tv African Americans in Missouri CSPAN March 11, 2018 2:30pm-4:01pm EDT
staff recently traveled to shawnee, oklahoma to recently learn about its history. learn more about shawnee and are other stops on c-span.org/cities tour. you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. tv,, on american history gary kremer, executive director of the state historical society of missouri discusses his book. the book traces the military history of african-americans, looking at the transition -- traces the hit and the movement to missouri's urban areas to seek new opportunities. the kansas city public library hosted this event. it is about one hour and 20 minutes.
the state of missouri, at the same time, is about to cut its phd program history. it is a sign. he is a great defender. of the liberal arts and liberal arts education. the university of missouri at both columbia is not doing the right things by the liberal arts. lineage in history is extraordinary. it relates directly to black history month, which we are in. he was a student of lorenzo green, writing the first edition of missouri's black heritage. he was himself a student of carter woods, the great historian and founder of black
history day, which became black history week, which became like history month. becamed like to think it black history year. we try to live up to that. essays, thenal beginning of his new book, he indicates he has occasionally been asked how white i like him to write black history. he mentions lorenzo green helped him answer the question by introducing them to the work of august meier, herbert avenue decker, he also quotes lorenzo green was seems to be more important. lorenzo green's favorite metaphor about history, it is a tapestry with many colored threads. a multicolored tapestry. strength, the strength of
great historians is finding many thate cultural threads in tapestry and training his life. has stories ofe particular places in missouri's history, anytown, arrow rock, which were african-american communities. two of them were exclusively african-american, one was a community originally of enslaved which became as, different community by 1900. this story of these communities we don't know enough about our themselves extraordinary. , theest parts of his book best part of his understanding of history are the personal stories to national important political figures. both of whom he has talked about.
the latter worked with my great-grandfather to make sure no democratic foe in -- vote in our area went undercounted. carver in histon nathaniel bruce and nathan young fighting over the legacies of booker t. washington. the vocational track for african-americans on one side, the value of the liberal arts. it is a fight that goes on to this day. women, josephine yates, her extraordinary story. is importance of education throughout her life and all of the essays. some of you may have known the whitley sisters of kansas city,
an extraordinary group of sisters. i need to of them. -- i knew two of them. there must embody the most 200 years of can history. a remarkable tapestry of great historians. tonight we have greater -- gary kramer. [applause] gary: thank you for being here. i was afraid nobody would show ownso i brought my audience. some of you showed up, so that is great. abouting to talk tonight -- i was asked to talk about two books. race and meaning and the carver
book. we will see if we get to the second book. it is gratifying to be her to help you celebrate black history month. as i am sure you know, the origins of black history month started with dr. carter jude once in, the founder of the black history movement. woodson was born in 1875, a native of virginia, born of nine children of former slaves. he did not even start high school until he was 20 years old . he spent much of his life working in coal mines of virginia. after completing high school in 1.5 years, he attended college in kentucky, then the university of chicago.
in 1912, he earned a phd in history from harvard. only the second african-american , do boys being the first. woodson spent a large part of his career teaching in high school because he couldn't get a job in a way college. he taught at dumbarton high school. we can talk on my about that school, it produced a tremendous number of renaissance writers -- harlem renaissance writers. he taught there for most of his career. in 1915, he started an organization called the association for the study of equal life in history. the next year, he started to publish a journal called the journal of neighborly history. ,he organization still exists
now called the association for the study of african american life in history. i love this picture of woodson. he looks pretty austere and demanding. all of the stories i have heard about him is he is in fact that way. woodson never married. say isked why, he would have a mistress. she is history. she is jealous. business. 1928, a guy named lorenzo c to came to washington d study medicine at howard university. he changed his major to history after having classes with a guy named dr. charles wesley.
in 1928, lorenzo green went to assistant forarch dr. carter g woodson. initially, green once told me he felt sorry for woods. the man spending his life on something that didn't make any sense. fortunately for us, he kept his ire during his years of working for woodson. 1930, he, february 10, penned this entry after attending a negro league history week event during which african-american congressman john lynch spoke to a crowd of 5000 people.
has been an unforgettable day. tonight involvement makes me a confirmed and dedicated associate of dr. woodson. negro league history shall henceforth be my life's work. it is my cause, and it shall transcend everything else. 1933, lorenzo j green came to jefferson city, missouri, to teach at lincoln university. in theree decades later, late 1960's, i became his research assistant. he tried to instill in me the same level of commitment to him and to african-american history that woodson had instilled in him. he wanted me to see african-american history as a cause, just as he had.
it was one of the great blessings of my life, to be able to work with dr. green and tell him that in 1988. much of my apprenticeship with dr. green consisted of listening to dr. green's stories about woodson and the association, and those incredibly difficult struggling days. i could regale you with stories. one of my favorites was they had this relationship. woodson was very demanding. it was a time when lachman are being lynched -- black men are being lynched and life is serious. we believed african-american history would be a tool by which race relations in the u.s. could be improved. green told me more than once that woodson would not allow his
research assistant to go out on dates socially. finally, green had had it. he decided i am going out to a movie with a girl. we are going on a date. fortune to walk out of the theater with his girlfriend as woodson is taking what he called his evening constitutional, and confronted them on the sidewalk. by his firsted him name, it was always mr. greene and dr. what's in. green, some of you may have known him. he was a diminutive man, woodson was a big guy. woodson said i couldn't help it. he confront -- they confronted each other on the sidewalk.
