tv Oral Histories CSPAN September 7, 2015 10:00am-11:01am EDT
and so in my mother's case, she had only an eighth grade education. she disliked being on the family farm where they were share croppers. and so she had come to cleveland, looking for a better way of life. but with only an eighth grade education, she could only hire herself out as a domestic. that is, she went into suburban homes with white families and scrubbed their floors and cooked their meals and washed their clothes and cleaned their homes. things of that nature. my father, who probably had less than eighth grade education,
worked in a laundry. he died shortly after they married. i was 3 years old. carl was a year old. and so this young bride then had to try to raise two boys as a domestic worker. so she sent for her mother and brought her mother up from georgia. so that her mother could take care of carl and i because on some of the jobs she had to spend the entire week working on the job. she would go on mondays, come home on fridays and spend the weekend with us and then go back. and so during the week, our grandmother took care of us. and she found it difficult. she often told us she made $8 a
day plus car fare because at that time car fare was by street cars in cleveland. so she found it very difficult to make a living on that amount of pony. so she also went on welfare. and in addition to it, in order to try to still make her economic situation a little better, she moved the family into the homes, which was a part of the cleveland metropolitan housing authority projects, public housing. we were one of the first families to live in public housing in cleveland and cleveland was one of the first cities in the nation to have public housing. and so those are the basic circumstances under which carl and i grew up, in a housing project with a mother as the
main home provider and living with our grandmother. what i really did not decide to go into the military. this was in 1943. in january of 1943 i had graduated from central high school. i had gone to work in an army-navy store where i previously worked and the man for whom i worked offered me employment. now that i had my high school certificate and no means of being able to go to college. my mother had to way to send me or carl to college. then i had gone and taken this job. then in july of 1943, almost six months, i guess, after i
graduated i got drafted into world war ii. then in august i was shipped out from cleveland, firstly to columbus, and then from columbus to st. louis, missouri, where i began basic training. in order to understand my world war ii experience, i was 18 years old. i was drafted into a segregated army. i had to wear the uniform of this country. but i had to do so under segregated circumstances. i was put in an all-black unit. we were not permitted to have any contact with white soldiers. we ate, slept, worked, everything, as a separate part of the united states army. it was also in an atmosphere of
real virulent racism in our country at that time. and as soldiers we experienced that racism. that existed throughout the entire three years that i served in the united states army. and i guess as a young 18-year-old kid from cleveland, i really rebelled against that type of life. and the segregation and racism that went along with it. so i would have to say my experience in the united states army was not a very good experience. and but when i came out of
service, i think because of that experience, along with the fact that i had been privileged to meet many young black men like myself, who had been drafted into the service, and they came from all over the country, and i found many of them who had had previous college training when they came in service. one of the things i enjoyed was being able to talk with them and intellectual competition with them. and that experience made me realize that i really wanted to get more education. one of the things that had happened in the course of carl and i being raised by a mother who, herself, did not have
education, was that she constantly told us to get an education. get something in your head so you don't have to work with your hands like i've worked with my hands all of my life. her greatest dream was not that we would go to college because she knew she couldn't send us to college. but she thought if we could acquire that high school diploma, which she never had, that this represented progress for her family. and so her dream was that her two boys be able to acquire a high school diploma. so she constantly said to us, get something in your head so you don't have to work with your hands like i've worked with my hands all of my life. and i never really understood what she was trying to get across to me until one night, living there in the projects,
and our bedrooms were on the second floor. and she was very ill. i could hear her moaning and groaning in pain. the room was dark. i went into the room where she was lying on the bed and i pulled up a chair right by the bed. and she was in so much pain, that i reached out and took both of her hands in my hands to give her some solace, some comfort, and as i did, i felt those hard, calloused hands from scrubbing people's floors.d for the first time i began to realize what she was saying when she said get something in your head so you don't have to work with your hands, like i've had to work with mine.
