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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  July 10, 2020 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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in hospitals from south carolina and all over the country have now started begging the public directly. hospitals and doctors are inviting the press in now to see what's going on so they can communicate to the public directly to please wear masks, please socially distance, even when the politicians in that state won't do it. it would just be amazing to have some national leadership right now to organize, you know, a smart, science-driven integrated all hands on deck national fight against this thing as it goes so bad so fast. that would be -- that would be great. we don't have that. we've got what we've got. and god forgive us for that. and god bless us through this. that is going to do it for us tonight. we'll see you again on monday. now it is time for "the last word" can lawrence o'donnell. >> good evening, rachel. the roger stone news was kind of coming all day. although, in a sense, it's been coming for a long time. i think we saw it coming for a while. >> yeah. >> howard fineman tweeted
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something very important that has now been -- it's in "the new york times" reporting in this story tonight. and he tweeted this before the announcement came that the president was commuting roger stone's sentence. and howard's tweet says just had a long talk with roger stone. he says he doesn't want a pardon, which implies guilt or commutation and says he thinks trump will give it to him. and then this part is in quotation marks from roger stone directly to howard fineman. he knows i was under enormous pressure to turn on him. it would have eased my situation considerably, but i didn't. now, the only way roger stone could have turned on donald trump and eased his situation considerably would be by giving prosecutors criminal information about donald trump. there is nothing else that that can be referring to.
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and, so, there you have on the day that he gets this commutation from the president roger stone saying to a reporter that he had, in effect, saying to him that he had criminal information on donald trump and he refused to give it to prosecutors, and therefore he deserves the commutation. this takes this case into a place where we have never been before. >> no. and this is -- this is like the case study, like the third grade case study for like how public corruption works. like, yeah, in our republic, in our constitutional republic, the executive in our government has the ability to pardon people and that makes sense for some reasons. but there is a risk of corruption. like this is what you would imagine as the scenario where somebody says, as a crony of the president, i could have flipped on you, but i didn't. you better pardon me as a reward and then the president does it. i mean, when i was talking to her about it, this is the sort
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of thing that would make headlines in the united states when it happened in some banana republic abroad. the fact it is happening in our country is something we have just never ever ever confronted. >> and donald trump's pardons on january 19th or the morning of january 20th, if joe biden was going to be inaugurated, i have no doubt donald trump will pardon himself. he is going to pardon ivanka trump. he is going to pardon jared kushner. there will be a flurry of pardons come out of there while william barr might request and obtain a pardon based on his conduct so far in this. trump and the word pardon will be a headline in many more stories, i believe. >> yeah. and the concept of what the presidential pardon power is for and how we ought to think about that in terms of constitutional inheritance will change forever because of the way he's treated
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it. >> yes, it will. thank you, rachel. >> thanks, lawrence. well, donald trump's problem tonight is can he win the presidency again by being more protective of roger stone than he is of the teachers and kids he wants to send back into our schools in the middle of a deadly pandemic? and can he win the presidency of the united states by running a campaign that sounds like he's running for the presidency of the confederate states. >> the killing of george floyd. >> i'm just tired of having to like fear the people that are supposed to protect me. >> i'm tired of the injustice we've been getting because of the color of my skin. >> centuries of history. >> it is a racist confederate statue. should be knocked down. >> there is an overt effort here to erase all the white history. >> a political debate that at
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times pits americans against each other. >> they want to destroy america as we know it. they hate america. >> the left wing mob is trying to vandalize our history. >> i think those statues don't belong in public places. >> tonight tramaine lee takes us on a powerful journey through the south. a trip to listen and learn as we struggle to come to terms with our past. here now is a special presentation of stone ghosts in the south: america's legacy of heritage and hate. >> in the month after george floyd was killed by minneapolis police, 30 confederate monuments were taken down in this country. when tragedy strikes now, the monuments fall. that's what happened in 2017 after heather hire was murdered in charlottesville, virginia when she was protesting a white see prum cyst demonstration in
