Skip to main content

tv   1968 - Protests in Philadelphia Germany Mexico  CSPAN  May 27, 2018 4:40pm-6:01pm EDT

4:40 pm
.or g/cities tour. >> next on "american history tv ," a session from a daylong symposium titled "1968 -- philly and the world." three professors talk about protests about civil rights and protest in photo field, germany, and mexico. it is about one hour and 20 minutes. >> this has been a wonderful day. thank you for coming. thank you to our speakers. thank you to my colleagues.
4:41 pm
we could not have done it without them. let's give them around of applause. [applause] this is our last panel, that theme is protest. i think it is appropriate we end up on this theme because we have been circling around it. the topics have been connected to the theme so i think it is , appropriate the final panel is dedicated to delving into that. let me introduce our speakers. riveraight is raul diego hernandez the assistant , professor of the department of language and literature at a university. he is here to primarily talk to us about student activists and mexico in 1968. riberio is is alyssa
4:42 pm
a historian of the late 20th century united states, a professor at allegheny college. her research focuses on north philadelphia residents as they dealt through political and economic changes. glasker,ght is wayne the associate professor of history who is annex bird and african-american history and civil rights. , aally, belinda davis professor of history at rutgers. she is here mostly to speak about activism in germany. christina larocco. to get started, i wanted to talk -- i wanted to hop back to a
4:43 pm
question that came up this morning. that is the tendency among americans to think about the early and late 1960's as a very different. one of the benefits of this panel is that we can get an international perspective on the question, although i am eager to to have our americanisst speak -- eager to have our americanisst speak as well. the question on the table is how different, truly, were these eras? why do we think of them as so different, and how accurate is that perception? assistant prof. ribeiro: i can start with a little u.s. context. i would argue there is more continuity than change between these two eras, at least in the sense there is no sharp break in terms of protest tactics or in terms of issues, etc. i think we tend to look at the 1960's that way for a few reasons. one of those is that people
4:44 pm
really like simple binaries and are attracted to these kind of easy narratives that they can plot. the second reason why i think that is true, at least in the united states' case, is it gets very overshadowed by the political wings of 1968, messaging a shift to a more conservative era, and i think we sort of read that also into what is going on in everyday protest in the streets of the united states to a higher degree than we should. i would say that if anything, protesters are gaining momentum by 1968 and perhaps are drawing on a greater multiplicity of tools by that point. prof. glasker: i would like to add, with respect to the civil rights movement, the black
4:45 pm
movement in its various phases from civil rights to black power, that there may be a slight grain of truth in seeing a difference between the early 1960s and the later 1960s, and that difference is in how the movements are received and how they are perceived in the media. in the early 1960's, birmingham 1963, there is the graphic image of police dogs biting little black children. there, it is very clear that the black people are innocent victims, people for whom we feel sorry. it is a very sharp image of who is the good guy, who is the bad guy. by the time we get to 1966, stokely carmichael has articulated the doctrine of black power, which to many white people felt threatening. by the time we get to 1967, new detroit aresey, and
4:46 pm
in flames and there is the perception that the black people now are burning down the cities and they are dangerous and they are militants and we are afraid of them. so the perception has changed, even though the aspirations of black people are probably very much the same, still a desire to be treated with dignity and with respect and the desire for self-determination. the goals of not necessarily changed, but the perception of black people in the media has changed. prof. davis: i think there is actually a lot to both of those views to say about europe and , specifically, west germany. 1968 is a kind of watershed between 1960s activism and 1970s activism, in a way, in the sense that the kind of violence of 1968, the dystopian elements of 1968, including in mexico, the assassination of martin luther
4:47 pm
king, the attacks on an activist leader, and many others by vigilantes and police in the course of 1968, which didn't begin then, but intensified and -- intensified, produced what many saw as a real retreat from politics in west germany by some, and for others, a move into violent activism, which i would characterize as a move into new forms of politics, many of which had been in place before, but a part of a new way of thinking about how change took place. a move away from notions of revolution, of radical change as something that was going to happen in a sudden and apocalyptic, overnight sense of change, but rather the idea of
4:48 pm
violent revolution was simply not a part of the stars in west germany, even among any who might have thought it in the course of the intensifying feeling of 1968 and that notions of how radical change can take place over the course of the 1970's movement was in part part -- part, part of the revolution itself. so, that is where i would lace the dividing line. prof. hernandez: in the case of latin america, it is also important to consider the master framework of the cold war and see how the cold war was experienced in latin america. there has been a very interesting laboratory of different experiments between the u.s. projects and the ussr projects. so in the case of latin america, in the 1968 year, specifically in the case of mexico, there is
4:49 pm
a complete -- some kind of break in regards to the participation of civil society and the students were advancing the agenda. mexico had a government of 72 years ruling the country. it was in a democratic way of having one party govern for 72 years, it was like a functional dictatorship from that point of view. the 1968 movement, in the case of mexico, marks the movement where mexican society, starting with students and other groups, started the process of democratization, start the end of the regime in mexico. the 1968 is important because it
4:50 pm
is the moment that the government becomes much more aggressive against the student protests in mexico, against the movements that were previously not as important in student movements in 1968, but it is an important turning point in the cold where era -- cold war era, the war against communists and alternative political projects starts in mexico with the 1968 repression of students. ms. larocco: following up on that, i would like to pick out one thread of that question a little bit more specifically. one of the reasons, i think, that people tend to point to a disconnect between the early 1960s and the late 1960s is that they perceive violence and nonviolence functioning very differently. they perceive the early 1960s as being a time when protest movements embraced nonviolence and the late 1960s as a time
4:51 pm
when they were more willing to embrace it. the question to the panelists is that an accurate perception, this trajectory from nonviolence to a willingness to embrace violence, or has that been overblown, at least in the american imagination? prof. glasker: i would like to respond to that by saying that there is a tendency to perceive the later 1960s with respect to -- 1960s, with respect to civil rights and black power, that there is a willingness to turn to violence in the later 1960s. and again, there is a grain of truth in that. i mean, the question of violence is two-sided. mummy look at birmingham 1963, police brutality. mississippi 1964, they were the victims of violence, so it is not as if the activists are violent.
