tv 1850 Fugitive Slave Law 1960s Racial Unrest CSPAN May 5, 2018 9:19am-10:35am EDT
savage combat the civil war would ever know. a half next 22 and hours, on average in this tiny space, on average one man fell dead or wounded every four second. 22 and a half hours. to convey a sense of the intensity of the small arms fire musketrylvania, the chopped down a note tree 20 inches in diameter. on display at the civil war museum of american history. what's the intent -- >> watch the entire program tonight on american history tv only on c-span three.
up next on american history tv. levyrd blackett and peter discussed their books, one on 1850 fugitive slave law and the other on the racial unrest during the 1960's. they talk about the history and lessons learned from each of these significant time. intown scholar bookstore harrisburg, pennsylvania was the host of this event. >> good afternoon everyone. thank you for coming out. to all theelcome viewers that are watching around the country today on c-span. it is an honor to have you here. and the mayor of harrisburg the co-owner of this beautiful bookstore with my wife catherine who deserves much of the credit of putting this together along with our bookstore manager. to come up every fortunate today because we're going to have this event moderated by a former minister here in town of the united
methodist church. he is currently an associate professor of religious studies. he has written a number of books on civil rights, religion, politics, and i'm going to let him do the introduction. my job is to cut you about a few upcoming events. if you are enjoying this when we help you will come back on saturday, april 20 for independent bookstore day. it will be happening throughout the country but also happening here in the store. lot of have a family-friendly activities, interesting giveaways, it will be a special day. history, interested in i want to tell you about an event which is coming up on saturday, may 5. we have three time lincoln alanwinner historian cumming to discuss his new book called "reconstruction: a concise history." that will be free and open to all of you on saturday, may 5 area if you would like to find
out more -- may 5. if you would like to find out more sign-up for our email list. before hand things over i would like to give a special thank you press,ridge university the publisher of both of these fine work. they helped us coordinate these events and made sure the authors could be here today. i think we will have some wonderful comparative discussion of race relations in america spanning over 100 years of time. a special emphasis on central pennsylvania, harrisburg, and york. i'm going to hand things over. >> thank you, mayor. [applause] thank you all of you for being here today. offer the warmest welcome, not only to you but our honored guests. professor richard blanket on my .eft and professor peter levy i couldn't be more delighted to
historianshese and their accounts of events that are once horrific -- at once horrific and hope phil. blackett is the andrew jackson professor of history at vanderbilt university. he has held that position since 2002. during the 2013 2014 academic a professor of american history at oxford university. i may editorialize. is theor blackett historian of abolition movement in the united states in particularly its transatlantic -- and the role african-americans played in the movement to abolish slavery. he is the author of several critically acclaimed books " building an " thelavery wall"
underground railroad and the politics of slavery." and the captive's quest for freedom. historians of already sung their high praises about this book. a young university professor has described the book -- yale university professor has described this book at the most important study of slaves in american history. high praise indeed. i will add that i read the book as well and it is an invaluable contribution to the history of our commonwealth. account ofathtaking events here in harrisburg and philadelphia, a treasure for those who are interested in the commonwealth and the way we have responded to the events of 1850 and the collaboration with the fugitive slave law. also offering is a thrilling story today is peter levy, a professor of history at york college.
we are very proud to count him as one of the top rank scholars of our area. if i remember correctly president richard nixon considered white voters in the york area to be among his most fervent supporters. i am pleased to report that professor levy is an expert on the new left and he teaches courses on the civil rights movement, women, environmental history, and racial justice. their great topics were all of you to enroll in. professor levy is also a prolific writer. he is the claimed -- he is the acclaimed author of several books. labor." left and uprising: race riots in america during the 1960's." historians have
described professor levy's work as nothing short of brilliant. it is a pleasure for us to have you. i would add to the brilliance of this book you are going to hear about -- as i was reading it -- what is the question i came away with? those of you who are here because you're interested in the race riots -- here is the brief schedule. first, professor blackett will speak for 10 to 12 minutes and then professor levy will speak for 10 to 12 minutes as well. the floorl open for questions right away. we have microphones over here. we will be over here after the talk and i encourage you to lineup for your questions.
