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tv   History Bookshelf Gary Younge The Speech  CSPAN  January 19, 2019 4:00pm-5:27pm EST

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jr.'s iconic i have a dream speech delivered during the march on washington in 1963. in a conversation with brooklyn college political science professor and a blogger. this was recorded at the new school in new york this weekend i went to washington, d.c. and i had a couple of extra hours and i went to see the king memorial. it is exceedingly depressing. the original plans for the monument included to honor other martyrs, but they were scrapped for insufficient funds. king towers over us. the sculpture flanked by a granite wall, 14 quotes on the wall, not one uses the word "racism,"
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"segregation," or "racial injustice," not one. they are arranged like cross stitches, 19633, 67, 65, 63, 64, completely out of context of the movements and mobilizations in which king spoke them. the monument was made in china to save money. a man who excoriated the triple evils of materialism, racism, risked life and went to jail 30 times to challenge the scourge of american racism, quick to point out racism in the north as well as the south, who rode from jail in 1963 that the biggest problem was not the clan, but the white moderates. that man of god and courage is honored with a memorial that refuses to speak the problem of racism. it is into this moment, this moment when the history of the civil rights move. is regularly invoked, distorted, and used to celebrate the
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greatness of the united states that we turn to our speakers tonight. both of tonight's speakers write eloquently to make sense of the paradox. of the times we live in, the history of the greatest social movements of the 20th century is used to imperil any urgency of the task of social justice today. indeed, to coverup, at times, the continuing scourge of materialism, militarism, and racism. of the visions we gain from a fuller and richer sense of history, to help us see and work for justice in our times. michael smith is a blogger at thenation. com, a fellow at the nation institute, a free lance writer, and work appeared in places like the guardian, ebony, huffington post. gary young is author, broad katzer, and award winning columnist at the
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guardian, the nation, and a fellow at the nation institute. he's written four books, his fourth back, the speech, the story behind king's dream, is why we are here tonight, giving the fuller history on the march in washington and reflects on current policy of this civil right's history and season of memorialization. i'll turn it over to gary, kind of give us introduction remarks, michael, conversation up here, and then we'll open it up to question and conversation with you. thank you. >> for those who have not seen me before, i'm gary young, and for those of you who have seen me before, i'm gary young in a suit. [laughter] it's not a particularly flail sight unless
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i'm at a wedding or funeral. the book is called "the speeches" which is about king's famous speech at the march on washington, left there an idea that you have a great man and a great talk, but king could not do that on its own, the speech and the march came from somewhere, and i want to start by giving some context to that text because in the absence of that, they would have been no march, and there would have been no speech, and so i start with some of the people whose names perhaps we don't know, but who paid for that speech in a range of ways. i begin with franklin mccain who was a 17-year-old in greensboro, north carolina, who made a stand downtown february 1, 1960. when i interviewed
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mccain, he said that up until that time as a young man in north carolina, he felt that his life was worthless, and that his parents had lied to him. .. in mississippi, the people who were likely not to be killing black people were the law enforcement agencies.
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it was not an entirely credible thing for him -- for him to think. he was angry at his parents so they set up him and his friends late into the night january 31 talking about everybody on them until the action they took the phone day not knowing when they showed up at what worse in greensburg with any of the others would be there. she says we want to go beyond what her parents had been in the worst thing that could happen was that the could kill us but i had no concerns for my personal safety. the day i sat at the counter had the most tremendous feeling of celebration. i felt that in this life nothing else mattered because heaven, it got me for a few minutes. i just thought u. can't touch me come he can't hurt me. there's no experience like it not even the birth of my first child. a few years later
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may of 63 in birmingham alabama at burly white fleece officer attempted to intimidate some black schoolchildren to keep them from joining the growing anti-segregation protests. they assured him they knew what they were doing and continued their march toward the park where they were arrested. a reporter asked one of them are age. six she said as she climbed into the paddy wagon. the following month in mississippi civil rights campaign fanning mill hammer overheard a fellow activist being beaten in jail in an adjacent cell. can you say yes or? can you say net yes sir. yes i can. so say it. i don't know you well enough. and then hamer heard her head hit the floor again. the polish journalist once wrote all books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of authority or the misery and suffering of the people that they should begin with the psychological chapter one that shows how a terrified man suddenly breaks his parents
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stops being afraid. this unusual process, man gets rid of fear and feels free. the period preceding king speech on the march on washington was then -- one such chapter. in that moment you reached a critical mass. "the new york times" published more stories about civil rights in two weeks than it had in the previous two years. during the 10 week. not following kennedy's address on civil rights in june of that year there were 758 demonstrations and 186 cities resulting in working thousand 733 arrests. accommodations were made possible and king speech. this context is global. two days after mckay made his protesting greensboro the prime minister harrell macmurray addressed with an ominous warning. the wind of change is blowing through this
