tv 2018 Printers Row Lit Fest - Jacqueline Jones Goddess of Anarchy CSPAN June 9, 2018 4:00pm-4:45pm EDT
lbj, '64, '65. but even lbj reach tout republicans, and -- reached out to republicans, and fdr had republican support the first two years. when mitch mcconnell, and we'll probably come back to him a couple of times, when senator mcconnell started doing health care and trying to get 50 of his 52 votes from his caucus, my reaction was, well, that shouldn't work and couldn't work, and it's not supposed to work that way. you're supposed to be looking for some people on the other side to get 65 or 70 votes. of course he would say that would be impossible, because one of to them would vote with us because they're against trump, etc. but this notion that one party has to rule by themselves brings us to some bad places. >> you can watch in this and other programs online at booktv.org. [inaudible conversations]
>> and now from the printers row lit fest in chicago, a conversation about the life of labor organizer and political activist lucy parsons. >> good afternoon and welcome to the 34th annual chicago tribune printers row lit fest. want to give a special thank you for all of our sponsors. today's program will be broadcast live on c-span2's booktv. if there's time at the end of the session for a q&a session with the author, we'll ask you to use the microphone to the side. so that the home audience can hear your question. before we begin today's program, we ask that you silence your cell phones and turn off your camera flashes. please welcome mark jacob of
treacherous beauty. >> hi. my name is mark jacob, i'm a former metro editor at the tribune. thanks for coming. i want to introduce our guest today, jacqueline jones, chair of the history department at the university of texas at austin and a really fine writer of history. two of her books for finalists for the pulitzer prize, she's won the bancroft prize, and her newest book is just as gorgeous, really revealing book called "goddess of anarchy: the life and times of lucy parsons, american radical." and it's just great having her in chicago since lucy was a chicagoan. jackie, why don't you tell us a little bit about lucy parsons. >> thanks, mark. and it's great to be back in chicago. i think most people know lucy parsons as the wife and then the widow of albert parsons who was
one of the haymarket martyrs. was convicted unjustly and executed in november of 1887 for his alleged role in the haymarket bombing in may of 1886. that was an incident where the anarchists of chicago called a rally to protest the killing of workers by police a couple days before. the crowd gathered in haymarket square. someone threw a bomb just as a group of 80 police entered the square. seven police were killed, four others killed, countless injured. and the identity of the bomb thrower is still unknown. and yet the authorities were very quick to round up what they certainly considered the usual suspects, albert par softens among them. so -- parsons among them. so albert parsons is well known
because of the haymarket trial, his subsequent execution with three of his comrades. and lucy, i think, for many years has been known as his wife and then his widow. most people don't realize that she had a career of her own. and, actually, attained a kind of celebrityhood in the late 19th century. she was very well known throughout the country. the press followed her obsessively. she was an agitator. she was a radical agitator. she was not a theorist. she was not an organizer. but she was an eloquent speaker, and she was a passionate defender of the first amendment. and from our perspective today, she seems very prescient because she talked about the growing inequality between the rich poor. she decried the exploitation of workers by the great
robber-barons of the day. she argued that moo chiens were transforming the workplace and throwing people out of work. so these are all themes that are very familiar to us today. >> right. she h such radical stands as believing in the 8-hour work day, right? >> yes. >> and so some of the things -- no child labor, she was really big on too. some of them have been accepted, others not. but, you know, you have to admit, jacqueline, that she was not a literal bomb thrower, but she was really a bomb thrower. >> she was. and her rhetoric and her writings were very raw. for instance, her husband albert edited a newspaper called the alarm, an anarchist periodical. and in the first issue of october 1884, lucy parsons wrote an's -- an essay called two
tramps where she exhorted the unemployed, dispossessed, the downhearted to take their destiny in their own hands. and, well, the very last sentence is learn the use of explosives. and she and other anarchists at the time wrote quite a bit about dynamite as the great leveling force. in other words, the chicago police, the illinois national guard, federal troops were all arrayed against workers often interrupting peaceful assemblies, bringing out gatlin guns and cannon against peacefully striking workers. the anarchists argued they needed to defend themselves. and they decided that dine mite was -- dynamite was a vehicle for that kind of defense. now, we might say lucy parsons and others were going to go
beyond defense and really argue for a kind of proactive violation or force to take out what they considered these capitalist exploiters of workers, women and children among them. >> lucy par softens seems to have been -- lucy parsons seems to have been quite a combatant about free speech rights. i mean, they kept on pulling her off the stages, right? [laughter] >> there are great descriptions of her in the 1880s and 1890s here in chicago. she would be on stage, and the police would come down and come up on stage and literally force her off because she was not displaying the american flag. so, and they argued it was illegal for her to do that. she preferred the black and the red flags of revolution.
