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tv   Lectures in History African American Women and the Civil Rights Movement  CSPAN  August 25, 2018 4:03am-5:11am EDT

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hard. it's not a playpen. a campaign is tough work, and i admire anybody that goes into it. >> and in the weeks ahead, we'll hear from barbara kennelly, nancy johnson and lynn woolsey. sunday at 10:00 a.m. on c-span3. he's one of the most qualified nominees ever picked for the supreme court, and he's contributed a great deal to his community and the legal profession besides being an outstanding judge on the d.c. circuit court of appeals. >> judge kavanaugh has a special obligation to make his views on this topic clear given the
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president's litmus test that he would only appoint judges who had overturned roe. on that obligation, judge kavanaugh failed spectacularly. >> i look forward to watching judge kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, and after conducting a thorough review of his investigation, i'm confident that judge kavanaugh will be a wonderful addition to our high court. >> watch the supreme court nominee pretty kavanaugh tuesday, september 4. listen on the c-span radio app. now the role of african-american women in the civil rights movement. over the next hour, university of delaware professor tiffany gill describes how women organized sit-ins, voter registration drives and boycotts. and how beauty parlors
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functioned as their safe space. this is from our weekly series in lecture history. >> good afternoon. we're at the point in the semester we have been looking at the long history of african-americans since the civil war. we've looked at the long struggle for what historian hassan jeffries calls freedom rights. we've been looking at this request for economic, social and political determination for educational access and equity, and we're looking at this long quest for the full realization of prfreedom and citizenship. we're getting to the point in the semester where we're talking about the civil rights movement. we've been looking at that for a couple sessions now. the interesting thing about teaching the civil rights movement is that it's perhaps the era that most americans think they know the most about, right? we've talked a little bit about this and we'll talk some more about this. just because folks think they can quote a few sentences from
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martin luther king's speech in washington or know a little bit about rosa parks' civil disobedience on the bus and have some sense -- and even have some visual images in our mind, right, of people being brutalized by fire hoses and dogs, right? there is a real kind of visual narrative that comes to all this. we often think that we know a lot about this movement. so one of the challenges for those of us that are learning the movement and connecting it to this much longer history of black activism is that there is almost a point at which we have to unlearn some stuff before we have to learn some stuff, right? and that's what our reading for today, charles payne's "a view from the trenches" is helping us do. if you have it on your computer and your handout, i think it would be a good idea for us to look at it. because one of the main things we're going to do, our main point today, is to look at what
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charles payne calls the master narrative of the movement. and what we're going to do is begin to establish and look at what some of the major tropes and issues are in terms of what this master narrative is. think a little bit about why this master narrative had a board and what kind of purpose it serves for us even five, six decades since the height of the civil rights movement. but more importantly, we're going to kind of reassemble the narrative or recensor the narrative, moving away from this master narrative to a narrative that's much more inclusive, a narrative that's going to center, in our case today, black women in the civil rights movement, right? before we do that, let's talk about what payne calls the master narrative of the movement, okay? so what is the master narrative
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of the movement? what are some of the components that charles payne is getting us to think about about what the master narrative is when we think of the civil rights movement? what are some of those components? yeah. >> he's really focusing on -- the mainstream idea is martin luther king, some of the more popular ideas, and payne is asking us to look at the local struggle, specifically more local communities, what they did for the movement. >> right, so one major component of this master narrative is a focus on the civil rights narrative from a national perspective and not a local one. good. any other components? >> it's also a very noncomplicated narrative so there is like a same idea that racism comes together at the same time. >> there is a sympathetic
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government. it minimizes the intensity of struggle and it minimizes the intensity of opposition to the movement, right? there is a way that through this master narrative of the movement which has really been passed down in terms of how the movement was remembered, there is a way of kind of erasing the real opposition to it, right? there are these images of, yeah, there were a few bad folks in a particular place and a few bad police chiefs and things like that, but not really understanding that while not everyone was out there with fire hoses and police dogs, there still was a great deal of opposition to the civil rights movement. what are some other components of the master narrative? yeah. >> he explained how they say it was reduced more to a protest as opposed to activism. >> uh-huh. anybody want to help me with that? what does that mean, protest versus activism? because those two things sound very similar to me. what is the difference between sort of simplifying the master
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narrative to be about protest but not activism? yeah. >> i think when the civil rights movement is, like, overly simplified sometimes in elementary school classrooms and stuff like that, it's kind of viewed as a bunch of people coming together at the right place at the right time, as opposed to a long struggle with people that ended up with them getting more rights. >> the idea of a mass protest -- i like the way you put it, just a bunch of people who happened to show up at the right place at the right time as opposed to very strategic planning that went into the big events but also the small, local grassroots level work. there was a great deal of strategizing, of organizing and it was not as simple as it seemed where it just sort of happened, right? any other components to the way we understand the civil rights through the master narrative. >> like in the mid-1950s, 1960s
