tv Authors Eddie Glaude Jon Meacham CSPAN April 21, 2022 9:06am-9:52am EDT
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variety of compelling podcasts. c-span is available at the apple store and google play. your front row seat to washington, anytime, anywhere. [applause] >> thank you. the-- i'm just going to take control here, otherwise i won't be able to. so you all may remember in 1962, john kennedy held a very successful state visit to france, and mrs. kennedy was enormously popular and at the farewell dinner, the closing dinner in front of de gaulle and others, jfk said, i used to be the president of the united states and now i am simply the man who accompanied jacqueline kennedy to paris. i'm the man who accompanied eddie glaude to new orleans where this is like saddam's baghdad, his picture is everywhere. have you all noticed this?
it's everywhere. i'm going to start with a serious question. you wrote a marvelous book about baldwin and what he meant in real-time and can mean to us. so give us your origin story with baldwin. when did you first read him? when did he become so vital for you. >> thank you for the question, first of all. and you see how he lies? >> i didn't lie. >> i've got a story here. eddie is a cigar man, the only good thing about going to morehouse can you imagine? >> can you imagine-- but we're not going to talk about. so my first encounter, my first encounter with baldwin was in graduate school. you would think that i would have read him in high school, i
went to high school on the coast of mississippi. we can tell that story on another day. at morehouse i was kind of avoiding him in some ways and in college, i mean, in graduate school, i was an ellison man. i wrote most of my first year graduate papers on ralph ellison. >> interesting. >> i didn't want to deal with baldwin because he made my colleagues, he made their faces turn red. they went flush as they read him because he was telling the truth in some ways. so, i really didn't begin to have this serious encounter with him until i started teaching him. so my first job was at bowden college in maine, brunswick, maine, and i taught every year and then i started teaching, and suddenly began to open up and he became in some ways a muse for me. let me ask you this question.
>> yes, sir. >> you had the honor of writing-- >> appearing with you. aside from that? [laughter] >> this is what we have to go through on the set in the mornings and no, actually we don't because he's in his studio at home. but you had the honor of talking with john lewis in his last days as you were working on the biography. talk a little about that experience. >> well, i met-- first met john lewis during the last election in 1992, that cycle. there was a-- there was a georgia senate runoff and georgia's become the new louisiana, you all are always having elections down here, and georgia was having it and on an election night, if you're a politician or a journalist, you tend to want to give the impression that you're off doing important things, right? what you're really doing is eating the same cheese cubes, but in a different room, but
you want to give the impression of that. and so, fowler was running against paul coverdale and i was covering it for the chattanooga times, my hometown newspaper and i walked into the ballroom in atlanta, and there was john robert lewis and lillian, just standing there, among the people. he was a senior congressman already, you know, the civil rights monument in many ways, and it began in unfolding conversation as eddie kindly says, didn't really stop until about a week before he died on july 17th of 2020. and part of my-- one of the things i had to fight in that relationship was treating john lewis as the
acceptable kind of black guys that someone like me would like. i sometimes thought the easy listening version of the civil rights movement. john even in the beginning in kingston springs, tennessee, fot not far from where i lived, stokley and john lewis went to battle for the same ends, in many ways. and john was seen as somebody with dr. king, he was a sunday school version, it was nonviolent, it was too accommodationist, one of the snick leaders who was siding with stokley carmichael said the problem with john lewis after 1963 was every time president johnson called, john would send his suit to the cleaners and then get on a plane. so he was seen as too much of a part of the establishment that was trying to be shifted.
