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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 19, 2010 7:00am-8:15am EST

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>> next yale university lecture charles euchner presents a history of the march on washington for jobs and freedom in 1963. marked by martin luther kings "i have a dream" speech at the lincoln memorial before a quarter million people. mr. euchner discusses his book at the new haven public library in new haven, connecticut. it's an hour and 15 minutes. >> seems a little outdated these days. we live in a cynical age and we have seen our leaders, all their
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warts, we have seen them fail. we've seen the kind of cynical maneuvering behind the scenes, not for the better good for political advantage and for monetary advantage and so forth. but heroism i believe is one of the most important elements of any kind of social progress. by journalism i don't mean just a few great men or a few great women leading the masses behind them. but i mean a much more everyday version of your wisdom. and there is no better movement, no better moment in american history to find real heroes than in 1963 march on washington, where all of the factions of the civil rights movement were gathered really for the first and only time. this was a sprawling, fast, involving diverse groups from all over the country, north, south, east, west, worldcom and urban. it involved ministers and housewives and students and laborers and farmers, and
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everybody that you could imagine. got involved in the civil rights movement, and many of them, thousands of them became heroes. and i think that when you go to the mall on august 28, 1963, you're going to encounter literally thousands of them right there. i want to talk about a few of these heroes and what made their great deeds possible. and i want to start off by talking about a young man named james lee pruett. he was 18 years old at the time. he was from greenwood, mississippi. james lee pruett, jimmy pruett, came to the march with a whole contingent of people from mississippi. they get some of the biggest applause of the whole day at the march on washington. james lee pruett carried a sign with them, actually two sides. they were homemade signs, and one of them said, don't prosecute people for trying to sign up to vote. the other side said, a free vote
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for everybody in mississippi by 1964. for this effort, hampering his own sign, he was approached a security official who said you're not allowed to have your own sign. the march on washington committee have specifically set standards for how the site would come out. in fact, the united auto workers paid some sites, they had to make, and it was a group of people, the big ten, the organizers had to approve every single sign that was carried along the march from the washington monument to the lincoln memorial. and so there was reason for a security guard approached jimmy pruett and say, sorry, you can't carry that sign. jamie lee pruett was probably a little bit scared. he was probably a little bit intimidated. he was probably a little bit surprised. so he kind of froze in a moment. and then finally someone called out, jimmy, show him the note.
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and so jimmy pruett took out of his pocket a note, unfolded it and gave it to the sturdy officer. this is what the security officer read. back in may, jimmy pruett was arrested for taking part in a demonstration. he was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison plus a $400 fine for marching. he eventually ended up after a few days at the notorious prison just outside of jackson, mississippi. that person for those of you who know this ugly history was one of us intimate places to be held. he was held for a total of 52 days. he was stripped naked for 47 of those days, his body was covered with greece for much of the time. his prisoners told him that it was poison and it would kill him. he was given to paltry meals a
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day and then the ration was cut in half. it was held in a six by nine-foot cell with 13 other people. at one point he was in solitary confinement, and he'd which reached 106 degrees, made him pass out. and as i said he was finally released after 52 days of this hell. and so the guard, the security guard read the note, and he said, mr. pruitt, you can carry your sign. let me tell you about another person who's on the mall that day. dorie ladner was a student at jackson state. she was a protége of medgar evers he was a mississippi leader of the naacp. dorie grew up with her sister in a rural town in mississippi were the only access to outside news was when the medicine man came and he would leave behind a magazine or a newspaper. dorie ladner soon come with her high school got recruited to
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join the naacp. so she start to make trips to the big city of jackson. that's what she meant maker. she got more and more involved in the movement. by the sum of 1963, she was a major fundraiser for the civil rights movement. what they did in those days, to take people people who are active and to take them around to new york and boston, chicago and los angeles in different places. they would tell the stories about activism throughout the south as a way of raising money to pay for all the activities of the movement. along with her sisters, she also worked in a movement which also worked on the march on washington. she and others showed -- shared an apartment or a regular visitor at the apartment in new york was a young singer named bob dylan it was kind of sweet on dorie. they met at anything in mississippi. but dorie was not only active in the movement like many other people, she was willing to put
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her body on the line. like a james lee pruitt, she was willing to put her body on the line. went medgar evers was assassinated on the morning of june 12, his followers and the major figures in the civil rights movement gathered for a major memorial service, cuba. and then they want to have a funeral procession to a north capitol passed the state capital of mississippi. the police wouldn't let it, but dorie and her fellow activists decided they were going to do it anyway. and for that she and others were arrested and thrown into jail. now, dorie ladner and james pruitt were not the only people to put their bodies on the line during the civil rights movement. in fact, in 1963 it was the busiest year of the civil rights movement. after the birmingham campaign in the spring there were more than 2000 demonstrations across the country, more than 50,000 people were jailed. and there were some that were killed like medgar evers
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antiwhite postman named william moore. now, why is it that ordinary people like this would be willing to put their body on the line? why is it that they would expose themselves to so much physical danger, legal danger? one of the major reasons and one of the major causes of the civil rights movements eventually success was mna asa philip randolph. a. philip randolph was a man who brought mass demonstration into the civil rights movement, and incidentally he is also the person who dreamed up the march. it was his vision of this mass gathering before the lincoln memorial. around the time that a. philip randolph got involved in politics in new york in the 19 teens and into the 1920s, the civil rights movement basically had two different approaches to promoting the cause. one cause was what you might call the booker t. washington approach. booker t. washington was a major
