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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 3, 2016 4:22am-8:01am EDT

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their lives. nothing, nothing, no question is more important. so also -- >> i want to say read everything. i want to say probably because it's like a pathology in some way. the first part of her dad is really rich but she is allusive in the second part. i think think mus and men is really good. but then there's kind of a recirculating is the first person to write this popular account of practices in haiti and jamaica. but i also think that like her essays which nobody talks about that much, why publishers won't publish in 1938 contrary to negro expression where she
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really details in the early part what makes why she is compelled to collect this literature. but read everything. you have time. >> they are reset all the other ones i love. but i think we see these contradictions. we see hurston the biographer, hurston who has who takes black people in the western hemisphere so seriously and is the first to say we do is a religion. and this is why. why. these are components. and yet, hurston who has moments of american nationalism about the u.s. occupation. hurston who is so u.s. centric do and how she sees the caribbean. so i think you get all the hurston's we have been talking about in and i agree with the characteristics, just because this just so wonderful
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to see you take so seriously and how you going to a black's house and everything is on an angle or how we turn nouns into verbs. and right whenever i you hear someone use a word conversation i think of the world hurston. that's not bad language, if there were doesn't exist we make it exist. hurston has that which is so beautiful. >> it's like the black english, and hurston for me woods embodying that. >> let's open it up. we have a few minutes for questions. let's get them in. >> as the proud winner of the writing award at columbia university for the institute of
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research in african-american history, i really appreciate this panel and what you bring with all the contradictions and talking about hurston. the original question about why it's important makes me think about what is it about hurston today that is instructive for our understanding of say black women today? how does are a normal person present today? how is she a role model or how is it that her life can be instructive for us thinking about black womanhood today? >> i would say first of all the importance of knowing oneself and of claiming one's voice. that will talk about -- we talk about one must defer to the men
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in one's life are so that one can assert her own opinion. i think hurston is just modeling that for us all of the time. she is modeling it for us with the understanding that there are consequences. that there may be some go back, but the the importance of understanding who one is in expressing what one thinks is just paramount. >> she imagined black women free. and when you think about all the things that were around saying we weren't, or that in their eyes, that nanny is a product of enslavement and she cannot imagine the possibility be on the legacy of slavery. and janie is like i just want to be free.
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i think that is what hurston gives us. at the same time because she got a great imagination and she can imagine us free and imagine herself free, she doesn't always see this it things that mitigate the quest for freedom for us. i think that's that's what she gives us. a willingness to imagine to put us there. this is what what it looks like black women are free. >> i think in a way it is almost easier and expected of us to say what you should do. but i would like to do is say how do we treat her now? and i have just one thing and i am saying this with their and trampling on this particular stage with these particular thinkers because they have written a about the daughter, the mother of us all, and i think it's a problem for us not
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to keep throwing her into the recognizable woman to whom we can relate. as sister, rs mother. but i think that is in a way isn't that what we expect her to keep nurturing us. i think that she is doing something else, i think i think there's another role for the kind of woman that she knew her hurston was and is and what we have offered now. so i just just want to say that. i think it is very of porton. >> she is not a mothers. >> i just want say in addition to what's been said very dutifully, and what you just said about she's often nourishing us and not to complicate her personal life and professional life, i think as i said earlier something about how did she have to be in all the different ways i mentioned.
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it's because of a certain vulnerability about black women not being treated seriously. she had was a serious american writer. like she's not just a black woman writer, she is a writer with extraordinary skills and quality. but she died and she was always fabulous, don't get me wrong. but there's somebody something about that demise. the fact that her biographer said about alice walker's placement in the rumor that no weight walker could know exactly where she was very. think about that for second. it's an honorary gravestone. so her exit from this room in that way and in the nursing room, while she is still writing. it reminds me of the work that we all need to do about the understanding, what it means to be a black woman in america. it reminds me of how on
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fulfilled the democratic promise has been in that we really don't understand that black women are part of that in a significant way. that's what she does to me. in addition in addition to all the stuff that's nourishing. i would say that in the contemporary moment we have to reckon with that. we really do. >> is a contemporary of marcus garvey, based on your collective research, have you found any pan african influence were looming in her writing are being influenced by garvey during that time? >> that he published at least two poems in negro world. in the the newspaper that garvey published. so she was certainly on now, conscious enough of his work
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that she sent her poems to that publication. i do not think that, i'm not trying to suggest that she's a garvey eye because she's not, but she is interested as sarah says in this kind of african day sport community that there is at the end of watching it for example when jamie and tk go to the -- in their working as migrant workers, that is how a day sport community. heard narrator so making us aware that bohemians in the community and their other people from the caribbean in the community and they are working cooperatively with each other.
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she does not pay enough attention to the capitalist system that they're all working for, but among themselves they're working with each other. so she does have that connection i think. >> what's interesting is she's influenced by another jamaican and so she says and talking about her conservativism, she she says white association is not important comments what's another white hive. it's a wonderful phrase and so she says if we must die, and she really just basically reproduce this in a poem she said and it's really kinda radical. she said if 100 negroes were going to die that will do something. if you just want to jump in a certain kind of commercial bandwagon then i'm sitting this one out. so there's a real the casing talks about the history here in harlem and jamaica much like
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marcus garvey. [inaudible] it is hard to reconcile those two things. the only time she is critical of the u.s. in a real way is when she sees it engaging in a form of colonialism that doesn't want to call colonialism. she's almost always, should never looking outside of the united states is a place for black americans. >> i wanted to thank the panelists, because what you will have to, you have galvanized me to go home and read one of her books behind the bed forever. so? that's the 1i want to go home and ray. and i think of some things that she said, somewhere
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is ready she said i've been to hills kitchen and licked out all the pots. and i'm thinking that when language must not sweat, but i like the way hurston makes her language sweat. i love the way she does that. and i have a bottle tree in my front yard, it's not a real rooster but it's a ceramic rooster and you know she said about roosters, people roost in your yard because the lead out the weed out any bad thing in your yard. and i'm thinking of folks who have done a lot of research early on, peters of writer college and what's the latest, ruth -- i'm thinking of her. so you are all just bring back my interest, when she died she was working on a biography of julius caesar, of king .
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my question is what, how is she playing how did she come about using that? >> kirsten was always interested in the bible. her first novel the title comes from a a verse in the bible. she is a baptist preacher's daughter. she daughter. she is raised in the church she was always fascinated with religion. so i would not ever say that she was traditionally religious person, she just said that black people are christians really, her spirituality was hetero a. she was very much interested in the bible and i suspect it was that interest that led her to imagine writing a biography of king harry. >> thank you. i also would like to say such a
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phenomenal panel of guests. ice feel so honored and privileged. i'm a fourth generation storyteller for children. i've also with the arizona bureau. my question, i've, i have been fortunate to teach literacy to children from k-12. i want to incorporate, i, i have hundreds of stories that i've written and adopted but i want to incorporate this incredible woman that we should develop audiences for our children. no i'm not up on all of her writings but with this panel are there any suggestions of writings that will at least embrace children's thinking or thoughts or something that could be adopted that i can you know,
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something i may not know about. >> some of the stories in -- and men. stories about butterflies and animals and i think those are the stories that's where i would start that you would find material there on the children would really relate to. >> you know she did not write them, so they belong to us. you had a recommendation? >> hello, this is cheryl and nelson from the hurston festival. i also incorporate children's literature my coursework at community college at philadelphia. the one that they love the best is the china berry tree. so if you would like one to
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start with, that would be a great one. there is also one entitled the three witches. and that is a good one as well. i have copies at home. but you could get the wide any online bookstore. so thank you panelists. >> harlem audience, there's always people in the audience who know as much if not more than people on the panel. >> hello. my name is angeline. i wanted to, the fact that i have been an avid hurston reader. every reader. every time i read her life story i get very, very sad that she really lived a hard life. she suffered suffered a lot. i know she had a breakdown with. [inaudible] and the effect that white patrons had on black literary
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heritage controlling the type of writing that they were doing. that had a lot to do with her moving back south thing going to florida because she wanted to really write the kind of writing that she wanted to do. should it what the white literary world to influence the kind of writings that other black writers were influenced by. my point is, she suffered as a result of her resistance. she suffered her life. i don't know if anybody mentioned she was accused of child abuse or child neglect. she was acquitted. she suffered a suffered a lot as a result of the accusation. the fact that she was discovered as a maid and she was on public assistance for a long time and
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she suffered. in my opinion i think she was one of the most important black writer of the 20th century. so i just wanted to talk about the fact that sacrifice that she made for her to be able to write the books or the writing that i consider the most authentic in america. just the poverty that she went to, the sacrifice that she may because she did not want to be a sellout. >> one thing that i would say about that which is absolutely true and please weigh in. she chose to do that. she was committed to that. she chose not to go a commercial route when she did it early on its way to survive. so to serve as that kind of witness. to be that committed to a black people, together that narrative in the way that she did, to me it's triumphant, and heroic.
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to me she doesn't want a mourners bench. what i was saying before about her life, i wanted to be not just a gloss that over, but i want to do something really instructive about how real bad for a lotta people. in academia and writing that can be the outcome. baldwin says the night mentioned too much but he knows a lot of brilliant women. she's not that but it remains that if you take that path, it might be a little bumpy but look at what you have given. like you said. so i just want want to be both triumphant and witness her sacrifice at the same time. >> you did remind us of the price she paid, and she was also very ill, and she was impoverished. she cannot afford the kind of medical assistance that she could have had. but virginia at -- on the last
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decade it's an important book to read. you still see what i would like to say is her mother's daughter. she is down on her luck, there is no world, there is a mobile home. that in itself is so sad. in the sense that she has no security. she lost the home she thought she could buy. she cannot afford it. she had been blasted by the vicious journalism that write about the molestation charge. it didn't actually follow through by say she's not my been exonerated but she's been so falsely accuse that she wasn't even in the country when the molestation was supposed to happen. i think it is important that you remember, that you do look at the virginia -- you see her. she
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still still opinionated, it was really problematic opinion. but she's feisty in she is not giving an inch. >> i think there are tragic conditions in her life, but i don't think her life is a tragic one. i think i think that is the important difference. i think is how she would want to be remembered. i wake up with a headache and i can't write a sentence, and she and she is writing to the variant. like that sense of self and the need to create and produce it in whatever is taken out way from her it's not. after writers we say after this they never wrote again. we can't say that about her. >> but she said tragically colored. [inaudible]
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[inaudible] [inaudible] >> you are asking a question asking us to comment on her as an anthropologist in her values as an anthropologist. >> and how she was able to integrate her audience? integrate her valley center writing coming from someone who is trained as an anthropologist. >> are not trained as an at the apologist but for a minute. anthropology minor in college. but anthropology is you are
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saying that history, these these are the people of color, hurston is a standout, first of all because he comes to new york, he comes to burnet where she studies of the so-called father of american anthropology's. she said at the same time i don't know if anybody knows the name of it anymore. it used to be a big name. but margaret mead was actually in samoa when hurston came. margaret mead wrote a very him port and influential book and there is another woman, ruth benedict who studied the indians of the southwest. and hurston she is there to suggest, i don't want to say day, she suggested that she to
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find a group of people to study. and she said, i'm going home. and that's a very profound thing. so me didn't go back to where she was from. and to to go back to one's home community and take those people one knows intimately seriously, take their ideas seriously, take their their everyday practices seriously, take their cultural expression seriously, and not not to put them out there as objects of ridicule or pity. i think it is a very profound thing. that is where i would say hurston makes an intervention and anthropology. the other thing she does very quickly issued as interest rate just write folktales in youth than men, she produces a sense of
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folktales in context. so we get the whole process which is i understand an anthropologist came to appreciate decades after hurston's initiated that in youth than men. she does make a profound contribution. >> if people could just follow it's important to know people do not turn the people that she spoke with into autographs. she wrote when she wrote from them in a way that they could also read. she did not alienate them from their own story. >> one thing i would would like to add to follow up with a beautiful point later is that you see some of the spots in the caribbean. and that adds to the layers and so when you say cringe and, to
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have that witness and to come and see this early, the limits of her imagination and what it means to collect. it just reminds us that we all have work to do. and anthropology itself is -- >> was hurston but follow? she was always worth the time. thank you you so much for helping us celebrate.
