tv Joseph Crespino Atticus Finch CSPAN June 30, 2018 6:00pm-6:46pm EDT
>> good evening and welcome we are excited to have joe back on his book atticus finch also you will see on the festival augus august 18 we are excited about that already and lining up some great authors. before we get started please silence your cell phone also sees fan in here that they have to record all the questions if you have a question please raise your hand wait for the microphone to come to you the 17.
[applause] >> thank you all so much for being here and for having me back, this is my third time and for many your third time as well. [laughter] many familiar faces and appreciate you to come out to m me -- brave heat you have already spoken with in particular my mother and father-in-law for the wine and beer to turn the event into a party so make sure you get some refreshment. this is a fun book for me to talk about. this is a book based on a book
that has played a role in our political culture and popular culture in the book i have read many times and thought about for a long time that i do not have a story about the first time i read to kill a mockingbird my life is transformed i'm sure they read in middle school or high school but i cannot say exactly when. i grew up in a small town like in alabama but came back to the book in graduate wall talking about work of political history examining out. other history roughly 30
roughly 30 wendy's dramatic changes take place and that is my work is about. but i've had i have been to do this work my brother, he passed away but he was a fascinating character but only had some quirky interest and had benson and hedges menthol cigarettes and never missed an episode of days of our lives for years straight. [laughter] he loved belinda carlisle years after the go-go's had their heyday and he loves to kill a mockingbird he loved it and only say you have to read that it is such a great book
and i would say yeah yeah. that is a child's book i'm too sophisticated for that and finally i went back and i did read it again and i watched. was right it is as fascinating as a cultural phenomenon published 1960 made a movie to see to gregory peck with the oscar in 1963 to manage estate on the reading my daughter's eighth grade beneficiary just like the kids around the united states in the world that they are assigned to kill a mockingbird why? in eighth grade? it is a primer for middle
school children to develop a history of race and racial injustice itself and the united states and atticus is the touchstone of decency which are critical values for the multiracial democratic society that we correct in and now lives in. that is why the book is taught so often it is revered and love but i do live love to kill a mockingbird but also had problems as a historian with atticus. he always seemed a little bit too much for me i wanted to write about the book but it was hard to do has a handful
of things that harper lee said and the promotions for the movie the last time harper the so on the record to anybody was march 1964 there wasn't much to go on with this character but that changed in the summer of 2015 because so that a watchman then there is the character that again and then that great revelation when it came out that atticus was the idealistic father of the downtrodden but pretty much assume what you was being a 70-year-old father would be in south alabama but a recent
and was reactionary and a racist. but what happened and that novel is out comes back in new york -- from new york had her beloved father has fallen in with the small town races will just read this reactionary series of these conversations of men in her life and with atticus so when --dash himself and she says it has to change she gets worked up and emotional he is the calm voice
of reason of principle conservative segregationist position. so when that book came out in 2015 it was based on the fact that atticus was a racist but also writing that will 1957 report to remember and this is confusing in the that the book she wrote first a watchman she wrote after received a gift from her friend that allowed her to quit her job and commit fully to writing piece of fiction the first time she tried to write a novel and go
set a watchman was the first novel that she wrote and thinks to some first and i have had access to actually archives harpercollins we now know the relationship between the student often it's not like par for the wrote a version of atticus as a racist reactionary figure in and said no i will make him idealistic, that is not what. she wrote. she wrote a watchman for her age try to get it published and while he was doing that it was not two different houses have so she starts writing the child material will out of her
typewriter and this is where she finds her voice and gout for agent is loving it worry about this other novel that has the jews and they did sell it. she revises it for two and a half years and it comes out as a literary phenomenon what is important to understand the relationship and we know from those archives that harper the only imagine them this to parts of the same story the characters would've all into characters of the 50 atticus seemed to the eyes of the manual gout is struggling to
reconcile to come to grips with her father and go set a watchman so when that book came out my response was whatever you think of it as a work of fiction obviously there were five because publishing house and a lot of story was dramatic action or conversation but it is her first novel it is difficult to write a novel not surprising the first one would not be all. but as work of fiction and fascinating historical document into what harper the
about what she tried to capture in fiction when she first set down to write this book. in fiction when she first set down to write this book. you search for what we do is track over time because data care started out this way and that's what i set out to do in the first place that i went was to make sense of harper the father because of the campaign will get you looking he talked about how her father was information for the character he wasn't exactly
