c-span2. coming up next tavis smiley talks about african-americans in the criminal justice system. the obama administration and civil rights and economic justice. the publisher of smiley books, the co-author or author of more than an dozen books including "the covenant, the rich and the rest of us" and "death of a king: the real story of dr. martin luther king jr.'s final year". >> host: we usually don't start with a question but what is the proudest moment of your career so far to . >> guest: wow. well, i don't need to sound snarky or snippy, but i hope it's yet to come. i feel fortunate that i am now 15 years on public radio and i
feel very blessed to be able to have done all that we have done so far. and i hope that the best is yet to come. if i had to pick something it would be that i'm i am still here and there are so many people who bet against me in so many moments of my life. i remember the complaints that came in, my favorite was he last two boisterously my lap was too much my cadence was wrong, i spoke too fast everything was too big for public radio because npr says this is national public radio. and my status is so different from that. so the betting wasn't that i was going to make it. so the betting wasn't as high charlie rose had done well for years. but nobody expected me to make it.
long story short it would be that i am still here. >> host: for 25 years or so you have been doing this 17 books are so that you have edited and there are different shows that you have done. what do you believe that you have accomplished? >> guest: i hope that what we do everyday to radio public television is the same thing that i say all the time, i hope to challenge and re-examine the assumptions that they hold. we all bring assumptions to the table. there are assumptions and prejudices and i hope that the work challenges people to re-examine the challenges that we hold and that we expand the inventory of ideas and i hope the work that we do it allows americans to be introduced to each other. this is the most multicultural and multiethnic america ever and i hope that the work that we are doing allows us in these
platforms america is so segregated in so many ways but i hope that the work is allowing us to have a conversation about what unites us and what divides us. >> guest: in your 2009 book "accountable: making america as good as its promise", you say that it is a job of politicians make politics promises but it's the job of the people who elect them to make sure that they keep them. and you have a scoresheet on obama. how has he done. >> guest: it depends on the issue and that something that is so remarkable. that was the third in a trilogy. first we started with the covenant of america and what the president ought to do about these issues, that came out long before they had ever heard about rocco palma, where we do that the agenda needed to be taken more seriously. john edwards, joe biden, this
covered when black america came out and we had two presidential debates that i was able to moderate from my network. in dc and baltimore respectively, that came as a result and then we had the covenant in action, the second book in a trilogy. how do you take the principles in the covenant and put those issues into action? that was the second book in the trilogy and then the third book was accountable. senator obama ended up winning. so he was the guy who had made commitments and promises and this is a book put together for what he said on the campaign trail and how we can keep score on how he was doing. some things he has done well. he has kept some promises. >> guest: you were recently the subject of a conversation on cnn. let's listen to this and get your response.
>> let's listen to him talk about your interview. that the president should stop telling black people to wait that it takes time. and go tell that to the parents of the children. and so i wondered does that hurt? do you think that they do not get me? i feel like this is difficult and yet you have so much expected of you. >> if i spend too much time worrying about critics i would not be getting a lot of stuff done. you know, there is no reason for folks to be patient. i am impatient. that is why in the way of what has happened with ferguson and in new york, we have issued a task force with specific recommendations. but i think there's an unwillingness to acknowledge that progress has been made cuts off the progress of further
progress. if critics want to suggest that america is inherently racist why bother even working on it? i have seen change in my own life and so has this country. those who would deny that, i think they actually foreclose the progress rather than advancing. >> host: where did that come from? >> guest: i'm not sure where i got the notion that she got the gumption to ask a question. mckinney did a great job. i'm a big fan of the work that she did. i'm as surprised as everyone on that show came on you know, you have to wake up and i eventually got up and got a
chance to play back and see it for myself. but with all respect to the president, and this is a criticism that i am getting tired of hearing, i believe that it is our duty and job and responsibility to hold all the leaders accountable. just because you are my friend such as barack obama has been even before he was in the united states senate, whether you are my friend or an african-american or whether i will vote for you once or twice, it matters not when it comes to doing my job of trying to hold you together and accountable for the things he said that you are going to do. great presidents are not born. they are made. they have to be pushed into their greatness. there is no fdr or mlk if the
president isn't pushing him. and so i get a little squeamish about that because i am a big boy enough to handle that. but i don't see my other friends in the media who are labeled obama critics. chuck todd asked questions. is george stephanopoulos a critic when it i think that it' is george stephanopoulos a critic when it i think that it's almost reverse racism in the sense that the black eye that critiques the black president continues to be called an obama critic as opposed to doing his job and i frankly don't like it but i'm dealing with it. >> host: you have generated quite a bit of conversation on our facebook page booktv. and this is a typical comment and you've gotten both sides. this man's picture is that of an african-american man, he says that tavis smiley is a smart opportunist who with cornell west thought they should have special access to the president
and when it didn't happen they turned against him with all their success. >> guest: i have a first amendment right to free speech i do not have one cannot be criticized and express my point of view, i tell the truth as i see it i don't have a monopoly on the truth. i think we are always on the way to the truth. so i do not believe that i have a monopoly but i believe in the truth that i do know and i'm obligated to know and share the truth most of us don't have the courage to say what it is that we see them have to say what it is the sea. from time to time that means it have to be criticized. and so i don't expect to always have people agree with me and i'm happy with it debate in the conversation. that is not the reason for saying it. the reason to say it is to try to be committed to a life of telling the truth as best as i can. so if the critics come at me for
having a different point of view than i don't care. >> host: what you mean by "fail up: 20 lessons on building success from failure"? your 2011 book. >> when i wrote that book it was on the occasion of my 20th anniversary in broadcasting. i have been at this for a little while now and i'm used to criticism. but my gift to persons that have followed my prayer for 20 years. rather than talking about what the book is owing to be focusing on my biggest moments what my proudest moment was but i decided that i would do a book that really detailed the 20 biggest mistakes, worst decision, stupidest things i've ever done. because the truth is that people are being honest. those that are successful whatever that means, they are going to tell you that they learned more from their failure than they have ever learn from success and the same is true for
me. so i thought it would make more sense to write a book that is a bit long transparent and this is the dumb things i've done, the mistakes that i've made, the lessons that i've learned, maybe if you can learn from reading this, you can avoid doing some of the things that i have done. >> host: you write as i was alone in a hotel in houston and had a major panic attack the details are so dramatic, forgive me for not wanting to relive it. so have you talked about what happened that night reign. >> guest: not much. i appreciate the question, i think. and when i turned 40 as i mentioned that i had eight total time in a panic attack. the irony was i was in houston with my family and friends to receive an eagle on her on the day of my 40th birthday. i'm in the room and as the clock gets closer and closer to midnight to my turning 40, start
ex is dating, i couldn't breathe. i didn't know what was happening but my body was shutting down on me and crying in the floor of the hotel room and i just started crying. somehow i got through it. through tears i eventually fell asleep and when i woke up it was after midnight and i was relieved that i had actually lived to see my 40th birthday. and within five minutes it occurred to me that i was in houston but i live in los angeles. so where i live i really wasn't 40th. but it's funny as it sounds the whole process started all over again and the point is that i was having a difficult time turning 40 years old and i do not believe that i was going to make it to my 40th birthday and for years i said this is the reason why. doctor king saved my life when i
was a 12-year-old boy. he had long since been dead when i was 12 years old. but he literally saved my life. i would not be here talking to you right now if it had not been for him coming to see me in a hotel room when i was a 12-year-old kid. and he came to visit me and he literally saved my life. since i was 12 years old i had been such a diva okay of reading and learning about the greatest -- america's greatest intellectual part. i do my part to try to make the world safer. whether that's justice for all service to others, to love and liberate people. .. philanthropic work to honor that
