Skip to main content

tv   Protests for Black Citizenship  CSPAN  April 28, 2018 2:35pm-4:01pm EDT

2:35 pm
chairman. john bailey there with his glasses on his four head came forward. he is not listening to wisconsin. [booing] candidates for the president of the united states. >> you can watch reel america in its entirety, sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv, only on c-span3. >> the massachusetts historical society hosted a panel of four historians discussing the ways blacks that protested for citizenship sincerely days of american republic. include abolitionists and self-proclaimed colored friedman in boston, or raters -- orders ors sojourner truth and frederick douglass, and --. this is about 90 minutes. hi there.
2:36 pm
good evening, and welcome to you all. thank you so much for being here. i am claire said, austin and am a trustee here at the massachusetts historical society. it is my distinct honor to introduce our panelists tonight. from the black lives matter ferguson,hat began in missouri, to the women's march that struck the world on january 1, 2017, 673 marches on all seven continents, and to the march for our lives, which took place on tuesday, and the protests in sacramento demonstrating against the police who shot a man armed with a cell phone. people are organizing and taking to the streets in ways they have not done in double decades. effortsr activism, the to change the prevailing discourse about citizenship, its rights, privileges, and responsibilities is not unprecedented. tose precedents extend back
2:37 pm
the 1960's, the decade of demonstrations when they are most often compared, to the earliest years of the american experiment in democratic self government. here to explore with us tonight are four preeminent historians. stephen can't revert received -- phd from he is a historian of race, politics, and citizenship in the 19th century united states and teaches courses on the civil war era, slavery, and slave revolt. showed howbook boston's 19th-century black recast theirght to relationship and brought about the civil war, and to find a policy of slave emancipation to the idea of political equality. work explores the 14th the air of
2:38 pm
amendment, and he has books planned on scholars and native postwar wisconsin, and transformations on american citizenship in the civil war era in wisconsin, was people struggled to shed light on the relationship between citizenship and civilization. phd stauffer received his from yale university and is a summoner are and marshall s k professor of english and african studies. he has written several books. two of his books were national bestsellers and several have won numerous awards. he is also did author of more than 50 academic articles and his essays have appeared in time, the new york times, the wall street journal, and the washington post. advised three award-winning documentaries and in a consultant for future
2:39 pm
films, including jango unchained, released -- django unchained, released in 2012, and the free state of jones. -- autobiography, the 19th-century novel, and historical fiction, and is working on it biography of charles sumner. degreeived her from princeton and is director of african american studies at yale university. include theions impact of racial and sexual politics on women's history, how are the daughters of eve punished, rates during the , published by war the university of mississippi press in 2011, and general benjamin butler and the threat of sexual violence during the american civil war, which appeared in the spring of 2009. her prize-winning book southern whores uses the work of two women, journalist ida b wells
2:40 pm
latimer felton to examine the roles of both black and white women in the politics of racial and sexual violence in the american south. wells spearheaded national campaigns against lynching, -- e latimer felton despite being on opposite sides of the lynching question, both sought protection from sexual violence and political empowerment for women, and whores is a drama that reveals how these lives played out in women. she is working on two books currently as well. chad williams is an associate professor and chair of the department of afro-american studies. he earned his phd from princeton university and specializes in african-american and modern united eights history, military history, and african american intellectual history.
2:41 pm
was praised as a landmark study and won numerous awards, including the 2011 award, legacy foundation and the 2011 distinguished book award from the society for military history. aftermath of the --, he co-edited the charleston syllabus, which was circulated among history teachers and faculty and was recently published by the university of georgia press is the charles ton syllabus. he is currently leading a study of w.e.b. dubois in world war i. i can think of no better historians to guide us through a conversation on the relationship of citizenship and protest in the american past. please give a warm welcome to our panel. [no audio] -- [applause] thank you all for coming out. gavin, forclaire and
2:42 pm
getting the ball rolling and coming up with this idea, and to john, crystal, and chad for agreeing to be part of it. forre going to each talk seven-10 minutes, no more than that, and then we will talk to each other. then you will talk to us and we will talk to each other. protests tonight is and citizenship, and i want to start us off almost 200 years ago, when free african-americans in boston began calling themselves colored citizens. that self-description was an act of protest and an act of invention. to explain what i mean by that, i need to say a few conditions about the conditions of black freedom in the time before the civil war. simply, there was much to protest. the massachusetts constitution said all men are born free and equal, and slavery died in the 1780's.
