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tv   [untitled]    February 11, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm EST

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but i'm always bothered by the fact that he's not calling into question unintelligent white men who had been voting all along. he does indicate, however, that -- he indicates that he has a debt to pay to african-american men when he -- when he says that at the end of the war there will be some black men who can hold their heads high because they helped preserve the union, and there will be some white men who will have to hang their heads because they helped to hinder it. and so that statement to me suggests that he understood that something had to be given to african-americans, but at the end of his life he wasn't quite there in terms of expending full equality to all african-americans. >> lerone bennett back in 2000 was giving a number of serious points about abraham lincoln. we're going to catch it about
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the second point, but you'll see why. >> the second point that abraham lincoln was a racist. i don't have any joy in making that, but i think truth is important. he who said -- who used the "n" word habitually, loved darkie jokes and black-face shows, who said in illinois and elsewhere that he was opposed to black people voting, sitting on juries, intermarrying with white people and holding office. two, lincoln was a racist. three, abraham lincoln wanted to deport black people and create an all-white nation. that's three. four, abraham lincoln was -- and this is the controversial point, maybe there were not five. four, that a abraham lincoln was contrary to what all historians say an equivocating, vacillating
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leader who prolonged the war, delayed emancipation, and increased the number of casualties. >> equivocating, vacillating. >> well, first of all, lincoln was a 19th century man, with some of the same prejudices of 19th century men. but i think that the thing that distinguished him from other men of his era was that he believed very strongly in equality of opportunity. and that people had the right to benefit from their labor, and so he was anti-slavery. there were many white americans who were not anti-slavery or simply didn't care at all what was happening to enslaved people. he did care. but, yes, he did tell racially insensitive jokes. he did believe that white men and women were superior to black men and women. he did promote colonization of
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african-americans outside of the united states because he believed that as long as african-americans remained in the country, they would be the reason why white men fought each other and that they would never have the opportunity to excel. he was not for -- he did not call for forcibly deporting african-americans, but he certainly did encourage colonization. he invited five black men to the white house where he talked to them about the fact that they should go and live elsewhere because white men would never treat them properly, even if they were the most refined. and there was some truth to that. we certainly see that after the civil war. african-americans didn't go, however, because we had been in this country at least since 19 -- 1619 before it was a country and people like
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frederick douglass and others said, we're not leaving, we built this country, we're entitled to be here as much as anybody else, and so lincoln does eventually drop it. >> where are your ancestors from? >> in terms of my most immediate, i don't know where -- i can't -- i can't go back to africa. most of us can't, unfortunately. but in terms of where they -- where most of them came from, it would be from virginia. most of my people are still in virginia. a portion of them did go to canada, however, before the civil war. a group of them who were free, they were not runaway slaves, but they were free black men and women who made their way to canada, to the dresden area of canada and stayed there until after the civil war. and there were -- with my immediate family there were three brothers, two sisters and their mother who went. other brothers and sisters stayed at home. my direct ancestors stayed at
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home and somehow managed to inherit all the property, although he was the youngest child, i'm still trying to figure out the story behind that one. there must be a story there. but two of them did stay in canada. and the third brother came back to canada around 1900 with many of his children, and so my relatives in canada now are descended from that one man, and i'm doing a study of that community building across international boundaries, looking at my family as the bridge between those two areas. >> where did you meet your husband? >> at hampton. three days after i got to hampton. >> and how many children do you have? >> one daughter. >> where does she go to school or where did she go to school? >> she went to haverford and then she came to howard and graduated from howard two years ago. >> so, what were the two experiences like for her? >> haverford was difficult for
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her. she felt very much out of place. >> very white place? >> very, very, yes. very few african-american students. and did feel very out of place from the very beginning, although she did have friends there. but we just felt that she needed to come home, and, you know, perhaps try howard. and she did. she did very well there. and is still there. she's working there now. >> in the end, do people want to be with their own? >> i think most people would like the opportunity to be wherever they would like to be. i don't know that we're necessarily more comfortable being with our own. i think that most of us would like to be able to dabble in both worlds. we would like not to restrict ourselves. if we want to be in a cafeteria
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and sit next to white students, we should be able to do that without feeling guilty, without feeling that we're betraying our own. that to me is a bit odd. so, yeah, i think that most would love to just be able to have the opportunity to be where we -- >> so, it's a choice. >> absolutely. >> i want to go back to professor dilorenzo. by the way, how is he viewed by the lincoln -- he calls it a cult? >> he's viewed probably in the same way that lerone bennett is viewed. they're both viewed -- their opinions are -- their interpretations are viewed more as extremist interpretations, i think. i understand why their interpretations are what they are. i think they are a reaction to what they see -- and i don't want to try to put words in their mouths.
