. and this brother does research on the journal. >> historians have framed self-defense in male terms and left out white terror in race. so rosa parks's organization against race and countless women were organizing. joanne little wrote about the jail keeper trying to rape her. we have to change the terms of
the discussions. >> and yes, doctor, you mentioned vicky garbin who wrote a lot for the freedom journal and one of the few places where you could read the original copies was here in the library. i did my dissertation on freedom here. it talks about, like he said, journey members for truth and justice in terms of anti-colonial work. it was ahead of its time here and tying it all across the world. i wanted to ask about a key point that dr. mary francis berry said about pressure. the system will respond to
pressure. and with regard to your work on e ella baker that chose the importance of organizing. and my question is one of the things mentioned is if the right pressure was put on obama he would make decisions that would eleviate pressure and when asked if obama read the papers would he be making the decisions he is and you said the increase mass of incarceration and the closing of public schools you think would have happened.
could you elaborate on that? >> i think it might be giving books a bit much credit. i wish my book was that influential. but i think the issue is beyond an individual. it is systemic and we need a sustemic analysis and solutions. but the main point is we need grass roots organizing and it is as a matter of what we see a winning. we can define winning in such a way that we have won that struggle. or you demenish what you are attempting to achieve. but with all of the quotes baker left with me is that is the most powerful is the struggle is
eternity. and once we relax and have a sense of plateau that is when a lot more problems and complicated ones set in because we are not staying on point and continuing in a tradition of active organizers. there are many different ways to answer the question. i don't think books do the job. they document and inspire us to a certain extent. but we have to have the resolve to go out and actually organize with friends, neighbors, c coworkers and that is the challenge. >> the world i have been using it is as a tug-of-war. when we make progress there is a reaction. >> at some point you pull and then the other people all fall down, right? >> really ugly tug-of-war.
>> i am interested in what shapes the consciousness of these women? what sort of shapes their capacity to move beyond the central issues here and how would they look at mitchell obama? >> that was an interesting add on there. >> i think with rosa parks there are many things that shape her political consciousness. her family. her grandfather believing in self-defense. her mother's definition of being respected is you act respected but you demand people respect you in return. and then she meets the first
real activist she ever met and that is who is going to be her husband raymond parks. so in terms of thinking about her political consciousness it starts there. it starts with many of these cases of both trying to protect black men from these charges and trying to get justice for black people under the law of white brutality and other white brutality against black people and that starts in that work in the 30s and into the 40s around all of these cases and again as she and edie nixon take over the
naacp. and she is an avid reader. and telling the black press and that news of the world is coming into people's house and that is informing them the black struggle isn't just a struggle in the united states but a global struggle >> you seem to report she was in the front row of the book stores at the lectures in detroit; right? >> the second half of the book is about post-montgomery. and i talked to people and they said over and over she was in the front row and usually had
hand work to keep her hands busy. and ed von, old time book owner, i would get there and i would be like dang, there is rosa there. she was trying to soak up all of the different programs and knowledge and what all of the different kinds -- i think the other common thing here is the commonality was the need for a good front and going where people doing good work are going. and many long distance runners have doing that. they show up because people are doing work. you don't have to agree but they go anyway. >> this question of consciousness is important. and those of us in universities know this is important because we think that is the locus of understanding the world.
and both of the people i have written with, both smarter than me, found the inspiration outside of the community. at a time when most of the world look at africa as backwards and needing to be uplifted, including african-americans, she went there and began to understand the world in a way she didn't under it through books and academic training. so demystifying the way in which knowledge gets constructed and demystify university as the soul reservoir of knowledge is important in terms of where consciousness comes from. i remember my first economic class and he said we cannot talk
about process. you can put the material world into something that is unrecognizable but going communities of struggle and i agree with mary about feeling joy by trying to change the world with people that understand it and not just people who are getting paid. but the consciousness of them was finding sources of knowledge outside of formal institutions. >> i wanted to say something about the question of gender. it occurred to me first on the reparation movement she was a woman who led a movement with men and women in it at a time when woman didn't need movements. ...
>> and then the six pack african congress was the last one we had and all the rest of it. but the other thing about gender, when i was thinking about nelson mandela the other day, winnie mandela, yes, if winnie mandela had not done what she did for the years that he was in prison, you would never have heard of nelson. [applause] you wouldn't have. [applause]
it was winnie who put herself on the line. half the time she was out there in detention out there by herself where they put her. but the rest of the time she kept his image before the public. she did it. all of that stuff, winnie did. and the thing that's so impressive about it is nobody talks about it, that's number one. and number two, because she, in the end, did some things like -- that people say, well, why did she do that, some stuff at the end of her life, a few little things that some people don't like in her personal life and other stuff. well, if you had to live all those years doing all that, you might do a little something that's kind of shaky too. [laughter] and so, therefore, she shouldn't be denounced for that. the other thing to keep in mind is that nelson's second wife, she was a freedom fighter, was a freedom fighter before she married and have her own thing
going for herself. i once wrote a paper about the civil rights movement male leaders and their, what their wives did and contributed to it. and most of the time the wives were doing most of the thinking, to tell you the truth. [laughter] but nobody was thinking about it. so this gender thing we have to appreciate what happened to people and that appreciate that women can be leaders too. if you think about it now, most civil rights organizations are headed by men. is that true? the first time one had a woman in charge of it was when elaine jones game head of the naacp legal defense fund which was one of the smallest ones. but usually women don't, whatever they're doing, the naacp be has had some chairs of the board that were women that they did all kinds of stuff. i'm a life member, so i can say that. but women get overlooked.
and the gender thing is still disabling in a whole lot of ways. [applause] >> and largely the invisible in plain sight, too, because i was there -- the idea for the gary convention was from a paper by coretta scott king. nobody was interested. coretta got up there and presented a whole paper at this conference and swayed the crowd, and barack said that's what i've been talking about. so the way women get thrown out. the other thing i want to say on the education piece is that most of these women are educating themselves. they were denied, like rosa parks was denied higher education, but she educates herself. and the movement is a revolutionary school. right? that's why she's going to all these meetings and the bookstore. that's the real university. so when you join these movements for, you know, for justice now, think about you can have that intellectual component to it
largely. i think we got time for maybe one more question -- >> i don't know if we do. are we out of time? >> i'm so sorry. >> yeah. it's been a great conversation. >> that's what that sign means. [applause] >> this event was part of the 15th annual harlem book fair. for more information visit qbr.com. >> now from london, booktv interviewed robert mccarom on the current state of the publishing industry, the art of evaluating others' writingings and the -- writings and the worldwide importance of the english language. this is about a half hour. >> host: and you're watching booktv on c-span2, and we are in london talking with british authors. and joining us now is author and historian simon sebag montefiore whose most recent nonfiction book is "jerusalem: the
biography." mr. montefiore, if i may start with a quote you have in the front of your book from amos oz, and this is the quote. jerusalem is an old nymphomaniac who squeezes lover after lover to death before shrugging him off her with a yawn, a black widow who devours her mate while they are still penetrating her. what does that mean? why did you include that? >> guest: well, that quite wittily captures the fascination of jerusalem. why jerusalem has such a magnetic draw to everyone in the world but also especially to me why i wanted to write this book. jerusalem is a lens through which you can write a history of the middle east, a history of the world almost. and the exciting thing about it, it has actually been conquered by just about every single great civilization you care to mention, you know? the asyrians, the romans, the greeks and going right up to t