tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Civil Rights Race Relations CSPAN August 8, 2018 8:03pm-9:35pm EDT
including martin luther king jr.'s poor people's campaign, his assassination in memphis, black power, and the kerner commission. are guest speaker is kathleen cleaver and historian peniel joseph. cbs anchor walter cronkite on 1968 announcing martin luther king jr. has been shot and killed. spain that evening, dr. martin luther king, the apostle of nonviolence in the civil rights movement has been shot to death in memphis, tennessee. all news bulletin for a well- dressed young white man running from the same. officers chased and fired on a guard rig both of containing two white men. dr. king was on the balcony of the second floor hotel room when according to a companion, a shot was a -- shot from across the street.
the bullet exploded in his face. police keeping a close watch over the nobel peace prize winner were on the scene almost immediately. they rushed the 39-year-old [null] leader to a hospital where he died of a bullet when -- bullet wound to the neck. the mayor reinstated the desk to dawn curfew he imposed on the city last week on a march led by dr. king erupted in violence. the governor has called out 4000 national guardsmen. the police report has touched sporadic acts of violence in a [null] section of the city. in a nationwide television address, president. johnson addressed the nation's shock. >> america is shocked and saddened by the brutal slaying tonight of dr. martin luther king. i ask every citizen to reject
the blind violence that has struck dr. king. he lived by nonviolence. i pray his family can find comfort in the memory of all he tried to do for the land he loved so well. i have just conveyed sympathy him ms. johnson myself, the widow mrs. king. i know every american of goodwill joins me in mourning the death of this outstanding leader and are praying for peace and understanding throughout this land. we can achieve nothing by lawlessness and divisiveness. among the american people. is only by joining together and only by working together can we
continue to move toward equality and fulfillment all of our people. i hope all americans tonight will search their heart as they ponder this most tragic incident. >> king was born in atlanta january 5 1929. he was the son and grandson of prominent [null] ministers in atlanta and he had an extended education. he graduated finally with a doctorate from boston university in 1954 and got his first bachelorette in birmingham, alabama. it was montgomery, alabama, in december 1955 he took leadership of eight bus boycott there to end the policy of nonviolence over a period of a year and won the strike of the
segregation order. his nonviolent campaign spread through the south and he became the leader of the southern christian leadership conference, a conference primarily of [null] ministers. since the rise of radical negroes like carmichael and brown, king had been considered a voice of moderation and white leaders looked to his policy of nonviolence as a helpful antidote for those that preached right and hatred. >> we look back to 1968: america in turmoil on c-span and c-span 3, american history tv. that report from walter kronkite on the death of martin luther king jr. occurring 50 years ago this week. we will talk about it this morning, that topic and others as we cover civil rights and race relations from 1968. we are joined for that discussion this morning by kathleen cleaver, senior lecturer at emory university
school of law and former communications secretary for the black panther party and from austin, texas we welcome back peniel joseph, the director at ut austin. professor. joseph, i begin with you, take us to the end of 1967 and where the civil rights movement was in 1968. this was 13 years since the brown v board of education, the decision handed down, what was the state of movement? >> i think the state of the movement was very strong. there was a lot of debate and controversy. when we think about the civil rights movement and dr. martin luther king jr. as the significant figure, iconic figure, king is a political mobilizer and there are a number of different movements, movements within the movement. by 1967, we are seeing black power activists, talking about
community control all across the united states. they are talking about radical, social, political determination. groups like the student nonviolent court needing committee who are talking about antiwar activism and anti- imperialism. we have that national welfare rights organization talking about poverty. in that way, by 1968, king is talking about poor people's campaign and anti-poverty campaign at the same time you have young black political radicals talking about everything from educational activism and the creation of lack student unions to anti- imperialist strategies and anti- capitalist critiques. certainly the black panthers and black panther party for self- defense understands what's
happening at the local level in a place like oakland, california. in an era before black lives matter, they talk about everything from community control and free breakfast programs. they are questioning the legitimacy of late sanctioned violence. they question the incarceration, high rates of incarceration in 1967, 1968 of black men. and women. they question police brutality at the local levels. they are looking at poverty because one of the first things the panthers do in oakland, california is get a streetlight set up at a corner where african-americans have been hit by cars in oakland. when we think about 67, the movement is a movement of movements, the 10 are movements. people say dr. king goes north because he goes to chicago.
there is always a movement happening in chicago and new york and outside of the south. at times, the media focused on the old confederacy because we had the police dogs in birmingham, alabama. we had civil rights activist murdered in mississippi in 1964. we had protesters beaten on the beach of st. augustine, florida in the summer of 1964. in truth, political activism during the civil rights movement, the heroic period from 54 to 68 was happening in every other major city and rural urban hamlets across the united states. by 67, we see the movement has lost in the minds of the american public, some of the cohesiveness we saw when they were going for the voting's right act and the civil rights act in the aftermath of brown and the montgomery bus boycott. the movement is going for more
than just civil rights are voting rights, it's trying to transform american democracy and reimagine black citizenship by calling for an end to racial and economic oppression, it's calling for things like a living wage, the right for black women and men to have good jobs, decent homes and schools that actually educate young people. >> on that, kathleen cleaver, you are in your early 20s at this point at the end of 1967, you are involved in the civil rights movement, what did you see as the biggest barrier yet to be overcome in 1968? >> we were in the movement, i was in the street nonviolent court needing committee. the biggest challenge was political empowerment of people subjected to racism and poverty,
particularly police violence. the issue of self-defense, community control of police, food, social justice, there was a range of issues. the key focus of the movements i was in was against police brutality and violence directed towards blacks. >> we will go over the key dates and issues we will be talking about in the year 1968 as we discussed civil rights and race relations. we talk about the vietnam war and its impact on civil rights in this country, the tet offensive begins january 30th 1968. february 12, the memphis sanitation strike begins, a very 29th the current commission releases -- the kerner commission releases its report. and then april 4 martin luther king junior was assassinated. days after his assassination,
writing in chicago, baltimore, washington dc and other city spirit on april 11, president. johnson signed the fair housing act on june 4, fifth, and six, robert kennedy wins the primary and a shot after his victory rally and dies the next day. october 16, the iconic image of olympic athletes tommy smith and john carlos protesting at the olympic games. richard nixon elected president. we talk about the impact his presidency had on the movement in 68. we talk about all of that this morning on our 1968: america in turmoil series , special phone lines this morning if you want to join the conversation. if you are 29 years old and under, for those 30 years old to 60 years old, the phone line for those older, we want to hear from you and your memories. kathleen cleaver, we introduced
you as well as your position at emory and former communications secretary for the black panther party. how did you get involved? >> i was in an organization for student non-violence coordiantor committee. the only one that got there was eldridge cleaver, the leader of the black panther party. to make a long story short, he felt madly in love with me and persuaded me i should come out to california which i did. we got engaged, got married, i got involved in the organization he was a part of cold the black panther party. it was very much in line with the thinking and planning of snake -- snic. the black panther party was new , it was in existence for a year, it was exciting and engaging and filled with positive and energized young men and women.
