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tv   Michael Honey To the Promised Land  CSPAN  June 23, 2018 1:10pm-2:31pm EDT

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around, the two of them turn room full of machineries. also very odd way to celebrate the declaration independence. has absolutely nothing to do with the declaration of independence. the notion of national greatness. where does national greatness come from? has been utterly transformed over the 100 years. >> you can watch this and other programs on lion at [inaudible conversations] >> good evening and welcome to the atlanta history center, my name is kate whitman and i'm the vice president of public
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program. we are being filmed this evening which is why all of the bright lights. thank you for joining us for tonight's awesome lecture featuring dr. honey. in addition to his message of racial equality dr. king advocated and dr. honey where he teaches martin luther king studies. he has received robert f kennedy
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award. tonight michael will discuss book about 35 minutes and joined by rodney who will open the floor, because we are filmed it is important that your questions be asked at the two microphones. and now i'm going to introduce rodney kate strong, law and public policy consulting firm based in atlanta georgia. he's a member to have state bar of georgia and represents public entity and clients and general counsel of city of atlanta bank authority and disparity city and consultant for numerous clients. we are excited to have him this evening as well. please join me in welcoming michael honey to the atlanta history center. [applause] >> is this picking up okay? yeah. so i want to start -- before i
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start talking about the book, i want to start with memphis. i just came from there, we had four days of celebration and commemoration and recommitment to dream of dr. king but also in the broader sense the movement that he was part of and what it represented in memphis and the book is really all about that but i'm going to say a few things about what happened in memphis this week. i don't know what happened here in atlanta. i'm sure a lot happened around the anniversary of dr. king's assassination. in memphis, they've been doing april 4th, ever since april 4th for 50 years, it was a huge shock to the city when this happened. i moved down there, i will tell you a little bit about myself toward the end, i moved down there in 1970 and i can recall
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easily what it was like, the police were on a wild rampage during the strike, there was huge, there were huge movements in the community and the police really were taking revenge on young black men in particular. so i lived on edward avenue behind us, a teenage broke into somebody's house and the police -- somebody called, the police came, teenager ran out, they shot him in the back, killed him, totally unarm and it was all legal. , they had the right to use deadly force against a fleeing suspect rather that person been convicted of anything, whether any violence involved, it didn't matter and there were all kinds of shootings going on like that. i worked with congressman a
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little bit later to change the state law so they couldn't do it like that, but another incident 16-year-old elton hayes got into a car chase with the police, by the time the car crashed, 16 police officers surrounded him and beat him to death. that was the kind of atmosphere in memphis in early 70's, the lorraine motel, national civil rights museum today was a total rundown, trying to pretend it didn't exist. they we wanted to wipe tout memory of what happened in 1968 and so we would take people and give them little tours of the lorraine motel. jackie smith who was the last person evicted eventually from lorraine motel would take personal tours, she had lived there for quite a while.
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i remember being in meetings with the mayor at the time a guy named chandler who succeeded mayor henry low when dr. king was killed and in many ways responsible for what happened and chandler showed content for the black community. we were on meeting of police brutality and i have the image in my mind, he's flossing the teeth with rubber band, totally unconscious of trying to relate to people in the community and in the meantime we were all under surveillance, those of us who were activists, you know, police sitting outside the door, plain-clothes officer. i found this out in my fbi file. i was a regional civil liberties organizer from the south from 70
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to 76n. my fbi file, the two fbi agents are sitting in a car watching me come out of my apartment with a bag and then they follow me to the bank and i go into the bank and i come out and i don't have the bag and they follow me back and they record all of this. of course, we raised our money through the mail and we take it to the bank and deposited. so, you know, taxpayer money was paying for these guys to sit there and watch what i was doing which was nothing, nothing to watch, really. they had our phones wiretapped, one time i called mark allen, ally of man, we were going to meet in factory, before people had ways of communicating that we had now, you would go to firestone factory about whatever the issue was and hand it to people as they went to work and so i called mark and we met there and we got there and the
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police were waiting for us. i wonder how they knew, it was one phone call, somebody sitting there listening and it's reminiscent of what they did with dr. king which was followed him, the fbi did this and followed him to every hotel that he visited, back then they couldn't do it wireless, they had to actually implant a wire into his hotel room. they implanted wires into southern christian leadership conference office here in atlanta. his treasurer was a paid fbi informant, we later found out that one of our best allies in memphis was also a paid fbi informant black panther party
