tv History Discussion CSPAN May 22, 2022 3:45pm-4:46pm EDT
i'm david bodni. i'm not jonathan rothschild. i'm substituting for our former mayor. thank you for indulging me. i practice media and constitutional law and i am so privileged to be here with all of you and our distinguished panel in the interest of time. please permit me to give brief introductions of our panelists. to my immediate left hw brands holds the jack. yes blanton senior chair in history at the university of texas at austin for three decades. he has been writing histories and biographies. two of his books the first american and traitor to his
class were finalists for the pulitzer prize. his latest work our first civil war was published in 2021. gail jessup white is the public relations and community. engagement officer at monticello thomas jefferson's extraordinary estate in albemarle county, virginia a former award-winning television reporter and anchor she began her career at the new york times. her latest work is titled reclamation and it too was published last year. and finally to your far right is david zakino. david is a contributing writer for the new york times. he's covered wars and civil conflicts in over two dozen countries awarded a pulitzer prize for his dispatches from south africa. he's a four-time pulitzer prize finalist for his reporting from
iraq lebanon south africa and philadelphia. his latest book now available in paperback is wilmington's lie. i've had the privilege of reading these three books and i encourage you to pick them up buy copies and read them. they're terrific. so to get us started, let me ask each of our authors to tell us about their latest work. what led them to their topic? and what does it tell us about the state of our nation indivisible question mark today? professor brand okay thank you, david. and thank you all for coming. can you hear me in the back? okay. okay, very good. a few years ago. i wrote a book about the civil war or what? i have come to call. the civil war of the 1860s having written a book that i put a title on our first civil war about the american revolution.
and when i was writing this book which focuses on john brown and abraham lincoln and the events that lead up to the civil war. i was thinking about what motivates individuals to make. these faithful choices that they do with john brown and abraham lincoln. they both believed that slavery was wrong, but they took diametrically opposed. positions on how it should be dealt with john brown believe that slavery was so wrong and so evil that almost any actions were justified in trying to eliminate it abraham lincoln was a constitutionalist. he revered the law. he thought that slavery would end in the united states only by constitutional means but this is what led me to be to think about civil wars and in the theme of this afternoon session there was a time when the nation was not at all in divisible, or maybe it was depending on how you know, it turned out that it was not divided, but it did get me thinking wars and i have been
teaching american history longer than i have been writing about american history and i teach introductory courses and so i covered the ground of american history from colonial times to the present which keeps the major events of american history sort of in in the forefront of my consciousness and i knew perfectly well, i mean anybody who studies the civil war knows that what? the southern states and states of the confederacy were attempting to do in 1861. was what? the 13 american colonies did in 1776 and indeed if you read the ordinances of secession and the rhetoric that surrounds the decision to see they're saying essentially we are simply doing what george washington and the founding fathers did we have decided that the current government were living under is intolerable and we are exercising our right to form a government of our own now strikingly strikingly abraham lincoln agreed that they had the
natural right to do that. he believed that they had a right of revolution. he believes every he believed that everybody has a right of revolution what he did not agree with was that they had a constitutional right to do it which meant that if they want it out they had to fight for it and if they won the war then they would have their country anyway, so i got to thinking backwards we historians tend to regress and so i was going backwards from the civil war of the 1860s to that revolutionary war. that was the basis for what the confederate states were trying to do. and it i had been aware of this for a long time, but i thought i'd look at it more closely. it was not at all and indivisible nation rising up against britain. in fact the fishers in the american nation, in fact it's misleading to call it a nation at that point. there were a bunch of people who disagreed on this fundamental question should we remain connected to britain or not? and it also got me in the mood
to pose a question longer. i teach history the more i conclude that the fundamental. questions fundamental issues of history are essentially moral questions. what is the right thing to do at this particular moment in time, and i'll also recognize that what seems right to one person does not seem right to another person and i wanted to really get at that i started it with the question of john brown and abraham lincoln, they both agree that slavery is wrong, but they take very different views and what should be done about it. so what i wanted to look at was a slightly different question, but a variant of this theme, so what's the moral thing to do and the way i put it in the book? is i pose the question this way i ask. so what? what prompts a man to forsake his country and take arms against it? what would make somebody do that? because that is a really big deal. i would pose. i've i do exercise like this with my students at the university of texas all the time. i asked them. what would make you? decide that you no longer old
allegiance to the government of the united states and that you want out and furthermore that you would fight your way out if necessary, and i think it's really worth reminding people my students starting. but first that this is what was involved because when you know how history turns out it tends to become kind of denatured, you know, okay, the the rebel side the patriots were going to win. and especially when their victory gave rise to the united states of america which by pretty much every standard of world history is the roaring success story of the last quarter millennium. so, you know the united states is going to be this great country and it's going to stick together into the 21st century. it's tempting to think that that somehow it was bound to happen that way. but it wasn't. and that's the thing that i try
to uncover. i'll say i'll stop by saying one last thing about how i approach this issue, and i'm going to sort of ask you to well to try to buy into this at least for the moment. that is to and this is going to sound odd coming from a historian. but i asked my readers i ask my students. if they want to understand what it was like to be alive then to be george washington when he made that decision george, washington, he had everything going for him. why in the world would he want to disrupt the status quo reminded by the way that revolutionaries they're not reformers. they're not radicals. they're way off the deep end the deep left end of the spectrum. they want to burn the house down and start over again. what would make george washington do such a thing? but anyway, so i asked them to try to reimagine. you don't know how this is going to turn out. let's say your george washington or benjamin franklin or john adams or any number of the other people that i profile in this book. what makes you take the step?