>> process -- of us are joseph, you talk about the organization of the civil rights movement, how did white america view these different organizations we have talked about and dr. king's movement? >> by 1968, there will be what some people call a white backlash against the movement. this is the idea there was at one time broad-based support for civil rights struggles and racial equality. generally, white people when we look at everything from polling data and the state of the nation at the time, we are increasingly at unease with the idea of civil rights. by the time we see urban rebellions, what are called race riots and what the kerner commission calls civil disorders , those start in 1963 in
birmingham, alabama. i 1964, harlem explodes, 65 the watch neighborhood and los angeles explodes a few days after the passing of the voting rights. we see massive rebellions in newark and detroit in 1967. between 1963 and 1968, hundreds of civil disturbances and hundred of american cities. with the kerner commission, they argue, that is the present phone commission, the root of the violence and rioting is going to be poverty and institutional racism, it's a white racism has created and maintained urban ghettos and it is only white society that can get rid of these ghettos in that sense. there's increasing unease about the level of radical rhetoric black power activists are
engaged in. what black power activists do in contrast a civil rights activist, they talk about structural oppression. they link the war in vietnam with that and effectiveness of the war on poverty in great society programs. they link police brutality with ms. oration and impoverishment of african-americans in rural and urban areas. they are talking about race class and by 1968, gender as well when we think about radical black feminists organizing including feminist connected to snic who become part of the black women's alliance and the third women's alliance. when we think about how the white public is perceiving civil rights, it is for the most part negative and it interesting to remember martin luther king junior, by 1968 is not the same mainstream hero he
is by the end of 1964 when he accepts the nobel peace prize. by 1968, king is touring the country like a man on fire, critiquing the johnson administration about the vietnam war, trying to galvanize broad-based support for a multiracial poor people's campaign. planning to go to washington and stay in washington until congress passes meaningful poverty legislation, anti- poverty legislation that dr. king defines as a guaranteed income for all americans. we have congress persons who had praised king after winning the nobel peace prize for saying he is an anarchist, socialist and un-american. when we think about 1968, there's a feeling of doom as if the subversives have taken over. what is interesting, this is one of the things dr. king
said, he starts to feel even white liberals are fanning the movement because white americans are embracing the notion of peace and law and order with no justice. when we think about 1968, it's an incredibly tense year and hopeful and optimistic because so many civil rights activists and black power activists are trying to talk about the politics of transformation at the grassroots level. when you think about those politics, they're talking everything from community control of urban schools, they're talking about building farm cooperative in the rural south area they're talking about black elected officials. they're talking about welfare rights activism, the relationship between african- americans and africa and u.s. foreign policy. they are critiquing capitalism and saying is this the right economic system for poor black people? they're trying to
reimagine what citizenship will look like in the future. it's an incredibly hopeful time as well. >> you mentioned one of the black power activists, eldridge cleaver. newton was a law student in oakland, california who started an organization along with his friends, he and bobby met in college. they created the organization, outlined the platform, gave it a name and were two men, they had a vision of what change should be like. want they started, they started in oakland, people flocked into the organization and it got a lot of attention very quickly. what was that organization? >> the black panther party for self-defense. >> here's kathleen cleaver talking about the black panther party in 1968. >> in america, black people are
treated like vietnamese people or any other colonized people, brutalized by the police, they occupy our community and territory. the police in the community promote our welfare for our security and safety, they are there to contain us and brutalize and murder us because they have their orders to do so. this is like vietnam where there ordered to kill the vietnamese people. police in our community could not possibly be there to protect our property because we own no property. they could not possibly be there to see we receive due process of law, the police themselves deny due process of law. it is very apparent the police only in our community, not for our security but the security
of the business owners in the community and also the city the people are kept. >> they are not aware, there's a shift going on in the country summer. many people don't accept black people. all of those riots are causing my life to be miserable in all areas. they have a focus on the fact -- their mentors, the people that control the power structure. businessman, chamber of commerce, they are not turned on to the power structure. they know life is miserable for everybody. >> kathleen cleaver, tell us about the early days involved in the black panther party. >> it was exciting because it was a new organization, in the middle of the vietnam war. young people flocked into the black panther party, a large
number of college students from san francisco state and merritt college. it was positive and optimistic and full of energy, the organization i left student nonviolent coordinated committee, burned out after eight years of confronting racism and demonstration. by the time they articulated black power, the organization was approved. the black panther party took that and ran with it and spread it across the country on a concept of black power. >> did the black power party endorse violence? >> the black panther party was initially called the black panther party for self-defense. the violence with all around us, black people were shot in the streets, poverty was violent, they were against us. we were not a violent organization, we were an organization trying to challenge and defend our communities against existing violence. >> professor joseph, will you
talk about the tactics of the black panther party? >> i say the tactics are multiple, multiple strategies like kathleen cleaver was saying, it was self-defense. we think about the pinpoint program, 20 point program they outlined in 66 and updated by 68, what we want and what we need, they talk about everything from ending police natality to fling black women -- fling black women and men in federal prisons, good employment , good jobs, education. point 10 talked about land, peace, and justice. on one level, the tactic was self-defense and legally arming themselves by the fall of 1966 before the state of california passes gun control legislation
which is anti-panther legislation by the spring of 19 seven. that's one of the reasons the panthers on may 2 1967 go to sacramento to protest this gun control bill which was to prevent panthers from patrolling the police armed which was legal in the state of california at the time. on one level, we have the marshall military image of the panthers, wearing the berets and leather jackets and rifles. there's an iconic picture of professor cleaver in that mode. another strategy was the strategy of community empowerment and anti-poverty and survival programs, what they later called survival programs. this was the idea of survival pending revolution. we think about the panthers, we think of free breakfast programs and lunch programs,