but the way-- ultimately the way i resolved that, if i did successfully, was through the language of the southern church. >> right. >> of which, i'm a part in the broadest sense. i'm not a very good christian, as robert lewis stevenson said, the duty of the christian is not to succeed, it's to fail cheerfully. if so i'm the most cheerful guy you'll ever encounter, but he was on that bridge. he was on the freedom rides. he was in nashville coming out of american baptist theological seminary, a tiny school still there, you know, the fancy kids went to morehouse, john and bernard lafayette and james bevel, there were 100 students. imagine that, there's one-- a little school with 100
students on the cumberland river in nashville, produced john lewis, james bevel, ultimately diane nash, though see was at fisk, just an incredible story. but we -- what i realized watching him and talking to him in those, i guess almost 30 years, i hadn't thought about that, as he was in the house and as he became-- to me, it's one of the most fascinating things about john lewis is he became a kind of walking monument. he was kind of in the anniversary business, all right. he took congressional delegations back every year to selma, you know, if you needed something on an anniversary, you know, he was always there. and he's the only public figure i've ever known, who could be at a scene of his great
triumphs, that is all about-- should have been all about him. and yet, it was the most egoless, unreferential thing you could imagine, which is hard to do. so you'd be standing on the pettis bridge with him, but it wasn't about him. even though you were there because of him, and that was a kind of charisma in the purist sense of the greek word. it was a gift from the gods that, as an old teacher of mine once said, one definition of charm is the capacity to make other people love you without their quite knowing why. and somehow and another, that's what john did. >> it's fascinating to talk about selma. you know, selma is so complicated. as we've talked about this as you were working through that section in the book in some ways. >> yeah. >> there are three marches and in some ways, when i think about baldwin, you know, the
complexity of selma is almost evidenced in his witness. there's bloody sunday, then there's the march that's turned-- that king gets up and turns around. >> right. >> and snick folk are saying, oh, the-- >> he didn't bother showing up on bloody sunday and when he does, obeys the-- >> and singing ain't nobody going to turn us around and the third march is when everybody comes, and in between there's violence, and snick county, they leave and go to alabama and typically we talk about selma in an uncomplicated one jesse jackson's first serious one and flattens out the complexity of the moment because baldwin is going to identify with those young folk in an interesting sort of way, even though he absolutely loved and adored king. >> well, it is funny now, and i
actually teach this, we take up two lane of vanderbilt for louisiana so thank you for having me. throw the rocks that way. [laughter] >> sorry, mr. princeton. did you get your passport stamped on the way down? so the way the story is told right-- if we were watching this on pbs, you have lewis and jose williams coming across the bridge at about 3:00 in the afternoon, slate gray afternoon, bloody sunday, march 7th, 1965, the wind is blowing and john is wearing his overcoat in his backpack is a copy of richard hoffsteader apple and oranges, and toothbrush, thought he would be arrested. you always took a book, fruit
and toothbrush. and the major, he says, this is an illegal march, john says may i have a word? they say there's no word to be had. they neil to pray as their knees hit the asphalt, the troopers come, the tear gas, people think by the way that one of the reasons john lewis was-- everybody was throwing up was because of the tear gas, it was because they were concussed, that was why. and so -- and famously, hamilton bc is playing in the first broadcast, judge at nuremberg. and breaks in that night with a bulletin. the first significant news bulletin to be broken in since dallas in 1963. this is march of 1965. and then what's the next thing? it's lbj, giving the great richard goodwin speech at a home-- their moment in life of a
nation where history intersect and man's unending search of freedom, and so it was at apamattox and so it shall become and the voting rights act is signed and everything is fine. whoops. one way i teach this. johnson's speech was on march 15th. bloody sunday was march 7th, eight days is a long time. so, what happened in those eight days? a lot of the politics that baldwin captured that eddie is talking about, but also lyndon johnson asserted control over the entire situation. so two things happened, one is he forces king to go to judge frank johnson and follow the court orders about the nature of the march, and in what i think is one of the most
important moments in modern american history because the lesson of it i think lives on, he summons george wallace to the oval office. you know, lbj had very deep cushions on the couch so the person would sink and lbj would loom. and wallace says i can't control voting boards. >> and he says don't sh-- me, george wallace. this is not about-- this is about history. do you want a stone that says george wallace, he hated. or do you want a beautiful granite monument that said george wallace, he built. that's the fundamental question, it seems to me of
