tv Civil Rights After Martin Luther King Jr. CSPAN January 11, 2015 6:30pm-8:01pm EST
together, and i hesitate to tell you how much more efficient it will be because it would laugh me out of this room. we are talking not about tens of times of improvements, but millions of time improvement. that is not as crazy as it sounds because from that time to now, we are a trillion more -- a trillion times more efficient than marconi's time. the thought of being a million times more efficient in the next 20 years is not as crazy as it sounds. >> monday night at 8:00 eastern on the communicators. >> up next on american history tv, a discussion about the civil rights movement. after martin luther king's assassination in april of 1968, including the impact of the civil rights act that same year. the wilson center in washington
dc posted this. it is about one hour and a half. >> welcome to the wilson center and welcome to this installment of the washington history seminar on waking from the dream, the struggle for civil rights in the shadow of martin luther king. i am christian, i designed it, with cochair eric, professor of history at george washington university. our weekly seminar on historically perspectives on international affairs. it is co-authored by the wilson center and international history center. we are delighted to have all of you here, since i have a cold i will be very brief to
acknowledge, as always, the support of our funders and donors. especially american foreign relations, as well as other individual donors for this series. i want to thank others for doing everything to put this series and this event in place. with that, i will turn it over to eric for the introduction of our speaker. next thank you christian. it is my distinct pleasure to introduce professor david chapelle, professor of modern american history at the university of oklahoma. he received his phd a number of years ago from the university of rochester. subsequently, he is the author of three very important books.
insight agitators, white southerners and the civil rights public -- published by johns hopkins. it one outstanding bets on human rights. this was founded -- followed by, the death of jim crow in 2004. most recently, "waking from the dream: the struggle of civil rights in the shadow of martin luther king junior." david's articles and reviews have been published in various venues such as the new york times and the washington post. historically speaking, the american historical review and many other venues where it today he will be speaking from his new book and the talk is entitled, waking for the dream, the struggle in the shadow of martin luther king.
>> thank you very much for the introduction. i want to extend my thanks. especially eric arnessen for hospitality and the invitation. i want to thank everyone for coming on this balmy day. i will talk for about 30-35 minutes about the memories and legacy of the civil rights movements. viewed through the lane length -- lens of national legislation. in my book, the book begins with king assassination in april 1968.
the first 11 minutes or so of what i will say are from one of the chapters that got cut from the final version of the book. you get a bonus today. even if you buy the book you will hear more today. the main thing that the public and most scholars remember or think they remember about martin luther king's death with the riots that followed it. i believe americans vastly over remember those riots. there was significant of people in some cities. on the whole, the violence was actually much lower than expected at the time. newsweek stated, that the country was on the brink of all out racial war. time magazine said the reaction to kings merthyr -- murder seemed to be the onset of race war. the black panther minister of
information said that his contacts were now unanimous that the war had begun. holocaust was eminent. america will be painted red, dead bodies will litter the street. or it bit assassins had just proven the failure of nonviolence. had been failure and division in the black, -- population four. now all people had become black panthers in spirit. that is what he said. now there is the gun and the bottom, dynamite in the night, and he will be used liberally in america. america will bleed and suffer. another long, hot summer of riots, like 1964, had been widely predicted. to this day, many textbooks and retrospectives on the
assassination remember a great of people of -- of people-- upheaval of violence in the streets. this is misleading. this cuts the other memories short. americans began correcting their memories within a week. in the press, and white papers as well as black. the experience of violence swiftly failed to live up to the hype and expectation. significant violence was confined to just four cities. there were right that's only -- violence deaths only in chicago, washington dc, and new york. within a few days, time magazine and other news outlets cannot make up their minds what was more astonishing -- the distracting and death in a few
cities or the strange lack of it in other cities. had to account for the failures to burn, kill, and maine, became a big question at the time. -- and maim became a big question at the time. select best swift action by authorities, with the exception of chicago, and restraint by police in direct confrontations cap the lead on most communities. what this coverage is reflecting is the lesson of the commission on civil disorders. this was released a month before king was shot. the lesson had already been absorbed by city councils, mayors urban news editors, prominent police chiefs, but the
lesson was that strong police actions and reactions against rioters tended to provoke and exacerbate ratty -- writing. not to squelch them. again, with exceptions. that lesson was widely criticized by people who thought the police should have acted more to protect properly. -- property. there was the notion that police did not do enough to protect property. the baltimore afro-americans took a similar view to time magazine. the week after its own alarmist right coverage, --riot coverage, it suddenly had a very calling- -calming reaction.
