tv Tavis Smiley PBS May 27, 2014 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. a conversation about the effective freedom summer the began with the murder of three workers in mississippi june 21, 1964. to honor their son another civil rights workers, andrew goodman's organization in his name. we are glad you have joined us. a conversation about freedom summer 50 years later coming up right now.
carolyn goodman was determined to keep the legacy of her sons fight for social justice alive, a journey sure counts in a memoir that has just been published. your enemy to talk about the impact of freedom summer is andrew goodman's younger brother david who is now the president of the andrew goodman foundation . good to have a year. this book is now coming up with a beautiful forward by my angelo. your mother is deceased. she wrote this book when and why is it coming out now? >> she started writing this book 20 years before she passed away, 2007.was it was pretty much finished but she met brad herzog who happens to be a cornell graduate and my mother was a cornell graduate. they worked on it together. after she died, he needed to edit it and put it together. we decided to release it on the 50th anniversary, which is of
course right now. it was released may 1. tavis: your mother would not be the first writer to take a while to get a book done. sometimes it takes a well-to-do books and records and movies. i wonder if there was a particular reason why it took require. >> it the pain, the process? i think she wanted to put together a thoughtful record of her life, which is -- it stands eight plus decades through a very tumultuous time in our history. and my brother, her son, was part of that history and she wanted to do a thorough job of it, not totally about herself and -- but about herself in the context of our country. tavis: what about the title, "my mantelpiece.." the firste to read chapter. >> i read the book. just tell the story, man. [laughter]
>> when i was a kid, sometimes i mixed up words. i had done a painting that i said look at my mantelpiece meeting my masterpiece. she thought that was great because you put your masterpieces on the mental peas. a lot of stuff was on our mantelpiece in our home that was important to our family. it is a metaphor for that which is important to you. tavis: that is a cute story. i just wanted you to tell it. speaking of the goodman family mantelpiece, in your reference to the fact that there were a lot of important items on the mantelpiece, what was on the mantelpiece? >> it was not just what was on about what was around it. it was in her living room. apartment in new york city. it was rent control and my mother moved in. in thatst about one apartment. it was the center for all kinds of events, political, cultural, intellectual, the piano next to the mount of these was played by
leonard bernstein, for instance. tavis: that is high. when leonard bernstein was by your house to play piano -- [laughter] >> this was before he was really famous. back in the day, before the unions were powerful in the entertaining business, the new york philharmonic did not pay their musicians much. she raised money for them. she was constantly organizing, raising money for good causes, for cultural things, for political things. if you wanted to run for office on the upper west side, you had to raise -- you had to go by karen goodman's house and she would raise money for you if she liked you. there were authors in and out. the mccarthy era, before i really can remember what went on 4 in 1950, i was only about -- but the people who were blacklisted in hollywood, which is where we are now, you know, it is part of our history people forgotten. it was serious.
it was terrible. it was un-american. but a lot a lot of things happening that were un-american. but she believed that you've got to really organize and raise money for these causes and she did that. that is what went around this mantelpiece, not just what was on it. harry that explains why belafonte is one of those to endorse the text. his name certainly stands out. >> harry lived during uris. right neareat -- night us. he was a great supporter. harry it is not just belafonte or leonard bernstein playing a piano came to your brother andrew, he extended an and -- an invitation to a great american to speed to his school. his invitation was accepted. it is amazing because we know forevermes and they are etched in our memory. they are part of americana.
to me, 50amazing years later, how many -- how little we know about these three young men. so getting into andrew's story specifically, one makes a connection to a great i can jackie roosevelt robinson. mr. robinson lived in new york city at that point and he was iconic. he is one of our great historical legacy and he only lives a couple of blocks away. my mother and father knew him. people in that circle knew each other. there want a lot, but he was on the upper west side and my brother loved baseball. i'm not a great big baseball fan that he was and he took me to ebbets field, for those people who can remember what edits field was when the dodgers were here. [laughter] i went with him and there was jackie robinson playing there. mr. robinson had retired at this point, i believe. and he invited jackie robinson to speak at the school and he
shut up. so my brother is a big hero in the school. he did come. tavis: telling the story of how andrew made the decision that he wanted to go to mississippi. >> i'm not so sure that it was a making of a decision as much as it was how we were brought up. he particularly was a person who really looked at things in terms of the word fair. call him political. he viewed the world in terms of this is fair, this is wrong, this is really wrong. he wanted to understand certain situations because they are both simple and can't located. he heard in certain parts of the country, if you wanted to vote, you could get the upper even shot and murdered. just to go to a voting booth. he thought that was unfair.