you if you want to understand what it was like to be alive and i'll just say one thing. so historians do two things one is they explained? how how and why what happened happened, but i think another thing that they do released i try to do is to put readers and my students back at a moment in time when the future is unknown. and they have to make these decisions. so what was it like to be george washington? what was it like to be thomas hutchinson? who was a loyalist? what's it like then so to put my readers in that world where you don't know how it's going to turn out. you know that this is a big decision and if you jump off the end, you know, you might wind up a trader and hang or there's actually the penalty for treason whether it's much worse than that. you don't know how it's going to turn in but you still have to make a decision because this is this is how sort of history intersects the present. none of us know. what tomorrow is going to bring.
none of us know what next year is going to bring but we make our decisions and we always act on the imperfect knowledge of not knowing what the future is going to bring. so i'll stop there. wow. hey. i'm still thinking. why did george washington do that? do more moments. i'll explain wait. no. sorry. so my book is called reclamation. sally hemmings thomas jefferson and a descendant search for her family's lasting legacy. and it's about my multiple decade journey. to uncover the oral history that i learned when i was 13 years old growing up in washington, dc. when i heard from my oldest sister who's about 20 years older than i that we're descended from jefferson. so the book is part memoir part
detective story and part history lesson. growing up as i did in washington, dc. when the town was majority black growing up middle class growing up surrounded with the comforts that middle-class life would give a person in the 60s and 70s. i didn't really understand. i was black. i just know it was a happy kid. and i was catholic. so i really know i was catholic. it wasn't until i was 13 years old. that i discovered racism here on the west coast actually in california. las vegas sorry. so i used to be a broadcaster. i don't know what happened to that broadcaster's voice. it's gone. is this better? okay, great. i'm glad you said that thank you. so when i was 13 years old. reality started thinking into my life. i learned that my parents had a fractured marriage i learned about racism. i was visiting las vegas. i write about that in the book.
and there was a lot of tragedy a lot of discomfort unfolding in my life. at the same time i learned while overhearing a conversation my sister and my dad were having that we were descending from thomas jefferson, and i want to set this up for you. i was 13. my sister was visiting us after living in asia for two years. she lived in singapore. where her husband she lived in singapore where i well her husband covered the vietnam war for time magazine. incidentally. i've married a man. my second husband was also a time magazine correspondent. so there's a lot of interesting history happening there but i digress my sister's a big talker. she's beautiful. very dramatic tall long swan like neck and she blah blah blah blah. and i grew very uninterested in what she was saying.
so i left she's still talking to dad and i left them in the kitchen. i'm looking for something fun to eat or soda whatever and i hear my sister say well i said i'm descended from thomas jefferson. so i was shocked. as i'd never heard this before. thomas jefferson was my favorite president because he written the declaration of independence and the fourth of july was a great holiday. and i believed in those freedoms that his spoused. remember i didn't know about racism just a little bit. i just had a little taste of it. i didn't know i was a minority i grew up in washington dc at a wonderful life. so for me thomas, jefferson represented everything that was great about america. can you hear me? good. i also couldn't imagine how i a little black girl growing up in washington dc could have been descended from this man because i didn't know that he'd owned people. we weren't taught that when i was in school. lots of people don't want us to be taught that now.
