tv The Presidency African Americans Remember Lincoln CSPAN April 1, 2018 7:58pm-8:59pm EDT
color, others being oppressed. when we think about smith and carlos, they anticipate what happened to colin kaepernick. where his protest against police brutality and against racial injustice became reinterpreted as an indictment in this anti-american act, when what he was trying to do was unveiled and shed light on contemporary racism. that is what smith and carlos were trying to do. one last thing, they were .mbraced by black power when they come back from the olympics, they tore -- they tour howard university. historical black colleges, stokely carmichael is there, and others. they really become supported. people like kareem abdul-jabbar, jim brown, like athletes who -- black athletes who were racially conscious at the time, support them as well. host: kathleen cleaver, less
than a minute left, we started by asking dr. joseph where the civil rights movement was at the end of 1967 and beginning of 1968. where do you think it was at the end of 1968? guest: at a crossroads with many possible options. there were those who wanted to go back to africa, into community service, those who wanted to work in the community. we should not be out here, we should be organizing and holding community -- solving community issues. i would say it was a panorama of possibilities at the end of the 1960's, all of which are still -- on some level, being part of our culture. host: kathleen cleaver is at emory university, school of law, senior lecturer and research fellow. dr. joseph is director for the study of race and democracy at
the university of texas at austin. thank you, both, for your time. we appreciate the conversation. guest: thank you for having me. guest: thank you. >> next sunday, april 8, we continue our series, 1968: america in turmoil, with a look at liberal politics. liberaleat society and activists redefine the role of federal government and challenge traditional values. the assassinations of martin luther king jr. and robert kennedy dealt shattering blows. a next, on the presidency, discussion of the book "they knew lincoln." published in 1942 and tells the stories of the african-americans who knew and worked for president abraham lincoln and mary todd lincoln.
a newly released edition of the book has been edited. this is one hour. joining us is kate masur. there are new introductions and edits. she teaches at northwestern diversity. she is the coeditor of the war the civil war made. her scholarship explores how americans grappled with questions of race and equality after the abolition of slavery in the north and south. she has worked with the national park service on projects of reconstruction. the civil war can alternatively feel like the district path -- past or the recent past, depending on what is happening
in our world today. but when we think about it from the perspective of human connections and experience, it can feel very recent. john tyler still has two living grandchildren. in the 1940's, johnny washington interviewed local african-americans in the capital who had been alive in the 1860's. he recovered the neglected stories to get a fuller picture of what life was like when lincoln was president. in its original publication, one review said the book filled an whyous gap and one wonders no one ever did it before. we will get into that in our conversation. was --h washington spoke washington spoke was successful, it was largely forgotten. we found it in a cottage and it remains an important resource in our staff library.
the stories are far too important to be on so few shelves. hasunately, dr. masur reintroduced this to a larger audience. please join me in welcoming dr. catekate masur. almost 10 years ago, before the lincoln bicentennial, it felt like new books were coming out on lincoln almost weekly. it was not uncommon for people to say, what more could possibly be written about lincoln. so i chuckled when i read in the book that after the lincoln centennial in 1909, people were saying the same thing. how did john washington prove them wrong?
kate: it is funny, and i like that line two. this slate of lincoln related stuff came out during the centennial, what more could possibly be written? john washington proved them wrong. it is so obvious and simple and yet it had not happened. despite all of that attention on lincoln, very few people, really anyone who had access to publications, had asked the question, what did african-americans who knew lincoln think of him? what were his interactions with them like? unbelievable to think that he was the first person to write that book. but it was not until 1942 when there was a book like that in the world. lincoln inugh
leadership, lincoln and mary, lincoln and religion come back in the 1930's there were a million books on each of those topics. and yet nothing on lincoln and african-americans. certainly nothing in a consolidated -- consolidated form of the book. >> tell us a little bit about the lincoln establishment of the time and how washington was treated by them? kate: it is an interesting story. one of the things i learned as i started to research was that his , i never did find and no one i talked to knows where the personal papers could be. that is such a shame. he wrote letters constantly and undoubtedly received them constantly. he was tremendously literate and
liked to write and express himself in writing. to imagine what his personal collection of letters would have looked like, it seems amazing and sad that it does not exist. so one of the ways i found out about him and what he was doing was by looking in the papers of people he wrote to. those papers are sometimes saved. some of the people he was in correspondence with while writing this book were members of the lincoln establishment. many of them were based in the midwest. there was a lincoln industry in the midwest. many of them were involved in various lincoln associations. there is the lincoln national life association import when, indiana. -- in port wayne, indiana.