woodson towering over him said mr. greene, what are you doing? me the 15th amendment abolished slavery. that's what i wanted to tell him. he wasn't going to do that. without giving green a chance to respond, he said mr. greene, we scholars don't have time for such frivolity. green said he would not speak to him for about one month. marryeen himself did not until he was almost 50 years old. book i am going to talk about has a lot of essays in it about things over 40 years. withted to start off trying to explain why lorenzo
green bothered to come to lead him university in 1933. at a book i authored, there is an introductory chapter titled my black experience in missouri. in that chapter, lorenzo describes how he came to jefferson city from washington, d.c.. by this time, he was a writer at columbia university, where he finished his phd in new york. he has never really been much in the south, except for a bookselling tour he did for woodson. he is not really expecting what he finds. he has no idea what it is going to be like. the train and tries to hell a cab. he is just ignored. this goes on for five times
letl one of the cabdrivers him have it straight. he said take the cab over there. green took the cab owned by an african-american businessman in jefferson city. i am not even going to get to the point i want to make. i am prone to sidetracking. imagine this. , the 20's,e period 30's, 40's, 50's, into the early 1960's, there were african-american legislators elected from kansas city and st. louis starting in 1920. when a black man was elected to the missouri jefferson assembly, they are sent to the city to recognize their constituents. there is no place he could stay.
he stayed in a dormitory room on the university campus. and were,t eat including the cafeteria of the capital. he ate in the cafeteria of lincoln university. green goes to the campus, not a hotel. said, i got ready for my first evening in jefferson city. went as far, about three andks to a cafe drugstore ordered a hamburger. him we don'tr told serve -- was rather upset and annoyed about this. will you sell me a pint
of ice cream. the proprietor said yes, but you can't eat it in here. he took his pint of ice cream and went back to lincoln university a few blocks away. by the time he was so discredited -- discussed did he didn't eat his ice cream. he swore the next he would get out of jefferson missouri. sun was day, the shining, his students were me heng, and he told thought maybe this was exactly the place he needed to be. fortunately for me, he stayed more than 50 years. back to lincoln. following world war i, the lincoln institute was 1866 my soldiers
of the 65th colored infantry. created by thee former black soldiers. it was to train african-american craftsman in things like shoe cobbling, shoe horsing, so forth. it was vocational skills. i, especially african-american men by the thousands answered the call to serve their country in world war african-americans across the country saw the obvious inconsistency of african-american men being asked to defend the country in a war that was supposed to make the whilesafe for democracy
not being allowed to participate in the basic benefits of a democratic society. in 1917 to tryh to get the university of missouri,the state of to open up the university of missouri in columbia to african-americans. that wasn't going to happen. you may know it didn't happen for another 30 years. then, only because of a court case. legislators -- the first african-american legislative -- legislator was elected in 1920. he was asked to sponsor a piece of legislation that would change the name of lincoln institute to lincoln university. this was missouri's response.
you want access to a university, we will give you access. we will call it lincoln university. they did add more money to the budget than had ever previously been given, $500,000 increase that your. young, whosethan b son lived there many years. he wrote the book, the history of the american in kansas city. -- that was written by tries tos son for the do what he thinks needs to be done. he takes the half $1 million increase in budget and begins to scholarsleague trained
and recruit them to come to lincoln university. one of the first of those was sterling brown. ingraduated from harvard 1921. he went to the dunbar high school in washington, d.c. he came out to lincoln to teach english. don't know about your familiarity with african-american poets. if you ask most scholars to name the top five or six of the 20th century, sterling ground is going to be on one most of those lists. sterling brown didn't like lincoln or jefferson city. he is into the tales.nd folk
at that time, link universities -- lincoln university's campus was rigid. you couldn't listen to blues or jazz on the campus. that was low class negro league music. you had to listen to classical music. the thing you really couldn't do was hang out where some of the juke joints and dives were. that's what sterling brown wanted to do. he wanted to listen to the folktales -- if you are not brown, heith sterling only stayed a couple of years in missouri. back to washington, d.c. and spent his career at howard university. famous poemsost are about jefferson city, missouri. he wrote a series that are now famous called his slim greer in a about a black waiter
hotel in jefferson city, missouri. my favorite is slim goes to hell, where he falls asleep and has this dream he thinks he has gone to heaven. st. peter tells them i want you to check things out in hell and report to me. it is a long fall. he istely, he discovers not in hell, he is in georgia and the devil is a cracker sheriff. it is very funny and witty. one of his most famous is called checkers, about a checker game that occurred every saturday night at the foot of the lincoln university between a local ne'er-do-well and a pastor of the second baptist church. you can imagine where the conversation goes. people like this, like
sterling brown and his good friend cecil blue, who also went to harvard, and a guy named green. these guys named blue and green who were both unmarried rented a house on lafayette street. they called themselves the color boys, and they called their house the monastery. they were both unmarried. when people of great prominence would come to jefferson city and couldn't find a place to stay, he would stay with the colored boys in the monastery. unfortunately, the city of jefferson just for that building down in the last few months. it is truly a shame. my point is that lorenzo came to lincoln university because it was a place of great excitement.