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booktv on c-span2 live from the gaithersburg book festival. [inaudible conversations] ..
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>> if you are tweeting today, use the hashtag gbf, and we need your feedback. surveys are available at the tent and on our web site. complete a survey for a chance to win a $100 visa gift card. i'm pleased to introduce author kristen green. she'll be signing books immediately after the presentation, and copies of her books are on sale in the politics & prose tent, a great partner for us this year. a quick word about buying books. even though this is a free event, it does help the book festival if you buy books. the more books we sell at our event, the more publishers are willing to send their authors here to the book festival. purchasing books from politics & prose does benefit the local economy. it supports local jobs, supports our book festival. so if you enjoy the program and
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you're in a position to do so, please consider buying the authors' books here today. so let me introduce kristen. kristen green is an author who grew up in farmville, virginia, and that's important because it's important to the story. she graduated from the university of mary washington in fredericksburg. she is a graduate of the harvard kennedy school of government. she is a journalist. she most recently worked at the richmond times dispatch. prior to that, at "the boston globe" and san diego union tribune. she currently lives in richmond, virginia. she has a husband, jason, and two daughters who you'll become intimately familiar with when you read this book. so let me tell you about this wonderful book that we're presenting here today, "something must be done about prince edward county." it is a new york times bestseller, it's a washington post notable nonfiction.
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and for those that want to support kristen, it is up for library of virginia people's choice award, so you can go to the web site to get this book voted as a people's choice award. it's an interesting book not only because i'm a lawyer and i love race relations topics, brown v. board of education is something that i studied in depth when i was in law school, but also for those of you that do not know that gaithersburg was voted recently the most diverse city in america. so those of us here today who live in gaithersburg may not fully appreciate that race relations were not always as they have been. and that's what this book is about. kristen grew up in farmville, virginia, in prince edward county, and for those of you that do not know this, in the wake of the seminal supreme court decision, brown v. board of education, which ruled that segregation of schools and education was unconstitutional, prince edward county was the
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only county in this country to close its schools rather than desegregate their schools. and what this book is about, it's an interesting introspective where she goes back to look at her own family's involvement, her own community's involvement with this very troubling time in our nation's history. so the book will flip back and forth between the history -- which i love, i'm a nonfiction guy -- but it also talks about her own experience with that history and confronting that history. so i encourage you to listen to kristen here today, go to the politics & prose tent, consider purchasing this book or, as i did, i went on amazon and purchased the book as well. so without further ado, i'd like to bring kristen up to the stage, and let's welcome her. [applause] >> hi, everybody. thank you so much for that kind introduction, and thank you to gaithersburg for having me here today for this event.
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i'm glad so many of you came out, rain or shine. and i'm just thrilled to be here and to be able to share my story with you. i grew up in prince edward county, virginia, which is the only community in the nation to close its schools for five years rather than desegregate. it was a story that i didn't know growing up. i only knew little bits and pieces of what had happened in my hometown well before i was born, is and i became a journalist and was working on the west coast when i started to develop an interest in learning more about what had actually happened in my hometown. it took a long time for me to develop a curiosity about what had happened because the story wasn't really talked about where i came from. it was kind of pushed under the rug, you know? and i think the way that the story was shared was really oversimplified. so when i -- i became a
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journalist and ended up moving to the west coast, and i i became a more curious person. i developed an interest in writing about people that newspapers don't do a great job writing about, and that's people of color, immigrants, people who live in poverty. and i was working on that and moving to san diego where i became, i had friends for the first time who were people of color. i met my future husband, a multi-racial man, and became more engaged in learn aring about this history. about the same time, "the washington post" magazine did a really great, exhausting piece about what had happened in prince edward, and it was really the first time that someone who wasn't connected to me was telling a fuller story of what had happened there. and reading that made me think that i needed to learn the full story and that maybe it would actually be a good book. and that was about ten years ago. [laughter] you can have an idea of exactly how long this kind of project
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takes to accept that you're actually going to do the project and then take it on. let me go back to the beginning with you and explain what i learned when i set out to write about what happened in prince edward. in 1951 a 16-year-old black girl walked out of her black high school in farmville, virginia, to protest the conditions of that school. of course, in 1951 schools were segregated, so there was a black high school and a white high school x. she had seen the white high school that was just down the street and knew how much better the facilities were at the white high school. so she led a protest with her fellow students to walk out to protest the conditions of that school. and the protest attracted the attention of the naacp in richmond, virginia, who initially wasn't interested -- weren't interested in taking on her case. but they did agree to come to farmville and meet with students and their parents there. and after seeing how dedicated
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these parents and students were to their cause, they told them that they would be willing to take on their case. but it was on one condition, and that condition was that they would seek integration rather than equal facilities. a year earlier, in 1950, the naacp had changed direction and decided that equal facilities were never going to be enough and that they needed to seek desegregation in schools and in all facets of public life. and so the students who had this core committee of students who had planned for months this walkout actually had to take a vote on whether they were going to agree to go along with what the naacp was asking. and according to students who were there, their decision to go along with this only won by one vote. [laughter] that's crazy to me. and so this case ended up becoming one of five cases in brown v. board of education. so brown is an umbrella case which i didn't realize until i
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started reporting this, that prince edward was the only case of the five that was student-led. and it produced 75% of the plaintiffs for the entire brown case. so i think that that case emerging from out of prince edward county is kind of what set the stage for what happened many years later when the schools were closed. i i think white leaders were embarrassed that this case was filed against them, and they suggested that they would build a black high school for the students. they would replace the high school as had been requested of them for many years if only the black students and their parents would drop this suit. but by that point, the black families wanted to move forward with the suit. and so white leaders did go ahead and build this new high school in 1953 anyway. as you know, the brown decision was handed down a year later. i think the white leaders'
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response to the brown decision had a lot to do with embarrassment, right? they were -- and also fear. they were afraid that their community would be held up as an example to the rest of the nation and required to desegregate their schools as an example. senator byrd, senator harry byrd, led a pushback to brown v. board of education that came to be known as massive resistance. he believed that communities should push back to this requirement to desegregate schools and that if virginia pushed back, then the south would get behind them. and if the south, you know, refused to desegregate its schools, then the rest of the country would realize that they were never going to get on board. i don't know if he hoped that the case would be overturned. i'm not sure what his logic was there. but that was his thinking, right? and so there were a lot of people in south side, virginia,
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where prince edward county is located, that supported that logic. and so they -- and in prince edward county and other locations, they formed this group called the defenders of state sovereignty and individual liberties. and in farmville that group suggested -- just six months after the brown hearings, the brown decision -- that perhaps closing the schools was something they should do to avoid desegregation if push came to shove. and i found in my research that the local are newspaper also suggested this within six months of the decision. and the pages of this newspaper that were shaping public opinion said, you know, we're going to refuse to desegregate our schools, and if we have to, we will close the schools rather than do so. so they put this idea out there very early after the brown decision. i think for me working on research, that was a real turning point, to realize that a
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court did not require prince edward to desegregate its schools until 1959. the brown decision ended up coming on the backs of black families because of the way the decision was written. and even a follow-up decision didn't make clear exactly how desegregation was supposed to happen and on what timeline. so black families were forced to go to court and ask schools and school districts to admit their children, right? is so i think, i think in prince edward, you know, they were out ahead of the game and figuring that they would be forced to desegregate. this action, by saying -- they took a stand that they were going to close their schools if they had to. and realizing that they had taken that position so early, right, and that they had had so much time to come up with better options, to come up with ideas that wouldn't have affected so many children, that, for me, was a real turning point in my
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research. at the same time, i also realized that my own grandfather had been one of those people who was a founding member and an officer of the defenders' organization in prince edward county. and that changed a lot for me about how i approached this book, because the book was no longer, you know, i could no longer blame my town for what had happened, but my family was also at fault. and at that point the book became much more personal. as i told you, i had met my future husband, a multiracial man, and we were planning to have children, and i knew that those children represented exactly what white leaders in my town were trying to prevent, which was a mixing of the races. that was their biggest fear. that was the thing that they most wanted to avoid. and when it became more of a personal book, then that allowed me to kind of explore my
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grandfather's role and how i felt about that and to look deeper at what had happened in my hometown. so let's jump forward to 1959 when the court did finally say that prince edward county had to desegregate its schools. prince edward, white leaders had been prepared for that day, right? i said they had mentioned this idea of closing the schools. they didn't just mention it. they raised money for that five-year period to try to start a private academy should the need arise. so so they had people promising funds for that period of time. in addition, the board of supervisors there, the governing body, had gone to a month-to-month financing model so that they could just close the schools at any time, you know? if courts came to them and told them to desegregate the schools, they would be ready to immediately close the schools.
