Skip to main content

tv   2019 Mississippi Book Festival  CSPAN  August 17, 2019 10:02am-11:30am EDT

10:02 am
mississippi writers trip. an initiative to recognize mississippi's literary legacy placed at the state. this is live coverage on cspan2 booktv. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> good morning everyone.
10:03 am
welcome to the 2019 mississippi book festival. this morning we celebrate the fifth anniversary of her literary long party. [applause] we are honored to have so many distinguished authors and friends join our celebration from the mississippi state capital. today more than 170 authors will visit with thousands of booklovers making connections through the love of books and the written word. c-span has been with us since the very beginning and we are grateful for the partnership we start today by recognizing the readers to mississippi culturally a landscape. the writers trail is an ever
10:04 am
list the places all over the state that mark significant places in the lives of mississippi authors. ida b wells and richard ford are the very best writers. two is famous for investigative journalism. and ford is famous for his novels. the hard-hitting pieces about lynching of the 20th century achieve such notoriety that was known by some as the most famous black woman in america. her marker will be placed in the college in holly springs. in a moment we will hear a statement written by one of persistence. richard ford is with us today with his wife christina. not only is the recipient of a puts a price but in less than two weeks he will receive the 2019 library of congress pride for american fiction.
10:05 am
[applause] his marker will be placed at the library and click still. we are grateful too so many people for their support. joining us today are stewart the director of the mississippi humanities council, malcolm white, the executive director of the arts commission. they are two of the greatest advocates for the arts and letters and have spearheaded in the writers trail. which received generous funding for the humanity. in the executive director of the community foundation from mississippi in the recipient in response or is also here. a combination of partnership with the community organization and businesses is the backbone of the mississippi book festival. in the community foundation for mississippi is uniquely positioned to connect all of us.
10:06 am
stuart, malcolm and jane have been with us since a very beginning. thank you very much. [applause] we are especially grateful to the state of mississippi. we would not be this with the support of a legislator in a governor. our great friend philip gunn, figure of the house is here to pick up our celebration. [applause] >> good morning. it is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning and to welcome you on behalf of mississippi in the legislator and our capital. i had the privilege of working before we started and i met people from richard for groupies. [laughter] from little rock, there is a couple who have came all the way from little rock and i met a man who went to high school from
10:07 am
houston, texas. i was curious to know how many of you are not for mississippi. isn't that fantastic. [applause] i want to welcome you from all of america, we have people who come through here all the time and they comment on what a beautiful capital that we have in the state of mississippi. i hope you have time to walk around and look at it. this capital was built in 1903 at the cost of a million dollars. the state of mississippi sued the illinois central railroad, i don't know what they sue them about but they recovered $1 million and they took that and made this building in 13 months. if you walk around you can see the craftsmanship, partisanship and makes you pride to be a mississippian and proud that we are hosting this festival here. what was on this property before this capital was the state penitentiary.
10:08 am
a lot of people like to joke that the clientele has not changed. [laughter] it is my pleasure to welcome you here on behalf of the state of mississippi. we the legislator believe in this event. we are not only supported the advanced since its founding that we provided funding for the advanced as well and we open the capital on this day every year to allow this event to take place. two reasons, that i would like to highlight today. one, we are proud of the literary history that the state of mississippi has. we have one of the most fantastic histories of famous writers like richard ford, who m mississippi have done fantastic works of literature that have reflected well upon our state and that is one thing we like to celebrate here. the history that we have of great writers. [applause]
10:09 am
the second reason we believe in this event because the emphasis on reading. and writing. we want to encourage our students, our young people to focus and i'm telling you nothing happens in life if you cannot read. the prosperity of our state hinges on the ability of people to read. we have passed a number of majors over the last few years to place emphasis on reading. we passed the bill called third grade reading date. we want reading on grade level by the time they leave the third grade. and we only had 69% of our third-graders reading on grade level. because we made emphasis on reading we now have 93% of our third-graders reading on grade level. this is one example of how we believe in reading, this helps a highlight that in one of the reasons we focus on this.
10:10 am
i know that today is a great day ahead for you and i want to welcome you to the capital and welcome you to mississippi. i hope you have a fantastic day, take advantage of everything they have to offer at this event. thank you for let me welcome you here today. [applause] thank you very much. he has been a great friend of the possible. ebony is the chair of the english department and a member of the mississippi book festival board, she also host our mississippi book festival podcast and her husband is the mayor of jackson. [applause] >> thank you. good morning and i offer you an unofficial welcome to the city of jackson on behalf of my husband, please enjoy and if he
10:11 am
would tell you please leave your money here. i am deeply honored to stand here and have the privilege of representing the great-granddaughter of ida b wells and she was unable to join us this morning. allow for me too share a few words that she wrote of her great-grandmother and my hero. >> she made an indelible mark on the state and country. she was born in slaved in mississippi july 16, 1862 and came of age during the reconstruction era. during this period there were great strides towards equality and opportunity however, there was also a rise in terror. while gaining her education and foundation for leadership in her hometown of mississippi. her childhood ended early. when both of her parents and younger brother died.