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educator, the first black figure invited to dine at the white house with president theodore roosevelt. and booker t. washington essentially argued that blacks, in order to thrive, need to accept segregation and simply build their own institutions within their own world. it was futile to fight a massive structures of segregation, and, of course, you have to understand this was a time when lynchings were quite common. another figure, w. d. be devoid disagreed vehemently with booker t. washington. he argued that blacks in the civil rights movement in general had to be much more aggressive, much more active. had to become troublemakers. they had to organize everywhere they could. it was a who came up with the concept of the talented 10th, and by that he meant that the civil rights movement and the black unit as a whole needed to identify the cream of the crop, the very best and brightest
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among the black community. and get into a kind of vanguard for the movement to lead the charge, to decide what happened when. and to decide the tactics and strategies and so forth for the movement. so yet these two models of civil rights. now, both of them when you think about our kind of bleak models, w.e.b. dubois focus on the talent and a tent. booker t. washington focused on a small group of black leaders within the black community operating within the confines of segregation. but along came a. philip randolph. he was born in crescent city, florida. he moved to new york because you want to be an actor. he appeared in many shakespeare plays, but his father, didn't approve of acting. he didn't think it was a moral activity, and so his son, philip randolph, gave in and gave up acting. he soon took to the streets and gave classic soapbox or soapbox
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oration about all the issues of the day, about economic issues come about later, about civil rights, about war and peace, you name it, he talked about it. he drew large crowds. he got involved in organizing. he had a couple of failed efforts to organize labor unions. he finally succeeded. after many years he organized the pullman sleeping car border. now, in this day and age we don't even really remember much about the pullman car porters. but at the time the polling company was the single biggest employer of the blacks in the united states. so organizing they would be a major coup for the black community. he had to endure violence. he had to endure threats. he had to endure his own people getting kicked out of their job. cartage laws their jobs for cooperate with them in this organizing drive. and he was even offered bribes to he took a photo stand up if i check that the pullman company sent him and sent check back so he would have approved of the
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bride that they were trying, that they would try to make. but he eventually succeeded and he became a folk aerial within the document. the lesson that philip randolph got from office activists was that the only thing that would help the black community overcome what he called a slave mentality or an inferiority complex was to get their bodies out on the street, get their bodies out into the town square. get their bodies out on the picket line. to thrust themselves forward, to give themselves or to assert their identity. by giving them physically into the mix, could ever overcome the inferiority that they suffered in the american system. so where did james lee pruitt, where to dorie ladner get the courage, and where did the hundreds of thousands of other people get the courage to come up and put their bodies on the line? one of the main reasons was a. philip randolph. who by the way at the time was
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called the most dangerous negro in america by the fbi. a label that they would later decide to use on martin luther king. now, but it's not enough to put your bodies on the line. you also have to think intelligently come here to think strategically, creatively. under a number of people in the movement, many of them on the mall that day who thought and acted very creatively. the civil rights movement was above all a highly intelligent movement. it was created in all kinds of ways. it invented a lot of the everyday strategies and tactics of politics that we now take for granted. one of the strategies that the civil rights movement uniquely brought to american politics, they didn't invent but they brought it to a mass scale, was the practice of civil disobedience. and nonviolent resistance. now, the reason that this is so important is quite simple.
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the state, according to people has a monopoly on the use of force. it has a monopoly on the use of violence a society. and so if you try to meet state power with violence you going to be passed over mass and you'll be thrown into jail. the only way to meet the power of violence is with nonviolence. and one of the major theorists of this was a man named ruston. rustin was a protége of a. philip randolph who organized the march on washington. he was randolph's deputy for the organizing of the march. and what randolph argued was that nonviolent resistance was critical to any kind of success rights movement. for two reasons. one of them is what christians are aware of, which is christ's inclination to turn the other
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cheek by the other one is much more strategic. what you do when you resist our, and when you do it nonviolently and when you accept the consequences of it, issued essentially withdraw consent from the state. you are saying i do not accept the legitimacy of this power that is putting me below. and so if enough people withdraw consent from the regime, the regime will crumble. or at least that part of the regime, that law or that practice of the regime can crumble. the only way that the apartheid system which existed to the black community for much of american history, the only way that it could crumble is if enough people withdrew consent from it. now, of course, you don't have to participate in a constitutional convention to consent to something. we can say two things every day, passive consent it's called come anytime we stop at a red light or agreed to pay our taxes, or
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do anything that involves cooperation with a local government, state government, a federal government. anytime we cooperate with the system we are getting it passive consent. and the genius of rustin was to realize if you withdraw the consent, the state loses its very powerful hold over you. and there were a number of other people at the march on washington who understood this. and acted on the power to you about a couple of them. one was a man named jerome smith. he was 23 at the time of the march. he was from new orleans, louisiana, and he had been involved in the civil rights activism at this time for 13 years. it was a grand age of 10 going up in new orleans. the way that the buses operated in new orleans and in many other cities of the time, was they had these things, they had these things called screens that they put between the seats, and if it into a slot.
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and if more whites got on the bus, they would move the slot further and further back towards the back of the bus. and anytime a wide mood the slot further back, blacks had to give up their seats for like the one of the everyday indignities of being black in the south for much of american history. now, jerome smith in 1950 when he was 10 years old at that one of those laughed and threw it to the ground and said, i'm not going along with this. the driver threatened to have jerome smith arrested, but a kindly old woman took him aside and she said, don't worry, i will take this boy to see his father and i'll make sure that he gets a spanking of his lifetime. so she took him off the bus, the bus driver drove away, she embraced him and she said, keep on doing what you are doing. and that's exactly what he did. he was one of the freedom riders in 1961.