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so when the courts finally did require in 1959 that they desegregate, they did as they had threatened to do and voted not to fund the schools. and by not funding the schools, they shut down all public education in prince edward county. the moment that decision was made, these people that had been planning for years to start a white academy went ahead and launched one, and they did so by calling all the white churches in town, the white, you know, volunteer groups and kind of civic organizations and asking if they could use basements of their churches and use the rotary halls in order to hold classes for the white children. their plan was to have a school up and running come fall of 1959 so that white children would have somewhere to go. black students did not have this opportunity. i mean, for them to have started a private academy would have
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gone against what they were trying to accomplish, right? and so -- and i also think that they didn't, nobody really knew how long the schools would be closed. even oliver hill, the naacp attorney from richmond, couldn't believe that white leaders were really going to go through with this, right? that they would really close all public schools. they thought this was a threat. and even though, you know, the doors had already been locked in the summer of 1959, he was convinced that the schools would still reopen that fall. some families, black families that were worried that their kids wouldn't be able to graduate went ahead and made plans for their children. particularly like the kids who were older, you know, juniors and seniors in high school. everybody realized how important it was for those kids to get a diploma. i mean, if you think about today how important it is, at that time for a black child to get a diploma a really meant something. so these families had worked so hard for that moment that they
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were trying to find ways that their kids could graduate. and so some students were sent to live with family members, you know, older sisters or aunts in the north in particular. some students went and lived at a college in north carolina, an ame church related school that was -- that had agreed to take in about 60 students from prince edward county. and then the black churches also started these training centers in the basement of their churches where they were not considered schools, and they were not taught by official teachers, and they were not full-day programs, but they were meant to engage young students so they could have some involvement with schooling even though they wouldn't be going to school that year. and so parents of younger kids did send their kids to those training centers. but i have to tell you the vast majority of black children did
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not go to school that year and did not go to school in subsequent years. nobody had any way of knowing that the schools would be closed for as long as they were. so children who were old enough went to work in the fields with their parents. i mean, and that exfrom income -- extra income, i mean, most people in prince edward were tobacco farmers, and so the extra income they could get from extra hands actually meant something to those families. and so it was a positive in that way. but it also meant that when the schools would reopen many years later, the students were lost. they had been working all those years. they weren't going to go back to school. and so this generation of children came to be known as the lost generation because so many of them were denied an education. on the other hand, i just want to point out that there were many families who made huge sacrifices so that their
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children could be educated. and that wasn't something i realized going into this. i really wanted to write this book, because i wanted to tell the stories of those children who were telephoned an education, and i want -- who were denied an education. and there were so many different trajectories of what their lives looked like after the schools were closed. the one thing i had never considered was the way that families were torn apart once that decision was made, that because families really wanted their children to be educated, you know, i write about the ward family in the book where the two oldest children were about to graduate. they had a rising senior and a rising junior. and so those children were sent to the ame church school in north carolina, and then a younger daughter who was entering high school, ninth grade, would live with her grandparents in a neighboring county during the week, and then on weekends she would come home to her mom and dad. but dad was working second and third jobs in order to provide the money that these kids needed
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to be at grandma's house and to be at a school in north carolina. and so betty jean, the ninth grader, told me it was like it ripped their family apart. they went from being this happy, joyful family where friends were coming and going all the time, you know, they lived right in the heart of farmville to really being, like, she and her mom on the weekends at the dinner table. and they would never be a family like that again except for christmas time. they never would sleep under the same roof again like they did then. and i came to find that that ripping apart of families really echoed the indignities of slavery, you know? and i had never thought going into the project about what that would be like, to have your children just, you know, ripped away from you so that they could get an education. those stories of the children and what their lives looked like after the schools closed were some of the most meaningful parts for me of reporting this book. there's one student who's a
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really good student, and she was 9 years old when the schools closed. and her dad promised her that no matter what she would get an education. and he was going to see to that. she and her brother would walk three miles each way to one of those training centers. her neighborhood school had been only a mile away, so that was much further. and the students, the white students would pass by on the bus and spit out the window as she was walking to this church training center. they did that for two years, and on and off she would ask, she would ask her dad like, dad, when are we going to go to a real school? he would keep reminding her, yeah, you are going to go to a real school one day, i'm going to make sure. and finally after two years and there had been no movement towards reopening the schools, he decided he had had enough. he worked at the railroad, and he had a project in an adjoining county, and some of his white peers at the railroad helped him to rent a house in appomattox
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county. and it was rundown house that really wasn't habitable, and they set out to make that house appear habitable. he worked on the front yard cleaning it up, and he repaired broken windows, his wife sewed curtains for those windows. but it wasn't until the year the school began, her dad was going to drop her off behind the house each morning with her brother, and they were to stand behind the house until they heard the bus coming down those county roads. and it was then and only then that they were to go through the back door of the house, through the house, out the front door, through the front yard and up the steps of that big bus. and they were never to tell anyone that they didn't live there, because if they did, their education would be at stake. that story just gives me shivers
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even today every time i think about, you know, what she had to endure to get an education and what her parents were willing to sacrifice to make sure that happened. years later that woman, dorothy holcomb, became a school board member in prince edward county. she also worked at the state employment office in prince edward county, and kids she knew from her neighborhood would come in seeking unemployment benefits or looking for jobs, and she would have to go to the other side of the desk and help them fill out the forms because they were illiterate. so this five-year period of not having school, you know, not only affected those can kids and their parents -- those kids and their parents, but it has affected generations of children in prince edward county, right? because the illiteracy of those parents has resulted in their children not being as literate as they would have been
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otherwise, right? and i think about all of the myriad of other effects of not having an education. it means not only you didn't get to achieve your dreams in life, but the economic situation that they were in would have been totally different had they had a high school diploma, had they been able to go to college, right? it might have meant that they could leave that town and get better jobs. it might have meant they could buy a house. so the impact on that generation and subsequent generations has been really significant. and that's part of what i wanted to explore in this book too. i also wanted to hook at what those -- to look at what those public schools looked like after they reopened and the effect on the town today. so that white academy that my grandfather and other white leaders helped to found that year in 1959 when the schools were closed, both of my parents attended that school. they later returned to prince edward county and enrled my brothers and me in that school. and i was a student there in
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1986 when prince edward academy, when it was then known, finally admitted black students. i found in my research that the only reason it did so was in order to have its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status restored which had been taken away for discrimination. when i was interviewing the man who was the headmaster of the school the whole time i was a student there and i said, you know, when you integrated prince edward academy -- i referred to it as integrating. he said, huh-uh, when we admitted black students. so that told me a lot about what the thinking had been for so many years about race relations in that town and where the academy stood in relationship to the public schools. i found in my research that -- i mean, my belief is that the town would be better off if there were only the public school system because such a small community in rural virginia is unable to really fully support two school systems.
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and without the support of those white families who for generations have supported the private schools, the public schools aren't really able to prosper in the way that they need to. and i think many public leaders still view the schools as the black schools and continue to support it as such. and so i find that the school system is underfunded and inadequately supported by the whole community. it's not embraced as the whole community's public school system. i want to wrap up so that i can take a few questions. we just have a few minutes left. yes, ma'am. >> [inaudible] >> what got the public schools reopened, is the question. good question. it actually required another supreme court decision. yeah, in order to reopen the schools. and that was 1964. a lot of people really had hopes that the kennedy administration would be able to do something and reopen them sooner.
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but they had just as much trouble doing that as, you know, black leaders did in building sport in prince edward. so it did require another supreme court decision, and it was a full five years. yeah. yes, sir. >> you lived there -- [inaudible] what do you think there was about the mindset of those who lived in farmville that set that apart from the rest of the south where they said we will not come my, we will close? >> you know, i don't know that it was something about the mindset that made them, that set them apart from the rest of the south. i think -- the only thing i can come up with that makes sense is that they were really, truly embarrassed about being part of that supreme court decision, of being one of those five cases. and i think that that made them really want to do something to push back.
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and i think that senator byrd, you know, had a huge authority in that town and was meeting behind the scenes with, you know, prominent leaders there. and so maybe -- they may have used themselves as a test case, you know? they may have thought, like, if we can do this, then other communities can do this. i mean, and there is evidence to support some parts of that. like, the white leaders that had created that academy that i attended created a little booklet explaining how to do this. and they suggested to atlanta and to new orleans that those communities were also capable of doing what little, teeny prince edward county had done. and they were traveling around the country like espousing these views that if you want to shut down your schools and start a white academy, here's how you do it. and so, you know, i don't know that they had some particular viewpoint that was really different than the rest of the south, they just might have had more will to do it because of
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the back history there. i can take maybe one more question if anybody has one. yes, sir. >> how difficult was it to find the students, and what kinds of interviews did you conduct? >> how difficult was it to find the students. you know, i've been a reporter for 20 years, i have never covered a story that was so rich with people you could interview. i basically had to stop interviewing people at a point where i reached so many. i have to give a little plug for mollton high school which was the school those students walked out in protest. it is now an amazing civil rights museum. if you're ever in virginia and have a chance to go to prince edward county, i really encourage you to go to the museum. they're a great partner in that community to help heal the rift between blacks and whites there is. blacks can come in and tell their stories of what happened to them, whites can tell their stories and learn about the history that they were never taught. and when i was live anything prince edward reporting the book
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for one summer, i went to every event there for, you know, over the summer and went to weekly events there for a couple of years. and there are so many students who were affected that, i mean, i really could, like, walk into a grocery store and probably find, you know, five in a single outs to walmart -- outing to walmart. it was very rich with students that had lived that experience and from various perspectives, you know? the thing that i really realized when i started interviewing these students was that there were so many different perspectives. i had never thought of what life might look like for a kid who was 5 when the schools closed, right? so when i met someone, i said, oh, my gosh, i've got to cast a wider net. it was really amazing to meet someone who wasn't able to start their education until they were 10 years old and who was pushed through the school in seven years. and frustrated many teachers.
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facebook.com/booktv. >> welcome to the 32nd annual chicago lit festival. the theme of this year's festival is what your story. we encourage you to share the stories you hear this weekend on twitter, instagram or facebook using #prlf16. you can keep the spirit of lit fest all year by downloading the app where you'll find all of the chicago tribunes premium book content free and discounted books for subscribers and the complete printers row lit fest schedule.
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download today to get a free e-book and $5 off merchandise. today's program will be broadcast live on c-span2's book tv. if there's time at the end for q&a session with the author, we ask you to use the microphone located to your right so that the home viewing audience can hear your question. before we begin today's program we ask that you silence your cell phone and turn off your camera flashes. please welcome editor and general manager of tribute content agency and today's interviewer john barin. >> good morning, everybody. i love the smell of books in the morning and it's great to be around a bunch of friends who feel the same way. it's my pleasure to help kick off today's -- today's day of lit fest and it's my great pleasure to welcome bradley jay
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who is the author of russell circumstance american conservative. bradley is the russell aimist chair in american studies and professor of history at hillsdale college. he came over this morning from south central michigan, made the journey and is here to talk about the book about russell circumstance. -- kirk, one of the questions is who is russell kirk, the man undoubtedly cast a very large shadow over american political and intellectual thought in the latter half of the 20th century. it could be argument -- argued that it still does. brad, your book does many, many things but it also helps serve as a marvelous embracing introduction or reintroduction to russell kirk. we are going to talk about many
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things here today. but for starters, please give us a quick overview of this man and his importance. >> sure, thank you, john, thank you everybody to come on a sunday morning and thanks to c-span and book tv. russell kirk was born in 1918 in michigan born into extreme poverty and it was something that he experienced during the first 35 years of his life to varying degrees and he was very bookish, became interested in all kinds of things, if the stories are to be believed, he read thomas jefferson by the time he was 11 and there's no doubt that there was a certain genius to this very, very unusual young man in plymouth. when he came back from military experience, he ended up getting
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graduate degree, university of st. andrews, earned that 1952, came back in 1953 and strangely enough million copy-best seller. the book called the conservative mind which the timing was just right. it hit the market from a chicago publisher on may 11th, 1953, ended up going through seven editions over lifetime. they might be conservative to some degree, libertarians to another degree. there are a whole number of voices that i think kirk's book allowed -- allowed something, some kind of forum for all of the voices to be able to speak right at the world war ii, right at the korean war, hi becomes
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very important. specially we wouldn't have a gold water movement without kirk. we also wouldn't have had a reagan movement without kirk. he did represent that strain of conservatism. >> he helps conservative thought and what most people may not imagine is that the conservative mind came out in 1953 was very different than the way we kind of offer a shorthand for political thought at this point. you know, we think about conservative and liberal and we think about these things on the opposite extremes, we are pretty entrenched ideas about what those terms mean. they're convenient shorthand at this point that often lead to stereotypes but at the time the conservative mind came out, conservatism really wasn't a thing in america.
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>> that's right. part of what kirk had to do was bring together all the different strands and give it some kind of coherence, what he decided to do and he never -- when he wrote the, he had certainly long to be a published author and never anticipated success and he was a good writer, a very good writer, amazing stylist and a good thinker as well but he certainly didn't project, okay, this is going to change the world. we forgotten him about this day in age and once goldwater fails in the 1964 election kirk's fortune goes down and will take the rest of his life, he has 30 more years to live after that. it takes him those 30 years to kind of rebuild reputation back to where it was before the
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goldwater debacle. when you say -- this has to be stressed and can't be stressed enough that kirk's conservatism was not political, it was fundamental to understand the original conservative movement, it back political in the goldwater movement. he's not thinking in terms of political movement. he's not thinking large defense and free markets, he's in favor of all of that but his main idea of conservatism is really presenting a kind of western face against the soviets, so it wasn't just that we weren't soviet or we were anticommunist but we actually we wanted to try and figure out a way that we were something that was its own thing and yet he didn't want to be ideological either. a lot of conservatism is poetic and literary and has to do with
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art probably more than than tax subsidies and military policy. >> again to set the stage pre1953, you think about conservatives not really having a place at the table. >> right. >> they weren't, you know, really a firm cemented part of the spectrum with a definition behind them. think the country is coming from great depression. the country has been experiencing the new deal for quite a while, you've got radical ideologies and war abroad and probably a general feeling that government control in ways bigger than ever before was perhaps a little bit necessary and that modernism was the inevitable path for mankind. then along comes kirk who presents a different path.