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continent he said and whether we like it or not this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. the apartheid parliament didn't like it at all. in the three years between mcmillan speech in the march in washington the following countries became independent. togo mali senegal zaire somali najir cote d'ivoire chad central african republic, nigeria mauritania sierra leone tension niquette and jamaica. internationally the black enfranchisement -- the longer america practice legal segregation the more it looked like a slam on the wrong side of history been a shining city on the hill. now the story of that year in particular is the story of the base, the masses the
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grassroots continually running ahead of the leadership. king spoke in harlem just a few months before the march and was heckled by protesters shouting we want malcolm. when the naacp held their conference in chicago they invited to give their introductory remarks and he was heckled from the floor. when their leader school to speak to kennedy kennedy says to them we have legislation that is currently going through congress. we would rather have new laws than half the out on the streets and a. philip randolph the union organizer who is primarily responsible for calling the march tells kennedy their already in the streets mr. president and i would doubt if you would call them that they would come back area that is the mood, that the patients has worn out, the forbearance, the ability to withstand the clubs
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and the hoses in the hoses that can fire so strong they can knock the bark off of the trees at children and dogs has become too much to african-americans who are always fighting back start to resist like in birmingham. there is eventually a response to bombings of the clan with violence and there's a fear both among civil rights -- and the kennedy administration that black people would resist. that is the mood that creates the necessity for a march which is called in the beginning of the year but very few people wanted. the poll showed that most americans don't want it and most white americans don't want it. kennedy doesn't want it. it's insufficiently radical for many of the youth and too radical for many of the more conservative leadership but by
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the time it happens there is a sense that if they don't do this then what are they going to do to channel this frustration, this mass frustration so the march happens. the key fear primarily of the state is that there will be violence. this is peculiar because most of the violence in the south has come from the white segregation is not from african-americans but nevertheless the fears would be violent and so it is literally police as a military operation. the 82nd airborne ready to fire from north carolina at a moments notice and drop 19,000 troops on d.c.. a thousand troops in d.c. deployed, 6000 police working all leave canceled all the left give surgery canceled alcoholic sales made illegal and even on the mic the king speaks from there's a kill switch that the justice department put in
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surreptitiously. the idea is if anyone causes insurrection from the stage they will flip the switch and play mahalia jackson singing he's got the whole world in his hands. and so it is into that atmosphere that king plans his address. out came to around 350 speeches that year. he took time off for holidays. that's about one speech a day and generally he is not giving a speech. he's an african-american baptist preacher and in that tradition he drops his sermon but then he crosses in response to how the audience is taken to
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what he is saying. he has a number of kind of ,-com,-com ma a series of weapons that he can use, rhetorical weapons. the difference is that this speech unlike other speeches is going to be televised. if you are in a black church you have heard king. >> before but it you hadn't this is his oratorical. kennedy had never heard his speech before. he overheard one of his speeches in the oval office and said he's good. king and his team on something that's going to be on par with gettysburg. show less text 00:15:14 we know a lot of these details because the fbi were kind enough to record them for us. he wanted something on par with gettysburg so one of its main aides walker says to king, it's a cliche. you have used it too many times before. that's the first line in the book and he had used it many times before. he first recorded
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using it in 62 and probably used it in 61. he used it in june at a rally in detroit and even a week earlier at a fund-raiser for black insurance executives in chicago so this was not the first time by a long stretch that he had used the i have a dream frame. king seeks counsel and he has a lot of input, much more than he would generally and what we know is that at 4:00 in the morning the morning of the march i have a dream he is using the this text of the speech. that we now and according to terence jones his lawyer and his speechwriter it was not in king's mind to do that the next day. the next day there is series of meetings they had with congress and there's a moment at the beginning of the day where they come out in the march
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started without them, very symbolically given what i said earlier. the ex-ex-communist conscientious director and that's before you get to the fact that he is black, he is the organizer of this margin he runs out of congress and sees the march leaving and says we are supposed to be meeting them. they jump into their limousines to try to catch up with the march but are blocked by the traffic, the traffic caused by the mobs. so they jump out of the limousines and they run to catch up with the march. if you look at pictures of the leaders of the march and a kind of fred flintstone version of photoshop in what they did was basically clear people out of the way so it looks as though they are in the middle. throughout that day king was wearing away and if you look at what he ends up with on the podium when he finishes speaking is as full of doodles and scrolls. it was a hot day, 87 degrees that afternoon and
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king is the 16th on the agenda 80. he is the tenth speaker. there has been anthem anthem come the invocation, the prayer. there have been a range, a number of singers including mahalia jackson, peter paul and mary and bob dell in and he takes to the podium about 2:30 and according to clarence jones who drafted much of the text king keeps closer to this text of than he would regularly keep. those who wrote speeches for king said they were always king speeches basically that you would be in clarence jones words you would he accrued architect.