food giveaways, legal aid, there's a great book by nelson looking at the black panthers and the medical clinics they did, we think about the panthers, the anticipated the rise of mass incarceration, they had free busing to prison programs. they had an ambulance service. they had tenants, white organizations, legal aid, they were interested in drug rehabilitation and mental health of the black community, food justice, the environment, they talk about capitalism equals genocide. that was one of the iconic pamphlets of the party from 1970 to 1971. there's a doubles strategy, on one level they're talking about defending the black community, there's strength on the group talking about proactive revolutionary activities. then there's another aspect of
the group that it tracks less attention but has been substituted in of this substantive -- substantive. is also spiritual and provides critical thinking skills to understand what is going on. that clip you played of eldridge cleaver and newton is powerful, you are watching two different political activists who are also intellectuals. they are theorizing about the structure and nature of political and racial and economic oppression in the united states. 50 years later when we think about the movement for black lives matter in, that is completely connected in trying to build on what the panthers realized when we think about the way in which the state was institutionalizing the
repression of african- americans, 2.3 million people in prison right now, about half of those are african-american. six or seven, 8 million on parole or probation and over 1 million children, any of them are black who have parents in prison or incarcerated. the panthers formulate at the dawn of that era, the era of mass incarceration, what the panthers called state sanctioned violence. by that they meant the police, law enforcement. like professor cleaver said, they're talking about economic violence, the reason why they start the free breakfast program, many white people and black children were impoverished, those free breakfast programs eventually became something widespread and get institutionalized in cities like milwaukee and states like wisconsin and eventually at the federal level as well. >> we look back 50 years to 1968, civil rights and race
relations in this country. joining us on the phone is james from mississippi. we split the phone lines up by age, he is 61 and older. >> good morning, everybody. i wanted to hope everybody had a happy passover and whatever else they have to celebrate the death of jesus christ. i was 14 years old in 1968. i been on both sides of the street, i lived in mississippi and chicago, i could tell the difference like night and day. my main point was in 1968, dr. martin luther king was assassinated, i was in chicago, i felt the riots and saw the burnings of buildings and things going on.
one thing about it, my mother did not allow me to bring anything in the house it was stolen, she refused to let s2 that. my main point is this, in 2018 and going back that far, a lot has changed but a lot has not changed. in the sense of when you say 2018, you make this country great again, and what the hell you have to lose, black folks asking americans, i don't think america has always been great and always will be great no matter what. the thing is, you have to make america right again. the civil rights march and white, black, everybody back during that time, it was not the government that exposed
wrong in the country, it was people getting out and marching. >> thanks to the call from mississippi. kathleen cleaver, i will let you take up the issues he brought up. >> he talked about how people felt about what was happening. i think the context, we are not talking about the war in vietnam, everything happening and particularly the civil rights and black power movement was generated and amplified and in some sense kicked off by the impact of the vietnam war, the impact of the draft and the sense of young men, they're going to get killed or die and some attitude was why should i go to vietnam and die in a rice paddy, white on a stay home and fight for black trees in. the civil rights energy in america was amplified over and over again by the activities of the vietnam war and by the population, these young high school men taken out of school and shipped to vietnam or
deciding they will not go to vietnam and become draft dodgers or whatever. there's a lot of turmoil involving racism, war, in the future of what the country would be. this is when our leaders like bobby kennedy getting murdered as soon as he was elected, it was a traumatizing time. >> professor. joseph, i let you take angela in ohio. they are between 30 and 60 years old. good morning. >> good morning. i want to say when they started killing off the civil rights leaders with the kennedys, martin luther king, all the big people, they swept us under the rug, a bunch of criminals, then they start locking us up in
droves. if you are black, you got locked up for walking across the street sideways. they were on our side. now the police shoot and run people over, they don't care. i've never seen anything like this in my lifetime. my grandmother told me, she never thought she would live to see a black man in the white house, she did live to see it, i see it. i live my grandmother string. after he leaves the white house, look at the shambles the nation is in. nobody could have predicted this. >> angela, this morning, professor. joseph, what do you want to pick up on that? >> i think when you talk about the deaths occurring, i think despite the assassinations, we
can go as far back to 63 with the kennedy assassination and the assassination of medgar evans and others. those assassinations had a big impact , it's important to remember the protest and demonstration continue to proliferate in spite of those assassinations. in a way, what we see, political assassination robs social movement of narrative formed around, especially in the 1960s, predominantly male figures. it doesn't mean the movement goes away. after 1968, you will see more protest against the vietnam war than before 1968. after 1968, we see more protest for community control, women's rights, chicano activism, civil
rights activism, black power activism all the way into the mid-70s. when we think about those assassinations, we remember them as important pivot points, it's important to recall the social movement don't end because we have these big political mobilizer's or icons who are assassinated. a leader or representative spokesperson, woman or man, they represent a groundswell of political organizing that's happening at the local level. there is no dr. martin luther king junior without joanne robinson, the women's political counsel in montgomery, alabama or rosa parks, people who were actual day-to-day organizers. what he is doing as an articulator, he is able to galvanize attention to what people are doing at the local levels and even though what
movements lose when people are assassinated, there's not necessarily that focal point and that figurehead who can bring that kind of media attention, the movements continue. >> kathleen cleaver, the color brings up robert kennedy, he enters the presidential race for that democratic nomination in march 1968. what did he mean to the civil rights movement in 1968? >> i'm not certain the civil rights movement in 1968, not so when i was in, we called ourselves the black power movement, it was a little bit different energy than civil rights, we were not committed to nonviolence, we were committed to radical social justice and economic change. bobby kennedy articulated as a mainstreet politician, some of the interest the social justice movement had which is more than likely why he did not get a chance to get out the gate.