4:52 pm
most of the violence in the early 1960s is being inflicted on people who are in the movement. but by the time we get to 1966 -- and even before 1966, malcolm x is in the picture and articulating a human right to self-defense, a right to fight back when attacked. not aggressive violence, but the right to defend oneself. by 1966, we have the black panthers in oakland, california, they are carrying guns and fighting back against the -- california. they are carrying guns and fighting back against the police. and, so, by the time we get to 1966 and later, then of course we have people like brown rhetorically saying, burn, baby, burn. so, all of that looks like, although activists in the movement did not want to incite violence or initiate violence, that they will respond with violence when violence is
4:53 pm
inflicted upon them and they will fight fire with fire. so, the mood, tone, and rhetoric changed by the late 1960s. it might be different for the student movement or anti-war protest, but certainly for many of the african-american organizations, there is a willingness to embrace violence, counter violence by 1966. assistant prof. ribeiro: i would add to that by saying i think violence and nonviolence, as categories, start to become problematic, particularly notes, even ine the early 1960s, many civil rights groups need to be armed for self-defense and are prepared in the eventuality they need to defend themselves to do so. i would also point out that violence against protesters is probably more of a continuous thing over this time period in
4:54 pm
philadelphia in particular. police misconduct is a huge target of activism. in addition, we might also think of other ordinary people perpetrating violence against protesters or even non-protesters. so for instance, puerto rican and african american families trying to integrate into predominantly white areas in philadelphia are having their houses firebombed and bricks thrown through windows into the late 1960's and continuing well into the 1970's. another example i will bring up is it is sometimes hard for us to figure out what counts as violence. so for instance, there is a very famous moment in philadelphia history where black high school students, by the hundreds, walk
4:55 pm
out of school en masse, march to the school board and demand in -- demand, in part, a curriculum that is more sensitive to their cultural history. this turns into a situation where frank rizzo, then police commissioner, unleashes a fresh bus of police recruits onto these kids who are protesting. the kids, understandably, run away. on their way, some of them smash some windows. does smashing windows while you are running away from an assault by police on what had been a peaceful protest, does that count as violence? i think many people at the time would have said yes, but i am not sure our answer should be yes. prof. davis: i think the parallels in west germany are pretty extraordinary, and not always accidentally because west german officials were concerned
4:56 pm
to be seen positively in the eyes of the american government precisely as rewriting their story, not as past nazis, but in the present, on the front lines in the battle against communism, -- communism. and i start with the officials because it was just as in the u.s., and also as in mexico, the violence is really coming very much from above by officials who are both trying to maintain a sense of order, very concerned to demonstrate their control over the streets, over all of these spheres of expression. and also, in terms of the kinds of agent provocateur, kathleen sibley was talking about in the last panel, that it starts out
4:57 pm
with the notion is what as defined as violence in west germany. hanging a flyer without permission was illegal and discussed as violence. any kind of protest that was not preregistered was illegal and therefore was constituted as violence. i would argue that the relatively small number of those who pursued violence as self-defense as they fought, and the fewer still who sought out active violence, are usually against property as a kind of way of what they saw as tipping the state. the prominence of those groupings as a piece of the whole movement going into the 1970s was very much the work of officials and media in creating a picture of the movement that look like that. in turn, legitimated the
4:58 pm
creation of a set of dragnets and notions of guilt by association and new arms of the federal criminal office that both nazi leaders and east german leaders salivated at in terms of the efficiency of being able to know what people were doing at what time and following them. so again, the violence question really has to be seen from above, as has been suggested. assistant prof. ribeiro: -- prof. hernandez: in the case of the student movement in mexico, what really makes the trigger of the student movement wasn't a protest. it was a game between two different high schools in mexico city in july 1968. they end up having a fight and the police intervenes in this conflict and represses the high school students. so this was some kind of, the
4:59 pm
, students from other universities and other high school students responded to that aggression to the students and start creating some kind of organization regarding the police brutality in this act of oppression against specific high school students. so, the movement starts with a provocation of the state in terms of -- we will be dissolving any kind of protests. it is important to frame it as a moment crucial in mexico, the 1968 olympic games, the first games in latin america, the first games showed on tv in caller, a representation of a city that wanted to be modern, but it was not modern at all. it was an underdeveloped city. it was a project. it was a state project, the olympic games. so from that perspective, any kind of problem that could be stopped before october 12, 1968, . it was going to be something that was taken care by the the military,ies
5:00 pm
, and by the police. the escalation of the student movement is connected with the repression of the student movements. in terms of the state army into a university in mexico and the federal police and any kind of police cannot enter the university. it is a very free space where it is completely forbidden. the entrance of a police force that does not belong to the university. the provocation of student marches which were dissolved by state authorities before october 2, which is the massacre of the 300 students, so the escalation of the police repression ends up in october 1968 with this massive eruption in mexico city.
