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tv   A Life  CSPAN  December 27, 2014 12:08am-12:55am EST

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america needs truth tellers and we are the two pillars that you have been looking for. thank you for coming out tonight, i appreciate it. >> on monday, booktv in primetime features books by members of the house of representatives and the senate. coming up next, the way forward, an examination of the state state of the conservative movement. at 9:50 p.m., senator elizabeth warren discusses her book, a fighting chance, a view of the inner workings of washington and later at 10:40 p.m., senator john mccain of arizona gives a history of americans at war with the personal stories of 14
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soldiers. and saturday a conversation with justice alina kagan at her alma mater, princeton university. here is a look. >> to hearing that you see on tv is the tip of the iceberg as he went around, i think i did 82 of them. what was striking was how many of them, republicans and democrats, wanted to talk to me about the second amendment. but with the kinds of rules, there are at least whirls about what i could say because then they knew that they could and asked a very direct questions about these particular cases. so the proxies were along the lines of do you hunt. and i went through these
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interviews and my answers were so pathetic. and do you know anyone who hunts? not really. [laughter] and so i was sitting down with one of the senators from idaho who has a ranch and is a great hunter himself and he was telling me all about how important this was with many of his constituents and i totally understand why. and so when i was feeling a little bit punching, it was late in the day and i said, you know, senator, this is something that was apart of it and he looked at me with abject horror in his face. [laughter] and i said, okay, i've gone a little bit too far. so i really didn't need to
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invite myself to your ranch. but i will tell you what that of unlucky enough, i will ask my colleagues. because i understand why this matters to you and i would commit to do that for you. and so when i got there, i went over to the justices chambers and i told him this story and he thought it was hilarious. and i said that, and he knows it, it was a single promise that i made in 82 of his interviews and he said that i must let you fill that, as. >> saturday, alina kagan on her approach to the law and stories from behind the scenes of the court at 8:00 p.m. eastern on
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c-span. coming up next in the 14th annual national book festival in washington dc, peniel jospeh discusses his biography of stokely carmichael, "stokely: a life". [applause] >> okay, we are here to listen to peniel jospeh and i had the pleasure of interviewing him on c-span of the occasion of the 2010 book dark days and bright nights from black power to barack obama. and it was one of those wonderful and unhurried book conversations and i had never met him before and i was so impressed only by this but his humility and his introspection and i left thinking that okay,
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i'm going to read that guy's book from here on out until the end of time. and he was also waiting until the midnight hour and the book he had come to discuss today and i am sure that you're all here for "stokely: a life", which is a book that was described in "the new york times" review as an insightful and engaging written biography of stokely carmichael, largely seen with martin luther king jr. and not much following their assessed nation. like his peers on the nonviolent coordinating committee, he started off as a believer is nonviolence and his experience of others led him to concentrated thinking on the notion of black self-defense. he was a complex figure in that
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laxity captured this in the biography, "stokely: a life." you can never be disappointed with someone termed the chocolate fred astaire. peniel jospeh is a professor at the university and a commentator on subjects such as race relations and civil rights and politics and democracy and i must say that he is a really nice shoe collection. please give a warm welcome to peniel jospeh. [applause] >> thank you for that warm introduction and i will start by thanking the library of congress
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and the national book festival for this invitation to talk about "stokely: a life." it is an honor and a privilege to be here. i have received a lot of questions as to why and why did i spend so much time and why did he deserve a dog or biography and to really answer that before going into his life and what his legacy meant to us in 2014 the age of obama, the age of fergusson where we are now, my mother is watching this right now, i have to talk about her,
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she is a haitian immigrant became in the mid-1960s to the united states and really is my first history teacher, my mother was part of this union and was on the first picket line in elementary school and tommy values that were really important to shaping who i am and also as a way writer and scholar and thinker and it's within that context of going up in jamaica or queens new york, listening to speeches by malcolm asked, and reading about all of these different people that struggled for political justice with stokely carmichael.
