tv Civil Rights After Martin Luther King Jr. CSPAN January 11, 2015 10:30pm-12:01am EST
industrialist 20 orthopedic surgeon. >> you are watching american history tv 48 hours of programming on american history 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. next, a discussion about the civil rights movement after martin luther king junior's assassination in 1968, including the impact of his death on the civil rights act passed that same year. the wilson center hosted this event. it is about an 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 cochair with eric professor of history at george washington university. our weekly seminar on historical perspectives on international affairs. it is cosponsored by the wilson center and international history center and the american historical association. 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 the society of historians of american foreign relations, as well as other individual donors for this series. let me thank pete and amanda 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. >> 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. "inside agitators, "published by johns hopkins. this was 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, jr.." 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. david? >> thank you very much for the introduction. i want to extend my thanks to amanda, christian, john, peter and especially eric arnessen for hospitality and the invitation.
i want to thank all of you for coming on this balmy day. i take full credit for bringing you this warm weather from oklahoma. i will talk for about 30-35 minutes about the memories and legacy of the civil rights movement viewed through the lens of national legislation. this is largely from my book published this year by brandon held the less random house -- published by random house this year. the book begins with king assassination in april 1968 and goes up to the present. 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 than you can read at no extra charge. the main thing that the public
and most scholars remember or think they remember about martin luther king's death with the -- were the riots that followed it. i believe americans vastly over -remember those riots. there was significant of people -- upheaval 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 king's 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, he said, was imminent area america will be painted red, dead bodies will litter the street.
the assassin had proved the failure of nonviolence, he said. there had been hesitation and division in the black population before. now all people had become black panthers in spirit. that is what he said. no more nonviolent pleas for mercy. now there is the gun and the knife and dynamite it and they will be used liberally in america. america will bleed and suffer. another long, hot summer of riots, like 1964, had been widely predicted even before king died. to this day, many textbooks and retrospectives on the assassination remember a great oupheaval of violence in the streets. this is misleading. memory of the riots cuts the rest of national memory short. americans began correcting their
memory within a week of the assassination. in the press in 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. the riot deaths only in chicago washington, d.c., and new york. within a few days, time magazine and other news outlets cannot -- could not make up their minds what was more astonishing -- the destruction and death in a few cities or the strange lack of it in other cities. how to account for the failures to burn, kill, and maine, became a big question at the time. that question seems to have died unanswered and american memory.
"time" answer was swift action by authorities, with the exception of chicago were 11 people died. and restraint by police in direct confrontations kept the lid on most communities. what this coverage is reflecting is the lesson of the commission on civil disorders. the report have been released about 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 or perceived potential writers tended to exacerbate and
not to squelch them. with exceptions, that lesson was widely applied and 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 lavish and alarmist riot coverage, it had a very calming issue. police, national guard, and federal troops do not deserve the abuse heaped upon them the editorial side. these forces did not panic. baltimore owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. they took the unusual view that we did not have a right at all
in baltimore. the afro defined a riot 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 great violence, chicago and kansas city also adopted a calm , anti-alarmist editorial and reporting posture. after some initial alarmism and fear. the baltimore afro's neighboring white liberal paper the washington post, took a strange pride in interpreting its city which ranked number two in riot deaths. it into sized the relative absence of personal violence in confrontations between whites and blacks and snarling defiance
of police and soldiers. black and white people on the streets have been quoted threatening violence when there was none. by the end, the press recorded 43 deaths nationwide. which is 43 to many -- too many, but this was a smaller number than widely feared. exactly that number had been reported in detroit alone in the previous year's riots within seven or eight days. several major papers ran long editorial analyses about why certain places that were known for violence what's, newark, had no deaths or major injuries at all. detroit and harlem also known
for riots did not even make the list in 1968. the answer was often militant figures went into the streets to plead for calm. malcolm x's former bodyguard walked through harlem arm in arm with governor rockefeller urging people to maintain the peace. he also praised republican mayor john lindsay for his efforts to calm people down. the famous soul singer 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 to d.c. after he was given credit for helping
keep the lid on boston of the first black mayor of washington d.c., to do the same in washington. the pittsburgh courier, seen as the leading voice in african-american journalism, had a different answer. no riots hit race mayors. there had been no riots in gary or cleveland. both cities had become the first major cities to elect african-american mayors in november 1967. the courier may have overcompensated for the alarmism from its initial riot coverage. it overlooked the violence in washington d.c., which had significant deaths despite an african-american mayor. the courier did not do this. but you could drill into it and
qualify people did not perceive walter washington is having the same status. they also neglected to say that not only cities with black mayors but also other cities almost all, experienced no significant personal violence. the best general answer to come so far i believe came into public consciousness 12 years later in the voice of andrew young when in 1980 miami broke out in a right which left 12 people dead. young said, we learned in the 1960's, that no neighborhood will riot twice. people learn that whatever they wanted when they went out to burn and loot and rampage, they ended up far worse off to stifle the impulse next time.
