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tv   Violence in U.S. Politics  CSPAN  August 15, 2019 8:00pm-9:34pm EDT

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for all to see, bringing you unfiltered content from congress and beyond. a lot is changed in 40 years but today the big ideas more relevant than ever on television and online, the unfiltered view of government . >> the correlation between violence and u.s. political change from the time of the american revolution to present day, this is part of a two-day conference called remaking american political history held at purdue university this is one and a half hours . >> since we have a very on time calming of the room, i will go ahead and kick us off. thank you so much for coming to this panel, as i think we will see it's incredibly timely and it's a good time to be putting
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topics into the context of a broader american history. i will start off by introducing our panel then, everyone will give opening statements and then we will start the conversation. >> so, sitting right next to me is an assistant professor of history at purdue university. he holds a phd in colonial history from johns hopkins and is author of captives of history, prisoners of war and the american revolution that will be released this fall at the university of pennsylvania. in addition to his book, he's published articles in the journal of the early republic the journal of military history in the new england quarterly. he's currently at work on a project that is provisionally titled, patrick henry's war, the struggle for empire in the revolutionary west. kelly carter jackson is a 19 century historian in the department of african ascites at wellesley college. her book out from the
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university of pennsylvania was exclusively focused during antebellum activist. she's co-author and featured in the history channel stock to mainieri, roots, history revealed nominated for an naacp award in 2016 . >> a phd candidate in history at northwestern university that explores the causes and consequences of the crisis of economic voter intimidation in the late 19th century united states. research has received the support from the institute of american history, the andrew w mellon foundation and research council. finally, felix harcourt is an assistant professor at austin college and the research focuses on the intersection of president the best price should us -- intersection of prejudice. the
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assistant editor two volumes of roosevelt collected papers . so, coming from charlottesville where i watched as neofascists and other violent races clash with protesters i was at the site of one of the most visible and explosive moments of lyrical violence in the u.s. in the last few years, it was also a moment that open the debate about political violence particularly as americans learn more about nt for. . the neo-confederates in charlottesville were often universally praised and even supporters were unsure what to do about the position on the use of violence. the visible races political violence in on the rise but anti-fat cost antiracist moral high ground making them irredeemable.
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the refusal to reject violence is the kind of questions i run into. may be , to put it more correctly, there's a mistake or limited sense of history that runs through the questions, through the nonviolent civil rights movement in the 60s when, as the story goes, justice was achieved not through war but for pete's civil resistance. the story is a thin one in the broader history of violence in american history, so, i'm glad were having a conversation that takes us back to the nation's founding and activities of the ku klux klan. >> why don't you get us started . >> thank you for the introduction and thank you katie for organizing this amazing conference. but my research addresses a perennial
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theme >> cultural historian strong on the inside of colleagues of special sciences describe violence as a language, it's a way of communicating when other forms of communication breakdown . one petition and protest failed to achieve the desired change, this course can devolve into violence. these historians pay pains to demonstrate the
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specific acts of violence have historically contingent meetings , and other words the vocabulary of violence changes over time. by, the correlation between political revolution and political violence often appears to be trans historical. violence is the common denominator of revolutions. but, what about the american revolution. unlike the french, haitian, mexican, russian, chinese, countless other political revolutions, america's revolution seems state and restrained, although hardly nonviolent, we can all think mel gibson for his reminder in the box office disappointment. neither does it appear to have much in common with the revolutionary violence of those that followed. american revolutionary violence appears legitimate justified, even comical, think boston tea party were tar and feathers. it's hard to imagine john adams
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of thomas jefferson lopping people's heads off while wearing the breeches and powdered wigs. as gordon wood noted in his study the radicalism of the american revolution, america's experience does not appear to resemble that of the revolutions of other nations in which people were killed, property destroyed and everything turned upside down . >> the ideological idea of this ideology that would transform not only america's government but society as well. all of which was achieved by the early 19th century without ever erecting a guillotine in philadelphia. the apparent absence of widespread violence has caused some to question whether the american revolution was revolutionary. king george the third survives a conflict with his head in tack. perhaps, america's revolution was unique maybe even
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exceptional. in this framing the american model appears as a shining city upon a hill, an example to be emulated if not exported around the globe. yet, to make this claim requires willful ignorance of eight years of plenty and divisive civil war era that pitted british americans about the metropolitan cousins five american loyalists, patriot neighbors, liberated slaves against masters and indigenous nations against one another. most historians of the american revolution have segregated the political and social transformations of the era from the actual fighting basket we have a war for independence with drums, generals, battles , separate from the political revolution of 1776. when thinking of the political history, scholars also
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concentrate on the declaration of independence and lane preamble and forget jefferson's vitriolic king george for plundering the seas, ravaging the coasts and burning the towns and destroying the lives of people. this history of graphic segregation from the war would baffle historians of the french, haitian or russian revolution, but it would have pleased the founding fathers to know and. as john adams wrote jefferson, the war, that was a part of the revolution, it was only a cause or only in effect in consequence of it. >> adams and his peers in the founding elite scrub the wars violence from the history of theirs was a good revolution, the moderate revolution but, adams revolution is not the one it's victims remembered. 's story from patrick griffin, to name but a few, no doubt