legacy of the point is because i was so enveloped in the world of king for some reason it occurred to me after i survived that night it all came, it became clear to me that i was having trouble turning 40, given that my hero had been assassinated at 39. and it took me a few days to really work through this, talking to friend and others an even a therapist. i finally came to understand that i couldn't process the fact that dr. king is dead at 39 and somehow i'm being blessed to live to 40. what does this mean for the rest of my life that king didn't live as long as i had lived. i had a very difficult time turning 40. i just turned 50 a few months ago in september of 2014. fortunately i can report i did not have that kind of difficulty rn >> host: you're most recent back is "death of a king. the real story of king martin luther king's final year." we'll talk about that. why were you in the hospital at
aim 12? >> guest: in one of my earlier texts, my memoir, what i know for sure, the story of a painful detail i didn't want to tell it then and don't like revisiting it now and i will tell the story once i preface it by saying my father and i have the most wonderful relationship now that a father and son could have. when i was 12 my father lost his temper one night and beat me so severely that i was in the hospital for two weeks in traction. a pretty severe beating to have a 12-year-old kid in the hospital for a couple of weeks. while i was in the hospital suffering and trying to recover from this pretty severe beating, a member of my church came to me and gave me a gift and the gift was a box of lp recordings of king's speeches. turns out of that barry gordy
had the go sense to have somebody follow king around and record his speeches. we think he only gave one speech and the speech hat one line it in i want my children to live in a nation where they're not judged by the color or the skin or the content of their character. thatted a all we no of that speech weapon think he only gave one speech with one line. folks in memphis know he gave at lowe's two speech because he gave the mountaintop speech the night before he was assassinated. but he was on the road one time so barry gordy had an engineer who roared king's speedways and garyy gordon where put some record little out on lp. this deacon in my church collected many of those lps, and for whatever reason -- i don't know why to this day bus i had never spoken to him built love or king or any of that. but this deacon brought me this box with all these recordings in them and gave it to me as a gift. and at 12 years of age in
indiana -- you're from indiana, i'm from indiana, the founder of this enemywork, brian lam issue is from indiana. back then we weren't taught about king in my little school. not in my high school. and so when this deacon brought me this gift of these recordings, i knew who king was but hadn't studied dr. king. when started leasingen to his voice and heard the love in his heart and the hope in his souling are it brought me back to life. king was talking to a nation about the power of love about the power of forgiveness, that hatred was not an option. that revenge was never going to work. he is talking to nation about these ideals, but he might as with heal been talking to a 12-year-old kid about love and forgiveness and hatred and revenge. i heard king talking to me itch said earlier he literally saved
my life and i heard his voice. he did. and from that moment on all i've if tried to do with all of my work radio tv, print, fill an thrown to is to make the world safe for his legacy. >> host: april 4, 1968. what was dr. king's mindset in what was the last day of his life liable. >> quite remarkable. the night before he had again the mountaintop speech at the mason temp until memphis and the morning after he was feeling pretty good. he had in rough dayness the last year. it takes a while to back up to why this last year was so rough. his last year brought him more difficult days than days of joy, but the last day of his life was a good day for king. i think the story has been told many times. he and andy young and others having a pillow fight in the hotel room earlier that day. his brother had come to visit him, a.d. came from louisville to memphis to visit hill.
so he was around his family. he had a conversation on the phone with his parents in atlanta. talked to core let a. so it was good good day until the moment he steps out on the ball copy and is assassinated. but but a day that will forever him in the memory of nerve who was alive or old enough to remember. i was a toddler at the tom of his assassination but i have talked to enough people who have it inched their memory as my generation does where they were on 9/11. people feel the same we about the assassination of kennedy and the other kennedy and the assassination of king. >> host: wide did he step out on to the balcony? >> guest: we goods to dinner at the home of reverend billy kyles 'one of his friends in memphis. being hosted for dinner at kyles' home, and he was speaking to a rally. they're were going to later to prepare for the march that was going to happen on behalf of
sanitation workers the second -- the first one erupt in violence and didn't work out. so king promised to go back to memphis to lead a second march that would not have the kind of violence he deplored. so they were having dinner then going to speak to a rally. they're getting ready for the march and he steps to be balcony and was hit with the assassin's bullet. but it was a rough year for king. that was april 4, 1968. this book death of a king, starts one year to the day prior, april 4, 1967, when king gives the most controversial speech of his spire life. >> host: where was nat. >> guest: in new york, he is in new york city speaking at the riverside church in map -- manhattan, giving a speech called "beyond vietnam." in that speech king calls america the greatest per purveyor of violence in the world today. he had been on record opposed to
the war. now giving a major address to the nation condemning the war, and he lays out in detail our relationship with vietnam, our history with vietnam, lays out. one of the rare times king actually reads the entire text because he was more of a -- he was an orator extraordinaire. his "i have a dream speech" he went off the script and started freestyling. so he was goo offscreen. unlike some people who have to you a tell prompter for everything they say. but dr. king gave the speech beyond vietnam called america the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today and then talked about what he called the triple threat facing our democracy. that triple threat? racism, poverty, and the militarism. ironically, 50 years later, same triple threat facing the country. racism poverty and militarism.
king was right. when he made that comment the next day everything and everybody turned on him. the media turned on him. i don't mean fox news. they weren't around then. i'm talking bet the lib contractual media, "the new york times," "washington post," time magazine. the media turn on him and then the white house turn on him. he and johnson had worked together to pass the voting rights act and the civil rights act. we have debate about the movie selma and how john son is portrayed. but they worked together to pass the legislation. then the white house turns against him for being so aggressive against the president and this war in vietnam. and then the last poll taken in his life the harris poll-found that nearly three-quarters of the american people thought he was irrelevant. white america turns on him and inside black america, that's zero percent of black folks that he was irrelevant. i mean the naacp come out
against him. the urban league come out against him. the leading black journalist, ralph bunch a nobel laureate comes out against him. i can't quote what thurgood marshall, supreme court justice said about dr. king, what he felt about him during that era. so everybody turns on martin. the media, white house white folk, black folk and that's the life he has to navigate for the last you're of his life. he is talking about racism and poverty and militarism, and nobody wants to hear that. they turned their back on him. he dies broke. in the last year of his life he can't get a book deal. he can't gate paid speech. disinvited to the white house and disinvited to to black churches. this is the last mile of the way that king has to walk all by himself. so when martin takes the bullet a year later, same day april 4, 1967. killed april 4 1968. when he is killed on the balcony he believes and dies -- imagine
this now -- martin dies believing that everything and everybody has turn on him the cosmos has shifted against him. five decade later, mar tip was right and everybody else was wrong. >> host: another tweet for you, staffs smiley in research and rite using death of a king what is one thing you learn about dr. king you did not know before. >> guest: let me say before i answer that i could never, ever not acknowledge this. king has three brilliant historians who have done the heavy lifting to bring us his life and legacy, and death of a king, which is the first book and the only book ever focused just on the last year of his life. there is no book that focuses just on april 4 '67 to '68. a story about dr. king we don't know. but tater branch and david garrow and clayborne carson can't say their names up in. without them doing the heavy
lifting the story of king's life and work and witness wouldn't be known. but the thing that most surprised me -- i knew most of this from years of research -- it's remarkable to consider that king has all this hell and all this hate coming at him, there are fbi spies inside his organization. his treasurerrer mr. harrison is on the fbi payroll. the photographer shooting him is on the fbi payroll. i could go on. sew his catching hell from the outside. being spied on and abandoned frankly from the inside by his own people, and never in all the hours and hours and hours of audiotape, all the hours of surveillance tape they have on dr. king not one time do we ever hear king contesting the humanity of any other human being. not demonizing, not denigrating. it's just remarkable for somebody to be infused to be
filled with that kind of love. we live in world now where so many people are not as advertised. can you imagine? i shudder to think in my life what they might have heard me saying if i had been under severallance 24/7. but to know that they have all of this tape on martin and that who he was to -- who he was in public was the same person he was in private and that's not to say that he was a perfect servant. i'm very clear in the book, "death of a king," does not shy away from his personal failings help was a public servant. not a perfect servant. but where his work and message of love is concerned martin was consistent all the way through and it's a beautiful thing five decade later to discover that this person was who you thought he was. >> host: and good afternoon and welcome to booktv on c-span 2. this is our in depth principal. every month one author, his or her body of work three hours and your phone calls, tweets and comments.