10:12 am
when she was just 16 years of age she became a teacher to care for her five remaining younger siblings. she eventually moved to memphis where she continued her teaching career and segued into investigative journalism and activism. her commitment to truth and justice propelled her to expose the brutally realities of lynching and how it was being used as a form of oppression against the black community. her words provoked a mob of domestic terrorists to destroy her printing and threaten her death. despite losing everything, she drew on the strength and character that she developed right here in mississippi and she continued her writing in new york city and began speaking about the atrocity she researched and witnessed firsthand. this led her throughout the united kingdom and united states to expose the truth about the lawlessness to which black people were being subjected. she eventually settled in chicago where she married and raised a family of four
10:13 am
children. she continued to use her talent, her voice, her spiritual and moral compass for racial, gender, economic and educational equality. she was one of the founders of the naacp and the national association. she also founded the negro fellowship league and the office club. she fought for women rights, she fought for people to fall for black, political and economic empowerment. her unrelenting focus on fairness and equality was saved by the education and the great state of mississippi. she was grounded by the state that she invested in her great state. so it is moving this morning as she is being honored and recognized in her home state by being inaugurated into the mississippi writers trail and it is my hope that she will inspire both mississippians and visitors to the state for generations to come. from the civil war to the great depression.
10:14 am
both alone and through organizations she confronted the challenges that this country faced for her 68 years. she showed by example. how much the impact of one person can make lives of others better. of writing, speaking, organizing and staying true to themselves and their conviction. a hand for ida b wells. thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much. and also to michelle. thank you for providing the director and we appreciate your true and transport. after richard ford i've come to know him personally as he is been a champion of the book festival. it is an honor to call him a friend, celebrate him today and unveil his marker. richard.
10:15 am
>> thank you for coming. if i were a person who hoped for things or wished for wonderful luck to happen to me which i'm not, but if i were, these markers in this morning is what i'd wished for. among other things this marker distinguishes all of my bad high school memories. [laughter] of not littering in one single sport, or getting beaten up after a football game for running my mouth and freel failg algebra twice and putting on probation by the juvenile court by stealing. and for other things i will not mention here. it's as if i were catholic.
10:16 am
[laughter] which i'm not, this marker involves little. [laughter] and i get to show there are a lot of different ways to get to be a writer in the world. i want to make special note of ms. wells for her being so cingulate honored by the collective voice of her home state. and i want to congratulate all the other honorees who have stand up here and will be here to experience this morning and all of us would be happier if today could have come for willie, and larry brown but in order it is writing authenticated to be a truth bring contribute to the otherwise indecipherable american narrative we are all living right up to this minute including the recent occurrences in morton and cannon. which i no baffle this may us all. i am standing in and standing
10:17 am
appear for these missing writers today. my colleagues. the best i can. [applause] i think of these markers as gestures of affiliation we whose names who are on them re-affiliate ourselves with mississippi and its best aspirations. in the aspirations which writers are allowed to carry forward for a brief time. i grew up in mississippi during a turbulent. not nearly as turbulent as the period that ms. wells grow up in. but it was the turbulence that i fled. i was not brave enough or perceptiveness or morally strong enough back in 1962. and i would like to acknowledge that my chance to thrive in the
10:18 am
intervening years between then and now describing the ways that these markers as enhanced by my friend in mississippi. and always welcome at home and stayed on and by the testimony of their lives simplify the affiliation and humanities hires aspiration at the times more importantly than i ever will. writers often stand away and sea life from across the frontier. my friends have missed it here. i also want to think malcolm white whose precious self and imagination in his long devotion to mississippi make it a far better place. in fact to the mississippi arts commission and humanities council who took their scarlet colleagues for their patience for me in getting this marker done in the acumen and the thoroughness.
10:19 am
i wanted christina to be appear in to have her name on this marker which is and without hearinherthere is no books withe on them and no chance to write them in no marker and no life at all. she is the star and makes a lesser constellation claim. she is not for mississippi which turned out actually to be survivable. [laughter] but we have been 55 years together and my memories have become her memories and my friends her friends and my beloved landscapes her home. with the power invested in me by this marker. [laughter] i cannot see mississippi and that. [laughter] all of the unique and strange letter attended thereto.
