Skip to main content

tv   Jefferson Morley Snow- Storm in August  CSPAN  September 12, 2015 4:00pm-4:56pm EDT

4:00 pm
american history tv >> history of shelf features popular writers and airs on american history tv every weekend at this time. jefferson morley recounts the first race right in washington dc of august 1835, set off by the actions of an 18-year-old , ave owned by anna thornton respected socialite. the slave was tried by francis scott key, famous for writing the lyrics to the star-spangled banner. he defended slavery and sought capital punishment. magers &quinn booksellers hosted this event in 2012. it is about 50 minutes.
4:01 pm
jefferson: i want to tell you a little bit about the book. it is nice to see so many old familiar faces. whenever i come back to minneapolis, i have a feeling about what a special place was. there are a few people who will remember the place, at least agree with me. it is always nice to be back with old friends. i even attended an advanced placement classes the old west high school. you have to be really old when west high school was there. [laughter]
4:02 pm
jefferson: people have asked me a lot. they said, why did you write this book so long ago and so obscure? is a greatbecause it story, the events that happened, they are so amazing. as a fiction writer, i would never dare to make them up. had allealized they happened, i thought that was really terrific. it was such a great story. , ii got into the book realize there was more to it than that. the book had an even more profound message, and that was that this book takes place between the revolutionary war, the founding of the country, late 18th century, and the civil war, which are the two great
4:03 pm
times in american history they get written about a lot, the american revolution and the civil war. was that pretty much everything you know about that time and you have been taught about that time is flat wrong. it is completely wrong. so i realize that part of this book is to tell people that. everything you thought you understood about this time is completely wrong. if you think of washington in 1835, 25 years before the civil war, what would you think? ,ou would think, well slavery was well entrenched, whites were cruel and indifferent. that is actually not true at all. in washington, about 30,000 people then as a city, 12,000 were black.
4:04 pm
the majority of black people and washington in 1830 were free, not slaves. out of the 12,000 black people, slightly more than half were free. prosperous and others were getting there fast. there was a man named lynch who assert horses to the cities taxi trade. he was a free black man from madagascar. there were two brothers,, and thomas and isaac, they own some barbershops. those black family that owned slaves themselves. while they were cutting hair, they would also sell antislavery publications on the side. the hero of the book, beverly city's finest
4:05 pm
restaurant, the hero of the book , a barack obama slightly had of his time, a clever, intelligent mixed-race man who comes out of nowhere to conquer and charm washington, serve the washington elite what they want, only to face a tremendous backlash. book, you will see some parallels to our own time there. anyway, the point is that in this book, far from slavery being dominant in washington dc and an all impressive -- oppressive force, slavery is receding and freedom is growing. that is what this book is about. the second thing is that you probably think the civil war 1861 with the gunfire at fort sumter. that is when the shooting of the civil war began, but part of the
4:06 pm
argument is that the civil war began 30 years before that. it is in this time in the early 1800s that the antislavery movement first comes to washington and the direct ideological conflict that leads to the civil war, the conflict between the people who are for slavery and the people who are against slavery, it actually starts in this time in washington. that is not something that you get taught in the history books, but you will see from this story that that is actually the case and that is what happened. people whoband of actually are the ones who start the fight against slavery that leads to the civil war and the great expansion of american freedom that that brought. this group of black entrepreneurs had a white
4:07 pm
friend, he traveled around the country. antislavery newspaper called the genius of universal emancipation, and he would travel around avoiding the slavery issue. they would report on the politics, but they did not want to get into it. lundy went around the country and reported there was a killing, this man was beat, here is how the slaves escape, here is how the churches have came again, real investigative reporting about slavery. as this movement grows, he has enough money to hire a new assistant. he hires a promising man from boston named william garrison. he teaches him how to be a journalist and report about slavery.
