tv Jeanne Theoharis A More Beautiful and Terrible History CSPAN May 3, 2018 6:52am-8:21am EDT
the surveillance of some students that might be necessary. look for your book came out you and i have an extensive conversation about the research of the work that you put in it. i can't help but think. they weren't really pretending to be anything other than what we were. how he would prevail --dash make sure where they stand.
or have an ulterior motive that part of it may coincide with their own agenda. do you see any parallels to that. the mainstream of the democratic party's leadership. what is urgent in this moment. it's martin luther king that beautiful passage. where he saying the greatest threat might not be the clan.
i agree with your goals but not with the message. i think we see a lot of that. we have lots of people who say they are on board with the goals and ideas of black lives matter but a lot of the tactics there has been so much criticism and a lot of that criticism is not coming from again in the words of king the moderate or the liberal i think there's also a danger there is the way but the civil rights movement is often invoked in this conversation. near to too extreme here too disruptive that crazy moment
two years ago which we've talked about before where the mayor of atlanta he is celebrating by explaining the huge police presence at these demonstrations around the weight it is moved to chastise black lives matter i think often my people who profess allegiance to the goals. i think we have to talk about that. i think there is a way that the evoking makes people feel like i would be with that kind of movement.
but these people are too reckless. they're too loud and then i think when you look deeper into this is the same kind of criticism being waged. i think there is a huge need for looking at this. it's hard to know how to do it. the trump administration continues to do the things they can't believe they would do. i think there is a danger there in terms what struggle
looks like and wt movemen it was one of the most fascinating parts of your narrative i think. i was recently watching footage of martin luther king when he was on meet the press and i was moved to go back and look at it. if you watch the interviews it was a very hostile panel of white journalist. i think this is another aspect.
the media in our imagination of the civil rights movement is one of the heroes and there is a slice of it they give the media a ton of credit. all of the other ways portrayed the civil rights movement both in the south and along after 1965. one of the things i talk about in the book is new york. it seems like we should talk about new york tonight. black activists and to see this as a challenge for new
york city. new york city on the other hand loves of the brown decision. they think and they say in order think we need we need a committee to see if there's anything we need to do. they appointed this committee. the right here in new york and they're fussing about how this actually does apply to new york. they put clark and baker on this committee to try to quiet them down. and parents protest and keep their kids out of school there is a long movement in the decade from 54 to 64. they tried to get into pta and
make separate black pta. they decided to call for a one-day boycott of new york city schools and nearly half a million students and teachers stay out. it's unreasonable it's unjustified it's reckless in its filing. there is nothing unjustified about asking new york city for a comprehensive plan interestingly i think the language of violence is revealing. here we have a disruptive protest is not talking about hurting property or persons. it's meant to be disruptive. and even after this massive number of people stay out they
still think this is not the right way to go about it. they had put its toe. 15,000 almost half a million. but the media is completely obsessed with these white mothers. in the moment where television news is taking off. playing as a backdrop. many of the northern end in western sponsors realize that
they need to make sure that the provisions that they're putting in to the act. don't come home. it shall not mean assigning students to change racially imbalanced schools. inserted in the civil rights act. in part because white parents are protesting. and the media is obsessed with these white protest. they actually put in a backdoor to protect their own schools. delegitimizing black protest.
these sorts of tendencies are not unfamiliar to us today. the current secretary of education the heir to the emily corporation. also betsy divorces brother. they on the black mercenary company. his was less privatized all the u.s. workers. but when she was named her getting confirmed by senators it happened. she never set foot in a public school before becoming the
education secretary. they've spent much of her public life railing against public schools and trying to take public monies redirected to the private sector. as in isn't that the same exact foreman for non- amount that takes place with privatizing schools. also in the way that people want to show it. one of the big mythologies has
separated where we think about northern schools from southern schools is this idea of busing. so that somehow it was much more complicated and harder and more impossible in the north because it wasn't that they were against segregation. they don't say they don't say this is what the kids are going to neighborhood schools already to me it's partly about the privatization. and how homelands are and where and continue to be given are not given there is a
reason why they were the way they were. similar then now. you don't see very much space being given. or the upper west side. there is a lot of black and immigrant parents organizing. they don't feel like they have to. there is an undercover in of a protest in organizing and why don't they go through the right channels.