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influenced by the post-9/11 world, ongoing confrontations with critical revolutions in political violence breed terrorism, has worked to bridge the gap between the revolutions rhetoric and reality, unearthing shocking levels of violence in the process. highlighting this violence is not enough. we must seek to understand the social, cultural and political causes and effects. if not, we continue to accept a narrative of the american revolution divided into two halves on the one side, the war, destructive and oppressive and on the other a political revolution. idealistic although unfinished. raking on the barrier requires making the connection between revolutionary physical change and revolutionary my forthcoming book history of the treatment of prisoners of war
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centers the war and its horrors in a scholarly debate about the character and consequences of the american revolution. and rejecting the moniker he found it unpopular 70, had the unintended consequence of transforming the war waged to achieve it. by making the people sovereign the revolution shattered political elites, a monopoly and legitimate violence, fostering the conditions necessary for a cycle every vengeful reprisals. presidents of war and victims of revolutionary violence reveal the side of the revolution the founders preferred forgotten the violence of the democratization of war. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> good morning, i want to tell a couple stories, some of the
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stories will come from my book, freedom, black abolitionist and the politics of violence. look at the violence that's taking place in the 50s >> i also want to go further because were familiar with the story, tell you how people responded and in particular how black people responded to this painting. so charles sumner to give you context is giving a speech in talking about the kansas nebraska act and talking about how horrible he thinks the act is. so, charles sumner spoke out during a speech in which he ridiculed authors and stephen douglas and andrew butler. using incendiary language and sexual imagery that he claimed
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southerners crime against kansas was taken to the rip of a virgin, sumner accused butler of being in love with the harlot, that harlot being slavery. his three-hour speech, can you imagine speaking for three hours, his three-hour speech was so controversial that stephen douglas remarked to a colleague of this fool will get himself shot by some other fool. sure enough, preston brooks, the congressman from south carolina and nephew to andrew butler, intended to make a lesson out of sumner. political violence to lace not only in the remote and growing territories of the west, but also in the senate chamber of the nation's capital. just two days later on may 22 while sitting at his chamber desk, brooks approached sumner and said, quote, i have read your speech twice over carefully, it is liable in south carolina. mr. butler who's a relative of mine. at that moment he struck sumner
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over the head with with a cane with the gold had. sumner was repeatedly bludgeoned over and over his entire body he tried to crawl under his desk for refuge but the desk was bolted to the floor, it only served as a holding pen while brooks continued to take aim at him. brooks beat him so relentlessly that the desk released from the floor. as sumner label ready and unconscious , brooks only stopped when his cane broke. in the end, sumner miraculously survived, it to come more than three years to recover from his injuries , some might argue that he never fully recovered. but, what i think is interesting is the letters of support that poured in for charles sumner from the black community. one letter i like to share with you in particular, sumner's attack validated african- american desires to intervene in politics at the national level and have their voices heard. one of the most remarkable
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responses came from an editorial in the new orleans daily creole, black newspaper that debuted about a month after the attack. the op-ed was titled a challenge to mr. brooks. mrs. amelia rn robinson called the attacks cowardly , to beat him an unarmed and down. she referred to brooks as a cringing puppy who she would gladly challenge to meet her any place with pistols, rifles or cowhide. the outrage felt had no bearing on her sex and she like other black leaders was exasperated by the sacrifices and she was 50 years old, a widow, she lost two sons in the mexican war and her actions represented a direct affront to her own liberty liberty she believed the country should protect. now then mr. brooks robinson challenge, to see some of your posted courage.
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you are afraid to meet a man could do you meet a woman. robinson declared that she was anxious to do her country some service, either by ripping or choking the cowardly ruffian who threatened what she perceived as america's most precious right to freedom of speech. robinson was willing to put strong words into print and takes her disdain for carting the attack for sumner. more than any other man she admitted to what she was willing to do public. while many were praying for sumner , robinson illustrated what she was willing to do with the pistol. i like this because there is no anonymity that she puts her name on it gives her age, she let them know who she is. so, much is revealed by the remarks that she was publicly challenging the senator and even taunting him. she wrote with rage that signaled she had little to lose. the fact that she was
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immobilized for most of the beating was perhaps the greatest act of cowardice. not only was robinson ready to meet brooks weapon for weapon with pistols, rifles or cowhide, but she claims she would even whip him without weapons , by choking the cowardly ruffian. robinson was 50 and fearless and few men, white or black responded to threats to meet violence with violence. robinson was willing not to just take on any man but a public figure and a politician. while they are report what they saw as barbarian is him he was undeterred. the significance of her being a black woman and threatening violence against the white man should also be duly noted. the sexual violence that whiteman committed against black women was rampant. sumner was not wrong to allude to sexual imagery in his speech. robinson's rage also stemmed from gender violence and enslaved black women face
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daily. the responses clear, meet violence with violence. more specifically, meet cowardly acts with justice. thank you. [ applause ] thank you . >> today i'm going to talk about my research that focuses on a form of voter intimidation that might not actually fit all that well with the topic of the panel because it's an explicitly nonviolent one or seems to be. i'm talking about economic voter intimidation. this kind of intimidation is typical done by an employer against an employee, it's in part of american history since the beginning with cases of intimidation and was often called coercion, going back into the 18th century. but what