4:08 pm
benjamin lundy would go on to die and of security, and william garrison would become one of the most influential american journalist of the 19th century. he is a character in this book too. another thing you probably think thing that important francis scott key did was write the lyrics to the star-spangled banner, wrong again. francis scott key wrote the to a long,n went on interesting career in politics, which is completely unknown to most people. francis scott key was a modern washington character. after he became famous in 1814 for writing the star-spangled banner, he did what people do, a lucrativeame into law practice, then connections, then connections into a job, and that was the culmination of francis scott key's political
4:09 pm
career when he was appointed to be the district attorney for the city of washington. what he did in that time -- i would not say it as significant as the star-spangled banner -- it was very important. an unknown fact about francis scott key is that his best , roger tawney, politically ambitious. and with francis scott key's help us in to two jobs in the administration of andrew jackson. francis scott key health tawney become the u.s. attorney general, then secretary of the treasury, and then the chief justice of the supreme court to roger tawney went on to write the dred scott decision in 1857, which effectively legalized slavery and hastened the coming of the civil war. francis scott key and tony were
4:10 pm
inseparable political figures, and influential and important that is totally forgotten. in washington, there is a bridge that crosses the potomac river, and right by where it is is a park where francis scott key used to live. in the park, there are exhibits devoted to him. there is one that says, francis scott key was active in antislavery causes. this is flat wrong. it is completely wrong. it would be more accurate to say that he was active in suppressing antislavery causes. this is to remind people of all the things that we really don't want to remember about our own history. this is also a book about the real francis scott key, but i don't want to get the wrong impression. this book is not a polemical book, not out to score points. it's to tell the story of these anding events in washington
4:11 pm
1835 and 1836, which begin on the night of august 4, 1830 5, -- 1835, 177 years younghen a african-american man stumbles into the agile of his ministers, anna thornton, caring and a xe. she is sleeping with her servant , the mother of the boy. scream.women wake up, tells him to go out. he is shouting that he is going to be free. the neighbors gather. arthur runs away. the word begins to spread that attackedton has been
4:12 pm
by a slave in her bedroom with an ax. the burgeoning antislavery movement is just giving publications to everybody in town. the antislavery movement is impressing on people the reality of slavery, these written reports, detailed about the brutality of slavery. among the blacks and abolitionist whites, this is the whites, among they fear this is the first shot and a slave rebellion. that arthur was part of a slave rebellion and attacking anna thornton, so when arthur turns himself in and says i have no memory of what happened. , and whisked off to jail the mop converges on the jail in downtown washington, judiciary square, and tries to lynch arthur, demanding that he be
4:13 pm
hung on the spot. francis scott key comes to the about to behe jail, overwhelmed, when the secretary of the navy calls in the federal troops. the troops marched on pennsylvania avenue, surrounded jail, and push the crowd back, and protect the jail so arthur will not be lynched. order is only temporarily restored because the mob, frustrated by the fact they could not get their hands on arthur, turn their fury on every other free black person in town. attackmops split up and split up and attacked black churches, black schools, black or houses, anyplace were black people gathered, the mops were going to destroy it, including first and foremost beverly snow's restaurant, the
4:14 pm
symbol of black success, 16 , frequented by politicians, senators, congressmen, the finest of high society. beverly snow is a well-known and respected character. the mob in fear of this antislavery movement, slave insurrection, black success, attacks police know. snow had friends -- attacks beverly snow. snow has friends. restaurant,hes his drinks his liquor, pours it out, and goes on a rampage and destroys the city. it is quite a shocking event. it is been totally forgotten history of washington. when i asked people about this -- one of the reasons i decided to write the book was that i asked if people had heard of the riot and washington in 1835, and i never heard anybody who has. it is completely forgotten. when you read the newspapers,
4:15 pm
you realize what a shocking event it was. it was the worst thing since the british had invaded in 1814. me and destroy the white house and the congressional library. it had been inflicted by americans themselves. there was a lot of shame and remorse about how this happened, a lot of recommendations. francis scott key is determined of theue the agenda jackson administration, which is to make sure that the slave order is safe in washington, that the slave owners are safe with her property, they will not run away. and so, he as district attorney has the job of establishing law and order, and so he does this in a couple of ways. the first thing that he does is wen one puts arthur bol trial.
