tv Author Discussion on Race in America CSPAN September 2, 2019 12:50am-1:52am EDT
welcome, everyone. thanks for joining us. i'm a tv critic for the national public radio come and we are going to tackle a small topic, race in america and sold it in about a half an hour. [laughter] one thing i do want to point out we are going to take questions at the end of this, so i will ask and let you know and you can start lining up over here so while we are talking start thinking of what you might want to ask these wonderful men and yes we do want questions and not speeches we have the
distinguished henry louis gates junior next to him steve luxembourg the story of plessy versus ferguson. [applause] next to them the blinding of isaac would [applause] they talk about the progress and backlash against progress on the civil rights in america. first we want to show a little clip that will tell you a little bit about the reconstruction documentary that was spearhead spearheaded. this will give you a sense of some of the stuff we are going to talk about. this will be cool, let's check
this out. most of us know k our country fought a civi a civil war in the 1860s. the legend about what came afterwards with a chaotic and exhilarating and ultimately devastating. the man is reconstruction. it used to the reconstruction in school? a paragraph or two. we never really studied it. >> reconstruction was the shining moment on the founding of the country. overnight people who had been defined as property take leadership positions in the south. it's an incredible moment. they had no idea of the cliffs that they were heading towards. reconstruction produced a violent backlash, a racist
backlash. i wanted to tell the truth about the history, not to punish america. we can't get there if we don't acknowledge what we've done do you believe we are still undergoing the process of reconstruction? >> we are still trying to come to n terms with the consequence. it's a chapter of our history i that has been misrepresented and misunderstood. it's time we acknowledge the true story and complete the work of reconstructing america. [applause] i want to start with a question to you. people have learned about the reconstruction in school but they didn't learn about the
reduction. in the documentary to talk about what we should know about the reconstruction and how it relates to where we are going politically. the book black reconstruction followed by another harvard educated historian who wrote a book the betrayal of the negro. the book subtitle is 1860 to 1877. it starts in 1877 and goes to 1950 so my whole exposure to reconstruction which i never heard of until i took this
period 16 men were elected and only men could vote. 14 to the house, two to the senate. okay so now here is the most amazingat thing i've learned. becausthat i've learned. because of the civil rights act of 1866 which is still in the on the books black men in the confederacy to former slaves got the right to vote in 1867. if you were a freed black person, you only could vote in the united states in five of the six new england states, give it up to michelle, please. [applause] p you could only vote if you were a freed black person and have been for generations you could only vote in five of those, not
connecticut, a and in new york state if you and $250 worth of property. free black men in other words god the right to vote because of the amendment ratified in 1870. three years before, because of the reconstruction amendments, the former enslaved men and the confederate states got the right to vote and here's the punchline 80% of these eligible black men former slaves a legible to vote, 90% were illiterate because it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write. 80% of them registered in the summer of 1867. 80%. [applause] and in 1868 they elected uss grant, so how can i say that, grant overwhelmingly one the electoral college but he only won the popular vote by 300,000 odd votes.
500,000 black men voted for u.s. grant. they had elected a president of the united states and they did the same thingnt in 1872 hours e final surprise, there were three majority black states in the united states south carolina, thiisa city, louisiana, georgia, alabama,k florida and this scard people in the south and people in the north because it was as someone says in the film the first manifestation of black power is reconstruction was a conspiracy of white people in the north and white people in the south because it was too much power and coffin remained the leading export through the 1930s. that is the truth. it was about the money. racism, fundamentally is about economics. that's where the rubber hits the
road. [applause] we didn't learn any of that in school. your book is about plessy versus ferguson and helps in trying segregation. it's a decision a lot of people don't understand how it came to be. what did people must misunderstand and even where we are today? >> it's the most misunderstood case in history. most people would say that he was ejected from a railroad car for an example, but it was an arranged risk and critical because they were challenging the first criminalization of a passenger who decided to sit in the car reserved for white people.
solved. and of that 1 percent there was a very important group that was the abolitionist the youngest newest member was frederick douglass. when they tried to eject him from the train according to his memoir, he required the people to out him and said he grabbed the seat of the railroad car train and was so strong he lifted it up off of the bolts. i don't think that story is probably true. [laughter] so what we misunderstand is that it's about two narratives and one is about the people who make the decision but the other is the people who exist the black men and women who
resist separation you cannot have one without the other you cannot have ae case unless it is a civil suit and what animates the narrative because what i found is if you look at the number of precedents of those acting on their own without support and there always is support. with the states of intimidation the most important thing you can do is say no and then have somebody behind you.