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versus what happened earlier. what happened earlier is just as important as what happened during that time. >> absolutely. a major component of the master narrative of what we think of as a civil rights movement really has these very neat bookends, and it essentially starts with the brown versus brown education case or maybe rosa parks' act of civil disobedience in montgomery, and it ends maybe at the voting rights act of 1965 or certainly with the death of martin luther king in 1968. while that is a moment of intensification in the social movement that is what we think of as the civil rights movement, it completely ignores what we've been learning about in class so far, that long history of black activism before, and then it also gives the sense that the issues that people were fighting for in the civil rights movement should have magically ended with
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the passing of legislation and there is no need for things going forward. that becomes part of it. any other things for the master narrative? it shows you how deep and pervasive this is. >> people tend to forget normal people and the struggles through the movement. >> absolutely. there is so much of an emphasis on leaders, particularly male leaders, we could even simplify there is so much of an emphasis on martin luther king and the men that surround him, and the people who are in these marches and in these pictures become nameless and faceless without really demonstrating the very active role that ordinary citizens, ordinary people in local communities were doing to try to make things better. >> in the first sentence, it says that the relationship between racism in the south were oppressive and it just kind of limits it to the south and doesn't bring into account that
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things were happening in the north, too, and it's just as bad. >> yeah, part of the master narrative not only narrows the chronology of what we think as the civil rights movement but the geography of it, right? it becomes just focus on what is happening in the south as if racial inequality only existed in the south, and as if the kind of fighting against racial inequality is only liptd mited the south, right? again, these are all part of this much bigger narrative, what is called this master narrative of the movement according to payne, and there is something important about martin luther king, but if we just thought about the movement and only remember it in these very narrow terms, we're going to lose more than we actually learn. i want us all to think about why we think the civil rights movement has been remembered in
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this way, right? and it's not something that i think is a very narrow depiction. if you look even just recently, we talked about this, the 50th anniversary of martin luther king's assassination which is commemorated in april, and we talked about the ways the memory of that is sort of playing into these master narratives, the way that policymakers play into it, the way educational institutions often play into it. why do you think that is, right? what do you think is at stake in the way that we remember the civil rights movement? >> well, you kind of already touched on this before -- i guess payne talks about it, about how they tend to look -- there are people that tend to look at the civil rights movement as a large scale, so it was kind of like, oh, yeah, that one police chief did something bad or those people in the south did something bad, but they don't really want to accept the fact that this was a day-to-day, constant piece of life for
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people. i think personally that stems from a lack of wanting to take responsibility, like white people don't want to accept the fact that they had a part in it, so the lack of responsibility makes the narrative change as they retell the story. >> i think that point about day to day, everyday both experiences the racial inequality, but also everyday acts of resistance against it is something that gets missed out, right? there is a place for large scale events, there is a place for mass protest, but we can't do that at the expense of thinking about why people's lives were affected by racial inequality on a daily basis. anyone else on why we think the civil rights narrative has often been depicted in these particular ways? >> to go off of what she said, i feel that, like, america has this overall sense of not wanting to seem like the bad guy
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just going off a broad overall representation. america was known as a place of freedom and the american dream, so taking responsibility of things that happened up until the civil rights movement and even up until today, they always want to look at the positive side of the story. yes, it's so great we're celebrating martin luther king who was a big person in this change, but in reality, they don't look at all the negative sides of what americans did back then and what they're doing now. >> think about the context. the idea of perception becomes very important. think about the context in which the emergence of the civil rights movement is happening in the 1950s, right? what was the geographical context that was happening that made the notion of how americans are being presented become even more dire? anybody remember that context? julie? the cold war, right? the cold war in the way that it framed this narrative of good
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versus evil where the united states was supposed to and wanting to come out looking more positive than the soviet union, for example. that this question about american perception isn't merely about people wanting to feel good about themselves and the narratives we portray but also has very real geopolitical and foreign policy implications, right? america's perception impacts america's role in being a superpower, right? so all of these things -- and that doesn't end with the cold war, right? it continues. so this is part of why that narrative sort of developed the way it does and why it continues to develop. so our key question that we want to look at for today and begin to examine is, how does centering the civil rights activism of black women disrupt and change this master narrative of the civil rights movement, okay? so we begin, we establish some
