tv Book Discussion on Blood in the Water CSPAN December 19, 2016 10:20pm-11:27pm EST
i said i came out, didn't step up to the pulpit, stepped out in front of the congregation and i said first of all, if you don't have a car, get a person to take you to the polling place. second, stand in your line and i just described it. that's how you vote. [applause]of >> we have reached the end of our time here. i want to thank everybody for their questions and stories. we are still trying here, to mexico feel bad. we can continue the discussion with arlie and assigning colonnade and i wanted and say congratulations for being chosen a finalist for the national book award.land strangers in their own land.
thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] welcome back. i'm your host tonight on booktv primetime. you've been watching some of our national book award finalists talking to you about their work. you just heard from arlie talking about strangers in their own land which i think is such a timely piece of reading for the world that we are living in today. hope you will check it out and others. you can find us at nationalbook.org. next up, heather and thompson about her title blood in the
water. [inaudible conversations] i hate to be the cause of the production of buzzing but anyway, good evening. i'm the director of the roosevelt house, and on behalf of the college president jennifer rabbb in the room tonight i'm delighted to welcome you all to the home of franklin and eleanor roosevelt. one of them as you know, since we'll be talking up the gubernatorial administrative work was of course the state governor before he became president, and his wife was the conscience of the empire state
just as she later became the conscience of the country and the world was never afraid to confront challenging and uncomfortable issues like the one we are going to discuss this evening even if it meant confronting her own husband, privately of course because this was the 1930s. i think you all know of course the history of this amazing space for those of you that come regularly. it was originally a wedding gift to franklin and eleanor from his mother, sarah, and came to the newlyweds with only one stipulation. sarah herself who moved in and stayed in residence while in new york city for the next 40 years. well, the houses and technically there were two of them have separate doorways, one on the west for sarawest for sarah andr franklin and eleanor. she quickly slides through the dining room which you will be
visiting later during the reception, ostensibly as she put it to make the room more accommodating for dinner parties. but as eleanor would later remember, and about having the run of the house and appeared on fdr eleanor side of the house as eleanor put it at the most unexpected times. after sarah died from fdr to the housputthe house up for sale ann with jennifer always calls the best real estate deal of the century and sold it for $50,000 to hunter collins cutting the original price by $10,000 donating another thousand dollars to buy books from the student library. after they raised the awareness not to mention the funding with an ingenious plan by architect.
some of them that are here for this program. by the way to the students of architecture and those in this piece here sitting at tonight was carved out of what was the old kitchen space. just a word here about one gubernatorial connection which i offer as a proud disclosure in the presence of my old colleague who is here tonight. both of us proudly serv served e administration of another governor and its instructive to remember whether it is because e of the lessons of attica or his own humanity and negotiating ability, mario was able to face a uprising of its own and only 17 days after he was sworn in as governor in 1983 with a strikingly different result.
no blood was shed and that was a bit of memory i wanted to share. turneturn the clock back 45 yeas from today. the roosevelt house was restored for this kind of discussion. so, the event was of course the attica prison uprising of 1971. the causes, the meaning and truth and consequences its deadly suppression. to focus on the truth our special guest tonight is doctor heather ann thompson, a detroit born and bred scholar, teacher, activist who served on the history faculties of unc and most recently perfectly the university of michigan. the author of many important and award-winning articles on criminal justice and mass
incarceration from "the new york times," time magazine, the atlantic and a previously offered a major book on politics, labor and race in modern detroit. the last ten years she's been researching and writing with the new acclaimed book "blood in the water: the attica prison uprising of 1971 and its legacy" which takes us back to the point of the deadly events of 1971 and the response by the government and to accomplish this, she interviewed surviving prisoners and hostages as well as law-enforcement veterans, former government officials, medical examiners, journalists, the list is astonishing. including along the way such familiar names as herman and gail.
