tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Civil Rights Race Relations CSPAN April 1, 2018 10:28pm-12:01am EDT
anniversary of martin luther king junior's assassination. join us for live coverage from memphis on c-span at american history tv on c-span3 on tuesday at one :00 p.m. eastern. we are live from the university of memphis holiday inn with pulled surprise winner, author and historian taylor branch. wednesday beginning of four: 30 p.m., live coverage of the outdoor service at the lorraine hotel, the site of the assassination. civil rights leaders including jesse jackson will be there. 8:00 p.m. eastern, archival events including cbs news anchor walter cronkite announcing dr. king assassination and his funeral in atlanta. wednesday beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. live coverage would civil rights leader's past and present, diane and tamika mallory. the 50th anniversary of the
assassination of dr. martin luther king jr. live tuesday and wednesday on c-span and american history tv on c-span3. now we continue our series a68, america and turmoil with look at civil rights and race relations, including martin luther king junior's poor people camping, his assassination in and the kerner commission report. our guests are kathleen cleaver, former black panther party communication secretary and historian cronkite here's walter on april 4, 1968 announcing that martin luther king jr. had been shot and killed. ? >> good evening, dr. martin luther king has been shot to
death in memphis tennessee carried in all points bulletin was issued or a white man running from the scene. officers also chased and fired on a rail equipped car containing two white men. the seconds on balcony of a hotel room when, according to a companion, a shot was fired from across the street. friend's words, the bullet exploded in his face. people were on the scene almost immediately. they rushed the negro league are to the hospital where he died of a bullet wound to the next. they found a high-powered hunting rifle from the block of the hotel. the mayor has reinstated the dusk to dawn curfew he opposed on the city last week in a march led by dr. king corrupted and violence.
there are 4000 national guardsmen called out. police reported the murder has unleashed several acts of of violence. >> america is shocked and saddened by the brutal slaying tonight of dr. martin luther king. rejectvery citizen to the blind violence that has struck dr. king. who lived by nonviolence. family, can find comfort in the memory of all that he tried to do for the land he loved it so well. sympathy ofconveyed .ohnson and myself i know that every american of goodwill joins me in mourning the death of this outstanding
leader and in praying for peace and understanding throughout this land. we can achieve nothing by lawlessness and divisiveness among the american people. it is only by joining together and only by working together can we continue to move toward equality and fulfillment for all of our people. i hope that all-americans tonight will search their heart as they ponder this most tragic incident. >> king was born in atlanta, january 15th, 1929. he was the son and the grandson of prominent negro ministers in atlanta, and he had an extended education. he graduated finally with a doctorate from boston university
in 1954 and got his first pastorate in montgomery, alabama. it was there he was to win fame. because in december of 1955 he took leadership of a bus boycott, and over the period of a year won that strike with a federal desegregation order in alabama. his nonviolent campaign spread through the south and he became a leader of a conference. since the rise of radical national league ress of stokely and brown, king had been seen as a moderate. >> we are looking back to 1968,
america in turmoil on c-span and c-span 3's american history tv. that report was walter calling kite -- walter cronkite on the desk occurring 50 years this , week. we are going to be talking about it this morning. we are going to cover civil rights and race relations. we are joined this morning for the discussion by kathleen cleaver. she's a former communications secretary for the black panther party. and from austin texas we welcome back professor joseph, director of race study. take us back to the end of 1967 and where the civil rights movement was as 1968 was dawning. this was 13 years since the brown v board of education decision had been handed down. what was the state of the movement? >> well, i think the state of the movement was very strong,
but it was also -- there was a lot of debate, and there was a let of controversy. when you think about the civil rights movement and dr. martin luther king jr. as this significant iconic figure, king is really a political mobilizer, -- amitai: and there are a number of different movements. so there are movements within the movement. so by 1967 we are seeing black power activists who are talking about political control. they are talking about social and political self determination. they have the student non-violent committee who were talking about anti-war activism and anti-imperialism. we have the national welfare rights organization that is talking about poverty. in that way, by 1968, king is non-violent committee who were talking about a poor people's campaign and anti-poverty campaign at the same time you have young black political
radicals who are talking about everything from educational activism and the creation of black student unions to anti-imperialist strategies and anti-capitalist critiques. certainly the black panthers and the black panther party for self-defense really unders what is happening at the local level in a place like oakland, california, and really in an era before black lives matter, they are talking about everything from community control and free breakfast programs, but also they are questioning the legitimacy of state sanctioned violence. they are questioning the high rates of incarceration then in 1967 and 1968 of black men and women. they were questioning police
brutality at the local level. and they are really looking at that. one of the first things the pasters do in oakland, california, is try to get a street light set up at a corner where african-americans have been hit by cars in oakland in the east bay. when we think about 1967, the movement is a movement of movements. it is a panoramic movement. sometimes people say doctor king goes north because he goes to chicago. but there was always a happening in chicago, and new york and outside of the south. at times the media focused on the old confederacy because we had the police dogs in birmingham, alabama. we had civil rights activists murdered in mississippi in 1964. we had protestors beaten on the beach of st. augustine, florida in 1964. in truth, political activism during the the civil rights movement was a heroic period from 1964 to 1968 was happening
in virtually every major city and also the rural hamlets across the united states. by 1967, the movement had lost in the minds of the american public some of the cohesiveness that we had seen when the movement was going for the voting rights act and the civil rights act in the aftermath of brown, in the aftermath of emmitt till and the bus boycott. but, in fact the movement is , going for more than voting rights or civil rights. it is trying to transform democracy and re-imagine black citizenship by calling for not just an end to racial and economic oppression, but it is calling for things like a living wage, the right for black women and men to have good jobs, decent homes and schools that actually educate young people. >> on that, kathleen cleaver, you are in your early 20's at this point at the end of 1967.