and so i think that motivated me to go ahead on and get my high school diploma. many of my friends were dropping out to go into the service, either drafted or volunteering. with your buddies leaving, there's a tendency to oftentimes join them and do what they were doing. but i stayed with it. and i graduated. now, carl, on the other hand, dropped out of school at 16. he dropped out of east tech high school. and it broke her heart. she wrote to me in service and talked about how disappointed she was that he dropped out of school. of course later on he did after he came out of service, he did -- he he went back at the age of 21 to east tech high school, got his high school diploma. of course, the rest is history
because he went on from there to join me as a lawyer and go to law school and to college. and then he became the first black democrat to ever be elected to the ohio legislature. followed that by being elected as the mayor of cleveland. becoming the first black mayor of a major american city. cleveland at that time was the eighth largest city in the united states. and he followed that by going to new york, where he became the first black anchorman for in new york for nbc. he left new york, came back to cleveland, went back into the practice of law. became a judge of the cleveland municipal court and then was
elected as administrator and presiding judge of cleveland municipal court and was appointed by president bill clinton as our ambassador to the sachells. and so much of this i attribute this to the mother that insist we get something in our heads. we were practicing law together. we were in a law firm -- when he first came out of law school, i had been practicing law at a real estate company where i was the counsel for a real estate company there. when he came out of law school, we immediately set up our own law office and became stokes & stokes. and then shortly thereafter, a
man who was an imminent trial lawyer, probably one of the best this country has ever seen, and the court one day assigned norman minor and i to try a case together for an indigent defendant. and norman minor, of course, was my idol. he was my hero. he was everything i wanted to be as a trial lawyer. and when we tried that case together, he -- after the case, he came out to my office one day and asked me how i would like to practice law with him. well, i almost went through the floor, to practice law with norman minor, any lawyer would have been thrilled. carl and i did, went into the law office with him and the firm became minor, stokes & stokes. carl was out of the office part of the time because he was the -- a city prosecutor.
norman minor and i were basically were the two lawyers in the firm as such. then subsequently after i spent -- carl and i spent eight years with norman minor, we merged in with another group of another group of young black lawyers and formed a law firm downtown cleveland, which was stokes, character, terry, perry, whitehead and some other name. but our dream was that we were going to be one of top black law firms in america at that time. that was the law firm we had together.
and it wasn't -- terry case was one of the cases that i handled while we had the firm. i believe we were under the firm of stokes, character, terry, perry and whitehead and so forth at that time. well, it is a great experience for any lawyer to argue a case before the united states supreme court. i had occasion to participate in tree cases during my practice. i practiced 14 years as a lawyer before going to congress. and participated in three cases that were decided in the supreme court. only argued one case. i argued the terry v. ohio case. it is a great experience.
thurgood marshall happened to be on that court. of course, he was another one of my heroes. and it was a great experience to stand in front of him and argue a case in that court. the terry case, still, is a landmark case in constitutional and criminal law. and, of course, for it must have been 40 years ago now, 39 years ago, that i argued the terry case. and i had no realization at that time that it would become a landmark case in criminal and constitutional law. i knew that i had a chance to make new law. and i had a chance to do something no one else had ever done in terms of the fourth amendment to the constitution.
of course, in many respects, terry was a case that long before the racial profiling cases of today was a question that i raised 40 years earlier. i sort of backed into politics. i love being a criminal trial lawyer. and my practice was such that i was in some case or some courtroom trying a case have day. and i loved it. i could have tried lawsuits the rest of my life and been perfectly content. i didn't have any political ambition. i'm not sure i even liked politicians.