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he would set up the four walls and king like an interior designer would calm and make it his own. king's speech very faithfully to the main text but then if you listen to the speech and i would advise you to listen to it, it's the most popular least well-known speech i've heard. when i told my brother is doing this but he said i love that speech. it's such a great speech. the thing about the mountaintop and i see the promised land. i said that's a great speech but it's not that speech. he is winding up. he goes back to mississippi, go back to south carolina, go back to alabama. go back to your northern homes in ghettos knowing somehow the situation will be resolved. behind him is sitting mahalia jackson a very close and special friend. when
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king was on the road he would often call mahalia jackson for what they termed gospel therapy. he would call her and ask her to sing to him on the phone too sues his fear when he was down. he knew her well and he knew her voice well. he is winding down. knowing somehow the situation will be resolved. she shouts tell them about the dream, tell them about the dream. she heard him deliver the dream segment in june. king continues, let us not wallow in the valley -- i say to my friends let us not wallow in the valley of despair and then she shouts again, tell us about the dream martin, tell us about the dream. in the words of clarence jones king puts his text to the left of the podium. his body language changes from a lecture to a preacher and jones just the person next to him and he says those people don't know him but they are about to go to church. and being king says for
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though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow i still have the dream at which point wyatt tee walker who is in the crowd turns to the person next to them and says oh he is doing the dream. [laughter] that is how we got there and what is interesting is that when you ask evil who are there at the time and who knew king well, to a person they will tell you that they did not, of all the speeches there he made, this was not particularly one that they thought we would be talking about in 50 years time. it was a great speech but none of them denied that, but many of them have different speeches that they thought were better and either way they said great speech was what king did. i spend a fair amount of time in the book looking at why that is. i want to kind of really suggest two things here. the first is that there is something for pretty much everyone in the
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speech. part of the community was told your genetically stupid anywhere poor because you are stupid in your stupidity is your responsibility and the failings in your community have nothing to do with history and everything to do with you. to know that the best speech, america's favorite speech was delivered by an african-american in the black vernacular is something to be very proud of. if you are a patron, there is nothing in this speech that you need worry about. this is a dream deeply printed in the american dream literally and metaphorically in the shadow of lincoln that pays homage to the founding fathers in the constitution and the decoration of independence. it's an american speech and it didn't come from anywhere else. if you are progressive this speech
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comes on this day. there would be few days like this for american progressives. fair enough only 20% of the crowd was white which was less than they were expecting but nevertheless this was the first march of this kind in washington. now marches in washington are two to a penny but they hope for 100,000 they got 250,000. it had never been done before. and it comes and this is the way i describe it in the book, it's the most eloquent articulation of the last great moral act that america can claim and that's the end of american apartheid. that whatever people say now orfield or are able to say nobody wants to be taken seriously is calling for those signs to go back up. nobody's calling for the return to formal codified segregation. however small that may seem when we see the amount of racism that spews from the mouth of those who are elected or unelected that is no small thing. the end of apartheid is a big thing and i
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believe the last great thing that america could have done as a country so there is that. a number of people have said that and there's also something else. king when he delivers that speech, there is an even number of americans with a favorable and unfavorable view of him. by 66 twice as many americans have an unfavorable view then and then a favorable view. he is dead and 68, stephanie. by 1999 when americans were polled on who were their favorite characters of the 20th century, king comes second only to mother teresa. something happens between when he is assassinated as a polarizing figure in 1999 and this is what i think it's happened. first of all why does he become unpopular? well, when the speeches delivered, the year
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after comes the civil rights act and the year after that comes the voting rights act. legislation begins to kick in and king understands that the end of segregation is not the same as the beginning of the quality. as he says i have given people people -- we have run the right to eat in any restaurant of our choice that we do not have the ability to eat everything that is on the menu because we can't afford it. and so he starts talking about what else is necessary. i want to read you this bit from where do we go from here? you will get a sense of why he might become unpopular. it says there are 40 man -- 40 million poor people here in one day we must ask the question why are there 40 million poor people in america? when you begin to affect question you are raising
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questions about the economic system about a broader dissertation of wealth. when you you asked a question you begin to question the capitalist economy and i'm simply saying that more and more we have got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. we are called upon to help the two discouraged beggars in the marketplace but one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces -- needs restructuring. it means needs restructuring. it means the questions must be raised. you see my friends when you deal with this he began to ask the question, who owns the oil? you begin to ask the question, who owns the iron ore? you begin to ask the question, why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water? that kind of talk in america in 1967 will get you killed and sure enough he is killed. he starts talking about capitalism and the year after that in 67 he starts at a riverside church he calls america the greatest purveyor of military violence in the world today in the vietnam war. now, how is america then going to remember king? when i can't
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remember him, if it's going to raise him to iconic status and put him on the mull then it has to sanitize him for public consumption. it has to make him the second to mother teresa and you can do that with a man in america who questions capitalism. because to remember king in that way would not raise them above the fray. it would injure him into it and that is what the shutdown was all about. that is what's -- people food stamps today. you can't remember king as a menu criticized capitalism and hold him up as an american icon. what it takes to be an american icon changes. you can't remember him and america can't remember him. the powers
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that the is a man who called the greatest purveyor of military violence because arguably it still is. it's notable on the 50th anniversary of the speech it took place literally in a split screen. on one screen there was obama carrying king's mental and on the other screen will be bumps area of? why wouldn't we bomb syria? you can't remember king is that having him on the mall and claim him to be an american icon when he speaks about america being the greatest purveyor of military violence but you can remember him as amanda got rid of american apartheid. not american racism because that would leave conversations about why black men in d.c. have a lower life expectancy than men on the gaza strip. you can't
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have that conversation but you can have a conversation about why or how he got rid of american apartheid. so that is the way that they choose to remember him. i will end with just one paragraph where i talk about the process by which king and through him the speech can be sanitized. i say white america came to embrace king in the same way that most whites and africans came to accept nelson mandela. grudgingly and gratefully, retrospecretrospec tively, selectively without grace but with considerable -- by the time they realize the sight of him was spent in -- he created a world in which admiring him was in their own self-interest because in short they had no choice. when it comes to king and his speech one
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of the central arguments in this book is it's not just about what you remember it's also about what you forget. thank you. [applause] >> evening. before i get started ain't over. i would like them to know that we will win. i grew up in a malcolm x household. an introduction to malcolm x, i was probably four or five and my father who favors malcolm x portrayed him in a black history month special play or some sort. there was malcolm x literature all over the household. i still have on my nightstand right now a copy of the autobiography that my father had i grew up posts public enemy and spike lee
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resurrecting malcolm x and his iconography. my father had several x 2000. i just don't have much contact with martin luther king jr.. we had a picture of him in our house like most black americans do. you will find mark next -- malcolm x, martin luther king
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jr., jesus, and now barack obama. to go to,shop or used there are only three pictures there on the wall. x, martin luther king jr., and barack obama. the picture in our household was malcolm x in the center. elijah mohammed to the right. then martin luther king. of emotionala lot pull to the legacy of dr. king. is not entirely my fault. celebratingw up martin luther king jr. holiday because a group in virginia. leachate -- we had lee jackson king day. ely,lebrated robert stonewall jackson, and martin luther king, junior. on the same day. >> that's a big day.