but during his life. time i would learn years later that jefferson owned 607 men women and children. i would also learn that many of them many of them were my relatives. so let's go back to when i was 13. i start prodding asking questions asking dad. incidentally. my dad was six two had red hair. if an aquiline no save like a slope here on the bridge, which i would eventually learn was the jeffersonian nose and his mother was from charlottesville, which is right on the perimeter there with our mouth county where monticello technically is so i go to my dad who was omnipotent to me the closest thing to god that a human could have been as far as i was concerned and i say daddy, how could this be? how could we be related to thomas jefferson and daddy says that's what they say. and that was it.
that was it. so i was a journalist in another life and i was a budding journalist at that point. so i kept bugging him dead. come on. give me some information. he wouldn't give up anything. so i started watching football with him a team that we now call the commanders. i think what a horrible name, but started watching the washington football team spent a lot of time with my dad, and he finally opened up to me. he finally started telling me about his family. he finally started telling me about the losses that he had endured as a child and why didn't know much about his family and why we didn't know that we were to send them from thomas jefferson, and then i went to my sister, you know, the blah blah blah one. and i said to her, where'd you get the story? and what is that? i was hearing when you're talking to dad and she says well. i learned it from a mode and art we had named rpg. i didn't know i'm peachy. she was my grandmother's
half-sister. i'm peach. she could not even read write or even spell her own name. she was a domestic. but i peachy would say to my sister. you're descended from thomas jefferson. i'm not but you are and she said it with a matter of pride. it seemed to have meant something to her. and that's what i learned from my sister. now, let me tell you about my sister just for a moment. when she was having the conversation with my dad that overheard when i was looking for a good in the refrigerator. she was relating to him an infinite that happened when she and her husband were at the american embassy in saigon and this is in the late 1860s. she's at and to see where i live. i look back there where you are. thank you 1960s. they're at the american embassy. at a dinner party, they're the guests of honor. i want you to picture this. i want you to put yourselves
back in another era not 1860, but come up a century. and my sister and husband are the only blacks at the table. and everyone there is speaking of their lineage with great pride. as if they were descending from royalty and my sister thinks wait a minute, didn't we fight a war to separate ourselves from the monarchy and she takes great umbridge to listen. she's very offended. a very grand janice terry is very offended. and she gives her husband a look now again. things with different back then her husband was a professional. my sister was a teacher, but she wasn't working. she was there a spouse. he gives him a look and he nods because he knows what's coming. and this is when my gorgeous sister dignified glamorous rises to a greatest height with her swan like neck and she announces. i'm descended from thomas jefferson. and she said the room went dead
silent. you could only hear the silver touching the china. and that's the story. i heard her relate to my dad and that's the story that she heard from aunt peachy the descended part and that's the story that got me on this route to find out whether in fact it was true because i just couldn't reconcile it then my hero. could have been my ancestor. it took me 45 years to unravel the truth. it took me 45 years to find out. that this woman i'd never met on peachy who'd been put out by her white employers because she had become. disabled the woman that my family took in and lived with us for 20 years it took me 45 years to find find out that this illiterate woman knew what she was talking about. it took me 45 years to get my dream job. i love working at monticello where my family was enslaved
because i've reclaimed that space. that's my family space we built that place. and that place is giving me a platform. to talk about the enslaved people to humanize them to make them real to talk about their accomplishments. they're bravery. they're tenacity. they're resilience their brains because they were smart. do you know how smart you had to be to get through that system? they were extraordinary people. they've made my life possible. they made your lives possible. so i'm called back the inspiration for me david. they have the inspiration. they've called me back to do this work. i like to tell people i am a dc girl. i love my hometown, but i live in richmond, virginia. the former capital of the confederacy because the ancestors called me back at 70 miles from monticello. they called me back to tell that story. so that's why i'm here. i'm peachy. my mother and father cedric and
billy joseph rachel robinson her husband edmond robinson the hemmings family the hubbard family. and yes but just jeffersons have brought me back here too. we talk about them too much though. i want to talk about the enslaved people. we've talked about thomas jefferson and his skin 400 of years give somebody else a chance. are we indivisible we're working on it. thank you. stop there. keep going. it's just getting good. both of you were terrific and i will do my best. to to meet your standards. i'd like to can everybody hear me. okay? yeah, i'd like to start out by asking everyone here a question before you came across this book in in the guide to the festival had you ever heard of the white supremacist who in wilmington, north carolina in 1898 anybody one?
