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tv   Protests for Black Citizenship  CSPAN  June 9, 2018 6:35pm-8:00pm EDT

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that -- he wrote a draft memoir. his son wrote a biography of him. i can tell you other details about him, but i don't know that . anything else? all right, thank you. >> [applause] [chatter] >> the massachusetts historical society hosted a panel of four historians discussing the ways blacks have protested for citizenship since the days of american republic. topics include abolitionists and self-proclaimed colored freedman in boston, orators sojourner truth and frederick douglass, anti-lynching activist ida b. wells, and the experiences of african american soldiers during world war i.
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it is about 90 minutes. >> [applause] >> hi there. good evening, and welcome to you all. thank you so much for being here. as catherine said, i am claire austin, and am a trustee here at the massachusetts historical society. it is my distinct honor to introduce our panelists tonight. from the black lives matter protests and the civil unrest that began in ferguson, missouri, to the women's march that swept the world on january 21st, 2017, 673 marches on all seven continents, including antarctica, to the students will it marches for our lives, which and on thesaturday, tuesday protests in sacramento demonstrating against the police shooting of a man who was talking on a cell phone in his grandmother's backyard. it is clear people are organizing and taking to the streets in ways they have not done in several decades. but their activism, the efforts
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to change the prevailing discourse about citizenship, its rights, privileges, and responsibilities, is not unprecedented. those precedents extend beyond the protests of the 1960's, the ticket of demonstrations to which they are most often compared, to the earliest years of the american experiment in democratic self government. here to explore with us tonight the long-standing relationship civil rights and citizenship are four preeminent historians. stephen kantrowitz is a historian of race, politics, and citizenship in the 19th century united states and teaches courses on the civil war era, slavery, and slave revolt. his second book," more than slave revolt. freedom," showed how boston's 19th-century black activists sought to recast their relationship, helped bring about
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the civil war and to bind a policy of slave emancipation to the idea of political equality. his current work explores the dissenting approaches to the white supremacist groups in the era of the 14th amendment, and he has books planned on scholars and native scholars in postwar wisconsin, and transformations on american citizenship in the civil war era through the was e wisconsin people, where they struggled to shed light on the relationship between citizenship and civilization. john stauffer received his phd from yale university and is a summoner r and marshall s k professor of english and african american studies at harvard university. he has written several books. two of his books were national bestsellers, and several have won numerous awards.
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he is also the author of of more than 50 academic articles and his essays have appeared in time, the new york times, the wall street journal, and the washington post. he has also advised three award-winning documentaries and has been a consultant for feature films, including django unchained, released in 2012, and the free state of jones. war,aches the civil autobiography, the 19th-century novel, and historical fiction, and is working on a biography of charles sumner. crystal received her degree from princeton university and is director of african american studies at yale university. she is affiliated with the history department and women program. her publications include the impact of racial and sexual politics on women's history, how are the daughters of eve punished, rape during the american civil war, published by the university of mississippi press in 2011, and general benjamin butler and the threat of sexual violence during the american civil war, which
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appeared in the spring of 2009. her prize-winning book, "southern whores, uses the work of two women, journalist ida b wells and rebecca latimer felton to examine the roles of both black and white women in the politics of racial and sexual violence in the american south. wells spearheaded national campaigns against lynching, while felton came to prominence urging white men to lynch black men accused of raping white women. despite being on opposite sides of the lynching question, both sought protection from sexual violence and political empowerment for women, and is a dramahores" that reveals how these lives played out in women. she is working on two books currently as well. chad williams is an associate professor and chair of the department of afro-american studies at brandeis university.
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he earned his phd from princeton university and specializes in african-american and modern united states history, african-american military history, and african american intellectual history. his first book was praised as a landmark study and won numerous awards, including the 2011 liberty legacy foundation award, and the 2011 distinguished book award from the society for military history. in the aftermath of the massacre of congregationalists in ame church he co-edited the charleston syllabus, which was circulated among history teachers and faculty and was recently published by the university of georgia press is the charleston syllabus. he is currently completing a study of w.e.b. dubois in world war i. i can think of no finer historians to guide us through a conversation on the relationship of citizenship and protest in the american past. please give a warm welcome to
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our panelists. >> [applause] >> thank you all for coming out. thank you, claire and gavin, for getting the ball rolling and coming up with this idea, and to john, crystal, and chad for agreeing to be part of it. we are going to each talk for seven to 10 minutes, no more than that, and then we will talk to each other. then you will talk to us and we will talk to you and to each other. >> [laughter] >> our theme tonight is protests and citizenship, and i want to start us off almost 200 years ago, when free african-americans in boston began calling themselves colored citizens. that self-description was an act of protest and an act of invention. to explain what i mean by that, i need to say a few words about the conditions of black freedom in the generations before the civil war.
