tv 1940s Black Voter Suppression CSPAN December 2, 2017 8:35am-10:06am EST
the second talk is given by a the journalist pulitzer prize beat,g author of the race director of the journalism program at emory university. this symposium is hosted by the university of the south and tennessee. this is about 90 minutes. >> good morning, everyone. good morning again and thank you for joining our second session today. i teach in the history program here. i also am the director of the project on slavery, race, and reconciliation, the institution's endeavored to not only understand a particular history, but the obligations that that history has had for
us. it is my pleasure today to introduce our speakers in order of their appearance. first up this morning is professor tracy campbell at the university of kentucky. professor campbell received his ba from the university of kentucky and phd at duke university, has a remarkable record of teaching and scholarship in history in the united states of the 20th century. before arriving at kentucky, he taught at mars hill and union colleges. since he has been at kentucky, he has been recognized not only for his scholarship but especially for his skill as a classroom teacher. he is the author of numerous articles and five major books, including, most recently, his 2013 study of the gateway arch in st. louis, which he tellingly calls a biography.
this is directly related to our symposium today. his 2005 work, deliver the vote: the history of election fraud in american political tradition. this is a book that we need to take up today, if not for the first time, even for the second time. "america's year of peril," the meaning of which will become clear to us with his presentation today. voting rights under stress, soldiers, and race in the 1942 election. our second panelist is a pulitzer prize-winning author, hank klibanoff. he worked as an editor at the nation's most distinguished newspapers.
he joined the faculty at emory after working at the boston globe, the philadelphia inquirer , and the atlantic constitution. the 2007 book he co-authored with his fellow journalist won the pulitzer prize for history that year. the new york times described the race beat as a richly textured and balanced narrative that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the news media as well as the personal and contingent factors, the subtle negotiations, missed opportunities and sometimes corrupt efforts that influenced the on the ground coverage of the movement and its opponents. no doubt this book needs to be read or reread today. in recent years, he has directed
the georgia civil rights cold cases project, which enlists emory undergraduates in investigating the history of the jim crow era in georgia by investigating unsolved or unpunished racially motivated crimes -- murders that happened in that state. this talk today reflects the work of his journalistic career and leadership of the cold case project. the whites only primaries last gasp and how it played out on the unyielding soil of georgia. please join me in welcoming this morning in welcoming for their insights and reflections, professor campbell. [applause] dr. campbell: thank you, woody, for the very kind introduction. thank you to the university of the univer -- university of
the south for inviting me and for such a timely and remarkable gathering and to you, for your kind hospitality. for making the trains run on time. we really appreciate it. i am going to talk about a snapshot this morning. i think it is a pretty revealing snapshot of the united states in a particular year and at a particular moment. the premise for my paper is pretty straightforward. if you want to understand some of the realities of voting i think it is useful to observe the sporting rights when the country is under the greatest stress and when it's very survival is on the line. just as individuals or families can undergo stress or trauma, so can countries. those moments can expose a person or a country's inherent strengths and flaws quite like nothing else. things tend to rise to the surface under that kind of pressure. in the 20th century, that stress was never greater than the year following the attack on pearl harbor.
america's entry into world war ii, which is of course 1942. the way the country debated voting rights that year, in wartime as it conducted a national election tells us a lot. i think if we look at the context of it, it tells us a good deal about the fragile nature of american democracy and the way in which the 15th amendment was negated. there is a collective narrative about 1942. i think we sometimes read history backward. we know we are going to win the war, so we gloss over some things. if we are going to look at 1942, i think it is helpful to understand it on its own terms. the collective narrative, which is symbolized by this portrait, kind of goes like this. after a little early panic and worry, the nation came together, built a massive production
miracle, we cast partisan and sectional differences aside. once the allies turned back the japanese at midway and landed in north africa, ultimate victory was in sight. at home and abroad we came together. unity was the common theme. byd in tom brokaw's words "the greatest generation any society has ever produced." i think if we're going to understand 1942, we also have to see a different reality. this is a series of paintings by thomas dunne in 1942 in reaction to pearl harbor. he called about eight of these paintings "america's year of peril, 1942." this was similar to other themes that were possible.
this is a time when the federal government was selling insurance policies against attack. people as far inland as indiana wa are buying these policies to make sure they were protected against any kind of foreign attack. at a time in which some in the government worried we might lose the war or areas along the coast or well inland could be subject to many more attacks, at a time in which one former president called upon the nation to give president roosevelt dictatorial powers, this is a time when they -- a large portion of congress wanted to make sure the war was not used to expand voting rights. that is what i want to focus on. two moments that happen in the fall of 1942 that i think are similarly instructive. one occurred in september. as congress considered an issue that seemed a rather straightforward matter without any ulterior political motives.
