tv Lectures in History African American History and Museums CSPAN September 18, 2021 11:00am-11:55am EDT
describe who that is for us. and where it is. >> there are many ways that i can still do that. for the mayor and the rest of it. and it is connected to reality. on that sacred ground or sacred space. the importance of that. >> what actually happened, anything to be supportive, to help make it work. with that lunch, it is very special. they worked hard to create an understanding of what is out there.
flying - in our history. in several ways the example of secret space, basically went to my old friend on the plantation. as i went down the street there were four or five caverns and then one of those cabins for historians to agree on. it was light and it was amazing, on one side of the cavern and talk about it. we can watch the chimneys, in back when talking about what they were giving on the fourth side.
why don't you want to call that. being a kid in the work, new jersey rattlesnakes was not something i knew anything about so basically after i stopped running i said to him why did you want me? it is not ready for you. not sure what was going on, but if your job is around not just what they want to remember but what they need to remember. exact nature shaped my entire career. the california rattlesnakes helping people remember what they need. that notion called helping
people remember what they need to educate. to provide understanding with reconciliation and all of that came from a person i only left one time when i went back and so the reality is what he gave me with the effect of everything i have done. >> that listen reflects the art to take it in the museum where we are meeting. the national museum has four credits and it should have three pillars to support the museum. they are all fabulous.
that history shapes us all, with african-americans, one of the quintessential americans to understand our notion of spirituality, resiliency, optimism in the community and so the challenge is to make sure one side gives you a deep understanding of the history of the culture. the other side to take the culture and use it as a lens. the stories that we tell, the stories shape us and inform us so part of what we are doing,
in the dark corners, in many ways the discussion, the origin of america is contested and have these conversations, don't understand, how this is. and how we are shaping the struggles, and something relatively to pay attention to. the other piece of it is people understand how this is been shaped internationally. we are in some cases the
solution, until we get passports from canada or mexico only 13% of us had passports, the notion of helping americans understand they have been shaped and they didn't stay a week, shape the world, that is an important contribution. >> you write so beautifully sla the story is of a slave woman from alabama, that they have that.
one of the things to discover throughout my career in the museum, the importance of - the second shift. the notion of leadership and organizations and movements. carrying a burden, struggling for fairness and freedom, is really unbelievably powerful and i take s, it is important to make sure people recognize often history is told to lend on the male perspective. what we understand about the past.
the backdrop of the dynamic period of political change, what we might refer to as the second phase of black lives matter protests has that - what impact does that have on museums, safety around the museum. >> for example i think what is important is to recognize, the job is to collect today or tomorrow. like the rapid response team focusing years ago after murder
of george floyd when black lives matter and washington dc was confrontations, we were there to collect a lot of material in the rapid response team to collect january 6th so that to me what is important is many times in my career, is right there. it is important and i started years ago as social director of the smithsonian of putting things together and what should we collect today. it is also essential in times of crisis cultural institutions contribute to making the country better and understand.
understand what you are doing rather than a valuable tool. >> a question from professor tiffany silverman, if you might address challenges around honoring the past, seeing other perspectives specifically thinking about monuments and symbols of the past. >> one of the things we know as historians, changing interpretations and i believe strongly, once you prune history from time to time, there ought to be opportunities to achieve it, to help people
understand what monuments really mean, what they symbolize, when they were built, the historical moment like so many confederate moments. the civil rights movement or a different message, it is important to help people understand. if i could be one thing as a historian i wish we could find ways to help the public embrace everything. in some ways we tend to look at things numerically, teaching
amazing things, in a way, to understand change, one of the major contributions. >> i will paraphrase a question or a request from melanie elgato who asks if you could comment on the changing political dynamics from president bush through donald trump and specifically if we address some of the material in the book. >> while it is crucially important with my success at
the smithsonian, i look for any legal cultural institution, doesn't mean you have a specific thing, as the mayor goes, better get allies. politics that are very different from yours. i came back from chicago, i knew i needed to create a bipartisan defense but also candidly, went to the member's office, see that democrat, i also learned in chicago, a lot of support from the north side, the south side, taking it around so people can see things from at least, not as partisan as i could. it didn't hurt a friend of
mine, that didn't hurt. i couldn't get every president to care about the museum and also thought it was a missed opportunity to educate everything. george w. bush, normally celebrated isn't worthy of that. you should go someplace else. he stood up and said of course. that helped. president obama was interested. initially they were close friends. the notion was you don't want to be seen as lacking credit. the notion had support.