4:16 pm
an antislavery man on trial who had been bringing publications to washington. towanted to send the message the antislavery forces everywhere in the country that your activities will not be tolerated at all. the book tells the story of how the right comes to pass, and in the story of the criminal trial. when arthur goes on trial, he is eager to win a conviction. says, anna thornton that arthur never lifted the acts. x.
4:17 pm
that she felt safe in his presence. that he was just drunk. she wanted the hoping to go away. he wasn't laughable and did not listen to this. he managed to get other people to override her testimony. is convicted,n and there isnly one punishment, which is the death penalty, capital punishment. goes on to death row. sentencey of 1836, his to die and about a month. does something even more unbelievable. it was amazing enough that she testified on arthur's half and the criminal trial, but now she goes out and starts recruiting for friends and high society of washington, and she was a very prominent woman with many prominent friends, easy access to the leadership of the country.
4:18 pm
she went to vice president van buren and said, you sure good office with the president, president jackson, tell him he should pardon arthur. his mother is very good. execution would be worse than the crime. she couldn't contemplate that arthur would be executed. unmoved, andn are so the clock keeps ticking. i'm going to read you a little part of the book about what happened in february of 1836. cell, arthur bowen n had to admit the truth of what john cook said, yes, he had a right to be free, and liquor would destroy that freedom. his protestations that he never intended to harm anna thornton failed to convince even himself.
4:19 pm
of course, he had no intention. the drink unleashed the center within. schoolteachera who had advised arthur about ways to get his freedom, but he was also a temperance man and always told the young slave boys if you want to be free, you had to learn to read and write and stop thinking. -- drinking. arthur condemned himself of that and decided to write upon about the feeling of repentance. hand, heand paper and sat thinking about his friends from the racetrack and president square. he had a talent for writing. well -- farewell, my young friends. he made a curious reference to his family. parents nicewas by
4:20 pm
whose commands they would not obey but plunged ahead into vise and impatience dreadful way. he admitted scorning the teachings of his elders. nothing i ever drink but liquor strong, at last i never used to think i was doing wrong. to me was read the awful sentence of dreadful in my years of frank. it gave me time for my retirement's and then i must be hanged. goodbye, goodbye, my friend so dear. may god almighty please you all. if you please shut but a tear for arthur bowen and happy fall. copies of his poem circulated. the intelligence published a copy. the editor of the metropolitan, the newspaper in georgetown, pronounced it very credible. everyone in washington seem to know that anna thornton's personal petition had been presented to president jackson. ask them to exercise that mercy in his power alone. the people awaited jackson's
4:21 pm
response so the metropolitan with the deepest anxiety. i'm going to leave it there. [laughter] you have to buy the book to find out what happens next. [laughter] toant to close with one note bring this story back to the present. when the book was reviewed in , theashington post reviewer took issue with an argument that i make in the book which is that as i spent more and more time writing the book, i realized there was more and more similarities between the politics of the 1830's and our politics today. the red-blue politics that we see today, the red states, blue states -- if you look, it originates during this time. i disagree quite strongly with
4:22 pm
the reviewer's contention. he said, readers may find an element of the book jarring, beginning the assertion that proslavery and antislavery forces resembled today's political divisions between red and blue. this anachronism is unhelpful at best, misleading at worst. i totally disagree. i think the similarities are quite clear. as i point out in the book, they revolve around the, issues of american politics, and it is no surprise that they are the same. then as now, americans argue about what our property rights are, what kind of property rights does any individual have. in the 1830's, that argument revolved around slavery. did people have the right to own property in people. favor of maximum property rights, were in favor
4:23 pm
of those embodied in slavery. the liberal forces, traditionally more restrictive your property rights, said there is no such thing as property in people. likewise in the debates about citizenship, part of the debate about slavery was a debate about citizenship, did the blacks have a right to be citizens? debateimilar to today's about illegal immigration, do these people have the right to be citizens. then as now, the conservatives took the restrictive position that american citizenship is reserved for a small group, nativeborn americans. become now, the liberals -- took a more expansive view, citizenship was open to a greater number of people. also with free speech, when francis scott key is prosecuting the antislavery movement, it is a classic free-speech argument of the type we have today. he said we have to restrict free speech rights to protect our safety. if we allow the antislavery
4:24 pm