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charlottesville. 36 confederate monuments came down that year. that's the year tramaine lee began studying our stone ghosts and what they mean to the people who built them and what they mean to the people who have torn them down. joining us now is tramaine lee, msnbc national correspondent. when did you get interested in, began focussing your reporting on the confederate monuments and why? >> you know, it was long before we took this journey in 2018. i remember living in new orleans and being in lee circle and seeing robert e. lee hovering above the city and black folks especially moving in the shadow of these monuments. but after charlottesville and heather hire's death and we saw the images of the torch carrying individuals saying, do not
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replace us and blood and soil and the violence that seemed to inherit, baked into the fabric of america and those monuments, i said we have to go down and explore to get a better sense of what this connection really means to the people, not just to those who worship these, you know, the stone and the brass and the fabric, but those who are deeply, deeply disturbed by them. >> tramaine, what did it feel like for you as a black man in america to take yourself into this journey to study how these monuments got there and what they mean? >> you know, i walk in the footsteps of black journalists who when black folks were being lynched went into the darkness and shown down a bright light. for me i felt mission driven but there were moments there we went deep into the south, deep into the rural communities and engaged with people who you go into their homes and see confederate flags, things in
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black face. they made offhanded jokes in my face. it was tough at times, but i did my best to connect, just to understand. i think we did that. it was uncomfortable at times but certainly well worth the journey. i think we found wrinkles in humanity but understood how poignant the hate and the legacy of that heritage truly is. >> it was a journey that was well worth it as we're about to see. later in this hour, we'll be joined by caroline randal williams. she wrote the stunning new york sometimes op ed piece headlined, you want a confederate body? my body is a confederate body. before we get to that discussion, we begin with what tramaine lee found when he went looking for stone ghosts in the south. >> in 2017, hundreds of white
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nationalists descended on chart lotsville, virginia to defend a monument to robert e. lee. their arrival marked the beginning of 24 hours of violent clashes with protesters. wurn person was killed. others were beaten and bloodied. >> after the unlawful assembly was declared, it was really very festive. it just felt like we won. that's when we heard this loud bang. one car got pushed into the intersection. another car got pushed in right behind it. it was just utter chaos. >> it is hard to imagine that such a big moment happened in this little space. >> yes. >> but that's common in america, right? >> absolutely. >> these big moments happen in small spaces. >> this is what we learned, that all of these small spaces can
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set the stage for huge explosions. >> the battle in charlottesville seemed to be over a single statue. that's a battle that's been repeated in cities across the country. but more than 1,500 monuments to the confederacy remain, honoring those who fought and died to deep black americans like my ancestors in bondage. i decided to travel the south to learn more myself how deep the roots of this fight were buried. i went looking for understanding, for something that would make sense of this moment. along the way i visited monuments, those that aren't so easily removed, the artifacts, the landmarks, too large to take down, and the legacy that resides in our memory and in our blood because the fight was always about more than just a statue.
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a beautiful morning in virginia. >> i didn't want to take this journey alone, so i asked my friend, a reporter for "the new york times," to join me to help me process what it all means. >> what's going on, man? how are you feeling? good to see you. >> for years we have talked about race and history, how his people came to america by way of trinidad and mine through the slave trade. in 2017, the city council took up the question of whether to remove a slave auction block that stands on a corner in the middle of downtown. >> we're about to see an auction block where people were sold. look at the old advertisements. >> yeah. >> seven strong negros for sale. we're not just talking about manual labor. we're talking about artisan
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professionals. >> yeah. >> when my uncle was young, he took a picture on the slave block. for him it was about getting the money because he paid him. and when my grandfather realized that he had stood on that block to have his picture taken, my grandfather whipped him and threw the money away. and he told him what that block was and why he was never to go on that block again. that story has been with us since we were little children. this says not only did we not want you here but we still don't want you hear. >> the lone black council man pushed for a vote to remove the block. the six white members said they voted to keep it in its place to educate future generations. >> i have heard you say fed ricks berg may be the most historic city in america. >> i walk by the home of mayor washington.
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i walk by james monroe's office. i walk by the home my mother was born in. >> you also walk by an auction block, right? >> i do. i do. >> what does that mean in terms of the history? at some point you arrive in a history where humans were bought and sold by this community. >> that is an artifact. the very fact that you can stand where somebody was treated as property and where families were separated is very moving. it is like what germany did when they kept them. it was like don't ever forget. you can't ever forget how horrible that was. >> council man chalk frye proposed removing the block. >> the auction block had been on my mind for a long time since i was a kid.