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make that a week. >> that lasted until the year 2000. we celebrated that until the year 2000. this goes to what gary was just speaking about. how can you do that? how can you lump martin luther robert e.or in with lee and stonewall jackson when you do politicize him. you rob him of his actual legacy. you rob him up the words that he spoke and wrote and the fight that he fought during his lifetime. and you can do whatever you want with him and martin luther king is not alone in this. we depoliticize everyone. we be politicize american history. when you are a country as arrogant as the united states to claim that you are the greatest nation on the face of the earth in history you need a history, a narrative of history to match that claim. so everything becomes depoliticize and everything becomes a symbol of american exceptionalism. this
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is why you can have people on both the right in the left praising both at the art and ronald reagan and not see the inconsistencies of that. because they are not political figures anymore. they are symbols. they represents the greatness of the united states of america and so that is what king has come to represent even as he was fighting against pretty much everything that america stands for. we can look at the march on washington itself that brought us a dream speech. we know the full name of the march on washington. it's not the march on shinki and for jobs and freedom. you can't talk about and commemorate the march on washington for jobs and freedom right now if you don't want to talk about what freedom means when you're in a country that incarcerates more than 2 million people. you can bet that's just the march on washington so you
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can't commemorate a man who as gary was saying talk about america as the greatest purveyor of violence and wage perpetual war. you can't do that. you can't talk about martin luther king jr. and erect a statue in his memory and this man stood against police brutality and every 28 hours in this country a black person is shot and killed by police or security or some vigilante. you can't do it but you can if you reduce the man to a dream and if that dream is so, is such a blank slate that you can project on it whatever you want to. that is not king's fault. he was delivering a speech that he needed to deliver at that time but the problem with our understanding of race and racism and america being
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combined to that one moment and confined to that the one idea of having a dream that little black boys and little white boys would hold hands together means that we don't deal with what racism actually is. we don't deal with the fact that the governing philosophy for the united states of america since its inception has been white supremacy. we don't have to deal with it does all we had was a dream that we be nice to one another. so what i appreciate about gary's book and also jeanne's book about about rosa parks is that we are rescuing these figures and their legacies from the narrative of american exceptionalism. [applause] >> i guess one place i thought we could start and both of you touched on was the kind of, what we saw in august
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around the 50th anniversary. bolivia written about this and i think both of you just touched on what became a kind of self ,-com,-com ma national self-congratulation that i think we saw in august and if you could kind of tease that out a little bit more. >> yeah, i mean it was a show. there is a part of me that thinks okay, i mean it's the 50th anniversary. there should be some kind of but that show has to mean something and what that show cannot do is bastardize and produced the original meaning of what happened. so i mean interestingly in the run-up to the march, bayard rustin and the organizers made a whole lot of concessions. ever going to march
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around the white house and they kept making concessions and the young people in the office would say -- we have this coalition to keep together a coalition of unions and church leaders and so these concessions were important but the one concession we won't make was that politicians should not speak for -- they are there to listen to us and not to lecture us. what was telling -- i went to one of them, hearing nancy pelosi and eric holder got 20 minutes. he's america's chief cop. he has 20 minutes and julianne bond gets his mic cut off at two. that is not just symbolic. that is real. that is kind of, and it tells you something about priorities and about trajectory. so there was, so there was that and the other thing that i found curious including there was mcdonald's,
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sponsored by mcdonald's stand at the "msnbc". they did a lot of stuff on the speech and that was sponsored by bank of america who have been kicking black people out of their homes since 1963 in no. they kept saying again and again we have come a long way but we have further to go. and you think well, who should be looked to for that? you are the president. you are the leader, do something about it. there was the sense of like you know who'd have thought 50 years, 50 years after the march on washington and the discrepancy black employment and white unplanned mid-is the same and the discretion of income has grown.
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they are more people in prison than when soviet bloc was in its height in these people are like, what he going to do? what are you going to do? i would like to know what you were going to do. the degree to which there is this sense of kind of powerlessness among the powerful i found quite objectionable. one inch ding thing i saw was the number of -- domain not poster or t-shirt but whatever whatever -- trayvon martin and an interesting variation of that which was obama in a hoodie. it was the sense that i got like you know i don't think when george zimmerman saw trayvon martin walking down the road he saw the there goes the future
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president of america. i found that interesting. i saw more pictures of trayvon martin than i did of martin luther king. >> we had two commemorations and the one led by the reverend al sharpton. i have interests backed but it was telling to me that young aisha and johnson from chicago who is the young education activist was taken off the stage it is telling because as much as we talk about youth and as much as we want our youth involved and they want to see youth movements, we are taking the mic away from them. we are taking them out of the fight and that to me was the theme of al sharpton's march essentially, that it was his ascension. it was his coronation as the single most powerful civil rights leader in the united states at the moment and you essentially
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go through him. it's disheartening to watch. at the very least, phil agnew of the dream defenders did get to speak at that commemoration, which he did not at the official one. he and sophia campos were told that they were not going to get there two minutes apiece because they ran out of time. this was the real farce on shut-in as malcolm x called the original march. this was not about a movement. this was not about the actual lived experiences of luck and brown oppressed people in this country. this is not about finding solutions. this is about america patting itself on the
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back for how far we have come and if we look at the statistics that gary younge has rattled off, how far have we come? tell me please, i would like to know. if you'll indulge my michael eric dyson moment i would like to quote a rapper. they should start changing up the tempo. what exactly are we supposed to do when at every turn you introduce new forms of racism?
