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tv   Stephen Carter Remarks at Key West Literary Seminar  CSPAN  January 29, 2017 1:15am-1:57am EST

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harvard business school. i am a believer the portraits of manufacturing. it's. it's like a to be the bulk of employment in our economy. numbers will probably continue to decline. as a society for not successful in those treated sectors we will be as prosperous as we would be. i think will be important. >> you can have a book called the failure to adjust and confuse that as a failure to end on time. so i've been thinking about it for minutes. so i am going to shut it down. i want to do a few things. i wanted the award will books are being sold here. but what what i want to do is congratulate, what if you got is a glimpse and taste of how fluid c is and the issues that of come to the floor.
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it has economic consequences and increasingly social consequences for this and other countries. so join me in congratulating. [applause] [inaudible] >> book tv is on twitter and facebook. we want to hear from you. to test, tv, or post a comment on her facebook page. tv. >> nonoaud nonoaud nonoaud.
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[applause] >> thank you so much. my name is arlo haskell. on the executive director of the key west literary seminar. [applause] before i get started that may make a quick housekeeping announcement. we are going to do the question answer session a little differently. there will be stationery microphones and a child. if you want to ask a question come to the mic and ask your question. it is a pleasure to welcome you to this and carlos institute and
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to the 35th annual key west literary seminar revealing power, the literature politics. this sunday afternoon session is free and open to the public. it is our gift to the community. it would not be possible without the gift that others have made to us that support our operations throughout the year. i would like to thank peggy and the trust to support and helps make this free sunday session possible. thank you. [applause] in addition to those of you here joining us on this warm january afternoon, i would like to welcome those of you who are watching at home on television, on c-span's book tv.
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we have a video crew today they have been here since this morning. we are grateful for the opportunity to bring what we do here in key west to the viewers of a book tv. if you like what you see this afternoon and i hope you'll consider joining us for our 36th annual seminar next year. if you picked up a program book any flip over the cover our topic next year is writers of the caribbean. we have an extraordinary lineup already. we have marlon james. we have a host of other wonderful writers. it will be a terrific program. program. i hope you will consider joining us. if you like to learn more about the program you can go to our website, kate i want to talk about a revamped future of our website. we have just read launched a new site. if you look around to other
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audio archives you will find more than 500 hours of audio recordings spanning the past 30 years of the key west literary seminar featuring some of the greatest writers of our time. most of these are available to listen to on our website. others are available to request. he will send them to you. it's a terrific resource. it is 500 hours but we have some great writers. a host of incredible writers. if you are a teacher as i know many in the audience are. these recordings make terrific educational resources. we urge teachers everywhere to use these in the classroom. we are always interested in hearing about your experiences using
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these recordings in hearing about how this goes and how it helps to strengthen your curriculum. we have a wonderful program in store for you today including -- billy collins, gail collins. , but first it is a pleasure and an honor to welcome back tour stage stage someone who is here with us in 2013. a writer of exceptional intellectual clarity and grace. stephen carter. [applause] >> thank you. it is a pleasure to be back in
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key west. it is a a wonderful community. it is a wonderful event and it is always a great to enjoy. my subject, as i as i assume you saw from the program is the black woman who prosecuted lucky luciano common sense and probably better known as a novelist. you probably assumed this was fiction. actually, this is nonfiction. this is the subject of a book that will be coming out this fall. i wanted to give you a preliminary of what that is about. i will speak for a few minutes, about 15 or 20 minutes and then i will take your questions and comments and we will have a conversation about it. in order to tell you about this we have to talk about who he was.
