tv Stephen Carter Remarks at Key West Literary Seminar CSPAN February 12, 2017 3:30pm-4:13pm EST
and problems with management and certainly problems after the mills shut down, but to me aliquippa's representative in the extreme of what has hit western pennsylvania and i would argue the forces that were cut loosed in western pennsylvania in the mid- 80s, when an entire proud, tough, intelligent , vital working class was suddenly cut out of having a foothold in the american dream, we are dealing today in his campaign with those very forces still that were never properly addressed and so i think this town and what has happened to it is important. >> you can watch this and other programs abductee.org. book tv.org. [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [applause]. >> thank you so much. my name is arlo haskell and on the executive director of the key west literary seminar. [applause]. >> before i get started let me make one quick housekeeping announcement. we are going to do the question and answer session a bit differently today. there will be stationary microphones any child and if you would like to ask a question you
should get up out of your seat and come to the microphone when we get to that point. okay. it is a pleasure to welcome you all to the san carlo's institute and to the 35th annual key west literary seminar revealing power, the literature of that politics. this sunday afternoon session is free and open to the public. that is our gift to the community. it wouldn't be possible without the gifts many others have made to us at support our operations throughout the year. i would like to thank pay the-- peggy hallmark in the homeric trust whose support help make this pre-send a public possible. thank you. [applause]. >> in addition to all of you who are here joining us in key west on this warm january afternoon, i would like to welcome those of
you who are watching at home on television on a c-span book tv. we have a video crew here today took they have been here since this morning and we are grateful for the opportunity to bring what we do here at key west to the viewers of tv. if you like what you see here this afternoon i hope you will consider joining us for our 36th annual seminar next year. if you picked up a program book on your way in any flip to the back cover you will see our topic next year is writers of the caribbean. we have an extraordinary lineup already with jamaican kincaid. marlon james and a whole host of other wonderful writers. it will be a terrific program and i hope you consider joining us. if you would like to learn more about next year's program or about what we do you can go to our website. speaking of our website, i want to talk about kind of a new or
revamped feature of our website. we just relaunched a totally new redesigned site and if you look around at our audio archives you will find now more than $500 of audio recordings spanning the past 30 years of the key west literary seminar featuring truly some of the greatest writers of our time. most of these are available to listen to right away on our website. others are available to request and we will send them to you and it's really just a terrific resource. like i say, 500 hours, a whole host of the writers. if you are a teacher, as i know many in the audience are, these recordings make triptych educational resources here can
we really urged teachers everywhere to use these in the classroom and we are always interested in hearing about your experiences using these recordings, hearing from your students about how this goes and helps to strengthen your curriculum. we have a wonderful program in store for you today including robert a caro, burned-out white apple, billy collins, gail collins, but it is a pleasure and an honor to welcome back to our stage someone who was first here with us, i think i'm in 2013, a writer of exceptional intellectual clarity and grace, stephen carter. [applause].
>> thank you, arlo. and thank you. it's a real pleasure to be back in key west to. is a community. this is a wonderful events. it's always a great joy. of my subject, as i assume you saw from the program is the black woman who prosecuted lucky luciano and since i am probably better known as a novelist you probably assume this is fiction. actually, this is nonfiction. this is the subject of a book of mine that will be coming out this fall and had wanted to give you a little preliminary of what that is about. i'm going to speak for a few minutes about probably 15 or 20 minutes and then i will want to take your questions and
comments, so we will have a conversation about it. in order to tell you about the black woman who prosecuted lucky luciano we first have to talk about who was lucky luciano. there is an image of him, kind of a romantic image in the public mind sometimes from some of the movies and television shows and even some of the novels that mention him. he was a brutal and savage monster who rose to the top of the new york criminal underworld at a time when the ethnic gangs were fighting for superiority. that irish gangs had been almost exterminated. although, some moved on to the police force at the time. the italian and jewish gangs were fighting for superiority in the rackets, particularly in manhattan. at this time the biggest racketeer in new york was widely believed to be schultz who was
the last of the real big kingpins from the era of the jewish gangs in new york. he was being challenged by the upstart italian immigrants and their gangs and there was all this screaming in the newspapers that we can't let this go on and we have to prosecute these gangsters. no one but low level heads ever got arrested and what will we do about that and the answer was nothing. for years and years and years new york politicians in new york das and police large numbers of them craft did not do anything. finally, in 1935, under enormous pressure a special prosecutor was appointed and that was thomas dewey who became famous for prosecuting the mob. he entitled his book about it, 20 against the underworld and indeed with the first thing he did when he took opposite july, 1935, he wanted people of integrity.
