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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 1, 2011 10:00am-11:00am EDT

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of messy bundles of parchments, hundreds of them for any given year with writs of habeas corpus, and they are organized on what's called a thong, an animal cord stringing together the writs, and at the end of the year the courts tie it with a hard knot. it's so tight you can only read things on top, and hundreds others could not be read. that was a sign these were not opened up in 3 centuries. when you see that, you realize here is as yet unrealized opportunity, so the real issue in terms of time was finding the time to go to london, finding the time even after you come back to make sense of after reading of thousands of these things what does it add up to? the time comes in between
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teaching, the occasional semester away from teaching. ..
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>> we tend to get very quickly into the area of abstractions, the nature of liberty we think habeas corpus stands for. i love those abstractions as much as the next person. but this history i think fundamentally tells us that all this abstraction mattered very little if there is not ultimately some figure of authority that other people possessing power are going to recognize. and that authority historically has been misjudged. and, indeed, i wonder thinking about what judges were like three, four centuries ago in using this, whether not judges today might rediscover something about what it is they can be and can't be. >> paul halliday is the author published by harvard, "habeas corpus."
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>> next, kate masur presents a history of washington, d.c., during reconstruction. through her book "an example for all the land." the author recounts the city's many organizations and public works that represented racial equality. the discussion is about an hour. >> good evening. thanks for inviting me to speak here tonight, and also i'd like to thank sabrina for doing such a great job making the arrangements for my visit. what i want to do tonight is talk somewhat briefly and kind of an overview way about what i tried to do in this book at that i wrote. i'm going to talk about it basically in terms of two threads. first, this book is designed to offer an updated history of washington, d.c., during the support and reconstruction that highlights the significance of the national capital or understanding reconstruction writ large.
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and second, the book makes an argument about the importance of the debate over the meaning of equality in a period after slave emancipation. i want to say something about my approach. i'm interested in the relationship between people and government, policy and the law. this is a strictly social or political history. it's not legal history that is kind of a combination of all three. the focus is on the legal and popular development of concepts of equality. on the processes by which people make claims on the governments, and how policies are shaped by popular politics and how in turn political and other structures are shaped and constrained the arguments that are available, the claims that a possible, indeed, the very lives people live. why did i study washington? this slide didn't turn out particularly well as a translator but this is basically an 1862 map of the city of washington. the capital is often seen as an
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anonymous city. won his history wouldn't necessarily tell us anything useful about anywhere else besides itself. this is largely because washington is entirely a creature of the federal government. it didn't spring up as an industrial hub. it's not in a state. it's an oddball. the federal district and the city of washington itself were invented by the united states government and police by the constitution under the exclusive jurisdiction of congress. i found this unique status all the more interesting. in the mid-19th century and specific a record of the civil war, washington was a place where federal and local affairs collided, sometimes generating sparks. local citizens attended sessions of congress, congressman road in street cars alongside the general public. the largest collection of the civil war era, questions about slavery, freedom, equality and the role of government in the lives of citizens played out with small in washington.
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in some ways this was a normal city the followed normal patterns. but in the ways that it wasn't, in particular its but your relationship to congress, it is a particularly interesting and telling place to study. i just want -- i know this, it might be hard to orient ourselves on this matter because it doesn't represent the city we know now. i will point out a few landmarks. this first arrow, that's the capital. there's the white house. that is what the washington monument is. you can see that the mall as we know it now beyond that would be the lincoln memorial. the period i'm talking about, the mall kind of ended and the potomac river began just off to the left of their own for the washington monument is. you can see some of the ethics of urban development on the capital right there. that is dupont circle and that
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could just as this kind of populated urbanized area was much smaller than the washington we now know. anything up on connecticut avenue towards the park, a password howard university is now going north on seventh street, none of those made on this meant. not because people didn't live there but because those were not considered kind of the main parts of washington city. i can get you a sense that we're talking about a city that is relatively smaller, of course, than the city we know now as washington. i'm going to talk about this is washington history touch of three different points. first, i'm going to talk about the relationship of african-american history to this story. second, the story of a urban reform in washington and its context. and third, while washington was an example for all the land. so first, washington was the sight of remarkable