okay, that's pretty typical response. i get at book talk nobody's ever heard of this and i had never heard of this. i went to college in north carolina and i took a lot of history courses and yet no one ever mentioned this event of basically seminal event not only in north carolina history, but in american history it never heard of it. i didn't find out about it until 1998 on the hundred year anniversary when the city of wilmington commemorated it and i happened to catch a newspaper story about it. and i was stunned that first of all something like this could happen in the united states of america. but secondly, how could i not know about it? so i decided at some point i wanted to write a book about it. and unveil the truth of what really happened there. it was covered up and mischaracterized by the white leadership of wilmington for more than a hundred years and it was basically buried let me give you just an outline of what
happened back then in 1898 white supremacist in north carolina launched what they called themselves the white supremacy campaign, and it was really designed to do two things one was to remove black men from elected and appointed office and secondly and more importantly to deny them the vote because in wilmington blacks were 56% of the population. in fact, it was the only major city. i believe in the south that had a majority black population, but beyond that black men served in government. they they served on the city councils three of the 10 city councilmen were black men ten of the 26 policemen where black men the county treasurer the county corner where black men and what really offended the white supremacist with it was they were black magistrates and a white man could in some cases be brought before be arrested by a black police officer and for a black mattress and this was just
intolerable to the white supremacists who had been used to running wilmington up until the mid 1890s when there was something called the fusionist government came in. united white populists who were frustrated disappointed in the democratic party and then the democratic party at that time was the party of white supremacy in the republicans were essentially the party of lincoln. do i have that right? yes the reverse today. i just want to check with a real historian because i'm not a real history. they came together and they took over the state legislature and they took control in wilmington, which is how these black men became elected anna pointed to office at the same time. there was a thriving black middle class of black artisans and shopkeepers and barbers and restaurants tours. and in addition there was a really flourishing professional class of years and doctors and educators.
so wilmington was really unlike any other city in the south. it was considered by many the most integrated city in the south. what really though offended the white supremacists was that they had political power it was plain and simple but secondly. as part of their white supremacy campaign, they came up with a fake news campaign which were all very familiar with today a propaganda campaign the king of media at that time were of course the newspapers. there was no radio tv internet, but the publishers of the major newspapers and not only in wilmington but in north carolina, we're all white supremacist leaders and members of the democratic party. the main one was josephus daniels, who was the publisher of the news and observer in raleigh the most powerful paper in the state. he pretended to be a journalist, but actually he was a set on the steering committee of the democratic party and he held democratic party meetings in the
newsroom. so he was no journalist. he was a propagandist. and they mounted a campaign to do two things one was to portray. black men and government as incompetent illiterate corrupt and secondly, they launched a campaign and they called it but they used the term black beast rapist. they portrayed black men as insatiable and constantly lusting after white women and they invented a fake rape of rape epidemic is what they called it. they were no there was no epidemic of rapes, but they planted false stories and the news and observer actually for the 25% of the white populace that was illiterate published these vicious racist cartoons, which are included in the book that depict black men as savages and bees and thugs and one actually shows a black man as a
vampire with claws clutching at fleeing white women, so it was not subtle. but this led up to the election in the fall is the midterm election in the fall of in november of 1898 and they plotted to have the coup the overthrow of violent overthrow two days after the election they managed to win the election first of all by intimidating and terrorizing black men and keeping them from voting. they had a millet not a militia. they had a vigilante group called the redshirts which were basically an outgrowth of the kkk which had been defeated in wilmington after the civil war and their job during the spring summer fall of 1898 was a right out through the countryside and break into black homes and drag black men out and beat him and whip them in threatened to kill him if they dared to register to vote and it really worked they kept black men from voting and on the day of the election they went to the streets beating and intimidating black men to keep them from voting. so by the time of the election
comes around they had successfully tamp down the black boat, but the same time they stuffed littlely stuffed ballots. they would create the versions create fires. voting places and switch the ballot. so the one the election and from that position of power two days later, they rose up sent our men into the streets. they ended up lynching and murdering 60 black men. at least no one really knows the actual number. they removed the the government the sitting government and replaced it with themselves the leaders of the kubi came may or police chief and city councilman. and they completely got away with it. no one was ever held accountable. no one was held responsible. no one was indicted the federal government did absolutely nothing william mckinley was the president then they were warned before the coup that it was going to happen because the white supremacist had announced it well in advance, they told everyone what they were going to do and in fact that drew the
white press down to wilmington the new york times, washington post philadelphia choir chicago tribune all these papers sent of course white among us. there were no black correspondence down to cover what they called the race war when they got into town. they were met at the train station white by the white supremacist leaders, and they were given cigars and they ranged for their hotel rooms. they gave them whiskey and they what we had called today embedded them. they would send them out with the white vigilantes into the town and fill them up with this this narrative that the white said created that it was black men. not white men who were planning to rise up and take over the town. they predicted of violent black revolution and the white reporters believe this and that's the story american god about this coup and that's the lie that existed to this day was that it was a good governance. that's what they called it a good government attempt to put down a black revolt and an