and popularized the history of lincoln and helped people collect lincoln ,elated paraphernalia signatures, original photos. themngton reached out to when he started his work and he wanted to know if they had any information about somebody like elizabeth tetley. he made one trip out to illinois and that is where he found out about lincoln's barber in springfield. he had been born in haiti and immigrated to the united states and became a prominent figure. membersmost part, the of the lincoln establishment were helpful to washington. .hey received his letters he said, i am doing this, they
were encouraging and said it would make a good book. of linktone --n lincolniana, as washington called it, he got a book contract with the help of the library of congress. there were some difficulties to this. mostly in the attitude of a professor at the university of illinois who was the leading academic historian of lincoln at that time. the book,portive of randall was an important person to have your stamp of approval from. and randall appreciated the book but he pigeonholed washington as a writer of folklore. he kind of labeled the book as, this is not really history. he compared it in a letter to a
knee grow spiritual -- negro spiritual. an expression of the racial feeling. in a way that was kind of patronizing and reducing washington to only being a black writer writing about black things, instead of what he aspired to be, which was a real historian dealing with evidence and facts and research. so there was this dynamic to some extent with randall. so it was interesting to see that play out. >> you mentioned elizabeth tetley. she and one of her books are one of the major motivations for washington writing this book. there has long been speculation about whether elizabeth was the true author of the book, behind the scenes, which was a controversial book at that time. or whether it had been ghostwritten. there was a charge before
washington got started writing this that not only had it been ghostwritten by a female war correspondent from minnesota, hackley neverbeth existed. [laughter] so. denying her very existence. and she was a very prominent member of washington society. who is behind this, and how did washington and others respond? kate: this was in 1935 and washington was collecting lincoln related materials while before that. reporter for the the associated press was interested in the history of women correspondence in washington, d.c.
she ended up talking to a democratic political operative who said, by the way, one of the earliest women correspondence in washington was a woman named minnesota andfrom by the way she is the actual author of behind the scenes. who couldrson existed have possibly been that close to marry tell lincoln, he asserted. the reporter put this down into the paper. it was a big story. the headline turned out to not be about early women somespondence, it was headline that said this book was written by somebody else. so john washington saw the story
in the washington star and there was a general outcry among african americans in washington dc who said, this is crazy. we knew her. she died in 1907. it was not that long ago that she had been alive. how can this person come out of say this? washington went out there and wrote a letter to the editor people were calling up the editor on the phone there was this outcry. but washington got his letter -- letter to the editor published in the washington star he said talk tohave to go is people in washington and you will find out that elizabeth did exist. it turns out that these papers are at the flop library of congress -- are at the library of congress.
she went and interviewed washington and he sent her to interview other people. she published this follow-up story and it is good. it says, it turns out a lot of people knew elizabeth after all. and she also says that she went to these homes and found that in the homes of african-americans in washington was so much history. there were so many stories and photos and objects. and she was taken with that. diary, she said, wrote correction. she knew it was a correction. anyway, that is what spurred washington to start researching that sent himher
on a broader project that became this book. you also mentioned that randall was taking a paternalistic approach to washington's book. he said it was folklore. but washington said the content was historically true. a lot of the primary sources within the homes are one thing he relied on. he also heavily relied on oral history. oral history has long faced hurdles and acceptance. on the one hand, there are concerns about accuracy. if you do not give it credence, you are silencing these different human perspectives. asse would all be lost to us washington's book demonstrate. how did washington work to
support the stories he was collecting, and how did you evaluate those stories as an editor 75 years later? kate: that is a very good question. washington through on every single resource he possibly could, including his own memory. the beginning of the book has stories that he remembered his grandmother's friends telling when he was growing up. he was born in 1880 and many of his grandmother's friends had been born in slavery and escaped during the civil war. had encountered the lincolns. so he drew on his own memory, he interviewed people, he did archival research, especially in u.s. government records. eckley's elizabeth k application for her son. many different kinds of
circuit -- sources and try to triangulate them. in many cases, there was no corroborating evidence. stories that his grandmother's friends had told about what it was like to work in lincolns white house or what it was like to be in the choir that saying for lincoln when he visited a camp for escaped slaves during the civil war, those stories cannot be corroborated with any kind of documented evidence. it is just not the kind of thing that had been written down. so the question is, do you say, then we can't use it? or do you say, well, it is a source taste on people's memories and we had to take it with a grain of salt, but absolutely. it is not a coincidence or an it isnt that many times