202 is the area code. 748-8200. if you live in the east and central time zonees. 748-8201. if you live out west, you can go ahead and dial in. we'll begin taking calls in just a minute. you can also make a comment on our facebook page. facebook.com slash become tv and send us an e-mail. and you can make a comment via twitter, @book tv is the twitter handle. tavis smiley is the author of at least 15 books. he has also edited several more. here's a real quick run-through of his books. just the thought, the smiley report. came out in 1993. hard left. straight talk about the wrongs of the right. 1996. on the air the best of tavis smiley on the tom joiner morning show. 1998. doing what is right. how to fight who are what you believe and make a difference. 2000. keeping the faith. stories of wealth, courage healing and hope from black
america in 2002, and on air the best of tavis smiley, then never mind success, go for greatness the best advice i've ever received. came out in 2006, and his autobiography, what i know for sure my story of growing up in america, okay. out in 2006. accountable, which we have discussed, making america as good as it promise. 2009. 20 lessons of building success, too important to fail, saving america's boys, okay. oust the years ago. the rich and the rest of us. a poverty manifest oin 2012. death of a king about martin luther king's final year came out this year, and coming out next year -- or this year 2015 -- my journey with miya. what is that and when is that coming out. >> guest: that's the first time that cover has been seen. that's a picture of miya angelou
and a young tavis smiley and we're sitting on the couch holding hands and that was in ghana. i was just a kid. invited me on a trip with here to ghana, for almost two weeks with my dear friends, we all went to ghana for a couple of weeks, and i can't begin to tell you how being brought into her world as a young 20-something fundamentally changed my life. miya angelou was the first world class intellectual -- cornell west is a dear friend of mine but long before i met cornell west another world class intellectual, knew miya angelou, and the woked me -- welcomed me into their world and she became a surrogate power mother for me and i became her son one of her
many sons and the book is really kind of akin to tuesdays with moreie. it's about a mother-son relationship and what that's 28-year friendship with miya angelou was like for me and the experiences we had traveling the world, the experiences we had staying at her house. she visiting mine. i have more public conversation with maya angelou than anybody on my public tv and public radio programs. the meals she took for me. the things she taught me. the things she exposed me. to and the fact that this world class intellectual would let me disagree with her and wanted to have my point of view and to hear -- i'm raised in a very strict pentecostal by the book, religious family. one of ten kids. and you have to have a lot of discipline and strict rules in that family. and i was taught in my family that young people are to be heard, not -- -- we should
listen rather than speak and my point of view wasn't always val i'd when i was a kid. the rules were very different. then imagine i'd be exposed to someone like maya appearing -- maya angelou who wants to hear my point of view. this is an adult. like my grandmother, who doesn't mind me argue with her and pushing back, and we head some disagreements and this book talks about the good times and also talks about the disagreements we had. we disagreed on clarence thomas when he was nominated for the supreme court. we disagreed on a number of issues. some movies we disagreed about. things she starred in that we disagreed about. when barack obama was running for president she started out supporting hillary clinton because she is such a dear friend of the clintons. we recall the wonderful speech at mr. clinton's first inauguration. she supported hillary when
hillary first ran in 2008 are, and after she lost she became a supporter of barack obama, and the obama campaign at one point was getting a little testy about my holding them accountable, and so they played the trump card. they had maya angelou call me one day, and in the become for the first time ever you'll hear the story what maya said to me and the back and for we head about broke broken and other -- barack obama and the book comes out april 7th and i'll be on tour mother's day. >> host: how did you as a 20 something get to know maya angelou. >> guest: i had couple of friends who were close to her. dr. julian malveaux. >> host: she has been on the program sunny was close to dr. malveaux and dr. ruth love the superintendent of schools in both chicago and oakland so big-time school superintendent. was also a dear friend of maya angelou's. i got connected to dr. malveaux
and dr. love and end up on the trip to africa. >> host: where did you go do college? >> guest: indiana university. i was born in mississippi. and gulf port, on the gulf coast, and my mother is from mississippi, my father is from georgia. my father was stationed in biloxi. and and they expect the rest is history, and we got transferred to an air force base in indiana and through another long story, my parents went on to have ten kids although four of them are my cousins who we brought in as family. so there are ten kids in my family eight boys and two girls. and our family got to be so large, after my mother's sister was murdered, we took in her four kids. so that's how they became ten of us. pam, phyllis paul and patrick all four ps, came to live with us so we became a familiar live of ten kids. so it became an economic hardship for the military to keep moving us around so we
didn't move around very much. we stayed in indiana and that's a good crop -- almost all of them were there earlier last year when i was honored with my star on the hollywood walk of fame. they all came out, the first time ever all of them had come how many -- they've all been out at various times to visit but that was the one time all of my siblings, my mom and dad, came out for the ceremony. a great moment in my life. >> host: what i know for sure, my story of growing up in america, you dedicate to phyllis. why. >> guest: she is one of my sisters and is in the photo. when i mentioned earlier in answer to your question about the beating when i was 12 my sister, phyllis, and myself, were both in that situation. beth of us were accused of something in our church that we hadn't done. the minister of the church got it wrong itch don't want to call him a liar. he is deceased now. don't feel comfortable doing that but he was wrong in his assessment. of what we were accused of
having done, and so he got in front of the entire church, stands up in front of the entire congregation and chastised my sister and me and goes in on my parents and it was just an ugly situation in front of the entire church. never should have happened. at no point did we geld called in about a conversation about what happened. i think just so surreal, can't understand how as an adult, you stand in front of the entire church congregation and accuse two kids of doing something that -- anyway the point is that it was an embarrassment to my family and my father, was very involved in our church lost his temper. and phyllis and i had the beatings of our lives. when i went to the hospital -- that's phyllis above my shoulder. that's me in the little tan brown shoot and that's phyllis right over my shoulder. we got trouble that day and both were in the the hospital at the same time, and i love all my
siblings but phyllis has a special place in my heart because we shared that tragic moment together, and were in the hospital recovering together, and as i mention in the book because the incident was so heinous, my father got arrested. we had to go to court. install the local newspaper. an ugly situation. and both of us were taken out of our family. and both of us sent to two different foster homes. long story short, after beingway for a few months i really was upset and frankly i say in the book at the time hated my parents for what happened. halted my dad for what he did. hated my mom for not stopping him, and thankfully we have gotten through that and it's a wonderful, loving family. you sea the picture of. the with my star last year. but at the moment i hated my parents but i mills it me brothers and sisters. i'm the oldest and i really missed them. and the foster pamly i was staling with lived close enough to my house that i could actually see them out in the field playing, as i drove past
in the car. with my foster family. i could see my siblings in the fold playing, and i would cry. so after the few month is asked the court to let me go back to my family, and i had to figure out how to navigate through owl the hate i had. so i figure that out over the time. my sister phyllis went to another foster family and never came back. at the age of 12 i kind of lost phyllis. she went away, and her foster family lived much fartherway so i didn't see her very much until we both got out of high school kind of reconnected and that incident set my life in one direction, but sent her life in another direction. for me when i got introduced to dr. king as i intimidated early, it allowed me to see there was a role for me to play in the world, and i didn't quite figure all that out until years later i mitt maya appearing lou and figured out i had to find my
open voice, my own way. maya said to me tavis we find our path by walking it. final our path by walking it. so king lets me know there's a calling for me in the world. maya angelou helps me figure out what that calling is. phyllis, on the other hand, had her spirit broken by that beating, peter. it broke her spirit. and she became a crack addict. and had a number of kids out of wedlock, and just had a very, very difficult life. for a lot of years. i'm happy to report that while it took a long time, a lot of rehab, a lot of work a lot of money, a lot of patience phyllis eventually went to nursing school and graduated and is doing okay now. but it took a long time for her to turn that corner and i just have always felt a particular and peculiar love for her so that's why i dedicated that book to phyllis. >> host: is she sober today. >> guest: sober. probably watching right now.