police, national guard, and troops do not deserve this abuse. these forces did not panic. baltimore owes them a tremendous groep -- debt of gratitude. they said, we did not have a riot. in baltimore. the afro defined the right as mass violence against persons. although american riots after world war ii began deviating from the historical pattern and focused most destructive energy on property. major black papers in other cities that witnessed violence, also adopted a calm anti-alarmist editorial and reporting posture. after some initial alarmism and fear. the baltimore afro's neighboring
white paper, the wit -- the washington post, took a strange pride in its city was ranked number two in riot deaths. black and white people on the streets have been included threatening violence in several cities where in fact there was none. by the end, the press reporters -- recorded 43 deaths nationwide. which is 43 to many of course. sounds alarming from our perspective, but this was a smaller number than was feared. that number had been reported in detroit alone in the previous years riots within seven or eight days. several major papers ran long editorial opinion column analyses about certain places
that were known for violence,watts, for example and newark. they had no deaths or major injuries at all this year. they did not even make the list of minor disturbances in 1968. the answer was, often militant figures, like leroy jones, went into the street of his native newark to plead for calm. malcolm x. his former bodyguard sent the military organization to walk through our them the night after king was shot urging people to maintain the peace. he also praised republican mayor john lindsay for his efforts to calm people down. the famous soul finger james
brown played a similar role in boston where a concert was canceled and then reinstated in efforts to keep people from exploding in anger. he was called d.c. after giving credit for helping keep the lid on boston. this was by the first black mayor of washington dc. the pittsburgh courier seen as the leading voice in african-american journalism, had a different answer. riots hit race mayors. there had been no riots in cleveland. both cities have become the first major cities to elect african-american mayors in november 1967. the carrier may have opened --
overcompensated for the covert reporting and alarmism from its initial riot coverage. it overlooked the violence in washington dc which had significant deaths despite an african-american mayor. you could qualify washington that did not have a role yet. people did not perceive washington as having the same status as stokes. they also neglected to say that not only cities with black mayors but also other cities, most cities, experienced no significant personal violence. the best general answer to come so far, came into public consciousness 12 years later in the voice of andrew young in 1980 miami broke out in a right --a riot which left 12 people
dead. young said, we learned in the 1960's, that no neighborhood will riot twice. whenever they wanted to burn and loot and rampage, they ended up far worse off to stifle the impulse next time. poverty and other conditioned -- conditions worsened things. large scale writing became rare. --rioting. there were no significant ones from 1984 until the rodney king incident in the 1990's. it appears the most significant response to king's assassination was not the initially over remembered and over reported riots, but the underreported civil rights act of 1968, also known as the fair housing act.
supporters of the civil rights act said that they wished to pay homage to the recently murdered martin luther king. they offered to show inner-city dwellers that hope was not lost. king had strongly supported the new civil rights law for years before his death. he believed the laws in 64 and 65 should have been since the beginning. since his shift to northern cities in 65 and 66, king had been losing hope of passing further legislation. the new bills -- bill prospects suddenly changed. a lot of people had given up. suddenly, the prospects changed when king died. there was also the major -- that
the major civil rights act was not a symbolic show of emotion or respect for the dead -- it was subsequent answer for the movements most radical demands. if king could be credited with any victories, it was his last real victory. it also was the one victory that king could most possibly be given credit for. historians since the 1960's have spent more time crediting unsung heroes, the grassroots and autumn up stories -- bottom up stories, they have spent more on that than anything else. quite rightly, people who were not world-famous has eaten up most of the scholarly work on cleaning these in the 1960's.
the fair housing act really does seem to come out of the blue and swerves into viability when king was shot. in that sense, it can be credited to one single figure more than anything else. yet, the civil rights act has been almost completely forgotten. unlike the previous two acts in 64 and 65, which people always attribute to king which she has come to symbolize -- symbolize. the 40 died, king and other supporters doubted that any civil rights legislation could pass given the widespread conservative reaction to the long, hot summers of rioting in 1956 and 1967. he was one of the most hated men in american history, as people forget. not only black muslims and panthers who criticize them, and
not only mainstays of the old regime, including thurgood marshall, who said things like he had a messiah complex and was a loose cannon -- that many of his own best friends and associates said that he had lost his way and strongly urged him to abandon the poor people can't -- poor people's campaign demonstration he planned to initiate in april 1968. king himself worried that he might have to call out the demonstrations, and said that the plans demonstrations to begin april 22, 1968, was doomed. speaking to defeat chamber of commerce in early 1968, king gave a hit as to what -- why he
was not following advice to abandon protests. if violence broke out in the ghettos again that summer, king says in march 1968, i don't have any faith in the washington power responding. they will throw it -- through us into concentration camps. the sick people and the fascist will be strengthened. that was the level of king's pessimism. launching the poor people's campaign's had to succeed, king believed, to prove to people that those who had been left out in the cold of america's history of progress could still get a hearing by nonviolent means. it was time to go all out, despite criticisms of his fair weather friends. we are going to play congress. it was a desperate last ditch
attempt to prove that nonviolent constructive action could still work. opponents of the pending civil rights bill which had been languishing since 1966, fairly -- through king's name about as a symbol of all that was wrong in america. he claimed to be nonviolent, but in fact he preached and practiced disrespect for the law. he chose to disobey laws he did not like, and king used his charisma. he turned to his adoring masses to turn lawlessness into movement. that reaction had been carrying the day since the backlash election of 1966. sudden national grief and the need to make concessions to the grief over kings death finally overwhelmed the growing backlash. the bill was signed into law three days after king's funeral, on april 11, by lyndon johnson.
