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tv   Book Discussion on The March on Washington  CSPAN  February 27, 2016 4:30pm-5:21pm EST

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cells used to develop vaccines. we also give annual awards for nonfiction writing the finalists like adam bridles of feel philosophers guide to cracking which reports on the efforts of the texas town to stop and oil companies use of hydraulic fracturing. catherine eden and luke schaeffer's $2 a day. >> at extreme poverty in america, and the prize is another nonfiction finalist. the book reports of how newark new jersey school system use the donation of 100 million dollars from facebook founder mark zucker berg. the history of music piracy in the last award is the mark let inmark linton history prize which focuses on works of narrative history.
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finalists include sean mcmeekin's the ottoman in game which examines world war i, the end of the ottoman empire, and the instability in the middle east since the early 20th century. next, the train to crystal city recounts a secret prisoner exchange program during world war ii and the american internment camp that was at the center of it. also, timothy snyder's study of the holocaust and tj stiles book on george custer.custer. the history of nazi concentration camps is also nominated. the winners will be announced on march 30. book tv has covered many books which have been nominated, and you can watch them on booktv.org. >> host: this is book tv on c-span2 on the campus of university of wisconsin in madison.
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joining us 1st is professor will jones whose book, "the march on washington", came out recently. how long was that in the planning? >> guest: well, it was in the planning for over 20 years, since 1941. "the march on washington" was planned during the 2nd world war, and it was called up at the last minute. the organizers had it in mind during that entire period that they would need to revise this idea of the march. they talked about it pretty constantly for that period, and starting in 1962 thought that for a number of reasons this is the time. it was very long in the planning and well thought out and finally carried forward. >> host: why was the 1st march canceled, and what was the focus? >> guest: i think it is important for understanding
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the march that actually happened to know what the 1st march was about and why it was called off. it was just before the united states entered the 2nd world war. the war was happening in europe and asia before pearl harbor. but the us was entered -- was supporting the allies already. so this is the period in which then president franklin delano roosevelt called for the united states to be our small democracy, to support democracy by building their planes, tanks, weapons to support the allies in europe and asia. and this was a period in which this mobilization effectively ended the great depression for most americans. people had jobs, wages were going up. for african-americans who were shut out, this was a horrific contradiction. here we are fighting for democracy and
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african-americans are shut out of the jobs at home. this was the central point to a whole array of injustices that african-americans were facing, ranging from not being able to get jobs to being shut out of the armed forces, when they could get in being put into menial jobs and segregated and rank and in much of the country deprived of the right to vote, run for office. so a philip randolph were at the time was perhaps the most widely known african-american leader. he was a union leader in the civil rights leader, and he called for this march in 1941 to protest this contradiction. they were demanding equal access into the armed forces, demanding equal access to defense jobs.
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the right to vote. a whole array of demands. and the reason it was called off was, at the last minute initially president roosevelt refused to meet with a philip randolph. he refused to meet any of these demands. what was really the most important, not the only demand and that was to issue
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an executive order that would ban defense contractors. had to agree to hire people regardless of their race, religion, national origin or college. to meet the demands of the war. he was at the time seen as a tremendous victory, people compared to the emancipation proclamation which was another executive order. the problem with it was that it was because it was an executive order would expire after the war. it only. it only applied narrowly to a company that had a defense contract.
