tv Panel Discussion on Civil Rights CSPAN September 21, 2015 6:03am-7:01am EDT
well. it is my intention to introduce our esteemed panelists and get out of the way and let them take the floor. dr. tiyi morris is associate professor at the ohio state university. she received her bachelor's in african and african-american studies and liberal studies from emory university and a masters and ph.d. in american it'ds from purr -- studies from purdue university. with this focus she's taught courses such as 20th century u.s. history, gender, sex and power, black feminist thought and the civil rights black power movements. she is the author of "woman power unlimited," just out this year from university of georgia press in 2015. her work has also appeared in southern black women in the civil rights era, a state-by-state study, texas a&m press, 0 13, comrades, a local
history of the black panther party, and groundwork: local black history struggles in america. dr. morris is a board member of women have options, ohio's statewide abortion fund and has worked with the fanny lou hamer national institute on citizenship and democracy at jackson state university since 2005. dr. tiyi morris. jon hale is assistant professor of history in south carolina. his research focuses on the history of student and teacher activism, grass roots educational programs and segregated high schools during the civil rights movement. his manuscript, "the freedom schools," is currently under contract with columbia university press, forthcoming in april 2016. he is coed to have of the freedom -- coed to have of the freedom school newspapers which was just released from the university press of mississippi. his research has also been
published in history and education journals including publications in the journal of african-american history, the history of education quarterly, south carolina historical magazine and the journal of social studies research. dr. hale's service is connected broadly to civil rights initiatives, connected to quality education as a constitutional right, the freedom schools, the algebra project and the young people's project. he currently serveses on the board at south carolina state university and the penn center in south carolina. dr. jon hale. aram goudsouzian is at the university of memphis where he teaches courses on modern african-american history. he has a ph.d. from purdue university. his books include "down to the cross roots: civil rights, black power and the meredith march against fear," 2014, and king of the court, university of california press 2010 and sidney
poitier: man, actor, icon. dr. aram god size january. devery s. anderson is a graduate of the university of utah and is the editor or co-editor of four books on mormon history, two of which won the christensen award from the mormon history association in 2006. his book, emmett till: the murder that shocked the world and propelled the civil rights movement s the product of ten years of exhaustive research and writing. his research took him to the south and chicago on over a dozen occasions where he interviewed witnesses, family members of both emmett till and his accused killers and spent countless hours in libraries and archives. he has spoken on the till case throughout the united states and the united kingdom. he lives in salt lake city and is an editor at signature books. devery anderson. and we're going to begin with d. tiyi morris. >> thank you, dr. luckett.
good afternoon, everyone. i'd like to begin with a quote by mary mccloud bethune. she once decade next to god, we are indebted to women, first for life itself, and then for making it worth living. i'd like to use that as a frame for the work that i do, because my focus is on women, black women specifically. and i think it's also relevant especially given that i'm the only woman on the panel -- [laughter] that i make sure that we center women in our discussions this afternoon. so my book, "woman power unlimited and the black freedom struggle in mississippi," is about the jackson-based organization woman power unlimited. the organization was founded in 1961 by mrs. clary collins harvey, and it was founded because the freedom riders came to town, and she wanted to support them both emotionally as well as materially. she had the opportunity to attend the first trial for the freedom riders, and at that hearing she noticed that some of the individuals were shivering. they didn't have their coats and
sweaters with them. and so this mothering instinct kicked in. mrs. harvey was middle-aged at the time, and many of the freedom riders were college-aged students, so they were young enough to be her children. and so this mothering instinct kicked in, and she decided she needed to take care of them, and she mobilized other women throughout jackson to really engage in this practice of nurture answer as resistance. so that motherhood in the typical sense that we think of that has simply a nurturing, caring-for role, but trying to take care of these individuals so they could be engaged in the civil rights movement. when the freedom riders where are we leased in prison, women limited was there to meet them, and to help them this their ensuing struggle. because mrs. harvey was able to mobilize these women so quickly, they began to take on other initiatives. they were involved this the mainstays of civil rights activism, photo registration as well as school desegregation,