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african-american activism industry. i like to talk and kind of general terms about three groups that made of african-american washington. first, from before the civil war washington was a hub for free african-americans. and 1860s, 60% of black washingtonians were freed rather than enslave. what that meant was that there was an enormous kind of culture organize institutions among african-americans. there were churches. there were civil society kind of organizations. african-americans, men and women, ran schools. there were a fair number of people who left d.c. for higher education and went to the north. to get educated and in return and often became teachers. some also worked in federal positions, position and the federal government, not necessarily or not at all in kind of clerical positions but as messengers. in those roles they knew many of the most powerful man in the
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country. interestingly, free black washingtonians, many of them had powerful ties to people who could help them later. these folks, the kind of free african-americans lived in washington before the war were poised to exert a special kind of leadership as emancipation took shape. the second population were the thousands of former slaves who came into the capital for maryland and virginia during the civil war. these people are often escaping from slavery. and they kind of became the backbone of black washington because there were so many people. of so many thousands of people. and they became important political constituents for the republican party. they charted out their own political course going forward. and a third group are african-american northerners, or people had been in the south, move to the north and came back like frederick douglass is an
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example of prominent african-american northerners who came to washington in this period because they wanted to be close to the heart of the political nation, because they wanted to get involved in activism and because they were looking a little bit later at washington really unparalleled african-american educational institutions. so what does slideshows is a celebration of emancipation in washington in 1866, and this is the image that is on the cover of my book. one reason i like is the figures in the foreground are so interestingly drawn in. i hope you can see this. sort of wrote to the well. in the center you have a set of three figures, a man and two women who are really well-dressed. they are welling -- wearing relatively fancy clothes. off the right you'll see a figure of two women and a younger sort of smaller woman who are wearing much more casual clothes. they are wearing aprons and
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headscarves, more characteristic of people have been insulated. then off to the left in this odious a group of men that are sort of similarly dressed. what i like about this is the artist to do this picture was able to capture some of the diversity, some of the class diversity of washington's african-american community in this picture. now, beginning during the civil war, black washingtonians sought recommendation as members of the civic body and full and equal access to streetcars, theaters, public schools and even the proceedings of congress. they demanded fair treatment by the police and a fair share of public works employment, equal access to trade unions and official recognition of their militia organization. looking at what was going on here with all of these claims and all of these demands, with an eye towards the relationship between popular activism and policy, it became clear to me
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that african-americans were demanding rights and privileges in advance of legislation. in the book i call those claims upstart claims to emphasize that these were not claims to existing rights, nor were they supported by existing policy. let me give you an example of that. in the spring of 1863 as recruitment was underway for a black union regiment, what became the first u.s. colored troops, and by the way, this isn't them. this is a photograph of the fourth u.s. colored troops at the end of the war but i think it's a nice photo because it represents black soldiers with the uniforms on. universe i think play an important role fear. so the first u.s. colored troops were being recruited, and the new soldiers in neatly while sort of a game to pull the data covers and regiment together, begin to demand access to see streetcars. the cars themselves were a wartime innovation.
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they were building or to facilitate getting troops images from one side of the city to the other. washington, and also the general public. but washington had never had streetcars before 1862. when they were first running, they made the practice to either completely exclude african-americans from the streetcars, or to make them ride on the platform and for. you can see two guys cut in front right behind the horses. they would make african-americans who would want to ride rides heavily on the platform in the front. you can imagine if it was raining or sleeping or also just money, which washington was famous for its mud in this period, you would be much more exposed to the elements. it's not as nice a place to ride. so, the soldiers didn't wait for lawmakers to recognize or create a right to ride. rather, they sought to create themselves by demanding equal access while wearing these uniforms that declared him to be
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worthy of respect and even deference. legislators at the capital took note and began to discuss the matter. and that winter, so this protest in insisting on the right to ride begins in the spring of 1863, and by the 11864 this man, alexander acosta, who was an african-american physician in the u.s. army, he was refused a seat on the streetcar while traveling on official business. he was forced to walk to a court-martial hearing in the rain. and so he was very a that they would allow him to sit down inside the car. and the outlined incident in a letter to a military judge and forwarded it to senator charles sumner read on the floor of the senate. so what i'm describing here is a process of kind of a popular impulse among everyday soldiers followed by a more prominent man making a direct protest. and office because it is washington is being discussed in congress at the same time.