your book upset me the most because i should know and i don't. so tell us how pivotal he was in the cause to advance civil rights in america. >> and african-american soldier battlefield decorated on his day of discharge after military service and to get into a dispute with a white bus driver on the way home the last leg homer he is to rendezvous with his wife after three years of separation. and asks can i step off the bus to use the restroom and he takes offense that even in dress uniform would ask. he curses him and to his
surprise he curses him back and says speak to me like a man i am a man just like you and at the next stop you said go ahead and get off he steps off the bus and has them arrested. and on the way to jail the police chief of south carolina beats him. and it becomes a major issue in the african-american press and eventually reaches harry truman that is outraged about a field decorated soldier has been treated this way and directs the prosecution of the police chief. now in 1946 there are not prosecutions of white cops were beating black citizens this is an extraordinary event in the south or anywhere. this is not occurring. and tremendous so moved by the story of the beating that in
the letter of which he writes the attorney general it directs the prosecutionen and also says we need to do more than just prosecute we need to establish a presidential committee on civil rights. out of that committee comes the desegregation of the armed forces of the united states triggered by thaty incident. it is tried before the united states district judge in charleston who never had an interest of race or justice but when the all white and all-male jury acquitted the police officer in 20 minutes , he is horrified and puts them on a journey of study and reflection that eventually makes him the first of the great southern civil rights judges. he writes the dissent with briggs versus elliott is one of those that comes to brown
versus board. ac>>. >> and it just shows you and like what we are talking about to show the redemption of plessy and truman is inspired and that becomes an argument for the d segregated schools that is the role of the court. reconstruction could not be rolled back without the conservative supreme court. so those in 1873. one of those cases of 1883 rendered null and void one of
the reasons i want to tell that story he is in eighth generation charlestonian but he is a decent man on the 1944 during the war everything i got from his book but he settles for equal pay for equal work. that was revolutionary in using plessy. supposed to put down the black t man what thurgood marshall was doing his turn it against the south. so yes we will have separate
but you will pay equal. >> but you needed a white judge to play along with the game and he did it. and he encouraged thurgood marshall to keep pushing and push foror another case that was planted to this a finger and he knew it would be because he wrote the dissent that becomes brown. that is an amazing story three people wrote books about the role of the judiciary in different independent ways. and the lessons to take away our bg was here this morning and they have a five / four court and the most important lesson from reconstruction for me is the rights that we think
are permanent like women's right to choose, affirmative-action, and those that can be taken away just like that that's why we have to register to vote. [applause] >> what is interesting to me i am reminded the civil rights. those advances only happen to black people.. and in particular of your book one reason truman defeated do we was because of the black
vote. truman is elected with a stunning upset because of the massive african-american turn out in four urban swingwi states that american politics would never be the same. and then to be hypocritical with the american and european alliance and where they went to die so that black people were not citizens of the united states and plessy is a whole line of cases with the
civil rights act in civil war amendments and then williams versus mississippi and then gains versus canada they did not embrace the cause of civil rights. and it is a slow process ending the white primary. and then brown versus board and then a line of cases.he i will not get into a debate and that nothing is permanent and that there has to be
people who advocate because the judges do not do this by their own initiative. >> look at the most famous dissent. >> i don't have problem with people reviewing my case. [laughter] but it is important not to look at the supreme court. whatat does that mean clerks we talk of diversity and ginsberg and cabe long - - kagan with nine white men there all of the same class and all of the same privilege. they all had wealth.
>> hent is the only southerner. that is not complete. and the refers to white supremacy in the dissent that the white race will always be superior. and then opposes the civil rights amendment and emancipation proclamation. then we do it not the congress. and by 1883 that he cares about more than any other dissente because he knew as a
seven or he would be excluded he cannot write it for a long time his wife claims that she plays the inkwell and said it was the next day. >> he is the devil. [laughter] hewhat they have from the office. there are flaws in the dissent but and then to sit in a room with eight other justices to be the only one to say we must have equal rights in 1896.
and was consistent about it. so we have a judge and it transforms so how do they not know what black people were going to at that time quick. >> it has caused me causes me to look hard at other southern whites who awakened during this era. they were raised in racism. charleston was certainly among the most segregated city in america have. how could he miss the treatment of african-americans? and what the trial did is that
it stripped the blinds away and saw the world as it existed and he felt he had a very comfortable life he was at the top of generations of his family was prominent for multiple generations and then became the most ostracized and vilified man in the white south he did it with his eyes open and when he came home after he got the white primary case he told his wife our lives will never be the same by allowing black people to vote and she said you have to do your job. he did it with his eyes open proper.