but they also brought a humanist agenda that really made them unique in the context of the civil rights movement, and much more progressive, i would say, than many of the oh organizations -- other organizations of the time. they were flexible, and they did not perpetuate many of the organizational issues that really had been keeping women on the periphery of male-dominated organizations. for example, they didn't charge deuce, was they didn't want -- deuce, because they didn't want to limit anyone's participation. they had meet thanksgiving various locations. sometimes they would be in the masonic temple, various local black churches. so, again, they created an organization that was designed to insure that they had the greatest participation from local women. in addition to these kind of key activism points of the civil rights movement, they were involved this women's strike for peace, they also engaged in antipoverty initiatives, they participated in freedom summer and helped create an organization called wednesdays in mississippi. so, again, they had this very broad-based understanding of
what it meant to be a civil rights activist. another unique aspect of the organization was that many of the organizers were middle class women, they were middle-aged women, and they were entrepreneurs. mrs. harvey owned a funeral home in jackson that's still in existence, mrs. amy logan sold beauty products to black women, and mrs. jesse mosley owned a shoe store. they were middle class women, these primary organizers, and they didn't have to worry about the same level of economic retaliation from whites that many other blacks had to worry about if they engaged in civil rights activism. they were well-respected members of their community, they were known in their churches, they had years of organizing experience prior the freedom riders' arrival in jab -- jackson. so they were the perfect women to actually nurture these young activists to be involved and to mobilize activism around the the
city and as well as around the state. ultimately, woman power unlimited was a group of black women who had a very unique and progressive definition of what social activism meant and what social justice meant. so they were unique in the context of the civil rights movement, but they were not really unique in the context of this legacy of black women's activism. ultimately, they were doing what black women had done for generations, taking care of their families and communities and insuring that the black community could survive to see another day. so one of the things i attempt to do in the week is to con -- in the book is to contextualize their activism, building on the generations of their foremothers and then laying a foundation for the work that black women are doing to the. and so -- today. so they are, like fannie lou hamer, ella baker, other black women activists who have been willing to risk their lives and livelihood for the collective
good of the black community and to create a really, truly democratic and humanist society. i think these black women are unique and really important. and even though they don't take center stage when we think about traditional definitions of leadership, typically the scholarship p has tended to focus on those who occupy the host visible leadership positions, right? and women oftentimes are not included in that. but what my work attempts to do and what some of the current civil rights scholarship is doing is censoring the works of people, and in that context we really can see the contributions that women like those who were involved in woman power unlimited have made. so writing this book, again, has allowed me to censor black women's civil rights activism also as leadership efforts and mobilization efforts that were central to the mississippi movement. woman power's civil rights activism then is best understood as this legacy of black women's activism in which leadership has
been consistent and valuable. a legacy that is being continued with activists in the black lives matter movement and the say her names movement as well. so woman power is so important not only to our understanding of american history and civil rights history, but really to our understanding of humanity. because it demonstrates the selflessness that black women have had in order to create this humanist and just society. and they as an organization and, i think, the book stands in opposition to the devaluation of black women's lives in activism. thank you. [applause] >> dr. jon hale. >> good afternoon, everybody. thank you for, thank you for attending today's session. my name is jon hale, i'm coming from the college of charleston in south carolina. and as many, if not all of you know, this summer we lost nine lives in the basement of the ame emanuel church in charleston
which was a catalyst to taking on on the confederate flag in south carolina and other states across the south, so i was a little shocked and surprised coming from charleston we're still grieving and trying to understand the ways to move forward from this tragedy and to see two confederate flags displayed here on the courthouse, it just reminds me how important the work of all the panelists here is and the work we have to do in mississippi to continue to challenge the use of the flag today -- [applause] so i want to start out, i'm actually the second editor on here and the lead author -- or the lead editor, dr. william stuff key, who's at university of north carolina in chapel hill, was unable to attend this weekend, but he was certainly the mover and shaker, if you will, behind this book project. and he sends his regrets that he was unable to make it today. but he did want, he did instruct me, if you will, on a few things