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i argue is that in the last half of the 19th century, after the panic of 1873, a really disastrous financial panic, there's a crisis of economic intimidation. the number of incidents increased in the number of people dependent for their wages on one boss, dramatically increased at this time as well and at the same time the political contest came closer and closer and it became reasonable attack used by many politicians and employers to use their employees i will give a few examples and also talk about the long consequences of this type of intimidation from today. and this is where we vote in secret and economic intimidation activated labor
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constituencies and radical constituencies to advocate for ballot secrecy in a way they never had before. now again, what did voting look like before we voted in secret? i'll give you an example the 64 place in the armory, large building in the center of town and the polling places in the center of the building, to get into the polling place you had to pass by two tables one staffed by republican and one by democratic operatives who gave you your ballot the ballots are printed by parties with no official ballot and the operatives who worked for the republicans happen to also work for a man named tom sinking for , kingsford milk, kingsford starch may be used to keep your close starch to, it's still a large company today. it's widely known that as kingsford employees walked into
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the building, the republican operatives would hand them their tickets and remind them that they were expected to vote the way thompson kingsford wanted them to they had nowhere to go after they were given the ballots, they had to go straight in and as one of the democratic observers testified , the workers dare not do it, they do not change the ticket or try to fight against thompson kingsford because they are watched. that's the key element, there watched as they walk in the polls. because they were precarious at work in this tough economic time and insecure at the polls, workers had little recourse. this happened throughout the country and the crisis blew up in part because it was a politically useful crisis for some people. while these events that happen with thousands of people being intimidated, it was useful to accuse the other side of doing this more than they were. so, gradually, democratic process began to accuse republican employers of
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intimidating employees out of proportion with what they were actually doing. this is a difficult element and a real crisis, this is really happening but in the same sense it's a rhetorical crisis and becomes an even broader rhetorical crisis because forms of intimidation are threatening to fire someone if they don't vote the way want to and they struck deeply at what a lot of workers believed was their manhood, their independence, the ability to provide for the families. this is one example, in portland maine in 1880, the road workers on our road working municipal crew in portland were especially worried that because there would be a tough winter coming, the election would take place in september and they knew the winter was coming and didn't want to be out of work in the winter. at the foreman yelled out to them as they walked to the polls from work mind how you vote boys, vote for bread and butter. if you cut my throat now i will , yours, i am on your track and i will camp on
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a. he walked with them to the polls and watched as he took the ticket and voted. they had little choice. it seems that one person refused to do so the way home was never employed on the work crew again. what's most remarkable about this form of intimidation is that it could interlace with other forms of coercion and other violent forms of intimidation, especially true in the south were in virginia in 1896, the black workers of the local insane asylum or march down to the polls by their boss. now, in virginia at that time there were two lines to vote, the white line in the color line and the remarkable thing is that the employees were allowed to skip both lines and the white line voted before the colored line but these men were allowed to vote but they absolutely were not allowed to vote for the candidate they wished to vote for.
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they were told to vote for democratic ticket and they did and that's the way these forms of intimidation can be interlaced on top of each other , legal intimidation, legal separation, suppression, overlaid on the knowledge of the violence rendered against african-americans in the south and then add to that the coercion and intimidation of losing your job. states tried to fight against this type of intimidation in a number of ways, the state of connecticut experienced intimidation and passed several laws making intimidation illegal and in 1884 they attempted to enforce those laws the state of connecticut arrested a man who had intimidated his employee in a mill in waterbury connecticut and the man's seems to have been perfectly happy to admit that he intimidated him and told him what to do when he went to vote but the court dismissed the case. the judge determine the employer had simply been using his first amendment right to tell his employee how to vote.
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attempting to solve this problem through a punitive law through a law that punished you did not seem to be working. so, gradually, this happened in the late 1880s, states began to adopt secret ballot laws. the ballot was invented in australia in 1851 and comes to the united states and the first american to advocate for the secret ballot in print is a man named henry george, reformed advocate shortly to become famous in 1871 and before he's fully famous he advocates for a secret ballot because it would end bribery and another form of election corruption which is worse and more demoralizing than bribery, the coercion of employers . >> the first time it's mentioned is coupled directly with economic voter intimidation. they took up the call and advocated for his secrecy and this was actually the first national party to include
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secrecy in 1835 and in a rush of legislation between 1888, most states pass secret ballot laws and separating employers from employees when they went to the polls. these laws were not passed in all states and particularly in the south, secret ballot laws lagged in north carolina didn't pass along to 1929. but, secret ballot laws are not necessarily useful to protect against a generalized form of intimidation. they don't protect african- americans going to the polls, they protect specific workers from specific employers and it breaks the chain of information. so, the laws will never be effective at preventing generalized intimidation. but that's not what they were designed to do so when we talk about secret ballot laws do we should remember what they were first enacted to do, to prevent bribery, intimidation and this chain of knowledge between an employer and employee about how they were voting, especially now as we are doing away from
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secrecy and allowing selfies taking a picture of the ballot . >> three no excuse, absentee balancing and voter suppression it reintroduces voting in the presence of someone who might have a coercive influence so, or element of the research that brings it up to the president is that we need to understand why we have a lot to do before we decide to do away with them and that's why this is a list of laws in place also. thank you. clap clap -- [ applause ] as you can tell, i'm getting over a cold but it's one of the reasons i will keep my formal comments brief. the other reason is i want to get to our conversation.
