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tv   Book Discussion on The Speech  CSPAN  January 11, 2014 7:48pm-9:16pm EST

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the other doctors don't see it. the government produces an x-ray showing his head is entirely in tact. dan rather sees the film, comes out and lies saying the president lier muched violently forward. look at the film. he goes back and to the left. he was hit from the front and goes back. even dan rather lies. for what reason? ask him. it is -- at this point, no one with any objectivity or any intelligence could possibly still believe the results of the warren commission. lee harvey oswald was given a pair fin test, no nitrogen on him. he had not fired a rifle that day. the dallas police department reports say that there are two shell casings. somewhere along the way, it's changed to three. the police officers says he scratched initials in both, but the shells the commission has
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has no initials. there's planted a pristine bullet on the stretcher that we're asked to believe it wefnt through jack kennedy and connelly and remains pristine. the government can't duplicate that either december -- despite best tries. i'm sure the book is here, please, my friends, move it to the fiction section. [laughter] another question. somebody who has not asked. yes, sir? >> did you run across an proximation how much military industrial complex money loomed -- or let's say his front companies meads, like, continuing in the vietnam war? >> well, we know that, that lady bird was a shrewd investor, big stock in bell helicopters, big stake in brown and rue known as haliburton. johnson's estate made millions
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on the vietnam war, millions. she was shrewd when it came to investing. hard to say. we know, for example, that there was a $33 5 million contract begin to dredge the bay that did not need dredging, for example. no, i think the generals wanted the war. this is where oliver stone, i'm not related to and who i have agreements and disagreements with, but whom i have enormous respect for based on the talents and his quest for the tryout. we disagree on some things, but on this, he's fundment tally right. the generals wanted their war. the defense contractors wanted war, lyndon johnson gave them their war, but he was not above making a couple bucks on it himself. the man who owns the texas school book depository, the man whose company that malcolm wallace, the assassin went to work for, three months after johnson is president, they get a million million contradict for
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the war. they are now known as ltv. they get rewards for housing malcolm wallace after the assassination. wallace, by the way, dies mysteriously in 1971 when someone rigs up his truck to fill with fumes and drives off the road and hits an en bancment, sounding like murder to me. another question. >> why does the law firm represent him in the today and covers aspects that he was involved with this assassination. >> there's a terrific book written by mccone, that i strongly recommend. i tried to work on the scholarship of mcclellan, and another going before me, so the scholarship here is not new. what i've tried to do is add to it.
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i had unique access to nix con, a mentor of mine, and i had to rehabilitate, and those just attacking your democrats, your -- well, i destroy gerald ford in the book, a congressman, member of the commission falsified the autopsy records, moving the description of the wound of the upper back to the lower neck to accommodate the wound in the front of the throat as an exit wound, and that expedites the government's cock maimmy single bullet theory. in my next book, i'll tell you the truth. the reason that ford pardons nixon is because if nixon was in trial in water gate, he was taking everybody down. he was going to reveal the cia's involvement of the kennedy acation sac nation, and you covered up the autopsy for the commission, which americans did not learn until 1996 after
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ford -- after nixon was dead. i'm convinced that's another missing piece of history. i have a book coming out in september called nixon's secret that will show what's in the 18.5 minute gap in the tapes, explains the pardon, and will talk about the relationship of the water gate to the kennedy assassination and bay of pigs. this is one thread of history. if you look at it, they have the same participants, the same people are involved, so i will interrelate those. all right, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the questions and for being here. it is time to sign books. many thanks. [applause] >> gary young is next on booktv examining martin
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louiser king, jr.'s i have a dream speech delivered on the march on washington august 28, 1963 #. this is about an hour and a half. >> good evening. thank you so much for coming. we have a number of thank yous, a lot of people work to put this program on. executive dean, david at the news school for republican engagement, the nation institute, nation books and magazine, hay market books, the guardian, all work to make tonight possible. we have a special thank you to those out tonight and all watching this event live streamed. it is also being taped by booktv for b.c. -- booktv and free speech tv. i ask everyone to check your
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cell phone to make sure your cell phone is off, and also, just so you know it's filmed tonight. we will be taking questions later and passing around note cards and reading questions from up here so they can also be part of the live stream and book tv, and there's a signing afterwards, hay market books and there's a table and gary will be signing books, so, please, join us afterwards. i went to dc, had a couple extra hour, and i we want to see the king memorial. how many people have seen the king memorial. it's succeedingly depressing. the original plans for the monument included to honor other martyrs, but they were scrapped for insufficient funds. king towers over us. the sculpture flanked by a granite wall, 14 quotes on the wall, not one uses the word
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"racism," "segregation," or "racial injustice," not one. they are arranged like cross stitches, 19633, 67, 65, 63, 64, completely out of context of the movements and mobilizations in which king spoke them. the monument was made in china to save money. a man who excoriated the triple evils of materialism, racism, risked life and went to jail 30 times to challenge the scourge of american racism, quick to point out racism in the north as well as the south, who rode from jail in 1963 that the biggest problem was not the clan, but the white moderates. that man of god and courage is honored with a memorial that refuses to speak the problem of racism. it is into this moment, this moment when the history of the civil rights move. is regularly invoked, distorted,
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and used to celebrate the greatness of the united states that we turn to our speakers tonight. both of tonight's speakers write eloquently to make sense of the paradox. of the times we live in, the history of the greatest social movements of the 20th century is used to imperil any urgency of the task of social justice today. indeed, to coverup, at times, the continuing scourge of materialism, militarism, and racism. of the visions we gain from a fuller and richer sense of history, to help us see and work for justice in our times. michael smith is a blogger at, a fellow at the nation institute, a free lance writer, and work appeared in places like the guardian, ebony, huffington post. gary young is author, broad
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katzer, and award winning columnist at the guardian, the nation, and a fellow at the nation institute. he's written four books, his fourth back, the speech, the story behind king's dream, is why we are here tonight, giving the fuller history on the march in washington and reflects on current policy of this civil right's history and season of memorialization. i'll turn it over to gary, kind of give us introduction remarks, michael, conversation up here, and then we'll open it up to question and conversation with you. thank you. >> for those who have not seen me before, i'm gary young, and for those of you who have seen me before, i'm gary young in a suit. [laughter] it's not a particularly flail sight unless i'm at a wedding or
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funeral. the book is called "the speeches" which is about king's famous speech at the march on washington, left there an idea that you have a great man and a great talk, but king could not do that on its own, the speech and the march came from somewhere, and i want to start by giving some context to that text because in the absence of that, they would have been no march, and there would have been no speech, and so i start with some of the people whose names perhaps we don't know, but who paid for that speech in a range of ways. i begin with franklin mccain who was a 17-year-old in greensboro, north carolina, who made a stand downtown february 1, 1960. when i interviewed mccain, he
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said that up until that time as a young man in north carolina, he felt that his life was worthless, and that his parents had lied to him. ..