housing discrimination on the basis of race, color religion, are origin. some state laws raised the percentage even higher than 80%. a supreme court decision in june 1968 curtailed many of the exemptions nationwide, raising the coverage to nearly 100%. most interestingly congress and the attorney general attempted to crack down on block busting the deliberate manipulation by real estate firms, of racial fears to drive housing costs down get people to sell cheap and then drag them back up when aspiring middle-class home buyers moved in. strong enforcement provisions
were not added to the housing bill until 20 years later in 1988. discrimination was clearly put outside the bounds of law in 1968. plaintiffs alleging discrimination could now prevail in court. i think it is a tossup whether congress was honoring king's memory directly or was responding to the over reported violence before his death -- after his death. while some black militants insisted that white americans made criminals out of nonviolent blacks -- not just in 1968 with radical legislation. all of the attention given to rioting. it did actually seem to work. people got press attention.
people were vocal and they were state commissions on rioting. the turner commission seemed to bring the hope of aid, the promise, two rioters-. --to rioters. that ironically threatened the promise of nonviolence. americans failed to respond significantly to responsible political action and peaceful efforts to reconstruct communities. thus there is some perverse justice, perhaps, in america's amnesia over its last great civil rights act. its passage did not ambiguously honor the constructive nonviolence that king stood for. king wanted and fought for the housing law, but in the end, the
lot looks like a reward for the rioting that king had opposed. white conservatives in congress and elsewhere of code -- echoed black militants in thing that the act was a fearful capitulation to rioters. the courier pointed out that conservatives and militants were shortsighted. the editor observed that violence generally increased congressional resistance to civil rights. referring to the passage of the housing bill as a king dream the courier pointed out that before king's death, the angry aftermath congress, and a similarly willed 1968 congress, were almost cited -- solidly
against passage. yet it came. it was directly due to king's assassination. segregationists took a narrower line that congress had responded to the rioting. they scolded congress for surrendering to emotional pressure to create new buyers rights that sacrificed sellers more precious rights. and for raising expectations that the law cannot fulfill. the courier and others stood squarely for protection of property rights. there was also a problem that the law would encourage more rioting by showing people that rising -- rioting was rewarded by congressional action. representative william of
mississippi, said that his committee caved in under the gun . only king's murder and the reaction made it possible to move the bill to the floor. needless to say, he said it was a great disappointment to me. when the bill passed the house republican representative hr gross of iowa suggested flying the flag at half staff in morning, not 14, but for this once great house that had -- not for king, but for this once great house that has succumbed to rioters. this also explains our inability to remember things properly. the best index of the depth of the memory in the 1968 cigarette -- civil rights act failed, is the failure of martin luther
king's opponents, a decade later, to remember the act when they were debating legislation to establish the martin luther king national holiday. in the book i devote an entire chapter to the king holiday battle with congress. opponents of the king holiday which came to congressional action in 1979 and 1983, failed to make what could have been the best argument against passage of the holiday. that is that congress had already paid tribute back in 1968. they could have said that. congress had paid king a far more mean of -- meaningful tribute in 1960 doing something real to advances cause, by passing a major law he had supported as opposed to a merely said -- symbolic holiday. again, conservatives opposed the
king holiday in the late 1970's and 80's. they echoed radical african-americans who said that king would not have wanted his cult of personality. he was against that sort of thing. he would have wanted substantive action. conservatives say,--they would have been able to twist that to say that king would have wanted something more substantive. they could have used that argument, but they did not do that. a huge lapse that is very significant. as it was, the opponents of the holiday in 1979 and 83 were pretty weak.
their objections to the holiday were overwhelmingly confined to two points. one, objections to the cost. during economic hardship. another paid holiday for federal employees. also the rest of the second that insufficient time had passed for americans to gauge king's historical significance relevant to george washington, christopher columbus, jesus of nazareth, who had national holidays named after them. almost everybody in congress stayed clear of the old arguments against king, that he was hypocritically fomenting
violence and opportunistically taking advantage of violence. that he consorted with communists. etc. in the house of representatives, only two people took up that line, one an enemy who had read-baited king severely, john ashbrook of ohio. a newer member, larry mcdonald, a democrat of georgia. these guys have in common that they were members of the john birch society. they made the argument and brought witnesses to hearings to document that king consorted with communists and rehearsed the argument that ashbrook made in the 1970's along with many others in the 60's that king fomented violence while hypocritically espousing nonviolence.