illegitimate corrupt government in there. i do want it to show you. how well is lie. but worked i just want to read you a couple of examples from north carolina high school history. textbooks that describe white supremacy and described the the willington coup and this was from not that long ago one was from 1933 quote. there were many -- office holders in the eastern part of the state some of whom were poorly fitted for their tasks. this naturally ill-feeling between the races. a 1940 these again. these are public high school textbooks in north carolina quote 1940 quote. the mass of -- became poor citizens to keep their vote the carpetbaggers and scalawags allowed them to do very much as they please the worst crimes were not punished the white people of the south were no longer safe. another 1940 textbook to put an end to this terrible condition white people all over the south joined together in a sort of club which they named the ku
klux klan. this is really this is a high school textbook. members of the ku klux klan dressed as ghosts scared lawless men into acting decently. on moon knights these men could be seen on horseback riding to bring order back into the lives of their people. such sites frighten the -- into living better lives. the names of the of those men -- or white who had done wrong were listed the next moonlit night the ku klux klan would visit these men and punish them according to the wrongs. they had done after this lawless men were not so bold and crime became less and less. so let's end on that cheery note and send it back to you david. sure. so, thank you and how about a collective round of applause for this great time? so many questions come to mind and i'm sure you have some too and we have time for questions and answers but one of the
things that that has occurred to me is the sort of orwellian use of language david hearing you a moment ago. talk about good government. um as a kind of pretext for what these white supremacists were doing and professor brands as i was reading through our first civil war you you quote so wonderfully from the primary source material the letters of washington and franklin and adams and so on one of the things that struck me a fresh. was the the language that atoms and washington used describing the tyranny that caused them to revolt. and in the book, this is adams talking about the stamp act and he says and i'm quoting we have always understood it to be a grand and fundamental principle of the british constitution that
no free man should be subjected to any tax to which he is not his own consent in person or by proxy. and then you describe this saying? a new arrangement was a formula for oppression guaranteed to render americans quote. adams not professor brands quote the most sorted forlorn slaves who live upon the earth adams like the ring of his formula equating taxes to slavery. we can never be slaves. he said and i'm reading further in the book and i get to concord and lexington and washington talking about how it was finally incumbent upon the patriots to protect their weapons, which they had cashed to use against the loyalists which gives rise to the battle. and again, we're talking about how unfair it is to destroy
private property and i believe this is washington saying to destroy a magazine which self-preservation obliged the inhabitants to establish. gauge writing george william fairfax a planar violation of american rights was hard to imagine taking away their guns, so taxation as slavery taking away private property a reason to revolt taking away their guns what sadie professor brands? yeah, so it's something that honest historian has to deal with and when george washington who knew something about slavery? given the fact that you own hundreds of slaves said that if the americans refuse to resist these new these novel laws, they would be reduced to the level of slaves. what do you do with that at first it's tempting to say that
come on george. you can't be serious. but i think that at least as the opening position the historian has to assume the george washington was serious to say he simply a hypocrite and leave it at that does injustice to those generations, i think. i'm gonna state something about my perception to human nature and you can agree with it or not, but i have never observed that any generation. is either more or less moral than any other generation? what changes is perceptions of what morality consists of? it's very tempting for each generation for our generation. to assume that somehow we finally figure this stuff out. and all those people who lived before were somehow be knighted and they didn't get it. i pose a question to my students ask them to imagine. what we're doing today? that our grandchildren.
are going to be appalled at because every generation does something so i think i think if we take as our point of departure the george washington was serious about this. well, what did he mean did he think that he was going to wind up? slaving in the fields. not at all, but he believed that americans as a group. we're going to be unable to chart their own destiny and the essence of course of slavery and what really makes a slave the slave. is that lack of freedom. and he was talking about the fact that the americans were in danger of losing the freedoms that they had come to believe were theirs by virtue of being freeborn englishman. it's all of this founding generation. they were all. essentially they were born englishman and they died americans part of the the problem that i have to solve in my book is how did half of them and then eventually the last of them conclude? wait, i'm not an englishman
anymore. i'm an american. i'm something different and therefore i will act accordingly. but for washington to say that with atoms adams never own any slaves, but he of course knew the institution of slavery to talk that way. i think they were serious and again, i mean they didn't think that they would be telling the fields, but they did believe that they would lose that freedom. and that's that's part of the story of what drove them to rebel now another part of the story. is that the loyalist looked at the same set of external circumstances and concluded. wait a minute george you're getting overheated here. we're not gonna wind up as slaves, you know, maybe we should talk parliament into rescinding that law, but don't blow up the empire just over taxes for heaven's sakes, but that was what it seemed. to represent so one of the tasks of the historian is to make
sense of the past not. in our terms, but in the terms of the people who lived it to assume that it made sense to them. i've encountered very few people. in my study of history who go to bed at night feeling enormous cognitive dissonance. i'm doing this thing, but i know it's wrong. there is almost in every case and you'll have your own experience or observation of this in your lives somehow you get this thing that you think you have to do and this thing that you believe to get closer and closer together until it's close enough and you can live with that so that's the best i got on that. to show these words. thank you. yes christmas our first civil war and reclamation by gail jessica point. i don't know whether that question in any way resonates with you how it feels to hear our founding fathers.