citizenship, do you want to hate or do you want to build? and one of the things that eddie and i debate off line a good bit is the extent to which, and i'm right, by the way, in this debate, just so you know -- the extent to which progress is, a, measured and b, celebrated. and so talk a little about that. >> one of the things that i insist on in our conversations is that while white america is deliberating between whether or not it's going to hate or build, we have to raise our babies. while you're trying to decide what kind of human being you're going to be, whether or not you're going to be monsters, we have to protect ourselves. we have to figure out how to raise our children in a society
that fundamentally despises them. and so, the task then becomes, or the question, rather, isn't whether or not we're going to hate or whether we're going to build. the question is whether or not we allow hatred and anger and rage to overwhelm our moral sense. so, when we think about this moment, because there's this moment remember when the young folks, snick goes in for political self-determination, they use the cymbal of what, the black panther. and so, we tend to think of the black panther party of october, 1966 in oakland, california, but the first image of the black panther comes in louns county, alabama. and we hear cries after the march against fear, stokley carmichael says i've been to jail, i've been to jail x number of times, we want what,
black power. the ongoing, how we respond between the gap will you hate or will you build, what kind of human beings will we be. how will we raise our babies, what will we do in the interim as you make the decisions? often times we have a debate about the pace of progress, right? the pace of the progress, how long jimmy would ask, how long must we wait for your progress? do we have to lose another george floyd for your progress? do we have to lose our own babies, as we wait on your progress? what do we do in the interim, while we fix up-- because there's a story to be told from the vantage point of lyndon baines johnson, but a story to be told from the vantage point of those black folk who bore the burden and the brutality of what was happening in the midst of the high political drama in the
white house. so my -- jimmy baldwin was always committed to the idea of the new jerusalem that we were always engaged-- is that rain? i'm from here, i know that kind of rain when you pull over on the side of the highway and wait for it to come. >> i knew john berry was going to bring a flood. [laughter] >> so the question becomes, baldwin is always committed to the idea of a new jerusalem, but he insisted, and i want to insist, and i don't want to have to echo his voice, in order to do that we have to grow up and confront ourselves honestly about who we are as a nation, that is. >> so my argument back is that i'm not asking anybody to wait.
until we, broadly put, get our house in order. i think this is a description of human nature, and a perennial struggle between light and dark and good and bad, that unfolds in our individual lives and then in a democracy in the fullness of the nation itself because the democracy is largely, not entirely, but largely the fullest manifestation of our individual dispositions of heart and mind and those dispositions of heart and mind, give it just enough force and just enough focus to create the rule of law. and so, that's one slight amendment i would propose. one of my favorite lines of baldwin's comes from when he's writing about snick in florida. and i want to say it's tallahassee. >> this is the nobody knows my name, right.
>> and he says somebody asks, there had been a sit-in, i think, he said someone asked me-- and he had this vision, writers know this, you have this vision of baldwin back in the motel with his typewriter, all right, filing the piece. and it may have been esquire, i can't remember who he wrote for on that, but he wrote this, he said people ask, what got into these kids? america, america is what got into these kids. so what was baldwin's and the glaude-ian definition of america in that sentence? >> madness. >> madness. >> yes. madness in the sense of a renaissance, not a clinical sense of madness, but there was madness in this sense. there was this, this refusal to live the truth. to live in this false sense that we believe that we are the shiny city on the hill to use
reagan's kind of adjective on john winthrop's description. >> jesus he-- >> and he-- >> can i interrupt with an important story? i know it's important, we'll get back to the important stuff. so, reagan -- and this is an eddie and i have discussions about president reagan. >> yeah. >> they're called spats, if we were married. [laughter] >> can you do that in louisiana now? probably not. anyway, so the -- reagan's phrase, shining city on a hill, is adding the adjective to a line from the sermon on the mound, right, jesus says it should be a city on the hill and its light shall not be hid. >> reagan did that so well that i've actually heard ministers, true story, from pulpits say,