forces, then we will have slave rebellions and we will all be insecure, so we have to restrict free speech rights, and that is the same argument the conservatives make today. they take the same position now as they did then, free-speech rights should be maximal, wearing less about safety and preserving free-speech rights. that is a very strong theme that runs throughout the book, and some people disagree with it. see for yourself and decide for yourself. and that, i'm going to stop answer any questions that people have about the book or what i have said so far. yes? where did you first come across this piece of history, and how long did you nurture it before you decided to write a book. i first heard about
4:25 pm
this in 1998. i was working on a story about a neighborhood historic preservation. there -- i first heard was a race right in 1835, and i hadd that francis scott key been district attorney. i asked people if they knew about the race right. nobody had written about it and nobody knew about it. i knew it was a story. i wrote a piece for the sunday magazine for the washington post and 2005, but i thought it was such a great story there was a chance i would write a whole book about it, so i had in the back of my mind. in 2009, i got fired from a job and said, no job. go write the book and have a good time. i had been nurturing it all along. i always thought, i'm going to write a book about this someday. i had continued to read and do
4:26 pm
more research. , threegot the contract years ago, it took about two years to research and finish the book. you mentioned we like garrison. garrison. lloyd he was alive at this particular time. with the in washington? jefferson: what garrison and lundy had hit that no one had done, they would go out and write about specific slave traders. they would name names. no one had ever done this before. lundy taught garrison how to do it. originally they were publishing in baltimore, which was a bigger slave trading town. they both wrote articles about different slave traders. one saying this man was a beast because he sold off children,
4:27 pm
broken up families, action both of them, that's what they read about. in both cases, the slave traders waylaid them after the article appeared, beat the how out of them, and when lundy filed charges, the judge said you deserved it and dismissed the case. afterrrison's case beating garrison up, the slave trader also charged them with libel. garrison was about to go on 1833 andbaltimore in new he was not going to get a fair trial, so he skipped town and left. he went back to boston. that's when he founded the liberator, which became the great antislavery publication. lundy had to leave town as well. francis scott key charged tim in in 1833 --rged him lundy wrote an article well
4:28 pm
known at the time about a black woman walking across the potomac and a constable started chasing her. people -- all the black people knew what that meant. the constables supplemented their income by kidnapping free blacks and selling them into slavery. the woman ran away because she knew you're trying to kidnap her. she fell off the bridge and drowned. they got her body out and buried her. that was it. lundy wrote an article and told what happened and the name of the constable. hit thecis scott key roof and charged monday with libel. he charged him and his printer. francis scott key was really trying to drive the antislavery people out. they wanted to get rid of the antislavery forces in washington.
4:29 pm
so lundy did the same thing as garrison. he was facing a $1000 fine, which would be like $20,000, $100,000 in today's money, and glass --collected one one last meal from his friends and took off to philadelphia. the anti-slavery movement was very embattled throughout this time. ,hat was francis scott key's drive them out and suppress them. time whatre at this you call mainstream press that was covering the whole thing, the abolitionist newspaper's? >> no. there were three daily newspapers in washington at the time. reflecting three different political tendencies, and there was a weekly newspaper
4:30 pm
, and a weekly newspaper in georgetown, which was a separate -- georgetown is now part of washington the sea, but then it was separate. these were newspapers that were aligned with political factions in the government, so they would would write about slavery and the politics of slavery as it was playing out in congress. petition,resented a they would write a story about that, but about the experience of slavery or the abuses of slavery, they would never write about it. riots andout the race the trial? >> the race right was very well covered, because it was very shocking. no one expected that to happen and there was a lot of incrimination and debate, who was responsible. the right was attributed in newspapers to what were called mechanics, a mechanic was any
4:31 pm
of manual work. the mechanics got together and said, how dare you say that we did this. we did not do that. there were lots of incrimination's, and that was but what happened to beverly snow? nobody ever wrote about that. snow took out advertisements all the time. his ads were very witty, they changed all the time and discloses personality. when push came to shove, no white authorities wanted to be seen in the position of defending the free blacks, and public authority
4:32 pm
collapse, because nobody wanted to be seen as doing it. the newspapers were part of that. they really didn't want to touch the issue. it was a little too explosive for them. 's campaign?thornton >> they could not ignore her. she was very prominent. her husband had designed the u.s. capitol, was a close friend of george washington, close friend of thomas jefferson, so she was a leading lady and society. and so, while they would not write about what she was doing tell -- theu could word had gotten around that anna thornton was trying to help arthur. that was -- you can see that. nobody ever wrote an article about that, but you heard about that in the press coverage of the time. >> a couple of questions.
