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tv   History Bookshelf The Journey to School Integration  CSPAN  August 10, 2019 2:30pm-3:15pm EDT

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selling tv radio host, all of the authors have appeared on book tv and you can watch them online at booktv.org. >> nobel prize winning novelist tony morrison died on monday at the age of 88, she's appeared on c-span and book tv many times over the years including joining us for 3-hour in-depth interview in 2001, you can watch all the programs by visiting booktv.org and searching her name at the top of the page. next her appearance on book tv from 2004 in a discussion about school desegregation. the book is remember. [applause]
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>> thank you. thank you. close to the microphone, so if i have not to do that at any point and you lose my voice, raise your hand r and i will know that you don't hear me. i'm happy to have come here, i spent a lot of years in washington and was here as a matter of fact when some of the eventsts described in the book remember took place, i was here as undergraduate and later as a teacher and instructor at howard university. every nation, of course, has noble times, times that it wants to remember, times that they
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want, the population to remember, kind of ideal of itself. >> put the microphone down, please.. [inaudible] [laughter] >> that's a little better. [laughter] >> these times, the noble times that most nations identify are usually wars, conquest for land, conquest for resources there may be words of deposing of a king
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or dictator, there may be wars defending one self against an oppressor or invader but they are generally honorable and bloody. the best ones honorable and the worst ones like the honorable ones only in the fact that they usually swim in blood. , but here in this nation 50 years ago there was revolution. i say fairly because of blood
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and there were instances of violence and there were instances of torture and there were instances of imprisonment and there was death. , but overall it was a bloodless revolution. i'd like to think of it as at civil rights movement that was truly civil because masses of people thought carefully of what was at stake and what was right rather than what was expedient or habitual or thought about what was elevating rather than merely power trying to reinforce
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itself. that movement, for it not to be understood as one of the most noble, most mature, most sleeping political changes is inconceivable to me, however, it may court the danger of not being recalled that gray and just in case it is in serious danger of drifting into the barely mentioned in our textbooks and in our cultural history orur in case it suffers demise in narrative because its promises are as yet incomplete,
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before that, we should wcontemplate and revere that period as a powerfully moral achievement. and of the many path that is the asvement took, none was more significant or more singular than the brown versus board of education. there's certainly many celebrations and memorials and books and essays and op-ed pieces all in place to mark and analyze the events of 1954, the culmination of years that were on the ground and in the streets and in the houses and in the temples and in the churches and in the courts, the culmination
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being that supreme court decision, but as we pay tribute to those of extraordinary times and the supreme court's decision that signaled a real turning point in social policy and law, it's still easy to forget one segment of the population whose future was the center of the cause. and i'm referring to the children, not just the ones, however, who walked into the schools in the 50's, but also the ones who walked into schools now 50ar years later. when i was approached to do a book for children about brown versus board of education, that's what i thought of, those two sets of children, but the question for me was how to
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relate those events to young people who may have anything from no information at all to some vague memory of some adult trying to describe what civil rights movement and, of course, it may have been very much like telling you about the civil war. they may feel that distant, so the question was how to make those days alive for them in a manner that was direct, not preachy, not patriot, photographs were chosen that documented the precursors to the decision, the decision and the aftermath, but even the most powerful images could become
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merely another lesson or another collection if they were presented with captions that sore limited to daytime who when and where, so what attracted me to the project was the possibility of entering imaginatively the minds of the people of the photos, what they might be thinking or feeling or could have thought or felt. in language that represented the people of the photographs that was also the language of the readers. i wanted to make the experience as intimate as possible. narrative, fiction and dialogue, so i thought that i would bring those into play rather than sort of an essay type rendering of
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what was going on. in doing so, in trying to invent what this person in the photograph might have been thinking onto himself or saying to another person, it occurred to me that something truly unique had happened because i can't think of any political movement so -- that so demanded and so required the courage of children and their generosity. children having to behave in a manner that was not merely to advance him or herself, but all children and in time to come. they were at the most vulnerable