you were involved in the civil rights movement. what did you see as the biggest barriers yet to be overcome as 1968 dawned? kathleen: well, we were in the movement -- i was in the student non-violent coordinating committee. that is where the call for black power came. what saw was the political empowerment to people subjected to racism and poverty, and particularly police violence. self-defense, community control of police, food, social justice. there were a range of issues. but the key focus of the movement i was in was against police brutality and against violence directed toward blacks. host: we want to go over some of the key dates and issues we are going to be talking about. in the year 1968, as we discussed, arrival rights and race relations, we are going to be talking about the vietnam war and its impact on civil rights in this country. the tett offensive begins on
january 30th. february 12th, the memphis sanitation strike begins. february 29, the concerner commission releases its report. then april 4th, martin luther king jr. was assassinated. to the days after martin luther king's assassination rioting in , baltimore, chicago, washington, d.c., and other cities. on june 4, robert kent wins the -- robert kennedy wins the california primary, and he is shot the next day. on october 16, then the iconic image of tommie smith and john carlos protesting at the olympic games. we will talk about richard nixon and the impact his presidency had on the movement. we are going to be talking about all that this morning in our 1968 america in turmoil series.
special phone lines if you want to join the conversation. the number is 202-848-8000. for those 30-60 years old, 202-748-8001. 202-7 48-8002. clover cleaver we introduced you as the former communications secretary for the back paster party. how did you get involved in the black paster party? kathleen: i was in an organization called snix. the only one who managed to get there come out of everyone we invited, was the leader of the plaque paster party. he fell madly in love with me and persuaded me that i should come out to california, which i did. we got engaged, and we got married and i got involved in the organization. it was very much in line with the thinking and planning of
snik. but snik was an organization that had started many years ago and was in chaos. the black panther party was very new. it had been in existence about a year. it was exciting, engaging than -- and filled with positive young men an women. it was great. says youfessor joe talked about the organization of the civil rights movement at the time, how did white america you the different organizations that were out there. as well as dr. king's movement? peniel: well, by 1968 there is going to be what some people call a white backlash against the movement. that is this idea that there was at one time real broad base support for civil rights struggles and racial equality. generally, white people when we look at everything from polling
data and the state of the nation at the time were increasingly at unease with this idea of civil rights. by the time we see urban rebellion, what critics would call race riots, and what the president of the kerner commission calls civil disorders that start in 1963 in birmingham, alabama. by 1964, harlem explodes. in 1965, the watts neighborhood in los angeles explodes. that is a few days after the passage of the voting rights act. and we see massive urban rebellion in newark and detroit in 1967. so between 1963 and 1968, we are going to have hundreds of civil disturbances in hundreds of american cities. what the kerner commission argues, and that is the president's own commission, is that the root of the violence and rioting is poverty and
institutional racism. it says white racism has created and maintained urban get owes, ghettos and it is only white society that can get rid of these getos in that sense. so there is going to be increasing unease, and increasing unease about the level of rhetoric that black power activists are engaged in. what they do, they really talk about structural oppression. they link the war in vote nnamdi -- the war in vietnam with the ineffectiveness of the war on poverty. they link police brutality with the ms. ration and ofoverishment african-americans in rule and other areas. by 1968, they were talking about gender as well.
radical black feminists were organizing, especially those connected to snik, who become a part of the black women's alliance. when we think about how the white public is perceiving civil right, it is going to be for the most part negative. it is interesting to remember that martin luther king jr. by 1968 is not the same mainstream hero is in 1964 when he accepts the nobel peace prize. by 1968, king is touring the country like a man on fire critiquing the johnson administration about the vietnam war, trying to galvanize support for a multi-racial poor people's campaign. planning to go in washington and stay in washington until congress passes meaning full anti-poverty legislation.
we have congress persons who had praised king after winning the who werece prize saying he was an anarchist and anti-social and unamerican. in 1968, there is a feeling of doom as if the subversives have taken off. -- taken over. what is interesting, and this is one of the things that dr. king says. he starts to feel that even white liberals are abandoning the movement because so many white americans are embracing this notion of peace and law and order with no justice. when we think about 1968, it is going to be an incredibly tense year, but it is also a hopeful and optimistic year because so many not only civil rights act visits, but black power act visits are trying to talk about the politics of transformation at the grass loots level.
when you talk about the politics, they are talking about everything from community control of urban schools, talking about building farm cooperatives in the rural south. they are definitely talking about black elected officials, but they are also talking about welfare rights activism. they are talking about the relationship between african-americans and africa and u.s. foreign policy. they are critiquing capitalism and saying is this the right economic system for poor black people. they are really trying to re-imagine what citizenship will look like in the future. it is an incredibly helpful time as well. host: we mentioned one of those black power activists as well. eldridge cleaver. who was huey newton? kathleen: he started an organization with his field bob yifment they had met at merit college, and they created an organization. they outlined a platform, gave it a name. they were just two men, but they had a vision of what change should be like, and once they started, they started it in
oakland, people flocked into the organization, and it really got a lot of attention very, very quickly. host: and what was that organization? kathleen: the black panther party for self-defense. host: here is newton and cleaver speaking about the black paster party in 1968. >> in america, black people are treated very much as the vietnamese people or any other colonized people. we are used, brutalized, and our area, andoccupies our foreign troops occupies our territory. the police are not in our community to promote our welfare or for our security and safety, but they are there to contain us, to brutalize and murder us because they have their orders to do so. just as the soldiers in vietnam have their orders to destroy the vietnamese people. the police in our community
couldn't possibly be there to protect our property because we own no property. they couldn't possibly be there to see that we receive the due process of law for the simple reason that the police themselves do not have due process of law. it is very apparent that the police are only in our community not for our security, but for the security of the business owners in the community and also to see that the status quo is kept intact. host: people are not hit to that yet. they are not aware it. they know something is going on in our country, but they don't know where it is at. they think it is the black people doing it. you dig? all those riots are causing my life to be miserable in all areas, you know. they really haven't focused in on the fact that it is the pigs and then mentors, the power structure, the bald headed businessmen in the chamber of commerce.