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of the contours of this master narrative. we've thought through a bit about why the master narrative may have developed the way it does and the kinds of utility that it functions for for people, so now we want to try to see if we look at the movement from a different perspective, does that begin to provide some insight for us into thinking about the master narrative and ultimately thinking about the civil rights movement differently? and so before we do that, i want us to think of it about -- and this is something that will require us to think a little bit back over some of the things we have learned so far, some of the things we've read and talked about in class, but i want us to think a little bit about what were some of the unique ways that black women, both in the north and the south, experienced the perils and challenges of segregation and racial
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discrimination, right? so we're looking at this moment in the 1950s, and even sort of broadening out to really this period during segregation. i want us to think about some of the ways that gender and racial discrimination and oppression intersect to give black women both in the north and the south a different experience of the period of segregation. and what i'm trying to get us to think about, i'm not trying to get us into thinking about what some scholars thought about oppressive acts, like black women had it worse, black men had it worse. that's not really a useful thing to do. what we can address is they experienced it differently, that there were some issues because of the way that gender is constructed and experienced, ways that african-american women are experiencing this period of
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segregation differently than black men are. and i want us, when we think about these challenges, to not just think about the ways that african-american women are experiencing segregation just vis-a-vis their relationship to whites, but also how internal dynamics within black communities are also c constraining black women in ways that perhaps black men are not, right? think about our readings we've had so far. think about the memoir "coming of age in mississippi" that we've been reading to think about the civil rights movement. think about the film we saw about the murder of emmett till and the role that emily till plays. can you think about the discussion of the bus boycott we had earlier? so think about some of the different ways black women are
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experiencing segregation than black men are. i think that will help us think about what kind of activism black women began to engage in. so what are some differences? can we think of anything? olivia? >> yeah. one of the things, ann moody, her mom was kind of forced to leave the kids at home, so she had the pressures of carrying on the domestic duties for her own family but also had to leave the family to go work, so that unfairly situated her. >> yeah, absolutely. this idea that black women are responsible in many cases, particularly about the gender norms of this time, of caring for their homes in particular ways, of caring for children, but also having the very real constraints of the economic injustice and the economic di n disenfranchise that black families have. so just being able to negotiate their economic duties with duties at home for child rearing and child care does put some
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particular constraints on black women women. >> we were talking about how the bus boycott actually got started. black women were usually domestic -- i would say domestic workers in white homes, so the towns weren't really adjacent but they were pretty far in distance, so they would have to take buses to go over there. so they would be mistreated and kind of taunted and just harassed, almost, from it, and sometimes, like, they would miss work because the bus driver just wouldn't take them. so it just increased, like, the problems that was going on. >> absolutely. the very limited economic and labor options that black women had which, for the majority of the time of segregation, were black women working in domestic service in the homes of whites. because of what we know about residential segregation
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patterns, black communities and white communities were not adjacent to one another, just as you said, and were often across town. so black women were usually the ones within communities that were using public transportation more. and so because of that, they're the ones who are experiencing the brutality, the dignities of being harassed by bus drivers and other patrons. so they're experiencing segregation in their everyday life in a different way or more intense way than men are in transportation just because they're using it more often. any other examples? >> going off that, actually, i was thinking about the particular vulnerability that black women were in because they were in white homes. we talk about like the sexual violence that they faced, especially from, like, white men who were in those homes, and it's just like because they are
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so close, directly working in the homes of their oppressors that that kind of opens the door for more subtle but also more obvious forms of harassment violence. >> these kinds of labor conditions, you're absolutely right, are putting black women in a more vulnerable place that they're working in these more intimate environments where any kind of accusation around sexual abuse or sexual assault, because of the paranoia dynamics aren't taken seriously. this raises to what we were talking about this semester as well r well, even going back to the period of reconstruction, where rape and sexual assault becomes a tool in the arsenal of violence, right, that whites are using to keep african-americans in fear and intimidated, right? this extra dimension that violence is a part of that, but when we're talking about black
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women's experiences, the threat of sexualized violence becomes even more intensified. so, again, this is not juggling who had it better or worse, but that is an area we need to think about more explicitly if we're censoring black women with that, right? and thinking about the civil rights movement as a battle to deal with issues of sexual violence. we think now in the 21st century and the me too movement about sexual violence, but what we've seen in the lives of r.c. taylor and others, black men were revolutionizing sexual violence in the civil rights movement. we talked about how rosa parks herself was someone going through the deep south getting narratives from black women who had been assaulted and trying to think about ways to mobilize against that. so this issue of sexualized violence is very important. any other ways that black
