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tv   A Life  CSPAN  May 7, 2016 4:00pm-4:47pm EDT

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of congress. it's about 45 minutes. we are here to listen to p aniel joe still. i have the pleasure of interviewing him on c-span on ,he occasion of his 2010 book "dark days, bright nights, from black power to barack obama." it was one of those wonderful, and hurried c-span book conversations. i never met him before and i was so impressed not only by intellect but by his ease, he humility, and introspection. i left thinking i am going to read all of that dude's books from now on until the end of time. whatever he writes. he is the author of the award winning waiting until the midnight hour, a narrative history of black power in
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america but the book he has come to discuss today and why i am sure you are all here is "stokely: a life" which was described in the new york times review as an insightful, highly engaging affluent biography of stokely carmichael, the man widely seen as heir apparent in the black leadership hierarchy to martin luther king jr. and malcolm x following their assassination. at the reporting committee, stokely started as a believer in nonviolence, led him to concentrate his thinking on the notion of black self-defense. carmichael was a complex figure and that complexity was captured wonderfully in this definitive biography, "stokely: a life".
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you can never be disappointed with a book when you have chapter titles like the chocolate and fred astaire. arestoring, activist, popular -- peniel joseph is historian activist, popular , radio commentator on subjects like race relations and civil rights, politics, democracy, a nice shoe collection. give a warm welcome to peniel joseph. [applause] >> thank you for that warm introduction. i start by thanking the library of congress for this invitation to talk about "stokely: a life". it is an honor and privilege to be here. i spent ten years on the life of stokely carmichael, kwame ture, and a lot of questions i received was why did i spend so
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so much time, why was stokely carmichael, kwame ture, so interesting to me and why did he deserve a biography, and to answer that and before going into stokely carmichael's wife, the legacy left and what it means to us in 2014 especially in the context of contemporary american race relations the age of obama, the age of ferguson, where we are now. i have to begin with my mother, my mother who is watching this right now, germain joseph is 75 years old, retired, haitian immigrant who came to the united states in the mid 1960s and was my first history teacher, my mother was part of the 1199 union.
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i was on my first pickett line, in elementary school. she taught me values that were really important to shaping who i am as a man, a person, a human being and a writer, scholar and thinker. within that context of growing up in jamaica, queens, new york, listening to speeches by malcolm x, martin luther king jr. and haitian history, reading the black activist, reading about all these different people who struggle for social and political justice that i came to find kwame ture stokely carmichael. i was really really impressed by stokely carmichael even as an elementary school age child. i didn't know i was going to be his biographer at the time.
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when i think about stokely carmichael, the first time i encountered stokely was through the miniseries eyes on the prize. that miniseries, extraordinary, henry hampton and all these people who created really the definitive documentary about the heroic period of the civil rights movement ended in six parts, we pretend six parts. the and 24-year-old stokely carmichael is in one of those episodes calling for black power and if you are in new york city growing up in the 1980s in the context of everything from spike lee to howard beach to different roiling demonstrations against police brutality that documentary was a signal moment in my own political history, my own intellectual development so i encountered kwame ture stokely carmichael by way of the miniseries eyes on the prize and in subsequent years as i went to
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college, as i became us thinker, reader, writer, activist, he always stayed on my mind. the first book i wrote waiting until the midnight hour was a history of the black power movement in america and internationally and it was in the course of doing research on that book that i really came to deeply deeply investigate and research the life of stokely carmichael kwame ture. by way of introduction. "stokely: a life," this is of biography, a political activist who i argue in this book stands out as one of the three political activists in the postwar period who transforms democracy, civil rights, community organizing, citizenship and malcolm x,
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martin luther king jr. and stokely carmichael kwame ture. he was born june 29, 1941 in trinidad, comes to the united states two weeks before his eleventh birthday in 1952, he moved to the mars park section of the bronx, he is -- his family is one of the only black families in that neighborhood. he is a precocious, very intelligent child, always identifying with underdogs, has a wide a ray of friends, interracial friends, accused a as charismatic, becomes one of the only black students to kiss -- to test into to the bronx high school of science which is one of the best public high schools in new york city and he becomes one of the most popular if not the most popular students at bronx and what is extraordinary that stokely carmichael attends bronx science 1956-1960 and it is during some of the key years of the heroic period of the civil rights