4:33 pm
you have talked about the different parallels between then and i guess i would be about whatsted parallels you might see. also, you are talking about then and now, it sounds like we're condemned to repeat history, is that your conclusion? is there anything we can learn from it? the politics of race are central. when i talk about those principles that we debate in red-blue division. race runs through those. that is a big part of it. i think one thing that is remarkable about the story, and remember inauguration day when president obama is coming up
4:34 pm
pennsylvania avenue and gets out and starts walking down the street. it on tv and thinking that's where beverly snow -- and not even barack , a quintessential obama story, and nobody knows it. , i don't know if this answers your question, but this is writtenck success out of history, religiously forgotten, and that's my only explanation of why this story is not known, the story of beverly snow or the right of 1835. are we condemned to repeat it? i think the obama experience shows you that these continuities run very deep. obama isash against very a can to the backlash against beverly snow.
4:35 pm
i don't see any other way to look at it. obama is the president. he's not running a restaurant, so i think the country is in better shape. the underlying dynamics are still there. they have not changed much. >> this went beyond the scope of the book, but was there any response or vocalized from the black community itself? >> there was. beverly snow's best friend and had a barber shop next to the restaurant filed a lawsuit because there was a crackdown on black businesses. response to -- the
4:36 pm
the riot was to crack down on black business and deny licenses. in his case, he was selling perfume and his barbershop and wanted to keep his license. he won that case. the right was very discouraging, able and of the most successful blacks left and went to toronto, and beverly snow and another free black man wound up in toronto. the brothers wound up in toronto. so there was a kind of exit is. they had reached the limits of what was possible. -- so there was kind of an exodus. >> say something about your research, frustrations, triumphs? >jefferson: i always knew i was going to do this book, because
4:37 pm
the sources were so interesting and there were so many good sources. the first and foremost was that anna thornton by the time this story takes place is 55 years old. she has been keeping a diary of her life for close to 40 years. she pretty much wrote down every day, five days a week, six days a week, what happened in her life. this is not an emotional diary. she was not a confessional or expressive type of person, but she said what happened in her life. mr. adams came over, john quincy adams, we play chess. read mary shelley frankenstein and thought that was very morbid. [laughter] jefferson: she went to the market and pay $.12 for a dozen eggs. she wrote down everything -- all of her purchases. life, thisting daily
4:38 pm
was an extraordinary source. it made me realize that i could create daily life in an intimate and realistic way. i didn't want to write a book about congress of politicians. i wanted to write a book about the way people lived in washington. into the research, i wanted to write a book about living in washington and not about washington politics. an daily newspapers were abundant source of information because the were so many of them. you have these different tendencies, so they would look at things slightly differently. you could get a lot of information that way. then i spent a lot of time in the national archives and found a docket book of the court for the circuit court of the time, see could find out who was breaking the law, how they were breaking the law, who was suing each other, how did business deals go bad. you can get a real sense of the texture of daily life. was the the last thing
4:39 pm
property tax records, which were also in these big bound boy am's -- volumes. i could see snow getting richer by the year. when he comes to town, he has nothing. hasr the first year, he $100, second year, $200. you are starting to move into the middle class. you could track characters that way. that was another way that i learned a lot about the characters in this book. then there was francis scott key himself, who everybody knows his name, and yet there has not been a biography written of him since 1939. so there was a lot about him lying around, and roger tawny. when i was doing this research, i've found in the court records, ,any indictments, hand signed
4:40 pm
francis scott key. in my records, i have 100 autographs of francis scott key, so that was a thing. thing that i am most proud of is figuring out who beverly snow was through his advertisements. he left no records. he left no diary or letters. wherever he went, he seemed to attract attention because people always had anecdotes about him. i did not know that much about him and tell i saw some of the ads. i realized i need to go back and read everything on this paper and get every single ad, because that's where the express himself. and fact, they are funny and you get a sense of the man. one of the favor once was called, health made cheap good he was selling the idea of health food in 1830. this food is not only good, it's good for you. it was a very modern idea.