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women's experiences may have impacted them? we have the segregation -- excuse me, the residential patterns. we also can think about the ways that black women's behavior was often policed in ways that black men's behaviors was not. and how that policing of behavior of what it meant to be a proper woman impacted who black communities were willing to rally behind. the example of claudette coldon, a young woman who was pregnant and unmarried, who did the exact same thing as rosa parks did, but because she was seen as someone who had a past that would not look good to a greater public, people did not rally behind her. and again, this is something that black women faced in ways that were different. and then, of course, one of the things the master narrative reminds us is just how much male power and leadership was
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valorized in the movement in ways that obscured and ignored the very real work that black women had been doing, right? so media attention, for example, would always be drawn to the men of the movement as they're doing work. the martin luther kings and others, but would not necessarily go to women like ella baker who was a long-time activist who helped to nurture and birth the student movement, right? or diane nash, who was a leader in the sit-in movement and the student nonviolent coordinating community, who held leadership positions. women like dorothy hite, who was the head of the master women, and so that narrative that men seemed to be the only ones who had something to say and garnered the media attention obscured women from these particular narratives. so i think it's important for us to think about the ways that
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physical violence, sexual violence, black women's roles as mothers in the movement, black women's economic and labor constraints, how all of those things in their everyday life helped to propel them toward activism that looks different than much of the activism that's in the master narrative. so what we're going to do now is begin to look at our readings and look at some specific examples of black women's activism. we're going to look at ann moody and her memoir "coming of age in mississippi" and we're also going to look at a chapter that you all read from my book, "beauty shop politics." we're going to look at chapter 5 which is talking about the civil rights movement. i want us to start with a place where the work and research that i've done intersec tr erkinters
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moody. i wrote a chapter in my book that related to a moment ann moody had at a sit-in. it's on page 293 in this edition of it. so this is after moody was in a sit-in that turned violent, and she says, before we were taken back to campus, i wanted to get my hair washed. it was stiff with dry mustard, ketchup and sugar. i stopped at a beauty shop across the street from an naacp office. i didn't have any shoes because i lost them when i was dragged across the floor at woolworth's. my stockings were sticking to my legs from the mustard that had dried on them. the hairdresser took one look at me and said, you were involved
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in that sit-in, huh? yes, i said. do you have time to wash it and style it? there were three other ladies already waiting, but they seemed glad to let me go ahead of them. the hairdresser was real nice. she even took off my stockings and washed my legs while my hair was drying. i remember when i was working on this book project, i thought this was such a powerful scene and a powerful moment to get us to think about black women within the civil rights movement. here we have ann moody whose body is literally embattled, right? she was on the front lines at a sit-in movement, trying to get african-americans better access and equal access to a woolworth lunch counter. and she gets ketchup and mustard and spat upon and racial epithets hurled at her and all those things.
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and the first place she decides to go is sort of a bizarre place, and maybe even a foolish place, to a beauty shop. she knew she could get her hair washed there, right? we understand that, right? she literally has stuff caked in her hair. she didn't even have her shoes, like she said, because she had to run away from what was happening in the woolworth. but i think the way she describes her treatment once she gets into the salon is something that can help us think about black women and black women's roles and the importance of institutions that are sort of owned by and run by black women in sustaining women like moody who were on the front lines of the movement. she knew that in the beauty shop, it would be a safe place. it would be a refuge for her. a place where they could not only have her hair washed, but the way she talks about the gentle pampering by the beautician, and even the way she
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refers to how the other women who were in the shop let her go ahead of them shows that it also was a place where in many ways she could have her soul restored. and i think that's something that we need to think about a lot as we're reading memoirs and seeing film, and even when you're watching those old news reels of people on the front lines of the civil rights movement. and we think of them as kind of nameless, faceless people in a black and white photo without fully considering the psychological toll and damage that these kinds of things are putting not just on their bodies, but also on their minds and spirits. so the beauty shop becomes a place of refuge for her. i use that as an introduction to get us to think about how the beauty shop wasn't just a place of refuge but also became a place where activism itself could be planned and could be enacted. so i want us to talk about that
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a little bit. but i thought it might be useful to have the weird opportunity -- you actually have the author of one of your pieces in front of you who is also your professor, so that could get a little weird. we're all cool now, so you all can ask me anything, and feel free to use the strategies of critique that i have been training you with all semester on my own work. actually, nothing would make me happier than that. but i thought it might be useful to talk about how i stumbled on this work of beauticians and the civil rights movement. it's sort of an odd thing. it's something i never envisioned doing. it almost doesn't make sense except when i got into the sources. as a graduate student, i was really interested in black women's activism, just sort of in a general sense. i was reading everything i could get my hands on about the topic,
