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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  May 27, 2012 10:30am-12:00pm EDT

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long presents a collection of over 150 letters from civil rights leader bayard rustin, organizer of the 1963 march on washington and adviser to martin luther king jr. and an openly gay man. mr. rustin's letters cover over 40 years of his life and the correspondents include eleanor holmes norton and martin luther king jr. this is about an hour, 20 minutes. >> i as a lifetime human rights activist, i'm especially excited to be talking about bayard rustin because as you can see in his collective letters, and as i'd like to ask michael to talk about, he was, um, really the, in some ways, soul voice in the civil rights movement who really saw a complete set of linkages between all forms of injustice. and, you know, there's a very sad story of the split between
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civil rights and human rights in the united states that actually the schaumberg center's going to be looking at in an upcoming event on march 30th and which is certainly the subject of a whole different discussion. but it's one of the things that's very inspiring in his story, is that he saw so clearly that indignity and injustice against african-americans was connected to the discrimination and the struggles -- the discrimination against so many, so many voices. and so i was wondering if you could start off by talking a little bit about what brought you to tell his story. tell us more about him and what makes him so compelling and exciting as a figure. >> sure. first, let me say that it's great to be with all of you and especially great to be near the schaumberg archives. i have used the archives so many times. so many thanks to schaumberg archives for assists me in my research along the way.
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[applause] indeed, i agree. i try to let my projects arise organically one from another, and so early on when i was studying martin luther king jr., there was bayard rustin. and then later when i was studying jackie robinson, there was bayard rustin. and then when i was studying thurgood hard -- marshall, the one who was the naacp attorney, there was bayard rustin. and it was pretty easy for me to target him because he was all over the place, and he was such a fascinating character. to me, he's especially fascinating because he brings together so many of my interests. he brings together civil rights, human rights, progressive religion, gay rights, nonviolence and pacifism, and the list goes on. so there we have in one person so many of these rights coming together. and mila's right to note that
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bayard really saw the linkages between discrimination and prejudice in ways that i think a lot of other civil rights leaders missed. and he did partly because of who he was. he was somebody who was african-american and openly gay and a pacifist and a socialist with roots in the young communist leg. and, again, the list goes on from there. so he understood the linkages of prejudice and discrimination because of his own cultural and sociopolitical identity. >> uh-huh. when, when i was looking at after reading this fantastic collection of letters you have, as i was looking for other information about bayard, i made the mistake of starting in -- with academic sources. and as you know, it's not, he isn't well studied compared to so many of the other figures, everyone you just mentioned, the much more household names from the civil rights movement.
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but then, of course, i went to the right place which was the children's library in the new york plunge library -- public library and who mention bed there's a young adult, a children's story, biography of bayard rustin which is pretty recent. and it's a really good story. we were just looking at it before. but in it i found that he has a poem that he wrote in high school where he says i ask of you no shining gold, i seek not epitaph or fame. no monument of stone for me, for man need never speak my name. and i thought that was fitting because in a way that's his story, is about not having chosen the spotlight in the movement, having been behind the scenes in so many ways and having been a great leader but not taking the public role that someone like martin luther king took. can you talk a little bit about his role in the movement and
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maybe how that, how he made those choices about what he wanted his role to be? >> sure. first let me say it's great to see bayard in a book for children and youth, especially because he felt deeply about children. there's some great pictures of bayard with children, especially refugee children, and there are also some great images of bayard singing with them. so i'm really pleased to see this, and i wasn't aware of the resource as exactly as i could have been before, but i'm going to check it out after i leave here. now, yes, indeed, bayard was not studied for a long time, there's no doubt about that. and can a couple reasons, i think, come into play. he did not have a natural base or constituency. so unlike adam clayton powell jr. of harlem, he didn't have a base of voters to draw from. he didn't have a civil rights
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organization early on, so he wasn't like roy wilkens of the naacp or thurgood marshall. and he didn't emerge and form an organization early on like martin luther king jr. and the scls, so he didn't have that organizational basis to tap into. another reason comes into play, and that is rustin was openly gay for his era. and for that reason he decided, well, let me add another point. he was also arrested on charges of lewd vagrancy at different points, so those who were civil rights leaders chose different times for him to step into the shadows. and he did that sometimes willingly and sometimes not willingly. buy yard also, i want to emphasize, was a great speaker. early on he was known for his ability to be a great speaker. and that ability faded into the
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background as these arrests happened and as people became concerned about husband sexuality -- about his sexuality tainting the movement, about his arrest anticipating the movement and also about his roots in communism tainting the movement as well. so his speaking abilities went to the background. and as that happened, his tactical abilitied came to the foreground. and as a tactician, he was behind the scenes in a sense directing the players on the stage, and the players were martin luther king jr. and roy wilkins and others. so he was directing them, but he was the man who was behind the scenes. like our technical folks here tonight. >> can you talk us through some of those examples of his brilliance as a tactician? i mean, he was clearly a deeply appreciated by the civil rights movement in that way, and then he was sorely missed when he stepped back in part because of