they also said america could honor booker t. washington or george washington carver, rather than king. by resorting to ugly, unseemly tactics of character assassination and guilt by association, larry mcdonald and john ashbrook played into the hands of supporters of the holiday. their opposition to the holiday was much more colorful, much more photogenic, then the opposition people who complained about the budget and historical perspective. at any rate, both ashbrook and mcdonald died before final action came on the bill in 1983. the bill went to the senate, which had never done in 1979. the bill went to the senate for the first and only time in 1983. jesse helms rose to the occasion
by taking up the mantle of anti-communist guilt by association and character association -- assassination that he learned from ashbrook and mcdonald, who failed to make it work in the house. helms had generally stayed out of debates on the king holiday up to that point. only jumping in at the last minute in a showdown that really grabbed headlines with ted kennedy, who led the charge for the other side. while making his anti-communist insinuations helms pointed out that cap -- ted kennedy's brothers had authorized the fbi to investigate king in the first place because they believed he had communist associations. at any rate, helms stood by his
case against king until the 11th hour. filibustering against the holiday until he finally made a deal giving up the filibuster. reportedly to get a tobacco subsidy deal. also enough, it seems, to generate high turnout among his right-wing supporters in north carolina in what turned out to be a very close election. for the next few election cycles. the holiday past. ronald reagan gave up his initial opposition to sign it into law in 1983. it is tempting to see the martin luther king holiday as a consolation prize at best for
the dismal string of disappointments and failures that the movement endured from 1968 up to the king holiday battle itself. especially tempting in light of the last legislative campaign of the old labor, civil rights social democratic coalition, the campaign for the humphrey hawkins employment law, which attracted the attention of coretta king from 1973 to 1978. it is tempting to see the holiday as a bone thrown to the tattered remnants of the civil rights movement and its liberal labor allies in congress. the holiday, however, in 1983, helped to touch off a remarkable but still unheralded run of successful civil rights legislation in the 1980's,
getting with the extension of the voting rights act in 1982. and after the holiday comprehensive sanctions on south africa in october 1986 overwriting president reagan's veto. the civil rights restoration act, which reversed major supreme court decisions passed in 1988, also over president reagan's veto. in fulfillment of congress's original tribute to king strengthening of the fair housing act in 1988, which the new york times editorialized "put teeth" into the housing act. these remarkable achievements in the 1980's, i think more significant victories than any other decorative -- decade in history except for the 1960's, were all the more striking in light of the republican control of the senate until january 1987.
and the growth and increasing power of the resurgent right wing of the party during that search of popularity in power. and the opposition of the reagan opposition to many of the initiatives. the conjunction of those victories with the king holiday is the strongest evidence, i think, against any suspicions that the holiday was just a bone of contention thrown out to pacify black voters and distract them from a lack of real progress. the holiday victory marked a new mood, a new disposition, and a new resolve among those caring on martin luther king's unfinished business. this new movie in its lowered expectations, led to greater achievement and perhaps greater resiliency in an inconclusive, uphill struggle.
the new democratic realism in the civil rights organization in contrast to the bureaucratic and judicial leverage funded by corporations and other large institutions, who purchased a separate piece from jesse jackson's operation, push, or the naacp in the 1970's and early 1980's, let the congressional black caucus and its allies to work for what turned out to be much more achievable goals than they have reach for in the 1970's. they achieve goals that, i think, weren't far more of our attention than they have gotten. they are among the most significant, yet underappreciated parts of martin luther king's legacy. i just want to add a little coda about one of the opponents of the martin luther king holiday. i mentioned john ashbrook of ohio, who died in 1982. ronald reagan signed the king
holiday into law in october 1983. as a gesture of support to the moderate wing of his party led by bob dole and howard baker. both of whom had been very active in efforts to win the older middle and upper middle class black voters back to the republican party in the 1970's and 1980's. ronald reagan made a less well-known gesture to the anti-holiday forces five months before he signed the king holiday into act. after john ashbrook died, his supporters founded the ashbrook center at ashland university in ohio, which maintains an active program of internships lectures, and classes. president reagan, oh according to the center website, personally dedicated the center
on may 9, 1983. i found no mention of the dedication in the national press. speaker at the annual fund-raising dinner have included dick cheney, margaret thatcher charlton heston, henry kissinger, clarence thomas, benjamin netanyahu, karl rove, glenn beck, john boehner, and mitt romney. thank you very much. [no audio] [applause] >> we now moved to our discussion. we ask that you wait until the microphone arrives in your hand until you speak. if you could identify yourself we would appreciate it. we will start in the back. >> i am with the wilson center. i want to call your attention to something that is probably in your book. i went to work a year after the
1968 law was enacted. my congressman that i went to work for was john anderson, who made a very compelling speech during the special rule that you mentioned in the rules committee. his own republican members on the rules committee would not let him speak on their time. he got time from dick bove and on the democratic side. it is credited as a speech that change some votes. the other thing that i want to ask or mention is, did lyndon johnson do an address before joint session after the assassination, asking for the enactment of that act, or am i conflating that with the state of the union, where he made the "we shall overcome" remarks? the other thing, in connection with that, i was wondering what impact the commission report had on members' votes and public
opinion. the thing that stands out for me is the line that we are in danger of becoming two americas, one black, one white. i think it had an impact on a lot of people. >> thank you very much. briefly, john anderson does appear. of course, he ran for president in 1980. and he hurt his relations with a lot of republicans. a lot of reaganites. i go through a lot of moderate to liberal republicans coming over, not just people in congress but business associations, baker's in chicago
who played some role in negotiations with anderson and so on. there is a lot of that detail. i think it is the usual wash of legislation with something close and controversial. there is a lot of people who can take credit for being a decisive force. i am sorry, i just do not remember if he addressed a joint session, lbj. but he did throw his weight into the bill. he was hurt when ebbing reside -- resigned. as for the impact of the current commission, that is all you ever hear, that soundbite about two nations. it seems to me from the coverage at the time, many scholars look at this systematically, that the
message police action is provocative was impressed upon public safety commissioner's and mayors all over the country. and this trade-off of accepting a certain amount of property damage as the price you had to pay for keeping the death toll low was something that was wrenching and difficult and very contentious. i do not know what happens after. riots disappear. we do not have a long, hot summer. there is an outbreak in cleveland, but it was fairly mild compared to what happened before9. you have minor episodes after that. you have these occasional things that seem to have a very clear proximate cause at the time. we do not seem to have the waves and the fear of perpetual writing -- writing that really
