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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  April 1, 2016 1:40am-2:33am EDT

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about proximity in time and in perception and self-interest, the shenendoah valley is a lot more important than we have been led to believe. yes. jack? >> doctor, your graphics always illuminate and in my case, almost always confuse me. >> just for a moment. >> but i love them. the residents of counties in the newly admitted state of west virginia have the opportunity to cast votes in the '64 election? i don't see any red or blue counties in west virginia. >> who knows? does anybody know? get off my back, jack. i don't know. it's my belief that they did and i also believe that nevada should be on here as well.
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okay? so let's just go back and look -- one way to look at this is to look at the maps that i hate which are just electoral college which suggest that we live in red or blue states, you know, that we are a certain kind of people. actually you see, this is a more accurate, you see this has west virginia. it may be that we don't have county level data, okay. are you less confused? right? what you did is called our attention to the fact there are brand new states that are just voting for the first time which is another advantage the republicans have. all of these situations actually play to the advantage of the republicans, that they have not only the army but also new states that have been formed under the aegis. okay? anybody else have another question? yes. there's one on each side. >> dr. ayers, writing a book about the shenendoah valley and
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activities there, will you address in that book or today the importance of david hunter's actions at the battle of piedmont 5 june, his subsequent move up the valley and the diversion then of lee's forces from around richmond? >> i will -- >> to sheridan's -- >> i will do both right now and fascinate link them to my forthcoming book due out next year. i appreciate it. in all honesty, it's been fascinating to study the military events in the valley all the way from the dead of winter of early 1864 and watching not only hunter but before him, siegel and after him, sheridan and watching breckenridge -- i took a pilgrimage to the battle of piedmont battlefield and my wife, bless her heart, agreed to go with me. we went over there and we ended
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up having to use latitude and longitude to find the one marker that's about the size of this lectern with no place to even pull off. i stood there and i told her honey, you won't believe the thousands of men who fought right here and this has been forgotten and it's actually plays an enormous role in the outcome of the war. i wrote about all of that and also wrote about the different waves of violence and they are bedeviling hunter and siegel and sheridan and sheridan only makes sense if you understand how much that they had made it impossible in hunter's own mind for him to build on the victory there to go take lynchburg which could very easily have brought the war to an end months earlier. if you cut off saltville and the virginia central railroad and virginia-tennessee railroad, lee is going to be in serious trouble. so yes, i would have to say trying to put all the pieces together, i'm ever more
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convinced of the centrality of the valley in the outcome of the entire war. i learned a lot from mark grimesley's book about the overland campaign and expanded a little bit to understand just as you're saying how important it was not just to understand what's happening right around here, as important as that is, but also to understand the fact that you could hae have armies that could swing back and forth between the valley and here. free copy of your book when it comes out next year. is there time for one more question? i saw one more hand. >> i know you don't want to talk about this subject too much. >> that's all the time we have for today, then. >> i got a question on reconstruction for you. i'm just trying to figure this out. when they determine how many federal troops are going to go into each state, do they base it on the population of that state or do they just generally assign so many troops to each specific state in the south?
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how did that process work? >> yeah. you're right, any question that actually involves knowledge, i usually like to avoid. let me tell you something else that i will put in place of knowledge which is a good tip. there's a new map out that shows made by greg downs and scott nesbin that you can find online, i believe, that shows the location of all the military presence across the south which is much larger than we had realized. so this is a constantly shifting calculation that you're making because first of all, they have to invent the whole idea of military districts and all this. i will end with this observation which is not an answer to your question. i just want to be honest with you. >> thank you. >> people don't generally realize that reconstruction's in two phases. they don't tend to realize there's two years before what we think of as reconstruction by which we actually mean military
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reconstruction comes to pass. during all that period in between, it's basically experimentation to see how many troops is it going to take to protect the freemens bureau. how much do you have to put into place to sustain the federal presence there long enough for the south to quit fighting back in riots and rebellions and lynchings and to come back in. so what you would see is that the military presence is not merely a leftover from the war but rather is a reinsertion at the same time the military's fighting the american indians in the west, reluctantly to put all this back in place. so we will pretend that if you triangulated all those different things i told you, the answer to your question lies somewhere in the middle. i can tell by the body language -- i thought we were done but there's one more. >> i'm going to pull rank and ask a simple question, sort of regifting your question someone asked me earlier. if i can recommend one book on the reconstruction, what would it be?