one final word before professor blackett begins. behind these presentations are that they have spent in libraries and archives across the nation. they have been reading hundreds and thousands of newspapers and documents long forgotten, dusty, and full of germs. i'm grateful we can finally bring them out of the shadows and welcome them to the center stage that they so richly deserve. we you join me in welcoming professor blackett and professor levy? [applause] >> thank you. this is the first time i've ever been introduced by a minister. i feel exalted. was starting to put this
talk together, it dawned on me that i have a strange association with harrisburg. i don't know why, but it appears that harrisburg in one form or another appears in four of my books. i think i know harrisburg a little bit, at least it's history. i was delighted to come and say a few words about a plaque being put up. i thought, today, rather than retell the story of the book, to talk about how i came to this study and what is involved in it . i have always been interested in people who have left little records of themselves. i have had to come up with devices to try and understand or
put together those picked up his -- particular stories and what they did. that is what i'm going to talk about today. law,50 the fugitive slave many years ago, as i was preparing a seminar on the antebellum. . -- antebellum period. it is conventional wisdom that it is one of the four venture events of the decade leading up leading up ton -- the american civil war. doneld find no one who had a sustained an extensive analysis of the fugitive slave law and its impact. i was shocked by what i read. america prides itself on being a nation of laws. this was an incredibly horrendous law.
it guaranteed none of the rights we have come to associate with western jurisprudence. the right of habeas corpus, the right to a trial by jury of what the old bailey, the lamp that shown that freedom lives. there were other aspects of the law that left me numb. suspects not allowed to testify. in thed, to aid recapture of a runaway, a person could not refuse. commissioners, a quasi-judicial appointment, maybe final decision about whether to release or to return a suspect fugitive slave, from which there was no appeal. paid $10 ifoner was he sent the slave back and five dollars if he did not.
it is the capitalist moment. it was a bribe. to put it bluntly. there was more to this law that horrified me but i think that is enough. point, what did communities, those in the free states, where most of these events occurred, as people came to recapture a fugitive slave -- what do these communities -- those most affected by the law think of it? there was widespread opposition to it, immediately and sustained over time. there were a few gatherings that supported it up by large, it was swamped by the opponents of the law. this raises the question -- why was the log necessary? -- law necessary? you don't have a fugitive slave law if you don't have fugitive slaves.
at this point, the enslaved enters the picture. they werections, of 1793,he older law pushing slaveholders to insist on a new law and a more effective law, one as a proponent was fond of saying, a law that had teeth. there were dramatic escapes in the late 1840's which added to the pressure for a new law. the slave cropper georgia, sherom dressed as a slaveholder and he went as her servant and they traveled in four days over the christmas break in 1848. they arrived in philadelphia from georgia. there is henry also which everyone knows about. it soon became apparent that the
law did not stem the tide of escapes. as one escape the road to his former master -- this is a wonderful part of the story -- he had decided to make his feet steel for canada and to make his master feel it in his pocket. think about that. the runaways by their action, therefore placed themselves at the center of the political storm, over the future of slavery in the united states. a storm that would continue to brew throughout the decade of the 1850's. enter the black communities of the free states. the law did disrupt lack communities in the north, thousands fled to canada -- one pittsburgh reporter observed that he did not realize there were so many fugitives in the black community.
hundreds left in the latter part of 1850. the black community responded as it pledged -- as they pledged to defy the law, creating protective societies that dared the authorities to remove eastgate these from the mists -- from their midst. the struggle was joined. if it was true that law gains legitimacy by being assented to by all those they wish to buy, the fugitive slave law was destined to fail. to borrow a phrase from toni morrison, "the fugitive slave law seem to authorize political chaos in the defensive order." the problem as far as i was puterned -- one, how to centerstage those who had left few records?