to say, and he shared with me a document which is also very relevant at this period in time because it's written by or submitted by julian bond to sawnton lynn, the coordinator of all the freedom schools which this book is about in 1964. but julian bond in this letter is writing to dr. lynn, and he writes, and i quote: there are two ideas that are particularly pressing. one is including a week on the freedom schools. this book could be printed in our own presses and could be sold very cheaply, 50 cents to a dollar, if we could get that much for them. in any case, the most important thing would be to, would be to collect the material collected this summer and ideas into one single place permanently and to include some opinion and thought that they would give others ideas and perhaps encouragement for the future. for the freedom school book, i had thought of doing can it by chapters. one by you, one by charlie cobb,
one giving factual material on the freedom schools, a chapter illustrated on the two schools that were built and several chapters on materials including poems, essays, newspapers, etc., that were published and and written by freedom school studentings. and that's the end of the letter. so julian bond in 1964 called for a book like this. i'm glad that julian bond could see this book before he passed away last sunday, and he wrote a nice review for the book as well which we're extremely grateful for. i must admit that our editor, craig gill, who it's been an honor to work with him, i'm glad he didn't read this first, because julian bond only wanted a dollar per book, so we're happy -- [laughter] you know, it can sell for a little bit must have. more importantly, of course, what he was calling for is a comprehensive social history of the freedom schools or a perspective of the freedom schools from the students themselves. because many times or many author -- books coming out on
freedom summer, sometimes they're whitewashed. we get the perspective of the white volunteers who, yes, they did risk their lives, but that's not necessarily telling the complete story of the freedom school. so this book, what we attempted to do was to uncover every freedom school and newspaper published during the summer of 1964 and collect them in this one volume here in order to provide a student's perspective on the freedom schools and freedom summer. and, therefore, to honor the integrity of the freedom school students. there are about 2500 freedom school students who attended over 40 freedom schools during the summer of 1964. so in order to honor their integrity, i'd like to read just some direct samples from the students themselves and just to give you a sample of some of the profound work that they published during that summer. and please keep in mind that these students are between the ages of, you know, 8-15 years old writing this, and they're publishing this and circulated around the state of mississippi.
and collectively, the freedom school newspapers were the largest collection of civil rights newspapers during that summer. the first selection i'll read from is a poem entitled now is the hour submitted by edith murray moore. now is the hour. no other time will do. for us to go and get what belongs to me and you. now is the hour to stand for what is right. together we know we will win the fight. now is the hour that we must say farewell to tears and hardships. freedom's better, i can tell. as you notice in miss moore's poem, there's a sense of urgency and a call to action for all students. and as you read through the collection of newspapers, you see that students are often times urging older adults to participate. and in many ways they're often
not only encouraged, but sometimes they're shaming older adults into participating. one such student who tried to encourage adults to participate was a student, 16-year-old joyce brown who's from mississippi which earned the unfortunate nickname of the bombing capital of the confederacy, because mccomb and the homes in mccomb or were bombed repeatedly throughout freedom summer. and the freedom school was actually bombed and destroyed during the course of the summer. and she was wrote this -- she wrote this poem, and i'll read part of it here. and actually attended school outside in the trees as they were waiting for their home to be repaired. and she writes: i came not for the fortune, nor the fame. i seek not to add glory to an unknown name. i came by day to fight for what's right. i shan't let fear, my monstrous foe, conquer my soul with threat and woe. here i am come and here i shall stand, and no amount of fear my
determination can sway. in a bombed house, i have to teach my school because i believe all men should live by the golden rule. to a bombed house, your children must come because of your fears of a bomb. and because you've let your fear conquer your soul, in this bombed house these minds i must try to mold. i must try to teach them to stand tall and be a man when you, their parents, have cowered down and refuse to make a stand. and the final selection i'll read today is a passage entitled why i deserve freedom by 15-year-old albert evans. i am a black man and, because of my color, i am deprived of the human rights which are given to me by god and promised to me by the united states. i live in a country of free people, yet i am not free. if necessary, i will die in order to have freedom for my