i had no interest whatsoever in politics. my only interest in politics was my brother and helping him do what he wanted to do in politics. carl was on the rise. he was not yet the mayor of cleveland but everyone knew he was going to be something big in politics. and the thing that he really wanted to do was to go to congress. and so while he was in the state legislature, the same legislature he was serving in, they gerimandered the 20th district of ohio because they
saw how popular and charismatic he was and they assumed at some point he would run for congress. ohio had never had a black in the ohio congress. they gerrimandered the 21st congressional district in such a way that they completely day luted the black population in such a way that there was no basic strength in that congressional district. carl came home from columbus, ohio, and went to the naacp and asked them to file a lawsuit in the legislature in which he was serving that gerimandered his district. i was the naacp's legal redress chairman. so as a result of it, they gave me the case for me and my committee to handle. so we took the case, we filed a lawsuit on his behalf, and it took three years for the case to come up in court. when the case came up, we tried the case to a three-judge panel.
we lost the case in the lower court. but because we had a three-judge panel meant we could take the case directly into united states supreme court. we took the case in the united states supreme court. the supreme court held in our favor on the briefs and ordered the local federal district court to redistrict along constitutional lines. so when they did, the district came out 65% black, 35% white. it meant for the first time in the history of our state there was a congressional district where we could elect a black. i went to carl. who had by then become the mayor of cleveland. i said, we won your case. you can now go to congress. he said, i don't want to go to congress. i'm the mayor of cleveland.
and so, indeed, it was a great feat. he was america's first black mayor of a major american city, his photograph was on the picture of -- on the front of "time" and "newsweek" every other national publication. and it was a great political feat. and so everyone else in town, when they heard carl was not running for congress, decided this was their time to go to congress. and so with all the people announcing they were running for congress, people came to me and said, well, it was your work and your lawyers working with you who made this possible for us to have a black congressman. why don't you run? so the long and short is, i discussed it with carl and he decided that i should run. and as a con of it, i ran. and i was stuck, then, for the next 30 years. but that's how i happened to go to congress.
when i first came to congress in january 1969, i was joined by two other black congress persons. i was the first to be elected to congress from the state of ohio. bill clay was the first black congressman of missouri and shirley chisolm from new york was the first black congresswoman to be elected. the three of us that day made a total of nine in the 91st congress. when we came to congress there was six black sitting congressmen. now, you have to understand that this was recognized all over the nation as being a historic day. because this is the first time that nine blacks had ever sat in congress at one time. the earlier period, when they had the largest number, was in 1875, 1877.
when we had six in the house and one in the senate. and then between 1875 and 1900, there were a total of 22, two in the senate and 20 in the house, but by 1900, by virtue of the enactment of the black laws, the intimidation by the klu klux klan and other racial means of getting blacks out of office, all of them had been defeated. the last to leave congress in 1900 was a man by the name of george white. politicians and historians describe him as a militant negro congressman. and just before he left the congress, he made a brilliant speech and a historic speech. in that speech he said this, mr. speaker, is perhaps the
negro's temporary farewell to the united states congress, but phoenix-like we'll rise up and come another day. he was right. george white was right. we would rise up and come another day. but it took 28 years, with no blacks sitting in the united states congress, from 1900 to 1928 before another black would come to the united states congress. in 1928 arthur mitchell from chicago came in. and then between 1928 and 1968, when bill, shirley and i were elected, there was a total of six blacks elected to and serving in the united states congress. and so this was a historic day. a lot of attention was focused
on me and bill and shirley. and as a consequence of it, because all three were involved in the civil right movement and the attention that was focused on us had the three of us immediately working together. and we were getting a lot of press and we were -- we came into congress to try and change things. we raised a lot of sand, so to speak. but in that context we were three freshmen. we barely knew how to find the rest rooms in the capitol. we had no real clout alone, we understood that. so we immediately tried to embrace other members of the caucus. adam clayton powell, the day we were sworn in, had been stripped of his chairmanship and stripped of many of the other attributes of office. so he was no longer interested