10:20 am
in the place of your birth is a pure accident, and to not take too much pride in or definitely any responsibility for but who you marry, there is an active genius more significant than all literate prizes and big book contracts in new york times reviews of a lifetime do not add up to. i am that particular genius. i married up. [applause] i am happy this morning to be a native of the state that can decide that it is a good idea to establish a writers trail. in the current motive of climate in this country and in mississippi to some extent it is been easily seen bizarre to
10:21 am
admit to carrying about putting signs up dedicated to writers and can you imagine president trump signing off on a writers trail? [laughter] [applause] whose name would have to be on all the markers. [laughter] and yet mr. speaker we are this morning and even stranger, here i am in some part of the unlikelihood of our state and our country just must be wrong. which is through memory and a hopeless and feel cynical. in the arts lay dreaming for what is to come. the arts are always giving us better than what we expected. writers, we all went to be
10:22 am
accepted but what we write and publish his earthly for acceptance among other things and what we offer our readers is what we are made up from little or nothing but we want optimistically to be beautiful and useful to others. how can writing be useful, it can tell us crucially what causes what. what causes love and what love itself causes. and it can tell us what dad in the world looks like and what dad can cause. it tells us how we are more alike than conviction with latest to believe we are. and it can tell us what good is. it tells us what matters and what matters less and tells us that language is vivid inconsequential in the life and it's important to what we say an important to what we do not say. all of which can be quite useful to know, this morning what
10:23 am
mississippi has done for me and doing today and always, i have not always felt this way, it is made me feel to what i've written over these years as someone. too that i really cannot say thank you enough. [applause] [applause] as we move to them feeling of the markers we will take a minute to get down and get in place and i would like to thank you all for joining us to the celebration. immediately following them we
10:24 am
will have a set of opportunities in the mississippi civil rights panel will begin probably at 930. we arrive on time. again thank you all for your support and for being here. we will start with ida b wells, stuart, maggie? [applause] malcolm and jane. [applause] thank you all very much enjoy the festival. [applause]
10:25 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:26 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:27 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:28 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:29 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:30 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:31 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
10:32 am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> good morning everyone welcome to the fifth annual mississippi book festival and welcome everyone doing on c-span which is been a supporter of our efforts from the very first year. we appreciate them very much. i'm chris with archives and history. if you have not done so please silence your cell phone. our panel this morning is a spotlight on mississippi civil rights, we think energy for
10:33 am
sponsoring it. they've also been with the book festival since beginning and we are grateful for the early support and sticking with us. we are in this room today, thanks to foreman watkins law firm we pretrade their support. our panelists are natalie, johnny, michelle and heather and you can purchase copies of their books from vendors outside and you can find the times are authors will be signing in your programs. you will hear from our panelists for about 40 minutes and open the floor to questions. please come to the podium to answer your questions. be careful of the ramp. help me welcome our moderator for this panel pamela, the director of the mississippi museum in mississippi history and civil rights museum. [applause] >> good morning. this is the first time that this panel has been in the morning.
10:34 am
so thank you so much for coming out. i'm going to do a small little introduction of all of our panelists. we have natalie who is the director of new college and professor of social and cultural studies in education at the university of alabama. she is co-author and american icon and coeditor of geographics of girlhood identity in between and give her a hand please. [applause] doctor favors received his phd in north carolina and in maine phd in history from the ohio state university. he is a sister professor of history at clayton state university. give him a hand please michelle
10:35 am
purdy is a professor of education and affiliate faculty member of the disciplinary programs in urban studies and the center on urban research and public policy at washington university in st. louis and coeditor of using contemporary perspectives on african-american educational history. give her hand please. [applause] and last but truly not least. heather watkins. in 1961 she was at the greyhound bus to see in jacksonville mississippi at the age of 13 where he was sent in a paddy wagon to mississippi state penitentiary known as the penitentiary and placed on death row. please give him a hand. [applause] i want to panelists to give a
10:36 am
five-minute overview of their book, give the name and talk a little bit about it. we will start with ms. adams. >> thank you. and on behalf of my husband who is who is here in my better half in the co-author of my book, the struggle for desegregation in mississippi and i want to tell you how appreciative we are about being part of this book festival and thank you so much for inviting us. to talk about our book, i wanted to get back to october 291, 9692 supreme court decision that really is not that well known and it was the case that originated out of mississippi and called alexander versus home board of education. it was on this day that the court ordered 30 of the 33 school districts that were named in the case to operate as fully
10:37 am
unitary you segregated school systems in january. they also gave a very clear call about school implementation and all deliberate speed now meant now. on the of court enforced desegregation in his state in january 1970 governor speaks to a radio audience and i will read a little clip of what he said. he said i speak to you in the faithful hour of the light of our state and the moment we resisted for 15 years and we fall hopefully to avoid or at least delay is finally at hand. let us accept the embeddable fact that we will suffer one way or another. both white and black because of the decrease of the court. and what god help let us make the best of a bad situation. now left to deal with hundreds of decisions that had to be made during this time. were the teachers, principals,
10:38 am
superintendents, the school custodian, the cafeteria workers, the coaches, other people employed by the local school system, they did not have any training in effective school desegregation processes. they had very little help from the state department and they were often working in hostile local context and they were very ordinary folks grown into extraordinary circumstances. so how did they work through school said degradation. in the lawmakers in the legislators that the representatives moved out. that was the genesis of her research. that question is what drove that. we were very early on inspired by a quote in her novel animal dream and she has a great quote that says wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. the daily work that goes on at that. so we set out to interview local mississippi who were the boost in the field and one of the most