people. today i am the world's toot stool, but tomorrow i -- foot stool, but tomorrow i hope to be one of its leaders. by attending freedom school this summer, i am preparing for that tomorrow. and i'll close with those words. as in some ways a haunting reminder as we still see people gunned down in the streets of america, right? who are continuing to risk their lives to fight for what is promised in the united states constitution, by we the people of the united states. and i appreciate this opportunity to present this material today, and i strongly encourage all of us to consider what the perspective of the students are today, the young people in today's school and the potential that they have to help make this a true democracy. thank you. [applause] >> dr. aram god size january. >> good afternoon. my book is called "down to the cross roots: civil rights, black power, and the meredith march
against fear." let me begin near the beginning. june 6, 1956, just south of hernando, mississippi, and james maine divot is walking down -- meredith is walking down highway 51, famous for integrating ole miss four years earlier which sparked riots, but this walk is mores the endeavor of -- more or less the endeavor or a solitary man. he's on the second day of a planned trek for which he's outlined two goals. the first to, quote, challenge that all-pervasive fear that dominated the day-to-day life of the knee grow in the united states -- negro in the united states, especially in the south and particularly mississippi. and second, to, quote, encourage the 450,000 unregistered negroes in to go to the polls and register. this is one year after the passage of the vote ising rights act of 1965. he's passing down this stretch of road, and he hears a shout, james meredith! there's a white man in a gully who raises a shotgun. bang, bang, bang. james meredith, the hero of the
ole miss crisis, is all of a sudden lying splayed on the gravel shoulder of highway 51 with blood soaking through the back of his shirt. three blasts from a shotgun transform toed a walk into a civil rights extravaganza. the titans of black politics would descend on mississippi, activists and reporters would arrive from around the world. it was a political experiments, practical alliances, chaotic debates. this march is most famous for spawning the cry of black power, a slogan in some ways would define the next generation of the black freedom struggle. those three weeks in 1966 are the story of this book. it's a martha has been called both the meredith march and the march against fear. it's full of inspiring moments of black people overcoming their fear, of surging their pride and defying the symbols of white supremacy. i'd submit this book gives us a way to think about the civil rights movement not as one single, pure, nonviolent triumph over all of america's racial
ills, but rather as a stream of ideas that merge into a river, that help link the national to the local, that help link the famous leaders of the movement to people at the grassroots, to a struggle that continues well before the 1960 and continues beyond the '60s. moreover, to think of black power not as the bad guy that killed the civil rights movement, but rather, kind of like the march itself, something that is both constructive and destructive, something that is both hopeful and cynical, something that is both unifying and alienating. also an extraordinary story, a march that is filled with extraordinary characters including many of the major figures of the civil rights movement. james meredith survived the attack. there were bird shot pellets lodged into his head, his neck, his back, but he did let the march continue in his name. at the same time, he was a constant critic of it. he was a fundamentally conservative pimp, and he wanted this -- person, and he wanted this march conducted by
independent men following his lead. he hated that it transformed into a mass march with women and children imposing on local communities, however, he did return to mississippi at the end of march, he'd recovered enough to do so, and during the final rally it was james meredith who won the largest cheers. the march was also famous for the emergence of stokely carmichael as a national figure. he was the new chairman of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, and in some ways he was a human embodiment of sncc's emerging radicalism. they'd recently boycotted a white house conference on civil rights. and on june 16 this the midst of the march in greenwood in the mississippi delta, it was stokely carmichael who before the crowd of about a thousand people said we want black power, and when he turned to the crowd and said what do you want, the response was black power. it was a slogan that immediately resonated with the black people of mississippi, and it was a slow began that emerged from the direction context of the civil
rights movement. with the limits of nonviolent action, with the uncertain commitments of white liberals, but it was also a slow began that captured aspirations, hopes, dreams, control over their own communities, pride in blackness and its history and its culture. along the march black power was a contested term with many meanings. the press seemed to see it in terms of violence, but for many african-americans it was something more. it was way to express pride in themselves, a way to control their lives. by the end of the march, the charismatic stokely carmichael emerged as a hero to black militants but also a bull's eye for an emerging white backlash in american politics. martin luther king this many ways is at the narrative story of this -- center of this story. he, his organization, the southern christian leadership conference, participated this the meredith march because they