4:41 pm
beverly snow in the true washington tradition is a master of self-promotion. he was great at it. he was a self invented american. i think that is the thing i like most about this book. this person that nobody knew who existed comes to life and you realize what a great and unusual person he was. there he is on the pages of the book. >> did you compile the book all at once and absorb the information and then compile the book, or did you compile it as you went and revise it? were you overwhelmed at times with all this reading and information, or did you pace yourself? it in phases.id i wrote the magazine article. when i started to write the book, i decided i would not start writing right away. i spent about nine months just doing research. the idea was get everything in place and don't try to start too early. once i had that in place, i
4:42 pm
wasn't overwhelmed. it took a while. there were three drafts of this book, three full different versions of it. it took a while to get it under control and figure out what was most important what could be cut out. one version was like 700 pages long. was was -- by the end it 300 manuscript pages, so all luck got left out, which you are very lucky. [laughter] yeah, it took a while to get the material under control for sure. >> did you use a filing system or the geological stratification system? [laughter] jefferson: what i did was i made a file and had a separate file folder for the key. time of the book, where i had a folder for every day of the year.
4:43 pm
every newspaper article, i would put it into that file. when the time came and i was writing about august taking 35, i could pull out the week and i would have all the newspaper articles and notes in a row ready to tell the story like that. as a writer, you never want to sit down and look at a blank page. you don't know where to begin. you don't know what to do. you always want to have good notes in front of you, and so really which are doing is kind of editing the notes and turning the notes into prose, so you never looking at a blank page. that is how i could get going on it. yeah? >> did you do this on your computer? jefferson: a little bit of both. i like having paper copies. when i started, and those reading the newspapers at the library of congress, you could
4:44 pm
only make photocopies of them. later on, they had a machine make pdfs right had to parallel systems. it was kind of an efficient, but that was the only way to do it. there were things that i had found in letters and things like that that i would make copies of . world and half in the paper world. yeah? i'm interested in the texture, the change in the city of washington. you mentioned 1835, 30,000 people. 5000 are african-american. out of the 12,000, how many are free? jefferson: 6000 plus. >> there was an exodus after this event.
4:45 pm
what changes within washington? jefferson: that trend continues and the free black population continues to grow. by the beginning of the civil war, free black people outnumber slaves in washington, 4-1. the next 20 years -- you have to understand that if you were a black person in virginia and you got your freedom, you had to leave the state within a year by law or you could be sold back into slavery. so those people once they -- they were going to go to boston or new york, even though there slavery. philadelphia was a 4-5 day ride. it's an alien culture. it's not a southern culture. freedom, they went to the district. there were jobs there, slavery was legal, but the system of slavery washington -- again, this was a big surprise to me -- this was not plantation slavery.