2:43 pm
black men in massachusetts were eligible to vote, and many did, but slavery hung like a cloud over black people's freedom and citizenship. both free and equal did not carry with it the equal rights we attached to those terms today. barred from were most professions and skilled trades, excluded from most hotels and restaurants, attended segregated schools, wrote in segregated railroad cars, and as some of you may know, the term jim crow is applied to railroad cars, which were invented in massachusetts in the 1840's. white supremacy haunted free black life, not just in the realms of law and occupations and trade and public accommodations, but denied them a dignified civic existence. a were chased off the boston commons when they assembled to celebrate their, placards and cartoons made fun of them in streets, and in the
2:44 pm
and the most popular form of entertainment in the day was blackface minstrelsy, and hence the term jim crow and others haunted african american life. one example of how attainment didn't save you, when the first african-american to try a case before the massachusetts bar, robert morris, he approached his opposing counsel to introduce himself, the man literally screamed at him. he was that upset that a black man was presuming to practice law, enter into this kind of world as his equal. not equal to other citizens, not just in law or practice, but because slavery shadow their lives. article four of the constitution seemed to say that the rights of the citizens of all the states were for all the states. for black people, that was not the case. they were haunted both by niekro sailoract -- the negro
2:45 pm
act in southern states and the which allowedw, them to be captured or sold into slavery with little due process. when we think about african-american life in the 19th century, we must not think about it in progressive terms. indeed, the arc of history was going the other way. many states were a free black man could vote at the beginning of the 19th century, they cannot vote by the civil war. the rescue ofon fugitive slaves led to a renewed fugitive slave law in 1850 that may black freedom much more entireous throughout the united states. the dred scott decision in 1857 said essentially black people could not be citizens of the united states, even if they were citizens of the states where they live. popular form of antislavery activity in the 19th century united states was colonization, which was a polite
2:46 pm
word for deportation. all of that taken together, african-americans responded to that by claiming equality through protest. they adopted or invented institutions that proceeded from egalitarian principles and use those as platforms to press for an equal place in american life. they first build a counter public, a counter public churches, schools, lodges, literary and burial societies where they could secure their own ends in dignity apart from white people. but they repeatedly and consistently reached out from that counter public and insisted on their equal status in the wider world, and sought white allies to help them achieve that. they used as their platforms for these appeals, the languages that would have been familiar to the people around them. the world of natural rights, theory, and practice, beginning
2:47 pm
with the declaration of independence, all men are created equal, and including the massachusetts constitution's more expensive version of that, all men are born free and equal. this led to petitions and suits against slavery. slavery ends in massachusetts because slaves sue for their freedom. that is how it becomes to an end. that is why the supreme court of massachusetts ruled in the 1780's that there is no more slavery in the massachusetts -- in massachusetts under their law. they demand better civic treatment, protest against indignity, and demand a place in the worldwide brotherhood of christ. version theys would have been -- acts 17, god is made of all blood of men to dwell on the face of beer, and they take that seriously. -- face of the earth. they take that seriously and pursue that in other realms, in realm of freemasonry, which is another critically important project which involves the majority of black activist in this time.
2:48 pm
in a lot of ways, they are saying these are essential truths that are basic to our understanding of ourselves as americans, given by god, but not only given by god, made real by us. so an alabama slaveholder comes and testifies before the massachusetts legislature and says god will free the slaves in his own time. the legislators look around and call up blue's hayden, and have him come up. hayden says yeah, that will free the slaves in his own time, but he will do so through the agency of his people, blessed with a free gospel. in other words, freedom and equality through works, agency. oft was their vision citizenship. in 1829, david walker gave life to the phrase colored citizens in his pamphlet "appeal to the colored citizens." hypocrisy,d slavery,
2:49 pm
godwarned slaveholders that would wreak judgment upon them, but he said what a happy country this will be if the whites will listen. that became the spur for the racial abolition movement, for the conversion of whites by ofcks to an egalitarian view the united states. that is what literally set william lloyd garrison on his fat as a -- cap as a liberator path as a liberator. the black people were vanguards of egalitarianism ship through protest. they called themselves colored citizens. what they meant by that was different than our legalistic notion of citizenship . they were calling on an emotional vision, but not just what a happy country this will be. david walker was not that naive and these activists were not that naive. they knew this was not just a
2:50 pm
gift or a matter of love or belonging, it was something you claimed, something you won. if you wanted to claim the mantle of citizen, you had to offer protest a gun -- protest against unequal treatment. favorite douglass' bondman, thoseu that must be free must themselves strike a blow. that pushed blacks and whites together toward direct confrontation with the same folders -- save full -- slaveholders, not just as that.s but as it meant defending others from being captured and spiriting to canada or defending the more they were. so you had people that said i have a position in splitting white unable treatment is a violation of natural law.
2:51 pm
please sign this and pass it around at the meeting tonight. afterward, when we get to court square, make sure to put it a flea in your pocket because while we are picking up the railroad tie and knocking down door to the courthouse, you would not want it to fall on the ground. petitions for equality in a militant struggle against slavery were two sides of the same coin. they were the same revolutionary activity, and they were revolutionary activity, much like the revolution of 1770. if this sounds familiar, the idea that equality is earned through protest, if it is sounding familiar to you, like every protest you have ever attended, it is because the colored citizen of the 1830's, 18 40's, and 1850's establish the terms of what protest means for us. just as their militant insistence on equality continues to define the best of what we mean by citizenship. in these days of crisis, we are often asked to think about the
2:52 pm
lessons of history and what they can teach us. sometimes we are called to embrace dr. king's moral arc, which is long but then stored justice, or the stirring implications of the possibilities in "once-in-a-lifetime, the title wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme." history, is like not a title wave or a tendency or a moral arc in defense of itself. justice is deduced by people from the circumstances and given life by their action. by their protest. howeast in part, that is history is made as well, and that is why protest matters and why the people who call themselves colored citizens still demand our attention. inc. you. -- thank you. [applause] >> thank you for inviting me. this is a wonderful idea and a wonderful panel, and a wonderful turnout.