rained in the 1960's. >> right up here. >> stephen short. johnson use the phrase "we shall overcome" in connection with the voting rights act. but i do not think he used it to gain. what consequences of the rioting -- a neighboring state dressed down the leaders of the black community in maryland. i got spiro agnew's careers launched. he may not have been named vice president except for how appealing this was, for someone to stand up to black leaders even though these people try to stop writing in baltimore. my other question is, you not only mentioned opposition to the vietnam war which alienated him
from president johnson and gave him -- a not wholly undeserved reputation for radicalization beyond the confines of justice in civil rights area. >> i go into the stuff. i go into the agnew story. what is striking about the coverage in 1968 is that baltimore is a failure. it is a place that stands out as an example of what not to do. and yet, agnew tries to pass the blame off on others. people were blaming agnew for being provocative. he was a symbol of get-tough police tactics, even in the case of this emerging liberal, namby-pamby consensus in the
other direction. it releasing the vacant -- he significant, the police chief in kansas city was notorious for having things fall apart in his city as well. he is the one who nixon appointed to replace j edgar hoover. >> on this side? up here in the front. >> catholic university. this is a question that has to do with the way the 1968 act seems to have receded from historical memory as opposed to 1964 and 1965. one possible reason might be is that there is no obvious progress you can attach to 1968. it is true that
african-americans really had the suburbs opened up, which has been important in many locales including washington. but even before 1968, a number of hitherto all-white neighborhoods in many cities opened up because whites were leaving in such huge numbers. if you look at where we have come since the 60's, one of the negatives is always that the indices of racial segregation remain extremely high. so the 1968 act does not fit neatly into great legislation progress. america forward. it does not fit the narrative. i wonder if that is a factor. >> i think you are right. people who worry about racial discrimination and differences today think that, other than the criminal justice system, housing is the thing that looks the worst. i do not think it is necessarily a story of things not getting better. it is story of some places getting worse.
and new kinds of -- neighborhoods shifting, as you say. new developments. people being bulldozed out of inner cities. that sort of thing. i think that there is a lot of good reasons why the act is not remembered. but you could say that there have been disappointments in voting rights. there have been disappointments in the progress of antidiscrimination measures elsewhere. in employment and poverty. there is still an awful lot of -- it is the black middle class has benefited from the housing legislation. two could also say they have benefited from everything else. every other kinds of civil rights decision. the poor, by some measures,
there lies have gotten worse. i agree with you. but i think you could apply the same analysis to aspect of the 1964 and 1965 acts as well. >> back here, on the wall. >> you mentioned civil rights victories of the 1980's. other than mccain holiday -- the king holiday the one that stands out to me is sanctions against south africa. have i missed something? >> i mentioned the expansion and reauthorization of the voting rights act for 25 years in 1982. these civil rights restoration act, reversing supreme court
civil rights decisions. conservative ones. which, like sanctions on south africa, was passed over reagan's victory. i think those in particular are interesting because of the veto override. it is an amazing achievement. sanctions on south africa, that is related to the question about vietnam and king's stance on vietnam. the new york times, and a lot of liberals, criticized king for venturing into foreign policy. he was out of his depth. the congressional black caucus and bill gray of philadelphia achieved an amazing victory in reversing a policy that was very dear to the hearts of the reagan administration. i think that is an extraordinary achievement. i think you do look at civil
rights legislation at any time especially from the perspective of today, with resegregation and massive incarceration and execution rates and so on, it does not measure up. it does not measure up to the dream and to the aspiration. it does not measure up to people's hopes and needs today. but i think what happened, the mood of success is not only different from the 1970's, when people were perpetually disappointed with moving the agenda in congress and elsewhere , but when you compare the rest of the liberal agenda, you do not have successes like that. the reason is, i think, the opposition to civil rights leaves the great south and goes to the west, where there are african-american voting populations.
helms and his sidekick, john east, oppose everything in civil rights. other than that, you have at least one and two deep south senators, strom thurmond for example. he votes for high-profile civil rights legislation in the 1980 because he is afraid they can mobilize high turnout in statewide elections. if you have a significant number of african-american voters, it becomes a headache. the real criticism of my gloss on the successes of the 1980's is all the stuff going on on the small-scale. nickel and dining -- diming of civil rights legislation. minor legislation that does not have a civil rights title, but
affects the african-american population the poor population which is disproportionately african-american. on the headline issues, there seems to be a real gain, where the liberals do not get very far in the 1980's. these civil rights coalition the congressional black caucus makes some amazing, surprising strides. the last one, the amendments to the housing act. i talked off the picture there in 1988. >> let me interject a follow-up and ask you to elaborate on this. for much of the historical literature from the period following 1968 kind of unfolds as a narrative where there was this high moment of civil rights mobilization. the movement is in gear by 1965, if not by 1968, and it is not
all downhill from there. that is not just popular memory, such as it is. but our colleagues in the historical profession write a good deal about how bad things got in the years that followed. yours is a solid upbeat story. so why are our colleagues getting it wrong, and will this be the corrective that you hope to be? >> i am not really upbeat. i do want to call attention to victories that can happen in the teeth of disaster. i think there is hope in the worst of times, is what i would say. the book i published previous to this one was dedicated to a much more pessimistic view of the
long trajectory of civil rights. indeed, i got into a lot of hot water by arguing that the key leaders in the civil rights struggle, to the extent that you can find a theory of human nature in their words, adopted a very pessimistic, old testament prophet view of human nature. a disbelief in the enlightenment. liberal view of more or less automatic progress as a function of economic growth and increased education and scientific and technological discovery and so on. i argued that these civil rights leaders were successful for cicely because they did not take progress for granted and they recognized that action and
sacrifice were necessary to achieve anything, even during the liberal moment of the 1960's. i think the only serious answer has to be that any simplistic onward and upward narrative, it is just not what real life is like. but i do not hope to turn on all of our colleagues in the historical profession into a bunch of giggling pollyannas. i think it is a picture of struggle and a picture of self-sacrifice. two steps forward and maybe another step back. steps forward for the black middle class for a while.