with the upcoming elections approaching, congress debated a bill that would allow soldiers serving away from home to vote via absentee ballot. by this time in september, over four million americans were serving in the military, and almost all of them would not be home in their precinct on election day. at a time in which democracy at the time was at stake, what better way to display character by allowing those putting their lives on the line to vote for their leaders? legislators facing reelection were anxious to support the measure that supported veteran groups and families of soldiers. the representative of the --rd district in tennessee not far from here -- inserted an amendment that waived the poll tax requirement from soldiers
from 8 southern states, this one of the fault lines in american politics. if this could be waived, some worried it could be used as a wedge and outlaw other elections. that was a threat to many white southerners who felt elections were purely local affairs and such intrusions by congress were unconstitutional assaults on state sovereignty. representative sam hobbs of alabama described the soldier "an attack on our southern way of life and white supremacy." they actually said these things. if there is one thing about the 1940's, they just said it. there is no code. they say what they actually meant. you will see what i mean in a few minutes. he said it was an attempt to cater to the soldier vote at the expense of the foundation of our
democracy. since reconstruction, poll taxes were among some of the most effective ways, along with violence and literacy tests and the white primaries, of keeping african-americans from voting. here is a particular poll tax receipt from texas. i believe it is $1.75. most in the 1940's were between $1 or $2. they working legitimate. if you missed a primary election or special election, you have to make up a third time. you can never get by without paying for it. the poll tax gets about 11 million people from voting. -- the poll tax kept about 11 million people from voting. by 1940, it was estimated that 3% of african-americans in the south were registered to vote. poll taxes also kept poor whites from voting.
about 66% of adults in non-poll states voted. in all4% of adults voted tax states. skewed democracy. a historian notes in 1940, georgia's edward cox had been elected to a seat by 5187 votes, while in washington state representative won his state with 147,000. through their grip on voting rights, southern democrats were elected time and time again. here is a cartoon about the poll tax. if you can make out some of the figures, they might look familiar, because this is dr. seuss. he was a cartoonist that worked a lot with a periodical called "pm." through their iron grip on voting rights, southern democrats were elected time and time again.
their subsequent seniority meant chairmanships on crucial committees. in 1942, as we go to war, southerners chaired seven of the 10 most powerful chair committees, including agricultural appropriations, commerce, formulations, and -- foreign relations, and rules. no one in the house was more this all caps than john rankin. the 11-term representative salt -- saw dangerous elements approaching. he said this was "part of a long-range, communistic programming to change our form of government." it would take out of the hands the power of white americans. rankin's argument against the
bill failed to win over a majority of his house colleagues, who passed the bill on september 9. an outraged rankin called the bill nothing more than a scheme to abolish state government. he added the next step will be to abolish congress. i remind you, they actually said this. [laughter] dr. campbell: the senate passed the bill on a voice vote. senators tom connolly of texas and lester hill of alabama said in the process of approving the measure, the senate had ruptured constitutional processes. opponents of the bill understood the political implications of denying soldiers the right to vote and were reluctant to wage a full-skill filibuster. -- full-scale filibuster. they had to take their medicine at this particular moment. president roosevelt signed into law, which required the war and navy departments to distribute postal cards to members of the armed forces who can then
request a ballot from their state. this process really meant it was too late to be operational on election day coming up and 48 days. the debate is not quite over. i will get to it in just a moment. if we go to the election itself, the roosevelt administration in the fall of 1942 has reason to worry. in a previous election in world war i in 1918, republicans won five senate seats and 25 house seats to take control of both houses. throughout 1942, voters were frustrated with a lot of things. the slow pace of the war, gas and food rationing, higher taxes, and congressional inaction on inflation. congress had moved swiftly earlier in the year to give themselves pensions, which produced another widespread outcry and a quick reversal weeks later. while fdr may not have been on
the ballot himself, it was becoming a referendum of sorts to his handling and the administration's handling of the war. some worried fdr might use as wartime powers to cancel the election altogether. wit all that was at stake, life magazine predicted the elections might be among the most fateful in u.s. history. in a gallup poll taken on the eve of the 1942 election showed americans favored democrats about 52 to 48. on election night, republicans shocked many observers by picking up 43 house seats, nine senate seats, making it the greatest gain by the opposition party in midterm elections since 1918. you can see the majorities in both houses, how they shrunk, particularly in the house where 267-165 spread was changed to just a bare 222-209 margin. with a switch of just seven democrats in the house,
republicans could defeat any administration measure. consequently, the power of the reactionary southern block increased. house members like john rankin and martin deese were elected to their house seats without any opposition. among the newly elected senators was mississippi's james o. eastland, a wealthy plantation owner who would become a leader of voting rights for a generation. he was among eight southern democrats in the senate who won their general election without facing any opposition. the results of the 1942 elections were often interpreted in sweeping terms. the chicago tribune which hated roosevelt, said "the people of this land have turned back the most terrible threat, which has confronted them in their national history." time magazine
said, "no one can say the retrospective history exactly when one political movement dies and another is born, but anyone who looked at the election last week could see that week and see -- last week could see that franklin roosevelt's new deal was sick." the success would combine the electoral college vote up 321 votes spelled potential disaster for fdr or anyone else who might be thinking of running on the democratic ticket in 1944. i think interpreting the election in sweeping terms misses another point. the election witnessed the lowest turnout, 33.9% for a congressional race in the 20th century. lower than even the 2014 congressional election. although the soldier voting act of 1942 was passed in september, allowing soldiers to vote, only 28,000 actually could vote. less than 1% of those serving overseas. so interpreting what the
american people thought or felt about 1942 is hard to get at from the election results. regardless of the turnout, the election had immediate consequences. two remaining agencies from the new deal, the wpa and the ccc, were quickly abolished. efforts to expand social security and medical insurance forwarded. political -- if the political winds were not necessarily highlighted in the election, i think this hides underlying impulses. for example, in a poll taken by fortune magazine in november, this outlines for what some people hopes were after the war provides a glimpse that i do not think a lot of americans understand. 74% of americans polled said they thought the government should collect enough taxes after the war to provide medical care for anyone who needed it. three out of four.