in other words, how to understand, what to understand how the enslaved thought about freedom. i found a possible answer in a book -- you would note for my accent -- i found the answer in a book about cricket. [laughter] you see? more civilized thought. [laughter] written by my own mentor, he wrote "we shall no more what men want and what they live by when we begin from what they do." what men think and what they live by by what they do." that to me was the breakthrough moment. fled,ories of those who together they give us an insight into the way the enslaved entered the debate about the
politics of slavery. -- clash here in harrisburg i will only say a little bit about harrisburg because i am sure you know all about this -- in the swirl of relations between the fugitives who passed through the city, the actions of the commissioner, richard mcallister, who was proud that in the three years in which he was commissioner, not a single slave escaped, who came under his purview. communityhe black came to the assistance of refugees from slavery, the determination and initial success of mcallister and the ways he employ the full force of the state power to ensure the return of every ease gave me who came before him -- of every escapee who came before them, and finally the ways many in the
city grew to despise mcallister. the people he was protecting, white harrisburg, turned against him, because of his enthusiasm and zeal he brought to the office. years, he was forced to pack up and leave the city. exiled. turned away. even by his own church. he came one vote short of losing his position on the vestry, at that point he decided, oh dear, i should leave. the government because of mcallister's actions and the actions of the black community as well as their white supporters, could find no one to replace him. after his -- after he departed 1853, not a single
fugitive was returned from the city. fugitivest because continued to run through harrisburg -- they did. two were recaptured in the city in 1859 and both had to be sent to philadelphia for adjudication because there was no one in harrisburg willing to take on onerous. case $10 to return. a fugitive was not appealing. the government could find no one to replace mcallister. in the meanwhile, it is clear from all the evidence, from all those hundreds of newspapers, that i was forced to read. [laughter] became aar, the city relatively safe place for
fugitives -- in fact, one observer and i think before i harrisburg,bserver, -- we can continue this in q&a -- one observer in the city, tongue planted firmly in cheek said the city became -- for those of you who know the became a-- the city supporter of the know nothing party. why? because nobody knows nothing about fugitives. [laughter] [applause] thank you. [applause] >> thank you. this is really a wonderful story. i teach down the road and i've never been to this bookstore. i was telling the mayor, wonderful things.
i'm glad to have the opportunity to be here. i would like to do three things. i will read the opening of my book to give you a sense. i will talk talking to this project, some questions i raised, and since i only have 12 minutes, 15 minutes, a little about my findings. maybe during the question and answer period we can go more deeply into that, . i didn't need these 10 years ago when i started this project. 1972, americans experienced over 750 irvine revolves, upwards of 25 cities affected the nearly everyone of the black population over 50,000. the largest waves came during the summer of 1967, during holy week of 1968 following the assassination of martin luther king. in these years alone, 125 people were killed, 7000 injured,
45,000 arrested and property damage top $1 billion. into raciallyake oriented unrest at high schools. collectively and with the events of hindsight, these results constituted a great uprising. socialre contemporary -- sciences, nor historians employed -- like the great war and the great depression, the great uprising was on of the central developments of modern history. how do i come to this project? a strange way. 30 years ago, i completed my dissertation, waiting for readers to give reports. i started being asked the question, what will my second book be? terrible question. [laughter] i was teaching a course on the civil rights movement at the time. we began to get a sense of what we today called the heroic stage of the civil rights years. from the brown decision until soma. elma.
there was not that much scholarship in the latter part of the 1960's which many saw as a. period of decline. lo and behold, i decided to write a case study on the civil maryland,ement in where people at the university of baltimore wanted to uncover the start of a riot that took there in the wake of the assassination in 1968. little did i know that york had experienced a very significant, one that almost no one talked about until 2001 when the mayor of the city, charlie robertson was arrested in conjunction with the murder of a black woman in the city of york. cop inbeen a white beat 1969. she was an innocent bystander.
the work of my own i investigated, i have the basis for what is a good way to begin to understand -- i begin in my mind to think it was something revoltsn disconnected -- this usual trifecta that have been studied. city, 10,000 small to 15,000 on the eastern shore of maryland, baltimore was the main city and york was middle sized. each with a different proportion of the black population. the majority of revolts took place in middle and small size cities. by large, our conceptualization of the uprisings of the 1960's, was in very large black cities like detroit, newark. some of these have ghettos big enough to have their own names, like harlem. wondering if there were similarities and differences in these different towns. as i verse my study and began to
ask certain questions, were not unique. the kerner commission, created in 1967, had been asked three questions. what happened? why? what should be done? i asked the same questions -- i wanted to know why we did what we did. the general rule of thumb at the time -- most people believe, the riots have been caused by radicals. there was a popular book written by a guy named eugene with it title "riot makers." it was later made into a police video and sent around the country. when lyndon johnson the kerner commission he expected the conclusion that radicals were behind the riots. one of the reasons cambridge was an interest, it was the poster boy for the argument that radicals caused riots. for those too young to know who