possibility. it's used to make people rich. when you want to start off with a deeper conversation about this book. giving you an opportunity to tell people things they didn't know about the story of who martin luther king was. and what inspired him. and also the full spectrum of his views. on questions of economics and militarism in the connection between the racism and apartheid. i would imagine even those of us who think we know parts of
the story. anytime i listen to you. i learned new things. i think it's so valuable to have this kind of thing done. i know there are complexities about how they have that. watching in a dodge ram commercial. talk about some of the lesser told stories of king. i want to think about king here in new york and i think that one of the things i think many of us now talk about king and 67 and 68.
i think one of the things i'm trying to do is that king is here much earlier and that king is speaking to northern liberals and calling out northern liberalism from the early 60s. he somehow discovers the north. when you actually look at dr. king's work one of the things he's doing is he's traveling around a lot any sucking up with movements and people all over the country including in los angeles. and kinks comes to los angeles multiple times and is not just to raise money for birmingham.
the secretary of the local nation of the islamic mosque. this causes a broad united front movement. they talk about a pattern of police brutality. these are not unknown demands. in 1964. finally in 1963. in la in california after they had worked and fought fair housing bill. they finally managed to get that law passed. almost immediately citizens
and realtors get a proposition on the ballot in 1964. they come to a late multiple times he's calling it one of the most significant developments as you may know that november they overwhelmingly approve plat 14. they vote yes on prop 14. and the right to discriminate in the sale and rental of their properties. eight months later. king is calling to count the
one of my grad students just found this. only 30 colleges when they speak to the audience of 15,000 people in harlem it's basically an all white audience. very proud of himself for inviting king. there is a lot of talk on this. but when i hear king say you can imagine the absurdity of being in harlem in 1963 they are thinking about this.
not just liberal about the south but liberal about the north. if there's one thing tonight that i hope people go away with is that king is calling northern liberals. even those of us who had put back into the story the outrage against the average against vietnam or the economic justice. he's talking about his northern liberal allies. what one misimpression that i have until i read your book i was always under the understanding that has popularity ratings plummeted as a result is totally not true.
he gets more unpopular. you've painted a very different picture. and they are trying to read the history of king. may be looking to some meaning for their own identity. how was king actually covered in the new york times and what contributed to the low levels of popularity that seemed to be there but we don't even talk about today. the civil rights movement is not popular at the time not to say that people didn't admire it. there were certainly a lot of people moved by it. the majority of americans were not. only about a quarter of americans think that the
freedom rides are appropriate a majority of americans think that the 1963 march on washington is wrong lest we see this as a problem just as southerners. the new york times pulls new yorkers. three quarters of americans do not see that. three quarters of americans don't approve of his tactics. gary young talks about this in terms of nelson mandela. people hate nelson mandela until he makes it undeniable. they sort of airbrush their own discomfort. they airbrush their own
uncomfortableness. one of the key things that dr. king's believes in. i'm making people uncomfortable i bring attention to the surface. and people were constantly criticized scene he was causing the problem in the risk. know this is here we are just bringing it to the surface. i think we forget that that aspect of it and how controversial it is even among people who agree with him. just one more example. they keep a distance from it because they don't necessarily agree with these tactics. they are too messy. they will support the legal challenge of it.
there is also of tension. i think oftentimes whatever the monday morning quarterbacking. all good people are on board. at the jump. it gets messy. just to share with people you decided gary young and this quote also jumped out at me. retrospectively without grace but with considerable file. by the time they realized that the dislike was spent in futile in their own self interest. in their own ensure they have no place.
and gary young of course born and raised in the uk and coming here and then doing some of the best reporting about race in this country such an incredible decisive analysis. he is treated this is a video recently. richard spencer has no idea what to do with gary young. it's like he has a british accent. what am i supposed to do with this. he really looks frightened. like something is wrong here. be on the fact that a black man is talking to richard spencer.