to-- he wanted people who could be trusted and by a large people who had not been involved in prosecution before. he hired 20 wears, very famously 20 lawyers. 19 were white men and at the 20th was a black woman. the 20th was a black woman and the black woman is the one i want to talk about it the today. who was this black woman? while, she was born eunice hunting in atlanta georgia in 1899. she had a younger brother named alpheus hunting. they were both of them the descendents of slaves, three of their four grandparents had been enslaved and in fact, their father's father, a man named stanton clinton who had been enslaved in virginia, who escaped three times before finally being able-- each time
he was captured and brought back before finally being allowed to vice president-- freedom. he made his way to ontario which was a community of the formally and state-- enslaved and it was there that john brown the abolitionist plant his murderous raid on harper's ferry virginia which is one of the precipitating events of the civil war and there is a legend in the hunting family that this read was planned at stanton hunton, that's the slave-- formally enslaved grandfather of eunice, that staton hunton's kitchen table. that may or may not be true, but he was involved in the planning and when john brown was caught and hanged that among the documents found on his person was a list of his supporters and stanton hunton's name was there on the list, so stanton hunton stayed in canada premature to that. eunice is parents were william clinton and addie hunton.
addie, who became a very well-known naacp activist. she had an interesting job. her job was to go to places where the clan, revise clan of the 1920s had become so fiercely active that the african-american people who lived there had been crushed and her job was to go into these communities by herself and go to public meetings and tried to rouse people's spirits and plant new aa cp branches. william hunton, eunice's father was the first black international secretary hired by the ymca. you need to picture the ymca not as a nonprofit that runs health clubs, but rather as this enormous and actually quite wealthy international organization with chapters all the world and william traveled the world on their behalf, so
the parents were both these activists and so it's little surprise that eunice that grew quite ambitious attended smith college. she received her master's and bachelors in four years and was only the second student as smith ever to do that. she attended florida law school and important to the story in 1944, the republican party that ran new york city at the time and as a footnote it's important to remember visit time one virtually the entirety of african america voted republican routinely. so, she was republican her parents and so on, so 1944 she ran for a state assembly. the only reason-- she lost by the way, the only reason it matters for state assembly is that in the days of machine politics if you were the machine candidate and you lost, the machines job it was to find you
a job. you have to understand she has graduated law school. she is a black woman practicing law in new york, so it's not like she's working at it big law firm. she doesn't have a lot of clients. they are mostly misdemeanors. she had a few wills and so on. she had done some trial work, but not much. the following year rise erupted in harlem and she began the secretary of the harlem riot commission, which brought her a certain degree of public attention so when tom dooley hired his 20 lawyers she was the black lawyer and he hired her from the right commission. dewey's job was to take down organized crime in new york and he is very clear that his target is dutch schultz. dutch schultz unfortunately gets himself murdered as underworld figures tend to do from time to time. lucky luciano becomes the most prominent crime boss in new york
the problem is how to take him down. lucky luciano was more clever than schultz and better insulated. the recent schultz was killed was because he was thinking of killing dewey which other mobsters wouldn't abide because the net was tightening around him and lucky luciano is very well insulated. very unclear how they would be able to get to him. they knew he ran the major rackets in the city. they knew he ran numbers. they knew he ran drugs. they knew he ran a protection racket and ran lots and lots of things, but they could not tie it to him. there were too many layers of insulation between the boss and what happened on the street. how were they to do it? will come i told you he hired eunice in august of 9035 and after he hired eunice he began to parcel out among the 20 lawyers the work of
investigating organized crime in new york, so these lawyers over here were put on corruption the unions, these corruption the trucking industry in these over here were put on drugs and these were put on strong arm and these were on bribery and so on and so on and so on and eunice, the one women in the office was put on prostitution. the reason she was put on prostitution was that no one thought prostitution was important. there was a long history at that time of when women were prostitutes in the united states routinely if he were a female and you were a prostitute-- prosecutor you went to the women's course which met you basically did abandonment cases, child in these cases prostitution cases in the women's court said that time-- this was important work, but not work that grabs headlines and the women's courts were seen as places from which your career would never emerge. you were sent to women's court and you spend your entire career there never doing anything else.