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you change the game up completely and it doesn't look any more like whites only signs but it looks like being locked up for a dime bag a week. this is the new fight. this is the new way that they have chosen to oppress. so what are the solutions? we don't get any of this commemoration because it's not about a movement. and i don't have time for that. >> i want us to talk about the split screen. just to bring in, i like to bring everything back to rosa parks. in the end of february we got the statute and you may remember it's an odd moment of bipartisanship. it's mcconnell and boehner and pelosi and the president coming to the capital to honor the very first national black version in the capital and barack obama says we need more than lofty awards. here we are barack obama is the president and its 2013. we need more than lofty words. literally across town that day as they are honoring that statute talking about what a great niche and, what a vision, what a people, what a country across town the supreme court is hearing the voting rights act challenged literally across town and president obama ends the day and
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she talks about her -- singular act of courage. the president of the united states who could do more than lofty words said that was what i meant to honor rosa parks when she died has an opportunity and again gives us lofty words. so i want to talk more about the split screen. >> i think that there is, america has this ability a far more potent ability to discharge the past and to travel light from its history. britain kind of slips into its past. it surrounds itself and it likes the idea of it and it kind of, like a warpath after a while it's pretty disgusting and people are very comfortable with it. some people say that you know, what do people say? they say it's putting the great back into
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great britain. there's a whole lot of genocide and a whole lot of war. we don't want to talk about that america has this ability even as the march on washington was taking place america was reinventing itself and say -- saying there was a group from the agency that works with the state department and they were filming the mountains to make a little program to send to africa about american democracy at work, using the warsh -- march on washington, a march by people who had just been horsewhipped and beaten and hosts to say what a great
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country this is. we write history while the ink is dry. it's not quite dry on the first draft. so there is this uncanny ability in a way i haven't seen in other places though i don't doubt it, to kind tonight what is on the other screen, to have a sort of sense of what's going on. to say you can see from barack obama's election and then you just quote almost any statistic that shows that actually his ascent has coincided with a larger -- and he's like yes, then this wonderful? you barely get to the end of the sentence and what that means with racism is a desire which was explicitly stated in the arguments either that day or before or after,
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where the person arguing says this is for a problem that has been solved. the problem has been solved and racism becomes only the systematic that you need jim crow senior with a pointy hat and a cross in the billy club. that is racism where is jim crow junior who you know tonight all paternity but he is still there and he doesn't use
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cuss words. he dresses very politely and works within the system that keeps white supremacy going by pushing paper around in a certain way and by locking people up in a certain way and just saying well, these are the rules. there was the sense that the systematic is a lot easier to understand and to see and a lot easier to portray them people are more comfortable with it whereas systemic you have to pull out class, you have to pull out capitalism and you are pulling at the entire way in which america has been structured and the way in which it operates. those who owned the screens don't want to show that. it's not in their interest to show that screen. [inaudible] [laughter] >> i think we are we
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are going to take some questions. i guess before we take a question, i have heard you talk about this and if you are a member of that speech not the "i have a dream" speech but the dash speech. i think part of this is also what would it mean to remember king drew sort of different things that were as important to his rhetorical presence. >> yeah and i want to back up to something mychal said it had revenue malcolm x household and a the caribbean family that i grew up with more affinity to what i thought outcome x. was and what i thought king was and it was partly in the same way, when i start i grew up with
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when i started seeing people whose racial politics i distrusted rocking out to bob marley i said you ruined it for me. it took me to the outside of that to actually see it is good and you can't blame him. you can't blame him for that. and that does speak to the speech because one of the plays and a few people said this one we know is we know as the bad check speech. in the speech there's a quite a long moment where king talks about america has issued the negroes a bad check and we have come to cash this check it was marked insufficient funds. if you understand it, as a bad check speech than it does bring the issues up to date in a way that the dream which is a fish and a utopian vision and i like it because it's a utopian vision, it that says one you going to come good on this
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check? no one can walk around the jails in the schools and say america has honored that check. the metaphor is that with the declaration of independence black men in white men were created equal. that was the check that keeps bouncing. when one understands america's racial history that way, it does do different things to how that speech can be remembered, not just as kumbaya can we all get along but there has to be in a not specifically talking about reparations here but there has to be a redistribution of wealth you have to make good on what you say it means to be american because you have not done that yet. and that is a very different way of understanding
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the speech. also he starts by saying 200 years ago in the shadow of the men in which we stand. he talks about the legacy of slavery and segregation in a way that makes it very very clear that there is more to freedom than the breaking of chains. there is more to equality than simply the end of segregation and so when people take the judge by the content of their character and not the color of their skin and they use that as a flight from history. that's the only line in the whole speech and they use that to oppose affirmative action and all the rest of it. he ignores the fact that he says racism has a licorice -- legacy in the present has consequences and we are living that legacy. what conservatives particularly but i think quite often america as a country likes to do his part to
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pretend that the past has no legacy. so even to take a different example is at me support several when you talk about syria and you talk about what about the bombing of iraq people are like why are you bringing up old stuff? it's not old stuff. it's still going on for why you talk about failures in anniston and they say just because the last word hasn't worked doesn't mean this one can't. that war is not over. we are still fighting that war. you haven't finished your main course and you are already on the desert. slow down and think about what you are doing. so there are a range of ways in which that speech is even on its own terms and on its own terms it was not a radical speech. even on its own terms. >> i was going to ask where we start that thing where we get to call it a bad check speech if i get my reparations. [laughter] >> you