but she was a fierce defender of freedom of speech and, frankly, i think she was never so happy than when she was dodging the police from one street corner to another as they tried to shut her down. again, her rhetoric was very raw, it was the rhetoric of class struggle, of radicalism, of impending revolution. and the authorities feared her. the press, the chicago tribune many particular, was really bewilderedded -- bewilderedded by her, and they weren't sure what to do with her. they feared if they gave her too much publicity, ld only fuel her ambitions and keep her speaking. on the other hand, to ignore her seemed to be the wrong way too because she apparently represented a great threat to the social order. >> so this biography is really
welcome. there's one earlier biography by carolyn ashbaugh, and she did some strong work, but there were a lot of gapings. you've filled some of them too especially regarding her misty -- there are basic facts about lucy or parsons' life that have not been revealed until jacqueline's book. >> yes. her owner brought his enslaved workers forcibly removed them from the east coast during the civil war, took the plantation to member -- mcchen non county. and lucy, her mother and two younger brothers moved to waco
to escape the violence. so her origins had not been known. i found out the name of her mother, her two younger brothers. she had some kind of a relationship liaison with a black man, oliver, and had a child early in her life around the age of 19. so this is all very interesting information because later in life lucy will claim to be the daughter of mexican and native american parents, and that was a fiction. >> yeah, i wonder whether one of the reasons she's not more famous today is that she denied her african roots. and why do you think she did that? >> well, it's a good question, and she still is something of an enigma to me. i think that she worried about her own credibility with her constituents which consisted of the white, urban laboring
classes. and i think she feared, given the tremendous prejudice against african-americans during this period, that if she revealed herself as a former slave, that her credibility would be lessened in the eyes of white men and women. so she, her origins are kind of indeterminate. as you can see from the picture, she's light-skinned, and she made use of that ambiguity in presenting herself as, again, mexican and indian. she used to taunt audiences saying, you know, you think immigrants concern or she used to say to native born whites you think you've been here for a long time, well, my ancestors welcomed or cortez to the shores of the new world.
so i think she was being kind of playful there in her identity. >> it's a fascinating story, you know, how lucy gets there these origins in texas. her husband, albert parsons, was in the confederate army. yet he maries at -- he marries a part african woman. then they move up to chicago and become part of this really class struggle with mostly german immigrants, right? >> yes. they move right into a german immigrant community when they arrive from texas in the winter of 1873-'74. i think that albert, who had worked as a republican organizer in texas right after the war, had made substantial connections with german immigrants in that state m because they were a key part of the republican coalition in texas at the time.
so my guess is that he met somebody who had a cousin or uncle in chicago. they moved right into a german immigrant community, they stayed within the parameters of that community their ole whole lives in chicago. albert finding work as a printer, lucy opened up a seamstress shop right away. but their strategies for struggle were very reflective of european socialist methods during this time. emphasize class struggle. at fist albert and bruce city embraced the two-party system. albert ran for prick office a couple of times -- for public office a couple of times. he lost. he became convinced that the system was hopelessly corrupt, and in the early '80 he and lucy became anarchists.
when they did that, they broke with their socialist comrades. and the group of anarchists here in chicago in the 1880s, i think, had a larger presence anas warranted in the sense that they had several newspapers, they had a number of eloquent speakers, both parsons and they seemed to represent a real presence in the city when, in fact, they numbered only probably a couple of hundred people. >> i wonder whether part of the reason that lucy parsons isn't more famous now and isn't, to me, as famous as she deserves to be is that she was so disconnected with, like for example, the suffrage movement. i mean, she thought who cares if we get the vote, the vote's fake anyway. so she didn't care whether women got to vote. and she denied her afterwan roots so she didn't end up becoming any part of the black
history movement either. and i wonder whether she just kind of got forgotten because of that. >> well, i think there are several reasons. you're right, she was definitely disdainful of reformers. jane adams, whom she met and jane adams helped to bail her out of jail in 1915 when lucy led what was called a hunger demonstration here in chicago. chicago well known, of course, for many reformers who felt that they were kind of a moderating influence standing between the police on the one hand and the great industrialists, and and on the other hand the workers armed and angry. so these reformers thought if perhaps they could shave off the rough edges of capitalism, there could be some kind of compromise between these two warring parties. lucy parsons would have none of that. so she was not really part of
that reform scene which was very much a part of chicago social life in the late 19th, early 20th century. the fact that she was not identifying herself with the african-american community certainly is a factor too in her legacy. but i think one interesting point here is that she was a tremendous orator. and that is why the authorities really feared her. and yet we don't have any recordings of her speeches. she was a prolific writer. she edited two periodicals, one in 1890, the other in 1905-906. she was a really interesting writer considering she was pretty much self-taught. editor, writer. but i think it's as speaker that most people in chicago knew her.