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>> well, i mean, there's only one answer to that, really. which is eric phoner's classic from 1988. which is a long time ago. it's like dog years in historian years, the fact that we have not been able to, as of course we all want to constantly revise those who came before us, phoner's book has held up remarkably well. it's very long. there's a short version of it, short history of reconstruction by eric phoner if you wanted to read that. i guess i have been struck, as it turned out i just reviewed several new books of late. i thought that this book by louis mazer about lincoln's last speech helped me see things that i had not seen before. but we are rediscovering every single aspect of things that i talked about today including the military presence, the lives of african-america african-americans, what the republicans were doing, what the democrats were thinking. it's a remarkably fertile period. i think i would still start with the one volume account that basically recalibrated our
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thinking to put the african-american struggle for true american citizenship at the center of the story. because i think that when all these other things come and go, that is still the enduring story, when all the machinations of the republicans and democrats pass, when all the wrout breaks of the ku klux klan have come and gone, what endures is were we able to live up to the founding spirit of this country, of a nation that's built on the freedom and rights of citizenship of everybody. that's what i think about that and what i hope i will talk about the rest of the day. thanks so much, everybody. c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up friday morning, former nato commander retired general
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wesley clark will join us to discuss nato's role in the aftermath of the brussels attacks and the fight against isis. also, the role that national security issues are playing in campaign 2016. then, council on foreign relations senior fellow and journalist talks about her "new york times" bestselling book, ashley's war, the untold story of a team of women soldiers on the special ops battlefield. she will also discuss the u.s. military's integration of women into combat roles which starts tomorrow. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" beginning live at 7:00 a.m. eastern friday morning. join the discussion. >> our bus continues its travels throughout the country to visit our winners from this year's student cam video documentary competition. the bus made a stop at jenks high school in oklahoma to recognize their student cam winners, including the grand prize winner, olivia herd, on her video about the national debt and deficit.
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students, family members, school administrators and local elected officials attended the school-wide ceremony. the bus has also visited winners in oklahoma and the dallas, texas area this week. the bus will visit winners in roswell, new mexico and el paso, texas. during the week we have worked with our cable partners, cox, charter, time warner cable and cable one to coordinate niece community visits for the winners. please visit student to watch all the winning videos and get more information on c-span's community efforts and the bus schedule and every weekday during the month of april watch one of the top 21 winning entries at 6:50 a.m. eastern before "washington journal." >> next, history professor and author douglas egerton discusses black activism during the civil war and into the early years of reconstruction. he talks about the series of conventions organized by activists in both northern and southern states in which african-americans met to
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organize their fight for equal rights and in particular, the right to vote. this talk was part of a day-long symposium held at the library of virginia in richmond. it's just over 50 minutes. >> dr. douglas egerton, professor of history at lemoyne college in syracuse, new york, where he teaches early american and 19th century u.s. history. he earned his ph.d. at georgetown in 1985, but he's no stranger to richmond. his 1993 book "gabriel's rebellion" is one of the most important studies of one of the most important slave conspiracies in american history. he spoke about it at the university of richmond 20 years ago and he's going to be interviewed about that book later today for television. most of dr. egerton's work has been on the subject of slave resistance, colonization and abolitionism during the american
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revolution and early national period. you will find a partial list of his publications in your program. his work deals with the intersection of race and politics. his most recent books deal with the mid-19th century. years of meteors, steven douglas, abraham lincoln and the election that brought on the civil war. and the wars of reconstruction, the brief violent history of america's most progressive era. his talk today will draw mostly from that final book and the title of his talk today is black activism in the wars of reconstruction. ladies and gentlemen, doug egerton. >> thank you. good morning. nice to be back in richmond. i have already learned at least one important lesson this morning which is not to follow dr. ayers so i will see what i
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can do to keep you all awake and thank you for that very nice introduction. so here we are. the ses question centennial of the end and the dawn of reconstruction. for most americans, when lee surrenders, the story is over and the wonderful "new york times" blog disunion stopped because apparently the story was done and two months ago, the secretary announced to congress a number of states had ratified the amendment, slavery was dead, the war was over and americans today, as dr. ayers mentioned, when it comes to reconstruction, started to get very fuzzy and kind of confused and not very interested and in fact, when john asked us to come and speak today, he asked us all to provide a couple paragraphs explaining basically why you should want to come and hear this. john's question was well, now that the shooting is over, why should americans care about
