tv Book Discussion on The Class of 65 CSPAN August 16, 2015 12:15am-1:18am EDT
night we add c-span here with some of new ground rules please put your phones on silent or turn them off for questions afterwards please stand up so they can get the microphone to you i am thrilled tonight to have jim here because this is a great book yet i read it i finished it last night and i thought why did i not read this earlier this is all about my family. my mother was a third generation graduate from his high school graduating in a 1950 but she went to sweetbrier college and had a friend of hers that was an exchange student from st. andrews is in scotland
and one day she said are you from their? she said i have never heard of it. said she had to learn about it from somebody from scotland so whether she came, she was a little bit upset but my a grandfather was a republican type and his first cousin is quoted in the book as he had to leave town in 1957 but the person who cater tried to ask them to leave said she was bright as she went off to sweetbrier college and good for my mother that is
the stories i have rand it is of a classic story tonight so we are so proud to partner with them professionally and the storytelling the way it really is not the way people think it is today. but we're all very proud and this is another example of a partnership so i will hand it over to you chalk. >> someone asked me earlier
as we were longtime friends i said no. but i am a longtime fan. we have all seen on local and though it one dash newspapers that all media properties do, no matter what happens from what i had done for decades because i knew if he wrote the story it would be about something that mattered your watch i cared about. with so when i learned that jim was writing the books i
hadn't heard of it either. one of the great things about this complicate -- publication is restarted but also learning about southern history. so now i will turn over to your june and let him talk then i will ask him a few questions. taken away jim auchmutey. [applause] >> thanks for that kind introduction. this is a very cool then you to do that put defense but what i will do is set up the story a little bent then we
will let us go question and answer session. i feel i should introduce a topic "the class of '65" is a true story set in the civil-rights area at one dash era focusing on a teenager who grew up in a communal farm in southwestern georgia at the time of the unthinkable idea. and nobody was palladium persecuted treated every bit as badly during his senior i love the name americus it is
the american story. but here's "the twist" many years later many classmates who had stood by tracked him down in west virginia where he had lived for decades and throw him a letter of apology asking for his forgiveness. and wanted him to return to you georgia for their reunion and it was set up a remarkable gesture by wanted to know house's year it was was it just remorse and guilt of people headed into their retirement years or something deeper? i didn't just want to write about bad things in the south but the capacity to change with the promise of redemption so i will back up
first review never heard of day and i have come to find out there a lot of people who have never heard of it. it is a communal farm in southwest georgia and your jimmy carter's hometown now is best known as a place for habitat for humanity was born in the late '60s but before that one of the most controversial religious enclaves in america. founded in 1942 and a white southern baptist minister who was not like others who wanted to start to a commune to live life the early christians that means community or fellowship but they believe that will make
them communist so that she is surely after they moved to the farm summer of 1953. from linkedin segregated public schools not long after that asking too endorsed to black students you wanted to enter the georgette business college in atlanta up. by the time parents would return though local paper had a front-page story about the clergyman who wanted to do desegregate of unknown parties from the farm but
the produce steel and was bombed twice presumably by the kkk and then they shot into the building. said in the fall of 1980 the children were not immune but one of 18 children living our show and i with their playing volleyball in 1957. there were playing on now like to court coming down the highway the vehicles
were so close the children stopped their game to watch. the everyone was having mechanical trouble. something was pelting the of branches in then caught a of a glimpse of the gun first coming from the muscles like bettongs of snakes. and incited the house -- inside that house she cave aside from volleyball then they're cracked sounded and the bullet she would go inches above her head. a colleague was sitting and yelled get down the house will explode. the three of them crawled into the bathroom shower where she thought they might
be safer from gunfire after the shooting he thought they would take us out. bytes the early 1960's moving into the public schools. the battleground was america's high school. the school refused because they thought any shootings could disrupt class's with civil unrest. to get the teenagers admitted on grounds of religion. the irony but they were treated horrible they were harassed. when starting a at the high-school he fare no
better one by one the others pointed that they've moved away or they transferred with there wouldn't be subject to the same level of persecution by the fall of 64 he was the only one left and that is where the story gets more interesting. so i would like to talk about where the story goes from there. the fall of 64, his senior year the crux of the book and something else is happening in southwest georgia which is the civil-rights movement is intertwined and explains the animosity.