last year, one of the last of the surviving professors of that era died. he was 98 years old, a playwright named thomas pauly, a very good friend of mine. pauly grew up on the campus of virginia state college in virginia. his father was a faculty member at that all-black school. he went to the university of i -- iowa to study theater. he was the only black student in the 1930's in that program. one of the requirements of the program was to write a play, and his classmates had to put it on. he wrote this play with all-black characters, and the protagonist was a black preacher.
the role of that preacher was played by his classmate, a guy by the name of tennessee williams. pauly wanted to become an actor. he wanted to play bigger thomas in richard wright's native son. he wrote to richard wright, he says, i want to play the lead world. richard wright says i am having trouble raising money to put this on. you better get yourself a summer job. cecil blue persuaded him to come to this out of the way place called lincoln university in jefferson city, missouri, for one summer to teach english in the summer of 1940.
he stayed for 70 years. i asked him once, why did you stay at lincoln university? you could have gone anywhere you want to. he told me he found more black intellectuals and more black intellectual activity at lincoln university than he did anywhere else in the world. i am very grateful that he did. the next piece i want to talk about is the one we used on the cover of this book. how to introduce this? i was working on two projects simultaneously. one in the heart of the ozarks, and one in kansas city. one of the great unknown realities of african-american life in missouri is that african-americans have lived in all 114 counties. if you ask people today where do
blacks live in missouri, they say kansas city, st. louis, and they might say the corridor of little dixie. there were many african-americans in the ozarks. frankly, we think today of the ozarks as a place where groups like the christian identity movement and the ku klux klan hangout, and they do, but there was a time of these pockets of african-americans. one of my favorites, if you have ever driven from kansas to missouri to lebanon, about halfway there, you see a sign that says eldritch, four miles. there has not been an african-american that lived in eldritch since 1941. it is named for a black man and was once in all-black town.
there were a large number of african-americans that came out of the south as part of what the historians called the great exodus. this is a biblical metaphor of -- fleeing captivity in egypt. 1877,he compromise of when the democrats allowed the republican hayes to become president, and the antecedent of what happened in florida a few years ago. the agreement was if your guy can become president, in exchange, you have to pull the troops out of the south that are protecting the african-americans. it became what historians called the restoration of home rule. it was a terrible time. ofs was the first exodus
africans americans out of the south. they came up from the mississippi river, and headed to the promised land of kansas. why was kansas they promised land? because of the association with john brown and abolitionism. what they found in the ozarks was land that had never been taken by anybody. it was still available for homesteading. why wasn't it taken? you have been to the ozarks. [laughter] gary: it was rocky and hilly, and it was land. one of the things african-american scholars agree on is what does it mean to be free? it means doing what you could not do when you were not free.
it means having your own family, your own church, euro school, -- your own school, and having your own land. people stopped in the ozarks and created communities. one of those was in right county, 30 miles south of lebanon in a little town called parkville. -- hard bill. you can trace this through the census. americans --y 20 20 african-americans live there. five kids born in tennessee. you know these are the exodus to. people told me i needed to go see miss irene marcus.
went to see her. i am talking to her. i am asking her many questions about general hospital number two. i say, what year were you born in kansas city? she says, i was not born in kansas city. where were you born? a little place you have never heard of, hartville. yeah, i have heard of it. i have been trying to find information about it. this is the mother and this is the father of irene marcus. she is in her late 90's now. there is an essay in this book about her. in 1920, this is a prototypical, classical story of the great
migration of african-americans leaving the south for the north and rural missouri for urban missouri. in 1920, that man and that woman moved to kansas city with these three little girls because her father had already left hartville and came to kansas city a few years earlier to work for the wilson packing company. this picture was taken as they were getting ready to move. they move in with their grandparents, this woman's parents. a very typical fashion of an extended family. i think i have the exact address. they live at 2446 flora, just up
the street from the old bethel church. the house is gone now. it was taken out by the freeway. these little girls come to live with their grandparents and parents in a little bungalow on flora avenue. within a few months, their mom dies of double pneumonia. she was 22 years old. their father is having trouble finding a job, so he moves to california, the state. these little girls are raised by their grandparents on flora avenue. somebody asked about the bethel church. the basement was finished, and the upstairs was not. somebody heard there were these three little girls that needed to be in sunday school. somebody came and took them to
sunday school, and for the rest of their lives they went to the bethel baptist church. they called themselves the daughters of bethel. here is a picture of the three of them in 1939. gertrude was the oldest. she is deceased. irene was the youngest. she is in her late 90's. geneva is the middle child, and she is also in her late 90's. i think she is 99. two of the three are still living. here they are in the late 1990's, so gertrude is gone, but they were in incredible source of inspiration and information for me over the course of two decades. they were and are remarkable
women whose lives parallel the struggle. they were involved in the integration of stores like the jones store, which would allow african-americans come in but not try on clothes for example. gertrude had one of the most remarkable memories, and one of the ironies is in the late 1930's, there is a student at lincoln university, and she worked for a guy named lorenzo green. we had that in common. i am not going to get very far in this book. i got interested in the community of leeds in kansas city after working on a project in st. louis in the community of kenlock. leeds is exactly what the whole
great migration was about. african-americans moving from the south to the north, from rural missouri to urban misery. -- to urban missouri. the people who lived out in leeds, and it was roughly bounded by 36th street on the north -- 33rd street on the north, 36 street on the south . the blue river on the east, and roughly colorado and denver streets on the west. this was a self-contained town, two subdivisions. this is the community where alvin brooks grew up, where senator yvonne wilson grew up. it was a remarkable thing, but many of these people by 1917,
1918, the core of the african-american community in kansas city is filling up. many of these people did not want to live in the inner city. was made it so attractive it allowed these migrants to replicate their southern lifestyle. it is part of the city, but it is not paid attention to buy the city. there is no street paving, knows -- no sewers, no water supply. in fact, the blue river was only incorporated into the city as a vehicle to carry raw sewage out of the city. this community grows up were african-americans can have their butchering hogs, milk cows, their horses, do whatever they want to do in terms of hunting and fishing.