5:01 pm
and many students who survived, who were in jail and who decided to continue fighting for the democratization of mexico decided to do it through an armed movement. in that moment, i think it is an important time to say that the movements that were peaceful and were considered very much specific, organized by students, there is a radical sector who decide to take up arms in the city and denounce this in the context of what will be called in mexico, the dirty war in 1968. >> i just wanted to highlight quickly something. i believe it was either wayne or alyssa that pointed out that part of this is a misunderstanding of the early 1960's, even the 1950's, and going further back, that defense was often an important aspect going back further. it just didn't come out of nowhere in 1966 with the black panthers bursting onto the scene. i don't know if anyone wants to speak to that, but i think that is part of why people tend to think of these two different
5:02 pm
eras. it is because there is a misunderstanding of the early. >> can i comment briefly? we often forget that in 1963, 1964, 1965, when dr. king was in the south, that he had protection. he had armed protection from black people. the deacons for self-defense were there to protect him. and they did not often have to shoot someone, so we did not notice, but it is not as if he was out there all alone by himself without protection. there were people there to protect him, we just did not notice as much. >> i think all four of you have pointed to these examples of either violence enacted from above, or certainyl at the very least of repression enacted from above, and i am wondering if you can think of you any instances in which the state was actually
5:03 pm
an ally to the movements that you study? >> well, in the case of mexico, there is no way to think about the state as an ally in terms of the force that is used by the state to control student protests in mexico. it is something that has been used for many, many decades in mexico. we can think about what happened with the 43 students and trace state crimes in mexico after 50 years, 1968, the repression, the disappearances, and forced disappearances are still going on in mexico. the great issue in mexico, until now we don't know exactly how many victims were killed. we don't know exactly how many students disappeared.
5:04 pm
we don't exactly know who was commanding the operations of attacking the students in the main square, and we don't know exactly what happened with many of the families who were asking for justice and searching for their loved ones. another important aspect, and i believe it is kind of crucial to understand what happened in mexico, it is connected to a new culture of human rights in mexico. for example, in latin america, human rights starts in an interesting way with this maternal activism, with mothers searching for the disappeared ones in the 1976-1983 period, which was the most important and the most terrible time of repression in the dictatorship. in mexico, something is happening that is similar, mothers searching for their loved ones from 1968-1971 student repression, which is another important state crime
5:05 pm
happening three years after 1968. so the state has constantly been solving dissident groups and responding to this kind of dissident, alternative political projects with force, with using the army, using the police, and one of the most important key elements of the 1968 movement is that they were asking for a public dialogue. it was like a request. we want to discuss our 5-6 proposals. want to discuss with you the state of the situation we are currently living, and the government has never been able to establish this kind of dialogue in public with these alternative groups who are searching for other kind of projects different from the state. >> i would say it depends on what part of the state we are talking about. so, in philadelphia, the police department in particular is pretty much a constant adversary
5:06 pm
for protesters and all types of folks in philadelphia, actually. but if we look at sort of the period up until rizzo is elected mayor, there is more of a willingness on activists' part to see what they can get in terms of cooperation out of the local establishment of the state, so particularly city hall is under tate, for instance, but i would say the city government is not necessarily regarded as an ally, it is moreso regarded as ambivalent, uncommitted to causes. so to take a couple of agencies in particular, things like the department of licenses and inspection, which is responsible for going around and inspecting housing and enforcing building
5:07 pm
codes and things. it is seen as pretty inept, understaffed, ineffective at carrying out its mission in improving housing. similarly, the philadelphia housing authority is trying all these programs to decentralize public housing, especially through the rehabilitation of what were then called used houses at the time. and they are having all kinds of problems with things like vandalism, and shoddy contractor work in these homes, and so the philadelphia housing authority is sort of increasingly reviled among local communities, not because it is necessarily an outright enemy, but it just can't seem to do anything right to help these causes. >> so in the case of the civil rights movement back in the 1960's, i am reluctant, actually, to describe the federal government as an ally. i think it is more like a
5:08 pm
frenemy. and so, the default state seems to be a level of indifference. state and local government should respond. we don't want to intrude necessarily. but then if you push the federal government, and especially if there is a crisis, and thre is disorder, then the federal government will respond, so it can be responsive under the right circumstances. and so just to take a few examples, i mean, in 1962, when the federal court says to ole miss that you must admit james meredith, at the end of the day, president kennedy sends in federal marshals. and then when there is a riot at ole miss at the oxford campus, and they are shooting the federal marshals, then the president sends in the army. and however many tens of thousands of troops come into oxford, mississippi, and james meredith is admitted. likewise, when vivian malone and james hood were going through
5:09 pm
the same thing at the university of alabama a year later in 1963, president kennedy federalized the alabama national guard, and one of the deputy attorney general's went down in person to insist, and governor wallace of course stands in the schoolhouse door, but in the end he steps aside. and then just to give one example, when we have the march from selma to montgomery in alabama in 1965, at the end of the day, what lyndon johnson did was to say, since alabama cannot afford to pay to guarantee the protection of the marchers, that the federal government will take up the cost. and that that march did occur successfully and peacefully, and so there are moments where the government can become like an ally.