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so in the case of the streetcars, and in many other cases as well, black activism spurred a republican dominated congress to act. some congressmen including charles sumner were primed for action because of their own view that emancipation should not stop with near freedom, but surely to the implementation of were essentially abolitionists. this is a notion that freedom itself wouldn't be enough in the country that was going to emancipation, but the policies would need to be implemented to produce a more equal society attaches have a saying slavery couldn't exist anymore was only the beginning. so together, black activism and congressional activism made the capital an exemplar of racially progressive policy nationwide. from 1862, when congress decreed to emancipation for the capital
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until the 1869. some examples of that are the end of the black code in 1862, the passage of a law against discrimination on any kind of public conveyance is, streetcars, railroads in steamboat. in 1865 commuter for manhood suffrage in 18 cities of, again, before universal manhood suffrage was mandated for the former confederate states. and then the dropping of racial qualifications for office or injury service in 1869. now, and book i pay takeover -- particular attention to the rights to vote. african-americans and about one-third of the population could wield considerable power and electric, and he did so. during the period when republicans were in charge of the city government, that is,
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before major reorganization of construction to a government which i will talk in a minute, the local government passed its own local public accommodation laws. that is, barring discrimination in a variety of accommodations, and appointed african-american and a prominent offices, and also the populace elected black men to the city council. most important perhaps, the sake of an nitrd major public works projects and distributed jobs on those projects between black and white laborers. so you see with the onset of black men's rights to vote in washington, dramatic change in the local government. this cartoon is from harper's weekly. it's titled the georgetown election and needle at the about box. because georgetown held its election come its first election whiplike men could vote before washington did, and to all eyes throughout the nation were on this election to see how it all went. this cartoon features the kind of typical caricatures or stock
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figures become an african-american man casting his ballot. behind him, a republican looking sort of link and ask what this topic. behind him, the guys are second from the last as csa on his hat. he looks kind of bitter, former confederate. he standing next to an kind of supporting a man on the left who is andrew johnson, the president vetoed the universal manhood suffrage legislation that congress had passed from washington, and in congress had overridden that be do. said johnson is clinging to his veto, physically cleaning to the veto what african-american man casts his vote. so the second major thread that i want to talk about is about the impact of what you might call urban reform on washington. so the book tells the story of a dramatic restructuring of the government of the district included, the district of columbia. first in 1871 and again in 1874.
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that is, first the restructuring of washington as a territorial government. and then a commission for him. i argue that these innovations in the form of government, the first of which was demanded by a bipartisan coalition of local business leaders, these innovations were direct responses are more precise reactions against reconstruction era changes, particularly enfranchisement of african-american men. most historians have you delete of the business coalition that sought to reorganize existing structures of government, alexander shepherd come as a visionary who sought to elevate the capital city from the mud and the backwardness of its fallen past. what they don't do is play the shepherd's drive for reform in the context of the slave emancipation, black migration into washington, african-american activism, and the onset of black men's voting
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rights. my argument is that what shepherd and his coalition were doing was leading a backlash against black man's enfranchisement. they called themselves taxpayers and citizens, and they persuaded congress to restructure the government. first creating a territory which dramatically reduce the power of elected officeholders it's under the territorial government the only elected offices that remained were a lower house of the legislature. but all of the most powerful offices in the government were now held by appointed officials. and i call the creation of the territorial government watching this first redemption in order to emphasize that this kind of restructuring in the name of good government and progress was actually very consistent with movements elsewhere in the south to remove republicans from office. i should say that shepherd dasher while in power to shepherd's government, a cop was
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quite a bit in terms of modernizing the city, and this is a bird's idea of the city from that period that shows and really amazing detail, if you see the actual image, some of the development, particularly of the northwest quadrant of washington during this period. and they think it's interesting, the placement of the capitol dome itself kind of direction where i write to the area in northwest washington area around what is now dupont circle and logan circle, that within the places where these sort of pro-development government and they're kind of real estate investor friends were focusing their development are a lot of the remaining kind of brick, beautiful brick buildings in that area, for those of you are from way with the area around logan circle and dupont circle, not to me of them are from 1870 for a lot of them are from the 1880s to the candidate back to this period of real focused
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develop and on that section of washington. so they accomplished a great deal but at an enormous expense, in the sense that the government that they controlled was very much not a government that was elected by the people ultimately. the second stage of washington's rejection began in 1874 when congress once again reorganized the d.c. government, this time placing under good control of a three-man commission. in this configuration, no one could vote for any elected officials. washington was governed exclusively by three men who were appointed by the president of the united states and confirmed by the senate. it was at the time considered very remarkable that in the capital of the united states of american the people themselves were not allowed to choose their own representatives for the local government. and, in fact, that situation, the commission form of government would last into the 1960s. in fact, formally whole world