the story of rosa parks. i'm sure a lot of people here have read that. and are familiar with the history. what i had found unbelievably fascinating about that story is how little of it ever trickled out into the way she was put on the pedestal for various people's own political things. she have next ordinary life. i think it still worth the incredible journey and that she that she was on when she was here with us. i mean she grows up in a family where one of her first political memories is estate out into her grandfather right
after world war i. an uptick of white violence. her grandfather sits out at night with a shotgun. she has a political spirit from the get go. she gets in trouble with her grandmother for pushing a white boy her grandmother is worried she's can be killed. but where her political life really starts is she meets and falls in love with raymond parks. as 1931. nine young men are arrested for writing the rails. they discovered two young white women. a local movement grows in
alabama to protect and defend these again went from being executed. and one of the local activist working on that is raymond parks. it opens up this world for her hand in the beginning there more behind the scenes. her brothers are overseas. and yet can't register to vote at home. she joins the naacp. we would consider criminal justice issues. the cases involving white violence against black people. they are working on a number of those cases. the second kind of case they're working on our legal
lynching cases. where black men are being wrongfully accused. she looks -- she works long and hard on. a young white woman. it gets found out. she cries late. and he is ultimately executed. recently the papers were opened and a portion of them at the library of commerce. and one of the things that really struck me about her papers is there is a small cache of personal writings that seem to come from the 1950s. and in those writings she is talking over and over about how lonely it is how hard it is how hard it is to be a rebel. and the pressure not to dissent. how mentally destabilizing racism is. and there have a real window into the long struggle.
how much they had have been fighting and losing. basically they mostly lives. even though every kindergartner and out learns that rosa parks was courageous. part of what makes this so courageous is that she is and things like that before. there is nothing to suggest that this is gonna change anything. so that kind of courage. even though there's nothing to suggest that opportunity will do something. even after that and even after they are forced to leave montgomery eight months after that. she will spend the next 40 years and she will just keep fighting. she will talk about malcolm x as her personal hero.
she is both active in the black power movement. she is very early a part part of the war in vietnam. in the 80s and the early ccr. she sits on the u.s. involvement in french america. a group of civil rights activists put out that. that has been lost. and part of why we lose it is because we expect that to come in one form. she is shy. i talk about the cheyenne radical. she's also a middle aged during black power.
she comes to these talks. and she would sit in the front row where she sends thank you notes to these. he was in the rna and then right before he died he ran for mayor of jackson. his son now is out mayor of jackson. he was represented. he did all of this great legal justice work. one of the things he's representing they are being charged with security conspiracy charges. there is a thank you note in this person says thank you for your work and for standing strong for your people. the next day he goes and finds the notes. rosa parks in her 60s
writing him a thank you note. she is this mix of things. we miss it because we think it's can i come only in one form and sometimes we miss it because we have made these kind of divides with civil rights and black power. we don't go back to the people we think we know they have made that. they have made them available for us today. and in some sense there honored. they're made prissy and passive. they become uninteresting almost. to return to these figures and
the book talks about all sorts of other people. there is a utility that we think we know. this may sound like there is something deeper behind this question. who is responsible for those narratives being crafted. is it the snowballing effect or how did that happen and who would you identify as crafters of that were key moments when it happened one of the key moments i talk about in the book. and the struggle for the king holiday. it begins almost as soon as king is assassinated. reagan opposes it he is
worried about too many holidays. he also can't rule out that king might be a communist. this is 1980 to 1983. he is running for reelection. so he starts to see a utility in changing his position on this. when they sign the legislation the way that he talks about king. in courageous individuals i really see it justice and point out. and then we correct it. the u.s. is a self cleaning oven. and then also the idea when the rest of the world they cannot do this.
we searched see the political utility now of celebrating the civil rights movement. part of that is in trying to press forward what you see supporters do as a start to universalize king. i think i think that is part of what happens. there is show so little history that makes it through. we start to narrow kind of how we are going to talk about these figures also what is seen as honorable. it is both so long overdue on there is something very moving about it because tons of school groups, it doesn't do
justice to dr. king in multiple ways. he powers above us. he is made huge. the original plans for that memorial had other activists. it does get scrapped. but perhaps the worst thing is there is a semi circle where there's like 14 quotes inscribed not one of those quotes uses the word race, racism andegregaon. we have a national memorial that does not speak about race. [applause]. i think one of the things i heard in the quotes that was supposed to be there was the beginning of the march on washington speech i have would
dream step comes at the end. king is talking about how they were there to collect. that was a whole different situation the dreaming. material progress. and apparently that was one of the quotes that have originally been selected to go and be on that wall and that was deemed too controversial. i think they have all sorts of things that go into this. one of the most important is the utility and the national utility that the civil rights movement comes to take on in terms of making us feel good about ourselves mcginnis seem like it is a way to celebrate american democracy. if you look at the ways that they are there.