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really, this is just so that we can understand why am approaching the questions in this issue. >> my research focuses on the ku klux klan and this is really when the organization was at the height of power in the united states. this is when the organization is breaking sectional boundaries, moving outside of the south to establish a nationwide powerbase , one of the strongest most powerful and influential clan strongholds was right here in indiana. and, the clan of the 20s peaks in membership numbers in 1924 where 4 million members nationwide are drawn to the organization not just as
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adherence to the ideology and tenets of white supremacist on but also by the fact that the clan of the 20s sells itself as the answer to a variety of ills or suppose it ills. so, it's a fraternal organization that protects against the feminization the breakdown of masculine society. it's a law and order group pushing prohibition they are more or less defending against the apparent evils of modernism it and jazz. they are nativists, particularly, picking up unpopular anti- catholic and anti-semitic sentiment, to drive to restrict
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immigration and holding immigration entirely. they are very responsive to local concerns and tailors itself in those ways. so, we have an interesting phenomenon the clan of the 20s, where, even as membership grows , clan violence declines. in fact racial violence overall declines through the 1920s after a short spike in lynchings post 20 -- world war i. certainly, compared to the military clan of reconstruction or the terrorism of the clan in the civil rights era, historians have generally written about the clan of the 1920s is less physically violent
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bull still driven by the same fundamentally violent ideology. that's not the whole picture. to correct this misunderstanding, what we need to do is look at the clan's political involvement. i think it's particularly interesting to look at this from the federal level. if we focus on electoral success, it's pretty easy to this mess -- to dismiss the influence of the ku klux klan on the politics of the 1920s at which is what historians have tended to do. they are very good at drawing attention to themselves, they are generally very bad at actually getting a clan candidate or candidate tagged as an affiliate with the clan to be elected for office, to
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have successes, sporadically, generally in local strongholds, indiana is of course one of the most notorious strongholds of clan power, therefore a relative success in electing local officials and state officials but very rare at the federal level. >> what current research focuses on is the fact that the electoral success is not really the key to understanding the clan's influence on federal politics but as a political lobbying movement, not to think about what the clan is doing at the ballot box but to think about what the clan is doing on a yacht and it's there that the
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clan is tremendously impactful in shaping legislation that is direct the relevant to clan interests and clan hatreds. it's there that the clan will help shape federal prohibition legislation and what it will look like. it's there that the clan will help shape what the immigration restriction legislation of the 1920s looks like because of this, the clan doesn't need extralegal vigilante violence to achieve the goals. instead, the clan of the 1920s is very effect at shaping policy to
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support their violent ideology >> the border patrol was at the border patrol of the same day that the membership peaks. so, if we were to understand the enduring legacy of the clan it's the intersectional nexus between bigotry, violence and politics that we need to understand. thank you. clap clap -- [ applause ] >> that's a pretty good place to jump off of a broader
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conversation about violence in political history, i think that the first thing i would love to hear you talk about is the relationship between violence and politics and it's often this idea that violence is a failure of politics and some times exists outside of politics and in some cases it seems that violence is a core component of politics in a lot of ways. so, where do you see violence fitting in to political history and into the practice of politics? >> well, i can say for my own classes, i talk about violence, it's a way we understand history in a lot of ways, that every significant moment in history we benchmark with violence, so even if you think about how healthcare classes are taught in the american revolution and the war and in
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between wars and 9/11, all these are violent moments. that is how we mark turning points. so, in a lot of ways i see violence as a great excelerator for a fluid that moves political or social movements along. i think it's a great way for looking at how we examine change because i think a lot of times there's a tendency to have this idea that james -- change comes about nonviolence. when you look at the civil rights movement they push nonviolence and that's how we get these great changes. but, what they are responding to his violence, very much so in every aspect of their lives and so i'm constantly pushing students to nuance how we understand violence and not to sort of dismiss it as something that's fanatical or peripheral or an episode that happened in
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a moment but really is in explanation for how policy is made or not made in terms of how progress is developed or not developed. that i think violence is a perfect framework for that . >> this is an excellent question, where does violence fitting. if we need to think about violence as a political language, violence has a meaning, specific acts of violence have meaning used for political purposes and, very rarely use violence unrestrained in and restrict the it's usually focused for a particular purpose and groups who use violence, specific acts of violence to try to get their political point across. that's one thing we have students think about, what does a lynching mean in the 1920s.
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what does a cross burning mean. what are they trying to say this sort of ritual to this. who is there audience, the audience is an act of violence, the performative nature of it, so we also think about the role of violence and the state and the growth of the state. so we are talking about border agents, the violence of the state, violence is embedded in the state a monopoly on violence and what constitutes political violence, police violence and police violence and if you get students to think through that, as you said, and enormously useful, that we should also continue to be attentive and we can ignore that violence is at the heart of american political history . one element as well that i've come across in my research
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is that teaching students it's easy to play what about game in terms of political violence so this party got into a scuffle, they're both violent to put the label of violence as you talked about earlier. but one thing i noticed in particular is that being able to claim that the other party was also doing bad things as a way to excuse much worse things , the republican speaker of the house in the 1890s when talking about lynchings and violence in the south and economic intimidation said yes these are both crimes but murder and catching fish out of season are crimes to. we need to be clear about what kind of violence were talking about or historical actions, all interactions with people
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are violent and dig deeper into that i teach a class in terrorism but the fun never stops, i do so as a way and i do this as a way to address the students that not just violence but fundamentally political violence has been a through line in american history. we look at obviously definitions of terrorism crucial within that, but legitimate violence, an individual violence, they really do often function as driving questions but actually,
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this is interesting, off the top of my head and just kind of thinking about this but do you think we've come to a place where reform is associated with nonviolence but revolution is associated with violence and that is why it's not seen beyond the pale now?