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put simply, there was much to protest. the massachusetts constitution said all men are born free and equal, and slavery died in the 1780's. black men in massachusetts were eligible to vote, and many did, but slavery hung like a cloud over black people's freedom and citizenship. so, free and equal did not carry with it the equal rights we attached to those terms today. black people were barred from most professions and skilled trades, excluded from most hotels and restaurants, attended segregated schools, rode in segregated railroad cars, and as some of you may know, the term jim crow is applied to railroad invented in massachusetts in the 1840's. white supremacy not just haunted free life just in the realms of
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law and occupations and trade and public accommodations, but denied them a dignified civic existence. they were chased off the boston commons when they assembled to celebrate their, placards and cartoons made fun of them in ballrooms and in the streets, the most popular form of entertainment in the day was blackface minstrelsy, and hence the term jim crow and others terms that haunted african american life. just for one example of how attainment didn't save you, when the first african-american to try a case before the massachusetts bar, robert morris, approached his opposing counsel to introduce himself, the man literally screamed at him. he was that upset that a black man was presuming to practice law, presuming to enter into this kind of world as his equal. they were not equal to other citizens, not just in law or practice, but because slavery shadowed their lives. article four of the constitution seems to say that the citizens
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of allstate had the right of all thie states. for black people, that was not the case. they were haunted both by the negro sailor act in southern and by the fugitive slave law, which made them susceptible to be returned to slavery or kidnapped into slavery with little of what we would consider due process. when we think about african-american life in the 19th century, we must not think about it in progressive terms. as things were always getting a little bit better. indeed, the arc of history was going the other way. in many states, where a free black man could vote at the beginning of the 19th century, they could not vote by the civil war. the crackdown on the rescue of fugitive slaves led to a renewed fugitive slave law in 1850 that made black freedom much more precarious throughout the entire united states. the dred scott decision in 1857 said essentially black people could not be citizens of the united states, even if they were citizens of the states where
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they lived. and the most popular form of antislavery activity in the 19th century united states was colonization, which was a polite word fortation. all of that taken together, african-americans responded to that by claiming equality through protest. they adopted or invented institutions that proceeded from egalitarian principles and use those as platforms to press for an equal place in american life. they first build a counter public, a black counter public of churches, schools, lodges, literary and burial societies where they could secure their own ends in dignity apart from white people. but they repeatedly and consistently reached out from that counter public and insisted on their equal status in the wider world, and sought white allies to help them achieve that. they used as their platforms for these appeals, the languages
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that would have been familiar to the people around them. the world of natural rights, theory, and practice, beginning with the declaration of independence, all men are created equal, and including the massachusetts constitution's more expensive version of that, all men are born free and equal. this led to petitions and suits against slavery. in fact, slavery ends in massachusetts because slaves sue for their freedom. that is how it comes to an end. that is why the supreme court of massachusetts rules in the 1780's that there is no more slavery in massachusetts under its constitution. they demand better civic treatment, protest against indignity, and demand a place in the worldwide brotherhood of christ. act 17, the the king james version they would have been familiar with, god is made of all blood of men to dwell on the face of the earth. they take that seriously and
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pursue that in other realms, in the realm of freemasonry, which is another critically important project that involves the majority of black activist men in the mid-19th century north. in all of these ways, they are saying these are essential truths that are basic to our understanding of ourselves as americans, given by god, but not only given by god, made real by us. so an alabama slaveholder comes and testifies before the massachusetts legislature and says, god will free the slaves in his own time. the legislators look around and call up lewis hayden, a leading black activist, and have him come up. hayden says yeah, that will free the slaves in his own time, but he will do so through the agency of his people, blessed with a free gospel. in other words, freedom and equality through works, agency. that was their vision of citizenship. in 1829, david walker gave life to the phrase colored citizens
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in his pamphlet "appeal to the colored citizens." protesting slavery, colonization, christian hypocrisy, and warning the slaveholders that god would wreak judgment upon them. but he said what a happy country this will be if the whites will listen. that became the spur for the interracial abolition movement, for the conversion of whites by blacks to an egalitarian view of the united states. that is what literally set william lloyd garrison on his as a liberator -- his path as a liberator in the antislavery movement. as black people were vanguards of egalitarianismship through protest. they called themselves colored citizens. what they meant by that was different than our legalistic notion of citizenship. they were calling upon an aff
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ective emotional vision, but not just what a happy country this will be. david walker was not that naive and these activists were not that naive. they knew this was not just a gift or a matter of love or belonging, it was something you claimed, something you won. if you wanted to claim the mantle of citizen, you had to offer persistent protest against unequal treatment. and demand equality before the law. therefore frederick douglass' favorite quotation from byron, "hereditary bondman, know ye not, who will be free themselves low."first strike the b whites together toward direct -- that meant pushing blacks and whites together toward direct confrontation with the slaveholders, not just as martyrs, but militants. it meant defending others from being captured. it meant spiriting them away to canada or defending them where they were in the streets of boston.