the stories of people who are , whoselthy or famous records are not preserved in an archive. so there is also an aspect of those decisions about oral history and how you talk about this that has to do with power in history, and who has had power in the past. you are talking about people who may or may not have been able to write, even if they did exchange letters with people, the letters might not have been saved. -- younot hope to do have to draw from every possible source you can. my own approach to this, i made a decision with this book that i was not going to try to track down every single fact. someone else could do a different version of a reprint of this book that would be an annotated version, full of footnotes and figuring out, what can we find out about this
person or that person, can we locate them in the census or in property records. i was -- i decided i was not quite to do that because it would take the rest of my life. someone younger than me can take that on. or it could be an amazing collaborative project. i decided i just wanted the book out there in the world and i was leaving it to other people to grapple with what was in their. where it came up in my introduction, i backed up some things, but mostly i just let it speak for itself. >> let's delve a little bit more into the idea of power. washington was convinced that every day interactions that washing -- that abraham had with african americans showed like what was possible. they were advocates and influencers on lincoln.
the atlantic recently published the wpa for the writers project that drew a similar conclusion, that there was a symbiotic relationship there. even though those stories were collected under slightly different circumstances. we used both washington's book and the slave narrative to inform our interpretation of lincoln's time here, including his interactions with formally men, women, and children. what challenges did washington face in collecting the oral histories for his book, and how did his efforts differ in some ways from the larger slave narrative? kate: they seemed to be happening at the same time. it is interesting that this is a moment in the 1930's, it probably started a little earlier than that. it happens to be as people who
lived through the civil war are dying out. that is going on. at the same time, there is a populist impulse in american popular culture that is turning a lot of people's attention in different ways to the experiences, it is like new deal culture. to farmers and working-class people. so it is drawing a lot of people's attention to the idea of interviewing people who had experienced slavery before it was too late. the federal writers project was part of that. one of the issues is that those people were very old at that time. these were very elderly people who would have been more or less children at the time when slavery ended.
so for washington, for example, the person he ended up talking to about elizabeth kegley -- keckley was a woman named hannah brooks who was very old when interviewed. she was originally from virginia but had spent her life in washington. she came from an elite family and had an aunt who ran the boarding house in new york city where elizabeth keckly would stay when she went to new york. she stayed in that boarding house when she wrote her book. and hannah brooks remembered being a girl and knowing who was and sheckley remembers a white abolitionist named james coming by. just to give that example. so washington interviewed the
elderly hannah brooks in the presence of her daughter, mary. and mary attested in a written statement to her mother's sound mind and memory. all of that is in the book. so washington put it out there and said, this is the interview with hannah brooks. her daughter vouches for her ability to remember this stuff accurately. this is what i have. argued, thatle, he the abolitionist could have helped elizabeth get the book into print. now there is scholarship on elizabeth. her book has become important for scholars. no one has definitively figured out to what extent some but he helped her write the book. even if she wrote it 100% herself, nobody knows who connected her with a publisher.
and no literary scholar has then theetter theory abolitionist who helped her. so washington put forward what henry books -- hannah brooks remembers. >> you mentioned new deal culture and responding to the outrage about this claim that elizabeth never existed was an admission point for washington to write this book. but his book also response to other concerns. there was a major cultural and political shift happening amongst african-americans as well. he has strong feelings about the jazz age and fdr. but he also had personal motivations such as his own
interest in the lincoln story. how did those motivations shape his book, who was his intended audience, and who was the publishers intended audience? ine: washington was born 1880. by 1930, he was 50. person whendle-aged writing this book. he was also a high school teacher in washington. he taught commercial art and worked with kids. he was married but they did not have kids. he was working with kids all the time. he had concerns about the use -- his day.ture of he thought they were too many unwholesome things going on. he was worried about jazz and and movie representation
particularly of african-americans. the book is a little bit the style check and that he really admire his grandmother's friends and that generation. a generation that lived through the civil war. imagined both a white and black audience for this book. moreublisher marketed it to a lincoln collecting, wider audience. but washington wanted people to know about what he considered the heroic generation. he wanted them to know about the brave men and women who had escaped from slavery and came to washington and worked really hard. he emphasizes hard-working values. to hold them up. they is another component
came out in his correspondence. he remained a republican, even through the new deal. as a lot of african-americans were changing their party allegiance, and this was a huge political shift that we need to understand really well, a lot of african americans changing their political allegiance in the 1930's from the republicans, which was the party of lincoln, to the party of democrats because things were changing. washington was of a demographic, being an older person in a -- and a well-off person who did not become democrat. he was more republican and the democrats had always represented to them the party of racism and the party of the kkk.