they can fish in the blue river, hunt on these hillsides. like one person said, it was like the garden of eden. many of the houses, if you look at this house carefully, you can see it is really a shotgun house that has been added to. a shotgun house that is one room wide and two or more rooms deep. as one woman said, he did not -- it didn't matter how many kids you had, you got to rooms. by the 1920's, 80% of these residents in this community own their own homes. it is white folks who own the land, entrepreneurs who take advantage of the desire of african-americans to live out here and sell the land on time,
on monthly payments. there is a sign at the entrance to the community that said, "exclusively for colored." this is a totally segregated community. it is a consequence of segregation, of the inability through restrictive covenants and downright racial segregation, the consequence of the inability of african-americans to purchase land elsewhere in the city of kansas city. one of these little kids is senator elon wilson in front of -- yvonne wilson in front of their house on allen street. she told me, you can use that picture, just don't tell them which one i am. there was a plant across the
river where a lot of the african-american men worked in what was white leeds where the old chevrolet plant was. their own school, dunbar elementary school, long ago torn down. this was a paper drive in world war ii. the school was the focal point of collecting. i have to make the point, and i interviewed a lot of people who grew up in this community, and it is hard for me to describe the intensity and the warmth and the love with which they talked about this community. they may have been poor, but there was a real sense of community and support for each other.
one man, i think it might have been alvin brooks who summed up, maybe not him, but when i asked about the school experience, he said the thing about those black teachers, they would not let you fail. i have never forgotten that phrase. they would not let you fail. they lived in the community. they went to the same churches. one man told me, my daddy came to school and whooped me in front of the whole damned class because i talked back to the teacher. there was a tremendous pride. where did these kids go to high school? they went to lincoln because there was no place else to go. there was a tremendous conflict between the african-americans of leeds and the african-americans of the inner-city.
it is interesting because the kids would have to, basically , they would walk to catch the 31st street streetcar, and the streets of leeds were muddy. if you have mud on your shoes, that would identify you as a kid from leeds. a lot of these kids would take their shoes off and walk barefoot through the mud. they would put their shoes on when they got to school. there were a lot of fights between the school kids -- graduates of dunbar and the students from the inner-city. this was the taxicab for the whole town, the whole community. he would, for a few cents, he
would take you down the hill to catch the 31st street streetcar and come pick you up. he actually did a thriving business. there was also, at the foot of the hill, the liberty park. i'm sure you all know this was a time when african-americans could not go to the city park, but if they did, they had to go to what was called watermelon hill. see -- doesl anybody know where this is? i have been to a couple of leeds reunions there in the last couple of years, and it is always a great party on a saturday afternoon. the space is there, and just before election time, guess who would show up with loads of coal or bread or milk? tom pendergast and hand it out.
folks always said you always knew when election was coming up because pendergast would show up with something to hand out. that moves us to the next topic, a guy named william j thompkins, and african-american doctor who went to lincoln institute. he was born in 1879 in jefferson city, went to lincoln institute, and then went through eight years of school at lincoln, including high school and a couple of years of college. it -- he then went to howard medical school, graduated from medical school, and back to kansas city in 1906 to practice medicine. he was the first african-american doctor to serve as the superintendent of general hospital number two.
