tv Martha Jones Vanguard CSPAN September 19, 2020 7:32pm-8:32pm EDT
zoom schedule appears on our website at harvard.com. i will be contacting a link to support event night tonight possible of the independent bookstore thank you for tuning in we support your support now and always. thank you for your patience and understanding so now i'm so pleased to introduce tonight speakers professor jones that the presidential professor at johns hopkins
university and the organization of american historians for legal history and those scholarships with columbia university's center for critical analysis. as well as pbs and netflix and others and also the coeditor of the african-american culture and the birthright citizen but tonight professor jones of the correspondent for
"the new york times" pulitzer prize vanguard. it was that expensive history of black women and national book award-winning author the political historian and this is the commanding history of the struggle of african-american women for political power is a without further ado we will go to our guest. >> thank you so much for that introduction i am so honored
to be here tonight with to doctor jones that i admire as a scholar and a black woman and days supporter over the last year. this book is dogeared right now so thank you for inviting me. >> so let's just start with a pretty simple question why did you title the book vanguard? >> precisely because i knew the 100th anniversary of the 19h amendment and a story of the monument in central park that
way celebrate elizabeth cady stanton and was circulating. and that was in danger perhaps venturing the anniversary year. so it was a time to pull together those three generations of historians to offer one volume to permit all of us to fully appreciate of political culture. vanguard started as the notion that this is the book of black women first, breaking barriers, shattering ceilings. but as we began to reflect on the findings, we find out that
black women had arrived at 200 years ago beginning the 19th century and carried forward through our own time and this is the idea american politics should have no place for racism and sexism. what i recognize women had champion and i realize how long they had been alone to carry that forward, i realize they were indeed and intellectual vanguard through the very best ideals. >> i should have said this when i started the welcome to everyone. joining us tonight in the q&a box and we will get to them
when we get to our talk. getting to our ancestor a woman born into slavery in 18 oh eight, and then to be interested in the power of a personal memoir to tell the stories of the people so tell us about your great great great grandmother and starting the personal story. >> yes. also to thank you to harvard books. i work for the office and on the wall you cannot see it, a portrait including my great great great grandmother. and when i work i am very aware for everything that i do and i am self-conscious that i
was writing this book about women's suffrage and did not know informally interest in them and thinking about them i didn't have an interest to think about where they were in 1920. now she's no longer living with her daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter are all alive and black women and in north carolina and missouri. i didn't know what they were doing. but i realized i would have to dig for those stories and let them guide me to tell them what is a uniquely women's perspective on political rights and voting rights. >> are you saying that you did not know their involvement prior to beginning the research of this book quick.
>> i didn't. >> that was an amazing discovery. >> it was amazing but it was tough because of her things i wanted to know that i could have learned. in to try to find my own grandmother in the 19 twenties and tried and and that is a devastating thing like at the archives that nobody had valued. and she and my grandfather have for many years in north
carolina and in civil rights history. and in the course of the interview to talk about voting rights. so talk about 1920. in the fifties and sixties. and then to knock on doors and do the dangerous work on the voter rolls of the fifties and sixties and that is 1965 where i think that is what the voting rights act like my grandmother who got a vote.
>> we will come back to that in to talk about 19 fifties or sixties versus 1920 and in many ways. so when did you know you would include a memoir of this personal story at the beginning of your book? and why do you think as a historian? >> a long time ago i went to law school for those in the field and one of the interventions to be made into legal scholarship and then give us the latitude so that
so moving on to the politics of writing. and how we know and the black women's role with the way society that we were fighting alongside. because black women were accused for the black meals leverage and then for the white sand then then to view that with some suspicion to take some leadership roles and
rights. and we clearly see today they are fighting off racism and sexism finding on - - pinning ourselves in the same corners were black women were written out of that. so can you talk about those lessons from history that black women had to engage in and instruct us and had to deal with political power today? >> one of the things that reminds us of the bodily presence in a conference in a
and yes we are here to claim our political power and to exercise our political rights but we can't do that in the interest of all humanity. and it becomes clear that vision that encompasses all americans and the whole globe and some parochial and inward looking way. that is trouble that runs through vanguard and in our own time for those that cannot
it was a contest between white women and black men and it was very naïve that the black women's that stepped to the podium and then to go back to the iconic moment and with the old coalition activist to come back together and in response of the citizenship of the 14th amendment and that story has been told as if it was a
face-off between white women of elizabeth cady stanton on the one hand and on the other who says it is a matter of life and death for black man. and on the record one of my most beloved figures not only speaks but has a different political philosophy and then to bundle in one humanity i will not account for elizabeth cady stanton and in fact as a
