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tv   Never Been a Time  CSPAN  July 1, 2017 4:00pm-4:53pm EDT

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>> thursday, july 6 at 7:00 p.m. eastern time the museum of the american revolution. >> this year marks the centennial of the 19 six riots in st. louis. they killed almost 50 people people. they recall the events that lead to one of the deadliest race the author is part of the civil rights movement. was 45 minute event recorded in st. louis.
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>> i'd like to quote if i might of mr. burns but in the -- he says this is the most compelling yet produced on the seminal event in the history of american race relations. it tells us a lot of how he came to being, who we are and what we can and will be. barnes tale of innocence lost to greet, corruption and lust for power. barnes shows the stability of the black community that was slowly and methodically undermined by the destruction of innocence that white workers have long accepted. this is where this book really begins to achieve it's unfolding power. burns tells the story. i pasted the last part. [ laughing ] >> it was really great and that's why i cut it out. [ laughing ]
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>> i am really sorry. i haven't planned this. >> before we begin, i'd like to sit a few personal things about harper. in 1977, when we move to this location, harper wrote an article in the "post" about this for the sunday paper. at midnight saturday night we waited anxiously for the paper to be delivered. what a thrill. harper was the first journalist to recognize us and it was the most welcome and truly appreciated article that has ever been written about us us. before his first novel, he gave at the gallery -- it says blue monday harper-arts publication in 1991. and then we did a book signing when the book finally came out
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on monday. and he inscribed it to us. i just want to read it. it says for my old friends, i can't a match and a better start for my book. thanks. and love to you all, harper-barnes. and now, harper byrnes. [ applause ] >> thank you. imagine a better start to this one. i am going to read a very short excerpts from the books and we will discuss it and i will answer questions which i hope there will be some. july 2nd, 20008 is the 91st anniversary of the east st. louis race riot the first and
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the deadliest of a series of devastating racial battles that's what american cities in the world war one era. in the years leading up to the summer of 1917, by the thousands who flew north to st. louis they were competing for white jobs. employers use strike breakers to destroy white unions and continued to lure black north with promises of employment long past the time when the job market was saturated. many blacks ended up homeless are crowded into shanties and stories in local newspapers but many whites to believe blacks work on a rampage. blacks were attacked by white mobs drop the summer of 1973 and july 1st, armed whites drove to black neighborhoods firing in homes. black's finding that. and on a street two white
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policemen were killed almost certainly because they were mistaken for the vigilantes' terrorizing black neighborhoods. in retaliation whites began attacking blacks on the streets and a full-scale riot broke out. by the end of the long summer day, hundreds of black men, women and children had been brutally assaulted with at least 39 killed, thousands have fled the city and more than 300 homes and places of business have been destroyed by fire. the the right route worse as the day went along. i'm going to pick up a vivisection that takes place in the late afternoon. this is called a "storm coming." about 5 p m in ace spectacular for ricky old houses were blacks lived in an area of warehouses near downtown st. louis railroad guards burst into
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play dumb at the flames simultaneously. the houses were main street and brady avenue, three blocks south of city hall. half a dozen black men tried to run out of the torched houses. armed rioters fired and the wounded men were thrown back into the building burnings. a half-dozen soldiers would meet across the wall watching. they held rifles and had full cartridge belts but the men did nothing. they were leaving list overwhelm, observed reporter roy alpert said. he did that they wanted to stop the bright and nothing suggested they did, without the newspaper like lost base in the woods. by then, the mob had broken up into clusters moving through the streets of downtown with the center of the right in the heart of the city about two blocks south of city hall. fire alarms sounded signaling a new fire on walnut avenue and the siren kept blowing.
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there were many more fires that east st. louis had firemen or trucks or water precious to fight. the siren sounded into the night. as the smoke rose into the air, thousands of blacks live across the mississippi river barge crowds black and white came down to the credit to watch the exodus. among them, was an 11 year old girl named free-josephine the bomb. many years later after she became famous as josephine baker she broke down which she had heard. she and her family lived in a tiny shack. her father was on relief and she woke up humphrey and she did on monday, july 2nd. that afternoon she wrote and ominous humming sound filled the air it seemed to be growing near. it is there a storm coming my brother richard f.?