let me also acknowledge one of our own who played a role in that examination. a in our own advisory board member who served as cochairman of the new york city board of actions at the time of attica and mentioned in the book was quite a critic of the report, welcome, bill. the result of that ten years has been worth of the weight and is held remarkable to help us understand why one group of prisoners rioted and how many others shared the cost. by the way, we are the last 48 hours fittingly it has just been named to the long list of nominees for the next national book award. [applause]
this is national book awards night and because we are so proud of joining doctor thompson in conversation tonight will be the distinguished and beloved writer a macarthur grant genius whose 2015 books between the world and me is not only a number one best seller that the winner of the national book award. serving currently is the correspondent for the atlantic, though they call triple critic and a cultural force and we are honored to have him here at the roosevelt house. [applause] >> before we start, just a bit of housekeeping to engage in a conversation about 45 minutes. following which they will take questions from the audience. when the proceedings got underway, write it down and we will have aids patrolling to
collect them and mr. coates will be giving and delivering your questions as well. when the end, all of you are invited to the room upstairs and we will celebrate heather ann thompson at the book signing. with all of that out of the way, the history of the bookkeeping and everything, please join us in welcoming ta-nehisi coates in conversation with heather ann thompson. [applause] ..
so last the into fast dog thinks giving in remembrance of what happened in attica but i called him today he has proper scholarship with 100 pages of footnotes he said i'd give it a book before without no footnotes. [laughter] and i told him this and he wanted me to tell you that you are a hero he said no viking get through this because of the pain. this is a huge deal but i am just telling you. he is in the panther party
after he left the party i we still people might earliest memory is black men in jail sendai pretty much mean that so to mcm to identify that as the enemy and attic l. was such a huge influence for those radicals who would say something horrible but that is why because you never know when history will come around 45 years later.
and people verify things that are out of the mainstream at the time i have the tough questions but to be particularly familiar with that caveat what happened? >> so before 1971 there was identification of policing in this field with 2400 men in the current editions were horrendous one roll of toilet paper with 2 quarts
of water to do everything and wash and then they were permanently disfigured from lack of care. in civil rights in the prison and many of them had come from the streets that were very active with rebellious 64 harlem and rochester. and initially through the system and was was done anybody caught asking for help point the you had
indefinite periods of time you could not get out and in the context they start to talk across the of political winds in the law the spanish-speaking prisoners and somebody in the yard was trying to translate some everybody could understand did everybody was saying. bent to make a long story short the the initial moments was a management decision so 1300 gather one part to have representatives from each cell block to speak to them then they oversee negotiations with the state so they feel that they could be heard and then
insisted the media come in because of a problem with prison is nobody ever sees what goes on inside and they are committed to shining light on the inside and discourse they were inspired themselves by other citadel cannot -- captains in the new york city jails and for four days negotiated intensely for the basic cumin rights -- human-rights then one of the most brutal incidents in the 20th century i would argue in that is what we are alluding to. for four days as they are negotiating and as the television cameras are rolling meanwhile outside of
that because wall - - attica walls all the police were coming to attica to assemble outside as well as in the surrounding area and for four days they did not sleep bay did not eat much but were fed a diet of rumor of in made atrocities on the inside that research indicated did not come from the fbi once said they were standing them up at attention should they falter or fall they would shoot them in the head so they are massing in it is becoming very clear to the observer that ended the moment the state will cut man. pdf so the idea that negotiations may have meant
something there word good hearted people who worked hard to make it happen that the highest level they were biding their time and would have come in sooner if not for those disturbances that stalled things. then on the fifth day they decided they would come in with the new york state police and the armed corrections officers despite the fact. >> you don't mean armed with clubs quick. >> for four days they were passing a weapons indiscriminately nobody was writing down serial numbers i have photographs caretaking guns out of the back of trucks and later i discovered paperwork indicating some troopers did start to write down the numbers and recalled to rip that up we don't want to know who has which gun.