he is not turned on to that power structure. they just know that life is becoming increasingly miserable for everybody. host: kathleen cleaver, tell us about the early days of being involved in the black panther party. kathleen: it was very exciting because it was a new organization. it was in the middle of the vietnam war. a lot of people locked into the black panther party. a large number of college students. it was so positive, so optimistic, so full of energy. the organization i had left was the student non-violent organization committee. it was at the point of burnout because of organizations and losing money. by the time they made that articulation, the organization was pretty much kaput. the black paster took that and ran with it and spread across the country. host: did the black panther
party endorse violence? kathleen: it was initially called the black panther party for self-defense. black people were being shot in the streets. the violence was against us. we were not a violent organization. we were an organization trying to challenge and defend our communities against the existing violence. host: professor joseph, can you talk a bit about the tactics of the black paster party? peniel: well, i would say that the tactics are going to be multiple. like professor cleaver was saying, the initial name was black panther party for self-defense. when you think about the 10 point program or a 20-point program that the panthers put out in 1966 and updated in 1968, they talked about everything from ending police brutality to freeing black women and men who were in state, local and federal
prisons, to having employment, good jobs. good schools. education. point penn talked about land, peace, bread and justice. on one level the tactic was self-defense and legally arming themselves, at least by the fall of 1966 but before the state of california passes gun control legislation that is really anti-panther legislation by the spring of 1967, which is one the reasons why the panthers on may 2, go to sacramento to protest this gun control bill, which was to prevent panthers from patroling the police armed, which was legal in the state of california at the time. so on one level we have the marshall military image of the panthers with the berets and leather jackets and rifles. there is an iconic picture of professor cleaver in that mode.
another strategy was really this strategy of community empowerment and the strategy of anti-poverty and survival programs. what they later called called survival programs. it is this idea of survival pending revolution. when we think about the panthers we think not of just , free breakfast and lunch problems, we think of legal aid. there is a great book looking at the black panthers and the medical clinics they did. the panthers also anticipated the rise of mass incarceration so they had free bus to go prison programs. they had an ambulance service. they had tenants rights organizations, legal aid. they were also interested in drug rehabilitation and the mental health of the black community. when we think about the environment the pasters talked
, -- panthers talked about capitalism plus dope equals genocide. that was one of the pamphlets of the party in 1970. there is a dual based strategy. the group is a janus based group and on one level they are , talking about proactive revolutionary activities. but then there is another as pennington of the group that really at times attracts much less attention but that has witness very, very substantive. and that is the strategy of empower impoverished people mentally, physically and spiritually, and providing them critical thinking skills to understand what was going on. that clip you played a few we newton and-- huey eldridge cleaver is profound and powerful because you are watching two different political activists, who are also
intellectuals and theorists. they are theorizing about the structure of racial and economic oppression in the united states. and 50 years later when we think about the movement for black lives mattering, that is completely connected in trying to build on what the pasters -- panthers realized when you think about the way in which the state was institutionalizing the repression of african-americans. 2.3 million people in prison and about half are african-americans. 8 million ons probation and over one million children, many of which are black and have parents who are in prison and incarcerated. the panthers, really formulate at the dawn of that era, the era of not just mass incarceration bowl with the panthers were calling state sanctioned violence. by that, they meant the police, the law enforcement, but like the professor said, they also talk about economic violence. the reason why they started the
breakfast programs is because so many black children and people were impoverished and those free breakfast programs eventually become something that is widespread and get institutionalized instance -- in states like wisconsin, and eventually at the federal level as well. host: we are looking back 50 years to 1968, the civil rights and race relations in this country. joining us on phone is james in collins, mississippi. we split our phone lines up by age. james on the line for those 61 and older. good morning. >> good morning to everybody. hello? host: go ahead, sir. you are on with kathleen cleaver and peniel joseph. >> i just wanted to -- i hope everybody had a happy passover and whatever else they have to celebrate the death and birth of jesus christ. i was 14 years old back in 1968. i lived on both sides of the streets. i lived in mississippi, and i lived in chicago.
i could tell the difference between night and day in some ways. but my mine point was in 196 -- my main point was in 1968 when dr. martin luther king was assassinated. i was in in chicago, and i saw the riots. i saw the burning of buildings. i saw the things that was going on. one thing about it. my mother would not allow me to bring anything in our house that was stolen. she refused to let us do that. but my main point is this. in 2018, and going back that far, there is a lot that has changed. but a lot has not changed. in the sense of when you say in 2018 you are going to make this country great again. what the hell do you have to use
-- lose? black folks are asking americans, and america has always been great and always will be great no matter what. but the thing is, you have to make america right again. because the civil rights marches, and white, black, and everybody back during that time, it was not the government that exposed the wrong in this country. it was people getting out and marching. host: thanks for the call from mississippi. kathleen cleaver, i will let you take up some of the issues he brings up there. peniel: he talks about -- kathleen: he talks about how people were feeling and in this context, we're not talking about the war in vietnam, but everything that was happening in the civil rights and black power movement was generated and amplified, and in some senses, picked up by the impact of the vietnam war. the impact of the draft in the sense that young men, they were going to get killed or died and
the some attitude was, why should i go to vietnam and die. why don't i stay home and fight for black freedom. intensity of black power in the civil rights energy in america was amplified over and over again by the activities in the vietnam war and by the population. these young men being taken out of school and shipped to vietnam. or deciding they will not go to vietnam and becoming draft doctors. there was a lot of turmoil involving war, involving racism, and the future of what this country was going to be. this is where our leaders like bobby kennedy gets murdered as soon as he got elected. it was very traumatizing. host: professor joseph i will let you take this one. good morning. caller: good morning. to everybody in
whatever way you celebrate today. i want to say that when they started killing off all of the civil rights leaders with the king,ys, martin luther and malcolm x., they swept under the rug and said they were all bunch of criminals. then they started to lock us up. .t would not matter if you are black, you could walk across the street sideways and get locked up. you were the enemy against them, now the police shoot and murder people. i never thought i would live to see anything like this in my lifetime. my grandmother told me, she never thought she would live to see a black man in the white house. she didn't live to see it but i did. i lived my grandmother's dream. and after he leaves, look at the
shambles that our nation is in. nobody could've ever predicted this. what you want to pick up on from that -- host: what you want to pick up from that? peniel: from all the deaths that were occurring, i think that despite the assassinations, that we can go as far back as 63, the kennedy assassination and the assassination of edgar evers -- the early morning of june 12, 1963. those assassinations had a big impact, but it is important to remember that the protests and demonstrations continued to proliferate in spite of those assassinations. in a way what we see is that , political assassinations sort of rob social movements of narratives that are formed,
especially in the 1960's, predominantly male figures. but it doesn't mean the movement , goes away. by after 1968, you will see more protests against the vietnam war than after. -- than before 1968. after, we see more protests for community control, women's rights, chicano activism, civil rights, social justice, black power activism into the 1970's. when we think about those assassinations, we remember them as important pivot points. but it is important to recall that the social movements don't end because we have these big political mobilizes or icons who are assassinated. when the leader or representative is a woman or man, they are representing a ground of political organizing that is happening at the local
level. there is no dr. martin luther king jr. without joann robinson, of the women's political counsel in montgomery, alabama, or rosa parks. people who were day-to-day organizers. what he is doing as an articulate her is he is able to galvanize attention for what people have been doing at the local level. even though what movements lose when someone is assassinated is that there is no focal point or figurehead that can bring that kind of media attention, but the movements continue. host: the caller mentioned robert kennedy. he enters the race in march 1968. what did he mean to the civil rights movement in 1968? peniel: -- kathleen: i'm not certain that the movement -- we called ourselves the black power movement, a little different
energy than civil rights. we were not committed to nonviolence, we were committed to radical social justice and economic change. bobby kennedy articulated, as a mainstream politician, some of the interest that the social justice movement had, which is more than likely why he didn't even get a chance to get out the gate. he was murdered as soon as he making a speech so the right-wing repression that was coming, they made it clear that the politics of robert kennedy, of social justice, antiwar were being repudiated. that kind of set the tone for a radical uprising across the country on many levels. host: we set the tone for this discussion with the news report of the death of dr. martin luther king jr. 50 years ago this week. describe your memory of learning of his death.