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that set up this process. >> he was the president of the union. this was a union of african-american workers who had been denied entry into the other railway unions which for the most powerful unions in the country. and these unions excluded african-americans and women from the membership. as a result, a number of black men who worked on the luxury train cars across the country, the equivalent of flight attendants today. they organized their own union and turned to a philip randolph who was not a porter, did not work in this
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job comeau was a well-known socialist activist, political activist, published a newspaper, and they turned to him because he was a well-known speaker and writer, had been a shakespearean actor, and they turned to him as a spokesperson, and he became a very effective spokesperson for this growing union, what was at the time in the 1920s very small and powerless union, but his claim to fame, his initial fame came when he forced the pullman company which operated luxury train cars to sign a contract with reporters. this was the 1st major contract he affiliated with the american federation of labor and made this very well known and established union which established him
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as by the 1940s he was known with civil rights. >> host: the called off march,march, a philip randolph was active in the 1963 march as well. >> guest: he was the director. the march that is often known as martin luther king's march on washington. and that is really a name that it acquired in hindsight. at the time everyone knew and recognized that a philip randolph was the principal leader of the march. >> host: what was martin luther king's role? >> guest: by martin -- by 1963 martin luther king had established himself as a leader. he was known for his leadership in the montgomery bus boycott. he had formed the southern christian leadership conference, and he was widely known really as the leader of the southern civil rights movement, this movement based on nonviolent
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, civil disobedience, and that ending jim crow in the south. he was a tremendous speaker, a phenomenal speaker. but he was not the only end in many ways the principal leader of what we would know as the civil rights movement. the civil rights movement was a national movement, one that was not focused on ending jim crow, a movement that went back to this effort during the 2nd world war two when equal access to jobs and retained that effort to try to build a national movement that could end racial inequality. so by 1963 martin luther king was well-known as a speaker, a leader of this in some ways a part of the movement. and so when a philip randolph went to reorganize the march that he had called off in 1941, everyone said,
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well, you better get the support of martin luther king. he went, and king said, i will support you but let's expand the goals. it is not just about equal access to jobs. it is also about winning the right to vote in the south, which a, which they philip randolph lived in new york city and have the right to vote. but for somebody living in montgomery or atlanta, this atlanta, this was the primary goal, to end segregation at lunch counters. the things i think we often popularly associated with the civil rights movement more broadly which is where the slogan for the 1963 march came from. a march for jobs and freedom and in some ways an emerging of the two northern wing and southern wing,wing, the northern wing being emphasizing jobs and access to economic justice, being rooted in the labor movement
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and then freedom coming from the southern arguing for voting rights, desegregation, access to schools, public spaces, and in that wing martin luther king was the most important and prominent figure in that march. the march was a merger of these two. and the actual day of the march martin luther king's role was also interesting. he was the last of ten speakers. the 1st was a philip randolph, who really opened by setting the tone, explainingtone, explaining what they meant by this being a march for jobs and freedom, explains the importance of ending discrimination and also fighting for economic justice, winning jobs for everyone, living wage jobs, raising the minimum wage, and he set out that connection between jobs and
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freedom. sort of a mantra that was completed throughout the day. and all of the other speakers really took up that connection and talked about the connection between economic justice and racial equality, and it is interesting and important to remember, by the time martin luther king came to the stage, people were worn out. >> host: how long had it been going on? >> guest: over two hours, and that was just at the lincoln memorial. before this they're was a march, and actual march. most of the people there had traveled the night before. they were exhausted. martin luther king, everyone knew he could bring people back, his spirits. focus them on going home and continuing the struggle, and so his role was one of uplifting people. he was chosen is that role. and everyone knew, as a
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tremendous speaker, he could do that. most of us have seen that speech and can testify to the fact that this is an incredibly rousing speech. but he did not really half to say much about what the march was about. and so that is the speech we remember, and it is the only speech that most of us know about. many people think this was a march to give that speech. if we only remember that, we forget what the goals of the march were and do not keep in mind the long history that i layout of the book. >> host: what time of day was martin luther king speaking? >> guest: in the late afternoon, around 4:00 o'clock. >> host: how long was the full speech? >> guest: about 15 minutes. he went over the allotted time. i think everyone was given ten minutes. everyone went over.