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you have people capable of saying, i have a position in why unable treatment is a violation of natural law. please sign this and around at the meeting tonight. afterward, when we get to court square, make sure to put it safely in your pocket, because while we are picking up the railroad tie and knocking down the door to the courthouse, you would not want it to fall to the ground. these petitions for equality in a militant struggle against slavery were two sides of the same coin. they were the same revolutionary activity, and they were revolutionary activity, much like the revolution of 1770. if this sounds familiar, the idea that equality is earned through protest, if it sounds familiar to you, like every protest you have ever attended, it is because the colored citizen of the 1830's, 1840's, and 1850's, establish the terms of what protest means for us. just as their militant
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insistence on equality continues to define the best of what we mean by citizenship. in these days of crisis, we are often asked to think about the lessons of history and what they can teach us. sometimes we are called to embrace dr. king's moral arc, which is long, but bends toward justice, or the stirring implications of the possibilities in "once-in-a-lifetime, the tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme." but justice, like history, is a tidal wave nor a tendency nor a moral arc in defense of itself. justice is deduced by people from the circumstances and given life by their action. by their protest. at least in part, that is how history is made as well, and that is why protest matters and why the people who call themselves colored citizens still demand our attention. thank you. >> [applause]
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>> thank you for inviting me. this is a wonderful idea and a wonderful panel, and a wonderful turnout. the massachusetts historical society, about a year ago, published a collection called "the future of history" that was inspired by a colloquium in which several hundred people from all over were invited to discuss the large idea of history, and how it could be relevant for individuals in their lives today, regardless of whether or not they were professionals historians or not. i have the great fortune and honor to be present for that. i was asked to write a piece, and i borrowed from, of course, a piece that i have long taught called the american protest literature, from tom paine to tupac. the article i ended up
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submitting and publishing is based on a number of quotes or near quotes from activists and protesters throughout american history, which is history is the activist's mu. i firmly believe that. it is the foundation of the course that i have taught, and yet, throughout american history and american culture, scholars have tried to separate, sever, or downplay that relationship between history and activism. in the scholarship, there is a long, rich tradition, including from colleagues of mine, who argue that writers are obsessed with fresh starts, to be
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a historiansither or a nonfiction writer. you need to look forward and think forward, not backward. america, the united states is a nation of fresh starts. it is still a new world. and yet, when you look at the history of writing, the degree to which men and women of all different genders and ethnicities and races, regardless of where they come history drawing from and being inspired by and recognizing that the past profoundly shapes their understanding of their present and can shape their future is extraordinary. to such a degree that i often quote orwell's "1984," a book that, since the election of president trump, has achieved a new bestseller status. orwell is obsessed with the hate
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of totalitarianism, and one of the main reasons why he hates totalitarianism is because of the use and misuse and flagrant fabrication of history of the past. in fact, the party slogan in the book, a line that is repeated more than any other line, is this -- "who controls the past controls the future. who controls the future controls the present." i think control is too strong of a verb. change it to shape. who shapes the past, shapes the future. it is a profound statement, and it is how our understanding of the present and the future has evolved. it is one of my own areas in the civil war era, you see this
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extraordinary self-conscious remaking of the past, such that major figures of the 19th century are truly erased from much of the 20th century. that leads me to a couple of specific examples i want to provide about the relation between the past and the present. two are frederick douglass and sojourner truth -- the reason i want to focus on them is because they understand the importance of their visual public persona. the most recent book i did was on frederick douglas and photography. i found out he is the most photographed american in the 19th century. there are more separate photographs of frederick douglass than of any other american in the 19th century.
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more than of lincoln, custer, twain, anyone else. i have run the numbers, and you can ask me and i can show you. there are a few unknowns, like grant. no one has added up the archives of grant. but the larger point -- and sojourner truth is one of the most photographed women in the 19th century. douglass and truth are also hugely admired public speakers, orators, among the greatest male orators respectively in the 19th century. douglass could command a higher speaking fee than any other orator, and this was back when it came with celebrity, like being an actor. it was one of the few forms of entertainment. douglass, for the first 50 years
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isthe 20th century, essentially out of print. he is systematically suppressed. benjamin quarrels brings douglas back into print in 1948 with his narrative. "my bondage and my freedom" was his best-selling book. that does not come back in the print until several decade later, then the life and letters was published in the 1950's, but that is published by the communist press international publishers, which sells like 1000 copies a year. it is not until roughly 1990 that douglass is systematically taught in the classroom. so sojourner truth is still rarely taught in the classroom. that raises the question of why were they so in love with photography? the three answers -- the most important of which is they recognize the true value of photography.
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photography told the truth. the lens told the truth. douglass essentially said even if you put a camera in the hands of the white racist, the lens won't lie. eas i can't trust a white r acist using a hand or drawing a sketch. i can trust the camera. sojourner truth said the same thing, they were cast as activists and protesters. the standard photograph for a man, and it is in the photographic manuals, photographers told men to look above and beyond the camera lens, anywhere but into the camera lens. ae idea was you achieve visionary gaze. douglass always looked right at the lens. he was immaculate in his look.
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in essence, he sought to white citizens at a time when most whites argued blacks could not be citizens. and this is someone who was a powerful and effective orator. his look and photographic image was profoundly compelling. photographers chased after him, hoping to invite him to sit in their studios. it was a great honor to photograph frederick douglass, for photographers. and his photographs were widely circulated uncollected -- circulated and collected. so this look of staring directly into the camera lens, one this and said he looked majestic in his wrath. and that is a perfect expression of douglas, majestically
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wrathful, dressed up as if he is entitled to any of the most powerful and wealthiest places in the country, and equal to anyone. sojourner truth does the same thing, from the perspective of a woman. she is more famous for her photograph for she was than her presence at meetings, which is a big deal because she was an effective orator. like douglass, she presented herself to the world as a respectable, middle-class, educated woman, a representative american woman who, like douglass, deserved the right of citizenship and equality. the motto that she put under her photos was i sell the shadow to support the substance. she links her photograph to the
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substance. she is often photographed with knitting needles and yarn. and look closely at some of these cardste de viz, email me and i will send you some of them. in the yarn, how the yarn is portrayed in the photographs is that the yarn forms the contour of the united states. it is unavoidable. it is clearly the eastern half, see florida,, you you see texas, which is sending a message that this woman is a symbol of the union, a symbol of the nation, like douglass, a public face of the nation, which happens to be black, which reflects the importance of multiracial democracy.
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another reason for their love of photography is they associate it with freedom. americans have a love affair with photography that surpassed that of any other nation. portraiture is the main vogue but it is limited chiefly to the free states. one of the reasons is because that slaveowners recognized the threat that the truth value of photography could highlight the humanity of slaves. in fact, john c calhoun, when he sees an anti-slavery image in "the liberator" and tries to pass a federal law against any image that could be construed as anti-slavery. at the federal level, that is prohibited, but southern states oppressed alllly and debate assembly
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as it related to critiques of white supremacy or slavery. in the largest sense, and i will connected to the present, frederick douglass and sojourner truth took advantage of the technologies of their day, much the way activist take advantage of technology today the particularly when black lives matters. with the rise of one glance matters increasingly, many americans have realized they don't want to leave home without a camera. why? even though on an abstract level, we all know that we can distort an image with the camera, we can create multiple exposures, we can solarize -- the camera still has a sense of truth. by bringing a camera with you, you can document.