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there is an image of him, a kind of romantic image in the public minds sometimes from some of the movies and television shows and novels that mention him. but he was a brutal and savage monster who rose to the top of the new york criminal underworld at a time when the ethnic gangs were fighting for superiority. the irish gangs had been exterminated but some moved on to the police force at the time. the italian and jewish gangs were fighting for superiority and the rackets particularly in manhattan. at this time the biggest racketeer was probably believed to be believed to be scholz who is one of the last big kingpins. he was being challenged by the
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upstart italian immigrants and their gangs. there is screaming in the newspapers that we cannot let it go on and we have to prosecute and nobody but low-level hoods ever get arrested. and the answer was nothing. for for years new york politicians and das and police, large numbers of them crept did not do anything. finally in 1935, under enormous pressure a special prosecutor was appointed and that was thomas dewey who became famous for prosecuting the mob. he entitled his book about it 20 against the underworld. first thing he did when he took office was begin to hire lawyers. he wanted people of integrity. he wanted people who could be trusted and people who is not been involved in prosecution so there is little chance they had
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been bribed. he hired 20 lawyers, 19 of them were white men. in the 20th was a black woman. and the black woman is the one i want to talk about today. so who was this black woman? she was born eunice hunton in atlanta, georgia in 1899. she had a younger brother named alpheus. they were both descendents of slaves. three of their four grandparents had been slaves. their father's father, stanton who had been a slave to virginia and escaped three times before and each time captured and brought back before finally being allowed to buys freedom. he made his way to ontario and it was there and you may know
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from history that john brown, the abolitionists planned his murderous raid on harpers ferry virginia is one of the precipitating events of the civil war. there is a legend that this raid was planned at stanton, that's a slave that the grandfather of eunice. that that stanton hunton's kitchen table. that may or may not be true. but he was involved in the planning and indeed when john brown was caught and hang that among the documents found on his person was a list of supporters and stanton hunton's name is on the list. so he stating canada pretty much after that. eunice's parents were william hunton and and addie hunting. addie became a well know and double naacp activists.
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her job was to go into places where the revived clan of the 1920s and became so active that the african-american people who live there have been crushed and her job was to go to the communities that go to public meetings and try to get up the spirits and plant new naacp branches. william, unisys has father was the first black international secretary hired by the ymca. and it was a enormous and quite wealthy international organization which had chapters all over the world. so the parents are both these activists. so there's little surprise that eunice grew quite ambitious. she attended smith college.
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where she received her masters and bachelors of four years and was only the second student to do that. she attended law school and important to the story, 1944 the republican party that ran new york city at the time, and it's important to remember there was a time when virtually the entirety of african america voted republican routinely. in 1944 she ran for state assembly. she lost by the way. the only reason it matters that she ran is that in the days of machine politics if you were the machine candidate and you lost, the machine's job was to find you a job. they have to understand she graduated law school. she's a black woman in new york. she is not working at a big law firm. she doesn't have a lot of
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clients. they are mostly misdemeanors. she did a few wills and so on. she did some trial work but not much. the following year right erupted in harlem and she began the secretary of the harlem right commission which brought some public so in time dewey hired his 20 lawyers she was the black lawyer he hired. she goes to work. now do his his job is to take down organized crime and new york. he's very clear that his target is scholz. scholz gets gets himself murdered as underworld figures due from time to time. so now they shifted to take down luciano. luciano was more clever and better insulated. three sensual to skilled is because he was
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trying to kill dewey but the mobsters wouldn't abide. luciano was very well insulated at the street-level operation. it was very unclear how they would be able to get to him. they knew he ran it nature rackets in the city. they knew he ran numbers and drugs. they knew he ran lots of things but they couldn't tie any of it to him. there are too many layers of insulation between the boss and what happened on the street. we'll how were they to do it? i told you he hired eunice in august and after he hired eunice he be gained to parcel out among the 20 lawyers the of investigating organized crime in new york. these lawyers would report on corruption in the unions and in the trucking industry and these were on drugs and these on bribery and so on.
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eunice, the one woman in the office she was put on prostitution. because nobody thought prostitution was important. if if there is a long history at that time of when women were prosecutors they came along in the 1880s, routinely fewer female and you are prosecutor, you went to the course which meant you do abandonment cases, child child abuse cases and prostitution cases. the women courts and this is important work. but it's not worth that grabs headlines. the women's courts were seen as places from which your career would never emerge. he was spend entire life and career there. while she wasn't sent to women courts but she was to investigate prostitution. dewey was very clear that prostitution was not important.