10:39 am
significant social and cultural changes in this country and while we started out we were just going to interview teachers and principals and we assumed that was not going to be enough that we had to cast our net much more widely and we began focusing on interviewing teachers, students, parents, superintendents, school board members, community activists and leaders in over a 70. we interviewed over 100. we also spent a lot of time in libraries and newspapers coming through microfiche and reams of paper because we were interested in knowing how desegregation played out differently in the state but also how it was being chronicled differently in local newspapers. we focused on the years 1965 to 1971 because those were the years when d.o.j. finally started enforcing desegregation. we really focused on the story of our 10 100 oral historians bt
10:40 am
we hope to connect the macro to the micro. national to the local, and by telling the story of ordinary folks who were involved in the civil rights movement, some willingly and some not. we hope to demonstrate how the daily minutia matters. local politics matter, local leadership matters and the decisions that individuals make matter and individual and community strategizing matters during this time. in determining how school districts transition into the unitary school system. we in the book by coming back to the present. and we talk about the lessons learned by studying history because we believe there's valuable lessons and we revisit some of the communities that we feature historically earlier in the book to see how it is bearing today and we also connect the educational history
10:41 am
to current educational debate and we hear a lot about choice today and we hear about charter school legislation and tuition vouchers, tuition tax credit, public funding for private schools and all of these have an origin in school desegregation so we should understand while there are so many communities that are rightly suspicious of those measures today because of the way in which they were reviewed during school desegregation. thank you. [applause] good morning again my name is doctor giuliani favors a professor of history. black colleges -- i want to think the organizers of mississippi book festival and the panelists and a special thanks to mrs. watkins. it toys great to be in true patriots and heroes of this moment. thank you for your sacrifice.
10:42 am
[applause] black colleges are one of the most important cornerstones of the black freedom movement. and for too long those gaps have not been filled in terms of understanding of their contributions so that freedom movement as was mentioned i went to graduate school at the ohio state university, they require us to say that by the way. [laughter] i was being introduced to all these fascinating books on civil rights movement and research was outstanding. it discussed all the student activists that were merging throughout the movement but it was very little attention given to the origins. there was never a true origin story. in my research i came across -- she talked about the struggles
10:43 am
that she was encountering in the state of mississippi and she said as a teacher in mississippi that she was simply trying to fill in the small cracks. i think that is so crucial and important to understand of what black alumni from black colleges were tempted to do. we try to fill in the small cracks and one of the things i knew that i wanted to do. again the name of my book is sheltered in a storm in leadership and activism. i took about seven different institutions and i engaged in a study of historically black colleges and i start off with the institutes of color youth which is now changed in 1837 outside of philadelphia. after that i talked about my chapter entitled academic in
10:44 am
1869 to 1900. i talk about bennett college in greensboro north carolina, one of two single institutions dedicating to teaching from american women and i also talk about alic alabama state univery in montgomery and jackson state university in jackson mississippi. i took about southern university located in baton rouge, and i talk about north carolina in the midst of the black power movement. then i talk about the current struggles confronting historical black colleges. but these are seen beds of the movement in one of the theories advanced in this research is discussing something i refer to as a second curriculum. outside of math, science, history and all these other topics black teachers administrators engaged as knowing as a second curriculum and that was complain of three basic components. waste consciousness, idealism, and cultural nationalism.
10:45 am
race conscience was so important for black youth who are being bombarded with messages of white supremacy. very much trying to teach them that they had no culture, no heritage. black college provide the shelter where there was a powerful counter message provided and of course i discussed the notion of idealism, two of the major concepts that were causally being driven for the students time and time again in democracy and citizenship, democracy and citizenship, they talk to them about these concepts which seemed odd because those are the two most in porton thinks the black people are basically rid of during the period they were not allowed democracy and citizenship. black students were being taught the importance of black institutions and black businesses and in fact one of
10:46 am
the alumni of the college in the 1890s came back to speak and told him we need three things, power, education and own black property. this is long before the black power movement. those were the messages circulating throughout back colleges. these provided a go space for black to thrive during this time. and ultimately it gave a modest civil rights movement in the 1960s. i'm very happy to talk more about that and fill in the gaps of the importance of black colleges. ,. >> it is an honor and a humbling experience to be in the state capital of my home state. i was born and raised in jackson
10:47 am
mississippi and i attended saint andrews growing up and i think those in the crowd from saint andrews. i see faces and i think those who are turning in and i think mississippi book festival for inviting me too be a part of this and i think the great panel to be a part of today. my first book is entitled transforming the elite. there are pieces of mississippi civil rights history that are important to understanding how and why elite private schools such as the andrews here in jackson, why they decided to desegregate in the mid-1960s when they were not legally obligated to do so. the 1954 brown decision did not apply to private schools and in fact those of us who know something about school desegregation history we know that often times private segregation is the cabins were
10:48 am