5:10 pm
and so we do get a civil rights act, we do get a voting rights act, we do get a fair housing act, so there are those legislative accomplishments, but it is you have to push so hard to get your ally to take action. >> so, once again, in west germany, very similarly to the question of it depends at what the frenemyso issue, in which germany beginning in the 1950's is a program of political education, which among other spaces, allows for young people to have very open kinds of discussions of politics, including the reading of marx, which young people were supposed to be reading to see how evil marx was, but instead inspired many of the young people. but, you know, they were generally at the local level,
5:11 pm
very open. and i would say this is part of what helped politicize young people alongside precisely the surprising pushback they got when they tried to transcend the limits of these carefully created channels for youth political expression and wanted to use the skills and the knowledge that they had learned and fight for what they thought were real issues, and that's where they got a lot of pushback. at the federal level -- at the same time, this produced a youth who believed it was their right middlexample, as schoolers and high schoolers, write to the provincial minister and say, we need to meet with you about creating sex education in the schools, which may seem like a minor issue, but was
5:12 pm
perceived by activists as part of a larger whole. and in fact, this minister did meet with them, in fact, responded to the demand within a day or two, although what actually happened wasn't necessarily completely satisfactory for the students in terms of the timeline and so on. and another example of high schoolers and vocational school students and workers who protested against rate hikes in public transportation by the privately owned public transportation company in hanover, and the very positive response ultimately, after some efforts of police to really move in on the protesters, the state officials eventually said, yes, ok, we will now take over that
5:13 pm
public transit because this company, you have shown us this company is not doing the right thing. they then raised the rates themselves six months later in the winter when it was harder to protest outside, but this also then led activists to say, wait a minute, if we are getting such good response, maybe we are not asking for enough. in fact, there were ways in which liberal municipal leaders really kind of co-opted a lot of these independent and autonomous efforts by protesters, which can be seen in some sense as very positive in producing change, and in other senses, having really diluted the autonomy and independence that protesters were looking for in some of their campaigns. >> wayne, a few minutes ago, noted that in 1963, when police dogs were attacking children in
5:14 pm
birmingham, it was very clear to everyone watching who the good guys were and who the villains were. and of course part of that was that increasingly sympathetic northerners were seeing this unfold on television, they could see the violence right in front of them. i was wondering for all of the panelists, especially by the time we get to 1968, did that sort of sympathetic media coverage still exist? how did the media cover the movements that you study? how did it perhaps affect how they were perceived by the population in general? >> well, in the case of mexico, it is crucial, the role of the media. in mexico, even today, the relationship between media and state power is very much connected to the financial pressures that the federal government and local governments put on the media. most of the media in mexico,
5:15 pm
they survived because of money from state or federal governments as part of this kind of publicity of the government of specific local regions, federal announcements, and this kind of residential publicity. so there is no way to have independent journalism, no way to have this kind of research group of people that will question specific topics. for example, right now, like police corruption or drug violence related. so in 1968, it was a similar situation, the relationship between the media and the state was very much submissive. the newspapers were very submissive to the word told by the government. they were pretty much repeating what the government was giving as official versions. and it is pretty much very similar to what is happening right now in mexico with this historical truth, which is what the government has been trying
5:16 pm
to push, that the students were burned and killed by drug traffickers in collaboration with some local authorities. they want to close the case and they don't want to come up with the truth. so in the case of 1968, what happened the next day in most official media, they were reporting an armed confrontation between students, police, and the military. and the students, they didn't have any guns on october 2, 1968. they did not start the provocation against the police officers or the military. it was an operation that was completely organized by a group, they were snap shooters located in different parts of the square that started shooting the the students during the meeting, which is interesting because the army was also entering to dissolve the protest, so the
5:17 pm
army was pretty much also part of that crime they were committing by other members of the army hired by the mexican government. just to go back to the point of the role of the media, is that the media, for many years, it supported the idea that this was an armed confrontation, that there was violence from both sides, and that is not the case, that the students were also trained, especially the leaders, in different kind of guerrilla tactics, and that was also not the case. they did not know how to use guns. at least in that specific moment, in 1968. and another important aspect to consider is the only media that was contesting and challenging the official narrative of what happened were international reports by, for example, journalists, an italian journalist was covering the events of 1968 and covering the olympics. she was more interested in going
5:18 pm
to the olympics. she was part of that situation that was currently happening. we also have journalists, now a mexican, who was also giving testimony and voice to the people who work in that specific moment. another important aspect is we have oral storytelling of people who survived after many years and who give their testimony back. so this is also an important moment because the testimony becomes the element of searching for truth for most of these people, who are still demanding justice in mexico. >> so, i will say in part, due to source availability, i am much more familiar with print media coverage of this era than i am of local television news coverage, but within the print media, i would say that your couple of daily, mainstream
5:19 pm
philadelphia newspapers -- so at the time, the inquirer and the evening bulletin -- they did cover these areas. sometimes their coverage tended to be pitched more from an angle of, there are problems in these neighborhoods, and it is not so much they are concerned for the people who live in those neighborhoods, but more so there is an overall concern for how these areas reflect upon the city of philadelphia in a larger sense, and sort of, what can be done to solve some of these problems to help the greater prosperity of the philadelphia region as a whole. there is also sometimes an angle of this coverage that looks less to cover people's activism as sort of pressing political issues, and more to cover it as a kind of human interest story. so here is one particular person you might find interesting and
5:20 pm
this little thing they are doing in their spare time, rather than this being a very concerted challenge to any part of the power structure. the other thing i would say is that, in many cases, various portions of the alternative press are really important in filling in the gaps here. so, we of course have "the philadelphia tribune," the weekly block newspaper, but also much smaller publications, spanish language publications that are circulating amongst the puerto rican population, publications like "the philadelphia free press," "the kensington peoples press," "distant drummer," also known as "thursday's drummer." there are a ton of these things with small publication runs, but
5:21 pm
covered a lot of things "the inquirer" and "the evening bulletin," for whatever reason, did not get around to. >> for the civil rights movement, especially on a national level, i would like to connect three things if i could, briefly. i would ask us to remember that in the early 1960's and up until the voting rights act of 1965, the focus was on the south. so in the south there was segregation, in the south there was disenfranchisement, but by 1966, martin luther king is actually leading demonstrations in chicago, in the north, talking about housing discrimination. and there was actually -- there was a riot -- more than one riot in chicago, one by black people, one by white people who were upset at the idea of black people moving into white neighborhoods. and so, the issue had become housing and the problems of the ghetto in the north. at the same time that that shift is taking place, the media gives us a new narrative.