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>> yes, very antimodern. he's very leary of this. one of the things we often forget and john your question leads beautifully into this that modern conservatism really comes out of two impulses. number one it come out of the fear that there is a collectivization going on not just in governments, so there's no doubt that conservatives from the beginning were fearful of big government whether it's what we see radical abroad in russia and germany and italy and portugal and other places prior to world war ii and declined during world war ii, we see them increased. it was fear that at home through what we call progressism that there was a desire to solve all problems through institutions whether it was gm which kirk had no love for, whether it was educational bureaucracies, say, michigan state which kirk was very fearful of these huge
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universities or whether it was government. so he was fearful as what he called the cult of the colossal of anything that was antihuman. that was impumses that was important for all conservatism and libertarianism in that time in the 1950's, the other impulse which we have forgotten, we have seen modern conservative s people like robert kirk, william buckley, they believed strongly that our true voice was the voice of playdo and they saw that long line and they believed and i think probably correctly that these things were being attacked and it makes sense, just i don't think we have to be and if funding universities, they are going to want things
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like science, which science is great, they're going to use science for making larger bomb. to realm the question out, john, hopefully, one of the things that is tie today both the fear of what's colossal as well as lost of liberal arts we are pursuing power without virtue he was horrified about the dropping of the atomic bombs in hiroshima and nagasaki. that dropping of the bomb first of all the development of the bomb, the physicists would even consider this thing, i think he was just -- this was too much for him and i go into this in detail, i hope people don't take kirk as crazy. he saw this as a old very response, response that they
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might give and wondered if it was duty to commit suicide not because he was depressed. not because he was suicidal but because our honor as americans had been so tainted by the attack on the cities that maybe it was the duty of a good american to actually have to pay for this in a kind of way, very interesting, obviously didn't commit suicide but the letters and diries at the time just horrified by this. >> i wanted to talk in a little more detail about kirk's brand of conservatism. when we think about liberals and conservatives, we see almost see cartoonish where liberalism on radio and tv. you write that conservatism for kirk was served as a means, a mood and attitude to conserve to
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preserve and pass onto future generation it is best of the humane tradition rather advocate political philosophy party or agenda. very different from our shorthand version of conservatism right now. can you talk a little bit what was the brand of conservatism and why it set lots of minds on fire? >> well, as you said so well just a few minutes ago, john, there were not that many conservatism voices and not unified by any means. you had people like leo in chicago, you had kirk, a lot of the people were not coming out of the ivy leagues. a lot of people were people educated in smaller schools and there's a bit, i don't want to take too far, buckley comes out of the ivy leagues but there's a bit of animosity not only corporate america but towards east-coast elitism and ivy
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leagues. i don't want to suggest that that's a prime motive factor but they were pretty proud that they -- job the institutions on the east coast as well, but that conservatism as kirk, so the word conservative is first used used in modern sense by a person out at one of the seven sister schools, he uses that in an article in the atlantic and you wouldn't get from reading this that it's political, he's really talking about elliot, remembering the great thicks -- things in music. it's not a conservative in a political sense. it's not until after world war ii that the term gets bantered around. kirk, whether he's right or wrong about this, it's really quicker that gives that label some kind of real strength and it's not a rallying cry for a party because eisenhower takes
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him a while, for example, to call himself that. robert taft takes it on quickly in 1953 and you see with national review and others, that conservatism, he gives us six cannons in the book the conservative mind which defines it and those cannons and uses that term can known intentionally, he'll convert to roman cathalicism. he is really an atheis, the diagnostic up to that point. they sound deeply religious because they start after by arguing we should believe in a higher power, we should believe in the author of the national law. we should believe in the dig
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dignity of every human person. he actually sounds like vatican too. [laughter] >> what he's saying in 1953 could have been written by someone in roam during 1952 or 1962, 1965 during vatican council. it's all personalism, very humane in the way that he's thinking about this but i stress and i think it's important to note that he use it is term cannon because that meant a truth that wasn't easily defined and so he is trying to avoid kind of program or a conception of the state, he doesn't want conservatism to be an ideology, a party platform. it's a way of thinking and that way of thinking what we might call agnostic judaism or christianity.
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we know the history of conservatism, of course, from its beginning is very catholic and very jewish. it's not protestant until the 70's. the great movement has those religious overtones but it's not religious in the way we will think of it with roberts or pat robertson later on. >> so he puts out the conservatism mind in 1953. it shows that there's not only this point of view but that it also has this very proud anglo-american heritage that stretches back a couple of centuries and instantly became the spokesman for what became a movement. what did the book accomplish and what was the reaction? >> yeah. >> it is very heavy stuff, it is not your typical best seller
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material and yet that's what it became. >> that's right, it went through seven editions during his lifetime, the last edition was published in 1986 just about eight years before he passed away and he even says at the beginning, mostly like this will be the last revision, the revisions do matter. this is not just a change of the name here or there in particular each addition change it is last chapter so that it looks forward what is happening and what is not. the original title interestingly enough is called the conservatives route because kirk thought that all conservatism would be a rare-guard action and he couldn't imagine anyone actually stepping forth and using this as a way to move into the future, this would always be a way of stopping radical progressives, holding them back to a certain degree and he thought he would lose and even though he leaves communism and
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joins the losing side. henry, publisher in chicago which identifies with conservatism had actually made money by translating catholic theology in the late 1940's in english. a lot of german scholars, english scholars, translated and made that money that way before it became known as conservatism. when kirk publishes the book it is in the english-speaking world. the conservative mind in every major periodcal and it becomes so big that they have to go back and look at it again and make sure they didn't get it wrong. almost everybody, there are a few criticisms. kirk is a 19th century man who thrust into the 20th century. he's a romantic, which he was. there's no question that kirk is
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an idealistic romantic. he would have enjoyed walking tours and he was very essentric person. it really brings all the desperate schools, anticommunist, liberal arts, people like atler but it does bring together a lot of people and one person who is absolutely taken with this book strangely enough is this pilot from arizona goldwater and it's a catalyst for him. >> conservative mind pretty much begins with edmond and talk about some of the other people
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in the book, the other litany of conservative saints, if you will. >> it is, the conservative mind is a hate geography, looking at 29 people, look at their lives and contribute. they don't all agree. that's important for kirk that the 29 characters, some we know well, most academics, people like alexis but others, we hardly south hall, the obscured british figure that deals with common laws. a lot of the people we don't remember very well in america burden and harvard historian, a french and a princeton historian of the classics, i think there are great guys. >> there are some other names we know very well. >> he ends the book with elliot. he and elliot become very good
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friends starting in 1953 and they shape each other's thought profoundly and i don't think we could have had a conservative here. really elliot giving the sanction to kirk and elliot won nobel prize, but to go back, certainly kirk is important, kirk he bookmarks, gives book for the conservative mind so the two great figures of their days as he sees it, john adams here and then he ends with ts elliot, he has 26 figures in between those, 29 overall. burke is important. i had the great privilege to teach american founding, founding of the american republic, i get to teach that every two years, i absolutely love it, i make sure as students are reading john dickson and we do a great deal with burke.
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a huge part of it burke was the leading person in parliament. he put his life on the line, more than once defending american rights and he did that for his whole career and it wasn't just a political movement, burke truly believed that the americans had inherited the very long tradition of common law, trial by jury, the right to be innocent until proven guilty. burke believed that we were the true i think learnman and that was kirk's idea as well. i think it's equally important to state that burke is not unique, he is one in a very long line of thinkers. so even though kirk starts his book with burke, burke is the inheritor, veno, all the great
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we as americans, for the audience specially and those watching c-span, look at ronald reagan. you go back and look at ronald reagan's speeches, health talk about the greatness of america, but what he talks about so importantly is america defending the greatness of the west. he like kirk draws that in. reagan becomes more nationalistic, but in earlier years he's concerned with the western tradition and really with the best of the western tradition and that's why kirk picks burke as well. >> the conservative mind obviously set the table, set the table for kirk's career, a writer throughout his life, helped found the national review along with william buckley where
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he was a columnist widely read across the country, several other books, important books on ts elliot, among others, novelist, creative figure and for nothing else he would be remembered for that. despite the fact that early on he did not talk about conservatism as a party, as an agenda, as politics, he did get very much involved with politics as you allude today with barry goldwater's candy in 1964. what prompt that had shift and how did things play out? >> yeah, that's awkwarder subject in a lot of ways because it goes against principles. in every way i could find kirk was a man of integrity and i'm sure he had his faults but he
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really did try to live what he preached. this was not a guy -- he did make a lot of money but he gave it all away. we can talk about that. that's maybe a different story. he had argued as early as 1953 and takes it from one of the great writers, he said, politics is for the quarter educated. [laughter] >> real change came by writing books, syndicated columns, he was truly a man of letters in that he believed that a real intellectual presence and real change will take at least 25 years, we don't go into congress assuming that if we get this one law passed, everything will change tomorrow. he very much had a long view and saw civilizations had fallen and he knew that western civil
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occasion, people again had mentioned a couple of times, the three greats of greek society, all come at the end of greece and not during hayday. all nostalgic about what they had lost. they all come at the end of their age and kirk calling the book conservative route, he thought we were at the end of the west and therefore the job would be like medieval monks, trance -- transcribe and the third really liked him and gold water was by all accounts, and i'm not a goldwater scholar, but it's hard to dislike him when he met with people he was totally honest . when goldwater and nixon would
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meet donors, goldwater would never -- goldwater would say to your face, no, i would never do that. nixon would say, yeah, i think we can work something out. people would describe nixon as being -- he was a promotion, a guy promoting the boxing match and goldwater was the actual boxer. i'm no expert on goldwater or nixon, goldwater, i don't think any of us think he lied. he's just a guy, whatever he thought he spoke. i think kirk was pretty taken with that and also a young man, here is goldwater calling him from washington, d.c., calling him in acosta, michigan, saying my two favorite authors are you and hyek. how will i convince people and i think a young kirk was pretty flattered by that.
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i think i was taken in by that. goldwater called him all of the time. they met in places like florida, they with buckley strategized how do we kick out radical right, none of these people should be a part of conservatism and it was a good movement for a while. kirk really didn't get involved in politics much after 64 and he wasn't good at it. he was good, if you want honest politician, kirk is fantastic. if you want a winning politician, kirk is not that good. >> obviously he supported reagan but also supported democratic. >> yes, he loved norman thomas, the socialist, in 1994. i think he was much more concerned with penalty and who
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he thought was honest. >> there's obviously a lot of names and influences that -- that kirk enjoyed. it is very enjoyable in your book to go -- to go down all of those paths, of all of these thinkers who influence kirk's thought. there's probably more ideas per page in this book than a year's book of talks. it's absolutely fascinating intellectual history by the same tone russell kirk as you alluded to was an interesting character. it was not just a writer off in a room some where, puerto ricoly -- prikley nature. talk about the man himself. thanks, john, i don't think you can walk out without knowing his personality. he was bizarre, my favorite story, my wife's story as well,
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my favorite story about kirk a year before he gets married. he doesn't get married and he's a bachelor up until 1964, he married about a month before he turns 46. marries a beautiful woman, model from new york and extremely and force of nature, incredible person, they were a great team, but a year before he gets married, he always travel it had world not as a young man, once he went on and served on the military he became world traveler, north africa, south africa, throughout all of asia, traveled throughout all of europe, usually live on peanut butter, he didn't mind poverty at all. he was always whatever he had that's what he had. money was a means to an end for kirk. that's another story. but so in 1963 he and hungarian scholar decide that they're going to spend the summer, you know, i can see maybe walking across north africa in the winter but they decide to pick
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the summer, they walk all across north africa and everywhere kirk goes because he's kirk, he always carries with him a portable typewriter. that thing is everywhere and his letters, john, i had never -- i'm 48, in all my years of researching i have never seen a body of letters like what kirk left. the guy never stopped writing. he could do 120 words a minute. just amazing. he walks across the desert, hungarian scholar, suit across the morrocan desert. hugecan with a swort in it. -- huge cane with a sort on it.