67% wanted the government to provide jobs for people if they were willing and able to work in case of a recession. maybe even most astonishing, 31.9% said that they wanted a law limiting the amount of money and individual could earn. roosevelt was proposing a $25,000 limit on incomes in 1942. which was also very popular. when asked if he thinks some form of socialism would be a good thing or a bad thing, 25% said it would be good, 34% were not quite sure yet. that is one moment. the second moment when voting rights are exposed came after the election. when the senate convened to consider a house bill sponsored by a california democrat that died in 1941 but had sponsored
this bill many months beforehand to end poll taxes altogether in federal elections. although the bill faced solid opposition from southern democrats who said the bill waged war against southern people of the united states, it passed the house. when it came to the senate, it faced a filibuster, this time after the election without soldiers involved southerners are ready to launch a filibuster. the filibuster was led by many people, including theodore bilbo of mississippi and richard russell of georgia. together with other southern senators, they brought the senate to a standstill for seven days in november 1942. endless form calls were demanded as well as complete readings of the journal.
bilbo made it clear, "if this poll tax bill passes, next to be an effort to remove the education qualifications. we will have no way of preventing negros from voting." richard russell defended reconstruction and the history of race relations in his state, saying "any fair-minded man who studies the history of the last 75 years would commend the south and the great work we have done." obviously, he would not consider you to be a fair-minded man in this respect, professor. here is another cartoon by dr. seuss about theodore bilbo. the impass in the senate reached a dramatic moment on saturday, november 14, when and majority leader called for a quorum and
ordered when some southerners left the hall, their arrest. one of those missing and was deeply offended by the maneuver was tennessee's kenneth mckellar, saying being called a filibusterer holds no terror for me, adding he would work to his last breath and with every means to defeat "this iniquitous measure." mckellar said, "our so-called leader is leading us straight into the republican party." barkley responded by saying, "this bill's passage would enfranchise 200,000 white people."
poor tenant farmers will think a long time before paying $1.50 when it comes to putting shoes on the their feet of their children. this caused mckellar to withdraw his name from a letter he had signed, along with several other senators, urging president roosevelt to nominate berkeley to the supreme court. the southern filibusterers knew their actions may be seen as obstructionist by many, but not from their white constituents. senator george north of nebraska spoke out against the filibuster. a response came from charles e simons of austin, texas. he said, "you must not have very much to do except sticking your nose into the home affairs of states which have proven capable of running their own business as your home state." he urged senator norris to not expend energies on things
that do not affect him. "we can get along without your help." the sponsors of the poll tax had landed in north africa might produce such outreach to intimidate them, but if anyone doubted the strength of the southern blot, they needed to look no further than mississippi, who claimed "we intend to keep control of our state." on november 23, the senate failed to invoke closure. the poll tax bill was killed. while barkley fumed against tax, it failed because too many southerners opposed to the bill and too many others were reluctant to limit senate debate.
walter white of the naacp was clear. he said america is chasing the bitter fruits of a new succession, a rebellion against the will of the people. of all quotes, this is my favorite. in reaction to that, theodore "i'm as much of a soldier in the american way as the boys who are fighting and dying on the now." watching the filibuster to keep african-americans from voting kept them as patriotic as heroic as the boys fighting. black voting rights remains nonexistent in 1942. the military remained segregated. we know about blood supplies that were segregated. although discrimination in hiring practices were supposed to have been eliminated, little had really changed.
during the congressional debate, representative lewis ludlow of indiana said, "what a travesty. we are sending negros by the thousands to die and fight for freedom while telling them they should have no part of freedom at home." the gop's november triumph in the aftermath of the poll tax filibuster gave its party hope that political winds were changing. the new republican party chair understood the southern block constituted a permissible slice of the roosevelt coalition. with the evidence supplied by the filibuster, they knew these crucial players. for them, race trumped everything. for anyone looking at evidence of the increasing dissatisfaction that the democratic party from one of its own, they need look no further than alabama governor frank
dixon, an outspoken critic of the party and the president, a nephew of thomas dixon, author of the klansmen, which birth of a nation was based on. at the core of his righteous anger was the threat to white supremacy that had played out over the preceding months over the poll tax. in defending him, dixon drew his line in the sand and said "the federal government is tampering with the one thing that we cannot permit. will not permit. whatever the price to ourselves." he said "the social structure of the south has been built and can endure onr -- only the principle of segregation." he said, "it implies separation of the races," and then he talked about the politics of it. "our problem in alabama is different than the problem in any other segment of the world. this percentage means the balance of power.