as jesus said, america shall be as a city-- a shining city upon a hill. and i never knew president reagan, but i did know mrs. reagan a little bit. as jimmy stewart said if ronnie had married nancy the first time he would have won an academy award. but i had heard this, and i was at lunch where i would eat and she wouldn't, and i said you know, ma'am, i just heard a minister say-- it's amazing, president reagan improved on jesus and she said, well, yes, that's the kind of thing that ronnie did a lot. may some day we all be loved as nancy davis loved ronald reagan. back to baldwin. >> i don't believe that? do you all believe that? >> why would i make that up. >> some believe that we're the
shining city on the hill, and to be achieved, and that that particular illusion and keeps us from confronting who we actually are. >> sure. >> so there's a kind of falseness that we live in that blinds us to who we are, and with the iceman cometh, and blanch in "street car named desire," what does it mean to imagine ones self in a way and evade looking back at you in the mirror. so there's a kind of madness, what has gotten into these young folk? well, the madness of america has gotten into them. it's a madness that calls forth in an interesting way the kind of madness. let me press you on that. my sense from baldwin, it's a good thing that they -- what was getting into them in
protesting, in seeking justice, was the aspirational element which creates one pole as to which there was then-- there is this gap you talk about. >> i don't really read that sentence in that way, that the motivation for these young folks to act is a kind of aspirational claim about america as it could be. >> right. >> i think that baldwin is constantly saying, when you think about -- particularly when he's and howard, how i open up the book, he's at howard in an apartment with many of the young activists, right. there were these various clicks, you had the center of group, julian bond and those folks. the nashville group, the atlanta group here, there's the nashville group, diane, james john lewis and those folk.
and then you had the d.c. folk, and this is stokley carmichael, this, you know, muriel and-- >> marion barry. >> marion barry was the first president of snick and people don't remember this, right? and so, they're in this apartment building. there's no liquor can be found, and somebody knew a bootlegger and they got some bootleg scotch and going at it until the sun comes up and baldwin sees in their eyes exhaustion. these are the young people who believed wholeheartedly in nonviolence discrimination -- nonviolent protests. and stokley carmichael said he never broke nonviolent discipline, but once when the police attacked dr. king. the so-called black power. he never broke nonviolence, but
once and then stokley says, america made these young people, i mean, baldwin said, america made these young people so i want to connect these two formulations, right? one is simply as x-ray examination-- one is aspirational, and they look at how they connect. >> it does. >> but i want to ask you a question. you wrote the biography of h.w. bush, president bush, you just cited nancy reagan story, which i don't believe. [laughter]. >> what? why would i sit around and say all right, i'm going to make up a nancy reagan-- >> because you are jon meacham. [laughter] >> you should hear my julia grant story. i know that name. >> all right, so, what does it
mean? i want to understand you. >> oh, geez. >> that's a journey from herbert walker bush, george herbert walker bush, reagan, the stuff you've written to john lewis. >> yeah. >> to write about john lewis and to publish that after he goes on to glory, what do you see? because i see it different. i see a shift in jon meacham. >> are we going to do a 50-minute hour and pay you for therapy? >> no, talk to me about the journey from there to here. >> all right. can i slightly reorder the question? >> no. >> okay. [laughter] >> so there is something-- here is the common alty, let's start there. >> okay. >> the commonalty, these are
the only two living people i've written about and i didn't fall in love with either one of them, but i came to love them, which is different. they come from arguably the -- it's hard to imagine two people beginning their lives in a more different prays, right? poppy bush born june 12th, 1924, milton massachusetts grew up in greenwich country day school, andover, joins the united states navy july 12th, 1942. he's shot down on saturday, september 2nd, 1944, and loses two crew mates, spent the rest of his life every day asking
why was i spared and not them. a man of immense empathy. a man of immense ambition. of those two things were in constant conflict. ultimately, resolved them in his mind that it mattered less what he did to amass power and more what he did when he had it. and we can argue all you want about that, but that's the way he saw it. john lewis, great grandson of enslaved man, born enslaved 63-- 62. >> son of a sharecropper, overcame his childhood stutter and overcame his stutter talking to the chickens and said they listened more than
colleagues in congress did. never saw a white person until he was 14 except for the mailman. had an instinctive revulsion about segregation when he would go into town. moved by the gospel. very uninterested in theology, interested instead about how do you apply the sermon on the mound. didn't like a preacher coming over and talked about the sweet by and by, didn't care about the sweet by and by, wanted it then. so radically different. my view, and you'll disagree probably, is that they-- they both represent parts of the american experience that i think our words emulating and