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and i also began to do archival work in primary sources and just that act of learning as you're doing a topic. i began to notice something sort of weird but interesting, that many of the women who were mentioned in both primary and secondary sources, particularly those who were sources that were looking at local and grassroots community organizing and activism, that many of the women had a similar occupation. they were beauticians. and i didn't really think much of it at first. i kind of looked at it and was like, all right, that's kind of interesting, but maybe not. i'm looking for the real story. i'm looking for the story that seemed juicier and more important. but i began to think about it even more, and this question about the master narrative, thinking about how it can impact even the way that we read and understand our sources when we're doing research, i was also
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at the time reading an article bill a historian named darlene clark heim called the age of madam c.j. walker. as many of you know, madam c.j. walker was a black beauty pioneer from the early 20th century. she creates this beauty company and this beauty industry that literally, you know, employs thousands and thousands of women. she has a factory, she's selling products all over the african area. she pioneers what we think of as the beauty industry. and she poses a very interesting question and she says, why is it that we think of the early 20th century as the age of booker t. washington? we studied washington, him as an educational leader, sort of was considered the top black leader of his day. and one of the things that heim says is, what would happen -- this is almost a question very
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similar to what charles payne is trying to do to get us thinking. she said what would happen if we sent her the actions of madam c.j. walker rather than booker t. washington? i thought of it and said, okay, if i send her these, how will that change what we know or think we know about the civil rights movement? that's essentially where the project ended up going and where the research ended up taking me. even as i got into it, the things that were happening among black beauticians in the 1950s and 1960s were particularly interesting to me, right? because we see everyone, right, all the key people who are part of our master narrative of the
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civil rights movement, people like martin luther king, even when we're following the people who are part of the master narrati narrative. i was shocked to find in 1957 king sort of at the beginning of his ascendancy as a black leader is talking to a group of beauticians in his role for freedom. this is king, right? completely missing from the narrative. we see leaders of the democratic party making statement like, if you get a beautician engaged into your candidate's campaign, then you found a gem, because they can make all these things happen, right? so these are people who are central to our ideas about the
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movement, but they're talking about women and they're talking about activism in twhaz -- what has been marginalized. the chapter has a lot of evidence of the work that black beauticians were doing and what they were doing in beauty shops. and we're going to talk about some of that. but just sort of as you read it, why do you think black beauticians were so effective as activists and grassroots leaders? what was unique about their position and what they had access to that made the kind of cap capty vichl -- captivism we're
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talking about. >> you talked about the one that tried to talk the manager into firing her husband, and she has authority to kind of talk back to him, because as a business owner she has that kind of free will, basically. she doesn't have to worry about her employer firing her for saying something unsavory, and i think that's important in that type of social movement. >> you're right, she and her husband were very active in the naacp, in mississippi, in voter registration movements. the police chief is going after them and he keeps threatening her husband saying, we're going to get you fired, we're going to get you fired. and as a beautician, as a business owner who owned her own business -- think about it, too.
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not only did she own her own business, but who were the clients in her business? other black women, right? this is at the time when black women beauty manufacturers who are supplying her products, all this stuff, there was no one the police chief could go to and say, fire her because she owned her own business. she was economically autonomous. so that positioned her and other beauticians well to be able to take risks, because they did not have fear of retribution. because women and men would lose their jobs all the time if their civil rights activity was found out. so that's definitely a big reason. what are some other reasons? >> one, you mentioned how he said he aims to mobilize beauticians because they're like missionaries, and everybody they come in contact with, they make voting as important to them as,
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like, god. so their proximity to customers and other people in their community really is like missionaries, to spread the word and to spread activism. >> yeah. it's really intimate for us who have been to a beauty shop and even have a certain relationship with a stylist, there is an intimate bond that develops between a hairstylist and their client. there often develops a kind of trust between them. so beauticians had a great deal of credibility, so when they are sort of spreading the good news about voting and voter registration and civil rights activities, their clients are very receptive to it in ways that maybe if someone else told them this, they would not be as receptive, right? so that kind of intimacy and bond and relationship that they have is also part of what is
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building that. what other ways are institutions part of this civil work? >> also just the act of sitting if a chair and having something sharp close to your head, you're kind of in like a vulnerable position. somebody is cutting your head -- >> some things are worse than scissors near your head. like a hot flame and combs coming near your head. >> so there is kind of a sense of vulnerability, and like you said, there is a form of trust but also that relationship is important kind of like, this person is taking care of you. and that makes people feel a lot more comfortable, especially in an environment where you weren't -- being comfortable wasn't something that was common for black women. they were working in homes that were obviously uncomfortable. even when they went home, they