and then to bring elliott. knowing they would be nullified for what they did. meant tod say these plaintiffs have shown courage. and you have to understand why south carolina is so important i know you cannot comment about dylan ruth but he is the judge in that case but if somebody said guess where someone just killed by people at a church i would've said charleston. that is the hero for black power the black is stayed in the union, 48 percent of all
enslaved ancestors injuring through charleston. majority black state and reconstruction there were 20 black men elected to congress seven at one time. it is a paradox. and in 1860 there were 488,000 free black people living in the united states with three.9 million slaves of those you think they would all live north of the mason dixon line as soon as you can run
201863 so that when they were free they had a thousand acres of land so what do you do? they all stayed in the south the only reason why they left this out is because it had a long continuous that never went anywhere. >> i say in the book it is unlikely that plessy case would have been brought other than new orleans. because it was brought by a mixed-race group of three blacks that have been freed for 100, years. >> and they spoke french.
>> so now we will start taking questions so the whole point is to learn from history and inform us where we are right now. so to look at the story of reconstruction and thend idea of civil rights progress by a huge backlash. i'm not naming thei' - - naming names but what is the solution since you are the experts you have a great documentary how
do r we redeem the redemption? that is an excellent question. i believe and i definitely think the emergence of white supremacy with a bold inmanifestation every time there is a black family living in the white house i cannot see how anybody in the room would doubt that.ca that drove some fellow americans crazy. in the history of the black church and said they had a freedom high. it when racism is over.
and america at its best the election of barack obama is america at its best. because so many issues that they were not resolved by reconstruction not trying to vilify south carolina. and i'm not saying everybody but let me be clear people ask me i say only god knows it's in a person's heart. i am not into name-calling but i do know that donald trump is a genius to manipulate white
supremacist and what we have to do is fight and the manifestation to crash it whenever it rises its ugly head. [applause] >> a couple of you brought up how things have changed or how they have moved on. in 1945 was the start of the racism. but he gave racist another platform but once barack obama was elected that show them because a black man was in a powerful position so what are
the ramifications when in reality they are showing how they have always been too thinking we got past this but now we allow them to continue ntthinking this is something we have overcome when that risa mrs. one --dash racism is a very strong issue. >> let me say this when the first africans step off the boat 400 years ago this was a great sin of america, slavery. the great constitutional convention was the compromise that they would not join if they could be abolished.
to have a more perfect union. and the world of lynching and early 20th century. and african-americans vote. so what is the most important case? and to say smith versus albright. what is that? and then if we got the vote everything else will work itself out. >> with the national conversation we are either
talking about it or avoiding talking about it. [applause] and the job of the historian is to remind us that white supremacy is not a new thing unless people like us, why are we writing these histories and engaging in this? we cannot have this conversation in a real way. white supremacy is not new. we know that just because it is simmering and buried does not mean it is gone in a real continuing way. >> it is very important that we don't talk about the phenomenon as it is frozen in time. and that is one of the surprises of reconstruction we
had anti- black racism to justify the claims that were genetically to justify slavery in the 17th century at least enlightenment but during the civil war as racism morphed into something else because white a people had all this power. there are p very few claims black man raped white women before the end of the civil war and frederick douglass and ida b wells would use that as an example. how come they didn't do it during the civil war when the white men were away? they didn't.
there are virtually none that i can even think of. but it becomes the claim we have to protect white women hood from the black predators who are genetically. who saw birth of a nation? and the rollback of reconstruction. and after eating chicken wings thaten it is legal for black men were people of different races to get married and it is about the racist.
so this is an invention that is amazing. that we have to study how anti- black racism continues and goes underground and resurfaces in order to fight it. the best way is through education and proximity through the surprising fact that so many black-and-white kids voted through the segregated schools today they would have a heart attack they could nott believe that would be translated into the situation we seee today.
>>. >> i am a missionary and the copyright author of black lives matter and the hijacking but is actually blackface but with no organizations and black lives matter.com meaning with copyright infringement and defamation. so my questionn is when a person t at the library of congress rates the work or creates a work that work not only get stolen but then continues to be circulated at
the same as copy of my movie to sell it boot leg how are we as united people to uphold the us copyright for everybody as we are here at the national book festival and that is what we are all about to protect everybody's copyright. so this is a good question that was the moral integrity of the work. >> i'm sorry to interrupt we are not copyrighter lawyers we don't really know the details of that thank you very much but i have to move on. thank you very much. who was the next question?