>> one of the things that struck me after the book was published looking at the experience in the year or so and to the idea that kept hitting me in the face that here is the situation of very strange triangle going on. this one kid that is the deeply held religious beliefs for those students so we had him and the four
there are all these mass protests against segregation that ended up in mass arrests, koinonia was known as an ally. activists of all right taxes would come out to the farm for rest and relaxation induced to hang out. actually held orientation sessions about how to be arrested in a nonviolent way. they knew very well that koinonia was debating -- aiding and abetting what they thought was the enemies of their animosity was very pointed in very specific. at the beginning of this school year, the school board in america have decided they were going to try to defuse some of the racial tension in that area by allowing a very token level of desegregation.
right before the school year began they invited a handful of students to come to america and the formerly all-white school and there were four black students who volunteered to greg megamall because he had been involved in the civil rights act civil rights act of a set have been going on at americans of the most natural thing in the world for him to offer to make a show of support and solidarity with them, the beginning of that year the funeral home, the biggest funeral home, black-owned funeral home, the barnum funeral home volunteered to let the students write to school in their limousines and try to keep them away from the mobs and everything. greg volunteered, he asked if he could ride with them as a show of support. on the second day of lasses this funeral home limousine shows up at american high and there's a little rock scene there.
they're 75 townspeople there throwing things and saying ugly words and doing all the things that we know so well from the south and the funeral home pulls up to -- the the belligerent sheriff pops open the door and who shows up first, this little white kid from quinnipiac. it had the effect of making greg a more marked person that senior year. there is an episode in the book, the tenth chapter the book called -- [laughter] >> keep going. >> we are on tv. >> we seem to be having a remodeling project here. i knew the manuscript could use some work that i didn't know it would be this bad.
>> it wasn't just that one action of this guy was deeply-rooted in its beliefs. it was deeply-rooted in reform of these people as you mentioned. would you write that passage on page 144? if you could just read that. the one about the concrete incident. >> that is not about right area that's about one of the last me two later reached out to greg. i need to do a quick bit of setting up. in the summer of 1965 after greg and the class of 65 wrightwood date town of american blew up.
there was a woman, black woman who is running for justice of the peace in a special election in july and she showed up to vote. this was a year after the civil rights act of 1964 had passed and supposedly outlawed public segregation in a public venue. she was dragged into the black voting lab which should have been illegal. she protested and she ended up getting arrested. it kicked off about three weeks of demonstrations, mass demonstrations in america and in many ways it was the closing chapter of the voting rights struggle because this was the voting rights act in congress while this was going on. all the civil rights organizations in atlanta and elsewhere sent emissaries to america to organize protests because they needed one more example of people in the south
eating badly to clinch the deal and american divided it and there were mass demonstrations and mass protests. there was a killing. again white man was shot to death in the last week of july and the sequence, to the people who are important as the play part in the demonstrations. brad who just graduated was going to the demonstration marching with the black protesters with his
a black man was walking up the street by himself. here comes one shouted a white fellow in cutoff jeans and a shirt tied at the waist like the comic -- comic book character li'l abner. let's get him. some of the them picked up wherever they could find. joseph had no good reason to join the group but in the thank you of the moment and the ambiguity of the dying light he grabbed a jagged chunk of concrete and followed their lead as they confronted the black man. he looked to be about 403 he seemed more weary than frightened. look guys i don't have anything to do with these protests. i just got off work and i'm walking home. before the man could say anything else, someone threw a rock and stuck them under the eyes. he covered his face with his hand and let out a woeful cry. blood went onto his cheek as the
pack scattered joseph dropped his chunk of concrete impact away in revulsion. he ran several blocks to the courthouse to his car like he could reverse the last few minutes with his feet and he drove straight home. joseph didn't tell anyone, not even his mother about what happened that night in july but he couldn't forget that the full moon that pained face that patch of blood. even though he had not struck the man himself he had watched it happen. he felt like the driver and a getaway car in a robbery. he was ashamed. joseph later came to realize his attitudes about black people started to change them moment. >> that is powerful writing and a powerful story. i want to ask you one more question before we start opening it up to anybody else who wants to ask a question.
one of the interesting things that you brought up when you are in the process of writing your piece for us related to the story was the fact that as a "washington post" critic put it, what does one do with a civil rights story in which the hero is white? and one of the things that i really loved about the story that jim wrote for us and i don't know if you've had a chance to read that along with the book that we would appreciate it if you did and i think jim would too, jim and greg went back down to america's foray reading down there together and the four students who segregated, i'm so sorry, it he segregated america's high school came out for that reading
and even i think it's important in discussions like this for us to give those people names. dobbs begins, robertina freeman fletcher, david l. and joel wives. those were people came out and prepare for this reading that night. i just can imagine what it would be like for people who have been through that kind of thing in the hometown where they stayed for most of their lives to come back around to something that actually does feel like reconciliation. >> the fact is a lot of these black students that went to america's high have not had the same process of forgiveness and reconciliation that greg did and that's very sad.