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it was not entirely credible for for -- thing for him to think. he was angry at his parents so they set up him and his friends late into the night january 31 talking about everybody on them until the action they took the phone day not knowing when they showed up at what worse in greensburg with any of the others would be there. she says we want to go beyond what her parents had been in the worst thing that could happen was that the could kill us but i had no concerns for my personal safety. the day i sat at the counter had the most tremendous feeling of celebration. i felt that in this life nothing else mattered because heaven, it got me for a few minutes. i just thought u. can't touch me come he can't hurt me. there's no experience like it
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not even the birth of my first child. a few years later may of 63 in birmingham alabama at burly white fleece officer attempted to intimidate some black schoolchildren to keep them from joining the growing anti-segregation protests. they assured him they knew what they were doing and continued their march toward the park where they were arrested. a reporter asked one of them are age. six she said as she climbed into the paddy wagon. the following month in mississippi civil rights campaign fanning mill hammer overheard a fellow activist being beaten in jail in an adjacent cell. can you say yes or? can you say net yes sir. yes i can. so say it. i don't know you well enough. and then hamer heard her head hit the floor again. the polish journalist once wrote all books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of authority
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or the misery and suffering of the people that they should begin with the psychological chapter one that shows how a terrified man suddenly breaks his parents stops being afraid. this unusual process, man gets rid of fear and feels free. the period preceding king speech on the march on washington was then -- one such chapter. in that moment you reached a critical mass. "the new york times" published more stories about civil rights in two weeks than it had in the previous two years. during the 10 week. not following kennedy's address on civil rights in june of that year there were 758 demonstrations and 186 cities resulting in working thousand 733 arrests. accommodations were made possible and king speech.
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this context is global. two days after mckay made his protesting greensboro the prime minister harrell macmurray addressed with an ominous warning. the wind of change is blowing through this continent he said and whether we like it or not this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. the apartheid parliament didn't like it at all. in the three years between mcmillan speech in the march in washington the following countries became independent. togo mali senegal zaire somali najir cóte d'ivoire chad central african republic, nigeria mauritania sierra leone tension niquette and jamaica. internationally the black enfranchisement -- the longer america practice legal segregation the more it looked like a slam on the wrong side of history been a shining
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city on the hill. now the story of that year in particular is the story of the base, the masses the grassroots continually running ahead of the leadership. king spoke in harlem just a few months before the march and was heckled by protesters shouting we want malcolm. when the naacp held their conference in chicago they invited to give their introductory remarks and he was heckled from the floor. when their leader school to speak to kennedy kennedy says to them we have legislation that is currently going through congress. we would rather have new laws than half the out on the streets and a. philip randolph the union organizer who is primarily responsible for calling the march tells kennedy their already in the streets mr. president and i would doubt if you would call them that they
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would come back area that is the mood, that the patients has worn out, the forbearance, the ability to withstand the clubs and the hoses in the hoses that can fire so strong they can knock the bark off of the trees at children and dogs has become too much to african-americans who are always fighting back start to resist like in birmingham. there is eventually a response to bombings of the clan with violence and there's a fear both among civil rights -- and the kennedy administration that black people would resist. that is the mood that creates the necessity for a march which is called in the beginning of the year but very few people wanted. the poll showed that most americans don't want it and most white americans don't want it. kennedy doesn't want it.