explained to me. he heard that there were people organizing to register african-americans to vote in mississippi specifically. that is what freedom summer became and he joined that along with 900 other volunteers. he was not the only one. it was a large group of people. of course, 900 is an big as a percentage of the population. he felt that not being able to vote was unfair. it was wrong. tavis: to your heart about the fact that it wasn't just a decision, i understand. it was in part the way he was raised, the way he saw the world . so much us to do with your mother carolyn goodman, the author of this book "my mantelpiece." but how did your mother take his ultimate decision to go to mississippi? we will talk later about how she dealt with his murder, but how did she take his wanting to go? >> that is a tough kind of conversation. she and my father, as we grew up -- i remember these conversations around the dinner table -- talked about our
constitution in the context of what it meant and it was kind of like homeschooling. these words like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which every american child hears about. and it was discussed in the context of what you are allowed to do and what you should do and what you can do. he heard that, too. that is how we were kind of tuned into what was going on that was right and was wrong and what we thought was wrong. those are the kinds of things that motivated him particularly. when he was 15, he went down to west virginia, for example, because he heard that coal miners -- we come from a family of mining engineers, tunnel engineers come contractors. and he heard -- we know this is dangerous work from our family, but they were paid minimal wages . it was very dangerous and he wanted to see for himself what it was like and he went there
just to educate himself because he was curious. tavis: at 15. >> yeah, he and a friend went there. he had done this before in terms of looking into things. tavis: so this was not a complete surprise to her. >> when she heard that he wanted to go to mississippi, she couldn't exactly say to him, well, i have been bringing you up this way to take action but you can't go to mississippi. it's too dangerous. which a lot of parents, i am now a parent and have two children i would say that. she hadas under 21 and to sign a release. very difficult. tavis: he obviously pays an ultimate rice. i went back to do some research. i know this story relatively well. i want to go back and check my facts because i knew he had been there. for the briefest amount of time. but i was stunned all over again when i realized how brief his visit to mississippi was before
he is murdered. >> yeah. actually, i brought something i want to give you. of student nonviolence were told when they get to the place they were assigned to, they had to send it to his current home to their parents so they knew they got there safe. this is a copy of the coast guard. he was only there about a day before he was murdered. by the way, the last person i gave that postcard -- that is a copy of the original -- was president obama. so you got one just like his. it is copied on both sides. i am happy to give it to you. tavis: i am honored to receive it. addressed to mr. and mrs. robert goodman, 161 west 86th street new york, new york. dear mom and dad, i have arrived safely ingredient, mississippi. this is a wonderful town and the
weather is fine. i wish you were here. the people in this city are wonderful. our reception was very good. all my love, andy. >> that is the last correspondence we got from him. mississippiian, june 21, 1964. >> it was strange because that is a sunday. think about the post office -- tavis: closed on sunday. >> they told him to write an innocuous note because they were worried that any correspondence like that would be red and -- would be read and so that is what he wrote. tavis: you know the irony of this? whose picture is that? >> abraham lincoln. tavis: how ironic is that? abraham lincoln?
for sense of the stamps cost at that point with a picture of abraham lincoln. my lord. >> there are so many interesting coincidence is like that. i could go on a long time. but i have to share one with you. missing and murdered, we found out later, june 21, 1964. 44 days later, their bodies were found august 4, 1964. 44 years later, the 44th president of the united states was elected. on august 4, 1964, also was the event thatkin started the vietnam war. that was also barack obama's birthday. talk about 4. tavis: yeah. how did the news reach your parents? days, while there were missing, there was constant communication with the white
house and also other members of the administration, mainly robert kennedy senior, the attorney general. the bodies were found, like i said, on august 4. fbin informant who told the where they were. it took them 44 days. they excavated the site and found them and then the president's staff called the three families, the schwerner's, cheney's and my parents. inparents, by that time the evening had gone to lincoln center to see a concert. i was only one at home. i believe lee white to work for president johnson called me and i called one of our family lawyer members and he went and got him at lincoln center. tavis: you actually received a phone call.