2:53 pm
the massachusetts historical society, about a year ago, published a collection called the future of history that was colloquium in which several hundred people from all over were invited to discuss the large idea of history and how it could be relevant for individuals in their lives today, regardless of whether or not they were provisional historians are not. i have the great fortune and honor to be present for that. i was asked to write a piece, and i borrowed from, of course, a piece that i have long taught called the american protest literature, from tom painted paine to tupac. the article i ended up publishing was based on a number of quotes or near quotes from activists and protesters
2:54 pm
throughout american history, which is history is the activist's muse. i firmly believe that. it is the foundation of the , ande that i have taught yet, throughout american history and american culture, scholars have tried to separate, sever, or downplayed that relationship between history and activism. is ae scholarship, there long, rich tradition, including from colleagues of mine, who writers are obsessed originalh starts, the is either historians or a nonfiction writer. you need to look forward and think forward, not backward. america, the united states is a nation of fresh starts.
2:55 pm
.t is still a new world and yet, when you look at the history of writing, the degree to which men and women of all genders and ethnicities and races, regardless of where they come from, are drawing and being inspired by, recognizing that the past profoundly shapes their understanding of their present and can shape their future -- that is extraordinary. to such a degree that i often quote orwell's 1984, a book that , since the election of president trump, has achieved a new bestseller status. the hate obsessed with in totalitarianism, and one reason why he hates totalitarianism is because of the use and misuse and flagrant
2:56 pm
fabrication of history of the past. in fact, the party slogan in the book, a line that is repeated more than any other line, is this -- "who controls the past controls the future. who controls the future controls the present." i think control is too strong of a verb. change it to shape. past shapes the future. ands a profound statement, it is how our understanding of the present and the future has evolved. of my own areas in the civil war era, you see this self-conscious , such that the past
2:57 pm
major figures of the 19th erased fromtruly much of the 20th century. that leads me to a couple of specific examples i would like to provide about the relation between the past and the present. frederick douglass sense adjourn or truth, the reason i want to focus on them is because -- and sojourner truth, the reason i want to focus on them is because they understand the importance of their visual public persona. the most recent book i did was on fragment douglas -- frederick douglass. i found out he is the most photographed american in the 19th century. there are more photographs of frederick douglass than of any other american in the 19th century. more than lincoln, custer, twain, anyone else. i have run the numbers, and you can ask me and i can show you.
2:58 pm
there are a few unknowns, like grant. no one has added up the archives of grant. but the larger point -- sojourner truth is one of the most photographed women in the 19th century. truth are also hugely admired public speakers, orators, among the greatest male in the 19thrators century. speakingcan command better than any other orator, and this was back when it came with celebrity, like being an actor. it was a form of entertainment. 15glass, for the first years of the united states -- 19th century, is virtually out of print. brings douglas
2:59 pm
back into print in 1948 with his narrative. my bondage and my freedom was his best-selling book. it does not come back in the print until several decade later, and then his uncle publishes the life and letters in 1950, but that is published by the communist press, which sells like 1000 copies a year. 1990 not until roughly that douglas is systematically taught in the classroom. rarelyer truth is still taught in the classroom. this raises the question of why were they so in love with photography? mosthree answers -- the important of which is they recognize the true value of photography. photography told the truth. the lens told the truth. douglass essentially said even if you put a camera in the hands
3:00 pm
of the white racist, words i can't trust, he is not using a you will -- sojourner truth said the same thing. they were cast as activists and protesters. the standard photograph for a man, photographers told men to look above the camera lens, anywhere but into the camera lens. the idea was, you are achieving visionary gays. looked right at the lens, at a time when most whites argued blacks could not be citizens.