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you know, i used to see people stood on it, and i saw marked auction. that rips your soul apart. it came down to a vote. it was 6-1 vote. >> do you believe that there is a way to do the block in a respectful way and keep it there? >> i can't think about that. what we can do a tell a story. >> when you walk by that with your children, when you walk by with your people, what is the message being sent. >> there is a possibility your great great grandfather was sold here. >> it seems like it's what's in our history. what it represents has a rippling effect that exists in the very fabric of america. >> that's america. that's just america. >> the black barbershop has always been a place of community where wisdom is passed and stories are traded. today is no different. >> so what was it like growing up with that auction block right there on the corner.
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>> it was like an embarrassment. i don't need to see that block to know what the past was. >> it made you mad because i could say that could be my great grandma, my great grandpa. you bring them in on a boat and then you sell them. >> it is totally unfair and unreal that people can actually sit there and say that, oh, well, we're just saving history. no. what you're doing is you're spitting in our faces. that's what you're doing. >> just across the river from downtown is the chatum plantation where hundreds of slaves were. >> can you imagine the conversation that happened here? torture. >> i mean, can you imagine like from down there you look up here, you're seeing this nice, big, brick house, but you're not thinking that. that's a house of horrors. >> when you are an enslaved
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person, the only thing on the horizon is serving or death or running away. >> when the army arrived here, for the white folks, it was terror. fled across this river to join the union army. could you imagine that moment? >> in fair view, kentucky, the state is wrestling with telling a fuller story around these memorials, including a larger than life monument dedicated to the only president of the confederacy. >> there it is. look at that. >> my goodness. >> that's a big house. >> that is huge. that is huge. >> when you think about the conversation and debate especially over the last year, who role do the monuments and
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artifacts that can't be torn down as easily as a statue, how do they factor into this debate? >> that's where we're really moving into. in the past few years is talking about the construction of confederate memory in kentucky. rooted specifically in this site. who are the groups who are raising money to create these monumen monuments, start to promote it, start to sell it back to not only the south but the entire nation and retelling the history of the south and the civil war and recognizing this memorial landscape we encounter is not a product of the civil war and its history comes much later. its history is situated within the story of a jim crow south. >> groups loyal to the confederacy began promoting a revisionist spin on the civil war. the so-called lost cause. it was about pinning the north as an occupying force and the south as noble defenders of
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virtue, all while minimizing the role of slavery. their influence would fuel nostalgia. starting in the 1890s, they put up at least 700 memorials to the confederacy. for decades, descendants of veterans have connected to the past through civil war reenactments. jeff stokes has been reliving this history. he counts dozens of confederate soldiers in his family tree. >> this is a six pounder, modelled 1848. we looked it over, and he said, yeah, i can make those. so that's where we thought, why not? that was a hot day. when you are out there and you're in your uniform, is there a connection to the past? is that what hinges? >> yes, there is a connection to the past, uh-huh.
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if you are interested in history, it is ten times better than reading any book. i guess it gives you a greater appreciation of your forefathers. >> does that dampen by the fact they were fighting for the states that were pro-slavery. >> you have to get into the 19th century mind or 18th century mind. >> the library is full of reading about why people decided that it was worth fighting and dying to own people and sell them. >> again, one of the topics at the time. >> that's a big topic. >> that's pretty big. >> that's a big topic. >> well, if you didn't own slaves, it is not such a big topic. >> does that factor at all how we should view these monuments, the fact there is a large population of americans whose those monuments represent they're subhumans. >> so do we squash it?