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concerns about being publicly identified as gay and possibly doing damage to the movement. martin luther king for a while distanced himself from him. but he had -- but throughout the book we can see in several different ways and several different movements we can see his brilliance as a strategist starting from the beginning when he's in prison for conscientious objection to world war ii, and he's organizing the prisoners in the prison on to the planning of what was a precursor of the freedom ride ten yearses before rosa parks to the planning of the march on washington. can you talk us through some of those, how that's reflected in the letters and how you, um, how you, you know, how you've kind of it told that story of his -- >> sure. >> -- tactics? >> sure. his tactics, his tactical abilities are really present in his prison letters where he's directing his fellow inmates to stand against segregation in
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federal prison both at ashland and then later at lewisburg. and he maps out careful strategies, and not only does he do it for his inmates, he does it for the warden there as well which is excellent. he tells the warden exactly what he's going to do, and then he gets the inmates to do it. and the letters are really striking because they go through such detail. his tactical abilities are really e t, you're right, in 1947 when he's directing the journey of reconciliation. and these were really the first freedom riders. these were the folks, and all of them were male at that point be, who decided to test morgan v. virginia decision that criminalized segregation laws for interstate travelers. and so they tested the supreme court decision by taking a bus trip through the south. and bayard and george houser
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were really the main strategists there. and the memos they put together are absolutely breathtaking for their detail and for their concrete -- for the concrete ways they directed people at different points. they had everything mapped out carefully. so it's absolutely stunning to me. now, i also want to add that bayard had thought about marchs on washington long before that 1963 march on washington. indeed, the book includes a long memo, i think it's 14 pages long, where bayard was sketching out a march on washington in 1956. that's seven years before the march on washington. now, leading up to that march on washington bayard also organized three separate and successful marchs on washington. he organized the prayer pilgrimage of 1957 which gave king his first national platform. he also organized marchs for
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integrated schools, and that's where jack ce robinson -- jackie robinson's life converged with bayard. bayard was smart enough to know that jackie was a really good public figure, and maybe we should get jackie to lead the march. and jackie stepped up to the occasion. but in all these memos it's, you can see bayard's tactical brilliance at work. >> when, as we turn to looking at some of the letters in particular, can you, can you talk a little bit about your process in finding the letters, deciding between them, choosing which ones to spotlight? i mean, the breadth and depth of his correspondence over the 45 years, maybe, that you have documented in the book is extraordinary. tell us about how you did it. >> well, it's tough to pick letters, i'll say that. and at first i wasn't sure whether there would be enough letters for the book.
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later it became pretty clear to me that i had enough letters for at least several books. early on after i started getting interested in bayard's life, i decided that i'd better call walter, the executor of the state of bayard rustin. he's also the one who was bayard's longtime companion the last ten years of his life. and i knew that i needed to talk to walter so see whether i could have permission to reprint and publish these letters into volume. and walter was so generous and so kind, and he gave permission after a short while. now, picking the letters is not easy. what i wanted to do was sort of show the chronology of his life, but i also wanted to show bayard's personality, and i wanted to show different parts of it. so i wanted to show bayard in his sensitive moments, and i wanted to show bayard in his angry moments. so i wanted to show that part of
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his personality. i also wanted to show how his politics sort of evolved through the years. i wanted to show his relationship with his family and his relationship with his political friends and his political enemies. so i had these different criteria in mind, and there were some letters that didn't make it in, some beautiful letters that didn't make it in, unfortunately. but that's the process of trying to whittle down a manuscript. >> when, can you talk a little bit about the range of people that he corresponded with? >> sure. yeah. bayard wrote to all the major progressives of his era. he wrote to h.a. musty, for whom he worked. he wrote to the major politicians of his day. he wrote to kennedy, he wrote to johnson. he wrote to local politicians at times. he wrote to international politicians as well. he had correspondence with people, with african leaders.
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he had correspondence with civil rights and can peace activists across the globe. any major progressive of the day really you can be sure that they received a letter from bayard at some point in their lives. he was prolific. he really was. and the thing -- what's really interesting about it is that he didn't know how to type. [laughter] and coming from the typing generation, i found that especially odd. but he didn't know how to type. in fact, just last week or earlier this week i met somebody who typed letters for bayard, and he would walk around with a manila envelope, she said, and he would have a stack of letters in there. they were short letters, she said, but when she saw them, and she saw them in the friendship office, an office that tried to sponsor civil rights work early on, she volunteered to type his letters. and she did it on sunday mornings because he had so many
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letters as well. so he would just pull out the letters from a manila folder and read them for her, and she would type them. he also dictated a lot of letters. in fact, as his life went on and be as he got busier, he dictated most of his letters. but there are some wonderful manuscripts in which he is writing in his low to the line, loopy style. it just sort of shows how fluid he was in his personality. i love looking at those letters. i still get excited when i hold a letter that's written by bayard. ..