3:01 pm
and this is someone who was a powerful and effective or a tour -- orator. photographic image was profoundly compelling. photographers chased after him, hoping to invite him to sit in their studios. it was a great honor to photograph frederick douglass, photographers. and his photographs were widely collected and circulated, and collected in albums by people who never even knew him. directlyook of staring into the camera lens, one convert said he looked majestic in his wrath. and that is a perfect expression of douglas, majestically as if he isessed up entitled to any of the most powerful and wealthiest places
3:02 pm
in the country, and he can equal anyone. sojourner truth does the same thing, from the perspective of a woman. she is more famous for her photograph than her presence at meetings, which is a big deal because she was such an effective orator. she presented herself to the world as a respectable, addle-class, educated woman, representative american woman deserved theglass, right of citizenship and equality. that she put under her totos was, i sell the photo sell the substance. and she is often photographed with knitting needles and yarn. and look closely at some of
3:03 pm
de viz, email me and i will send you some of them. how the yarn is portrayed in the photographs is that the yarn forms the contour of the united .tates it is unavoidable. it is clearly the eastern half, sending a message that this woman is a symbol of the union, a symbol of the nation, like douglass, a public face of the nation, which has to be -- which whichs to be black, reflects the importance of multiracial democracy. the reason for their love of photography is they associated with freedom -- they associate
3:04 pm
it with freedom. americans have a love affair with photography and portraiture is the main vogue but it is limited primarily to the free states. reason is main nos the slaveowners recognized threat that photography could highlight the humanity and slaves. sees an john c calhoun anti-slavery image in "the liberator" and tries to pass a federal law against any image as acould be construed slave. but southern states systematically oppressed any freedom of debate as it related to critiques of white supremacy or slavery. in the largest sense, and i will connected to the present,
3:05 pm
frederick douglass and sojourner truth took advantage of the technologies of their day, much the way activist take advantage of technology today, particularly with social media and particularly with black lives matters. many african-americans have realized they don't want to leave home without a camera. at an abstract level we all know that we can distort an image with the camera, we can create multiple exposures, we can soul larize, the camera still has a sense of truth. and if you bring a camera with you, you can document. century,e 20th 'suglass' and sojourner truth
3:06 pm
basedit inspired artists, on the photographs. their visual legacies protested lynchings, they rallied for several rights and celebrated black power, they dignified the black body that white americans have so often tried to destroy, in hisng to coates recent book. and it is significant that was ass, in particular, anticipates black , but before that anticipates the black panther party and black power, in his demand for visibility for
3:07 pm
substance and for self determinism in his own community. black leadersther recognized the importance of taking it upon themselves to police and protect black communities, beginning in the antebellum era and extending , as a weightuction to protect each other as a way to protect -- as a way to protect each other from white terrorism. matters leaders have subconsciously built upon both the black power and black panther movements. last point i will make about the past resonating with the president, -- resonating -- that present
3:08 pm
continues to be powerful today is in the form of what is known as southwest humor. it relates to the tall tale, tough talk, bombastic confidence, ended is a form of representation based on the parity and imitation, and at best it becomes a burlesque that invokes a certain degree of in the imitation becomes amusing so it reaches a broad audience. but it highlights or exposes the contradictions and absurdities of culture. tall tales and confidence men circulate and resonate in american culture in those areas
3:09 pm
n which there are great -- those eras in which there are great incongruent these, a profound separation between the ideal and the real, especially between, accredit dreams and social and economic realities. activists and protesters using -- great activist using burlesque humor "huckleberry, finn" capturing the post revolutionary movement, the counterrevolution after the end of reconstruction, which between burlesques or imitates the manner of the confidence man. arein "huckleberry finn" conmen, tom sawyer is a convoy
3:10 pm
but also the duke and the dough aufin. ck's friendship with jim focuses on pock repudiating tom, the conmen -- focuses on huck repudiating tom, the conmen, and one of the most effective forms of protest in our time now draws directly from and that is alec baldwin playing trump on "saturday night live." [laughter] thank you. [applause] i would like to thank the mass historical society for
3:11 pm
organizing this panel, particularly claire and gavin for pulling this together and steve, for inviting me to join you in this conversation. i will try to speak loud. wanted to give a shout paynter, because three of us on the panel are her prodigies. we came to protest citizenship through her. boston, in a public 1833, maria win abolitionisteer demand black womens
3:12 pm
asking for sexual justice. mean told it acknowledge women, especially black women, as full citizens of legal capacity and political consent? notlack women were granted just the rights of life, liberty and happiness, but of self sovereignty, then they would already -- then they would also be entitled to the legal protections of those rights. she called for the inclusion of black women as fully human and autonomous beings, the owners of their own bodies with the ability to withhold consent. women,, like many black insisted on sexual justice as a natural right. in doing so, black women in their allies influenced the party's vision for equality.
3:13 pm
there campaign for sexual justice, taken together with evolving republican ideas about equality, made possible the emergence of a new sexual citizenship. my scholarship traces black women through sexual violence from the transition from slavery to freedom and revealed how their claims for sexual justice informed national debates about the meeting of freedom and citizenship. relentless defense of themselves under impossible circumstances informed not only the anti-lynching discourse espoused by abolitionists, but also influenced the republican party's vision of racial equality from the 1850's until the end of reconstruction. ' radical campaigns for sexual justice and republican ideas about equality
3:14 pm
for free blacks and fugitive slaves reveals the emergence of a new sexual citizenship that culminated during the civil war, when black women gained the right to withhold consent and legally testify as victims of sexual assault under military law. however,construction, the republican governments lost political power in the south, black women lost hard-one rights of protection as night writers and clansmen sexually brutalized black women all over the south, and were once again denied to testify against white men in cases of sexual assault. black women such as ida d wells organized sexual justice as a right of citizenship. before the the civil war, black
3:15 pm
women with the aid of a few white women managed to draw attention to the master slave rape narrative. their campaigns for sexual justice took on many forms. we can think of harriet jacobs. we can think of a slave who killed the master who raped her. we can think of margaret garner and her escape across the ohio river and the murder of her daughter. these women, black and white, challenged the laws, traditions and ideas that reinforced white men's sexual power and placed black women outside the legal and moral definition of rape. these were the years in which alliesomen and their waged war against slavery and began to imagine a new kind of american citizenship that included black women and everyone's right to withhold consent, and to legal
3:16 pm
protection. during the civil war, abraham lincoln passed the liber codes which made rate a crime. nothe liber codes there were racial limits on who could bring charges of sexual assault. and black women armed themselves with new legal tools, to abusivee a deeply sexual terrain, but one that for the first time admitted that they could be raped in the eyes of the law. in other words, seizing their new rights as wartime citizens, black women demanded legal protection and sexual justice under military law, and sought to define freedom and equality in new terms. the black women who testified before military courts were among many former female slaves who mobilized military law in defense of themselves and their new rights, in what i call wartime free people.