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but his greatest contribution to the civil rights movement, i believe happened in may of 1963 and played a major role in the eventual success of the march on washington. jerome smith was one of a handful of people invited to the apartment of attorney general robert f. kennedy in new york city. there was a group organized kind of at the last minute by the author james baldwin, and included some of the leading intellectuals. kenneth clark, lena horne, harry belafonte. they all showed up at rfk's apartment to give him a kind of state of those nations for the black community in the united states. and after welcoming is guess to his apartment, robert carey kind of recited some of the gains that the kennedy administration was claimed for civil rights. he went down the list that
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included hiring more blacks in any previous administration. it included having more executive order for civil rights. it included support for a number of different civil rights initiatives. and then when he was finished, he opened the floor for discussion and for questions. a senior member of the script turned to young jerome smith and said, look, mr. attorney general, we want you to hear directly from someone who is in the line of fire. and jerome smith was sitting right in front of robert kennedy. robert kennedy was sitting on a chair in the middle of the living room, and jerome smith was right at his feet. the first thing that jerome smith told the attorney general was, mr. attorney general, you make me want to puke. and needless to say bobby kennedy was shocked. but that was just the beginning. jerome smith proceeded to tell him that if the u.s. had gotten involved in the war with cuba he wouldn't fight.
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the attorney general was a gas. this concept of conscientious refusal for military service was still a little bit foreign to him. he looked around the room at the older members of this gathering for a little bit of support. he wanted them to kind but the young man in his place. but they all nodded and said that's right, he speaking what we want to speak, to. this meeting lasted three hours. at the end of the robert f. kennedy walked out, and physically was shaking. so did james baldwin, they often who organized the whole event in the first place. i talked with a man who took him to a tv station for a live interview. henry morgan sal, and henry told me that james baldwin was so shaken up, he was so physically disturbed that he just said, can become junichi take me to embark and we need to get a drink.
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but henry refused to do that. he said no, we got to get to the tv station. we need to take this interview. and in the interview, baldwin was still physically shaken up. this was a pivotal moment for the summer. it was only a few weeks later that president john kennedy announced his support for the most overreaching civil rights legislation since reconstruction. and in a speech on june 11, he gave the most far-reaching statement of support for the civil rights movement as a moral cause, as an american cause. there had never been a speech as pro-civil rights in american history by a president. now, jerome smith was speaking intelligently. he was getting to the heart of the matter, which is that segregation and all people systems in fact depend on the consent of people. it might not be that blacks
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voted for segregation, they didn't. they didn't go for anything. most of them, they did have a chance. it might not be given that a lot of whites voted for segregation. half the country was kind of aloof from the whole issue of segregation and civil rights. but by going along with a system that allows it to happen, you are getting tacit consent to it. and what jerome smith was telling robert kennedy was, i am withdrawing my consent. this is very much along with the teachings of bayard ruston. let me take about someone else who acted with extreme intelligence. these are ordinary people by the way. it was a young girl named barbara johns lived in a town called farmville, virginia. farmville, virginia was in a county called prince edward county. in the years following the brown v. board of education decision in 1954, all the south organize
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where massive resistance to integration of public schools. no one was more massive or more resistant than the state of virginia. and, in fact, virginia closed down or can you pass a law 1959 saying that no county or city needs to allow, that needs to provide public education for anybody. if you want you can shut down your goals school system. back in 1951 before brown, barbara john was concerned about the inequality of school facilities with black and white schools. see, what happened was in virginia at the time, you are only required come if you're a school district you are only required to provide schooling from grades k. through eight. after that, you could send the kids off to work in the fields or the farms or factories, or to do nothing. there was one school system in
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virginia that offered k-12 for blacks, and i was in prince edward county that is why schools were so overwhelmed. the school built for 180 people at 450 students enrolled in a. so barber john, intelligently, organized a boycott of his school until blacks would get equal facilities with whites. and she went with her group of supporters. she went to the naacp asking for support. they said look, we will support you but will not support you or separate but equal. we will always support you if you join this law suit that we think will make it to the united states supreme court. and she became a litigant in the case that will become known as brown v. board of education. so a 15 year-old girl unleashed a whole, helped to unleash a whole series of events that eventually led to the crisis of the schools being shut down in prince edward county. they were shut down from 1959
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1959-1964. many other people who went to the march in washington, not many, about 100 people who went to the march on washington volunteered in prince edward county that summer to create kind of summer schools for all the kids would never been to school for our who i've been there for four years. there were some kids that did me no how to hold a pencil, they did not the alphabet was. they hadn't been exposed to even the most basic teaching and learning that they need. and so a number of people who ended up on the mall that day sleeping for most of the day it turns out, they're exhausted from the trip and from the end of the summer activity. but many of those people were essentially children come if you will, of the movement that barbara john helped to create. so the civil rights movement first had to get physically involved. it had to get people to put their bodies on the line, and then had to come up with really
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intelligent strategies are overcoming extremely long odds against them. they were after all a vast minority and had no opportunity to use any power at the ballot box. and when they try to exercise any kind of rights and privileges as citizens they were terrorized. they were thrown into jail, thrown out of their homes, though at other jobs. they were beaten. they were terrorized on a regular basis. so in order to overcome this situation they had to first put their bodies on the line. they had to second come up with a smart strategic approach which bayard ruston was a leading figure for. but that wasn't going to be enough. to talk about what else was needed i wanted to you about a couple other figures who were at the mall that day. one was daisy baker. daisy bates was one of the leading supporters and organizers and helpers for the "little rock nine."
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one in little rock central high school was desegregated, the national guard was sent by president dwight eisenhower because the governor did not want to see central high school desegregated. he did not want to see black children enrolled at central high. but daisy bates was ver there kd of everyday advisor, teacher, comforter. she had been involved in politics in little rock for many years. and she became kind of the point person to help these nine children get through the terror of walking to school every day, confronting physical and emotional abuse on a daily basis. and she became one of the heroines of the movement. now, daisy bates could have been excused for being hateful. just after she was born, her mother was raped and murdered by three white racists.