found an opportunity to replicate some of the great triumphs of the civil rights movement, selma in '65, and the hope was it would help to bring about racist violence and stimulate a national conscience. and throughout the march king was a key moderating influence on the more radical groups, but he was also the figure who attracted the press and who attracted the black people of mississippi to block to the march. people -- to flock to the march. in many ways it was a testament to his greater role in the civil rights movement. this was a martha also featured instances of very dramatic and often harrowing violence. in the third week of the march, on june 21st, they took a side trip to philadelphia, mississippi, and they were there recognize the second anniversary of three civil rights workers. because they weren't on the official march route, they got very little protection from the mississippi highway patrol which had been accompanying them. the local sheriffs there were affiliated with the cue clucks
clarntion and at that -- ku klux klan. and the marchers were attacked weeings, rocks, cherry bombs. a brawl broke out at the end. despite the pleas of civil rights leaders, lyndon johnson refused to increase the federal presence on the march, more u.s. marshals, etc. it was a sign of his increasing alienation from the civil rights movement. his action also freed the governor of mississippi, paul johnson, and the highway patrol, to up leash more violence -- can unleash more violence upon be marchers. they tried to pitch their tents this canton but local authorities would not let them put their tents up. the mississippi highway patrol, the very same police who had been protecting them, launched tear gas at them to punish the crowd. half-blinded people running in every direction, a chain-link fence toppling under the weight of scrambling marchers, people screaming and crying and vomiting and wailing and gasping for breath. and then the police moved in on the ground and hit the marchers with their night sticks and
kicked and rival butted them. despite that intimidation, they moved on to jackson. and as robbie said at the beginning, it turned out to be the greatest civil rights demonstration in the history of mississippi. 15,000 people participated in the final march right here to the statehouse where the final rally was held. what had begun as the endeavor of a single, quirky man in james meredith turned into the largest civil rights demonstration in the state's history. this was the last great mass march of the civil rights movement, the last time major civil rights organizations cooperated on a nonviolent demonstration that would become a lobbying symbol and national news. but to truly understand the impact of this march, you have to shift the focus from those national figures and look at the local people in mississippi. over 4,000 blacks registered to vote during the march itself, and there were rallies at courthouses all along the route, most dramatically in batesville, a man registered to vote for the first time in his life. he was 106 years old, he'd been born a slave. again and again just as james meredith had intended at the
beginning, people defied that culture of fear in mississippi. this book is filled with stories of african-americans who weren't interested in these outside agitators, and yet they'd get up, dust themselves off and march through town with martin luther king and stokely carmichael. it exposed the depth of black grievances, the height of black possibilities. and i'd like to end with a story that actually ends the book itself. the it's story of a woman named elsie dorsey, a woman who has since passed away. she talked to me about how she joined the march on the last day, and she gave me some back story. she grew up on a plantation in the delta. she was kicked out -- she lost her job with the mechanization of the plantation. she had seven children, and she'd gotten involved in the civil rights movement. she wanted to march, but she feared bringing her children. after what had happened in philadelphia and canton, she feared it would be a bloodbath, but she regretted not bringing them as she was walking with
15,000 other people through the streets of jackson. she said there was an energy that i have not felt before or since. the whole time she remained afraid that there might be violence, but that spirit on that walk reminded her of a little mass meeting in a delta church when she first got involved in the civil rights movement. and when they started singing the freedom songs, she swore she could hear the individual voices of her fellow fighters. and then they got here to the state capitol, and the singing stopped, and she very poetically described the crunch, crunch, crunch of the marching footsteps. and then the marching stopped. she said it was as if even the birds stopped flying. and there was something beautiful and pure and soulful in that moment of beautiful silence. thank you. [applause] >> devery anderson. >> all right. well, thank you so much and good afternoon to everybody. and it's great, as always, to be many -- in mississippi.