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they follow him everywhere, bizarre character. ends up in europe and gets to an oprah in italy. i think he's in florence, he wore in addition to three-piece suit he had a dracula cape he had gotten prize , security guard will not let them in at all. no way, we're late, the door is not opening. kirk's friend says, do you not understand this is russell kirk, this is the duke of macosta. tiny little 600-person village in michigan and they let him in. this is kirk.
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>> macosta was his home and rebuilt his home in a rather grand matter. >> this is another story about kirk that we don't forget. if you do, i would ask the one thing to take away that i think is so brilliant about kirk and i ended the book about this, if i start with this no one will believe it. kirk did make millions of dollars during lifetime not only books but fiction, most people who know horror fiction he wrote gothic stories, most people who read conservative didn't know he was a fiction writer. when he died he was basically broke. he gave everything away. he and his wife use to drive to grand rapids. anybody that we wanted to come from -- anyone escaping escaping
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from communism and fascism he opened their house to them. the daughters, would wake up every morning and never knew who would be at breakfast with them. at the time vietnamese, one of my colleagues, one of my closest friends economist by the name of ivan, he was brought out from yugoslavia because of kirk. we don't often remember that about. kirk truly lived this in every way. one of the persons and i think this is what you're alluding to, john, one of the person's kirk was an an ex-con and his wife met him. clinton wallace. he ended up living with them. he called called the parole
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office. he ends up living there on ash wednesday of all things, they burned down kirk's home. they have to rebuild it after that and it's this beautiful or ornate structure there. this is what i think is beautiful, in st. michael's cemetery they bury clinton wallace, his tomb stone is right next to russell kirk's, it doesn't say hobo, night of the road. that's kirk. he loved people. he loved stories of people. he was very forgiven but also -- this guy was interesting, so kirk liked him and kirk was that
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eccentric too. >> who better to ask than somebody who has put together this biography. what would he think about today's political environment? >> he would be horrified in every way. i think two things would have bothered him immensely and he spent the last three years of his life combating this. he was right or wrong he thought that george bush's foreign policy, first george bush was against everything that america really stood for. he was worried about the first gulf war. he saw this as our first into american empire. he was -- he spent the first three years, i don't think-really successful and run out of the conservative movement, but he was very much against this. he thought bush betray it had
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entire reagan legacy. he did not believe in any form of overseas expansion, the idea that we have troops stationed in 150 countries, out of 100, roughly 96. something very different than 1991, he would have been very upset about that. he would not in any way recognize the people that we call, neocons, he would not have predicted that, he was very worried about the possibility but he also and i think this is maybe more important and i don't want to necessarily name names, but the idea that you have radio shows, dedicated to conservatism as art, not -- i'm sorry, let me rephrase that not as art but entertainment. the fact that you would be selling conservatism as a radio show or tv show, he is conservatism, what we are doing here, john, we are having a discussion and you're letting me
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talk more because you're very gracious but we are taking 35-45 minutes and actually thinking about an idea. that for kirk was what we should be doing. he may have disagreed with mcniel but that was the proper way of doing news. in the early 1960's people that were going right after him and disagreed with strong brand of conservatism, his brand was completely different. it was very charitable and he just let her talked and answered very calmly and she was frustrated. he was fine. he actually got along with her well but with malcolm x, what kind of thing. it's a good thing and in closing
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here we want to open up the floor to any questions from the audience for professor if there are any ought russell kirk's thought or this book. going once. [laughter] >> we've answered all the questions. one last question and then we will close in brief. russell kirk's legacy. >> yes, well, john, let me -- >> i'm sorry, we do have one question. we will get to that. >> thank you, sir. >> two questions, one is what was his reaction of what happened in the 60's, so much conservatism today seems to come from that and this is somewhat off the subject but there's been a lot in the news lately about how conservative professors on campus are hounded and afraid to come out of the closet as conservatives. do you have any comments on that? thank you for coming out today. >> thank you for both of the
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questions. kirk like most conservatives was confused by the 1960's, he spent his time, he did attack radical conservatism on campuses but also was willing to debate and engage and one of my favorite stories, this is not something that i in great detail partly because we don't have a lot of evidence and he was asked to speak by sda as well as black panthers there and he was to debate tom hagen and got in front of a crowd, pretty radical group but kirk was without question, he was a gentleman and he treated no matter who he was talking to, he treated people with respect and tom hayden came late and kirk because the event had to get started and hayden hadn't showed up allowed to give a speech. hayden came from the book of the room, at least as the story goes, immediately started
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launching into kirk as defender of capitalism and defending the establishment. the story goes, even if it's not true, i think it says so much about what we remember about kirk and explains a lot, a young man african-american man in the front row who was a very convinced black panther this guy stood up and started yelling at hayden, you have no right to do this, this man actually has more respect for us than you're showing now and by all accounts kirk won the debate because whatever he said he treated everybody well and it wasn't a show for him. this was serious conversation and i think it's really important to note that kirk in his life would ever modern conserve -- conservatism a defender of people called
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minorities, always, he believed that the changes that were happening in the 60's were necessary, he believed since the very begin, editorial in 1963, he thought one of the ugliest things that had developed in american culture were road signs. he has an editorial that all good citizens spend time defacing billboards because they don't do anything for the billboard of america. he wrote on necessity of good architecture inside as well as out. he planned it and in his lifetime he planted thousands upon thousands of trees because he said it's duty of the sins of ancestors who rigged the environment. not generally what we hear. as to your second question, sir,
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i can't really answer that. i know my conservatism oh -- opressed. i loved it. i'm sure people thought i was weird but i had nothing of good experiences. for what it's worth. my evidence, i have not seen that but i certainly know my friends who are conservatives or libertarian do not feel the way i do but maybe i had just gotten lucky. thank you very much. [applause] >> and everybody enjoyed the rest of lit fest today. thank you so much. >> thank you for attending
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biographies. in the meantime, reza aslan is joining us. his most recent book isset" lot. the life and times of jesus of nazareth." the last time we saw you on the
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show, we have a new pope, a rise in isis, and more people are identifying as athiests than ever before. what is your take on this topic? >> guest: well first of all, big fan of the pope. i'm a product of a jesuit education, and the minute that i newell we were going to have a jesuit pope i knew things were going to be different. if anybody is familiar with the history of the catholic church and the thorn in the side of the jesuits have been in that church for centuries. think you knew that this is going to be a revolutionary moment, and he has not failed to really live up to the expectations a lot had of him. what i would say very quickly about this pope is that he has learned a very valuable lesson from his predecessor, pope benedict, and that is that you can't really reform the vatican. the vatican is too unwieldy for it to be reformed.
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but you can reform the church. and i think that the -- pope francis learned if you just simply stop with the bureaucracy, and instead begin to appeal to the world's billion or so catholics through action, through faith, particularly this' amortis leticia. profound statement of transforming priests from, as he kind of put it, from arbiters of morality, those who are there to signal out your errors, into actual pastors, people who there are and have the freedom to actually approach situations in an individualistic basis, with sympathy, not looking for some kind of hard and fast rule. think that what is happening in
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the catholic church under pope francis will be revolutionary. >> host: isis. >> guest: isis, of course, is phenomenon we're trying to figure out. >> host: is it a religious movement? >> guest: well, insofar as as anyone who calls themselves muslim is a muslim, yes, isis is a muslim this tee bait whether it is or is not muslim is kind of silly. if you say you're acting in the name of islam, we should probably just take your word for it. but to think that in and of itself creates some sort of generalization i think is quite silly. the fact of the matter is that isis may be muslim but so are the vast majority of its victims. by the tens of thousands. isis may be muslim but so are the people who are fighting against isis. people on the ground who are risking their lives battling this cancer.
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they're monday him, too, so if isis is muslim and their victims are muslim and the people fighting them are muslims, this done really say anything all that generalizing about islam itself. >> host: more good more people are identifying as athiests. >> guest: it's true, more people are nying is a athiest. in fact there's been a doubling of athiest numbers, but let's just be clear. that's now two and a half percent of the united states. so, yes there has been a surge of people identifying as athiests but it's still in ridiculously small amounts. when it comes to the united states of america, which is a country that form a -- is 71% christian. so we're still deeply influenced by christianity in this country. no way to get around that. >> host: reza aslan is our guest help has appeared on booktv's in-depth program where we spent
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three hours talking with him and taking your phone calls, talking bit his books, his most recent book is "the life and times of jesus of nazareth." zealot it's called. 202-748-8 01 in the mountain and pacific time zones. we'll begin taking the calls in just a minute. reza aslan is a creative writing professor at the university of california riverside. where were you on that day of the shooting in san bernardino? >> guest: i was actually in haiti. i was shooting an episode of my new cnn show, "believer," a spiritual adventure series where i go around and take part in religious rituals in various communities that lends to
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opening up different worlds, different beliefs and it was obviously quite a shock it was so close to the home and the place where i work. we need to get to a point where we recognize that the united states is not immune to the appeal of these organizations, like al qaeda and assist, but there are muslims in the u.s. in absolutely infinite -- a small percentage of them but they do exist who feel at though their identity is under a certain sense of crisis and who are looking to these groups who are expressing their grievances sometimes in horrifically violent way. we're nowhere near to problem europe has. let's be clear. we have had 3,000 or so europeans who have left to join
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isis, and almost zero -- very close to zero of them in america, and i will also say that this overwhelming focus that we have on islamic terrorism -- and islamic extremism in the united states is absurdly exaggerated and more dangerously, think, hides the truth. the department of homeland security, the fbi, and 74% of every single law enforcement agency in the united states all say that the greatest threat to americans is right-wing extremism, right-wing terrorists. they have killed far, far more than americans since the attack's of 9/11 than islamic terrorists have. you're more likely in this donee to be shot by a todd than to be killed by an islamic terrorist at awful as the san bernardino shootings were, as horrific as that experience was, that was 355th mass shooting
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in america in 2015, and that year, last year, ended with 372 mass shootings. so, yes, we are under threat of terrorism is in done toronto, this is not islamic terror simple. >> host: your new series, believer, and when does it premiere? >> guest: on cnn in 2017. >> host: bob is calling in from overland park, kansas. bob go ahead with your question or comment. >> greetings, people. you're a national treasure. my question is, and it centers around my perception of the dawn of the millennium we were very worried about the y2k virus in our computers. would assert that the true y2k virus was religion and the form of virus that infects the human operating system. so, one of the things i've
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always been interested in is the political assertions that were made at the council when they made the determination that christ had been physically reborn and had come back from the dead. we have, upon discoveries of the libraries in 1935, conflicting accounts of that, when their recollections of the resurrect was more in the form of persons' dreams, recollections of christ's teachings as opposed to a physical, it was more of a memory. >> host: let's hear from our guest. >> guest: great question. you're a national treasure. i wouldn't necessarily call religion a virus since it's been around since the dawn of human evolution. we can go back, with material evidence, at least 100,000 years ago, but now a new group of
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scientists who call themselves cognitive anthropologists say we could go back as late as 400,000 years ago and see signs, very clear expressions of religious impulse in human beings. so, if it's a virus, it's one that has been there from the dawn of our evolution. secondly, i think you're absolutely right about the creed and the way that it calcified a particular kind of theology when it -- or christology when it comes to christian beliefs, but -- even the gospels themselves indicate a wide variety of beliefs about what the resurrection meant, how it was to be understood. remember next gospel of mark, the very first gospel there, is no resolution, the tomb is simply empty, and the gospel which end's chapter 15, verse 8,
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says a young man in white told the women to tell the disciples that jesus would meet them in jerusalem and that's the end. bit the time you gut to math hutu and luke you have the community trying to say what does the resurrection mean? was jesus a ghost? we have a story in which jesus eats fish and bread. so he can't be a ghost. but was he physically -- did he have a physical body? we have a story in which the disciples are sitting around in a room and jesus suddenly pops in as though he is a ghost. so even in those gospels of the earliest moment of the formation of christianity, seems to be an enormous diversity of belief about what the resurrection actually meant. but you're right it wasn't until around the nicine period that became calcified. >> host: jacob, you're next. go ahead. >> caller: hi.