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and she was put into the care of a couple of stepparent. and as she grew up she saw her stepparents take in an enormous amount of abuse themselves. she saw it with her own eyes. and one time she went up to her stepfather, this is in her telling, she went up to her stepfather and said, why do you accept this abuse? why don't you hate these people who do this to you? and he said quite simply, this is a comment that you pretty much of almost anybody who was involved in the civil rights movement, he said, daisy, you return hate with love. and you can hate, you can hate the violence, you can hate the intimidation, you can hate the unfairness. you can hate the law, but if you do hate all that you have to do something about it. and so she dedicated her life like so many people did to working in the civil rights movement.
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but the key point there is you return hate with love, which is a profound concept when you think about it. there was someone else at the march that day, a guy named harold bragg. he came down from kent, ohio, to go to the march. he came down in his little vw bug with his wife and he sat out on the mall and they listened to the day's activities. he held an umbrella over her throughout the day. the sun was intense. and when martin luther king got to a certain part in his speech, what he said what i think is most important for words of that speech, not i have a dream, although i love that passage, but unearned suffering is redemptive, harold bragg later told me he felt a surge of electricity go through his body. it was as if he had been touched by the most profound thing in his life. and he remembered back to the story that his father used to tell him about his grandfather, who was a landowner in alabama.
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and one day was sitting on his horse, on his own property, and he was shot dead off the horse by a white farmer who was jealous and anchored a black man could possibly on anything. and when harold bragg's father told him this story about how his father, his grandfather, was shot down in cold blood, he essentially told harold the same thing that daisy stepfather told her, which is that you can hate hatred. you cannot fight hatred with hatred. you can only fight it with love. and harold, likewise, took this to heart. now for a lot of people though the highlight of the whole march on washington was the famous "i have a dream" speech. and i agree it was the highlight, but as i said before i would like to emphasize for different words. unearned suffering is
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redemptive, rather than the other for magical words, i have a dream. and when king uttered these words he was trying to do something as he would say, soulful. he was trying to hold the movement together. in the summer of 1963, this movement was splintering. and it was facing unprecedented pressure from the outside. this was the some of the fbi decided they're going to go after martin luther king with everything they had. this was the summer wind literally tens of thousands of blacks were being thrown into jail, someone conditions as bad as james lee pruitt, for the temerity to march and stand up for their own basic human rights. and this was the summer also when the younger blacks in the movement were starting to get impatient with martin luther king and his emphasis on nonviolent resistance. and they start to listen
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although bit more to people like malcolm x, who talked about by any means necessary. and also a guy named robert williams who by the time at all reflect the country but he was one of the leading apostles of fighting violence with violence in the black community. and/or a number of people who were involved in monroe north carolina, a big battle there were robert williams was a major figure. and he was dying and not was i a lot more followers who were arguing no to nonviolence, and note the integration. which were the two pillars of the civil rights movement. at the same time that there was this movement on the left if you want to call it that, at the same time there was this movement on the left, the more radical edges of the civil rights movement to repudiate the very core of the movement is also growing pressure from the right. not only the fbi was developing
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plans to go after the movement with all it had, but they were movement throughout the south among the governors and among the state legislatures to essentially pass constitutional amendments that would take congresses right away to legislate anything on the civil rights. it would essentially, these constitutional amendments which were slowly moving towards passage at the time would have essentially created a new confederate states of america. and so there was a lot going on at this moment, and what martin luther king wanted to do was he when told the movement together. he wanted to center to hold ambassador to the movement, the core of the movement was of course nonviolence and integration. to do that he had to somehow reach his followers who had been so abused for so long. who had walked into the clubs and water cannons, cattle prods, credit card off to jail, but been left there, and i've been
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starvedgovernment and terrorized in countless other ways. he had to somehow appeal to them to stick with it. and in what i consider to be the core of his speech and the core message of that day, he said, i know you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. some of you have come out of near the jail cells. some of you have come here having suffered physical abuse, economic abuse, and every other kind of a dignity that a person can endure. and he said, but i wanted to you this, unearned suffering is redemptive. and think about that for a second. it was a leader, he was a rare leader who was talking truth to his people. he wasn't telling them it was going to be easy. in fact, he was told that it would be hard. he wasn't telling them there was any safe place to go. he was telling him to go back to mississippi, alabama, go back to louisiana, georgia. he was telling them to go right back into the middle of the violence and terror.