brown was, he was the successor, of carmichael who are popularized the term, black power. brown had gone to cambridge and delivered a fiery address, "this town don't come around, it should burn down." day, headlines arrived, there were pictures of a large fire in cambridge. it seemed obvious that brown must have incited the riot. and unknown governor said at the time -- a year later he would be the vice president of the united states -- the police chief went to the senate judiciary committee and made the argument that brown was the sole cause of the riots. there was a good deal of consensus amongst americans that radicals caused the riots. when the commission issued 1968, 50 the spring of years ago plus one month -- it came to a different conclusion
-- the conclusion that rather than radicals causing the riots -- the social and economic conditions of americans and ghettos, which according to the commission, "white racism" had created. cambridge, baltimore and your, i evidence thattle radicals cause rise and a good deal of evidence that the kerner commission's findings were accurate. even the kerner commission, conclusions were insufficient. turner commission, like most people thought of the revolts as being spontaneous events, that almost --nnected -- not just a rupture but they were repudiation's of the struggle for racial equality. if you look at the results that i looked at and in almost any city what you will see is, there were long-standing battles for racial equality in each city, that preceded the revolts in the
continued afterwards. ae revolts are essentially part of a continuum of a struggle for racial equality. i will give you two examples. in cambridge, i became interested because of this right allegedly incited by brown, but i found there was this whole back history, fascinating -- only one chapter in my book on brown, one of the most vibrant civil rights movements in the nation -- it is unknown to us because it was led by middle-aged woman named loyola richardson, who does not fit with our understanding of civil rights. she is militant, defending armed of self-defense in 1963, 1964. she gets robert f kennedy to negotiate with her. the kennedys were tepid in those years about willing to negotiate on civil rights. she had in fact left town in 1965, she met a photographer,
moved to new york city but the movement continued. she had invited brown, who she knew had come back to cambridge to rejuvenate a movement already there. york, much harder to these together. -- to piece together. it did not get national attention. 1950's,early as the there was a budding battle for racial equality in york. in the early 1960's there were protests and demonstrations against housing inequality, job discrimination but most importantly, against the criminal justice system. police brutality. city, johnf the snyder, used to walk through town probably with his german shepherd dog at a time when everyone associated them with birmingham and police brutality. a protest of 3000 took place in penn part which was the main park knew the black community.
that may not seem like a lot and they realize the black community was between 7000 and 9000 people at that time. nearly half of the community was out protesting against these dogs. they briefly got the city to the civilian review board but the mayor refused to appoint it and got the police to go out and petition people to get the review board repealed. after the summer of 1967, after the post martin luther king riots, york experienced many riots, involving police brutality. the pennsylvania human relations commission went into york and held hearings and the mayor bolts out of the meetings, a policeman threatens a witness saying you better get your story writer else. -- your story right or else.
have ther says you same conditions in other cities that ledger vaults and if you don't do something, he will have a right. nothing took place -- you will have a riot. nothing took place. york was supposed to be this beautiful combination of old and new, and the only pictures they had of anyone a black skin in ugandanire book was of a exchange student, james farmer himself and gone to york and said this is proof of the idea of the invisible man. blacks were invisible in the community. i found the kerner commission was insufficient because it forces us to forget these protests that preceded revolts, in which the white community in most communities ignored. a couple more minutes? what also makes york interesting
is in terms of what happened. most americans, even most dollars at the time, -- scholars at the time, thought the rise of the 1960's quite different from those earlier on in the 20th century. right jargon of the day, of an earlier time were communal riots, interpersonal riots. i might call them programs, places where whites attacked blacks and sometimes blacks fought back. the worst case being also, sa, oklahoma or chicago or e st. louis during world war i, where blacks were run out of town. 1960's were different. they were called commodity riots. that called them riffraff, people who were not political, famous scholar make the argument that people rioted
for the fun and profit of it. looting stores. there was virtually no looting whatsoever in new york, -- in pennsylvania. you had fights between the white and black communities, particularly the police force. theusual legend was that york revolt was sparked when a young black man showed up at the hospital and claimed one of the gangs had set him on fire, that was not true. that misses the whole back story. for years, the police had been attacking the black community. there were fights between the white gangs and blacks following the incident and then one of the white members shot a black man and the police did not arrest the white person and at that point -- parts of the black community said, like mckay, if
we are going to go down, we will go down fighting back. charlie roberts is of interest here. there was a presumption that the white community had the right to arm itself and the police should defend themselves. never thinking about the double standard of -- does the black community have the right to defend itself? the police force overwhelmingly white, had they ever thought of arming the black community or holding rallies, a white power rally because charlie robinson had been there and said you have the right to defend yourself? the answer is absolutely, no. in the aftermath of the revolt, blacks in your filed a suit in federal court. filed a suityork, in federal court. the goal was to take over the york police force, much like