in leading the caucus, but he told us he would have charlie diggs of michigan lead us. and so we turned to charlie diggs to be our first chairman and lead us. we realized that black people all over america, as well as other minorities all over america, needed and wanted us to represent them as well as the congressional districts from which we were elected. what i mean about that, i mean, there were no black congress persons in mississippi and georgia and alabama and arkansas and those other states. and so black people in those states expected bill stokes, shirley chilsom to represent them. a lot of times we because they couldn't get appointed by their
own white congressman in their congressional districts in georgia and alabama and mississippi. what we realized what had to do, not just represent our districts, we had to try to give representation to black people throughout america. when i was chairman of the congressional black caucus in 1972, we had to try and examine ourselves. from the beginning of the congressional black congress, we were trying to be all things to all black people. and i realize as chairman that we needed to really understand. we are very limited in number. even then there were possibly
maybe 12, 13 of us at most at that time. and so we were limited in numbers, we were limited in resources. so i appointed delhommes of california to chair a subcommittee. i asked them to look at where the caucus is now, where we've been and where we ought to be going. and the task force came in with a report in which they said to us that we were too limited to be all things to all black people in america. they also said to us that we had to understand our role as legislatorss. we were not the civil right leaders. we were legislatures enacted -- elected to the congress in order
to enact legislation that betters the conditions of black people and minorities all over this country. so to that end, one of the things we recommended was that we spread ourselves out in the committee system of the house. that is, that we had to utilize our small number to spread our influence as far as we could in the committee system. now, when we examined the committee system, we found there wasn't a single black that had served on either one of the three power committees in the congress. that was rules committee, appropriations committee and ways and means committee. and so in order to break into the power, we decided to move with me and try and get me onto the appropriations committee. we were successful in that sense. so when we broke that barrier, i became the first black to ever serve on the appropriations committee in the history of congress. we had effectively broken into the power of the united states congress.
then we moved with shirley chisholm to put her on the rules committee and she broke into power there. then we got charlie rangel to run for and got him elected to the ways and means committee. and that's probably another one of the greatest moves we ever made, because here today in 2007 he is now the chairman of that powerful committee which in the year that we got him elected, there had never been a black serving on that committee. and so it was in that context that we also issued the -- this declaration of independence and a black bill of rights and all of that. and all of that was about the time also they had the black convention, black elected officials convention in indiana, gary, indiana. there was just a lot going on we
were doing everything we could to eradicate past discrimination in this country and to try and change our country to make it a better place for all minorities. during those early years the nixon administration -- the congressional black caucus, under the leadership of charlie diggs had attempted on several occasions to get an audience with president nixon for the purpose of bringing to his attention the disastrous policies of his administration. and the damage that he was doing to minorities in this country. and he wouldn't meet with us. one of his top aides in the white house described us as a band of radicals and said that he ought not meet with us.
and so nixon was scheduled to come to the house to give a state of the union address that evening. bill clay and i were on the floor. and i said to bill, i said, bill, you know what, since nixon won't meet with us, we ought to boycott his coming here to congress tonight for our state of the union message. i said, none of us should appear here for that speech. i said, let him look out in that audience and see an all-white audience with no black representatives and i think things can change. bill agreed with me immediately. bill got busy contacting other members of the congress and we talked to them about it. and everyone agreed. that night there wasn't a single
black on the floor in the united states congress. the media picked it up, the following morning it went all over the world that black members had boycotted president nixon's speech. two days later, chairman charlie davis got a call from the white house saying president nixon would like to meet with the caucus. and so that's how that occurred. we did subsequently meet with him. it was a long and tedious experience to rise on the appropriations committee from the last place on the committee. you have to realize, now, when i went on the committee as the first black on the committee, there were 55 members of the committee. and there were, i believe, 35 democrats and 20 republicans.
that was the ratio. and on the democratic side, i was put in the 35th slot. so that meant it was going to be a long time before i got any seniority. members of the appropriations committee did not get defeated and very few of them died. and so you didn't move up very much at all. i think it was almost ten years before i moved one spot on that committee. but between 19 -- let's see. i guess it was 1971. '71 i went on the committee. and i left in 1999. by then i had come to be the third in seniority on the full committee. and i had also been a subcommittee chairman.