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not a storm, child. it is the whites. two tiny black and white poppies shared the bad. i had discovered them have been in a trash can what i was sorting through garbage. they barely had strength to whine. having my babies up i treat along behind mama who was pushing richard and my sister margaret up the door. what i saw before me have been described a church that sunday by the rev. this was the apocalypse, clouds rolling from incandescent light of huge flames raced across the sky but not as quickly as breath plus figures that-in all directions. the entire black media appear to be in flames. a precocious child butting into womanhood, josephine had been planning on leaving st. louis and heading for broadway. and the right mate st. louis last bareboat as mistrust
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between the races and the color line became more rigid. two years later the 13 year old girl stepped on a train and headed east. before josephine baker was out of her teens, pressing her dancing, wit and beauty, powerful ambition and the unstoppable desire never to live remotely close to races east st. louis had made her a star in new york and then in paris where she remained. a half-dozen blocks south of east st. louis a black woman named katherine kennedy decided it was time to the house some pickett avenue where she was raising her nine children without a father. earlier in the day white men fired into the house and now
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flames respect for the wooden structure. she had been warned that white mobs were attacking blacks at the eastern and so she and her younger brother gather together the six boys and girls and headed west across the nearby railroad yard to the river. they carried with them stockings and long strips of cloth. if they went, sometimes ducking into the shadows, they gathered scrap lumber from shanties ever been torn down. at the river's edge, they built a raft. when they first launched the representative, becomes a vessel kept turning around in circles. eventually they figured out how to divide the pedal is. the missouri sure was 500 yards away. after a long struggle with the relentless current carrying the boat downstream they landed on the western shore up the mississippi. seven year old sam neil kennedy looked back across the river he would never forget what he saw. it looked like the whole horizon
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was on fire. in early july, 1997, st. louis whose grandmother catherine and salmon harvested from the 1917 right on a raft with a ceremony in downtown east st. louis to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the tragedy. several hundred people including survivors of the right and their descendants joined the commemoration. gary kennedy wanted to honor the people of both races who perished in the private and to encourage unity. he spoke of his brother, who after a long struggle with poverty, at one point made his the in boxing, became the president of a local textile union ended 1962, a st. louis alderman. he served until is death in 1988. the following year, his son was elected to succeed him. he is still on the board of
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aldermen. on broadway between seventh and eighth street black policeman saw the fire moving eastward toward the two-story frame house where he and his wife lived. they were in their '30's. he had come home at noon to be with her. he told her to leave and go to st. louis. if he was going to stay, so was she. white men fired into the building several times and the nelsons were sitting on the floor in the middle room of their second story flat keeping away from the windows. about 70 am a white man took a brick through the window and nelson raised his head to see a half dozen white men in the street. just then, half a dozen men came into view.