all four of the students who disaggregated the high school, only one of them stuck it out through the school graduation and it was robertina who is a very accomplished woman who ran the pharmacy at the medical center and just recently retired. she said she was going to write about and i hope she does. one of my problems is i wanted to write more about robertina and the editor kept telling me greg and his classmates are the focus of your story but i understand why. i manage him a woman earlier went to america's high school later on in the 60s and went through all sorts of arrests meant. if a non-for a lot of years. we all know this and these high schools added to formally been all play. a lot of people went through
this sort of thing that greg went through. greg story particularly was exotic and different to me was the fact that the motivation versus being mistreated was that he came from this unique religious community. also the fact that these classmates had reached out to him so many years later and they gave me a vehicle to write about how much we really have changed and how much in some ways things haven't changed. >> it's really interesting to me how sometimes we go through periods and sadly recently it feels like they are provoked by ask of violence. we go through these periods where the south is sort of forced to look harder at its past but sometimes down at that local level at the community level all those changes happen
so slowly and so incrementally. >> when i read that section by joseph hitting the guy with a chunk of concrete i have to tell you when i first heard about the shootings in the church in charleston that made me thing about that concrete is even though there is a great degree of difference between the two someone who assaulted individual is somebody who hold bloodedly murders by people there's a great deal of difference but the underlying image, that violence shocks so many people that it made people think about things in a different light. joseph almost hitting batman made him think about things. it took him many years to come to grips with that i was really really -- he thought that was where he started to change and that's where he looked into the abyss and pull back. he later became a professor at a
community college and enterprise alabama. >> a professor in what? >> business administration and he was teaching at a community college and naturally a lot of the students would be black. he started to change his thinking about race when he started to have a proprietary interest in the well-being of the students who might happen to be black. when you go home and talk with us that other who is a very prejudiced man of his generation and he would ask how many. ed: words were you teaching there. he would get very upset with them. i need to make them improve their lives.
i've spoken with her several years before and although she's not mention the name in the book she is close to its events. her family provided the limousines that said greg and they black students to school but they were they were met by a mob in 1964. she started school and endure the same daily harassment that greg and the others have put up with. she stuck it out in 1969. greg told me that she had a half-dozen copies of the book and given them to her children. other family members -- i thanked her and ask whatever any graduates had apologized to her for the way she was abuse. a woman came up on time and she said they couldn't believe it, it's a shame because we might have been friends under other
circumstances. did she apologize i asked? not really. i remember her telling me she's doing to people around town who mistreated her in high school and wondered if that still occurred. not a month goes by and in fact i sighed when he returned the bookstore. they usually act like nothing ever happened. i wish i could report the black students who were badgered like greg -- but i cannot. but the fuse -- a precious few exceptions one which plays a crucial role in the book. quote i don't want to get the impression i think about this is trail the time. i don't pay if i love this town. and i'm never going to get that her but we still have a long way to go. to me that quote carries so much
weight because that's the thing that often has forgotten in these discussions. at least as we have had them in the past. we can hope to have them differently in the future i think but you know we have these discussions and we forget that we share the same hometowns. we all live in these places and we have to learn to live together and it's hard sometimes but that showed me a lot about how much further we still have got to go. it makes it difficult with the same time which makes it kind of weird. a work in progress. we get reminded of about how far we have to go all the time. c who has a question in the audience that they would like to ask jim?
[inaudible] because he is white and not the black students? do you think that still played a part in who these people were willing to reconcile what? >> well, the class of 65 did not have any black members actually. all of the blacks that the segregated two sophomores and two junior so when the class of 65 is getting ready to have its 40th class reunion there aren't any black members that would have been invited. i can tell you that greg was mistreated as badly if not worse in some of the black students thought greg was treated worse because he was considered a traitor to his race. there were all -- greg was hit in the face of couple of times and there was another time a group of 50 boys met him after
school behind the baseball grandstanding confronted him. they have a literary festival in the town where greg lives in west virginia and they asked me for a quote to put on a banner on main street. they were doing a short quote so my quote was what greg said when he saw those 50 guys around him. he said my god are they going to lynch me? in my going to get stoned? but greg was the only person in the class that they reached out to. there wasn't a black and brunette class at the could have invited but that doesn't take away from the large a point that most people, white people really haven't made the effort. >> we have one right up in the front area.