say a prayer every day from clarence thomas. [laughter] >> hang in there. [laughter] let us join hands in prayer. [laughter] >> it is an amazing story that the great grandmother was free of the slave in 1779. >>. >> so that mixed rates didn't have all of the rights but they were freed but that is an
example of somebody who can change as the judge does there are two examples and i would say that is the stories in my book and this is what changes over the course of the lifetime and in 1876 addressing the republican national convention the first black man to do so and told them he called it yourhed constitution your decision to enfranchise them and said how do you follow through on what you have accomplished? that is the message that people need to hear we always have the power how do we follow through? >> thank you for coming out and showing your knowledge.
and to professor gates so can syou share with us the stories about the achievements of the reconstruction legislature that have several black members quick. >> i can do that quickly. it, is such a shock there was not statewide public schools in the united states like most particularly in the south if you were wealthy you could educate your child privately. there were public schools don't get me wrong butwi not date wide public school systems and that's one of the best things that came out of reconstruction governments in the south of black men elected
and the white men and this was the first grand experiment with their interracial democracy. they tried to get off the ground and that was when of the most of the benefits but voter suppression and louisiana has that prevention in 1898 the first is mississippi in 1890 and to circumvent the 15th amendment. this is how effective it was in 189,130,000 blackman and after the state constitution was adopted and the new regulations were implemented by 19 oh 41 of the 30000 were
reduced 1342. by 1904 it is amazing when we see voter suppression today that is we have to keep in mind. >> i am a social studies supervisor. you say the best way to fight against racism and white supremacy is through education however what advice do you give someone for those who try to fight for quality education especially in our country especially with social studies cracks those who never have an opportunity to learn anything about this because they're not
even classes for that. but it is important they could have a close one - - a class once every rotation for 45 minutes. may be. so i cannot help but think especially thinking about what they are able to do. soso this is a civil rights issue for what is going on in this country. [applause] people like me who are fired up every single day because you know the kids are not learning anything how to function in society. >> the most radical thing that could happen the most amount of money that spent on a
student would be exactly the same if every school district in the united states. [applause] and that would neutralize the economic issue i was blessed that they went to public school give me a break. that isn't the way that it is. >> were not telling you how to spend your time and then to be active i'm not saying it is your responsibility but it is your cause and the only way to make it everybody's cause is to make it loud in public. [applause] >> i am a descendent of slaves and a proud social stage one -
- studies teacher from maryland. [applause] just looking at my family tree. what do you guys think the role of reparations couldld be but those racial issues quick. >> and never met a white person in private that was for reparations. [laughter] when the senate majority leaders and the conversation of slavery and all the other oppressions people from the end of slavery through today we don't have a real conversation about slavery and reparations so as a political matter they can be repaid in
so many ways other than money that reduces to a question of payment like education your comment about equal amount of money spent that is a start to the reparations. >> i agree. >> and affirmative action. because white women benefited more from affirmative action than any blackwe person we need to keep that for gender and racial equality. is about to go down. it's one of my worst nightmares when it comes up in court it will bite the dust. >> that those people that are not racist but what policy
remedy to equalize the outcome? [laughter] you are just exposing our in expertise. even the judge. [laughter] so what strikes me is we have to get people to admit the driving force with these conditions is racism and prejudice. and once we can agree on that we can see about pulling that systemic prejudice and racism out of the system that is what
all of us are talking about why we talk about education and the impact of d segregating the armed forces and using that as an argument and trying to look at the systemic forces backed in prejudice and opportunistic strategic racism. so now you look at what are the mechanisms and have always hoped with those and what we see now in the age of trump is
that they still don't change and that's the biggest challenge. >> thank you for your wonderful presentation and to ask any of you if you have any suggestions that we see on a daily basis those young people that have never received treatment or job training and once they are in the criminal justice system. >> this is the issue that i thinkst every judge deals with everyday. and 25 percent of w the prisoners it's crazy.
and everyone pleading guilty how far do you go in school cracks virtually all of them and talking about education that is the path to the jailhouse and the lack of it and one uniting figure young men of color they have not had educational achievement or opportunity we will not turn around until we address these problems. >> that isn't within the purvie purview. that may be a question we each have to ask you've got it.
thank you very much you can purchase after the event if you want to talk. >> and in washington dc given the fact the necessary dialogu dialogue, do you suggest of those remedies? >> i will say congress has a role the executive and you cannot just rely on the courts but it has to be the entire country and the educators and
then to tell this story over and over and over again to younger and younger audiences this is part of the national narrative. i call that the lynching museum and i encourage you to go and the narrative. and i am so happy for that popularity that we have a political message each week even those that came here thousands of years ago.
we are all immigrants and when we do dna analysis the matter your differences under the microscope you are 99.99 percent to say we are in all of this together. we are all americans. we don't need walls. >> and one thing to tell a story teller to remind the country raciallac justice has never come easily. there is always resistance it is a history of the united states with the bash lapland -