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and he was telling him that if you do that, there will be retention at the end of the day. you might not see it, but they will be redemption at the end of the day. inc. about it. he was telling them in a sense that progress cannot come from the people in power. you have to take it and they will fight back when you want to take it away from them. if it was going to be easy there was no need for the movement in the first place. this is hard hard work. but he insisted that unearned suffering is redemptive. and that as to what i think is the third core element of this great movement. soul. he called soulful. and he contrasted it to fiscal for. he said soulfulness always more powerful because it taps into things that once it is there nobody can take it away. and he took seriously jesus
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commands to love thy neighbor as thyself. he sometimes joke that doesn't mean i have to like it. i do have to love him. and it was this after element, this third element, the sole forced to go along with putting bodies on the line and thinking with high intelligence and high intelligence that has ever been brought to bear in american politics. i want to close which is a couple quick comments. i started talking about heroism, and i would argue strongly that everyone of these people i have mentioned is a hero, and there were thousands of others ordinary heroes on the mall that day. i've only told you a few of these stories here this evening. and one of the most important things to remember about here wisdom is that it has to come from ordinary people. they cannot come just from the
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professional attributes the martin luther king was a professional activist. bayard ruston was a professional activist. a. philip randolph was a professional activist. they did all kinds of great things for their people and for this country, but it had to be ordinary people who were sprawled out in front of them on the national mall. and i just heard a talk last night from a psychologist, and he argues that ordinary everyday heroism, and he says that in order for good to happen in this world you have to prepare to be a hero. ordinary people have to prepare to be a hero. they have to teach themselves and have to be ready for whatever extreme situation confronts them. so that when the extreme situation comes and it's almost always going to be an unbearable moment, they are ready to jump in and do the right thing. if you're not ready you probably will not be a hero. and this small which contained upwards of 500,000 people, the
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official estimate is 250, more in the independent essence it's more like 400. it doesn't matter. am always go with ordinary heroes and that's why the civil rights movement succeeded. and that's why the march in washington so important because of the very first time ever, all of america got to see the glory of the civil rights movement. now, i understand that we've got a little bit of time for questions, and the way it works is that because c-span is taping his you have to talk into a mic, which the dude is going to be passing around. did you ever see the great lebowski? the dude, okay. so the dude is there with a mic. and anybody who wants to ask a question, i would be happy to entertain any. yap? >> i was going to ask you, so
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witty that title come from? >> nobody turn me around. well, there's a lot of great answers for the civil rights movement, and that is one of them. ain't going to let nobody turn me around. and i thought that it really kind of captured the determination to move forward, no matter what. that no matter what came to india in 1963, there was no going back to segregation. there was no going back. there was no going back to anything except for basic equal rights for everybody. and i thought that some kind of captured the defiance of the determination at hundreds of thousands of people displayed that summer and throughout the movement. >> and one over here. >> i love your book. i think it's brilliant. i'm wondering what you as an author went through in terms of
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that changing or nine changing image that you personally held and okay, what you thought when you can see this project, what you thought as you reported it and went out and voted, and then what you think now. >> well, yeah, i've always been in awe of martin luther king. i remember when he was shot. i was seven years old. and i lived in philadelphia at the time. and "the philadelphia inquirer" included as a sunday insert a big glossy color photograph of cannot come and i take it over my bed. i don't know what it was because i was too young to really understand, i don't know what was that was so captivating about this man to a seven year old white boy in suburban philadelphia. it is always been this great source of inspiration. i also have always known, at least since i've known much, he was human.
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he had his own frailty. he had his own flaws. he didn't always do the right thing. he was not always as courageous as perhaps he should have been. but to meet the thing that is most great about martin luther king is not that he had so many great qualities, but that he was able to overcome his own inherent limitations. when he was a boy he went to college at the age of 15. when he was a boy, his teachers, i read a whole bunch of interviews and listen to a whole bunch of taped interviews with his teachers, and they said there was about anything special about him intellectually your he couldn't write at all. he almost never spoke. but you could tell back then that he had his determination to do something, and he did know what it was. his daddy wanted him to be a preacher, but he wanted a little different from his daddy so he talked about being a lawyer or a doctor. and it wasn't until after he
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finished college and went to the seminary just outside of philadelphia as a matter fact, it wasn't until then that his vision for himself a leader and a civil rights activist really gelled. and it was also not until then that he stopped by his own account, he stopped hating white people. and it's hard not to hate people who go pressure. and growing up in atlanta, even in the comfortable bourgeois circumstances where he grew up, the indignities were all around him. and what amazes me so much about king is that intensive striving to go to the next level, to not be satisfied with how much you know, not be satisfied even with your own philosophical point of view. and a lot of people don't know that around the time of the montgomery bus boycott in 1955 it was a nonviolent movement,
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but trannineteen would totally understand what nonviolence was. in fact, he had armed guards on his porch. they were pencils lying around on the chairs and it wasn't until bayard ruston came down from new york the real thinker on nonviolence of the united states, he was called the american gandhi. it wasn't until bayard ruston came into his house, moved into his basement to live with a couple of months, it wasn't until ruston got there that king really understood not only the tactics but the power of nonviolent. he was always learning. i'll take it one more thing about king because i loved this man. i talked to a guy named floyd whose father was the speaker for the congress of racial equality at the march. the leader of the hundreds of racial equality, james farmer, was in jail in louisiana at the time. so young floyd county is not a state legislature in north
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carolina, young floyd told me that his image of martin luther king is that this gentle father figure. is taken by the san, walking down as you, i had ice cream, tickling, put them on the shoulder. that's beside i don't think people see. he was multifaceted. he was always, always interested in growing beyond whatever he was at the moment. >> do you see -- to questions. do you see age as devoid of hair was a? and if so, why? >> that's two questions right there. and so, why? [laughter] >> you know, it's hard to say the cynical part of me wants to say yes, there's nobody like this walking around.