hi, phyllis. >> host: what i know for sure: what were day doily events for other students were rev layings for me. awas amazed at my first trip to a movie theater nor will i ever forget the movie i saw. live on the sunset strip, or its star richard pryor. >> we lived in a very strict pentecostal family, and in my church we were forbidden to go to movies forbid 'to listen to secular music itch can't listen to the jackson five or any stars of the day i wanted to hear. so we couldn't goo to movies. couldn't play sports. it was very, very strict pentecostal upbringing. so it wasn't until i got to college i got a chance to experience most things that people do every day. so i remember first tomb i walked into a movie feet their hope to campus of indiana university, i didn't know how to go to the one door and buy the ticket and i didn't want to go with anybody the first time because i was too embarrassed to
tell my friends in college i'd never been to a movie. so i went by myself and i was surprised to walk in and see they sell popcorn and other goodies and walk in the movie theater and sit in a is in plush seat and a big screen-but to see richard pryor live on the sunset strip in my first movie, considering language and comedy -- richmond pryor i have come to appreciate him all these years later as perhaps -- even more so than dr. king, which is a whole other conversation -- richard pryor probably the freest black man i've ever known. a black man that was free enough to speak and to live his truth hugh hamad -- muhammad ali fill the same bill. freedom by any 0 definition is the able to tell the truth. even when you catch hell for telling it you got be a free black man or free white man or free anybody and be willing to speak the truth whatever the consequences are. you deal with it. that's the ultimate freedom.
so i respect pryor for that. the second movie was purple rain with prince. i just never had a chance to experience those things until i got college. >> host: back at iu here the death of denver smith galvanized the black student population. who was denver smith? >> guest: since i was 12 i've been now learning everything i can about dr. king. i read everything i can get my hand on, gone to every library for miles around to get anything about king itch was just soaking it up like a sponge so much so that when i got to high school issue was on the speech team, and everywhere i went for four years on the speech team i would win all of these speaking contests and i'd enter vfw conte rotary contests, always delivering one of king's speeches and winning and having fun, sharing king's message. i had king in my spirit but i hadn't been tested as to whether
or not i could show that kind of love. that kind of compassion. and step out front when the truth needed to be told in a very difficult situation. so it's one thing to have imbibed all of that. it's noting to the actually step out and lead on those kinds of principles. to you question america friend denver smithening on the football team was hot and killed black denver smith, was shot and killed by some white cops not unlike what we see today, unarmed black man killed by white cops. so i know this eric garner story, the trayvon martin story lived this when i was sophomore at indiana university and my friend denver smith was killed. and so we galvanized ourselves as student leaders around the killing of denver smith, and we couldn't accept the fact that denver had been shot and an inordinate number of times in
this back and yet the police sale they shot him in self-defense. how do you shoot somebody in self-defense in the back and again he is unarmed. so it was very difficult situation for me to lose a friend so early. and to be tested in that way. but denver smith was the moment and the incident in my life -- every one of us has those moments. i hope aim note death of a friend but every one of us have moments when our courage and our conviction and commitment and character are going to be tested, and i hope that in those moments that i will always be ready to step forward. but that denver smith was the very first time i was confronted with how do you handle a crisis and use these kingan prisons of love and nonviolence and protest and pressure. how do you use the stuff you have been raiding and re-citing in these peaches. you you're going to be tested at a student leader at indiana university. it was a powerful moment.
denver's wife and kid live in chicago, from time to time i still stay in touch with hem. he was married at a young age and has a daughter who i have seen over the years but it was a moment of deep sorrow for me when i was a young kid. >> host: what year did you graduate from iu. i went from '82 to '86 and my senior year at indiana i left to go to an internship with tom bradley. the mayor of los angeles, and went back to indiana to finish up my degree. there's a funny store to that i nell one of my books itch went to indiana university from '82 do '86:00 finished in '86 cut when i say i finished i left indiana university a couple credits short of my degree. and the long story again very short -- i keep saying that phrase. trying to make the most of our time here -- the story is that -- this is one of those 20 mistake is made in my life that i wrote about in my book in my senior year at indiana, -- get
to the point -- i got a dispute with one of my professors. and the dispute was so serious that the dean of my school had to settle the dispute. the dean selzerled the dispute in my favor but suggested to me i might be wise to leave this particular class and go into another session. so the other professor is teaching the same class. he said, tavis, got a feeling this will be fraught with so much tension for the rest of the semester. he says if you go to another class right now you can graduate and she won't have to see you every day and you ain't got to see her and we can put this behind us. my little arrogant narcissistic self at the time said, no no, no it was her mistake. i was right. she was wrong, you ruled for me and she is not running me out of this class. he said, okay have it your way.