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movement between 1954-1965 and in high school he becomes an organizer. in high school he is going to be mentored by the key social democratic political activist, openly gay, one of the most brilliant minds of the civil rights movement. pcs westin as a teenager and asks who is that speaking of there? some one replies to him that is byron westin the socialist and stokely says that is who i am going to be when i grow up. when we think about bronx science, very important because at bronx science and during his high school years, stokely carmichael is going to imbibers multiple political and intellectual traditions. some are going to be jewish-american, jewish-american vibrant left, marxist,
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socialist, radically democratic. some are going to be black and global and pan-african. he has relatives in harlem and he is going and listening to street speakers in harlem. he is listening to pan african speeches in harlem, finds out about the leader of donna and the leader of guinea, find out about the condo so even in high school stokely is taking different traditions in. when we think about this hero period of the civil rights movement, a really short truncated history lesson, between may 17th, 1954, and august 6th, 1965, we have one of the most extraordinary periods in american history. when we think of that period in american history may 17th, 1954, is the brown supreme court desegregation decision. 1955-56 is the 13 month
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montgomery bus boycott. on august 28th, 1955, 14-year-old cammed pill's body is found in the tallahassee river, up hill had said by baby to the wife of a white shopowner and was going to be lynched because of that. his body is going to be put on display on the cover of jet magazine, the african-american working-class magazine of the postwar period and that is going to galvanize a whole generation of civil rights activists including stokely carmichael. 1957 is little rock central high school and that crisis that results in mob violence against young people trying to integrate, february 1st, 1960, is the start of the sit in amusement -- movement in north carolina where four black students demand equal service and that will spark hundreds of demonstrations across the united states but importantly it will
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spark the creation of an easter weekend of 1960, the student nonviolent coordinating committee and we have heroic figures from snake who are still alive today. joanne mulholland is here, we have judy richardson, congressman john lewis, and stokely carmichael was part of the student nonviolent coordinating committee as well. 1961 are the freedom rides where groups of interracial activists tried to defy racial segregation across interstate travel, very infamously on may 4th, 1961, there is going to be a greyhound bus that is firebombed in anniston, alabama and giving us the most iconic pictures and portraits of the civil rights era but also going to force the hand of the attorney general robert kennedy to send in federal marshals in to the
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south. 1961 is also the gear of really raging protests all across the united states in terms of counter demonstrations -- 1962 is the year of james meredith, the first black student to integrate the university of mississippi and there will be three days of rioting that leave one person dead. 1963 is the centennial of the emancipation proclamation and the city of birmingham, alabama is literally and figuratively on fire. martin luther king jr. connected with a local movement led by the reverend fred shuttlesworth to desegregate birmingham, alabama. same as the king is incarcerated in birmingham and he writes on
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scraps of paper letter from birmingham jail and he really defends the movement against critics who say the movement should move slower. the movement should wait and freedom and justice and democracy. one of the best lines from birmingham jail is king arguing in the future the young men and women being incarcerated and brutalized and arrested in birmingham are going to be remembered as heroes and he says they're going to be remembered as heroes for bringing the nation back to, quote, those great wells of democracy dug deep by the founding fathers. 1963 is the year of german shepherd fire hoses in birmingham, fire hoses that were powerful enough to take the bark off of trees, john f. kennedy says he is sick from the scenes he has witnessed in birmingham of german shepherds and fire hoses and over 1,000 young
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children, children as young as 8 years old being incarcerated for trying to desegregate birmingham, alabama. 63 is the year that i called kennedy's finest moment, june 11th, 1963, where kennedy delivers a forceful and robust and eloquent speech about race relations, american democracy and citizenship in a live nationally televised address where he calls the civil rights problem in the united states a moral problem, as old as scripture and as clear as the constitution. the very next morning after a kennedy's speech, medgar evers is assassinated in jackson, mississippi and medgar evers was unheroic field secretary for the naacp in mississippi and certainly his work has been continued by his widow, merley evers williamson.