kathleen: i was in oakland at the time -- living in california at the time, where the black panther headquarters were. the black panther party headquarters were in oakland. what i remember was how stunned and angry black people around the country were. washington dc was set on fire. there were tons of uprisings, riots, protests. the country seemed to be in a state of total chaos. what was intriguing was there were instructions to the police to stand down. police were not confronting these riots and uprisings. you saw a huge explosion of anger and frustration and violence in the wake of the assassination of martin luther king. host: professor joseph, why was martin luther king jr. in day.is on that
prof. joseph: he was in memphis because he had been called by one of his good, close friends, the reverend jim lawson, who was helping to organize sanitation workers in memphis, tennessee, on strike for a living wage. kings starts going there in march and giving speeches. one time during a visit, one of the demonstrations turned violent, not because of the demonstrators who were part of the organized civil rights activism, but because of outliers, young people in the city who were frustrated, and they smashed some windows. king is determined to return to memphis to have a rally that is peaceful, because people are very critical. critics are saying, if you can't lead a peaceful rally in memphis, how can he come to washington, d.c. and do this cap in intent city.
but he was in memphis, because at 68, he is convinced that the vietnam war is this immoral, illegal war. but it is a war that has robbed , resources from poor people and attention from their plight. he goes to places like mississippi, to the southwest and meets with mexican-american activists, farmworkers. he meets up with poor whites as well. he's going to have a whole caravan, a multiracial caravan that will come to d.c. in the summer for this poor people's campaign. by 1968, king is talking about a guaranteed income. 50 years ago, we should remember that there were many americans across political lines who were talking about a guaranteed income as a way to fight poverty and end poverty and joblessness once and for all. some people talked about full
employment and how that would look. works progress administration that went beyond the new deal. when king goes to memphis, he uses it as the first beachhead in the larger battle for social justice. by 1968, king is going to be vilified for talking about poor people, talking about a guaranteed income, for saying he's going to bring this nonviolent army to washington, d.c., even though he is always articulating a philosophy of nonviolence, journalists and politicians are going to criticize him and say that he is trying to bring the violence to washington, d.c., when all he is really trying to do is force the united states into a reckoning with the gap between democratic
rhetoric and democratic reality, especially for poor people. but really poor people of all colors. he is intensely interested in racial justice and economic justice, but sees the connection between race and class. host: we are nearly halfway through our discussion on this weeks installment of 1968, america in turmoil. we are talking about the civil rights movement and race relations. we split our phone lines up differently this morning. if you are 29 and under, it is (202)-748-8000. if you are 30 years old to 60 years old, (202)-748-8001. if you are 61 years and older, (202)-748-8002. nicholas has been waiting in nashville, tennessee, on the line for 29 and under. go ahead. caller: good morning. i am glad to come across this conversation today. i want to ask about the speakers ir thoughts on the
leadership organization, and structure of today in the black revolution, because often in schools, we talk about the focal points and leaders as if they were the heart in every action. the drumbeat of every movement. but really, the reality is they weren't so. i'm curious what you think about how the revolution looks today, and the organized structure, and is there anything you would like to highlight from your experiences, for people who are 29 and under who are the next generation, what would you like us to learn or pay more attention to? host: thanks for the question, kathleen cleaver, i will let you start. prof. joseph: -- kathleen: what is important to understand is they were mass mobilizations of people in the united states, triggered in large part by dislocations of
the war in vietnam. also a sense of hope, that the world is going to change. that king and people like him were articulating a different vision for america, and there were masses of people that believed that america could be changed. i remember being with radical revolutionary activists, mostly 25 or younger, down to teenagers, who really could sense this was a moment that we had a chance to change the country. we talked about, we were going to change the world. there was optimism. america was a wealthy place, we had a lot of resources. the vietnam war dislocated the economy and made it possible for people to think about revolutionary transformation, whether peaceful or violent. host: dr. joseph, did you want to weigh in? prof. joseph: certainly. 1968 is a global year of political revolution. when we think domestically of
1968, one of the slogans is going to be that the world is watching, when young activist were being brutalized at the democratic national convention in chicago. what they mean by the whole world is watching, it's the whole world was watching one american democracy actually meant for people who were protesting for social justice and the huge yawning chasm between democratic rhetoric and reality when it came to reimagining american citizenship. we are thinking of the tet offensive, prague spring in czechoslovakia, mayday demonstrations across europe, but also latin america, south america latin america, africa, , anti-colonial struggles. student strikes and protests are all throughout the world. 1968 is this feeling of political revolution and optimism and cultural revolution.