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mrs. nelson thinking she would be protected ran to the front of the house. when she appeared, several white men fired into the house. the soldiers did nothing. nelson yelled to his wife us try to get out the back way. the rickety wooden back steps were beginning to burn. with his wife hanging onto him, nelson walked out the back door and into the flames. the bottom of her dress caught fire and she let go of her husband. he turned it slapped the flames on her dress. the two of them jumped and a half plight of stairs to the flames to the ground. neighboring houses were burning. nelson and his wife ran out of the backyard and start it up it street for broadway. a white man nelson had never seen was standing by what he saw the nelsons' he waved them back. don't go that way, goes this way. he waved toward the alley. across the alley was a large bank and covered with a jumble of weeds. holding hands, nelson ran across
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the alley and through themselves down into the weeds. they hit and watched catching their breath as east st. louis burned around them. only then did they discover the painful burn on the palm of their hands. at the light of the rising sun came through the smoke, black policemen nelson and his wife cautiously rose from their hiding place. well over 200 buildings, homes, stores, cafes, had been destroyed. most of them were in black neighborhoods downtown and in the south and but the riders attacked and looted areas where many whites live. the nelsons own flat were rebel they stretched aching muscles and looked around to see that for several blocks it looked like the aftermath of house-to-house fighting in the
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great work. the nelsons didn't see any white people so they began walking slowly to the east away from downtown east st. louis. they hope to pick up a ride. but when they got there, the car was gone and so was the house. soon, they found themselves part of the stream of black refugees. the nelsons walked 9 miles that day and did not return for two weeks. i have one other. reception. on july 8, 1917, the voice to the train from new york to east st. louis along with social worker to investigate the right on behalf of the naacp. they assembled a staff of more than two dozen investigators and stayed for about a week. a fling with anger after hearing dozens of tales of horrible abuse and murder, decided at least 100 perhaps as many as 200 blacks have been murdered. he wrote thousands of any
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reports about the bright, beginning as soon as his train pulled out of st. louis. despite pleas for a federal investigation, and dozens of prominent political and religious, business and labor leaders and hand delivered a petition from the naacp containing 15,000 signatures that call for an investigation and federal and type machine legislation, president woodrow wilson continued to ignore the record, and blacks decided to catch the president's attention and perhaps force his hand with an unprecedented demonstration in america's largest city. they waited until he had returned to new york and on saturday, july 28, he and johnson joined a thousand to 10,000 blacks marching down fifth avenue to the beat of drums inside a protest against the right and horrific machines in memphis and texas calling for immediate action on entire machine legislation.
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some carried signs addressed to wilson. mr. president make america safe for democracy. pray for the lady macbeth of st. louis. your hands are full of blood. it was america's first major civil rights march. along the parade route black boy scouts handed out fliers that proclaimed the march because we want to make impossible a repetition. the silent parade inspired blacks across america and along with the bright in east st. louis became a prime element in the memory of a race like a half century of slavery and memory that persisted for decades. in 1930's, east of st. louis and loraine, ohio, a legendary stock in an underground railroad young tony morrison heard of the stories and she never forgot what she had been told about the summer when whites slaughtered blacks and thousands of african
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americans marched in protest down white america's wealth the avenue. the riot covers like a dark forest whose doom central character, perhaps based in part i. josephine baker, survive the bride that killed her parents but never feels safe even in the midst of america's largest black city. it is so shattered by the experience of the private that she could not speak of it. she stands side alice in harlem and watches the silent parade. the two of them "marveling at bases and listening to drums and the graceful when" it was july in 1917 and the beautiful faces were cold and quiet, moving slowly into the space. down fifth avenue from curve to curve came a tide of cold black faces, speechless and unblinking because what they had meant to
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say but did not trust themselves to say, drums set for them. thank you. [ applause ] >> i will be happy to answer any questions. as barry said, if you have a question, wait for the microphone. we will be on tv. yes? >> josephine baker part, a lot of us are under the impression that josephine baker actually lived in rushed city in east st. louis. how do we began clarifying that? even if you look at the movie, "josephine baker," they say st.
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louis but they show a little house that has a trap door like the little shotgun houses have been brushed city where they would stashed their goods and that is how the family in that depiction of the movie escaped the burning house. >> all i know is that in her autobiography, she talks about growing up in the chest not valid, which would have been near union station. i had not heard about the rush city idea, but it could be. as you all know, much of black history is oral history and it is only in the last 20 or 30 years that historians have come to realize that oral history is real history just as written history is. so it could be. i just don't know.
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>> yes, sir? >> i had heard from my parents the same thing, that they lived -- that she lived in a rush city. i'm 72. in fact, they were talking about the house that she had lived in. but some of them said they had met her later on and she was so devastated by her experience that she really didn't want to talk about it. that is what my grandmother was telling me. >> the gentleman was talking about the possibility she had lived in rush city which is an area of east st. louis south of the south and, and that she just would speak of its leader. it is as if she had bought it from her mind.