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good afternoon. my question for you is: what were the beliefs and traditions that affected jesus and his preaching and actions. thank you? >> guest: wow, i love that question. i never get to talk about that. it is a religion that was born in ancient persia, before it was even persia. probably i would say around 1100bc. that's give or take. so before abraham, i would say. the prophet is wildly rather as the first mon ethe is particularly created prophet. created the concept of heaven and hell and the concept of angels and demons. these things did not really exist before he began to speak
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about them and he talk about how human morality is what decides where you go in your afterlife. if you have good thoughts good, words -- deeds, that's the formula, then you will go to a good place in your afterlife, heaven. if you have bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds, then you go to a bad place. this was revolutionary. now, the reason it is so important is because it backs the religion of the empire. cyrus the great was the persian king who defeated the babylonian empire and set the jews free from their babylonian captivity. sent them back to the holy land, gave them the money to rebuild their temple. and so the jews post the babylonian compile, post 6th 6th century bc -- were heavily
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influenced by this. that how they accommodate these notions. for instance, the best example of this is the concept of the devil or satan. you read the hebrew verses saidan is nothings an evil character, no. the adversary of man himself part of god's court and is know at the satan with a lower case s. but he is one of god's messengers. god send him out to do his bidding. by the time you get to the new testament this is a completely different satan. a satan with a capital s. this is not man's adversary, he is an evil being. that shows you the influence of -- if were to be glib i would say christianity is what happens when you combine soastrium and
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judaism. >> george is next. we're listening. >> caller: i have a couple of questions regarding how christianity reconciles jesus as god. one point in the gospels jesus says, the father knows the time of the final judgment, the final coming, but i don't. and then, again, -- i went to church today -- in the gospel today, several times after the resurrection, jesus appears to the disciples and others but they don't recognize him. i've never heard, well, what did he look like? what form did he take? >> guest: well, that's actually very much connected to the first conversation we had, that, yes, post resurrection, are certain resurrection narratives in which jesus appears kind of ghostly.
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the disciples don't recognize i him. he changes the way he locks. suddenly breaks the bread and they do recognize him. just as there were an enormous amount of ideas and controversy among the early clips about what the resurrection actually meant there, was an equal amount about whether jesus himself was god or what his relationship was with the father. you see this again in the gospels. on again, the gospel of mark. at no point in the gospel of mark does jesus eve identify himself is a god in matthew and luke there are verses that can be interpret as though jesus perhaps is equating himself with god, because of the powers that he possesses. he acts by the finger of god, he says, and if he has the finger of god, maybe he is saying he himself is god in some form, and then you get to the gospel of john, the last of the gospels, and jesus is barely human.
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he is pure god. he says, i am the -- i and the father are one. this slow evolution is a perfect example of this conversation that was taking place in the early christian community over what the relationship between jesus and god was. again, as with the resurrection, that conversation came to an end at nycia when the doctrine of the trinity, father, son, and holy spirit, one substance, three forms, became the creed of christianity, and all those other creeds, including the aryan movement, which believed that jesus was just a man. the gnosty cs who say jesus has no human attributes and what you saw was an illusion to a human being but he was pure god. those views were violently suppressed and what we now forward as the trinity became
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the founding dock christian of christianity. >> host: ten minutes left. jim in mercer island, washington, you're on the air go ahead. >> caller: thank you, peter good to talk to you again, reza. i called in a couple years ago on your program. it was wonderful. one question i have is i know when you came to the u.s.a. you became a christian, in fact i think you became a fundamentalist christian if i recall. >> guest: that's right. >> host: then went back to islam. i'm wondering why? what was the motivation to go back to islam and do you prefer -- i guess you do prefer islam over christianity and why? and i'll hang up and listen to your question. >> guest: thank you for the question. yes, it's true. so, i was born and raised a muslim but really a cultural muslim mitchell family was not very religious at all. my father was a hard core marxist athiest who hated everything about religion. when we came to the united
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states, this was a time of severe anti-muslim settlement, the early 80s, the height of the iran hostage crisis, and we kind of scrubbed our lives of any kind of outward signs of religiosity but i've always been deeply fascinated by religion and a deeply spiritual kid. has to too with my child images of revolutionary iran. i was seven years old and i experienced what it meant to have an entire country transformed in the name of religion, and that never left me. and so i had an abiding interest in religion and spirituality but no way to kind of live that out, at least not in my family. when i was 15 i went with some friends to an evangelical youth camp in northern california. heard the gospel story for in the first time. never heard anything like this before. it was a transformative experience for me medley converted to a particularly
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conservative brand of chinnity. then when i went to the university i decided to study the new test. for a living, and it was there under the tattoolage of my jesuit professors i discovered the historical jesus, the jesus that becomes the central figure in "sell -- zealot" and that transform the with a i thought about christianout but was still desirous for some kind of spiritual edification, and i started learning more and more about what religion truly is. i think this is the core of your question, and i'm -- that's why i'm so glad you asked it. i think we have to understand that religion is not faith. these are two different things. faith is subjective, is individualistic, it's mysterious, it's impossible to express. religion, how too you expect it? that's it. religion is a language.
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a language made up of symbols and metaphors but a language that lets people express to themselves and the other people the experience of faith, of transscene dense, -- transcendence so to me it doesn't matter what language you choose, whether you're speaking french or german your saying the same thing. english or mandarin you're saying the same thing, so i choose whether you choose the symbols of christianity or buddhism or islam, you're still expressing the same sentiment, just in a different language. and so i think it's important to choose a language. that's all. i am a muslim because i think there are symbols and metaphorses of islam make more sense to me. i'm not a muslim because i think it's more right that kinect or more correct thaninnity. don't think that way. i just think that the language
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that it uses to describe the experience of the divine, the relationship between creator and creation, that language works for me. the buddha once said if you want to draw water, you don't dig six one-foot wells you. dig one six-foot well. islam is my six-foot well but i also recognize, as the buddha did, the water i'm drawing from is the water that everybody is drawing from. >> host: a couple of viewers our discussion with rezas a lan online. just two quick quotes from "zealot. "." the common depiction of jesus has a peacemaker who loved his enemies and turned the other cheek has been built mostly on
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his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with interest in or for that matter knowledge of the politically turbulent world in which he lived. that picture of jesus has already been shown to be a complete fabrication that jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. kim in pennsylvania, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hi. well, you sort of answered -- i wanted to know a brief summary of what your book was about, but if he could goo into more detail why your book is different from other scholarly books on jesus. >> guest: sure. sure. >> host: can you, tim. >> guest: my book is' the world in which jesus lived. this incredibly turbulent, apocalyptic era in the first century, an era in which the jus
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were living under the boost of an imperial roman occupation that controlled every aspect of their lives, including their religion, and the way in which he jews over that first century repeatedly rebelled against the roman rule, and how jesus fits into it. the quote peter read is a perfect example. jesus lived in an era in which it would have been impossible not to be aware of what was going on. the political and religious and economic turmoil that had affected the life of every jew in judea and -- and to stand up and say a. the messiah, the ancestors or king david people and here to re-establish the kingdom of david on earth, that's a political statement. this book is not about who jesus was, whether he was god or the son of god or the messiah. just makes a very simple
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argument that whatever else jesus was, whatever else he was, he was also man, and as a man he lived in a specific time and place. his teachings were addressed to very specific social ills. his actions were in response to very specific religious and political leaders that whatever his teachings were addressed to specific social ills. his actions were in response to very specific religious and political leaders. whatever else he was he was a product of his world. if you want to know who jesus was and how to understand his message you have to begin by understanding his world. >> guest: we have one minute left. >> i applaud your comments on the pope. it is astounding the changes brought about. my question regarding president obama, should he be labeled correctly that he is not calling
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the terrorists islamic terrorists? >> i like what seth myers said about this. president obama is not harry potter. calling it islamic terrorism doesn't magically make it go away. the president's argument is isis sees itself as a representation of all muslims which is absurd by calling them islamic terrorists we are feeding the isis narrative. that is a pretty good argument. however, as i said earlier in this conversation isis is muslim for the simple fact they call themselves muslim but that doesn't mean islam is isis. that is where we get tripped up, to say these actions which are still beyond the pale of anything that could conceivably be called normative islam that they have anything to do with representing the ideas, views, actions and thoughts of the world's 1.6 billion muslims is
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just ridiculous. >> host: you are speaking at the festival of books but your wife is also speaking. >> the first micro lending platform, go and check it out. in the fuel and $28 to a got her in africa, 97% payback rate, $1 billion, $25 increments, she is my hero. her book is called clay water brick. it is not just about creating kiva about how to think about poverty. how to think about the poor not as the poor but as entrepreneurs who don't have the opportunities and need that. >> host: thank you for being on booktv. >> sunday on newsmakers bill cassidy talks about the devastating floods that hit
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louisiana recently, funding to fight the zika virus and what congress will we be working on next week. newsmakers sunday at 10 am and 6:00 pm eastern on c-span. >> this weekend c-span's cities tour along with comcast cable partners explore the literary life and history of denver, colorado. we visit the tattered cover bookstore founded in 1971 and consider the cornerstone of the literary culture of denver. >> you will see green carpets and brass fixture and, the original barnes & noble superstores were modeled on this. >> reporter: arthur juan thompson talks about living with his father, hunter thompson in stories i tell myself. >> he was born in 1936, when he is growing up he didn't grow up
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in an era when fathers were typically heavily involved in raising the kids so that was part of it and writing was the most important thing, family was secondary for sure. >> part of the c-span cities tour, some history of denver, colorado, on the rocky flats nuclear sites transition to a national wildlife refuge. >> they use the drainage, we have neil dear so there may be some meal to your farms out here. coyotes are other common mammals. occasionally there is a bear in this area. >> kimberly fields, author of 100 years of gangsters, gold and goats talks about how men
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changed the city. >> by the 1880s denver itself had gotten rich from mining and wanted to become the queen city of the planes, the center of commerce, the leader of the western united states and the city fathers at that point decided a mint they could be proud of was going to be part of the process. >> the c-span cities tour of denver, colorado today at noon eastern on booktv and sunday afternoon on american history tv on c-span3 working with cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. >> now discussion about race and crime in 19th century america with two true crime authors, you will hear from skip hollandsworth, author of "the midnight assassin: panic, scandal, and the hunt for america's first serial killer" , and kali nicole
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"hannah mary tabbs and the disembodied torso: a tale of race, sex, and violence in america". this is an hour. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. we are all set. thank you for coming today. those of you sitting in the back pews might think about moving up here a little closer to these wonderful authors that are with us. our panel today is called shadow country, race and crime in 19th century america, it will be part of the san antonio book festival broadcast april 30th on c-span2 if you want to see some of the programs you missed because you weren't here or because we did such a good job you have to watch it a second time to hear everybody twice. we have two terrific authors from texas with us. to my left is my long time long
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ago young reporter colleague, skip hollandsworth, executive editor of texas monthly, the national magazine award winner, written some of the greatest true crime of the last 10 or 15 years, got some more for us. his book is "the midnight assassin: panic, scandal, and the hunt for america's first serial killer" . he will be signing that right after this presentation. we didn't know if these books were going to be here. the hardcover came a few days ago. all we had was the galley. so his book takes place in austin. i will talk about that in a minute. kali nicole gross is associate professor of african and african diaspora at the university of texas in austin, she has made quite a career of writing about crime in philadelphia and this is her second book, set in philadelphia and both of these
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authors, remarkable true crime stories none of us know anything about and completely lost in the public memorial. skip's is about this first serial killer to be documented in the united states. those of you who have read the devil in the white city about chicago, we all thought that must have been the first serial killer this occurs in 1885 in austin, two years later philadelphia, 1400 philadelphia, 1400 miles "hannah mary tabbs and the disembodied torso: a tale of race, sex, and violence in america". these books are about nasty bad things that happened but since we didn't know any of the people we can enjoy armchair thrillers because that is what true crime is about. we love to read about terrible things happening to people we don't know. the microphones not out there but i will ask a trivia question
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to get us started. what were the respective populations of boston and philadelphia in 1890, the closest census year 21885 when skip is writing in austin anybody want to hazard a guess about these cities? >> 75,000. 14,000 austin had 14,000. does that help you with philadelphia a little bit, philadelphia had more than 1 million people, has 1,000,000.5 today so that gives you a better understanding of the country we lived in back then. the northeast where the real cities were, philadelphia was the city it is today in terms of it being a big metropolis. they were two different settings but both of these books start out with something very bad happening to somebody and with that i will stop and ask you to
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set the scene of crime in austin in 1885, give us a few minutes of overview of what you are reporting on and i will have you do the same in philadelphia. >> austin was actually transforming itself from the frontier era town into a gilded age city. electric lights were arriving, telephones were arriving, the driscoll hotel was getting built with flush toilets on the third floor. the economy was booming so the state legislature decided to build a new state capital, the architect order to make it taller than the us capital, everything is better in texas was working in 1885. the university of texas had opened the year before and had a whopping never before imagined 230 students being taught by 7
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professors who had been recruited away from universities like the university of virginia for $4000 a year, staggering start and even estate lunatic asylum was being refurbished, all the insane people in texas were brought to the lunatic asylum, 550 people were there and the new superintendent made the path curving instead of straight because they said curving pads led to sanity and anybody can get in. there were women brought in for too much minstrel flow in women brought in for too many, several men were brought in for violations of masturbation. here was a city emerging into a golden era as the mayor kept telling everybody in every speech and on december 30th on
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new year's day, there was a headline in the newspaper called blood he work and a young black servant woman who lived in little service quarters behind the house in almost every wealthy home in austin had serving orders had been found out by the back outhouse, and ask blow in her head, cut up into pieces so when the undertaker look at her her body fell apart. so began the story. is that 5 minutes? we are ahead of schedule and we will come back to that. why don't you set the scene in philadelphia for us. >> i try not to go into academic a kid speech but this is a tough act to follow. i will do my best.