in many alabama counties, there is four to five to one." white meneither control them, or there will be the ruin of the south." the newspaper the afro-american noted that for dixon, segregation was dearer than the four freedoms that the president said were at the heart of world war ii. six years later, dixon gave the keynote address at the state's writes -- rights convention or the dixiecrats, a block of southern democrats who had bolted over civil rights. their actions did incur in a vacuum in 1948. their indignation had been said many times on many occasions and was on open display for us in 1942. i think in conclusion -- i want
to do something different. is ask a question that i think historians need to ask. it is a two word question. so what? what does this matter? what is the relevance? why is it significant? in 1942, the 16th amendment was not existence for millions of americans. i wanted to provide just one small example. in another decade, norman green might have been considered a hero, a civil rights pioneer, for what she did on an alabama bus in october of 1942 just as the soldier vote bill was being debated. instead, she was lucky she did not die. she was an army nurse stationed at the tuskegee veterans administration hospital. she had volunteered for overseas
duty serving the united states military personnel. she wanted to go shopping in montgomery, alabama. when she tried to board a public bus, she was instructed to leave. when she refused, she was arrested. she was put in a police van ,here for officers beat her broke her nose, and then arrested her for disorderly conduct. she was later released when authorities learned she was in the military. there were no charges filed against those who assaulted her, not even an apology. the incident provoked randolph to write to senator bankhead of alabama, protesting the brutal assault. he hoped that the senator would use his authority to bring the culprits to justice. bankhead, who had urged george marshall not to bring any african-american soldiers to the
south did not respond. he did not respond because he did not have to respond. he could ignore such assaults and the daily humiliations and injustices endured by alabama's african-american citizens whose nearly one million residents comprised over a third of the state's population without any worry of paying for it on election day. in fact, he won reelection. he was one of those eight southern senators who won without any opposition. his silence, coupled with the inaction against the authorities why the tax was so central in maintaining the power and policies of people like bankhead, russell, and why the filibuster led him to compare his actions to the boys dying on guadalcanal. for those fighting for civil
rights in 1942 such as hancock and benjamin mays and charles s johnson, they understood as as bilbo how this poll tax was needed for the maintenance of jim crow. otherlong with 54 african-american leaders met in durham, south carolina. out of that meeting came the manifesto, a forgotten document that discussed how the war had sharpened racial disparities in the united states and the south. the first item on their agenda was the matter of voting. "we regard the ballot as a safeguard of democracy and call for the abolition of the
poll tax and all forms of discriminatory practices, division of the law and intimidation of citizens seeking to exercise their right to franchise." they said, " in an hour of national peril, an effort is being made to defeat the negroes first and axis powers later." considering the context of what was going on in 1942, though -- those civil rights leaders who met in the room understood that voting rights -- 70 years after the 15th amendment were a foundational demand that did not exist in large parts of the nation. thank you. [applause] hank: don't make me follow him. that was great. thank you. thank you for this conference
and to all who participated, i think this is fantastic. i am honored to be a part of it. i noticed at breakfast when tracy came down, and i am having a big breakfast and he and he got a cup of coffee and soup. i asked, don't you need more fuel? he looked at me like -- do you know me that well that you can ask this? gloria comes down and eat breakfast. he says, it's ok gloria, take your time. i thought, we love each other, and we just met each other. i am hank klibanoff. i teach this project that you're going to see now. let me just show you one thing. this is the website of the georgia civil rights cold cases project.
it is only undergraduate students -- the law school has recently approached me with big plans. we examined these unsolved motivateded racially murders. through the prism of these cases, we examine georgia history, southern history and by ultimate extension, natural history. each of these cases represent something different. we have the james frazer case, represents a man who was killed in 1958 for driving a 1958 chevrolet impala. you know the narrative that can go with that. hallase of a young man, ac killed in 1962.
this becomes an example of police overreaction, poor police training, and so on. there is an intersection that we are developing more on having to do with the medical neglect that often accompanied the brutality cases. cases in which professional physicians who had an opportunity to extend or save the lives of african americans who were the subject of brutality failed to do so and sometimes refused to do so. i want to be clear, this is a project not aimed at who did it. we know who did it in most cases. in most cases, they are all dead. in one, we found one who was still alive but then he died before we got to him. we are examining the why. there are big themes that link to everything we are talking about here and things we have talked about in the past
conference and things we will talk about in future conferences. if the students come away thinking that they know more about who did it, i don't think that does them much good. today we will talk about the case of --isaiah nixon. african-american farmer in georgia. three hours south of atlanta. he was 28 years old, father of six, a georgia voter, and a member of the naacp. his story has roots in two other men. on the left is a man named lonnie smith. smith, an african-american man living in texas and wanted to vote in the democratic party primary. he was willing to sue the united states supreme court to win the right to vote in the democratic party primary.