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>> host: who was the most radical speaker that they? >> guest: you know, that is a really interesting question. in many ways, what i would like to emphasize about this march is how radical all the speakers were. a philip randolph was someone who was a leader in the socialist party. he had been arrested during the 1st world war. decades earlier for opposing the war. this was at the height of the cold war, when being a socialist was an incredibly dicey position. herehere he was, the most prominent spokesperson for this march. martin luther king himself repeatedly talked about being a democratic socialist, somebody fully in line with the idea that in order to really achieve equality, it would not be enough to just remove
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barriers to access, but this would require a reworking of the economic system to ensure people had access to decent housing, education, jobs. these were radical ideas at the time, and everyone who went to the speaker's podium was on board with those. it would not have been there, endorsed the march, organizations which they supported and represented would not have endorsed this march, and this was a verya very radical message and one that i think we really need to remember as an important achievement of this demonstration, to bring so many people together around a message that was so powerful and radical. in many ways the march itself was radical. probably the most militant person there was john lewis was knowing congress. he was the leader of the student nonviolent coordinating community. he was a young man.
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he was a college student. the other members of his organization that was known as the student nonviolent coordinating committee for high school and college students, extremely radical and militant. and there was a great story about his speech. his speech was written in committee, you know, in the spirit, a hyper democratic organization. they wrote the speech together, and they also circulated at the night before thinking we want everyone to hear. the problem was some people not so radical got a hold of it and objected to the militancy in town. >> host: did he tone it down? >> guest: he did. and this became an important moment in the history of the civil rights movement. this criticism of the speech got remember it as an example of the radicalism
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and the militancy of the civil rights movement getting toned down and restrained and actually i think in the book i explained an important nuance to the story which is that the principal people toning down that speech were not the kennedy administration, not white administration, not white liberals who were sort of moderates who were supporting the march. the principal objections to his speech came from a philip randolph and bare breasted who was a philip randolph's deputy, executive assistant. baird rustin was a person who is probably most responsible for introducing the idea of nonviolent civil disobedience to the united states, somebody who studied the strategy that have been developed in india and imported to the civil rights movement in 1941 back at the 1st march on washington.
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and when he saw john lewis his speech he objected to one phrase in particular, that john lewis said -- you know, this is a revolution. we need we need to march through the south like sherman did in reference to the union general during the civil war who burned large pieces of the south of the ground.to the ground. he said, we need to march to the south like sherman and burn jim crow to the ground. and then he paused and added , nonviolently. and this was, of course, a dramatic effect. this was the student nonviolent coordinating committee. there were not talking about armed revolution. but these references to violence were too much for baird rustin and a philip randolph and other nonviolent leaders.
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you can be militant. a philip randolph pointed out that he was going to call for a revolution, and into speech he did. a massive more revolution, but the references to violence were too much. another objection that was raised by a lot of leaders was the fact that john lewis said that they would not support john f. kennedy and his civil rights bill which was a major part of the demand of the march. a bill aimed primarily at ensuring equal access to public facilities in the south to desegregating schools, protecting voting rights. and all of the civil rights leaders were critical of this bill.bill. they thought it was too neat, did not have enough enforcement power, also importantly did not include a fair employment law, a law that had been the principal objective of the march on
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washington back in 1941 tomorrow law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of race or color or religion. and pres. kennedy did not support this provision. everybody who was behind the march on washington wanted to push kennedy's line farther. the problem was, we don't want this law. this law is too little too late. so the two ways in which they got him to tone down that speech were to drop the explicit reference to violence marching to the south. and to say this is a week law, a lot of problems with the law, but we wanted and we want more. and in fact one of the principal outcomes of the march on washington and one of the most important victories of the march was to organize a national
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movement around adding a fair employment clause to kennedy civil rights bill. they succeeded in making it much stronger and much more powerful. in part because of that criticism that john lewis use. so john lewis talked about this, has written a memoir and talks about the experience and says how hard it was to challenge these older experienced leaders and said they convinced me to change the sort of outlines of the message but did not really change the central thrust of the speech which was that what is needed is a massive resolution which was something echoed by the other leaders of the demonstration. >> a philip randolph, for speaker. second speaker?
