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tv   QA  CSPAN  August 21, 2016 8:00pm-8:59pm EDT

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with a story and author nancy isenberg. wrappers --rappers and how they use their music to address racism in politics. ♪ announcer: this week on "q&a" louisiana state university professor in historian nancy isenberg. she talks about her book "white trash" before hundred year untold history of class in america. ♪ mr. lamb: nancy isenberg, author of "white trash." you talk about a professor in your preface, your doctor real dissertation advisor.
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what impacted that have on you? ms. isenberg: she was a very unusual person. she came to the university of wisconsin. she had to create a space for us in history program and that she was someone who was very aware not only of gender and class and racial issues in all the things she wrote about but i think she imparted to me that you also have to understand the politics of academia and the way in which politics in general, we like to believe in america that we are free agents and we are able to sort of carver own destiny, part of our --carve our own destiny part of her own destiny, but we do not always good to make the decisions that we want to. she wanted to think about the larger ways culture, politics, the law shaped the way people think even though they might not be aware of it, but to take that into account in do not just take
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things as given. challenge them. see if it is really true. that is something that has really motivated me throughout my career, even when you read good history, i want to make sure i look at the end notes make sure i look at the research. i do not want to just take the consensus. i want to see if it is true and that any argument you make has a firm historical foundation. mr. lamb: how hard was it to name the book "white trash?" ms. isenberg: it started out with various names. then it was going to be the american breed and then it got back to be "white trash." i think part of the reason it needs to be that name is a because it is the one today that is most familiar. people have misconceptions on what it means. i think people are curious about it and that is why i wanted to write the book. i think people throw around that
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work without really knowing where it comes from. when i began to do more and more research, and as you know, i talk a lot about british colonization, which is not what people have never really paid attention to in talking about white trash. most people start in the antebellum south. i found aban older history and i thought it was important to pay attention to language. i talk about all of the vocabulary because i think we miss something about how people think about poverty if we do not understand the language and what those words mean. mr. lamb: we have all of those words available to put on the screen, which we will do now and there are lots of them white trash austerities --offscourings, lubbers crackers, clay eaters.
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where did those terms come from? ms. isenberg: this is what is so curious. you will find each generation changing the vocabulary. the term i paid a lot of attention to is waste people. that goes all the way back to the elizabethan period who put forward the first proposal to convince queen elizabeth the first on the importance of colonization and what the colonies would be useful. we have a whole mythology on how we think america was founded. we usually like to talk about puritans, the city upon a hill which president obama referred to this at the democratic convention. reagan invokes that metaphor. in fact, the majority of people that came to the new world came out of economic desperation. they fell into categories of convicts, indentured servitude who were, this is not labor contracts. essentially, they were a form of
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slave labor in this sense that they did not have the right to leave. they would sign up for an indentured term that could go from anywhere between seven to nine years and the large majority of them were children. that is something that we forget about. we forget about the exploitation of child labor, which we know was legal in this country all the way up to 1919. waste people, the definition of the term was literally dumping the poor somewhere else. they were a burden on the british economy. in fact, that notion of waste has all of those negative, tatian's that you can bring to -- negative connotations that you can bring to mind. elizabethans, one of the things that is refreshing and disturbing about them, they are very clear. they do not conceal anything under the enlightenment. they are very forthright and direct about what they mean about waste.