i chaired the va, hud, independence agencies subcommittee on appropriations. that was a subcommittee that had jurisdiction over $90 billion of the federal budget. and so we at that time had had two chairs. julian dixon of california had chaired the d.c. committee. and then i chaired the va/hud subcommittees. we were the first two co-chairmans of that subcommittee. it was important because this it is a power committee. that committee controls the entire federal budget. and that budget is, perhaps, today somewhere around $2.7 trillion. and it's controlled by, roughly,
55, 56, 57 people, so that means each individual has a great deal of influence and power. that was the importance of it. it was a committee where i served on three committees. va/hud subcommittee, on va/hud independent agencies, labor, health, human services and education. that subcommittee had control over the national institutes of health. the most respected research in health institute in the world. it controlled all of the health programs, all the labor programs all the education programs, all the human relations programs. it's a tremendously powerful committee. 13 subcommittees. and each one of those chairman are considered what they call a cardinal.
and the cardinals wield a lot of power in the united states congress. one of the things that i did was i set up what was known as congressional black caucus health brain trust. when perin mitchell, who died a week or so ago, whose life we funeralized a week or so ago in baltimore, when he was chairman of the caucus, he had a brain trust in the area of housing and a brain trust in the area of small business. he brought people from all over the country, who were experts in those two fields, to meet with him periodically throughout the year and they helped him formulate legislation in those two areas. so he was the innovator of what today are the issues forums. and while he was chairman, he came to me and he asked me if i
would set up a brain trust in the area of health. he said, lou, you're sitting on it subcommittee with all that power over health. in terms of minority health disparities, i think that you could do a lot of good were you to set up a health brain trust for us. i did set the brain trust up for 24 of the years that i was in -- of the 30 years i was in congress. i chaired that health brain trust. and when i left, it was turned over to the congresswoman from the virgin islands, donna christianson. and she's doing a marvelous job with it now. but during that 24-year period, we were able to enact a lot of legislation that impacted upon health matters and health issues
related to minorities in this country. my role on the house assassinations committee -- actually the official name of it was house elect committee on assassinations. that was the committee that was assigned the responsibility of ascertaining all the facts and circumstances of the assassinations of two of greatest americans who ever lived, president john f. kennedy and the late dr. martin luther king jr. and i -- i was originally appointed to the committee along with walter faunteroy of the district of columbia, and harold ford. we were the minorities that were appointed to that committee.
the first two chairmen of the committee did nothing in terms of the work of the committee. and then speaker of the house called me one day when the second chairman had resigned and asked me if i would become chairman of the committee. i did agree to be chairman. and then i conducted the investigation as chairman of that committee for a period of about two years. we had $6 million to spend on the two investigations. we did our work. we completed our work by having nationally televised hearings in both assassinations. and we also filed with the house volumes of investigative findings and recommendations and reports.
and in the case of lee harvey oswald, we did find that he had, in fact, been the shooter of the rifle that killed president kennedy. but we also found that there was a probability of a conspiracy. and in the case of dr. martin luther king's assassination we found that james earl ray had had, in fact, been the shooter, the person who assassinated dr. king, but we also found in that case that there was the probability of a conspiracy. of course, we addressed that in our report. when i went into congress in january of 1969, the first legislation, the first bill that i became a close sponsor of was the dr. martin luther king
holiday bill. the bill was congressman john conyers' bill, and i became co-sponsor of his bill. and i was proud to be a member of congress and proud that i could sponsor this as a co-sponsor as my first act in the congress. it was lamentable that it took us 15 years to be able to pass that bill when you see other legislation that was introduced and passed the same day, in many cases. but we laboriously worked at trying to get the members of the house to agree upon and the senate, of course, agree upon, that legislation.