i stayed in the class and i have no excuse. i flunked. my last semester at indiana didn't go to class, depend study, wasn't paying attention if flunked the class and it was actually funnier than that because we got to the end of the semester, and here's the sad part. shouldn't tell the story on television. it's so -- embarrassing. >> host: if you don't i'll read cincinnati the funny thing is this was a pass-fail cass. all i need is a d-minus. how do you fail a class when you only need a -- it's pass or fail. i don't need a c-plus or b. it's pass or fail. i was so bad in that class. i was arrogant and wouldn't goo to class. so comes time for the final, i know i'm getting an f. and so i'm doing an all-nighter trying to prepare for the last exam, and if i really ace this last exam i get out with a d-minus but i have to get close
to 100 on the exam, can i know isn't going to happen but i'm trying hard. so, i do horrible on the exam, as you can imagine. so then the same teacher who i had gotten into with and went to the dean and screamed on her and got her in all kind of trouble, the same professor. i had to go back to now and beg her somehow to give me an opportunity just to get a passing grade to get out of the class and graduate from indiana, and she looked at me with that cheshire cat grin, oh mr. smiley. oh the semesteres over now and you're back in here asking me to help you when you failed in this class? okay. so she just laughed at me. and i knew what that meant. so i i'd already been given a job. offered a john -- i'd gone to intern for him for a semester. went back to indiana to finish my degree. got into the trouble in the last semester of school, even though i got a job waiting for in the los angeles, and so i had to
make a decision. do i stay here for another semester and take this class all over again, or die go to l.a. and take the job? that i've been offered itch went to l.a. and took the job. i never lied about having my degree because they'll knew i was going back to finish up so i went back to l.a. and took the job. nobody asked me, did you graduate. the truth of the matter is that years went by before i finally got back and finished that course and actually get my degree. it was funny because so many years had passed before i actually did this, that by the time i finally finch finished the court and got my degree two years late they're gave my an honorary doctorate degree. they wasn't going to do that nil actually finished that one course. i wanted to honor me nick broadcast career had done well but i they want met to fin issue the course. i had to buckle down, finish the course as an adult, and then they -- it was a funny story. >> host: there was a council
there who -- counselor there who wouldn't retire. >> guest: miss dorothy. if she's watching now, hello. she is a good friend of mine. i was out of indiana for so long -- i went to l.a., took the job for tom bradley my career took off and i was off and running and i had forgotten -- not forgotten, but what is ironic, because i'm the eldest of all these kids hey had brothers and sisters who i put through college. i worked really hard to get them through school. ahead brother graduate phenomenon morehouse, one from hamilton, one from indiana. i was actually paying to help send my brothers and sisters to college so they could graduate so my siblings, who are younger than me, technically got their college degrees before i did. i had a counselor who called me every year who saiddown, have to finish this course. she hounded me every year because she knew i was that close to finishing the degree. and every year she would call me and say it's a new school year. are you going to take the class by correspondens?
i can rank for you've to take it in los angeles. one class, tavis. she called me every year. and hounded me to take the choose, and year one went by, year two year three four five, just so many years went by, and one year she called me, i wrote about it -- and said know, tavis, i'm retiring at the end of this year. and i am not going to retire until you finish this course. and it hit me so hard that she loved me enough to call me -- i'm in los angeles. she is a counselor in my school at indiana university, 2,000 or 3,000 miles away and every year she would call me to hound me to finish what i started. reminded move my grandmother. we called big mama. and big mama said to me, tavis, once a task you have first begun, never finish until it's done. be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all. so i can hear my grandmother in the back of my head 40. was deceased, reminded me, you
got to finish what you started. miss dorothy calmed me every year and it was powerful for me because in my life -- this really shouldn't matter but i want to make 'oa point here quickly. in my life there have been two people who expected more out of me than i expected out of myself. and both of. the, interestingly and ironically, happened to be white women. my second grade teacher who i love and dedicated a book to. mrs. graft mitchell second grade teacher died a few years ago well into their 90s. my second grade teacher one day said to me in class -- i was the only black kid in indiana an all-white class, and she would not tolerate me giving up. and it was something about being the only black in the class that made he feel inferior. that was my own internalized infear you'rity, and she read that. and she said to me one day -- i can hear it in my eve at my little desk, tavis, suspect as much out of you as anybody else in this class and you young man, are going to have to quit
quitting. you have to quit quitting. you're quitting on me. i know you're capable of doing this. this is a white woman in second grade, who expected as much out of me as everybody necessary the class. i never forgot that. fast forward. here's miss dorothy, calling me in l.a. every year saying, tavis you have to finish this degree, and she hounded me of that. so there are number of storied and lessons i can draw from that. this is a smart audience. they'll get it. it's important for me to share that part of the story. >> host: very quickly and then we'll take your call sod hang on -- calls so hang on but you brought up big mama. you write, was on television debating jack kemp bob dole. kemp is smart. a former buffalo bills quarterback who relishes verbal come about. i do, too so our exchange wag smart and caustic, as our dialogue went on back in kokomo, big mama made her way into the
kitchen where my mother was watching me. oh my god, big mama said weather have to get in the car and get tavis before they come after him. >> guest: my grandmother was afraid when he walked in that kitchen and saw me on television, as my grandmother would say it now -- big mama died in her 90s, born and ratessed in mississippi at the height of segregation. big mama walked in the kitchen and saw her grandson on television sassing a white man. she didn't understand that i was being paid to have this debate with jack kemp on national television. i was a commentator, he was a commentator, we're getting paid to do this. she saw me on tv sassing a white man. one of the funniest stories of my life. she told my mother -- my mother called me and said tavis when you get this message meese call home. and i could hear in my mother's
voice, some was jovial and frantic. i couldn't understand. jovial because she thought it was funny but frantic because any grandmother was taking this so seriously, and my mother wanted me to call home the moment i got off the tv set to letmer her to -- to talk to my gram and let big mama know i was okay. she wouldn't stop crying and screaming and declaring they were going to kill me for sassing this white map. this is what it means to grow up in mississippi. this miss grandmother's experience in this america. this is in the dark side. she is scared to death that me sassing this white man on television will get me killed. so she want mist mother to get in the car drive from indiana to -- and come bet in the and stop me from sassing jack kemp. he was a great guy. >> host: from your 2000 book, doing what is right, we willing to make a scene cause a stink, shake, ranle and rouse? if you planned to be on the front lines as opposed to
helping out in a more support role you'll be operating on the cutting edge of change. you mustbe willing to step outside the box be willing to holler to be heard. let's go to calls for tavis smiley. the author this month with'll begin with haroon in baltimore. thank you for holding. you're on the air with tavis smiley. >> good afternoon. mr. smiley, i've been a fan of yours for probably 10, 15 years. since your b.e.t. days. i love your work, you have done excellent. one time i was in nursing school and i heard you were coming to washington, and i left my school just to be with you so you can sign my book for my daughter, mr. smiley. mr. smiley, i really really disappointed a little bit about what you have done with the president. like you i was against mr. obama during that time.
