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tv   Civil Rights After Martin Luther King Jr.  CSPAN  January 17, 2015 10:30am-12:01pm EST

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on c-span3, tonight on "lectures in history," the early mormons and their attempt to create a new zion in the midwest in the 1964 academy award-winning film about the forced desegregation in little rock arkansas. find the complete television set -- schedule online. call us, e-mail us, or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. >> 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
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civil rights act that same year. the wilson center in washington, d.c. 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. professor david chappell from the university of oklahoma. i am christian, i designed it, with cochair eric, professor of history at george washington university. our weekly seminar on historical perspectives on international affairs. it is co-authored by the wilson center and the national 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
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support of our funders and donors. especially american foreign relations, as well as other individual donors for this series. let me thank pete and amanda for really 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 this afternoon 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.
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insight agitators, white southerners and the civil rights movements, published by johns hopkins. 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." random house, 2014. 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
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struggle in the shadow of martin luther king." david. >> thank you very much for the introduction. i want to extend my thanks. two amanda and christian, john peter, and 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 lens of national legislation. this is largely from my book, which eric mentioned, published this year by random house. the book begins with king
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's 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. so you get a bonus today. , even if you buy the book you will hear more today. no extra charge. the main thing that the public and most scholars remember or think they remember about martin luther king's death 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
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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 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. 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 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.
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to this day, many textbooks and retrospectives on the assassination remember a great upheaval of violence in the streets. this is misleading. memory of the riots cuts the rest of national memories short. americans began correcting their memory within a week of the assassination. very widely and publicly in the press, in white papers as well as black. americans general experience of violence swiftly failed to live up to the hype and expectation. in fact, significant violence confined to just four cities. there were riot deaths only in chicago, washington, dc, and new york in kansas city. within a few days, time magazine and other news outlets cannot -- could not make up their minds what was more astonishing -- the
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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 and maim became a big question at the time. that answer -- that question seems to have died unanswered in american memories. swift action by authorities, with the exception of chicago, where 11 people died in the streets in the worst violence to hit any city that year. and restraint by police in direct confrontations kept the lead on most communities. -- kept the lid 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
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prominent police chiefs and public safety commissioners. but the lesson was that strong police actions and reactions against rioters tended to provoke and exacerbate rioting not to squelch them. again, with exceptions. that lesson was widely applied, and widely criticized by people who thought the police should have acted more to protect property. there was the perception that a lot of property was destroyed to save lives, which police interaction with rioters would have increased. the baltimore afro-american took a similar view to time magazine. the week after its own lavish and alarmist riot coverage, it suddenly had a very calming issue, even though it's that he
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had tied for third place in riot deaths with six dead. police, national guard, and troops do not deserve the abuse being heaped upon them. these forces did not panic. baltimore owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude. the afternoon -- the afro took the unusual opinion of saying we did not have in a riot -- not have a riot in baltimore at all. the afro defined the right as mass violence against persons. a historically sound definition of riots although american riots , after world war ii began deviating from the historical pattern and focused most of their destructive energy on property. major black papers in other cities that witnessed violence the chicago defender, the kansas city call also adopted a calm , anti-alarmist editorial and reporting posture. after some initial alarmism and
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fear. the baltimore afro's neighboring white liberal paper the , washington post, took a strange pride interpreting its city, which ranked number two in riot deaths, noted the relative absence of personal violence between confrontations and in snarling defiance of police and soldiers. 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 recorded 43 deaths nationwide. which is 43 too many, of course. sounds alarming from our perspective today. but this was a smaller number than was widely feared. that number had been reported in detroit alone in the previous years' riots within seven or eight days. several major papers ran long
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editorial opinion column analyses about why certain places that were known for violence -- watts, for example and newark. they had no deaths or major injuries at all this year. detroit and harlem also known for big riots didn't 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's former bodyguard sent the military organization to walk through our them the night after king was shot, with republican governor nelson rockefeller urging people to maintain the peace. he also praised republican mayor john lindsay for his efforts to calm people down.
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the famous soul finger james brown played a similar role in boston where a concert was , canceled and then reinstated an effort to keep people from exploding in anger. he was called d.c. after giving credit for helping keep the lid on boston. by mayor walter washington, the first black mayor of washington, d.c. the pittsburgh courier, seen as the leading voice in african-american journalism, had a different answer. no riots hit race mayors. ran the headline. there had been no riots in in gary or cleveland. both cities have become the first major cities to elect african-american mayors in november 1967.