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>> i am 69 years old, i am black, and i have lived risk and fought races in my entire life. i have been in prison 23 times, serving 28 months in a federal penitentiary in 30 days in north carolina. i've seen periods of progress followed by reaction. i have seen the hopes and aspirations of negroes rise during world war ii, only to be
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smashed when the eisenhower years came. i have seen the victories of the kennedys and johnson administration destroyed by richard nixon. i have seen black young people become more and more bitter. i have seen dope addiction rise in the negro communities across the country. i have been in a church. my best friend, my closest associates and colleagues in arms have been beaten and assassinated. yet to remain human and to fulfill my commitment to a just society, i must continue to fight for the liberation of all. there will be times when each of us will have doubts. but i trust that neither of us
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will give up on a great cause. sincerely, bayard rustin. that is one of the most moving letters in the book. he wrote that a little more than a year after the assassination of martin luther king jr. and a little bit more than a month after doctor king was assassinated, his friend, bill sutherland, that she was to discombobulated to write a letter. that letter followed those letter to khalil bayard rustin't is one reason is why i would come back to america. people thought very highly of him. he he had the steadfast hope. he kept bouncing back after
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people stepped on him and put them in jail and after they cast him in the shadows. he keeps rising again. this letter gets to the heart of that hope in bayard rustin's life. >> one of the things i was struck by in the book and buy his story is is how he drew strength from and power from religion. his quaker faith and from christianity and the way that he writes about that.
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>> it is easy to miss his spirituality. but from those early letters on, he constantly appeals to spiritual values. he does this for a variety of reasons. one of the reasons is that he was reared by juliet in west chester pennsylvania. julia was his grandmother. his grandparents take them to the local episcopalian of church. julia was schooled at a quaker school in westchester. she takes these quaker values of nonviolence and the unity that surround it very seriously.
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she read to him from the hebrew scriptures. it is the story of moses and god joining together to free the slaves. they pass that story onto bayard as well. you don't need to wait until you get to heaven to free the slaves and experience liberation. you don't need to wait until you get to the by-and-by in order to experience justice. these are the lessons that she passes on to buyer. she also passes on to him a key lesson about her identity. one of her favorite psalm in psalm 96 in which the psalmist says, that i reside in the
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shadow of the almighty if i do what is just and right and good. and she takes that lesson and she passes them on to bayard, she says it doesn't matter what people will do to you, as long as you do what is right and just and good, you will dwell in the shadow of the almighty. bayard has this confidence in himself, and he also has this clear sense of mission. that is to make the world a better place. he takes those convictions from westchester, pennsylvania, into the rest of the world. >> you know, i encourage everyone to read the book. it really is an extraordinary rich and deep story about the
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extent of bayard rustin's challenges in maintaining his hopes. he draws on strings and carries throughout the book. i was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how that plays out in his last phase. the intensity of his civil rights involvement after doctor king's death. he is it. where he works on more international issues, he is concerned about the refugees coming from the wars in cambodia and vietnam. he is concerned about the fate of israel. i would see the connection, again, with human rights, labor
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rights, anti-cronyism, he is traveling all over the world and has much more of a voice on gay rights. can you talk about the last one third of the book? >> sure, sure, i can do that. bayard was against the apartheid as early as 1952. in 1952 they have the national congress. they have developed programs and protests against those apartheid laws and they were beginning to emerge more clearly in south africa. bayard rustin is delighted to see the afghan national congress do that. he and george houser at the liberation movement, george
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houser begins to form a committee on africa, that is really dedicated to fighting colonialism in africa. this is one of byard's real love at this point. he is very concerned about colonialism in africa. early on, about 1959, he goes to africa and participates in this project called the sahara project. the point of this sahara project is to draw the world's attention to france's decision to detonate its first nuclear bomb on african soil. it is crazy. absolutely crazy. bayard knows it's crazy, and he joined his fellow peace activists in developing this plan when they are going to cross the border into the algerian sahara. it is french territory, they
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sort of are going to invade french territory and make their way. they got turned back constantly. they chew the world's attention. they created this spectacle inspector of a colonial power planning to detonate its atomic weapons on colonized soil in africa. they don't stop grants from doing it. it also -- bayard was also involved in helping african american independence movements on focusing on nonviolence. he works with the gentleman in zambia in trying to keep his movement and focus on nonviolence. when they became de- colonized and liberation arose, lots of
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methods were used. byard has the idea that they should establish a nonviolence center in africa to assist liberation leaders in terms of becoming familiar with gandhi. it doesn't last very long, but he gives his best effort. he is also concerned about refugees. he's one of the first to call for opening of voters for vietnamese refugees. he travels across the globe, especially with the international rescue committee. i think i got the name right. >> yes. >> they are making their best plans to assist refugees in their own home countries, but also traveled to countries where they can get better lodging as well.