when general hospital number two was first established, for roughly the first decade, the superintendent's were always white. thompkins is the first one. he is also an unusual character in this time because he is a black democrat. from this time to the early and mid-1920's, all over the country, most african-americans voted overwhelmingly republican, honoring the party of the so-called great emancipator. thompkins was different, and i would argue he is one of the key reasons nationally that african-americans switch over to the democratic party in the 1930's. already in the 1920's, he is hooking up with pendergast and a guy named felix payne. payne was the principal connection for the black
community to pendergast. i interviewed this man's daughter about 10 years ago in washington, d.c. she is the last survivor of the family. she said, pendergast was over all the time. come over, and they go outside to talk. at that time in the 1920's, there is an african-american newspaper here. of course, it is still here. it was the republican newspaper. pendergast and thompkins and payne with pendergast's money to create a democratic newspaper called the kansas city democrat. -- the kansas city american. i don't think there is any
dispute that he was involved. thompkins, i think this is the old hospital number two that had been a city hospital that was abandoned and became the hospital for african-americans. this is tompkins sitting in the middle in the front row outside the old general hospital number two. his office was down at the corner of 18th and paseo in what was called the thompkins building. starting in 1928, you go back and read his editorials, and he really rips a guy named herbert hoover running for president. he was very strongly supportive of all smith. part of his argument was that all smith was a catholic, and
catholics were oppressed, so here's a guy i can vote for because he understands what a person is. -- what oppression is. obviously, al smith didn't win. you probably did not know that. in 1932, thompkins goes all out for fdr. no sooner than the election is over that thompkins start asking white democrats all over the state to help them get a job in -- him get a job in washington, d.c. he wanted to be the governor of the virgin islands. that did not happen. in 1934, fdr appointed him the recorder of deeds for the district of columbia, which was a job once held by frederick douglass. since the 1880's, african-americans had always been appointed. he moves his family to washington, d.c. his daughter was only six.
she is now 90 years old. i think maybe i am going to skip. -- i say i am going to skip, and i realize i can't skip that. a couple of decades later, dr. percy c turner took over as the superintendent of general hospital number two. he also conducted a school for nurses. in the late 1920's, there was this great new resort area called the lake of the ozarks. he wanted to take a graduating class of nurses there to celebrate the completion of their course. i am sure it comes as no surprise to you that they were not allowed to do anything at the lake of the ozarks. the long and the short of it is that turner decides to build his own damn lake.
he was a hunter and fisherman, and he discovered a small black community in morgan county near the little town of versailles. exact when heo be , buys the land. he buys a couple of acres of land and the sized to -- decides to create this lake and resort and sell some lots off of it like the lake of the ozarks to make some money and also hunt and fish. he does that, but doesn't have enough money to build a dam. how is he going to build a dam? it is a 15 acre lake. it is a beautiful spot, still there near the town of stover.
so turner's desire to build a dam in a lake corresponds with pendergast's desire for the black vote. over the course of the couple of years, they cut a deal with a guy who is now in washington, ,.c. named william thompkins who facilitates them getting a wpa grant to build a public dam. -- to build a lake. how can you do that if it is going to be used privately? the stipulation was that if there is ever a drought, they will open it up to the public. we have not had that in all those years.
it is a remarkable place. there are cabins there. there are some world war i french railroad cars that were hauled over and turned into cabins. this is mr. snell's cabin. he lived here in kansas city and went to dr. turner as a patient, and dr. turner prescribed for him as some rest out at his lake. [laughter] gary: in about 1938 or 1939, mr. -- mr. snell stayed there until may of 1973. he built this little house. this is the entrance.
when he died, he wanted to be able to see who was coming and going to his lake. one of the most remarkable things about this project was it was a godsend to the white community because it provided jobs to these out of work farmers through the wpa, and secondly and most dramatically, i am still stunned by this. there was no medical care for white folks out there. all of a sudden here come these black doctors to this lake. eventually a black doctor married someone in st. louis, a st. louis doctor came out, then teachers started coming, then someone from topeka, and someone from des moines, and it became an area for african-americans from the entire midwest.
a neighboring farm is occupied in the 1930's by a family named wray. here is a picture i took, this is probably 10 or 15 years ago. it is a beautiful spot. here are the wray's, mother and daughter. the woman sitting down is the mother, and that is her daughter standing. imagine this, mrs. wray was having gynecological problems. there is no doctor. the african-americans would come down from kansas city, and they would trade -- there is no electricity, no refrigeration, so they would trade produce for services.
the black doctors would take care of the community in exchange for chickens and tomatoes and so forth. mrs. wray has some serious medical issues. her husband says to her, the next time dr. turner is out here, you better have him examine you. dr. turner examines this woman, and he says you need a hysterectomy. you need to be in the hospital. he takes her in his car to general hospital number two at a time when black men are being lynched for whistling at white women. he performs a hysterectomy on her, then takes her into his home. he and his wife, for weeks while she recovers. that went so well that the next
summer, the two little girls, they needed tonsillectomy's. dr. turner took them to kansas city to perform tonsillectomies on them. i tracked that woman down in the late 1990's. she lived to be 98. she has been dead for a number of years. i was warned by her daughters, mom is not very cogent, not very coherent. i went there, and i tried to talk to her, and it was pretty muddled. anticipating this, i had taken a picture of dr. turner with me. i showed her that picture, and tears started rolling down her eyes, her cheeks, and she just started to say over and over
again, what a wonderful man, what a wonderful man, what a wonderful man. that is a hell of an experience. that is a kind of complicated story. i am probably over time. do i have time for one more story? >> one more. gary: i am going to skip through. this is a man who lived in kansas city, now deceased, too. virtually all the people i have talked to are now dead. i hope there is no connection. this is a perfect example of the great migration. he grew up on a farm in saline county near the little town of slater near slater and elrock.