mitch mcconnell what a great way to celebrate america. utterly. it becomes the celebration of america. look especially are. but also it becomes a way that we say we did this it's a problem and we done. and this is the hardest thing. some of us and i put myself here. the research in this book is kind of research i've done over the past 15 years. it encompasses a lot of different research projects. it's the way i think even those of us who think they know need to remember that this kind of miss education goes deep and so i think how i
got to the rosa parks research as i was just doing a piece on public memory. i just need to go find it because i need to put in this piece. then there is no actual footnote . that is surprising to me. but it takes me a couple more years to decide that really i should do that because it didn't seem that cool. people would look at me in those years like i think can think of to do a biography. colleagues i think sometimes we think we know this.
i'm at her so many times. i thought i knew all there was to know about. i think that humility and the sense that there is so much we don't know on so much that maybe we repeat that is not a full or more expensive history. >> we will open up to all of you. if you want to happen just briefly before we do that i found interesting in the whole discussion over this memo and the surveillance and the fact that 247 on fox news now is they are railing against the surveillance state. they have discovered now the
one case that they could find where a wealthy white man was subjected to that kind of surveillance. they make statements like tucker carlson said for the first time now americans have evidence that surveillance powers have been used to target american citizens . >> have you heard of these other people. and maybe there is a good way and a good note to end on. given overview of the kind of tactics that were used against against the various sectors of the civil rights movement. there is the bigger figures and we know a great bit about that. anywhere near to the full extent of it. telling him he should kill himself. the fbi and other entities in
the targeting of the civil rights movement i think there are two different aspects. there is the kind of surveillance and monitoring people haven't read the burglary which is about the break-in and activist to break in. in what they find in one of the things that they find is the fbi has the performance. in every black student association. there is a concert --dash make -- constant monitoring. it showed johnson being in cahoots with hoover.
around the mississippi freedom democratic party. they don't like the challenge there to bring at can bring at the democratic convention. they're trying to get seated. johnson orders hoover to dispel that. they're getting real-time information. i think there is a couple. there is a couple of things that are important to see there. i think sometimes becomes personified in him. he is obsessed with martin luther king. but it's much broader than him. if you look at the memo where they decide to wiretap and bug king which is right after the
march on washington because that is what it really scares them. this is not a renegade operation. but the other thing that i think is important to see is that the way that they also do not concern themselves with violence against civil rights activists. they are monitoring and targeting but they're also standing aside when real violence is happening. they notice the memos around there. many leaders houses get bombed. and they are noting that this is happening they note that the local police have no suspects. and then it's just like carry-on. in charlottesville you have this young man who was beaten almost to death and it turns
out that the location he was beaten by a white mob. just recently. it was the parking garage of the charlottesville police department. activist caught on video. it happened in the police department. so i think that thinking about both of those in the wholesale surveillance and targeting in the developing of informants wanting endless information and apparently by the late 60s asians would have to physically explain why they didn't have the informant working for them. i think to me that really resonates because i think we are seeing these parallels with the way that the muslim
groups in they are being surveyed today. and i don't think we take the right lessons. one of the things that just drove me over the edge. you can take over one of those old alcoves. they now should have to take a visit to the king memorial and in the each pick us favorite quote and they discuss among themselves. how taking one of the king memorials gets to have it. the difficulty and the tricking this there is actually to sort of think about who you are surveilling
today and how that might be an abuse of power not how much we love dr. king and the statement he made about peace in 1955. it actually works in exactly the opposite way which as you read this think by dr. king and you feel good that you would of never would've never had surveilled dr. king. it's urgent, it's extreme. the kind of language they used against king they use now. these are the real demagogues. i think there is this another place where there is awareness of how we went astray and yet the ways that we grapple with going astray i think it just leads to a further distance between the tactics we use today and of course now we have this discussion of the term that they are using now. the black identity extremist.