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reconstruction and of course, the shooting is not over in 1865 or 1866. the shooting goes on literally for a very long time. so 1866, the war was over, but a new kind of war was just beginning. that's why i titled my book the wars of reconstruction, because it was a new kind of struggle, new kind of war simply by different means. of course, the war and reconstruction, as dr. ayers mentioned, overlap by a good deal. of course, 1863, lincoln has his 10% plan, congress responds with the way davis built and most classic books on reconstruction era, phoner's book, all begin in 1863 because they begin with this fight in washington, d.c. between whether the president will have jurisdiction and has his 10% plan or whether congress will have jurisdiction. and of course, this is really sort of a disagreement on jurisdiction because the fact is
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the 10% plan is not all that different from the way davis responds. but for black americans, 1865 was the end of something and it was the start of a new struggle. so when historians look at reconstruction and kind of focus on these disagreements between the so-called moderate lincoln and the so-called radical republicans and then those conservative northern democrats who don't even want to use the term reconstruction. they prefer the term restoration, implying that now that the country is back together, yes, slavery is dead but otherwise, bring the country back the way it was before. despite these disagreements, though, the one thing that most white republicans and most democrats in congress could agree on is that reconstruction was something designed to be imposed on the defeated confederacy. black veterans, black activists, former slaves, knew otherwise, that the entire nation, as douglas once said, required
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reclamation. i began my story outside of washington. i'm looking at people who really advanced the agenda, those who were pushing to make this a more egalitarian, a more perfect nation. for the most part it wasn't republicans in congress. lincoln of course was focused on winning the war. republicans in congress were focused on imposing some kind of peace and some kind of solution on the white south. so for the most part, it wasn't people in washington thinking about how this country has to be different and not just the south, but how the entire country has to be different. and of course, that's not the story you get quite often in popular culture. i assume most of you saw it, i loved it, abraham lincoln, vampire slayer. there's abe with this black sidekick, friend of mine, i won't name the college, but a college down the road from me
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said doug, it's not very accurate. i said what part of vampire were you having a hard time understanding? but you get the same thing in spielberg's movie with lincoln pounding the table saying now, now, the time is now and the one man freeing the slaves and changing the nation. that's the story that i think i don't want to tell in this book or today. so you know, who really was gazing into the future and envisioning what kind of country this could be and for the most part, it was black americans. men and women, who had fought against slavery in the years before the war. many of them had been born in the south like frederick douglas had gotten out of slavery and come to the north, but they were the ones who really understood that the entire country required reconstruction and not simply virginia or south carolina or alabama. lincoln recalled that slavery had existed in all 13 english
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mainland colonies. lincoln recalled slavery existed in new york. and they understood that the entire country had to be fixed, that slavery had been a national problem and therefore, its legacy, racism, remained a national sin. for decades even as they fought against slavery in the south they faced a host of discriminatory laws and practices all across the north that made their lives more difficult. as we all know, voting of course was a state prerogative. and before the civil war, the only states that allowed black men to vote on an equal basis with white men was of course, in new england and not coinciden l coincidentally, those were states that had very very few black men. these activists understood that jefferson davis might be the ultimate enemy, but that they were facing problems at home in places like syracuse, where i have lived for the last 27 years. new york of course finallieneded
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slavery in 1827 but six years before 1821, new york wrote a new state constitution that eliminated the last property qualifications for white men but imposed one on black men and i guess they thought that made sense because there still was slavery in new york at the time and so the property qualification again that was not imposed on whites was $250 in property. so frederick douglas who owned a house and newspaper in rochester, he could vote but a black barber in syracuse couldn't vote. douglas' two sons i will mention in a moment, charles and louis, who worked for dad, didn't have the property qualification and couldn't vote despite being 19 and 23. in 1860, new york tried to put a ballot initiative to get rid of this qualification imposed only on men and of course, lincoln carries new york handily in 1860, but the initiative went down in flames, meaning a lot of the moderate republicans who
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went to the polls and cast their ballot for lincoln then banded together with conservative new york democrats and voted down this property qualification elimination. things of course were worse in lincoln's illinois, in chase's ohio, in stevens' pennsylvania where, when the war broke out, not a single black man could vote. in the midwest, states for years had passed discriminatory laws known as the black codes. we think about the black codes being something the white south passes in 1865 and 1866. for decades before that the black codes existed in places like indiana, ohio, lincoln's illinois. ohio, illinois, indiana, had all passed laws banning free blacks from migrating into their states. not always effectively but they had those laws on the books. ohio imposed a $500 fine on any white business man knowingly doing business with a free black who had entered the state illegally.