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had other duties and this was kind of a safe place for them to go and be taken care of. that kind of fosters the trusting relationship, and when that person is telling you, like you said before, about civil rights and voting and all that, they're kind of more inclined to listen. so they have like a specific -- just the role, i think, is very interesting. not only the physical position they're in, but they have a unique kind of like -- on your shoulder. >> right, you're very trusting. that's why that example of ann moody going to the salon kind of underscores that. she was so embattled and in a bad place, but she knew that was one of the places she could be well cared for, so that also develops trust in that as well. yes? >> this goes back to what you were saying earlier about how women's behaviors were policed in certain ways, and i would say black beauticians were really important to the movement
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because of the presentability of their clients. i think dr. king in your chapter said something like, look like you're going to church when you're going to participate in activist movement, and the beauty parlor is where you go for that. >> yeah. there is a way that self-presentation was a really effective strategy within the movement, right? going back to our earlier points about the master narrative and the idea it was just kind of mass protests and people would just kind of show up and things would happen. they were instructed, when showing up at rallies and marches and movements and sit-ins, on the specifics down to how to dress, right? and that instruction about dress neatly and modestly as if you're going to church was about that, right? it was about coming to -- and when you look at images and videos and stills of the civil
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rights movement and you see how these college students are dressed going to a woolworth counter where, like ann moody, they're going to leave with their clothes ruined, with their hair a mess, all of that, that was a strategy of looking a particular way. part of that was about getting the media's attention of looking at they very well-dressed, well-groomed, well-behaved black people on the front lines getting brutalized, right? you're absolutely right, that process of getting there, at least for women, at this particular time was about a particular kind of hair grooming that happened in beauty shops. literally black beauticians are preparing people for the front lines in that way as well. we talked a little bit about beauticians and the role that they played that made it very easy for them to become civil rights leaders and activists, but what about the space of the
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beauty shop? one of the reasons why they also were very effective is that they had ownership, literally, of a space, an institutional space. and we can't underestimate the importance of institutional space. and i know you all are my very 21st century young college students where i think sometimes we don't appreciate how important physical space is because so much of what we do is in this kind of digital world, but the ability to get people and to have a space to get people in the same room and be together and be protected is important, right? so what are some of the other ways that a beauty shop in particular would serve to be a powerful political institution? >> a beauty shop fostered a safe space for women to discuss issues on civil rights and also maybe discuss more extreme issues on civil rights, such as they didn't always agree, it
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said in here on page 103, that they didn't always agree with ministers or the people that were often seen in a positive light within the civil rights movement, and they could discuss their discrepancies and problems that they had with them and different points of views on how to move forward with the civil rights movement. >> absolutely, right? the way the beauty shop space, which is this black women-owned space where women are, it was different than the church environment, right? where black women may not have been the ones who were in leadership positions to be able to direct the conversations that were going on there, right? and also -- and this is something to think about as well. think about for those who were in opposition to civil rights, churches were very much on their radar. and we know that because they bond chur-- bombed churches. they attacked churches. they fire-bombed the homes of
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ministers that were connected to it. that was a visual institution, so you're absolutely right that the beauty shop as kind of this alternative space allowed for conversations of a more radical sort about the civil rights movement because they were completely under the radar. one of the things i always say is that, you know, for just about every black person or ally who was involved in the civil rights movement, there is an fbi file on them. that's just fact. this is not -- i mean, the fbi was monitoring the tapes on martin luther king, all of that. from leaders up top to the grassroots leaders. there are fbi files you can look and see on them. i have not been able to find an fbi file on a beautician, even though these beauticians were involved in much of the same work, in some cases even more radical work than those who were being surveilled. when they do appear, and for
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example, bernie rogers who was in the article and we'll talk about that in a moment, her cousin appears in the fbi records, and she's identified in the article arz "some unidentified woman," right snt there are ways that because the beauty shop is viewed as frivolous. they were able to really flourish as political sites because they were perceived as not doing something important. they used that disadvantage to their advantage, right? in the way that churches and other kinds of institutions were on the radar, beauty shops were able to slip under them. they were underestimated and that worked to their advantage. so let's talk about what was actually happening in these shops. and think about them within this larger context of the civil rights movement or the black