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and i was really impressed by his him even at an elementary school aged child. and when i think about stokely carmichael, the first time was to eyes on the prize. and that is henry hansen and all of these people who created this definitive period about the civil rights movement in eight parts a parts and then in six parts and then the young 24-year-old is one of those episodes and he is calling for black power. so if you were in new york city growing up in the 1980s, everything from spike lee to
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different demonstrations against police brutality but that documentary is a signal moment in the own intellectual development. so i talked about this by way of eye on the prize. and in subsequent years i went to college and as i became a thinker and a reader and a writer and an activist, he always stayed on my mind. the first book i wrote was a history of the black power movement both in america and also internationally and it was in the course of doing research on that book that i truly came to deeply, deeply investigate and research the life of stokely carmichael. and so that is by way of introduction. so "stokely: a life", this is a biography of a political activist who i argue in this
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book stands out as one of the three political activist in the postwar time that transforms community organizing citizenship and that is not maximum martin luther king jr. and stokely carmichael. he was born on june 29, 1941 in trinidad and he comes to the united states two weeks before his 11th birthday in 1952 and he moves to this section of the bronx and he is one of the only black families in that neighborhood and he is a precocious and very intelligent child and always identifying with the underdog and has a wide array of interracial friends are usually charismatic and this is something that the best in new
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york city. and so what is extraordinary is that in 1956 to 1960, it is really during some of the key years of the heroic period of the civil rights movement and in high school he becomes an organizer and a key has a social democratic local activist that is openly gay, one of the most early and minds of the civil rights movement. he sees him as a teenager and he asked a friend who is that speaking up there. and somebody replies to him that that is the socialist and so he says that his lion going to be when i grow up. and so when we think about this, it's very important because during his high school years stokely carmichael is going to imbibe multiple political and
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intellectual traditions and some will be jewish-american in a jewish-american vibrant left that is marxist and socialist and radically democratic. in some will be black and global and pan african with relatives in harlem, going in listening to speakers in harlem and he is listening to pin africanists speeches in harlem and he finds out about the leader of the congo. so even in high school he is taking these different traditions and until when we think about this grow up time just a short truncated history lesson between may 17, 1954 and august 6, 1965, we have one of the most extraordinary times in
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american history and only think about that it is a supreme court desegregation this is the montgomery bus boycott, on august 28, 1955, emmett till's body is going to be found in the tallahatchie river, he had said that he was going to be lynched because he spoke to the wife of a shop owner who is white, his body was going to be put on display on the cover of jet magazine and that is going to galvanize a whole generation of civil rights activists including stokely carmichael. that is the little rock central high school and the crisis that resulted in mob violence against young black people trying to integrate the little rock central high school, the very first come in 1960 is the start
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of the movement in north carolina were for black students demand equal service. and that is going to spark hundreds of demonstrations across the country and very importantly it is going to spark a creation on easter weekend of 1960 of the student nonviolent coordinating committee and we have heroic figures about this today and we have judy richardson with us in this includes yes, stokely carmichael who was part of this coordinating committee as well. 1961 are the freedom rides, where groups of interracial activists tried to defy racial segregation across interstate travels, very infamously on may 4, 1961 and it will also
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force to hand the attorney general robert kennedy to send in federal marshals into the south. and that is also great in protests across the united states in terms of counterdemonstrations for civil rights protest and that is 1962 that is the year of james meredith, the first black student to integrate. there are three days of riding the wee one person dead. 1963 is the centennial of the emancipation proclamation. the city of birmingham, alabama, is literally and figuratively on fire.
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martin luther king jr. connected with a local movement to try to desegregate city of birmingham, alabama. very famously cane is incarcerated in birmingham and he writes on a scrap of paper a letter from birmingham jail. and he really defends the movement against critics who say the movement should move slower. the movement should wait on freedom and justice and democracy. so one of the best lines from his letter is king arguing that in the future the young men and women being incarcerated and brutalized and arrested in birmingham are going to be remembered as heroes and he says that they are going to be remembered as heroes for bringing the nation back to those great democracies dug deep by the founding fathers. in 1963 is also the year that german shepherds and fire hoses
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in birmingham, that were powerful enough to take the bark off of trees. john f. kennedy said that he was there, he tells the press that he is nick him the scenes that he thought that he witnessed in birmingham of german shepherds and fire hoses and over 1000 young children as young as eight years old being incarcerated as they try to desegregate birmingham, alabama. and then this is also kennedy's finest moment, june 11, 19 to three, where he delivers an eloquent speech about race relations and american democracy and citizenship in a nationally televised address where he calls this a moral problem that it is as old as picture and clears the constitution. the very next morning another individual was assassinated in
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mississippi and certainly his work had been continued by his widow. and this also includes washington in 1928 in 1963,, now is the time to make real the problem of democracy. and november 22, 1963, kennedy's assassination is really sending shockwaves throughout the country. and it provides a context for civil rights and not just the passage of civil rights but this year is the 15th anniversary of summer projects and it really is
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an experiment in mississippi, something that carmichael contributed to and many others did as well. and this includes the tragic murders of good men. ..