she wasn't sent to women's course, but it was the equivalent. you after stand-- understand dewey was clear that prostitution was important. he made this clear again and again and again and told his staff i'm not here on a moral crusade. are not going to go after the mob for prostitution. we will get them for something important. she's sitting in her office, 19 white men are working on what do he says is important and here's the black woman in her office, which by the way was at the furthest end of the furthest corridor on the 14th floor of the woolworth building which was where the offices were and she is down there in this little cubicle by herself or prostitution. dewey goes on the radio makes a speech for the people of new york and said we are your representatives investigate crime in your neighborhood and if you have a complaint come to the office and tell us about it. citizens came in droves.
it quickly became clear although some of them might say there's a stickup artist in this building and this one might say there are drugs sold on the corner, but the main thing they complained about was prostitution. there's a brothel next-door and the police never come. i think they are on the take. the receptionist with a prosecution-- prostitution, go to the end of the hall and knock on ms. carter's door. eunice handled all of these people coming with their complaints and letters would come to the office, letters would come into the office with people complaining about prostitution and the letters would be dumped on her desk. if it happened once sometime she was out of the office and one of the white men was therefore forced to listen to a complaint about prostitution in the neighborhood took he wrote up a memo and dropped it on her desk. at some point, some of the civic
reformers who had compiled this enormous multi volume reports on prostitution in new york that no one had done anything about, these were sort of these old genteel republican gentlemen with their big simon pure form committees at the time and spent many years of supported by the rockefeller foundation trying to locate where the houses of prostitution were and no one cared about it. one of these gentlemen wrote to dewey in such a classic story for this era that he was playing tennis with a guy who knew a guy at the new york law firm of cromwell who knew a guy in duties office and he said if you think you can get your friend who knows a guy who knows a guy in duties office and tell him we had this big report and he said sure and sewed his guy spoke to the cromwell guy which spoke to the dewey guy who who said send
us this report and they dumped the report on her desk. they said go through this reports it there is anything in it. well, what's interesting about this is that eunice rather than take all of this and say i'm not going to do it, her view was that she was going to go on the attack and let the other people in the office look at the strong arm. let them look at the bribery. let them look at the drugs. if this was what she was going to do, this was what she was quite to do, so she sits down and begins going through complaint after complaint at the complaint and by interviewing police officers that work to these cases and she actually begins to build a picture of the structure of prostitution in new york. she develops a theory which almost no one believes that the many brothels in new york and they are all over the place were actually not independent contractors as widely believed, but all were part of the same
syndicate. so, the office is still in trouble, finding a way to get to lucky luciano, so eventually she goes to dewey and says here's my theory. you can get him this way. this money is trickling up to him. dewey is skeptical. he's highly skeptical, but nevertheless having nothing else to do he said fine, you can have one sister to work with you and the assistant assigned to her eventually became a very distinguished judge in new york. so, he and eunice spent another couple months developing this case. they are finally allowed to ask for wire taps and as a result they figure out the structure. when the women are arrested to get out the next a because there are people called the brokers who actually broken clients that