having inform what we do. george h.w. bush was the last eisenhower republican, which is like saying you're the last dinosaur. right, that was -- that is dead, dead, dead, that party. and that party was imperfect, but i believe that one way to think about american politics in life from the new deal until now is that it's been a figurative conversation between fdr and reagan. on the relative projection of force, against commonly agreed upon foes and rivals and the relative role of the state and the marketplace. and every american president has-- excepting for the 45th has essentially governed on that field and sometimes to switch metaphors to football and george w. bush with ronald
reagan on the 20 and sometimes lyndon johnson over here with fdr. i've run this by bush, clinton and president obama. they all agree. president obama agrees with the concept that that was the dialectic in which he governed. it was not dialectic that delivered the results i think many people wants, which is one of the reasons why it fell apart in 2016. right. the shift-- so i don't see that as a shift. what i do see is four years ago, exactly, when i was closing the soul of america book, he believed that trump was the fullest manifestation of our darkest impulses, but that like joe mccarthy, it would burn out, not that it would go away, but that these
forces ebbed and flowed. and what january 6th did, and it took me a long time to get there, it's suggested to me there was something more permanent about this. i still think it can be okay, but i didn't forsee that and one of the things that eddie and i agree with, lest you think this is a marital therapy thing, is i dislike it. i disagree, i should say when people about something terrible that happened, charlottesville, and when they say this isn't who we are. of course it's who we are. where have you been? do you not know anything? do you literally know no american history? and i said this a while ago, but there wasn't a once upon a time in american history and there's not a happily ever after because it's a human
enterprise and why the work of folks like eddie matters so much because eddie does something that i don't do, which is-- as a historicalion of both our politics, but even more importantly of our intellectual ambient philosophical life, and the importance of ideas, which is what drives the baldwin book, and even i would say go all the way back, if you haven't read his book, exodus with exclamation mark, it's like jeb. just so you know. have you ever had that comparison? >> no, never. >> that's what i'm here for, my work is done, thanks, walter. this was about the exodus narrative and how it's shaped, the black experience and the american experience.
so i'm less optimistic than i was. >> right. but i don't know, maybe i'm-- maybe because i want to be forgiven for all the stupid things i've done, maybe i love too much? no, that's not it. >> does that make sense? >> yeah, it does, and, you know, part of what it means for me, at least to come out of the tradition from which i come is to say to you in some ways, i'm glad you finally see it. >> well, you brought me home. >> no, what i mean by that. we both grew up in the south. all we have to do is cross the railroad tracks. all we have to do is look at our lives. [applause] >> this is what you were saying, right. >> yeah. >> this is who we are.
it always has been and some of us have had to live the burden of the contradiction. some of us had to endure it. some of us have lost people, lost and we watch for generations a country, just walk past our dead, to not give a damn about them, and so when this revelation happens, it's almost like a wonderful thing that, you know, americans, we love-- we want to be patted on our backs, i got it, see? right? but it becomes the-- under these moments, in this moment of crisis, when it feels as if the experiment stands on a knife's edge. this kind of insight sets the stage, at least for me, for the possibility for us to be-- to be different. to be together differently, to be otherwise. does that make sense? i know we've got to go for time. >> it does. >> i knew you were going to
come back. >> and now that we're in full therapy mode, this is an important point that you threw out. >> yeah. >> and this is where eddie writes and he was kind of attacking me in his book, but he was sweet, didn't do it by name. >> let me say this, i sent him "begin again" and i was tiptoeing around my criticism of ronald reagan and he said, eddie, if you're going to criticize reagan, go after him. >> well, you had a parn thetparanthetical, might have been a racist. >> one. things that he dinged me for elegantly, and if you disagree, tell me. >> some that my view of history is overly triumphant and
self-congratulatory for the country. i disagree because of the power of narrative. if you don't tell a story that moves people to do -- to want to replicate something that was good, then what is the point of -- then you're unilaterally disarming. >> and my response is, what we choose to leave out of our stories reveal all too often the limits of our conceptions of justice. >> sure. [applause] >> i got applause, you didn't. >> i know, i know. i've sort of forgotten they're hear so i was about to curse. but i just will. okay. but you got to tell the story.