the question was about leadership today. i think leadership today in terms of contemporary movements, and we see this with black lives matter and the me too movement, the recent youth march, and also with the dreamers and immigration and daca movements. leadership is structured in a much more cohesive and democratic way. ella baker, the founder of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, famously said strong people do not need strong leaders, and what she means by this, and she was a radical feminist, trade unionists, organizer, worked with dr. king, mentored people like stokely carmichael, mentored the young activist of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, and she met people -- she meant that the people themselves were going to have to organize for their own justice and their own rights. when we think about now with the social movements that are happening in the contemporary
context, the huge positive is, one, many are female lead, and when we think of the movements of the 1960's, women were leaders but a lot of times, marginalized when we think of public transcript of the 1960's. now we see women, such as the cofounders of black lives matter hashtag who are out there in a public and brilliant way. these movements are not relying on one figurehead or iconic leader. i think that makes them much more powerful and potentially more effective and long-lasting. host: professor joseph, let me let kathleen cleaver jump in. do you agree with his assessment of how women leaders of the the civil rights -- the civil rights movement and the black power movement were remembered and part of the story? kathleen: at that era, the
concept of women leadership was somewhat subdued. there was no question the civil rights movement was woman led and woman directed -- i am thinking gloria richardson, ella baker, but the willingness of the media and black community to enhance the role of men was very important. women were not seeking recognition as much as participation, and it was fundamental and essential. host: what was the role of the communication secretary? how did you get that job? kathleen: i came to the black panther party from the organization called sncc, and we were planning a demonstration at the alameda county courthouse when huey newton had been shot by a policeman -- charged with attempted murder and murder was coming to court. we were going to have a demonstration.
i had just come into the black panther party recently, so it had to go out and i had to identify who sent it. communications secretary, black panther party. host: you gave yourself the title? kathleen: yes. julian barnes was the communication director, and i modeled myself on julian. i called myself secretary because there was also a minister of information, a chairman, so that was my title. host: dallas, texas, charles is on the line for those between 30 and 60. good morning. caller: good morning. thank you. it is an honor to speak with one of the mothers of the movements, as well as the distinguished professor joseph from texas. i am right up the street from you in dallas but i grew up in sacramento, california, where the latest example of heart break and police violence has happened. what i wanted to say was how amazing the panthers and dr. king were able
to describe america as this immaculate rolls-royce with a knocking off engine. it looked good but socially, the car was a lemon. kathleen: i think it is brilliant. i have never heard that before. there is a huge difference in america between what people experience and desire and what is actually happening in this country. i believe in the 1960's, what we saw was a waking up among black people, latino people, exploited people of what was being done to them, and looking at how we can take this on and because of vietnam. it was something malcolm x said that resonated, those little yellow men in black pajamas are taking down uncle sam. it was like, small people, poor people could make a difference. that was radicalizing across the country. host: professor joseph, bring this back to 50 years ago this
week, and the death of martin luther king junior. who was james earl ray? and what was his motivation in the assassination? prof. joseph: he was the assassin of dr. martin luther king junior. his motive, by all reports, was racial hatred and unease with what king represented in the world. in a sense of the social and political change and transformation that dr. king was trying to achieve. kathleen: i would like to say, i don't think the king family accepted, and the british attorney accepted that he was a shooter. they saw him as holding a position to cover up who killed king. host: covering up for who? kathleen: the people who
organized the assassination. that he was a front, but not the killer. host: what do you believe? kathleen: i believe that. i don't think one man would take down martin luther king. it had to be a conspiracy, and probably more than one shooter. host: what do you think, dr. joseph? prof. joseph: as a historian, i tend to go with the historical record, but i acknowledge there have been doubts raised by different quarters, including the king family, posthumously, questioning the way in which evidence was gathered, questioning whether he in fact murdered their father. when we think of the historical records, i go with the historical record that james earl ray is the shooter until and unless we are presented with rocksolid evidence that shows something different. prof. joseph: i guess you understand that the rocksolid evidence is
very seriously being covered up. -- kathleen: i guess you understand that the rocksolid evidence is seriously being covered up. prof. joseph: you know, i understand that people are saying that and i would love to see and hear more. i have read those perspectives, definitely. host: i want to go back to that night 50 years ago on april 4. this is the audio of robert kennedy announcing the death of martin luther king jr. at an impromptu speech in indianapolis. here is what he had to say. [video clip] >> in this difficult day, in this difficult time for the united states, it is possible to -- perhaps well to ask what kind of nation we are and what direction we want to move in. those of you who are black, four considering the evidence, evidently is that there were white people who were responsible. you can be filled with bitterness and with hatred, and
a desire for revenge. we can move in that direction as a country and greater polarization. black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. or we can make an effort, as martin luther king did, to understand and comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand compassion and love. for those of you who are black, and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act,
against all white people, i would only say that i can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. i had a member of my family killed, and he was killed by a white man. but we have to make an effort in the united states. we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these difficult times. host: professor joseph, take us back to the hours and days after the death of martin luther king junior. from that speech, the rioting and burning of cities we saw around the country. prof. joseph: bobby kennedy's words are really ironic because his attorney general under john f. kennedy approved the wiretaps that j edgar hoover put on dr. king, and that accelerated the
fbi's war against dr. king, and in a lot of ways, those wiretaps led to that anti-dr. king sentiment that partially led to his death. it is interesting that bobby it is interesting, bobby kennedy's evolution. kennedy says these are difficult times. king, on april 3, the night before he is assassinated, said we have some difficult days ahead of us. what he was really talking about was the way in which there was a huge gulf in between what activists and leaders felt the united states needed to do legally and politically, and what the country was willing to do. the country responds, the state responds with more political and economic oppression and in 1968, we have to remember that the omnibus crime bill is passed a couple months after king died,
perhaps june 19, 1968. if i'm correct. and that crime bill really expands wiretapping and eavesdropping that the federal government is allowed to do, but also provides the state with billions of dollars in money for law enforcement that sows the seeds for mass incarceration and now that provides many given to states through the byrne grant and all the states and local municipalities that huge incentives to incarcerate african-americans and latinos and poor whites. host: kathleen cleaver, take us back to where you were that night in the days after and your the nights and days after, and your actions. kathleen: i was in california. once king was killed once his , death became public knowledge,
it was an explosion across the country with riots, rebellions, washington, d.c., and the police were standing down. there was not much control of this. so the black panther party wanted to respond, but they did not believe people should go out and riot in the streets so they took upon themselves a inup of panthers to engage actions in response to king's assassination. the group i am talking about is eight panthers who were going to essentially attack police in response. what ended up happening was the group got scattered and a small contingent ended up in a house in oakland and were shooting back and forth with the oakland police, and bobby hutton and eldridge were in the same house, and that house began to catch on fire. they said, well, we don't want to burn to death, so bobby hutton came out and attempted to
surrender and was shot. no one other than bobby hutton was killed that night. about eight other panthers were arrested and it became a huge case. the whole country was at war. host: what happened to eldridge cleaver? kathleen: he was arrested, sent back to prison. he was an ex-convict and able to get out on bail through unusual decisions by a judge because when he went to court, no one from the state appeared. it was only eldridge and the judge. and he said, based on the evidence i heard, i have to take his story, which was not heard of, that a black panther shooter engaged with police was out on bail and the candidate for president under the peace and freedom party, which is a protest party so what he did was , run his presidential campaign across the country until it was
time for him to surrender, to to return to police and prison, at which point he disappeared. he showed up a few months later in havana. host: were you with them? kathleen: oh, no. i did not know where he was. he was off to montreal, but i did not know. host: when did you reconnect with him after that? kathleen: in algeria i had to , 1969. get to cuba in a roundabout way. the way to get to cuba was take a flight in algeria to cuba. i actually got there and got a message, do not leave. host: did you want to add something? prof. joseph: yes, when we think about the immediate aftermath of dr. king's assassination, his funeral in atlanta is going to be seen by over 100 million americans.