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it's insufficiently radical for many of the youth and too radical for many of the more conservative leadership but by the time it happens there is a sense that if they don't do this then what are they going to do to channel this frustration, this mass frustration so the march happens. the key fear primarily of the state is that there will be violence. this is peculiar because most of the violence in the south has come from the white segregation is not from african-americans but nevertheless the fears would be violent and so it is literally police as a military operation. the 82nd airborne ready to fire from north carolina at a moments notice and drop 19,000 troops on d.c.. a thousand troops in d.c. deployed, 6000 police working
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all leave canceled all the left give surgery canceled alcoholic sales made illegal and even on the mic the king speaks from there's a kill switch that the justice department put in surreptitiously. the idea is if anyone causes insurrection from the stage they will flip the switch and play mahalia jackson singing he's got the whole world in his hands. and so it is into that atmosphere that king plans his address. out came to around 350 speeches that year. he took time off for holidays. that's about one speech a day and generally he is not giving a speech. he's an african-american baptist preacher and in that tradition he drops his sermon but then he crosses in response to how the
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audience is taken to what he is saying. he has a number of kind of ,-com,-com ma a series of weapons that he can use, rhetorical weapons. the difference is that this speech unlike other speeches is going to be televised. if you are in a black church you have heard king. >> before but it you hadn't this is his oratorical. kennedy had never heard his speech before. he overheard one of his speeches in the oval office and said he's good. king and his team on something that's going to be on par with gettysburg. we know a lot of these details because the fbi were kind enough to record them for us. he wanted something on par with gettysburg so one of its main aides walker says to king, it's
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a cliché. you have used it too many times before. that's the first line in the book and he had used it many times before. he first recorded using it in 62 and probably used it in 61. he used it in june at a rally in detroit and even a week earlier at a fund-raiser for black insurance executives in chicago so this was not the first time by a long stretch that he had used the i have a dream frame. king seeks counsel and he has a lot of input, much more than he would generally and what we know is that at 4:00 in the morning the morning of the march i have a dream he is using the this text of the speech. that we now and according to terence jones his lawyer and his speechwriter it was not in king's mind to do that the next day.
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the next day there is series of meetings they had with congress and there's a moment at the beginning of the day where they come out in the march started without them, very symbolically given what i said earlier. the ex-ex-communist conscientious director and that's before you get to the fact that he is black, he is the organizer of this margin he runs out of congress and sees the march leaving and says we are supposed to be meeting them. they jump into their limousines to try to catch up with the march but are blocked by the traffic, the traffic caused by the mobs. so they jump out of the limousines and they run to catch up with the march. if you look at pictures of the leaders of the march and a kind of fred flintstone version of photoshop in what they did was basically clear people out of the way so it looks as though they are in the middle. throughout that day king was
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wearing away and if you look at what he ends up with on the podium when he finishes speaking is as full of doodles and scrolls. it was a hot day, 87 degrees that afternoon and king is the 16th on the agenda 80. he is the tenth speaker. there has been anthem anthem come the invocation, the prayer. there have been a range, a number of singers including mahalia jackson, peter paul and mary and bob dell in and he takes to the podium about 2:30 and according to clarence jones who drafted much of the text king keeps closer to this text of than he would regularly keep.
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those who wrote speeches for king said they were always king speeches basically that you would be in clarence jones words you would he accrued architect. he would set up the four walls and king like an interior designer would calm and make it his own. king's speech very faithfully to the main text but then if you listen to the speech and i would advise you to listen to it, it's the most popular least well-known speech i've heard. when i told my brother is doing this but he said i love that speech. it's such a great speech. the thing about the mountaintop and i see the promised land. i said that's a great speech but it's not that speech. he is winding up. he goes back to mississippi, go back to south carolina, go back to alabama. go back to your northern homes in ghettos knowing somehow the situation will be resolved. behind him is sitting mahalia jackson a very close and special
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friend. when king was on the road he would often call mahalia jackson for what they termed gospel therapy. he would call her and ask her to sing to him on the phone too sues his fear when he was down. he knew her well and he knew her voice well. he is winding down. knowing somehow the situation will be resolved. she shouts tell them about the dream, tell them about the dream. she heard him deliver the dream segment in june. king continues, let us not wallow in the valley -- i say to my friends let us not wallow in the valley of despair and then she shouts again, tell us about the dream martin, tell us about the dream. in the words of clarence jones king puts his text to the left of the podium. his body language changes from a
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lecture to a preacher and jones just the person next to him and he says those people don't know him but they are about to go to church. and being king says for though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow i still have the dream at which point wyatt tee walker who is in the crowd turns to the person next to them and says oh he is doing the dream. [laughter] that is how we got there and what is interesting is that when you ask evil who are there at the time and who knew king well, to a person they will tell you that they did not, of all the speeches there he made, this was not particularly one that they thought we would be talking about in 50 years time. it was a great speech but none of them denied that, but many of them have different speeches that they thought were better and either way they said great speech was what king did. i spend a fair amount of time in the book looking at why that is.
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i want to kind of really suggest two things here. the first is that there is something for pretty much everyone in the speech. part of the community was told your genetically stupid anywhere poor because you are stupid in your stupidity is your responsibility and the failings in your community have nothing to do with history and everything to do with you. to know that the best speech, america's favorite speech was delivered by an african-american in the black vernacular is something to be very proud of. if you are a patron, there is nothing in this speech that you need worry about. this is a dream deeply printed in the american dream literally and metaphorically in the shadow of lincoln that pays homage to the founding fathers in the constitution and the decoration of independence. it's an american speech and it
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didn't come from anywhere else. if you are progressive this speech comes on this day. there would be few days like this for american progressives. fair enough only 20% of the crowd was white which was less than they were expecting but nevertheless this was the first march of this kind in washington. now marches in washington are two to a penny but they hope for 100,000 they got 250,000. it had never been done before. and it comes and this is the way i describe it in the book, it's the most eloquent articulation of the last great moral act that america can claim and that's the end of american apartheid. that whatever people say now orfield or are able to say nobody wants to be taken seriously is calling for those signs to go back up. nobody's calling for the return
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to formal codified segregation. however small that may seem when we see the amount of racism that spews from the mouth of those who are elected or unelected that is no small thing. the end of apartheid is a big thing and i believe the last great thing that america could have done as a country so there is that. a number of people have said that and there's also something else. king when he delivers that speech, there is an even number of americans with a favorable and unfavorable view of him. by 66 twice as many americans have an unfavorable view then and then a favorable view. he is dead and 68, stephanie. by 1999 when americans were polled on who were their favorite characters of the 20th century, king comes second only to mother teresa.