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have seen the dave chapelle thing. >> yes. [laughter] >> oh no. >> my fantasy is that it be called the white moderate speech because my favorite passage from king is the passage in the letter from a birmingham jail where he talks about the greatest only buchter freedom is not the klan but the white moderate who prefers order to justice, who feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom and paternalistically he says to wait for convenient season. the work is not done, right? >> i mean related to that there is this interesting i think way of understanding it which is if you think of how unpopular king was when he died, and other things are unpopular,
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and how king shifts from being deeply unpopular than it's a kindly useful way of understanding who are we excluding? what issues, what characters and what platforms and 50 year time are we going to get something on the mall? >> just to remember how unpopular he is, when he gives the riverside speech "the new york times" runs an op-ed the next day with the headline dr. king's era and the "washington post" runs another poll. 25% of african-americans agree with king after that speech. show that's as they can get us to white americans. the degree of
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unpopular we forget in like gary was saying the need for us then to reflect on who is unpopular and what that message may mean for where we need to go. >> and i think we can reflect on who is popular in the same way. what is going to happen with barack obama? what is going to happen with the way we remember his legacy? they will -- we are not going to remember his legacy in any way that i feel is accurate as to what he is accomplishing and we are talking about health care, a republican idea that will be a boon to insurance companies. we are talking about the
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continuation of the wars that were started during the bush years and ingraining again this mindset of perpetual war and using drums and expanding that warfare. we are talking about you know again mass incarceration. his administration has fought the war on drugs in much the same way that other administradministr ations have fought it even though they don't call it the war on drugs. are we going to remember these things? are we going to again exalt someone because of what we can find to further the narrative of american exceptionalism and not reckon with their actual legacy? >> what i think particularly and what my book is about is trying to, i think those are always
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open contests that we are involved in them that we should be involved in and it's never too late and never too early to challenge the dominant narrative there is a dialectic between the thesis and the range of antithesis. it's very important to be in that struggle because it's not just the intention of writing this book isn't just about understanding the historical periods about challenging how we understand history because how we understand history has a direct relation to how we understand -- so i consider that an open fight and a fight worth waging. there was a funny thing, i was in belfast last week at a festival and interviewed on the radio. i got my 45 seconds of talking and the woman is wrapping up and she says barack obama lives under
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the legacy of dr. martin luther king and thank you very much. it's like arsenic in the water supply. you have to try. >> that >> so let me read our first question. this person writes, if the dream was an attractive metaphor for end of apartheid, what would constitute a useful metaphor for of contemporary white supremacy? today's, what is statement commensurate with "i have a dream"? >> wow. so the question is, can i come match themetaphor to metaphor that's lasted 50 years? >> yeah, gary. get to it. >> exactly. waiting. >> slack.
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i'm so slow. um... mean, one of the things that's actually is,ning given the way this has been that theriated, was greatest metaphor? it wasn't the only metaphor used. the metaphor that was remembered. and... ahem. thatthink that the stage we're in now, the globalization its forms, systemic as systematic, more systemic as opposed to a systematic form of racism, easily tond itself that it's -- and that's kind of been one of their challenges. the 1%, 99% meme was a useful thought, for a while.
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it wasn't about race but it kind of, like,d the sense a framing of the problem, that people do kind of go back to. even there -- even that entirely adequate. yeah, i can't match the dream. if i could, i probably wouldn't right >> and new of us will be around for the end of white supremacy, so i don't even think we should brainstrying to rack our for a metaphor trying to sum it up. >> yeah. it would be, yay! ha! >> yes. but as far as catchy slogans go, that i will endorse, and i'm going back to the dream defenders again, and excuse me, but i just love the work that they're doing. say over and over again, i believe that we will
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win. and that's it. >> which is the amc's slogans, one of their many slogans, was victory is certain, which is how powerful, given unlikely it was at so many points. youi think that the point make there, which is it's very difficult to imagine what the of white supremacy would look like actually. >> right. thatd that doesn't mean it's not worth trying. >> no. >> and what i like about the actually is its utopian nature, that within 10 days, four limits girls had been killed in birmingham in sunday this guy didn't get up and say i have a 10-point plan. do better., we can this is not all we have to be. but we're not even. we haven't even reached the dream yet.s
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so kind of going on to like what be, let'sream would wake up from the nightmare that get ton now and kind of the end of that one first. >> right. over and over, in the letter from the birmingham jail, many speeches talk about the myth of time, really talk against this idea that things and get better and better progress and progress. and i think we forget this part time isthat says neutral. know, for time, for things to get better, it act.res us to this idea that if we just, you be quiet,atient and that america or the world is just getting better, i mean, king says over and over, is a myth. he in fact says that the voices better ation are using time than we are. so i think -- i don't know. i was reading the letter again week and was struck by
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that. we have a question here that other famousre any historical figures who are critical of capitalism and who depoliticized? >> in america? but iy don't say so, think that's maybe the implication. i don't know. >> i would look for somebody out in the audience actually. no? can i phone a friend? [laughter] >> i mean, i do think that theme the civil rights movement is really taken out of how we talk about the movement. yeah? [inaudible comment from audience] >> no, no. go ahead. you're my friend. [inaudible] >> it's for the tv. [inaudible]
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dubois, or maybe that's more just an attention thing in regards to him not being talked constantly through the mainstream and other figures that.t, because of >> yes, w. b. dubois, who dayrestingly, dies on the of the march. and so those of you who don't know, dubois joins the communist party very late in his life and of the march.y of wilkins, who is the head the naacp, is asked -- randolph him, will you read out, you commemorate? and wilkins says no, because dubois was a communist. only when randolph says, if you don't do it, i'm and i'll take up your time, that then wilkins of does agree.