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>> would you like me to go on? in terms of the gay rights movement, bayard is planning a demonstration on the democratic national republican convention for the summer. a representative of harlem gets wind of this plan and for a variety of reasons, he decides that he wants to stop the march on the democrats. he does it this way or he tries it to do it this way. he has an intermediary in south america. the threat is this. if you don't call off the march on the democrats, i will go to the media and tell them that you and bayard are having a gay affair. i am still baffled, even when i hear myself say that. i once asked walter nagel by his
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longtime companion whether there was any truth to the possibility that the two were having a gay affair, and he smiled and he said please, doctor king was not into that. [laughter] we can also see that bayard was not doctor king's type. there is nothing to it. they taken seriously because he's frightened of negative exposure. remember, this is a very homophobic society that we live in a 1960, even today, but especially in 1960. he is her concern about the negative exposure at that point. eventually, after several different steps come he decides to cut bayard out of his inner circle, and bayard is absolutely crushed. and he goes into a funk.
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before this, in 1959, doctor king had considered giving bayard one of the top positions in the sclc and judge and give them advice not to do so because of the negative exposure that could arise because of bayard's gay sexuality and pass arrest related to elude reference. after 1960, bayard gets back into king's inner circle. by 1962 heat sanitizes about civil rights, and just after the civil rights movement happens, goes to the senate floor and he calls bayard a homosexual and
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pervert. the national media latches onto this. and they pummel bayard and rights leaders for comments. at this point, the civil rights leaders stand by his side. byard says at this point community to judge me on my whole character. my whole life. bayard also does not talk about his gay sexuality in the media. he doesn't do that. he is of the school that says at this point that one we beat sexuality is a private matter. he writes this in a letter in 1985 to a man who is putting together an anthology of writing by african-american gays. bayard said he considered orientation to be a private matter. by the mid- 1980s, he stands up for gay rights and speaks on
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behalf of gay rights in new york city. but he does so in part because of walter nagel, his longtime companion, have been encouraging him to do so. with walter smudging, he began to speak out on behalf of gay rights. of course, since then, the gay-rights movement has seen byard as one of their early heroes. and i do want to emphasize that it took a lot of courage to stand up as an openly gay man and to move in those inner circles of civil rights leaders. especially conservative ministers and people who knew him knew that he was a gay man. i hope that helps answer your question. >> in a minute we will open up for questions from everyone. if you have a question, if you can think about starting to move to the microphone. i would like to give everyone a
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minute to think about that and ask questions. throughout the book, and especially in the 1960s, there is a kind of stranded discussion about bayard's relationship with the democratic party, with partisan politics, easy to use on both sides of supporting the democrats are not supporting them and not. do you see that as nuances and complexities in politics? given all that, what do you think bayard would say about the fact that we have an african-american president now would he think he would say about obama's presidency? >> let me approach the question this way. in the mid- 1960s, bayard rustin advocated for a move from protest to politics. he called for his fellow
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activists to recognize that sometimes you need to move off the street and into the quarters of power in order to achieve your big goals. now, for bayard rustin, big goals were big, and he is thinking about a massive redistribution of wealth and power. and in order to effectuate back, he believes that civil rights activists start to work with liberal democrats. not the dixiecrat, but liberal democrats to take over the democratic party and to drive out the dixiecrat and get some things done. he knows that the people who get things done in terms of moving money are those who are on the appropriations committee. he knows that a lot of power can be wielded in executive decisions and executive order.
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bayard makes this move towards politics, calling for activists to take up political leadership. what about president obama. can we say that president obama in the white house is symptomatic of a move from protest to politics? absolutely. i think. would bayard be pleased with president obama's policies? i dare not say. but i do know that in 1966, he pushed for what he called a freedom budget for all americans. and this was a budget which i believe was about $186 billion, designed to take everybody's --
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to give them a guaranteed annual income and give people universal health care. to give people full employment. to make this society a just one for distribution of wealth is radical, the distribution of power is radical. we see that now? of course not. i would say that bayard rustin, and i'm taking a shot here, would be pleased with some moves, but would be likely to criticize universal health care and affordable way. jobs for everybody, good education for everybody. he would be very unhappy with the return to segregated education, for example i think there would be a lot that bayard
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would be criticizing today. >> thank you. >> absolutely. you are welcome. thank you. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> just to reiterate a couple of things, thanks to mr. nagel, thanks to city lights books in san francisco, which is a really progressive publisher. in the book publishing with them because they publish in the spirit of bayard rustin. check them out at city lights and thank you to my after leaving this great discussion. we thank you as well. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> the question is whether mr. nagel is here. he is. he is to my right about halfway back. maybe you can see him at some point. but i think the questions are here. if you have a question, please step up to the microphone.