fired so to go back to know more about her father we know he was a lawyer and state legislator in the 20s and 30s that nobody paid attention he was also of the monroe journal the newspaper there through 1947. so i look at those newspapers that were available on microphone yard, family department of rk i grew up in a small counseling with no guarantee of small town newspaper would have an editorial page count i grew up in macon beacon is a great
newspaper now that they would run the obituaries on the page. [laughter] and like who visited that was a small town paper that i went that was a small town paper that i went march of 1933 why would i start here what happened marc march 1833 roosevelt is inaugurated. goldstar. the last president. there is anything said about results inauguration toy immediately covered i hit a gold mine not only have the
editorial page but act is and ambitious and writing every two or three or four editorials not just state politics and evolution of the new deal and by the late 30s writing off the religious right and the rise of fascism in japan. it is anything one -- is amazing is the highest grade he ever completed with the gradient grew up very poor born in georgia that group is a homesteader in north florida only eight years of education but was lincoln and and was a voracious reader and had a
newspaper he took. we rolled the operator of the free press to make sure his readers were informed and went right like a 19th century prose and it was fascinating to me. so i charted out those editorials over 18 years and how it changed over time. those historical source that inspired her verbally to write idealistic figure of atticus of atticus with the idealism on the editorial page when he wrote in both our political
demagoguery which was rampant in the 30 long concentrating all the power that was very low to the public interest because then he was writing again lynching as the rule of law in the thousands country you can see how that would come from her father but after two years you can see how her father is responding to these tumultuous changes transforming southern society by the late 30s but also during the war years so by the
late 30s now to see labor union role and vendor will work to when we begin to see the civil rights movement and organization having influence over the white house like roosevelt but one that was closely tracked by southern segregation and you can see how he begins to take the position and how he articulates with the recent reactionary position that
atticus defends and goes sexy watchman. those are both versions of atticus that we get. another that they do book is track harper leave right solely moving from the 50s back to the 30s telling the story through the eyes of scout but it is also important to read the evolution of this character through the lens of changes of southern politics from the late 50s it is important to understand the politics deeply in the state like alabama thinking about
massive resistance after the brown decision but it was really ramping up by 1957, 58, denying, this was when politicians are winning public office for the first time on a platform of right-wing demagogues in separate politics this is the context harper b is writing her fiction and i have important things to say in the book how that plays the character of atticus. i go on to say more how the character of atticus changes
which is its own creative process which was done so beautifully in the screenplay in the adaptation of the novel that has implications and and certainly gregory peck plays a role in he embodies character of atticus that transformation takes place from those origin to when we get gregory pack as the handsome and dignified face from 20th century liberalism. so to tell it as blow-by-blow with a brief passage to set it up briefly comes from the last chapter of the book which
revolves around this delicious irony in american history. april of 1963 nominated four times but he wins the oscar for portraying atticus finch and that is a great symbol for pack but also for the character but april 1963 in birmingham alabama and okay segregation and from the jail he writes a letter from birmingham jail says no more
production is more widely read or sign in school sent to kill a mockingbird he was driving his letter from birmingham jail. what is atticus benjamin not a white moderate? moderate? come to those conclusions but those white moderates are the biggest stumbling block is often one of the most quoted pieces so what is interesting about that contextualize the letter from birmingham jail with his work in ministry in
politics the letter from birmingham jail is chapter 31964 why we can't wait. and then to make a defense then to be under attack in 1964. but nonviolence has not been working and king is desperately trying to defend that says i still believe there was something in the american those that response to the strength of moral force and who does he use as an example but the popularity harper lee movie to kill a mockingbird and the character
of atticus and to go again benchmark to get tom robinson from the jail so it is remarkable with this odd fact that with king's writing and a combination of the white moderate in the strength of force that is what she was trying to conjure to create a character. so king has a quote where he talks about despite the violence in birmingham that never came to pass one side
would not resort the other side is immobilized by confusion or disunity. so the united white self that is beside harper and her people were on the then eventually the cigarette is celebrated around the world as a kind of expression of values of moral courage and tolerance and understanding she began a project using an uncertain enter first attempt to reconcile with the hypocrisy and injustice she and her generation have to eagerly abided at the same time of the condescension of the northern the roles but wish a by the shifting politics from a