call them and tell them where to go day to day and the bookers they'll them. they come with our dacian plan which dewey approves. in 1936, on january 31st, they begin arresting all of the bookers, the people who bailed women out and all of the gunmen who protect the bookers and who also hustled the various brothels. they arrest all of these people. of that night, they read-- they were supposed to read every brothel in manhattan. they actually end up only rating half of them it and no one knows why. they read half the brothels and the arrest over 800 women-- over a hundred women who are all brought to the building and crowded onto to force because they are all over the place. it is eunice's job as each one comes and she does was called tagging them and writes at the
report and she's in an office somewhere and you have to understand in order to avoid any problem of corruption or the newsweek in outcome of the raid was a big secret. most of the assistance, dewey's own lawyers didn't know about the raids until they were happening. they were told to stay late because someone was-- everyone was there to do in take on people arrested. the vice squad, no one in the police vice squad was told about the rates. of the raids were conducted by plainclothes detectives drawn from a variety of euros from around new york, not one of whom was paired with his regular partner. they separated them-- they had to stand on a street corner and at 9:00 p.m.-- i'm sorry 8:55 p.m. they were handed an
envelope, which had the instructions of where they would read and what they were supposed to do next. they had no identity that those envelopes with they were supposed to do and the secret was pretty well. the women were all arrested and now dewey is very excited because the interrogation of the women make clear its possible to build a case, so at that point he puts everything else aside and says we will go after lucky luciano for the crime called compulsory prostitution and that that old word. compulsory prostitution doesn't mean someone is forced into it, it means only that someone took money from it. so they will go after lucky luciano for the crime of prostitution and now he has to pick who will be in charge of developing all of this evidence.
as-- he has eunice there who has done the work already, but she is a black woman, so he doesn't pick her. he picks one of his white male assistants who was investigated the bakery industry at the time and he literally said to him we are going to go back to lucky luciano for prostitution. i know you don't know anything about this, so it's your job to put the case together. pick any for assistance you want to put the case together and he picks more more white men to the debt case to gather and eunice is sent back to her cubicle, but as it turns out they actually need her expertise and the exhibits she creates, they use a model she creates of how the thing worked. lucky luciano is convicted. you can kind details of the trials many places. he's convicted in the end and in fairness to dewey on the day of the conviction at his press conference he said he could not it had done it without two of his assistance and one of the two he needs is eunice.
the thing you have to understand is that the lucky luciano trial was news all of the world and in newspapers and magazines all across the country were covering it must be today and after the conviction, we are now talking the summer of 1936, eunice has become putting entertainers aside one of the most famous black women in the united states of america. she is constantly called to serve on committees, she's getting awards, honorary degrees liberty magazine at the time was that second-largest magazine in the country did a long series about the trial and life magazine does a feature about her. on and on and on she has this-- she is at the summit of the same and i can imagine her sitting there in the summer of 1936, thinking the world is my oyster.