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>> yes, please step up to the microphone. >> why has not jackie robinson been held as a great civil rights leader? >> that is a good question. >> yes, that's what i do. [laughter] >> yes, questions or your vocation. >> for me, breaking the color line in baseball was something that was as big as what doctor king ever did. why has he not been held to that is a great civil rights leader, and why is his birthday not a national holiday in this country? for that reason. >> well, here's here is my theory. one of the things we do with heroes is freeze them at particular points in their history. with jackie robinson, we greet
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him in 1947 at the beginning of his baseball career when he is being nonviolent and he is getting up and wiping the dust off his uniform and soldiering on. we forget that jackie robinson was a fierce critic of racism and discrimination in the united states, beyond the baseball diamond. in fact, he devoted his life after he left baseball to working with the naacp and working with martin luther king jr. and working with bayard rustin. bayard knew that jackie was a civil rights leader. we forgot this part of jackie robinson because we froze him, i think, back in 1947. we forget that martin luther king jr. had a nightmare after he gave his i had a dream speech. we have frozen him. shortly after that, four little
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girls were murdered in birmingham. remember? doctor king began to speak about his nightmare. we freeze him in 1963 and we freeze bayard rustin. we forget that in 1966 he is going for a radical redistribution of wealth and power in the united states. what we do with heroes is freeze them in the time that is least threatening to us. we forget. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> we forgive those radical moments when they are coming into their own as civil rights leaders. and i think in jackie's case, we should not only look at his time in the baseball diamond, he is a great civil rights leader on the baseball diamond, but after he leaves the baseball diamond, we
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forget about what he does. >> my small criticism of mr. robinson was that he criticized willie mays for not being as active as he wants. not taking into consideration willie mays was not college educated and not an officer in the military and didn't have jackie's educational background. are you aware of that? >> i am aware. willie mays is recognized when he spoke out on behalf of civil rights and robinson was grateful for those moments. but it goes to show that civil rights leaders are not monolithic. there were huge differences between jackie robinson and many other civil rights leaders and
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an african-american athlete. there are huge differences between bayard rustin and martin luther king jr. and malcolm asked. by 1964, he is refusing to debate malcolm asked because he believes that malcolm x. is so far out of the mainstream of civil rights leadership. when malcolm started to call for the formation of the [inaudible name] in 1964, bayard throws his hands up and says i can't deal with malcolm's demagoguery anymore. but your question gets to the point and it points out a very important fact. these leaders are not of one mind. they have different strategies, they have different timings in mind. they have a different sense of purpose as well. so don't lump them all together. >> thank you for your question. >> thank you.
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>> [inaudible question] doctor king talked about nonviolence, we stayed up all night afterwards thinking, and i think many of us were altered in our perspective for the rest of our lives. he was the most effective spokesman i ever heard on the subject of nonviolence. i wonder in correspondence or otherwise, with the exchange was between martin luther king and bayard rustin on that subject, secondly, i would be interested to know where his letters or archives are. >> bayard rustin's letters are deposited primarily at the library of congress, but they are also scattered in very far archives across the country.
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if you go to the new york public library, and the schomburg center, go to the archived grave on the database plug-in. key in bayard rustin and you will see his name pop up in archives across the country. the state of bayard rustin was smart enough to -- i should say, the united states government, though they had conducted surveillance on him, it came around to realize that his paper should be deposited in the library of congress. but your question about doctor king and violence. transfer back to montgomery, alabama, near the time of the montgomery bus boycott in 1936. when he gets there, he discovers that there are guns lying around and doctor king has bodyguards
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and he realizes that king is not deeply schooled in nonviolence and techniques. bayard really begins to school doctor king in nonviolence techniques. he just papers on this and essays on this. so he helps school doctor king and us. doctor king is deeply interested and he takes a nonviolence, not only as a tactic, but also as a way of life. partly because of byard's work early on. they always remain nonviolent together. they separated on topical issues related to nonviolence, especially in terms of the vietnam war. early on in 1965, bayard counseled him to speak out against the vietnam war. king did in 1965.