john conyers was a leader, that was his bill. all of us supported it and worked under his direction to try to get it passed but it took us 15 years. but the day that it passed, miss coretta scott king was in the gallery. with all of the family. and i can tell you that with all of us, went on the floor to make our speech in conjunction with urging the passage of that bill, when you looked up in that gallery and you saw mrs. king and that king family, not only did you realize that you were a part of -- a major part of american history that day, but that this was a great, grand family that deserved this
recognition in honor of dr. king, who had led the civil rights fight and who had given his life in order for the rest of us to be able to enjoy not only every day, but a special holiday. and i represented the 21st congressional district, which later became the 11th congressional district of ohio. a high concentration of poor, high concentration of blacks, high concentration of those who are dependent upon emergency rooms for health care. they don't get health care of a preventative nature in doctors' offices. high concentrations of the poor who live in housing. that is, dilapidated and poor housing. people who live in public housing, as i did.
and so when you have a recession, that obviously impacts heavier upon those people. i have a high concentration of seniors who live in the city. who -- many of whom have only social security checks as income. they have high rents to pay, high prescription drugs to try and pay for. the recession that occurred around 1983 impacted ohio very severely because we were beginning to lose our industrial base. ohio is one of the strong industrial based states in our union. and we started the down trend of the steel mills and -- which had been the fruit of the labor for so many years.
of course, along with the new type of scheme of economics in our country, it was impacted very heavily. well, i guess part of my experience in congress was very unique in the sense that speaker tip o'neill and speaker jim wright both in succession, because of my past experience as a criminal and defense lawyer and one who had practiced a great deal of constitutional law, called upon me for some very serious assignments in addition to my appropriation committee work. all of this i did added to my appropriations committee work.
but i was first appointed to the ethics committee. and the first black to ever serve on the ethics committee. i later became chairman of that committee. during my chairmanship, we handled the abscam cases where members of congress were seen on national tv stuffing money from a scam operation into their pockets and that type of thing. and it was a nationally recognized scandal. and we handled those abscam cases. i handled the cases involving sex and drugs, involving members of congress and their pages. i handled the investigation of geraldine farrero when she was running as vice president candidate with walter mondale. and a number of other investigations of that type.
and so it was a pretty intense period. it was a great deal of national attention drawn to that committee. i was also put on the intelligence committee of the house by speaker tip o'neill. and then later speaker jim wright appointed me as chairman of the intelligence committee. this was at a time when our nation found itself involved in the iran contra matter where our country was found to be selling arms illegally to iran in contravention of our laws. that became a national investigation. then as chairman of the
intelligence committee, i was appointed as one of the 15 persons from the house and senate, most of whom were all chairmen of various types of committees. to constitute the iran contra panel, which investigated the illegal sale of arms to iran. again, i was the only black member of the iran contra panel. and i think along with that i -- a couple times when they had ethics reform on the floor, i was appointed to task forces that were asked to deal with reform, ethics reform of the house. and then i was a part of the investigative team that was sent
to grenada when president reagan had invaded that little tiny spice island down in the caribbean. and i was part of the team asked to go down and investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding our invasion of that country. so those are some of the extraordinary experiences that i was appointed to, in which i am very proud to have been selected to seven in that capacity. and proud that these men felt i had the confidence -- the competence to be able to perform that service. well, i think each time any one of us was singled out for the
purpose of heading a special committee or investigation of that sort in the house, it drew attention to the entire caucus and the kind were capable of providing in the highest legislative body in the world. and i think that the two real leaders of the congressional black caucus in terms of the south after rica movement were delams and perron mitchell. i mean, all of us were involved and i remember when a group of us went to jail there in washington, d.c., because we went out and protested in front of the south african embassy. and then, of course, we were told that we could not protest
or picket within 50 yards of the embassy and that we were in violation of the law and that unless we left, we would be arrested. and, of course, on various occasions and different days, groups of us had agreed in advance that we were going to go out there and protest and if we were challenged within the 50 foot or 50 yard limit that we would be arrested. and so many of us in the caucus went out there and performed and we were arrested and, you know felt the least we could do because of nelson mandela could spend 28 years in a prison for fighting for his people, not having committed any crime, that we could certainly go to jail