who had the responsibility of sharing that with your parents? >> a man by the name of ernie fishman, a very close family friend went to lincoln center and got them and brought them home. tavis: did he tell them at lincoln center? >> he told them there. it was a terrible thing, but he had to tell them. tavis: how did your parents navigate forward? how did they process all this? >> it is a great question. it wasn't easy. -- i was 17 at the time -- to strike out and get angry and hateful towards the people who you think he did it or what caused it. my mother particularly took a different tack, which is to show the nation that, while this was a terrible thing, horrible, and part of a bigger issue -- and that was the bigger issue that she wanted to focus on, not her personal loss, but to take that loss and bring it to people in
the context of this shouldn't happen again. it came out of a system, a social system of racism, segregation that was counterproductive and not in our nation's collective interest. that was basically her message and she did it as a grieving mother. some people listened to her. the sad part of the story -- there are many sad parts -- but i think that is a positive part of the story. the sad part of the story to me is that i realized, which i hadn't before, that it took two white kids to get murdered by racists to wake up white america. black, because there had been many, many black killings, including michael evers not even a year before -- actually, a year before almost to the day -- and the country related because the country was majority white to white kids
getting killed. to me and to her because we discussed it. that was the tragic part also. but rather than harp on the sadness, we've got to move forward and reconcile their differences and move away from hatred and violence so that we can have what our great constitution says we should have, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and equal protection under the law. tavis: this happens from time to time around here. particularly if they do this kind of social justice work, they are always excited not to meet me but to meet a couple of other people who work on my team. i'm just the host of the show. [laughter] but i was not at all surprised by your enthusiasm when you had a chance to meet makers your is -- to meet who
his youngest child, who is my photographer. because you only are right about the fact that he had been killed just a year prior and there was something about -- when you look at the seminal moments in the civil rights history of this nation, there are these occurrences where, for reasons that are sometimes inexplicable, the nation's conscience is actually pricked. two white kids awakened them girls in that the the church, not vomit, something about the innocence of children and their lives being lost pri cks the nation's consciousness. years later, as sad as it
still is to have lost your brother in this way, there has to be something good, for lack of a better word, about the fact that his sacrifice really sparked the conscience of the country. >> we do focus on them. that is a form of survival for us. what good came out of this? ways a great story in a that people responded positively. that is a positive story. the collateral damage is sad, horrible. but history is peppered with these kinds of stories. what we need to do is take them and play it forward to see what is happening today that we need to pay attention to that we might not be. tavis: what does the entry goodman foundation focus on these days? >> that is exactly what we are trying to do, take this iconic story and basically what was it?
it was a bunch of people coming together, 900 young adults, who felt what was going on was unfair and they organize with a black leadership and what participants basically to change something. the entry goodman foundation is saying what would andy be doing today if he were alive. we structured our foundation with a couple of platforms, a couple of programs. one of them is called vote everywhere and naturally, it is a voting legacy issue. we make arrangements and have partnerships with numerous knowledge is right now for this particular program where young people who are passionate about some aspect of civic engagement, politics or what's going on -- we are not democrat or republican oriented, just what do they want to do? then we help them learn, how to organize as social entrepreneurs for change agent leadership.
that is what we do in that program. we have another program called hidden heroes where we look for organizations that are in some aspect of social justice, civil rights, and also create an forrtunity and we fund them their work a little bit, give them recognition. and then we put a young person, give them a fellowship to work there, like an internship. the problem is young adults today are broke and they need a little stipend. so it's not a free internship. we give them a scholarship fellowship and they learn the ropes of how to organize and run these nonprofits for social change. suspect, if you had to lose your brother, i certainly can imagine a more noble pursuit for which he gave his life. can you? >> i don't mean to correct you. he didn't give his life. his life was taken. he didn't expect to die.
we don't view my brother -- i don't view my brother as a martyr. he lost his life. fortunately, the 900 other andents and young people changing just didn't and this relatively small group made a big change. a group of one persons put together can make a big change and he did lose his life. but it was taken. we don't encourage people to do things where they are going to lose their lives. it is unusual thankfully. to takencourage people action. so the vision of our foundation is everybody takes action with emphasis on action, to create a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. tavis: i think you're point is well taken. yet what does strike me about that is that there was something
happening in the country than that i don't see happening as much today which is that people are willing to make the sacrifice to put themselves on the line, to put themselves in ,arms way for the greater good whether they intend to die or not. he was walking into a dangerous situation and he made that sacrifice which i celebrate. >> yes. i've heard this and many times, why aren't the young people doing more aggressive engagement? i think it's a different and the times are different. i don't want to judge what young people did today in the context of 50 years ago. school, whichigh i graduated in 1964, and someone from 50 years before me, 19 14, came and said what i ought to be doing, i wouldn't listen to him. so i think we need to encourage young people to do what they are willing to do and give them the tools and the mentorship to do it. that is what we are doing at the
andy goodman foundation. tavis: the book written by his mother is called "my mantelpiece, a memoir of survival and social justice." it is a text by the mother of andrew woodman, carolyn goodman. work.ue to do good david, thank you for coming on. thanks to you and your family for your sacrifice. and i am going to treasure this gift for as long as i live. thank you for bringing me this. >> thank you. show forat is our tonight. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with first about juvenile prisons and then with ed o'neill from "modern family." we will see you then.
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