but over the time, over the time, we have to come to conclusion that barack obama is the president of the united states. he is not a king help cannot say, let there be light and there will be light. he cannot. barack obama cannot say, okay, stop -- like you i'm from africa. wow were born here but i'm from africa. i went to school and never chain smoke or any of that sort. even supported mr. mccain. >> host: i think we got your point. left get an answer from tavis smiley. >> guest: the short answer is i don't -- i'm not a gangsta. that's a phrase he used i'm not against barack obama. i support the president. i supported him in 2008 because i believed then that supporting him would open up progressive possibilities politically, socially economically and
culturally, and i haven't seen a lot of evidence of that as yet. that was my hope that progressive possibilities might be opened by affording him -- electricity barack obama. my job is hold him and other leaders accountable. i hope to live a life of responsibility before i can talk about conditionable, but it's about holding people accountable. i am not against barack obama. >> host: john is in las vegas. hi john? >> caller: good morning, happy new year. >> guest: happy new year. >> caller: tavis congratulations on your well-earned and deserve evidence success. since you mentioned in your book death of a king the fbi's enmitt and infiltration of martin luther king and j. edgar hoofer hoof very referred to him as sorrow. what are your thought about coretta kitchening's secessionful civil case against
the fbi the federal government what are your thoughts of rick gregory -- book, code name zorroo, and after coretta's successful case against in the fbi why did not thousands and thousands of blacks take to the streets in protest the way they did for the sad case of mr. garland and finally probably the most successful entertainer, political activist, who was black in this country was paul robson. why is it that very successful blacks like spike lee and -- >> host: let's bring this to a >> caller: -- have not funded a movie about paul robson. >> guest: who quick answers. number one, with regard to your question about mrs. king and my fend, dick gregory and others who have done a lot of work on the assassination of dr. king
the book death of a king is not about the assassination. it's from april 4 1967, when the gives the beyond vietnam speech to a4, 1968, where is killed. there's a powerful epilogue of the book but the book doesn't cover the assassination, but since you ask, very quickly, do not believe that james earl ray acted alone in the killing of dr. king, number one. in number two do believe our government was complicit in the killing of dr. king. i'll leave it at that. with regard to your comment about james robson i concur with you wholeheartedly that paul rob sewn may very well be the most underappreciated american that we have ever known, as much as i say that dr. king may be the greatest american we have ever produced. my own assessment. maybe the greatest american if. i believe paul robson is one of the underappreciated and
undervalued. we talked about any friendship with maya angelou. my book coming out i believe that maya angelou is america's ultimate renaissance woman in black. i don't know -- i challenge the viewers right now to think about this with me. i can't think of another black woman who has been more of a renaissance woman than maya angelou, who has done so many different things and done them well. a lot of greet black females. i don't know anybody who is more renaissance woman than american history than maya angelou, and i feel the same way about paul robeson, those are we two persons to the ultimate renaissance person male and female in black america elm we'll see what people think about that it. >> host: an e-mail, what are your authorities on the movie selma. >> guest: i am -- a good movie. i enjoyed the movie. i'm a bit chagrined and
concerned about all of the pushback that the movie is now starting to get. just this morning i appeared on this week on abc, while here in town. i was flipping channels and caught a good conversation that my fronts bob she fer had she fer had on face the nation. and about the -- the a powerful op-ed a lot of people front page "new york times" article, big article in the "washington post," so a lot of media attention now, a lot of social media attention, print media attention, being given to whether or not the movie portrays lbj as he ought to be portrayed. i sense now that there are people that are coming at this movie awfully hard now and they're going to do what they took make it difficult for this movie to gain any traction, and difficult for this movie to win
any awards even though its director is already regarded now in the host books' the first black woman at the be dominated for best director award for the golden globes and maybe the academy award. this fight will continue for the next few weeks as we get into the awards season about whether or not the picture adequately depicts what happened around the voting rights act and selma. let me say this quickly in hollywood, where i live in l.a. movies always take license, all the time. so this is not the first movie to do it. i love selma. just like i loved lincoln. but i had one critique of mr. spielberg. when you see the movie lincoln talk about hoyt cal accuracy. the movie finds lincoln fighting to save the union and finds lincoln on the right side of the slavery question. any of us who know our history
know that abraham lincoln started out on the wrong side of the slavery question. he was wrong about it initially. frederick douglass helped get hit right but lincoln get thursday the right position and does the right thing to save the union, but that movie never, ever pointed out that lincoln initially was wrong on slavery. that's a major major fact that i wish they'd put in lincoln and i loved the movie. so we can debate the historical license that the movie selma has taken to tell the story it needs to tell. but i hoch that we won't mall maltreat this movie, treat it differently than other movies, that again, took the same kind of license in the telling of the story. >> host: joseph, maryland. good afternoon to you sir. >> good okay. mr. smiley, how are you? >> guest: fine. how are you? >> caller: i have to begin i give you a couple of references. ghana, global, antinuclear
alliance.org and nuclear files.org, book called -- a bomb -- the president and daughters a nuclear primer on all the issues of nuclear weapons, and power. ten million people died in congo over uranium just recently and it's not over yet. where we got the first uranium for the first nuclear weapons. >> guest: okay. >> caller: i hope you read them. a number of principles of the air, 11 sentence written by the world's greatest generation. the number of principles. there's currently highest law of the land and general have no -- >> jo receive, where are we going with this? do you have a question or recommendations? >> caller: and obama's signatures. i'm all for president obama and what he is doing. voted for him and hope we -- >> host: all right. that's joseph in maryland.
>> guest: i'll add to any reading list. >> host: john, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: good afternoon tv vase thank you hear me? sunny i hear you well. how are you. >> caller: i'm fine, sir, thank you. on my -- two or three quick comments. first i want to tell you i'm being sincere, on my little table right from the telephone here i made a tape of your appearance on booktv where you gave about an hour lecture on your book about dr. king. that was -- >> host: lorraine motel in memphis. we covered itself. >> guest: right. i was so inspired by that because our family is going -- made a tape of that and will send it to my brother. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: was -- the book and obviously, obviously, his life, but that one hour speech you gave that lecture you gave, was very very helpful and very inspiring. now, in saying that i want to plant the seed with you.
first of all, i'm a beneficiary of obamacare. i have been able to have insurance for ten years. so, we don't want to make the perfect the enemy he the good. but if i could ask you to remember anything at all, nobody has more visibility in this country and nobody inspire mets more than dr. cornell west and you, sir but especially dr. cornell west. if you really want to have a change in people's lives, just like you went a couple years ago around the communities talked about poverty. if you would take a year, you and dr. west, go around get people registered to vote, nothing is going to change in this country until we get people to vote in this country. >> host: thank you, john in sarasota. we'll leave it there. >> guest: john, thank you for your kind words. i appreciate it. and i couldn't agree more on the issue of voting. my concern these days is that
too many fellow citizens see our system is broken that it is dysfunctional, this town where i sit right now washington is bought and bossed by big money and big business. dr. king said many years ago when he was lifing the negro in the south at the time could not vote and in the negro in the vote had nothing for which to vote. a lot of americans, never mind black people, a lot of americans think they have not much to vote for and the approval rating of congress is so low and voter turnout is so low. people are looking at a system they know is bankrupt, and show to real question for me is not just registering people to vote but how do we establish a system that works on behalf of the american people that the american people think is worthy of being supported? i'm the first to tell you and admit obviously, this is the system we have. and so we got work inside the system, and so voting is clearly something i support but this is a broken system that we have
here in washington, and so much needs to be done. starting with meaningful campaign finance reform, to make the system work again for the american people. i and thank you for your phone dahl. >> host: that caller refer reverenced tavis smile residents appearance at the lower rain motel in memphis this past december good to booktv.org and watch that on the upper left-hand corner and see a search function. type in tavis smiley and you can watch that program online when you want. that caller also reverenced -- refer reined this book, the and if the rest of us the poverty manifesto. tar advice mileie and dr. cornell west in this book. cornell west says so the sac of education know you're awful break dancing over this $4 billion initiative but afghanistan gets $4 billion every day. >> guest: dr. west makes a powerful point in this book that we co-authored. his point was and still is that
education ought not be a race education in america ought to be a right, and he is right about that. education ought not to be a race, ought to be a right and i have my critiques of dr. west, has this hiss crete tikes of the race to the top program. but the point he makes is clear. we put money out for the things that matter to us. we go back to would where we were earlier in the conversation. back to king's triple threat facing our democracy, 50 years ago, festival facing our democracy now, racism poverty and militarism. the o. one of that gets the money is militarism. we won't put the money where we need to put it to fight poverty and income inequality. one thing i'll be doing a lot of this year peter so i'm glad you raised this is using the hash tag, 2016 poverty debate hash tag 2016 poverty debate. one thing i'm going to be pushing for a lot. already started talking about it. this is my goal between now and november 2016, or the fall of
2016. by the time we get to september of 2016 and the presidential debate commission sanctions those 3-d baits we're going to have between the two final candidates, whenever they may be and as enticing and as juicy as it is for those in the media to want a bush-clinton rematch. i'm not sure it's going to turn out that way too. many things that stand in the way of the two of them making it to the end. i think there's a wonderful piece in the "new york times" today that rates out why he think that both hillary and jeb aren't going to make it. a falls nateing read and i saw this monday in today reside "new york times." having said that i think he is right. i don't see both of them making it to the end but i could about wrong. the point is whoever the nominees are in 2016 we need to have for the first tile ever in this country one of those of three presidential debates to focus exclusively on the issue of poverty and income inequality. and all the research i have done i can't find a single presidential debate ever, ever