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age and they were asked and abled to become involved in something big and much, much bigger than themselves. and just imagine, imagine yourself as i imagined myself, 8 years old, 12 years old, 15 years old, i'm entering a street, a neighborhood, a building where i believe i am well, i know ii am because grown-ups are screaming at me, grown-ups as well as children are calling me names. olam so not wanted, soldiers with guns have to come along to protect me and if they have
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guns, maybe they need them, maybe my life is in danger, maybe somebody out there in the crowd has a gun too and might use it. who went to school without national guard support, they entered school all alone. sometimes with a few others of their own race, and they had to spend the day there. the anxiety of entering any new school, new neighborhood for a child is intense. but to enter under those circumstances is more than intense. trying not to be afraid or at least not showing it. not misbehaving, not even getting angry, not making any
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mistakes and trying not to be hurt. and trying to learn under those circumstances, waiting, really waiting for the day to end so you could go home and be with your own, knowing all the while that what you're doing is for people you will never know. i wanted today's children to think about that and know that that spirit, that nobility, that generosity was in them, too. to give up something, to be brave about something for the greater good, not just one personal advantage. where else in their history books could they see that,
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imagine that kind of courage from people their own age? where else could they see adults of all races, all faiths, all classes, and professions, binding themselves to each other in such a righteous cause, especially a nonmilitary revolution? where else can you see that? it still is the most startling thing to me. i am still heartened by it. and i hope -- well, i'm convinced, that young readers will remember and be heartened, too. i want to read to you now just a few words, some of the passages
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from the introduction to the book where i was hoping to communicate that to young people. i think i can do this without my glasses. no. no risk with the eyes. i had two cataract operations, you will be happy to know. the world is blindingly beautiful. i had no idea what i had lost.
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"this book is about you, even though the main event in the stories took place many years ago. what happened before it and after it is now part of all our lives. because remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding. this book was designed to take you on a journaly through a time in -- on a journey through american life when there was as much hate as love, as much anger as there was hope, as many heroes as cowards. a time when people were overwhelmed with emotion, and children discovered new kinds of friendship and a new kind of fire. as with any journey, there is often a narrow path to walk before you can see the wide road ahead. and sometimes there's a closed gate between the path and the
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road. to enliven the trip i have imagined the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the photographs chosen to help tell this story. they're all -- there are children, teenagers, adults, ordinary people leading ordinary lives, all swept up in the events that was marked all our lives. the first people to step on to the long path with children and their parents, the laws in many states called jim crow laws, demanding separation of the races in all public places and especially the public schools. these laws were based on the idea of separate but equal. that meant black people could enter public areas, couldn't use public facilities, such as drinking fountains in waiting rooms and train stations, be
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seated on public transportation, go to bars and movie theaters and attend schools but not with white people. sitting apart on a bus or not being served through the front window of a takeout restaurant was humiliating. but nothing was more painful than being refused a decent education. no matter how much they argued or how long they complained, black families had to send their children to all-black schools no matter how far away. many buildings were dilapidated, even dangerous. textbooks were few, worn, out of date. there were no supplies, no after-school programs, school lunches, sports equipment, under paid teachers were overburdened trying to make due. then one day some parents from
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delaware, kansas, south carolina, virginia and washington d.c. stepped on to the path. these african-american parents formed a group represented by lawyers for the naacp to sue school boards that required their children to travel to schools miles away from white ones closer to their home. their ways was named for one of the parents, oliver brown, who was part of the kansas group. the closed gates were opened by the supreme court after many lawyers and thousands of people pushed against them. on may 17, 1954, the supreme court justices announced a decision in the case of brown vs. board of education. the decision, which said separate schools were not equal, through many states, cities,
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towns, neighborhoods, teachers, parents and students into confusion. battles were fought to honor, ignore, or overturn the decision. many battles were won. some quietly. some not. the demand to integrate public schools grew into a nationwide civil rights movement to eliminate all races to have the trite vo, the right to choose the neighborhood you wanted to live in, to sit in any vacant seat in a public place. march cheses, protest, countermarches, counterprotests erupted almost everywhere. it was an extraordinary time, when people of all races and all walks of life came together, when children had to be braver than their parents, when pastors, priests and rabbis left their alters to walk the streets