and the workers loved to hear her speak because she spoke with such passion, and she would say things like it is my desire to be the person who runs the guillotine who chops off the heads of the capitalists throughout this land. you know, her language was so over the top, and yet it was something -- it was very unusual to hear that kind of language at the time. and the workers often meeting in union meetings or rallies or picnics would often clamor for her to speak because she was a real rabble-rouser. and there are great descriptions of her former socialist comrades, you know, rolling their eyes when she comes down and begins to speak because they know that they've lost control of the meeting. [laughter] and she is really a force to be reckonedded with. but getting back to your question, mark, i think one of
the issues here is that in a way her influence was not illusory, but it was very temporal; that is, she could influence the crowds she spoke to, they loved to hear her. she was a very self-possessed, eloquent speaker. a lot of people didn't know what to make of her. but that, i think, was her claim to fame. and we've lost that. so, in a sense, we've lost her legacy in the process. >> yeah. she also was on the ruing side. >> yes. >> in in many yeas and also tont get along very well with some of the leading anarchists of the day, like emma goldman. >> yes. she was famously disgusted with goldman. she feuded with her. emma goldman represented a different kind of anarchism. i should say there are various
statements. lucy parsons really believed that trade unions were the embryos of the good society. these were local voluntary associations. people would join, there would be noompetition, no wage earning and so forth. emma goldman represented a train of anarchists that focused on the liberation of artistic impulses and sexual feelings. and it's funny because goldman would, of course, argue that monogamy was a false impulse, that men and women should be free callly to express their sexual desires. and they said this had nothing to do with the class struggle, it was an idea that threatened to ram families apart because children would never know who
their true fathers were if the mothers were sleeping around. but emma goldman said at one point lucy parsons, of all people, should be criticizing this new idea of sexual freedom can. because she lived her life as a sexually free person. she had, we know she had sexual relations before she met albert parsons, she had a child named chance who chi died in infancy. then her marriage to parsons. he was dead only a year or so when she had taken up with a young german immigrants and this were rumors of her fairs with younger men for many years after that. so emma goldman would say things like you of all people shouldn't be criticizing my views of sexual liberation. she -- yeah. there were very famous radicals who considered her, you know,
very hard to understand, they couldn't quite pinpoint her or they didn't know where she was going. as i said, she wasn't an idealogue, she was more an orator than an idealogue. >> so what are some of the things you most admire about her? >> well, i admire her physical courage in getting up in front of a crowd of hundreds and speaking knowing that in the audience are undercover police officers and even in some cases journalists who were under cover, in disguise. a great description of a reporter in chicago wearing a fake beard that come cos off when he runs out of a hall. [laughter] but she was besieged really by the authorities in chicago, and she yet she persisted. she is one of original, e think, if we can say that.