poverty and other conditions often worsened. large-scale rioting became extremely rare. there were no significant ones from 1968 to 1980 or from 1980 until the 1992 los angeles riot, the rodney king riots which left 23 dead. looking back, 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. the third of the great -- three great civil rights acts of the decade. supporters of the civil rights act said that they wished to pay homage to the recently murdered martin luther king. and also 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 55 for a long-overdue beginning. since his shift to northern cities in 65 and 66, king had been losing hope of passing further civil rights legislation. the prospects suddenly changed. a lot of people had given up. suddenly, the prospects changed when king died. the resulting major civil rights act was not just a symbolic purge of emotion or respect for the dead. it was subsequent answer for the movements most radical demands. if king could be credited with any of the civil rights victories it was his last real , victory. it also was the one victory that
king could most plausibly be given credit for. historians since the 1960's have spent more time crediting unsung heroes, the grassroots and bottom up stories, they have spent more on that than anything else. quite rightly, people who were not world-famous, headline making national leaders had eaten up most of the scholarly ink explaining these great changes of the 1960's. the fair housing act really does 1968 seem to come out of the blue and swerves into viability suddenly 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 and the movement he has come to symbolize. before he 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 1965 1966, and 1967. he was one of the most hated men in american history, as people forget. he was controversy within the black population. not only black muslims and panthers who criticized him viciously 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 but many of his own best friends and associates said that
he had lost his way and strongly urged him to abandon the poor people's campaign demonstration he planned to initiate in april 1968. king himself worried that he might have to call off the demonstrations and said that the planned demonstrations to begin april 22, 1968, was doomed. speaking to the chamber of commerce in early 1968, king gave a hint as to why he was not following advice to abandon protests in favor of working in the system. if violence broke out in the ghettos again that summer, king says in march 1968, i don't have any faith in the washington -- whites in power responding in the right way.
they will throw us into concentration camps. the sick people and the fascist s will be strengthened. that was the level of king's pessimism. his fear. 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 plague congress, he said. 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 in congress since 1966 flung his 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.
by choosing to obey the laws he liked and choosing to disobey the ones he did not like, he used his charisma and adoring masses to turn lawlessness into a moral imperative. that reaction had been carrying the day since the backlash election of 1966. but sudden national grief and the need to make concessions to the grief over king's death overwhelmed the growing backlash. the bill was signed into law three days after king's funeral, on april 11, by lyndon johnson. the new act outlawed housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, are -- or national 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 -- isis down, get people to sell cheap, and then drag them back -- drive 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. but 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 after his death. while some black militants insisted that white americans made patsies out of nonviolent negroes, he would later complain america's rich and powerful indeed rewarded violence. not just in 1968 with this radical new legislation. all of the attention given to writing worried rustin and was one of the reasons he wanted to retreat from protesting the streets, because it did actually seem to work. people got press attention. people were vocal and they were state commissions on rioting. the kerner commission seemed to bring the hope of aid, the promise of aid and attention itself to rioters.
he thought that ironically threatened the promise of nonviolence. american authorities had failed, he believed, to respond significantly to responsible political action and peaceful efforts to reconstruct blighted communities. thus there is some perverse justice, perhaps, in america's amnesia over its last great civil rights act. its passage did not ambiguously -- unambiguously honor the constructive nonviolence that king stood for. king wanted and fought for the housing law but in the end, the law looked too much like a reward for the rioting that king had opposed. white conservatives in congress echoed black militants in thing that the act was a fearful capitulation to rioters.