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with strangers, when soldiers with guns were assigned to keep the peace or to protect a young girl. days full of allow, angry, determined crowds and days deep in loneliness, peaceful marches were met with applause in some places, violence in others. people were hurt and people died. students and civil rights workers were hosed, beaten, jailed, strong leaders were shot and killed. and one day, a bomb was then into a church killing four little girls attending school sunday. none of that happened to you. so why offer memories you don't have? remembering can be painful, even
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frightening but it can also swell your heart and open your mind. whenever i see sheets drying on the line or smell gum bow simmering on the stove, a flood of memories comes back to me. in 1953 when i traveled in the rural south with a group of opportunities, we received the generosity of strangers, african-american whose took us in when there were no places for nonwhites to eat or sleep. it was stranger who gave up their own bed, dressed them in brelient white linen, smelling of mull brie and wine. they fed us from their bible and were so insistent on not being paid, we had to hide money in the pillow slips so they would find it long after we were gone. these were country people or city people, denied adequate
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education, relegated to a tiny balcony area in a movie theater, backs of busses, separate water fountains, median jobs or none. like me, they were ordinary people. yet although their lives were driven by laws that said, no, not here, no, not there, no, not you, racial segregation had not marked their souls. the joy i felt in 1954 when the supreme court decided the brown vs. board of education case was connected to those generous strangers, and even know, wind dried sheets can sumen up my memory of what that decision did and what it meant for all our futures. >> this book is a celebration of the power and justice of that
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decision. so remember, because you are part of it. the past was not entrance, the gate was not opened, the road was not taken. only for those brave enough to walk it. it was for you as well. in every way, this is your story." thank you. i have agreed to entertain some questions or even comments. some of the questions are long, and they help me by having some
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of you -- some of you wrote questions. questions down on file cards. and i have looked at them. and i have chosen some that i thought i could answer. and disregarded those i couldn't. but i did notice that about a third of the questions were really about the same subjects. and i think i can read a few of them together. do you agree with some that even though it's been 50 years since brown versus brown -- or vs. board of education, se segregatn has not degregation has not disappeared but reemerged. a lot of public schools that were all white 50 years ago were slowly evolved into all black
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and what should be done against that. i have -- had notion in the 50's that the work to be done vis-a-vis public schools and integration, was not simply integration, i never went to an integrated school, i went to a segregated school. i lived in a little town that was distinguished by its poverty and the people in that town were all sorts of people, immigrants, east european immigrants, mexicans, black people, you know, all sorts and we didn't
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have the money to be by ourselves or even inches because this is as they call it the depth of the depression, something else on our collective minds. there were different churches, et cetera, different social groups but one high school, 4 junior high schools and the streets were full of people from all sorts of places in the world. i never lived on any street that was all of anything. so i came to the university here in washington when i graduated deliberately to be black intellectuals. i say that because i looked at
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this a little bit differently. i thought they should be enormous fight and struggle for resources, money, to go into the schools that were tax money. no child should walk 15 miles shen one was closer but i didn't think of it as either/or. i thought of it as both, you should have both things. i knew that black schools undergraduate schools, graduate schools had been funded, the people who were handing the cases for integrated had all gone to those schools, that's
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where they came from. the educational criteria at the school was high and higher than any, what happened to those schools, of course, is a different story.to the consequence of so-called integration. nevertheless, i say that to say that i'm still not certain vis-a-vis the question that now what used to be all white may be predominantly all black. i'm not sure that we are seeing so much class segregation as much as money integration. when it became possible for african americans to go to any school in certain numbers at any rate or to move to other neighborhoods, they made those
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choices in many instances and left behind those who had no economic choices. so there's a benefit and then there's the. consequence, the loss. .. ..ac private schools and et cetera. they have a closed impacted
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audience. and they all lived together. one neighborhood the dr. lived next door to the carpenter who lived next door to the whatever. that once the cohesion of the neighborhood. when that was over. it was over.t it is a beautiful thing toha have more choices. and of course some of those horrid choices left behind a different kind of neighborhoodhe and the inability to move out. now some of that is changing rapidly now. it is changing, it is fluid.
