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tv   Tulsa Race Massacre National Symposium - Caroline Randall Williams  CSPAN  August 8, 2021 5:49am-6:30am EDT

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national impact on the 1964 civil rights movement. not just focus on the racial violence and they fascination of mr. evers we are focusing on their life. on the work they both did in order to bring about meaningful change within the community and in the world. through their legacy. so thank you so much for allowing me too talk with you for a few minutes. and thank you again. >> those national park service chief historian on the recent massacre in 1921 the neighborhood known as black wall street was burned to the ground and hundreds of african americans were killed. next, on american history tv from the tolls at race massacre symposium author carolyn randall williams assures her family history and the legacy of slavery in the south. >> i am so honored to be with you all today.
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mr. franklin i cannot see right now. but i will take a moment of indulgence here to connect. i'm the great-granddaughter of anna and alberta mr. franklin's parents were their dear friends. john hope franklin was i think my great grandmother's favorite man outside of our family. the franklin library. [inaudible] so mr. franklin and i are a second generation of alliance. his family making room for mine with sacred, thoughtful basis. i would also like to note one proud of my harvard degree, i'm proud of that i'm like my great grandfather had an opportunity be to be a writer in residence.
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and i'm very glad to use my pwi to agree to serve. now to the matters at hand. it is a privilege of my life that i get to be a part of these conversations in this moment in history. i like to think lately this is kind of a riff on the hamilton effect the version of the effects of the world turned its back on me i wrote my way out. so i think it may wrote my way in. that feels right. i think this whole conversation comes down to a predicament of what to do with a reliable witness, of being some sort of faithful countrymen. they are not the same
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essential thing. with written into law and what is truly just are two different things. when what is a riot tells us race right as it's called, what is a riot and what is a massacre comes down to a matter of perspective. funny, tragic terrifically complicated i will let you know when i figure out the right word. this is the same the founding fathers raised with england king george restrictions with the men who founded america from the laws unjust. they sought freedom but then upon gaining their independence turned around with that terrible human thing, they re-created a cycle
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of abuse and oppression in their own house. now, we are about the business. this is complicated for me, for so many. maybe because if we go along with the house metaphor and speak figuratively re-creating the role of my ancestors i come to clean the house of the oppressed. if that makes you uncomfortable, it should. in some large part i was invited here probably because of an article i wrote about my history. i wrote it to speak it. i wrote it as an active witnessing. i am going to share with you here.
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i have colored skin. my light brown blackness the living testament to those practices, the causes. many of those but remember the legacy of the confederacy. they want monuments. well then, my body is a monument. my skin is a monument. undead confederates are honored all over with cartoonish private statues, solemn public monuments, even in the names of the united states army. it fortifies, harkens me too witness the protest against this practice. in the clamor some serious nonpartisan service to address it. there is a difference i say
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it's not a matter of oppressed history but adding a new perspective. i make black southern woman in my immediate white mail ancestors, all of them my very existence is a relic of sleep and jim crow. according to the rule of hypo did dissent the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed race person to the race with less social power. i am the daughter of two black people. the granddaughter of four black people. the great-granddaughter of eight black people. go back one more generation and more sinister my family history has always told modern
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dna testing has allowed me too confirm i am the descendent of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help. it is an extraordinary truth of my life. i am biologically more than half white. yet i have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. no voluntary whiteness. i am more than half white. none of it was consensual. white southern men, my ancestors, took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power. and then failed to claim their children. what is a monument? an artifact to make tangible the truth and it's past?
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my body and blood are tangible truths of my past. the black people i come from a worker owned by the white people i come from. the white people i come from thought for their loss caused her to ask you now, who dares to tell me -- who dares to ask me too accept their mounted pedestal? you cannot dismiss me as someone who does not understand. you cannot say it wasn't my families members who fought, who died, my blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. it puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. i come from confederates. i have got rebel gray blue
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blood coursing through my veins. my great grandfather will was raised with the knowledge that edmund pettis was his father. pettis the storied confederate general the ku klux klan in man for whom so much the bridge is named. i am not an outsider who makes these demands. i am a great comment great-granddaughter. as much about the south about my teaching and writing here. there is however a peculiar model of southern pride and american pride. it must now at long last be reckoned with is not of ignorant pride in this a pride
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that says our history is rich. our causes are justified. our ancestors lie beyond reproach. that's greatness if you will. i wish again for a certain kind of american memory. a monument of modern memory. here's the thing our ancestors don't deserve your unconditional pride. they earn that pride by any decent person's reckoning. by virtue of my very existence to be bad actors.