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was not restored to washington, d.c., in june 1973. so for close to 100 years this situation persisted, and the story i am telling helps us understand how that commission form of government was directly related to the politics, and particularly the recent politics of the reconstruction era. the third point i want to make stems directly from that last point. washington as an example for all the land. this quotation is from charles sumner, the massachusetts senator who worked closely with black activists to pass legislation for the district of columbia that represent the most racially progressive policy possible at that time. conversely though as congress is politics shifted and a new coalition gained the upper hand in washington, d.c., congress prerogative in washington made the capital and example of a different kind, an example of disenfranchisement. the creation of the commission, was part of a broader climate in
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both the north and the south of distrust and fear of democratic self-government. where as in the north movement to dramatically limit the power of the urban voters and primary voters were most often maligned and attacked were voters of irish descent. movements to dramatically limit their power came, and in can do very little. by contrast, in the south this resulted in extensive disenfranchisement as is well known. in 1878 george sensor, a white republican senator from alabama by birth, northern, in other words, he was a carpetbagger, he argued that permit commission form of government in the capital threatened quote the franchise of the poor man throughout the united states. whatever his race, his color, his nationality or his creed. and even forecast the abolishment of an elected government altogether. so in other words, at the time
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the commission form of being implemented, people could see that this was kind of an extreme part of a large and bold, whether they agreed with the court disagreed with the. it was sort of a canary in a coal mine. the constitution federalist prohibited congress most of the time from acting directly on residents of the state. the district of columbia was different. this could be maddening for residents of the capital. and, in fact, it still does. what it makes one interesting and provocative history of other nations most powerful lawmakers and presidents as it turns out make policy, that they wanted to make policy when there was virtually nothing in the constitution to restrain their power. so now let me shift gears and talk about the debate over equality. my hope is that this book also sets out new framework for the study of the civil war era by directing attention to a
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surprisingly neglected topic, the struggle over equality. in recent decades historians of emancipation have made the concept of freedom their principal analytical category. now to be sure, after slavery the question of freedoms mean, particularly as related to the organization of labor was crucial. it also another a great debate over the future of equality and america. in this book i start with the premise that to understand was going on in the 19th century we need to move beyond the familiar idea that people were either for or against equality. instead, i describe the struggle over equality. the era is competing visions of equality and inequality, and i investigate who favored which kinds of equality in which places and for what reasons. i try to untangle the noddy problem of our contemporaries meant when they talked about civil, political and social inequality.
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in 1858, for example, abraham lincoln said he had quote no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. in a stand-alone speech in peoria for years earlier, lincoln said his quote on feeling did not admit of making former slaves quote politically and socially are equal. yet lincoln also argued for certain kinds of racial equality. as he said in columbus, ohio, in 1859 quote, there's no reason in the worldwide the negro is not in town to all the natural rights enumerated in the declaration of independence. the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. how are we to understand these seemingly contradictory ways of talking about equality? and what happened to them once the question was no longer theoretical as it was before the war, but practical as it became
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after emancipation. answering these questions became one of the essential goals of my research. what i found was generally speaking republicans, including lincoln, agreed that civil equality and equal treatment bylaws and implicitly security of property. and they believed all people should have this form of equality before the law. most republicans also distinguished between this kind of equality and political equality, which refer to the rights to vote. some moderate republicans including lincoln tended to support civil equality, but not political equality for african-americans. now here's where upstart claims came in. beginning during th the war, african-americans and somewhat radical republicans insisted on a far more expansive vision of on the middle a quality you're one that would be familiar to us now but was very novel at the
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time, they argued that civil equality should include, they thought a fundamental civil right whose origin like the origins of other civil rights were a natural law. many also believe the principle of civil equality required african-americans must have equal access to public schools, common carriers, such a streak ours, railroad and steamers, and other public accommodations. during the post war debate about equality whenever radicals pushed the bounds of racial equality, for example, by demanding the equal rights to vote or to hold office or access to public schools are public accommodations, opponents charged that was seeking something that just about everyone professed to despise. and that was social equality. so here's where the third category of social equality comes in. unlike the term civil equality and political equality, social equality had no actual content. it had no concrete existence.
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instead, people use social equality to describe what they saw as inappropriate government interference in whatever relationships they believed should properly be considered private, matters of personal taste. for example, senator johnson for maryland argued in 1864 that a law forbidding racial discrimination on washington street cars amounted to a social equality measure. protection of african-americans life and property, he argued, was acceptable. this is an allusion to natural rights are civil rights in the narrow sense. but the government should not intervene in matters of quote political rights and social enjoyment. ..