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in 1848, indiana even allocated money in the state assembly to colonize in liberia black men who entered the state and they also allocated money for black men already there legally if they wanted to leave the u.s. and go to west africa. so that's why i began my story in 1863 but not because of this fight between lincoln and the congress and the way davis built the 10% plan. of course as we all know, january 1863 the emancipation proclamation goes into effect and finally therefore the war department allows black men to serve. here is charles -- pardon me, louis douglas, sergeant major louis douglas, member of the massachusetts 54th. of course, as we all know, these men enlisted and then they got to greenville, massachusetts and promptly found out they were being paid less than white soldiers, white privates were paid $13 a month. louis douglas was paid $10 a month and they deducted another
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$3 for clothing. so basically they were paid just about half of what white soldiers are paid. that would not be fixed until june of 1864, thanks to thad stevens. they were also told they could not become noncommissioned, pardon me, commissioned officers, so louis douglas is a sergeant major, but can't rise much higher. so that's why i began the story in '63 because the experience of men like this. of the 1510 identifiable men of color who hold state, national, local office during the construction, at least 130 are ex-military, ex-massachusetts. no big surprise, this is my father's generation. you couldn't run for office unless you came home with the uniform and same with these men so black men all across the north marched to massachusetts to join up in the 54th. i'm sure you have all seen the film "glory." wonderful movie that manages to
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get everything wrong about the story of this regiment. they come from all across the north, 19 men come from my syracuse. in fact, new york state had the second largest contingent in the 54th, pennsylvania was number one, ohio was number two and the sister overflow unit, the 55th, ohio has the largest contingent. again, that's interesting because it means young men, 20 years old, are leaving ohio and they are joining up, yet they can't vote back home. and the still operational dredd scott decision has told them they are not a citizen in the country of their birth but they are putting on a uniform and they are ready to fight and die for country that doesn't want them as citizens and won't allow them to vote back home. because of all of this, a northern activist decided to start advancing some political demands by the summer of 1863. there had been a black convention movement of course before the war, mostly
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anti-slavery convention movement that had collapsed with the dredd scott decision. black activists just so gave up after 1857, they kind of walked away from this convention movement. even frederick douglas who always denounced the idea of colonization actually had booked a ticket to go to haiti in the spring of '61 and see what things were like in haiti and only the guns of fort sumter led him to cancel that trip and stay in the united states. the final straw was the behavior of new york governor horatio seymour, a conservative democrat who had been silent during the july draft riots when he had failed to condemn the rioters. i'm sure you all know the story, a mob had burned an orphanage, black orphanage in manhattan, lynched black men from street lamps. one of the teenagers, a 13-year-old child who was killed by this mob in manhattan, his uncle was in the 54th and so they kill his nephew just as the uncle is getting ready to fight at fort wagner.
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that's of course why so many black men from new york got on the train and went to readville because the governor simply had no interest in raising a black regiment in the empire state. so in the early summer of '63 this man here on the left, robert pervis called for a convention in poughkeepsie to restart the now mormon black convention movement. he was a charleston-born freeman, obviously very light complexion, had gotten out of south carolina. he's the mastermind also there with henry highland garnet, long time abolitionist and this man on the right, reverend benjamin franklin randolph, who would go on to become a u.s. army chaplain. he stayed in south carolina when the war was over. he would become a state senator and minister and be assassinated in 1868 getting on a train car in columbia. he had that same kind of combination of religious and
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spiritual power and political power that of course got the church in charleston shot up last june. two-day gathering and interestingly, the gathering broke up on july 16 with the men of the 54th saw their first action on james island. of course, they had friends, they had cousins, they had sons in the 54th so it was their meeting in poughkeepsie, their sons were bleeding on james island in the first big engagement of the 54th just outside of charleston. the issue of the document called the manifesto of colored citizens, this said this is not just a war against southern slavery. it's quote, a battle for the right of self-government and true democracy so note what they're doing here. they're not simply saying this is about south carolina, the confederacy, alabama. they're saying this is a war that's also for something. it's for democracy. it's for voting rights for black men all across the north. they are kind of trying to
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reinterpret what the war is about. and if their sons are going to fight and die in the 54th and 55th, they want to make sure that the country gets things right in new york, pennsylvania and ohio. the last act was to call for future conventions, they see this not as the end of something, not as kind of a one-shot. this is going to be again kind of restarting the old black convention movement. they were going to organize all across the north. it took more than a year but in october, of 1864, the next big convention took place in my syracuse, new york. 150 delegates from washington, d.c. and 17 states, they billed this as a black man's rights convention but 19-year-old highgate had been teaching and was back home just kind of announced she was coming in and she was going to give a speech and she did. the two masterminds here were
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the man on the left, reverend loguen, a tennessee runaway who got out, made to it syracuse and became an important, a minister, and of course, the man in the middle, the alpha male of the anti-slavery movement, frederick douglas. they were about to become in-laws. loguen's daughter was engaged to louis douglas who by this point had been mustered out. he was so badly wounded at fort wagner he could not fight on. so he comes back home. the media in syracuse in the methodist church, it still exists. it's now a mexican food restaurant. i can say this as somebody who was born and raised in arizona, it's not very good. they don't have a hard liquor license. they make the margueritas with sweet white wine. no sin there. if you are ever in syracuse, do go to the restaurant. you can sort of feel the douglas vibes of the place.
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so they meet for three days, issue a series of demands, and in syracuse, it had been attracting free blacks from the upper south, virginia, maryland, delaware for decades. it was the only sizeable city in the state of new york that had integrated schools. rochester did not. but as a reminder, this was still america. many of those in attendance were veterans of the old black convention movement, black anti-slavery movement. douglas of course was there. john mercer langston, who was going to be working for the freeman's bureau and of course had become a congressman from the state of virginia was there. there is no picture sadly of the 19-year-old girl who kind of elbows her way in. william wells brown on the right, long-time anti-slavery activist. this is the best and the
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brightest of the black anti-slavery movement that is met here in syracuse. new to the movement but also there, a philadelphia school teacher. we will talk about him more in a minute. he single-handedly integrates spre street cars in philadelphia and pays for that with his life. also the reverend richard cain who would settle in south carolina and go into state politics. and the restauranteur, george downing, who ran a series of restaurants in rhode island. he made -- probably was one of the most prosperous black men at the time and then became the restauranteur for the house of representatives in washington which gave him kind of a real kind of inside view what was happening in the house and would talk to people like stevens about what should be done in congress. they are all there meeting in syracuse. they met for three days, issued their list of demands and of course, the most obvious simply was an amendment abolishing slavery. note the date.
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this is october of 1864. this is before congress gets around to even really considering seriously an amendment. they call for voting rights for black men in all states, new york, illinois, ohio, so again, this is not just about the south. this is about fixing the entire country. they called for equal pay for black soldiers. congress had finally just gotten around to doing that. and the right for black men to rise in the ranks and become commissioned officers and again, this reminds us how many of the guys meeting in syracuse had sons, nephews, friends who were serving in the black regiments or usct, so they are kind of speaking for black veterans here. again, by this date, louis douglas had been mustered out due to wounds. but charles douglas, the baby of the family remained in the 54th and served in the 55th and finally in the calvary as a clerk. he was in the fifth calvary when they come marching into richmond at the war's end. as had the delegates who met in
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the smaller poughkeepsie convention, they end their convention by calling for more conferences. they want conferences all across the country to kind of push this agenda. and again, they see this not as the end of something but the beginning of a master reform drive. so within months, they met in albany but now of course it was 1865 and that changed everything. by the time they met in albany the war was over. abraham lincoln was dead. and of course, therefore the movement moved south. on may 9, 1865, they met here in richmond in the house of a black schoomaker named robert johnson. think about how amazing that is. this is two weeks after robert lee surrenders and blacks are meeting here in a political organization here in richmond. in june they met in norfolk and
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typically, somebody who had been one of the early conventions was kind of deputized to go and speak and kind of continue the message so henry garnet gets on a train, goes to norfolk to explain what had been happening in poughkeepsie, syracuse and albany. they met in a baptist church. within weeks, they met in alexandria, virginia. there they endorsed the earlier agenda issued by the syracuse delegations and demanded now that virginia be reconstructed on the basis of universal suffrage, black or white. they met just a few blocks from what had been the old franklin slave trading factory. as one of the delegates said if we had done this two months before we would have been hanged and now we are meeting in a political convention. two weeks after that they simply moved across the river and met in a convention in washington, d.c. the list went on. new orleans had fallen to the
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u.s. navy as early as 1862. there of course, the african-american community had been badly divided for decades among fairly prosperous mixed race freemen and now newly liberated black slaves. but oscar dunn who had been in syracuse got on the train, went all the way down to new orleans and countselcounseled the black community to put aside their differences. when they met you had this amazing convention of well-to-do new orleans people of color who had been born free sitting next to shabbily dressed field hands and black veterans. and of course, the south had been passing black codes at the end of the war, and that kind of shoved those who were free before the war and those freed during the war into this kind of new political alliance. on august they met in nashville. one of the speakers was a former south carolina slave turned sergeant in the usct, henry maxwell. again, this is no accident.
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a lot of these guys come back from the war with their uniform and 178,000 men of color fight in the u.s. army, about 140,000 were born slaves so they come home to tennessee, to virginia, and like the delegates in syracuse, they are not going to accept turning the clock back and having things the way they were back in 1860. speaking here, sergeant maxwell said that black americans had already won the cartridge box as he put it. he said now it's time for us to win the ballot box and the jury box. the same pattern held true when they met on august 9 in far-away sacramento. where there, they were dealing with segregated street cars. soon they met in harrisburg, cleveland and again, after every convention at least one or tw men agreed to go to another city, start a convention there, pass the message on and kind of
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keep this drive going. i was in a conference in raleigh last summer walking down the street and there was an a.m.e. church and there was a sign, free men's convention. where the convention meets and black men start to make political demands. the question of course is how you get congress to agree to this. now they have got this big convention movement going. what they have to do is force somebody in washington to pay attention and to effect some kind of change. notice how progressive they are by comparison to what so-called radicals in congress are doing. 1866, of course, there are anti-black riots in memphis, riots in new orleans, congress responds by passing the civil rights act, and what does the civil rights act not call for? it does not call for black voting rights.
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these guys, at least two years out in front of the radicals in congress calling for democratization of the american military, calling for voting rights all across the country, calling for an end of slavery. they finally decide they are going to go to washington now and make their case. they have this kind of groundswell conventions and now it's time to go and make their case. so in february of 1866, they have a delegation, frederick douglas, his wounded son louis douglas, and the restauranteur, george downing, they all go down, they have a disastrous meeting with andrew johnson. they are as polite as they can be. johnson seems not to know who douglas was. at one point he said bieshy the, lincoln i don't think ever read douglas' narrative. the first time lincoln and douglas met, he began to explain who he was and lincoln said i heard all about you, i know exactly who you are.
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johnson seems not to. at one point, johnson says to him have you ever lived on a plantation. he thinks douglas is from rochester. douglas says matter of fact, i was born on one in maryland. disastrous meeting. when the delegation leaves, johnson turns to his secretary and says you know, i know people like that douglas that negro, doesn't use the term negro, says he would rather put a knife in the white man's back than anything. but the delegation had great success. they talked to republicans in congress. they make two kinds of pitches for why congress should get on board with sort of the convention agenda. the first simply is war. 180,000 black men had now risked their lives, they fought for country, it's time for the country to fight for them. recognize they are citizens and voters. but these guys are also pragmatic and practical so they are not just going to make a moral argument. they remind politicians how elections work in this country.
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they point out now 13th amendment is being passed how that changes other parts of the constitution and of course, it erases the three-fifths clause. if black men can't vote, south carolina will lose the war and be rewarded by getting more seats in congress which of course they will fill with conservative white democrats. so if black men can vote, that's going to be the difference. they also remind congressmen how the electoral college works. 1860, of course, lincoln wins with a record low, still a record low popular vote of 39.8%. lincoln got in 1860 1,887 votes in what is now west virginia. of course, nobody was handing out lincoln tickets, the precursors to modern ballots in south carolina, mississippi and douglas reminds republican congressmen south carolina and mississippi have a black majority. so you know, lincoln wins
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because he's running against a former whig, he wins again in '64 because the south isn't voting. '60 it's going to be different. so in '68, grant loses new york which lincoln carried twice. but he carries both north carolina, south carolina, florida and alabama. so what does grant say in his inaugural address? let's make quick work of the 15th amendment and get black voting rights because grant is quite aware he was elected president thanks to southern black votes and now he wants those blacks to be able to vote in new york, pennsylvania and so finally thanks to the 15th amendment, five years after the fighting is over, that black barber in rochester can go to the polls and vote. sometimes a lot of these activists paid for their efforts with their life. here is again young school teacher, octavius catto, taught
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as an all black school for boys in philadelphia. he taught greek, latin, mathematics, geometry. he's teaching the same kind of curriculum elite white boys would be taking. he's walking home one day and this is the city of brotherly love, and the street cars are segregated and like rosa parks, he's had a long day and he's tired and he gets on a streetcar and he's holding his nickel and it's late in the day. driver tells him to get off. he's not going to get off. driver says he doesn't need this headache, he simply unhooks the team, takes the team back to the barn, figures he'll come back in the morning and the kid will be gone. comes back the next morning, catto is still sitting there holding his nickel and overnight the streetcar has filled up with black philadelphians and they are all holding a nickel and they are not going to get off. the city comes in and integrates street cars. and he was assassinated in 1871
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on election day, murdered by a philadelphia democrat in front of a giant crowd and the all white jury let him go. the former south carolina slave, roberts walls turned politician turned u.s. congressman, in the 1890s, gave a speech in congress in which he said 53,000, 53,000 black activists had been systematically targeted for elimination and assassination and the number's interesting. not about 50,000, but 53,000. he's keeping data. he's keeping count. when i was working on this book and i'm reading the papers of people like blanche bruce, the black senator from howard university, blacks all across the country as far away as oregon are writing to people like robert smalls, blanche bruce because they are their representatives as well because they are the black political voice in washington.
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people are writing. they're saying here's what's happening in this county in alabama or here's what's happening here and he's keeping count. look at those numbers. all americans today know about gettysburg and of course, we should. this means the casualty rate for being a black activist in reconstruction is worse than being at gettysburg. what the white south learns early on is the danger of putting on a white robe, riding around the south, congress passes the klan act under grant's prodding. as soon as they catch one guy he names names or a lot of prison time in upstate new york. the government crushes the organized klan pretty quickly but white vigilantes in the south understand you don't need to put on a robe or have 20 guys with you. you simply sit outside of the house of a poll worker or activist and then you shoot him
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when he comes out the door and you ride away and no one knows and one of the main sources for the book were the freed men bureau papers and i would look at counties in the south in october, november and december of election year and they are essentially nothing bau but atrocity records where i'm sure you know in those days they voted with like a big bookmark ticket, he had the tickets and last night they killed him and we took the tickets and basically we have no ballots on election day. that would make a bureau report, it would make a local newspaper. it doesn't make the national news. one by one, vigilantes come to understand, today's catto who goes to syracuse to convention is working as a poll worker getting shot on election today is tomorrow's state assemblyman and next year's u.s. congressman and year after that might be like blanche bruce, u.s. senator. you eliminate them before they
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get that level of thing. catto's story of course because he is in philadelphia does make the national news. this is from a black newspaper. but the fact is, he wins his fight but loses his war. let me summarize this way and then we will have time for questions, if you wish. black activists of course always had white allies. but their experiences were different. wayne garrison understood there was racism in his massachusetts but had never been attacked by white toughs for the crime of walking down broadway with a white lady on his elbow which of course happened to frederick douglas. he was never thrown off a carriage like activist david ruggles for the crime of being black inside the carriage as opposed to getting on top. bear in mind that many garrisonnians didn't vote. they were pacifists. they didn't like the kind of deals politicians make.