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but i think it's a reaction as to what they see as sort of an over-the-top attitude about lincoln, that he is perfect, that he -- you even have people saying, well, he entered the war knowing he would get rid of slavery and the war was all about that. i don't see that when i do research. and what i've attempted to do in the last several years is to try to bring a little bit more balance to an understanding of lincoln. he doesn't have to be perfect. none of us are, but that doesn't mean that he's not important. >> here is professor dilorenzo talking about a career as a historian and where you have to come down in his opinion on abraham lincoln. >> if you want a career as a historian, as an academic historian and you want to write books and get book contracts from big publishers, whether it's a big university publisher or commercial, you'll get letters of recommendation to do that from all the big shots in the lincoln world if you are
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a -- what i call a member of the church of lincoln. but if you're a dissenter, you cannot have a career. you cannot have a career as an academic historian if you're a critic of abraham lincoln. you won't get a job. no one will hire you. maybe you can teach high school somewhere, but you can't -- if you get a ph.d. in history doing research that is critical of lincoln, you can write a dissertation that's critical of thomas jefferson, of george washington, of any other president, but not abraham lincoln. >> true? >> oit's easier to love lincoln than it is to be critical of him. that's very true. i think those comments are a little bit extreme, however. i do have a career. i do have a teaching job. am i accepted, are my ideas accepted in the mainstream lincoln community?
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to some extent, but not totally. i think it's very difficult for people to listen to an african-american historian talk about some of the problems with lincoln. white historians have done it for any number of decades, but it's very difficult as an african-american to do it because the assumption is that you should love lincoln without question, that you should see him as a god because, after all, he freed you. and so any kind of little criticism you have will be pounced on. i've had some interesting comments from people after i've been on programs such as this. i've had rather nasty e-mails. i've had letters that have been sent. one lady assured me that she was going to contact you and tell you not to ever have me on c-span again. and i look back at that program and thought, you know, what did i say that was so terrible.
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and all i said was that lincoln was very cautious in moving toward emancipation, so apparently she took offense to that. so, it's just very, very difficult if -- especially if you're african-american. i don't know that i would say that you can't get your books published and you can't get a job. that's a little extreme. but there is a kind of attitude out there in america that reveres lincoln to an extent that is very uncomfortable to say anything critical. >> if you are in the middle of the lincoln forum, the harold hol s holser group, is everybody a lincoln lover? >> i think everyone in the group is interested in knowing about lincoln fully, not just lincoln the great, but lincoln as he dealt with the issues at the time in a very trying situation, in the midst of war.
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and so i have found the people there to be very receptive to what i've had to say. i've taken my graduate students with me, and they have been pleased with what they've heard there in terms of the learning process for them. because many of them may not have been introduced to lincoln, at least not to the extent that a lot of people in attendance have. so, they're hearing lectures from scholars who talk about lincoln from a variety of perspectives. so, no, i haven't felt that kind of attitude at the lincoln forum. but i know it does exist, because i am still getting e-mails and letters. >> do you ever worry that you're affirmativaction? >> yeah. always. always. and i think that there's always that possibility, and when i feel that, i have to determine what am i bringing to the table even if i am affirmative action. and if it means that i am there
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giving an opinion that may not have been heard and if one person recognizes the validity of that interpretation, i've done my job. whether i'm affirmative action or not. >> professor tom dilorenzo, university of maryland, talks about the bicentennial commission to celebrate abraham linco lincoln's 200th birthday. let's watch a little bit of this and get your reaction. what do you think of the bicentennial, 200th year celebration of his birth? >> well, it's going to be quite a big party, i guess. i know there's a commission with all the big shot lincoln scholars on the commission and they've already begun publishing things and putting on television shows about it. you know, people ask me since i'm sort of a big lincoln critic, people ask me if i think he should be on mt. rushmore, and i tell them i don't think
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anyone should be on mt. rushmore, because of what i said earlier, i think it's unhealthy for society to defy politicians like that. and so this whole 200th anniversary is sort of like that. it's mostly a celebration of the american state. i don't think if the people on this commission are so in love with abraham lincoln, or the government that's funding it, i think it's sort of a celebration of itself with regard to the government, the federal government, that's putting all this money behind this celebration. and so and a lot of the people will go along with that, but i think that's unhealthy for society. >> what's your relationship with the commission? >> i'm on the advisory council that was set up by the bicentennial commission. there are i guess about 150 or so of us who are on that. and what i've been doing in the