weapons or shotguns or deer hunting rifles. >> literally pd in tuition. >> and in the moment the long time story if you don't release hostages to will come in but internal paperwork revealed they deliberately did not give the ultimatum the language that was used no different than any other morning before the attack began everybody told rockefeller including the people thereof the committee for republicans that was very supportive said if you come in like this it will be a massacre. and now we know they said if we come this we will kill
hostages and he said do it anyway. have first they sent helicopter dumping gas over the yard and a share this story because if we think of teargas we think antacids in the air if you cover your mouth you could avoid it but it was a powder clinging to their skin and nasal passages in immobilizing them. and everybody is down that is then they come in with the guns. >> adjust to share my emotions that it was a militarized flinching.
why don't we think about it that way? ally of us details was paranoia that did not turn out to be true specifically hiding the identities of people like they were literally taking souvenirs. so before i answer that remind everybody that is just the beginning of the brutality i would say they were subdued ran the gas came through that all i could see was blood in the water that was when their real brutality begins and it is extremely reminiscent handed is deeply you
rationalize a specially those with the of racial epithets as it goes on the days and weeks and months. and they stood out in front of the of worldwide to save the officers have just killed the hostages know they slit their throats and castrated one of the guards and put his testicles in his mouth and we saw happen we have a film of that. that was on the front page of the new york times the l.a. times every small newspaper in america. but on the inside and think
of those race riots were it is unstoppable there were all stripped naked pleading no medical care laid on the table a football put under his neck and told him if you drop the football we will kill you. of course, he believes it he is seen so many patriots killed. and joe shot so many times what his friend tries to carry him to a measure of safety they shoot him. and dick goes to the core of the conscious it doesn't think about what happens when we put them behind bars.
you see this repeated over and over. in to be any different and you can see that in attica. >> so when the of media is told they have killed the hostages nobody ask for cooperation nobody questions the idea they would question though white guard of course, and for me personally one of those important research finds was to figure out to have this event that does become clear to the nation that the police have killed not only the prisoners but postures.
from and why 62 prisoners were indicted and how that happens with the extraordinary levels that the state and federal government go to to protect the police. and slicing film in with that piece of evidence in the book is to retake the governor to be persuaded he has to have an investigation. menendez one doctor said resembled a civil war painting. so he does appoint someone to investigate attic have. but within days of the
retaking and three more times of secret meetings at the rockefeller schoolhouse the state police were there that were allowed to investigate the retaking the head of the attic investigation is at this meeting and the whole cast of characters find is to get the story straight. with so many layers of protection but there is a benign neglect. and they are not silenced to say we were being beaten we are being abused somebody help us. pdf in the attic lawyers in
particular with to this state senators to the governors to the presidency of the united states the justice department decides not to intervene to the supreme court of the united states the only one who wants to intervene as thurgood marshall everybody else says no thank you had every level. >> wasn't this like our word democracy at the presidential level? you can stop me from going too far but i don't think that is too far but to demonstrate that is actually what happened bin so what
does that say? is so many of our bob democratic institutions to very quickly turn the page so how much truth or how much actual reality can these institutions take quick. >> when you are really getting at is of a question of who is the illegitimate victim and who can have that put on them? so to write about that criminalization he makes a lot of profound points but one of them is certainly during prohibition as the prisons would filled with white people in the woodsy prisoners as white then
people were appalled with what they saw and they pulled back those policies to change the laws so fundamentally what we still talk about what was it not just about prisoners but these prisoners that are not legitimate to in the eyes of the state? said right when it comes to prosecution their lives were not valuable? and nsa few will allow me that one of the controversies me i am a historian and their is a chapter on the state investigation of attica and i talk about with this day believe dim law-enforcement of the crimes the vatican idol say they committed a crime by say as a historian with the state new in what they believed what they saw and i have of the taken some
degree why would you name them after 40 years what i find remarkable nobody has ever asked me why did i name the name of prisoners who were also accused of things of what they did not do i named their names because the state was accusing them but nobody said what about the family's? you're not tarnishing their names so who has the right to be innocent. >> when you read it actually happens and you go say anybody did anything but as a historian to be involved in the cover-up.