he was murdered as soon as he was making a speech. the right-wing repression that was coming, he made it clear, the politics of robert kennedy, politics of social justice, antiwar were being repudiated. that set the tone for a very radical uprising across the country on many levels. >> we set the tone for this discussion with the news report of the death of martin luther king jr. 50 years ago this week. describe your memory of learning about the death of martin luther king jr. >> i remember, i was in oakland at the time, living in california, the black panther headquarters were in oakland, i remember how stunned and angry black people around the country were. , washington dc was set on fire.
there were tons of uprising, protest, the country was in a state of total chaos and what was intriguing was there was instructions to the police to standdown, they were not confronting these uprisings. you saw huge explosions, anger and frustration and violence in the wake of the assassination of martin luther king. >> process for -- professor. joseph, why was martin luther king jr. in memphis that day on 1968? >> he was in memphis because he was called by one of his good close friends, the reverend. jim lawson who is helping to organize sanitation workers in memphis, tennessee on strike for a living wage. king starts going there in march and giving speeches and one time during a visit, one of
the demonstrations turned violent, not because of the demonstrators who were part of the organized civil rights activism but because of outliers , young people in the city very frustrated and they smashed windows and determined to return to memphis to have a rally that is peaceful because people are critical, critics are saying if he can't lead a peaceful rally in memphis, how can he come down to washington dc and do this camp and tent city they're talking about is part of the poor people's campaign? he was in memphis because by 68, king is convinced one, the vietnam war is a long and illegal war, a war that has wrapped resources from poor people and attention from the plight of the poor. he goes to places like mississippi and places like the
southwest inmates with mexican- american activists, farmworkers, he meets up with poor white as well. he will have a caravan, a multiracial caravan that will come to dc in the summer for this poor people's campaign. by 68, king is talking about guaranteed income, we should remember 50 years ago, there were many americans across political lines talking about a guaranteed income as a way to fight poverty and end poverty and joblessness once and for all. some people talked about full employment and how that would look, work progress administration that went beyond the new deal. when king goes to memphis, he uses memphis as the first beachhead in this larger battle for social justice. by 68, king is vilified for talking about poor people,
guaranteed income, and saying he will bring this non-violent army to washington dc. even though king is always articulating a philosophy of nonviolent, journalists and politicians are going to criticize him and that he is trying to bring violence to washington dc when all he's really trying to do is force the united states into a reckoning with the gap between democratic rhetoric and democratic reality, especially for poor people. poor people of all colors, king is intensely interested in racial justice and economic justice, he sees the connection between race and class. >> nearly halfway through our discussion this morning on this week's installment of 1968: america in turmoil . we're
talking about the civil rights movement and race relations, we split our phone lines differently this morning, if you are under 29 it is this number. if you are 30 zero -- 30 years old to 60, it is this number. if you're 61 and older, it is this number. nicholas has been waiting in nashville, tennessee 429 and under, go ahead. >> good morning, i'm glad to come across this conversation today. i want to ask, i want the speaker's thoughts on the leadership, organization and structure of the day for revolution, lack revolution is because often times we talk about the focal points and leaders like they were the heart and soul, of those movements. and every action, the reality is, i don't care what you think
about how the revolution looks today in the organized structure , anything you want to highlight from your experiences of revolution and the rights for people who are 29 and under, the next generation, what with those things be you would like us to learn or pay more attention to? >> great question, nicholas. kathleen cleaver, i will let you start. >> there were mass mobilizations of people in the united states and other countries triggered in large part triggered by the dislocations of the war in vietnam. and also the sense of hope, the sense the world was going to change, king and people like king are articulating a different vision for america and there were masses of people and demonstrations and believe america could be changed. i remember being with radical revolutionary activists who are mostly 25 or younger down to teenagers
the chance to change the country. we talked about changing the world. there was a lot of optimism, and there was a wealthy place, we had a lot of resources, the vietnam war dislocated the economy and the whole country and challenged and made possible for people to think about revolutionary transformation. whether it is peaceful or violent in this country. >> dr. joseph, did you want to weigh in? >> certainly, 68 is a global year of political revolution. when we think domestically of 68, one of the slogans is the whole world is watching, when young activists are being brutalized at the democratic national convention in chicago. what they mean by the whole world is watching, is that the whole world is watching what american democracy actually meant for people who were protesting for social justice and the huge chasm between
democratic rhetoric and reality when it came to certain reimagining american citizenship your globally, when we think about what's going on, we think about the tet offensive, czechoslovakia, mayday demonstrations across europe and latin america, south america, africa. we think about anti-colonial struggles. student strikes and protests throughout the world. 68 of political revolution and optimism and also cultural revolution. the question was about leadership today, i think leadership today in terms of into bury movements, we see this with black lives matter, the me to movement, recent youth march, we see it with the dreamers movement, the immigration and daca movement. leadership is structured anymore
cohesive and democratic way. ella baker, the founder of the student nonviolent coordinating committee famously said strong people don't need strong leaders. what she meant by this, she was a radical feminist, trade unionists, organizer, work with dr. king, mentor people and the young activists of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, she meant the people themselves have to organize for their own justice, their own rights. when we think about now, with the social movements happening in the contemporary context, the huge positive is one, many of them are female lead and we think about the movements in the 1960s, women were absolute leaders, a lot of time marginalized when we think about the public transcript of the 1960s. now we see women such as the cofounders of the black lives
matter who are out there in a public way and brilliant way. these movements aren't relying on one figurehead, one iconic leader. i think that makes them much more powerful and potentially more effective and long lasting. >> professor joseph, let me let kathleen cleaver jump injured do you agree with his assessment of how women leaders of the civil rights movement, the black power movement, how they were remembered and part of the story? >> in that era, the concept of women leadership was somewhat subdued, there is no question the civil rights movement was women led and woman directed, i'm thinking of gloria richardson and ella baker. the willingness of the media and the black community to enhance the role of men was very important. women were not seeking recognition as much as
participation and their participation was on the mental and essential. >> what was the role of communication secretary, how did you get that job? >> i came to the black panther party from an organization called sncc at a moment of crisis, we were planning a demonstration at the alameda county courthouse. they were shot and arrested by policeman, charged with attempted murder, it was coming to court. we were going to have a demonstration. they announced a demonstration. i had come into the black panther party fairly recently, the press release had to go out and i had to identify who sent it to i said communication secretary of the black panther party, that's how that came about the >> you gave yourself title. >> yes. the director of sncc did press releases.