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. >> for my own work i think it's very easy for us to look back at slavery and say that it's wrong, hopefully. but i think that a lot of the stories in my book are about black evolutionists who are fighting back and using communities in force and violence to protect communities. everyone loves hearing these stories because they're like yeah, he's wrong. i think in some ways you can even support that like in talking about segregation or jim crow and then they will see that even taking up arms in self-defense might be rational. but, i think today the way that race has re-incarcerated itself to take up these things and use
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protect violence for self- defense in a way trip report revolution or change the people think that you are radical, crazy, it's funny because in this movement they thought they were crazy and so i feel like maybe you need distance in order to accomplish it. but, no, i don't think that people i think people believe you can accomplish anything through nonviolence, and while i agree with that to some extent, there's a little bit of historical naivety in terms of how we see change, that -- come about through the country . >> that's a great question and i'd love to jump in there to take us back to the founding moment because were living with the legacies of that, this is a nation that was born in violent revolution, civil warfare, yet, rather consciously the founding
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fathers shoe that because the flipside of revolution is rebellion, slave rebellion, illegitimate, must be suppressed by this date. so how do you justify the foundation of a new nation state founded with illegitimate violence, attempting to overthrow the sitting government ? the way that you do that is in part, rewriting the history of the initial revolution. also, combating, becoming rather counterrevolutionary, the u.s. is one of the most counterrevolutionary nations in history especially considering slave rebellion. but, also around the world, think about vietnam it's a counterrevolution . so, i think that we need to think through that a bit more
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and maybe trace through, we love to explain change. but we need to think about some of the continuities of this as well. i think some of this can be explained in a way through the recent rehabilitation of john brown and the fact that he is now being reintroduced into the american canon of all heroes, one that would seem that part of the aftermath of the civil war and the efforts to paint him as a crazy person and even at the time consider quite the radical but now to have him discussed at the forefront of american liberty is a remarkable moment. i wonder what it might say about the people who are understanding approving him back into the american canon in that way coordinating about political violence of the making john brown the patron saint?
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>> just to pick up on that for a second, it's interesting to see that the mainstreaming of the john brown idea now but right the people who have most often, in the recent past compared himself to john brown have been those attacking abortion clinics and abortion providers, this is a very specific form of political violence and they see themselves acting within the traditional . >> one of the words that keeps coming up is legitimate and illegitimate, what's interesting about the question of violence is that aside from a very few committed pacifistic, there are many people in the united states who think that all violence is illegitimate. so, how do you see historical actors making the case for the violence being legitimate? i think it's the historians it often changes over time, which actors we think and john brown is a great example, which
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actors are using violence legitimately and which ones are not so how are your people making their cases? >> i can tell you mine, i have certainly found no other people that have a moral impediments for using violence. they talked often about american hypocrisy about the american revolution being on complete. the haitian revolution in haiti were where the real revolution took place because they freed the slaves and put in place a polity and so, i think that black abolitionist say slavery is wrong, violence, and that we have a moral authority, god- given right, and it's really important when they can sort of solidify the legitimacy with biblical penance, who can argue against the bible, certainly in the 19th century, you can't
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really do that. so, they are using biblical allegories to justify using violence, to justify using force , and, they are using revolutionary language. i love the idea, and i talk about this in my book, they use the violence of give me liberty or give me death, he who must be free must strike the first blow. the use of language over and over to threaten and provoke the abolition of slavery and they feel justified in that big guys they believe they are suppressed to. i think again it's very easy for us to look at this from a 21st-century perspective and say of course you are justified in this but i also think that legitimacy comes through winning so we look at this as legitimate because they one. we look at the civil war as legitimate because the north wind and. but, what happens when you don't win?
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does that mean your cause is no longer legitimate? especially when you look at black freedom of black liberation there's not been a lot of victory but that doesn't mean that the actions are not legitimate . >> excellent . >> the american revolutionists were masters of the game of legitimate versus illegitimate. the british violated the laws of nations, respectable nations guilty of these barbaric acts of violence that made them outside of the political sphere
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and that the new nation would be a respectable nation in the eyes of the world because it had played by the rules. that is why, very early on, you see washington is so animated by the desire to turn these militia men into what he called a respectable army. they need to look the part of the europeans and play these rules that would be understandable to the european eyes as a way of legitimating what was fundamentally illegitimate and in the atlantic context, the british had suppressed countless domestic insurrections, not only slave insurrections but also insurrections of arcadian's, the scottish, the irish insurrections, and others inherently. thereby it was a legitimate, right? so the revolution really, very quickly, they were in to that in the political game in justifying their actions.
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>> i think it is interesting to consider the legitimate and illegitimate question with how this intersects with other questions, effective and ineffective. particularly, this is something you see over and over again with the question of how to respond to white supremacists, is it effective? not is it just legitimate but responding to violence with violence. this is a fascinating debate, it rages around that in the press of the 1920s that says, what is the best way to respond to this? do we ignore it? do we deny it? do we let the fire burn itself out? well, we could do that but
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while we ignore it, the fire is burning and causing preventable devastation, presumably we have to do something and what is that something? certainly, there are those in the press like messenger who say they already sent us the severed hand in the mail, we will not carry on this debate in society but encourage readers to carry a gun, britt, or bat. you don't try to reason with them. so i think this is an interesting question as well about not just how do we defend violence as legitimate but how do we defend violence as effective at the same time. >> what they call claiming the persuasive right they said because i give you your bread and butter and pay for you to live in a house i have the right to persuade. in different places they enforce that right differently.