the militants were proud of that. the courier pointed out that line was it best 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 solidly against passing it. it passage miraculously came and was directly due to king's assassination. segregationists and other conservatives 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 rioting was rewarded by congressional action. the representative from mississippi who held it in the house rules committee said his committee caved in under the gun. only king's murder and the reaction made it possible to muster the votes 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 mourning for this once great house that had surrendered to rioters. perhaps the confusion of how we understand the act also partially explains our inability to remember it prominently. the best index of the depth of the memory hole 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 in 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 meaningful tribute in 1968 by doing something real to advance his cause by passing a , major law he had supported as opposed to a merely symbolic gesture of a 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 -- this cult of personality type gesture. he was against that sort of
thing. he would have wanted substantive action. conservatives were able to twist that to say -- they would have been able to twist that to say that king would have wanted something more substantive. they did use that argument in a couple of cases. what they did not do was point to the substantive action taken in 1968. a huge lapse that is very significant. as it was, the opponents of the martin luther king holiday in 1979 and 83 were pretty weak. unmemorable. their objections to the holiday were overwhelmingly confined to two points. one, objections to the cost. during economic hardship. of financing another paid
holiday for federal employees and the rest of the workforce who would be idle for a full day. and second, that insufficient time had passed for americans to gauge king's true historical significance relative to relative 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 red-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 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 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 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. [applause] >> we now move to our discussion period. 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 the democratic side. it is credited as a speech that changed 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 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 rioting that really reigned 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. 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 -- 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 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 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. >> up here. 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. 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. 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 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. >> in 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. >> hi. 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 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 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 collins 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 the 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 king'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 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]
[captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span in the senate on c-span two, here on c-span3 would complement that coverage by showing you the most relevant and rational hearings and public affairs event. we can, c-span3 is on to american history tv with progress that tell our nations story. visiting battlefields and key events, american artifacts touring museums and historic sites and discovering what artifacts reveal about america's path. the presidency, looking at the policies and legacies of our nation's commanders in chief reflectors in history. college professors delving into
america's past. in our new series featuring films from the 1930's-19 70's. c-span3, funded by your local cable or satellite provider. mike us on facebook and follow us on twitter. >> each week american history tv's real america brings you public affairs films from the 20th century the 19 64 defense department documentary that examines political and cultural issues in the region as well as conflicts and tensions following the creation of the state of israel in 1948. >> the most explosive issue of all is existence of the state of israel. israel was born amid turbulence and bloodshed. following u.n. petition, it became a separate nation after the british would exercise the mandates since the end of world war i which are from palestine in 1948.
it was immediately attacked by its neighboring arab states who resented the new nation and considered its creation to be illegal. israel successfully beat off the attacks and a series of honest disagreements worked on by the united nations brought them into organized or air in 1949. since then israel has worked at fevered pitch and with a tough and pioneering spirit to make a self-sufficient nation within its borders. even industry, despite serious limitations in raw materials has grown rapidly. at variance with this picture of the camps outside israel's borders where more than a million arab refugees wait in a miserable existence and demand the right to return to the homes in palestine from which they say they were dispossessed during the war. israel says it would be impossible to readmit them.
it has offered to discuss compensation, but the arab states, supporting the refugees demands, refused to acknowledge israel's right to palestine and will not accept any conditions at all. >> next on the presidency, author edith gelles explores the marriage between john and abigail adams. she uses their letters as evidence of their strong and successful partnership. 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 keynote speaker edith gelles, she is a stanford university historian and the scholar at clayman institute for
gender research. she is the author of numerous articles, reviews, and books among them are "portia: the world of abigail adams," which one the award from the american historical association, also " abigail adams writing life," and also "abigail and john: portrait of a marriage." edith has appeared widely in the media talking about the adamses. among her appearances has been "c-span's" first ladies series. i would like you to welcome edith gelles. [applause] >> according to adams family lore, when abigail adams married