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my crime takes place in philadelphia in 1887. it starts when a headless, limitless, racially ambiguous torso discovered and upon just outside the city. philadelphia at this time as robert introduced it is already a fairly large city but has undergone a number of substantial demographic changes. the black population in philadelphia almost doubled from 20,000 to 40,000. the population of italian immigrants goes from 300 to 18,000, you have this influx of newly freed black folks entering the city at the same time you have a lot of white european immigrants coming from abroad but it is not certain if these folks are white just yet. irish immigrants come and italian immigrants, not certain
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where they fit in. the torso itself is disturbing, the headless limbless torso of a man but they can't discern his race. they don't know. is it a white man who has been killed? this would to a huge priority. is it a spaniard? a milano? some suggested another origin. there is this hysteria around what to do and it paralyzes the investigation initially. philadelphia has a reputation as a city of brotherly love and abolitionism, guilty as charged. it also is profoundly deeply divided by race and ethnic differences. investigators are not sure which world to search.
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the project to discern his race becomes important for a bunch of reasons. >> let me say it is impossible to read both these books without compelling yourself forward in a 21st-century and in the back of your mind think about law enforcement, african-american people and black people and how race and class divide the country in the approach to crime and law enforcement but let's go back to the great 19th-century years. how does law enforcement react to news of a black murder? you want to go first? >> the austin cops looked for a black suspect. we are only 20 years removed from the civil war. austin is a confederate state and there is this theory that
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young black men because they have not experienced the paternal lysing benefits of slavery had a tendency to deconstruct and return to their, quote, primordial state. this is exactly what the police believed happened in the first murder. the servant woman had moved on to another man, decided to take these interests and only in the way that a black man would do it, this would only mean a crime committed by a savage man and it was a savage crime. when the second murder happened a few months later, a young black servant woman was found with her head chopped in and wrapped in blankets, cut 2 pieces, and armpit driven through her ear. the theory was it had to be another black lover who got the idea from the first black lover so let the rest this other guy,
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they arrested a mentally slow barefoot black man who was considered to become a lover of the second woman. and had failed. he was clearly the culprit. there was no such thing in our era at csi units, no behavioral sciences, no fingerprint, and blood between humans and animals, no hair evidence. they were bloodhounds to sniff or send and chase whatever sent they could find, the bloodhounds -- any eyewitness who said the killer was, went to their
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determined belief whether it had to be a black man. if we keep arresting them, one of them will confess. >> your corpse is found neatly wrapped with a little handwritten sign on it that says handle with care. it is not found in philadelphia, it is found in bucks county which even now is rural but back then was your farm country. and saw the handle with care and opened it up with was horrified. how do you bring that into philadelphia? >> there was a quandary who the victim is let alone a culprit, and figured out his race and chemical tests, and microscopic
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tests basically says based on his examination, 3 fourths negro, even though he was really certain this was a moment science is not trusted by investigators or the csi moment. and the state attorney look at him, we don't buy this, they call in black people from the community, comparing the skin with the torso. shockingly, they ask the women out right is this a black man. white folks and colored folks look so much alike nowadays.
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and combing the river, using the torso, makes it into the newspaper, handle with care and a piece of calico, there is a conductor who remembers a black woman on the train the same evening carrying packages that mix this description and they say we have an actual lead, definitive proof that this is the body of a colored man so this gets them to philadelphia, they take this train from philadelphia to bucks county. >> this is a good time to pause and ask what prompted both of you to take 30-year-old murder cases and reconstruct those even in the age of google search. >> there was nothing to google.
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you can't google 19th-century newspapers at the briscoe center for american studies. basically hire researchers to look for stuff with you and you sit in front of a microfilm machine day after day going through 19th-century newspapers where the sprint is smaller than texas monthly print is today. and you come across the story, i am on it, you never knew which page the local news would be on. and someone getting arrested, the reason i am scared about doing this session is one of you is about to stand up and go if you had just looked in this library the killer is right
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here. it is needle in the haystack. old-fashioned research, i was totally unprepared because i'm a journalist bringing up people who are alive, not dead. >> something else triggers your interest, reading about another serial killer. jack. i first heard about this when a school teacher said she was working on a novel, the jack the ripper case in austin. i said where would that have come from? she showed me this report made in a quickie pamphlet rented during the 1888 whitechapel killing that scotland yard suspected the color could have come from a small city in texas where a series of similar murders occurred three years earlier and i went what murders?
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that drove me to start something to do a real-life version of the story. >> that is how reporters get on stories was how did you get on? this is not your first book about philadelphia crime. your first book was about crime victims, african-american crime victims in the 20th century. is that where you heard about this? >> i was doing research on criminal justice in philadelphia and is where the penitentiary system was born and looking at this record for eastern state penitentiary which is the premier confinement facility. don't know if any folks here have been to philadelphia but eastern -- sure. this massive fortress was a
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model built on this. at any rate i was going through the archives, this is the painstaking work of it but maintained scrapbooks and cut out newspaper clippings, famous or infamous inmates. when i was going through the scrapbook i came across the case, murder most foul, disembodied trunk and torso, this was love at first sight for me. don't know if that is the kind of thing you want to confess to folks you don't know but there it is. once i found out there were black folks involved, i said wait a minute. this is not the kind of history i am used to. from that i put it down, those newspaper clippings gave me names and dates, and roster numbers and i could look them up
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in their prison record and that gave me a little background and i worked the census data and when i started researching the project i don't know how long it took me but ancestry.com was not as built-up as it is today. there was a moment in the research when my priorities shifted and i was able to use census data materials from ancestry.com. and painstakingly put it together, read through the coverage at the philadelphia city archives, and random goose chases at the center of the story, handed me a tab for folks who lied about her origins and use different aliass and i spent time on a research fellowship in virginia looking for their roots because that is where she said she was from. she said we she was from
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maryland. that changed and set me back a little bit, to recalibrate. and annapolis, dig through their. needle in a haystack, found her marriage certificate and a better idea about the name she was going by at that time. her husband served as the troops during the civil war. able to find some of his records and the widows pension files and applied after his death and the headlining information, going everywhere, sort of exciting for me. being a historian, and this goes far and wide and the mid-atlantic. >> why not introduce hannah mary
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tabs. >> you know she is a slippery character to study. the conductor give them the sort of description of black women and able to trace her steps from when she gets off this train, she stopped at a number of houses it becomes clear she worked as a servant for one of the folks in the area. her name starts to circulate in the newspaper, she actually goes to the town, at the same time the authorities are looking for her, pretty interesting. at the same time the victim's sister, when she sees hannah mary tabbs's name in the picture, she goes to the chief of detectives in philadelphia, and the young man who is having a next her marital affair.
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>> we are up to a couple murders, there is more coming, the police are looking to point fingers at people and made an arrest, how are they treating their respective investigations? just trying to close cases with people they can pin it on or are they genuinely saying austin deserves justice and trying to get to the bottom of it. >> still just the thing that is hard for us to understand, and private investigators were later hired and responsible for all this. the concept of the serial killer did not exist in 1885.
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there were maniacs who would go on psychotic killing sprees and there were outlaws, the greatest one of all was john wesley hardin who shot 40 people, but he was very open about who he shot and for what reason, they owed him money or he wanted their money or they had a gambling problem and he said they deserved to die. there had never been the concept of a man sneaking out on his own for his own lascivious motives to want to ritualistically slaughter one woman after another, wait for periods of month-end do it again and leave their bodies out like a work of art and disappear. so the police were under the assumption there had to be some black involvement. as the murders continued everyone began to come up with a theory that a black gang was on
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the loose in austin, not just one person doing this but a group of black men trying to wreak havoc on the city for reasons of their own. >> that is an important snapshot, the element of fear, people filling a vacuum for what they think is going on and who might be next. >> there were calls for lynchings, marches through the black neighborhood, and clean out the city of any black man who has committed a crime. i am sure it happened and not getting reported in the papers, then came christmas eve which was one month or one year after the first murder and the whole story changed when two prominent white women were similarly slaughtered in the space of an
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hour. that is when the panic hits, it is a negro matter up until christmas eve and suddenly everyone's world changed. >> this is a good time to introduce the subject of sex and the role it played in each investigation or at least in the eyes of law enforcement and the role relationships might have had. they got their eye on hannah, she is the guilty party. >> once hannah mary tabbs is arrested and apprehended, talk about policing in philadelphia at this moment. >> at this moment right now? >> this historical moment. in the late 19th century, violence is considered an
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acceptable part of policing. in many respects, as is racial profiling, you have patrol manuals and instruct philadelphia police officers to detain anyone who is poor or looking like they came from outside the state. you see a variety of constituents in perilous positions. so when hannah mary tabbs is in custody she is kept in a cell, the chief of detectives office by herself and interrogated for period of time, maintains the idea she doesn't know about this case or any of the victims, kept in custody overnight and the next day she reported a very pronounced blackeye and at that time she said this young man, george wilson and the another
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young man got into an argument, committed this horrible crime and basically forced me to help him destroy this evidence. and the issue about her testimony is problematic. on the one hand she herself was a pretty dubious character. a lot of accounts of this time of women's treatment especially in custody, being vulnerable to things like sexual assault. other black women said they were interrogated for wearing masks, her faces were covered, her eyes weren't and looking all over. another instance, a white woman arrested our prostitution charge, testified to sexual advances of the guard to escape -- to be imprisoned at the time is sort of dangerous and dubious
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for all these reasons. once she makes this confession they get george wilson and george wilson is a very light complexion, use the term blotto. it is the sum of all fears because he passed for white. in spite of the evidence of her having a romantic affair with the victim and a number of other salacious details that emerged, log on to him as the infinitely more suspicious because we are especially worried about being infiltrated. if this guy could pass for white he could infiltrate the white race in some way. that didn't get us onto the sex piece the way i thought it would. >> i will be happy to ask about sex. >> come back around to it.