black woman with racism and sexism women like me should be at the center and then to lift me up we should all be lifted up and the empowered politically. but my point is that is often told and for violence if they were not there and they both face-off against stanton to speak about violence and sexual violence and african-american women then to
then they tell you to support hillary clinton and this is a chance to redeem. so that struggle that was built on the foundation of which it was built. >> so what becomes a regular charge of political discourse is to take a moment at the podium to articulate for the and initiated and what your own political trajectory has
most interesting thing about kamala harris is the first black woman with a major party. i think what is most interesting is they have emerged as a force. that she wants to be on the short list because we are more than prepared to step right into that moment. so as a party and then to be on the short list. there are 120 black women it is our record shattering number in 2021 of the ways to
americans do, black woman will not go home in november even if things go the wrong way. the history reminds black women have shown up even in the darkest, even in most dire moments of this history, at the height of jim crow winching and more black women showing up for this country doing that now and 2020 and i don't have any reason to think we will pull back whatever the outcome of the election is in november. i think black women are a force and here to stay in american politics p.mi too optimistic do you think?>> i'm not an optimistic person but i think what you are arguing is actually a fact. you are not saying what the outcome ultimately will be what you are talking about what black women throughout our
organizing have accomplished i do think the framing you are talking about black women have been the most royal constituency for the democratic party become out at the highest rate and actually when you think about black women are the ones who promote and believe and vote for the common good at the highest rates ãband yet often used to win election and then forgot about. i think it's been amazing to
see black women could come into their power and say not this time. he will pick a black woman if you expect us to keep showing up for you. i think that is a great framing and we should think about it more that way because the first didn't come out of nowhere and the first game because of the organizing of millions of nameless faces black women who made sure that this could happen. i wonder if you could talk, one of the things that i was not as aware of is the relationship between the antislavery movement and the women's rights movement and how the women's rights movement is kind of born of the antislavery movement. i wonder if you could talk briefly about that. >> on the one hand i think there is a predominant story that situates the political awakening, particularly the political awakening about their own inequalities for white american women and their
engagements with anti-slavery organizing. indeed by the 1830s ã >> why is that so? what was it about that? >> apparently a deliberate strategy on the part of this remembering that the abolitionist movement demands immediate unequivocal end of slavery but early in its iterations it works to the principle of moral suasion. the idea you win people over by transforming hearts and minds. it's not a political question it's a moral question. women are considered, if you will, susceptible of morality in ãbwomen are very much the white middle-class women very much the target of abolitionist rhetoric, abolitionist organizing. so you've got women who have
history in their own families or lives of public or political life for the first time being called controversially but importantly to the podium, they pick up the pen, arriving in the liberator and the thinking evolves such that white women begin to see themselves at their own plight, their own oppression as mirrored in the circumstance of the enslaved people. it's important to say as a historian of black women it's very unusual to find a black woman in the same period in these same scenes who picks up slavery as a metaphor. slavery is too much a part of the lived experience or the legacy that black women even in
the north, even free women are living with through, i think for them to borrow slavery as a metaphor to talk about the storage of sexism in their own life. in vanguard i think for black women the story begins much earlier and begins before antislavery. it really begins in black churches. it begins with the black women as literary associations. it begins in black women's interventions into race and civil rights work in the free states in the north. even before we get a radical antislavery movement, black women are developing the intellectual, the critical intellectual foundation as creatures, as women who speak in the podium.
they already have in hand by the time they get to antislavery organizing, they have a critique in hand and that's a critique that says no racism, no sexism in american politics. that is sort of where the bar sits that is the principle to which they will work. it's not one that antislavery societies easily or readily embrace. it is one that uneasily with white women's ideas about what a political future might look like. women like elizabeth stanton are always working by way of a complex hierarchy that places white educated women in a different strata than black women even though those who were free and educated
themselves. i don't think for black women the arguments really are in antislavery work at all, it's an important site of their work but i think they come to that work already with a critique in hand. >> we are going to open a question about seven minutes. if you have any questions please feel free to enter them in the q&a box. i want to talk about this year the 19th amendment obviously this is the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment which extensively gave women the constitutional right to vote but the amendment came with a huge asterix. you said you are not celebrating the 19th amendment this year and i would love for you to talk to us about what the 19th amendment did and did not do for women at large. and why this is not a moment of celebration for you.