his coffin is carried by a mule train in atlanta. every major residential candidate attends king's funeral, so eugene mccarthy, bobby kennedy, hubert humphrey, richard nixon, president lyndon johnson because of security concerns, does not attend. but king is accorded the equivalent of a state funeral, and when we think about what is going on on college campuses, black communities, there is a huge sense of mourning. at times, a sense of rage and over 125 cities cities erupt in violence, but there is also a sense of organizing that takes place as well. when we think of the king assassination, it becomes a global event and there will be sympathy demonstrations around the world, europe, africa, latin
america, are sending telegrams to the king family and united states in solidarity with king's memory, so he is really going -- the country is going to be reeling in the aftermath of his assassination. and for a time, bobby kennedy, at the start of what becomes an 82 day campaign for president, until he is assassinated on june 5, like andy young, one of king's lieutenants, he said many many people start to transfer some of the feeling they had -- not necessarily the black power activist, but mainstream african-americans, some of the feeling and loyalty they have towards king and robert f kennedy, as if kennedy can somehow bind the wounds that are gripping the nation. when we think about bobby
kennedy, final thought in 1968, , he tried to do what barack obama successfully does in 2008. witches he tries to create a multiracial and multi-class coalition to win the presidency of the united states. host: about 30 minutes left in our discussion, taking your calls on phone lines split up by age. 29 and under, (202)-748-8000 -- 30 to 60 years old, (202)-748-8001. 61 and older, (202)-748-8002. nicolas calling from scotland on the line for those 61 and older. nicholas, go ahead. caller: good morning. i was listening, of course, at my age, and having been raised in detroit. i was 15 at the time of the riots and in 1967, and i was 16 in high school when dr. king was assassinated. what i wanted to say, it struck
me while i was watching your program, that professor joseph is an academic for the center of the study of race and democracy, and after 50 years of all that has gone on, it is ironic that they had the time to set up a center for the study of race and democracy. i think it is time to come off the ivory tower, dr. joseph. host: nicholas in scotland, professor joseph? do you want to take that? prof. joseph: sure. nicholas, i would say that we do more than just study. we are doing public research and history and policy programming that connects to race and democracy, civil rights, inequality, voting rights, mass incarceration. to tackle these issues, we have to do both, right? so when you think about -- i would not say it is just an
ivory tower, when you think of how do we leverage resources of these wonderful universities that we have in the united states to try and transform not just critical consciousness, but also public policies and leverage those resources on behalf of communities that would not have access to the kind of brainpower and resources that we have at universities. they had been -- when thinking of issues of social justice, very important in terms of legal transformations, in terms of public policy transformations, in terms of providing nonprofits and other grassroots organizations, the information and the research and the agency that they need on behalf of social and political justice. it is not just the center at ut,
but the whole idea of black studies coming out of the black power era and coming out this period we are having this morning is how do we leverage the intelligentsia, leverage -- and hard sciences like stem fields, and other aspects on behalf of people marginalized? like professor cleaver was saying, many people were attracted to groups like like panthers, and including herself, some were university students. some of the biggest activist to -- activists either took college classes, were college graduates, or were high school graduates or high school students, who shut cities down. when we think of parkland, young people in parkland are connected to the movement we are talking about, because because high school students in the south, north and west coast waged all kinds of struggles, including latino high school students, not just to get
educational equality but equal opportunity and equality of outcomes for their surrounding communities. host: a lot of calls waiting. kathleen cleaver, michael in florida on the line for those between 30 years old and 60 years old. caller: good morning. professor cleaver, it is an honor to see you. i saw a special recently on black women who were involved in the movement. back then, i know you were appointed -- part of that -- you were a part of that and they pointed out that the women who were involved took great care in making sure that the men were out front. the women knew they were a part of it, but knew the important thing about the black men being out front. professor joseph, i will say to you -- you have mentioned several time this morning about the importance of black women participating in the new movement.