>> a couple of years ago it was standard suburban atlanta reunion and i then tried to visualize ever since i heard of your book, what the hell did they talk about at that dinette? how did that work out on that one-on-one social event 40 years later? >> reunions are inherently awkward. i've only been to one of my high school reunion send this one a combination of it exquisitely awkward antics was delayed fulfilling. they did a smart thing. what happened was the handful of students who had sort of put into motion this reconciliation in brittany's apology letters to greg, several of them met greg for lunch at their english teachers house at americas. she was living there and they had a really emotional, good
session for about three hours previous to realize these people really weren't friends in high school. they were getting to know each other for the first time. they knew was the right thing to do and they knew what they did that then was the wrong thing to do but has vacated when india and hated greg's dad's they would know anything about him except that he was a commie and a -- so they had this lunch and the main beginning was that the carnegie library in downtown americas which would save pretty place and that they were union to reconciliation with greg was very much a public point of order. everybody knew about it. there was a guy who planned the reunion, david morgan who got up to say some words about it. they even let greg, and sing a couple of songs. he fancied himself as ought to one when he was in low paid he got his guitar out in san
forever young. he said before that the song he has wanted to sing to his classmates was positively fourth street. you've got a lot of nerve coming your friend of mine. not everybody in the class that went to that reunion was in favor of the reconciliation. a lot of them thought you know greg didn't deserve this kind of treatment that nobody needed to give him a hug but this is what change. those people didn't pipe up and say it or if they were quiet. they politely shook his hand and then they went off into their corners. >> please wait for the mic refund. >> do you think it was a genuine reconciliation or were there genuine feelings or was there
that awkwardness that you are describing? i'm just curious. >> i think the people sat down and wrote greg a letter and called him were sincere. i think there were three or four of them who were particularly sincere. for him it was an important thing. it was part of their journey to do that. others behave so badly in high school. the people who reached out to greg weren't generally the people who actually spit at him or chicken down the stairs or hid them in the face in high school. these were the good kids who stood by while other people did those things and didn't say anything rated they were the people i think the equivalent of the clergymen that martin luther king wrote to the clergymen about. the good white clergymen who thought he was rushing things too much and didn't want to stand up and say anything about the injustice because it was too
uncomfortable for them. that is who these kids were. they knew better even back then and what time they certainly knew better. i think it was genuine but you asked me was a genuine on the part of the class and there's a different answer for a free person. for some people dislike greg was treated ready shabbily and we should shake his hand and wish them well and further people was an occasion for heartfelt tear stained letter and further people it was an occasion just like do we have to do this? it varied. >> anyone else have a question, right here in the second row. >> i was curious whether other members of the committee to did not live on the farm came there or was it all self-contained movement so to speak?
>> in their early years, in the 1940s and 50's koinonia was not very self-contained. one of the -- before he went off and got his divinity degree and became a minister he had at degree of agriculture from the university of georgia. he had a motivation for not only jesus but scientific farming and so they did a lot of outreach with the local farmers. it's one of the reasons why they were run out of the county in the early years because they were mick and effort to introduce new strains of ultra-to local farmers and things like that. was only after the racial move turned ugly in the mid-50's after the supreme court decision and there was so much divisiveness among white southerners in the south but koinonia started to become a target. at that point they became an embattled enclave and a lot of people left. r. berkeley about a fourth of
the population of koinonia which is 60 or 70 people in mid-50's, fourth of the population was black and they were the first people to leave when the violence started because they thought that they were going to be the first targets. koinonia thought they were going to be too so the clan pressure had their ronica effect of turning inter-racial commune into a white commune for all the wrong reasons. >> what is koinonia like today? >> koinonia still there. it's on highway 49 field dolphin road south of the americas. it is still a christian, and. there were about 25 full-time residents. there are a lot of visitors who come through here, people who are curious, people who are members of the traditional churches the quakers and the brethren and people who believe strongly in nonviolence, people
>> what was jimmy carter's relationship and when did it start? >> says the subjects because the carters' moved back in 1953 this savior the family moved to koinonia when jimmy's father had died of cancer he came back to run the family peanut warehouse business almost immediately brown reverses board happened and the climate turned ugly and there were people coming by to get the carters to join the white citizens cleo that it was called. in jaime would not do well and said he believed it was wrong but he would only abednego so far. -- let it go so far.
they were friendly towards it koinonia for the better part of ted years they could not buy farm supplies everybody was trying to squeeze them economically to get them leave the town they would shell some of their pitons ended things with them but jaime vega us speech as he had political ambitions and the you should leave koinonia alone the all the likes you would have guided people were related to him by blood. a carter's now speak about it. they probably, a when you talk to them now, i think they would like to think
they did a little bit more. but they know it was difficult. i went to a 70th anniversary of the koinonia gathering and that is our the main session was and jimmy made the introductory remarks to and they have all walks of favor now than front of the theater of different stars or the various those are local pro but he pointed out some of the stars were the very people who tried to run koinonia about of the county ed was said that ironic. >> does anyone else have a question?