ferguson and baltimore recently. my guess is that attorneys on those cases might know of these arguments made earlier. why it was not, taken over in 1969 was because of the mayor, john snyder died of a heart attack and the judge said, we should give the new mayor a chance to reform the situation in york. to a certain degree, there was a degree of reform. were dialogues held in york. the white gang members did not participate. in bygot a good deal of buy the business community. posterboard, magic markers, put up things they wanted. one of those was a disbandment of the canine force. the canine force was finally
ended. this notion that somehow, these revolts were counterproductive, is mistaken. i am probably up with time. thank you for listening. hopefully you will have a lot of good questions for both of us. [applause] >> thank you peter and richard. we will take your questions now. i encourage you to go to the microphone to the right. don't be shy. as the pulpit is taken away. [laughter] is that a lectern? i like to think of it as a pulpit. i see people heading over for questions. that is great. i will start if i may, since i'm the moderator i will take the privilege. richard, if i can ask you about harrisburg more. in the book you described it as a community of magnet for slaves
fleeing the south. what was it about harrisburg that made it a magnet for slaves fleeing the south? extentlackett: to some ,he size of the black community and another explanation, the geography, the location. if you're coming up from maryland, it is one of the given the topography of the place, the existence of rivers, and obvious place to come. convenient shipment .2 places to the north. north.t to places of the that made harrisburg one of the many places, if you're coming from the eastern shore of maryland you did not go to harrisburg. you would go to places like philadelphia or by boat to new york, but not to harrisburg.
where people went, is determined by two things. the existence of a black community they know, that they can rely on and then you might ask the question -- how do they know this? i will do as my kids used to do and say, because. [laughter] there wasr, communication. people who arrived in harrisburg or who had passed through harrisburg, got in touch with people back home. in the book, i trace what i call, serial escapes. one person, a husband would escape and later the wife follows and vice versa. one of the things that struck me, a sort of revelation, how many people wrote letters. in which theiod post office is established,
mailing is cheap. people wrote letters. this problem of slave, back in maryland or richmond or wherever, how do the letters arrive to these persons? the reason i know, there are many slaveholder documents that say -- we must do something to stop these postmasters. they are violating state law. there suggesting the postmaster should open any letter addressed to a slave. which would be a violation of federal law. postmaster is a federal appointment. we have incidence of ministers, a number of white ministers who
were in charge of black churches in the south, like richmond, black ministers were illegal. there are a number of instances, these white ministers preach sermons to their congregation, say, listen, you have to stop people sending letters because they will shut us down. we know letters were written. the communication becomes a vital part. if fugitive slaves and the black community were corresponding and communicating with one another, it meant the slaveholders new where runaway slaves were going. that is where they become exposed. if a slave knows the best place to go is harrisburg, his owner knows that's where he is going. >> what i found striking, harrisburg remained a magnet,
even though commissioner mcallister was known for what he was doing at the time. i heard a speech recently by julian bond, a civil rights activist, he was expressing surprise and this was either in the early 70's -- rights were dropping off. i will wonder if you could explain. what happened to the riots? look at,y: if you individually in the communities, the riots are not organized. their part of a larger continuum of struggle. i found baltimore would be the best example -- there was a black power surge in the post riots years, and it was something that divided the black community. the black community was more divided pretty riots.
-- pre riots. there is strong naacp. baltimore ascted its primary city. opposed. was thething happens is -- entire black community was blamed -- not just the radicals. there was a famous address, none of the black radicals was invited, right the aftermath -- he accuses the black moderates of having caused the riots. there was a closing of riots. if the goal was to change the system, what we see is a surge in changing that system to a certain degree. a couple examples with baltimore. period one main
goal is to organize lack women -- black women, who worked as hospital workers -- johns hopkins, just like garbage workers were terribly underpaid people in memphis and king was organizing them, in cities across america, black women were underpaid and disproportionately in for jobs. karen scott king was in charleston, involved, so are these former black radicals and they were successful in organizing a branch of health care workers. blacks did not gain political power in baltimore until 30 years after the riots. for a variety of reasons. aw work, detroit, cleveland, consolidation of black power. there were political gains in the cities.
there was a woman named rhonda williams who wrote a good book -- welfare mothers are organizing for welfare rights in the post civil rights. they can trace their roots back to the 1930's, but they start making real gains. for example, the people who control housing projects, were onerous owners of those places, almost like plantation lords in getting certain protections for women. i would argue, the black community consolidates. to me, that better explains why the revolts dropped down. there is a good deal of oppression as well. this is a big part of the storyline. no doubt. i wouldn't call it backlash. backlash headset in earlier.