3:17 pm
and during reconstruction and the rise of jim crow, black women remained vulnerable to sexual violence and continued to think in legal and political terms about how to protect themselves, refusing to accept the racial and sexual politics of the antebellum hierarchy. that defined protection as a eliteguaranteed to only women, and building on wartime experiences they sought broad notions of female protection by insisting it was a basic right of citizenship. newly-freed black women were unwilling to return to the antebellum sexual and racial status quo that allowed white women -- allowed white men to brutalize and rate them with impunity. for black women in the south, another warhead just begun, as
3:18 pm
southern white anxiety about the social meanings of intensification intensified in the south. constituencies converged and would soon strip black women of their newfound rights. the radical overthrow of reconstruction, southern white men managed to flip the antebellum script of racial and sexual violence. prior to the war, abolitionists espoused a narrative of the rape of black women by white was but after the war rate -- but after the war, rape was defined as a crime committed on white women by black men. southern white men sought to challenge black men's rights as citizens read and the portrayal of black men as beastly and
3:19 pm
unable to control their sexual desires served to justify lynching, segregation and disenfranchisement. at the same time, justifications for lynching and protection of white women and would allow for unprecedented violence against african americans, and it also placed limits on the sexual freedoms and political rights of black women. by the 1890's, southern white men had found in the image of black rapists a powerful tool for maintaining white supremacy. and while the justification for metviolence never code her reality, lynchings and the threat of rapes served as wasings that the new south a dangerous place for women who cross the boundaries.
3:20 pm
still, at of this renewed sexual violence against black women in the south emerged a powerful anti-rape movement led by ida b wells. of her 18 92on pamphlet, "southern horrors" mark a renewed campaign on the part of black women for sexual justice. understood what black women had gained in the civil war and its aftermath, and had lost in winning the peace. like the black women who fought for freedom before her, wells insisted on equal protection under the law. wells turned to the press to make her case. she provoked the emergence of the black club women's movement that would carry the campaign for sexual justice into the 20th century. and i would argue and need a
3:21 pm
who spokeita hill, out against clarence thomas' sexual harassment is part of that narrative of black women making claims for sexual justice and equal protection under the law. i would also argue that part of too comesnt of me out of this tradition of black women making the case as it citizens, that they have a right to protection, and that often times when we think about we forget the way that not just black people were excluded from that category, but the way in which women are excluded from that category, and ork that black women have done to make the case for equal protection and citizenship really opened up conversations for both black people and women to make particular claims.
3:22 pm
i think we will have plenty of to talk about some of the present movements like black lives matter. [no audio] [applause] thank you everyone, for being here. a want to thank claire and gavin for organizing the event. my fellow panelists, it is a bat cleanup.o pull us out of our 19th-century hole and into the 20th century and hopefully make some connections to the 21st century. if you didn't know already, this year marks the centennial of world war i, one of those forgotten wars, oftentimes
3:23 pm
overshadowed by much bigger conflicts like the civil war. world war i was a watershed moment in united states history, and there are many reasons why this is the case. you can certainly look at the military significance of the war, its political, cultural, economic significances, we would probably need another event to delve into all of that. for this panel, i think we asuld recognize world war i a pivotal moment in the history androtest and citizenship, more specifically, world war i as a pivotal moment in the history of african american protest and citizenship. w.e.b. dubois, the first african-american to receive his phd from harvard
3:24 pm
university, the cofounder of the naacp, and at the time of the a leading scholar, intellectual and eloquent voice on the so-called race problem, he wrote an editorial in "the magazine, which he edited. for nearly four years toward 1918, w.e.b.but dubois predicted would be a great day of decision. wrote, we of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome. that which the german power represents today spells death to the aspirations of knee grows and all darker races for equality, freedom and democracy. let us not hesitate. let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks, shoulder to
3:25 pm
shoulder with our own, white fellow citizens and the allied nations fighting for democracy. we make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly, with our eyes lifted to the hill. more than any other in duboil s'career, it captured the attention that remains -- captured the tension that remains alive and well today. during the first world war citizenship mattered for african-americans. it is very important to emphasize that. even in the midst of segregation, disenfranchisement, racial violence, degradation of the citizenship status of african-americans, they did not forget that they were indeed citizens.