established especially by the white citizens council in mississippi so white students would not have to go to desegregate his schools although desegregation moved at a snail's pace as we know. that is part of the setting as to why the elite private schools decided to desegregate. i focused my work on the schools in atlanta, georgia within the context of the civil rights movement but also it was happening nationally with independent schools whether they be in the south or in the north as they contended for the race. there were a few schools outside of the north that admitted black students prior to the mid-1950s and 60s but there was an awakening because of the civil rights movement. and of the elite private schools. it gives you a sense of what i mean, westminster which was founded in 1951 and it was
10:49 am
$208 million in making it the 14th most wealthiest independent school in the nation and it hovers between $25,030,000 to date for days time. if you were to go to an elite boarding school you're looking at probably about 60 to $75000 in tuition and room and board. about 1% of her children in the nation go to the schools that also belong to the national association of independent schools. so they were contending just as school desegregation was an issue, the civil rights movement was more broadly galvanizing in the 50s and 60s, the schools were trying to think where we are going to position ourselves in this debate. what would be like the segregation academy that were established after the brown
10:50 am
decision and there are schools that were established after the brown decision as a result of not wanting to be under desegregate schools. how will we stand on the side of those institutions that are starting to desegregate. i make an argument in the book the white private school leaders blurred notion of public and private. they have three incentives that pulled on them. one of the moral incentives of the civil rights movement. you cannot go anywhere in the united states and not know something about the civil rights movement because of television in the 1960s. it made the civil rights movement come alive. secondly there was a public relation incentive do we want to be like the segregation academies. will our students be accepted as the most elite colleges and universities if we remain segregated. third there is a financial incentive and that's where mississippi comes into play. after alexander versus home
10:51 am
decision and 69 black mississippians are continuing to fight, they are continuing to resist and they are resisting the fact that private schools here in mississippi that have discriminatory admission policies are still allowed to have tax exemption from the irs. so it's in the 1970 in a case called greene versus kennedy that if schools had discriminatory admission policy they could no longer receive tax exemption status. again that is part of the larger context of the book. in the second argument is a courageous navigation. that's how the black students courageously navigated a contradictory and complex school culture where on one hand you had option fundraisers and celebrations of the south and the other hand and white students even before black students asking questions about how will westminster handle school desegregation.
10:52 am
just to close. seven black students entered westminster in 1967. i focused on the first five years of school desegregation in westminster in 1972 on the founding principal doctor william presley retired. there were mixed experiences. this research was done through archival work at westminster and various archives in atlanta and throughout the south as well as oral history interviews. just to give you a glimpse of what day one was like for one of my most reluctant interviewees, michael, they took his younger brother to convince him to talk to me. this was michael's description of his first day at westminster. during the first year -- no one could prepare me for the hypo logical story i was about to receive. the very first day of class eighth grade i walked in and the dominant white males about eight of them, many on the football team immediately surrounded me
10:53 am
and how naïvely i thought, their welcoming me too class. then they proceeded to humiliate, hit, push, shove, and he's me into hysteric so iran to the bathroom to hide and cried. so we know what happened in public schools but this also let you know that things are not a whole lot different for some black students, also for some of our most elite private schools. i'm happy to talk more about the book and want to give a shout out to north carolina press enter mutual editor brandon for supporting our work. [applause] >> good morning. i am mr. watkins and it is an honor to be sitting here on this panelist with these great individuals. i'm somewhat lost for words because they have been here much longer than i. and they have done books, but i
10:54 am
am thrilled to be here and it is an honor. i would like to start by praising my wife for putting up with me all these years. and just to get in and said in on me. things that have happened to me over the years, just to get into it, she is still with me and she endured my pain, my happiness and everything that goes with that. i would also like to think my cowriter, ms. andrea will you stand please. [applause] there is a story behind that but
10:55 am
we will not get into that because were short on time. but i would like to tell you how i got started as a freedom writer. jackson and my high school -- my middle school principal at the school got on the telecom and told the kids the freedom riders are coming. and once they get here it is best that you don't get involved. you can hear things and you move on. then my minister said, you know the freedom writers are going to be coming to jackson and want to get here is going to be bad frustrated so you need to stay away. i heard that but it was not until my mother told me, and i
10:56 am
asked her why. and she said well baby, if you got involved i could lose my life. your brothers could lose their life. the house could be burned, all kinds of things could happen. now that stayed with me. because my mom said she could lose her life. no one wants that to happen. so i said yes, ma'am. but i was very curious of what was happening in alabama. we would get the evening news at 530 and it was showing the public what was going on in alabama, how freedom writers was
10:57 am
being beaten, kicked, bitten by dogs, all kinds of things was happening to them. and the more i saw the more i became more curious. so we heard about the freedom writers going to be at the greyhound bus station. which was not far from a house because they lived on the march straight from here. which was walking distance to the greyhound bus station. so we had grow gone to a rally e or less, my close friend at the time and i but when we arrived the leader was about over basking individuals, locals is
10:58 am
there anyone here that wants to draw on the freedom writers and if so meet at the greyhound bus station. we did not have a but we had bicycles. so we rode the bicycles from the temple to the greyhound bus station. when we arrived at the greyhound bus station the freedom writer was taken away. so we sat on so where the high school was, we were in the area out of sight. we were out of sight because we did not want to be seen and arrested. but we wanted to see a freedom writer. i wanted to see what a freedom writer look like. [laughter] maybe even the way they sit. and if i got the opportunity i might be able to reach out and
10:59 am
touch one. and if i could touch a freedom writer, i could go back to my community and say i touched a freedom writer, i don't know how big, that would've been huge. but the freedom writer is arrested and taken away and what we should have done, we should've went back home. but then in 1961, it was a privilege for blacks to be on the sidewalk downtown jacksonville. there was also on the sidewalk so my friend and i we decided to play around.