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august 61965, 5 days later los angeles explodes. that is the heroic time of the civil rights movement giving us as short sketch,, precisely because even before he calls for black power he is one of the key activists working for civil rights and radical democracy during the second half.
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when we think about stokely carmichael, before we can talk about the movement of black power, we think about his as a community activist who was arrested 27 times, a student right here in washington dc who joined the nonviolent action group of some of the most committed and brilliant young activists who were trying to not just desegregate parts of the south and washington dc. dc. they are trying to transform democratic institutions. and what is interesting is that he finds his vocation as an organizer,, visits mississippi for the first time at the age of 19, and
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it is the first time he is arrested as a freedom rider. he will spend not just time in county jail but over 30 days in a penitentiary farm, one of the state of mississippi's worst prison farms. people like john lewis are their. so many different activists are spending time in jail. his experience in jail galvanizes his political activism. rather than being discouraged, he calls up his mother before he goes to new orleans and says that their will be media and journalists and he wants her
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to tell them that no matter what happens she is proud of them. i don't want you involved in that civil rights mess. you don't want your mom to embarrass you. whenever the press call you, tell them you are proud of me. he ends up in jail. the press calls. she says she is so proud she does not no what she we will do. when we think about carmichael as one of the key organizers, he we will fall in love with the south.
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just the tip of the iceberg. he is going to be in greenwood, mississippi. by the time of freedom summer the second congressional district director, organizing in the mississippi delta. what was he doing? and organizer, living and working among poor black people in the mississippi delta. when we when we think about the black folks, these are african-americans who did not have birth certificates, many never have left the
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surrounding confines of the plantation. not trying to serve as leaders but provide help. we celebrate the 50th anniversary, spoke before the credentials committee she talked about being beaten. and she told the credentials committee that they were facing these troubles because they wanted to be treated like decent human beings. there was no political representation. what is interesting, carmichael is going to be one of the biggest cheerleaders and supporters.
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she talked about an interview and activist, oral historian and all around brilliant icon. martin luther king is important. what do you mean? more important because their are more of those people in the united states than martin luther king jr.'s. his vision is the credit and access that she deserves. before he becomes this black power icon and image and assemble of political revolution, before fidel
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castro and others, stokely carmichael is pursuing radical democracy and the deep south. one of the most interesting parts was the relationship. serves as his bodyguard. they marched together. in selma during the demonstrations and 65, and that relationship comes to the four once he becomes chairman in may of 66. the meredith march from june 7 through june 26 26
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transforms stokely carmichael's wife and the civil rights movement, where james meredith is shot on the second day of a one-man march across the state of mississippi to prove a black man could march without fear shot and injured. they come to his bedside and felt to continue his march. it is along that march that stokely, michael calls for black power. black power meant radical social cultural political and economic self-determination. they have political determination. people are equating that term with violence.
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the decision was collective. they need to start defining political and social phenomenon for themselves. even though their are disputes and disagreements, they find common ground in a shared love, especially poor black people. interesting now, we talk about the politics of ferguson, the black people were the poorest of the poor it was not just students. it was the poorest of the poor. denied constitutional rights
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we think about king and carmichael. that will become a very close. and in the course of doing research one of the most fascinating things was the antiwar activism and the biggest antiwar activist in the united states was carmichael,, and he is one of the people who inspires martin luther king to come out forcefully against the war. he gives a powerful speech at the university of california berkeley. over 10,000 people are their , and he criticizes the war in vietnam and talks to white students about
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american democracy, racial privilege, and what can be done to transform democratic institutions. i have interviewed people who were their, and what they say is that speech was a human rights speech. his antiwar activism inspired them to speak out. by april 15 they we will be on the same platform as the largest antiwar demonstration in american history in new york city. 400,000 people. carmichael speaks before ten criticizing the war in vietnam, violence, and connects the amount to the
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civil rights and black power movement domestically. they meet after, and stokely teases came saying that the only reason you are coming out is because of the activism. if you can imagine a 25 -year-old carmichael teasing martin luther king jr., it gives you a portrait of their relationship. later that month king calls up stokely and asks him to attend his church service. stokely says, i am not going to church.