over the past ten years as i've been here researching and writing this book about mine on the emmett till murder, i've come to feel that mississippi is almost like a second home, and i've grown to love the people here very much. just a couple of months before he delivered his famous speech on august 28, 1963, as part of the march on washington, dr. martin luther king jr. talked about another dream that he had had probably for some time. he said i have a dream this afternoon that there will be a day when we will no longer face the atrocities that emmett till had to face or medgar evers had to face, but that all men can live with dignity. and he saw the brutal murder of emmett till as not just another local matter as many people tried to frame it at the time, but as part of a, as a larger movement or that it fit in well with that movement. five years earlier as he wrote his book about the montgomery
bus boycott, he had already declared today it is emmett till, tomorrow it is martin luther king, then in another tomorrow it will be somebody else. so he already saw this movement in process, its list of martyrs had already begun, and he knew it was inevitable that other names would be added to that list in time. and so as far as some background, emmett till was a 14-year-old african-american boy from chicago who visited mississippi relatives, his uncle mose, his wife blithe and three sons -- his wife elizabeth and three sons still living at home. got there august 20th, and four days later he went into a country store near the wright home in money, mississippi, bought some bubble gum and whistled at 21-year-old caroline
bryant who, whose husband owned the store, and she was working behind the counter that night. he whistled at her which, of course, violated one of the oldest taboos in the south as far as any interaction between the races or, more particularly in this case, any interaction involved a black male and a white woman. as a result of that whistle, three days later about 2:00 in the morning emmett till was kidnapped at gunpoint from his uncle's home from the bed that he was sleeping in, and he by the husband of the woman of the store and also his half brother. and so, and three days after that his brutally-beaten and by then decomposing body surfaced in thal hatch chi river, and that news made headlines not only throughout the country, but soon throughout the world.
within days j.w -- [inaudible] and roy bryant, the two men, were arrested and indicted for murder and kidnapping, and they went on trial for murder in sumner, mississippi, on september 19th. they had accomplices that helped them with this crime, but those men, their names didn't surface right away. there were rumors during the trial, we know some of those names now, but they never saw the inside of a courtroom. mylah and bryant did, but it didn't do any good. five days after the trial starts on september 23, 1955, they were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury. and not long after that to add injustice here, another layer of injustice, these men sold their story, began meeting privately with a journalist named william bradford huey. they met in the offices of their defense attorneys, j.w. preland and john whiten, in sumner and sold their story for $3,150.
told the details, at least their version at this point. they were careful not to indict anybody else who had helped them who could still be tried for kidnapping and murder. so they took all the credit themselves and talked about how they did kidnap and murder emmett till. at that point could to not be tried again. and so the roque community had -- the local community had to live with that fact, that they had two acquitted murderers in their community. they had rallied to their defense, many of them anyway, during the trial, began putting out money jars in various stores to raise money for their defense. not a lot of people doubted their guilt, but they didn't want to hear about it. and once it was out there and, you know, we can deny what's right in front of our faces. sometimes that's, obviously, the easiest thing to deny is what's staring us right in the face. and once that happened, then things changed. the emmett till case kind of was
forgotten this the sense that -- in the sense that it was painful for a lot of people, and it was, it is an embarrassment to many others. and so as a result of that, historians didn't talk a whole lot about it for quite a while. but it's the type of thing that couldn't stay buried forever. there would be a day where it would have to be resurrected, so to speak. and there have been other books on emmett till case, some of them very, very -- well, a lot of them very good. there have been memoirs by family members who are talking about what they had experienced. others, such as a book also published by university press of mississippi, emmett till and the mississippi press, by davis and matthew was very good in focusing on the press. a book, the emmett till lynching, a documentary history, was also very good. what i wanted to do was i wanted to dig deep, and i wanted to look at these earliest sources and try to put together a full narrative of this case from