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something happens between when he is assassinated as a polarizing figure in 1999 and this is what i think it's happened. first of all why does he become unpopular? well, when the speeches delivered, the year after comes the civil rights act and the year after that comes the voting rights act. legislation begins to kick in and king understands that the end of segregation is not the same as the beginning of the quality. as he says i have given people people -- we have run the right to eat in any restaurant of our choice that we do not have the ability to eat everything that is on the menu because we can't afford it. and so he starts talking about what else is necessary. i want to read you this bit from where do we go from here? you will get a sense of why he might become unpopular. it says there are 40 man -- 40 million poor people here in one day we must ask the question why are there 40 million poor
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people in america? when you begin to affect question you are raising questions about the economic system about a broader dissertation of wealth. when you you asked a question you begin to question the capitalist economy and i'm simply saying that more and more we have got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. we are called upon to help the two discouraged beggars in the marketplace but one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces -- needs restructuring. it means the questions must be raised. you see my friends when you deal with this he began to ask the question, who owns the oil? you begin to ask the question, who owns the iron ore? you begin to ask the question, why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water? that kind of talk in america in 1967 will get you killed and sure enough he is killed. he starts talking about capitalism and the year after
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that in 67 he starts at a riverside church he calls america the greatest purveyor of military violence in the world today in the vietnam war. now, how is america then going to remember king? when i can't remember him, if it's going to raise him to iconic status and put him on the mull then it has to sanitize him for public consumption. it has to make him the second to mother teresa and you can do that with a man in america who questions capitalism. because to remember king in that way would not raise them above the fray. it would injure him into it and that is what the shutdown was all about. that is what's -- people food stamps today. you can't remember king as a menu criticized capitalism and
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hold him up as an american icon. what it takes to be an american icon changes. you can't remember him and america can't remember him. the powers that the is a man who called the greatest purveyor of military violence because arguably it still is. it's notable on the 50th anniversary of the speech it took place literally in a split screen. on one screen there was obama carrying king's mental and on the other screen will be bumps area of? why wouldn't we bomb syria? you can't remember king is that having him on the mall and claim him to be an american icon when he speaks about america being the greatest purveyor of military violence but you can remember him as amanda got rid of american apartheid. not american racism because that would leave conversations about
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why black men in d.c. have a lower life expectancy than men on the gaza strip. you can't have that conversation but you can have a conversation about why or how he got rid of american apartheid. so that is the way that they choose to remember him. i will end with just one paragraph where i talk about the process by which king and through him the speech can be sanitized. i say white america came to embrace king in the same way that most whites and africans came to accept nelson mandela. grudgingly and gratefully, retrospecretrospec tively, selectively without grace but with considerable -- by the time they realize the sight of him was spent in -- he created a world in which admiring him was in their own self-interest because in short they had no choice. when it comes to king and his
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speech one of the central arguments in this book is it's not just about what you remember it's also about what you forget. thank you. [applause] >> good evening. before i get started i want to send a special shout out to the second u.s. circuit court of appeals for reminding us all that the work ain't over. i would like them to know that we will win. i grew up in a malcolm x household. an introduction to malcolm x, i was probably four or five and my father who favors malcolm x portrayed him in a black history month special play or some sort. there was malcolm x literature all over the household.
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i still have on my nightstand right now a copy of the autobiography that my father had i grew up posts public enemy and spike lee resurrecting malcolm x and his iconography. my father had several x hats and t-shirts. i say all that to say that dr. king is not a part of my foundation. i don't have any particular attachment or reverence board didn't have. because i rejected him. i accepted the binary idea that you either choose malcolm or you choose martin. i just don't have much contact with martin luther king jr.. we had a picture of him in our house lies most --
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like most black americans do. you will find malcolm x, martin luther king and jesus and now barack obama. the barbershop i used to go to, there are only three pictures on the wall of martin luther king, malcolm x and barack obama. the picture in our household was malcolm x in the center, -- mohammed to his right and then art mr. king. i just don't have a whole lot of emotional pull to the legacy of dr. king. i realize that is not entirely my fault. i didn't grow up celebrating martin luther king jr. holiday because i grew up in virginia and in virginia we had lee jackson king day, where we celebrated robert e. lee, stonewall jackson and martin
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luther king jr. on the same day. >> a big day. >> right. >> like a week. >> that lasted until the year 2000. this was a celebration of lee jackson king birthday until 2000 this goes to what gary was speaking about. how can you do that? how can you lump martin luther king jr. in with robert e. lee and stonewall jackson when you do politicize him. you rob him of his actual legacy. you rob him up the words that he spoke and wrote and the fight that he fought during his lifetime. and you can do whatever you want with him and martin luther king is not alone in this. we depoliticize everyone. we be politicize american history. when you are a country as arrogant as the united states to claim that you are the greatest nation on the face of the earth in history you need a history, a
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narrative of history to match that claim. so everything becomes depoliticize and everything becomes a symbol of american exceptionalism. this is why you can have people on both the right in the left praising both at the art and ronald reagan and not see the inconsistencies of that. because they are not political figures anymore. they are symbols. they represents the greatness of the united states of america and so that is what king has come to represent even as he was fighting against pretty much everything that america stands for. we can look at the march on washington itself that brought us a dream speech. we know the full name of the march on washington. it's not the march on shinki and for jobs and freedom. you can't talk about and commemorate the march on
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washington for jobs and freedom right now if you don't want to talk about what freedom means when you're in a country that incarcerates more than 2 million people. you can bet that's just the march on washington so you can't commemorate a man who as gary was saying talk about america as the greatest purveyor of violence and wage perpetual war. you can't do that. you can't talk about martin luther king jr. and erect a statue in his memory and this man stood against police brutality and every 28 hours in this country a black person is shot and killed by police or security or some vigilante. you can't do it but you can if you reduce the man to a dream and if that dream is so, is such a blank slate that you can project on it whatever you want to. that is not king's fault.