had set in earlier. kneels --her neck colin knees and we get backlash but -- there is a black panther party in baltimore and it gets crushed. absolutely crushed. we see that in city after city. as soon as he is accused of inciting a riot, he lives through an ordeal of five years, it becomes one of the most wanted men in america, five years later they drop the charges. been accused of another crime and put in jail. 's attorney had said the main goal was to silence and divert money and attention away to the defense of people like brown. >> great stuff. when we look at the civil rights movement, we look at nonviolent
resistance and positive effects. a counter narrative in peter's book. i encourage you to dig in. let's turn to questions. identify your self and get close to the microphone so we can hear you. >> hello. my name is devon palmer, i was born in york, i know charlie robinson. you said there backgroundlooting but there is looting now so there ishe reason -- writing an looting now but back when martin luther king was doing it, there was no looting? what was the reason? i didn't find there was looting in york following the revolt.
the assumption was because there was a good deal of looting in other communities, that was the role. i would suggest, if we look at other cities where we thought that looting was the most important thing that took place, in many cases these riots, went through different stages. rk,ple who are studied newa there was an additional -- and abyssal surge, -- an initial surge, there was a good amount of looting. -- algiers motel incident police went in and executed a bunch of black men in the motel. york to aence in certain degree, for whatever reason, looting was not the way the community was going to rebel. if we look at looting -- why does it take place?
what dol argument is -- we mean when we use the term community? community is a sense of ownership. in baltimore, there were two regions that had riding. -- rioting. west and east. there is another part called cherry hill. it had been created in the post-world war ii. period, largely public housing. there was no rioting. one of the reasons, the residents thought of it as a place that was their community. they had built it up, rather than a place where you just lived because that is the only place you are allowed to live. owned, the were physical layout, a common ground otherommon space --
communities have gone through tremendous amounts of displacement. we see this in city after city, the building of freeways. a colleague of mine said when they build a freeway, there telling you, it is disposable. cherry hill did not have a freeway. they were building there and there was a good deal of activism. more atlike us to look communities that did have revolts and trying to find those pockets where no looting took place. my guess is we would find more places like cherry hill. we found them because we did maps, where looting was done and over a population map, cherry hill is as black as east baltimore and not a single window was broken in 1968. the usual argument was workforce, or national guard. no one was in cherry hill because there were no calls. the communities themselves prevented it.
-- i'mquestion for asking for -- >> [indiscernible] >> please come up. for dr. blackett, what prompted the act of 1793 and was there ever to end it prior to the next portion of the fugitive slave act? and for dr. levy, is it my understanding or should i understand that the black panther party, the majority were fbi informants? in my understanding that? >> ooo. [laughter] prof. blackett: fighting words. act is enabling. it had to be passed if the constitutional requirement was
to be put into effect. 2 says anyonetion , and escapesrvice to another place, that person should be returned and the owner has a right to reclaim them. that is the 7093 act. the problem with it, that relied on the state to which people escaped to enforce the law. the difference with the 1850 law they said, the federal government will enforce the law. one of the things about the 1850 law -- it nationalized slavery. anywhere person suspected of being a slave goes, is liable to be retaken. >> [indiscernible] attempts were:
made to put more teeth in that 1793 law but it never happened. america acquired all the territory from mexico, people started saying -- what are we going to do? these are all potentially free states. which one will be a slave state? that acquisition disrupts the political equilibrium of the country. 1850, they understanding was, if a slave state came into the union, it be balanced with a free state coming in and vice versa. that is what happened in 1820 with what was known as the missouri compromise. missouri came in as a slave state, they broke up parts of massachusetts and made maine a slave state. that kept equilibrium in the senate. regardless of the size of a
state, it has two senators. that is where you keep the equilibrium. in the house, the equilibrium was supposed to be the 3/5 clause, every black person -- every slave counts as 3/5 of a freeman. i will have to ask you to keep questions to the microphone. theater -- peter? we are also at the one-hour mark, prof. levy: i don't know how you would measure it numerically. there were informants but the broader issue was that part of not just's response, to the revolts but even preceding the revolts, is repressive measures. --e than simply informants element byuptive increasing tensions.