this is particularly for students who may not get the significance of that, the south was democratic party devotees. the only republicans were african-americans and a few strange birds we grew up within the south. my kind of birds, i might add. the thing that a southern democratic party accolade would say to an african-american -- you don't need to vote in the democratic primary. we let you vote in the big election. the general election. that is when the final decision is made so you will get your say in the final election. the african-americans were smart
enough to say that the general election is irrelevant. all the decisions are made in the primary. and that is where we want to vote. so lonnie went to the supreme court and said you are not a private club and for the purposes of electing state officeholders, you cannot exclude african-american voters. but they say we are private. ,and they said, no you are not are electing state officials. they struck down the texas law and this was april, 1934, this was seemingly the law of land except in georgia which seems to want to resist all of these decisions. mississippi and alabama have resistances. they look at their law, they think it might be vulnerable and they underline the word really, really a private club to try to establish that we are different.
king, amed primus barber goes to the muscogee county courthouse to vote. when he walked in, a detective grabbed him and said what you think you're doing? king went out and found himself a lawyer and the white lawyer had two questions, do you really want to sue the democratic party? do you know what you're doing? and he did. he took the case forward and he wins his case, forcing muscogee county and the state of georgia to allow blacks to vote. enormouses consternation in georgia. two stories that come about,
some would say they are a .ractical -- apophrical i am checking this on one. the other is in the congressional record when asked how are we going to stop them from voting and he gives a speech saying the only way to stop them from voting now is the metaphor. when jean talmage -- the three term governor of georgia -- when he is asked by the exalted cyclops of the ku klux klan -- what will we do? now they can vote. he writes on a piece of paper pistols and hands it to the exalted cyclops. that was the atmosphere in the early 1940's. the supreme court decision on primus king comes down. actually, the supreme court
does not decide that the fifth circuit of a courageous when federal judge in georgia uphold king's power to vote. it gets upheld by the fifth u.s. circuit court of appeals. the supreme court does not hear it. hand down their decision that they will not. -- in april 1946, just before a georgia gubernatorial election. and having started as a populist who was fundamentally supportive of the new deal, he has fallen off that wagon pretty seriously. he is campaigning solely on a white supremacist platform. i would like to go to hear -- here.
let's give you a sound of what old jean sounded like. [video clip] >> i want to thank this crowd for coming out and stating plainly that talmadge is the only candidate in this race who is championing a white democratic primary in georgia. [applause] that is the truth and the whole truth. they say that it is the law and negros will vote in the primary. this year, next wednesday. what do i say?
i say to all those here that some of the negros will vote. but they want to vote in the best but they will not vote in our primary for the next four years. hank: that was in georgia. eugene talmadge is running, he wins his fourth term. some of you know the story after that, it is entertaining. gene was suffering from deep alcoholism. in december of 1946, before two things can happen, he dies. the two things that did not happen, the feds who were swarming the state trying to find enough evidence to charge him with voter suppression of black votes are unable to bring enough evidence and indict him
before he dies. the other thing he is able to do before he dies is take the oath of office. it throws georgia into this turmoil because they don't have a governor. it is the first time in 1946 that georgia has elected a lieutenant governor. the lieutenant governor says we just went through the whole process of establishing succession in the state. i become the governor now. the incumbent governor said i'm not giving up the governor's office, not until we figure out what this will be. they are both claiming it. the talmadge forces are very wiley. they knew that he was ill. they got enough people to cast write-in votes for gene's son herman. herman came in a close second. there were enough members of the legislature, that the
legislature runs into session and says by our rights, herman talmadge ought to be governor. so three people are claiming to be governor. there is great footage on says, iwere hermann want to thank governor arnold for his fine service to the state and they have returned him his home where we wish him the best of luck. it does get settled by the state supreme court which says the lieutenant governor is correct. he will be the governor and we will set a special election in 1948. now we will focus on what happened in 1948. as you know, 1948 is a very critical time. you have harry truman running for election in his own right for the first time.
he has lost the support of the right because of the dixiecrat's. he seems to be in danger of losing the entire south. because of henry wallace's breakaway, you have the left breaking away from him, he doesn't seem to have a chance. on top of all of this, what did he do? he becomes the first president of the united states to speak to the naacp. he does it on the steps of the lincoln memorial. there is a little sound here. [video clip] >> it is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our country to guarantee freedom and equality to all of our citizens. [applause] recent events in the united states and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before
to ensure that all americans enjoy these rights. when i say all americans, i mean all americans. hank: as we know, harry truman does get elected. how does this play out in georgia? they are going to resist. they have been part of the walkout of the democratic convention. let's go back to isaiah nixon. what my students do, here is their textbook, 234 pages of documents that we have gotten through the fbi freedom of information act request. it is a lot of federal memos, a lot of back-and-forth, you develop a narrative and what you
find out -- a lot more from here than you did from the news clips at the time. it was not that widely covered -- what happens to isaiah nixon in 1948 when he is voting in the governor's race. this was a time when the naacp in montgomery county was only two years old. it was growing there, one record said there was 84 black members of the naacp in a county of 3000 people total. that was pretty good after one year. that was pretty hopeful for them. i have decided that they will be , hermann talmadge is running against them. also, melvin thompson. they decided to gather at the polling place and as they are
gathered, a group of black men on that morning, the sherriff elect sees them over. they talk and john harris goes back to this gaggle of black men waiting to go to vote. the black men say "john, what did claude say to you?" he said if i know what is good for me, i will not vote today. they said what did you say to him? i told him that i came here to vote. reckon, in -- and i that is what i'm going to do. he went ahead and voted. so did carter, a father of 10 children. so did isaiah nixon, all three of them voted. john harris suffered from a threat.