end, they were absolutely fighting a losing battle on that front. but what was motivating washington a little bit in this book was this idea to remind people that lincoln was really somebody who believed in a in ed that -- who believed manson tatian and equality -- emancipation and equality. >> you mentioned lincoln's barber a little earlier. earlier whenut him haiti was in the news. he was a haitian and new lincoln well. why is his story so important? the barber was from haiti
and moved to baltimore originally and then moved to louisiana and up to st. louis. he was in the french influenced part of north america. then he moved to illinois because it was a free state. tired of living in states where slavery was legal. so he ended up settling in springfield where he ran a barbershop that was a kind of meeting place for all kinds of people. ofingfield is the capital illinois so probably a lot of political conversations happened. he supported the arts and published interesting poetry and
added oaks -- anecdotes in the local papers and lincoln was his property lawyer. in terms of the historical records, not much is known about their relationship in springfield before lincoln became president. we know that lincoln was a lawyer. and we know a fair amount about the barber because he published stuff in the newspaper. as far as the character of their relationship, there is not a lot of documentary evidence. there is a letter from him to lincoln when linktone is in the white house which is -- when linkedin is in the white house -- cordial andel friendly. child,ton had heard of a a preacher had said he was sure that god had put an
african-american person on this earth to teach lincoln about a quality and to teach lincoln to understand that all people should be free and have rights. story, heing to this said that there was such a person in this world. washington never forgot that as a boy. so when he came to learn about -- herber, he prophesies hypothesized that the barber was that person. significant that he was from haiti. haiti had become an independent republic and had thrown off the chains of slavery and the french empire and was governed i free inple of african descent
1803. the barber would have -- and was governed by free people of african descent in 1803. the barber would have known that and would have told that story and made a link that black emancipation was possible -- and that blackn know emancipation was possible. i like the story about when washington went to springfield to track down as much as he could about the barber. he was asking people about what they remembered about him. one person said, look in that mirror right now. lincolnthe mirror that would have looked in because it was the mirror from the barbershop. i just imagine washington looking in that mirror that
lincoln had looked in. it is cool. >> it gives me chills. we have talked a lot about the came up or that how he with this project. how was the book received? kate: it was well-received. it was reviewed widely in places in the newr times -- york times. understood that there was nothing else like this out there and it filled an important niche. there were some not so positive reviews, particularly some lincoln aficionados that said there was not much that was new. it was covered in the black press. he got a medal of honor from the haitian government based on his
telling of the barber. they haitian government gave him an official certificate of honor. and it sold out quickly. and then it was never reprinted. why was it never reprinted? kate: i do not know. there were a lot of factors that could have gone into it. that washington felt like he did not have an agent. back to the publishers and say, help them get another book out. he later said that the publisher was having financial problems. somebody pointed out to me the , i had taken on board that this book came out in
february 1942, right after pearl harbor. to be a bookpected that came out in the middle of the u.s. being involved in a war. there were paper shortages. what theknow right now impact of the u.s. entering the war was on the publishing industry. it was possible a could not be republished right away and then by the time things got back to normal, it was forgotten. when i first found the book, i found it in a university of michigan library. i then tried to figure out where to get a copy. it has been out of print and copies cost more than $300. so that was really one of my motivations for wanting to see it back in print. i think it should be widely available and until now it has been a collectors item at a book
that is not available in any bookstore. i just really thought that it deserved an audience and a readership in the 21st century. and the copy we have at the cottage was donated to us. it is a rare book that is essential to the work we do. several of the stories and there are essential to our interpretation. washington had a second book project. what was his purpose on what happened with that effort? kate: he was really excited by the reception of this book. i could see that in his letters to other people. letters i was reading, he would gotten morejust reviews. he knew that black soldiers stationed in hawaii were reading .t on an army base