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he was delivering a speech that he needed to deliver at that time but the problem with our understanding of race and racism and america being combined to that one moment and confined to that the one idea of having a dream that little black boys and little white boys would hold hands together means that we don't deal with what racism actually is. we don't deal with the fact that the governing philosophy for the united states of america since its inception has been white supremacy. we don't have to deal with it does all we had was a dream that we be nice to one another. so what i appreciate about gary's book and also jeanne's book about rosa parks is that we are rescuing these figures and their legacies from the narrative of american exceptionalism. [applause]
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>> i guess one place i thought we could start and both of you touched on was the kind of, what we saw in august around the 50th anniversary. bolivia written about this and i think both of you just touched on what became a kind of self ,-com,-com ma national self-congratulation that i think we saw in august and if you could kind of tease that out a little bit more. >> yeah, i mean it was a show. there is a part of me that thinks okay, i mean it's the 50th anniversary. there should be some kind of show. there should be a commemoration but that show has to mean something and what that show cannot do is bastardize and produced the original meaning of what happened. so i mean interestingly in the run-up to the march, bayard
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rustin and the organizers made a whole lot of concessions. ever going to march around the white house and they kept making concessions and the young people in the office would say -- we have this coalition to keep together a coalition of unions and church leaders and so these concessions were important but the one concession we won't make was that politicians should not speak for -- they are there to listen to us and not to lecture us. what was telling -- i went to one of them, hearing nancy pelosi and eric holder got 20 minutes. he's america's chief cop. he has 20 minutes and julianne bond gets his mic cut off at two. that is not just symbolic. that is real. that is kind of, and it tells
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you something about priorities and about trajectory. so there was, so there was that and the other thing that i found curious including there was mcdonald's, sponsored by mcdonald's stand at the "msnbc". they did a lot of stuff on the speech and that was sponsored by bank of america who have been kicking black people out of their homes since 1963 in no. they kept saying again and again we have come a long way but we have further to go. and you think well, who should be looked to for that? you are the president. you are the leader, do something about it. there was the sense of like you know who'd have thought 50
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years, 50 years after the march on washington and the discrepancy black employment and white unplanned mid-is the same and the discretion of income has grown. they are more people in prison than when soviet bloc was in its height in these people are like, what he going to do? what are you going to do? i would like to know what you were going to do. the degree to which there is this sense of kind of powerlessness among the powerful i found quite objectionable. one inch ding thing i saw was the number of -- domain not poster or t-shirt but whatever whatever -- trayvon martin and an interesting variation of that which was obama in a hoodie. it was the sense that i got like you know i don't think when
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george zimmerman saw trayvon martin walking down the road he saw the there goes the future president of america. i found that interesting. i saw more pictures of trayvon martin than i did of martin luther king. >> we had to ,-com,-com ma we had two commemorations and the one led by the reverend al sharpton. i have interests backed but it was telling to me that young aisha and johnson from chicago who is the young education activist was taken off the stage it is telling because as much as we talk about youth and as much as we want our youth involved and they want to see youth movements, we are taking the mic away from them. we are taking them out of the fight and that to me was the
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theme of al sharpton's march essentially, that it was his ascension. it was his coronation as the single most powerful civil rights leader in the united states at the moment and you essentially go through him. it's disheartening to watch. at the very least, phil agnew of the dream defenders did get to speak at that commemoration, which he did not at the official one. he and sophia campos were told that they were not going to get there two minutes apiece because they ran out of time. this was the real farce on shut-in as malcolm x called the original march. this was not about a movement. this was not about the actual
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lived experiences of luck and brown oppressed people in this country. this is not about finding solutions. this is about america patting itself on the back for how far we have come and if we look at the statistics that gary younge has rattled off, how far have we come? tell me please, i would like to know. if you'll indulge my michael eric dyson moment i would like to quote a rapper. they should start changing up the tempo. what exactly are we supposed to do when at every turn you introduce new forms of racism? you change the game up completely and it doesn't look any more like whites only signs but it looks like being locked up for a dime bag a week. this is the new fight. this is the new way that they have chosen to oppress. so what are the solutions?
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we don't get any of this commemoration because it's not about a movement. and i don't have time for that. >> i want us to talk about the split screen. just to bring in, i like to bring everything back to rosa parks. in the end of february we got the statute and you may remember it's an odd moment of bipartisanship. it's mcconnell and boehner and pelosi and the president coming to the capital to honor the very first national black version in the capital and barack obama says we need more than lofty awards. here we are ,-com,-com ma barack obama is the president and its 2013. we need more than lofty words. literally across town that day as they are honoring that statute talking about what a great niche and, what a vision, what a people, what a country across town the supreme court is
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hearing the voting rights act challenged literally across town and president obama ends the day and she talks about her -- singular act of courage. the president of the united states who could do more than lofty words said that was what i meant to honor rosa parks when she died has an opportunity and again gives us lofty words. so i want to talk more about the split screen. >> i think that there is, america has this ability a far more potent ability to discharge the past and to travel light from its history. britain kind of slips into its past. it surrounds itself and it likes
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the idea of it and it kind of, like a warpath after a while it's pretty disgusting and people are very comfortable with it. some people say that you know, what do people say? they say it's putting the great back into great britain. there's a whole lot of genocide and a whole lot of war. we don't want to talk about that america has this ability even as the march on washington was taking place america was reinventing itself and say -- saying there was a group from the agency that works with the state department and they were filming the mountains to make a
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little program to send to africa about american democracy at wor- march on washington, a march by people who had just been horsewhipped and beaten and hosts to say what a great country this is. we write history while the ink is dry. it's not quite dry on the first draft. so there is this uncanny ability in a way i haven't seen in other places though i don't doubt it, to kind tonight what is on the other screen, to have a sort of sense of what's going on. to say you can see from barack obama's election and then you
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just quote almost any statistic that shows that actually his ascent has coincided with a larger -- and he's like yes, then this wonderful? you barely get to the end of the sentence and what that means with racism is a desire which was explicitly stated in the arguments either that day or before or after, where the person arguing says this is for a problem that has been solved. the problem has been solved and racism becomes only the systematic that you need jim crow senior with a pointy hat and a cross in the billy club.
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that is racism where is jim crow junior who you know tonight all paternity but he is still there and he doesn't use cuss words. he dresses very politely and works within the system that keeps white supremacy going by pushing paper around in a certain way and by locking people up in a certain way and just saying well, these are the rules. there was the sense that the systematic is a lot easier to understand and to see and a lot easier to portray them people are more comfortable with it whereas systemic you have to pull out class, you have to pull out capitalism and you are pulling at the entire way in which america has been structured and the way in which it operates. those who owned the screens don't want to show that. it's not in their interest to
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show that screen. [inaudible] [laughter] >> i think we are we are going to take some questions. i guess before we take a question, i have heard you talk about this and if you are a member of that speech not the "i have a dream" speech but the dash speech. i think part of this is also what would it mean to remember king drew sort of different things that were as important to his rhetorical presence. >> yeah and i want to back up to something mychal said it had revenue malcolm x household and a the caribbean family that i grew up with more affinity to what i thought outcome x. was and what i thought king was and it was partly in the same way,
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when i start i grew up with atmar lame when i started seeing people whose racial politics i distrusted rocking out to bob marley i said you ruined it for me. it took me to the outside of that to actually see it is good and you can't blame him. you can't blame him for that. and that does speak to the speech because one of the plays and a few people said this one we know is we know as the bad check speech. in the speech there's a quite a long moment where king talks about america has issued the negroes a bad check and we have come to cash this check it was marked insufficient funds. if you understand it, as a bad check speech than it does bring the issues up to date in a way
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that the dream which is a fish and a utopian vision and i like it because it's a utopian visiou going to come good on this check? no one can walk around the jails in the schools and say america has honored that check. the metaphor is that with the declaration of independence black men in white men were created equal. that was the check that keeps bouncing. when one understands america's racial history that way, it does do different things to how that speech can be remembered, not just as kumbaya can we all get along but there has to be in a not specifically talking about reparations here but there has to be a redistribution of wealth you have to make good on what
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you say it means to be american because you have not done that yet. and that is a very different way of understanding the speech. also he starts by saying 200 years ago in the shadow of the men in which we stand. he talks about the legacy of slavery and segregation in a way that makes it very very clear that there is more to freedom than the breaking of chains. there is more to equality than simply the end of segregation and so when people take the judge by the content of their character and not the color of their skin and they use that as a flight from history. that's the only line in the whole speech and they use that to oppose affirmative action and all the rest of it. he ignores the fact that he says racism has a licorice -- legacy in the present has consequences and we are living that legacy. what conservatives particularly but i think quite often america
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as a country likes to do his part to pretend that the past has no legacy. so even to take a different example is at me support several when you talk about syria and you talk about what about the bombing of iraq people are like why are you bringing up old stuff? it's not old stuff. it's still going on for why you talk about failures in anniston and they say just because the last word hasn't worked doesn't mean this one can't. that war is not over. we are still fighting that war. you haven't finished your main course and you are already on the desert. slow down and think about what you are doing. so there are a range of ways in which that speech is even on its own terms and on its own terms it was not a radical speech. even on its own terms. >> i was going to ask where we start that thing where we get to
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call it a bad check speech if i get my reparations. [laughter] >> you have seen the dave chapelle thing. >> yes. [laughter] >> oh no. >> my fantasy is that it be called the white moderate speech because my favorite passage from king is the passage in the letter from a birmingham jail where he talks about the greatest only buchter freedom is not the klan but the white moderate who prefers order to justice, who feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom and paternalistically he says to wait for convenient season. the work is not done, right? >> i mean related to that there is this interesting i think way
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of understanding it which is if you think of how unpopular king was when he died, and other things are unpopular, and how king shifts from being deeply unpopular than it's a kindly useful way of understanding who are we excluding? what issues, what characters and what platforms and 50 year time are we going to get something on the mall? >> just to remember how unpopular he is, when he gives the riverside speech "the new york times" runs an op-ed the next day with the headline dr. king's era and the "washington post" runs another poll. 25% of african-americans agree with king after that speech.
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that's as they can get us to white americans. the degree of unpopular we forget in like gary was saying the need for us then to reflect on who is unpopular and what that message may mean for where we need to go. >> and i think we can reflect on who is popular in the same way. what is going to happen with barack obama? what is going to happen with the way we remember his legacy? they will -- we are not going to remember his legacy in any way that i feel is accurate as to what he is accomplishing and we are talking about health care, a republican idea that will be a boon to
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insurance companies. we are talking about the continuation of the wars that were started during the bush years and ingraining again this mindset of perpetual war and using drums and expanding that warfare. we are talking about you know again mass incarceration. his administration has fought the war on drugs in much the same way that other administradministr ations have fought it even though they don't call it the war on drugs. are we going to remember these things? are we going to again exalt someone because of what we can find to further the narrative of american exceptionalism and not reckon with their actual legacy? >> what i think particularly and what my book is about is trying to, i think those are always
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open contests that we are involved in them that we should be involved in and it's never too late and never too early to challenge the dominant narrative there is a dialectic between the thesis and the range of antithesis. it's very important to be in that struggle because it's not just the intention of writing this book isn't just about understanding the historical periods about challenging how we understand history because how we understand history has a direct relation to how we understand -- so i consider that an open fight and a fight worth waging. there was a funny thing, i was in belfast last week at a festival and interviewed on the radio.