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but i don't know that. i don't know the quiet need to share was better going on. i do know there's all kinds of people doing creative things. there's people starting school. i knew in college is like yale, in fact all of the country people are just dying to work for teach for america. they are dying to go to the inner city and teach for $20,000 a year, or whatever they get when they first start. so there is an idealism that is there and it needs to be passed. is a little bit of that enthusiasm resonate? i suppose. but that's a pretty time-consuming way to pad your resume to i think is a real wellspring, a real desire to do something to make the world better. but i think that we live in an age where it's kind of hard to do the right thing. it's hard to have the time to give of yourself so you're ready partner with them the chance comes. and i think we live in a society of great distraction. i think we live in a society
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where we are so unbelievably materially well-off we have no idea how well off we really are. and so we are dissatisfied and we don't have a new car or we are dissatisfied we don't have the latest computer or flatscreen tv or whatever. none of which really matters. but i think that these things are really distracting and they take your mind off both how lucky you are on a day-to-day basis, and how much great work that is to do. and so i think, you know, above all else we live in the age of distraction. and i think that undermines that really powerful urge that people have to do something good. >> this man was at the march as a high school -- [applause] >> my recollection is that coming out of the '50s, the whole concept of protest was not
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legitimate and was regarded as subversive. do you think the 1963 march played an important role in beginning to change that so that you could actually organized demonstration without the feeling that you are being subversive and you might end up in jail or beaten up by the coptic? >> well well, you were ended up in jail and beaten up by the cops when you did it. but i do believe, you know, this is the kind of conventional wisdom about the march on washington is that it did make that much of a difference. it was a nice way for the movement to gather. i was at this great speech that this great man gave. a lot of people remember it fondly and warmly, but in the long run it did make much difference. and that was kind of my point of view to be honest at the beginning. out what i've come to realize is it's not a huge difference, and
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your questions as to exactly why it did. this was the first time, think about that, this was the first time that all american got to see the civil rights movement unfiltered. it was the first major unofficial event covered live by national tv. cbs covered it live from morning until night. roger mudd was the anchor. and when america was able to see who these people were and how decent they were, and it was palpable. i've watched every clip i can get my hands on. it was palpable. when america was able to see how decent this movement was and how uncomplaining this movement was, and how determined to put their own bodies on the line and how determined they were to love their neighbor and themselves. is locally, right? but when america saw this, i
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believe it transformed people understanding what the march did. did you instantly that day? for some people just. for other people it took a while to sink into it but i think it made a major difference. i think it had other impacts. behind the scenes there was a battle over whether there was going to be a woman speaker at the march. there were 10 official speakers. they were all men. and do a number of women who quite legitimately complain that they once represented among that roster. daisy bates and casey hayden and a bunch of other people. and they were told by philip randolph and bayard ruston, above all else, they would you like anybody, they were told look, you are represented. ron wilkins is here from the naacp. it represent you. james farmer from the core. he represents. john lewis, he represents you. john from the uaw, he represents you. and so on.
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but they didn't -- there was eventually a compromise where daisy bates was allowed to speak for the women. she was given a very short post beach to read, and a group of about eight women were asked to stand up and bow and accept applause. but i believe that that played a major role in the emerging women's rights movement, because there was this really strong sharp palpable notion, hold on a second, how is it different for blacks to be claiming their rights which they deserve, how is that different from women being able to claim their rights? and it became pretty clear pretty quickly to the smartest people in activist politics that it wasn't right. and then there was another incident that happened which i think had a major impact, and it's never been covered by anybody. it's only speculation on my part so i don't say it in the book, but i believe that the march on washington was a major influence
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in creating the free speech movement which began at next year at the university of california at berkeley. one of the main leaders of the free speech movement was involved in the civil rights movement. i still haven't been able to find out whether he was at the march. i've asked hundreds of people and nobody can tell me, so i assume he wasn't. but in any event there was a big battle behind the scenes over john lewis his speech, and the catholic church threatened to pull all of its priests and nuns and followers out of the march because they considered john lewis' speech to be too insane year. utah revolution, having a second sherman march, he so march, but a second sherman march throughout the south to shattered -- to shatter the system of segregation. that was too radical for the catholic bishop of washington so he threatened to pull out.
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eventually lewis did change his speech. i think is better at it. i think it was more critical a busy day to free speech issue. that was a much on the mind and at every activist out on the mall. they knew what was going on. they knew exactly what is going on. and i believe that john lewis his first speech which he didn't give was felt every bit of as much of a second speech which he did give, and i think he contributed greatly to the free speech movement and as a result to the whole student movement and eventually the peace movement, the antiwar movement. so this thing's got all kinds of things. can i prove that? no, not yet, but it had a major influence. this was american politics at its absolute best. not only of u.s. by the way but up the whole world because for the first time this event was covered by satellite throughout the world. so they saw in africa, asia, europe. they were going to see in the soviet union but it went to
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wellesley congress party took it off the air. but any rate it was seen across the world. and that in turn had a major impact on people in colonial systems in africa and asia and elsewhere, who are thinking about their own stock of their martin the king was a major influence for the democracy movement in south vietnam. which had an interesting will on the trajectory of the vietnam war. anything else? yes. let's go to ron and over here. >> you touched on it a bit, but how much do you go into a new book on the clash of the clashes between the leaders and the people who are at war, just the number of supporting the leaders? just to be there to support
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civil rights in their own way. >> when you say, do you mean -- >> classes. >> okay. you know, what have come i think one of the saddest things i came upon in this research was a memo that kind of summarize where them march playing was at the time. i got all the records from the march in washington organizing committee. and i went to them page by page, and one of the saddest moments that i had to go through, i found a memo what they were listing all of the speakers at the march from and one of the line said unemployed worker, and it was crossed out. and there were a lot of people who felt really betrayed that the speakers represented pretty much any lead grew. these were well-connected folks come and do a lot of people in the movement who wanted, who wanted ordinary people to get a chance to get up there and say their piece. and so in that sense, you know,