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>> a question i have, too, was we keep hearing the different figures, different numbers. has anybody tried to really determine in research terms just what the numbers were? you hear different figures. >> i didn't. what i did, i did go backed to the -- apparently, a lot of blacks were not included in the coroner's report. the reports we're much short, shorter of the figure. the congressional investigation committee came up with a figure of 39 blacks. that has been established as the offical amount of deaths. i believe as well as believed as many people believe that it was actually 100 people or 200 people. but we don't know. there was one story that i did read who wrote -- a professor for wrote an excellent book in
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the '60s about the east st. st.louis race right. he talks about a widow who collected life insurance on her husband and her husband is not one of the official death people. if the insurance company is going to pick off that leads you to believe they miscounted some people. other than the coroner's report, i read the congressional investigation committee and they come up with a bigger of 38, 39 blacks and eight or nine whites. i think was more. yes? >> as i was talking --as yet met my father who lived in the riots, he set and has often told me since i was a child that the number of flights that were killed was intentionally under-reported for fear of in power and the black community to let them know that you knew that you have power.
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daddy told me a number of times there were a whole lot of what's that were killed they just didn't report it. >> he makes a point that there have been many stories there were whites killed and their death toll was not accurate because a large death toll would in power blacks. i had not heard that. there certainly was -- when of the things the price it was about was denying power to white people i wouldn't be surprised. >> i ran across st. louis to safety during that period. it was a haven. >> i've heard rumors thatthe st. louis police we're actually shooting riders, shooting at rioters to protect people fleeing from east st. louis. i think about 7,000 people were
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treated at what was called a municipal lodging house down by city hall which was a little more than half the black population of east st. louis. the majority of the black population of east lewis fled across the bridges into st louis. were they were apparently well taken care. >> yes, sir >> i have a question in the period of 1917, that two years prior to that, the movie "the birth of nation" was released and that was the most venomous movie that was shown in circulation, wherever that movie was shown, the riots broke out right after the screening of it. i've wondered if that movie had recently been shown in east st. louis prior to this? >> the gentleman makes a point about the showing of the movie
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"birth of nation." when it first came out it was shown in cities across the country. attacks on blacks and riots broke out on the wake of the movie. as it turns out, "birth of nation" made it to st. louis in 1917, in the late winter. so they're very well may have been a connection between the movie and the riot movie and the riot:movie and because if it stock with people thought long in the oral tradition, then it must be something very powerful and i think it was something very powerful.
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i thought about the book when it was the attack. he said that in a speech in philadelphia that a love when people do not understand how terrible things have been for so long for black america. generation ofhe those that are a little younger than miles davis and he was on in 1926. he was born nine years after the riots. the stories that he heard growing up that he mentions in his autobiography he feels that they had affected his way of
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looking at life. was one of the reasons i found the book interest in. longuck with people that with the oral tradition. it must be something very powerful. it would be great if it was taught in school. >> in response to what he just said -- in response to what he just said, i under the umbrella for humanity's am doing a summer school at the alternative mill school on 25th and kansas. i taught this morning in summer school in east st. louis. [applause] >> i'm just wondering how you found the coverage in the press,
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the st. louis press, of the riot? may be the st. louis belfield area press coverage. >> the coverage in the press was the question. the coverage and particularly the post patched and democrat was quite amazing. the post-dispatch in particular, a reporter named carlos was one of the most famous reporters in the americas in 1970. carlos had been the man who had gotten the scoop survivors of the titanic shipwreck in 1912. he got the first interviews with the survivors of the titanic. and carlos what was called a re-ride man. he was sitting at his desk in the post-dispatch building which >> finally, you look at his window and he could see the
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blacks streaming across the rivers and student fires. he had to go deeper himself. he took the streetcar to broadway and spend about two hours observing the rights for himself. what he saw horrified him and he brought a powerful piece. it was a first-person piece. 3000 words long. story andy long for a a newspaper those days. some of the other papers were not so hot. journal dids daily not do a very good job. they had a clearly racist slant on the whole thing. republic -- i can excuse francis.