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he made it clear again and again. he told the stuff i am not here on a moral crusade. i'm not going to go after the month for prostitution. we will get them for something important. so she sitting in her office, 19 white men are working on what dewey says is important and here's the black woman in her office which was at the furthest end of the for this quarter on the 14th floor of the building which is the third-highest building in the world at that time. she's in a little cubicle by her so there's a lot of work to do. dewey makes a speech on the radio and says we are here are your representatives. if you have have a complaint come to the office and tell us about it. and citizens came in droves. they came in droves to the office and it became clear that it although some might say there's a stick up artists and drugs would be sold in the
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corner, the main thing that they complained about is the prostitution. there's a brothel next door. they said prostitution go down the hall and knock on mrs. carter's store. that's what they would say. so eunice, and all these people come in with their. letters would come to the office. they would come in with people complaining about prostitution and the letters would be dumped on her desk. if it happened she was out of the office and one of the white men was there and forced to listen to a complaint about prostitution she would light up a memo and drop it on the desk. at some point, some of the civic reformers who had compiled enormous multivolume report on prostitution in new york that no one did anything about, these were these old genteel gentleman
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with their big reform committees and they spent many years support by the rockefeller foundation so nobody ever cared about the report. one of the gentlemen wrote to dewey in such a classic story for the sarah, he was playing tennis with a guy who knew a guy at the new york law for who knew a guy into his office. he said if you think you could get your friend who knows a guy who knows a guy into his office and tell them we have a big report done anything about. he said sure so he spoke to the dewey guy and they said send us the report. got a huge report and they dumped it on her desk. go through this report and see if there's anything in it. what's interesting is eunice,
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rather then take all of this and say i'm not going to do it, her view was that she was going to go on the attack. let other other people go look at the strong-arm. look at the drugs. if this is what she is going to do so she sits down and begins by patiently going through complaint after complaint by interviewing police officers who work these cases. she begins to build a picture of the structure of prostitution in new york. she develops a set of time and nobody believed that the many brothels in new york all over the place were actually not independent contractors, but all paid by the same syndicate. and so, the office is having
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trouble finding a way to get to luciano so eventually she goes and says, here's my theory. this is what's going on. you can get luciano this way. the money is trickling up to him. dewey is skeptical. he is highly skeptical. nevertheless having nothing else to do he says find you can have one other assistant to work with you. and the assistant is the one who became a sandwich federal judge in new york. so usn murray spent a couple months developing the case. they are allowed to ask for wiretap. they also figured out the structure, the women when they're rested they get up the next day because of the bookers who actually booked clients for them and tell them where to go from day-to-day. they bail them out. they come up with an audacious plan which dewey approves.
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on 9036, january 31 they begin arresting all of the bookers. the people who bail the women out. and all of the gunmen who protect the bookers and who also hustled the brothels they're all off the street. that night, they raid or were supposed to rate every brothel in manhattan. they only and up reading half of them. nobody knows why. they arrest over 100 women who are brought to the building and crowded onto two floors because there's no room. each one is eunice's job each one comes in she does was called tagging them. she writes up a report and there in an office in a hallway or wherever and you have to understand, in order to avoid any problem of corruption, the
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raid was a big secret. most of the assistance, dewey's own lawyers other than lewis and mary did not know about the raids until they were happening. everybody was there to do some of the intake on the people who were going to be arrested. the vice squad, no one was told about the raid. the raids were conducted by plainclothes detectives from a variety of bureaus run new york. not one of whom was with his regular partner. they separated them have them stand on street corners and at 9:00 o'clock, 8:55 p.m. there handed an envelope which had the instructions of where they are going to rate and where they were to go next. they had no idea where they're supposed to do. the secret was kept pretty well.
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the women were arrested and now dewey is very excited. the interrogation feel like it's possible to build a case. at that point he puts it aside and says were going to go after luciano for the crime of compulsory prostitution. it doesn't mean someone is forced into it, it means only that someone took money from someone else and prostitution. now he has to pick who is going to be in charge of developing all the evidence. willie is eunice right there who has done all of the work already but she is a black woman so he doesn't pick her.