5:22 pm
the narrative is called white backlash. and white backlash becomes the master narrative for what is happening with the civil rights movement, and part of that narrative is to ask a rhetorical question. although we have sympathy for the grievances of black people, are they going about it the right way? so, we sympathize with your grievances, but we're not sure you are going about it the right way. and along with that, the question is, well, maybe you are asking for too much, too soon, push too far,to too fast, so there is this skepticism and ambivalence in the media. and i would add that by the time we get to 1967, martin luther king publicly denounces the war in vietnam. at that moment, the reaction is that he is a traitor to his country, maybe he is a communist dupe or sympathizer, and he is a troublemaker. and so the last year of his life, martin luther king is reviled as a traitor to his country.
5:23 pm
and yes, now he has the poor people's campaign, he's talking about poverty, but he is in the doghouse. and then he gets assassinated and now he becomes a martyr, but the media has a certain ambivalence towards the civil rights movement after 1966, which is the same time that stokely carmichael embraces black power, which again, feels threatening. and then we get the riots of 1967, and then it blows up in everybody's face, and where did we go wrong, and what is wrong with those people? >> so, like in the u.s., the media is very segmented in west germany. and, again, looking mostly at the press, although i think there are parallels in television and radio broadcasts at the time, the most powerful, the most powerful media mogul who runs the most widely read
5:24 pm
newspapers in west germany, which are primarily kind of yellow press, is the mogul springer wants to demonstrate his cold war street cred by attacking protesters, you know, at every turn as part of this long-running concern that for the youth and a fear of what the youth will do, and so, and this prevent a lot of vigilante activity against protesters, everything from pouring hot water on protesters and even just youth walking down the street from balconies, pouring hot water on their heads and throwing flowerpots at them, to assassination attempts. the more mainstream, but
5:25 pm
slightly less read press, was far more open-minded, perhaps. the coverage was perhaps almost too assiduous. almost everything young people are doing -- and i don't mean to suggest it was only young people, although i do appreciate the way others have suggested we are not talking about a student movement, which was also not the case in germany, but it was perceived broadly as a youth movement, and the kind of coverage of youth activism was remarkably close, and yet, young people kept feeling like they terriblyg misrepresented. there was a focus on what they didn't mean. there was a misunderstanding. so someone actually produced an alternative press as in philadelphia that was actually quite remarkable, this
5:26 pm
proliferation of hundreds of newsletters and newspapers, and magazines, which i would argue actually helped, at least for some decades, transform the kind of coverage of protests and make that be seen as part of politics as legitimately as what was happening, you know, in the parliament and what politicians were doing. >> one of the things that those of us who study the social movements of the 1960's like to point out is that all of these movements were connected, and beyond that, each social movement spawned other social social movements.