black women have always been in the movement. be careful about this new emphasis on women being involved in the new movement, because it is a wedge issue designed to pit black men against black women. i'm 58 years old. my mother was a very strong black woman who raised 11 children and went to high school. we always had black women involved in the process. host: michael, thanks for the call. kathleen cleaver? i'm happy to hear you acknowledge that and to see the backbone of the movements for black justice, black freedom, and antislavery have been women for several reasons, one of which is that the attention on oppressing men was so vicious that it was almost necessary for women. but the other is that women took on that responsibility. and women leadership has been a feature of the struggle of the
-- against against slavery, segregation, racism, and part of that i think is because of the role of churches in the past. not so much now. churches are a gathering place for women who are activists, who are supporting leadership and essentially running the churches. the base of political activism in black communities frequently is women organizations and leaders. host: from virginia, max on the line for those 29 and under. go ahead. caller: thank you. i wanted to say this is a great conversation and i wanted to thank you for hosting it. when the professor mentioned dr. king's later words on antipoverty and antiwar, it seems dr. king's legacy has been manipulated in the time since 1968 and the later aspects of the program have been deemphasized. i was wondering if you might speak to dr. king's legacy and
the panthers' and the way the message has been manipulated historically. thank you. kathleen: it is rather difficult for them to manipulate out the radicalism of the black panther message, given the platform and images they had. whereas in the case of dr. king, , we saw and could tell that he was genuinely a revolutionary leader but he presented it in a christian context, which makes it even more threatening. king was very aware that his life was going to be shortened by the things he did. the black panthers were mostly teenagers, a youth movement with a handful of leaders over 21. and so the energy of the black panther party was a very, very different in the sense that we had chapters over the country, different programs, and we also focused on social and political issues that directly affected
black people and had a huge impact on our generation and the children of that generation. host: professor joseph, you have elizabeth waiting in fort lauderdale, florida, on the line for 60 and older. caller: hello. present company excepted, it is -- i am agreeable with what is being said, but my point is, what gets me on a regular basis, women come on -- mostly women -- come on programs with these very serious subjects and smile and grin and laugh. they get introduced and have this big old smile. it could have been a killing of 100 people. run over cars, guns, whatever.
and they come on to discuss these things. i understand it. i've been watching for multiple years. i've never seen such women coming on, great big smiles. i don't see anything funny. about this stuff. all right, elizabeth, we take your professor joseph, do point. you want to start? prof. joseph: i was still thinking about the king holiday and what the caller was talking about with king and his message. i think the king holiday has been a great example of the power and limitations of racial symbolism. the passage of the holiday in 1983, and now we have a king memorial, it would ensure that dr. king would not be forgotten, and that he was one of america's founding thinkers in a post-world war ii sense. but to embrace dr. king in the , sense of the mainstream is to be radicalized his message, -- king's anti-imperialism, his
anti-capitalism, and really his , courageous stability to speak to power and talk about white racism and white privilege, and turned him into a fuzzy teddy bear. this figure that everybody could love even though the last three years of his life, when he was in chicago battling mayor daley, when he no longer is political friends with lyndon johnson, people are castigating king and saying that -- there is one newspaper report in 1967 that says king and stokely carmichael are the batman and robin of the movement. and saying they are two sides of the same coin. so we choose to remember only the king who ends with the i have a dream speech at the march on washington, and we don't even interrogate that speech because that is a speech about reparations. that is a speech where he says we are coming to cash a check that has been stamped
insufficient funds, but we refuse to believe that the bank of american justice is bankrupt. that is what he says in 1963. when we think about his legacy, part of the irony of his legacy is the fact that he becomes the most visible symbol of the bar nine -- of the 1960's, bar nine. even bigger than the black panthers, but we robbed him of his own political agency in the way in which she tries to -- he tries to move all of us forward. king loves america enough to criticize america. host: you mentioned stokely carmichael a couple of times. i know you are the author of the book "stokely: a life." explain how he fits into this story we have been talking about in the last hour. prof. joseph: stokely carmichael is born in trinidad in 1941 and comes to the united states in
1952, one of the few african-american students who is at a competitive school you have to test into. he joins the nonviolent action group, a sncc affiliate at howard university in the 1960's, and becomes one of the most courageous civil rights activists of the era. he is a freedom rider, gets arrested in jackson, mississippi, and spends 49 days in the penitentiary in june 1961. he becomes the second congressional district leader of the mississippi freedom democratic party. he is good friends with martin luther king jr. he knows malcolm x and is impressed by him. by 1965, stokely is one of the leading -- he graduates from howard university, he goes to live in alabama, he helps organize sharecroppers in
alabama who become a freedom organization, who are nicknamed the black panther party, and that is where, when we think about the black panther party for self-defense, it is that county that provides us the first sign of the symbol of what becomes the black panther party in 1966. it is stokely carmichael who calls for black power in 1966 during the meredith march in greenwood, mississippi, and becomes this huge icon post assassination of malcolm x. carmichael is named honorary prime minister of the black panther party, initially field marshall, by executive order from huey newton, 1967, and helps publicize the free huey movement in 1968 at two large rallies in oakland and los
angeles and becomes one of the key pivotal figures, a bridge figure between civil rights and black power. he really participated in both of those movements, and he moves to west africa in 1969, and dies of prostate cancer in november 1998. really one of the stalwart , iconic figures who becomes an unreconstructed 1998. revolutionary and he changes his name to honor the pan african kwameh nkrumah and others. even in the 1970's and 90's, continues to articulate revolutionary ideas. host: kathleen cleaver? kathleen: i wanted to make a clarification that the name the black panther party came from an organization that stokely and
other people in lowndes county, alabama, or collaborating with the local community wanted to for the first time, run , candidates for office, so they had a political party, lowndes county freedom organization, and they had a symbol to vote for them and it was a symbol of the panther. so people began calling it the black panther party but they used that for certain reasons, saying a panther is the kind of animal who will never -- mind its own business. if you reach out to attack him, he will wipe you out. but he is not an attack animal. the symbol and notion of the black panther as connecting with radical black politics was very, very, very popular. another group in california took the name, and they said black panther party for self-defense. host: let's take a couple calls. anthony has been waiting in texas, line for those between 30 and 60. good morning. caller: good morning and thank you for taking my call.
i just wanted to highlight something i have seen over the weekend, several articles in the new york times regarding the senses bureau, and a study that they had been working on since which concluded with them 2004, deciding that they would create a designation for hispanics and arab-americans, so they would not have to define themselves as white. however, the trump administration, through jeff sessions, came up with another question, which i'm sure you all know, they rejected the designation for hispanic and arab-americans, and opted for united states citizens. whether you are a citizen or not. because, they fear a true depiction of what the demographic in the country really are. my concern is that just as they
did for years, repackaging the same practices and bringing them to us in different ways. basically, it would have an impact, it could have an impact according to the articles i read on voting rights, housing, and many other important resources, and it is just that these types of practices have not made us greater, but weaker. host: anthony, we will take your comment to come back to your question when we hear -- after we hear from ed in raleigh, north carolina, on the line for 29 and under. ed, go ahead. caller: good morning and thank you, c-span, and the guests for having this conversation. i appreciate it. if i could ask for their comments on a couple topics. what their opinion is on critical legal theory, it might be related to civil rights, i'm not sure.