openly supportive and became supportive of the museum and with donald trump it was important to be able to help expand the notions of what african-american culture was, >> darrell harden love is reflecting on the impact of walking through the doors of new return. how it is we connect the african and american stories in the museum in washington and here in charleston. >> one of the things, these things are completely connected with her was international and led to the creation of the
united states, the slave trade is the first global business. people understand that. it is important to realize we are so connected today, to realize how connected we were in the past and i was struck by something that happened to me, trying to find pieces of legislation. negotiated, limited my limited ability to be a diplomat but had to prove at the end of scholars to the uk, south africa, brazil to find these racks. some of these museum people
called and said we might have a ship, it might be a slave ship, look at that. we brought our expertise, found the ship, left lisbon in 1793, to pick up 12 people in mozambique and came back to the new world, have a gift, with empowerment and what were you saying? i would like you, my ancestors would like you to take this to
the site of the wreck and in 1794, so moved by it and a woman comes up and said to me my ancestor was on that ship and every day - it made me realize this was not about a recipe but it was about today and tomorrow. that made me realize how fortunate i am. >> our esteemed alumni norman cipro as a personal question, he was living in washington dc in the 1970s and 80s and he was furious about your experience
transferring to american university. what are your comments on that? >> as the mayor knows i always tell the truth. i will transfer, we will live our lives again and we did in four years, what can i tell you? the joy of being 19. >> my colleague sean edwards thanks you for sharing your thoughts. to discuss history from the point of context in modern times and importance of that, oftentimes requests for facts about historical figures and the context of those facts may
not be desired. >> one of the challenges is to realize the context that without context is not understanding. the public sometimes thinks history is a simple fact with a simple date. what gets me, it gives opportunity for what that moment met and it is crucially important, want to do two things. whether it was in the framework that people understand but the second challenge was to recognize context alone leads historians and museums to be in
search of a greater narrative. it was important to humanize, reduce history to the human scale by contextualizing, you are probably more quotations than any museum should have. you will see many stories like the story of joseph campbell. we know a lot about african-americans but the story of joseph powell is somebody, in the 1850s. and and this ugly piece of paper, he put the freedom paper in that, and carried it. every night would come home and
>> but also other kinds of needs. >> that's nicely put it. basically you're working for my personality and my very first board meeting, the first i started the job, second down next to oprah winfrey, next to bob johnson, time warner, american express. i'm terrified. a kid from jersey. what the heck am i doing here. the next day after a meeting, i was stuttering. called into his office and said, little nervous and you think. basically said something to me that's been helpful during this process. he said, those people are at the
top of their game. they are the best in their field and so are you. and more importantly, they want what you're about to give them which is to build a museum. view yourself an equal. each one was different. quincy jones, huge house in beverly hills and there's oscars and emmys laying on the ground. oh, my god, quincy jones and finishing up the meeting and it was somebody from sweden and i had just come back from sweden. you know, i really love sweden and there's a museum i love which is about a ship that sank.