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last several months is working with people at the commission -- well, people on the educational committee of the advisory council and with people at howard, and we're going to put on, going to host a conference in april of '09 on race and emancipation in the age of lincoln. so, it's not a lincoln lovefest, but it's the opportunity to look at issues of race and emancipation in the context of the times, in lincoln's time. so, it will be broader than just about lincoln, but also about what the rest of the world is doing as well. and so i think -- what we hope to do is to show that there's a broader story here, and i hope, personally, that we will be able to discuss issues that were not discussed in 1959 currently. so, we're very hard at work at that. it's an international conference with a number of scholars from
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all over the country and some from other areas of the world as well. so, i think, you know, even though some people think that the celebration of lincoln's birth is over the top and unnecessary, i think this gives us an opportunity to reassess ourselves, our history, and to talk about how we might be able to improve it. this is the perfect opportunity to do that, and at howard we're certainly going to tempt to do so. >> the audience i know this network is the official network of the bicentennial commission. there's no money exchanged. it's our decision what we cover. and there's not -- you know, we have covered a lot of the lincoln forum and the abraham lincoln association and all that over the years, several hundred hours of abraham lincoln, more than any other place that keeps video. let me go back to lerone bennett, again, to try to get some perspective. he talks about blacks and their
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attitude toward abraham lincoln. this is about 50 seconds. >> this is painful. i've said it and i'll say it over again. not only to white people. not only to white people. but for the last 135 years every medium of communication outside the media we control, lincoln was the great savior, the great liberator, he freed you on january 1st out of the goodness of his heart. so, large numbers of black people just worship lincoln, i mean, he -- because they believe that he did what people say he did. and it's painful to say to them and to my community and other communities, he didn't do it. he didn't want to do it. he was a completely different man. >> reaction.
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>> the first people to revere lincoln were the former slaves. because they did recognize the significance of the proclamation. they didn't have benefit of all that we know today about other people who were involved in pushing emancipation as well. but they remained very much committed to lincoln's memory for a long, long period of time. by the time of the depression, however, things started changing, even before that, because african-americans in reveerir revering lincoln, they believed that he had promised something more than freedom. they defined freedom as sole citizenship rights, and when they didn't receive it, then quite naturally they have to go back to the person that they saw as the guarantor of that promise, even though lincoln had been assassinated, had left the scene earlier than one would have ever expected, he was still
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held accountable for african-americans not receiving those citizenship rights. today, i guess what i would say about the african-american belief about lincoln is that he was a great president, but not because he freed the slaves. i think that most people see lihim in a much broader context than that. so, he was one of the great presidents because he was president during a war, because he preserved the union, and, yes, because he was the person who issued the emancipation proclamation which brings the country toward the final ending of slavery throughout the nation. he's important for all of those reasons. but he's not revered by african-americans in the way that he is by some other americans. but i must say he's not revered by all white americans either,
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because the celebration of the lincoln prize was held in richmond a few years ago, and there were people picketing because they felt that lincoln was a murderer, that he was responsible for the 620,000 people who were killed as a consequence of the war. so, there are some southerners who still feel very negatively about lincoln. i don't think that african-americans feel negatively about him. i think that african-americans just don't have an opinion about him one way or the other except he was a great president. there's no special feeling for lincoln, perhaps, that there was when the slaves were emancipated. >> let me ask you about a very unscientific survey that i've taken. as i go around to museums and historical places over the years, i find very few african-americans. is that what you -- >> that's exactly what i found as well.
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and it's because -- and i don't want to speak for all african-americans, but i think i understand it. because african-americans feel that those places are not for us. i went to, you know, a place like the grand canyon, for instance, every american should go to the grand canyon at least once. i spent the entire day there with my family. the entire time there i encountered six african-americans that i could identify, and three of them were members of my own family. okay, so that was shocking to me, but we don't go to national parks. we don't go to these presidential libraries because we really don't feel that we're welcome at those places. right or wrongly. we do feel that. we don't feel that we are totally included in america even today, after all of these years. >> so, what's it going to take to change that, or can you change that? >> i think you can.