i modeled myself on julian but called myself secretary because there is a minister of information, chair man, that was my title. >> from dallas, texas, charles is on the line for those between 30 and 60. good morning. >> good morning, c-span. thank you for taking my call. it is an honor to speak to one of the mothers of the movement, mrs. cleaver and professor. joseph from texas. i am up at the street in dallas but grew up in sacramento, california where the latest example of heartbreak and police violence is happening part i want to say how amazing how the panthers were and dr. king as describing america as an immaculate rolls-royce. but socially the car was a lemon. i would like to respond to. >> i think it is brilliant, i have never heard of that before, there's a huge difference in america between
what the people experience and desire and what in fact is actually happening in the country. i think in the 60s we saw a waking up among black people, latino people, exploited people and what was being done to them and looking at how we can take this on. and because of vietnam it is something malcolm x. said that resonated, he said little men in black pajamas are taking down uncle sam. it was small people, poor people can make a difference in the world. that was radicalizing across the country. >> professor. joseph, ring is back 50 years ago this week and the death of martin luther king jr., who was james earl ray and what was his motive in the assassination? >> james earl ray is the assassin of martin luther king jr. and his motive by all reports is racial hatred and
unease with what king represented in the world in the sense of the social and political change and transformation dr. king was trying to achieve. >> i would like to say something, i don't think the king family accepted and king's attorney, business attorney accepted james earl ray as the shooter. he held a position to cover up who actually killed king. >> covering up for who? >> the people who actually organized the assassination. he was a front but not the killer. >> what do you believe? >> i believe that, i don't think one man will take on martin luther king, it has to be some form of conspiracy, probably more than one. >> dr. joseph, what you think about that? >> is a historian, i look at the historical record in terms
of james earl ray as the shooter. i acknowledge there have been doubts raised by different quarters including the king family posthumously questioning the way in which evidence was gathered, questioning whether james earl ray in fact murdered their father. when we think about the historical record, i go with the historical record that james earl ray is the shooter until we are presented with rocksolid evidence that shows something different. >> i guess you understand, the rock solid evidence is covered up. >> i understand people are saying that, i would love to see and hear more. i have read those perspectives. >> i will go back to that night 50 years ago on april 4 this is the audio of robert kennedy
announcing the death of martin luther king jr. at an impromptu speech in indianapolis. this is what he had to say. >> in this difficult day, this difficult time for the united states, we have to ask what kind of nation we are and what direction we want to move in. for those of you who are black, considering the evidence evidently is, it was white people responsible, you can be filled with bitterness and with hatred and a desire for revenge. you can move in that direction as a country and greater polarization, black people amongst blacks and white amongst white. filled with hatred towards one another.
or we can make an effort as martin luther king did to understand and to comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of alleged that has spread across our land with an effort to understand compassion and love. for those of you who are black and are attempted to be filled with hatred and distrust of the injustice of such an act against all white people, i would only say i can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling, i had a member of my family killed, he was killed by a white man. we have to make an effort in the united states to understand
, to get beyond these rather difficult times. >> professor. joseph, take us back to the hours and days after the death of martin luther king jr. from that speech to the writing and burning of cities we saw around the country. >> i think bobby kennedy's words are ironic because kennedy is atty. general. under his brother john f. kennedy approved the wiretaps j edgar hoover put on dr. king which accelerated the fbi's war against dr. king, those wiretaps led to the anti-king atmosphere in the united states that in part led to his death, it is interesting bobby kennedy's evolution. these days are tumultuous days, kennedy says these difficult times, king on april 3, the
night before he is assassinated said we have difficult days ahead of us. what he was talking about was the way in which there is a huge gulf between the social movement , activists and leaders felt the united states needed to do legally and politically and what the country was willing to do. the country response, the state responds with more political and economic oppression and really in 1968, we have to remember the crime bill is passed in 1968 a couple months after king died, june 19, 1968 if i'm correct. that crime bill expanded wiretapping and eavesdropping, the federal government is allowed to be. it provided states with billions of dollars in money and law enforcement that shows to mass incarceration. the crime bill provides money that is given to the state
through the burn grant which provides all the states and local municipalities with huge incentives to arrest and incarcerate african-americans and latinos and poor whites in this country. >> kathleen cleaver, take us back to where you were that night and the days after and your action. >> i was in california, eldridge and i lived in san francisco, the lack of their headquarters was across the bay in oakland. after king was killed and his death was public knowledge, there was explosion across the country, riots and uprisings, rebellions, washington dc 14th street was on fire. the police were standing down, there was not much control. the black panther party wanted to respond. they did not believe people should go out and riot in the streets, they took it upon themselves, a group of panthers engaged in actions in response to king's assassination and the
group i'm talking about were eight panthers and included eldridge, bobby hutton and others who are going to attack police in response. what ended up happening was the group got scattered, a small contingent ended up in a house in oakland and were shooting back and forth with the oakland police. bobby hutton and eldridge were in the same house, the house caught on fire, they didn't want to burn to death. bobby hutton came out and attempted to surrender and was shot. no one other than bobby hutton was killed that night, eight other panthers were arrested and it became a huge case. the whole country -- eldridge cleaver was arrested and sent back to prison, he was an ex-
convict, he got out on bail, unusual decisions by a judge because when he went to court, nobody from the state appeared. it was only eldridge and the judge. based on the evidence i've heard, i have to take a story, he let them out on bail which is unheard of the black panther leader engaged in the shootout with oakland police is out on bail. he was also a candidate for president under the freedom party which is a protest party. what he did was run his presidential campaign. he went across the country until it was time for him to surrender and return the police , returned to prison. at which point he disappeared. and showed up a few months later in savannah. >> we with him? >> no, i did not know where he was. he was at montrial. i did not know. >> when did you reconnect? >> in algeria 1969.
