tv National Book Festival - Author conversation on Women Leaders in Civil... CSPAN October 7, 2022 10:16pm-11:03pm EDT
discussing their latest nonfiction books. at noon eastern south carolina republican senator tim scott talks about his book america, a redemption story on his life, political career and thoughts on america's future. 10:00 p.m. eastern and after words missouri democratic congresswoman cory bush author of the forerunner discusses her life and advocacy work. she's interviewed by editor-in-chief daniel. watch a book tv every sunday on c-span2 and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online anytime at booktv.org. looks good morning. reported for national public radio. it is such an honor to be here at that national festival to be here with you into distinguished authors bird were going to spend the next hour almost which is just not enough time learning about two of the most unsung female heroines of the civil
rights movement. two women who in many, many ways could not have been more different. one was establishment, one was grassroots. one was upwardly mobile, incredibly well educated and the other one came from thean background such deprivation describe it almost seems to grand prix at most an obvious leader since her teens the other was an unlikely and late in life luminary. both change the course of history and neither one of them has been given their due. hopefully these two biographies that we are going to be discussing will help change that and one is dean at the harvard radcliffe institute at law professor and history professor at harvard university. her earlier book is encouraged to dissent atlanta on the long history of the civil rights movement. both book are going to talk about today is civil rights queen, constance baker and civil equality. kate clifford larson is a
distinguished scholar who a biography of harrietra tubman, rose made hitting candidate daughter and the assassins. will be talking about walk with me a biography. so, i am going to assume many of you are like me, maybe you heard a little bit it maybe you haven't heard anything about constance baker motley. i hope you'll introduce us to the subjects of these books. tomiko brown-nagin yours is unjustly less known would you please tell us a little bit about constance baker motley and why you chose her? >> thank you and thank you all for being here this morning from delightedhe to's share about constance baker motley is a
legendary civil rights lawyer and that's our time was very well-known pretty set out to write about her because it is the case that people today do not know her to the extent they should. legendary civil rights lawyer who litigated the cases that made it possible for all of us to be together today, regardless of race. made it possible for me too be a law professor and katu to be a scholar. she's very dedicated to professional web impaired to give her three points about her achievements, in addition to litigating cases like brown versus board of education, the james meredith case that segregated the university of georgia and the university of alabama, motley was a pathbreaking politics.
and she capstone her career by becoming the first black female federal judge appointed by lyndon baines johnson in 1966. and as you can imagine, she has inspired a generation of lawyers, including women of color, lawyers like my late colleague, the first black woman appointed to the faculty at the harvard law school. , harrison justice catania brown jackson who when she was introduced toan the nation constance baker motley this pathbreaking lawyer as a role model. it's really a person who should obe well known by all of us because, as i said she really didn't lay the groundwork for
modern american society changing the legal and socialch landscap. and fannie lou hamer. fannie lou hamer is up to be an incredible leader in the 1960s. this brought up before she had an entirely different life trajectory than constance. it cannot be underestimated the deprivation on the poverty she was born into. in 1917 the 20th child of the sharecroppers. in her lifehe was defined by hunger, lack of access to healthcare. education, she obtained a sixth grade education. and also the incredible violence that permeated life in mississippi. she rose out of those circumstances as an adult to
become a path writer and to really change the landscape. she came out of the earth of mississippi. she was very different than the elite civil rights organizers and figures that we know today so well. the martin luther king's of the world. and a rosa parks of course and others that were sort of managing and pushing them movement forward on the national level. and she had this passion that she had to make a change. she was so oppressed in so many things had been taken from her at a very late age, she was about 48 years old, 44 years old she decided it was time that she would make a difference.r she was a deeply spiritual woman. her faith was everything to her. her family meant everything to her and so did her community. that is where her activism
started. her faith fortified her to movee forward on violence was perpetrated againstviet her. her body, her soul, and she went on to lead people around the country and inspire them. she became famous. for those of you who may nose and those that don't , 64 at the national convention in atlantic city she was given a platform to talk about what was happening in mississippi. and how african-americans were not represented there. they were denied the vote in mississippi. her heartfelt speech that wasato powerful it shook the people in the room that heard it. men and women were crying. people around the nation saw the video of it later that evening, and august of 1964 deeply moved all of them and change to really alter the course i believe of
the civil rights movement. president johnson was affected by what she said as well. he went on to sign some very important legislation. including the 1965 voting rights legislation which has been powerful over the last few decades and is under threat today. her legacy lives on in the voting rights campaigns around the country. i think there are people just like fannie lou hamer and our community stated they need to be recognized and supported just like she was. they can make a world of difference for all of us. >> one of the things i did not know about fannie lou hamer is just been sitting with me is the words on her tombstone are a term she got introduced into the cultural conversation which is sick and tired of being sick and tired. with constant entrance constance baker motley she came from out west indian immigrant family she
grew up in new haven for the father actually worked for skull and bones. and then she was plucked. a wealthy white man -- what set her on the trajectory to columbia law school? >> let me tell you about it. and a bit about the background. she was not a person of privilege.wa in fact, her family was a working class family. her parents immigrated to this country from the west indies in the early 20th century. virtually every mail relative in her family worked for yale university. she grew up in the shadow of yale in new haven. something i note in my work is that for some you can imagine working class black person
growing up in new haven in the shadow of yale there might be some resentment. but for her family there physician was inspiring. in fact her father really read the privilege of the young men that he served at yale as a chef into himself. the parents thought ofth themselves as the father in particular and superior. part of the british empire and proud of that. they were ambitious in their own way. and yet constance baker was a young girl. she is not expected to go very far. however she was incredibly intelligent, ambitious, teachers introduce her to the work of james weldon johnson, she decided pretty early on she
wanted to be a lawyer should hold a family and friends about this she said you must be crazy. women do not get anywhere and yet she was able she was able to attend college and law school because she gave a talk at a social club in new haven, which happened to be attended by clarence a break jim blakely was a graduate of gayle wealthy man philanthropist who heard her speak and said to her after words, why aren't you in college? because you clearly should be. and he offered to pay for her college and her law school tuition. ad she said it was like fairytale who could be plucked in that way. his oror her on this course for
she was to attend law school and got her first job out of law school with marshaled naacp legal defense fund. and stayed for 20 years during which time most of that time she was the only woman. just to say a little bit about who she was as a person, she was preserved. she was graceful, elegant. and a part of this came from the sense of being connected to the british empire. she grew up in a home for her mother played god save the queen. and to see her was to understand that she did fill herself to be different. it was really important that she felt this way. because of course when she went down to the deep south to
litigate these cases on behalf of people like fannie lou hamer and others in the community, she was subjected to the same kind of indignities as were her clients. she wasn't called mrs. by opposing counsel. there were judges who would not even look at her. and then on the other end of the spectrum ofpe course there were members of the black community who just loved her. called her a clean, the civil rights clean because she's doing this work in the courthouse translating the deprivation of these communities into the language of law. i thought it was important to write her back into history. without very highly of her. believes historical malpractice to not have her considered one
of the greats in the. same way these men are. who is fannie lou hamer as a person? i love what she said about motley translated the deprivation that fannie lou hamer the violence into a courtroom back to the community. because fannie lou hamer is i said was the 20th child of jim and ella townsend. seven of those children hadha dd before fannie lou was born in four of them were babies before the she was born. fannie lou and her siblings all talked about how fannie lou was the mother's favorite. now i know why. she had lost four babies before that. and so humor was raised, loved,
protected in this really horrific environment is cotton sharecroppers in the delta and she survives childhood the spotty education. she grows up to a very strong child and taking care of her elderly parents once her siblings moved on. during the greathe depression se struggled with them to feed themselves, work and earn money. matt informed her being, that struggle gave her an odd way this sense of strength and a nobility. even though she had very little education and had no resourcesuc whatsoever. she was the poorest of the poor. so when she became an adult she looked around at those
indignities and they frustrated her. so while she could not speak out because speaking out it would be killed, kurt tomei are fired from her job as a sharecropper. she found other ways to fightot back. that meant picking the cotton ball to cheat the t cotton estimate how the cotton weighed in. she would do that with the weights and change the weights of the sharecroppersth were paid fairly for the fellow opsharecroppers thought she was crazy to do that. if she got caught be in so much trouble. but she just knew what was right. she was profoundly faithful. she married another sharecropper 1944 and they lived on this plantation outside of mississippi. making their way out of really nothing. they adopted two little girls
and they try to have children of their own book fannie lou had difficulties conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. she had several stillbirths and miscarriages. so they raise these children and had deep love and passion for family.er but it was a struggle every single day. as she was talking to mrs. marlow. mrs. marlow told her she should go to the local doctor and he could take care of the fibroid tumors that constance baker motley was suffering from an assured terms would help her get pregnant and carry a baby to term. so tamer went well and do this but he sterilized her instead. and hamer would talk about this in speeches all the time.
they called a mississippi appendectomy. this to a lot of black women in the community. that happened in 1961 it changed her dramatically. she went through a crisis that tested her faith. some women would have just receded into their home and do nothing after that. but it angered her so much. she had to fight back. that doctor took something from her he had no right to take for there is no recourse she was a black woman in mississippi and she could not sue a white doctor. she became involved in the civil rights movement the student nonviolent coordinating committee arrived in mississippi bob moses, medinger probably know who he was. it was a young activist dedicated to sncc is what they
call it. for the young students and young people came and asked the people there what did they want the civil rights movement to do for them to help them with? they want to devote. this became the cause. and fannie lou hamer it was eventually able to register to vote. and pass the voters rightste te. he went on to keep fighting for the rights to everyone to be able to vote. once she went and registered to vote, the plantation owner evicted her from that the plantation that very night. so she was determined to not let that bring her down. she had this fierceness about her. some of the neighbors were very frightened for her and frightened for themselves. that she would bring a rain after down on them the white supremacy become brittle and try
to kill them, which they did do. people fired a shotgun blast at their house in the neighborhood all the time. but she had had enough of. after she was arrested for her role in the movement, brutally beaten and raped in winona county jail in june of 1963, she faced another crossroads. she later said them and trying to kill me my whole life. well, they might as well do it but i'm not going to stop fighting for equal rights. as i said earlier e in my commet she went on to fight and fight and fight for the grassroots level. those young people from the unit nonviolent coordinating committee or so wild by her. she was 20 years older than them but they looked after such an inspiring leader. she was inspired by them. she once said those students she felt was ahe new kingdom that it
come to mississippi. there is more christianity and those young people than she had seen any church she had attended. so they inspired her to risk her life. and she conspired them to risk their lives too. she went on to really mobilize from the ground up grassroots and challenge civil rights elites as well as the white supremacist that would circle her house every single day showing their shotguns, threatening her. so her legacy is so powerful today for the people who knew her. and i think a new generation needs to get to know her and know you can come from the most obscure circumstances and the most difficult places still rise up and be a leader and create change. cracks fannie lou hamer was
brave in her activism. [applause] within mississippi. mississippi is where constance baker motley had one of her most extraordinary legal battles. can you describe her role in desegregating? >> yes. i just want to pick up on something you said and something that kate said. it is true that in many ways these women's are starting in contrast. but it is also the case that both of them, something i deeply admire about motley and hamer, they both had such tremendous courage. it isn't moral courage but it is also the case that motley, when she litigated in alabama and mississippi in particular, she
did so under threat of her life. this was the case when she traveled for new york city apartment down to mississippi, 22 times in the span of 18 months with a small child at home. cracks with her son at home. her husband back in their apartment. just imagine doing that. you would only do something like that if you felt yourself on a mission. and she did it because first of all, marshals assign the case to her. they were in the office at lds and received this letter from james meredith who said he wanted to challenge segregation at old miss, in his home state. when thurgood marshall said this man is got to be crazy. that is your case.
[laughter] it was because of the violence in mississippi, the threats, the absolute stranglehold of white supremacy on people of the states. nevertheless, motley went down to mississippi. she represented james meredith. it was a terribly difficult case for all sorts of reasons. first of all, the fear and the anxiety that was provoked by being a black person. coming down from new york, the antithesis in many ways of mississippi. it was considered when daring to come into a courtroom, a federa court room and stand up as an motleyto 6 feet tall and claimed that a black man should be allowed to enter old miss the university ofte mississippi.
and that she did that. she did that despite hostility from her cocounsel who refused to recognize her. he would call her that woman and motley and challenged. she said to the judge, who himself was a segregation list, but the spectrum of segregation even he know that was wrong. so he admonished the opposing counsel that went motley saide e should call me by my name, mrs. motley, to at least call her -- make the woman from new york is what he ended up calling her. and another point i want to make about the ways in which this was a difficult case, evers who was the main naacp operative in mississippi would pick motley up from the airport.
he would travel with her, take her to the courthouse. she stayed with evers and his wife and children when she was in mississippi. they were really her community. beating her, they experience a terror of mississippi together. so when they were traveling to the courthouse, more than a one time, said to her look, do not look back we are being followed. in the state police is trailing them as they are driving down the highway and mississippi. and he says toan her, put that legal pad inside your "new york times" because you do not want to be stopped and have evidence you are doing the civil rights worker. and that happened time and time again.
she said to evers wants when she was staying in their house, that there werese some bushes, hedges close to theos house. she said you need to cutee those down because someone could harm you, come behind those hedges and harm you. and of course that is exactly what happened, he was assassinated. just a few months after she left mississippi for the last time after just battling in courtship. she would win positions in court and the court of appeals just would not countenance. ultimately, after being in court time and time again, merit if that was able old e miss. but that was hardly the end of the story because he met a riote when he entered.
i'm twoll people were killed. all with evers trying to enter old miss. it was quite aas trial. there were times when he thought he had just had enough. he had had enough. she brought him out of the state into a new york city apartment where he could eventually taste freedom. she got him through that. which illustrates how she not only wasut working in the courtroom but outside of the courtroom. helping her clients to continue in this really powerless to fight. >> is a great moment in the story. the book is so incredibly richly research. i have diesel details bedroom room because his bodyguards get their own room. and he told his incredible story
about how there was such fear. it's incredible did they not all survive physically but survive mentally. he needed to take a break. there was some fear he might flunk out. is that you need to study for a sit need to go dancing. [laughter] >> that's right, that's right. she brought him up to the apartment. he stayed with her. and ultimately he needed to be with his friends. he needed to not be like a soldier every day. which is what was required to be a part of these landmark cases. >> can you tell us a little bit about how fannie lou hamer challenge the civil rights elites and whether or not these two titans of the civil rights movement actually ever crossed paths? >> i do not think they ever did. i do not think they meant.
certainly hammer would have been aware of motley there's no doubt about that. especially with her work in mississippi. so she was aware of things that were going on in the movement. and i think she probably paid a special attention, i am imagine, because another woman was in the trenches fighting like she was. >> that is right. i do not think they knew each other. but certainly they knew of each other. and i'm still interested to hear about the challenge to you the civil rights elites. and i know the hamer story including one line i had in my earlier book or hammer says there's nothing she expected less in the naacp, white? like she did say that. during the 1950s she did try to get people to sign up to be members of the naacp.
but it was an elite middle-class that ran most of the chapters, specifically in mississippi but shother places. she tangled with some the elites and movement what she became nationally known and she was in atlantic city. martin luther king and ralph abernathy in that group around king. they disrespected her because she was not well educated. she had a fairly strong mississippi delta accent. she was very poorest her clothing did not meet their standards but they said that directly to her she was an embarrassment to them. she was eight look what you are wearing pretty should go home. you're not going to say that to fannie lou hamer that is for sure. she was not going to take any of that. she was soo grassroots she could not relate to the elites in the movement. martin luther king could not relate to her. despite how we all think of him
as this grassroots organizer, he was not. as of people below and under him and in communities across the country that were thewan organizers. he was the figurehead and the inspiring leader. but he and hamer talked past each other. in fact atlantic city hamer was there with a group of people from mississippi challenging the right of the mississippi all-white democratic party to be seized on the convention floor. and to vote for president johnson is the nominee of the democratic party that year. she belonged to a more diverse group of people that wanted to represent mississippi. they had this challenge. so martin luther king was there to support them. but he did not have a feel for the people there. he inspired people when he spoke eloquently, he read his speech before hamer got up on stage.
she was the one who wound everybody personally. and the press followed king around until they heard hamer speak and then they could not enget enough of an floor. she spoke to people across the country that were living in circumstances like her. and some of those, mostly men around king felt a little threatened by her rising power. they did not want her to have the strong voice that she had. but there was no denying fannie lou hamer of the nation reallyvo responded to her. she also this amazing singing voice. she used that so effectively as part of her rhetoric. as part of her speeches, her presence and people felt connected to her what she was start to sing. so she had these qualities that many of those men didid not hav. and so there was a big divide
between those elite leaders who were absolutely necessary. she was just another part of the movement we often forget about. >> so if i can piggyback on that comment and talk a bit about motley, the relationship to the same elites. she was one of them. and some of the things she did were consistent witht the attitudes -- resorts of attitude. for instance university of alabama case or two plaintiffs originally. one was lucy who everybody knows by the other was polly and meyer actually instigated the case. and was a good friend. however, polly and meyer ran into trouble when the university found out that she had become
pregnant before she was married. and her husband evidently had some run-ins with the law. on the basis of morals that she was not qualified to apply, much less attend the university of alabama. the naacp legal defense fund including motley in the local lawyers just dropped her. there is no effort man made it to stand for polly and meyer. the reason was legal indianal cases in particular. they needed to bed the best in the community. was understood by the politics of respectability, which motley certainly believeded in. they were very irrelevant to the
types of plaintiffs that were chosen and who could be successful. so for instance of the university of georgia case, one of the plaintiffs was showing would done really wellin school. and who had just what she was very beautiful and easier you could say for some to accept. but the thing about motley she also had trouble with some of the men in t the naacp establishment. the first case in mississippi which was on behalf of teachers, she marched into thurgood marshall's office and said she was not being paid what she thought she should be paid. [laughter] and cheese did not have the title that she deserved. he eventually give her a raise
and was working with the naacp. in making those decisions on the biggest balance in life is a 1961 she was passed over for thurgood marshall's a job he was appointed federal corporate wanted to be direct counsel purge she thought that. went to jack greenberg who was a terrific lawyer, supporter of the civil rights movement. it is also a white man. motley thought both race and gender had to do with why she was passed over. there are two sides of the coin there. the texture of the movement.
the different experiences and certainly how gender is very relevant to historical memory of the movement. and also home we should understand as leaders of the movement. it was not just the men were given the speeches as important as that was produced not just thurgood marshall alphabet was also these women. motley was as i said reserved. she was trying to put herself out in front. she was just doing the work and it is important to appreciate all parts of the spectrum of leadership. >> him a few minutes for questions if anybody has any.
next i am intrigued by the relationship between ms. motley and or they contemporaries at their time especially considering the issue you brought up about leadership at the time they are both practicing. >> they did know each other. they were friends. they supported one another. at the same time, we was able to go further within the context of the naacp establishment and the legal establishment. and be received better lucent. as you know i'm sure you know marie had a hard time getting her legal theories accepted. accepted by the men of theh naacp. although as they thought about it, they decided they would use it because it was so great. they e didn't know each other.
they loved each other. when motley was appointed to the courts, polly murray sent her a note saying hooray for our side. we finally got it because they thought it would be so great for her to have one of their own on the court. thanks for that question. >> quick footnote to history when fannie lou hamer was so badly beaten in prison young law student helped her get out of prison. she was in there with lawrence was a very well-known community organizer in d.c. as well. those injuries she had were with her throughout her life. >> right, they contributed to her early deaths. she died of breast cancer in 1977 but she'd been suffering with kidney disease or not disease bad damage kidney from the beatings she took in the jail. but the peoplee around her were quite amazing.
and eleanor holmes norton was actually very close to hamer. and later went hamer had a mastectomy, norton helped her get prosthesis for because hamer could not afford to do that. so she did that for hamer. so yes she was a young lawyer that helped bail her out of jail in june of 1960s brick works how old was hamer when she died? >> was 59 years old. >> next question? >> sorry. >> first of all i am happy you mentioned gender in the civil rights movement we were discussing these two wonderful women. in my research martha antislavery movements, we talk about how even if you're fighting for the same thing you might not agree how to fight for it. so i was happy to hear you talk about that. but also, sometimes women in particular feel a special burden
to bring women's issues to the forefront. they represent few constituencies in a fight for anyone's rights at all times. could you talk a little bit about whether or not either of these women felt the special burden because of their gender? >> well, i can tell you that motley, when she became a new york city politician said when people called her a feminist that she was knocked. so she made a choice, publicly, to put some distance between herself and the women's movement. both because she did not think it was necessarily representative of her and the experiences of other black women. but also because the context of politics in particular when she already had so much against her,
frankly, she's not going to take on feminism too. and yet, as i said before in reference to myself, kate and many other women she was an important symbol of change. and when she joint the core and decided quite a few cases that open the doors of law firms to women. two journalists, open opportunities there. she was a very strategic person and had to be, supportive of women's issues but in a way that enabled her to move in these circles that she needed to move in. >> i have to say the same thing about fannie lou hamer pursuit not to describe yourself as a feminist but she actually belonged to the national organizationof of women and she helped organize the black women's caucus. and she was colleagues with shirley chisholm and betty free
dan, and merrily evers, but she was a very conservative woman. they would have called her a conservative feminist because she was antiabortion. which is interesting because before she was sterilized, she had helped other women access abortion services in mississippi. she was anti- birth control two. which kind of blew the minds of all his feminist women in the late 60s and early 70s. what do you mean? she was very, very conservative. i do not think she looked at gender as a burden. it was who she was. she was fighting as a woman for rights for herself and for everybody. and she was particularly protective of black men. she watched the violence that was disproportionately visited upon black men in mississippi. or
husband and other men in the community. ms. ulaby: any other questions will have to be addressed to the authors as they sign books after the session. i wanted to say, at a moment when these forces of misogyny and white supremacy feel on the rise, when the political climate feels daunting, i wanted to thank you for bringing the message of both of these women into 2022. ms. larson: thank you. ms. brown-nagin: thank you. [applause] >> el in colorado.
>> the academy of the american dream, born and raised in communist china helen came to the us as a college student she didn't know anybody and have less than $100 in her pocket like millions of immigrants with a create a creative on —- creative for freedom her dreams were rich through hard work and scholarship she earned her masters degree of business