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that is when i began to see that there was a connection, that these notions of ways, expendable people, surplus population and how, the other day theme i highlighted is the importance about how waste people are connected to the lan. this is something that historians know but we also lose sight of the fact that land or being landless is the most important definition about whether you have civic value economic value. mr. lamb: where do you live in what you do full-time? ms. isenberg: i am a history professor at louisiana state university. i really enjoyed new orleans. i enjoy my colleagues. we have a really, i think, supportive department. and i have, like a lot of academics, i have taught at several places, the university of tulsa iowa, i had a post-doctorate at william and
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mary. i think in a way, this is probably the one thing i have in common with my subjects, i have a bit of a back a bond -- vagabondness. mr. lamb: you mentioned your mother in the preface. why? ms. isenberg: even though you are a historian, it is amazing how you may not know the details of your family's background. my mother told me and with my sister we visited her perver birthplace in taxes -- texas and i was curious how she ended up getting there. her father essentially have a job for transporting laborers from canada down to chaos. that jimmy is telling because it is a part of one of the stories i am telling them i talk about indentured servitude's. this idea that rather than thinking of america in the way we like to think of it, the most positive way an exceptional
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society, that we broke free of the class system at the time of the revolution, the land of opportunity and affordability. in fact, as a argue, when benjamin franklin and thomas jefferson, and this continues to be part of the way we think and he be a pattern of how -- the real pattern about how people define themselves economically, they really promised horizontal mobility and the ability to keep moving. if you fail somewhere, to move somewhere else. that to me present it is with what my book was about. mr. lamb: where did you grow up and where did you go to college? ms. isenberg: i grew up in south jersey near philadelphia. i went to college at rutgers university and then went to graduate school at the university of wisconsin, madison. mr. lamb: i want to run some video. this is jumping way ahead from where we started. people my age and maybe a little younger will remember lucille ball.
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this is for my movie you write about in 1953 call the "the long long trailer." [video clip] >> and then we sold it. ♪ >> isn't it a beauty? let's look inside, just for fun. >> that is $1 million at least. >> i never thought of buying it. i know we could never afford that, but as long as we're here, let's look at life. come on, darling. mr. lamb: a big yellow trailer. [laughter] ms. isenberg: right. i talk about that movie because it fits into a really important phenomena we tend to ignore.
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when we think about post-world war ii, this is where sociologists and historians have found united states was able to establish a more stable middle class, and part of the measure of being in the middle class, if we think about how we emphasize landownership, that continues to be an important defining feature. even today, upward mobility is about owning a home. we had suburbia, the track homes. we have the government backing mortgages so that more people who would not have been able to buy a home are able to buy a home. i quote richard nixon saying, " finally, capitalism has made it possible to create a classless society." what is happening at the exact same time, we have a new form of the lower class that in-depth
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identified as living in a trailer. what we would prefer to today as even "trailer trash." what i argue is the trailer has this kind of conflicting identity. one is the idea of freedom. you know, you do not have to own a home. you can be on the road. then there is of course this other notion of the trailer that is associated with trailer trash in which the poor, and the reason the term begins begins during world war ii where poor workers were housed in trailers all across the country. what we see is the trailer market is constantly trying to upgrade, compete with what becomes the dominant pattern. by 1968, only 30% of people living in trailers over middle-class jobs. there begins to be another phenomena as we know, not only are trailers sold brand new as it is assumed that they are
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secondhand thirdhand. sociologists discovered in the late 1950's, 1960's, there begins to be "hillbilly haydays." where are they located? they are located on the margins and the worst land of cities and urban areas. at the same time we have the growth of suburbia, but we see there is a class sound society --zoned society in trailer trash become the mark of poverty in the united states even if we are at the moment where america seems to be becoming more of a middle-class society. mr. lamb: andy griffith, from a movie from 1957 sang a lot of things that i want your reaction to them. >> did youu eat your eggs