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in the 20th century, douglass' and sojourner truth's portraits inspired artists based on photographs. their visual legacies protested lynchings and segregation, they lobbied for civil rights and celebrated lack power. they dignified the black body that white americans have so often tried to destroy, ehisi coates in na his recent book. it is significant that douglass, in particular, was a precursor, anticipates black lives matter.
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but before that, anticipates the black panther party and black power in his demand for visibility, substance, and self determinism in his own community. douglass and other black leaders recognized the importance of taking it upon themselves to police and protect black communities, beginning in the antebellum period and extending into reconstruction during the oerror in the south as a way t protect each other from white terrorists and seek to achieve soft determinism. black lives matters' leaders have borrowed and built upon both the black power and black panther movement. the last point i will make about
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the past resonating with the present is one other aspect of representation that was immensely powerful in the 19th century that i think continues to be powerful today, what is known in the form of southwest humor. it relates to the tall tale, tough talk, bombastic confidence man. it is a form of representation based on the parody and imitation, at its best, becomes a burlesque that invokes a certain degree of laughter and the imitation becomes amusing. so, it reaches a broad audience. it highlights or exposes the the contradictions and absurdities of culture. tall tales and confidence men
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circulate and are most popular and resonant in american culture in those eras in which there are great incongrueties. particularly tea incongruent -- eties wherey incongru there is profound separation between the ideal and the real, especially between democratic dreams and social and economic realities. activists, protesters using burlesque humor is mark twain, masterpiece was "huckleberry finn," capturing the post revolutionary movement, the counterrevolution after the end of reconstruction, which twain burlesques or imitates the manner of the confidence man.
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in "huckleberry finn," the confidence men are tom sawyer is a con boy, but also the duke and the daufin. he highlights the degree to which huck's friendship with jim depends upon huck repudiating seeing him forn, for hisis, using him fame and status and being willing to reasons leave him -- end.inslave him in the one of the most effective forms of protest in our time now draws directly from twain. that is alec baldwin playing trump on "saturday night live." >> [laughter] >> thank you. >> [applause]
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>> i would like to start by thanking the mass historical society for organizing this panel, in particular, claire and gavin for pulling this together , steve, for inviting me to join you in this conversation. >> [inaudible] closer.l pull it i don't shout, but i will try to speak loud. i also wanted to give a shout out to mel paynter because three of us on the panel are her prodigies. we come to protest citizenship via her. i thought it was appropriate you mentioned truth. here in boston, in a public lecture given in 1833, maria w. store, a pioneer abolitionist
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and women's rights advocate invoked black women's demand for sexual justice by asking, what if i am a woman? what would it mean to acknowledge women, especially black women, as full citizens of legal capacity and political consent? if black women were granted not just the rights of life, liberty, and happiness, but of self sovereignty, then they would also be entitled to the legal protections of those rights. by asking the question, she asserted and called for the inclusion of black women as fully human and autonomous beings, the owners of their own bodies with the ability to withhold consent. stewart, like many black women, insisted on sexual justice as a natural right. in doing so, black women and their allies influenced the
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republican's party's vision for racial equality through the course of the 1850's and through the end of reconstruction. their radical campaign for sexual justice, taken together with evolving republican ideas about legal equality, made possible the emergence of a new sexual citizenship. my scholarship traces black women's resistance to sexual violence during the transition from slavery to freedom and reveals how their claims for sexual justice informed national debates about the meaning of freedom and citizenship. black womens' relentless defense of themselves under impossible circumstances informed not only the anti-lynching discourse espoused by abolitionists, but also influenced the republican party's vision of racial equality from the 1850's until the end of reconstruction. taken together, black womens'
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radical and often violent campaigns for sexual justice and the republican ideas about legal equality for free blacks and fugitive slaves reveals the emergence of a new sexual citizenship that culminated during the civil war, when black women gained the right to withhold consent and legally testify as victims of sexual assault under military law. during reconstruction, however, as the republican governments lost political power in the south, black women lost hard won rights of legal protection, as night riders and klansmen raped and sexually brutalized black women all over the south, once again denied to testify against white men in cases of sexual assault. black women such as ida d. wells turned to the press and organized sexual justice as a
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right of citizenship. in the decades before the the civil war, black women, freed and enslaved, with the aid of a few white women, managed to draw attention to the master slave rape narrative. their campaigns for sexual justice took on many forms. from written protest to violent resistance. we can think of jacobs, we can think of a slave who killed the master who raped her. we can think of margaret garner and her escape across the ohio river and the murder of her daughter. together, these women, black and white, challenged the monopoly of laws, traditions, and ideas that reinforced white men's sexual power and placed black women outside the legal and moral definition of rape. these were the years in which black women and their allies waged war against slavery and began to imagine a new kind of