one night to highlight the inequality of apartheid in south africa. we had had conversations with president clinton on welfare reform prior to the bill coming to the floor. we were opposed to that legislation, and we made our opposition clear to president bill clinton. we understood the pressure that president clinton was under. the pressure came from middle-class white america. they wanted reform of the welfare system. they were promolgating all of the people on welfare were just
black people on welfare, that the people who were on welfare just didn't want to work, and the story that reagan put out about the welfare queen and all of that stuff. and so we tried to get the president to take a different position on legislation, but we knew the pressure he was under and we understood politically why he did what he did, but we opposed it even though all of us basically supported him and felt that he did wonderful things in terms of black america when he was in office. but it's just like anything else, when he was wrong, we let him know he was wrong. and on welfare reform not only did we let him know he was wrong, all of us voted against the welfare reform bill, every member of the congressional black caucus, voted against the welfare reform bill. and, of course, it wasn't just a
matter of voting against legislation. we had proposed other means by which the legislation could be enacted. we needed more opportunity to train people. you can't just put people who are untrained off welfare without training them properly. many of these people also have multiple children. those children need proper child care facilities and opportunities. and there were just many, many things of that sort that we wanted protected to protect those people. and because today we can see that we were right in many respects because even though the people are taking pride in the fact that at the point years later that they have reduced the welfare roles by half, they
haven't reduced poverty. those people are still poor. those people are still out in the community somewhere even though you don't account for them now as being on welfare, but they are people who are still in need of education and jobs and child care and some means of living. there's a real difference in being in the majority in congress and being in the minority. don't let anybody tell you there isn't a difference. there's a big difference. and whether or not you're in control. and if you're not in control, it means you are less influential in every respect. and so the years that i served the majority were golden years to me. those were the years we could do what i came to congress to do
and that was to help people and to create meaningful, productive change in this country and to put money into programs that helped young people be able to get the kind of education they need and have people have decent housing, decent health care, and those things i saw eroded when i went into the minority under the republican and their programs in the congress. so it was not much fun for me. so it was easy for me as i approached 30 years in congress to say, hey, i really didn't come to congress to engage in a whole lot of mean-spiritedness day after day and get you back type of attitudinal approaches. i came to congress to try and
create change and to help people. and when my presence there no longer was conducive to that, it's time for me to look around and see whether there's something else i can be more beneficial at and have a better utilization of whatever intellectual capacity i have. and so it was easy for me serving in the minority to say i've had enough and it's time for me to move on. i can tell that you this past january i attended a swearing in of the members of the congressional black caucus. i sat in a large audience, people who were there to see this historic event of 43 black members of congress being sworn into congress.
i can tell you that as i sat there and looked on that stage and realized that this began from nine of us who were in that 91st congress and then those who joined us the next couple of congresses where it became about 13 of us and where we officially founded the congressional black caucus. i found a few tears just creeping upon me to realize how far we had come from where we were at that time. and the great feeling of having played a role in the day we would see 43 of us coming into
the congress together as members of the congressional black caucus. it was one of the most meaningful and emotional moments of my life. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at cspanhistory. coming up next on american history tv, host of the open mind, alexander hefner and david sehat talk about the founding fathers' differing political i had ideologies. how they used the ideas to further their own agendas. the national constitution center hosted this hour long event. all right, ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for a really wonderful discussion, and i am so pleased to introduce for
the first time a very special guest moderator. this is my good friend alexander heffner. alexander is the co-host of what is the longest running show on public television. it has been running for almost 60 years because alexander heffner's grandfather, richard heffner, a dear friend and really one of the great communicators, scholars of public broadcasting and interviewers of all time who just passed away last year, he ran that show for almost 58 years. and this is one of the great figures of american life, a public intellectual, a dear, decent man, a great friend. i'm so honored to take this moment to mark his memory. he's badly missed. but alexander would be so proud, has taken up the torch and hosts "open mind" 60th anniversary. check out the