simple narrative as a father talking about his love and hope for his children doing the right thing and with that story atticus bench rose to the occasion when it mattered of course mockingbird does not tell us that we only know them as the children do that with the publication of watchmen we know now not that it was also his too good to be true so all the things that jeanmarie discovers with those ugly beliefs and willingness to represent black client with status quo and all of the
black population as a child of that reciprocal love to have that elaborate act for the guilt or for black the burden of racial injustice. she knew all of the things. but why? and the answer, not the the whole answer but version answer is in this book you should buy it and figure it out. [laughter] that is all i have to say. thank you very much jorge. [applause]
so , i am an english teacher and i'm also a graduate student in english. and analyzing literature through historical context has come in and out of fashion in academia. i really interested in the line between literary critic and historians. and the methodologies used to read both history and literature. did you find that the lines were blurred in writing your book? a history of a fictional
character? can you speak a little about that? >> sure. that's right. this is the biography of a fictional character pete had to do that? there's no right way to do it. but because is no right way there's no wrong way either. anna do that to a certain degree. it is an interdisciplinary work. it is primarily informed by my expertise in history and politics but it is also, there are periods where i do literary analysis. and there's no kind of theory to it or there is no, i just do the best i can. and try to think deeply and historically about the context in which -- i think as a
historian it is essential. whatever we write. whether it is fiction or nonfiction, we are shaped by the times in which we are writing. and that is really a fundamental insight i bring to bear but that would be it. i tried to be very precise about the periods in which there is writing and what was going on that might have shaped the kind of choices she had made. >> hi joey. how are you? >> i know this guy. for a long time. >> a great talk. the talk you just given about the two books, help the next two books, preferably by you in the future and how does that happen? i wish i had the answer to that. i would get to writing right away. i think the question is, is
that what you want the question? no gothat's a good question. i think in my next books, one of the things that's great about being historian is i really am good about things that have already happened. [laughter] the stuff that hasn't happened yet, i am, you know, not much to say about that. it's hard to know. and there are limits to what we can draw from our studies of history. but what i find as a teacher of history is that there are people born every day who know nothing about what happened. right? we think of it in those terms it is almost overwhelming. the work that historians need to do to educate us all.
then there's the fact the history will learn is so poor and has been so much shaped by previous understandings that are wrong are based on mythologies or on outright lies. i'm not about predicting the future because i think there's so much work still to be done in trying to understand the past in a more vivid, meaningful way. thank you for that question. this is my cousin. he is not a plant. i promise. any other questions? >> i know you are downtown in mid day. if you have any time to the museums? and what did you think of them? i did. i had, i spent the afternoon at the two museums.
and i i think they are wonderful institutions are going to have a really meaningful impact on our understanding of our state history. and they are really thoughtfully done, beautiful buildings, something in the state of mississippi can be extremely proud of. everyone in the state of mississippi needs to go to. i thought they did a wonderful job of marrying the two. and first, my reaction was, why do need two museums? why can't we just have one in mississippi history? because it's all part of the same story. but it's an old story about how that happened and that totally makes sense. but when you go you see your professional historians and scholars of public history who have been incredibly thoughtful about telling a very inclusive,
powerful story about the states history. one that kinda scrapes the barnacles offer the history that we've all grown up with and that we can see it clearly in a new and important way. but also that relates to history of the civil rights era. we've got to make clear to everyone, you have to go to both sides. you can't do that unless you understand the longer mississippi history story. i'm just enormously proud. having the two museums i hope everyone will go see them many times. >> the question of course,
about after to kill a mockingbird, did you gain any insight into that from doing the research for this book? >> i gain some insight about it. i mean i think the story is often been told which is a good place to start. is that the phenomenal success of to kill a mockingbird would be daunting to any artist. how do come up with a follow-up of to kill a mockingbird? a bookselling in the millions and has all of the -- i think the pressure that was daunting to her. but one of the things i've also found in this book is that i think, i make an argument in this book that in 1961 and 62
and 63, given the interviews and what he working on next? she never says what she's working on. she doesn't want to jinx it she says. if you look at what she is saying in interviews and what she's talking about, i think she was trying to go back to rework the novel watchmen. what she's talking about a lot in the interviews are deal with the same things that the novel was dealing with. in some cases, she repeats direct lines from go set a watchmen and some of the interviews. it's really interesting. and so an epilogue to the book, i have some thoughts on why that would have been very difficult for her to do. why, i think it would have been enormously difficult for her to go back to try and rework watchmen. i think she was trying to do that. at least there's some evidence to suggest that. any other questions?