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we are going to do all ten come by the way. >> the 2nd speaker was the president of the united auto workers union. this was a union support of the civil rights movement for a long time and was perhaps the most important white labor leader. a philip randolph was the most important later for a wilkins, pres. of the national association for the advancement of color people at the naacp. >> what was his topic? >> well, you know, the largest civil rights organization, the oldest civil rights organization, an organization that had one a tremendous victory less than a decade before by bringing a legal case that resulted in the supreme court case brown v board of education which made it
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illegal to put the book the segregated public schools according to race. in the decade after the law they had pushed and pushed and pushed to turn that legal decision in the reality, and by the early 1960s very few of the schools in the south and the north for that matter have become integrated, integrated,integrated, so they were focused on pushing the kennedy administration essentially to enforce this decision. there were pushing for desegregation of schools, but an important element of his speech was echoing the point that a philip randolph had made in his opening speech, which is not desegregation, antidiscrimination laws that were aimed at ending
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enforcing the right to vote, ending discrimination in public accommodation, these things would not be effective unless african-americans have access to decent paying jobs. so one of the important things about the speech was in some ways not central to the naacp message with echoing a philip randolph's message and racial equality will not be achieved in isolation. he was also like john lewis extremely critical of president kennedy civil rights bill likening it to water down medicine where won't do any good unless we make it stronger. he also said we need to push to strengthen the bill. well, i guess the 4th speaker was john lewis. had been pressure during the previous night to change his
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speech, and hespeech, and he came and gave -- the important thing to remember about a speech is that it is often remembered. i teach about the civil rights movement, and in my courses i try to use these speeches, documents. it is easy to find john lewis his original speech, the one that was edited, printed all over, textbooks, on the web. what is hard to find is the speech he actually gave. and i think that it is a remarkable speech. it is by far the most radical and militant, very fiery speech. he left out the calls for violence, going to burn jim crow to the ground. we need to be in the speed -- be in the streets, push for a civil rights bill that will achieve equality, and
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he goes into this fantastic sort of set of examples, how this law as it is being introduced by president kennedy might affect various african-americans and like a lot of readers felt that if the poorest african americans were not affected by this the senate was not worth pushing for. so he pointed, for example, to a made who earned $5 a week in the house wherewith a total income of the household is hundred thousand dollars year. he said comeau we need a bill that will achieve equality. we need a bill that will achieve equality for the unemployed and homeless. and so he sort of called for
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in a tremendously strengthened civil rights bill some of which were things that were in the official demands of the march, so it actually called for a federal policy that would end unemployment. calling for raising the minimum wage to a level they said would provide a decent standard of living for family. they called for raising the minimum wage to $2.50 which in today's terms would be $15 an hour. there were calling for a very dramatic increase in the minimum wage. and again, all of this rested on the principle that it would be one thing to end discrimination comeau one thing to ensure integration, but that was not going to make people equal. the only way to make people equal was to create a society in which people had access to the standard of
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living that would provide them with a decent standard of living, decent jobs, housing, education. >> the 5th speaker on the march on washington august 68. >> not an official speaker, not one of the official spokespeople for the march. but the leader of the naacp branch in little rock, arkansas, famous for leading the integration of the high school and leaving the young black students who had valiantly gone into the school under tremendous opposition, massive crowds of white supremacists yelling at them command daisy bates was the person who led the movement, a newspaper publisher, very well-known, and it is fascinating that she was not invited to be one of the official speakers and in
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fact several weeks before the march a number of women who were involved in the civil rights movement who were central leaders, people who had been a principled leader of the movement, well-known, covered in the national press, people who helped organize the march on washington back in 1941, principal strategist of that initial march on washington, people like ella baker, they had gone to a philip randolph and said, you know, we were looking at this plan for march and noticenoticed that you did not have one woman invited to speak. ..