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there was tension and/oand the people who really are disappointed that it was becoming kind of a slickly produced operations. but on the other hand, i guess i agree with bayard ruston, the primary organizer, anytime he made a compromise over the particulaparticulars of how things are going to happen, his own staff which surround him in the office in harlem and they would say, trader traitor, sellout. and he would say, now children from his british way of talking, he would use it when he wanted to get peoples attention. he said now children, the only thing that matters is having as many people on the mall as possible for all of america to see, that this is a grand movement and where not going anywhere until we get our basic rights. and i think that was probably a correct decision. what i have loved to seen an unemployed worker get out there and speak from the heart and speak from the experience from
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the factory or from the field? that would have been a sight to behold it was one of those compromises that the organizers made to keep things moving forward. it was heartbreaking to see that line right through unemployed worker. but there it was. and these little tensions existed throughout. it was young people against the old people. it was a kind of traditional civil rights approach to the more radical. there were all kinds of tension that they were really all united because they want to make this thing happen. and they also realized that united states was really in danger of kind of blowing up. we kind of think that our times are bad, there's a lot of tension, a lot of ugliness, if not hatred. but it was at least matched and exceeded by those times. and what enabled them to get through it was really heroes that we all know that, martin
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luther king and bayard ruston and philip randolph and john lewis and all these other people, but also the thousands of other people that were on the mall. they were ready for anything. and acted with incredible intelligence when danger approached them. >> you mentioned -- walter, sir. given the time, mccarthyism had not died unfortunately, and just wondering to what effect more trade unions, what role they played in the last social congress. we have these awful stories that are kept in the back. >> it's very interesting. when the idea for the march first started to develop in december of 1962, and what they were thinking of doing was having a centennial march for
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the emancipation proclamation. remember, the emancipation proclamation took effect janua january 1863. we need to do something to mark the. so philip randolph and bayard ruston got to get in december and they agreed that they would try to get some kind of march on washington going. philip randolph organize one in 1941 and then he called it off because franklin roosevelt, the president, caved in to his demands for an executive order banning discrimination against blacks in wartime industries. so at any rate randolph wanted to do this march in the worst way for many, many years. and bayard ruston qaeda planted the seed again and 1962. by the time to have i've met randolph in december, he had already sent stanley on a fundraiser mission. and he told stanley i want you to go to the most left labor organization to get money. and here's why. they won't betray us by
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reporting to president kennedy. kennedy is going to want to control this thing. and so if we start our fundraising by going to, you know, george many of the afl-cio or even walter reuther, mean he was not terribly for civil rights. walter reuther was very pro-civil rights. but if we go to either these two guys they will go back to the john f. kennedy. they met kennedy record at the white house. and then we lose control of this thing before we even get it going. so he told stanley to go out to the most left oriented labor union and get money and to start getting out who, you know, who might be interested in doing this kind of thing. now, as it turned out it was a mainstream guy, walter reuther who is a critical part of this, and he was a big force that he was on a those affectations who were against john lewis' speech, he kind of pressured martin is
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looking and roy wilkins and buyer trust and philip ross and others to make sure that accommodate a catholic that you'd want to see this whole big faction lead, this whole group of whites leave. and so he was, you can't use a liberal by any stretch, by any definition, but he was also terribly concerned about having a whole faction lead because of a handful of phrases in a speech. but, you know, organized labor in these days was lily-white and it was oftentimes deeply, deeply racist. and walter reuther, although he been talking about civil rights for many, many years, there was still no significant white membership in the leadership of the uaw at this time. so he had, i don't want to say he had clay feet, he didn't, but if he had not come through on his promise to integrate the labor movement, it was a hard thing but he had to come through at this point. ..
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>> at the time of the march i was a 2-year-old white kid from a suburb of of chattanooga, tennessee. >> okay. my question -- that doesn't matter to my question which is, what made you so interested in this subject? >> right. you know, i really don't know, but i'll tell you about something -- i was with already interested in this when this incident happened. but when i was young, you know, i was born in hamilton county hospital in chattanooga, tennessee, in 1960. and i was born in the white person's ward of the hospital. and at one time my mom gave me a
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baby book, and it included a brochure from hamilton county hospital that she'd saved after i was born. and i remember looking at it and seeing, you know, white ward. what? i was, you know, i mean, i knew it, i knew it intellectually, i knew it factually that i was a child of segregation, but it didn't really, really sink in until i saw that. and the feeling that i think i've had my whole life and it just swelled as i did the research for this book, but i the feeling i've had my whole life is thank god for these people because they safed me -- saved me from growing up in a society where it was not only okay, it was better than okay, it was the law to think that i was better because i had white skin and to think that i deserved better facilities because i have white skin. you know, we've got lots of problems in this country, we've got problems of race, poverty,
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class, so i don't mean to minimize the problems that remain. but i did not grow up in an officially racist, apartheid society, and it was because of these people. and i think i've always been grateful for that. and my gratitude, it just overwhelms me at times as i was doing this research because, you know, this is, you know, the civil rights movement is sometimes referred to as a black movement or something like that. but it was really no such thing in one sense, anyway. it was a way of redefining what it means to be a citizen of this country, and it was redefining how we on our -- look on our fellow citizens. and, you know, where i grew up anyway, tennessee, pennsylvania, iowa, new york, where i grew up i did not hear people using the n word. i did not hear anybody ever make the argument that whites are better than blacks. i know people say that, but i
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didn't hear it. and i did not grow up going to a white school. in fact, i went to a school with a lot of blacks and a lot of hispanics. and so growing up in a kind of post-racist society even though it hasn't, hasn't solved all of its problems, to me that is an incredible gift. and i think i knew that all along, and i think it's kind of what tugged me and pulled me toward the subject in the first place. but it only grew in intensity as i worked on this research. >> would you get involved in the civil rights movement if there was something that happened in this country? [laughter] >> you know what? there's a lot happening in this country. here's what i think about civil rights. after the march on washington -- this is how i would like to think about civil rights going forward.