i did a project, there was a chapter in this book called aero rock about a town that was 40% black. hundreds of people today. it is a remarkably interesting story. bishop williams, i got to know him pretty well and interviewed him several times, a beautiful baritone voice. after weeks of talking to him and trying to understand this community, one day we are eating our ham sandwiches on the boardwalk in arrowrock, and he leans over to me and says, you know, i wasn't always a preacher. yeah? what were you? "i used to sing the blues." for many years he would write -- ride riverboats up and down
the missouri and sing the blues with the hopes of making it big as a singer on 12th and divine, 18th and vine, and as he put it living less than a godly life. he told me in essence what was his conversion experience. if you heard this man tell the story, you certainly believed he believed it. he could not make a living singing the blues, so he has a day job delivering coal living in one room of the tenement house down near 18th and vine. one day he came home, and he was so physically exhausted, he said, i did not wash up or do anything. i just went to my room and climbed in bed. he is in bed five or six
minutes, and he heard a noise in the hallway. so he said i got up to investigate. he opened the door and looked down the hallway, and he saw a coffin. and it scared him because the coffin started moving toward him, so he went back in his room, slammed the door shut, climbed under the covers, and he waited. before long, the door of the room opened. the coffin comes into the room of its own power. i am not making this up. the coffin came around his bed to the side of the bed, and all of a sudden the lid springs
open, and as he said, would you think i see? why, it's me. he sees himself dead in the coffin. then, he said, then i grabbed me, meaning the body in the coffin reached up and grabbed him by the shirt, and is said brother williams, you need to be preaching the word of the lord. guess what he did? he got him a church. [laughter] and he preached the word of the lord for the rest of his life. he told that story in part to make it clear that you don't take preaching up, he said, preaching takes you up. i have gone through about a 10th of what i wanted to talk about. that is because i am loquacious. i would just ask the question, what does this mean?
what does this mean? 20 years ago, 1995, i was working on a project, trying to understand that incredibly rich history and how the community has become what it has become. there was a recently retired african-american businessman who was helping me as a volunteer. one day we go out to eat in his red corvette, not my old pickup, and it just so happens that the o.j. simpson jury is out. so i say to this man, well, bill, jury's out on o.j. he says, yeah, the jury is out. i, who think oj is guilty, continue the conversation saying, only one conclusion they
can come to. yeah, bill says, there is only one conclusion, and he pauses for effect, and says he is innocent. i am stunned because i cannot understand why he doesn't see the world the way i do. he proceeded to tell me that as a black man driving a red corvette in st. louis, he has been rousted by more cops than you can count who first of all assume he has stolen the car, and when he can finally persuade them that he has not stolen it, he owns it, they assume he is a pimp or drug dealer. what was he telling me? he was telling me that his history and my history were fundamentally different, and i would submit to you that in a very fundamental way, and this will get me in trouble, but in a very fundamental way, black people in america and white people in america see the world
differently, and it is because we have different histories. if i am right, and i almost always am -- [laughter] gary: that's not true, ask my wife. if i am right, doesn't it make sense that we should try to understand those histories? because the history is the foundation of the position we take today. that is what has driven me for nearly five decades now, and i would hope that you would be inclined to at least explore some of those different histories as a way of understanding the world in which we live. thank you very much. [applause]
gary: thank you. thank you. i have gone on ridiculously long. do we still have time for a couple of questions? >> sure. make sure you come up to the microphone so the people at home can hear you. >> gary, i don't have a question, but i spent most of my childhood in brunswick, missouri. my dad was the local general practitioner. he believed in the hippocratic oath. he cared for everyone, regardless of whether they could pay or not. he tragically lost his life in an automobile crash on highway 24 making a house call. he died the first day of classes my sophomore year at mizzou. when my dad's funeral occurred
on september 15 in brunswick, missouri, at the united methodists church, the blacks of brunswick did not enter the methodist church. they stood outside the church under a tree. when my mother and i walked out, they came over and approached us and said, lucinda and barbara, or miss rice and mrs. rice, what are we going to do now without doc rice? no one will take care of us. my dad did not care whether you were black, white, methodist, didn't make any difference, catholic, he cared for you. near brunswick, missouri, is the former tuskegee institute of mid-america of the vocational
school. gary: there is an essay in here to the dalton area and established a school that he called the tuskegee of the midwest that existed into the early 1960's. >> i knew many of the people who graduated there. the lady who was our dressmaker, our seamstress, was incredible. inan recall growing up segregated brunswick, which it was, until i entered the sixth grade and school was integrated. however, brunswick did it a little differently. they integrated seventh through 12th grade the first year, and then elementary school and kindergarten were united the next school year. i remember well one of the great
basketball players on our basketball team. his name was freddie collins. everyone loved freddie collins. outstanding athlete, brilliant. after the brunswick tigers would win a basketball game, everybody went to mosher's coffee shop to celebrate whether we play in brunswick or had been in huntsville. freddie could not come in. i grew up that way. gary: so did most missourians. >> one of the most heartbreaking things to me was when i was a sophomore at the university of missouri, majoring in american history, i was in a class taught by richard kirkendall, a brilliant professor, and a black
man sat by me, and i tried to talk with him. he would not talk with me. on the other side was another white women, and when this young man would sit down between us, we had assigned seats then, by the way, and roll was taken. that is how old i am. she would move, afraid he would touch her. it breaks my heart that we grew up this way. i diligently work not be prejudiced in this way. i am sure that sometimes i am, but i don't intend to be. i just want to say one more thing, one of my best friends is the late joe lewis mattox. he died last march. joe and i became friends in the 1980's. he always greeted me with a hug
and a kiss on the cheek him and he always asked me about my children, my husband, and my grandchildren, a wonderful man who has done incredible work on the village of steptoe. gary: thanks very much. just one comment. you cannot live in a racist society and not in by some of -- and not in by the some of the racism. you just cannot do it. racism is still with us. it is the great challenge. in 1901, w.e.b. dubois wrote a line --led "the cover the colorblind" and he said the great problem of the 20th century will be the color line, race. if he were here today, he would say we still haven't got it right. yes, sir. >> i want to commend you on your research in studying african american history.