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in the south, the persuasive right is taken to mean the persuasion will have an effect. like you will do what i've said and in some places in the north and especially the west, the persuasive right is considered you will have to listen to me, i will give you my opinion but i won't necessarily follow it up with discharge of employment. and so in some places those threats are less aggressive than others but the right is always claimed because i pay you. i've gained an extra political right because i pay you your wages. that is where the legitimacy comes from to make these claims. it doesn't work the same way in all parts of the country but generally, the idea that i've paid you therefore i have that right. >> it strikes me that one other missing legitimating tool for violence is the claim of self- defense. which is used quite broadly across the spectrum whether we are talking about black panthers and the late 1960s or
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white supremacists in the period of american supremacy, the in inherent legitimacy i'm defending myself or defending my country or defending a set of beliefs or institutions that have been wielded effectively in the past. i'm going to ask another question that i will open it up to the audience. i don't know it is a good question but it seems like one of the things that came out earlier in the conversation, it was about state violence. violence almost as a tool with state building, i think that forces our eyes to the neutrality as few of you have suggested the centrality of violence to american politics and american history. how does that change the story that we tell about u.s. history? i think that is very contrary
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to the story americans like to tell themselves and we don't always tell self comforting stories. it seems like a particularly disruptive move to put violence at the center of that story. >> i mean i feel like that is what i'm trying to do in my work and it is incredibly hard to do. to sort of flip the script in terms of how we understand violence and how we have been told, i think these really romantic stories, about the underground railroad, or about the civil rights movement, that feel very nostalgic and sweet. they are stories that you could tell to kids you know. that's very like, oh yeah or even talk about harriet tubman, she rescued the slaves. i feel like we could tell the stories and you could package
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them so well. what i try to do is -- in order to flee sometimes you have to fight. i told the story about one man who was running away from slavery and he was pursuing him and he was like, stop chasing me if you don't stop chasing me i'm going to kill you. he kept chasing him and so he killed him. he tells the story and the audience is like applauding and they are like you did right, bravo but i mean, i tell the story to show that the whole system of slavery is inherently violent and that often times in order for people to bring about their own freedom they had to employ violence and that how do we understand that in terms of black freedom and black liberation? how do we justify that and how do we take that into the
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present? one of the concepts i'm trying to work with is the idea of like protective violence. which to me, it's more than just self-defense. it's not just protecting yourself but protective violence is protecting your family, your community, even strangers like you are protecting marginalized people, oppressed people, people who do not have access to these traditional channels to bring about reform. and how to re-examine protective violence as useful and as something that is also legitimate and i don't know if i'm answering the question but, this is a hard exercise to do because there's this paradox. in one stance we hate violence and we think it's awful but on the other hand we love the american revolution and reenacting the civil war. like you know like doing these really violent things and reenacting them. there's this love-hate relationship with violence that i have not yet been able to reconcile.
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>> this brings up a great question that i deal with in a lot of my classrooms actually with my students . the history of talk about in my opening remarks and for my students, the war for independence and the american revolution are synonymous, they are the same thing. they aren't aware of the republican synthesis, and for them it is just you know, washington crosses the delaware then suddenly we are a nation which is good, right? we like that, right? what i try to do with my book, that was not necessarily the revolution that we wanted but i think it failed right, this restrained battlefield victory story. it did great over the course, we lost control of the war. i think there's, we need to in
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some ways we think the constitutional moment as an effort by these we could call them nationalists during this period, to reassert the monopoly on violence. in this new state we need to control this, we need to control violence because that was messy and bad. we are going to take charge of it. and as we saw this, there was a debate over this. it was one of the origins of the second amendment. the armed populace. it was a very contentious issue and we are dealing with the reverberations of that debate. are the people allowed to self defend? i think that we need to engage with that. >> i think about the election of 1860. have any of you heard of the phrase link when worked on the ballot of 1860. that doesn't make sense, there
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was no official ballot. people had to hand out party ballots outside of the polls, lincoln was not on the ballot because this would have required republicans in the south to stand outside of the poles with tickets handing them out. when you think about that historical moment, there's no way this would have been allowed to happen. they would have been driven out of town. the way in which the symbolism, the party was a sectional party. it feels like there was a great deal of violence that would have happened had they attempted to hand out ballots in the south and after that one moment you could see we've managed to talk away the past in a moment of extreme violence. >> here are two things that i wanted to respond to a little bit which is first of all the idea of the self-defense and the violence in self-defense. similarly in terms of thinking about that is a difficult
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question we are asked to determine what counts as self- defense particularly thinking of something like kathleen blues book who unfortunately cannot be with us today. her point that, the kind of paramilitary, white supremacist movement, post-vietnam is in large part new because it breaks with the state and starts to stake as the threat and as such, it needs to defend itself against the state. so they would argue they are acting in self-defense, very much so. in a way of that protective level. the definitional question, then this relationship between the political history and violence going back to last night,
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discussing the idea of political history really being the history, at that point we have to determine what is the relationship between powell and violence. i think that is a huge question that i am in no way prepared to provide a definitive answer to. i will say that jackson jones is biography, lucy parsons, the radical feminist black anarchist in the late 19th century, talked a lot about parsons approach to violence and her belief in violence as legitimate because within that anarchistic framework, the state is inherently violent,
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all politics is inherently violent. and so, i think there's certainly the argument to be made there for viewing it through this lens. >> to go back to this, it's not violence, it is antiracist violence. so you could call it, it's not discrimination it's antiracist discrimination. it kind of goes into that same thing. >> so i guess you could say it's racist self-defense and antiracist self-defense. >> with that, i would like to open it up to the audience. introduce yourselves, and wait for the microphone. >> i'm ellie schumer and i was listening to this and i enjoyed the panel you did a great job of going from the revolution until the 1920s but then we get into the rest of the 20th century. my question is actually, picking up on getting the idea,
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do we need to expand the definition of violence? it's particularly clear in the new deal and the question of labor even though it may not be as physically violent, the kind of clashes that do you know feel, we could sort of turned this narrative, what about the work of mason connolly about the violent destruction by putting the freeway through black communities and the destruction? he said there's no less violence. i think he is right or what about the tax policies that just rip entire communities apart in the central areas? dislocating their communities? labor laws. we don't have a violent clash as much anymore with intimidation but we basically have taken away your right to join the union and have the ability to rework the labor laws . the other question is about voting. now we could blame you for not getting to the polls on time or
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registering, how about the zoning that goes along with not allowing the multifamily units that might be possible for the dislocated or having food in these neighborhoods, whole food efforts, the lack of healthcare and there seems to be real casualties to the trade war, rural america has been devastated, the reason i think about this is, what was shocking over the last three years we had across the entire board a decline in life expectancy. for the first time since really the 1930s. we are dealing with levels of depression and suicides that we haven't seen there, how much could we incorporate this as violence not only by the state but how does this framework and if we're going to expand the definition of violence, does this help to change other aspects? >> i think i will stick with
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voting since i know about that. methods of preventing people from voting or taking away their right or making it more difficult in these sentences we will always try to adapt for whatever we do. and so any law we pass has to think about not just solve right now.