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do we re-write history? if you don't have some type of proof, a generation from now you will have people arguing it, and it may just vanish. >> but considering that for a great number of people in this country, those things represent deep trauma and great violence against people. >> haven't we gotten beyond that? >> have we? have we? >> how many people living in america today were slaves? how many people living in america today owned slaves? it is roughly zero. so we should have got beyond that. >> but we don't have our last names. we don't have our religions. >> this language is not my native language either. >> but you have a great benefit. >> everybody in america has a great benefit. it's the greatest country in the world. >> but not everyone has the benefit of slavery, correct? >> everybody living in america today has a great benefit and a great opportunity. >> the people of african decent
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in this country, what benefit did they get? >> they're here. >> what's amazing is you get such a sense of place. this could be any town usa, but you are surrounded by mementos of the past. >> how do you grapple with that? how do you grapple with the underbelt. >> there is as much division as ever because history means different things to different people. there is a lack of consideration as to how this might make us black americans feel. there seems to be this lock on the idea that we can't do away with history. not history. >> when we come back after this break, tramaine lee's conversation with descendant of the president of the confederacy jefferson davis. that is a surprising
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conversation. and after that, we will follow tramaine lee's journey through the south. we will then be joined by a southern woman caroline randal williams who says her black southern ancestors include people who were slaves and her white southern ancestors include people who owned those slaves and raped those slaves. she wrote, i am, quit literally, made of the reasons to strip them of their laurels. that's coming up on our last word special, stone ghosts in the south continues right after this break. after this break it's pretty inspiring the way families
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we reached out to the great great grandson of jefferson davis. those see davis as a hero of
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white supremacy. the night before our meeting we slept in the home of jefferson davis. >> you say you are a davis descendant in mississippi, you better be ready. it brings responsibility. people are assuming you are going to be a davis. >> he still holds on to artifacts from his great great grandfather, a book he signed, a letter he sent, a chair he sat in. >> this has more resonance than something you own than something in a public square. >> to me, yes, absolutely because it is handed down. this chair has reverence to me. a confederate statue or monument, when those folks put it up had reverence to them. >> how do you balance or reconcile or wrestle with the dual narratives around jeffrey davis, one that we have all heard is the first and only president of the confederacy. on the other hand, 52 years of
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his life before the civil war. >> i don't know if i reconcile him as much as i try to bring him together to have a complete understanding. when we put that four years of his life, which is 5% in total perspective, is it what it is we want to remember? or do we want to have a complete understanding of the entire 81 years of his life. >> that four years is a pretty big four years, right? >> pretty big four years because it was the most dramatic part of american history in a lot of respects. but he led that country in a position he was appointed to, not one he wanted. >> we know he supported the expansion of slavery even before the civil war and before he became president of the confederacy. he did believe that black people were inferior to white people. in your mind, does that tarnish his legacy at all? >> what bothers me the most is exactly what you said. the statements he made in reference to the slaves were his own feeling about their status. i cannot say that i support
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that. but, again, it is the perspective of the time and the place that he lived in. it is not the most favorable aspect but it is part of his character we have to understand. >> i have to wonder, are you welcomed in those groups that are so staunchly pro-confederate? are you welcome in those spaces? >> in the pro-confederate folks? i would say that i'm probably not. >> before leaving town, we knew there was one more stop we should make if we really want to understand what keeps so many southern whites rooted to the confederacy. >> my first name gordon. my last time cotton, just like you pick. >> there you go. all this fuss over the confederate statues, is it time for us to move forward? >> no. if we will move forward on this, we will leave everything else out of our history.
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are we going to be selective in what we're going to keep and what we're going to forget? >> what about this idea that these men were fighting to maintain that system of slavery? >> that wasn't all they were fighting for. they were fighting because our homes were invaded. the whole thing was based on money. most things are. >> going back to what happened in charlottesville. someone was killed. someone was shot at. someone else was beaten up. does it surprise you when you see that people are that veer lent about support and defense of robert e. lee? >> they're not the ones that started it. yes, i can understand it. but they're not the ones that started it. had the people not wanted to tear down a beautiful monument, it wouldn't have happened. >> perhaps they should be moved to somewhere where they can be respected, not in a place of -- in a public display where it's doing nothing but sending the message. >> i disagree with you. >> what do you think of jefferson davis? >> he is my personal hero.
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i think he's one of the great men in american history. >> should that diminish or garnish him at all in. >> no, because he wasn't the only one. i think going to a school named jefferson davis, they can destroy what they can, but they will never destroy the agent or the man. >> how much credit do you give to the idea of these are men of their time. what does that mean? >> certainly they were men of their time. but do we forget them? >> we were some people who are able to separate it. and then say, but they were great guys who had a lot of accomplishments. that's hard to square.
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>> can you imagine this filled with people and tear gas? police on horse back? people being beaten bloody out here. but you talk about history. alabama is like such a crucial role of some of the most infamous periods of violence, right? but also of civil rights and progress. so this place here plays a significant role because he was famed as a confederate soldier and leader and grand dragon but also they associate that bridge with the fight for black civil rights. >> throughout this whole trip, we have heard people talking about issues you can't lose history. i think if someone says that, it kind of makes sense a little bit.