>> right. and so part of our task. >> right. >> right, is -- that's why the blues tells a different kind of story. that's how-- when you cross those railroad tracks which you guys used to do. >> the you guys, that's good. >> when you cross the railroad tracks in those midnight hours, nobody could-- >> now he's doing the preacher thing now. >> yeah. >> you feel the voice begin to go. >> no, but you see the move, right? so there's a story that hasn't been told. it's a question of what is -- what is thought of as the major plot line and what is thought of as the subplot. >> here is a really direct question. >> sure. >> then we'll come to you all. far more direct than you all might get in a forum. is the world better off or worse off for my john lewis book? >> it's better. that's an easy question. >> is it a celebration?
>> no, because i know what you struggled with in that book. >> all right. >> what's better off is the revelation that you just gave, right, that you just said. >> yeah. >> and the thing is that it's a journey that we all make, that we all take, the path that we all take where when we end up there, all right, you know, as long as you end up there. >> yeah. >> and the point i'm making here not to pass judgment, is to say, okay, now you see. okay, now let's build a new america. >> yeah. >> let's be better midwives and give birth to a new country and i think as southerners, because i'm a mississippi way, as southerners we have our hands, right. >> sure. >> we're at the heart of it as my beloved friend tells, we're at the heart of it if only we
could confront who we actually are. questions. >> questions. [applause] >> one question. we have -- you can only ask one. we've gone on so long, we have one question. who wants to ask the question. no pressure. >> we told everybody we were going to blow through the question and answer period, we did say that. >> don't make me call on you, yes, sir. >> can you hear me? >> project or walk up to-- [inaudible question] >> i can't hear you, i'm too old. >> come up to the mic, and then we've got to run because we've got to go. this is high church. >> where is the incense. >> dr. glaude, one of the things you mentioned in your book, how exhausted james baldwin was when he went to
france. and for many of us who grew up in the civil rights era, it's like we're reexperiencing this, that we're exhausted. so, what would be baldwin's perspective would he want to stay now or want to flee? >> i try to avoid jimmy word he wrote so many that we can actually find an answer and one. reasons i wrote "begin again" because i was suffering from a kind of debilitating despair. here we were, come out of the ferguson and all the young people risked their lives and some of them were ending up dead, found in their cars, committing suicide so they say and the country responded to their effort, their organized efforts with the election of donald trump, just as the country responded to, you know, king's murder with the election of richard nixon twice. and you built-- it's a task having to push this
damn boulder up the hill again and again and again. baldwin tried to commit suicide at least three times, right, and no name in the street published in 1972, he's coming off one of the attempts trying to make sense of this moment because he's trying in some ways to tell a story that would offer resources for us to imagine how to keep struggling. so i think the way in which i came out of it is that it's not the end to which we're trying to push the boulder, the value is in the actual pushing. to invoke, it's the beautiful struggle itself and that's where meaning is found. because if we think that we have to see the end as a pre-condition for our struggle for a better america, we won't make it.
[applause] >> both of these guys will be signing books downstairs. >> will eddie be signing the large posters that are around the city? [laughter] >> how will that work? and there will be some eddie bobbleheads. >> thank you. >> thank you. [applause] >> at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office and hear many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act. the 1964 presidential campaign. the gulf of tonkan, the march on selma and vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. certainly johnson's secretaries
knew because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you'll also hear some blunt talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy when he-- the day he died, the number assigned to me now and in mean are not less, i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go, i promise i won't go anywhere, i'll just stay behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> health and senate members continue their district and state work periods this week. the senate will be back on monday at 3 p.m. eastern, lawmakers are expected to debate several of president biden's federal reserve nomi