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house that they lived in, taken from the front, the side and the back, so the police knew, you know, which way the people came in, which way they went out, during one of the incidents there, the black panther people called me and said, the police are surrounding our house, is there anything you can do and --
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and so i put on a coat like this and i went down and i sat on their porch and acted as aclu observer so if the police started shooting, you know, there's a white person on the scene to see it and maybe get shot too. so they went away. but when i saw this photograph in a book that just came out of the house, i realized how complicit ernst really was in something that could have been deadly to black panther party members in the house. they hadn't done anything. that's where they lived. that's all there was too -- to it. i left there in 1976 to go to howard university to start a master's program in history and study african american and southern history and then for the last 30 years that's basically what i've been doing but i've always done it from activist perspective and, let's
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see what's happening here. it just turned itself off but the kind of work that i do, the writing that i do all comes out of that experience in memories in six years and rodney will talk a little later. that's how he got to know each other, he was 16 when i first met him. i have all of that in my head. i go back to memphis every couple of years at least and when i go there, i have all of that in my memory and this time when i went there this week instead of seeing, you know, police prowling around that are -- if you're stop by the police, you'll regret it, back in the day when i was there. they would stop you even if you were white, so-called white, it
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was bad, it was dangerous and if you were black, anything could happen. now the police force is majority black, the police chief is black, it's a lot of women, a lot of latinas, latinos. that's all -- it's not solved all of the problems but among the many cities that have horrible police brutality memphis is not at the top of the list by any means, it's one of the better places as far as that goes and they're union newsed and they have a sense of things and our banners, how do we remember king 50 years later, where do we go from here. that was martin luther king's last book and after the question mark, where do we go from here, the phrase chaos or community
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and and 50 years later people have the question on their mind about the direction of the country and that's what i will talk about a bit. so it also had a very interracial civic these days in the last 20 years or so. that was totally different from when i lived there and in addition, you have a situation where people are taking real strong stands about racism, so recently, you probably read that finally the city of memphis was able to take down the statute for nathan bedford forest, largest slave trader on the mississippi river between memphis and new orleans, later was a confederate army general who led a massacre of union army troops, 500 people, most of them
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black union soldiers and later founded the ku kluz klan and the monument to this man was not there as number 45 said at one point, you know, we need to know our history. that's not what the monument is about. it was put there in 1901 when segregation was being clamped down on the black community and it was telling you, we are in charge, we are the ones in charge and it's about, you know, that, and they tried to take it down for the last ten years and the state legislature which is republican controlled kept overruling them saying you can't take it down, a local economy, you can't take it down. also when they tried to raise the minimum wage the republican legislature said you can't raise the minimum wage, it has to be state law. so memphis is like surrounded by a sea of republican, right-wing
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political forces but in memphis it's a different feeling. there's a lot of interracial fellowship and friendship and it's no big deal for interracial sexual relations and so forth and so it's really dramatically changed and what the city finally did since nobody would let them do it, they just sold the park to a guy for a nominal sum and he took the statute down, so it's no longer the government, just this private party did this. so, you know, there's a lot of innovation going on. a good friend of mine steve lookwood is rebuilding houses in the neighborhoods north of there and -- the community where the factory was? further north.
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frasier, frasier, thank you. an area that was almost all white at one point and had a lot of good-paying jobs and then became almost all black and lost all the good-paying jobs and poverty stricken and when the economic crisis in 2008 lost homes all over the place. wells fargo was based out there and gave out a lot of loans that they knew people couldn't pay back and it all turned out very badly. so i'm impressed when i go back to memphis that in a lot of ways things are better from a civic point of view things are better, but the problem is the same thing that dr. king was talking about in 1968, what's not better is poverty. poverty is actually worse. they've just done some studies that they came out with and they
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found that black families on average make half the income that white families or median worth, half of what it is for whites. in frasier which is now 29% black, 25% unemployment, even right now, orange mound, 44% people live in poverty. 50% of black children live in poverty. the way economist friend of mine quote, was about one-third of the people are desperately poor, about one-third of the people are on tej of being desperately poor and then about one-third are doing pretty well. people in teghted -- educated groups, university of memphis has one of the largest black
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student populations before it was segregated and you couldn't go there. a lot of people that are educated that are doing good. for them, civil rights act of 1964 beat down the barriers of segregation and opened up these jobs that they were not allowed to get before. it also opened up supervisory jobs in the factories and fedex and other places, things that african americans were totally denied early -- well, in 1968 when i did my study of 1968 and memphis sanitation strike going down jericho road, 80% of the black men worked in laboring jobs. 80% of black women worked as