4:46 pm
anna thornton had a guy, a servant, who she owned and he was her driver, and he was the of all trades who kept the house up, fix the wagons, and did all of that. george plant had a wife who was free, and she lived in georgetown and they had four kids, and they were free. he would go home at night. -- so he was a slave who commuted. [laughter] jefferson: that was one of the variations of slavery in washington at that time. also, a lot of slaves made money -- their owners would hire them out. to owner would hire you out a hotel. you would be a waiter in a hotel. the owner of the hotel would pay the owner your wages. were ae there, you waiter, you could make tips, controlled her own time, so slavery was a much more fluid thing in washington, and that's
4:47 pm
one reason why the antislavery movement could get going, because there was more room to operate, and this was one of the things that francis scott key was most upset about, this freedom, these corners of freedom that the blacks refining, everybody understood that was going to be the foot in the door to greater freedom, and tot is what they were trying oppress. this is when a real ideological over strawberry -- slavery begins. the antislavery forces are beginning to organize themselves, appeal to public opinion, gain strength in congress, and that is the fight that grinds on and culminates in the civil war 25 years later. your commuter slave, would that be more like an indentured slave?
4:48 pm
would they be able to buy their freedom of that point in time? jefferson: no, that would still owner. there were conditions like that. term written into his terms of slavery that he would be free when he was 30. so he bought his freedom for five dollars, but that was something that had been . there were white indentured servants. that was dying out. it happened all different ways. freedom was given it to you. sometimes when they die, they freed all their slaves. they said the slaves would have to pay the going rates for a healthy young person , they could be a hundred
4:49 pm
dollars, $1000, which was a lot of money. you could live for a couple of years on a thousand dollars. slavery was -- there were lots of permutations of slavery in washington, lots of race mixing too. it's amazing to think about, but there is no doubt about it, washington was a more racially integrated city in 1835 than it is in 2012. there were no black inghborhoods in washington 1835. blacks and whites lived very much intermingled. neighborhood.lack that did not exist at that time. do you know the degree of black literacy at the time? jefferson: it is very hard to tell. man,cook was a free black and he was the smartest black
4:50 pm
guy in town. everybody agreed. he was the teacher at the school. he had organized a group for young black men, which was trying to teach black men how to get out of slavery. school, and william ormley also had a school. there was education, but it what percentage? i don't know. arthur bowen was obviously literate if he could write that poland. anna thornton had taught him to read and write, but how common that was, i don't really know. it is very hard to say. it was not unknown the black people were literate. anybody else? .ure i in bedwas anna thornton
4:51 pm
with? jefferson: she lived in her house with her own mother. mother was the one who taught arthur how to read and write. was anna thornton, her mother, and personal servant. know if that was unusual. that bowen ran a house together. they were very dependent on each other. bedroom, that's all i know. >> and she is the only one who stood up? jefferson: yeah, yeah.
4:52 pm
>> will you tell us if anna recorded in her diary the day after arthur bowen came in with the ax? [laughter] jefferson: in her drive to save , to save him on death row, as it accelerated, it all comes down to what president jackson -- so she has to convince them. she writes an 18 page handwritten letter in which she , second by second detail, it, and everything that followed, so you get a very -- you learn firsthand exactly what she saw and what had happened. >> you had access to that letter? i found that in the
4:53 pm
pardon papers of the president. all petitions for the president go into a file. in the petition file, i found anna thornton's appealing for of arthur bowen, the original. --doesn't that raise for you how many other fascinating stories are just sitting here underneath another piece of paper? jefferson: after writing this .ook, many, many her i'm sure they are there, and i think they can be very unexpected and surprising. i'm still looking for it. [laughter] be one of the main lessons you got from writing this book or was there another one? jefferson: that was the big one, taughte way history is
4:54 pm
can be so misleading. the key is to get to the reality of how people lived, not the politics and the way history is traditionally construed, but actually what was the day-to-day life of the people. that's what i take away from it. ok. thank you. [applause] here history bookshelf, from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade every saturday at four clock p.m. eastern, and to watch these programs anytime, visit our website, c-span.org/history. you're watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> each week, american history america brings you archival films to help bring context to today's issues.
4:55 pm
♪ >> i don't know how long we can stay on this line. >> tell us what the situation is. >> it must be right here, right now. she is blowing and she is shaking. all power fails, and wind blows off the roof. it knocks off telephone lines all over town. midnight, gust are reaching 150 miles per hour. baton rouge is next in line. >>

46 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on