one of the founders of kwanza, intentionally the federal government increased tensions between the organizations, in an era where we are worried about russians feeding misinformation about politics in america -- we need to remember our government did a good deal of it, not abroad -- also at home. >> riots, rebellion, uprising. i hope you are paying attention to this language. that question? >> wonderful talk. david, i'm a resident of harrisburg. i have a question. could you provide a comparison or contrast between how well organized the federal government was to actually implement the fugitive slave law and the
organization in the community that resisted it? prof. blackett: that would come as a surprise to -- the federal government was totally unprepared. [laughter] they passed the law and went -- how are we going to implement it? people we going to pay to take slaves back? that is part of the law. it would be covered by the federal treasury. do we paper dm? diem?y per they had no idea, to pute fumbling around in place a mechanism to enforce. they were not prepared. this is a case -- the politicians passed the law and looked across the bureaucracy and said, you guys come up with something. the other thing i think -- i was
expecting, anticipating this question. can i say? >> sure. prof. blackett: that is my prerogative? >> absolutely. prof. blackett: the way states passed laws countered the effects of the fugitive slave law. they were called personal liberty laws. watch the television in the last couple weeks, our illustrious attorney general goes to california and tells trumpsnia, federal law -- i'm sorry i used the wrong word. [laughter] federal law is superior to state revisiting all the arguments of the 1850's. states -- harrisburg for instance, you could not hold a suspected slave who had been
remanded in a state prison so where are you going to hold him? the black community is under rampage, looking to subvert law, mcallister put the slaveholder in one case and the slave in the hotel and the community sets the hotel on fire. they all escape. the point is, until the law was taken off the books, after -- in 1854, you could not hold a fugitive slave in a prison in harrisburg. there were no federal prisons. >> thank you. christine? >> christine, harrisburg, thank you for being here. i have a deep appreciation for the contributions you are making. perhaps if we want to look for evolution on this -- you can write and talk about history in a more accurate way now then
might have been possible earlier on. in its early stages of social activism and the need for fighting the fight against regressive things -- because of the depth and length of your studies, i wonder if you might speak to the evolution of social activism -- as to what you see has been effective and in particular with cities where there tends to be more had arrived to the -- if you might say. particular qualities are aspects constructed in moving toward peaceful community relations and an evolution of humanity and social interaction? prof. blackett: that is the monster question. [laughter] there is, there are organizations in these
communities. they are two sets. the organizations that are black organized, and centered in the community and they are amorphous. they don't have residence and secretaries and speakers of the house -- they are organizations that pop up as required and disappear when there is no problem. another problem arises, these people appear again. subversive in that sense. on the other hand, the vigilance committees were created. they are made of blacks and whites. the foot soldiers of the vigilance committees were always black. those organizations operate in tandem with the black community organizations. again, tend to be
long-lasting. i'm not sure where they got the money in order to carry out their enterprises. for many of these vigilance committees, there were sections of them were called lawyer committees. that people who turned up at hearings and trials. they were not supposed to be there -- trying to pressure the commissioners to allow them to defend. those people operated pro bono. they were invariably white. there were some black lawyers. you have in all of these different cities, these vigilance committees very important. >> would you like to read anything? prof. levy: the best i could do one of the more influential
books i ever read was "the making of the working class" and the realization that there unmaking of the dialectic going on, one of the difficulties is to realize -- there was a congealing of movements in the 1960's. baltimore as an example, of a black movement, anniversary of vibrant antiwar movements, reinforcing and helping each other. there are these forces trying to unmake them. part of them is to blame the african-american community. , for the problems of the city rather than the other way around. to blame the oppressed for the oppressive conditions. -- building is what
on the criminalization of african-americans and the state. parts of the black community by and to that. buy into that.-- there is a great book on that, after the rebels much of the -- after the revolts, much of the black community buys into the criminalization of drug laws. >> my name is brian wade, i am resident of harrisburg and york. i know both communities well. you talk about revolt, uprising -- do your books -- basically the remedies within the broader corporate space structures are really about trying to maintain the integrity of the corporate state whether it is during -- those books, yes or no or a brief comment about that?