carter was stopped on the side of the road and so brutally beaten. he gets medical care and within a very short window of time, he has picked up his entire family and moves them to philadelphia, pennsylvania. then there is isaiah nixon. he was back at his farm later in the day having voted. he had a horse and a wagon to get him to the poll. his mother that owned the farm that they farmed begged him not to go, she knew what would happen. he said i have to do this. later that day, two white men show up at his farm and said they wanted to talk to him. they had guns. isaiah nixon knew them, he had grown up with them.
those of us who grew up in the southern culture could understand this. they had dinner at his table. they played with him and now they had shown up with guns and asked if he voted. he said i did. who did you vote for? i voted for that thompson guy. they said, let's go for a ride. he said, i am not going for a ride. he said, i am not going to do it. he steps back. when he steps back, jim johnson shoots him three times. isaiah nixon's wife stood on the porch and yelled fall, isaiah, fall!
he would not or he could not. he falls to the ground, ultimately. sally goes down, pick some up, drags him up into the farm house, put him to bed and we know all of this from two primary sources. one is his daughter, dorothy. she was six years old at the time and saw it all, we found her. she is wonderful. mesmerizing. she is very honest about what she does not remember. the other source we have is some newspaper clips at the time. dover carter, after he is beaten up, he gets care and goes to the
hospital where isaiah nixon is. counties -- two counties away. he hears the whole story from isaiah nixon about what happened. he gets in his car and drives to the atlanta fbi office and talks and talks and tells them everything he knows about what his own experience the day before and what he heard from isaiah nixon. there becomes this terrific document that delineates everything that happened. isaiah nixon, on his second day in the hospital, dies in claxton. the sheriff is very clear -- not the sheriff elect, the current sheriff who will soon go out of office. he says there was no doubt that
this was because he voted. isaiah nixon's family is traumatized. obviously, who would not be? they get discovered by the pittsburgh courier. those of you who know the history of the black press know that ain't nothing. when you are discovered by the pittsburgh courier -- this is the newspaper that one black -- that won black support for entry into ww2. they played a monumental role in these things. when they adopted a family and built a crusade, it was huge. they find the nixon family and begin writing about them. the family buries isaiah nixon
and then they flee. they flee to jacksonville, florida. ow, is veryah's wid upset when i say flee. but they were afraid, there was no other way to describe why they had to get out of there. xon to theg dorothy ni class and i want my students to go down there and do the research and do what they can. only three of them can go on the particular day. november 20, 2015. we go to the courthouse and we do a lot of searching. this man named james harris shows up, i prearranged this.
he shows us how to get to the cemetery where isaiah nixon is buried. the family for 67 years has been unable to find his grave. all they know is they buried him, but they left. they know they bought a headstone but they cannot find it. others have gone there before to look for it. the family has been coming back for years and can't find it, there is this hole in their heart, no place they can stop to pay tribute and homage and respect to isaiah nixon. we go there and meet mr. harris, james harris. the first question is in all these fbi records, there is a man who voted that day named john harris. he says that was my daddy. he tells a fascinating story. it is layered with complications he liked the sheriff elect.
he says, we did not take that as a threat, we took it as a warning that something was going down today. here the students are in the courthouse looking up records. they had to look up old copies of the montgomery monitor, the weekly newspaper, it avails nothing because they did not cover the story. this is when a professor nearly dies on the spot. you can see the latter is not lucy, get down from there. mr. harris shows us how to get to the cemetery. it is 17 miles outside of the county seat and three miles on a dirt road. as we are there, we are killing
time, nobody has found the rave gravesite in 67 years and i said, mr. harris, your dad was buried here, right? he said yes. i happened to have my iphone on. as mr. harris is taking me to his daddy's gravesite and you hear all to the side, one of my students says i found it! we keep walking. then you hear one of my students come up and say, " i think i 's gravesite."ixon
she found a gravesite -- a headstone that had been there forever. what the family never noticed was that there was a slab of cement that came off the headstone. it had been overgrown in grass there was much, it was under some trees. it has been discovered and as she stood there, the wind had blown away the leaves. she could see and i and an s. she knew he died september 10. pretty soon we are all on our hands and knees. i had a bottle of water in my it and we are emptying
clearing it out. we call his daughter on facetime. his children have gotten college degrees. dorothy had gone on to nursing and got her masters in nursing and had been a psychiatric nurse all her life. it was against the odds. there is a little closer. that was november 20 of 2015 in january, dorothy was able to come up to the grave. her daughter had a basketball season and she waited until the season was over so she went to everyone of her daughter's games. for the first time, she saw her
that shows you the kind of students they are. i saw them all on their knees trying to clear it off. and somebody saying, i found a bottle of water. amount ofall and the information that you found, and i know you still have a lot to share with me. it is phenomenal. the whole thing is surreal. it just is. when you first called me, i had a lot of anger. i still have a lot of anger. after talking to your group, some of that was released. i want to let you know now that
it is alleviated. thank you all for that. i can resolve this and settle it, looking at this, it is unreal. i can't say anymore. all that is coming to my mind is thank you. thank you. thank you. hank: she has now replaced the headstone with this. two final thoughts. this is from my iphone we did , have a video person there, we did not have time. the wall street journal was
there, they had a story coming up and i got my daughter who does film editing. i called up in boston and said i am shipping you my iphone, can you help me edit? we posted on the website vimeo. it had her name. a few days later, she calls me "dad, i got enough from a man who says i am the nephew of the man who killed that man. who can i talk to?" "dad, you got me to deep in." he is in the same city that