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domestic workers and mostly white homes and i would see people every day, they would be sitting there waiting for a bus they wouldn't have a car. similar to the people in montgomery alabama who did -- the women in poor jobs. you can say for people things are better and that's not hyperbole, things are better for some people who have been able to open, get through those opened doors that were closed before, but what isn't better is that the good working class jobs are almost gone, so the firestone factory, 3,000 workers, they had mentions and -- pensions and international harvest, those jobs are all gone, you can go down the list. and so that's one thing to
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unionized high-paying jobs are mostly gone. secondly, the jobs that are replaced on the service economy, fedex and white-collar jobs are also pretty low-paying in most cases and almost none of those people are unions which means how do you increase your wages? king said the best antipoverty device if you're a working person is a union because nobody is going to raise the wages for you. .. .. unions for the most part, this, we had a forum for three
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days sponsored by the national civil rights museum and this is one of the things that came out. if you want to fix memphis you need to increase the wages, if people don't have jobs you need to do something about getting jobs for those people that wages have to go up and they won't happen by themselves. these are pressing across communities everywhere and people doing very well like neighborhood around here like this, i live into, washington. the letters, we have a lot of homeless people, working-class immigrants, and i'm down on the list and all the challenges we have today. so as one person said it is the best of times and the worst of
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times for people in memphis and places like that. it is actually worse than it was in 1968. that is the challenge and that is what this was about. a great comment by jesse jackson said last night the movement in montgomery, alabama following brown versus board of education implemented that decision in transportation, so we brought down transportation, racism in montgomery, then had the freedom rides and so forth and the state ins, broke down segregation in public accommodations, had the birmingham movement, the civil rights act of 64 and that had title vii which opened up and made it illegal for unions or companies to discriminate against women or people of
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color or anybody so discrimination is now against the law and the seller campaign and the mississippi freedom summer of 64, 65, and so we broke down the barriers to voting rights the jesse jackson said in each of these places we have a campaign in the city that opened up the doors and caused the nation to look, why can't we make memphis the place where we broke poverty, broke the cycle of poverty and did something about it? it will take a movement. it is not going to happen because the government decides to do it particularly not with the government we have at the moment. so we had some choice comments about the person occupying the white house who is stripping away everything we gained and let me go to dr. king and talk about that.
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the story in the book "to the promised land: martin luther king and the fight for economic justice" is not the we need another biography of king because we don't. we have a lot of great biographies of king, really good biographies of king. i didn't think i could improve on anything anybody has done in that regard. what i wanted to do was bring a larger audience to the whole king. most people think of king as, i don't know about you but young kids in particular think of him as a, quote, civil rights leader and this is how the media portrayed him and among scholars that is an outmoded view. people don't think of king that way in the scholarly world. they look at the whole king. unfortunately most of the public doesn't get that, doesn't know it. so the book is an attempt to
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bridge the gap and it is short in a very reader friendly way that sort of encapsulates a lot of things about king. it is about our memory. how do we remember king? that was the issue this week in memphis, trying to create a different way of remembering king. one of the great things, yesterday we had 3000 people marching from the local 1733 headquarters, led the strike in 1968, down to mason temple where dr. king was killed. after a mile and a half we took over all the streets, and union people from every part of the country and united auto
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workers, and and and thousands of people came to national civil rights museum and all kinds of events went on, one of the most touching was jesse jackson speaking from the balcony where king was killed on april 4th and what those people were doing was recommitting themselves and also remembering what this was really about. a lot of people don't know what it was really about in the art of young people it is too far away, several generations removed. how we remember king, the one person of color where we have a national holiday and caretta king pointed out before congressional committee, meeting a holiday on behalf of
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king, would be the first holiday for anyone killed in a labor strike and that is how caretta king put it, in a labor struggle. a lot of people, up until not long ago really when i wrote the book going down jericho road and came out in 2007 the dominant thing was the image of martin luther king in montgomery and the bus boycott and the other campaigns he was part of which were always based at the grassroots level, usually he didn't start it, he was a spokesperson, he was brought in. as james lawson said he was a megaphone for the movement and people would listen to him. but people didn't think beyond 1965 too much except to think king got radical after 1965.