this is an incredible book. you clearly wrote it for the norm he spirit is not written for an elite group of people. this group is totally accessible which is awesome coming from such an extent -- esteemed academic. we will open it up now for questions. if you have a comment try to make it brief. we will just go side to side. we've a microphone coming your way you'd escape me an opening. i wonder if you could talk about some of what you been talking about about liberalism in criminalizing people who are more radical in terms of
the standpoint of building up movement because the other thing i i'm struck by when we talk about this is that they also have a plan to divide the black movement. so the respectable and the un- respectable being the panthers would be divided and i think that have an impact and that's what i want to ask about in terms of the work that you have done in support of the muslim community. and that terms that there are black political prisoners. i think one of the things when i was doing the research that i was thinking about a lot. the mythology that truth comes to light. it's bad things that we will just by now about them.
one of the things about the break-in in media pennsylvania is the stuff did not come to light and some people actually did that. if we talk about the surveillance of martin luther king hoover goes around and he tries this. and interestingly unlike probably today. the reporters don't take it. they do not report on the fact there was not the possibility to try to break open the story. in terms of the break-in in the media files. the activist that break in to the office and they copy all of these files and they send them to the washington post the new york times the la times and they dutifully
return them. i think part of what is humbling about this history is that truth doesn't naturally come to light. i think it's really hard to do the right thing and mostly people don't. it takes a lot of fortitude and we prefer narratives where gets wrapped up. i think it's then complicated by the fact that there are people who are arrested in 60 or 72 who are still in prison. that complicates that narrative. i think one of the dangers
coming up in the 50th anniversary of the king assassination is the way that we are we're going to stop it with that tragedy and make it seem like that was the end of the black freedom struggle. in the ways that it continues on. including scott king. good evening. [inaudible conversations] i think it's possible [inaudible
knows. i don't have some white people have that same fear. i think it will help civil rights for everybody. i think it will help civil rights for everybody. i appreciate your sentiments there. .. .. i think some people may disagree with that characterization but i think even the most woke people, you know, around that are white, if they're not in touch with the
privileges they are given just by nature of who they are, then there's a limit to how far they can go with being an ally are being in solidarity or joining in that struggle. one of the most important things i think jeanne said tonight, you know, has to do with listening to the people who are on the front lines and what do they need to strengthen the position or to hold the line. i think a lot of white people feel like doing that. they will come in and say let me tell you how it's done. and i think there are a lot of very serious problems historically in this country with the largely white antiwar movement. i've been to so many meetings where people, black people to come to these meetings. what your position on present in this country right now? what's the for-profit prison, police killings? you can expect somebody, ditto
come to you. you come to them. [applause] you need to connect the dots yourself. so for me i always feel like as a white person in the society, when asked a question like that, you have to start from a position of absolute humility about who you are in the society, and if you recognize that and you own it, it's the same with battle against an addiction to substance. when you sort of name it and you own it, then it liberates you to say i'm willing to listen to anyone who is a person of struggle and figure out how i can plug into it. [applause] >> i've got a question. >> my name is clinton dyer. i'm brooklyn born and bred. i would like you to discuss a
topic that really hits home. the similarities between ethnic cleansing and gentrification happening in brooklyn. >> i think one of the places to begin that is to kind of take us kind of, and again i'm asteroids i also want to to take us back to history, but i think sometimes sing this has a much longer history of how, kind of the politics of space in the city have worked, right, and he was profited from that. and so i think we can't have a conversation about gentrification without having a conversation about this kind of
long history of housing segregation, and of using, right, one of the ways that segregation in places like new york was excused was with kind of culture of poverty kinds of explanations, that the reason that these neighborhoods are not good, are not being invested in is because the people in those neighborhoods don't know how to keep those neighborhoods. and the people in those neighborhoods don't care about education, and so that's why the kids are not doing well in school. and those explanations reign supreme. they continue to reign supreme, and so then when does neighborhoods then become appealing, then become proximate to the places that people work, become lo and behold approximate to the subway, that if the
assumption is that certain kind of cultural values are superior and certain kind of cultural values need to be improved, i think that's where, so to me i'm not sure i would use the metaphor of ethnic cleansing. i think i would talk about kind of this way that racism is cloaked in this kind of culture of poverty idea what people feel justified, i'm uplifting this neighborhood, i'm bringing, you know, in the coffee shop follows me. and not taking responsibility both for the ways that people profit both office segregation and off gentrification, and the kind of very material sort of benefits that many people in the city have gained from this system of segregation that then has produced this like new reality of gentrification.