dorothy lives. he was calling because he knew none of this. he is broken about it, he is brokenhearted by what his uncles did and he wanted to apologize. last february, some students and someone i am working with at the public radio station went down and met with him. he did apologize. i did say that we do not teach the who done it. this is about students learning a lot, the two men who killed him pleaded self-defense. they say he pulled a gun on us. he did not. students write papers on the reliability of the self-defense alibi, the tendency of juries to see black criminality -- why was
there still all-white juries? there were a lot of different themes that come into play here, the concentration of rural power and sheriffs at the time. judicial conflict of interest -- the judge who saw the trial, -- it is pervasive with academic opportunities and pathways. thank you for your attention. [applause] >> we have time for some questions, starting in the back, here. >> i have a methodological question. i know that you said you used as
your primary sources for the class fbi files and newspaper documents. where do you get the names in the first place? how do you find who to go looking for? >> the fbi documents will contain a lot of names. that is one way. if you go deeper, one of the most amazing things that has happened to academic researchers tization of the naacp records. my students were going through microfilm. that helps. dover carter, i met with his 10 kids who moved to philadelphia. i met with six of them.
they are all in their 70's and 80's and recently we went to the family reunion down there. they all give you names. i have met james harris when i said to dorothy -- my student cemetery.go to the she said you have to talk to james harris. james harris is fascinating to us. he gave us a lot of names. i got a call from a guy who is an attorney in athens. where my heart races is with the prospect that somewhere out there during the trial of the two men, there is a court reporter doing whatever she did and i had this idea that even though she has long since dead,
she had a big closet of all her notes from cases. there is no transcript. there is no appeal. overhat she then turned the court reporting business to her daughter and then her daughter did it to her daughter and somewhere down in montgomery county is a home that has an attic full of these handwritten or punched tape transcripts of the case that we will still someday find to get the testimony. i need to knock on about 3000 more homes. >> i want to say that those are two of the most powerful presentations at a conference i've ever seen. i'm really grateful and impressed. >> i'm grateful to the conference for not having me follow.
>> those were amazing, i have a question for each of you. tracy, the question for you is about political incentives. you said that they introduced the poll tax in tennessee and it was berkeley who was fighting filibuster from kentucky. that is not exactly who you predicted to take those positions. is that because they had national aspirations? it doesn't seem like they would be the most obvious people. >> it is hard to talk about motivations. i would say with barkley, he wanted fairness. he did not want to make it about race.
barkley had national ambitions. broadudents, you cannot brush all southern politicians and think they are all theodore bilbo's or richard russell. it was a lot more complicated. you cannot make this into a white or black thing. it is a lot more complicated. >> i want to ask you about the fbi, hank. one of the things that is interesting before and after world war ii is that before would notii, there have been any federal investigation. after world war ii, there is. i wanted to know how seriously the fbi took this. >> you will get mixed reviews on this. if you look at the pressure to do more, it seems to come out of washington doj. this is from an assistant
attorney general. it is being handled out of the savannah office rather than the atlanta office, that can make a difference. there seems to be one u.s. assistant attorney who says we should not get involved in this because we will really mess up the state prosecution. if we big foot, it will backfire. that may have been his cover, he later does something that is hurtful. let me also say that when the storylines about dover carter and isaiah nixon make their way in a memo about conspiracy because the same people who beat up dover carter and a couple of others who are all related, the
saysthat goes to hoover that this should be reviewed jointly, hoover deletes the word "conspiracy." he says you can go with the murder case but we are not doing these together. we have not figured all of those out. i am very quick to say that i have great respect for my students, these are undergrads. they plan to be large animal vets. i will say that student, it has changed her life. she went and did an internship at the carter center. i did not know it had changed her life until she was writing her essay.
190 on her88 out of sat. she got an sat score in the 99th percentile. >> the senator of tennessee ran for president unsuccessfully. he was a chief sponsor of the 1957 first civil rights act. he had a very consistent history in this regard. >> maybe he thought it was the right thing to do. which is not out of the question, sometimes, maybe you think -- aboute talking last night about reconstruction and his amendments, sometimes representative moxie comes down to good faith.
representative democracy comes down to good faith. when we have to do this ourselves, the right thing may not be what some people would want but sometimes it is good faith. >> a question for professor campbell. do you have any information on the volume of the soldier vote in 1944? >> i have been working on 1942. it was not great, let's put it that way. it was bigger than 1942. it is easy to look up. >> one last thing, if i may. are the fbi and the doj sending memos that say now that it is over, we want you to
ascertain was it a bona fide -- trial. based on the interviews with people including the judge, it turns out the assistant attorney in savannah says it was a bona fide trial. i have known this judge all my life, he is an honorable man, he would not allow a miscarriage of justice. they all withdraw. the feds withdraw completely. a student of mine has found the speeches the judge was giving at that time on behalf of gene and then herman talmadge. we have some work to do. >> i am glad you mentioned the pittsburgh courier. i write a column covering the supreme court in major legal issues for the black press at large. thank you for that. the question i have is about the response from the white communities.