quincy jones was like, wait a minute. you know that, that's my favorite museum in the world. he opened a closet and had a swine cost museum. we began to sort of have this conversation. second was this is silly but when i'm 14 year's old i think the most beautiful person in the world is taking lift and that was his ex-wife. she came over. oh, my god, it was so embarrassing. i loved you when i was 14. but that allowed quincy and i to have a great relationship. >> something of a follow-up, some number of staff members and other associates the international african-american museums who are with us today and you said conversations, the
mayor and other staff members but i'm wondering if you have thoughts on maybe some of the mechanics of building the museum and building a staff. >> well, i think -- many people that know much more than i but i really think that one of the things about institutions if you do away you build staff that's a family and recognizes that you can't pay them what they are really worth and you want to make sure that you give them the opportunity to engage with interesting people but the fear of that regardless of what part of the organization they are, that their wisdom counts and you want wisdom to flow in all aspects of the organization. i think the other thing is to recognize that what you do when you build a museum is you often
don't see how your little moment or what project you're working on, how important that is. i always say to my colleagues, i need you to be better than you can all imagine because i don't want you spending time, what does this mean. i want you spending your time, what does it mean to the public, what does it mean to ancestors and if you do that right, then you will get your claim and all the people that worked in the american museum feel that they contributed to making the country better. that's worth more than i could ever pay. >> professor silverman asked for your comments on the relationship between the smithsonian and the military about issues of culture preservation and especially in
particular of the monuments program and the smithsonian cultural initiative. >> well, in some ways i always smelt that the smithsonian is a place blessed with resources and expertise that everybody has and it has got to have the ability to work with anyone. anybody that we will work with will call us and talk to us. i've been so moved but especially but especially in tho mosul to build many shrines or helping haiti rebuild after the earthquake, what happened in haiti, the work that we have done helping the communities that have faced floods in the united states and in some ways
the smithsonian has amazing group of people that know how to preserve and so job it is to basically show that we can be a value in ways that you don't normally expect. one of the things that i'd like to see more of is a closer relationship because in some ways while -- i was close to the people building the marine corps museum. i would like to see more of that. most people don't know the largest are natural history. has 5 million butterflies.
our history came from the military. exploration, in fact, the largest collection in museum are american history that i once oversaw are the military history collections. there's been a long history from the 1880's to today. >> a couple of questions here. i'm going to try to collapse first of which is on the current access to the museum and dona factor wonders if it's easier to get to the museum these days given covid and second question is if you talk to efforts that volunteered engagement at the museum. how are volunteers included in the museum's programs and activities? >> well, i think the museum is closed now and everything is
virtual but honest it's gratifying but interesting because all the people call me because i'm now more visible and said she wanted tickets to the museum and i said, i don't do that, don't you remember me. i was your girlfriend in seventh grade. she said her name. i don't remember her at all. when you're 13 -- it was such a good lie i gave her tickets. we expected 4,000 people a day. we got 8,000 people a day. it is the most diverse museum in
the world. what really moved me than anything else, 30%, 30% of the people that come to the museum say they had never been to a museum as an adult and this is the first time they've done that. so really provides the kind of educational opportunity and interaction. the museums are at their best and create informal communities. people come together around or fact or exhibition or public program and a conversation is taken in so many different directions and that's what happens time and time again at the museum. so i am so pleased and but i'm so pleased that people -- it's become a site that has people understanding the challenge of race in this country today so i
feel fortunate that i was pulling people and involving volunteers. >> sorry about that. i get carried away. one of the things that was important to me was to create an extremely active and large volunteer program, a pray that will greaters and also a lot of researchers. we have a lot of people doing -- one of the things we did was transform, papers that are really important but hard to read and hard to access. and so where the goal is, as many people as possible for all of the museum and i felt that that the volunteers were a large
group and became our best champions and in some ways, one of the things that i love the most and i miss the most is being able to work to the museum and hang out with the volunteers. i learned so much. there are 85 and there are 35. and so i really think that -- i always think that you can tell the success of the museum by how diverse and how excited its volunteer corp is. >> i'm going to try to squeeze in a couple more questions as we are running close to your headline. thinking about recent attacks on voting rights and he asks, how does the museum continue to address contemporary issues related to civil and human rights? >> both drawn from the work that's in the museum that takes