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he was experiencing the russian revolution. the st. louis republic basically blamed everything on black going back well before the policeman was shot. the democrats did an example. -- an exemplary job. the black newspaper did a terrific job. over and gotorters what i think is probably a more accurate portrait of what really went on than most of the white papers. >> i would like to ask you a couple of questions. i was fortunate to meet 80-year-old men and women who had an interest in history.
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i'm a citizen of st. louis. i want to know if you found anything about the funeral home which was on broadway, and african-american funeral home. with this particular funeral home, information was always kaufman's -- the coffins were used to bring weapons into the south side. into the homes while he men were working in a lot of houses. they would remove weapons to cut down on the violence. also, the jewish community relationship with african-americans were aiding with the weapons for south defense -- self-defense. i was wondering if any of that came up in your research. one last thing, you shared on the-- information regarding
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lynching downtown in the city hall area. that was seen as the linchpin that came things off -- kick things off. that was the one that really set it up for the african-americans. the media has always played down the numbers of caucasians that had questions we about the american soldiers that were killed. >> that would make sense. i sat in the book, there were guns that were brought in, they were brought across the river in hearses and coffins. there were pond brokers who
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blacks whenuns to no one else would. i don't know if they were jewish or not. they were pawnbrokers. the fact that the number of white people were killed was larger than reported was certainly not surprising. it would fit in with the general view of the riots. it was a reaction against the power of black people. that is very little power that they had. >> my question has to do with -- going back to the. of the dred scott defense. as i understand it, the defense was that he lived in illinois and then he moved back to
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timeuri and somehow by the of 1917, it seemed like things have changed, missouri became a illinois was heavily negative toward the black community. the dred scott decision -- ultimately, the decision was that he was not a free man. state,s had been a free missouri had been a slave state, people expected illinois to treat black people better. st. louis, springfield, chicago, all three.
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i think what happened in st. louis, one of the things that happened is that black people came to east st. louis thinking there were coming to the north. -- miles davist has a realst. louis southern feel to it. the ku klux klan was very active in border states, states like illinois and indiana. illinois building was in the haven that it was thought to be. when st.ot to say that louis did except black refugees and took care of them, it was welcoming. at about that. of time, the voters of st. louis passed a law that essentially
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entity whereegated lines were drawn on the map and blacks and whites cannot move across those lines. they can later. -- they could later declared unconstitutional. it was about the time of the right. i believe the lowest passed the same year as the right. i don't believe the right had anything to do with it. the campaign had started in about 1950. >> i heard your interview on ksw kwnu.u -- was asking your questions, one was about the harbors perpetuated against blacks. he didn't want to go into
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specificity about it. i think there is a pattern of wherever it comes to the horrors against african-americans. could you speak a little bit to some of the horse perpetuated against the black community? were there other specific things that stand out? at least two men were hung. reportede incidents was when the white mob was trying to get one of the hanging victims up on his feet and up on the pole. split and a man put his hand inside his scalp and someone say -- some said left for east st. louis.