and i think a dismal picture for people below the poverty line. >> appear. microphone. >> kent hughes from the wilson center. this is a really stimulating and thought-provoking presentation. on the 19 68 act, it did come up in the election when george h.w. bush had voted for it. there was no real look at the substance. where you say, he is a different kind of republican. >> you actually supported the amendment in 1988. >> i had forgotten that. i wonder if you could comment on humphrey hawkins act and how significant it was in what you think it's legacy might have been. and maybe on the positive side,
no child left behind, where george w said you have to look at each subset of the population and a pressure to have a mixed race category in the census. when you think back to not too many years ago, this was against the law in some southern states. barack obama himself is a mixed race person. i do not remember that coming up as an issue in the campaign. >> hmmm. well, i am not an oracle of no child left behind. i do not know -- i do not know what to make of the mixed race category in the census.
that we can think about it is significant to me. that we have to cope with the issue that people identify that way is a sign that things have changed. we need -- when you do comparative histories of places that do not have dichotomous racial systems the way the u.s. has historically had, south africa brazil, things can be just as ugly, just as violent, just as extreme. and there are different kinds of opportunities, different kinds of toe holds for leverage for successful action. i am forgetting -- humphrey hawkins. i wrote a chapter about it.
i began thinking that it was just a disaster. >> can you explain what it is? >> the full employment act became -- the headline issue for organized labor and the congressional black caucus in 1974 through 1976 and 1978. every single martin luther king holiday in those years. people celebrate in the holiday though it was not an official holiday yet. there were protests, and it was a headline issue. the number one issue you would see on placards. karen a king -- coretta king was on the employment committee. and it was an attempt to amend
the employment act of 1946, to have congress in brace the full-blown keynesian theory that government can be an employer of last resort and get the country through periods of high unemployment which has many civil rights angles. but one that constantly came out is that unemployment, then as now, for african-americans was much higher than others. the bill went through a very tangled series of amendments and votes and finally was passed in october 1978. despite his own conversion to the anti-keynesian space
attacking inflation at all costs, some of the teeth were distinctly knocked out of the final bill. it effectively became a standard of what hawkins said and coretta king said was this is a beginning. something we can build on three it is like the civil rights act in 1957 and 1960, which nobody remembers, but the 1960 four and 19 65 acts were building on the 1957 and 1960 civil rights act as they built on the 1866 1870 civil rights acts as well. i think it could yet turn into that.
it does require reporting on employment. it does require the federal reserve to actually take responsibility for unemployment as well. as well as inflation. you know, one could argue that the fed has taken that seriously. >> maybe they would have done it without the compulsion of the legislation. roger? >> could you tell us a little about martin luther king and south africa? the apartheid movement was well underway by the time. it was very weak compared to what later became. everyone in the 1960's that would last forever, like the soviet union. >> yeah. where it comes up in the book is that i think it is very much part of king's legacy. those in the anti-apartheid movement who have an interest in
getting the comprehensive sanctions through congress over reagan's veto, certainly see themselves as carrying on the legacy of these civil rights movement. king, of course, did have a great interest not just in south, but in africa generally. he drew from examples of activism there and vice versa. people invoked king's name despite a very decisive term by nelson mandela against the gandhian tradition of nonviolence. and that movement embraced the struggle. i think it is an important counterpoint for people who believe in nonviolence.
people who see -- and this was much discussed in the 1970's, the legacy of the civil rights movement and nonviolence. it was chewed over. in south africa, people, the anc, abandoned the gandhian strategy with different conditions. you have a majority black population. overwhelming majority. you have national borders that are poorest -- porous and capable of infiltrating weapons into the country and external sources of support and refuge for people who engage in armed struggle. there are a lot of reasons why the practical argument against
nonviolence works in south africa. even among people who had embraced gandhiism before. where it does not work, it has not as popular in practice in the united states. in a nutshell, i think that is how that discussion carried out. i think people could say these were pragmatically embracing kings at legacy of nonviolence in the united states and gave money. other kinds of support to people resorting to armed struggle in south africa. and fought, essentially, their agenda, in american politics and public opinion. >> down there. >> him back. >> it is a minor question, but i just wanted to ask you to elaborate on that.