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i got my 45 seconds of talking and the woman is wrapping up and she says barack obama lives under the legacy of dr. martin luther king and thank you very much. it's like arsenic in the water supply. you have to try. >> that be read our first question. this person writes, if the dream with an attractive metaphor for the end of apartheid what will cause it to be a metaphor for the the end of contemporary white supremacy and the second question what is today's hopeful hopeful -- commensurate with i have a dream? >> wow. the question is can i come up with a metaphor?
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>> we are waiting. >> come on, get to it. the one of the things that is worth questioning actually is given this book was that the greatest metaphor wax in was a metaphor that was remembered and i do think that the stage we are in now and globalization in all of its forms, systemic as opposed to systematic, more systemic as opposed to -- racism doesn't lend itself easily to metaphors. that has kind have been one of
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the challenges. then 99% was a useful framing i talked for a while. it wasn't about race but it attached to a sense of a framing of the problem that people do kind of go back to. even then, it wasn't entirely adequate. but yeah i can't match the dream and if i could i probably wouldn't be sitting here right now. >> none of this will be around for white supremacy so i don't think we should be racking our brains to find a metaphor to sum it up. >> you would dea. >> right. [laughter] >> you but as far as catchy slogans go the only one that i
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will endorse and going back to the dream defenders and i just love the work that they are doing. they just say over and over again i believe that we will win and that's it. >> the amc one of their many slogans was a very powerful one given how unlikely it was on some money points but the point you make there which is ,-com,-com ma it's very difficult to imagine what the end of white supremacy would look like actually and that doesn't mean that it's not worth trying. what i like about the dream speech is the utopian nature. within 10 days for little girls have been killed in birmingham in sunday school and yet there's this guy who didn't get up and say i have a template plan. he said we can do better, we can do better.
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this is not all we have to be but we are not even. we haven't even reached the point of his dream, so kind of going on to what the next dream will need, let's wake up from the nightmare we are in now and get to the end of that one first. >> right grade i think king over and over again in the birmingham jail and many of his speeches he talks about the myth of time and talks against this idea that things get better and better in progress and progress. i think we forget this part of king that says time is neutral. for things to get that or it requires us to act and this idea that we should just be patient and be quiet, that america or the world is just getting better and king says over and over
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again is the myth and he says the voices of opposition are better at using time then we are i was reading the letter again this week. we have a question here that says are there any other famous historical figures critical of capitalism and who have been depoliticized? >> there must be. in america? >> it doesn't say so but that's the implication. i don't know. >> i would look from somebody else in the audience actually. can i find a friend? >> i mean i do think, i do think that theme in the civil rights movement has really taken out of how we talk about the movement, yeah? ..
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>> will you read, you know, commemorate, and wilkens says no because the only way he say, if you don't do it, i'm going to do it, and i'll take up your time, and then wilkens keep of does
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agree. i do think that -- i mean, there are people who have forgotten. rosa parks is certainly misremembered. yob -- i don't know what her -- when asked about her position in relation to the -- i was always much more a believer in malcolm's strategy than king's, or at least she could not -- she was never -- she could never quite devote herself of nonviolence, really. >> yeah, i don't know if there are any other figures critical of capitalism and depoliticize
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>> ali would be a good example. malcolm x. >> gloria richardson. one things not mentioned yet tonight is sort of how much sort of both women participated and organized the mar. and were in many ways shunted aside, and one of the people who was on the dice that day was gloria richardson who was waging the struggle in maryland, a struggle very much linking racial injustice on the eastern shore of maryland with economic justice. richardson, like the other women on the die yays that day did not get to speak. there's a tremendous interview with richardson the week of the march commemoration talking about what nay were doing in cambridge, but also, literally,
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being recognized that day and sort of getting to say hello and the microphone being taken away from her, but i think it's emblematic of, i think, many local civil -- like what we say, civil right leaders or black freedom leaders who always had a kind of core of economic justice, and i think what we tend to remember is the public desegregation, and that was part of the struggle, but that there was all of these other economic struggles woven sort of through that and so -- but, again, gloria richardson, that would be one that i would put out there. >> mandela. he had a key on capitalism, didn't implement it in power, unfortunately. well, it was a different world than the one, i mean, that i would not have like to have
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taken over south africa at that moment nor would anybody else. [laughter] but, you know, the freedom charter was call for mass nationalization, a whole range of things, and while mandela's -- said his favorite form of democracy was british parliamentary democracy, which economically, he was -- he was a socialist. a socialist. i don't think we'll be seeing much of that when he passes, and one what he refused to announce is the socialist party. >> i agree he rails had the critique of capitalism, but they
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have to want to remember you to depoliticize you. >> we've got a live stream question, so this person asks, is there still a generation, how can we instill this for them? >> yeah. how do you instill interest in young people to want to learn history? [laughter] i think you have to -- you have to relate it to them. it has to be tang tangible and mean something to your presence, and i think that's what you find with a lot of youth activism today tied to and understand history which is why they are out in the streets because they understand that the freedom they
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have now was struggle for, and they also understand the fight did not complete the struggling, that they have a responsibility to take up the man tell now, and it's simply because someone, along the way, expressed that to them, and someone put that biography in their hands saying this is your history, who you are, how you got here. you simply, i mean, every time -- people are, like, how do we do this with the youth? have you ever just tried talking to them? they are not aliens that do not understand the way that you speak or don't understand words. they are intelligent beings. i mean, you can talk to young people. i implore you all to talk to young people. >> yeah, i mean, i actually found young people very