about what it meant to struggle for voting rights, how long and how many people suffered, how much loss there was and how much creativity there was in trying to figure out how to achieve the struggle and one of the things the museum makes clearly is that one of their -- made the evolution from enslavery to freedom and two things that were key. one was education and second was protecting your freedom and i tell that story. the job of programs that connect the past to the present. for example, i know that when the john lewis gave material about his involvement with both the voting act of 1965 but also
the struggle to protect it several years ago. so he tried to make sure. there's those connections. the african-american museum, you have the same thing, there's a benefit. people expect it to have a contemporary resonance and as long as you build that in, that's what people are expecting. >> related to this question is -- the question is what's our elevator pitch for the international african-american museum in charleston? put on the spot, how would you make the pitch to why they need to visit and support the international american museum in south carolina. >> the story that you dell is one of those silences but if we
can hear the silences and be brave enough to confront that history and learn from beth the parent and the resiliency of those who experienced them and if we could live from the collaborations across racial lines to struggle for freedom. if we can do that, what a nation we could be and we can do that really well at the museum. [laughter] >> battling exhibits or other plans, something along those lines. >> there's literally been 25 traveling exhibitions that travel the country. even before the museum opened,
exhibitions and it's where it was more virtual exhibitions that people get engaged because my life was that if the african-american museum in dc is successful -- it's the beacon that drew people to washington and pushes them back to charleston, to detroit, to los angeles. one of the great contributions is the museum conversations around history. what we see after the museum's opening, african-american museums and museums that talk about civil war, for example, so my notion was that what you want to deal with is to sort of beat
the drum for the importance of history and really that the museum and we need to see the stories play out in charleston and play out of the museums and other communities. that's my case. >> so here is a setup question. this must be a relatively and the question have you ever met anyone who does not know when to quit or the meaning of the word no, ie, to riley. >> a friend but a special guy that the time he served as mayor, the vision for the museum. desirable shares and teaching. [laughter] >> probably merely a dozen other
comments. i'm going to turn it over to close it but thank you so much for taking the time to answer the many questions here. >> it's my pleasure. as u said, you got me in a bunch of meetings. believe me, i'm a happy guy but i also want to say that i have profound respect for the history and i have a lot of friends in charleston who have made me better as a historian, as a scholar and so i look forward to being able to even i have to peak over someone's shoulder when museum opens because it's going to be a special day and it's going to continue the process of helping the country better understand, a country
smithsonian, let me me come to charleston. right. thank you all very much. >> thank you. >> pleasure with you all. take care. >> thank you. >> did you know you can listen to lectures in history on the go, stream it as a podcast anywhere, any time. you're watching american history tv. watch book tv now on sundays on c-span2 or find it online any time at booktv.org. it's television for serious readers. ♪ ♪ >> the u.s. capitol historical societies steve livinggood, chief guide and historian recently talked about ghost stories and legends associated with the seat of congress. the second most famous ghost in the capitol the demon cat. a shot showing where the fingerprints are. this is the main corridor between the rotunda and the end
of the rotunda and the senate wing and in the concrete there you can see cat fingerprints of the demon cat. the issue with the cats is that several guards were attacked by a particularly hostile cat and it became famous for accosting guards that were walking alone through the capitol building. we know that there were cats in the capitol. this is a photograph of some of them. this is from the cafeteria in building, you can find this photograph on display. neither of these is the demon cat because he's all black. but there were cats in the capitol and we know that the guards in that era were all patronage appointments and the
guard was late at night, it was someone's brother-in-law who had a drinking and sometimes the night watchman would end up in horizontal position when they thought they were in a vertical position. one of them was laying down but thinking he was standing one night and one of the cats comes up to investigate what's going on and the guy thinks he's 5 feet in the air and the cat is that big, and so he lashed out at the cat and was frightened by the cat and the cat retaliated by scratching the man and the man had proof that he had been attacked by the demon cat in the middle of the night there. so when he -- when his relief showed up the next morning they knew what the issue was and the supervisor said, oh, we will take care of the cat and you go home and rest for a couple of
days. the supervisor knew he couldn't fire the senator's brother-in-law and so they had to put up with this and they told him they had taken care of the demon cat. history gets made because other guards discovered they were attacked by the demon cat they got a couple of days too. that's how history gets written. the demon cat -- some people tell me there's no real evidence of the demon cat but i can show you some actual concrete evidence because here is where he carved his initials in the concrete, the old senate from the terrace and they carved initials into the concrete. >> you can watch the program online at c-span.org/history. >> c-spanshop.org is a
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