i was in the united states trying to figure out how to get to cuba. we had to go a roundabout way, you had to take a flight in algeria to cuba. i got there and got a message don't leave. eldridge is coming. >> kathleen cleaver joining us in studio. did you want to add something mr. joseph? attends king's funel , that is eugene mccarthy, bobby kennedy, hubert come free and richard nixon. becauset lyndon johnson of concerns -- security concerns is not attend, but he is
accorded desk king is accorded the equivalent of a state funeral. but king is really afforded the equivalent of a state funeral and when we think about what is going on on the college campuses and in the black communities, there is a sense of morning. there is a sense of rage. over 125 cities erupt in some sort of violence. but there is also organizing that takes place, as well. it becomes a global event. there is symphony -- sympathy demonstrated around the world. there are telegrams sent to the king family and the united states, in solidarity. so, king, the country is going to be reeling in the aftermath of the assassination. for a time, bobby kennedy
became the's -- began the start of his campaign for president, until he was assassinated. many people start to transfer some of the feeling that they had. not necessarily black power activist 's, but mainstream. some of the feeling and loyalty they had toward king and robert f kennedy, as if king could somehow bind the wound gripping the nation. the final thought. kennedy in 68 tries to do what barack obama does in 2008. he tries to create a multiracial, multi-class coalition to win the presidency of the united states. >> about half an hour left on our discussion.
the phone numbers. nicholas is calling in from scotland this morning on that line for those 61 and over. nicholas, go ahead. >> good morning. i was listening. at my age, having been raised in detroit, i was 15 at the time of the detroit riots. i was 67 in high school, when doctor king was assassinated. what i wanted to say, it struck me while i was watching your program this morning that professor joseph, an academic for the center for the study of race and democracy, and i mean, after 50 years of all that has gone on, isn't it ironic that
they have had the time to set up a center for the study of race and democracy. i think it is time to come off the ivory tower, doctor joseph. >> nicholas in scotland. doctor joseph, do you want to take that? >> sure. i would say we do more than just study. we are doing public research and policy programming that connects to race and democracy. civil rights and equality. voting rights. mass incarceration. to tackle the issues, we have to do both. i would not say it is just an ivory tower. how do we leverage the resources of these wonderful universities that we have in the united states, to tide -- to try to transform public policy and leverage those resources. universities have
been, when thinking about issues of social justice, very important in terms of legal transformations, in terms of public policy transformation. in terms of providing nonprofits and other grassroots organizations the information into research and the agency that they need, on behalf of social and political justice. again, it is not just the center here, but really the whole idea of black studies that is coming out of this. that we are talking about, with how do we let village -- how do we leverage the intelligentsia and these resources. the hard sciences. medicine. how do we leverage that on
behalf of people who are being marginalized. universities play a role. many people attracted to groups like the black panthers were university students. some of the most brilliant activist of this. either took college classes, were college graduates, or also sometimes were high school graduates and shut cities down. we think about parkland. the young people in parkland are connected to the movement we are talking about, because high school students in the south and north and the west coast, they waged all kinds of struggles, including latino high school students, to get not just educational equality, but equal opportunity and equal outcomes for their surrounding communities. >> we have michael in florida. good morning. >> good morning. it is an honor to see you.
i saw a special recently about black women who were involved in the movement. back then, i know you were a part of that. they pointed out that the woman involved took great care in making sure that the men were out front. the women knew they were a part of it, but they knew the important thing about the black men being out front. professor peniel joseph, i will say to you, if you want, what you mentioned several times this morning about the importance of black women participating in the new movement. black women have always been in the movement. be very careful with this new emphasis about women being involved in the new movement, because it is a wedge issue that is designed to pit black
men against black women. my mother was a very strong black woman. she raised 11 children. she went to high school. we have always had black women who have been involved in this process. >> thank you for the call. >> i am very happy to hear you acknowledge that. the backbone of all the movements, black justice, black freedom, anti-slavery, have been women. for several reasons. one is that the attention pressing on men was so vicious, it was almost necessary for women. but the other, women took on that posit -- that responsibility. all of our existence. part of that i think is because of the role of churches in the past. not so much, now. our churches are a gathering place for women who are activists who are supporting the leadership, but essentially running these churches.
the basic activism in black communities, very frequently is, women organizations and women leaders. >> from virginia, max is waiting on the line for those 29 and under. go ahead. >> thank you. i wanted to say this was a great conversation and thank you for hosting it. when the professor mentioned before about doctor king being focused on anti-poverty and antiwar, it seems to me that doctor king's legacy has been manipulated in the time since 1968 and the later aspects of his program have been deemphasized. i wondered if you would speak about the way that doctor king's legacy evolved, as the way the panthers message has been manipulated historically. thank you. >> it is not difficult, given the youth, the platform and the images they have. where with the case of doctor
king, we saw and could tell that doctor king was genuinely a revolutionary leader. he presented it in a christian context, which makes it even more threatening. king was very aware that his life was going to be shortened by the things he did. the black panthers were mostly teenagers. a youth movement, with a handful of leaders who were over 21. the energy of the black panther party was very different, in the sense that we had chapters all over the country, we had all kinds of different programs, and we focused on social and political issues that directly affected black people and made a huge impact on our generation and the children of that generation. >> professor joseph, you have elizabeth waiting in fort lauderdale. >> hello. present company excepted, it is
an irritant. i agree with everything that you are saying today, but my point is, what gets me on a regular basis is women come on, mostly women,, and programs with these very serious subjects. they smile and grin and laugh. they get introduced. they have a big gigantic smile. a chilling of 100 people. -- a killing of 100 people. runover with cars, guns, whatever. and they come on with this smile. i have never seen so many women coming on with great big smiles. i don't see anything funny about this stuff. >> all right elizabeth. we will take your point. elizabeth.