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he had a major speech at madison square garden and inspired people and they got out of their seats and they marched over to the u.n. shortly after that speech. later on he gives a speech that ties the speech movement together closely. that famous speech at riverside church. here in new york. he thought that would undermine the ability of civil rights leaders extract victories for african americans and indeed, all americans. remember that byard is pushing the freedom budget at this point as well. and he believes the time those
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moments together will undermine that freedom budget, as well as calls for economic justice. that is part of the story. they separated tactically at different points on the issue of nonviolence. thank you. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> good evening and thank you for being here. my name is andrew bell. i would like to know if he would speak about mr. bayard rustin as a spiritual being. he mentioned his incarceration being speeded, colleagues being betrayed and assassinated. is there any point in his letters where he mentions his diet. is he a bible reader. what did he do throughout his life to maintain his spiritual life and nonviolence stance? >> thank you for that question. shortly after he went to jail, he wrote a letter to his grandmother, julia, and asked
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her to read a particular psalm at 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon upon his birthday. he also said that he would do the same thing. together they could be together in spirit on his birthday. on 1:00 o'clock march 17, 1934, bayard sits in jail, and julia sits in her home in westchester, and together they read a psalm that reads something like this. dear lord, be with me. my enemies trample me. this i know. the god is with me. what can a mere mortal due to me? throughout his imprisonment, he reads the bible closely and he writes about readings of scripture -- christian scripture
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in his letters. he prays while he is in prison as well. after one particular -- particularly difficult event when he gets thrown into administrative segregation because he's brought up on charges of engaging on sects with other inmates, he brings out the starry -- the story of the prodigal son. he decides that he is going to rise again and go back and talk to his father and to seek forgiveness and start a new life. many of you know him as the prodigal son. he is also the good son who came home again, sought forgiveness, and lives in life. byard takes deep spiritual inspiration from that terrible
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and returns to that terrible several times in his life. he does have spiritual practices and spiritual inspiration early on. it seems later in his life he becomes less, what do i want to say? publicly spiritual. he doesn't wear his spirituality on his sleeve, but i chatted by e-mail with walter nagle about this and he let me know that bayard meditated regularly and to practice these values that he learned from his parents early on. i want to emphasize that as well. thank you for your and. he was, i think i'm a deeply spring will begin. many people missed that because he is such a political being at the same time. one other thing that i would like to let you know is that he made that mlk kept his eyes on
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the prize of spiritual value. there is one speech that doctor king has in hand in part by stanley levinson, it is in 1957 in washington dc. wired writes a letter saying we need to do something about this. so he pulls king and other leaders back to spiritual values. he wants them to say focused on political tactics, no doubt, but he wants them to remember that they are after a spiritual goal. and that goal preexist in their means, and so he has seen these spiritual means is moving back and forth in that goal and the means informing of the end. spirituality is really huge for byard. it permeates the movement for him. [applause] [applause] [applause]
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[applause] >> i would like to thank you for doing the book. it gets to be known by more and more people. in terms of the letters, it is just extraordinary. it is fascinating. none of it really captures in a way that being in that moment is. parts of that book i would just cry. the pressure on him and all the way that his wife comes together, knowing that much is overwhelming. how do you stay steady in knowing what you know and not just moving it it was a real defense on his face. letters did not -- a lot of letters got lost, as well as
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many that were kept. did you draw on new material that didn't exist then, were there others found? is the sum of the same material that provided the foundation for that and actually being able to read the words and responses and all that? >> yes, the references in john miller's book, which is entitled lost profit, it is a great read. it is the landmark study of bayard's life. i can use his work to track down letters that are still in existence. but also, it went beyond his work and try to include letters that he did draw from as well. there is overlap in the sense that we throughout the really important letters, but there are also topical letters that i draw from that he didn't use. this material that he used,
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clearly argues as well. they're there are missing letters. one of the missing letters is from a man named david who was by her slumber early on. jim byard wrote some wonderful letters. it breaks your heart when you read a letter and you want to read the corresponding letter coming to can't find it, and it breaks your heart. this is someone who works closely with bayard early on. stanley levinson, it seems had connections to the communist party. a lot of the material that he wrote, which i believe privately included a lot of letters
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because they work so closely together on civil rights issues, it seems like mr. levinson destroyed a lot of, if not almost all of his letters that he had in his office before he died. and that is such a shame. the record there must be incredible. i would also believe that there are letters that bayard wrote that are still out there that i haven't touched, and i wish i could. i am still interested in looking at letters that bayard pen or others wrote to bayard. please fill free to send them to me. i'm sure that those of us would be more than willing to receive those letters. i hope that answers part of your question >> it does. in terms of when martin luther
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king was assassinated, and it was a relationship with the whole movement in terms of economic justice, which i know you said about us getting stuck in places, but i think there is a whole corporate -- a corporate media that wants us to be stuck in a place and highlights what we pay attention to. so it is important to pay attention to the other features. it is a follow-up of what someone asked earlier in terms of your reading. was there any communication in terms of an economic direction in the conversations between bayard and martin luther king? >> great question. early on, very early on, bayard at, encouraging doctor king, to see linkages between economic justice and racism. he's doing this in the 1950s. he is also a encouraging change
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early on before anybody else does so. to form alliances with labor. nobody is encouraging king to focus on economic justice more so than bayard rustin. nobody is encouraging king to form alliances with labor more so than bayard rustin. he does it in the 1950s come he does it in the 1960s. the whole way up. he is the one who introduces doctor king to philip randolph who had an office in harlem who is the founder of the great labor party. he is one who makes connections for doctor king and the budding civil rights movement.