and the other thing is -- and i'm not sure if this is inappropriate to ask, but if dr. king were still with us today, do the guests think the political landscape of the country would be different? host: thanks for the question. kathleen cleaver? kathleen: about dr. king, had he remained alive, had his movement been able to implement, with the poor people's march and the projects he's initiated, it is not so much if he was still alive, but if those structures for political change were still dynamic and being funded and people could participate, then some of those goals could have conceivably been implemented. but he was assassinated for clear reasons, that is exactly what the power structure did not want to happen. host: dr. joseph?
do you do what-if history questions? kathleen: -- prof. joseph: [laughter] not really but what i will say , is this, when we think of dr. king, if he was still alive, we have seen this transformed political landscape, including someone recently elected president, who never held political office, so i think it would have been tremendous pressure on him and we would have seen how he would have responded. he responded by saying no when people wanted him to run symbolically on protest tickets. i think the idea of having some massive social movement leader actually running for political office would not be far-fetched. it is just that we don't necessarily have the same kind of iconic leaders now that we did then. but i do agree with professor cleaver that if the movement that he helped mobilize had continued to evolve and develop
while he was alive, maybe things would be somewhat different. that movement continues to evolve and develop it is just that he has not been alive to be one of the primary articulators of that movement, which had its own benefits and drawbacks. host: we have time for a few more calls about 10 minutes left , this morning on 1968, america in turmoil. we are on c-span and c-span3 american history tv, covering the civil rights movement and race relations in 1968. james in greensboro, north carolina, on the line for those 61 and older. caller: good morning, c-span. i'm glad everyone came on to talk about this situation. what is going on back then, eldridge cleaver was a type of a hero to me. i remember one of my friends give me his album -- they had albums back then instead of cds, and i listened to a speech and
it all made sense. what we need to do, we need to organize even better than the 1960's because it was a spiritual movements to advance the program of this country. because it was so dominated against us because of the color of our skin. the melanin. and then he gave us so many names, but back then, we were called negroes, and colored, and then it became black. if you look under the dictionary under black, it is all negative. that is why we get shot in the streets, because of hatred. hatred is, like, born. it introduces itself in different faces and colors and stuff, so we need to do something to change things, and everybody is waiting for us. host: kathleen cleaver?
kathleen: i think what you are complaining about is something i would refer to as white supremacy. white supremacy has been a key component of america from its beginning. however, at this point, white supremacy is in trouble because the majority of the american population, i would say within the next 25 years would not be a white population. it is increasingly latino, african-american, asian, and the population growth that is projected, they have cities called majority minorities, meaning minority populations are in the majority. that will continue so i have the feeling over the next 40 years or so, we are going to see some political changes in response to the composition of the american population and therefore, the political class. host: the caller brings up eldridge cleaver. when did you get married to him?
kathleen: at the end of the 1967. we kept arguing, december 30 or december 31? [laughter] host: when did he die? kathleen: he died may 1 -- i am trying to think of the year. i cannot remember right this minute. host: and some of those people who joined you at the beginning of the black panther party, were they there? kathleen: no not at all. , he had left the black panther party, he had become a republican and gotten involved in other things. his funeral was, in fact, in los angeles where he was living at the time. one thing that sticks in my mind is one of our panther leaders, named geronimo pratt, and he was arraigned on a murder case, and finally after the fifth habeus petition, and by the time the fifth one came along they , decided to let him out.
pratt, who had been a major leader in the black panther party. he was able to come to eldridge's funeral. the black panther party was an extraordinary organization and it took an enormous amount of violence, imprisonment, denigration. and people who were in it, and still in prison, or people who were in the movement still supported. a large number of community people that you never hear about, still admire the efforts of the black panther party. host: professor joseph about , five minutes left. i wanted you to talk about that iconic moment from 1968 at the olympic games, the two american olympic athletes and the symbol, the salute they gave. they are seeing it on the screen. explain that moment for viewers who might not be familiar. prof. joseph: yes, that is the
400 meter relay race in the mexico city olympics, october 16, 1968 and that is tommie smith and john carlos who won the gold and bronze medals, respectively, and they were part of a larger movement that was inspired by dr. harry edwards in the late 1960's, to have a boycott of the olympics, black athletes, boycotting the olympics because of the human rights violations happening in the united states against african-americans. everything from police brutality to racial segregation, to violence against blacks. when we think about what eventually happens, some athletes at the olympics decided that if they did win, they were going to stage these protests, and what smith and carlos do is they go to the podium without any shoes on, just black socks, they each have a black glove,
and they raise the black power symbol. it is interesting because that was a powerful, iconic moment, but they were kicked out at the olympic village, stripped of their medals, vilified in the mainstream. by the 1990's, san jose state, where they were both athletes, had erected statues in their honor. for over a quarter century, they were denied employment, denied access and opportunities that they should have been afforded because they made this human rights protest. for them, what they were in solidarity with was indigenous people all over the world being oppressed, including african-americans in the united states, but all people all over the world. the third world, people of color, others being oppressed. in a way when we think about , smith and carlos, they anticipate what happened to
colin kaepernick. and 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 unveil and shed light on contemporary racism. that is what smith and carlos were trying to do. one last thing, they were embraced by black power. after they come back from the olympics, they tore -- tour howard university. historical black colleges, stokely carmichael is there, and others. they really become supported. people like kareem abdul-jabbar, bill russell, jim brown 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? kathleen: 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. said we should not be out here, we should be organizing and building community struggles, solving community issues. i would say it was a panorama of possibilities at the end of the 1960's, all of which are still , in a way, on some level, being part of our culture. host: kathleen cleaver is at emory university, school of law, senior lecturer and research fellow. penile 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. kathleen: thank you very much for having me.
prof. joseph: thank you. >> next sunday, april 8, we >> next sunday, we continue "american in turmoil." activists redefine the role of the federal government and challenge for notional value. but the assassinations of martin luther king jr. and john f. kennedy dealt shattering blows. next sunday live at 8:30 a.m. eastern.