that focused for 90 minutes exclusively on the issue of poverty and income inequality. if its -- and i believe its -- the defining issue of our time, why can't we have one of those 3-d baits-door debates that focuses on poverty and income inequality and what the next president of the united states is going to do about this issue that threatens our very democracy, an issue that is now a matter of national security. so, that hash tag is hash tag 2016 poverty debate and that's my mission for the next year and a half. two years, how do we get one of these debates to be about the issue of poverty. >> host: where did the cornel west-tar advice smiley friendship begin. >> guest: i was a kid working for brennan and i was in the office in los angeles at the time. i was on loan to the southern christian leadership conference of greater los angeles, sclc l.a. sclc is the only organization that king founded in his lifetime, so i was on loan from
the mayor's office to sclc l.a. for civics months to work on the very first ever king holiday celebration in the city of l.a. so sclc was in charge of it. was on loan from the mayor's office to help them organize the first annual king celebration in l.a. way. in the office and dr. west was good friend of the executive director of they organization and he was in town and popped in to say hello to his friend my boss a guy named mark thomas now the most powerful black man in the state of california. the head this chair of the los angeles county board of superrors, the most powerful black man running all of los angeles county in the state of california. he was my boss then arrange great elected official in california now. he and dr. west were and still are good friends. west popped in to see him and i'm sitting at my desk and you know him when you see him the afro, the three-peat to
three-piece black suit. and it was like sanford. the big one. this is my man and cornell west walks in the door and i've been asked this question many times. the person i admire the most who is dead would be dr. king. the first formosa my life i've aid miredder is dr. west. it's not just he has bright but he has usable intellect. to have the kind of love and concern and care for every time people and to use that intellect in service to them, you know d -- and dr. west and i don't agree on everything. we have our own minds and own points of view but the love he has for everyday people is palpable. in his space, that jump jumps on you. you have been around him. >> host: paul from virginia. hi paul. >> caller: hi. hello. i've been a follower of tavis
smile 'er senator some time and i like his interviewing style. but since his association with mr. west he become more of an anarchist than a single minded thinker. >> host: what do you men by single-minded. >> caller: like arrogant and narcissistic are his own words there, that aptly describe him and he is an angry man now. never trained anybody who appealed to their reason. always just overwhelming them with endless verbiage. >> guest: well again, people are entitled to their opinions. aim glad my boss as pbs don't think i'm an angry black man who is espousing hate every night. i wouldn't be on the show for 12 years if hey behaved that way. i'll keep working on being a better man. thank you for your critique. >> host: this tom joiner.
i i'm the hardest working unanimous radio, tavis is the hardest working political commentator and talkative, and since he talks fast he has more time to get more words? and say more intelligent things in three minutes that than most people say in 30. i'm just afraid he is going to blow out his voice box. >> guest: i have done that a couple times. i've had surgery on my voice chords to keep the nodes. when you do raid you're or television as much as i do, as much yes as you do you have to be concerned about your instrument. i love artists, musical artists texasly, and i'm always fascinated by people who i have seen go deep into their career and they still have their instrument. there's so many people that come to mind. tony ben net. he is likes 90 years old and can hit that note and hold it just like he did 40 years ago, but it's how you protect the instrument that you have. so many great artists who i feel that way about. so over the years i've learned,
tom's joke aside, how to manage this thing so it will take me from here to checkout as my friend says. >> host: you used to do kind of a state of black america, tavis smiley presents, for years. is that still happening? >> guest: it isn't at the momentment that's good question itch did it for a dozen year and was one of the most watched things on c-span every year. tune in on a saturday in february and all day long, right here on c-span we would have the biggest and brightest minds best minds in black america dissecting the issues of the day, usually a morning panel and then afternoon panel and all on c-span. i'm so appreciative of c-span for the dozen years we did of carrying that. the short answer is that when barack obama got elected there was a different point of view about whether or not those kinds of conversations were necessary or needed and so in truth we had one the first year that he was in office and after
that, -- again, this is part of the critique. we're going to have a see, since you've raise it -- a serious come to jesus christ meeting in black america when he is out of office. all due respect to persons who have called and offererred their point of view. i have my vulnerable of view they have their point of view, and then their the facts. these are the affected the data is clear and the white house can't argue this. they haven't tried to argue it. when bronco is out of office the data is going to indicate as it does now, that black people have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category. you don't believe me go to the kerwin institute at ohio state university. pew research data. all the data indicates right now that if his presidency ended today, the data indicates that planning folk have lost ground in every leading economic indicator category.
now, do i blame barack obama for that? that's not my point. my point is that in the era of obama, his most loyal constituency has lost ground in every category. and i believe that it happened to some degree because of the deference of so-called black leaders to the white house. too many black leaders have been silenced and sidelined in the era of obama so that nobody wants to offer a critique. nobody wants to say anything itch get some of that deference. you have a head wind coming at him from the the right obstructionism he faces every day. so much on his plate. they hating on him, trying kill him secret service won't protect him. i get all those debates and conversations inside of black america. i'm in the barber shop. i go to black church give. that. but at the end of the day the data indicates that because we have been so silent the bible that i read says you have not because you asked not. and if you don't make any demands, then you're not going
to get anything. what happened is our hispanic brothers and sisters have taken a page out of our playbook and have been loud. you have to put yourself in the way you have to get out there. make demands ring the bell. beat the drum. pick your metaphor but find a way to be heard, and in the era of obama black people have been eerily silent so much so that dr. king turns in his grave that black people are silent not just about poverty but about militarism, how is it that we gave the world dr. king. this is our man of peace. he is a man of nonviolence. the guy we regard more than anybody necessary black history and we have become silent even on the war question. this administration has used more drones than george bush did. killed more innocent women and children with drones drone program on steroids, than george bush did. if i say that i'm hating on the president. i'mhart. no, my brother's sister. these are the facts we have a
drone program on steroids, not made any progress on poverty, and on the racism issue, only when black men start getting killed in the streets we raise up in arms about the racism that is still intractable in this country. all i'm saying is we can never, ever surrender our right to be heard just because the guy or gal in the oval office looks like us. that can't be our strategy going forward. again, as i said earlier, great presidents have to be push. you don't get anything from them if you don't make demand use tavis smiley viewers out there are listening. they want to buy one book. which one book should they buy? >> guest: i think any author says the most recent one. like any artist. this new album is this best album i've done. i've interviewed people.a thousand times and never interviewed one musical artist who didn't say this album is the best album. michael jackson was trying to tell us after thriller the next
album is better than thriller. prince will tell you, this is the best album i've ever den. so i guess this dr. king book is the best book i've ever written, but it really is. all jokes aside now. this is my hero and this book has been -- almost all reviews of the book they have talked about the meticulous research we did over years to get this book right. so of all the books i've down i'm in the most proud of the king book and i hope that people, if they want mrs. to be the great nation i think she can be, i think that is inextricably linked to how seriously we take the legacy of dr. king, and this is a story about king that most persons don't know, and i hope in january, few days away from his birthday on the 15th, and then the holiday, and then black history month -- i don't want to put king in a black box but now is a good time as anything so i would say death of a king. >> host: at the bottom it says
tavis smiley with -- >> guest: a wonderful writer, the guy that wrote, divided soul with marvin gaye. roget with bb king, a book with willie nelson buddy guy. he -- this year -- just saw the rolling stone list the other day. the "rolling stone" list of the top ten music books of the year and david rich is holding down the number three and fourth position. his book on aretha franklin respect, and a book with joe perry, of aero smith. those books are number three and four on the best books of the year, so says "rolling stone," the definitive voice on music. so he is a wonderful writer and david this kind of guy you go to when you have a book that needs a narrative that reads like a novel. i don't need david on everything but only this king book i didn't
want to write a history book. i wanted a book about the last year of his life. that reads like a movie like a screen play and you can just go right through it. ed needed help making it read in that way and david was the best person to do it and he is a great guy. >> oo this tweet for you. what is your individual writing process like on average? how long does it take for you to complete your books. >> guest: i can do -- my researchers is the time they take is another issue. takes a while get to research right, particularly fog for a become like king. as far as actual writing i have done 17 or 18. i can do it in three or four months. that mean is can't do anything but my radio and tv shows. that's lot of work, my radio and tv show. but for three or four months i don't accept when i'm going into a new book we lock the
calendar down. don't make trips no speeches no appearances no awards no nothing. i just don't leave l.a. for three or four months and i'm in my house or in the case of david, in david's office, and we're working together. but once the research is done i can sit for three months and pretty much crank out the writing and then i turn it in to my editor, and i'm down to the wire on the maya book. i turned until a couple weeks before christmas. my editor john pars, has it now so we're going through the edits and revisions on that. just in time photo out for april. >> host: linda minneapolis good afternoon. >> caller: yes, good afternoon to you too. i have a question, of course for mr. smiley, and i have two questions and they relate directly to your book, death of a king because i heard your lecture a week or so ago.