>> the good news is, i'm a historian, i don't have to look at celebrations. i certainly have been a celebration adjacent to this, let's put it that way. i really declined, why? the 19th amendment is its history, take on the problem the ways in which anti-black racism runs through and is one of the underlying logic's that permits the 19th amendment to be ratified, what do i mean? the campaign for the 19th amendment rests to an important degree on the exclusion of black women, the marginalization of black women that movement. because the movement is leadership under standard believe that the only way to succeed is by winning the support of white southern women and ultimately their husbands
were going to vote on the ratification of the federal amendment, what is that mean? it means jettisoning black suffragists. it's not enough to point to the enter dynamics of the suffrage movement when we then look at the record on the floor of congress or in state legislatures we recognize the way in which antiblack racism, the fact is, nothing in the 19th amendment is going to interfere with the capacity of the individual state to use jim crow laws literacy tests, poll taxes and more to keep black women from the polls, that is a pillar of the 19th amendment. the 36 state to ratify this amendment does so it is openly understood that tennessee will not be obliged to ãblack women
at the polls. it will be able to use its own laws to regard black women as it regards black men and disenfranchise them. this is not a moment to celebrate. the 19th amendment is a landmark. it has meaning in the lives of black women over the long history and voting rights of the united states, there are black women even in some southern jurisdictions who do vote after 1920. i don't want to leave the impression that there is nothing remarkable about the moment. there certainly is. at the same time, i think sitting in 2021 in a historical moment when, as a country we are grappling with a question, how on earth did we get here? such that racism and white supremacy still contaminate so much, too much, of law, politics and culture and more, one answer, not the only answer, one answer lies in that
dirty bargain in 1920. it did not take on jim crow in the interest of women's votes instead left intact and left black women amended to create a new campaign for voting rights. it takes years until 1965. that's not the raw material for the celebration for me. even though i did admire the black women who waged that fight before 1920 and after 1920, it's just not a moment that i can unequivocally celebrate.>> i think one of the things i say all the time is, black people are always so inconvenienced. we want to simplistic uplifting
narratives about advancement and forward progress, in order to have that so often we have to erase the story of ãband we have to erase the way white americans have consistently been willing to compromise the right of black americans to meet their own agenda. i'm going to ask you one more question before we go to the q&a. i couldn't leave the conversation without talking about the roles of black women journalists in the book, which was some of my favorite parts of "vanguard" is that you future several prominent black women journalists ãbi would love if you could talk about the roles of black newspaper women in particular and the role that they played in the struggle for women's rights, along with a particular outcome they face.
>> there's nothing easy or straightforward about being a black woman journalist but in marianne shed carries case being an editor running newspaper and i know you know she begins that enterprise disguising her identity she's convinced that readers just will not canvass a new newspaper that it's led by a woman. that's an ongoing challenge for black women journalists, editors and more. at the same time, it's hard to say too much about the way in which newspapers in particular are the crossroad that nipped black americans together across
extraordinary swaths of space and time. i don't have to tell you, nicole, but sometimes after my students, there was no ãbbut the newspaper is that, it is the new media. it is a crossroads and it is incredibly dynamic when black women are at the helm we can then recover the ways in which they shape they shape the coverage, they shape the debates, they are undecided what's in and what's out and marianne shed carrie is deeply interested in women's rights and women's suffrage, she will have her own political life but as a journalist in 1850 she's curating a forum that is thinking very hard about what it means to transform the relationship of women to black politics, to antislavery politics and more. i was afraid of ida wells in this book.
i knew if i spent too much time on ida wells she would just take over this book. and you know why. because wells is a journalist but wells is a social scientist, she's an advocate, she's a lobbyist. i don't know what is sharper, her pen or her tongue but the combination is remarkable. but i also know that that means wells wins admirers and she wins detractors because her extraordinary brand of black womanhood is provocative and and runs counter to still very present ideas about the relative subordination of black women, even within black
institutions. this couldn't be a history of me of my heavy-handed historian ãbthat black women understood, analyze, thought through, organized and that they left us the record. so wells and shalonda vasari among those women who believe, unequivocally, a record of who they thought they were, what was happening around them and what the states were, so it's
an honor to come back to that material and try to figure it out for readers and help distill that for readers to dispel the rub that we can't right black women's history, that was i was told, by some not all. that's just a lie that we have to be willing to go where black women were and go to their materials to tell the past. >> i think about the tremendous
platform ãbfor people who most of us at that point have not been allowed to be literate we don't have much of a written record because of that newspapers began black owned newspapers and black women owned newspapers began to create that written record we been deprived of. i appreciated that part of your book and i hope it will leave people to further explore these women and read the biographies on these women and that their interest probably peaked. ãbthat their interest will be peaked.i'm going to go to the q&a, i'm gonna start with ãb i didn't realize you were trained in critical race theory, this is a question about that.