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i don't know. >> in this old section of the cemetery, many notable were laid to rest. >> there's our guy again, jefferson davis. >> yep. >> grand master of the klan. this monument was erected october 7th, 2000. there is no way to december krieb th describe this man. one of the south's finest heroes.scribe this man. one of the south's finest heroes. >> when you look at it, they were judged by their skill, their price, their complexion.
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>> look at this. the nightliest of the nightly race who sing of the day of old. so i'm assuming a deathless song of southern chiflry. standing up for their way of life and their people, their homes, their farms, their childrens, generations to come. there is no tearing this down. this will loom here. this isn't some little town square. this is the state house of alabama. this is the capital. some memorials are easier to find than others. 20 miles from the capital, a plaque stands on the side of the highway. it marks the spot where was
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inched just a hundred yards from where his five-year-old daughter waited for him to come home. >> when you are black in alabama, you can't help but walk in the shadows of these huge confederate monuments. but do you see a connection between the message being sent about white supremacy and what happened to your father? >> oh, very much so. one of the articles that describe my father's death says enraged whites jealous about the success of a black man feel he acquired more than they think he should. >> engaged. >> engaged. >> she paid for her father's marker herself after the state refused to allow her to place it on public land. >> when you think about what you missed in life not having him. >> my mom went from prosperity to poverty almost overnight. sometimes i have wondered what
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my life could have been, what my life could have been. >> his name was included among the thousands of lynching victims at the national memorial for peace and justice. the memorial's director, brian stevenson, hopes the collective names will change the narrative of a country still grappling with how to tell its own story. >> when i moved to montgomery, this was a city that had 59 markers and monuments to the confederacy. you couldn't find a word slave or slavery anywhere. >> how is that possible? >> it's because people had been
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very intentional about denying that part of our history. so this memorial, this site is intended to be a very intentional response to our silence. >> we talked to folkins around e country. they say black people owned slaves, too. there were white slaves. >> there were many reasons beyond slavery. >> these are all things designed to deracialize what happened. and they are an boar rations. and we have allowed that to happen because we were fighting these other struggles, right? so this site is designed to help people understand that you can't ignore this any longer. so you see one county with one name and one county with two names. and then you see a county like this with over a dozen names. >> do you have any dodge county, georgia? >> yeah, we do. >> my great grandfather was from dodge county, georgia and
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apparently there was some issue with some white men. they owed money at the end of the year. he sent his son into town. they shot him, put him on a horse and sent him back. we have the death certificate. it says age 12. cause of death gunshot wounds. >> people who engaged in these lynchings could have buried the bodies in the ground, could have tried to hide this violence. they did the opposite. they were actually proud to engage in this kind of racial terror. that's why hanging was so common. the whole idea was to taunt and to terrorize and to torment african-americans. that's why you have to think about this as terrorism. there are thousands who get killed. but there are millions who are victimized. seven black people lynched in alabama in 1888 for drinking from a white man's well. dozens in louisiana because they
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were protesting their low wages. >> am i crazy for when i read these things i'm scared because sometimes i feel like this could have been last week. >> oh, it could have been. >> it just weighs on you. >> there are so many more because i know from my family's story what happened and he's not here. >> yeah, of course. there is so much more. >> some say these monuments are about heritage and heroes. but if anything, they're also reminders of america's unsettled war with itself.
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i started this journey starting with light and understanding. to understand what these monuments mean to those who honor them. but it was never about the monuments, the large, looming facades or what lives inside the man who has been shaped by the myths they hold as truths. if anything, it was about a reckoning in a time of american terror. i'm not sure where we go from here, but the road through history is long and winding with markers along the way. tramaine lee will be back with us after this break, and we'll be joined in conversation by caroline randal williams who wrote in a powerful new york times piece, quote, the black people i come from were owned
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and raped by the white people i come from. who dares to tell me to celebrate them. caroline randal williams and tramaine lee will discuss the stone ghosts in the south next. (vo) the time is coming for us to get out and go again.