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after doctor king was assassinated, bayard was the one who went down and help the organization to continue on in a memorial march that stood with the sanitation workers as well. yes, there are letters in which bayard is encouraging doctor king. that is one of the consistent points. thank you for raising that issue. >> two points. it seems to me that a book on julie, the grandmother is highly desirable. and her relationship with her grandson. there should be one for young people, possibly, also one for adults. but i don't know. second, i would like to ask if there are any movements toward
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public monuments to bayard anywhere? >> thank you for your first point. yes, i would love to see a book on juliet and jennifer. i know i emphasize julia tonight, but jennifer sacrificed unbelievably for him is as well, and wrote a beautiful letter in the book shortly after jennifer died and it is a very moving letter about how jennifer sacrificed and how he and julia had what he called a perfect union. and how jennifer always took bayard as his own. i just feel the tears through those words. i would like to see a book on them in their lives. in terms of your second point,
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well, i don't know. walter, can you yell at anything you know of? are you talking about a physical monument or do you know anything? >> [inaudible] >> there are some high schools named after bayard rustin. there is a high school in westchester where he grew up. thank you, westchester. [inaudible] and highlighting contributions near the u.s. they you, walter. [applause] [applause] [applause] [applause] >> i wanted to ask a question and bring the evening to close.
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it seems to me that one of the most significant developments over the past century really has been the institutionalization of politics of the right that gained a tremendous support by way of the civil rights movement. to the degree that the civil rights movement was successful in the 1950s and 60s. to get these significant shifts in the rights movement in this country, for most of the 20th century, with the exception of, say, the 1920s and maybe woodrow wilson's presidency, the country was increasingly moving to the left to it ended with the
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linden -- lyndon johnson demonstration. here's a man that is not only black. he is painted red and pink and is gay. he carries the tremendous burden of representing a kind of politics and personal a comment related to social justice that cost people their lives. together we in the south, particularly the height of the mccarthy era. something we haven't talked about in the midst of this discussion, but certainly the letters he pulled together make reference of the cold war in the state for this kind of politics of action that bayard was committed to. what might you learn about his life that takes us from the 1940s through the 1980s in
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terms of that tremendous shift in the politics of the right. the real tremendous embrace, the kind of politics of resentment in this country. i want to offer one contextual clue for the audience. the trade movement has its high water mark. this really is the source of, as it is recently said, a lot of bayard rustin's hopefulness and optimism for a kind of coalition politics. it is kind of a question of what had failed in the late movement at the moment. looking back at the successes of
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conservatism or neoconservative in the 1970s is the trade union movements was, what number 5%? even a possibility for that kind of coalition politics doesn't exist in the way he imagined it. the question is what did he get right in that transition? what was he able to do in that transition from 1964 through 1968 in two the 1970s and 80s that we could recover in a kind of politics of pull economic distribution? i'm going to close the question, but it really does beg a question about what lessons we might learn about his way of engaging the world and engaging this nation that may not have fully anticipated the rights, but he was certainly there to take it on in the early
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manifestation. and here is a section that is written in 1978 just to thomasville. i didn't read every letter, it's a big book. it is about affirmative action. it is certainly fitting on the docket of supreme court. if it hadn't been handed down. we already see, at least not one major policy stories, the retreat of the possibility of equity rather than equality. here he is taking on thomas soul, and thomas soul is not only discrediting black leadership, but saying that the naacp and the black caucus are ad hoc to george and company. george media being the head of it if clo at that moment.
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the part in his own voice in response of where we are today and the erosion of this is the way that he defines the civil rights movement and labor movement. he says the labor movement had a basic commitment to social justice, which includes a guarantee of fair wages. to sacrifice this fundamental guarantee with the unsubstantiated hope of creating millions of low paid, undignified jobs strikes me as unrealistic as the sole solution that deregulation -- the laissez-faire economics, if we follow the professor's argument to its logical conclusions, we might best achieved this by lowering everyone's wage rate. that even animates discussions about immigration reform today. which is as much about accepting the work of immigrants with no guarantee of basic social
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benefits in this nation. a lot of contextual clues there, but i wanted to hear you navigate of dealing with this transition to a politics of resentment and the right that devastated a quarter of what he was attempting to achieve in the 1940s to this day. i wish i had a great answer. the conservatives who have come into effect in the republican party, whenever two pure, mr. wicker power. and i believe that the radicals on the left were almost too pure
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in their approach, and so didn't try to gain power in the republican party. those on the radical left sort of wash their hands of the democratic party rather than seeking to take it over as the conservatives sought to do so with that party. in the sense they dismissed bayard's strategy of moving from protest to politics. the democratic party has never been like the republican party, in part because of that failure to see what bayard rustin's saw, and that is the value of having
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power to reflect radical change in society. the transition that is being referred to here, partly reflects the failure of those on the far left to make a grab for power in any sustained way. that is one of the tragedies, i believe, of modern society. i wish someone had listened to bayard. i wish those on the radical left has moved from protest to politics and that those were those radicals would be as vocal and as powerful as those conservatives on the right. we have a major imbalance, even
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to the extent that people in the democratic party runaway from the label of being a liberal. much less a radical, right? i think what we see is partly a failure to heed transports voice. i will stop there. and i will see if you would like to add anything there >> the other thing that i see in the message that he sends to us today is the one of coalition politics, regardless of the strength of any of the members of the coalition we are talking about the decline in the labor
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movement. what i see now is i completely agree with you about the lack of move to embrace power, but also the intensity of the fragmentation on the left, which represents the complete departure from his direction and the strength and push for coalition politics in the way he invited that himself. that comes through so clearly in his voice, in the way that he thought on so many fronts and saw them all connected. i think it would be heartbreaking to him to see the way that now the splintering into so many different smaller battles. failure to see a larger fight invision >> absolutely. i agree with that. he expressed frustration with what he called the politics of frustration. that is what he saw on the far left. the politics of frustration. were people were going their separate ways.