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for east st.lift louis. boy was picked up by white men and thrown into a burning building and was never seen again. right cap a way of gathering momentum. have a way of gathering momentum. they got uglier and uglier as they went on. it was horrible. i had two questions, one is could you compare the right in east st. louis to the right across the country at the same time russia? can you say what sparked it? when did african-americans start returning and rebuilding in a
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stimulus -- east st. louis? how did the communities change? harper: those are good questions. i am not sure i can answer them. riots in othere cities, they are different, precipitating events in each one. the one in chicago was precipitated when a boy was swimming at a beach and a white man did not want him there and threw a rock at him and hit him in the head and he drowned. fistfights broke out. in almost every case, there were two dozen rights and in a most every case, you had blacks and whites competing. you had blacks being used as
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examples. you have black people living in substandard housing. atmosphere ofral racial antagonism. eventlly, there was some that was different in each case. the defender was ready for the flame. the black people started moving back into east st. louis in the 20's and 30's. 1920,stingly enough, in it was this and that it was in 1910, all of those people who had moved in would have been about three or four or maybe 5000. the people who moved in in the middle of the 19 teens, they had
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moved out. east st. louis became a it was a celebrated black town. a great deal of music came out of st. louis. a great deal of black culture. amazing for what black population achieved in that town. up, heles davis grew
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grew up in the south end. the neighborhood he lived in, people get along fairly well. right,d gotten over the although, they had not gotten over the right entirely. tough one.a the supreme court ruling allowing everybody to own handguns, if that had taken place in 1917, with the have made things worse or better? harper: everybody already owned a handgun back then. [applause] [laughter] strike that last remark. there were a lot of guns. there were a lot of guns in st. louis. this is between the
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appalachia and the ozark. that may have a lot to do with it. thing kicks off, you had terrorists coming from all areas. it is unknown how many writers came from a little mining town around southern illinois. even over in kentucky. they did come from the area. harper: two more questions. >> can you talk about the political atmosphere of the time ?
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do you see any parallels as far as the issues of immigration than and the way it is today? harper: political issues at the time and immigration today, one that the white citizens of east st. louis rioted was that they were writing against a political statement. it was not only deeply corrupt the black people were the swing vote. the mayor received the black many white people opposed him for that reason. theink when you think about jobs that black people were taking at the stockyards, it was st. louismiddle-class residents did not want. i see a parallel about
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immigration. that is a pretty complicated subject but i do see parallels. are speaking on the side of the river but are you speaking on east -- in east st. louis? harper: i would be happy to. this is just getting started. this is the official launch of the book. >> perhaps the 20th would be appropriate for us to do that. is not time to plan it and you can't be on the east side. -- thatthat make sense
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makes sense. there is the head of the associationcademic over there. every year, she has organized a commemoration of the east st. louis race riot. it was a silent parade, a silent march professional from downtown is to san luis to the east bridge. a wreath is dropped on the mississippi river. she is talking about having it on the 28th, in commemoration of the silent parade in new york. it makes sense to me. i guess i will be speaking in east st. louis. >> thank you all very much. before anybody moves, isaac we arper a i think we owe h big round of applause.
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[applause] we will start the book signing now, i would like to start a line coming this way. -- if we couldve move some of the chairs away. there are refreshments in the background. thank you again for coming. >> hear from the best-known american history writers of the last decade.
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you can watch any of our programs at any time, you can visit our website c-span.org/history. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> this holiday weekend, on american history tv, on c-span3, today at 6:00 p.m. eastern, on the civil war, historians discuss new york city during the war from divided political loyalties to its southern economic times. in the 1853 draft rights it seems clear that these draft , perfecte an organic storm of resentment that had been building for maybe half a century. was notsaying that this so much an irish riot but a working men's right. -- riot.
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george corbin had sold the property are. he was distancing himself. there were still family stories about the land but they were getting fewer. it is sort of a retreat. there wasn't a lot on the land to recall where the buildings were. >> monday on eastern -- and talk emmys in. the 19 semis seven documentary, men of bronze about soldiers of the all-black 369th u.s. infantry regiment. >> there were our canteens, our rifles, and/or helmets.
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>> in tuesday -- david mccullough talks about how the founders -- particularly john adams value education, viewed slavery and persevered in this hardship and how these ideals shaped american society. >> they grew up on a warm where he had no money. .is father was illiterate there was a bible in a bible in the house and that was the only book. hard every day. as he said, he discovered jobs and became -- go to c-span.org.
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our comcast cable partners worked with this staff when we traveled to portland oregon. state'se state parse -- largest city. >> for that has one of the largest park systems in the u.s.. there is an abundant amount of greenery and plant life.

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