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1963 is the year of a march on washington, august 28, 1963, and it is important to remember the first words dr. king speaks at the march on washington, he says "now is the time to make real the promise of democracy." the civil rights movement was always a movement about radical democracy. november 22, 1963, is the assassination of john f. kennedy and kennedy's assassination is really going to send shock waves throughout the country but by 1964, it also provides a context for comprehensive civil rights legislation and 1964 is the year of not just the passage of the civil rights act, but the year of freedom summer and this year is the 50th anniversary of snick summer project and freedom summer which is an experiment in interracial democracy in mississippi, something stokely carmichael contributed to and
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many others did. freedom summer is most remembered for the murders, the tragic murders of cheney and goodman, three civil rights workers who were killed right outside philadelphia, mississippi, went missing june 21, 1964. 1965 is recalled as the year of the voting rights act. in march of 1965 in alabama at the edmund pettus bridge non-violent demonstrators were , routed by alabama state troopers including future congressman john lewis who was chairman of the student nonviolent coordinating committee. nonviolent known as bloody sunday on march 7, 1965 inspires lyndon johnson on march 15th, 1965, in a joint address to congress to says that civil rights is a national priority. voting rights a national priority and johnson calls it a turning point in the politics of the dignity of humankind and the destiny of democracy.
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august 6th, 1965, the voting rights act is passed. five days later, los angeles explodes after an encounter between police and local people. that is the heroic period of the civil rights movement. i preface my comments on stokely carmichael by giving a short sketch precisely because even before stokely carmichael called for black power in 1966, he is one of the key activists in united states working for civil rights and radical democracy during the second half of the civil rights movement's heroic period. we think about stokely carmichael, before we can talk
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about the movement for black power we think of him as a community organizer, a community activist who from 1965 to 1966 was arrested 27 times for civil rights organizing. a student right here in washington d. c. at howard university who joined the non-violent action group, a group of some of the most committed and brilliant young activists of the period who are trying not just to desegregate parts of the south and parts of washington d.c. and places like cambridge, md. they're trying to transform democratic institutions in the united states of america. that is what they're trying to do and what is interesting about stokely carmichael is stokely finds his vocation as an organizer. he finds his vocation as an organizer, visit mississippi for the first time at the age of 19 in 1961 and will be the first time he is also arrested. he is arrested as a freedom rider june 8, 1961, and he is going to spend not just time in hinds county jail in jackson, mississippi but is going to
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spend 30 days in parchment penitentiary, parchment farm, the state of mississippi's worst prison farm and it is in parchment and people like john lewis are there, so many different jim farmers there, so many different activists spending time in jail but what is interesting is carmichael adds experience in jail is going to galvanize his political activism so rather than be discouraged by that time period in jail, he calls up his mother before going to new orleans and they're going to get to mississippi by way of new orleans and tells his mother there is going to the media and journalists calling up and he wants her to tell them no matter what happens she is proud of him. she tells him may charles, i don't want you involved in that
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civil rights mess. stokely tells her the movement has become his life and he doesn't want her, when you're speaking to your mother you don't want your mom to embarrass you in front of people, saying i don't want to be embarrassed, whenever the press calls you, the line to tell them is you are proud of me. so stokely is in parchment penitentiary and the press does call her up and tells him she is so proud of her son she doesn't know what she is going to do. [laughter] so she did follow and he did stokely's advice. -- heed stokely's advice. we think of carmichael as one of that key organizers, he is going to fall in love with the south. that first visit in 1961 to mississippi is going to be just the tip of the iceberg. people like bob moses in mississippi, stokely visits jackson. by 62, he is in greenwood