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he burned copies of the constitution, didn't vote. so for them, fighting for the right to vote wasn't that important but for former sergeant major louis douglas, it was a sacred right and responsibility. so when we think about the end of the war and the dawn of reconstruction, we are right to praise the victors. i should say here that my people were north carolina slave holders. when i talk about victors i'm not talking about my great great grandfather. we are right to applaud general grant so magnanimous in victory at appomattox. we were right to mourn the events of good friday at ford's theater. frederick douglas called the conflict a war for national reclamation and black americans understood the fighting had hardly ended at appomattox.
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in many ways it was just beginning. that was 43 minutes. [ applause ] so we have time i think for questions, discussion, disagreement. please buy my book. it's out there. i'm still paying off one loan for my college daughter. you can get her out of hock. >> can i ask a question? about the situation in new orleans. we were talking last night about a proposal that you had heard about about the possibility of a proposal for erecting a monument to james longstreet in new orleans. if you could comment on the back story behind why that was proposed at all and the prospects for it.
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>> that's, yeah, let me sort of the really big back story on longstreet. the doctor was talking about the endless question we will never know the answer to, what would have happened if lincoln had not gone to ford's theater that night. one of the things i discovered while researching this book and there was also another book that just came out by mark summers under construction who had a lot of the same findings, the rank and file confederates understand they have lost in '65 and all you have to do is look at a picture of richmond, charleston, you understand why. bureau reports, letters from soldiers all across the south are saying, they are licked and they know they're licked. basically they will accept, you know, anything we impose on them, they are done fighting, their cities are destroyed, their economy is in tatter, the rail lines, the bridges are gone, and james longstreet writes a series of editorials in new orleans papers who says we
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fought the good fight, we won, we fought it, they won, we lost, and if we have any sense at all we will go along and accept what happens. so of course, when johnson comes along and basically gives what dick cheney would call the dead enders. that's not an endorsement of dick cheney. but the people, kind of the hardcore reactionaries gives them the green light and ip convinced they're the ones who kind of then not just assassinate people like catto but kind of shout down the james longstreets who say it's over, let's kind of pick up the pieces and move ahead and let's accept any kind of solution that republicans wish to impose upon us. and so there's a moment in time i think when reconstruction could have been very, very different. so for me, one of the real tragedies is because this war isn't won in 1860s, 1870s,
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1880s, reconstruction does not end in 1877. it has to be fought again. in the 1950s and 1960s. so once again, people put their lives on the line to integrate schools, north, south, decent apartment rates in chicago, because the fight wasn't done, wasn't finished the first time around. so i mean, i think one of the real tragedies, it's not for me that lincoln was the only guy for the job. it's that andrew johnson was the absolute worst guy for the job and makes it very clear to the white south, go about your business, do whatever you want, actually reenslaving black americans and so it really gives that hardcore reactionary group the green light and essentially silences people like james longstreet. i think that's one of the many crimes of andrew johnson. >> how would you assess the interest or perhaps the
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disinterest of black americans today in your work? >> well, i'm not sure there is. when the book came out i gave a talk in atlanta at the cyclerama which is closed. i speak at a place, it's closed. i hope things don't happen here. that's a fairly black neighborhood and i had a really good turnout. actually, mostly older black ladies who came. i find in general, looking at the audience here, i don't see a lot of 21 year olds and that's not to pick on any of us or my gray hair, but most i think are not that interested in the war years or reconstruction. i think that's really quite criminal. if you want to be horrified, go on youtube. there's a young student at the university of texas, i was interviewing students about the war and reconstruction and the
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young black man, her question is who won the war. he said well, i don't know. e south? so you know, as somebody who taught now 31 years, i'm often horrified by what my students do and don't know about early american history and that's, you know, that's in the north. so i think it's a very important story and i think americans need to realize that it doesn't end in '65 and that there was kind of a whole new chapter here and that's what americans i think get a little fuzzy about is what happens in reconstruction. bear in mind there are black congressmen all the way down to 1901, george henry white of north carolina is the last to walk away, his district is gerrymandered, he gives up and stays in washington. the question of does reconstruction fail. if you're talking about shop keeper in chicago, it doesn't because now thanks to the 15th amendment you have voting rights that never go away the way


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