you know, her other commitment to the downtrodden, to the plted, again, in language we find very familiar today but was considered radical at the time. she really understood some fundamental things about the american economy. she understood that when technological innovation invades the workplace, people are going to lose their jobs. machines will to that work. machines don't strike, they don't ask for raises, and when employers can find them, they'll use ma keen -- machines. she did not necessarily understand the full extent of the american economy as a growing dynamic organize 9/11. for instance, in chicago in the late 19th century the retail sector was growing and so was the commercialized leisure
sector. and these were ways for people to spend their money. i don't think she quite understood the power of the consumer society. >> so you've clearly driven to write a biography, you know, kind of a warts and all biography. so what are some of the things that made lucy less than admirable. >> well, i have to say she was not -- she was, well, how do i put this in terms of her approach to mothering. she and albert were both on the road a lot speaking. after his incarceration in the summer of 1886, she lost a national speaking tour. and really for the next several decades, really into the teens, she was on the road speaking. she had two children, albert jr. born in 1878, lulu born in 1881. when ben parsons and she were
out of town, the kids were taken care of by families in the neighborhood. now, lulu died in 1888, perhaps from cop applications from scarlet fever. we're not sure what exactly. but it's her relationship with albert that i think is the most troubling and maybe the most revealing about her. lucy, in 1899, was on the street corners of chicago denouncing american imperialism aced broad. she was arguing against american intervention in cuba and the philippines. one day that summer her son, albert jr., who was about 20 came home and announced he was joining the u.s. army. and going to fight in the mill teens. and she was horrified. within a week she was truck into what was called an insane court in chicago, and she had the judge declare him legally
insane. he was remanded to elgin asylum north of the city right after that, and he died this 20 years later. and she never visited him. he was miserable. he was tormented by the orderlies there. he die of tuberculosis. it's a heartbreaking story. and i had to grapple with what i called this gratuitous cruelty which i didn't understand except to think that she could not tolerate this idea that that her own son would humiliate her in public by joining the army and shipping off to fight for u.s. forces abroad. she had hoped that he would walk in his father's footsteps and be the next, you know, chicago anarchist and make his name that way. and he had no interest in doing that. >> i was also taken that even
though she didn't really believe in the legit hamas city of the government at all, she liked to take people to court. >> she did -- [laughter] and she had a couple of very high profile love affairs go terribly wrong where she did drag her lover ares into court. it was very messy. yes. so at one point albert ran away from home, and she enlisted the prison to help find him. so her relationship to the authorities could be well mix ld, e guess we would say. [laughter] >> so her profile seems to have prison. there is a -- to have risen. this is a group called lucy parsons labs that works on collecting data about police conduct and other subjects. there's a lucy parsons center in boston which is a radical bookstore. so, and even in leftist protests
on the street in chicago you'll see, sometimes you'll see someone holding a sign that has an image of lucy. >> there's a lucy parsons park here in chicago, but it's named for her spanish name. [laughter] >> that's actually one of the most revealing things, that they decided in chicago under richard m. daley that they didn't have enough parks named after miles per hours and women. so she seemed to hit both, you know, both tickets, and so they named it for her. well, the police union went bonkers because she was connected with haymarket. and daley, at a press conference, said, well, you can't blame her for what her husband did which showed he had no understanding for lucy's role herself. she had called for all kinds of murder of the rich. but that died down, and there still is a park, but it is, yes,
and i think it's called lucy eldean gonzalez. they still use the name gonzalez a lot. and that was a disappointment in your book. obviously, you're just telling the reality, but for some people lucy had been embraced as this kind of multicultural culture warrior, right? because she was supposedly injanuary, supposedly latino and black. and so there's to evidence that she was latino at all. >> no. she was born in virginia, and it's not impossible that she could have some native heritage. we do know that the native and african populations mingled, certainly, in california. the chesapeake in general. but that was not her claim. her claim was that she was mexican and texas indian. that she had been born in texas
and was part of this mexican and union community. >> so was lucy a terrorist? >> well, you know, i was thinking about that question, and i think there are a couple of answers. one is she struck terror in the hears of the chicago authorities. and she delighted at that. she and albert lived a life of, from what i can tell, of bourgeois bliss. they were very domestic, they were very devoted to each other. she was very fashionable. they both liked to dress well. he died his hair black so he would stay youthful looking. they were both very vain. so to think of her as a terrorist, as someone who would actually cause violence or use violence herself, no. but she and al berth did -- she
and albert did hope that the authorities would be terrorized by them. >> so it may be time to take some questions if aone h any. there's a microphone there if you want it. feel free to, you know, come ask questions about this amazing chicagoan. >> while they're getting up, i was just curious, the arc from lucy to the kneeling controversy, is that progress or is that -- >> the football players who kneel during the national anthem, i think, she would say much harsher measures were necessary. [laughter] ..