the one thing we as african-americans continue to deal with is we have been economically, politically, and socially colonized and imperialized in this country, and until we deal with this situation, when i say socially imperialism, now they are attacking our homes, and our children are taken. you said in the book one of the points of being free is having the freedom to have a family. the situation with the coffin, that coffin is talking to all of us. we are coming to the end of our lives, and how we treat each other and respect each other, one day we have to account for all that. we need to put away our differences, how we treat each other and respect each other and do what is right. i don't claim to be a minister, but i know god is dealing in my life in what he wants me to do
good i was hit by a car -- to do. i was hit by a car. he is talking to all of us. he is tired of all of this racial difference in this country and not talking to each other. we can go to church and put on a front, but god knows our hearts. what i am saying is our children are being taken in droves through these courts. african-american children are being taken, poor children are being taken and sold into a system that is about economic greed and exploitation of children. god is not pleased with this. that coffin is rolling toward all of us. one day we are going to leave this earth. we need to go home and think about how we are treating each other. one day we're going to have to account for it. gary: thank you.
[applause] gary: there will be a lot of people surprised to discover god is a black female lesbian muslim. [applause] -- [laughter] gary: go ahead, i'm sorry. >> i am a native of kenlock, missouri, and there were a lot of similarities between leeds and kenlock, except can lock was incorporated. gary: exactly. the first african-american city -- >> there is a book by john wright. from kinlocheople word dick gregory, maxine waters, and jennifer lewis. the only thing i can say to appeal this divide is african-americans fully deserve reparations.
[applause] gary: one quick comment. the second chapter in this book has a strong statement by a white man in 1869 in jefferson city, missouri, arguing for reparations. yes, sir. >> i have a couple of comments, and then i think a positive point to make. i grew up in jefferson city that you have been bashing tonight. gary: i lived there. >> it is the jefferson city that you said. i recognize what you said. ournzo green went to church. gary: the episcopal church. >> his wife was the organist. he taught my son and grandson but could not go to all the
houses, where we went from house to house because some of them did not allow negroes in their home. i have one more comment, and then i will make my point. my wife could not afford to go with me to columbia, missouri, for school. she went to lincoln university for three years. we got married, and she went to columbia university with me. went on to go to law school. she always told me the best education i ever got was at lincoln university. she would talk about lorenzo green and dr. pauly and others i did not know, and she said i never had any professors as good as the ones at lincoln university. it has had an impact on jefferson city. the number one person in my high school graduating class, charlene maybury, first in her class. number two in my brother's class, t.d. pauly, dr. pauly's
son. the impact lincoln university has had on people who grew up in jeff city but may not live there anymore, it has not changed as much as we hoped, particularly during legislative session. [laughter] the impact of those professors had on people that passed through lincoln university has been profound. you are a great storyteller. i thought i would bring you up-to-date on link on lincoln you for it -- on lincoln university and how proud i have been to actually take high school courses at lincoln laboratory. gary: thank you for sharing that. i was a student there for six years and i taught there for 15. thank you for being here. yes, sir? >> thank you so much for your presentation, your many stories. i especially appreciated your conclusion that there are
fundamentally different histories even though we occupy the same time period. there are fundamentally different histories for those who have been part of the black experience and those who have had white privilege. we just saw, recently, a video documentary, i am not your negro. gary: james baldwin. >> james baldwin framed very much the same kind of thing. he framed it this way, that the black experience is one characterized by rage and that the white experience has been characterized by fear. based on your study of history and these very different
experiences, worldviews, perspectives that people have, one, do you think baldwin was right? and two, what do you think you when you say help resolve that chasm between rage on one side and fear on the other? gary: i think james baldwin was right in just about everything he said. the only thing i could think of doing is what i said, which is for us to try to understand each other's histories. i think you can do that in a personal way, but i think we need to do that institutionally as well. yes, ma'am. i think you are the last one. >> great. first of all, i want to thank you for your presentation. i enjoyed it so much. gary: thank you for being here. >> thank you. my question pertains to my personal family history. my great-grandmother was born
and raised in keep still, missouri. her mother passed away, and they were -- it seems as though they were put on one of those farms where they work. they fostered to a farm to work in return for your board. i was told she went to high school at lincoln university. they had a lab school. gary: that is right. >> i have never known anything about that. i was curious about that. gary: lincoln university had the lincoln university lab school that serviced much of the central missouri area. in much of rural missouri, there were no black high schools. hadcity is like st. louis --
two. springfield would eventually have one. marshall would have one. sedalia would have one. this dalton high school served a nine county area. a lot of kids would be sent by their parents to jefferson city because some of these professors would also teach in the high school, and they knew they were getting a remarkable education. that continued into the 1970's. >> so it was called the lincoln laboratory school? gary: the lincoln university laboratory school. it was like every college and university has a laboratory school where people who aspire to become teachers get their training. for a while before it was called the lab school, it was simply called the lincoln university high school.