you spoke how -- about how martin luther king went to lbj and criticized him, i think in the oval office, and urged him as a sort of speaking truth to power, and i just wondered -- i don't feel -- i dent get you said how did lbj take -- what was his response to these criticisms if you know, and then i have one other question. >> host: go ahead and ask your question. >> caller: okay. the other question is again, relating to something you said on the lecture, about the blacks leaders and other blacks who abandoned him who for his stance against the war in vietnam. did they -- were they really for the war in vietnam? these people who aabandonned him or did they leave him for other ropes dnr. >> thank you, mam. >> guest: two very good questions. on he lyndon johnson question i don't feel that i am adept
enough or learned enough to answer in detail what johnson's response was to king. so robert care rojas done all the wonderful work on lyndon johnson, read his work to get what he says about lyndon johnson, they way he viewed it. my book is from king's perspective, not johnson's, so i don't feel acknowledgeable enough to. a onure second question i know the deal on the second question. so that many of these black leaders i refer repsed earlier by name, the naacp. young, thunder in marshall -- thurgood marshall, many of them were concerned. the damage that king was doing to their relationship, that is to say to black america's relationship with lyndon johnson. another way,line iline don john
so is vas viewed buy black folk as the best friend that black folk had in the oval office since abraham lincoln. so johnson comes along and this guy passes the civil rights act, the voting rights act say nothing of the other social programs he pushed forward. the war on poverty. to most black folk johnson was the best friend we had in the oval as since lincoln had been the president, and they did not like the fact that martin over an issue in some little place called vietnam, over there was messing up the relationship that black people had with the president in white house who had been our friend, and that is what their issue was. i don't know that the vietnam war was their primary concern. their primary concern as i have read the research is martin was going to do damage their relationship on the domestic front that we were starting to mick progress on inside the white house. ...
affairs, safing america's boys -- saving america's boys came out. we've seen the hollywood script dozens of times. insert actor of choice, meryl streep matthew perry, michelle pfeiffer. assigned to a ghetto school with dangerous, low income smart ass and obnoxious students. the benevolent, frustrated by stubborn teacher refuses to give up on these poor souls. he/she bucks the stale, bureaucratic educational system to the chagrin of supervisors. he/she helps the deprived students confront their inner city demons and discover their true gifts, purpose and worth. epilogue the maligned, mistreated and misunderstood educator has been vindicated. pessimistic, frowning, hard core students have been transformed into smiling, grateful, optimistic vessels of limitless possibilities. cue the sentimental music, roll the critics -- credits or, fade
to black. >> guest: we've all seen that movie, and that's not how it works most of the time. it works in hollywood, where i live in l.a., it sell tickets but it doesn't quite work that way in real life. so this book "too important to fail," was a companion text to a pbs special that i did by the same name, "too important to fail." and i cared so much then and now about the subject matter that it was the first series that i did for pbs for which i did a companion text. my friend ken burns does this all the time, always a companion text with his documentary work. i was very pleased with the results. the special was received well, the book did remarkably well. but the reality is and this is, again, another conversation for another time but the majority of black boys in this country are being taught every day by white women in classrooms. now, that raises all kinds of questions. and before you miss my point, i am not demonizing white women in the classroom. i said earlier two of my best friends in the world were two white women who looked out for
me. that's not my point. but there are all kinds of questions it raises, cultural and political and economic questions. all kinds of questions it raises about what it means that our black boys in the most multicolored and multiracial multiethnic america in history are being taught by white teachers. are they prepared to handle these black boys? are these black boys being assigned to read material where they see themselves in the material? these black boys and research points this out as you'll see in the book if these black boys don't develop a love of reading by the second or third grade, they're lost. so many of the boys that research has been done on shows that because they don't ever see themselves in the narrative, they don't develop a love of reading. you love to read i love to read, but i like to read a certain kind of book. you like to -- only brian lamb reads everything. but we like to read certain kinds of books. so these boys are no different.
there are all kinds of issues that were raised in that special for the betterment of the school system and for the betterment of these boys who are stuck in this public education system that in many ways is not working for them. that's, again, one of my passion projects. i still do a lot of work with black boys. and i just, i have seven younger brothers. so this is something that comes natural for me. it's not just something i do because i'm on tv. i have seven younger brothers and now thanks to those seven brothers and two sisters, i have 31 nieces and nephews, many of whom are black boys. so this is something i live every day even in my own family. >> host: neville is in cleveland. you're on booktv with tavis smiley. >> caller: um, mr. smiley, i would like to ask you to make a comment on the contribution of people from the caribbean to american society. i think of the fact that people like colin powell and eric
holder have backgrounds from the caribbean, harry belafonte stokely carmichael marcus garvey. and at the other end rihanna, nicki minaj from the caribbean. would you care -- >> host: neville, where are you from? >> caller: i'm from guyana in south america. >> host: thank you sir. >> guest: i think you just commented, and i couldn't agree were more. that's what's so beautiful about this country and this is worth remembering as we have this debate this pseudo-debate in the next few weeks and months and now with the republicans controlling both houses of congress, where is this immigration debate going to go? obviously, conservatives and others in this town think the president, you know, has rubbed their nose in this immigration debate and has really, you know gone beyond the pale when he used his executive privilege to do what he did on the issue of immigration reform. they didn't like that, as we all know, and you've seen that
covered here on c-span. but it's worth remembering that this country is a country built on immigrants. and it's also worth remembering that all these immigrants aren't mexicans, you know? there are all kinds of persons cocome to this -- who come to this country and make grand contributions. i think sometimes we lose sight of that, that this country so great because people around the world have come here to make this country a great nation. this is a beautiful mosaic that we call america, and so often we have these kinds of debates about us versus them, and it just doesn't make much sense to me. >> host: every guest we have here on "in depth," we ask him or her for what they're reading currently, some of their favorites, some of their influences. here's a look at what tavis smiley ♪