beginning to end. and when i say end, it's kind of hard there because when i started writing this book this 2004, there was another chapter that was beginning. this was in may of 2004 the fbi reowned -- or, i should say, opened the emmett till case because it wasn't really investigated before. but there was enough evidence that there may have been -- well, there were others involved and possibly people still living who were involved with the kidnapping and murder of emmett till. so they launched this investigation in may of 2004. it went on for about a year and a half. they uncovered a lot of good information, found the trial transcript which had been missing for decades, were able to talk to a lot of people. and so i began writing this knowing that there was going to be another chapter ahead. and when that investigation ended and nobody was indicted, a lot of people were upset because there was still needing to be some closure with emmett till. but i've discovered and as i've
written and point out in the book, there's much more that's still unfolding really that because of emmett till we've been able to do some powerful things starting all the way back in 1957 with the civil rights act of 1957 introduced by the eisenhower administration. which was fought by, in congress. white southerners didn't like it and fought against it. others were for it, and the name of emmett till was evoked during this debate on both sides of this issue. part four of the civil rights act was to -- white southerners wanted jury trials, a jury trial amendment to be included in that. those who opposed that said, basically -- and val washington of the republican national convention said, you know, if people did not convict -- if a
jury did not convict the murderers of emmitt till, then how can we expect a jury to convict anybody or hold anybody in contempt who denied blacks the right to vote? and so that's why they wanted southerners, white southerners wanted a jury amendment, a jury trial amendment in that bill because they knew these juries were being tried by white men who would never really convict anybody for violating voting rights for blacks, and the problem would just continue. then in 2007, 50 years later, alvin sykes, an activist in kansas city, pushed the emmett till unsolved civil rights act and got sponsors for that, and that ended up being passed 432-2 in the house -- 422-2 in the house, and finally after some to obstacles, overwhelmingly so in the senate. president bush signed it shortly before leaving office which appropriated $13.5 million a
year to investigate cold civil rights cases. and that expires in 2017, and alvin sykes is now pushing for the till bill two which would have no sunset provision, which wouldn't expire and would be expanded to include other federal crimes besides just hate crimes, civil rights/race crimes. and that's known as till bill two. in that sense, emmett till didn't die in vain, and there's so much more to be done, and because of him a lot more is going to be happening. so that's why he's significant today, and his legacy lives on and why i wrote this book. thank you. [applause] you where you a room in a building that is not always serving democracy, i'm going to open floor to questions. if you have questions, please come to our podium, and we'll let you line up there and go in order of the questions that those of you in the audience may
have. i will say one of the things that has struck me about all of these books and the work that we all do as writers and civil rights historians is how much the story of the modern civil rights movement is a living history. and it is especially a living history here in mississippi and in this room. many of you may know this or may not, but i see on every single row living civil rights activists, and we owe a great deal and debt of gratitude to all of them who are here. [applause] so i'll start the questions off, and if you do have questions, please, come on up to the podium. in that sense, i'm interested in the voices and the people who fill your narratives and the people that you talked to over the course of your research and the writing of this book and what struck you in meeting with them and talking to them and how
that impacted your books. start with dr. morris on the end. >> well, unfortunately, i was only able to interview a couple members of the organization. again, they were middle-aged in the 1960s, so many of them had passed by the time i began doing my research. i was able to talk, however, to mrs. amy logan. i interviewed her twice, and she was often times called the mother of the jackson civil rights movement. and i was also able to interview some of the freedom riders and members, family members of the organization members. so that was extremely beneficial. and that oral history is important to really understanding what those women thought. how they perceived of their activism. i was fortunate in that mrs. harvey donated her papers, and she kept meticulous records of her civil rights activism, of her religious activism. she was also the first black woman to become president of church women united, and women