professor joseph, do you want to start? >> i was thinking about the king holiday. i think the king holiday has been a great example of the power and limitations of racial symbolism. the king holiday passage in 1983, and now we have a king memorial, really ensure that doctor king would never be forgotten and doctor king was recognized as one of america's founding fingers in a post- world war ii sense. but, to embrace doctor king, with the nation has really done in terms of the mainstream, is really the radicalize king's message and king's anti- imperialism, his anti- capitalism. his courageous ability to speak truth to power and talk about white racism and white privilege and turned him into this soft, fuzzy teddy bear figure that everyone could love,
even though the last three years of his life, when he was in chicago, when he is no longer political friends with president lyndon johnson, people are castigating king and saying that king, there is one newspaper report saying that king and carmichael are the batman and robin of the movement. saying they are two sides of the same coin. we choose to remember only the king who wins with the i have a dream speech. we don't even interrogate that speech. that is a speech about reparations. that is a speech where he says we are coming to cash a check that is been stamped insufficient funds, but we refuse to believe the bank of american justice is bankrupt. that is why king said in 1963. when we think about king's legacy, part of the irony of his legacy is that he becomes the most visible symbol of the
1960s, bar none. even bigger than the black panthers. but we rob him of his own political agency and the way in which he tried to move all of us forward. king loves america enough to criticize america. >> you've mentioned stokely carmichael a couple times now. i know you are the author of the book, stokely: a life. explain where he fits into what we have been talking about in the course of the last hour. >> he was born in trinidad in 1941 and comes to the united states in 1952. he has one of the few african- american students at a competitive high school that you have to test into. he joined the nonviolent action group, which is at howard university in 1960. he really becomes one of the most courageous civil rights activists of the era.
he gets arrested in jackson, mississippi and spends 49 days in a penitentiary in june 1961. he becomes the second congressional district leader of the mississippi freedom party. he is good friends with martin luther king jr. he knows malcolm x. and is impressed with malcolm x. by 1965, he graduates from howard university, he goes to live in mississippi and alabama. he helps organize sharecroppers in alabama, who become the freedom organization who are nicknamed the black panther party. that is where, when we think about the black party panther for self-defense, it is that county that provides us the first sign of a symbol of what becomes the black panther party
in 1966. it is stokely carmichael who calls during the meredith march and becomes this huge icon, post the assassination of malcolm x. carmichael is named honorary prime minister of the black panther party. initially, field marshal by executive order by huey newton in 1967. really helps publicize the free huey movement in 1968 at two large rallies in oakland and los angeles. and really becomes one of the key, pivotal figures. he is a bridge figure between civil rights and black power, because he really participated in both of those movements. moves to west africa in 1969 and dies of prostate cancer in november 1998.
really one of the stalwart, iconic figures, who becomes an on deconstructed revolutionary. he changes his name in honor of the pan- african leaders, but really, one of the key revolutionary figures of the 1960s, who even in the 1960s and 70s and 80s, continues to articulate those revolutionary ideas. >> i wanted to make a clarification, that the name the black panther party came from an organization that stokely and other people were collaborating with the local community, who wanted to, for the first time, run candidates for office. so they had a political party,
county freedom organization, and they had a symbol so you could go vote for them. the symbol was a panther. so, people began calling at the black panther party. they used that for a reason. a panther is an animal who will mind its own business, but if you reach out to attack them, he will wipe you out. he is not an attack animal. so, the symbol and the notion of the black panther connecting with radical black politics was very positive -- very popular. another group in california took the name and said, black panther party for self-defense. >> good morning and thank you for taking my call. i wanted to highlight something i have been seeing over the weekend. several articles in the new york times regarding the census bureau and a study that they had been working on since 2004. which concluded with them deciding that they would create a designation for hispanics and
arab-americans, so they wouldn't have to define themselves as white. however, the trump administration and jeff sessions came up with another question, which of course you all, i am sure, no. they rejected the designation for hispanics and arab- americans and opted for united states citizen. a question about whether you are a united states citizen or not, because they fear a true depiction of what the demographics in the country really are. my concern is, that just like they did for years, they are repackaging the same practices and bringing them to us in different ways and it could have an impact according to the articles i read, on voting rights. on policy and many other important resources and it is just that these types of practices have not made us
greater. they have actually made us weaker. >> we will take the comment and come back to your question after we hear from ed in raleigh, north carolina. go ahead. >> good morning and thank you c- span and the guests were having this conversation. i really appreciate it. if i could ask for their comments on a couple topics. one, if they know anything or what their opinion is on critical legal theory. something i heard about recently and might be related to civil rights, i'm not quite sure. the other thing, i don't know if it is too inappropriate to ask, but if doctor king were still with us today, do the guests think that the political landscape of the country would be different than it is? >> thanks for the question. a couple different questions
there. kathleen cleaver. >> had doctor king remained alive, had his movement been able to implement the poor people's march and some of the projects he implemented, it is not so much if doctor king were alive, but if some of those structures were still dynamic and being funded and people could participate, then some of those goals could have conceivably been implemented. but king was assassinated and for clear reasons. that is exactly what the power structure did not want to happen. >> doctor joseph, do you do what if history questions ever? >> not really, but what i will say is this, if king were still alive, we have seen the transformed political landscape,
including someone who was recently elected president who never held political office. i think there would've been tremendous pressure on him and we would have seen how he responded. he responded always by saying no when people wanted him to run. i think that now, the idea of having some massive social movement leader actually running for political office wouldn't be far-fetched. it's just that we don't necessarily have the same kind of iconic leaders now that we did then. i do agree with professor cleaver, that if the movement that he helped mobilize had continued to evolve and develop while he was alive, maybe things would be somewhat different. that movement continues to evolve and develop. it is just that he is not alive to be one of the primary articulators of that movement, which had its own benefits and its own drawbacks. >> there is time for a few more