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there are those that dismiss the hardships of their past. imagine a world of live and let honor they deny plantation raped or explain it away. it's a degree of frequency with which it occurred. to those people it is my privilege to say i am proof when what ever else i might have been and i believed itself to be was and is a space of prosperity and romance and nostalgia were built upon the briefest exploitation of black life. the dream version never existed. any manufactured a monument to
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that time, in that place tells half a truth. yes it feels to purport are not real preachy those who have embraced those positions now is the time either you have been blind to a truth, the story it forces you to see who you really do to honor the oppressors. he must've last acknowledged her emotional investment in the legacy of hate either way i say the monument is stone and metal. the monument, i am a man made monument, must come down.
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to defend our ancestors quite literally of reasons to strip them. so thank you for indulging me ensuring that piece. today the essential question is a lot the question becomes what does reconciliation look like? but the face of grievances was so old yet so present, so on acknowledged. there cannot be a statute of limitation for inherited trauma. especially not when they are still living in the reverberations of that trauma. uncle rex, mother randall, i
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cry thinking about their words and on the house floor. they were poignant and harrowing reminders of that truth. and the rest of this conversation i'm having with you today the best way i know how. in order to get at the big picture of truth. i lifted mississippi for the best and most complicated years of my life. after george floyd murder i've been thinking a lot about emmett. in the wake of the past few days remembering i have the opportunity with the words of the year anniversary i need to
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get on tv it can be my voice. after george floyd murder in the wake of thinking about reading the words and coming to tulsa this the first time i've left left middle tennessee in over a year. and i came here. thinking about emmett in the past few days this is become more complicated. mississippi is maybe the only place on earth i did not feel gas lift. the divide between the reality of it and the dream of it. mississippi as is clean as the train tracks, still divide one half of any delta town from another. the academy and the defendant public counterpart.
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mississippi is the only place a white person has called me a negative or to my face without fear or trepidation. not out of a speeding car but in shared space. neither of us planning to leave the room before or after the exchange. mississippi is the reason the man brandishing the capitol on january 6 there's not any history maker. or refuse that superlative for many reasons. the beyond anything else the magnolia state made sure that was every day in the capitol. finally did the right thing and voted the confederate flag off their state flag. the best part of mississippi is the delta. do not delta means? change.
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mississippi filled me with wonder there's no way to hide from either side of it. they stare systemic iniquity the ridiculous weather, the living things consume me if i see you. the relative lawlessness is still a chaos highway for good or ill. here is my favorite mississippi too much a good history the hard work. the cadences in the transit transcend from trauma as well. it's all very black isn't it? rex god help me i love it for that too. i spend a lot of my time working not rewrite them. but revisit them so that we
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might understand them better. it's the work and again not the finding but expanding definitions. more than any decent dictionary those of the best words that have one meaning. just think, while the word share performs means to divide. and to tell. to give something away for someone else. and to say your piece. there are so many ways to share the truth. here is one of mine. i was born, i did not know this until this morning when it's doing my homework i look up all the people in speaking with. mr. franklin if you are listening and speak after this we have the same birthday different years. i was born august 24 covid
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1987. thirty-two years before i was born to the day walked into bryant's grocery store and had an exchange that would ultimately end his life. thirty-two years to the day. i still cannot get over that somehow. that words like that anniversaries, genetics, inherited trauma, what was the world remembering? what would black mothers remembering? what size on the day i landed on this earth. some tell it in another way. i don't know how to feel like
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i deserve to be here i don't know how to share my story alongside the lives that were lost in tulsa. the point has got to be the bearing witness. just trying to be a credible messenger. i lived at 514 and mississippi. again words that matter doubly in this moment in time in the space. straight out of college. if i took a right out of my driveway and gerry on down grand boulevard to the tallahassee river it became a rural highway that turned into a muddy road. one of those classic delta highways. it always seemed to me too be eight vacant intersection of life and death all the time.