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he picks a white male assistant who is investigating the bakery industry. he literally says to him. were going to go of after luciano for prostitution. it's you don't know anything about it but it's your job to put the case together. pick pick for assistance and he picks for more white men to put the case together in unison is sent back to her cubicle. as it turns out, they need her expertise. they use exhibits she creates. these a model she creates of how it worked. luciano is convicted in the end. and in fairness to do it, on the day of the conviction he said he cannot have done it without two of his assistants who do special work and one of the two he needs is eunice. the thing you have to understand is that the luciano trial was news around the world. newspapers and magazines across the country were covering it
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almost day today. after the conviction, were talking the summer of 1936 eunice has become, putting entertainers aside one of the two or three most famous black woman in the united states of america. she is constantly called to serve on committees. she's getting awards and degrees. liberty magazine which is the second largest circulation magazine in the country they had a long series about the trial and the hero of the series is eunice. life magazine has a does a future about her. she is at the summit and i can imagine her sitting there thinking, the world was my oyster. i can do do anything that i want to do.
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what am i going to do next. while she does do some things. she handle she handles some other interesting prosecutions. she prosecutes a man who was the silent film king and at the time he was still of not the most powerful one of the most powerful moguls in the film industry. she prosecutes him him on a gun possession charge she tells the court she get shot in a can they claim they did it by accident. she said were accepting the plea because we know some else happened but without his cooperation can prove it. she twice prosecuted someone named anna smith who is well known that she was called doctor anna swift. she ran from the da'esh institute. that was a place where you went for counseling. she had all of these on her staff were counselors that's what they were called.
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doctor swifts services were very different from counsel. that counseling is ordinarily thought of. she prosecuted her not once but twice because after she served her time the first time she went back into the same business. she also had political ambitions. she was probably the best-known black republican in the country in the sense of republican activists. again, most well-known black people at the time were republicans but she was active in the party going to conventions, serving as a delegate, campaigning and so on. she campaigned for dewey in 1940 when he ran for president. she campaigned and although he did go to convention with the most delegates. as you know 1940 was last time a major party had a dark horse horse candidate.
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someone who wasn't on the agenda when they came in on a late ballot. so do we doesn't get it and was well once a third term. dewey gets the nomination but roosevelt wins in a landslide. 1948, gets the nomination again and the day of the election dewey is ahead in every poll but loses anyway. that's not to happen in politics now and then. nevertheless, in spite of the defeats one would've thought that from the beginning she would have gone on too many other great things. she is so well-known then how come i haven't heard of her? after she left in 1945 she did do a few other things but not
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things that would involve place and a history book. she was involved in the founding of the un, she is a big honcho on the council of women. but the truth is a lot of the things that she thought would be coming her way or the possibility of running for congress which she was also known to be thinking about seriously, they never materialize. why not? there are a lot of theories about that. the simplest one is that her brother. remember want to said she had a little brother named alpheus. alpheus hunter, a very formidably educated man his masters from harvard and his phd from nyu. his specialty was the victorian poets. he could quote 19th-century
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philosophers in three different languages and often did. he was an educated man. he was also a big and very active communists. and the fbi file opened in 1941 by the time i was close when he died it had went over 700 pages. while i cannot prove it, it's in my thesis that her brother held her back. you have to think about the era we are talking about. at the end of world war ii in the beginning of the cold war the other opportunities that open up to her she had various ambitions but none of which come to fruition. this is also the time of her brother's greatest notoriety.
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her brother finally goes to prison himself in 1951. he goes to prison for refusing to name names. he suffered contempt of court and he spent six months behind bars. as a footnote, working on this book and learning about that is part of the reason that i am always very uneasy when we try to punish people when they believe stuff that we don't happen to agree with. so he goes to prison and this is the end of her public career. this is 1951. he comes out six months later eunice isn't there either but they were strange probably for the rest of their lives they died ten days apart.