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american citizenship that included black women and every woman's right to withhold consent and to legal protection. during the civil war, abraham lincoln passed the liber codes, which made rape a war crime. codes, thereeber were no racial limits on who could bring charges of sexual assault. black women armed themselves with new legal tools to negotiate a deeply abusive sexual terrain, but one that, for the first time, admitted that they could be raped in the eyes of the law. in other words, seizing their new rights as wartime citizens, black women demanded legal protection and sexual justice under military law, and sought to define freedom and equality in new racial and gender terms. the black women who testified before military courts, court
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marshals, were among many former female slaves who mobilized military law in defense of themselves and their new rights, as what i call wartime free people. during reconstruction and the rise of jim crow, black women remained vulnerable to sexual violence and continued to think in legal and political terms about how best to protect themselves, refusing to accept the racial and sexual politics of the antebellum hierarchy. they defined protection as a right guaranteed -- the antebellum hierarchy defined protection as a right guaranteed to only elite women and building on wartime experiences, they sought broaden notions of female protection by insisting it was a basic right of citizenship. newly-freed black women were unwilling to return to the antebellum sexual and racial status quo that allowed white
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men to brutalize and to rape them with impunity. for black women in the south, another war had just begun, as southern white anxiety about the economic and social meanings of emancipation intensified in the south. different constituencies assembled a convergent set of racial and sexual fantasies that would strip black women of their newfound rights. during the radical overthrow of reconstruction, southern white men managed to flip the antebellum script of racial and sexual violence. whereas prior to the war, abolitionists espoused a political narrative that centered on the rape of black women by white men. in the postwar years, southern white men articulated a political discourse that defined as a crime committed on white women by black men. in constructing the image of the black racist, southern white men sought to challenge black men's
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hilets as citizens of a w expanding their power over black and white women, and the portrayal of black men as betly and unable to control their sexual desires served to justify lynching, segregation, and disenfranchisement. at the same time that the justification of lynching and protection of white women who would allow for unprecedented violence against african americans, it also served to terrorize women and placed limits on their sexual freedoms and political rights. indeed, by the 1890's, southern white men had found in the image of black rapists, a powerful tool for maintaining white supremacy. while the rape justification for mob violence never cohered with reality, it shape southern politics into a cautionary tale for southern women. lynchings and the threat of rapes served as warnings that the new south was a dangerous
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place for women in the south who transgressed the narrow boundaries of race and gender. filings increased against both black and white -- violence increased against both black and white women. still, out of this, renewed sexual violence against black women in the south emerged a powerful anti-rape movement led led by ida b. wells. the publication of her 1892 pamphlet, "southern horrors" marked a renewed campaign on the part of black women for sexual justice. wells understood what black women had gained in the civil war and its aftermath, and had lost in winning the peace. yet, like the black women who fought for freedom before her, wells insisted on black women's rights as citizens on equal protection under the law. like stewart, wells turned to the press to make her case.
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in doing so, she provoked the emergence of the black club women's movement that would carry the campaign for sexual justice well into the 20th century. and i would argue anita hill, who spoke out against clarence thomas' sexual harassment is part of that longer tradition and narrative of black women making claims for sexual protection and equal sexual justice and equal protection under the law. i would also argue the movement of #metoo comes out of this longer tradition of black women making the case as citizens that they have a right to protection. oftentimes when we think about citizenship, we forget the way s in which not just black people were excluded from that category, but the ways in which
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women have been excluded from that category. black women have done to make the case for equal protection and citizenship really opened up conversations for both black people and women to make particular claims. i will end there because we will have plenty of time to talk about the other links to present movements, like black lives matter. >> [applause] >> thank you everyone for being here this evening. it is a great pleasure. i want to thank claire and gavin for organizing the event. my fellow panelists, it is a great honor to bat cleanup. i am going to pull us out of our 19th-century hole and into the 20th century and hopefully, make some connections to the 21st century.
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if you didn't know already, this year marks the ongoing centennial of world war i, one of those forgotten wars, oftentimes overshadowed by much bigger conflicts like the civil war. no shade to my fellow panelists here. world war i was nonetheless a watershed moment in united states history and there are many reasons why this is the case. you can certainly look at the military significance of the war, its political, cultural, economic significances, we would probably need another event to fully to fully delve into all of that. for our purposes this evening and for our panel, we should recognize world war i as a pivotal moment in the history of protest and citizenship. and even more specifically, world war i as a pivotal moment in the history of african american protest and citizenship. in july, 1918, w.e.b. dubois,
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born 150 years ago in barrington, massachusetts, the first african-american to receive his phd from harvard university, cofounder of the naacp, and, at the time of the america'sbly black leading scholar, intellectual and eloquent voice on the so-called race problem. he wrote an editorial in "the crisis" magazine, which he edited. an editorial entitled "closed ranks." for nearly four wars, the war had been rages. but 1918, w.e.b. dubois predicted, in his words, a great day of decision. he wrote in his editorial, "we of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome . that which the german power represents today spells death to the aspirations of negros and all darker races for equality, freedom, and democracy. let us not hesitate.