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this morning? >> just picked up another million. this'll whole country is just like my flock of sheep. rednecks, crackers hillbillies shut-ins everybody has got to jump when someone else blows the whistle. they do not know it yet, but they are all going to be mine. i own them. they think like i do. [laughter] >> only they are even more stupid than i am, so i have to think for them. ms. isenberg: that is an incredible movie. it is one of my favorite movies. essentially, and it is a kind of conflicting response about how people felt about that movie. on the one hand they saw the character of any griffith who starts out with someone that is in jail, a musician in arkansas who has discovered -- is
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discovered and he is turned into this demagogue, this person who is going to be a will to manipulate everyone because he thinks like them, talks like them and what is he drawing on? he is drawing on, something a highlight in the book, this pattern, this tradition about how we think about populism, how we think about democracy. it becomes really important in southern politics, this idea that what we want in america is, and this is sort of come i quote in the stallion who came to united states in 1949 who said, what we want america is not a real democracy because we accept huge disparities of wealth. we want a democracy that matters. what we want our celebrities or our politicians to do is act like us, pretend to be like us, and this idea of a stage performer, performer, idea of sounding as if you can invoke
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the feeling, the voice, the attitude even the dialect of the average american, is something that unfortunately politicians have taken advantage of for a long time in this country. you can take it all the way that to enter jackson because he was the first one that the campaign biography, the first one that turned into the candidate for the common man. in fact, he was a fairly successful slave owner, wealthy. he was no longer one of the common man, but what he did have in common is he was always sounding like the common man because he slammed oats just like crackers. [laughter] ms. isenberg: that idea of talking to the people has a dark side of the demagogue that committed duly people but it's something in our american tradition that we are supposed to think, they are more authentic. we are supposed to think they are more real or that we have a
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direct connection to them, but unfortunately, with every stage of the mass media or how campaigns of an orchestrated, it does not necessarily guarantee that you were going to get a more honest, authentic candidate. mr. lamb: what is going on here in this clip? this is from 1979. it is now deceased senator byrd from west virginia. he got a law degree at american university and got his diploma by john f. kennedy. what is going on here is he is a senator. [video clip] ♪ ms. isenberg: robert byrd. this is what of the most amazing things i discovered researching this book. when he went on the campaign trail to get elected
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essentially, he would go from hill people's homes, get them in the backseat and he would play the fiddle for them. and that idea of saying, i am one of you i come from the same background. i think he was even an orphan. what i found so striking about that was that he becomes one of the most powerful people in washington, but he was drawing on this other tradition, i talk about the story of the arkansas traveler which goes all the way back to the 1840's where it was the elite public best politicians that needed to get on -- where it was the only politicians that needed to get on horseback. he is traveling, what's to get a drink and a squatter has a drinking barrel and he says, can i have a drink, sir? in the sweater ignores him. in order to get the attention of a slaughter, which is a metaphor of getting his book, he has to grab the fiddle and play his
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tune, which is that same thing i just talked about, relate to that person on their terms, show them that you are one of them. i think in his case, i am really glad you showed that clip because he really knew how to play the fiddle. [laughter] mr. lamb: here's another one from 1992 and he is very much similar to bill clinton playing some elvis stuff. [video clip] ♪ mr. lamb: how important was this
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to him? ms. isenberg: it was crucial. the news media, even though they only seem to revive the nasty stories about the clintons, but they also seem to have forgotten is when bill clinton was running, he was viciously attacked as white trash, not only from republicans but the media who mocked him, a fun of him, and as we know, he had to sort of find a way, how can i make myself acceptable so that people will not dismiss me? what he started doing was he started tapping into the ghost of elvis. he even invoked it on the campaign tour. there he is playing the "heartbreak hotel" and he is also drawing on the southern tradition of house all the politicians, you probably remember floyd clement -- frank clement who was in the running to be vice president and he put on a wild show, a baptist
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preacher, people comparing him to elvis, this idea that "yes, i am a southerner. " there is something uniquely american about being able to communicate with music and able to say, "here is the more positive side we can associate with the poor whites." that they have this musical tradition or that somehow that can make bill clinton more acceptable if he invokes elvis as opposed to a redneck or white trash. when the monica lewinsky scandal breaks in the report is put together with 500 mentions of sex, he is really equating high crimes and misdemeanors with lower-class losers. that is how he went after bill clinton. so, he does not ever quite escape, and that is one of the things i highlight. even though there are attempts