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this is not real. this is not who king really was. so as we say here, king talked about all forms of oppression including economic injustice, poverty and war. so i start the book with a letter from martin luther king to coretta king where he talks about i am dedicating myself and my life to ending racism, poverty, militarism and war. that is 1952, still a graduate student so he didn't come up on that after 1965 and become a radical. he was in the social gospel tradition of the black church, which is the least of these, people at the bottom, spotter was that way, thought he was called to serve and one of
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those poor people, one of the things i do in the book is help people to know if they don't know that martin luther king is wearing a suit, having perfect diction and a phd, one of the most well-educated people of his generation has a minister especially. the great-grandson of slaves and the grandson of sharecroppers and his father came to the city with nothing, $5 in his pocket and it is true the black church and black community and organizing that community that the king family rose up but not in a wealthy way. if you go to the king home in atlanta you can see it is nice but not a mansion or anything, just a pretty nice house and around it, a neighborhood that was very poor at the time and king was born in 1929 at the start of the great depression so he saw people in bread lines, people without food or
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clothing and this is part of the king heritage. so he spoke at highlander folk school in 1957 after the montgomery bus boycott, started giving a charge to his audience, i never intend to adjust myself to the tragic any qualities of an economic system which takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes but i never intend to adjust to the madness of militarism and self-defeating method of physical violence. i, upon you to be maladjusted and urging people to stand up, be different, challenge the system and not go along with that and he said at the afl-cio convention, he warned the labor movement what was coming, the industrialization, union busting, anti-labor laws, but
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these menaces threaten everything decent and fair in american life. somebody is threatening everything decent and fair in american life and that is what we are up against 50 years after king. also said on march 18th when he came to memphis to support the sanitation strikers you're reminding not only memphis but the nation it is a crime for people to live in origination and receive starvation wages. we had a gathering in memphis on february 12th of people fighting for $15 an hour minimum wage from all over the south, a lot of african-americans organizing and spent part of the day picketing mcdonald's and pushing to do something about the economic situation. this is from a wonderful
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scholar named robin kelly. king was a revolutionary fighting to end social injustice and economic inequality and a catalyst on the ongoing rebellion of the poor, tells a compelling story of militant revolutionary love in action. i like his comments, this is a dangerous book. remember the fbi thought of king as dangerous, followed him everywhere he went and the government thought of him as dangerous. he wasn't a revolutionary like let's get a gun and overthrow the government but he said let's change our worldview. he wanted a revolution in moral values among the american people, if everybody would change their frame of reference things would change and that is
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what we are into, we have to overcome this effort to go back to the way it used to be like the 19th century where people had no protections, homeless people were out of luck, workers were out of luck, nobody had any protections at all and number 45 during the campaign to get elected the problem is wages i too high and all these workers are getting paid too much and if they were paid less maybe there would be more jobs. all the people in his administration tend to think like that and so looking back at king, not just an exercise in hero worship, or wasn't he greater any of that, it is what he had to teach us and the movement he was part of. we know the story of rosa parks, one of the best known female icons of the movement but women were at the base of
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all these struggles that king was involved with, montgomery bus boycott, majority of bus riders were women, down in mississippi during freedom summer and other things it was the women who took people into their homes and made it possible for the freedom movement to exist in mississippi, not to take anything away from the men. most of the historiography until very recently just kind of ignored the women and particularly writing about king, the great man theory of history, we are talking about movement politics and organization and what king was involved in. so women like this, drawing from the bus boycott, at the heart of that and what king found when he started becoming an organizer which he did in the montgomery bus boycott is
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the tremendous power of the people, once they move and no in a united way what is going on they have tremendous power. when rosa parks sat down and got arrested, wouldn't get up and got arrested, they had two days and pass 50,000 leaflets that the women's political caucus put together and monday morning nobody was riding the bus. in memphis, tennessee unfavored 12, lincoln's birthday in 1968, 1300 sanitation workers refused to go to work, they didn't call it a strike, just we are not going to work, these conditions are intolerable, two men were killed in the back of the truck on february 1st because of these conditions they had been complaining about for years. king of course was arrested 30 times, something people don't
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think about is the threats on his life were constant from the beginning during the montgomery bus boycott, his home was bombed, caretta king and their baby were in the front room, heard something outside and moved to the back room in the front of the house was gone, blown up. king was assaulted in public a number of times by american nazi party members. people don't often grasp the depth of the terror the king family lived with all along right from the start. they had a very optimistic view that we shall overcome and good would win out, as part of the christian faith, the moral universe advances toward justice, they were saying this all along and always aware of death, that this could happen but this is part of what they
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accepted. jesse jackson yesterday or the day before from the lorraine motel, said this is a burden we accept as we understand it, we knew it then when dr. king was killed, we were not surprised and we expected it at some time to happen. one of the things that the book points out that people don't realize as much as they should is the terrible effects of anti-communism in that. go of the 1950s and 60s, this is highlander folk school, after the montgomery bus boycott, he is there with the folksinger, rosa parks, ralph david abernathy and charisse horton, the daughter of myles horton who ran that place, great
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meeting they had, the only place where blacks and whites could meet together and this came out of it, a secret photographer from georgia, so-called education commission which was there, took a picture in the john burke society, put it on billboards especially in the south, king had a communist trading school. i don't know how i got it, they found it somewhere with the same thing and it says courtesy of the john burke society. the same picture was in the memphis commercial in the 60s, no explanation and when they march from selma to montgomery they march bible board like this so the campaign of hate against king was fueled very much by this fear of so-called communism. one of the most famous baptist preachers in the world being