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king says, i want you to come. stokely says, why do you want me to come. king says, tomorrow i am giving my comprehensive speech. stokely replied that he would be their in the front row. there is great footage. after he makes the speech, the person leading the standing ovation is stokely carmichael. the dark shades on, but when we think about stokely and what he represents, he is not just an activist for radical democracy.
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he is a critic. this is especially crucially important. he provides context for the black panther party. carmichael goes to alabama, the buckle of the black belt helping local people organize for democracy. 80 percent african-american, no black public officials. fifty years later we have similar instances, but in 65 it was dangerous. they organize a freedom
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organization whose nickname we will be the black panther party. that will travel to oakland. and so we think about stokely carmichael, he we will provide a platform for not just the black panther party but the antiwar movement that different radical activists will be supporting in the late 60s stokely's legacy is a transformative legacy,, but he might be the most important activist that people have never heard of. he leaves the united states of america, and the reason
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is because of his international travel. he does a five-month tour in london, in cuba. castro says he is under his protection. in algeria, and they offer him a headquarters in support. the black panthers take them up on it in a couple of years. he is in ghana where he meets two of his political heroes who have been exiled. and the charismatic leader
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who told the french to leave and had suffered consequences after. he also meets up with the beautiful and brilliant south african singer, activist, icon who had been introduced. and they begin a whirlwind romance despite a nine year age gap. they become a global pan african couple. the change and transformation of his life,,
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committed that the key to black equality and liberation lies in the unification of africa and promises to return. by 69 he does just that. even though he returns for political speaking tours of the united states he becomes a committed anti- imperialist pan africanist revolutionary changes his name and really becomes by the 1980s in the context of the reagan revolution, saturation, the rise of neoliberalism and the counterrevolution that transforms the hopes and dreams that 1960s era radicals and revolutionaries carried with them, he becomes an anachronistic because he believes in the idea of a global political
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revolution. one of my favorite parts is reading about barack obama's reaction in the early 80s. in his early 20s, talking about pan africanism, basically spitting fire speaking words of fire. obama recounts, his eyes blazed as he spoke, the eyes of a madman or a saint. i am here to say that he was neither. he was a radical political activist who was unapologetic in pursuing social political economic and cultural equality in the
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united states and globally. he had his flaws and shortcomings. i can spell them out, but what is important is the fact that he provides us with a blueprint in a wholly different and expensive way from the cast of iconic characters, the bridge between martin luther king jr. and malcolm x., providing a context for radical political self-determination even when it is unpopular, speaking truth to power when the standing ovation stops. when you measure what it means to work in the mississippi delta, in tent cities in alabama after sharecroppers have been kicked out because they want
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to organize for their right to vote, when you are writing about democracy in 1966 in places like the new republic. by the time you start saying you are against the war in vietnam people do not want to publish you or hear your opinion. and unapologetic political revolutionary even after the age of political revolution ended. his life is especially important and crucial in a contemporary time. we think about where we are on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights act that stokely's activism helped make happen, books about the civil rights act, certainly it we will be both, not just
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top-down but bottom-up. the reason the reason why the social change and political change happened is because social movement created such disruption, such a movement and the momentum that there had to be legislative and political solutions applied to real world problems. president kennedy says as much when he says there is a revolution happening right here and it can be violent or peaceful. we think about stokely carmichael, the most important aspect was the way in which he helped organize poor black people to try to transform democratic
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institutions that did not want to be transformed. one of the mythologies is this idea that it is over and everyone loved the fact that it was going on. it is a fairytale. it ends with barack obama. people say that's it. you have obama. i have not gotten my invitation to the white house. when we think about the civil rights movement, it was always contested. millions had millions had a
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different conception of democracy that was not expensive enough. remember, the brilliant organizer, the lead organizer of the nonviolent coordinating committee in her own right, told those young students it was about more. by april of 1960 the new york times and newspapers were trying to say that is what it is about. and she said, this is not about lunch counters or hamburgers. this is about democracy. james baldwin says it in a
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way that only he can. the young people organizing all across the south are doing it to do more than what baldwin calls tasteless cups of coffee. that is not me. what is important, when we think about where we are today, carmichael's life provides an example of a life well lived. he does not become a hedge fund leader, the world's biggest baker. what he did was provide

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