>> i was wondering where this park is located in chicago? >> it's easy to google it. maybe northwest side. i'm just not -- yeah, wicker park. >> wicker park? >> small -- >> park, thanks. >> thank you for very good work in today's talk and one thing i really look to in these type of biographies is the use of legal services. any historian ignore that type of stuff. so speaking of lucy's death. can you talk about her relationship with george markstat and the fire they died in and where you think the folks of 15,000 volumes, the library
of 15,000 volumes may have gone to? >> george was her, shall we say, final lover. she met in california in 1910's or so. they lived together in her house till her death. as she said in a house fire in march of 1942. it was a fire that overcame the kitchen. i think a stove maybe caught on fire. she died, mark had try to save her and was terribly burned. the chicago police along with the fbi agents did come to her home because she had fabulous library, history, political
ideology, political theory and to one seems to know what happened to those books, but i will just say that when word got t that i was writing this book, i had an e-mail from someone in england who said that he had bought a book at auction inscribed by william morris, socialist, to lucy when she visited london and in the -- on the book was stamped a couple of things, one was property of the federal bureau of investigation, department of justice, and another stamp was duplicate library of congress. so what i think happen was the police did confiscate the library. there was a red squad thanks to lucy parsons. chicago squad, that red squad
went to library and gave books to congress. if they had any, they sold them or put them out to auction. it's a great question. >> thank you. >> yes. >> dr. jones, hi. >> hi. thank you so much for incredible work. so much to be fascinating about parsons and those of us who have been researching her your book opens up new worlds, i dare ask you, what was the one thing about parsons that you found in your research that blew you away pardon the pun, what did you latch on that made you go in? >> i think it was -- i mentioned this word that there -- she wasa
fierce of the first amendment defender. she was not an easy person to get along with. people who knew her said she didn't have much of a sense of humor. she could really cut you down. she was not into niceties, social niceties, that kind of thing. look at her long life. she was born into slavery, died in 1942, she was a prolific writer, she was speaking at the chicago madae celebration at the age of 89. resilience, her face that there would be a revolution some day. she had a really strong constitution that carried her through, you know. untold horrors. one of the mysteries of the book remains, her life in enslavement and what she saw and what she knew, what she suffered during those years.
she was freed when she was 14. so what effect that had on later life, i'm not sure. i know she had tenaciousness that really was amazing. >> thank you. >> thanks. >> so jacqueline, one thing we talked about before is one lingering thing that bothers me is one of the most famous quotes associated with lucy parsons is the one where they say -- police used to say she was more frightening. >> more dangerous than a thousand rioters. i don't think that was ever said. i think it was made up. there have been several fiction accounts of her account. it might have been taken from one of those. you know, i worked with many, many databases where -- and these are newspapers, writings
of various kinds. you can plug in the name lucy parsons and gets hundreds, if not thousands of articles and pieces and i've never been able to locate that phrase. it's a great phrase. >> it needs to be remembered, though, that people did much more than today, make things up for newspapers, that either the newspapers made them up or often people would just make up quotes and tribute them to somebody. we talk about fake news today, a lot of fake news in lucy's day. and as you've demonstrated, lucy was inventing her own false facts too. so how would the reaction have been on the book? >> well, it's been good. a lot of people didn't know who she was. they had never really heard of her. they obviously find her fascinating. i think some people have been disappointed that i didn't take
a more approach, in other words, someone described this as a very unsentimental biography because i really wanted to find out who she was and certainly there are aspects of her character and her family life that are not particularly admirable, and also i don't think she was the idiolg that she wanted people to be. she wrote about anarchism. in some ways the book is test of, you know, what -- if you're reading history to find evidence of great civil rights act, this is not the book, even though she was born to an enslaved woman. if you're looking for the history of latinas in this country, again, lucy parsons was
not one of them. so -- but what she was was a fascinating person who has been overlooked throw, i think, throughout much of he cent history. >> jacqueline, thank you so much for describing her so well and all the work in revealing new things, it's really remarkable when somebody can write about somebody who lived 100 years ago and reveal new facts and that's much to be admired, thank you for that. >> well, thank you, mark. [applause] >> thank you for attending today's program, books to be purchased and signed outside of the auditorium. thank you. [inaudible conversations]
>> excited to meet you and i can't wait to read this. i'm a professor. >> what do you teach? >> chicago state. >> good. >> i met her -- [inaudible conversations] >> wonderful. >> moving towards getting this great project. >> i'm really eager to see how it turns out. >> thank you. >> research and digging and having to look at -- [inaudible conversations] >> yeah. >> remarkable you were able to put story together. >> i still feel that i don't know her the way i would like. [inaudible conversations] >> yeah, yeah. >> she claimed nobody cared about her. cared about her message.