5:27 pm
connected of course to the civil rights movement, connected to the student movement, or the broader left youth movement was the 1960's feminist movement. and so i would like to draw our attention to the document that you see on the screen behind us, which comes from our collection of national organization for women papers and you can see it declares that sexism and racism are twin evils of society. however, then, as now, of course, intersectionality could be a difficult challenge for some white feminists certainly to acknowledge. the question i would like to put to the panelists is how race and gender were connected in the movements they study. >> shall i begin? [laughter] >> sure. >> the civil rights movement for a very long time was male-dominated, especially when you look at something like the southern christian leadership conference, which dr. king founded in 1957. i mean, it is a group of black ministers. and they are all men. so if we look at the experience of a woman like ella baker, who
5:28 pm
served as sort of the provisional chief of staff for sclc in 1958 until 1960 or so, she had great difficulty there because as she said, the men had great difficulty receiving instruction or direction from a woman, and they had difficulty following the advice and recommendations of a woman, so ultimately she quit almost in frustration, but not before encouraging the young people to remain independent and formed the student nonviolent coordinating committee in 1961. if we move a little later, i think that the civil rights movement did not really openly address the issue of gender until much later. and if we do look later, then we have a woman like angela davis, who is a communist, but is trying to work with the black
5:29 pm
panthers, and it is like, lady, you need to be quiet, that kind of thing. or we have elaine brown and kathleen cleaver who were n the black panthers. and again, it's an uphill battle. one comment i would like to make about this is by the time we get to 1968, there is the national welfare rights organization, and a woman named johnny tillman. and johnny tillman is a single mother, she has been on welfare, and she has a meeting with dr. king about the poor people's campaign, and she says, why is there nothing on the agenda about the rights of welfare mothers? they had been deliberately left out. that is not part of the politics of respectability. she confronted dr. king and asks his position in the congress on will as finally, sheng. said, "you know, dr. king, if you don't know the answer to the question, you can just say you don't know." and dr. king fairly said, you know, "i don't know anything
5:30 pm
about welfare mothers and i am here to learn." it simply illustrates how it is late in the day before the civil rights movement begins to address the issue of gender and inequality for women. race trumps gender, at least that is how people looked at it back then. by the time we get to 1968, there are assertive women speaking out, and who refused to be silent and say you have to be -- you have to respond to us. >> i would argue that, i agree with that in terms of the national scene, but i think women are a lot more successful at asserting themselves earlier movements. local if we look at groups in philadelphia that are focused on issues like housing, education, police brutality, etc., many of these are headed by females, founded by females from the very beginning, have very strong
5:31 pm
female spokes-people who are well covered in the media. i would also say that some of those leadership roles come directly out of their participation in other roles, a homeschoolg coordinator with their local school. this often helps them build local connections that they use in a larger organization. >> i would like to reinforce for philadelphia, as an example, the importance of looking locally. just as we don't want to focus overweening lee on 1968 as some magic year, looking at national nationalions and
5:32 pm
leaders, self-proclaimed or identified from outside, specifically thinking about philadelphia now and the issues we know are related to concerns , was a liberal, type oflass, white activism, in which race really wasn't the issue and the notion of radical change didn't play a part. a local scholar and activist has written an important book on philadelphia that suggests that precisely at the local level, the role women of color as well as white women seeking our -- far broader forms of change that really did grapple with in if in very contested and not always satisfying ways, the relationship of sexism and racism that we can understand, we can see a lot more activism
5:33 pm
if we look at the local level and not just at the national level, in terms of seeing how change is taking place. in the european context, the race question is a little bit different. the activists very much identify themselves as so-called jews of anti-communism. they feel they are being persecuted if they are in the position that jews were in germany some decades earlier. they see themselves very much as following on civil rights activists, are absolutely inspired by american civil rights activists. ethnicity,l work on so for example in terms of grappling with questions of guest workers from turkey and greece in germany, is a little
5:34 pm
uneven. they were very much inspired by non-germans in germany who were acting, but what is notable in the same way of thinking about is thisersectionality idea that the questions of sex and the lowering of the rates of public transit, were very much seen as a piece of a larger question about the deposing of lumumba in congo and the brutal oppressions of the shah in iran and cia actions in latin america. these are seen as connected issues already from the early 1960's. i think that intensified in really productive ways in the 1970's, including specifically
5:35 pm
around issues of sexism. >> in the case of mexico, it is very much interesting that they are starting a new wave of research connected to different testimonies, who are responding to the narratives built on a construct by the student leaders, the male leaders of the 1968 movement. women who from participated in the 1968 student protest doing very important work. i would say the most important role that they play is in the communication of the message of the students with the population. they created cultural brigades where women were creating this kind of prints with very low budget, explaining in those very
5:36 pm
small prints, giving them, the bosses in mexico city, they were having conversations with people in the main squares. they were trying to influence middle-class society for people to get into the solidarity movement with the students. one of the greatest tactics of the 1968 movement was in the hands of women who are producing these kinds of prints and were convincing people to join the movement, to follow up what was going on in the student movement during a time when the media was pretty much criminalizing student movements in mexico. another important aspect is that women were taking care of the student prisoners. who were visiting the prisoners were women. who were feeding the prisoners were women. who were feeding everyone that was participating, not only student leaders of the movement, were women.
5:37 pm
and they were taking this role -- some may think it is a conservative role from the side of women, associated with cooking, but it led them the possibility to understand and here different ideas, to expose their comments. from that perspective, the role of women is very much a subversive role. they were feeding people who were feeding the student protest and they were progressing the processing through the by having this contact with other leaders. another important aspect, the street becomes the school of political activism in mexico. the women enter the public square in 1968, most of them not having previous political participation. that's why it is important in the case of mexico, in 1968, because students from public and private schools for the first march time together. it had never happened before until this 1968. they took for the first time the main square of mexico city.
5:38 pm
it had never happened before. they occupied the square by being accompanied by women in the frontlines. the testimonies of women that are pretty much giving a completely different narrative from the male testimony, they were speaking about what happened under the repression, and what was suffering in prison. most of them were incarcerated. months when women were working on the streets, taking initiative, producing a completely different cultural activity to promote the students' message to different activities of most of the leaders taking on. >> great. i have many more questions, but i had better give the rest of you a chance. we have just under 20 minutes, so we can take audience questions at this point.