that is really hard to deal with. >> but what is very interesting to me feel that one could just write a book just of what happened and then there is the epilogue maybe that would be one way to write the book putting two fifths of the book is setting context and in the rest is what happened afterwards. >> the book what had been a lot shorter if wade did make that decision but what is so interesting to me is we did have memoir accounts of those days and everyone continued to speak up about what we did not know is what happened over the next 40
years that uh survivors still have not had an apology from your core the addition of responsibility in everybody that i talked to for this book and i believe pretty much everybody a some point and our discussion have a breakdown as a historian cairo last piece just for my fellow historians we hear not equipped to deal with that trauma in the present so that told me the importance of the after story as much as what brought them to gather because that after story writing is what helps us to explain why once again today we are sitting here not only in the nation that incarcerated more than any of their autumn of global but chicago and baltimore
are erecting in one of the reasons we are here again because the lies told or who was allowed to be a victim. >> this is a compellingly written book. >> i have of the few questions where did you learn to write like this? [laughter] if. >> first of all, i do want to say any book of this length and size cannot be accomplished without help amazing editors and that is not me but frankly we are trained to footnote well and research better than anyone
but not necessarily how to convey that and i felt very inadequate i would start to read novels it's just felt how do describe that retaking without causally using the same words of terrible or horrific? we are not capturing it so there was tremendous from inside with those who did health me with that because interestingly when the book was first consecutive day denied even considered talking about the takeback originally my first book was with cornell university
press but the reality was a wanted my grandparents to read it i wanted everybody to read it because of the story in philae in one place >> so what is this typical narrative were from different viewpoints? to make because it want people to read it because it would have began other wireless -- otherwise but with enormous respect to my profession some stories tell themselves and frankly the survivors told of story i remember offsetting it stuck with me for some reason i've visited the widow of one of the slain guards in her
house her family was so traumatized because many of the guard families natalie are they killed as well but swindled by the state of york so i and in the living room one of the children committed suicide the family was destroyed as the ripples in she was overwhelmed how could this happen? how could they come in and kill their own? she wrote to to one of the attica observers said was very clear the allegiances for with the prisoners in volunteered to be a lawyer during negotiations issue wrote to him ever brought out the letter that he wrote back and it was a moment where image just click that
the stories would tell themselves because these people are having a correspondence coming to the same conclusion that the state was willing to take power at any cost rather than the little people with nobody to challenge them. but one prisoner i saw him today at an earlier even sent he describes the first night in the yard and said he saw this guy who's a friend of his who was walking around smiling he said haori feeling classes that i have fussiness stars in 22 years that is why it is a narrative because the stories told themselves.
>> also to the power of white supremacy. >> no question and that it does come up so often even during the retaking the right team on the of wall of vitriol that comes. >> it wasn't even acetylene racist it is not hard to distinguish. >> forcing them to give the white power symbol. >> are there lessons that we did not learn? >> so many but be clear it was very deliberate that we did not learn them. when the state of new york stands outside of this
present that the prisoners killed of hostages one cannot express how core to and this was because leading up to that we were considering more community corrections how-to humanize prisons and to challenge brutality and a look dappling on the eve of that because they've thought they should have maurer putting more rights on the human prisoners to have human-rights because there's saying they were barbaric for animals they should get the death penalty but
meanwhile it was law-enforcement that had committed the acts paillettes that is rather nation sentiment was that is where we heard what really happened not that people could have figured it out and every time the hostages tried to speak out they were shut down the tried to sue the state but they couldn't because the state came to their houses was small checks to say this will tidy will word but never told them if they cash the $42 checked -- check they could not sue the state that is the of prisoners story as these atrocities we're going on the state's lawyers maintained through the and this was nothing more than a fraternity hazing.