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freedom struggle. again, going back to our point about the master narrative, that if we're focusing on the master narrative, it seemed as though the most important thing was about getting laws changed. getting laws changed is important, but when we look at the activism of black beauticians in of black beauticians in particular, we begin to see a much more complex and nuanced story of what the civil rights movement was about to people on the everyday. what are some of the issues, some of the concerns that black beauticians tackled from their position as beauticians and from their space as beauty shops? any examples? you can look at any of the women in the chapter, berniece robinson, vera piggy. what are some of the things that were important to them? the issues that were? uh-huh? >> voting registration mainly. especially robinson. who one offered to take
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registration cards to her house. so that the whites in the neighborhood wouldn't know who was registering and then she became a teacher to teach people how to read the paragraph you need. >> yeah, bernice robinson had this used her salon and her influence in powerful ways like you outlined. i love it when, one an observer of her salon, i talk about this in the, in the chapter. called her salon a center for all sorts of subversive activity. which i love. thinking about a beauty salon and some of the things you're talking about that she allowed her home to be a repository for people who wanted for example to join membership in the naacp, which after the brown versus board of education court case which we talked about last class, was illegal. remember i talked about how many states made membership in the naacp illegal? south carolina was one of them. if any black person wanted to
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join the naacp, they could be fined or arrested for that. so what many women would do, would be to have their mail from the naacp sent to bernice robinson's home. because again, one of the front-line attacks on african-americans was to try to fire them from their jobs, was to try to intimidate their employers, to fire them if they were known to be engaged in civil rights activity. so they would send them to robinson's salon. as she says in the piece, she says i don't have to worry about losing my job. for the same reason she had an economic autonomy and she used her salon as a school. she turned it into a citizenship education school where she not only taught ways to try to help african-americans register to vote, which was always a very tricky and complicated thing even if you could actually read the paragraph, then the registrar would say no, you didn't read it properly or things like this.
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she used that as a way to educate people in her community more generally, so she opens up citizenship education to teach basic literacy skills, basic math skills, basic accounting skills. things that people in her community needed, right? very practical things. and this is something that i think marks the work of black beauticians. in the south. is that while they were interested in things like voting and changing laws, they were also interested in things like basic nutrition and health. which is part of what bernice robinson does when she gathers a group of black beauticians to support building a tent city in fayette county, tennessee. sharecroppers who were evicted off their land she wanted to provide not just a home for them, but places where they and their family could get nutrition, where they could get health care, child care. very kind of nuts-and-bolts
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practical needs. or ruby parks blackburn of atlanta, who used her position as a beautician to advocate for getting bus service extended into black neighborhoods. was an early advocate of what we think about as combatting environmental racism. which is this practice of companies and corporations dumping chemicals in communities of color. and so she was an early advocate for that. so again just thinking about how these beauticians are working to deal with very nuts-and-bolts things. when we center their experiences, it disrupts the master narrative for us, because it's forcing us to think about the civil rights movement beyond the national. it's forcing us to think about not just the sympathetic government's response. but how african-americans are organizing on grassroots levels to try to make their day-to-day lives better. it also gets us to rethink the
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goals of the civil rights movement. their emphasis on meeting, pressing and practical needs for those who are most vulnerable in their communities, was actually very much at the heart of what we think of as a civil rights movement. in fact, i would say that was the heart of the movement. yes, laws and all those things are to protect that. but i think the master narrative does not allow for us to think about the ways that the goals or the movement were about meeting these pressing and practical needs particularly for those who are most vulnerable in black communities. also, the work of black beauticians in the movement disrupt this idea of spontaneous protest. because they were creative, they were innovative and they were strategy. all things that were very important. and it also gets us to rethink the role and the importance of the media. in the civil rights movement. which is something that was very important and we see
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organizations and leaders skillfully using the media. but part of what made beauticians so successful was the fact that they flew underneath the radar. they were not the ones most prominent out there in front of the television screen. they also remind us that there's no real easy wins in the black froed om struggle, right? that if we focus on checking off some laws and some bills, then it's easy to kind of look at the movement as something that they were clear winners and clear losers, the issues that they were advocating for, are a constant reminder to us that much of what they started is still left unfinished. so my hope is as we look at the role of black beauticians and sort of think about them and think about the activism of black women in general, as a way
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of disrupting the master narrative, it will cause us to think about the civil rights movement differently. but i also hope that it causes us, and you know this is always my thing about this class. that we, it's important for us to study the past for the past's sake, absolutely, i'm a historian, i believe in that. but also because the way that we remember the civil rights movement tells us more about ourselves in the 21st century than it does about what was happening in the 21st century. i hope when we look back at people like ann moody and women like the black beauticians that it would inspire us and challenge us to look for new possibilities in the everyday to make an impact. right? to look at these personal and community spaces that are often overlooked. and think about how they could possibly become a part of larger struggles to make our world bedder. so really, their creativity,