all of these exciting things were happening and he wanted to do another book on african-americans and lincoln. but this one sounded like he imagined it to be more of a political book. more about the need to remain faithful to the republican party and to honor that tradition of the republicans. said he had lots of stories that never made it into the book and i believe that. het as notes on interviews, had lots of stuff on the cutting room floor. he thought they would be an audience for another book but he was not able to get it published. he wrote to some of the people in the lincoln world and asked for help approaching a publisher. they were lukewarm. they did not seem too interested in helping them out this time around. it's like they only had space in their brain for one book i washington and not another book
-- one book by washington but not another book. so it never came to fruition. several people have asked me and ride to find the lost manuscript . there are correspondence about sending the manuscript to so-and-so. no one is ever found the actual manuscript. >> i love those kinds of mysteries. it could still be out there. barring someone finding that has everything been said they can be said about lincoln, or are there crucial perspectives that are still missing? this look really glad is back in the world. back in the world. ithink that people could use
as a jumping off point for additional research either on african-americans during the time of lincoln or the african-american world that we still do not know that much about. thist to try to say without sounding boastful, but there was a black historian who was writing in the 1950's and 1960's. he was one of the few people who delved into the relationship between lincoln and african-americans. he tried to write about it with the resources he had at the time. way gonee in my own back in a couple of issues that he wrote about to see if there was more to say. in two major areas, i found there was and i have written expand on what he was doing.
because of digitized newspapers and the kind of range of questions we can ask now, i surprised at been how much scholarship there still could be about lincoln and race and lincoln and african-americans. if people could just go beyond the stories that get told over and over again. go back to primary sources and use the sources at our disposal. i think there is more to say. project?s your next kate: i am working on a book about the origins of the 14th amendment. i have written a lot about reconstruction but this book is about going much earlier and talking about the things that ended up in reconstruction policy had their origins.
>> fantastic. thank you so much. thank you for joining me. [applause] >> we would like to open it up for questions. just a note because this is being recorded. please beat up when you asked her questions. up when you ask your questions. >> is there anything you would insight intow lincoln that evolved from washington? kate: definitely. thingsd do not consider like establishing elizabeth's existence, one thing that is significant from washington's work and verifiable in records is how lincoln seems to have treated people who worked for him. a lot of the people that washington is writing about our
employees of the white house and of the lincolns. story, to stories two men who had worked for the lincolns in different ways. lincoln worked really hard to get them jobs in the treasury department. there is a paper trail of that. -- he wasting their writing to them, asking if he could get them jobs. that suggests that he was conscientious tiered there is more anecdotal evidence that he and mary lincoln were conscientious employers who treated their employees well in relation to the standards of that time. that is the kind of thing that some but he could use -- that somebody could use to add to or fill out a portrait of who lincoln was.
how were they as employers? a lot of people never think to ask. because people do not think of the history of wealthier middle class white people as employees -- employers. do we think about what they were like at home and how they treated their staff and family? those are different kinds of questions. that is an example of what i is actually -- sorry to go of thehose are some areas of the book that have been frequently cited by stories.
[indiscernible] >> kate, can you tell everyone a little bit about who elizabeth thomas was? kate: one of the stories in the book is about elizabeth thomas, known as betty thomas. she owned land on what is now for stevens property -- fort stevens property. when the government decided to build a fort there, they informed her that she was going to have to give up our land. they said they would compensate her for it. they built fort stevens on that land. there is also a story that she was there when lincoln was there
during the battle of fort stevens. herthen she never got compensation from the government . and washington has some that tell the story of her and her relationship to lincoln. she mentioned that lincoln , and that itthis was not his fault. she believes she would have gotten the compensation if lincoln had not been killed. she had a struggle to get what was due to her after the war. it went on for decades. i was really interested in this story. there are a few things in the congressional serial set about her.