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thought of as a communist. j edgar hoover, i have read the correspondence, people writing letters, i hear king is a communist, sort of like today, i hear, you heard, who did you hear it from? i hear king is a communist, can you tell us? hoover would write back and say thank you for your letter, really appreciate your comments, no answer, not saying, that is ridiculous. they were carrying on as if he was. what if you were a communist, you don't have any human rights? it is not illegal to belong to a political party. it was kind of insanity of that era, what king was was a nonviolent revolutionary. you have a picture of him with gandhi and he learned very early, in graduate school, caretta king learned it before martin did, when she was in
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high school, and so that challenges your worldview. as james lawson, the great leader at work with king says, you have to understand, somebody who is a believer in nonviolence, a follower of jesus, follower of gandhi has a different worldview and once you have that worldview everything that is violence is what you are trying to change, that means war, poverty, racism, those are all forms of violence. he spoke in memphis, you have to renounce these things which you cannot be number 45 playing his game, you have to have a different game, a better game that people can unite around and that is what king was great about doing, he knew how to unite big masses of people and build coalitions beyond any one group. before the march on washington
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in 1963, in detroit, 125,000 people showed up led by union people, united auto workers in particular took over downtown detroit and what it is about in the book is the civil rights labor coalition which is powerful at this time and part of how we got the voting rights act and how we got the civil rights act, united front of unions and civil rights people, wasn't just lyndon johnson that takes credit for this but the movement. also cesar chavez was popping up at the same time. rebellions among the poor, the working poor during this whole. go, campaigns like the one in birmingham to break down public segregation also had a dimension, demanding jobs for workers in the department stores and on the buses and other places, james lawson told me we always had an economic
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dimension, king getting arrested, a letter from birmingham jail telling us basically his whole philosophy about the right to protest for right and the willingness to go to jail and do civil disobedience if necessary. this is a little-known story about king in the city, atlanta, after he received the nobel peace prize, he helped to lead a strike of 800 black women at the fountain pen store and there was a long strike and it was a precursor to the memphis sanitation strike. a lot of people went to ebenezer baptist church, king played an important role in settling that. when they held dinner for him in atlanta this almost through
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the whole thing off because the businesspeople were so upset he was supporting a strike among black workers and what if this caught on in atlanta? this is the selma campaign which followed shortly thereafter. we know about that from a lot of great material that has come out of the selma campaign but john lewis spoke to us last night, being beaten to the ground and he was great, talking about we won these rights, now use them, the right to vote, when obama lost the support of congress it was because a lot of people didn't come out and vote after the 2008 election and other elections that followed and that is from new york city, people supported these campaigns and this is king at a
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housing project in detroit, one of the things that impressed me when studying him and labor, people are calling, come to a picket line in new york city for hospital workers, somebody on the road 300 days and giving lectures and tocsin sermons but he would go to the picket line if he were called. this is the march against fear in mississippi, we were talking about that earlier which started from james lawson's church in memphis after james meredith was shot down on the road. carmichael, that was his name then, when they campaigns with king he was at his most vibrant. it was the most fearful time of all to be going around in mississippi, but he loved the
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people. and stokely carmichael said i saw a different side of king, not the one we think of giving great speeches but just a good human being and there he is again. this is another campaign in mississippi. there is another one, grenada, mississippi. many small meetings like this in churches everywhere. the church was the main line in many ways so king would give big speeches and give little speeches in the poor people's campaign of 1968, traveled through the deep south. in little communities all over. and in the detroit area we had
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these tremendous upheavals in the 1960s from 64-68. king said i feel responsible for this because we raced people's hopes but not delivering jobs and economic justice. i see what time it is here but it was a time of terror in the north as well. let me finish, this is gross point michigan. king has just been. down, had to shut off the meeting, anti-communist, pro-war group, so mad about his stand against the vietnam war, got a speech done but everybody had to leave, very threatening. when i was in the antiwar michigan movement these people would attack time after time and memphis, the sanitation
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workers working full-time, and these outmoded vehicles very heavy labor, king came in march 18th of 1968, made this great speech, all labor has dignity, supporting sanitation workers and after a police riot on march 28th they brought in the national guard and the workers came out with the slogan i am a man. those signs were all over memphis, i am a man, also i am a woman. again, marching with people in memphis, the workers themselves really led this, 1300 people unified coming out every day, not unlike a lot of campaigns where it was so hard to get people out in the streets, 1300 people were there every day because they were on strike and
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even when the national guard were there. i love these pictures. rodney told me he was at this demonstration four days after king was killed on april 8th. 40,000 people in the street of memphis, totally silent march. other cities were up in flames, chicago, detroit, memphis, people were marching following king's example of nonviolence. memphis mourns dr. king, jesus sweeps over the sins of racism. people in other parts of the country, labor people particularly went on strike, the longshoremen on the west coast shut the place down and then the poor people's campaign that he was organizing went right ahead and it was treated like a failure but a lot of people became activists for the rest of their lives and these
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are welfare rights, women who led the mother's day march, rev. barber and liz harris carrying this campaign back to us you will be seeing in the next couple months, protest against poverty in the united states and this is the poor people's campaign in dc and the union people are there. you also find in the book king's program to end slums and ghettos, they have a specific program but it requires a redirection of money and priorities away from the military industrial state, tax breaks for the rich, it requires the tremendous wealth of this country which is there be spent for the right things. we have gotten the money. where is the money going.