>> there was a piece written -- recently, not so recent, maybe a year or two ago in the near times on the issue that you're raising but totally missing the point. it was sort of like where's the next hot place for developers? and i was struck by the quote of one of the kind of vultures that's coming in saying like east new york is already done. meaning they probably gone door-to-door and to convince people to sell very low and they are on to the next neighborhood. i'm from the midwest, milwaukee, which is not the most one of the most segregated cities in the country, and it has the most incarcerated area of code 53206. and in chicago you had, you know, the erection of these huge housing projects and there were name like ida b wells and cabrini green and robert taylor
homes. there were actually a plan put in place that was aimed at these buildings that would go straight up into the sky rather than spreading across land. that was also linked to -- there's a great book about the targeting of black banks and with the black banks were created. but in the city i think that there are tremendous amount of white people that are so unbelievably ignorant of what they are doing when they come into certain neighborhoods that it causes this tension that you can cut with a knife in the air. i think part of it is on the way that our local elected officials handle these issues, but again part of it has to be if you going to move into a neighborhood you have to ask what am i bringing to this neighborhood, and it doesn't mean lik what d i think i should bring to the neighborhood, but are you going
to be a part of that community or are you there as a subtler, whose planting a flag and that's a much deeper conversation that we should have. but for now i think we can maybe take one more question or comment and we will let jeanne wrap it up there. is there anyone who didn't get to say something? somebody already has the mic. i couldn't see behind the pool. go ahead. >> so it also want to thank you for writing this book on race and, white people take a stance on racism and bring a light to it. it's like the most moving thing this country needs, and especially this neighborhood, brooklyn. but my question is, you touched a lot about separation and segregation but we never really touched on the actual loss that were put in place, like the jim crow laws. i always feel like it always starts from the top.
what is your perspective on the loss that were put in place that separate us, put us in an oppressive state, hence, why we reformed? so just give us, well, give me your take on jim crow laws. >> and i think when we talk about jim crow laws we often focus on laws in the south that specifically delineated black and white people can go to school together or we need to separate bibles in the courtroom or penitentiaries. but what i would include also in jim crow laws are school zoning, right? school zoning lines are not made naturally. they don't come from god. they come from political officials. the artificial lines, and when you look at the ways that school zoning lines are drawn and when
you look at the way school zoning lines were drawn in the '50s, in the '60s, what you see is school officials constantly adjusting those lines to maintain the sort of racial makeup of the schools as they were. and so i guess what i would ask has to do is to sort of think about jim crow laws, not just in terms of the south, but also in terms of a place like new york city. and that's why somebody like ella baker who is on that subcommittee was organizing parents in new york in the 1950s is focusing in on zoning. zoning. she's focusing in on what teachers are placed. because these are official state decisions, these are policies, these are laws and to understand those as being maybe not exactly the same as but similar in terms of state action as southern jim
crow lawsand, therefore, sort of falling under the mandate of brown. we will see judges by the 1970s as you take school systems like boston and l.a. to court say that very same thing, that outlay is drawing its zoning lines to keep school segregated. boston doing the same. boston is busing kids before 1974 to maintain segregated schools. so i guess where i would like us to sort of, what i would like us to sort of seat is a kind of, the way we talk typically about jim crow is focus on particular kinds of loss in the south and mrs. the sort of loss in the north. >> well, jeanne, i want to give you a brief moment to wrap everything up and jeanne of course assigned books here. my understand is it will take place here. i promised at the beginning i i was making you an opportunity to
talk about struggling for students but you are one of three or four professors that i've met who have taken such an incredible position in defense of the students when the target sites are on them, and i enlist respect for that. because i think it's unfortunately rare, but i would love for you to share with people just a brief bit about the battle against islamophobia, the targeting of your students, and sort of how you see them, your role in the lives of students when they come under attack. >> so i guess, i i guess the couple of things. i mean, what we've been talking about tonight is a difficult it is, right, they kinds of blinders we have, the kind of
ways that we, the frames we get to seeing things. so about ten years ago a student of mine was arrested on material support to terrorism charges and charged in the federal system. and like all good progressives, i thought i was paying attention and i have been following the eels of guantánamo and i had sort of come to believe that i understood the way this is working and was about creating these extralegal size, these offshore sites where they can do bad things. i was not paying so much attention to the criminal justice system, and i think would happen to me when he got arrested was, was having to see both, and again, echoing this point have tried to make tonight about how all of us have to kind of humble ourselves to the things we don't know and to the assumptions we make that might sort of not actually reflect what's happening. as i came to look deeper, in