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mississippi, 62, 63, 64, by the , time of freedom summer, stokely is the second congressional district director heading activists who are organizing in the mississippi delta. when we think about stokely and the heroic period of the civil rights movement what was he doing? he was an organizer, living and working among poor black people in the mississippi delta and when we think about the black folks in the mississippi delta in the postwar period these are african-americans who oftentimes didn't have birth certificates, would never have certificates of death, many never had left the surrounding confine of the plantations that they were gone and with the student nonviolent coordinating committee was not serving as leaders but provide help for local leadership. fannie lou hamer, we celebrate this past week the 52 anniversary of her speech. carmichael is going to be one of
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the biggest cheerleaders and supports of fanny lieu hammer. her supports of fanny lieu hammer. he talked about fanny in an interview in 1965 with stud turkal. and he said martin luther king is very important but fanny is more important. and he said what do you mean? how can she be more important? he said because there are more of her in the united states than dr. king's. his vision of american democracy
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is found when ms. hamer gets respects, credit and access she deserved. what is is interesting for us is before becoming a black power icon and this image and symbol of political revolution. before he is with castro and others, stokely carmichael is pursuing radical freedom in the deep south. that is what he is doing. and one of the most interesting parts for me was the
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relationship between dr. king and carmichael. they were friends. they met at 1963 at howard. stokely was his body guard during freedom fest. they march together during selma and that relationship really comes to the fore once stokely is chairman of the committee in 1966. the meredith march from june 7 to june 26 is the march that transforms stokely carmichael's life and the civil riots movement. that is what james mayor dave, and would have been the first black student to enroll at ole is shot on campus and they
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march to prove a black man with , march through mississippi without here but he is shot and injured and carmichael, dr. king, and the civil rights leaders are coming to his bed side and vow to continue his march. it is a along that march that stokely carmichael after being arrested for the 27th time in greenwood, mississippi is going to call for black power. right? what did black power mean? well black power according to carmichael meant radical social, cultural, political and ethical ratification. -- economic a self-determination. dr. king said don't use there term black power because people are equating that term with violence. carmichael says the decision to unleash black power was a collective snick decision and black people need to define
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political and social phenomenon for themselves. even at our disputes and disagreements, they find common ground in a shared love for black people and black culture, especially poor black people. what is interesting in our contemporary context now when we talk about ferguson and the politics and the police brutality. the black people stokely carmichael was concerned about were the poorest of the poor. it wasn't just students even though he was concerned about students. it wasn't elites. it was the poorest of the poor because of those folks had been denied constitutional rights, citizenship, and were closed and shut out of democracy. king and carmichael, that relationship will become very close between 1966 and king's death april 4, 1968. in the course of doing research
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on stokely's life, his anti-war activism was fascinating to me. the fact that starting in 1966, the biggest antiwar activist in the united states was stokely carmichael. peopleael is one of the who inspired dr. king to come out against the war at riverside church in new york april 4, 1967. carmichael gives a powerful speech 28 -- a powerful october 28, 1966 at the university of berkeley and 10,000 people are there. he criticized the war in vietnam and talked to white students about american democracy, racial privilege and what can be done in the context of the civil rights and black power struggle to transform democratic institutions in the united states. it is a powerful speech.