maintaining a corporate state whether the media, pictures, laws or whatever. [laughter] prof. blackett: no. [laughter] it is an attempt -- that is an order needed in order to maintain an institution fundamental to society in which it lives. there are people on the other side saying, our purpose in life is to destroy slavery. where tension and clashes come. abolitionists use a wonderful image -- they called it the scorpion's sting. --we can surround slavery
slavery is the scorpion -- with a ring of fire, what the scorpion would do once the ring of fire begins to compress inward -- it stings itself and dies. that is what we will do is si -- what we will do with slavery. we will make it so morally indefensible, it will have to stop. no one was envisioning a civil war necessary to stop the institution. there was an attempt to maintain the nation and economy on which that nation is fundamentally built. there is one aiming to break it up. peter? brian, i should have let you read my book first. one small way. one ways i found the kerner commission report to be insufficient -- it clearly is
not talking about redoing capitalism. it proposes reforms. larger rate society reforms in which, the system would not be changed. there were people, a large group of social scientists working for the current commission wrote a report known as the harvest of american racists. was much more along the line of what you're saying. that commission -- that group's report was censored and almost all the scientists were fired. they were talking about there would need to be a redistribution of power. -- they wereking tying the revolts to the war in vietnam, which the commission new -- or member it is johnson's commission. they knew that it could not be separated from the latter. --se are social scientists
there are clearly black radicals on the outside analyzing what is taking place -- you can make the argument that there is the need for fundamental change. it does not become a main theme in my book. >> thank you. two more questions. >> i currently live in harrisburg down the street from this lovely bookstore. i had a question about today and modern racism. issues in the past with racism see more overt than the current that occurs today and the new jim crow. in the past there were issues and white flight individuals leaving cities by now gentrification and millennials and all that -- individuals are now coming back to the city's, which causes neighborhoods like midtown harrisburg, the current community that was there -- mostly black individuals -- now may not be able to afford rent.
redlining, housing discrimination -- do you think issues of racism in the united states have gotten better, worse or stay the same for people of color and how do you think issues which education -- with gentrification, education, prisons, will affect the black community in cities and do you see another uprising coming besides the current ones with black lies matter and that kind of stuff -- and black lives matter and that kind of stuff? prof. blackett: -- that is for you. prof. levy: as historians, we do with the past. [laughter] the author of the famous study that led to the brown decision, was one of the experts asked to testify for the kerner commission. at the end, the quote him at length. clark makes the argument, he read the report that came out in the post world war i period and
then in 1943 and then after watson, he did not use deja vu but it was alice in wonderland. the commission thought it would make a difference. clark answered that. i see continuity. is onendous amount, it of the reasons i'm interested in looking at this subject matter -- i think that is the question we should all be asking ourselves. when we don't look at these revolts, it is easy to push it aside. one more way of telling us -- the very first person i interviewed during my study in cambridge, was a guy who was the state senator in the eastern shore of maryland for 50 years. he has a bridge named after them. he said, why would you want to study this? why do you want to peel back this cap? what good can come from this? my argument was the exact opposite. there is imminent
danger of revolts around the --ntry, for the rare reasons for the very reasons you just suggested. there is a good deal continuity, even though it doesn't look the same. >> thank you. last question. >> my name is catherine sutherland. harrisburg and teach a class on harrisburg history. blackett, i dr. in 1850 the law was passed, and there were slaves passing through harrisburg. besides the black community helping them -- were there many white people who helped? i know of two
. rutherford and another. prof. blackett: rutherford is earlier. lawyers in the state that attempted to help. the point is, mcallister, the commissioner ignore them. them -- underow the law they are not supposed to be there. they would turn up at every one of these fugitive slave hearings interveneould try to on behalf of the fugitive slaves but mcallister would not recognize them. he dismissed them. mcallister's office was half the size of this stage. he organized -- he conducted these hearings within his office, so that the black community could not get in. there wasfor anyone to show up.
lawyers who came to his office, there is a wonderful description of them taking notes on the top of their hats, because they were standing in a corner. it did not stop the black community. blackor community from turning out and making their presence felt. that is what i find most intriguing about these -- let me is that give you one example of the way they did it. instances, under pressure from outside, the theissioners would grant right to the fugitive slaves to bring witnesses. one of the ways that you ensured the slave was returned is you identified the person on the form the slaveholders came with as the same person standing before the commissioner.
which was not always the case. differentiate one black person from another black person. that is one way they try to undermine the validity of the law by questioning if the person in front of the commissioner is the person described on the sheet of arrest. there are ways one can get at these things. that is a way they did it. in many ways, the principal white figures were lawyers. >> before you leave, i have a couple of things to add. they will be available to sign books and take questions. to my left, there is a signing table. i encourage you to head over after this event.
thank you for being such a wonderful audience. thanks to our panelists as well. and is midtown scholar bookstore the coolest place in harrisburg or what? [applause] thank you. >> this weekend on c-span, eight: 30 p.m. eastern, journalists and law experts discuss first amendment protections in the digital age. former clinton white house chief of staff leon panetta, reince reporters on the
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