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the career -- currior may have overcompensated for the covert reporting and alarmism from its initial riot coverage. it overlooked the violence in washington, d.c., which had significant deaths despite an african-american mayor. you could drill into that and qualify washington that did not have home 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
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dead. we learned in the 1960's, that no neighborhood will riot twice. people in riot torn neighborhoods learn that whatever -- whatever they had 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 worsened in poor neighborhoods in the 1970's and 80's. large-scale rioting became extremely rare. there were no significant ones from 1984 until the rodney king incident in the 1990's. it left 53 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
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underreported civil rights act of 1968, also known as the fair housing act. the third of the three great civil rights acts of the decade. supporters of the civil rights act of 1968 said that they wished to pay homage to the recently murdered martin luther king. at also to show restive 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 since his shift to northern cities in '65 and '66, king had been losing hope of passing further legislation. the new civil rights bills prospects suddenly changed. everyone was pessimistic about the bills prospects and a lot of people had given up. suddenly, the prospects changed when king died.
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the resulting 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 of the civil rights movement 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 bottom up stories, they have spent more on that than anything else. quite rightly, people who were not world-famous, headline making, national leaders have eaten up most of the scholarly ink on explaining these great
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changes of the mid- 1960's. the fair housing act really does 1968 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 , if anything can be, 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 which he has come to 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. people have forgotten how controversial king was. he was one of the most widely feared and hated men in american history.
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he was controversial within the black population. not only black muslims and panthers who criticized him and , not only mainstays of the old bhuj was the -- bhuj 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 out the cash call off the demonstrations, and said that the plans demonstrations to begin april 22, 1968, was doomed. speaking to the d.c. chamber of commerce in early 1968, king
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gave a hint as to why he was not following advice to abandon protests in favor of working within the system. if violence broke out in the ghettos again that summer, king says in march 1968, month before he was shot, i don't have any faith in the washington power responding the right way. the sick people and the fascist s will be strengthened. that was the level of king's pessimism. launching of 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 the criticisms of his fair weather friends. we're going to played -- plague
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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 mercilessly flung 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. by choosing to disobey the laws the laws he didn't like, king uses charisma to turn lawlessness into a moral imperative. 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,
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on april 11, by lyndon johnson. the new act sweepingly outlawed housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. in about 80% of yearly housing transactions nation right, -- nationwide, including mortgage financing. some state laws raised the percentage even higher than 80%. a supreme court decision in june 1968, 2 months after king died, curtailed many of the exemptions nationwide, raising the coverage to nearly 100%. which the original authors of the bill had hoped for. 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 in a panic. and then drive them back up when
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aspiring and upwardly mobile 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 that created his death. while some black militants insisted that white americans made patsies out of nonviolent negroes later someone complain that they rewarded violence. not just in 1968 with radical legislation. all of the attention given to worried reston. it was one of the reason he
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wanted to retreat from protesting in the streets. 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 project of nonviolence. american authorities had failed to respond significantly to -- sufficiently to responsible political action to collected self-reliance, and peaceful efforts to reconstruct communities. thus there is some perverse justice, perhaps, in america's amnesia over its last great civil rights act. the act's passage did not unambiguously honor the constructive nonviolence that king properly stood for.
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king wanted and fought for the housing law, but in the end, the law looks too much like a reward for the rioting that king had opposed. white conservatives in congress and elsewhere echoed black militants in saying that the act was a fearful capitulation to rioters. the militants, of course, were proud of that. the pittsburgh 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
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similarly rock-willed 1968 congress, were almost solidly against passage. yet passage miraculously came, and it was directly do -- due to king's assassination. segregationists took a narrower line that congress had responded to the rioting. charleston news and courier for example 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 by showing people that rioting was rewarded by congressional action.
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the law thus presage greater disappointment and more violence. representative william of mississippi, said that his committee caved in under the gun. only king's murder and the reaction to it 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 mourning, not for king, but for this once great house that had succumbed to intimidation from rioters. perhaps the confusion over how we understand the act also partially explains our inability to remember a very prominently. the best index of the depth of
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the memory hole in which the 1968 civil rights act fell 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. indeed congress had paid king a , far more meaningful and substantive tribute in 1968 by doing something real to advance his cause i passing a major law that he himself and supported
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as opposed to a merely symbolic gesture as a holiday. again, conservatives opposed the king holiday in the late 1970's and 80's. they echoed radical african-american spokespersons who said that king would not have wanted this cult of personality 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 actually use that argument in a couple of cases. but what they didn't do was point to the substantive action that have been taken in 1968. a huge lapse that is very significant. as it was, the opponents of the holiday in 1979 and '83 were
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pretty weak. 1983 were pretty weak and unmemorable. their objections to the holiday were overwhelmingly confined to two points. one is objections to economic hard times financing, and the cost. another paid holiday for federal employees. second, that insufficient time had passed for americans to gauge king's true historical significance 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
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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 in the last years of his life, 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 arguments that ashbrook made
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in the 1970's along with many others in the 1960'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,
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which it 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 had 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 the 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.
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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 very close elections for the next few election cycles. the holiday passed.