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james lawson mentioned last night $6 trillion spent on a rack invasion and what a disaster that was. what did you do with that kind of money? this was the april 8th march the he was in, coretta king carried on his legacy and continued to work for labor rights and women's rights, gay rights and things he would have done if he had lived. the great boycott. coretta scott king who helped start the farm workers movement, cesar chavez and the movement has gone on, much more about unions, organized workers and civil rights and this is where i enter the antiwar
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movement in detroit, student protests, going to jail in kentucky, followed king to the south and as soon as i got there was put in jail like everybody else. this is the jail i was in for three weeks in kentucky. is another story. this is memphis, angela davis, rodney is probably in the back in this picture and up in my fbi file. i didn't know that until this new book came up, the memphis 5 which we worked on so the struggle went on. we also think one of the myths is when king died things ended. actually they accelerated. in memphis they certainly did and all around the south they certainly did. how do we remember king?
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the unions remember king, they know what this is about and they were pushing that forward. workers know it. i love this picture. in front of the lorraine motel when it was ready to be closed down or was closed down at this point which now is the national civil rights museum. i will stop and let rodney make some comments and open up for a few questions and discussion. [applause] >> thanks, mike. mike is doing tremendous work because i think often times we have allowed dr. king's memory to be sanitized. people think i had a dream, and that is it but the reality of
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it is dr. king was always fighting for justice and recognized that poverty and racism and militarism, the triple evils had to be thought along with war. he came out strong against all of those things and i follow dr. king's career very closely because i was in memphis and was affected by the civil rights movements. i first became interested in the civil rights movement when my parents had to explain to me why even though they were advertising for kids to get a free fillet of fish sandwich at mcdonald's i couldn't go to mcdonald's because of the segregated. i was 5 years old and so i started paying attention to the civil rights movement and in
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1966, when i was 11, james meredith began the march against fear and he was shot down -- he hadn't been more than an hour into his march when he was shot down in mississippi and dr. king came to memphis and organized james lawson's church, seminary united methodist church and dr. king gave a speech he had given before but got national attention and said what good does it do a man to have integrated lunch counters if he can't buy a hamburger. what made clear was public accommodations, creating more integrated lunch counters, even having the right to vote, political rights, without economic justice, wasn't
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enough. so what mike is doing is important and the work he is doing is important because it helps us better center what dr. king was all about. i got a chance to know mike when i volunteered, one of those leaflets he talked about in my neighborhood for free angela davis rally and i caught the bus downtown to the rally and participated, i was a student in high school at the time. i was 16. and it wasn't long after that i found out mike lives around the corner from me so i would have to catch the bus down to the rallies. we have been friends ever since. but the memphis movement is critical and mike has done the best job of anyone i know of exploring that. 's book going down jericho road
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is a seminal book. he took interviews that the yellens put together where they interview people and videotape them and archived at the university of memphis and he took that firsthand information, woven in with other historical document and created a tremendous book but this book is critical, and the justice. and in cities today, we look at situations going on with the crises in rural areas, we realize it is important, and with this book, everyone
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recognizes the importance of digging deeper into what dr. king was about the guy the news footage you look at. with him standing in front, i have a dream, it is economic justice, he was about the least of these and the movement continues for poor people, working people, and one that will not stop until there is justice that rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. i want to ask for any questions, anyone who has a question if you will come to one of the microphones this is being broadcast and we will try to take it from there. you can step to the microphone and -- i was previously introduced, but go ahead, sir.