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keep driving past the tallahassee flats. the social space but a decorative shack generated with reminders of how cheerfully erasures undertaken in the name of american memory. but that is not the story i'm here to tell today. the story i'm here to tell today, the first time i kept driving down the muddy road. i was 22, i was full of fear and wonder at my new home. i still had something of the foyer about me. that was wild. while the gent catfish farm, look at this. then i got to stretch of road by the tracks that looked too well, like something out of the deep south, don't know.
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i was thinking of the kathie bates part of fried green tomatoes. stretch of road that used to be a place. i've always been called to what is haunted but this is not a familiar strain. i got out of the car, i had seen some ancient things. divined covid relic that touched romantic parts of my mind. i got up to work and other silly white revisionists that years of living in the delta. i got out i walked closer to saw the remains of brandt's grocery store. i must remember i was standing on the far end that turned right out of my driveway just kept going. at the end of the street where
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i pay white people to live. took a couple of steps back i got in my car and never drove back there. 2010 waking and sleeping on the same street where emmett spent his last day as an unmarked boy. he came on the same street where he became a marked man. i still don't know what words are enough to honor him and his legacy. her broken heart honor simply a boy who should have lived. in the south in rural america in a better than anywhere the memories. we know the land, is a soulful
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thing. i think the things that stress me most, there in mississippi as there was no marker no context. no explanation, no acknowledgment of the crazy making terrible, legacy. no warning, no dignified of the ground no moment of claiming shame. no reconciliation. it was the slinky cowardly shame of anyone who runs and lies about what they have done. not the owning productive shame that drags itself into the light, that seeks to begin
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anew. here in oklahoma, in this moment honoring the people of black wall street, the greenwood community and adding a new layer. it has never been here. got a adamant record time. because the thing i thought when, at first thought the first thing i thought was erasure based history. even though i knew i had it coming. mid century musical can you imagine what it must have been to hear that song as a survivor if he is 18 hours in 1921? it is dignity and grief of those lyrics. their lively tune is the best
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people had to delete their homes who lost them. that corn fed nostalgia the most colored and colorful part of the past. because certain kinds of patriotism cannot love this country and want to see it change at the same time. and writing and thinking and speaking louder and more regularly than i ever have in my life. i think people need to see how this looks in real time. i wrote so much and white spaces in this black body. think it is time to talk more about what i've learned on how to survive it. the degree i have not just about myself but is about certain kinds of american blind spots. and ultimately how we might better give and receive necessary about the truth.
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why on earth can i not been contemplating this? speak out against ills with one stroke of the pen. unreserved gratitude celebrate the infinite promise that is the idea of america. let me introduce you to my grandfather ava and williams junior but he's the first black man to be elected to the tennessee senate through reconstruction. he was marshall's first cousin. as a civil rights attorney. a world war ii veteran, and a good and loving man. he tried to chronicle the black american experience might grandfather said it's
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complicated but important things. i want to challenge us all but assuring some of them here. i was, as trapped in 1943, february 1943. i was separated in august 1946, approximately two and a half years. the war experience as in so many other people have some effect? and your attitude towards civil rights. was it before hand or did it become after words? in developing part of your conviction and career. my grandfather said i was said that anyone born in the south were reared in the south any negro with any powers of
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perception at all. would have to have some fixed attitude long before the age i went into the army which was 21 years of age. i would say however some of my attitudes were intensified by a recent of the experience in the army the segregated army and in places where the discrimination was open and vicious. that sort of thing such as p axes and certain other kinds of discrimination and that sort of thing. yes, i would cite service in the armed forces, imagine that. yes i would say service in the armed forces did intensify some of the attitudes at already developed as a result of my experience as a southerner. it is not a void.