you mentioned jesse helms and his position to the memorial day. and how this played well with his right wing conservative supporters. you also mentioned some sort of tobacco deal that might have persuaded him to give in on this. is that based on evidence? it sounded -- >> i am they can about it because it was reported in the press. i have not been able to substantiate it. actually, people who know helms' career and his papers, i have gone into them to attempt to get something. but people may know more about that. people are working on helms. i do not know. >> just media rumors at the time. ok. >> high.
georgetown. i was wondering -- part of the book i enjoyed the most is when you talk about the gathering together of what would become the black political caucus -- convention. you talk about meeting in little rock, which i think is really significant. i was wondering if you could give us a sense of how people ran on king. how black politicians ran on kings of legacy before the foundation of the holiday as something to run on. i was wondering if you found any trends in the local and national races about how king's legacy tied into fashioning a black political identity. >> i wish i had a question when i was working on the book. i tried to find patterns. and, you know, a lot of them just went cold.
in a lot of cases, i just did not follow them very hard. that one did not occur to me. i also looked at patterns generally in what african-american politicians ran on. there is this ballooning of the political class, tremendous growth tracked by eddie williams center for political studies here in d.c. great sources of lore and leads. if i could generalize, there are people just all over the map. what emerges is diversity. and the contentiousness of black elected officials and their responsiveness to local issues, as is the case with other members of congress.
shirley chisholm, just to take one example that really left out at me, said the -- she was very proud of how she worked within the system. she was a machine politician. recited her loyal service to the machine as a lesson to young african-americans. this is how you get it. you make yourself useful. she was very proud of her hard-working, immigrant roots. her parents were from barbados. she said that what she thought was most significant about martin luther king was the feminine quality that he had of compassion and understanding being a good listener. she thought that that was something that young active, militant constituents also
needed to learn. i thought that was an extraordinary, fascinating thing for this politician, who is heralded as a real trendsetter and harbinger of things to come for feminism as well as african-american politics. and also as someone who just makes it clear that african-american politicians are so different from one another. if you look at them for very long. that is the story -- that is the humpty dumpty that cannot be put together again. there is a lot in the book, as there was in the press, about the leadership acumen. surely chisholm was not as someone who might emerge to fill that vacuum. i think the general discussion that i find more interesting and more prophetic in the sense of telling the future is that it is
just untenable anymore, that this vast diverse population, constantly changing, constantly evolving, can be represented by a single voice anymore. it was never true. but americans and the black and white press were very often able to ignore that and sort of suggest that martin luther king spoke for everybody. at least at high-profile moments where he was threatened. people could rally behind him. that becomes untenable. i wish i had thought about your question. >> we have a question up here on the right. >> sir i think you mentioned about martin luther king's being
a peace movement, anti-vietnam war. it seems pretty soon after his death, the black leadership that followed kind of abandoned that particular aspect. they were no longer against war anymore. even to this day, when i hear some of the old leaders who were associated with martin luther king saying, we are against the afghan war. the iraq war. that old principle, which i think martin luther king confirmed and became very firm after his visit to india, where he found a lot of supporters. in india, there was a tremendous amount of meant, anti-vietnam war movement. they considered america a colonial power. i grew up in that india and came to the united states in 1968.
at that time, based on the civil rights criteria, america was still an apartheid system. however, i liked it, the opportunities work galore. it was open to immigrants, which is no longer the truth. people coming to the country at this time feel the country is no longer as prosperous. given that, i want to focus on the antiwar thing, which is my interest. that martin luther king said, america is the most prolific purveyor of violence and war which still is true. we need to control that aspect of america. and given that, what needs to be done? because the black leadership has made a deal with the devil and want to make money out of these wars just as the whites do. they have figured out how to. so how do we, as immigrants, create that? because we want to control that violent endeavor.
>> great question. i am afraid i would not know where to begin. i think that question is very much a huge part of king's legacy and gandhi's legacy, and the legacy of the project of nonviolence, the implications overseas. those are some very hard questions politically. as well as for me, philosophically. i think that is a legitimate contention within what we think of as king's legacy. >> can i slip in a question about the word "vacuum"? the vacuum that was said to exist after king's death. before his death, was that a word has anyone used? his own leadership was contested. conservatives wanted little to do with him.
liberals were aghast at his vocal opposition to the vietnam war. people in the civil rights movements who were more moderate thought this would jeopardize the purchase -- pursuit of civil rights gains. those on the left, whether they are the white new left or black power movement, thought king was too intrepid in his claims and agenda. they saw him as a has-been. so his stature in itself was compromised and he was not seen as the leader that he became with his death. the word vacuum -- when does this emerge? was there a vacuum before king's death, or is this something of artificial creation afterwards? >> you are right. it is very important to emphasize that king had become
-- people have become disillusioned with his leadership. of course, the conservatives never liked him. but people who -- he became much more controversial and had much more difficulty holding his organization together. and much more trouble maintaining the illusion there was any kind of unity within the civil rights movement, let alone the broader, left-leaning liberal coalition. i did look at "vacuum" before he died and did not see it emerging. there are discussions of the leadership crisis. vacuum is something that does not come into the keyword searches in the newspapers in significant ways.