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>> for my knowledge could you introduce yourself? i forgot my hearing aid tonight so maybe i missed it. >> when mike was introduced i was introduced also but my name is rodney strong. i'm from memphis, tennessee, an attorney in atlanta, georgia. i work on issues associated with binary business, disparity, diversity, supplier diversity, economic justice, those are the kinds of things i practice is all about. >> atlanta for 42 years, i missed a great deal but i am back and thrilled, and i want to ask if there is any information about the young people who caused the violence
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in the memphis riot and who influenced them, other than that it was off to a good start. i would love to hear about it. >> there was a bad mix of things going on. james lawson talks about that area, a lot of unemployed people who were on drugs or alcohol who were mad that the strike had shut down the business, there was a boycott of the businesses as part of a strike to put pressure on the city and so a lot of those break ins into windows were those guys doing that. there was also a group of students who were quite angry, police came into being a bunch of people up, ready to march to
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the march and instead they got beaten up and there was a rumor of one girl who was carried away who was killed although she wasn't and third, agent provocateurs. people who were working with police or fbi who aids us on, a group called the invaders who they believed the city would never bargain unless they were afraid of violence, they wanted to keep raising the temperature, didn't really go along with the philosophy of the strike which was mass action, discipline, organized, not breaking windows and they agate the crowd on and once it started cutting out of control they took king out of the march immediately because he didn't want to be the head of the
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margin behind them people breaking windows and also the police went to z├╝rich. i say it was really a police riot. if you read going down jericho road you will see the chilling story of what happened next, it was mayhem. hundreds of people in the hospital, basically murdered in cold blood in front of a bunch of people. that is where the tanks came in, police were very much, king said this, the police were responsible for the mayhem. kids broke our windows but that doesn't mean they should be shot down in the street. >> two questions. you mentioned in memphis about
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professional white-collar persons and specifically the police department and majority. what about the educational system in terms of who is in control of that and what category do you put that in, teachers, professors, etc. not the universe of memphis, and georgia state as they claim to be hbc you of the state of georgia because of black students, you did mention memphis and they always had a great basketball team, pretty good football last year, loss to georgia state. they didn't play the game but the answer to that is the education system in memphis and the majority control and have a
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question for our attorney, rodney strong. >> i don't live in memphis anymore but what i have observed is the jobs that require higher education open and up so for teachers, college professors, former editor of the commercial appeal, used to be horrible right wing conservative racist newspaper in 68. now a series of black editors, one of those has an endowed professorship. that is a high-level kind of thing at the university of memphis but there are various african-american academics throughout the city and teachers and schools and supervisors on jobs, fedex and places like that so this
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economist thinks the third of the people having better jobs and doing better. >> before you ask the question of me i went to chime in because i'm still very engaged in memphis and i am in and out of memphis a lot and pay a lot of attention to it and i will say this. conditions for some african-americans have improved since 1968 because there were a number of jobs african-americans were fundamentally barred from so you look at any industry, you see african-americans in various industries and categories and poverty has also increased and severe poverty increased even more than poverty has increased and if you go to memphis it is
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shocking if you know what memphis used to look like because the disinvestment in public infrastructure is severe and noticeable. a lot of times i go and speak to people and how is it it has gotten like this and it is almost the phenomena and of a frog that you put in water and slowly turn up the temperature, people don't notice how bad the public infrastructure has gotten to be, they are making strides, working to make some changes, but this whole concept of disinvestment in public infrastructure, the industrialization and busting unions has had a huge impact on poor people and working people in the city. i am ready for your question of me. >> much more to be asked on every level and thank you both for that.
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i was doing some research, business enterprise, impact on african-american businesses in atlanta, georgia and come across the research you were doing. you call it parity with the georgia department of transportation and i wanted to know from you about the results of your study dealing with contracts on highway transportation but you may have done more but i am familiar with that because i used in my research paper. >> our firm does disparity studies and we conducted the most recent disparity study for the department of transportation and found there has been an increase in utilization of minority and disadvantaged businesses, the transportation department, but
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there is lack of participation at the prime contractor level and disparities at every level so we made some recommendations of changes that could be made to increase the program, increase the participation in georgia. georgia is doing better than some states and worse than some in terms of department of transportation. we did was work around the country, completed the study for greensboro, north carolina that was presented earlier this week, we did the most recent study for the city of memphis which is why i am so familiar with the city of memphis. it is a requirement in order to have a minority business program that you do these kinds of analyses and that is what we specialize in doing. >> if i could judge a follow-up do you look at other areas of contracting with the state of georgia like the permit of administrative services. there is a lot of contracting that goes on, people from the
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prison system or housing, even the university system. >> the state of georgia has never contracted for a disparity study for the entire state. it contracts for disparity study for the department of transportation because that is a requirement to receive federal funds and there are provisions the federal government assist with payment for the studies so dot regularly conducts studies but the state of georgia up to this point has not conducted them. >> thank you for the amazing talk. one of the things when i study martin luther king and his life i'm amazed at the organization and institutions he was able to use. i can't imagine all of the group of people these days being able to share cars to
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organize the kind of bus boycott and in the context of some of the institutions, religious and otherwise, labor unions and things like that that you talked about being broken up, what advice would both of you have to people in my generation and younger to keep some of these dreams and progress going in the context of institutions that might be going away or may not be what they were back in the day when dr. king was doing his work? >> leading up to different events of what we call the black freedom movement there's always institution building going on, networks being created and king's strength was creating the network among the churches but we still have networks among churches, college students, there are ways to network, people who