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to make white trash and poor whites a longer tradition, know this is important because he is seen as able to escape a toxic connotation, but even so, even when it is given a more populist spin still, the negative connotations seem never to emerge. to emerge. mr. lamb: in your lifetime, what politicians do you think has been honest? ms. isenberg: honest. that is a really difficult question to measure. i think, because i have written about jefferson and madison, you know madison tended to become a he is kind of interesting because he could be ready to write the people and tell people what he thought and he did not seem to wind up with a list of enemies that seemed to hurt
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other politicians. he knew how to present his ideas. i would say on the one hand, he is honest, but even madison could not be honest because when he thought about writing an essay, critiquing slavery, it was going to be published in one of the major newspapers, he realized he could not do it. he had to hold it back. it is in his notes but it never gets published. that is something politicians even at that time before television, the internet, before we had people with cell phones following you and catching everything you say they are always aware of their constituency. medicine's case -- in ma dison's casey was in virginia. there is an awareness that, what can they say that people will listen to? at the time he thought, this cannot be said at this moment. maybe at another point, you can
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presented in a way that they will accept. i do not like he immediately will that politicians are more liars than average americans. [laughter] mr. lamb: why is that hollywood? what role did they play over the years with your thesis? ms. isenberg: no, hollywood and thumb, that is what i wanted to do with this book. there are a lot of politics in it. i am a legal historian so i have discussions of important legal cases i think have to be understood because of their widespread influence and laws that do matter, laws about power, you cannot ignore the law and will but i also think we have to embrace the way in which forms of mass media do shape widespread american thinking on certain issues. one of the historians who i worked with directors was an amazing -- rutgers was an amazing historical historian. he says for the first time americans were suddenly hearing
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the same songs,'s statistics the same advertisements, so that kind of nationalizes america that they know how the shared culture -- that they now have a shared culture. we have to recognize its power but we do not have to exaggerated. people, everything they watch, they are being indoctrinated. it is not purely propaganda. i think most scholars are cautious about using the word on will have to recognize what do not justify themselves, they are shaped from the day they are born. not only from the parents of the world they are a part of is going to define how they look at the world, how they speak, how they think. we have to not marginalize popular culture and the it does not have an influence, particularly when we are talking about class. mr. lamb: 1962, this was a television show.
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[video clip] >> i want to explain about this chandelier. napoleon bonaparte plan campaigns around it. >> we are just plain folk. we do not mind a few things being secondhand. [laughter] >> you can throw them away. we do not use those things in beverly hills. >> now, you listen here. i do not care how those folks are in beverly hills. we are going to be clean. >> yes, ma'am. >> we ain't going to lower our standards. ms. isenberg: that to me, irene ryan that came out of this montville tradition -- mo
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audville tradition upper class educated, it became a stage act. it became a role that people play. i think that seeing a shilling, i quote what i thought was an amazing commentary on the beverly hills abilities -- beverly hillbillies. he said, first of all, americans are extremely class conscious. he said, what is going on plot after plot is the battle between snobs, the banker and his family and his son is always the trade in this desperate trade -- portrayed in this way versus the hillbillies. what the middle class viewer at home was supposed to feel and this is what people say about reality television, they think somehow, we are superior because
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we do not fall into either category. we are not snobs or slobs. the other thing that the beverly hillbillies tapped into, there was a chicago reporter and even though we forget there was a large mass migration of african-americans moving up north, settling in places in chicago, there was also a large mass migration from people from appalachia than moved to chicago, st. louis and the chicago reporter made this comment, just imagine the same people that were the beverly hillbillies moving next door to you but without the millions in the bank. he was sort of tapping into, this is a stock role that everyone is familiar with, emphasizing the class tension and one of the points we have to realize, to find yourself in the middle last requires there has to be in lower class that you are comparing yourself with areas that is one of the things that is drawing on.