it operated out of memorial hall on lincoln campus throughout much of the 20th century. in the 1940's and 50's, they built a new building and moved it across the street, but it was still a segregated school. >> ok. where would i go to find more information about that? gary: there is not much written about it, but if you send me any email, i will see what i can do to help you find some stuff. >> thank you. gary: actually, i don't even have a card. if you google the state historical society of missouri, you can track me down. thank you, ma'am. i think we are finished. oh, we have one more. >> it was mentioned at the beginning that history was being removed from umkc. gary: i'm sorry? it was proposed by the administration to remove the phd in history from the university of missouri at columbia.
that is not quite right. it is under a serious review. it is not one of the 27 graduate programs that is recommended for illumination, but it will come up again in the next two or three years for review. i certainly hope it is not eliminated. >> any ideas on why that is being removed? gary: i think it is not just a problem in missouri, i think all over the country the liberal arts are not being honored in the way i think they should be. that is another topic, but you go anywhere in the country today, i think, and you will find that the stem classes, the sciences, math and so forth, that is where the money is. we even see that in education at the elementary and secondary level in missouri. kids are increasingly not getting nearly as much history
as they used to. it is part of the commentary on our current society in my judgment, and i think it is a sad commentary. thanks so much. the book is for sale in the hall. [applause] >> gary will be signing in the hall. thank you all. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: today, at 6:00 p.m. eastern, on american history tv's american artifacts, political cartoonist herbert
block, better known as her block, his career spans 72 years, covering presidents from herbert hoover to george w. bush. see the largest collection of his work, house at the library of congress. >> one of the missions of the library of congress is to document the creativity and intelligence of the american people and preserve it for future generations. i think it is a mark of a free gather that we can opinions with which we do not agree and collect them and preserve them for future generations. there are a lot of countries in the world where nobody would dare do that here and here we are, steps from the u.s. capitol and we have a variety of opinions and a variety of cartoonists. mr. bloch is just a great example of one of the artists we have collected. watch american
artifacts today at 6:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span3. announcer: in this year's student competition, we ask students to choose a provision of the u.s. constitution and create a video illustrating why it is important. students competed for the chance to win cash prizes and we entries from 46 states. the first prize winner for the high school east category goes students from montgomery blair high school in silver spring, maryland for "no trespassing, seeking justice for native women." the first prize winners of our high school central category are will foot and james dyer, from whitefish bay high school in whitefish bay, wisconsin for "wisconsin votes count." maize andize goes to
and patent liquid from capital high school in boise, idaho for "prison reform." the first prize winner is keira lamb, oma fox, and kia declan from eastern middle school in silver spring, maryland for "survival of the veiled face, the constitutionality of abortion." our judges special citation for creativity goes to write baker, william mcknight, and's animal those omissions in britain, florida for their documentary "be true to the constitution, the first american wrath." finally, we're happy to announce our grand prize winners. tyler cooney from dallas center grime high school in grimes, iowa for their documentary, "old enough to fight, old enough to vote." >> we are calling because this year we are seeing lots of videos from over -- from almost 6000 students. we are just calling to let you know you won the grand prize. it!eah! >> we did
>> yes! >> gary: gary: with this year's topic, it was such an open-ended question. we had time to focus in and when i looked online and i got the for theinformation person who authored it, i thought, tyler, we have to do this. we have to get in contact with the person. we sent a mills, we started filming, we sent even more emails. everything fell into place. difficult, 26ty different amendments that we looked at and evaluated. there is a lot of controversy going on right now. we found one that related to us. -- we wereding into able to get in contact with senators around the country. we got to work as and as we could. announcer: the top 22 winning
entries will air on c-span in april. you can watch every studentcam documentary online at studentcam.org. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme public policy events in washington, d.c., and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. ♪