they would be made slaves less they lest they revolt from the mother country. the part that resonated with me that i heard that hw said was it is not enough to say that they were hypocrites. they weren't hypocrites. and here's why. they didn't see the people they enslaved as people. they were less then. they were less than human. so my ancestor thomas jefferson. could sleep with an enslaved woman. and it was okay. because she was a woman. owned her she was a lot. she's kind of white looking so she was closer to being human. it was okay. to treat these people like
animals because there was somewhere in between. you know. -- sapiens and mules and that's reality. and it's really difficult for us as modern-day americans to digest that. it's difficult for me as a descendant of jefferson and his wife martha to digest that. particularly since this is a man i admired for so long. but it's true. and that's why this work is so important the work that we're all doing is so important. that's why your presence here is important and your knowledge base is important. because we work toward humanizing i said earlier, but i can't say it enough. we work toward humanizing the enslaved. we work toward humanizing sally hemings who was so much more than an appendage of thomas jefferson. above the many things that she was she was an emancipator.
because the children she had with him. and this is a deal that negotiated with jefferson. were freed. so they were freed two generations ahead of most of my ancestors and millions of others of people black people became africa who became americans remember we weren't americans. we were citizens. we were animals. are you know? something like that. it's hard to say it's hard to process but it's true. so that's the part that resonated with me. and i just want to add one other thing very quickly. i think it's so essential to humanize the enslaved people and i'll tell you why. because until we do that. they may descendants will not be seen. as individuals their descendants will be seen as threats the way they were described. in the newspapers back in
wilmington more than 100 years ago. that's what makes it so easy. for people who look like my son wonderful young man. i just have to say this and mit grad nice as they come. but people who look like my son. again, he shot. by cops and by each other so until we humanize. the enslaved and their descendants. these atrocities will continue to happen. and that's why the legacies of slavery are still among us. it's played out every day was played out with the pandemic. who was dying from the pandemic? a lot of minorities poor healthcare essential workers essential workers that means that you're being underpaid and you have to get out there. people like us i work from home every day we have to fix this. this is what we have to reconcile.
as a people thank you. reclamation and david unless you want to respond to this issue and feel free. we have a few minutes for questions. so if you have any there are microphones up in front, please please come forward until i see someone i'll invite david to respond or i have a question for you either way question the question. is another one of the there's so many myths that we're learning about in our history our founding myths. this is not a founding myth, but i assumed when the war ended in 1865 the the civil war that the union one the south was defeated war was over. and i'm reading david's book and
and very early on he's writing about one w h h beetle a union lieutenant colonel stationed in wilmington being appalled at the attacks of the black people. living in this community and he says i'm quoting from david's book about beetle. he realized that the whites of wilmington had not truly been defeated. he watched them return from the war unbowed full of rage and more committed than ever. to white supremacy close quote what else can you tell us about this myth of the vanquishing of the south that some of us may have missed? but the this this powerful undercurrent of white supremacy and racism was never defeated it got stronger than ever after the war and that's one of the the
revelations for me and and researching this book. i wasn't aware of how deep it was ingrained in into the south men women and children and how long it lasted. how powerful it was and just living the events of recent years. it really brings that point home that this country has such a stream of racism running through it and all it takes is a demagogue to incite it and to send the spark into violence and it happened in 1898 with a former confederate colonel colonel waddell, who was the leader of the of the insurrectionism the writers in 1898, and he played on the on the fears and insecurities of white men who really did believe that black men were coming to rape their women and steal their jobs and in their birthright and their birthright in their minds was their right to rule over
black people and today we see the same. the same the same rage these same fears and insecurities really brought to the service by another democrat donald trump. he made it okay to be racist. he made it. okay to say these things and in fact when you talk to people and you see people interviewed. why do you love donald trump so much they say he says that things that we're thinking and we were afraid to say and you saw it on january 6th when in my mind you had a demagogue you had charges of a stolen election in 1898. one of their charges was at the election that brought blacks into government was was fraudulent and and was a stolen election. you also had this sense of vigilantism being equated with patriotism that violence was not only okay, but required in the
defense of liberty and what donald trump was telling these people not in so many words that your way of life your white christian country that that you've come to know is under assault by black lives matter by african americans by muslims. he saw the muslim ban by of people from central and south america pouring over the border you remember when he wrote down that escalator to announce his candidacy. he said mexicans were drug dealers and rapists coming across the border to rape your women and and steal your jobs and all this coalesced on january 6 when there was this simmering rage and the simmering resentment and donald trump focused it. he said if you don't fight like hell you're going to lose your country and their country as they know it was under threat and we almost lost our democracy that day. i mean that coupe failed the one in 1898 didn't but this one came pretty close. so i think i'll in there and we can go to questions. okay.