11:00 am
and playing around we decided to do a little skipping. so we skipped and we skipped and we skipped and for some reason my friend pushed me inside and the first thing that i saw was a sign that read whites only. . . . the name and my birthplace. i was born in milwaukee wisconsin. and just by being born in milwaukee wisconsin led me to
11:01 am
parchman prison. they thought i was a freedom rider based on my birthplace. at the age of 13 i was taken to person in prison and put on death row. i have to tell you that i was 13, very nacve, from the ãb had not been exposed to anything, didn't know anything, didn't know anything about death row is going to happen. but i was put in a cell with two other convicts and you probably have heard this old saying that you are educated in prison. that's true. but the type of education you get in prison you can't use it out here. it was a horrible feeling.
11:02 am
it was a horrible time being in prison with two convicts that were there for murder. some of the things i had to endure i will share one with you. just one. that was my food being taken. three days before i was able to eat. and the reason i did not eat because when my food was brought i told the guard that my food was taken and he looked at me and said, what you want me to do? if they took your food, go back and take it from them. that wasn't going to happen. so let's move on, we had a
11:03 am
governor here in the state of mississippi was probably the most racist person that ever lived. his name was ross barnett, some of you may or may not, but i remember him well. burnett hated all blacks and he hated all poor whites. but for some reason while i was in parchman he chose to set me free. and i'm very grateful, based on his leadership here in the state of mississippi. all of the things that he did, all the things he must not have done but was accused of doing i forgive him. and the reason i forgive him is because i'm able to be here
11:04 am
today. if it had not been for the governor i would have lost my life in parchman prison. thank you.[applause] just a couple questions before we go to the audience. i remember january 1970 i was 11 years old talk about the climate of the faculty members talk about the climate for the faculty members. >> often often mississippi and the rest of the south was trying to resist school decentralization with all kind of measures. they would use faculty in
11:05 am
integration to comply with school desegregation. i remembered school desegregation without the titans of federal funding. school systems use all kind of creative ways to try to assign teachers often. one of the most often used option was they would try to take the most experienced african-american teacher and put them in the white schools and take the least effective white teacher or newly hired white teacher and put them in the segregated african american school finally the courts would like you cannot do that. that's not the intent of brown. jackson came up with a really interesting way for an entire semester they used a lottery system. in order to assign teachers. there was literally a bingo machine brought and you were assigned that way. we talk about in the book it's
11:06 am
really teachers were the ones that were the adults who had the biggest charge to actually try to navigate through this very new time. you have to remember at this time african-americans and whites lived totally separate lives. suddenly they are thrown together and they were certainly many many teachers who did a poor job of doing that. there were many teachers who did a wonderful job we try to document the stories but one of those things and a lot of people know this it's worth mentioning that for many african-american students and teachers in communities it was a huge loss because when you talk about the second curriculum that second curriculum was not in place and desegregated schools. also loss was particularly at the high school level the
11:07 am
typical pattern throughout the south was that the african-american segregated school which often had been the center of the community was closed or converted to junior high or elementary school and all african american students were transferred to the white schools and expected to accommodate and assimilate and we have a whole chapter on sports and extracurricular activities because this is often where you saw that the most. we try to capture both there are some really very good stories of teachers who did a great job but it's also teachers also were thrown into this tumultuous time. very little training. if you look at from the alexander october 29 i'm a former middle school teacher i can imagine what that had to of been like as a teacher to get this ruling, actually november 5 when the fifth circuit ruled
11:08 am
when the schools had open but you basically have six weeks to open as a completely different school system. >> very good. doctor favors, i'm fascinated by the pattern, we talked about that, shelter in the time of storm has this big: ãb biblical connotation. talk to us about african americans and hbc you in 20th century versus compared to how it is today in the 21st century. >> i'm an old preacher's kid. so that's where a lot of the title came from. i was searching for language to really describe essentially what were enclaves. enclaves for black folks to hire from the very worst of white supremacy the very worst of white bryant. on my chapter on ãthere's a conversation about all these race riots and racial programs going on throughout the state particularly in the late 19th century. so much so the rate for logan coined as the nady lowest point
11:09 am
for race relations. it was vital for black folks to find some sort of space they could send their children their youth to on to educate them to train them to provide them some sort of vision of leadership. the vision of hope. and really in bed with them the second curriculum of race consciousness and cultural nationalism and idealism. if you look at when black youth are being exposed to in the 19th and 20th centuries. what really stands out they were very much in a deliberate fashion being told constantly being instructed in and many of
11:10 am
them use that ultimately. think about what mr. walk dunes was discussing with the freedom riders, we look at the freedom riders that second these are some of the issues i'm trying to fill in on my research. those students like diane nash and others had been exposed to the second curriculum r years and ultimately responding to it. fast forward until now i think the critical question is how have we essentially taken this message of you must help perform democracy. you must make sure the citizenship can experience by all. or are they being exposed to that message. i think higher education in general has become corporate breeding ground in many ways particularly with the push system and this is not to dn a