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>> they said, they called it a matter of social equality and said, oh, no, you can't do that. now, so interestingly, this dynamic put african-american activists in an interesting position. their response to these arguments, for example, when they said, well, we should be allowed to ride the streetcars on a level of equality with equal access, or we should -- we want access to the public schools equally with white children, they argued that that had nothing to do with social equality, right? that they were merely seeking a broader vision, a more expansive vision of equality before the law than their, the people who opposed them or the people who disagreed with them.
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so, okay. so the overall sort of picture is that the argument that people are having is an argument over the content of these categories. we can't take for granted in the case of abraham lincoln or in the case of any of the people who have followed him that it was clear what the content of those three categories -- political, social and civic -- or rather that it was animating the debate about what actually belonged in this each of those categories. struggles to define the concept of equality before the law pivoted on the contested question of where the social or private domain stopped and where civil or public life began. seeing the struggle over equality in this way helps explain why opening white schools to black children was more politically contentious than opening fancy restaurants and theaters to black patrons. it helps us understand how white republicans in the early 1870s
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could argue for racial equality while at the same time opposing independent black political organizations. and it sheds light on the crucial but slippery discourse of social equality which became a key justification for racial segregation well into the 20th century. it's clear even on the most superficial assessment that there's something very complicated about this country's relationship to equality. we repeatedly declare that all men are created equal, but it goes without saying that determining what that statement means and what its implications are, if any, for policy has been one of the central challenges in american public life. why do we tolerate certain kinds of inequality but not others? what are the possibilities and limitations to creating a more just society? as a historian, i don't think we can understand these questions about the present without reflecting on the past. my hope is that in addition to telling the story of the nation's capital in a pivotal
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period this book offers a piece in the languager puzzle of assessing the history of equality and inequality in the united states. thanks. [applause] happy to take any questions or hear comments. >> [inaudible] i'm going to be very worked beginning with turning on the microphone -- [laughter] and if you have a question, please, raise your hand, and i will repeat that so that everyone can hear it, and we can pick that up on tape, and then we'll answer it. yes, sir. >> [inaudible] during the civil war and reconstruction with washington previously just -- [inaudible] >> as a comparison between antibell lumbar washington versus washington of the civil war reconstruction. >> sure.
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on what kind of terms would you like me to compare it? >> oh, um, the development for one thing. the black population, where they were in society at that time -- [inaudible] >> sure. well, the -- let's see. so the city grew dramatically during the war. so the black population tripled, and the white population also grew very dramatically. and so, because as the federal government grew, right, the government needed to perform all these functions that it had never performed before. and so all kinds of new clerks and sort of government attaches are moving into the capital during the civil war just as lots and lots of fugitives from slavery are coming in too. so the capital is kind of growing by leaps and bounds in
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terms of population. washington, the kind of stereotype of washington before the war is that it was kind of a sleepy, backwater -- it's through that many of the kind of main streets, very few of the main streets were in any way paved. pennsylvania avenue is one of the few streets that had sort of pavement or finish on it. so people complained about the dust and the mud. and so that actually, and then the sort of occupation that happens during the civil war only exacerbates the condition of the streets. and so part of what's going on in the outcry or in favor of, you know, urban development in the period after the war is that the city was never particularly well developed in terms of grading and paving and that sort of thing. and then the civil war didn't help any in that respect. so the other thing i guess i would say since this work is so preoccupied with questions of government is that beginning, so
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washington had its own city council and mayor from the early 19th century, from the first decade of the 19th century. georgetown had a separate mayor and city council. and then the rest of the district of columbia was called the county, it was governed separately. and so originally the people who could vote for local offices in this washington city were white men with certain property qualifications. in 1848 the property qualifications were developed, so from 1848 until 1867 the voters in the capital city were all white men, right? and so all white men could vote and then, and black men and women could not vote. so there's also, that gives you -- and then the government, the city government was usually this in the hands of the economic business elite. so once you have african-american american's right to vote, it really reshapes the electorate. and it allows for people with different priorities to come
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into office locally, and that's part of the reason why a coalition develops to kind of unseat that government. >> yes, sir. >> [inaudible] in order to get a representative government in the nation's capital? i mean, that's unbelievable, i think. >> why did it take so long? we're looking at over 100 years, yes. >> yeah. that's a terrific question. and there are, it's a complicated set of reasons why. some washingtonians were not too unhappy with the commission bomb of government. one of those things that the commission form of government made possible was it made possible that people with connections and in particular people with real estate connections had the ear of the commissioners. and so if you were of a certain class and a washington resident, you didn't mind that there