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>> they threatened to picket him. they decided not to do it at the last minute. in a last-minute deal, the men agreed to allow the debaters to speak. she wasn't asked to give an official address. she was supposed to introduce what they call the heroins of the movement. it was a break in the movement or march or affair. she was allowed to stand up and introduce rosa park who was
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famous as the leader of the montgomery bus system. and these incredibly powerful women involved in the movement. she was allowed to introduce them. that was a very important event for these women who after the march, a number of women talked about how they realized they would have to push harder for gender equality. this was a turning point with a number of women being involved in building the national organization for women which was the principle organization of
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the feminist movement in the 1960's. at the time it was an insult but it was an important time. then they went on with the official program of the day. we started with randolph, whites, bates, who followed? >> the was another white speaker who was eugene carson blake. he was the representative of the national catholic council. he was the representative of the catholic church. all of the major denominations so the protestants and there was a representative of rabbis and catholics there mostly giving
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their support explaining tradition and the ways their own religious traditions upheld the principles of the civil rights movement. there was question before the march as to whether, you know, these denominations, the catholics, the protestants, the jews, they were supportive of the ideas of racial equality and saw treating people with discrimination as a violation of their religion. how would they think about the other aspects like waging minimum wage? what they found during the organizing was these were an important part of the religious traditions. the catholics supported the ideas of calls for economic
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justice. so the white religious leaders emphasi emphasi emphasized the connection between racial inequality and injustice. >> professor, the seventh speaker in the wash. >> mckissic represented the congress of racial equality which was one of the principle organizers of the first march on washington back in 1941. this was an organize that ruston, the associate driirecto of the march, helped form during the world war ii to push for equality. this organization first implemented the ideas of non-violent disobedience. the leader, and one of the
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co-founders of core, who was james farmer was actually in prison. he was supposed to speak that day. he was on the program but was arrested were a protest in the south -- for a -- and the kennedy administration offered to arrange his release and he refused that. he said i am going to to leave. other people were arrested and he said i am not going to leave my comrades in jail while i go to washington to speak. mcki mckissic read the speech farmer wrote from jail. he said i am speaking to you from the jail in the jim crow south. so he was actually the last speaker, i believe before king, came to the podium.
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shl >> we are missing eight and nine. who followed floyd mckissic reading farmer's speech some >> whitany young was the executive director of the national urban league. the national urban league was an african-american organization, in some ways a civil rights organization, but a civil service organization in some ways, too. they emphasized providing services for the poor, pushing for federal policies that were going to help the poor. they were actually pioneering at the time what was known as a martial plan for the negro. this was based on the european countries given to the federal government after the second world war war.
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this was massive funding for infrastructure, schools and hospitals. whitany young said if the federal government can put this support into helping poor people in france then certainly the federal government can put this support to helping poor people in the united states. and he said because of the long history of racial oppression, history of slavery and discrimination with jim crow, it was called for for the federal government to put a commitment on the scale of the marshall plan in fighting racial inequality. this echoed the message of the march. was one thing to end the discrimination but it would not end the legacy of the centuries of inequality. whitney young used his speech to
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eco the central message of jobs and freedom. >> who else spoke at the march? >> there was matthew amon the representative of tprotestant church and the recognizer of the rabbis spoke as well. musicians like bob dylan. justine baker came. she was an actress who was living in europe and came and gave an address. she actually read a letter from americans who were living in paris as she was. there were a number of smaller events and smaller people who came to the podium. >> professor jones, does there exist anywhere video of the
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march from start to finish? >> there is, yes. this is something that much of it is actually available online. the public television station in boston has most of it on their website. you have to watch it in parts. but most of it is up there online. >> someone we talked about was barren rustin. why didn't he speak? >> everyone at the event was fairly controversial and for a number of reasons he was particularly controversial. he had been a political radical for a long timei. he was a communist in the 1930's and a member of the young communist league. he was gay. he was a homosexual and had been