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were, we lost a lot of unions which provided great network but there are other ways to network among people working and still 12 million union members in the united states, one of the strongest, if not the strongest political force among poor and working people so the poor people's campaign is trying to create another network of poor people and that is the hardest network to create because people who are poor are just basically trying to survive day today, even moment to moment, trying to get them involved in movement and networking is very very difficult but their idea is people among these groups have all got to vote and when the vote goes down we get what we got now in washington dc. we are in another institution building phase, students walking out in high school, the me too movement among women,
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these are opportune things that are happening. when i school students have a walkout all on the same day, this is an incredible kind of thing and that happened during the civil rights movement and anti-vietnam war movement, edison point everybody recognize this is too far, things have gone too far, we got to act, people who are not politically engaged started becoming so and we are in that moment right now and it is because of people in power pushing us. if we don't react, too bad for us. creating networks, doing the organizing, but doesn't have to be a full-time thing, i was a full-time organizer for 6 years, every day do something, every day do something and it accumulates and develops. >> i want to add one point to
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what mike said about that, dr. king in one of his great orations said if you want to be great, the greatest of these are those who serve, our experience working in memphis, organizing in memphis was when we serve people we are able to organize people, when we actually worked with them about dealing with earnings we use to canvass the housing project and our objective was to help elect our gore senior. you all know al gore junior but he was our center, antiwar senator and i was motivated because i was -- i had a very low draft number, okay? what we did was went door to door and we found out who people were and we tried to serve it and we worked closely with the black panther party
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with the memphis chapter of the black panther party and we would go out and serve the kids breakfast. you would be surprised how many poor kids you can organize when you say there is a free breakfast. those are the kinds of things you have to do to organize. >> i really am refreshed and elated to hear someone really explain dr. king's core vision as far as trying to do some things for economic empowerment, that was why he was ultimately assassinated. it is refreshing to hear michael honey express that and rodney strong, your effort in
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terms of the disparity, trying to assist in making some type of equality and leveraging at the table, the state contract, billions of dollars being spent in that area. with the disparities, and the economic plight in the community among the black community as they are. is there any business as usual tactics other than the normal better utilized for these conditions or the policies just go another 50 years and celebrate a century of situations? >> the feeling in memphis this week was two things, one was celebratory. he would not do the right somebody's death but they were sobering somebody's life, and the feeling that that goes on, the spirit goes on and jesse jackson talked about that. we are all the inheritors of
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the spirit king had but need to understand the vision like you were saying, people don't get what he was talking about, how can they move in the direction he was talking about. business as usual, lots of ways people are working, a friend of mine in memphis, they have a community development corporation buying up old houses that are totally shot and they buy them for a dollar from the city and rebuild the house and sell it for $40,000 which is hard to get in memphis and they have 114 houses they are either renting or getting people to buy and it is just building on itself. i don't know how many things like that are going on in the united states but that is one way and steve lockwood who runs that said we have poverty so we
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have to figure out how to make the best out of that and it is possible to do it. don't have to be stuck in that is true of education. if the editor of the tri-state defender of black newspapers said one of the problems is a lot of kids can't read or don't know context, how to put things in context so reading programs, working with kids to do that, these are remedial but is also a movement building kind of thing so you attach the vision with the activity, that was what they did with the breakfast programs, the practical activity is crucial and there is a lot going on, more than we read about. >> weighing in on this last point. i think it is a two pronged process was one is you have to work on policy, how do you develop policy where you can
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use the best practices to improve these various issues, housing, homelessness, economic development, entrepreneurship and these issues have to be looked at from a policy standpoint and finding out the best local policy, the best state policy, how you deal with that but it is coupled with politics. a lot of times people are disconnected from the politics and think my vote doesn't matter, they will do the same thing anyway, they are out there feathering their own nests so there has to be a commitment to build a grassroots movement that produces so you can enact progressive policies you are trying to implement. it is a 2-pronged process, policy on one hand and politics on the other and all organizing is to get politics aligned with policy to make change. [applause] >> thank you for coming. i will be out there to sign
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books and urge you to buy the book because it is going to be useful. >> get it 25% off. >> i didn't know that, thank you. >> i will be glad to talk to people out there. [inaudible conversations] >> here is a look at some authors recently featured on afterwords, our weekly author interview program that includes best-selling nonfiction books and guest interviewers.
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>> why did you want to bring republicans into the democratic party? >> i always had this concept in business that you should run on criticism. think about people who disagree with you and understand why they disagree with you because maybe they are right about something and have something to learn and if you just talk to people who agree with you, you will never learn anything. i have been to a bunch of meetings with the democratic party, you have too. we all get together in a room and bring up a bunch of democratic strategists who basically just say the same
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things, any democratic consultants i talk to when i'm running for office will say. it is kind of like okay, we spent a lot of time convincing ourselves we are right about everything we believe. what i suggest is why don't we bring in a republican strategist? not everyone would do it but we find someone who would do it, bring in someone from a think tank or opinion writer from the washington post with a more conservative bent, listen to how they are thinking about the world and politics. maybe we will learn something. >> afterwords airs on booktv every saturday at 10:00 pm eastern and sunday at 9:00 pm eastern and pacific. all previous afterwords programs are available to watch on her website >> thank you for inviting me. i study airplane crashes because they are interesting and educational. i'm not here to suggest flying isaf


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