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i have interviewed people who were there at the speech at berkeley and what they all say is that speech for them was a human rights speech. carmichael's anti-war activism inspired them to speak out against the car. king and carmichael my april -- by april 15, 1967 are on the same platform at the largest antiwar demonstration up until that point in the new york city at the un building. 400,000 people are there. carmichael speaks before king criticizing the war in vietnam , and criticizing violences that is happening in the united states and connects the war in vietnam to the civil rights and black power movements domestically. martin luther king jr. speaks after an inmate at harry apartment after the
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speech is over and stokely teases king and this gives you a great portrait of their relationship. king ask stokely to go to church to him and he said i am out here doing the work of the people. it gives you a great portrait of their relationship. later that month, dr. king calls stokely in atlanta. attend histokely to church service the next day and he says what are you doing tomorrow? stokely said like a good heathen , i'm not going to church, i doing the work of the people. am dr. king says i really want you to come to my church tomorrow. stokely says why? dr. singh says tomorrow, i am
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giving my full speech against the war in vietnam. stokely replies he will be there in the front row. when we look at the footage, there is a great footage of dr. king's speech. andr he makes that speech says war no more, the person leading the standing over nation is stokely carmichael. of course he has the dark shades on. but it is stokely carmichael. when we think about stokely carmichael and what he represents and why he is so important, he is not just an activist for radical democracy. he becomes an antiwar activist, a critic of american capitalism,
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and american hegemony around the world. stokely carmichael provides the context for the black partner percy -- party. they are helping local people organize for democracy in africancounty, 80% american. no black public officials. 50 years later we have similar instances now. organize wasng to hugely dangerous. they will organize in 1965 and 1966 a freedom organization whose nickname will be the black panther party. all thebol will travel
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way to oakland, california. when we think about stokely be namedl, who will honorary prime minister of the panthers in 1968, he will provide a platform for not just the panther party, but the that the newent left that different radical activists will be participating and supporting in the late 1960's. stokely's legacy is a transformative legacy, but he might be the most important activist that people have never heard of. why is that? stokely leaves the united states of america by 1969. the reason he leaves the united states is because of his 1967.ational travels in he does a five-month tour of the
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world. he is in cuba with fidel castro. fidel castro says that stokely carmichael is under his protection. he is in algeria with the revolutionary algerian leaders who offer him headquarters in support, something carmichael will not take them up on but the black panthers will in a couple of years. he meets two of his biggest .olitical heroes canadian --tic ghanaian leader who had told the andch to leave again a
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suffered consequences after. a was the brilliant south african singer, activist, been introduced to the american public by harry belafonte in the 1950's. wind romance,orld despite a nine year age gap, and they are married by 1968 and become this global pan african couple. when we think about the meeting with trip, these people transforms stokely carmichael's life great he comes back to the united states as a committed pan africanist who believes the key to back a quality and liberation lies in the unification of africa. he promises to return to africa. by 1969, he does just that.
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even though he returns for tours of the united states, he becomes a committed anti-imperialist, pan africanist revolutionary. , and reallyname becomes by the 1980's in the context of the reagan revolution, satcher is him, -- turism, and the counterrevolution that transformed the hopes and dreams that 1960's era radicals and revolutionaries had carried with them. he becomestext, anachronistic. he believes in the idea of a global political revolution. one of my favorite parts of is reading about toack obama's reaction
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seeing him at columbia university in the early 1980's. young obama in his early 20's, he talks about -- toure was talking about capitalism. he is spitting fire. recounts, he says, his eyes blazed as he spoke. the eyes of a madman or a saint. toure was a radical political activist who was unapologetic in pursuing social, political, economic, and cultural equality for black folks. shortcomings. as his biographer, i can spell them out.