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i think there are going to have to be more barack obamas to do it, someone's going to have to win at some point. i think we're going to have to get to a place where african-americans are viewed as full americans, not just an afterthought, not just, well, yeah, you're here, and i guess since you were born here, you are an american. but people who are entitled to the same things as other people. i find it extraordinary just when i'm out shopping or whatever the difference between how i think most americans behave and how some african-americans behave. i don't think that we feel necessarily that we're entitled, but i think that there are other people who feel an entitlement because -- i don't know if it's because immaturity or because you've got white senators or representatives or you've got a
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white man in the presidency, you've got -- you've got justices of the supreme court that are primarily white. i don't know what the reason is. other than all of those things, and because you have constant television images that black people are somehow inferior. so, i don't think that we feel that entitlement that other americans feel yet. and i've even noticed that fairly recently arrived immigrants have that sense of entitlement that we don't as a people. and until we're able to feel comfortable enough to have that feeling, that sense of entitlement, that doesn't mean irresponsibility, but just the idea that i am american. i am entitled to the same rights as other americans. i was interviewed a couple of weeks ago by a foreign television, and they asked about
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what was my view of the police, and i said to the woman, when you go out and you see a policeman, a police person, you feel secure. when i see a police person, i don't necessarily feel secure. i feel, okay, what's he going to stop me for today. and it's not because i'm doing anything wrong. it's not because i look sinister, but that feeling is there. and it may be my fault that it's there, but it's there. and i think until we can get beyond that, then we're going to continue -- we're not going to -- we're not going to feel like we're real americans. >> go back to the beginning of our conversation about barack obama. what if he does not make it? is there a huge letdown for the black community? >> there's going to be a tremendous letdown for the african-american community, but not just for the african-american community, young people as well. i think i'm more worried about what's going to happen with
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young people, because they have put so much into this. they have been energized in a way that i have never seen before. >> what are they saying to you? >> just that he's fresh, he's new. he's someone they can identify wi with. they think he can solve the problems of the country. you know, the sad part is no one man can do that, so even if he does win, it's probably going to be a bit of a letdown. because one man really doesn't govern this country. we know that. and so even to say that he'll be able to solve all of these problems, we know he won't be able to -- no one will be able to solve them. >> i saw a quote of yours about his safety. how much of concern -- he had -- he asked for secret service protection. if you watch our coverage of him, you can see them all around him and they are intense. >> absolutely. >> what do you think? is there a bigger worry there that if it's a white man? >> i think we've sort of gotten over that. we know that there is that
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possibility, and probably he's in danger a bit more than the average candidate would be, but i'm not so sure that clinton is any less danger because she's a woman running, you know, a very strong campaign, and so perhaps she might be in a bit of danger as well. i think what -- in terms of the african-american community, i think we believe that if i may speak for african-americans in general, we believe that even though he might be in danger, he has the right to do the best that he can, to try. whatever happens. we cannot decide who should run based on whether or not they're in danger. there are, you know, any number of people who run who have been in danger. there have been presidents who have been assassinated, presidents who have been shot and survived. we're hoping -- i assume that if he is elected, our government will provide as much protection for him as is possible, as is
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humanly possible. so, i don't think it's that concern. but, yes, there's a potential there. there are a lot of folks in the country who aren't quite ready. >> you said that you were possibly going to get involved. what will determine whether you get involved, and how involved will you get? >> i think what will determine it is how much the candidate addresses my concerns, whether it's republican candidate, the democratic candidate or whatever. i think these are very hard for us. i think we all need to get involved, whoever we're supporting, we need to get involved. because some of these issues have to be changed. i'm looking at socially the cost of education, you know, my students are fortunate in the sense that they go to howard, where still, you know, it's fairly reasonable, but when you have a situation where -- and this is true of many of my students, they're sort of independent, they don't have parents who are able to pay for them, they're having to work and
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go to school. and the prices are going up. at howard it's not as bad as in some other areas, but throughout the country, the cost of tuition is just astronomical, that has got to be resolved. health care, the price of gas and the price of food and all of those kind of things, these things have to be dealt with, and the next president is going to at least have to be able to come forward and say we need to do this, this, and this. he or she can't do it alone. but that person has to be up there at the forefront pushing these kinds of changes. >> edna greene-medford was a part of this book, it's on the emancipation proclamation along with harold holser and a forward by john franklin. we are out of time, and we thank you very much. >> pleasure.
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