3:26 pm
uboi and other african-americanss approached the war is a test of their citizenship and an opportunity to bring meaning to it. wouldn-americans demonstrate their loyalty and affirm their citizenship by sacrificing on and off the battlefield. 100 years ago, protests also mattered. from the start of american entry -- in war in april 1970, april 1917, most black people accepted the fact that the nation had a reciprocal obligation to treat black people as citizens. african-americans would be loyal and patriotic, but they also demanded their rights, the most
3:27 pm
basic being safety and protection. let me offer one vivid example of how this played out during the war. the east st. louis massacre brutally demonstrated the lack of safety and protection afforded to black citizens. 1917, white mobs unleashed a theory of violence against the city's black community. grom left over 6000 african-americans homeless and over 100 men, women and children dead. in response, the naacp organized a silent protest and parade in new york. nearly 10,000 african-americans, the men rest in all black, the women and children dressed in all white, signifying
3:28 pm
respectability, dignity, somberly marched down fifth avenue to the sound of muffled drums. they carried signs that read, your hands are full of blood. we have fought for the liberty of americans in six wars. our reward was east st. louis. loyaltysm and presuppose protection and liberty. make america safe for democracy. ubois, impeccably dressed with his walking cane in hand, was at the front of the march. it is important to remember black protest has always been forced to control and eliminate. war address, president woodrow wilson promised, and i quote, if there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression.
3:29 pm
in 19 17 it was a crime punishable by 20 years in prison to interfere with the armed forces of the united states or to promote the success of its enemies. african american leader and future organizer of the march on washington in 1963, april forolph, was arrested distributing copies of his radical newspaper, but he escaped conviction because the judge believed no need grow could be smart enough to publish and intellectually happen sophisticated newspaper like "the messenger." act wasonage strengthened the following year by the sedition act, which severely curtailed freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. the government spent countless hours investigating potential need grow subversion.
3:30 pm
as editor of "the crisis" and himself under government recognizede, dubois that protests carried severe risk. reflected theial genuine believe that african-americans were first and foremost americans, that the principal duty as citizens was to their nation. in the war now, protest later. having demonstrated beyond reproach that they were loyal citizens, rights would be forthcoming. how did the majority of african-americans responded to dubois's advice? they were stunned. under no circumstances, they said, should they forget their
3:31 pm
special grievances. in fact, the war demanded that they fight for their rights even more vigorously. dubois's harshest critics branded him a traitor to the race. the resthe would spend of his life second-guessing his decision to support the war, and regretting his advice for african-americans to close ranks with their fellow white citizens. he recognized that so long as race and the color line remained the central feature of american life, closing ranks around a romanticized ideal of citizenship was impossible. i believe that remains true today. of dme ways, the error ubois's judgment was born out in world war ii, when black americans called for a double v, victory against white supremacy
3:32 pm
abroad and victory against white supremacy at home. if it were not for the world war the evolution of the modern civil rights movement would have likely look much different. when hundred years after the end of world war i, there are some people that say black people should close ranks and forget the special grievances, that protest, especially when it hits the sensitive nerves of loyalty and patriotism, is inappropriate. my response to that is that protest is the most powerful andession of citizenship, remains absolutely necessary for bridging the gap between citizenship as an ideal and is a lived reality. beenven though he may have wrong 100 years ago, i am convinced w.e.b. dubois would agree with me today. thank you. [applause]
3:33 pm
host: i assume we have time to talk before we go to queue and a. -- go to q and five minutes? ok. war and protest and militancy are agents of social change. on the other hand, we also know that they are devastating producers of rape and assault and murder, and of the violation of civil liberties by states and individuals. so this cuts a bunch of different ways. in fact, in that moment in the
3:34 pm
1840's and 50's, radical abolitionists in it would. a white abolitionists at the women's rights convention of 1851 said that is a barbarous principle. you are not free because you strike a blow. where did that idea come from? no, if these are truly natural rights, they are natural rights. you shouldn't have to kill for them. i wonder how that fits into our understanding of the protest tradition. >> are you looking at me? been: i have really fascinated with the correlation between war and protest. i think in many ways you can trace the long arc of the black freedom struggle through moments of war, beginning with the andican revolution certainly continuing throughout , i civil war, world war i
3:35 pm
studied world war ii, thinking about even the vietnam and our current military conflicts in their various forms today. i think war unsettles the social and political order in profound ways and creates spaces and opportunities for african-americans and other marginalized groups to assert their citizenship, and very deliberate and explicit ways. probably the most being through military service, the civic obligation of military service and the argument that if you put on the uniforms, as frederick there istalked about, no way the nation can deny you your rights as citizens. and that has been a very powerful force, and has been a powerful force for change, especially when we think about the role of soldiers and veterans in movements for
3:36 pm
citizenship rights and social justice. same time, as you said, it has also created moments of intense repression as which is an important part of that story. and i think it is important to recognize that war is not the answer. but it has served as an important opportunity at the same time. and for women in the south during the civil war, we know the rights of citizens in some ways were suspended, when war is being waged. in the context of the civil war with the liber codes, there were new and modern rules of warfare that set out to actually protect citizens in many ways, and for black people and black women in particular, these new laws allow them to challenge
3:37 pm
some of that brutality of war. so black women who are bringing rape charges are usually women who have been raped by white union soldiers. whenlso what we see is, black men join the military there is this kind of understanding that you are giving up your right as a citizen when you join the military, that you are a soldier, and what that means. and we see black soldiers pushing up against those contradictions. and when we look at mutinies during the civil war, you see black men protesting what they citizenseir rights as being violated, whether that is being flogged or being denied the same rights white soldiers are allowed. an oftentimes there is
3:38 pm
argument that black men don't understand the rights of freedom or citizenship because they are actually trying to challenge some of the unjust realities of what it means to serve in the toitary, and not wanting give up the new rights as citizens. there are these kinds of contradictions where you see i always say, what is good for black people is good for everybody, people. black people are protesting it may feel for some people as a unique, special right that they are trying to claim. but it is a right that is understood as a right of all citizens, and it sort of raises all boats. i would just add to this that most black abolitionists, and arguably most abolitionists, defined slavery itself is a
3:39 pm
state of war. slavery was a warfare between master and slave. if you read most of the slave narratives, that is a central theme. and it shows that when the nation state ends up in engage in warfare, as in the civil war, against the slave states that succeeded, every slave, every african-american recognizes this golden opportunity long before the lincoln administration does, that this is an opportunity, the preserving the union is inseparable from emancipating slaves and freeing them. so that relationship between slavery and war, and the nationstate and war, is important.