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it is also drawing on a real social reality going on at this time and the way in which people living in northern cities felt very much at ease. there were poor, white ghettos in places like indianapolis, chicago and they were described in the same derogatory ways as poor blacks living in the city. that is part of her history that we do not talk about. we do not want to really face up to the fact of how important class is. mr. lamb: why not? ms. isenberg: well, i think, it can go, there are a variety of reasons. we have mths. we tell ourselves we want america to be the home of the brave, the home of the free. we want to promote social mobility inequality when in fact, we are not that comfortable with equally. just because thomas jefferson said it, and he said it it it was put in the declaration of independence, in his own state
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of virginia, 40% of white men were landless, tenant farmers. so, he is writing this at the very moment equality did not exist in his own state. and, if we take it up to 1930, the 1930's were still at 40% landless tenant farmers and 2/3 were white in in the south. it is better to think that if things are not perfect now, we will live in the future. things will eventually change. that is one reason, and i think politicians say that over and over again, this is what america really stands for. that is one reason we do not want to talk about it. the other reason, it makes people extremely uncomfortable. i have gotten a lot of e-mails about this where someone said, i am so glad you wrote this book. you are talking about my life. and i had one person that talked about, this is someone that has become very successful but he still feels a sense of shame because somehow his background,
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the way he grew up does not actually make them feel equal. so for middle-class people, it makes us feel uncomfortable when we have to a knowledge that, if you were born to a stable middle-class, wealthy family in a good neighborhood, you get a better start. you had visited -- you have advantages and privileges which means we are not self-made men or women. we edit patron. i highlighted that. he could not have made it on his own. he needed powerful people to promote him. that still works in today's society. >> why do think that your book made it to the new york times best seller list in july? is there one point, is it the title?
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>> this is my fourth book. i started this took six years ago. you have no idea what is going to happen. to me it was an intellectual problem that i wanted to solve. it's hard. why is this book popular? i do think it has to do with the political climate. i think that because we have donald trump, who journalists have labeled their white trash candidate, when he was on the primaries. his followers have an called the revenge of the lower class. we have an awareness of class that we see every day. in one way or another americans have been on his side.
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bernie sanders is also critiquing the 1%. he wanted to say, i am of the working class. the political climate has made people, i think, aware in a way that we have not been as aware of recently. to step back for a moment and try to think about class. for me as a historian, i want people to read this book and understand that what we are seeing at this moment. journalists say, look this is new and never happened before it there is always a history. i don't believe in fate. it happened because of the way society is structured, where history does shape the present. if anyone can take anything from my book, it is to come away from
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with a more sophisticated idea of class. it's not to ignore world poverty as well. it is out of sight and out of mind. that's the other thing that i want to remind people of your even today, we have a high percentage, 21% of people below the poverty line are way. -- are white. it's a race and class problem. we have to embrace that. >> anyone who has seen the movie deliverance will never forget it. a couple of scenes in particular. that there is a fellow in their playing the banjo he is a real
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person. if you watch us clip you will see him in the movie and at the end you will see him a couple of years ago, and he will tell you he works at walmart. >> ♪ >> i work at walmart. can you play the banjo for us?
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>> no. >> it looked like he played the banjo in the movie. what was the impact of this? >> he was plucked out of a nearby school. as you can see, they added makeup. he was supposedly an idiot savant in the film. that scene captures, these guys from the city going on a canoe trip. this is a scene that i highlight that you have to and the size. this is tension and urban renewal divide. there is a bond that is formed between the one character playing the guitar on the canoe trip. part of the reason he ends up killed is because of the sympathy. the whole message is this really
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dark side that there can't be. you have a moment -- but the overall message is that the back country for hillbillies is so us civilized was so violent, that the only way that this is the only way you can survive is to find your own inner savage and fight act and then get out of there as fast as possible. this is a world that is not america. when i talk about deliverance, i talk about this stereotype persisted. this is the same time in the 1970's that we see more positive vision. redneck takes on a more positive idea that you want to redefine your identity and say that it is no longer are you associated with the eugenics movement
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which is seen as idiot savant. now it is a positive cultural message. in the 70's, everyone wanted to rediscover their roots. you had people celebrating roots, rediscovering authenticity. this is at the same time this movie is being made. people want to reclaim the redneck. it is still coexists with this really why it's red -- widespread worse portraits ever. >> alex haley was proven not to be telling the truth at the time. that has happened more than once. what's your reaction? >> one of the articles that i cite that was cowritten by husband and wife. and there are other people were
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explained how he did not have the research to say that hit was really his story. there were numerous errors. this is part of the problem. when the book came out the new york time was praising it as he refused to based on -- there's always the problem where popular history at times isn't written by historian. it gets a lot of attention because it is what people want to hear. people embrace it and they want the story to be true. they don't even judge this real history, is it accurate? we are the one who spend the time in the archives. we know how to set this in a broader context. we spent years and years reading history in order to figure out does this really makes sense.