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wasn't local self-government because you could get things done that you wanted to get done through kind of back channels or through talking directly to the people you needed -- to the commissioners, their staff. so that's one reason. there was a certain amount of, um, fear on the part of some white washingtonians that local home rule would mean a significant population of african-americans be, again, like in reconstruction being able to reshape or to shape the city government. another thing to keep in mind is that particularly in the house of representatives the committee on the district of columbia for much of the 20th century was dominated and shared by outright segregationists from the south. so to the extent that anything could have happened, any reforms could have been done by congress, congressmen used d.c. to make a point about what their politics were and kind of bill
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after bill after bill to reform government in d.c. and give local people more control died in the d.c. committee on the house of -- or the d.c. committee of the house of representatives. so things start to loosen up in the 1960s, and very much the -- there's a relationship between the kind of flowering of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the opening up of possibilities for home rule in the d.c. >> yes, sir. >> white folks, obviously, played a very important role in the quote, redemption of the confederacy during and after reconstruction. if violence -- did violence play a similar role in the, quote, redemption of washington, d.c.? >> did violence play a role in the redemption of washington city? is. >> no. so that's an interesting question. and, no, there was not, there
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were periodic -- well, the answer is, no. there were sort of episodes of racial violence, but actually they didn't connect to the redemption that i'm talking about, the kind of changing form of government. and so, but one of the things that i want to highlight by talking about washington's redemption in those terms is that, actually, recemtion in the states of the former confederacy wasn't always violent either. that in some place our kind of vision of it, at least i think right now many of us have a vision of kind of rampant and organized klan, the kind of klan and democratic party combined coalitions and these violent campaigns to overthroe governments, and that certainly was the case in a lot of states. but in other states, particularly in places like virginia -- not that there wasn't violence in virginia, but in terms of politics redemption happened much sooner in virginia. in fact, there almost was no
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reconstruction at all, and it happened mostly through political channels. so i think the same or similar could be said with respect to tennessee, but more to the point a lot of the similar rhetoric about good government also characterizes kind of the period of redemption in other states. and so what i think is interesting to think about and one of the reasons i think it's interesting to think about d.c. this way is because it draws our attention to the political rather than the kind of violent, but to the political machinations that many kind of of the more respectable but still anti-republican southerners went through in order to take back their states from the republicans. >> yes, sir. >> one of the most widely criticized deficits of the lincoln presidency was the meeting he had in august of 1862
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about black men, urging them to be pioneers in the colonization effort. would you share with the audience any light you have to shed on that episode? >> sure. i'd be happy to, thank you. so in the course of -- the question was, sorry. >> that's all right. >> the question was, so i've done some research on the sort of famous meeting lincoln had in august 1862 with a delegation of five black men from washington, and part of what got me interested in getting to the bottom of this was that usually the story is told that the five men that-in con met with -- that lincoln met with were just released from slavery, newly-freed men that would be politically pliable, he could give his proposal that they were going to take their people and go colonize abroad, and they would supposedly say, oh, sure, whatever you say because you're the president of the unite. and so, and there are reasons why historians thought that. actually, one person, edward thomas, was known to not be a
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recently-emancipated person, but otherwise the four other ones were. so the more i did research on the actual people who were live anything washington, and i kept coming across the -- i knew the names of the five men who met with lincoln, and i kept finding them in other places too. they were leaders of 15th street presbyterian church, the most elite black church in washington. they were employees of the federal government who had connections to the white house or to congress. they were teachers, a couple of them. they were active -- they were black masons, free masons. so i began kind of keeping a running list of all of the ways that i could identify these men, and it was very clear from a variety of sources that they weren't, obviously, newly-freed from slavery. they had been -- they were precisely members of that long standing free black community from washington. and so it got me thinking about a lot of things from that
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meeting. one of the mysterious things about that meeting, i thought, was considering the amount of attention that was given to that meeting and considering the importance of the issue at the time, the delegation should have given an official response to lincoln. like, you would have thought that after this very controversial meeting the delegation would have said, okay, well, we've met with the president, and here's what we think, here's what we're going to do. either yes or no. but there was no response, right? so i was wondering why they never got back to lincoln or why there was never a prominent editorial saying here's what the delegation is going to say. and so, basically, i ended up feeling like i needed to write this story partly to correct the record, and partly to tell some of the interesting things i found about the debate among washingtonians about who should comprise the black delegation in the first place. who would get to go to this meeting, what did they represent, what should their
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position be? and so, basically, my research on the history of washington as a city led me to kind of uncover some new aspectses of that famous lincoln story. kind of told from the perspective of the delegation. >> oh, first. yes, sir. >> my question is not about statistics, it is about people and the movement. [inaudible] i have just read "the fiery trial." he states that when lincoln got to washington as a congressman in 1847 that the city's black population were about 70% free, 30% slave. you stated that in 1860 the city was about 60% free.
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okay, i know the census is no good and that statistics lie. so my question is, who was moving in to washington in the 1850s among the black population? we know about the civil war theories in which there's an explosion of the population, white and black, but is there some sensible way to describe this apparent contradiction of the statistics there? >> who is moving into washington in the 1850s in terms of the african-american population? and -- >> moving out. >> or moving out. >> right. >> what's the -- can we offer any explanation to that discrepancy? >> um, i think there might be, i think there might be a discrepancy this those numbers
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that actually doesn't exist, and so i'm not quite sure which one it is. actually, the proportion of enslaved black washingtonians did not go up between 1840, or sorry, between 1850 and 1860. >> [inaudible] >> it didn't go up. it either stayed the same or went down. so, and -- so that if i am remembering correctly, the, by the -- and not only that, the proportionate number of african-americans living in the washington was also going down. so actually by 1860 black washingtonians were the least proportioned of the total population of washington than they'd ever been. because -- and so, in other words, now, the number that you said are not necessarily that reliable. the census numbers themselves. i mean, the census numbers are out there, they're verifiable.
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but how accurately they reflect population, we don't really know. but the census numbers show that the relative number of african-americans in washington decreased between 1850 and 1860. and i've always thought that the reason for that was just people leaving, free black people leaving and going north. so, basically, what you have by the eve of the civil war is a proportion of the population that's smaller than it's been in the past, then it goes back up to one-third from the civil war. and also equally proportionately free or a little bit more free than it's been in the past. >> leg are -- historians have looked at the south -- [inaudible] and yet they've ignored the obvious example of washington. do you have an explanation of
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why? and, secondly, what were some of the surprises that you encountered as you did your research of this? >> why have historians, basically, ignored this reversal of reconstruction in washington, and then supplemented by talk about some of your surprises. >> did you say rehearsal or reversal? be. >> rehearsal. >> rehearsal. i'm sorry. >> okay. i wasn't quite sure. okay, so there's a famous book called rehearsal for reconstruction which is about the south carolina port or royal experiment which happens during the civil war. and for a while i was really thinking about that book a lot and thinking that this was another version of the rehearsal for reconstruction. i was trying to come up with a title for my book that could maybe pun on that. didn't work. probably wouldn't have been a good idea anyway. why haven't historians paid attention to this? in defense of the rehearsal for
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reconstruction, i mean, that was this very -- it was kind of a very nice little episode, like a neat, isolate bl nugget of an episode where a bun p of -- bunch of people from the knot go to this -- north go to this area, some are more economically oriented, some are missionary and philanthropic oriented, and it's a great little petri dish. washington is a little more diffused, it seems to me. as i kind of suggested at the beginning of the talk, i think people have shied away in part because of the question of, you know, of how strange it is, how anomalous, you know, that it's not a real city or -- but, you know, the port royal experience only happens because the union's occupying that little strip of south carolina line, and it's south carolina which is anomalous. so it doesn't really help us exactly explain why another
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anomalous and interesting situation in washington hasn't gotten the same kind of attention. you know, and part of what was to kind of segway into the second part of your question, part of what was really fun about doing this research was how many interesting stories there were to uncover that didn't seem to have been told before because there just hasn't been very much research on this. you know, one that comes to mind from the civil war years was a very big debate over the enforcement of the fugitive slave laws in washington. during 1862 including after e emancipation in washington which was in april of 1862, local officials continued to enforce the fugitive slave law. and that meant that, particularly, slaves fleeing from maryland could be caught up, and their owners come in to washington and go before a fugitive slave commissioner and insist on them being brought back into slavery. which is kind of amazing because
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washington was under union control and was also free, ostensibly free. and yet people there could be reenslaved and sent back. and one of the things that i thought was really interesting to discover was real evidence that even though local officials wanted to continue to enforce the fugitive slave law, the general public wouldn't allow it. and i write about how crowds of african-americans would surround people who were trying to recapture these fugitives and kind of yell and say, you know, you can't do this, this is unfair, how can this be happening and then would go to the court for the hearings before the fugitive slave commissioners. and one reason that we know about this is because it was covered in the press. and particularly the abolitionist press which wanted to see this stop, wanted to see the fugitive slave rendition stop said, well, become clear that the fugitive slave law is