these databases like aunt -- ancestry are adding to it. maybe we can put our heads together. that whole neighborhood sounds like it was so interesting. thank you. >> thinking about how many there were,projects but i wondered how he was able to do the research that he did going to many places. was it self funded? kate: he was a teacher, so he
had summers. that the trip to the midwest was in august of 1938. jobad a very stable teaching for the desegregated d.c. public schools. he also had a degree in dentistry and by most accounts was the first american -- first african-american to pass the dental boards and washington dc. -- practicedack dentistry outside of his house on the side. he was well-off enough to own a house and a vacation house in highland beach, maryland. that is an elite african-american beach community in maryland that was originally
funded by frederick douglass's son. he was not wealthy, but by the standards of that day for someone who was african-american, he was doing ok. in terms of time, he did it in the summer. out, trying to figure it he said he was collecting stuff before 1935. a lot of the dates of interviews and the book was in production process for most of 1940. so he worked on it for a few years. could you tell us one of the best oral history stories? kate: i think the story from hannah brooks about remembering
elizabeth keckley and being around when that book was written is an amazing story. there is another story from washington's own memory of his grandmother's friend who church in being in a washington dc on the night of , the day of 1862 the issuing of the emancipation proclamation. during the civil war in washington, especially with some churches with prominent pastors, white dignitaries liked to go to these churches and see what was going on there. she described how an advanced they were going to be white
important people there, and the black minister there, and she wanted to be part of it all. there was singing and preaching all day. so that is a really good story. >> there is a lot of effort that people make to portray lincoln as a racist. is there anything in his work that would reflect either way? kate: yes. very admiring of lincoln. this want to be clear on when i am talking about the book, this is not the only view of lincoln. it is not the only view among african-americans of lincoln. 1920's, theearly
is published some snippets on lincoln that was admiring of him but said he was big and enough -- big enough to be inconsistent. our friend but our worst enemy. all of these dichotomies about the frustrations of lincoln not moving quickly enough on emancipation or not really believing in equal voting rights . that thereo be clear are many ways of talking about lincoln's legacy and this is just one of them. lincolnry positive on and thinks that lincoln deeply believed in the equality of all humans. that lincoln had a very humanitarian sensibility.
but he also had a really hard time imagining the united states as a republic in which people of different races could live on terms of the quality. that was hard for him to wrap his mind around and he was not as progressive on those issues as many other people of his era. i see him as a complicated figure on this issue. but washington is slanted very pro-lincoln. always wondered but have not researched how much of that had to do with his own personal feelings of what was possible, and his reading of society and how surprised he would be to see the continued struggles we have today.
so i do not actually think there is a contradiction between wanting to get rid of slavery and also having some kind of doubts about racial equality. washington and his wife died three-month apart. they had been married for 60 1964.or so and he died in , he did not die at saint elizabeth. there is an obituary of him.
his wife had died a few months earlier and he was quite elderly. it is possible that he had gone there because he could not take care of himself. i have never seen any indication that he was mentally unsound or anything like that. >> we have time for one more question. then we will end up there. weight, one more. more.t, one , did lincolnview really free african-americans?
kate: your question took a little turn at the end. i think he hated slavery his whole life and probably sincerely felt this was a moment of tremendous importance. it he free african-americans? do this was one of many policies that led and peoplencipation in slavery were breaking their bonds. they were leaving slavery. they were refusing to work and andng towards union lines making slavery untenable on the ground. so in very many ways, they freed themselves or at the very least put things in motion. they put a problem in motion that the government was not going to be able to solve. they made it impossible to do anything other than move towards
emancipation. >> that is a good way to end. thank you so much. thank you dr. masur. [applause] thank you all. i'm the executive director of the cottage. thank you for coming to the cottage and we hope to see you again really soon. take care. announcer: this week is the 50th anniversary of martin luther king jr.'s assassination. onn us for live coverage c-span and american history tv on c-span3. on c-span tuesday at 1:00 eastern we're live from the university of memphis holiday in with taylor branch and then on
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and more. here's a clip from a recent program. >> i have a rule about press conferences that some of the professionals give credence to. i never plan questions. i know that many do. is becausei don't then the answer is contrived. no one is going to get away with , i want to have that question asked. and i also have a feeling that one of the -- is that when a question is hard and tough, it gets a better answer. it saves me from the easy questions were someone is trying to help me. oh,average viewer says, that is one of his friends. announcer: