tv Lectures in History Martin Luther King Robert Kennedy Civil Rights CSPAN June 25, 2022 8:00am-9:17am EDT
we'll talk a little bit about it. see what you remember from the we are on the moon for our liberation. we have been tired of trying to prove things to like people we are tired of trying to explain to why people that we're not going to hurt them. we are concerned with getting the things we want the things that we have to have to be able to function by 1967. the freedom movement was changing course across the nation black men and women struggle for control of their lives. develop box on the street in the schools at the call for power
challenge. they established relationship between blacks and whites in america. okay, so that's just a little review of where we were last week with the documentary from eyes and the prize looking at black power stokely carmichael provides a really great introduction and what purpose of black power is how it folds into this. part is really fold into the civil rights movement at the stage. so the years after the passage of the civil rights act the voting rights act as is demonstrated in what we've covered so far. was a time of racial reckoning comparable to the years after the civil after the civil war civil rights legislation, as you know, dismantled legally mandated systems segregation laws in this franchisement in the south and broadened federal protections of citizenship rights. black power represented the broad-based struggle of african-americans to define the meaning of freedom in a country
where structures of racial inequality and injustice remained deeply rooted. so this site and this is most glaring in northern areas this sense of racial inequality being deeply systemic and rooted in history and society. in northern areas by 1960 nearly half of african-americans lived in northern and western urban areas and cities as we've discussed in class really across the term the migration of black americans in the south to cities in the north and west from world war one roughly up through the 1950s transformed america's racial landscape. while many left the south seeking freedom and and freedom from the terror and repression of jim crow, they faced widespread discrimination resulting in overcrowded segregated neighborhoods with substandard housing inferior schools and limited job opportunities.
for many there was a feeling of no way out now in this slide as you recall, you know when we're doing the early 60s, we read an article by gertrude samuels a freelance report who visited five cities in 1963 in the spring of 1963 and described as the title of her piece said a report on the forms. the -- revolution is taking against discrimination economic and social in the north and that this was even more crucial in the south at this stage and the two images one shows. a parent and children protesting outside the school committee in boston against segregated schools in 1963, and the other is in harlem confrontation between police and a man in 1964 around the harlem race racial uprising after the shooting of james powell. so, let's see.
the 1964 civil rights act in voting rights act did little to affect these conditions. for a minority of african-americans who were prepared to take advantage of the opportunities created by civil rights legislation. they could achieve significant advances even as racial prejudices persisted. but for the many trapped by generations of poverty and substandard education conditions did not change. martin luther king observed and again, we read this piece earlier on in it op-ed on january 1st 1966 in the amsterdam news, and you see it up here the excerpt with all the struggle and achievement the seeds of freedom have grown only a bud not yet a flower. the black american is still far from equal. he is straight jacketed and the least skilled most underpaid strat of our society. to put it succinctly the -- in america is an impoverished alien
in an affluent society. now realizing that the civil rights legislation would do little to remedy these conditions accelerated demands for change and energize the movement for black empowerment. the question conditions in urban areas and routine policing abuses along with the hope stirred by the civil rights movement created explosive conditions. robert kennedy who was elected to the senate and entered the senate in early in 1965 described a crisis as he called quote unparalleled in our history. so aligning with the black power movement, which we've looked at in some detail was a sustained struggle to compel white americans to face the consequences of the nation's racial past and realize the opportunities created by the civil rights movement to bend the country in a new direction. kennedy and king each offered a unique kind of leadership in
this regard both were shaped by their experiences during the peak years of the civil rights movement and their grasp of the depth and nature of a crisis. that would determine the country's future. so today we're going to look at these tumultuous years between 1965 to 1968 largely through the evolution in actions of king and kennedy both men became iconic figures in the aftermath of their assassinations often obscuring the challenges and struggles of their final years, which would deeply intertwined with the racial reckoning fostered by the civil rights movement. these years were marked by escalation of america's warm vietnam and successive summers of urban rebellion sparked by police mentality and a terrible conditions. so as the reading for today demonstrated, there was no clear path forward and that sort of evident in the title. so a question for you all a title for the chapter. you read i'm martin luther king.
what do you remember? what is the title of that chapter? anybody to take chaos your feet sorry. oh, yeah, just sent him to chaos. okay descent into chaos. okay chaos right when we look back at history. we see things as evolving but really it's it's so much is happening and ralph ellison the noted writer the invisible man made this comment right around the same time. this king was wrote his column. we are living in a time of chaos within the total political structure. we do not have the political structures that can contain the energies set loose by the passage of the civil rights bills. so that's again black expectations and also white reactions white backlash as a movement expands and it's demands and expectations. so the watts rebellion in august
of 65 again, which we've mentioned, but that is a pivotal turning point in american history and in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. it was a turning point for both king and kennedy. as you may recall it lasted for six days covered 45 miles of los angeles and beyond surveys estimated that at least 30,000 people participated 34 people were killed in 25 of whom were african-american and more than 1,000 injured and 4,000 arrested. now king who at this point was planning a campaign to challenge surrogation in the north to take sclc to northern city and apply what they learned in the south to conditions there. he flew immediately to los angeles. and he walked the streets of watts the watts community. he met with patrick community meetings and heard the grievance of people and the abuses they suffered from police as well as lack of city services and and
litany of things and he was overwhelmed by what he saw and what he heard. in a stormy meeting with city officials the police chief william parker lectured king that violence was to be expected quote when you keep telling people they are unfairly treated and teach them to disrespect the law. a shaken king told reporters after that meeting. to treat this situation as though it was some a result of some criminal element is to lead the community into a potential holocaust. early at 66 again as you read in adam fair class book king took sclc to chicago where he would attempt to employ the tactics of non-violent direct action in a campaign targeting poor segregated housing conditions. and what was called a campaign to end slums. he hope this would enable black americans to channel their anger and frustration into collective
action aimed at securing change and improving conditions. so another question from from that particular chapter. so what happened was the campaign a success. what was some of the challenges that king faced in chicago page? he was basically forced to kind of reassess this basic assumptions about american society because it wasn't a success for him because whites basically controlled and profited from these slums and you know, he basically said, you know, there's something seriously wrong with capitalism and you know a society without slums poverty or unemployment a society of free health care for all and a society dedicated to peace but whites were not ready for deep radical change, basically. okay, so just the general opinion liberals in chicago weren't supportive of this
efforts, right? i mean mayor daley was a much more wiley customer than the people they dealt with in the south. african-americans were pretty cynical about using these techniques when the challenges are so great. and he said he faced a kind of violence that he hadn't seen before. yeah, wasn't he trying to get married daily not reelected. well, he thought maybe you know the pressure if daily did not come through but of course my daily was reelected and he had significant black support, you know, people are tied into political patronage. so but as you said page he made him confront really reassess his understanding of race in america and and this depth of the structures of racism in these cities and what it would take to actually create change. at a time when the pressures were really high again in the wake of watts and the sense of that these tensions would continue to explode unless some
change was secured. so it was during this time and in this image, actually, he's stoned during a march and his age are trying to protect him during that and here he is giving a talk in chicago. so chicago was a celebrant experience. he was there into the summer. and during this time in june as we discussed he goes to mississippi to join. strictly carmichael for nikisic and other activists who pick up after james meredith was shot of with this march against fear to mississippi, and i think it's just good to remember the kind of relationship king developed with stokely carmichael and cleve sellers who told us that about that when he came to class on thursday during this march march relaxing was how how just glad he was to be going through mississippi being greeted by, you know, african-americans in these rural communities and and
even though this was the the the mart where because of please harassment and being evicted from the school where they set up their camp overnight and all kinds of problems with the police carmichael had been arrested for several hours and he came out of that went to a major rallying greenwood and issued a call for black power and you know, that is but we've talked about that but it's um, it represented approach that had stick had been using, you know, black empowerment for a number of years, but it's really captured the attention of the nation and and got a real reaction. and what was king's view of i mean do you recall from that account kings response to black power? anybody claire are you talking about very importantly talked about in the cleveland salaries book either cleveland's house book is stokely karma time. i remember in that book. sellers mentioned that he was
talking to him like presenting these ideas and he was basically saying how i get my work you have been sitting at like it could be an option, but it's not necessarily like okay. yeah, i mean he was open to it. right and i think yes. yeah. haley in the stokely carmichael account. i remember that he had a quote from king that said like people who have power don't speak of their power. so he just was saying that like the movement should speak for itself. they don't have to call it power. okay, okay, but really good points. and so, you know, it's just a question of tactics, right and and it also king felt that the reaction of white liberals to that and to the press and he was correct. i mean people reacted in a that that means what that's kind of racism. that means separatism and all these alarming things. whereas you saw what carmichael said at the beginning of their clip what it meant. it was about organizing the
community black empowerment and even king, you know, so king after that march he'd be constantly reporters would ask him what he thought about black power. he never dismissed it, right he changed the conversation and at one point he said i'm going to get this quote, correct. oh, let's see. yes, he said. he turned the question around and he would answer by pointing to the poverty and injustice that endured in america and and the need for a militant thrust forward. so he's talking about militancy something more militant has to happen and you know what you call it to him again, that could be a distraction and the press really harped on that and of course that was a story about the march against fear, which one is about much more than that voter registration the harassment they experience and again the kind of camaraderie between the various
representatives of the movement. so robert kennedy who i mentioned he took his cd of an attorney general under his brother and stayed into august at 64. then he ran for the center from new york and enter the senate in in january of 1965 and he begins to move on a parallel path with king during these years now as attorney general and jfk's administration. he was shocked to witness the depths of the poverty and rachel segregation in urban areas outside of the south. and he was influenced by james baldwin's essay in the new yorker in november of 1962 that ended up providing the basis for the fire next time. kennedy spoke in this very room in the spring of 1963 when he came to, south carolina. and focusing talking to southerners white southerners. he focusing on the consequences of racial discrimination. he emphasized the north as well
as the south right usc wasn't the surrogated yet. so he's telling people we've got to move, you know, these things have to happen boating rights, but that this problem is not just southern it's national and then he said time is running out fast for this country. okay. so here's a sense again of that this it's so deep so wide and that white america is so really ignorant of our history and of the need to really move forward on all fronts. now in the aftermath of watts kennedy pushed back on the call for law and order which was the dominant response across the political spectrum from democrats republicans. he said there is no point in telling -- to obey the law. to many -- the law is the enemy. in harlem bedford stuyvesant, it has almost always been used against him. and he would elaborate on this point and speeches before white groups. noting that he was not only talking about the police. he said the law did not protect
african-americans from unscrupulous landlords substandard living conditions and merchants who cheated black customers. quote we have a long way to go before the law means the same thing to a black man as it does to us. kennedy went to watts with his aid peter edelman just a two of them. they were in la he said to peter let's go to watts. they jumped into taxi and they rode to the center of watts and walked around saw peter said it was like seeing a burned out area a war-torn area in your own country. i mean, it's the record was throughout and they talked to people and ask them about their lives and what and the really the every almost everyone talked about. no jobs low paying jobs, you know that that condition persisted no changes after after watts. he began supporting a group that was founded in the aftermath of the rebellion.
the watford is brought watts right as workshop, which was created for young residents of watts and became a major part of the black arts movement. kennedy supported sent money visited with them and even campaign there when he was running for president in 68, so he's connecting with these forces that are helping to build up these communities and supporting young a young black people now when he was created about black power, get my thing. he in the way for the meredith march he said well you can interpret black power in many ways. and it could raise he said tactical concerns because he felt that the future of the country depended on black and white people working together. but he said he prays the march the march against fear for demonstrating that black citizens would keep up their efforts. for full equality and until they
establish full equality and he himself embraced black self-determination and community empowerment which was evident and in the bedford stuyvesant project, which was an innovative redevelopment project. that was run by people in the community. they'd raised money from the federal government philanthropy businesses and people in the community would develop plants for renovating homes. education programs job training and the rest but what's particularly interesting is that kennedy had been a south africa a very famous trip to south africa in june of 60 six when he was invited by antipartheid student group and remarkable trip where he makes these comparisons between america and south africa and the struggles that both countries have to overcome. ah, and so what he was most concerned when this conversation about black power would come up was about whites. you know, white what do white
people thinking and and white attitudes white ignorant he talked about the ghetto of our ignorant and backlash, you know this kind of supporting politicians who play on those fears and resentments and so there was a cover story and look here. he is in bedside. just put that up there because i mentioned that that picture but this article suppose god is black. front page on life magazine where the popular magazines like people magazine today. suppose god is black by robert kennedy and then you went inside the magazine and he was writing about his trip to south africa and this exchange he had with an africana who justified apartheid talking about the bible and this is what he said, but suppose god is black. what if we go to heaven and we all alive so treated the -- and inferior and god is there and we look up and he's not white. what is our response then? okay, and that sort of comment in the summer of black power provided a different angle of vision?
third successive wave of urban uprisings raising from a ranging from omaha, nebraska, des moines, iowa to chicago cleveland, brooklyn, troy new york and a number of other. above the cities president johnson had been mostly silent about the se uprisings and the crisis behind them and was increasingly obsessed with the war in vietnam. during his during 1966 his administration doubled the budget the projected budget for military aid by 10 billion dollars. that's five times. what administration spent on anti-poverty programs right here. and of course johnson's more on poverty began with high hopes. um spoke out when pressed he was giving a speech on vietnam and reporters. wanted to know what do you think about what's going on?
and he says this -- riots threatened to jeopardize civil rights gains, okay. and response onto whether black power or riots will create new antagonisms among white. look at what he says. i'd like you to read that and tell me what you think about that. what is he saying? you must recognize that while there's a -- minority of 10% in this country. there's a majority of 90% that is not --. whites have come iraq whites have come around to the viewpoint of wanting to see equality and justice given to their fellow citizens. but they want to see it done under a law under law and in an orderly manner what? does suggest he understands it doesn't understand at this point after you see where we've come by 19. if anybody how is it different? from king and kennedy's
assessment of um, it really seems a lot like the the sort of old way of thinking of like, oh, it's a privilege that you get to like have these things like equality and good schools and etc now whenever it's supposed to be the opposite of that of like no you deserve this because you're a human not just because you know why people decided one day to like think that you deserved something and that's really seems a lot like the the old mindset of that which is disturbing it will take yeah, right. he's also directly contrasting what kennedy said about how we need to move away from law and order as a solution and he's saying this is exactly what we need law without violence and totally undermining the entire civil rights movement. anybody else act? he's showing that he doesn't understand american poverty and in that he's articulating this vision of legal integration and
legal equality and saying that we've done it you have rights. let's stop we're done, you know, he's ending the war he's declaring, you know that it's over. so he's illuminating his own his lack of understanding being that he'd never been to these communities of poverty and that he's articulating a vision of of you know, a stratified legislative. you know victory over oppression. okay. is this surprising? lee johnson simon civil rights legislation the voting rights act. but again he saw that yes ritual almost wonder if there's no layer of like political self-interest here right that he wants to like in his analysis if the law was the only barrier to true social equality like and he fixed the law then he fixed racism basically and he can claim credit for that whereas if he extends his analysis right like he has to reckon with the fact he didn't do enough. or he could right one person. that's very well put as well. i mean this measuring look look at what i've done and that's
what said after the what's uprising so after i've done after all i've done look at this and the disconnect between law that opens it up and then the reality of how do you actually enact this and deal with the generations of exclusion in the consequences? so that that's going to play out as we continue on this is johnson's point of view. he's the president and you have people like king and kennedy very high profile powerful people really pushing in another direction during this period and interestingly again the summer of '66 this changes as things escalate but in the summer of 66 major newspapers place blame on the johnson administration. thomas foley the washington post noted that a third summer of riots shows at the bargain basement penny pinching approach does not work. the new york times editorialized that the johnson administration chocolate programs would set the targets far too low it is not
the riots in the slums, but these lame and inadequate programs that are really the real disgrace of richest nation on earth. foley cautioned and i think this is really present as the riots flare from city to city the bitterness becomes more deep-seated leading to a breakdown in communication between the races then political action becomes impossible. so that notion ellison had we build the political structures, right and it's part of recognizing this not pushing it away. um later that summer 66 and 66 is really a rich year where things are pretty fluid and there seems like there's some possibility the senate government operations committee held a remarkable series of highly publicized hearings on crisis in american cities. kennedy robert kennedy sat on the committee and worked very closely with the chairman abercroft of connecticut in
organizing the testimonies close to a hundred witnesses testified over six week long period the new york times compared to a six week long seminar. witnesses included civil rights leaders city planners labor leaders housing experts foundation officials police officers mayors clergy government officials and others. the hearings covered a wide range of subjects, but kennedy and robocop identified the most immediate and pressing problem as the conditions of life for the majority of black americans living in urban areas. kennedy let off as the senator from new york. he he came down from the senate? and sat in the witness chair, and he was the first one to testify. just give me a few highlights. he really laid everything out. he talked about the root causes of the urban crisis starting with federal policies around highway construction and housing. and the insurance system of
segregation and discrimination that had that had grown up over generations and the consequences endemic poverty. and rampant unemployment and these are some of the things he pointed out one third to a half of get our residents live in poverty that was left off. 43% of housing was substandard education was segregated unequal and inadequate with a high school dropout rate as high as 70% and infant mortality two times the national average and this is his vision we need he insisted that we needed more than poverty programs housing programs and employment programs though. we needed all of them. we will need an outpouring of imagination ingenuity discipline and hard work. and again community action black empowerment. as any insisted communities must play a central role in developing and implementing programs people acting on matters of mutual concern with
the power and resources to affect the conditions of their own lives. so during the course of the hearings. he they would have mayors testified they had sam you already from la who was just unrepentant. and they had the mayor of cleveland where there had been a major uprising that summer and the mayor comes in. he starts saying well communists are behind this and criminal elements are behind this and kennedy has all the reports from cleveland on housing on unemployment on schools any chapter and verse he describes to the mayor mayor the conditioned in his city. and the mayor said well i guess. we don't we have you know, we don't need communists. they're not the cause. i mean he just sort of backed up it just put the information before him. but at the same time he's putting the information before the country. so these hearings are really and what's surprising to me as a historian.
little is known about these. i mean, they're volumes and the current commission report goes over this territory in about two years down the road, but they are really putting forward the crisis the problem defining what needs to be done and showing the tremendous limitations of the poverty programs that are not integrated. they're not holistic. they're just you know, not enough and not well coordinated. the last person to testify in the last hearing was in december. with martin luther king and and it really to see king and kennedy, you know in in conversation in this hearing room at the end of six weeks of these these remarkable exploration of of the issues and the problems kennedy. i mean king described his time in chicago. and said, it was the first time he had experienced. the grinding poverty exploitation and despair that prevailed an urban neighborhoods king and his family moved into
the west side of chicago and lived like a member of the community and really felt that there was it an uprising that summer while they were there so he really felt it in a way that that just accelerated his efforts he he observed again and king on vietnam. he sort of he's he's spoken out. he's pushing for negotiations, but he's careful not to take the attention off of the issue of racial equality and the problems the many problems they're facing but in this hearing he observed that the johnson administration spent liberally on a war in vietnam where american security was not at stake. and he questioned the wisdom of a conflict justified by vague commitments to a reactionary regime. and this is a famous quote from king the bombs of vietnam exploded home destroying the hopes and possibilities of decent americans. meanwhile, he said the war on poverty.
with scarcely a skirmish at no time has a total court total coordinated and fully adequate program been conceived. kennedy asking and is an interesting back and forth between the two of them, but he asked him what he thought. the extent of poverty and alienation was understood outside of ghetto areas to what extent that people really understand that. not at all sid king. the problem as you know, he told kennedy is that ghetto dwellers are often invisible thoughts are known words unheard feelings unfelt. kennedy conceded that lack of understanding of the bitter conditions that existed in these urban communities was deeply troubling and expressed deep concern to where this combination of factors would lead the united states. riots king famously warned in the final analysis. turn out to be the language of the unheard.
so we're coming to the end of 66. and again, the chronology here is important and i'm not going to go into detail, but during the fall of 66 robert kennedy makes it really important. speech. at uc, berkeley he talks to 15 more than 15,000 students crowded outside in the greek theater, and i think what's really interesting about it. the anti-war movement is full steam ahead students and it's very mostly white students are really involved in anti-world movement. what is he say in that speech that any of you that that struck you as where his focus is and what he wants the students to pay attention to anybody when is this? yeah. hey just just one of like his final quotes kind of got me is um, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to help make the choices that will determine the greatness of the nation. okay, so i think that you know, he's really speaking to these students about what's going on
and you know majority white students who, you know have an opportunity to create change and make change, but they have to make that choice for themselves. but no that's a real thing. i mean he talked he talked a lot to college audiences because he really looked to young people and it's true as a future, you know, hopeful and especially young people who have the opportunity for college education. you know, and there was a since then that you owe, you know you oh you need to use that to really help imagine a way forward and work collaboratively to do that. so that's an important point and one of the things it's a long speech that really stood out to me again underscoring what? he said what we we came here to talk about the most important thing facing us and you students. is the revolution within our gates the challenge we have gathered here to consider the struggle of the -- american to full equality and full freedom
the revolution within our gates. i mean kennedy's opposed to the war. he supportive of challenges. he's working in the senate but this is and of course we here today and we're looking at all the things that carry through from this period that continue effect this year to where he speaks about, you know, give every -- the same opportunity as every white man to educate his children provide for his family live in a decent home and win human acceptance, and i think that that is really like was a really key for me. he's educating them. you know, these students haven't been to community a poor community probably maybe some but doubtful, you know, so he's trying to open their eyes get them concerned and and really give them an understanding of what the challenges are not just for you know for the country for the future direction of the country. okay. all right. now by 67, so we're shifting into 67 and things really i mean
chaos is a word i mean things feel like they're coming apart the war lyndon johnson has close to 400,000 grand troops in vietnam. the anti-war movement is growing exponentially and broadening out against the majority of americans still support the war right countries at war but there's a very active vocal and growing anti-war movement. and racial disturbance at summer would break out in more than 150 cities. the nation really seemed to be coming apart at the seams. now king as i mentioned had voice concerns about vietnam. as soon as the bombing began and lyndon johnson americanized a war and he sent ground troops and began a bombing campaign that really pulled us into the war. fully and so king called the negotiations, but again, he was hesitant because again speaking
out against the war but you know, it just distracts from the issue the main issue you're concerned about but it really it stuck with them snick in january of 1966 as after one of their try with jimmy jackson. i think jimmy lee jackson. no. birthday sammy young sammy young was a veteran and a navy veteran sneak organizer was shot and killed at a gas station when he tried to use a white. restroom which again was illegal the civil rights act outlaw that so with that sneak finally came out and wrote a statement against warren vietnam opposing the war in vietnam saying they would support people who chose not to go to vietnam and as a result of that julian julian bond was not seated. he was elected to the state legislature at georgia. remember nick they refused to see them. so this is the reaction right? king leaves the protest about bonds failure to be seated, but he still you know, but by 60 70s
ready and one of the things that again the war is escalating, but he sees a magazine ramparts magazine. early in 67 which has a photo essay on the children of vietnam. and it describes over a million deaths. and casualties. i mean wounding equipping or of children with images of people napalm children and an essay talking about the tools of war that america is using know gases bombing defoliants and and this really shakes him up so has to speak out. and he joins a march in chicago, but his big coming out is in new york city and a speech. he gives it riverside church. pointing at the wrong thing and it's called beyond vietnam a time to break the silence. and this is one of the strongest public statements made against the war by a figure of his
stature. he spoke for nearly an hour and i urge you to read this speech. it's really a powerful. well thought out. analysis of the war and its impact on america and on course vietnam. he talked about his own evolution from seeing the war as an enemy of the poor by you know, taking all the resources to appointed assessment of the war's horrific impact on all parts of vietnam king concluded that he could not raise his voice against the violence of the oppressed and the ghettos without having first spoken clearly about the greatest prayer of violence in the world today my own government. it was america's initiative to take. responsibility to take the initiative to end the war and he urgency johnson administration to begin with a cessation of all bombing to to open the way to negotiation. the speech was a powerful appeal to end the war but also to face the deep immality within the
american spirit spirit seen in the glaring inequities and injustices in a society that continued to spend more money on military defense than on a social uplift. the reaction was predictable life magazine described it as demagogic slander, that could have been written by radio hanoi. from this government washington post said king had diminished his usefulness to his cause his country and his people, you know, they compartmentalized this is your civil rights. this is something king. it's holistic, right? it's impacting the country and what's happening in vietnam is the shame of america and at this point so king was not deterred. he felt he knew he suspected there'd be this kind of reaction, but he felt somewhat of influence had to say that america was wrong. i have become so disgusted. he said in the way the american people are being brainwashed by this administration. now i was but i would people are
moving around different ways. robert. kennedy poverty is in his sights and he's on a committee chaired clark of pennsylvania where they're really doing a deep dive in poverty having hearings and starting to go into the field and to see get on the ground. see what's going on and find out what people need and and this is marion wright marion wright had been a leader of the sit-in movement. it's spellman and she was now i got a law school and went back to mississippi where they only had three black lawyers, so she became the fourth the first black woman admitted to the bar in mississippi and she testifies before clark's committee and says that conditions were worse in mississippi, then they were three years ago when the war on poverty began and it's a result of a combination of things the mechanization of cotton landowners pushing blacks off the land, you know, making it difficult for them to get access to food stamps and all the rest,
but it's it's a crisis so they decide to go to mississippi and see for themselves and they have hearings in jackson. and his fannie lou hamer. okay, fannie lou hamer. you need a blackwell leaders of the mfdp. they describe the conditions. they described the challenges around the head start program, which they built up and which the state was taking over with white business leaders and moderates with the support of the johnson administration. so after hearing this he decides i want to go see so he goes with mary and wright and amc moore. he remember was bob moses's media contact in mississippi, and he just goes and sees and he's just just flabbergasted by the poverty just destroyed by what he sees here. they are in a shack windowless shacks children with bloated stomachs or malnutrition and sores and he he was shocked and he goes back to washington more determined to shake the johnson
administration goes to the secretary of agriculture this you need to get food down there, you know food commodities and stop charging people with food stamps if they have no money, they can't spend $8 to get food stamps for their family and the guy didn't believe them. so he said, okay send your aid stamp the aids go down. oh, it's right. it's true. it's terrible. so he's squeezes some money out of agriculture department, but and they continue to go around and he develops a close relationship with marion wright ends up mary. he's a peter edelman. so 67. that's april with king this but the summer of 67 which is known as a summer of love for the counterculture is along long hot summer in american cities. and the harvest of american racism which was a report based on research of 23 the affected cities that had uprisings that summer concluded that the most salient feature of the disorders was a form of generalized
rebellion on the part of certain sectors of the -- community against white control of black areas. in newark the worst were in newark and in detroit. um in newark, there were five days of street battles, which approached the scale of watts. many died in the valley of police gunfire six people were killed when police fired indiscriminately into the crowds. including a 74 year old man who was walking to get his car and a mother who came out to find her children, so it's chaos right? chaos and really please. just at the end 26 people were dead mostly african-american and more than 700 injured less than a week later was detroit. look at that. exploded into what was called the largest urban disturbance of the 20th century. but as a contrast to newark in terms of city leadership and
political representation detroit had two african american congressmen that it's significantly black middle class. but again, they still have people in poverty and the police that they have very progressive man, but he could not reign. a police in and what sparked this was? there was an after-hours bar where there was celebrating the return of two veterans from the vietnam war and the police raided that arrested a bunch of people that's got things going and it just escalated and went on. for four days and the police the first it's grew beyond the control of the police governor romney sent an 8,000 national guards guards. um and in one of the cases the national guard met a flash from a window with it with a gunshot and they shot a four year old girl the flash was somebody letting a cigarette so i mean, this is yeah, this is playing
out at the president's request. the at the governor's request the president sent in the 89th and 101st airborne division along with tanks machine guns and helicopters many of the troops had recently returned from vietnam and one of the soldiers was asked about his mood heading to detroit. he said well they say war is war. and at the end 43 people were left dead 32 33 of whom were african-american more than 2000 injured and 5,000 arrests. and investigations afterward revealed that some offers as a national guards acted out of a desire for vengeance. please would take off their badges the name badges so they can be identified. there was sniper fire from the algae's motel. they went into the motel. they executed three boys who on their knees. not threatening them. one of the offices was tried for
murder and he was acquitted. and there were four more reports of please shootings and national guard shootings of unarmed men who weren't threatening them. this was a crisis. what america i mean this was on the tv the fifth largest city in the country, and this is what people saw when they put their tv. and and the reporting again david brinkley since sunday morning mobs of angry -- paralyzed the city spreading fire and destruction military metaphors we use to cover the crisis and reinforce the dominant white opinion of black urban communities as dangerous violent and crime invested not seeing beneath the surface or the how this all played out the press gave scan to teach attention to underlying conditions that fueled these pitched urban battles, but it did set office scramble for political advantage. the republicans started, you know getting on johnson saying you haven't done enough to
protect people on the street. and governor ronald reagan got into the action now ted it as possible candidate for president and branded the racial stripe in detroit and elsewhere as riots of law breakers and mad dogs against the people. president johnson went on television and delivered an address on july 27th announcing that he had created a commission to investigate the causes of the riot and make recommendations. he didn't ask the looting arson plunder and pillage and the criminals who committed these acts of violence against the people. he said the fbi would continue to investigate for evidence of conspiracy. he stressed her important was for law enforcement at all levels to prepare be prepared to stop violence quickly and permanently and announced that the defense department was setting up new training for riot control. and then he acknowledged as if just giving lip service to the fact that to attack the
conditions that breed despair and violence. that he was committed to that and he prays his administration for doing the greatest government effort ever and all of american history to meet these ancient wrongs starting to sound like a president we know. pat himself on the back, you know and and again no mention of expanding the war on poverty really action to begin to deal with those conditions that he acknowledged were at the root of these problems. okay. and then he said let us pray at the end. in closing let us work for better jobs and better housing and better education that so many millions of our fellow americans need tonight. robert kennedy was watching this speech. and he explained with evident exasperation. that's it. he's done. he's not going to do anything for the cities.
frank mankiewicz was with kennedy that night said well, what would you if you were president? he said he would persuade the major tv networks three of them to cooperate and producing a documentary again showing people depicting life in a poor black urban community. let them show the sound the feel the hopelessness what it's like to think you'll never get out. show a black teenager told by radio jingle this day at school looking at his older brother who stayed in school and is out of a job. put a candid camera and it get our school and watch what a rotten system of education it really is. film a mother staying up at night to protect her baby from rats. they're not ask people to watch and experience what it means to live in the most effluent society and history without hope make was later reflected that the detroit riots and the terrible feeling bobby had that night as he watched johnson had
shifted the senators thinking about running for president. kennedy describe this rachel turmoil as the gravest crisis in domestic affairs since the civil war. chris king was despairing. he he told a meeting of the american psychological society that it is impossible to overestimate the crisis. we are facing. said it is time to tell it like it is to white america. he testified between the current commission that was set up by johnson after the detroit. riots, and he said the greater crimes of white society with a real cause of the uprising. he testified backlash unemployment racial discrimination and the vietnam war. at this slc's convention. he declared that he and his organization would very very definitely oppose lbj in 1968, unless he changed his stand on the war.
king fought of despair he told his wife greta. i think you read this in adams book that people expected him to have answers and he had none. but he would try and do what he could do to try to figure out a way to mobilize people. and help them move ahead and channel the frustration and energy that's in despair that so many people were feeling. so he he focused initially as his he has taught by his focused on plans the summer of 68. to this to work in northern cities and build massive nonviolent demonstrations as a way to channel again the frustration and anger and duke boycott schools pick it outside of plant gates at against black workers. protest local state and federal government just really, you know have targets and just get people
to funnel that energy and draw attention and and during this time an interesting sort of connection between kennedy and and king is that marion wright was advisor that dr. king and she had become friendly with robert kennedy to her. boyfriend peter edelman, and so she went to visit king on her way to atlanta to see i mean visit kennedy on her way to atlanta to see king so they started talking and he said has dr. king and well, he's you know, he's just he's full of despair. you know, it's just what to just a boil i mean exploding and he said well, he said i think all the poor people to washington stay there until congress does something embarrass them, you know just force the issue just get and so she went to kings that say his idea king was planning to do something but she
went left his house went to meet with them. the sclc was planning the next summer's campaign. can't love the idea. so they began planning. what became the poor people's campaign focusing washington focused on, washington. and and i was going to ask you i know we're running towards them, but anyone want to describe the poor people's campaign what the goal was was king is killed before it. well the strategy. i mean, i sort of laid it out, right but you bringing people shanties. i mean to just camp out and view the white house and congress and have civil disobedience if necessary, but really and what adam fairclough says what king is virtually proposing is a new political movement from scratch. and so he begins organizing for that and i'm not going to get into it, but i just want mentioned to you, like i said reminder, you know orangeburg
happens during this early 68 as things start moving towards this culmination and that is emblematic too about how people have manipulating fear of black power for police crackdowns and false arrests and the rest but the the early month of 68 both king and kennedy would move forward in what would be their final campaigns? kennedy a series of developments early in 68 now kennedy's thinking about it because he worried about the cities not just the war but a series of developments early in 68 persuaded him to run and that he could run and actually have a chance of winning. one was the tet offensive which exposed a total bankruptcy of johnson's policy in vietnam and really shifted public opinion coming out against america's involvement in the war. and that doesn't mean you're anti-but, you know the way it was against the policy. it was that and then there was the current commission report
which was done and really documented. i mean, it's findings echo the conclusions that king and kennedy had come to several years earlier and which were defined the river club committee the report documented the consequences of segregation and discrimination that long permeated american life and was a stinging indictment of white america called for nothing less than a complete reordering of national priorities, unless drastic and costly remedies are undertaken at once report said they would be a continuing polarization of the american community and ultimately a destruction of democratic values. president johnson disagreed but the report and refused to accept it. i mean he would let them come and do the usual public signing. he felt betrayed by the people who wrote it. he resented that the report failed to acknowledge and that goes to your point rachel what his administration had achieved. i can't ignore the progress. we've made to write equality on our book of laws. they still stuck in that, you
know four years earlier and just not and at the same time. he asked congress for 50,000 more troops to vietnam. so as you know from reading the chapter for today king made his first trip to memphis on march 18th, 1968 to support striking sanitation workers who were seeking union recognition in a wage increase and two days earlier robert kennedy announced that he was running for president. right, this is king. i mean that was one of the placards that the work was carried in memphis. he was 42 years old. kennedy was and he said i run because i'm convinced this country is on a perilous force and because they have such strong feelings about what must be done and i feel i'm obliged to do all that i can i run to seek new policies to end the bloodshed in vietnam and in our cities iran because it is now a
mistakable unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous policies only by changing the men are now making them. in his brief statement. he acknowledged the challenges ahead which no one could be certain any mortal can meet. but service in his brothers administration, he says taught me something about the uses and limits of military power. as a cabinet member and senator he had seen quote the ugly and inexcusable deprivation that caused children's to starve in mississippi black citizens to riot in watts. young american indians indians who commit suicide because they lacked hope and so no future and proud able-bodied families, wait out their lives and empty idolness in eastern, kentucky and appalachia. while he did not discount the dangers and difficulties of challenging and incumbent president. he observed these are not ordinary times and this is no ordinary election. two weeks later martin luther king would deliver were turned
out to be his final speech in memphis. he had traveled a long distance from the 27 year old minister. we met in clark johnson's brilliant. dr. drama on boycott think about that? um so quickly what stroke anything struggy about the tone or vision of that speech and maybe connections with the earlier king or or growth anybody? we just got a little more ago sort of dismantling or sort of challenging aspects of capitalism is really the underbelly to his tone, right and the strengthening and supporting of black institutions. i think that takes sort of a position more in the front of his discourse than it had previously before it had been more about sort of political aspirations movements nonviolence etc. but now the specific target is
sort of the the dangers of capitalism and how they fuel division right and so to not support certain businesses and rather turn to your black businesses strengthen those strengthen those institutions. and so you see a little bit more of a a sort of i'm trying to be careful on how i say this not necessarily black power explicitly, but but more towards the tone of supporting black communities and a lot closer along the lines of what sort of the black power movement was pushing to do. okay. yeah good. i mean that's why he's supporting the sanitation workers, right? i mean that you have to unity we have to stay together keep the issue justice in your sites. i mean keep moving and he kind of does this litany about life and he's glad he was born at this point and he's living now and it's almost i mean you just wonder when he says i've been to the mountaintop and i may not get there with you that this
present, you know, but as we know when we watch boycott, he understood that his life was in danger, you know that he was living in a way that it could you know, he was exposed but at this speech, you know, the fact that what happens the next day, but it's kind of valedictorian and in a way it's hopeful and that people are struggling all over the world and it's about the nature of strug. right and and it feels like he's coming into a a place where he is feeling satisfied. well hopeful and because of the experience of the movement and the people and memphis and and the community rallying around these sanitation workers, but as you know, he is, you know the next day he's he's killed on the balcony of his lorraine motel where the waiting to go to dinner and james earl ray was arrested two months later. i mean he escaped to london. so that night or that day and we're almost. to the end so we got a late
start robert kennedy was running in indiana and the primary and he was flying from munseed indianapolis. john lewis. great civil rights leader worked in his campaign and was setting up a rally for kennedy in the african-american community in indianapolis. so kennedy gets on the plane in muncie. he hears when he gets on the plane plane that king has been shot. and when he lands in indianapolis he hears that he's died and a report. he was there said he just was immobile right? he just sat this hand in his head. head in his hands and so he gets off the plane and the police the mayor said you can't go and the police commissions. you don't go over there. you can't go it's me dangerous. he said maybe for you, i could go with my wife until then sleep in the street, and i'd be fine if you can't do that. that's your problem. i'm going i don't want any police coming with me.
so he goes to the park in a sense ethel to the hotel. and people are waiting and the amazing thing. it's hard for students understand. this is that without cell phones and all people didn't know me. i think i don't know what time king was pronounced dead. but this was not a clock he gets to this park. and it's dark people playing music and people dancing mostly in african-american crafts. crafts. most people did not know. so he told them. and and there's a clip we don't have time to play but go on on google because it's five minutes long. he gives this extemporaneous. speech. he tells them what happened and he says. see, i have some very sad news for all of you. and for all of our federal fellow citizens and for all who love peace all over the world martin luther king was shot and killed tonight in memphis, tennessee, and you hear gas coming up from the crowd. no, no.
john lewis said the sobriety of his tone moves through the crowd like a way with his voice close to breaking. he spoke simply and honestly and extemporaneously. he said martin luther king dedicated his life to love and justice between failure and beings. he died in the cause of that effort. and it's difficult day and it's difficult time to the united states. it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. the country can move toward greater polarization black them on black people and white people among white filled with hatred towards each other or we can make an effort as martin luther king did to comprehend to replace that violence that standard bloodshed that has spread across the land with an effort to understand with compassion and love and in the course of the speech he mentions. because it appears at a white man killed. dr. king and if you if you want to be angry with all white men that you know, that's
understandable, but i lost a brother and he was killed by a white man. it's the only time robert kennedy ever mentioned his brother's murder or assassination in public, but he felt it was a kid, you know some kind of a anyway, i urge you to look at the speech and read it and and he went on from there and as you know, so he goes on he stopped campaigning the next day he gave he canceled all events until kings funeral, but the next day he gave one more talk in the city club of cleveland on the mindless menace of violence. and it speaks to what happened there. it talks about the violence of schools. there's no books the violence of no heat in the winter. it's really hard to look at that. i mean it's and then that was it. he went to atlanta and met with credit king went to see dr. king twice. he was he was laid out in ebenezer and he went in the daytime and then at night he is john lewis to go with him and they wanted two clocks in the morning and john lewis describes
going in and just paying their respects to to king and then he marches you know with the people from ebenezia to morehouse and and he's so it started that next chapter, you know, and fair class said, he's the only wife politicians went now, you know king's gone. he said but he was there he was comfortable people were glad to see him and of course, you know, he goes on he wins indiana primary big thing. he wounds in nebraska. he loses an oregon which is the mind of setback, but then he goes on to california, which is make or break state. and i'm doing the wrong thing doing my and here he is with the watts writers workshop is his people and he ran it amazing campaign in california and he won and as you know that just minutes half hour not even after he delivered his comments. i'm winning because i was watching a tape of this and they're trying to go up the air
and they go news break, you know, kennedy's been shot. he was shot. and then he died the next the next day and you know the two of those. and you know people say would he have one he had a very good chance of being nominated lyndon johnson had dropped out at the end of march. and his opponent would have been he would humphrey dean mccarthy was weakened by this point and but but that not to be so i've just got you know the response. i mean after dr. king was killed cities explode remember what's totally carmichael said don't touch king remember on the march when they tried to rough him up and stroke. we wanted to just like and over 100 cities exploded after over the days after king was assassinated washington dc on a scale of watts. as the first time you had military federal troops in the
capitol protecting the capital. so it was just that. kennedy he is carried back from new york to washington on a train to be very next to his brother and to spontaneously people lined the tracks and you had a close to two million people lining the tracks all the way down from new york to washington. so very powerful departures and and acknowledgment because what's important about them. they're they're people who understood and saw and acted but how they connected to people in the country at this moment and really we're providing a way with kennedy's campaign new kind of politics that would begin to address these these issues and dr. king. it's really getting poverty. and of course the poverty campaign bridge racial lines. it really was getting at ways that people could come together and press the country as allie said to be you know that it's broken as he said in this that we have to change the whole
architecture of america. we have to really rebuild america. um, so we don't to end up. on a down. no because i think well one thing to say is that you know, what happens the war on crime, which johnson had started he emphasized policing and militarization of the police recesses resources on that and not so, you know not but that and nixon is elected and nixon amplifies that he starts to war on drugs. he incentivizes prison building really and so this thing takes off and you see people talk about you know, the rise and incarceration you just trace it from the johnson years it starts and it goes straight through all these administrations of appealing to the fears of people and ignoring the conditions that people are living in and you know, you guys think march the wire but what strikes me about the wire that's early 21st century and you're looking at the consequences of looking away, but i think well, maybe i
should ask you well, we're wrapping up. you know looking beyond this trip the tragedy so that's what we get we end with that and as tragedy they're gone, but really how they lived and how they moved to this period in history which like this here. what are carrie say, you know, we are living in a time of chaos. we have two choices we can face it and work to change things or we can turn away and let it fester and things get carry on. so any thoughts about you know, what takeaway is from the history of these not just these two individuals with this period and how these two individuals individuals in particular move through it. yeah, kind of like the main thing is even though there were moments of despair and kind of like feeling like there was no moving forward they continued to move forward and think of other solutions and continue to meet with people and they made that change or made waste for the
change. okay? okay. yeah, that's right and you know the fact of living a life a certain way right and knowing that it's you know, there's no do something. i mean kennedy had that a ripple of hope just brought and it spreads out. you don't know where it's going, but you you participate and and you use your your privilege of education of you know being able to move through and and to see things and in other ways and and you know organizing i mean this notion of community empowerment. i mean what so all these lessons are rich in the 60s and i i think with these two they've been put on a their iconic. oh the last images of this in the park and let's see. you said it? the park in it's stuck. i'm doing the wrong one. i'm doing my that that's in the park where we're robert kennedy spoke in indianapolis, and it's
called the peace park and it's you know bronze figures of king kennedy stretching. stretching out towards each other, but let me read one last quote from bayad ruston, who what he said about both of these and it gets people in the moment said this is it, you know, i mean james baldwin said we would have had a different world if we're not if not for so many assassinations. i mean the tremendous loss of individuals and of their capacity. i mean what they represented and how they were involved in shaping the society to really pivotal moment. and by address and said about them. both were fully aware of the risks. they ran and the penalties they face for trying to work against the current. american moral grain yet. they accepted the risk and paid the ultimate price for trying to make a difference in their times and prescribing to show mankind that it can be better than it is. so leave it at that and have a