can you define critical race theory to me, for us. obviously the right has just discovered this. all the people on zoom tonight, i would love if you could define it for us, the question is, what you think of our recent comments by president trump that diversity in education is un-american and he was specifically talking about critical race theory. >> i just suspense out the latter part.
these are folks who observe that despite the purging of race and racism from the face of american law persists in the united states for black americans in the 1980s. critical race theory begins by trying to answer the question how is it that inequality persists despite having worked toward a colorblind ideal in the united states. the work is to understand better language, covid
language, the dog whistle. the language of race and racism as it had been gussied up or prettied up for lawyers and judges in the united states. it looks to history to restore the legal thinking that it had been whitewashed and overlooked. it looks at the biography it goes beyond the surface of legal writing judges writing, legal treaties, to ask about the biographies, politics, the motivations of principal actors and as a school of thought about what scholarship might be, it is this moment in which
scholars of color, legal scholars of color again to critique what happens in the law classroom, what happens in the casebook and open the door to the eye, the storytelling, the narrative, the autobiography, i study in the 1980s with patricia williams whose work i think is well known by many people for her really artful and powerful combining of the stories of her own family including the history of slavery and her family with an explication of how those ideas animate our thinking about property, for example, in the 20th century. that's what critical race theory begins, it's a companion to sociologists, i feel like now i'm giving you like a seminar. it's a companion to sociological work that has
begun to reframe race as a social construction. critical race theory has become interested in the ways in which within the law race and racism are being constructed, affirmatively through law as well as other realms of american society. there is no question that critical race theory asks why does racism persist? in the 21st century isn't that the question we've all been asking. i don't think that's a novel or provocative question at all, seems to be the question on many people.even if we don't know the answer we know that the question. they are asking that question going back almost 40 years now. some among us are branded more pessimistic than others, some
think racism is permanent, intractable in the united states and others think that by studying how you are getting here perhaps you find the key to undoing that very problem. >> where you stand? >> that's a good question. i think on many days i think as far as the eye can see on racism, to keep racism at bay will require vigilance, extraordinary effort and commitment, that i don't yet see the formula, the analysis, the promise in any guise of the eradication of racism but i do believe that we have the cut atrocity to minimize it, to keep it at bay, to recognize it, even as there will always
perhaps be folks who are prepared to get up and use it and exploit it in american life and politics. certainly in my lifetime, i'm sorry to say, i think racism will have been a permanent feature, i hope for your daughter and young people we learn better how to keep it at bay. >> i think we probably just have time for one more question. this one said francis harper faced off with stanton and douglas, you said it was her concern with violence against black woman that informed her intervention. does this come through in "vanguard" in terms of ãb concerned with sexual violence, extreme financial limitations, kind of violence, or both. >> it's all of those things in harper's remarks at that meeting.of the thread that runs through "vanguard" is one about sexual violence.
violence including sexual violence, for black women. one of the things i had never expected to discover was how from the 1850s forward all the way into the modern civil rights era black women activists come to narrate ãb there is nowhere more acute and francis harper talks about what it is like to be a black woman lecture, antislavery lecturer, writing streetcars alone. you know ida wells story at this point, nearly every woman i write about has a story about ãbharper comes to put that on
did a round of work in the 21st century equates to a movement we refer to as "me too", she's pulling on an old and vicious thread in the history of black women in politics. the question of where are the politics that will excuse black women from the threat of sexual violence? >> seeing as much as how whiteness is defined by blackness and distance from blackness, that's doubly true for white women. part of that participation in that denigration is there need to define themselves as opposite of black womanhood, which we could have a whole mother talk about that. those are my questions, i think all the time we have for questions from the audience. is there anything else besides,
pick up this book, please buy the book, is there anything else you would like to add before we close out tonight? >> i think i just want to say thank you to you very much for being here with me and for the conversation, taking us to the history, helping us think hard about what that history means for our present and immediate future because it is on the horizon. the women i wrote about or write about would tell you ãb i think that's for me the best way to honor them in that season. i just want to say thanks to harvard bookstore for hosting us tonight. thank you so much nicole. >> thank you for your work and we will let them close it out.
>> thank you both so much. this is really a wonderful conversation so thank you to all of you out there spending your evening with us, thank you in particular with all the questions we couldn't get to, there was a lot of you and we appreciate your questions. you guys can all learn more about this important book and purchase "vanguard"@harvard.com. on behalf of harvard bookstore here in cambridge massachusetts, have a great evening, everybody be well. >> booktv continues now on c-span2, television for serious readers. >> welcome, everyone to our first episode of authors and insects, driven american leadership for today's challenges. we are reviewing prominent authors on new books on american politics, policy, and leadership. books that affirm the importance of both character driven