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let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks, shoulder to shoulder with our own, white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy. we make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly, with our eyes lifted to the hill." perhaps more than any other editorial in dubois'long distinguished career, it captured the tension that remains alive and well today. 100 years ago, during the time of the first world war, citizenship mattered for african-americans. i think it is very important to emphasize that. even in the midst of segregation, disenfranchisement,
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horrific racial violence, degradation of the citizenship status of african-americans -- they did not forget that they were, indeed, citizens. dubois and other african-americans approached the world war as a test of their citizenship and an opportunity to bring effective meaning to it. just as they had in previous wars, the most significant, as has been highlighted, the civil war, african-americans would demonstrate their loyalty and affirm their citizenship by sacrificing on and off the battlefield. 100 years ago, protests also mattered. from the start of american entry into the war in april 1917, most black people accepted the fact that in doing their civic duty to the nation, the nation had a reciprocal obligation to treat black people as full and equal
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citizens. african-americans would be loyal and patriotic, but they also demanded their rights, the most basic, as crystal emphasized, being safety and protection. let me offer one vivid example ofhis played out during the war. the east st. louis massacre brutally demonstrated the lack of safety and protection afforded to black citizens. on july 2, 1917, white mobs unleashed a fury of violence against the city's black community. the pogrom left neighborhoods in ashes, over 6000 african-americans homeless, over 100 men, women, and children dead. in response, on july the 28, the naacp organized a silent protest
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parade in new york city. nearly 10,000 african-americans, the men dressed in all black, the women and children dressed in all white, signifying respectability, dignity, somberly marched down fifth avenue to the sound of muffled drums. they carried signs that read, "your hands are full of blood. we have fought for the liberty of white americans in six wars. our reward was east st. louis. patriotism and loyalty presuppose protection and liberty. make america safe for democracy." dubois, impeccably dressed with his walking cane in hand, was at the front of the march. it is important to remember that black protest has always has been forced to confront efforts to control and eliminate it, fro m white citizens and the
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government alike. in his second 1917 war address, president woodrow wilson promised, "if there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression." the espionage act of 1917 made a crime punishable by 20 years in prison to "interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the united states or to promote the success of its enemies." future organizer of the march on washington, phillip randolph, was actually arrested for distributing copies of his radical newspaper, the but he actually escaped conviction because the negrojudge believed no could be savvy enough to publish an intellectually sophisticated newspaper like the messenger. espionage act was strengthened the following year by the sedition act, which severely curtailed freedom of
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investigated potential negro subversion. as editor of the crisis and under government surveillance,ois lly recognized that protests carried tremendous risks. his editorial closed ranks was aerefore, on the one hand, pragmatic decision. but it also reflected the genuine belief that were first andns foremost americans. principle duty as citizens was to their nation. war.he win the war now, protest later. demonstrated beyond reproach that they were indeed loyal, patriotic citizens, rights would inevitably be forthcoming. of did the vast majority americans respond to dubois'
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advice? they were stunned. under no circumstances, most african-americans forget their special grievances. to the contrary, the war that they fight and protest for their rights even more vigorously. dubois's harshest critics branded him a traitor to the race. dubois would in fact spend the rest of his life second-guessing his decision to support the war and regretting his advice for to close ranksns with their fellow white citizens. he raised that so long as race in the color line remains the central feature of american life, closing ranks around a row romanticized ideal of citizenship was impossible. trueieve that remains today. in some ways, the era of outis's judgment was borne in world war ii as black people specifically called for a vv. fascism abroad
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and victory against white home.acy at [bell rings] >> that means my time is almost up here, huh? for the protest of the world war ii, the evolution of the modern civil rights movement would likely looked much different. so 100 years after world war i,-- after world there are still some people who say that black people as first anditizens, foremost, should close ranks and forget their special grievances. that protest, especially when it hits the sensitive nerves of loyalty and patriotism, is inappropriate. my response to that is that protests, as it has been emphasized, is the most powerful andession of citizenship remains absolutely necessary for bridging the gap between citizenship as an ideal and as a reality. even thoughvinced, he may have been wrong 100 years ago, dubois would agree with me
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today. thank you. [applause] >> so i assume we have a little talk about what just hd beappenere we go to q&a. is that right? minutes. okay. can i just raise one question? it occurred to me as y'all were talking. i thought it might be worth thinking about. that goes most directly from what you just said. i think it covers the waterfront here. level, war and protests militants are agencies of social change. know that they are devastating producers of rape, assault and murder and the bylation of civil liberties
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states and by individuals. this cuts a bunch of different ways. that moment, in the 1840's and 50's, radical abolitionists knew it. the women's right convention a ba barbarous principle. youre not free because strike the blow. where did that come from? a radical woman is going to have that perspective, right? she says, no, these are natural rights. they're knol natural rights. you shouldn't are to kill for them. how this fits into our understanding of the protest tradition. >> you are looking at me? yeah. fascinated with the correlation between war and protests, because i think in you can trace the long arc of the black freedom moments ofhrough
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war, even beginning with the american revolution. continuing throughout the civil war, world war i, as i war ii, even thinking about the vietnam war our current military conflicts in their various forms today. i think war unsettles the social order in profound ways and creates spaces and opportunities for and otherericans marginalized groups to assert citizenship in very deliberate and explicit ways, probably the most significant through military service, specific obligation of military service. the argument that if you put on the uniform, right, as talked about,lass there's no way that the nation can deny you your rights as citizens. and that has been a very force.l and it has been a very powerful
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force for change, especially role ofthink about the soldiers and veterans in movements for citizenship, rights and social justice. seeat the same time, i you -- as you said, it has also created these moments of intense repression as well, which is an story.nt part of that and i think it's -- it is that, youto recognize know, war is not the answer, right? served as an opportunity opportunity at the same time. the south women, in and in the civil war, we know that the rights of citizens are, ways, are suspended, on when war is being waged. the context of the civil of, there's a new kind modern rule of warfare that set