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be change what happened as they look at people, the two white murder victims? >> seven women are murdered in the space of a year and reporters are beginning to write that it might be one person. may be a lunatic escaped from the asylum, those under the full moon and turned into a werewolf. one reporter said it could be frankenstein returned. they are trying to grapple with the idea that one kind of brilliant maniac, a midnight assassin was at work. reporter came down from the new york world to write about the killings and he said this is a different kind of killer than we have ever seen before and someone who kills out of a need to gratify his desire never seen him before. it was a really prissy and peace of reporting.
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city leaders did not want to see this kind of reporting, a stomping ground for a midnight assassin who was on catchable. they came up with the idea that two white husband had murdered their wives one of whom was going to leave her husband and the second wife was slipping off and discovered she was a young socialite, refute divorces, slipping from a house of assignation. congress and third street where a woman -- would rent out rooms for the hour. and she was meeting someone there and the second husband killed her because according to the authorities, found out she was sneaking around. then came the rumor it wasn't
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the husband doing it. it was the leading candidate for governor. william swain, a giant man, the most popular politician in texas at the time, he was running for governor and his opponent was an x confederate war hero, and losing in the newspaper paul, at a very widely campaign manager. not quite the evidence, william swain is with the young socialite at the house of assignation was the one that killed her. the story stuck and became governor of texas. any truth to it?
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>> here is the problem i have. as a professional historian you might not have this problem but because you can't completely disprove the story or prove it, you have to leave it hanging in a curveball. >> what happened to the black suspects we have forgotten about, we had some arrests early on. now that the police have turned their attention elsewhere trying to suggest there is not a serial killer, what about people they rounded up, any number of suspects over that year. >> beat them with him, a rope is what they used, chain them to an iron chain in the middle of the floor, let them go and when there is another murder arrest them all and i don't know why these guys didn't get out of
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town. but eventually hired private detectives to invent evidence, one of which was a black chicken thief, one of the beloved characters in town, robin hood, give them to the poor black neighbors. oliver townsend was arrested and convicted of trumped up charges of burglary and sent to the penitentiary and he escaped from the penitentiary and became a bigger role in the black community. i feel bad about that. >> this was an era, talked about joseph pulitzer sending a reporter for a good murder story but there were rewards being offered. that would attract private detectives, police were in efficient, to collect the money. >> they would dress up in suits.
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the mayor sent a letter to the pinkerton agency, the greatest detective agency in the country and the letter got diverted to a different agency that existed in chicago, the pinkerton us detective agency and for $3000, a group of detectives who had no idea what they were doing. you are going through these newspapers thinking this was a dark story and here comes a bit of comedy to lighten up the case and it was just luck that such a thing could happen. >> in philadelphia are we moving toward a trial? >> we are moving toward a trial and george has a pretty rough time in police custody.
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certainly beaten into making a confession. the trial initially is stymied as they try to figure out who is the primary sort of killer in this case, really good in some respect for plain white people and deferring to white authority, and and white people in the south know how to deal with black people. so in some respect she becomes a more trustworthy black person. she is visibly black engineering to white authority where wilson is a northern negro who has the audacity to look like he becomes
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a suspicious character in spite of the fact that there is this persona, black people in the community actually break range and cooperate with this investigation and offer all sorts of testimony about various crimes in that community. she threatened to kill people, did bodily harm. her husband gives the statement. they don't know what to make of the fact that the victims personal items are found in a home she shares with her husband, concern about what is going on, they have a difficult time, what cinches it for them is wilson had a background that criminalized him and the racial
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phenotype, and had been in the house of refuge which is a home for wayward youth and his mother died, really poor, but the way he criminalized and adding insult to injury, worked in an average bar, or slaughterhouse and say did this dismembering so he goes on trial, charged with murder but ultimately viewed as an accessory to the crime after the fact. >> his unknown father -- did he get treatment as a mixed race person in late 19th century philadelphia but clearly black. >> in many respects, were deemed
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as lotto which gives used in a lot of ways. in some respects it describes someone who has a parent who is black or white, and describes someone's complexion. historically they had better access to education and because of their proximity to whiteness and it works against him because he becomes the subject of real suspicion. fears about infiltration, the language -- born during this moment, a lot of rhetoric around this idea that milanos are degraded biologically, then, quote, fool blacks or full whites, so this weird moment in time and not savvy in the same
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way she is but it is rumored he may be slow so he is fascinated by the notoriety of the case. i thought the case would fade out of the newspapers wanted it was clear it involved african-americans but that is not the case. there is coverage of this case from philadelphia to missouri to ohio. i was surprised, new york times had written about it is seems to be pretty impressed by the notoriety and that worked against him because the jurors viewed that as unrepentant. >> don't you think what made it such a news story was the bad guy was a woman? in the eyes of the public this is a rare opportunity to put a female up there who had the worst characteristics of a bad
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man. be change may have been playing really well. i think extramarital affair, the fact that there was a hint of an open arrangement going on titillated the 19th century readers for sure. also the gruesome nature of the crime made these hellacious ins and outs, certainly played a role but this time period, considered black women of low character, they were not shocked they would be involved in violent crime. that is the stereotype and rhetoric of that time, and the two of them together cut this sort of image killed this man. became something they were fascinated by. >> not giving anything away by
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telling the outcomes in terms of the justice system. >> because you read it. >> do you agree with history in terms of how they are apportioned blame and punishment. >> for someone who studied black women experiences in the criminal justice system, pretty amazed by the way hannah mary tabbs manipulated the judge and the jury. be change convicted at a higher rate than any constituency. in the 19th century 72% of black women end up convicted.
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and this is a feat i was amazed she was able to accomplish. >> how about you and how you view history in austin, how many dead people now >> 7 women and a man. >> do you believe yourself these were all killed by the same person and some had nothing to do with the other? >> surely someone has to know in this town of 14 to 17, someone has to know who the killer is. the conceit a century later -- do we -- skip hollandsworth will
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solve this crime and wasted years researching people's lives, looking for some arrest records, some letter and someone's attic, that would give it all up. >> it is anybody at guest whether skip solved the crime or not. i believe that to those of you who get it signed later. let's do a question and answer period. you spent years on this book literally. >> made it look like full-time years, there were times i gave up on it. without knowing who the killer is. it occurred to me this is a book precisely because no one knows who the killer is. this is what we worked on. >> how long were you at this. >> we 10 years.
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my first book was published in 2006 >> is that an object lesson, and things they might write a book in both your cases, the magazine at the university, the right books on the side. >> that slowed me down also. this book's publication has been a moment for my daughter and i, has been living this -- even to my 6-year-old, this is what it was, it is done. >> feeling closer to home that time. >> enough already. >> you always have a book idea? >> i have many. after the exhaustion and pain of writing this when i am not sure i want to do another one.
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>> we have a gentleman with a microphone right here. since we are recording this for c-span if you have a question raise your hand, give them a second to get over there. >> your legacy involved. >> my question for both of you, writing these books, did you get any insight into the mentality of the perpetrator of these crimes? did the newspapers or any sources come up with any suggestion of reasonably valid psychological nature as to what these perpetrators might find? >> for me except for the new york world article, in san antonio, a reporter invented the midnight assassin, said this was an iconic brilliant killer,
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there was no analysis what psychologically would drive someone to massacre one woman after another in this ritualistic fashion. that wasn't part of the reporter's am oh. there were lots of blanks, lots of holes i wanted to interview people to say who did you think it was? it didn't come out of the papers. >> you talked about newspaper clippings which are police files still around or any archival original material investigative notes. >> police records, indictment from court records but also to answer your question it is a great question, really struggled with what to make of hannah mary tabbs. one thing i wanted to do was
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make her a black woman at the heart of the story but how to do that when you have sources that don't necessarily give you the actual voice. a lot of times the records are based on someone else's perspective of her, how she behaved, what she did or said other neighbors, and to research her background, to figure out, didn't think these folks were lying, trying to imagine what gave birth to this. to beat up all these people and do this stuff and commit the kinds of crimes she was able to do in the community before this actually surfaced. researching whether she had been
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enslaved in maryland and i came across the county, was known for a particularly there and clan of slaveowners who were brutal and point regulated on experience of some sort of trauma but even on the precipice of womanhood during the civil war, maryland was occupied territory. a number of bloodied battles took place. the trauma at the time affected her. >> did any of the principal characters, were there accounts based on family members, where any of you able to find who had their own version of history in the family conversation? >> i found a lot of family
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members in more detail, nothing about the murder story. and send it to one of the victims when mentioning how her grade and was murders, she gasped and the story she had been told was different than the one that happened. there were a lot of gaps and missing records. >> another question? >> would the authors have an observation or opinion of the new podcast based true crime journalism, is that a flash in the pan or the type of recording stand up to brick and mortar,
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others like yourself? >> the second thing that grabbed hold of the public but the first, they will constantly be trying another serial. it was riveting journalism and entertainment and it led to a new trial for the guy. >> that brings us to a good conversation, journalists hundred years from now will be writing about how much we were informed or misinformed by our own biases and views of social status, class, wealth, race. look at the tremendous disagreement in the country between treatment by principally white policeman of black people, number of shootings of unarmed black men, and the conversation we are having over culpability
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on fat and what needs to be done. are we just as divided over whether or not justices, something shared equally by the two races. >> i would say so. one of the things, the tragedy for me of the case, as a historian, was to see how much of what i was studying and looking at for the way the black community and police community interacted, resonated with the crisis moment we are at today. once we decide this is a black suspect and most violent crime is intra-racial meaning black people most legal black people and white people killed a white
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people. they go into the black community and charged with the task of, quote, hunting negroes. they scoop up the black, intimidate and interrogate folks but it was not uncommon for black people to be stopped or detained by police, they didn't belong, there is an example in the book of a black man who was stopped and detained because he was, quote, big, black, and had a record. there are ways in which so much racial profiling and violence, getting coerced confessions, but even in certain respects the ways, wilson in particular was taken advantage of by the authorities, folks described him as slow, he was barely 18 years
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old, they gave him alcohol during his interrogation and his confession stands up and holds against it and reminded me of the recent documentary that got a big splash on netflix, how to make a murderer or something like that, a juvenile in there who clearly is a challenge and gets embroiled in this case in a way that is still incarcerated. i was shocked at the amount of injustice in the criminal justice system related to race and class. >> time for one more question of the audience. >> get the microphone over. >> going into your research in austin, you determined when the insane asylum and legislature
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emerged? [laughter] >> you can't write a book like that without someone doing a political joke. >> i completely lost my train of thought. we still have time for a question. we have one over here. help me out. >> what are you reading right now? and is there anything you go back to? i am a reader and there are too many books to read. >> was that a question? >> didn't hear the question. what are we reading now? >> i like a lot of attica lock. i look forward to summer because a couple books i am really excited about the one is by lashawn harris, it is called sex workers, psychics and numbers, looking at black women and crime
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in 20th century new york. i want to get my hands on that. another one about black criminal chain gangs by sarah haley in georgia. a couple of neat books coming out that i can't wait to see. >> kali nicole gross is a little bit of cyst. just a little. i have been buying gil's books, completely forgot the name of the guy who wrote a book about poverty, these are books about journalists doing really significant important social changing things instead of writing trashy true crime histories. i pile up on my bedside table and not read them. >> trashy true crime historys and thrall a solid are two wonderful books here. i think skip hollandsworth and
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kali nicole gross for sharing an hour with us. i wish you many sales. you are supposed to be out there and i'm telling everyone to buy it them. thank you very much. [applause] ..

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