11:11 am
great science technology engineering and math but used to be that education particularly liberal arts training provided a critical role in shaping students understanding of what their role should be in society in terms of reform society in terms of transforming society. to the betterment of all human beings. that's the central message going back to the 19th and when it century. drilled in by the faculty. and even also being very much the message being generated by students themselves. one of the primary sources i go to time and time again are the black college newspapers. you look at hbc newspapers in the early 20th century the mid 20th century it's a gold mine in terms of illustrating how students politicized. how students thought about the surroundings about how students were generating the courage to ultimately speak out the
11:12 am
challenge white supremacy as they saw it. as you fast-forward to this post segregated society to the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s. i think a lot of the cultures of institutions transform the change. there was a black brain drain that occurred on the black ãb john did meyer, longtime professor at two college i ran across an interview from him going back to the 1970s he talked about how we couldn't get the best and the brightest of black educators to come teach anymore. many of them were going to these open doors they were being provided to them by predominantly white institutions. that severed and corrupted the
11:13 am
relationship. you look at the 21st-century and hbc you now. they play a critical and vital role in training and educating black youth but i think it's important to raise the question not just for hbc you for predominantly white institutions but college in general. making sure youth are being fully engaged in society. he talked about some of the first students and reading your book i'm really curious to know where they are now. >> part to understand where they are now is understand where they came. they are a part of this first
11:14 am
desegregation generation. the parents are in hbcu educated or even educators themselves. some of them are atlanta public school teachers. they are coming out of a community of educators in atlanta. they are coming out of family against the odds actually attain some level of education. they bring that with them to westminster. whether they are conscious of it or not. malcolm riders father was instrumental in developing the music program at norfolk state university. it's interesting the connections i'm seeing between among the books here and they are obviously aware of what's happening as young people in the civil rights movement. where are they today? want toward the first black woman to graduate from westminster 1972 and one of the first black woman to attend
11:15 am
princeton university is a special assistant to the chancellor of university of illinois she had a long career she's been there about a year she had a very long career in dc and the national science foundation. malcolm ryder is in san francisco area in oakland doing a lot of it work and tech work. he too attended princeton university. michael mcveigh is a medical doctor living in los angeles to run mcveigh his younger brother whom i met in person for the first time this spring ron did not want to be interviewed by phone or in person when i did my oral history interviews but he was one of my most informative interviews via email. he also worked in technology in the atlanta area. ãbhas just retired from a long career in the anderson in houston texas. they are all over the country.
11:16 am
a couple are in atlanta the ones featured in the book. gerard wade is a longtime insurance salesman in the atlanta area and one of his daughters unattended westminster. that's bad michelle. that's what happens herman j russell was one of the first black minority contractors to own his own business in the atlanta area. for the most part the ones i interviewed had all throughout the united states. >> mr. watkins. we honor you truly for the work that you are still doing now. but when you are thrown into pushed into the greyhound bus
11:17 am
station when did you realize that this thing was bigger than you? that you were a part of now the civil rights movement in mississippi. it really did not dawn on me until i made it to ãband the other two inmates was trying to come up with a reason why i was there. they kept giving me statements about you probably raped a white woman or you killed a white man based on you not having a trial. i'm saying, none of that i was arrested at the bus station and they all are saying they are not going to put you on death row for going into a bus
11:18 am
station. that was the mindset for several days but i'm thinking as they told me about death row i'm thinking i'm going to die just because i went into the bus station. that was probably the most fearful time i was arrested, they say, 109 times throughout the state of mississippi as a freedom writer. i've been beaten several times a lot of other things that have happened to me but my most fearful was when i was in some things you can forget, some things you can't. after leaving parchman my mother thought i was dead.
11:19 am
from the police department here in jackson called her to come to the jail to pick me up. she thought she was going to identify my remains. and what a shock it was to her to walk in and see me. i must say that we both was glad to see each other but after arriving home, she beat the hell out of me. [laughter] i spoke earlier about trauma. i really believe that the beating that was given to me whatever was there my mother beat it out of me. seriously. now 58 years later all the
11:20 am
things that should have happened to me during that time, didn't. but now it's coming back on me, falling out of the bed, i'm hearing things, i'm fighting and thinking that i'm hanging from a tree. these things are happening as we speak. i'm an old man it's kind of hard to deal with this at my age. but i'm doing the best i can to deal with it. i'm not sure if i answered your question. >> it's okay. [applause] now if we have any questions for the audience, the podium is in the middle there.