3:40 pm
and william, who becomes part of the vigilance community in the north end of beacon hill in boston, a close friend of charles sumner, he published one of the first full histories of "proud americans, patriots in the american which traces the history of african-americans. and the central question and theme is the degree to which the united states military had served as an important marker for african-americans, and a symbol of citizenship. thel the 14th amendment, question of citizen ship was that of citizenship was widely debated in the united states. in the dred scott decision, it was said that african-americans
3:41 pm
be citizens, but the two symbols of citizenship that most northerners agreed on was certainly that if you served in the united states military you were a citizen, and if you received a u.s. passport you were a citizen. precedent from that in the revolutionary war, the war of 1812. and william cooper knell documents that. that in amented conference at the massachusetts historical society. ell was huge in convincing theoln to alter emancipation proclamation to call for the arming of blacks in using blacks in the military, recognizing that as a
3:42 pm
symbol of citizenship. it's a radical shift from the limitary emancipation proclamation, which advocates colonization but says nothing about arming black citizens. and thereafter, the u.s. military has functioned as one of the most sought after organizations for african-american men, in particular, and opening up for women as well. to this day, the u.s. army is one of the only major institutions in the united oftes, in which the ratio enlisted men, black enlisted men and black officers, is the exact that same as the ratio of white enlisted men and white officers. which means that in the u.s. military, if you are an african-american you have as much ability to be promoted to officer status.
3:43 pm
so far as i know there is not another major institution in the united states like that. so you are absolutely right about what you say about the wars, but remember the long history, not just of african-americans but of activists, protesters, saying that slavery is a state of war. but so is jim crow segregation. so is mass incarceration, because they are all dependent upon the threat of violence. can i take some questions? >> my name is john. when i was inago, the sixth grade in detroit, a well integrated
3:44 pm
school, probably 20% black, 50% the blacks went home to the north, across an army reserve field to their neighborhood. the whites walked south from school. quite invited, not invited but they invited themselves, some blacks into my backyard, to my basketball hoop, play with your black friends, we don't have anything against them, at school. when i hear my father telling me that the neighbors did that. i became a teacher some 30 years blacksd i believe that
3:45 pm
are pretty much in the same boat now that they were then. they are not treated equally. own go home to their neighborhoods, particularly in boston. their ownwith neighbors, who are almost and we deal with our neighbors who are almost entirely white. almost entirely white. our dinners are almost entirely white. i'm sure there's are almost entirely black. women have made huge changes in our societal structure or gays and lesbians have made huge changes in societal structure. that cried over the fact we have not come farther, in
3:46 pm
fact maybe we have gone a little bit backward, other than the become phd's and engineers and leaders in the military. we only have a couple of more minutes for questions. question.sn't the that was a statement that 50 years, what are we going to do in the next 50 years? host: that's a good question. >> ipass. i passed. [laughter] it's not like nothing changed between 1968 and 2018. lots of things changed for better and for worse because of policy and because of the successful or unsuccessful
3:47 pm
protests of those policies. schools were as segregated in 1968 as they are today, but they were less segregated in 1888. that didn't happen by accident last 1988 -- they were 1988.ated in it's a backlash against racial equality. that is what we are living in. that is where we are. i think we need to take account -- history happens because people make it happen. your comments maybe think about frederick douglass, immediately after the war one of the things he says is, you have freed us read now, leave us alone. oftentimes when we think about the history of citizenship and protesters, there is some automatic correlation between civil rights and integration. the fullme ways,
3:48 pm
affirmation of citizenship will be, theerhaps should right for african-americans to be left alone. choice,le to make the if we want to go back to our own neighborhoods, we have the right to do that. whilethink that integration is certainly important, and the right to integration is important, i think it's also important to recognize the significance of a time in self-determination. [inaudible] in this era of fake news, we talked about the suppression of history. when you think about frederick agitate, agitate,
3:49 pm
agitate, sort of how we were taught in the 1960's and 1970's, what leads to that suppression? and how can we make sure that fake history, like fake news, doesn't continue to perpetuate? you could use frederick douglass as an example. there are ways you can document have a certainat transparency, so it makes it very easy for people to check sources and follow them. in the 19th century, in certain respects, the night teen century is closer to our own moment right now, in which there were not as many official channels of dissemination. until nearly 19 days we had
3:50 pm
something called the fairness doctrine. when you articulated a point of view on tv or on the radio, there had to be an opportunity for an alternate point of view next to it. as soon as that was abolished in we ronald reagan era, got the rise of shock talks and right-wing talk radio and talk news. and now the whole news ecosystem is organized around people talking to themselves and their chosen demographics, without regard to any form of reliability or verifiability. policy matters. elections matter. >> anymore questions? more questions? you started to address the question i was going to ask, but
3:51 pm
how have people historically dealt with that moment, that seems tor the protest and goeshits a crest, back down again when the repression falls down on it? when you have, after the end of slavery, the institutions, to steal the title of the book, of "slavery of another name," and unchecked sexual violence, when after the civil war in south carolina, pitchfork ben tillman begins his career, slaughtering black men in uniform, or after blackwar i, when for a man, especially in the southern states, a veteran, to put on that american uniform and margin a parade is risking his life,
3:52 pm
and practically bringing down a death sentence. how do you keep the protest going? and while i am in uniform, i to other people to determine whether that question maybe applicable to our current situation or not. >> you educate and cultivate the younger generation. that is what the abolitionists them following the success of the counterrevolution. hisrederick douglass, and second edition of "life and times" in 1892, 3 years before like i, he says, i feel am at the beginning of the anti-slavery movement. i feel like i am starting it all over again. and i am not a young man anymore, and i don't have the energy that i used to. and what is his solution?