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out actually to protect citizens ways.y and for black people and black newn in particular, these laws allowed them to challenge that brutality of war, right? so black women who are bringing rape charges are usually women who have been raped by white union soldiers, right? see is -- and, you joined theblack men military, there's this kind of understanding that you're giving right as ad of citizen when you join the military, that you're a soldier, and what that means. we see black soldiers pushing up against those contradictions, right? mutinies,e look at for example, during the civil war, what you see is black protesting -- black men particularly protesting what they see as their right to whether being violated, that's being flogged or being
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denied sort of the same rights white soldiers are allowed. there's animes argument that black men don't understand the rights of freedom or citizenship, because they're actually trying to challenge some of the unjust realities of what it means to serve in the military. theirt wanting to give up new right to citizenship. there are these kinds of contradictions where you see black people sort of -- i always feel like pushing -- i always say, what's good for black people is good for everybody, people. so when black people are it may, for some people, feel like it's a unique special right that they're trying to claim. but it's a right that usually, and it's expanded understood as a right of all citizens, it sort of raises all right? >> yeah. thatld just add to this
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most black abolitionists arguably most abolitionists define slavery itself as a state of war. and slavery was warfare between slave.and that's essentially -- i'm paraphrasing frederick douglass. you read most of the slave narratives and that's a central the slave narrative. nation state ends up engaging in warfare, in the case civil war, against slave ceded, every slave, every african-american, is this golden opportunity, long before the lincoln administration does, that this is an opportunity to end slavery. that preserving the union is from emancipating slaves and freeing them. relationship between slavery and war and the nation
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state and war is important. second point is that william prunel, born and bred in boston, vigilance part of the community in the north end of ofcon hill, a close friend sumner. he published one of the first ofl histories african-americans. patriots in the american revolution, which really, it traces the history of african-americans. question andal theme is the degree to which the united states military had markeras an important for african-americans. citizenship.of until the 14th amendment. the question of citizenship was in the united
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states. they haves saying, ther been citizens, and yet two symbols of citizenship that northernersly agreed on is that if you served military,ted states you were a citizen. and if you received the u.s. passport, you were a citizen. from that, inent the revolutionary war, the war 1812, and he documents that. and in fact, i've argued in essays that the historical society, based on a the mass historical society, nell was hugely influential at -- his history was hugely influential at to alter thencoln final emancipation proclamation to call for the arming of blacks, recognizing and using
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blacks in the military, as that thatrecognizing is a symbol of citizenship. almostdramatic, truly revolutionary shift from the preliminary emancipation proclamation, which advocates colonizatiocolonization. and thereafter, the united functionedtaries has as one of the most sought-after organizations for african-american in particular. day, the united states army is one of the only major the uniteds in ratio of which the enlisted men, black enlisted officers, is the exact same as the ratio of white and white officers, which means that the united states military, if you're
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african-american, you have as much of a chance of being as ifed to officer status you're white. so far as i know, there's not another major institutio organization in the states like that. so you're absolutely right about say, about the wars, is hell, war is that. but remember the long history not just of african-americans, activists, of protesters, saying slavery is a state of war. segregation. crow >> that's right. >> so is jim crow. mass encars raition. so they're -- incarceration. uponey're all dependent violence or the threat of violence. ?uestions f.m. >> questions from the audience? name is john bookston.
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the 50 years ago, i was in sixth grade. detroit, michigan. well integrated school, probably 20% black. 50% women. the blacks went home to the north across an army reserve to their neighborhood. the whites walked south from school. quite invited -- not invited but they invited themselves -- blacks to play in backyard on my basketball neighbors said please keep your -- play with your black have anythingn't against them. but play with them at school. hear myill cry when i
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father telling me the neighbors did that. i became a teacher some 30 years ago. blacks areve that nowty much in the same boat that they were then. equally.not treated they go home to their own inghborhoods, particularly boston. they deal with their own neighbors, who are almost entirely black. and we deal with our neighbors, who almost are entirely white. our parties are almost entirely white. are almost entirely white. i'm sure theirs are almost entirely black. women have made huge changes in structure. made hugeesbians have changes in societal structure.
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i cry over the fact that we come farther. in fact, maybe we've gone a backward. whor than the elite few andme ph.d.'s and engineers leaders in the military. only have a couple more minutes for questions. >> that wasn't much of a question. statement, that 50 years, what are we going to do years?next 50 >> that's a big question. >> yes. >> protest. >> ha ha ha! [laughter] >> protest. >> one super quick answer to that question is -- you know, '68 and 2018.t it's not like nothing changed between 1968 and 2018. lots of things changed, for
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better and for worse, because of policy and because of the or unsuccessful protests of those policies. segregated ine 1968 -- as segregated as they are today, but they were less segregated in 1988, right? so that didn't happen by accident. that happened because of policy and because of protests and counterprotests. the mostver forget successful protest movement of the present day is the backlash against racial inequality. that's where we are. we need to take a count of history happens, because people make it happen, only but crucially. sorry. that's my two cents. mean, your comments made me, again, think about douglass, after the war, and one of things that he said is you freed us, and now leave us alone. >> right. right. >> right? oftentimes when we think about the history of
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citizenship and protesters, it's automatic kind of correlation between civil rights and integration. ways, the full citizenship will perhaps should be the rights for african-americans to be able to be left alone, to be make the choice that if we want to go back to our own neighborhood, then we have the right to do that. so i think, you know, while certainlyn is important and the right to spe integration is important, i think it's also important to recognize the significance of self-determination as well. [inaudible comment] >> i have a quick question, because we brought -- somebody brought this up earlier. the suppression
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of history, and when you think of frederick douglass, agitate, agitate, agitate, to how he sort of was taught, you know, in the 70's, what leads to suppression, and how can we make sure that sort of fake history like fake news continue to perpetuate itself? [laughter] >> ah... could use douglass as an example. so there are ways that you can your sources that -- certain transparency so it makes it very easy for people to check sources and follow them. and that -- in the 19th century, 19thrtain respects, the century is closer to our own which there now in weren't as many official
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channels of dissemination. >> i was just going to say, policy matters, until the early 1980's, we had something called fairness doctrine. if you're on t.v. or the radio, there had to be an opportunity for an alternate point of view to be next to it. abolished inat was the reagan era, we got the rise right-wing talk radio and talk news. now the whole news ecosystem is talkingd around people to themselves and to their chosen demographics without to any form of reliability or verifiability. matters.cy elections matter. >> one more question?