when the medic or editors -- rs murdermedgar eva trial was reopened the third time, i was approached with a question by the media -- do you ?hink we should let this die why reopen these old wounds? what general response have you received from these white communities that live in these counties and have the children that are the children of those who perpetrated these crimes living in the same county with the children who are the victims of the crime? what have you seen to be the response? >> i worked on a project with people like jerry mitchell. we came across that more and more in those cases than ours. several things come to mind, it is the most difficult thing for
many of these families. those who did not move from those towns. the woman said i saw the men who killed my daddy every day. and amanda's sister talked about how she was a waitress in a restaurant near the courthouse and the share of and police would come in there every day and she was serving coffee to the men she knew killed her daddy. some people could move, but some could not. for african american perspective, this was daily torture. there was a white editor of a newspaper down in franklin county, mississippi who says why are you looking into this? that was a long time ago, we get along with our colored people
now. all you will do is stir them up. doug jones, who prosecuted the two birmingham church murderers some people would ask him about this. he said, " are you telling me that if 40 years from now, the marines are fine with us, the osama bin laden living in a cave, are you going to say "poor guy?" why would your response be any different to any of these other guys?
the other response that i give, i said, we are a very contentious nation, we are a nation of 50 sovereigns. we have different laws for everything. whether it is drivers licenses, hunting seasons, we have different laws governing everything, we are contentious. the one thing every state agrees on is that there is no statute of limitations on murder. we are unanimous on that. we are unanimous in our belief that no one who ever commits murder should ever go to sleep tonight without worrying that the next day there could be a knock on their door and they could be discovered for a murder they thought had long since been forgotten. whether you are for it or against it, that is the way it is right now. i say that to say to people that we are in agreement in that.
that there should be a price to pay. it is the examination of these cases that leads to the payment of that price. every civil rights case that has re-prosecuted has been because of a journalist. it is true. after this initiative was developed in 2007, he was asked if he had a list of these cases. he said, i will get you one. he goes to the southern poverty law center and their list was never intended for big national kids, the justice department has adopted a list, after three kids were killed at south carolina state in 1968, as being killed in
georgia. there is none. the four people killed in munro, georgia, two people being killed in georgia and two in louisiana. that, i never thought that the fbi was serious about the disclosing of cases, trying to bring closures to family which is a good thing. >> i have a methodological question as well. i was struck by an earlier question related to how difficult it can be to define these sorts of cases and the first thing i thought, you could talk to any black people over the age of 70, to define these cases. i'm wondering of the tension framed ofing individual instances of
violence, the tension between our propensity to think of individuals. of individual victims and perpetrators. the tension between that and larger institutional and -- how dorealities you navigate that dynamic in the project? >> it is tricky but doable. from one perspective, a lot has to do with, i did teach this for several years with a professor of african american studies and gadsn, i'm not teaching it on my own, it is heavily a writing course. we are teaching how to write. if you are writing about james frazer and only write about him and do not do the zoom out and you go back and pick up leon and
his whole section of page after page of african americans who work killed for prosperity, specifically for driving nice cars, you are missing the point. that become something they have to study and incorporate into their papers. from the other side, from the side of the perpetrator, i don't know what possessed me, this year for the first class, or maybe the second, i had students doing an exercise and gave one group just the lyrics and the 's song whichylan was about a killing. upon being inng, the game of the white elite. of course he was part of the white elite. i remember clearly when william bradford hughley went into southern mississippi after the
trial any as interviewing with lawyers who represented bryant and he is writing memos to his editor and saying, these lawyers, they could not care less about him, they have done their job. they have done the job they wanted him to do. i'm not trying to paint it as entirely that but i want them to know that everyone represent something larger than themselves. we are starting to the difficulty of understanding why jimmy and johnny johnson who grew up with isaiah nixon, he was referred to as a best friend. they,mily, the one thing the johnsons, seek refuge with is saying, they were bad drinkers. they were known to get junk and maybe they were just junk that day. -- they were known to get drunk and maybe they were just drunk that day.
thank you. thank our like to analysts for does go very powerful and memorable presentations this morning. i think i speak for the audience, i learned so much. i give her that. -- thank you for that. [applause] >> join us on c-span3 this weekend for american history tv, a few highlights, today at 3 p.m. eastern, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1957 public broadcasting act, the library of congress hosted a discussion about the history of news and public affairs anchors.ng with former the university of kansas politics.spoke about
eastern, the.m. battle of midway, from four world war ii navy veterans who took part in the battle. on real america, the film, dreams of equality, a regression of the 1848 women's rights convention. american history tv, all weekend, every weekend only on c-span3. >> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by the american television companies. it is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. all weekend, american history tv is featuring kansas city, missouri. c-span city tour staff recently visited many sites showcasing its history. kansas city is home