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it's going to take a couple minutes to get it out. it's a very important topic. right after the march on washington, byron rushton was interviewed about what's going to happen to the movement now. he wrote a famous article called "from protest to politics." and in these remarks and in this article -- i think it was for "commentary magazine" -- he argued as soon as basic rights were granted, as soon as the civil rights legislation passed particularly in '64 and '675, the movement -- '65, the movement itself was kind of over. and now that black people, you know, now that everybody, if be be -- if you will, were given basic, official equality under the law, now what politics was all about was bargaining for your piece of the pie. so rather than needing to demand the thing that people should have had all along which is basic rights as humans, the politics shifted from making
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universal demands to bargaining for your share of the benefits. and as soon as you move from universal to a bargaining-style politics, you lose a lot of the moral power. you lose a lot of the moral electricity. that's not to say that those issues don't matter, those things you bargain about; grants for job training and school and bilingual education and housing and all kinds of other things. it's not that that doesn't matter. but it's a give and take kind of politics as opposed to a universal demand/no compromise kind of politics. and that's what we have been since this period, since, you know, roughly '65, '66, '68, you know, however you want to trace the end of the civil rights movement. we've become a nation of bargainers for benefits. now, what i believe is we need to make a move back toward a discussion about what are the universal values that we need.
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we need to think about politics and policy not just as about bargaining over i get this and you get that, but we need to think about it in terms of making sure that everybody has access to certain basic things. let me give you one example, and then we'll close. education. i know it's controversial among some people, particularly among the teachers' union. but i believe that the single most important thing we can do for civil rights is have free and open school choice. there is no reason at all that a black child or a poor child or a hispanic child or any child should not have the same access to education as somebody coming from a world of privilege. when my family moved from iowa to new york, my father went about three or four months ahead of time specifically to find the best school district he could for me, my brother and my three sisters. in other words, he had school
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choice. my family, because, you know, we're relatively privileged middle class folks, we had school choice. now, why should the euchner family or other affluent well-to-do families have that choice and other people not have that choice? i believe that if there was a real full-fledged movement for real school choice where every single child, every single family in the country could select whatever school works best for them that we would see an unparalleled thriving of educational excellence. that's just one example. you could pick other examples, too, where universal values, i think, need to move up front again, and we need to get away from the kind of back and forth bargaining, splitting the difference. because i think that's got us into a position where, frankly, nobody is satisfied and where, also, people are kind of confused about what the goal is. is the goal to get a few more
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benefits, or is it to create the greatest possible education system? so i would like to see us move not from protest to politics back to protest again, although if needed, that makes a whole lot of sense, but i'd like to see us move from propest to politics -- protest to politics towards universal access to basic needs. >> if you have an education -- >> you're talking about what are you doing with it? are you pleased with what you've done with your education? [laughter] >> yeah, no -- >> no, with civil rights and everything, i mean, you wanted to educate the world. >> yeah. >> make education better for everybody. what are they doing with that education as far as civil rights go and all the things that are happening in the world right now? i don't know a lot about politics, but i do know a lot about a lot of things because i've been through a lot. >> right. >> and -- >> well, i will tell you this, that on every economic survey, every socioeconomic survey the people with education make far
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more money -- not that that's the most important thing, but it helps to pay some bills -- they make far more money, they have far more choices in the kind of careers they can have. you know, i've made more mistakes than i care to admit with my own life and career and so forth. but i've made them out of my choice, and i've also done a lot of things right. and a lot of it has to do with me getting a good education in public schools through high school and then p getting a scholarship to college and being able to go on to graduate school. so i am eternally grateful for the education i got. basically, what it gave me was choice. the more education you get, the better it is, the more doors that open. the less education you get, the worse it is, the more doors that close. and to me, that's the big thing. >> would you get involved in the civil rights movement with your education? >> well, i'm trying to do it as a teacher. for example, let me tell you about one thing i'm doing now. i've developed a system of
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writing which i call the writing code which i believe can transform anybody's writing in a matter of days. and i'm talking to some people in boston about getting a group of high school dropouts together so that i can teach them what they didn't get in high school. writing is not as hard as some people make it out to be. that doesn't mean everybody can be a hemingway or a larson. but what it does mean is that everybody can enjoy the basic skills and benefit from the basic skills of writing. and too many people can't. and one of my motivations for doing the writing code is putting new power, new tools into ordinary people's hands. now, does that involve me protesting some place? no. but it involves me putting more tools into more people's hands. >> [inaudible] >> yep. absolutely. >> i'm saying bad things we're protesting. >> yep. >> [inaudible] >> no.
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i know it does. i know it does. i don't want to say protest, i never use the word protest. >> no, i understand. but in other words civil rights activism or caring about this issue can take many different forms. >> what you're saying about teaching people to write is good. >> [inaudible] >> okay. >> thank you so much. >> thank you all. i appreciate it. [applause] thanks for coming. >> the founder and executive directer at the rap a port institute for greater boston at harvard university and currently a lecturer in writing at yale university. visit his web site, euchner.u.s. >> booktv is on twitter. follow us for regular updates on our programming and news on nonfiction books and authors. >> capitol hill cooks is the name of the book, the author is
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linda bauer. booktv usually doesn't talk about cookbooks, but why would we want to talk to you? >> this is cooking for a cause. 50% of all the proceeds and the royalties and advance goes to homes for our troops, so it builds homes for the veterans who lose limbs in the war free of charge. they give them a wheelchair-accessible home, and who wouldn't want to know the favorite recipes of george washington to president obama with notes about why they like the recipes and this congress? >> what is president obama's recipe in this book? >> he has a mac and be cheese and a shrimpling winny. >> how did you get the access? >> i was an intern during watergate, so i knew a lot of the folks, and i'd done three recipe book bees before, the american sampler series, and given them to chairty. so this is two books in one for the same price. it's the best charity you could ever ask for.


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