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important is the fact that he provides us with to understand american race relations in a wholly different an expensive way from the cast of iconic characters who we usually look at. between martine luther king jr. and malcolm x. he provides a context for radical political self-determination, even when it's unpopular. to power, even when the standing ovation stop heard when you measure what does it mean to work in the mississippi delta, what does it mean to work in tent cities in alabama after sharecroppers had been kicked out of where they lived for decades because they want to organize for the right to vote? mean when you are democracyout small d
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in 1966 in places like the new republic and the new york review of books about the time you start saying you are against the war in vietnam, people don't want to publish you and they don't want to hear your opinion? unapologetics an political revolutionary even after the age of political revolution ended in the united states. his life is especially important and crucial in our contemporary period. when we think about where we are in 2014 on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights act, and it was the civil rights act that stokely's activism helped make happen. sometimes we have writes about the civil -- books about the civil rights act and it is a experience. the reason why the social change and political change in the 1960's happened is because social movements created such
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disruption in the united states. it created such a movement and momentum for change that there had to be legislative and political solutions applied to real world problems. president kennedy when he speaks on june 11, 1963, he said as much when he said, there is a revolution happening right here in the united states. can be violent or peaceful. when we think about stokely carmichael, the most important aspect of carmichael's activism was the way in which he helped to trye for black people to transform democratic institutions in the united states that did not want to be transformed. one of the mythologies of the civil rights movement we limit today -- live in today is one,
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it's over, and two, everybody loved the fact that it was going on. you start with a beginning, middle, and end. rosa parks, martin luther king jr., and then it ends with barack obama. by the time of obama's election, people say that's it, the civil rights movement is over. people will even tell black people, you got obama, what else do you want? as if you cash obama's checks and eat obama's food. think about the civil rights movement, it was always contested. there were millions of americans who had a different conception of american democracy that was not expensive enough to include fannie lou hamer, ella baker. ella baker is the brilliant organizer who is the lead
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organizer of the student nonviolent coordinating , told those young students in to weekend that it was about more -- that it was about more than just a hamburger. the reason she told those young students at shaw university easter weekend that sit-in movement was more about just a hamburger, by april of 1960, "the new york times" and newspapers and mainstream media are trying to say, the movement, that's what it's about. people want to get access to lunch counters. not baker said, this is just about lunch counters or hamburgers. this is about small d democracy. james baldwin, the brilliant and prophetic writer, said in a way that only james baldwin can -- he writes and 61, the young people who are organizing and are in demonstrations all across the south at lunch counters,
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they are doing it to do more than what baldwin called, sip tasteless cups of coffee at sleazy lunch counters all across the south. not me.ames baldwin, what's important for us when we think about stokely carmichael and the civil rights movement, when we think about where we are today in the context of american race relations and race and democracy, civil rights and citizenship, carmichael's life provides an example, kwame ture, of a life well lived. he doesn't become a hedge fund later. he didn't invent the iphone. what he did was provide millions of poor, at times some educated, semi literate black people hope. the way he did that was through organizing for small deed
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democracy, and then a political revolution, but also calling for black power and black self-determination. lack ise idea of beautiful is impossible without stokely carmichael. black is beautiful is impossible without stokely carmichael. it's impossible without stokely carmichael. i guess we are going to take some questions at some point. i will conclude by saying the most important thing to me about writing this book was providing an introduction to stokely to achael, kwame ture,
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whole new generation of americans who don't realize the profound impact that he had on american democracy and globally. and providing an introduction to somebody who, whether you agree or disagree with aspects of what was always personally sincere. his love for and andunderdog and poor people political justice is what really the factt for me, and that he really walk the talk. this is somebody who did not just say they were advocating for black equality. he lived a life of advocating even when atality, times that meant injuring himself and not getting the access or benefits that would have common if he had ameliorated or moderated his stance.
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i think the important part for us to remember about stokely carmichael is, his willingness and courage to speak truth to power, but his willingness to live and work and die among poor outstanding and provides a legacy that hopefully we can all learn from. thank you. [applause] here history bookshelf, from the country's best-known american history writers of the past decade, every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern. watch any of our programs and a you visit our website, www.c-span.org/history. on american history tv,
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historians talk about how their history backgrounds help them in .heir roles as executives it is about an hour and 15 minutes. coming. you for i'm the president of the organization of american historians. discussere today to historians as leaders. inseemed very appropriate part because this conference is on leadership, which i am perfectly aware is a kind of corny term, ok? but we live in a society that is in need of that qua,

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