more from the plant. >> you mentioned that the clan was radicalizing the council. what exactly does that mean? >> this is part of the book in which i talk about the nuances of massive resistance politics in the 1950s. the argument i'm making here is that people did not, when the citizens councils were founded, and the people founded the citizens council said look, we are the decent folks in the town here. we own the businesses, where the lawyers and the doctors. we are different from the ku klux klan that was big in the 1920s. we are different from the folks that live on the county. we're going to keep segregation
with a non-peaceful way. we're going to run this thing. and that is the way they talked about the citizens councils. what happened in the late 1950s, was at the citizens council that were keeping down the hotheads and the violent types and the clan. if you look, the state after state in the deep south, what is happening is the clan and the more radical militant demagogue forces that were actually radicalizing the councils. and so the people who were quote - unquote the good white folks, are either going along for the ride were there in a cowering silence just keeping her head down and not saying anything. and so for that. from the late 50s to the early 60s, this was mississippi, the madhouse then. that was one of the journalists that talk about it.
in 1964 it was happening in alabama and it was happening in georgia, it was happening across so that's what i'm talking about. thank you so much for coming out this is been a lot of fun. [applause] >> here's a look at some of the current best-selling nonfiction books according to the conservative book club. topping the list, trump 's america. newt gingrich thoughts on the impact of the trump administration policies at home and abroad. after that it is clinical psychologist jordan peterson 12 rules for life. and john mccants reflections on his political career. the restless wave. and fred bear chronicles ronald reagan's efforts to end the cold war in three days in
moscow. followed by jerusalem, a political and historical argument for the existence of israel a sovereign nation. a member of the presidents legal team. a look at the best-selling books according to the conservative book club continues with president trump 's thoughts on business, the art of the deal first published in 1987. then fox news host, faulkner reese on her life growing up in a military family and nine rules of engagement. after that bill o'reilly and martin -- provide history of the revolutionary war and killing all england. and i love capitalism and memoir by the home depot cofounder and former stock exchange director, and wrapping up our look at the conservative book club nonfiction bestseller list. the former u.s. navy seal, robert o'neill recollection of his military career and the mission that led to the death of osama bin laden.
in the operator. some of these authors have appeared in booktv. you can wash them on our website. booktv.org p request we recently visited capitol hill to see what people are reading this summer. >> quite a bit.i just got done with the book called friends divided. looking at the relationship between jefferson adams and before that an excellent book out there by, on lincoln and churchill wartime experiences. and another excellent book i recently read on ulysses s grant. next will be unlikely general about anthony wayne. 1794, it takes place in my district where it occurred. the battle of fallen timbers. when i get done with that book it will be the book on lindbergh. a good list to get done.
>> booktv wants to know what you are reading. sinister summer reading list via twitter twitter.com/booktv, or facebook.com/booktv. booktv on c-span2. television for serious readers. >> you're watching booktv on c-span2. television for serious readers. here is our prime time lineup tonight. at 6:45 pm eastern, rutgers university history professor, rachel devlin recounts desegregation of american public schools through the actions of young african-american women throughout the country. at 7:45 pm former first lady michelle obama reflect on her time in the white house and provides a preview of her memoir being published in the fall. abcnews dan abrams recalled abraham lincoln last legal case. a murder defense in 1859.
that begins at 9 pm eastern. at 10:00 p.m. on our "after words" program. drip physician, mona hanna-attisha details efforts to provide scientific evidence that children in flint michigan were exposed to lead poisoning through the cities water supply.she's interviewed by democratic senator, gary peters of michigan. and we wrap up the prime time programming at 11 pm with investigative reporter, ken ben singer on the u.s. government case against the international soccer governing body. that happens tonight on c-span2 booktv. 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books. television for serious readers. now, here is historian, rachel devlin on the desegregation of american public schools.