do we have any questions from the floor? please please speak up we can hear. yeah. oh, yeah here okay. okay. can you hear me? okay now fine. thank you. yeah, and i mean on one hand. i actually like to hear more about what you were saying in terms of how do people cooperate and how do people spread words, but my question that i was going to pose is a little bit different, you know, i'm hearing a little bit in terms of this history and you have to be relative to the generations, but actually i suppose a challenge to you guys to respond to is there a way like a scientific way almost to measure the justice of a government by test cases? can you say that if anyone in a society has no recourse to harm because there's a relevance to this right now. i mean you have this group called the taliban claiming to be a government. what does it mean to be a government? is it because you're a guy with a gun who walked into a building
and now you how does that make you the government if the mafia goes into new york and takes over city hall and all they know the government of new york, you know, is there a way to really specify what makes a government representative in kind of a a of like are you really? presenting your people. i mean the junta and myanmar they are government. should we be dealing with them is putin a government? that's a good question. you know, he has elections everybody votes for him. but you know, that's, you know, are there actual tests that we can put to the legitimacy of governments and can we deal with people whose rights are being trampled on in a way independent of those people claiming to be in charge? i will say that historically the test for whether a government is a government is whether it physically controls its territory. it doesn't have to be representative. it doesn't have to be elected. i'll point out that before say
thomas jefferson lived before the declaration of independence. most governments were not representative of anybody. but the test that the international community which is an odd word, but let's say the united nations the test for the united nations is does this group of people control the territory because the the bottom line is sovereignty and control and if the united states has refused to recognize various governments at times the united states refused to recognize the people's republic of china from 1949 until 1979 and it operated on what everybody understood was a fiction. that the government of the republic of china the alternate version which controlled only taiwan was the actual government of china. but after a while the fiction becomes useless and it gets in the way of set the united states refused to recognize the government of the soviet union from 1917 until 1933.
and it was sort of out of principle. this is not a representative government the people of the soviet union didn't vote for this government. but finally they gave it up because governments are the group you have to deal with if you're going to deal with that part of the world and you don't have to like those government now, you kept using the term representative now, that's a very different thing and but the united states in fact almost no countries have consistently taken the position that only representative governments are real governments, so that's just the historical my challenge and i'd like to hear from from the other people. i don't mean to is can we create that standard because i think it's important. like to add you know, i'm not a historian and i'm a reformed journalist. i'm really not in a position to answer that question in an area that way but i will say this as far as governments are concerned and this is kind of scary.
the person with the biggest guns can wrestle the power to make a government? and that's a big problem. and that's a problem. we're kind of facing now, isn't it when we see what's going on in europe? is putin the government? these people support what is he doing? but he's doing i don't think so. but he's got the biggest guns right now and it's really scary. i don't know how to your question was. how do you measure it? that that's certainly something i can't answer. but i can certainly say that. my dad used to say the one who has the money has the power. so that's kind of what government is shaping up to be. the one who has the most goal, you know in the most guns conformator and this direction
of potential potential insurrection wow, that's really scary. isn't it? that's who has the power and that's what we have to combat all the time. and that's our challenge you use the word challenge. that's our challenge as americans to make sure that we continue to have a representative government and which we happened always had we have to keep working at that and to make sure that this government lives up to its ideals and continues to inspire people around the world because what we're seeing now is an emergence of autocracy. so these are the things that we need to be constantly aware of and that's my very amateurish answer. thank you very much. yes. price of excited dark well my dear lady, what do you think?