5:39 pm
>> just wondered what each of you would think in terms of your own sphere of influence or education, about the role of the labor movement, both good and ,ad, in the struggles and also i am particularly concerned about the comment that was made with, was the state ever an ally says itthe one panelist is sort of a half and half think. the guy whoemember really ran the state in terms of
5:40 pm
my own opinion on some of the struggles, j edgar hoover. i don't think he was an ally at any time at all, but i would like to hear what you think. >> since i think i described the state as a frenemy, it depends on which part of the state we are talking about. with j edgar hoover, he was an absolute enemy from day one, at some point restrained in fact by lyndon johnson. but we now know that the fbi had an informant within the ku klux klan from the mid-1950's. and the fbi knew everything that the alabama klan was going to do before they did it. they knew in advance that there would be an attack on the whenom riders. in 1965, viola was murdered at the end of
5:41 pm
the march, from selma to montgomery, gary roe was in the car from which she was shot. and the fbi knew the next day what had happened and who had done it because they had an informant right in the car. there is even a suggestion that roe himself was a person who far -- who fired the shot. was clearly, j edgar hoover in bed with the ku klux klan and was an absolute opponent of the .ove meant -- of the movement as the director of the fbi, he reported to robert kennedy. but often, he didn't pass along the information, so the justice department didn't know half of what hoover new -- what hoover knew. it is an ambivalent legacy. add the sister leadership, the sister rank-and-file. one of the great moments of the labor movement came out of birmingham, alabama 1963.
5:42 pm
2000 black children were placed in jail. all of them had to be bailed out. where did the money come from? in fact, it was the unions that raised tens of thousands of dollars to bail out the children in birmingham, alabama in 1963. and of course, it was the labor movement that helped support the civil rights act of 1964. >> i would agree that there is an ambivalent relationship there. certainly between some local activists that are very established, more traditional unions. there could be more friction, particularly with those unions that were still predominantly white and were chafing against efforts like the philadelphia plan to diversify their membership. but if we move forward over time a bit from 1968, relationships get a bit better, especially
5:43 pm
with some of the newer union structures. i would point out 1199 c, the hospital workers union, in particular. the meat cutters union that is active at many local plans. -- plants. to some extent the transit workers union. and some of the locals of the clothing workers, like the amalgamated. for instance, they increasingly have a membership that is more and more black and puerto rican. their goals are increasingly intertwined with some of these local rights struggles. >> unlike -- well, in france and italy, there's certainly -- for example, there's important moments where workers and those in labor unions very much come together with other protesters to play a really important role
5:44 pm
as, for example, in the french may, as is well known generally. in west germany, there was the conventional understanding that older workers and certainly their leadership in the labor union had negative interest in these protests, at least in the period relative economic upswing from the late 1950's to the late 1960's. there was a sense that workers within labor unions had never had it so good. economically, there is the sense of stability and so on that was belied very quickly by the recession that soon followed. but there's the sense that there was a real divide there. but in fact, especially younger workers and especially
5:45 pm
non-ethnic german workers played a really important part in interacting with other populations, other demographics of protesters, and often inspiring ethnic german protesters in ways that is not always very visible if you look at the official union levels. most often were not helpful in supporting these protests, but sometimes they came through. >> in the case with mexico, it is important, the railroad movement of the 1950's, where they gained a lot of legitimation with their movement and they become an important part of the student movement of the 1960's by the end, by having these important role figures accompanying the students during the protests. i would say another important
5:46 pm
role played by other different groups were connected with the professors of the students. they were assuming leadership with their students and accompanying their students. and the families of the students, which is also very crucial, during the student massacre, the victims were not only students. they were people representing unions. there were people who were family members of the students who were accompanying their children. but having these kind of political affiliations of eating -- being together in the same space, and also, very small kids were present in the square. that gives you an interesting perspective of the legitimation of the student movement. and the nonviolent aspect of the student movement. having the professors on one side, the railroad leaders on the other side, and having the
5:47 pm
doctors supporting the students by having also the oil union, which was very important in mexico, which was, the timeframe , we grew up without this kind of miracle happening. but in that time, the economy in mexico was pretty good, and connected to the oil industry. having that kind of presence of the oil unions, and having the presence of professors and student workers, it is important that they reach all over the most important institutions, unions connected with the different aspects of the economy in mexico and the professional development in mexico. >> i wonder if you might agree, in light of your discussion earlier about the violence/nonviolence, that overall in the 1960's, it was
5:48 pm
the spirit and tactics of the nonviolent movement that was emerging and eventually played a much bigger role in stopping the vietnam war, advancing the civil rights agenda. when you look at the full all, martinfirst of luther king's speeches influenced a lot of people to see the link between gandhi and the philosophy he adopted in the early 1960's after his unfortunate experience in getting attacked in his house and having a gun in his own house, and how jim lawson add byron reston convinced him to study the gandhian movement and to promote a nonviolent strategy. then you have the emergence of the clergy and lehman concern -- the clergy and laymen
5:49 pm
concern, that eventually invite -- united with king in a famous speech in 1967. overall, the churches, the synagogues, even the draft resistance movement took on a much more, a much stronger nonviolent, direct action movement. of course, there were certain incidents, especially there with the weather underground, that tended to cloud that movement's effect. overall, i would ask you to consider whether in the end, it was nonviolent, direct action that really advanced the social and peace agenda. >> do you want to start with that? >> sure. i would say, in the philadelphia case, nonviolent, direct action is absolutely a prime moving force in gaining these
5:50 pm
communities what they can gain, which is not to say that they are wholly successful in getting the things they are pushing for. i would say that there are a few other things to consider. one of those is that the nonviolent, direct action things, like sitting in and protesting, is always mixed with other simultaneous strategies, like signing petitions, registering voters, etc. if we look at the philadelphia case, some of those efforts will culminate in the 1970's, these hotly contested battles over the mayor's office where we have a third party, the philadelphia party candidate running. we have a petition to recall rizzo by the end of the 1970's. many of the people active in those political struggles are the same folks that were staging
5:51 pm
demonstrations in 1968 and in the years in between. the second thing i would add is that we tend to think about nonviolent, direct action as taking place on a mass scale. so we pay attention to the march on washington. and we pay attention to when thousands of black high school students show up at the board of education. i would suggest that is actually much more constant in much smaller doses, when there are smaller groups of people who, for instance, decide to sit down at an intersection and shut down traffic for one hour to make their point. then they get up and leave. similarly, you might have a dozen folks who go picket outside of a store where the owner is accused of unethical business practices. i think it is not only effective
5:52 pm
in pushing for this broader, overall change, but also effective in the very targeted campaigns against local businesses, against local institutions for specific grievances. >> i would add that the strategy of nonviolence, part of what helped make it effective was that dr. king was trying to create a coalition with white liberals or with antiracist white people, a biracial coalition. so the language of nonviolence is something that will be appealing beyond the black community, but it helps to bring about that alliance with antiracist white people. dr. king was not asking people simply to feel sorry for black people and to feel pity for them, but to actually do something about it. and as he said, one of the great sins of our country's indifference, that we stand by silent and indifference or the -- while the evil takes place. so the perpetrators can do what they do because the bystanders do nothing.