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>> i don't know the answer to this question but is it a metaphor of violence in some situations or is it the actual definition of violence? there's this trade-off for which one of those it is. but yes, i think these are a lot of great questions. >> this is a great panel. talking last night, i was thinking about your panel talk last night, returning the older
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narrative perhaps or the nonviolence american, focusing on sort of why the old narrative persisted? and you've gestured to this, about sort of like how there's the story about how the founder was born to think the resolution was violent. >> how is this papered over especially in the synthetic history, why is it papered over? who is doing the papering over to sort of get this narrative that is in, i guess most americans head of the kind of american history driven not by violence but by something else. >> i think part of it , overestimating the input that the academy has come a part of this is that historians do not
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tend to be particularly violent people. >> i'm trying to figure it out on the historic site. the violence in part has been written out with a lot of our history. yes, of course you have the triumphant metal of gettysburg stories and most of the history has always had its own sort of niche and following but i think in the new book, how much violence is there, really? you know? i don't know, when we are writing synthetic histories, are we a little bit to blame for that? i'm not sure i have not fully
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thought through that but it's a thought. >> we have definitely sanitized history. there's no question there. i think, you know, the benefit in that is, i hate using this because we uses all the time, but white supremacy. i feel like that's the answer to everything but i feel like you know, in white supremacy, whiteness gets to be both the villain and the hero. so the villain is the slaveholder, the clan, these easy things we could attach to being bad, right? but the hero part of it is also the savior, the lincoln that frees the slaves, the kind white man who says not on my watch, the person that sort of intervenes. we tell these stories because they perpetuate ideas of whiteness being the villain but then the hero, right?
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so if you could show something that happened and show another good person who did something to replace it, to remove it, to cure it, then you still get to be the hero at the end of the day. i think that a lot of the stories that we get, they push people and in particular, black people to the periphery of their own movement. i cannot say how many times we will talk about frederick douglass and harriet tubman but then there's no other black abolitionist or will talk about rosa parks or mlk but there are no other civil rights leaders. i think that is very intentional. we do not want you to know multiple people were involved, we don't want you to know that hundreds if not thousands of people were involved, and we don't want you to know that it was not a white person who did not do the right thing at the end of the day right? or who didn't sigh tie it up in a nice pretty bow. that's a weight to incorporate ideas of patriotism and we
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could all buy into that story because it makes us feel very good and very empowered or feel like we could play a role in solving these issues because it feels ed easy when you could throw hashtag on something and now you're progressive, right? i think there are really reasons will to why we do this and none of these are very effective at actually solving problems. but they are very effective at making you think that you solved the problem. so you could look at the civil rights movement and say, racism is a thing of the past. we solved that nonviolent we. so why are you so angry? because we don't want to acknowledge the anger. having to acknowledge the anger or the rage or the harm or the brutality, it forces us to have to answer questions we never really wanted to answer which is how white supremacy stayed supreme.
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>> i guess to continue full speed ahead on the white supremacy train . [ laughter ] >> the feeling good element, i think, it's a really crucial issue here as well. first of all, when we come to write these histories, violence is seen as something unsavory. at the same time when we are looking at the self definitions from the historical actors i think very rarely we find people who define themselves as violent. if you look at the clan of the 20s or white supremacists or slaveholders they will not define themselves as violent people. they may be say they use violence but they deployed violence to achieve goals. but that they are not themselves violent people and therefore, violence isn't their story, right?
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and so it becomes this kind of interesting question when we write these histories how do we center violence in a story in which the subject themselves denies the centrality of that violence? do we have to wipe the history of george washington? he was a military man and a slaveholder, violence is integral in his life. we never talk about him as a violent person, right? we talk about violent white supremacists, george washington is in the first name that might come to mind but why doesn't he fall into this category? and what does this say about our willingness to use and define violence within the life of these historical actors? >> that's a good point. >> absolutely, the military history is not exactly a popular subfield in history these days. it's been kind of exiled out of
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history. but specifically focusing on the military history and violence, and in some ways it makes it feel like you're not within the academy when you talk about these things. i experienced this to some degree i had a graduate student and when he mentioned in seminars for instance talking about violence, particularly wars, most people won't say, we don't want to talk about that with the will hear them say i'm interested in these other areas which is perfectly fine, military history has been covered in american history but the idea that it is something that we can put aside, or the fact anyone would think we could put aside violence or warfare in american history is i think incorrect. >> thank you so much for this panel, it's been really thought- provoking and i'm still processing a lot of it but one thing i wanted to ask about is actually democracy. i think in the authoritarian regimes we expect violence and that it is a violent state or
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violent environment but what i would suggest to the panel is that maybe there's something about democracy that makes this also violent or violent in different ways. and actually something you said about popular sovereignty actually leading to a new kind of violence or a particularly intense kind of violence, i was wondering if you all might be able to comment more about that. is there something about democracy or popular sovereignty that would lead to a particular type of political violence and how does this differ from violence and other types of regimes? >> that's a great question. the heart of my book, when we think about democracy, we think about the democratic peace, right? if only we could just export democracy around the world, if we could just make the democratic powers, no one would ever go to war. it's a noble dream. and so, democracy in many ways
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has been divorced of its historic violence but something founders were very content about, the tyranny of the majority, the 51% who could then use that power then to course others or course the minority and you see this happening clearly. there's this sort of irony i had discussed in my book at the beginning of the revolution, these elite standards, men of violence, it was a particular type of european-style of violence right after it was enacted in a specific way in a specific context. it was legitimate but in some ways it wasn't. that violence or that restraint order, that degrades over the process, ordinary people finally have a voice, they are mobilized. in part the rhetoric, the