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we always find ourselves defending the process of history, and defending the importance of distinguishing fact from the action as professional historians. particular -- particularly when something is very popular and presented in an exciting way. it is a story that americans probably want to be -- want to hear. two years down the road, people are then willing to admit it's not. >> reading your book and some of your articles, you have a difference between academic historians and not academic historians. the headline is liberals love alexander hamilton that aaron burr was a real progressive. >> the reason hamilton -- my point is you can enjoy the
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music. but it's really not in -- historically accurate in 1776. this is one of the problem swear to assume and setting history there are hundreds of pages of notes. not only the document, but the debates you have, how you distinguish yourself, what documents you are dealing with. what i really wanted to highlight is hamilton is portrayed as sympathetic. it leaves out many of orton details of hamilton's act round. best of his background. he appears as the south may man -- self made man. the highlight of my peace, where
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aaron burr when he was in the new york legislature, he is talking about america as a place for immigrants to come. at that very moment, hamilton was pushing for a constitutional amendment that did not allow any immigrant to hold any public office. restrictions on voting, sedition acts were part of the federalist hearty -- party. it's not history, but it's fun and enjoy it. don't assume that either by watching the musical, listening to the soundtrack that it is a
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biography. he takes on the role of trying to defend hamilton and push him in the direction. he would -- jefferson and hamilton is being portrayed as more of an abolitionist and it is not true. >> you have a book out called aaron burr? >> yes. i was interested in him not because i was in love with him not because i wanted to simply cleanse him from all the criticism. i thought historians were missing something.
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he had an incredibly influential career in new york. you have to understand new york politics. hey he had a career in the revolution as an officer. he ends up getting involved in a major film esther which was common practice -- filibuster. there were numerous investors -- filibusters. i wanted to say we will taken seriously. we don't really understand what is in again at that point. they don't read his papers, it is harder to work on because he doesn't have all of his papers
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published like hamilton tidd -- hamilton did. >> i want to ask you about historians who are in the middle of residential campaigns. historians against trump. it was put together by 800 names on the list. it is an open letter to the american people, which is quite critical of trump. these are mostly non-academic historians. this is put together, it is said nobody can mistake the voice of -- along with ken burns, they got a bunch of ken burns to talk about donald trump.
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is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing? >> how in the world can it be that the republican party, the party of abraham lincoln is on the verge of nominating the likes of donald trump for president of the united states. >> many things about donald trump raise eyebrows. hyperbole, hair color, the degrading remarks about women. >> history is full of demographics -- demagogues who rise to power. >> which brings us to our current predicament of the presidential nominee. >> he is a loathsome man. draw up a list of human qualities you most dislike here at greed cruelty ignorance
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name your own. the nominee of the republican party says unprecedented things for incompetence it in experience and self absorbed show in and delusional levels of self-confidence that defy clinical explanations of narcissism. >> he hasn't done anything besides the fortunes of donald trump. >> when the past is scrubbed clean america he -- history because a blank slate, donald trump can ride up on upon it -- can write upon it anything he wants. please, don't let it happen here. >> historians, from davie -- david mccullough and others.
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most of those nonacademic historians and should historians be doing all this active work? >> it's always tricky. i think you can draw historical analogies when we talk about the fact that a lot of what they are doing is not new. that's when historians can say something. i think it is harder with a lot of those that are complete, that basically you are saying that donald trump -- you should listen to me because i am an authority and somehow donald trump is beyond the pale or somehow this is such a departure from the way in which american politics as operated.