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to this diversified world there are moments when you will find certain schools that are 80 or 90% black and some parts of the country they are 80 to 90% black.. in their life outside of school. the question becomes what they are taught how will they are taught..
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it doesn't really matter because so many people were taught in living rooms. but it does matter. that is a very long sort of teacher lee answer.ns is it awful now that there is still reintegration. all of the struggles were far more for more choices rather than fewer once. i think there should be religious schools and all sorts of places that you can go and learn that you are comfortable. but not be forced in the major thrust of the government in the state should be absolute support with its budgetary
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requirements. >> let me see if there is anything else that i did not cover in that long answer.n there is one here that is a little tiny off the wall. what advice would you give to graduating college seniors that are considering pursuing a career in journalism.a it is a noble calling i suppose but you will have to change it in many instances. because of the huge melding where the aggravation and that sort of thing that lets
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rapidly maybe 12th grade education. they thought they were the people. and they said we and they meant all of us. and now they all go to graduate school i was listening to something last night matt edwards has written something. i was amazed to learn that he did not go to stanford the way he said. he felt he did not have the credits. when he no longer head to he
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changed and came clean. he was a reporter anyway if you have a tough heart just go in it and see what happens. that's what they feel for independent thinking. >> do you think the supreme court should've been more specific in the implementation of its order rather than the speed. that is one of the ways they
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got through. it was not overnight. they just closed on close down the publicd school. and everybody else had to go somewhere else.sols they just shut them down. a couple of other ones about the achievement gap what he believed can be done across this gap. that is a very entangled question in problem.
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they don't test black people being better than or less than. i think distribute name -- blame and it number of places and i feel very comfortable doing that but in my own heart of hearts i think the changes come from parents i really do and i hate to say that so blatantly i am aware of the fact more and more schools are dumping that on the parents.
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not because there is more and more knowledge less and less is being done in many other classroom. on the other hand i get a lot of questions about o how can i help my what you suggest we do you suggest we do to make sure thatat i always asked ask them do you read? do your children see you sitting there oblivious to everything because you're reading a book. do they see you really excited about going to a bookstore are going into a library do you salivate or pant when you get this book.
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i say to the hypothetical parent because whether they do it or not they will see what is interesting to you and what is fascinating to you and where your pleasure lies.el >> not is having books lying around but being active participants in the process sharing stories that you've read it with your children what you think this meansou what is this me as adults and parents i'm not sure how much we say matters to childrenma but i do know that what we do matters a great deal. they are up and shivering all the time. they're like little mind readers they have to be. so they have to look at something else i remember once my son came into the room and
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have a picture had drawn and he said look at what i did. i said yep, that's lovely. and he just tore it up right in front of my face. i said what did you t do that it was true. i was trying to get rid of them. that's lovely. and he recognized it. i realized that he knew as much as i did when i was a kid. because they have that kind of chart and intelligence i think
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they can make enormous differences and how their children behave and learn in school. >> huge boxes some i knew i wanted in the book. i just picked them out and i picked them out when i felt suddenly that i knew probably with this guy was thinking. and what they were thinking when they were sitting at this soda fountain with a little string over here. when that appealed to me and i was able to do it. some the house itself.
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more questions about the persistence of segregation i try to comment as clearly as i cut about the complexity of that not wanting the necessity of doing numbers. this question is a good ending this is not a story to pass on remember a story to pass on
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this is the story to pass on thanks. [applause]. [applause]. here is a look at some books being published this week. they share the thoughts on abolishing the death penalty. christopher leonard examines the rise of the coke industry and offers his thoughts on how it is an example of the modern corporation in coke land. they take a look at how the internet has changed the attitude.
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also being published this week the talk radio america explains how conservative talk radio the pursuit of political power is detrimental to the religious right. the life of the late neurologist. look for these titles and in bookstores these coming weeks. >> ralph peters with us. i've been fortunate to know him. when he released his recent volume.

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