this case seemed scary. some headlines and he was an al-qaeda quartermaster and it seemed scary. and then you look deeper, right, and many of the things that i study in the civil rights movement in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, in terms of the criminalization of people speaking out in terms of the kind of fear of kind of ideas, right, and sort of radical ideas. so this young man had been surveilled, he was a student at brooklyn college. he held and holds the outside of the mainstream ideas. he was extremely critical of the united states, called the united states at terrorist organization. and so this led me to both realize how much more i needed to know in terms of what was happening domestically and in the federal system, vis-à-vis
these terrorism cases being handled domestically, not the ones coming through guantánamo. but also what it meant to have to sort of speak out of something that was so scary and that at this point, and this again was about ten years ago, like almost no one was writing about at all. i remember the first time i wrote about it, and to continue to be, it was so scary, and you feel crazy and you feel -- at so i think part of the reading of rosa parks, she keeps talking feeling insane and keeps talking crazy and alone and that sort of feeling of like how do i know that this is really an injustice? and how do i know that, like, so i wrote about it, and more people came to see this injustice.
so i've done a lot of work around kind of what's happening within the sort of federal system, vis-à-vis these terrorism prosecutions. my students and i've been doing a lot of work around surveillance and ap break stories about all the surveillance that the nypd is -- >> partnership with the cia cid spying on business and students. >> but again it was like the a t guys with a good guys and they brought the story to light and all these changes -- ap -- this narrative, like the city has bought, which is that you ap exposes it and then bill de blasio runs and then we are done. and we discovered last year that the nypd had embedded and undercover officer basically in this since the discovery of the ap through 2015 to spy on predominant sort of muscle to
but also political students. and because -- >> at brooklyn college? >> at brooklyn college. but because again this is idea of the ap had broke that story and they brought it to life and thread been reform and become bill de blasio. it was extremely hard to sort of get people to pay attention to it and to take it seriously, and to take seriously the harm of that. and my students very much felt like they were not going to be listened to, and so they come this is my pitch for "the intercept," they asked me to write a piece talking about the harms of the surveillance on them, which i did, and "the intercept" published, many places did not want to publish that but thankfully, and i think, and i heard from lots of people around the country what
it meant to see documented in a national new source, right, the harms of surveillance on muslim young people under crazy make you feel and how you start changing yourself. so i think, but i guess, i don't know. i don't know how to and because i think this is sort of a sad way to end on a guess maybe i will end with so talking about the title of the book, because that's come the title is taken from a james baldwin -- >> notice that try to left yourself completely out of that story. the first time i met jeanne was at an event for constitutional rights and she came up to me and didn't even introduce yourself and gravity to talk to the brother of her student, because all she could about that night was talking all these people at this big reception about the fate of her student. she had come the new in the would all these lawyers and it's like this is a tireless advocate for her students.
[applause] in addition to being a great academic and writer. >> thank you. so in order to end on a happy note, or more happier, part of i chose this title, so it's from baldwin, from his talk to teachers. his quote is american history is longer, larger, more ferries, more beautiful and more charitable than anything anyone has ever said anything about it. part of why i called it "a more beautiful and terrible history" is the go think on one hand it is more sobering, it is more terrible, it makes us face much more uncomfortable questions. but i also think it's more beautiful. it offers as more in terms of where we go from here. it offers us more, i mean, the courage is even more
astonishing. i began this, like even when i was doing the rosa parks book of, she only gets better. this bigger story, is more expansive story, right? it's even more impressive and it gives us even more for today. and so i guess that's why want to end because i think, and that's a look at myself out of this cul-de-sac in your goal is we need this book question you are, we have trump and now like this criticism made is not what we need today. and then realizing how much this does give us in terms of where we go from here and the struggle had. >> let's give it up for jeanne theoharis. [applause] get the book in the back and then come around and jeanne will sign your book. thank you all for coming out tonight. thank you to the brooklyn historical society. what an amazing stage. >> thank you so much. thank you all for coming. we hope we will see you soon. >> thank you.