>> i have an observation. when clarence was boycotted friends of ours had a mail system we showed him how to mail-order gore would help him get started with the mail-order business. it could have been the story of my daughter who was in high school graduating in the class of '65 from albany she was absolutely persecuted and hasn't wanted to go back the five girls she befriended and when a classmate rights of book about it they all speak about her for quite a very proud of her. >> she lived in albany during this period and her
daughter is not in agreement with most of the racial attitudes and was punished in some of the same ways as greg was to be ostracized. she also mentioned koinonia went into the boycott business but in the first three years the city was a paltry man on the cover of the poultry news one time. [laughter] and where nobody would buy their aches they cannot support themselves they decided to go read to a completely different business. they went into pitons they could get them from the federal government while the trees were returning then they could sell the mail-order and not rely on people locally.
but clarence was very humorous he came up with a slogan help ship the nuts out of georgia. [laughter] i believe we are about to out of time. >> [inaudible] >> you could certainly bill the story with the students who went to the high school. some of those stories have been told but they tend to be told rather shallow air and i take something good could be done there. i was telling somebody earlier thinking of the civil-rights movement it is
like the civil war with a handful big the engagement of gettysburg lore antietam or selma and of course, those conflicts that are of bookend of the same conflict has hundreds of the engagements all over the country into a particular the south and one of america's says -- it was getting publicity at the time but not well remembered now. all of these little struggles and high-school have compelling stories. you can certainly do another book. >> just add a footnote there is no issue i take that created more kickback of
violence throughout the south bay of school desegregation. the sad irony is looking back what happened if you go back to americus there are more segregated now than 50 years ago. you mentioned the fact asking if she would write the book i am pretty sure she will because since 2007 we are hoping to establish an institute on the campus. >> can i tell people who you are? >> yes. >> key was an activist in the '60s during the protest movement, he is in the book
and now head of a group this of parts of the movement but a group that basically is trying to hold onto the streets to say we have something significant happening in this place and he is totally right about the resegregation of schools and in america. we saw that when we went back there. >>. >> raise your hand one more time. >> it is the follow-up to the last comment. most of the housing in this country is segregated.
did any african-americans move back into koinonia after they left? >> good question. i cannot tell you the figure but the times i have been there there are some black people living there. but the truth be told koinonia was never a model of religion to appear that much. but these were mostly white protestant ministers and their families and missionaries whose people came from protestant backgrounds. of black people who did live at the farm but they were living there because of employment to pursue a better life working with the people of koinonia but it
was always a tough sell because there would book little to do good type for them. >> i want to ask about his relationship with his parents i think it was hard to read how they were willing tears sacrifice him to the american high-school system that he suffered ungirt and he held very deep religious views but did he resent his parents for what they seemed to require him to do for their religious beliefs? >> for what they were being
asked to reduce the seven other young people and certainly his older brother in chicago never got over it. billy but the fed was awful to put them on the "frontline" like that. i think of my own parents above was playing volleyball and got shot at by the gallon beyond the next plane smoking number we would not live there but they were so deeply committed to their religious views. his father was of minister rand he was about 50 when graham was born in had family at a much later age he kinda thought he was the
grandfather figure and he was hard of hearing so he felt clarence was more of a father figure than his own father but his mother was very nurturing and warm and she would tell them about the stories in high school but they were not going anywhere if their father did not want to. >> how did the baptist church deal with clearance. >> says the a good question i don't really know the answer to be fairly conservative federal think clarence is a patron saint.
[laughter] there is another baptist group that i think they are but but actually a lot of baptist churches i have come to find out they're no longer affiliated with the southern baptist church because they change with the neighborhood and are much more inclusive. i had an anti-went to the church after a the same-sex marriage that said all marriages are welcome. but they're not part of the southern baptist church anymore. [laughter] clarence would be a hero but
maybe not so much to the main body although i am sure there are exceptions. >> we are out of time. i assure jim wellhead around to answer questions. >> as a matter of fact he will sign books we are giving it 25% discount to night. a beautifully written but thank you for coming you won't regret it. come buy a book. [applause] [inaudible conversations]