11:21 am
please any questions? >>. >> comment first. i was a student here and 64 as a freshman and i was invited to go to to below in by my classmate to see joan baez. and when they are i had an interview with a south asian indian professor who said, here i am in mississippi teaching, teaching american democracy to kids who have never experienced it right here in mississippi. i wonder if that's in your book. if the visit with joan biaz is in your book. >> she's not in the book but the role that hbcu played in terms of inviting people like that to campus, this is what
11:22 am
the fluid nature of this, i refer to it as commuter ties, a term that was borrowed talked about youth being exposed and dedicated space. when you look at the role the black colleges played going back to 1837 all the way even to now there was just dedicated space even the racialized space. black youth were exposed to. part of that development stage was not just to educators and administrators but the litany of entertainers and scholars and people who visited the campuses and very much challenge students conceptions of themselves. the idea that carter g woodson, constantly stayed on the ãbw eb the boys. one of my favorite stories is ã ãhim one of the students i interviewed talked about nina
11:23 am
simone coming to campus. nina simone tells them, i've been hearing about what you guys been doing down here. it wasn't a bubble. joan baez and all these are the folks who attended, ditka gregory so many folks coming down to togo lou and other black colleges very much playing a critical role in shaping and molding the young folks they engage in. it was a very important enclave but in that enclave they were being exposed to these messages freedom of democracy of justice whether from entertainers, educators, or even the college professors. >> after the event my uncle told me, you better be careful. you are on a list. [laughter] >> thank you. we have another question. >> ãbmost of my life in
11:24 am
mississippi to a great deal of it also in memphis. while at mississippi state first african american was enrolled there became a friend of him. he worked in a race relations division in memphis tennessee shortly after the team was killed when they created multiracial office to address multiple problems that were there. i was the only white on the staff. this is been a subject always been near and dear to me. i have a lot of theological roots that are not there that ought to be there. my question that i bring today has to do that when i first went to civil rights museum i was with a group and we walked around and looked in crowds and i saw this and that happened to see a plaque on the wall which i would didn't want to see because the man's name that was
11:25 am
there were two men who were lynched that i had a family connection to that caused the tragedy in the 20s. i kept saying to myself as i came back the second time that time i sat down and let it soak into my mind in so many ways. it's history. let's let you talk about perhaps today and i missed some of it. it's history. i can't help but say and i don't want to get political today because i don't want to do that. but nonetheless, this is a very pivotal time in the state of mississippi and the election of the next governor. i believe that there are enough open-minded why people in some african america people who would willingly join hands and not look back to the civil
11:26 am
rights era but to look to today. because they brought the opportunity to vote now is the time to see if we will vote. because we can change this by changing one person perhaps at a time but there are some key positions that are here now and will be shortly thereafter and if we could make a definite impact on these positions, it would change the state and if you change mississippi, you are beginning to change even outside the city. i thank you for this opportunity to express this. thank you for your book. thank you for what you've done in your writing and how it will continue to drift into the minds of many people. but even so i hope that it will be the spur that many need in order to vote and make the difference. thank you very much.
11:27 am
[applause] works he only had time for one more question. one more question. >>. >> i was going to do to but. >> just one. [laughter] >> miss purdy, this is for you, i've had the pleasure of having you as an educator when i was in eighth grade, seventh grade 8th grade, now you are here. could you explain your journey from being a school administrator and an independent school here in mississippi to a writer? >> two minutes. >> thank you john. that's john sand who now works at the mississippi civil rights museum, we are very proud of him and the work he's doing. . thank you for that question. don is correct. as i mentioned i grew up attending st. andrew's episcopal school graduated there what they call alpha omega graduate. i went there from kindergarten and 12th grade.
11:28 am
after college and masters at washington university in st. louis i came back i was associate head of the middle school. it was at st. andrews i was trying to figure out whether or not i wanted to do phd in education or phd in history. i realize my questions are largely about education they are about who gets access, who gets opportunity under what conditions did they get the access and opportunity? i wanted to focus, i wanted to blend black ãbeverything i read talked about the segregation of the academy. i wanted to see where we were. i wanted to see where black students were in the story who did not in the 21st century at segregation former segregation academy but what was happening at schools like st. andrews that were founded before 1954. saint andrews was a little too close to home to study when i went to graduate school at emory in atlanta and
11:29 am
westminster can become in some ways a perfect case study. the and because it was also a day and boarding school at the time. this book began as my dissertation this is the basis, this is a significant revision of my dissertation. as an assistant professor now newly 10 year associate professor. one of things you have to do. [applause] most of us who are in history tend to draw on our dissertations as our first books. >> again, trying to have schools struggle for desegregation in mississippi with natalie g adams, james h adams, shelter in the time of storm. how black colleges foster generations of leadership and activism. doctor giuliani tabor, transforming the elite black students and segregation in private schools. michelle purdy, pushing
11:30 am
forward. mr. hezekiah watkins, thank you so much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on