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unenforceable. so much public clamor against it that we can't, it can't continue to be enforced. l so, meanwhile, there's a kind of a legal side of the story, too, where there are shifting personnel on the court, and the court continues to be inclined to enforce the law, but then the military officials don't want to see it enforced. so there's this whole kind of conflagration around enforcement of the fugitive slave laws that i think gets brought, gets heightened, number one, by the fact that there were fugitive slaves in the first place that forced the the issue and, number two, this popular uprising against enforcement of the law. that was one of the things i enjoyed how to figure out how to write about. there's so many more. i could go on about sort of wonderful, fun anecdotes that i got to tell in this book. >> this is going to be our last question. yes, sir. >> [inaudible]
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surrounding emancipation and the sorting out of the various types of equality in washington and potentially being a model for the rest of the -- probably for that matter, for the rest of the country. if it's going to be a model, it needs to be communicated. have you had much access to information about how what was going on in washington was communicated to the rest of the south, newspaper editorials, was it commentary by state legislatures? >> how was this -- how or if is this information -- if washington is, indeed, an example for all the land, how is that getting out to the rest of the landsome. >> yeah. well, let me give two examples of that. one, from the democratic press in new york city, the new york world was a major democratic newspaper. and by 1869 in washington it's sort of the apex of radical reconstruction. you have for the first time african-american men are sitting on juries, there are seven wards
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many washington, each ward has at least one african-american councilman stating on the city council. and the new york world is ap to protect tick about it, and they sort of do this series of articles about the rise of negro domination in washington. and so from -- and they talk about it as washington as an exemplar for all that is bad about reconstruction. and, actually not coincidentally or whatever, relatedly, this is the summer that the 15th amendment is passed in the winter of 1869, so during the summer is when it's up for ratification to the states. and so the 15th amendment was the amendment that said that nobody could be prohibited in the states, nobody could be prohibited from voting on account of race, color or previous condition. so northern states, particularly the democrats, were saying, well, and they had to ratify. they were supposed to ratify. so the new york world was saying do you want to see an example of
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what happens when we allow african-american men to vote? some look at washington. and they're saying it's a negative example. so that's one sort of very clear example of how washington had become an example. and then, again, well, i'll give a happier example. okay. so by the end of the century when disenfranchisement in the south is in full swing, you have propagandists who are trying to persuade liberals in the north that what they're doing in key enfranchising -- in disenfranchising african-americans is good and northerners shouldn't be concerned about it. and those folks like to cite washington because it was actually during a republican congress that washington, d.c. was disfranchised. so they talk about washington as a model for what they're doing and kind of say, look, the republicans in 1874, 1878 thought this was fine, you know, why don't you go along with what we're doing now. but on the positive side to end on slightly what i see as a more
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positive note, washington actually becomes for african-americans an example of a place where, you know, some of the best educational institutions in the country. so howard university's founded in 1867, i think, and the public schools in d.c. although segregated become some of the, some of the public schools become really terrific including a preparatory high school, the m street school that later becomes dunbar. so growing out of the period i write about washington also becomes an example of educational opportunity for african-americans, it's kind of unparalleled elsewhere. yeah. >> well, once again thank you very much, professor, for speaking with us. [applause] and i believe that the books are available to sign on the tables right outside the door. have a great evening. >> this event was hosted by the abraham lincoln presidential lie
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prayer and museum in springfield, illinois. visit >> at a 1984 new jersey rally looking to cement his lead over the democratic presidential candidate walter mondale and enhance his legitimacy in a traditionally democratic industrial state, ronald reagan grasped at the star pour of a favorite -- power of a favorite son. america's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your heart, the president exhorted. it rests this message of hope and songs of a man so many young americans admire, new jersey's own bruce springsteen. in a warm gesture of ingratiation, reagan summarized: and helping you make those dreams come true is what that job of mine is all about. then segwayed into a love fest with the audience as reagan ticked off a list of his administration's achievements. supporters weremp


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