5:53 pm
so he was asking white people that they cease to be bystanders, and that they become actively involved to end the evils. so the language of nonviolence and the language of mass direct action is appealing to that audience and that constituency. you achieve what you can with that method. on the other hand, i do have to add, when we look at the kennedy brothers and when you look at lyndon johnson, as they are looking at martin luther king and as they are looking at a nonviolent civil rights movement, they are also looking over his head. and the person they are looking at over his head is malcolm x and the nation of islam. so i give the power structure credit for making concessions to the moderates, but in part, they made concessions to the moderates because they were afraid that, if they did not make those concessions, that black people would begin to listen to people like malcolm x and they would begin to turn to
5:54 pm
violence. so these concessions were strategic and pragmatic. malcolm x made martin luther king look good. and that is why the power structure made concessions to him. they were not moved by, oh, there's terrible injustice in the country, but there is disorder and there is disorder -- there is a crisis and we need to do something about it. the irony of history is that, despite the civil rights movement, the city still burned in 1967 anyway. because the civil rights act of 1964 was too little, too late, and if this had been an honorable country, it is what we would have done in 1945. >> in the case of mexico, it is very important that the 1968 or the post-1968 student massacre and the state crime that was committed developed a culture of human rights in mexico and the violation of human rights. i would say that is one of the
5:55 pm
most important aspects of these fights through nonviolent strategies and tactics. what i mentioned before, the mother activism we have in latin america, it happened in mexico. it happened in argentina. it happened in other regions of central america, like el salvador. but also, you have the guerri and in el salvador revolutionaries in nicaragua. i believe the post-1968 ways to respond to state crimes, state offenses were very much connected to the building of this nonviolent culture based on human rights, and connected pretty much with enforced disappearances in latin america. and the other route that was much more radical was connected with urban and rural guerrillas that were settled down in different regions, like the case of mexico in the 1970's.
5:56 pm
the response of the post-1968 can take two very different ways of approaching different responses. say in thei would west german case, i would really like to reinforce the characterization that alyssa made about the importance of looking not only had big -- not only at big marches, but at the everyday examples of blocking an intersection. these protests could be five people in a kind of provocative action that called attention to an issue. they were often very successful, especially after 1968, to draw on the kind of division that raul is suggesting. it became increasingly difficult in west germany to enact even
5:57 pm
the small forms of public nonviolent direct action. at that point, there was a lot -- inward,word effectively a retreat from politics to a kind of politics of the kitchen table, which i think is really important to also at knowledge -- also acknowledge again for its substantial importance in the 1970's, in which, in these innumerable living experiments and these experiments of creating these autonomous zones in cities and so on, people tried to re-create all different kinds of relations among people and to sort of re-create themselves. and some of this kind of action i think was deeply radical and effective. so i think that also has to be considered along with nonviolent
5:58 pm
direct action as some of the most important strategies of the period that were really effective. >> this is both the benefit and the drawback of having four terrific panelists. of course, we want to hear all of their answers to everything. unfortunately, that means we are not only out of time for this session, but this is the end of the event. it has been so wonderful. [applause] i will just say one more time, on behalf of all of us at hsp, i will speak on behalf of the center, thank you also much for coming. thank you to our speakers, all of whom were wonderful. thank you for c-span for taking
5:59 pm
the time to be here with us. i'm thrilled with how this went. so thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> monday morning, watch our special world war i centennial, the u.s. and france 1918, live at 9:00 eastern on "washington and american history tv on c-span3. our guest is the author of "thunder and flames: americans in the crucible of combat 1917-1918." we will look back 100 years to key battles in france where american soldiers and marines saw their first major combat on the western than 10,000ore americans died, were wounded, or went missing in the area.
6:00 pm
world war i centennial, u.s. and france 1918, memorial day starting at 9:00 a.m. "washington-span's journal" and american history tv on c-span3. >> to mark the centennial of u.s. participation in world war i, american history tv visited key monuments, battlefields and cemeteries in northeastern france with historian mitchell yockelson. a look back at several battles of 1918,ay and june when american and french forces were trying to stop german forces from advancing towards paris. this is just under an hour. mitchell: i'm at the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on