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mean, think that -- i there are people who have .orgotten rosa parks is certainly misremembered. know what her -- i do was not -- when her position, king in relation to malcolm's, she was like i could never get to the no violent. much moreys a believer in malcolm's strategy than king's. or she could never quite devote notion of the nonviolence really. >> yeah. i don't know if there are any other figures that are critical of capitalism and depoliticized. >> yeah. >> i mean, i think one --
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>> muhammad ali would be a good example. >> also, gloria richardson. things we haven't mentioned yet tonight is sort of womench sort of both participated and organized for the march and then were in many ways shunted aside. and one of the people who was on roll that day was gloria richardson, who was waging the cambridge, maryland, and it was a struggle that was very much linking racial eastern shorehe of maryland with economic justice. richardson, like the other women on the roll that day, did get to speak. there's an amazing interview now" did withy gloria richardson where she doingabout what they were in cambridge but also literally thatof being recognized day and sort of getting to say
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beingand the microphone taken away from her. i do think richardson is what weic of, i think, might say civil rights leaders strugglers whom always had a kind of core of economic justice. and i think what we tend to remember is the public desegregation and that was that struggle of but that there were all of these woveneconomic struggles sort of through that. again, gloria that ison would be one would put out there. critique of a capitalism. he didn't implement it once he unfortunately. it was also a different world would not toi -- i
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have liked to have taken over africa at that moment. charter was am nationalization and a whole range of things. mandela -- he said his favorite form of democracy was british parliamentary democracy which is kind of odd, but economically, he was a socialist. he was a socialist. i don't think we'll be seeing that when he passes. one of the things that kept him in prison for an awful long time was the fact that he refused to renounce any association with the communist party. another oneould be who is understood as a nice old man, you know, who did the right thing. agree that malcolm x obviously had the critique of wantalism but they have to to remember you to depoliticize
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you. >> right. we've got a live stream question. theres person asks, is still a generation who remembers the fight of all these leaders? instill interest in new generations for them? >> how do you instill interest people to want to learn history? [laughter] >> i think you have to relate it to them. to be tangible. it has to mean something to your present, you know. and i think that's what you find of youth activism today, they're tied to and history, and that's why they're out in the streets. because they understand that for them to have what freedom they now, someone struggled for it, but they also understand
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that that fight didn't complete ae struggle, that they have responsibility to take up that mantle now. and it is because someone along the way expressed that to them. put that copy of that biography in their hands, they're like, this is your history. who you this is how you got here. timeimply -- i mean, every you want to -- people are like, how do we do this with the youth? ever just tried talking to them? they're not aliens that don't that youd the way speak or that don't ups words. they -- that don't understand words. are intelligent beings. you can talk to young people. to young you, talk people. >> yeah. i actually find young people receptive.
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first of all, lots of people are still alive, because it wasn't that long ago. one of the very important things to remember. is not that what my six-year-old wants to know about segregation, he's around that age. can just point him to his grandfather and grandmother. speakandmother saw king in philadelphia. his grandfather grew up in atlanta. this is living history. young people -- i think they have a very keen interest in the history. reasons, i think, why the way in which it's presented to them can be a turnoff. one is these people did all this. what are you doing? useful bunch of people. [laughter] your "i marched"? you've got your pants hanging to rapd are listening music. >> then we get arrested when we buy belts. >> ha ha! [applause]
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sensethere is this that -- of history being used as a stick to beat young people with. not worthy of the history that they have been bequeathed. that if you tell storiesas a series of about great men and very occasionally great women, and pedestals,ple up on then you can't reach them. >> yeah. becomes just kind of another version of a world that you're not a part of, which point of that first book that i read. these are ordinary people. these are six-year-old kids. these are people whose names you who were -- and the history is made by people. in order for king to deliver that speech, there had to be a march. in order for there to be a have to be 14,783
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arrests in 10 weeks. of people.t and that person could be you. you could be part of what makes that speech. and if it's an ego thing and you want to give the speech, that's a different thing. want to understand how that speech actually happened because people made it happen. and you are people. on how youoes depend tell history. social andvolutions, political revolutions, are actually led by the young. are very few of where itrdless is. we've seen cuba, russia, germany, wherever, where young front and -- are front and center. young people. so making history accessible, easy words, but as
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is -- that you can take ownership of, i think, is also very important. it just becomes one more thing you have to learn that kind of clever people you are never going to be like. who wants to learn that? >> or who seems so much more -- >> regal. >> regal, unified, right? gary starts with franklin mccain, who is one of the young greensboro. and there are four young people who start it, right? think, ok, id to have three friends. >> yeah. >> what could i do with three friends? , right? because that's what they are. they're four friends. >> right. >> we go back to rosa parks. who isry of colvin, kicked off the bus before rosa parks, who pleads not guilty, charged and who they
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with -- very dark skin, wrong side of town. pregnant,ets 15-year-old girl and they drop her. they just drop her. don't just drop her from that protest, which is a arategical question, also moral question obviously, but what's our test case going to be? they drop her out of history altogether. she's just let go. you reinsert her back into history, what you're saying is you're a single mom. well, look, this is what happened. you're a 15-year-old girl. this is -- not just what can happen to you in terms of all do, butthings you can look, she made a stand. she's part of that story. the flyersistributed about rosa parks, they say another woman has been kicked bus.he