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we are dynamic people. we can stand for two things to be true at once. my grandfather returned to the army and remained a reservist until retiring at the rank of lieutenant colonel. he could say those things about his experience and still return to the institution where he experience those things. not because he thought it was a perfect institution. or even operationally just. but because he believed in the idea in the virtues of the human condition. he believes in the capacity through change. later in the interview he gets even a realtor. out of the feeling of desegregation, of integration was hard to believe that black americans reconciliation think about you all. was hard to believe black americans could really days,
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months, years, generations before. people who could have been willing to engage in a system that strip them of their rights, dignity and humanity. and it is a tall order. and a notion of choosing to share space with those who have harmed you. or it looked away you were being harmed. or perhaps even just voted for someone who is willing to see you. my grandfather had an interesting response to that question. he said, i really did not say what i should have said about this matter about loving those who hate you. i think many of us misconceived with loving those who hate you mean. loving does not mean what the white man has traditionally thought it meant. it does not mean being aligned
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to defaults. it is not mean being afraid to tell him when he is wrong or when he's being >>. is not being afraid to fight him and a legitimate way. the love i am talking about is the type of love with a very intelligent christian has. after all, as i see it of the right man is accused of being a child in the american society, i think if you look at it realistically you find the white american is displays a more childish tendency that it is he who failed to accept responsibility of the auteur man. take for instance is a violation of the negro policewoman. a completely unrestrained and childish impulse that completely ignored the auteur recognition of the facts of life. or the insights into the future. the negro woman on the other
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hand i think although she was unable to help herself, i think history teaches she has come off far better in terms of demonstrating a maturity, recognition and responsibility of life to herself and to her children. the fact that we have so many negro men who have gone so far in life result of some mother washing, ironing, working hard to get that child to school and to gain an advantage for him they say that love involves chastisement. i think the white american leaves a whole lot of chastisement. and i think it involves other forms of correction, it involves an individual receptive whether he wants to be or not. it involves a whole lot of things we don't think about
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when we talk about love. now be on anything else i am terrifically envious my grandfather said that extemporaneously in an interview. how we are to live up to that one day. love involves chastisement. i love the promise of america. i love the idea of places that are free and equal and remember things as they were not how we wish they would have been. we are not there yet. i'm writing, thinking, speaking now because after the events of last may in the face of this man, this first week of june, excuse me, i'm writing and thinking and speaking out because after the events of last may, the first week of june and the 99th anniversary of this day, this moment in history, i had to do something. george and floyd was dead and
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i cannot march because i have asthma and our president was not protecting my body in ways that made sense. i was afraid of my own ability to breathe. because i could not spend another day wondering if my whole life was going to be defined and framed by american limitations. in other words, i spent my whole life trying to figure how to survive this, learning from the people i come from personally and collectively who have spent their lives trying to figure out how to survive this. here i would like to share with you some one of my favorite poems speaks to the ways in which a body really can be in the central monument to itself and a testimony of survival. won't you celebrate with me?
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i had no model. born in babylon of non- whites in woman what did i see to be except myself? i made it up. here on this bridge between starshine and clay on one hand holding tight my other hand, come celebrate with me. every day something is tried to kill me. i promised lucille made a life, a monument in the poem she invites us to see her as a sculpture or kind of life it.
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the last thing i am going to do is share with you a little bit landing here yesterday. literally right here in this notebook. i got a poet. [laughter] that is what i do. what does it mean to be twice stolen? man the cargo, chattel and contraband, when will we stop the spoils of war? it's called to be a casualty a
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red line eight balance book. there body was a soul, let me call contraband that i might see myself and get free. it takes not a village. it takes a weary heart. it will take us all to tell the story of the thing that got us here. in the witness that backwards with my gaze upon what is next. let us be about what is next. we do not know how long we are
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here. we do not know the pain will ask us to make in the telling of it. in healing from it. but they are the better memory thank you so much for your time. >> follow american history tv on twitter, facebook and youtube for schedule updates. to learn about what happened on this day in history watching videos about the innocent c-span history ♪ ♪ weekends on cspan2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story. on sunday, book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for cspan2 comes from these television companies and more.
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