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arrested for homosexual sex which was illegal in most of the country at the time. while he was widely known as the principle of architect of non-violence he was a tremendous grassroots organization. if you want to build a massive march and make a tremendous statement everybody knew he was the person to call on. wh when randolph decided to reorganize the march rusten was the first person he called and they put together a plan. but when randolph went to get support prom the leaders a number raised objections they left on being involved. the principle objection came
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from roy wilkins. he said this guy is a former communist and been arrested for homosexual sex and we cannot have him be the principle spokesperson for this march. a phillip randolph conceded initially. he said i will be the official leader and director of the march. and everybody said of course we cannot object to randolph. another socialist and radical but nobody could object. now he said you agree with that and i will name my assistant and that is rusten. randolph remained the official spokesperson giving the omen
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speech but rusten was the person in the background and not completely in the background. if you look at "life" magazine they had a picture on their front cover with rusten and randolph with the title "the leaders" it was clear to everyone who was the leader of this. but it allowed in a sense to deflect some of the criticism and scrutiny of rusten to have randolph in the official position. rusten did get a chance to speak. he came out at the very end. actually martin luther king spoke. ru rusten and randolph came back on the page and read the full list of the official demands of the march. and barrett rusten asked everybody there to raise their hands and pledge to go home and keep fighting until they
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realized the full list of the demands. so he got on the the stage but was not one of the official speakers. >> in david marenes' book on detroit he talked about the fact martin luther king gave the "i are a dream speech" two months before washington, d.c. >> it was almost as big as the march on washington. about 100,000 people came to detroit. it demonstrated this type of event could have a positive impact. a lot of people were worried about having a massive demonstration at a time when tension was high. there was frustration at the slow pace of progress toward integrati
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integration. there was a high level of violence against civil rights activist in the south, criticism about being able to be protected and people were worried about violence at the march. the march in detroit was peaceful, successful and a public relation success. it led a lot of people who were hesitant about the march in washington to say we can support that. as you mentioned, martin luther king previewed his "i have a dream speech". they found a recording of him giving almost the same speech a year earlier at a high school in north carolina. this was a speech he pioneered several year before. the first time this refrain of the "i have a dream" was used when he spoke before the
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aflcio -- the labor movement almost two years before the march on washington. it was a speech he had sort of perfected over time. in fact one of the stories is by the time it came around to august of 1963 for the march on washington his advisoadvisors tm not to give that speech and wrote another speech. if you watch him, there are recordings of this, and he begins not with the i have a dream refrain but begins with the image of a check written by the government. he reads the promise of freedom in the founding documents and the constitution and declaration of independences and he said this check is marked in sufficient funds and we are here to demand we get payment on the promise of american democracy.
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he gets halfway in, and then pushed the notes aside and went back to the speech he had given over and over again. he knew this was the speech that would bring the crowd back to their feet. there were rumors that jackson, the famous gospel singer who had sang just before he same on stage, was behind him saying martin, tell him about the dream. she may have sensed this new speech was getting it. it wasn't hitting the right notesment so he -- right notes. so he gave the most incredible speech. it was powerful and he knew that and perhaps jackson was reminding him of that. but this was the thing to end
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on. that is the refrain we all know. >> two weeks after the march, birmingham, alabama. >> that is right. when we look at this march as this tremendous success we remember the tremendous and uplifting speech. we forget how complicated the history was after that. it wasn't the sort of speech where everybody said we were wrong about this. let's give everybody equality. it marked an intense year of the conflict and nothing puncuated that more than the bombing of the church in birmingham. this was on a sunday morning when people were preparing for church services. there was a group of girls in the basement who were preparing for the service and they were
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all killed. they were killed in this explosion that was set by a white supremacy member who opposed to bill before congress. this reminds us how hot it was and what was at stake. this movement was going to the core of many people's beliefs about what this nation should be. it changed a lot of mind but it sealed a lot of people to their positions of hatred as well and their commitment to inequality. we see the reinvigoration of the movement that was opposed to the civil rights movement clearly in this horrific bombing in birmingham.
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