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i did see the one with mcculloch, i think he was quoting eisenhower talking about the qualities that one needs. >> he has never done this before. >> to me, when i look at politics you can't stop thinking about certain patterns that apply not even to donald trump at the democratic party. when they were having their convention many of the speakers were highlighting -- we can find patterns the way it reflects our historical past. i am much more cynical. i think historians have less influence in society. we are not as popular as many people on tv, and film come in popular culture, on reality tv. famous people are often paraded
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forward to defend promote politicians. you can go back to andy griffith for the role he was playing with the idea that famous people have influence and people will listen to them. it's better if historians keep -- which is the way i have commented about trout -- talk about it in the context of historical patterns. what other people do is their own choice. it's just what i am more comfortable with saying. instead of isolating trial put it in historical pattern. it doesn't just come out of thin air. >> back to your book "white trash]," with a program that
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used to be on the learning now -- channel. it's watch a minute of honey b oo boo. >> here in georgia it is similar to [indiscernible]
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>> ok. >> that's important. one of the things i talked about, how land and being a landowner was an important measure and economically valuable citizen. the other strange thing is in order in some mud here it is the importance of mud. it was seen as a white trash colony, rednecks in the year 1904, it was defined as people who lived in swamps. one of the other important things i talk about is mud. the importance of mud sill --
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phil. lincoln had his house divided and every society had to have its mud fills. he went on to say that these were the people that you exploit. there also -- always has to have a less educated class that must be exploited so then you can have the house on top, which is the upper class, the richer classes. we need that foundation. then he said, the more dangerous society because they have given their mud fills more rights, the right to vote good he was predicting class revolution. we only had african-americans on the bottom.
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it's not true because the south in the 1840's had an increasingly large population. they were disparaged by poor whites as a horse from the more -- marxist -- marshes of north carolina. that was in court and because it contrasted, david hunley wrote a book on classes. it went on to say that the elite class, came from royal cavalier lineage. poor whites are the equivalent of a breed of horse. it is important in a metaphor
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for honey boo-boo. it's about the way white trash is disparaged today, but momma june is the real star of the show. because she is overweight and social and political commentators talk about obesity. unlike the 19th century poor whites who were considered thin, children were old beyond their time. what critics find so upsetting about this show is that these people are willing to celebrate the negative sides of being obese and running around in the mud and guzzling beer. these are seen as celebrating
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lower-class life, what should have been hidden is now not hidden. >> one less click. -- one more click. let's watch it on the last day when they had to abandon. >> tacky is a degenerate horse found in the marshes. >> jim and tammy, i believe that the god i serve is still god. i believe -- can you do it? tammy will sing a song for you before we leave our house. >> maybe you are hurting and you need this song today.
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i will sing it for both of us. ♪ >> she said maybe you are hurting. there is still plenty of program like that on tv. >> she came from a poor white girl family in minnesota. her parents were pentecostals. i draw a comparison between her -- i talk about the ordinance of how the symbolism of her makeup is assigned about the social status. the idea of a perfect female behavior to be understood, to be jim moore -- demure and polite. in a sense they were dismissed
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because they were toothless they smoked. even our dear of what it means to be women in shape by class. her story is interesting. on the one hand they exploited the poor they would send out for donations at the beginning of the month as one of the people working for them said. they were waiting for the welfare checks to exploit them. it's clear that most of the people that watch that show barely graduated from high school. a lot of them are out of work. they were in a sense appealing to a particular group. what tammy is saying is that she also tapped into that desire to rise up into the middle class. it reminds us that we are saying
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again, you don't quite fit in. >> our growth -- our guest is nancy isenberg. she is a historian. her book is called "white trash ." we thank you very much. >> thank you. >> for free transcripts visit us at q and a. or. q&a programs are available at c-span podcast. >> did you enjoy this week's interview with nancy

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