3:53 pm
we need to be vigilant about cultivating, educating the end generation -- educating the young generation. that is what he focused on. frederick douglass is world-famous and numerous young people made pilgrimages to his home and sought out his advice. and one man makes a pilgrimage issee him in new bedford, he 21 years old and he is ambitious and very smart and incredibly hard-working. eddie has a private interview with douglass, douglass writes about this, and he says, i need your advice, what you think is the most important thing i should do with my life. is it best for society to be a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman or a banker or a teacher or an educator? what do you think i should do?
3:54 pm
says, agitate, agitate, agitate. >> and i would argue that even in those moments where it seems like we have accomplished or one won something, it's not like people stop organizing or stop fighting. they thinkk of 1964, of 1968, and there may be these but just like white supremacy keeps evolving and remaking itself and coming up with new ways to deny people their basic rights, whether it is african-americans or women, constantly campaigning and fighting and insisting on those rights, we have to be more creative. our strategies have to evolve, and our protests about strategies have to evolve. it is a business dynamic, the because we often
3:55 pm
see it as a backlash but as john said, this was war. was war before the civil war. it was war after the civil war. say, we just didn't lost the war, let's be done. they found new ways to keep denying black people their rights, and black people had to find new strategies, whether it was legal strategies or what have you. and that is what we have to do now. we have to think about, what is our strategy, what is the end game? and women have to do it around abortion rights. so just because we are not in a moment of triumph doesn't mean after we hit some benchmarks, it doesn't mean that people are just sitting on their loins and going, well we are done with that. we are notetimes
3:56 pm
paying attention. because there are not these huge victories, but people are working on the local level every day. a lot of times they may not be but when you see black lives matter's, there are organizations all over the country that were doing this work before you were thinking about black lives matter. so it is about paying attention and being involved and engaged in your community. because people have been doing this work. you spoke beautifully about spent her life not winning and yet representing all of those struggles. question.a this, from your point reflect the struggle
3:57 pm
between the capitalist class and the white working class and the black working-class? i think there is a political tangle here that is right in front of our noses, that most of us can see. and i think that is what is whatd, but i want to hear you and other folks have to say about that. [laughter] guest: american history 101. let's start where american history 101 should start, which is that the creation of race is a creation of a system of exploitation. that is how it happened and it is intimately related with the creation of what we call class. from it inricable american history and we are still living in the aftermath of it. when we get out from under it we
3:58 pm
will know but we are not there. none of the victories we have talked about, they have taken us some steps along the way to victory but we are still living in a post-emancipation society, really. thank you for coming in talking to us today. resultsion is rooted in and tactics, and winning justice. context in the talk about citizenship, and the choice of accepting citizenship and working within the system to talking about frederick douglass dressing up as the best citizen to show he is a good citizen and winning rights that way, and later in the 1960's, maybe not excepting citizenship at all and working outside the system because the system is corrupt and we don't want to have anything to do with it.
3:59 pm
and history, as understood in the context of the time and our time, how do you feel about the presentt -- about the day, working within the system or stepping outside the system, in terms of what you know about history, failures and successes, and those two opposing things? i don't think it is an either or question. i don't think the two are mutually exclusive. i, w b duboisar thought it was impossible -- thought it was possible to work within the system to make change. at the same time you had ida b wells, working very much outside the system to effect change. so the two go hand-in-hand. i think that is true throughout the history of black road tests, -- black protests, and it is still very much true today.
4:00 pm
>> announcer: you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of program on american history on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on her schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. next, on history the exile that saved american independence. she reflects on when john quincy was appointed to the ambassador to russia. while there, the family built trade relationships, solidifying america's credibility as a nation.

10 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on