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success of a black man who acquired more than they think you should, they will put you black in your place. >> produced with nbc news features stone ghosts in the south. tramaine lee is back with us and joining our discussion now is caroline randal womilliams. she wrote the highly acclaimed opinion piece for "the new york times" entitled "you want a confederate monument? my body is a confederate monument." tramaine, let me start with you. what was the most painful thing you saw in your journey through these monuments? >> lawrence, there were a number. certainly in montgomery, you know, being at that memorial, for those who have been lynched,
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4,000 lynched and to see the names of people that came from the county where my great grandparents lived, but walking on those plantation grounds, they're so agabeautiful. but that belies the great violence. these are forced labor camps, really. to talk to men who believe and love the mythology of what we say america was, but it was violence and pillage and raping and to look me in my eyes with an air of something et rel speak of the past knowing my people struggled to survived, before brutally murdered and worked to build what america is today, that was the most painful sha f charade. the lies these men tell themselves and pass on to their children, in the passing down of that legacy, it was really tough. but i think, you know, every
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step along the way, there are moments of great pain. >> caroline, what were you thinking and feeling as you were watching tramaine's journey tonight? >> i was thinking about that line the guy said where he said that you have to get into 19th century mind, into an 18th century mind. and what was implicit in what he said was a white 19th century mind. a white 18th century mind. because if he had been able to get into a black american 19th century mind, he would not be able to engage in that exercise and look a black man in his house in his face and try to justify their reactments that he's undertaken. that's what i was thinking. >> but on that point, caroline, there were white 19th century
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minds who were completely opposed to slavery, including relatives of robert e. lee himself living in the south who were opposed to slavery and were opposed to the war that he was fighting. >> well, right. so it's actually again this implicit fetishization of a slave holding, slavery celebrating mentality. i'm also thinking about the guy, mr. cotton, like the socks. you don't have to say like you pick, but anyway. >> like you pick. like you pick. >> i was thinking about what he said. i was thinking about what he said and i was thinking, he said, it's about money. but then he stops there. he doesn't say, well, what was the primary source of southern american money, right? he doesn't examine it to its root to acknowledge that what he is celebrating when he celebrates the cause, what he is arguing when he argues that it
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was economic, he's still arguing on behalf of slavery. >> tramaine, speaking to jefferson davis, great, great grandson, was that a surprising conversation for you? >> it was pretty surprising because you'd have to imagine how revered jefferson davis still is in those spaces. they revere this man. he's a hero. and so that a descendant of jefferson davis wants to separate himself in some way from that legacy was very interesting. but he wasn't a full throated, you know, dismissal of everything he believed in. this was a softer, gentler kind of embrace of his relative and his ancestor. so he still loves and honors this man. he had more nuance than some of the others, but he wasn't necessarily distancing himself because he still -- his whole thing was there was all this
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time before. he was a great man who had a short period that did a bad thing, as opposed to an entire life building up to this moment where he boldly proclaimed himself the president of this nation that had the right, by all means necessary, to own people, to sell people, to do what they will. then i think what caroline said earlier and what you mentioned earlier, this idea of men of their times. there were men of their times fighting this. so the contradictions, but also the mistelling, misremembering, miseducation of history. the mythology surrounding this. go back to mr. cotton, like you pick, he's a pillar in this community. so we go deep in the woods where the cell phones don't work and we pull up on this guy's front porch unannounced. lets us in. a bunch of cds of a people in black face. you have the confederate flag. this is a pillar in this community. we're wrestling with the idea of
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these monuments, but what lives inside these men that they pass on is almost as troubling. >> caroline, you grew up in the south. you live in the south now. what is it that most peoplenow. what is it that most people miss when they look at this? i'm sure someone who is a southerner yourself, especially people in the north that look at these things, is there a constant reframing you want to do for us? >> of course there is, lawrence. when i think about mr. cotton, when i think about the other gentleman who's doing this reenacting, i think that what we have to remember is that these men have preserved this ideology so -- so successfully because they turn our idea of -- they're saying, you're going to erase our history. and what they're saying actually
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is, you're trying to revise, edit, and fact-check a history that we already approved and that our ancestors wrote. and they're not actually allowing for the proper editorial process of how something successful gets written to be undertaken. they want to have us accept their narrative wholesale, and it's been accepted wholesale up to this point. and i think that it's now time for us all to be responsible documentarians of the actual bones of their narrative. >> caroline, one of the comments i was struck by early in trymaine's documentary was the woman who compared the way the south treats this history to the way germany treats their nazi history. that's a point you made on this show in your first appearance. >> yeah. that line struck me dumb the first time i watched this
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documentary because that auction block is just sitting without any context in the middle of a cheerful square. last i checked, auschwitz, the camps that have become museums to honor the people who were murdered there, the genocide that was undertaken there, to demand reproach for the soldiers who committed those atrocities, those places have been put into context. they are solemn, and they are rigorous in discussing the horrors. that's just a little cheerful block in the middle of a little cheerful southern quaint street, and she just says, isn't that lovely that you can touch history. you can see where somebody might have been sold. but there's no demanding of context, and there's no demanding of context because she knows and we all know that it was left there to intimidate, to shame, to harrow, right? it's not the same at all. >> trymaine, what did it feel
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like to be there looking at that auction block and then, of course, knowing that maybe something was going to happen. that community was moving toward something maybe happening and it finally did. >> you know, to see that block sitting there, and as caroline mentioned, it's in kind of a busy district where people were literally hanging out, drinking wine, eating food, like there wasn't an auction block where bodies were not only sold, but bodies broken and families torn apart. and then also that there had been some progress made, and i believe that block, it will be removed now. there's some more recent developments. but the idea that it was still split along racial lines, that even the white folks on that council would say that they're allies and trying to preserve history, it still broke along racial lines with the lone black city councilman forcefully pleading with people to understand what that meant to this community. and talking to folks who said, you know, black people who grew
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up in this community who said, we won't even go down that block it was so disturbing. you heard the one woman say that her uncle was, you know, whipped for getting on that block. don't you dare sit on that block. while we were even there, people were taking pictures around it, teenagers playing hopscotch around it. it was so disturbing, but it speaks into how baked into the fabric of america and who we are, literally baked into the ground and in our minds and our mythology and all the lure, how baked in this racism and these notions of white supremacy are, that we would have an auction block in the middle of a commercial district where people were sold and traded as if it was nothing. not a fence around it, not a black, just the block. >> caroline, it seems that the nostalgia campaign which has been waged for decades upon decades upon decades to turn history into nostalgia is what was necessary in order to have an auction block left out there, as you say, without any context
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whatsoever. >> yeah, i think this question of how southern nostalgia functions is one of the things that troubles me the most and that i am so eager to re-examine and push into a new frame of understanding in the future. and i really was struck by the descendant of jefferson davis in that regard because, you know, he sort of tries to put into context, say it's only four years of his life. but, you know, i know people -- there are people who have lived beautiful lives and then get drunk one night and kill a family in a car crash, and then they have to pay for that sin. they have to go to jail. they have to answer the family of the people they killed. and i think that this idea of forgiveness, that's between you and the lord as we say in the south, or as the church-going folks. the forgiveness is between you
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and god. in the united states of america, when you commit grave crimes against humanity, regardless of what you did the rest of your life, we have to discuss how you pay for that. >> trymaine, was there any changing of minds during your conversations? >> sometimes i felt like -- again, i tried to walk in super understanding. i wanted folks to put their guard down, which they did. again, we didn't plan any of those interviews that were like out in the woods with our reenactor or mr. cotton. we kind of showed up. we went around talking to folks. after i was trying to work them a little bit, i got a sense there was sometimes some understanding, but it was so hardwired. their beliefs were so hardwired, there wasn't much room to budge, even with the niceties of the south. there wasn't much budging. >> caroline randall williams, thank you very much for joining
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our discussion tonight. trymaine lee, thank you for sharing our discussion and bringing your documentary to us tonight. we really appreciate this hour. it's been very important for us. thank you, trymaine. that is tonight's special edition of "the last word." "the 11th hour" with brian williams will be with us after this break. ak okay... okay! safe drivers save 40%!!! guys! guys! check it out. safe drivers save 40%!!! safe drivers save 40%! safe drivers save 40%!!! that's safe drivers save 40%. it is, that's safe drivers save 40%. - he's right there. - it's him! he's here. he's right here. - hi! - hi. hey! - that's totally him. - it's him! that's totally the guy. safe drivers do save 40%. click or call for a quote today. well the names have all changed since you hung around but those dreams have remained and they've turned around
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well, good evening once again on this friday night. day 1,268 of the trump administration. 116 days to go until our presidential election. tonight the breaking news we're covering, the president commuted the prison sentence for his friend of several decades, roger stone. stone was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for lying to congress in an investigation that threatened the president. we will, of course, have much more on this development in just a moment. but first, the president said today the united states is