calls. about 10 minutes left this morning on 1968: america in turmoil. we are covering the civil rights movement and race relations in 1968. james is waiting in north carolina. >> good morning. what is going on, back then, cleaver was a type of a hero to me. someone gave me one of his albums. they had albums back then instead of cds. i listened to his speech and it made sense. what we need to do is organize even better than the 60s, because the 60s were a spiritual movement to advance the program of this country, because this country was so against us because of the color
of our skin. they gave us so many names. it became black. if you look in the dictionary under the word black, it is all negative. this is why we get the hatred and stuff. hatred is born. it introduces itself in different faces and different colors and stuff. so we need to do something to change things. everybody is waiting for us. >> kathleen cleaver, i will let you take that one. >> i think what you're referring to is something i would refer to as white supremacy. white supremacy has been a key component of america from its beginning. however, at this point, white supremacy is in trouble because the majority of the american
population, i would say within the next 25 years, will not be a white population. it is increasingly latino, african-american, asian. population growth is projected. it is going to continue. i have a feeling that over the next, you know, 40 years or so, we will see some political changes in response to the composition of the american population and therefore the composition of the political class. >> the color brings up eldridge cleaver. when did you get married? >> the end of 1967. december 30 or december 31. >> and when did he die? >> he died may 1. i am trying to think of the year. i can't remember right this minute.
>> some of those people who joined you at the beginning of the black panther party, were they there? >> not at all. he left the black panther party. he became republican. he got involved with other organizations. his funeral was in los angeles and quite a few people did come to the funeral. the thing that sticks in my mind is one of our panther leaders was framed on a murder case and spent 25 years in jail. finally, after the fifth petition, when it came along i was a lawyer. i worked on the last one. they finally decided to let this man out. geronimo pratt, who had been a major leader in the black panther party. what i remember was he was able to come to eldridge's funeral. the black panther party was an extraordinary organization. it took an enormous amount of violence, imprisonment, denigration, and people who were in it and were in prison,
they still loved this movement and still support it. a large community of people you never hear that much about still admire the efforts the black panther party made. >> we have about five minutes left. i did want you to talk a little about that iconic moment from 1968 at the olympic games. the two american olympic athletes and the salute they gave. our viewers are seeing it on their screen. explain that moment for viewers who may not be familiar. >> that is the 400 meter relay race at the mexico city olympics, 1968. that is tommy smith and john carlos who won the gold and bronze medal, respectively. they were part of a larger movement that had been inspired in the late 1960s to try to have a boycott of the olympics.
black athletes boycotting the olympics because of the human rights violations that were happening in the united states against african-americans. anything from police brutality to racial segregation to violence against blacks. when we think about what eventually happened, some athletes at the olympics decided if they did win, they would stage these protests. what smith and carlos do is they go to the podium without any shoes on, just socks. they each have black gloves and they raise the black power symbol. it is interesting, because that was a very powerful and iconic moment, but they were kicked out of the olympic village. they were stripped of their medals. they were vilified in the mainstream. by the 1990s, san jose state
where they were both athletes has erected statues in their honor, but for over a quarter of a century they were denied employment. they were denied really the access and opportunities that they should have been afforded, because they made this human rights protest. for them, they were in solidarity with indigenous people all over the world who were being oppressed. all people, all over the world. the third world. people of color and others who were being oppressed. in a way, when we think about smith and carlos, they anticipate what happened to colin kaepernick and where his protest against police brutality and racial injustice became reinterpreted as an indictment and this anti- american act. when what he was trying to do was really unveil and shed light
on contemporary racism and that is what smith and carlos were trying to do. one last thing. they were embraced by black power. after they come back from the olympics, they toured historic black colleges. stokely carmichael is there and others. they really become supported. people like kareem abdul- jabbar, bill russell, black athletes were very racially conscious at the time, support them as well. >> kathleen cleaver, less than a minute left in this segment. we started by asking doctor joseph where the civil rights movement was in 19 -- in 1968. where do you think it was at the end of 1968 as 1969 began? >> it was at the crossroads. there were those who wanted to go back to africa. there were those who wanted to do community service. there were those who wanted to
work in the community. we shouldn't be out here, we should be solving community issues. there were those who wanted to go to university. i would say it was a panorama of possibilities at the end of the 60s, all of which are still in a way, at some level, being part of our culture. >> kathleen cleaver is that emory university school of law. peniel joseph is director for the study of race and democracy at the university of texas at austin. thank you both for your time this morning. we appreciate the conversation. >> think you. you are watching american history tv programs normally seen only on the weekends. while congress is on a break this month, we focus on the political and economic situation in the u.s., 50 years ago. later, martin luther king's plan to shift the civil rights
movement to economic issues and how his assassination before the kickoff impacted the movement. here are some of the programs you will see this weekend on american history tv, here on c-span3. saturday night at 10:00, a world war ii film directed by frank capra on the orders of general george marshall to explain the cause of the global war to u.s. troops. it is part of our real america series. then, on oral histories, sunday morning at 10:00 eastern, a continuation of our interviews with congresswomen. and sunday afternoon at 2:00 eastern, professor looks at women in america's founding era and their political value to patriot leaders seeking support to fight the revolution. a world that gave women the
basis for demanding more rights in the future. that is this weekend on american history tv. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. this year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 poor luther byking jr. the focus of the civil rights movement to economic issues. reverend king was assassinated a few weeks before the campaign got underway in washington dc. next, from the smithsonian national museum of