until significantly after the assassination. and jesse jackson does not appear as a person who is most likely to rush in to the vacuum and plug it up. ralph abernathy gets most of the attention in the first several months after the assassination. and jackson spot only emerges. it seems to me that the figurative leadership vacuum is hard to trace. it is more and more associated with the jesse jackson as the vacuum-filler apparent than anything else. the other thing that marsha mentioned, the national black political conventions in 1972 and 1974 "vacuum" emerges then
as a important figure of speech, mainly because the leaders of the black political conventions are devoted to the idea that we do not have a leadership vacuum. we had a vacuum of institutions and programs. and, you know, maybe a intellectual vacuousness that makes us think about leadership vacuums. but what we really need are things that are more sustainable than individual leaders. martin, malcolm, and medgar were picked off. leaders are vulnerable, and when they are not, they are unreliable. what we need to do is empower ourselves and not wait for another messiah to come along. that voice is so strong as black officials are gaining actual electoral power, getting there fingers on the levers of power and patronage.
i think that the life of that term is endangered and dies out. you will still. occasionally with respect to al sharpton. it does not have the same weight it seems to have in 1970, 1971 other moments when jesse jackson is in the headlines. >> thank you. >> good afternoon. i am wayne collins with the columns group. i was a senior staff member in the senate. my question, i would like to have your comment, when dr. king spoke in the 1963 march, he was talking about the blank check. building blocks from the voting rights act to the civil rights
act up to port -- poor people's campaign and the question of the vietnam war, where there was a question of guns or butter. what are your comments? i think he was ahead of his time because he was talking about an economic justice coming together in america. what are your comments on that regarding the poor people's campaign and his opposition to the vietnam war? it was an economic thing more than an equality thing. >> i think you are absolutely right about his dedication to economic issues and the centrality of economics of class differences, poverty and unemployment, in his analysis of what was wrong with society. and it emerges in public in
1963. is the march for jobs and freedom. the figure of speech, the blank check, the promissory note, that has come back marked "insufficient funds." opportunity for african-americans has bounced. all that discussion goes back, in his thinking and his writing, even before the beginning of his public career in 1955 in montgomery. people have this misunderstanding of king's evolution, that he became radical. he became more interested in economic issues late in life. partly because some people talk to him about those issues, and he led them to believe that he had been convinced by their arguments that he needed to pay more attention to those issues. but that was absolutely central to his thinking back into his
college days. i think it is a very significant thing. the movement itself, and the opportunity, perceived opportunity to move economic legislation, to deal with the crisis of the inner cities as opposed to the segregated south those become big public issues. and he spent a lot more time discussing them in public. i think they are central to his way of understanding racism, discrimination, social injustice. social sin as he saw it generally. the vietnam war, you know, it will come up again and again. he certainly felt that piece was an issue that extended overseas. i think we have a lot of trouble
figuring out what came's -- ki ng's legacy is in relation to vietnam. the attempts to mobilize people in iraq, other people invoke his name. my belief is, since he died, attempts to mobilize people on issues of u.s. foreign-policy have not been as successful, have not been as popular. king has not been as essential to those mobilizations as he has been to mobilization on race and poverty. people seem to get the poverty part. i think that is a real game -- gain. but the foreign-policy questions, he does not serve that purpose for some reason. it is a mystery to me. >> on that note, i am afraid we
have to draw this seminar to a close. we invite you to join us outside this room for a reception. i will remind you that next week we will reconvene when sarah snyder of american university will speak on human rights before carter. thank you to david chappell. [applause] >> you are watching "american history tv," 48 hours of programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule, upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. >> each week, american history tv's american artifacts visits
museums and historic artifacts. founded in 1923, the museum of city new york's collection digitally 60,000 objects. we learned about the visit -- exhibit gilded new york. >> i'm one of the co-curators of gilded new york. fashion, society, and coulter being shown here at the museum of new york. it opened in november of 2013 and closes in october of 2014. it is a beautiful little jewel box of a gallery. we have assembled a variety of objects that help people appreciate what life was like for the 1% in the gilded age the period that followed the civil war from the 1880's till 1910. that was characterized by great wealth, kind of like the dotcom
people of our era but the money came from mining, railroads, smelting, and the rise of the modern corporation. all those businesses yielded enormous wealth. at the same time, there was mass immigration to the area. a time when new york was unified by its boroughs and total population of 3.5 million people. with all that mixture of people coming from lower classes rising upper classes, there was a desire to set oneself apart from the teeming masses. this percentage of people decided to move up to fit avenue -- 5th avenue and hire great american architects to design their home and fashion are close. and live their own beautiful
life. >> our contemporary public is absolutely memorized -- mesmerized by those who are rich and famous and beautiful. most of the materials in this gallery were owned by individuals who everybody emulated in their day. from our perspective we in our egocentric matter think that we have invented the cult of celebrity and glamour. i think it is important to know that we did not do it. there was an echelon of social figures and the actual figures -- theatrical figures who were constantly interviewed and whose clothing and jewels were described in great detail in the latter part of the 19th century. the public followed them just as
feverishly as our public follows contemporary celebrities. >> it was given as a gift by a wealthy investor to an orthopedic surgeon. >> you have been watching a preview of "american artifacts." visit www.c-span.org>> next on the presidency, author edith gelles explores the marriage between john and abigail adams. professor gelles spoke regarding the 250th wedding anniversary of john and abigail. this 45 minute event was covered by the massachusetts historical society and the abigail adams historical society. >> and i am thrilled and honored to present our key