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she is named. >> and when they actually file federal case that separates montgomery's buses, it's colvin, smith and two other women. on that case, both because they're worried it's going to muddy the waters to have her, because her case is still in state court, but also parks has this long history with naacp. they're worried about baiting. the case that actually segregates montgomery's buses is filed by four women, two of teenagers. >> and if rosa parks is understood as part of a action where she and then fortest work,ths, people walk to black people from montgomery walk to work, without with her -- didn't really mean much beyond her own protest. are involving large numbers of young people, lots of
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single mothers, lots of kind of like youlass people who made that stand, whereas if you only understand it as there she got tired, didn't want to stand up, so she sat down. of rosa's the story parks. then you get a sense that like, first of all, wow, what an and secondly, maybe the course of history would be different if she just had better shoes. been so maybe she would have stood up. >> right. >> but this sense that it's just one person in one moment and not collective protest that involves people like you. >> yeah. and what happens when you reimagine this story, and not the it through the lens of male protagonists? and you recenter the women in start talking you about how what helped launch sexualsboy cot is the violence that these black women were experiencing on the buses? when you tell little girls that and when you
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tell little boys that? shift the whole narrative. i think that's what, you know -- when we're talking about, how do you relate history to young people, you tell them the story. actual tell them the story. and you don't give them platitudes. you talk to them as human beings you give them the truth. >> right. and i think you talk about how hard it is. the other -- again, every school child learns parks is courageous, right? courageous is that she and other people had done these things before and they didn't work. there's nothing to believe that night, when she makes that decision, that this is going to she doesn't believe it. she talks about it as her -- as being irritating and annoying. she doesn't see this as a new chapter, right? tell the story of one lady sits down and everybody stands up, it's like, well, stands up when an
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injustice -- it feels like, oh, we're not unified today. we suck today. and when we tell it as she had done this over and over and knew had donehe this over and over and over, right? and that that is what it requires. right? and it requires long seasons of doesn't look like anything is changing. >> and where it's not recorded. >> yeah. >> where you're not doing it for show.meras or for that history, the facts of such, only the facts -- are only the facts that we choose to present. line about cesar crossing the rube rubicon, and e says, well, many people cross the river, the rubicon, and cesar crossed many rivers. a fact ofthat history? lots of people made that protest and rosa parks made this protest. in thatut what happens moment that makes that fact of
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history as opposed to the range other facts. king gives the "i have a dream" speech many times. and yet somehow we don't know about detroit. we don't know about chicago. so why do we understand the speech in that way? that does open things up, i terms of expectation, then,e the expectation is i made my protest. >> right. >> and the world didn't change. >> right. made my individual protest. and the world didn't change, as opposed to there were many of us. i made my protest. then we did this. a range of things happened, the first't work time. maybe we have to do it again. >> i think we'll take one -- we have one question. think we'll wrap up. then there will be time for signing and, like, more informal. this says, would martin luther today?ill be marching >> absolutely.
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lewis is still out there getting arrested. why wouldn't king? >> yeah. i mean, there is generally -- generally when i do these there's always some desire to get you to talk for him. he say aboutuld this, and what would he say about that? given everything we know about be trajectory, it would incredible if he wasn't. he was died for conditions in memphis that had gone wrong, where there had been violence and where he felt the urgent need to go back and make it work. unlikely, deeply unlikely, that king would return today, would look at the jails schools, and the mental institutions, and the food banks and the unemployment lines and think my work here was done, you know, hallelujah. i think the question is less, today, thanmarching
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who would be marching with him, who would be marching against anyone even know it? >> right. right. 9/11, rosays of glover and ante, number of other civil rights leaders put out a statement, for the unitedng states not to retaliate, right? to work through the to findional community justice after 9/11. right? so both -- one of the great things about sending somebody like rosa parks, she lives through the present and we know what she would be doing, because she is in fact doing it. gary's point, how many of us knew that? where was that covered? again, have rosa parks get a state funeral, first civilian to ever get a state funeral? she lies in the capitol. that.idn't get but that person had, four years earlier, said this is what the should do and not
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do, right, that that part of it out.ow falls i don't know. last comments? i mean... an say history is not objective process. it works with great prejudice in to craft certain kinds of memory. and those memories are never settled, which is kind of why we're here. you,o if they can't forget and god knows they try -- >> right. a it's not like it was foregone conclusion that we would still be talking about even. if they can't forget you, then they will kill you with the kindness of remembering you in a certain way. they will kill you twice. yeah. a stamp.ive you deify you in a way
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meaningracts all of the that made you meaningful. it's an -- because ongoing process, then that means it's an ongoing challenge. it's not a challenge that i feel is a foregone conclusion. strugglesat these are actually -- i don't know if you ever quite win them, but that have traction, because relevance. and the relevance they have is but to the the past present. their history lives with us. much as people would like to travel light, when they look around, the baggage is still there. >> yeah. about the stamp,
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you know. my heroes don't appear on those stamps. pictures on them now, but they still don't appear. aside from that, all i have left say is free melissa alexander. >> amen. [applause] >> thank you. be signing books. yes? >> yes. and you, i think. >> oh, yeah, and me. you. >> thank you. [applause] >> history bookshelf features knownuntry's best american history writers of the past decade, talking about their books. series watch our weekly every saturday at 4 p.m. eastern
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american history t.v. on c-span 3. the trumanide courthouse in independence, missouri, where c-span is learning about the city's history. it was here, as a presiding judge, that harry truman oversaw renovations of the courthouse. take you to the truman presidential library and museum to learn about his presidential career. ♪[music] >> in independence, missouri, truman library becomes a realities, fulfilling theng-cherished dream of ex-president. and chief -- mr. truman and chief justice warren both take the ritual. >> this library is not the library. archivist's building with the idea of


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