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their use of what was at hand. their willingness to look at their limitations, but use it as a positive is something that i think we can all aspire to when we think about freedom struggles. so any other final questions or comments about beauticians, what were some of the things that you learned or that may have surprised you most about, about it? i'm sure most of you had never seen a civil rights text that centers them. so is there anything that surprised you or shocked you or anything that you found encouraging or -- problematic? yes? >> i guess i'm wondering how people never caught on. it's kind of like an open secret among the black population. were they just, was it just because they were so removed from black life, that's why they didn't see those things happening? >> i'm going to pose that to
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everyone else. reading what you read. why do you think they were so successful at flying under the radar when there's all of this activity that's going on that was documented and i was able to find as a researcher 50 years later, you know, it wasn't hidden. it was hidden in plain sight. why do you think it was so hidden? why do you think that was so effective? >> i think that a black woman is typically undervalued and undermined. even within our own communities sometimes. so so much so, that you know, you see a lot of men come to the front when it comes to civil rights activism and it was rumored that some of those men were misogynists. so i don't know if you know, maybe like other people or you know, the majority of americans that viewed our movement and looked at the men at the front and just thought, okay, those are probably the people who are advocating, who are putting these pieces of the puzzle
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together. you know, you don't see too many women in the front of the civil rights movement with the exception of the black panther movement. you saw them push more women to the front. think it's also a representation of how some of us kind of, how some black men and black women kind of viewed each other as well. to the point where that's how the public perceives it. is women not playing as much of a role as they did. ev ever. >> just because some jobs are just often ignored when it comes to political activism. when anyone would hear, something is going on in a beauty parlor, they would immediately zone out? >> i think it's powerful. something that we all could learn from right? that the spaces that seem the most frivolous can actually have
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the potential to have some of the most radical potentially very reason they're so easily dismissed. >> you might even think to a certain extent, not a perfect parallel, but a similar one when we think about social media, as something we probably all waste too much of our time on and all of that. but also has been used to great effect by organizations like black lives matter. by groups who are rallying like the students in parkland, florida. students around the country rallying on behalf of gun control. the metoo hashtag, in ways that are frivolous can actually serve a potential. whenever i think about this research. it challenges me to think about that. the things that are important to me that i want to see change, what spaces, even those that may be dismissed that i might be able to use to.
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if you miss any of this week's american history tv programs, can you find them online at c-span.org. american history tv weekdays continues until labor day. next week we're focusing on the presidency. monday the relationship between washington and hamilton, the marriage of bess and harry truman and gerald ford's political career. tuesday, the food and design at the white house. wednesday, how presidents have dealt with the media and press coverage. and this weekend, during our regularly scheduled american history tv programming, a college class on post vietnam war refugees, university of michigan professor melissa
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borhan teach as class about southeast asian migration to the u.s. after the war. she looks at how laws and public have changed and emphasizes the difference between immigrants and refugees. we continue our series on women in congress. with 0 former republican congresswoman helen bentley. >> i knew i had to do well.
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because i couldn't afford not to. and i just kept plugging. and working hard. it's not a playpen. a campaign is tough work. and i admire anybody who goes into it. >> watch oral histories, sunday at 10:00 a.m. eastern on american history tv. who served roosevelt and taft as an intimate aide, i will not
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play a part for popularity. he has this madisonian view, his heros are james madison, alexander hamilton. the author of the federalist papers and john marshall. and madison and hamilton believe that majority should rule, but only slowly and thoughtfully over time so that reason rather than passion could prevail. taft believes the entire system is set up to slow the direct expression of popular passion so the peel can be governed in the public interest rather than through faction and mobs that favor self-interest rather than the public good.
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>> the most important thing i think in terms of motivation for writing the book is born out of frustration, i talk about this in the book. after you write, my interests and my academic background are in economics. but if you think about the global economy today there are a whole host of very deeply structural long-term problems that the global economy has to contend with. and i imagine we'll get to them in a moment. but things like demographic shift. what the impact of technology will be for the jobless underclass. concerns around productivity and debt. debt overhang and income inequality. something that when i was doing my ph.d. was never discussed and now it's certainly one of the top three big issues on the policy agenda. these are all long-term structural problems and yet the people charged with overseeing the regulatory policy

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