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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 full employment law, which attracted the attention of coretta king from 1973 to 1978. to which i also devoted a chapter in the book. it is tempting to see the holiday as a bone thrown to the tattered remnants of the civil rights movement and it's liberal
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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 -- beginning 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
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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 surge 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 mood, in its lowered expectations, led to greater achievement and perhaps greater
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resiliency in an inconclusive, uphill struggle. the new democratic realism in the civil rights organization, in contrast to the bureaucratic and judicial leverage often 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 -- led 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. -- than they reached for in the 1970's. they achieved goals that, i think, weren't far more of our
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-- i think warrant 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
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to the center website, personally dedicated the center on may 9, 1983. i found no mention of the dedication in the national press. speakers 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 f before speaking, we would
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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? when was that done? the other thing, in connection
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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. it was a very sobering report. 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
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associations bankers 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. the details -- 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 by having resigned a few days before king was assassinated. he announced he would not seek reelection. as for the impact of the current commission, that is all you ever hear, that soundbite about two nations.
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one black and one height. -- one white. i don't know of any scholar that looked at this, but the message -- i don't know of any scholar that covers this systematically, that the message police action is provocative was impressed upon public safety commissioner's -- commissioners 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
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mild compared to what happened before. 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. that got spiro agnew's careers launched. he may not have been named vice president except for how appealing this was, for someone -- appealing this was for conservative whites who wanted
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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
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of this emerging liberal namby-pamby consensus in the other direction. equally significant, the police chief in kansas city was -- kansas city missouri 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
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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
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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.
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you could also say they have benefited from everything else. every other kinds of civil rights decision. the poor, by some measures their lot has 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? else? >> i mentioned the expansion and reauthorization of the voting
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rights act extension 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. super majorities in both houses 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
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achievement. i think you do look at civil rights legislation at any time especially from the perspective of today, with resegregation and mass 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
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low 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, who on the high profile, 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. it becomes a worry. the real criticism of my gloss on the successes of the 1980's is all the stuff going on on the small-scale. niggling -- of civil rights legislation.
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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 top 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,
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if not by 1968, and it is not -- and it is 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. -- yours is a somewhat 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
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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 -- and spread of ideas, and so on. i argued that these civil rights
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leaders were successful for precisely 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. about civil rights. i think it is a picture of struggle and a picture of self-sacrifice. two steps forward and maybe another step back.
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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 1968 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. it was just as if to 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.
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and two other signs, 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.
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i think 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
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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
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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 -- jimmy carter signed it
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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 -- something we can build on. 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.
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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 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
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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 -- very decisive turn by nelson mandela against the gandhian tradition of nonviolence. and that movement embraced the struggle.
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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.
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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
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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 vague 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.
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>> hi. georgetown. hi, david, how are you? >> hi, marcia. >> 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
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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. yearly reports on black elected officials. 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
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members of congress. shirley chisholm, just to take one example that really left out -- that really leapt 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
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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. -- the leadership vacuum. surely chisholm -- shirley
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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
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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 s 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
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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,
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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 leadership vacuum that was said to exist after king's death. before his death, was that a word has anyone used? his own leadership was
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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 -- was to tepid 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?
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>> 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
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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
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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
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-- getting their 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
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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.
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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 radicalized. 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.
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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 -- he felt that peace was an
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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 war and peace issues, 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.
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>> 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] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> on the martin luther king holiday reader featuring all day holly -- all day programming. on monday morning at nine: 30 eastern on book tv cornell west
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on six revolutionary african-american leaders and their impact on their own generation and now. at 4:00 the vanity fair contributing editor on her life and career. and then allen west on the importance of preserving the core values of family, eighth, and freedom and why these values are under attack by the far left. at 8:00 a.m. abernathy on to her experiences during the --. and then at 8:00 historians talk about the history of race relations in ferguson, missouri. an examination on how that lead to racial conflict. look for the schedule on and let us know about the programs you are watching. join the c-span conversation. like as on facebook, follow us
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on twitter. >> each week american history tv's real america you public affairs films. "nine from little rock" is a film narrated by jefferson thomas, one of the nine students who in 1957 enrolled in arkansas's all-white central high school. the governor prevented the students from attending class until eisenhower sent army troops and federalized the arkansas national guard to restore order and enforce desegregation. in the film, mr. thomas and several others reflect on their experience and hopes for the future. the film won an academy award for documentary short subject. in 1965.
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♪ >> hatred is easier to organize. van understanding. they found it in their advantage to bring hate to little rock in 1957. while we watched, the white children went to school, and we stood outside. we had been taught we were a nation under law, and the law of segregation was wrong. now we waited to see if this had meaning. or were just words in a book idle talk in a classroom. on september 27, 1957, president eisenhower sent 1000 men of the army to carry out the law.
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the supreme court of the united states had said the entire strength of the nation may be used to enforce the security of all rights and trusted by the constitution and that included who wanted to go to central high school in little rock arkansas. we were terrence roberts, thelma mothershed elizabeth earnest green, mini jean brown and gloria ray. and we were going to school again. >> author and


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