power unlimited worked with the national council of women on wednesdays in the mississippi project. so i was able to access primary documents from are a variety of sources. but with respect to the oral history and hearing those women's voices, one of the things i wanted to do in the book was center their ideas, their thoughts and their interpretations of their works, and i was able to do that from conversations with their daughters and other family members. and, again, that was extremely important in releasing how the women envision themselves and their own contributions to the civil rights movement. and i would just say make sure -- and i heard one of panelists earlier on another panel say this, that it's really important to talk to the elders in your family, right? to make sure especially that the stories of black women don't go down in the margins of history, right? these stories become well known in our families and in our communities and in the public historical record. >> an excellent question, how
did we get to the voice, especially because civil rights history is often times living history, and to build off what we're talking about now, in our work with the freedom -- working with the freedom schools and talking with the freedom school students, you really learn how powerful the civil rights movement was as an educative space in terms of if -- meaning, if you participated in the movement, you were just learning how to participate in the movement. what it meant to be in the movement, what it meant to be a citizen. so just participating was educating young people. and this had such a strong impact on the rest of their lives. so, for instance, miss ah reel ya mitchell wrote her first articles published in the freedom school newspaper in holly springs. she went on to find her own newspaper which still exists today called the mid south tribune. dr. thompson who actually, she went to freedom school, still lives in jackson today, went to get her ph.d., went to desegregated high school faculty
in the state of wisconsin. so a lot of these students went on to live very profound lives and were strongly imacted by their work in the movement -- impacted by their work this the movement. >> it's an interesting question for me as well because writing about the meredith march, it is, you know, for historians a treasure-trove of documents. the press covered it extensively, the papers of civil rights organizations all involved the meredith march, as you might imagine. international press was there, activist newspapers, african-american newspapers, but the story took on a different dimension when i started to do interviews. i fist started by finding people -- first started by finding people on a civil rights veterans' web site. but then what transformed the perspective was coming to the annual meeting of the mississippi civil is rights veterans, and i sat down luckily to a gentleman, and i just started talking about my project. of course i was on meredith march, and he said, you you neeo talk to hollis watkins and talk to him and him, and these are are all the people you've got to
make sure you talk to. so i went around and got their contact information, i made sure i talked to them, and their perspective more than any others changed how i thought about the struggle on the ground and for them that the meredith march wasn't an extraordinary national story, but was, rather, part of their long continuum of work that they'd done that predated the 1960s and went into the present. they still see themselves as activists, and that was very important for me to understand. >> well, for me my interviews began about eight years before i even really thought about writing this book, and it was because for a class project when i was at the university of utah i decided i would try to interview emmett till's mother as part of my project. and so i did. and that was in december of 1996. she died in january of 2003. and so for that next six years, we talked a lot on the phone about her son, and i would call her if i had questions about
something. at this point it was just me being just being very passionate about this case, and i was studying it all the time. after i -- and so those interviews stand out for me. especially with her, once she passed away i realized what i'd lost personally and what the world had lost, ask i was just so -- and i was just so grateful that i had this information that had come from her. nobody was more important to the story, and that is something that will stay with me. i did interview several journalists who covered the trial. most of those i interviewed, i think, are still alive now. i interviewed them probably after 50 years, and so having them go back and remember this case 50 years later was an amazing thing to witness, because they all -- nobody forgot it. and they were still quite emotional in many cases about what they had seen. the challenge for me was getting
people from the side of mylam and bryant or at least their family. not necessarily people who were sympathetic to them, but family or friends. i did in a few cases get people to talk, and it was important to them that i not use their name in the, their names in the books, but i was able the use the information they gave me. but they worried about, you know, some repercussions from other family members if if they were -- or friends if they were to be on the record at least under their name. so there were challenges, but it meant a lot for me to write the way i wanted to write to get those who were involved or this some personal way on either side of this. and so that's -- and if you get the book, you'll see a list of interviews i did with a lot of important people that made the book much better than it would have been otherwise. >> great. thank you all. i'm going to, now, turn it over. >> great. thank you so much, and i thank each of you for participating in this panel.