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thousand 1970, both of cancer. she died in new york, he died of zambia. he left the zambia. he left the united states after prison and moved to africa. he couldn't get work in the united states. the work and it is field was close to him after his arrest. the story of that prosecution in the work she did is one of enormous importance that deserves to be highlighted. in the 1930s the insurgents of the clan, some of the darkest days of jim crow, the woman who has research like work in theory but into present the biggest gangster in america at the time and probably the most powerful mob leader in american history, was a black woman. before i take your questions one thing i should say is of great
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importance to me. eunice's eunice's last name, her married name was carter. she was my father's mother and my grandmother. [applause] thank you very much. [applause] think we have a few minutes for questions. if you have a question or, please go to the microphone. the only thing i would ask as you keep your question as short as possible because were trying to move the schedule along precisely. on happy to answer any questions. >> thank you very much. i appreciate what what you say about her brothers communism, but what about her being black and a woman in that time. when that have equal? >> the question was, was it really mainly her brother being
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a communists other than her being black in a woman. that's reasonable question. she suffered enormous discrimination. the book is coming on the fall and i talk about in some detail in the book. the discrimination she suffered from being black and being a woman. you see that into his office about her being put in the tiny office in the end. when she is hired she's the only one who got the picture in the paper. new york times has a big picture of her on page 3. this black woman who has been hired by dewey. but certainly she suffered race discrimination. some more explicit. but there were black judges at the time. in new york city by the 1940s there are several black elected judges. the party could have entered one
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of those because their automatic election slots. they did did not. it would be the combination of being a black woman that could've been part of what helder back but i think the party was a little afraid of what what happened with a candidate for election and say in those days in 1949 election put up a candidate and the next thing you know the newspapers ran stories about her being a big communist and so on. the communism thing i believe played a dominant role. but you're right. she. she had to suffer enormous disabilities because race and gender or more important, race and gender combined. as people at the time to remember to tolerate a blocked man or white woman but when tolerate a black woman. it's discrimination it's easy to forget. i do talk about the little bit
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in the book at greater length. >> other questions. >> is for as i know this is the first book you have written about a family member. can you talk about what it was like to write about a relative relative and how that's different than just looking into history. >> was the first time i have written about a family member. it is also how can i put it, it's the first time of written a biography. i've written novels, publish six novels under my own name them to understood them. i've written seven or eight nonfiction books this is a double first. the first time writing a biography and a member of my family. this is my grandmother. i have memories of her. she died when i was in high school. i remember her as stern and
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distant and scary but brilliant woman. i remember her as a lover of first and first class travel and fine wine. and being very knowledgeable about these things. when she was a girl her mother had taken her and her brother to study in europe. they went to school for a couple of years and she was very refined. i never felt close to her. there is always. on my mother side of the families like norman rockwell, the parents who sit on their porch and they give you candy and books and so on. when we went to her house it was to have your table manners corrected. but reading this book and understanding the fires that poured sure, her childhood and i neglected to to mention the reason her family left to go to brooklyn and she was raised in
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new york was the ride of 19 oh six. she and her brother both grew up with memories of cowering in the back as the white mob were burning black businesses and homes. it lasted two and half days. shooting black men if they were seen on the street to and thought they might possibly have a gun. this is part of her childhood memory. i'm beginning to understand how she shaped by that. i've enormous empathy and affection for her. i think i understand her better than i did before. i understand the forces that drove and shaped her. that has been, for me something that is been a pleasure. it's been hard work a biography but learning about the life and learn about this and other members of my family as well in the process, it has been a joy.
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i'm so very glad, although the book has taken longer than i hoped it would to finish. it's been a joy learning so much of members of my family. >> hello. your story sounds like it would make a wonderful movie. wonderful movie. i wonder if that's a possibility? >> well, i sure hope so. in all seriousness, i have an obligation to tell the story until the story well. i suspect it could be one to be put into film but at this time i'm more concerned about it on paper. i hope it works well enough that people in this room and elsewhere will read it and enjoy it. when i write fiction of i said that i'm writing to tell a good story. i want people to enjoy it and all this book has short aspects of race, gender, culture and her
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history etched into it it's written as a story the people enjoy reading. >> du jour mother lived long enough to see how your honoring her mother? >> it is my father's mother. but no, my father died seven years ago and he had no idea that i take up this project. over the years a lot of people approached him and sent me to write a book about my grandmother. they wanted to do a play play about my grandmother and so on. when heroes thought it would make a a good story but he never took an active role in developing it. so i feel and a sense of obligation to tell a story that others find interesting. in the family and growing up i


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