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newspapers, the actual violence of the british army. to demand revenge and to manage the government's engage in vengeful practices. so i think we need to do more to think through these ramifications of violence and democracy throughout american history. an alternative to my colleagues history would say, they say. >> i mean, yes, i agree. i do not think that we should think that democracy is not violent or that democracy has this moral high ground that doesn't allow for violence to take place i think that is a falsehood i think democracy is
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a double-edged sword that you have to sort of you know use almost, use the violence to employ your means to get your means across. and so, we see this play out in history time and time again. even just introducing the concept or the idea that democracy can be violent or that democracy has violent tendencies, i think it's something americans would not be comfortable hearing it but it's not far from the truth. >> very thought-provoking. with my colleagues comments in the corner as us is reflected on . this conversation from last night, we are speaking about democracy and the state and violence to the extent of which
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they have been democratic. considering how democracy works. i think we are struggling. talking about democracy last night, the idea, going back to 1619, we had laws that were passing about the violence that citizens could enact toward africans so creating scarcity greed from the outset, part of capitalism. racism and violence were born, in this country racism, violence and capitalism were together. we can critique democracy in the state, but what i did not hear was a critique of
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capitalism. i invite you to muse on that for a moment. we have this intensely capitalistic state in the united states of america and its intensely violent and racist. as we were all born together, i'm inviting you to muse about that, that is the root of the deprivation, greed intensified this. >> that's right. >> absolutely, well thank you for your questions. a well taken one. one thing i noticed, my work focused on the late 19th century, a moment of massive industrialization and capitalism expanding into a bunch of different methods and ways, there was a crisis. it was usually call the labor crisis or the labor problem.
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people worried about what democracy, what they see as newly industrial capitalism and what that would mean for democracy. this kind of coercion by employers as part of the crisis. what was shocking to me now, we do not seem to have that sense of crisis when capitalism is changing just at rapidly and democracy is just as under threat and the labor crisis of the 19th century, people were discussing this and it was driving elections. he much everyone had an opinion about the labor question. the fact that now we don't, there is discussion, it's absolutely out there but i do not think anyone would say that it was a crisis of democracy or capitalism the same way explicitly would use those terms in the 19th century. >> so, given the great question, it's something that again going back to the clan issue a little bit, historians of the clan really haven't dealt with this all that well. even though there's a lot of material on this from the time,
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particularly from randolph or other radical organizers in the 20s and 30s who do see the violence of the clan as fundamentally a tool of capitalism in order to divide and suppress labor. and that is why i think seeing the influence to something like the clan in federal politics is significant but then you see how that views not just as the violence on a personal level to bring up the distinction that we were looking at before from kind of personal violence versus the impersonal violence but not only are you standing those as a mean to defied unions, but also, that they are starting a crusade against socialists. that they are
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taking into their political lobbying, it will kim it will become formalized and things like the house un-american activities committee. even as he turns the states attention to the states violence on radicals change and radical organizers, particularly within the african- american communities. >> i think this is an important question. i was tuning into the definition question. so many of these examples you cited, they were the extreme violence at the heart of everything from slavery through the labor union battles to the entirety of 150 years ago. that is the core to how
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capitalism works in the united states. like labor strikes, you know, workers help and workers safety. >> for me i think we need to be attune as historians, we have to watch that our analytical word, the framework we are using, that it shifts over time. for me the labor question still continues. it stopped being asked in a language that we are talking about. but it has evolved. they published a great article about it. we have to redefine, we have to stop using the word class. because this word comes at a particular industrial moment. do we not have working families, do we have a way of talking about power and
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equality? that we need to be more attuned to start updating this as part of the reason i'm thinking about the conversations we've had at this conference about how to turn that outside of the academic jargon. if we start talking in such a way that americans have talked over time, not just today about the current inequalities and violence, i feel like we actually have a better way to reach this and make a larger connection about how violence has been imperfect. i think we could think about why the language isn't there but the discussion, the uprisings, and i do call them uprisings, look at the discussions that they had. the stories about how much they are struggling to make basic ends meet. it's right there. this could be an important analog discussion about abuse and in sweatshops, something we are used to thinking about in terms of poverty and not public
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employees trying to do their best. these are things to think about. >> in order to keep all of the trains on time we will close it right there. please join me in thanking them on a great discussion. [ applause ] all week we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3, lectures in history, american artifacts, real america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nations history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3.
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weeknights this month we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span 3. friday, a look at world war ii, we begin with high school teacher karen on food rationing during the war and innovations that led to modern-day processed food who discussed wartime policy and food rationing on the home front. watch american history tv friday starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. saturday on american history tv at 10:00 p.m. eastern on real america, the 1970 film communists on campus. >> the violent overthrow of the democratic system and yet our nation seems on bleeding and unconcerned. >> sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. eastern on oral history, the
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woodstock cocreator details how the festival came together. >> there has to be 100,000 more than 300,000 just like that. and i swear to god, i looked at those terms and i actually saw that film, is always of course i was spaced out. i was looking at a dream that came true. >> and at six on american artifacts, the museum of history and culture curator on their exhibit on 400 years of african-american history. >> they were not content with their lot. they wanted to resist their enslavement and tried to run away. unfortunately they weren't successful, they were captured and as punishment for their attempt to escape robert carter got permission from the court
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