i can do anything that i want to do. what will i do next? well, she does do some things next. she handles some other interest in prosecutions. she prosecutes a man named jules river tour who was the silent film a king and at the time although the talkies had taken over he was still if not the most powerful moguls in the film industry and she prosecutes him on a gun possession charge where she tells the court that-- it's a case that he got shot met that can she tells the court we are accepting his plea because we know something else happened, but without his cooperation we cannot prove it. she twice prosecute someone named anna smith. she was called doctor anna swift she ran from the-- you and the
danish institute, a place were you in for counseling and she had all these women on her staff who are counselors. that's was what they are called, but it turns out doctor swift's women were running services that were very different counseling, not counseling ordinarily thought of. she prosecuted her not once but twice because after she served her time the first time she went back into the same business. eunice also had political ambitions. she was actually probably in the 1940s the best-known black republican in the country in the sense of republican activists. again, most well-known black people at the time were republicans, but she was actually active in the party, serving as a delegate, campaigning for public candidates and so on. she campaigned for dewey in 1940 when he ran for president. he didn't get the nomination
that year, although he did go to the convention with the most delegates. 1940, as many of you know was the last time the party ever had a dark horse candidate, someone who wasn't on the agenda when they came in and was picked on a late ballot, so dewey doesn't get the nomination. roosevelt wins a third term and in 194 dewey does get the nomination and she campaigns hard for him. roosevelt wins in a landslide took 1948, he gets the nomination again and the day of the election dewey is ahead in every poll, but loses anyway. that's known to happen in politics now and then. nevertheless, in spite of those defeats, one would have thought that from this beginning she would have gone on too many other great things and you may be scratching your head saying
she is so well-known then how come i haven't heard of her. it's interesting, so she left the prosecutor's office in 1945, and she did do a few other things, but not the sort of things that would involve the history books. she was involved in the founding of the un. she was a big honcho in the national council of negro women and then the national council of women, but the truth is a lot of the things that i think eunice that would come her way, the judge ships for example that she coveted or the possibility of running for congress, which she was also known to think about seriously, they never materialized. why didn't they materialize? well, there are a lot of theories, but the simplest one is her brother. remember i said she had it little brother named alpheus? alpheus hunton, very formidably educated man with a masters from
period of her ambitions that none of which come to fruition. and this is all of her brother's greatest notoriety and her brother by the way finally goes to prison for refusing to name names with contempt of court and spends six months behind bars and dies of would vote to working on this book and learning about that is why myself i was very uneasy feeling festive believes the felice don't agree with. of the biggest gangster in
american history was a black woman. the one other thing nation say is is of great importance to me so her last name her married name was carter she was my father's mother and my grandmother. thank you very much. [applause] we have a few minutes for questions please come to the microphone i just ask keep your question negative short as possible to keep the schedule along precisely. >> day appreciate what you say about making a difference but what about
being black and women? >> was it what held her back quick. >> of course, she's suffered enormous discrimination but she suffered because of being black and with the tiny office and when eunice is hired but this black woman who has ben hired suffering that type of discrimination let perhaps are more explicit but that can be the entire explanation then andante
york city was simple elected black judges because there were automatic election slots. so the combination the of what have held her back but i do think to put a candidate to say that the election and the next thing that you know, there is a big communist. so communism of believed played a dominant role but had to suffer enormous disabilities. that the combination point
to tolerate a wide to women that is easy to forget to must have suffered some of them. we talk about that in the book at greater length. other questions? >> this is the first book you have written about a family member that i know of. can you talk about what it is like to write about a relative? >> that is true. the first time is how can i put it i have written novels under my own name into under a pseudonym. the first time writing a biography this is my
grandmother i am writing about for quite have memories of her she died when i was a high-school. i remember she was stern and distant and occasionally scary but brilliant. with first-class travel and to be very knowledgeable. they had studied in europe to years. and to be very refined but is like you come to the house and they give you candy and comic books. at her house so was your table manners were corrected . [laughter]
but reading this book that i neglected to mention the reason the family left to go to brooklyn in 1906 to cower in the back of the house with today's shooting black men they thought they might possibly have done. and beginning to understand to have enormous sympathy and affection. understanding earl of better than before and what drove her and shaped her to say it has been a pleasure.
but learning about her life and other members of my family in the process it has really then uh joey in has taken longer ahead and open -- that had hoped to finish. >> your story sells like wonderful movie. is that a possibility quick. >> i hope so laugh laugh. >> in all seriousness i hope to tell the story well i suspect there probably is but it is only on paper i hope that it works well enough people in this room and elsewhere so if i write fiction and want people to
enjoy it. with the race and gender and culture is a joy i hope they enjoy reading. >> did your mother live long enough to see how you honor her mother quick. >> should be clear was my father's mother. no. my father died seven years ago and he had no idea i had taken up this project. lot of people approached him and me to write a book about my grandmother or a film or a play and would ask him he always thought it was a good story but never took an active role to develop.