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receptive. first of all, a lot of people are still alive because it was not that long ago. that's one of the very important things to remember, fifty years is not that long. my 6-year-old son wants to know about segregation and signs, whatnot, he's around that age, i point him to his grandfather and grandmother. his grandmother saw king's speech, and grandfather grew up in atlanta, both grew up in the south. this is living history. really, to -- young people are -- they have a keen interest in history, and there's two reasons i think why the way in which it's presented to them can be a turnoff. one is these people did all this. what are you doing? useless bunch of people. you know? where's your rosa parks? i marched. you have pants hanging down listening to rap music. >> then we get arrested when we buy a belt. [laughter]
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[applause] >> and so there is there -- there is this sense that history is used as a stick to beat young people with. that, in a sense, they are not worthy of the history that they have bequeathed, and secondly, if you tell history as a series of stories about great men and very occasionally great women, and you put people up on ped stool, then you can't reach them, and so it's become just kind of another version of a world that you're not a part of, which was the point of that first business i read, 6-year-old kids, people whose names you don't know who were in history made by people. nrd for king to deliver that speech, there had to be a march. in order for there to be a
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march, there had to be 14,000 arrests in ten weeks. that's a lot of people. that person could be you. you could be part of what makes that speech, and if it's an ego, thing and you want to give the speech, thars another thing. if you want to understand how that speech happened #, it happened because people made it happen and you're people, and so it does depend on how you tell history, and the most revolution, social and political revolution are actually led by the young, and so there are very few stories regardless of where it is, cuba or russia, germany, wherever, where people are not from -- where birmingham changes everything, and birmingham is young people. making history accessible, not
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in easy words just, but as something that is -- that you can take ownership of. i think it's also very important. otherwise, it's just one more thing you have to learn about kind of clever people that you are never going to be like. who wants to learn that? >> right. >> or who seems so much more regel and unified. gary starts with franklin mccain; right? one of the young people in greensboro, and there are four young people who start it; right? and so i think in -- to go back and to think, okay, i have three friends -- >> yeah. >> right? what could i do with three friends; right? that's what they are, four friends. >> right. back to rosa parks whose story -- kicked off the bus before rosa parks who pleads not
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guilty, charged, and who they start to go with, but wrong side of town, and then she gets pregnant, a 15-year-old girl, and they drop it. they just drop it. they just don't drop it from their protest, which is a strategical and miranda rule question -- moral question, obviously, but what's the test case going to be? they drop her out of history all together. she just let go. when you reinsert her back in history, you're saying you're a single mom. well, look, this is what happened. you're a 15-year-old girl. this is not just what happens in the terms of bad things they do, but, look, she made a stand, did that, part of the story. when they distributed the fires about rosa parks, they say another woman kicked off the bus. there's another person name's too. i can't remember.
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>> smith, 18, and then when they filed the federal case that desegregates the busses, it's smith and two other women. parks is not on that case, both because they are worried it's going to muddy the waters to have her, because her case is in state court, but parks says with the naacp are worried about red baiting, and the case that desegregates the busses is filed by four women, two of which are teenagers. >> huh, and if that, if rosa parks is understood as part of the collective action where she makes her protest and then for 13 months, people walk to work, people from work walk to work without which her partisan didn't mean much other than her own protest, then you are involving large numbers of of
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young people, a lot of single mothers, lots of working class people like you who made that stand, whereas if you only understand the -- there was this lady. she got tired. she didn't want to stand up. she sat down. that's the story of rosa parks. you get a sense that the festival, wow, what an individual person, and, secondly, maybe the course of history would be different with better shoes, she wouldn't have been tired, maybe she would have stood up, but, you know, the sense it's one person, one moment, and not a massive collective protest, that involves people like you. >> yeah, and what happens when you reimagine this story and not tell it through the lens of the male protagonist and recenter the women in the fight, and you start talking about what helped launch the busboy cot is the sexual violence that these black women were experiencing on the busses.
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what happens when you tell a little girl -- tell little boys that? what happens? i mean, you just shift the whole narrative and i think that's what's, you know, when we're talking about how do you relate history to young people, you tell them the story, and you tell them the actual story, and you don't give platitudes. you talk as human beings, and you give them the truth. >> right, and i think you talk about how hard -- i mean, to me, one of the other -- again, every school child learns rosa parks is courageous; right? what makes it courageous is she and other people are done these things before over and over and over and they didn't work. there's nothing to believe that niergt when she makes that decision that this is going to work, and she doesn't believe it; right? she talks about it as being irritating and annoying. it's not a new chapter; right? when we tell the story of a tired lady sits down, everybody stands up, well, nobody stands
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up when injustice -- i mean, it feels like, oh, we're not unified today, suck today, and when we tell it as she had done this over and over and over, people she knew had done this over and over and over; right? that's what it required; right? it requires long seasons of where it doesn't look like anything's changing. >> and where it's not records, you know, not for the cameras or for show. you are doing it. the facts of history as such. the facts that we choose to present that great year about seizing across the rubicon, and many people cross the rubicon, the river, the rubicon, what made that a fact of history? and so lots of people protest, and rosa parks made a lot of protests,


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