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>> you've actually probably -- you started to address the going to ask. but how do you deal -- how historically have people dealt moment, that times of --the protest kind [inaudible] >> and goes back down again, falls downpression on it? say, for example, when you have, the civil war, after the end of slavery, the institution title of a book, of slavery by another name, and and racialexual violence, when after the civil war, pitchfork ben tillman in hish carolina begins political career, slaughtering uniform, ormen in for aworld war i, when,
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black man, especially in the southern states, of that trend, on that american uniform and march in the parade, is life and practically bringing down a death sentence? how do people respond to that? how do you keep the protests going? uniform, i'll in leave it to other people to that questionher may be applicable to our current situation or not. >> you educate and ultravait a cultivate a younger generation, a new generation. that's what the abolitionists of them following the counter-- the success of the counterrevolution. so frederick douglass, in his second edition of "life and times" in 1892, three years feele he dies, he says, i like i'm at the beginning of the anti-slavery movement. like i'm starting it all
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over again. young man anymore. and i don't have the energy that i used to. solution? the we need to be vigilant about educating the young generation. and indeed that's what he focused on. the best example and douglass is famous, and there are madeous young people who pilgrimages to seek out his advice. one young man knows he's speaking in new bedford and makes a pilgrimage to speak to bedford.w he's 20 years old, ambitious, very smart. and an incredibly hard worker. he has a private interview with douglass. douglass writes out this. your advice.ed i want to know what you think is the most important thing i should do with my life. should i be -- is it best for society to be a doctor, a lawyer
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banker,inessman or teacher, educator? what do you think i should do? douglass says, agitate, agitate, agitate. >> and i would argue that even seemsse moments where it like, you know, we've accomplished or won something, it's not like people stop organizing or stop fighting or, peoplew, oftentimes think of, you know, '64 or they as sort of these -- there may be these peaks, but just like white supremacy keeps evolving and remaking itself and coming up with new ways to deny their basic rights, you know, activists, whether it's african-americans, or women, are constantly campaigning and insisting on those rights. we have to be more creative. we have to -- our strategies to evolve, right?
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our protests strategies have to evolve, that this is dynamic. the sort of give and take, the backlash -- we often see it as a backlash, but, you know, as john said, you know, this is war. war.s war before the civil it was war after the civil war. confederatesw, didn't just say, we lost the war, let's be done, right? know, they found new ways to deny black people their rights people had to finds new strategies, whether it was legal strategies or what have you. that's what we have to do now, that we have to think about, what is our strategy? end game, right? and, you know, women have to do abortion rights, right? so i just think just because moment of triumph doesn't mean that, you know, hit from like,
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benchmarks, it doesn't mean that on theire just sitting loins and going, okay, well, we've done that. think sometimes we're not paying attention. are you know, because there not these huge victories. people are working on the local level every day, grassroots organizations all the time. they might not be on the news. you know, when you see black smallmatter, it's a organization -- there's small organizations all over the country, they were doing this before you were thinking about black lives matter. so it's about paying attention. and being involved and engaged in your communities, because andle are doing this work have been doing it. >> crystal, you wrote so ida wells, whout spent her whole life not winning of yet representing all those struggles, right? >> hello. i have a question. does this, in your point of
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view, from your point of view, reflect the struggle between the capitalist class, the white class and black working class? and i think there's a political tangle here that's right in ofnt of our noses that most us can't see. and i think that's what's behind it. hear what you and othe folks have to say about that. [laughter] >> so the -- ha ha! wow. okay.got -- so american history 101. let's start with where american 101 should start, which is the creation of race is the creation of a system of exploitation, right? that's what it's for. that's how it happens. and it is intimately related with the creation of what we class.
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it is inextricable from it in american history. living in thel aftermath of it. when we get out from under it, we'll know. not there, right? and none of the victories we're talking about have gotten us -- along theken us steps way to that victory, but we are still living in a societyncipation really. >> one last question. >> thank you for coming to talk to us today. rootedtion is, i guess, in results and tactics in winning justice. in the context of the talk about citizenship and whether the choice to accept citizenship and system maybe within the to try and win, as was talked about, as frederick douglass dressing up as the best citizen to show that he is a citizen and that way, ors maybe later in the 60's, of not accepting citizenship at all,
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and working outside the system because the system is corrupt we don't want to have anythi wng to h it, and understanding history is understood in the context of the times, and in our time, how do day,eel about the present about working within the system, or stepping outside of the of what you guys know about history and what you know about failures and today?es about our time and sort of those two, you know, opposing sides. >> well, i don't think it's an either/or question. the two arek mutually exclusive. i could point to someone like who during world war i felt that it was possible to makewithin the system to change. while at the same time you had like wells who were working very much outside of the system, to effect change. so the two go hand in hand. i think that's been true history of black
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protests. and it's still very much true today. might be theat right place to leave us. thanks, all. [applause] history,tures in princeton university professor julian zelizer teaches a class conservative of influence over u.s. policy in the 1970's. war,wing the vietnam american presidents from richard nixon to jimmy carter favored an relations called detente with the soviet union and communist china. conservative movement, professor zelizer explains, pushed for a more hawkish approach to communism and ultimately found a champion in ronald reagan. reagan challenged the centrist of incumbent gerald ford in e nguye 1976 presidentil

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