absolutely that question i can answer quite easily. thank you. please yeah, how do we convert what's going on in so many states today with their passing laws to deny the truth being taught in this country about our racial history. well your time right now in north carolina a lot of states conservatives republicans. mostly white are passing laws to make it illegal to teach. certain things that in their words would i forget the phrasing would make children feel uncomfortable about their race or their heritage things that are painful if that law passes this book would not be able to be done. a lot of books would not be able to be taught. a lot of subjects would not be able to talk and this is just a
in my estimation a part of a broad attempt that's being going on and right-wing circles is to reframe the truth and to erase the truth and to substitute for it. this this poleming and donald trump is as a master at that, but it started even even before him, but you're seeing this in a lot of states. i don't know how many states has anybody know 18 18, probably and and it's supposed to be a backlash to critical race theory which to my knowledge is not being taught anywhere. but it's it's a convenient scapegoat. so anyway, i would say the short answer. your question is vote them out of office. democracy, that's the way it works. and then the complicating factor of course is when those states pass laws that make it difficult if not impossible to vote which then violates the privileges and immunities of the citizens of
the various states and they choose their own voters through gerrymandering. they keep some in office. i just want to add something about about making children uncomfortable when i was growing up in washington dc. i went to catholic school. and i had a we had a textbook and in that textbook there were images of black men who would have been in congress during reconstruction and these images were so distorted bloated black men with distorted features with their feet smoking big cigars with their feet up. this is kind of the stuff that imagery you have in your book with their feet up on the table and the nun saying to us. yeah, and this is what happened during reconstruction. i think we were called -- back then when -- were working in congress. well that made me just a little comfortable and so but i dealt with it. it was tough. and deal with it. learn from it i learned from it.
i learned how absurd and disgusting that was and i as i grew older and understood how racist it was because again as i said earlier, i didn't understand racism until i was 13 years old, but i doubt that made me stronger made me a better person. learn it learn this history. it's not designed to hurt. it's designed to help and to help us heal. this is a cliche but i don't care new york times writer. the truth will set you free. so embrace it. and folks out of office, we're down to about three minutes. so please we'll go to essence. do you think that the strengthening of the rights reaction and the races reaction is someone who response to obama's election and presidency and the threat that they felt by the fact that here was at the power that a black man has been elected.
for the panel you you want to go? no, no. okay. well, it's the same fear these people in 1898 felt up with a black person in office and and it's interesting with the whole birther movement when donald trump it was a big part of this that they falsely claimed. he was a muslim and that in their minds was the ultimate slur and it just shows you this this irrational fear they have of the other of anybody who's not white and christian and they were terribly threatened by barack obama a successful politician a very smart guy, but it boiled down to fundamental racism in this undercurrent. i've talked about earlier of this racism that runs through our society and is really rising up now and sparked by the just the hates the fears the
insecurities of of people on the right. i'll stop there because we're almost out of time if you guys want to anything to that. we got one one minute. please. take it away quick. i just hit front answer to myself what mr. brands had asked about what would take you to go violently to an overthrow and my standard would be quite a bit higher than what they did in january 6th, and i think all this review falls around this information, which all the panelists brought in whether wilmington or wondering about decisions about promulgating slavery was misinformation. so to one minute so quick. so i just cut to my one question i had to but i was wondering about misinformation an earlier panelist set in another panel that there was some possibly misinformation but that becomes history because it's through the eyes of what someone did or the actions they took was through their eyes, so it's really is the truth. and then my final thing is just during the american revolution.
when they were making that same decision to overthrow britain and gained independence, is there any indication of misinformation back in those days? yes, so thomas jefferson and your childhood hero? was way over the top and pinning every bad thing in the american colonies on king george. it king george made a convenient villain because they're going to set up a republic which would replace the monarch, but jefferson knew the other members of the continental congress knew that the laws that they were complaining about hadn't been passed by king. george have been passed by parliament, but it was more convenient for their political purposes to come up with one figure of face on the evil that they were confronting. rather than just a committee. and so if you read the declaration of independence, it really exaggerates what it was the americans were facing and especially impending the blame on king george.
one of the things one of the many things i've learned is how difficult it has been for authors to make their work known during the last two years of this pandemic. winning pulitzer prizes being nominated for them so treat yourself and read their books. they're marvelous. we owe them are deep debt of gratitude. welcome everyone. we are thrilled to have william newman today. we've asked to discuss his latest book to see things are never so bad that they can get worse. it just came out. thank you for those of you who are here. i want to thank my team with salema christina guevara and actor lopez or your technical support. i want to say hello to the virtual audience. you can send your questions via twitter or i think w