one of the chilling things to read is the defense closing arguments of the final civil cases of the utter denial that they even suffered anything but the people who experienced it could misspeak is why we did not learned to. airfield they prisons have become bigger larger more punitive more time in solitary like the event david this morning there were attica brothers there barrasso lot of young guys to adjust come from attica and it was a haunting experience because the impression that they left after word is decades but the legacy is not just repression because in the last week for hundred prisoners in florida and
michigan and they have many erupting in with work stoppages we don't know the full extent frankly because we cannot get inside the public institutions to find out what is going on but in every one of those cases they would shout to out attica because that is the of legacy of that fight for justice and the desire to be heard. >> so the head of corrections who is also a long pause walt i'd like the typical liberal reform they cannot go far enough i feel that he was the play a tragic figure because as a
so clou define tussaud's even though you know, what is happening? >> right. that many of the guys did in the yard with the list of observers were real heroes somebody coming from the of black panther party and it wasn't a very flattering portrait because they were waiting for him and doesn't want to endorse the m and this is one of those moments it dashes the aleutian spent
we hope that people feel is the unexpected. but then it is more complicated. >> but the sheer scale. >> try a driving around to funeral homes and with constant intimidation these seven people who are supposed to protect us where we left with? as we have these discussions that the internal system is flawed that attica shows nothing else.
>> what surprised you the most? what do you these expect? >> i was most surprised initially as a historian that i would go to the archives to ask box number 10 and number five and i would write the story. that was shocked number-one. the number of years of poking around i had a tremendous fortune to come across a whole stash of records that changed everything because they're really did show the inside of the investigation.
elisabeth and gains a tremendous advocate for justice in like the daughter of the slain guard that her activism has pushed the envelope the attorney general's office today to start releasing records in there they make it happen. >> as you have dead in your research to did not? why is that still so pervasive today? >> i feel like the only people didn't want to talk to me why i certainly tried but i could talk to troopers
or someone from every one of the groups of people that were talked about in the book except and i do regret that in the paper trail that i do feel confident i am thankful for what they could do but the troopers committed so many of those horrors of attica they were traumatized that they come to court 30 years later so that is how we know. i had bad guys was a monroe county sheriff of all -- who called me.
holding on to these stories of what he witnessed that day. it was such a horrific event . but there were these pockets of hero's. >> did you contact city of the offices? >> no i did not put to understand it is not an oral history but i had conversations with people and many came into my life when i discovered today were. but again i was very worried about revealing the had seen
had to see through those investigations. staying cover-ups are effective in moby very difficult. the at the heart of why it is so protected. every time there has spend a talk of opening the records that have stepped-up very active they do not want the records open. >> and with those reparations. >> is interesting that you say that that the retaking is the hardest to get through. but with that brutality but
by the end of the book is clear that the responsibility and his brother is a hostage and has been up there for days arming himself. to his responsible for that to or for letting this happen? at the end of the day that is the stakes. attica should absolutely be closed. absolutely. and many new yorkers share that view. and to know intimately that it should be closed and by
for something with the interrogation. we knuckle under all the time. >> agreed. and then i follow up the little bit with that the question is it is very clear with what happened. in some of the of reporters are furious. to say they you lied because part of that dishroom killed. but i just heard last week which i had known this one was john johnson to say i saw on the prize the reporter outside to say he
is hearing the retaking so he contacted me and told me a fascinating story if everybody rushed to print and tv used and he lost his job with abc per car not only that but the guy who did try to do the right thing, but one of the papers in york it is far too sympathetic with so. >> do not accept the term prisoner reform.
>> i am grateful plywood not even presume but i would be thrilled if people read this to get a very different idea but the faintest advocate today was the low worst of the over versed it even just and pitch years the worst security and they are 19 year-old parole violators letter they're driving without a license or cutting somebody's convertible top. so it destabilized is this idea.
there was a drug addiction. and that is no different than today. is that is humanity behind bars than i am grateful for that. but i love historians. but it is only because i read so much. and those that were lucky enough with all that attention but that we were all and some might be some -- shoulders to see you