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they were calling for separate politics were they weren't moving towards integration and they weren't moving towards coalition. he referred to the politics of resentment. that has really come into power and the politics have split away. i would love to see a grab for power. >> i wish i could respond in more detail, but i think that if some of the best i can give you. >> i think you did just fine. when you agree? [applause] , [applause] climax >> maja rosenthal, we thank you very much for this wonderful conversation, and thank you all for coming out tonight. and thank you for everyone to record this wonderful discussion with c-span. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> you are watching 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books on c-span 2's booktv. >> are not content.basketll our next guest is kareem abdul-jabbar, who is the author of "what color is my world: the lost history of african-american inventors." >> the project has its roots inn a book that i just wrote in 1996, which was an overview of 99 black history in america. in one of the chapters that i wrote, i focused on lewis howard let her. he was one of the folks whoferet created the practical invention. it made me aware of the fact that there were a lot of blacksa
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inventors that no one knew anything about. i got the idea from thatri o experience. i wanted to do a book onings inventors and related to children. >> today's youth seems to bedres interested in gaming. why the idea of a book to get interested in in a story you >> want to tell? >> the book ha is the ability ta reach the kids on different levels than games it is a lot more in-depth andess they can go to any part of this, physically, and >> let me show the book. their art without pages with the biographies of the inventor. >> our how did you make the cut of who
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would be featured in the book? >> we wanted to pick people who did things important to everyday eae br life. the bread machine, food preservation or food refrigeration. nowadays you can ship food geound the world because of refi refrigerated food transport. that was an idea that was first thought up by a black american. all of these inventions haveaffd really o been throughout her li, but there are so many otherther inventions and now. t look at all the lives that havee been saved just because of that technology we have about thebloa blood bank? it's very important for all of unr lives and most people don't understand that black americansn were crucial in figuring these things out. >> including one from the invention, the super soaker.>> i how did that make the list?un. >> so many kids play with it and they are not aware of who
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invented it. the 3-d is such an importantortc aspect now for telecommunications.ree d. isuch doctor valerieim worked up a template that most people nowadays are using for that. application.e are >> programs here are interactive come as comes you can call us if you would like to cook talked to kareem abdul-jabbar about hisbo. writing. this is his seventh book. he's been writing for 30 years.. we welcome your top questions about his writing and his projects and what he does them and what life of an author is like in addition to all of his other accomplishments in life. we put the phone numbers at the bottom of the screen and we can also take your tweets andlookhrh e-mails. i looked through the list, and d there was only one woman. why was that? >> well, we picked this woman
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because of what she did, it wasc so significant. s she made a significant inventiot that has been widely used.en wi. hers stood out as the most one,tical for us to use >> the concept of this book, are the the people featured african-americans? are you targeting african-american readers alongtd with us or are you hoping it will have a wide audience? >> i wasn't targeting african-american readers alone. i thought that since all of these people came from the african-american community, i would focus on them.e the afri also, it is crucial that we reach minority kids.each so many minority kids today come if you ask them who they want ta be come they will name you any, they oe or anwa entertainer and
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they only see themselves as being able to succeed in those two areas. t athletics andh entertainment. such a wide range of things that people can do today, youngthingn people, tog make a significant contribution to american life. e and also to earn a great living and be recognized as doing something meaningful >> you spend a lot of timeing t talking to kids with this exact message forgive me, it sounds a little ironic coming from someone who came to the claim to fame with sports. how do you drive that young yog message? >> i have a wonderful career, but it doesn't last forever. the fact that i'm able to be an author and a public speaker hasa to p do with what i learned. the fact that knowledge is power, which gives you the ability to do things that you want to do, that is a very vital message and i want to wamake su.
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that young people get that message >> i would like to get our viewers involved in the conversation. let's take our first caller from baltimore. gerard is our caller. welcome. >> caller: i'm surprised that i made it through. my question foru. mr. kareemkare abdul-jabbar, first of all, it's an honor that i'm talking to you.estion my question is how do you feel about african-americans in theki nba,rd my second question is wod you ever be a coach for the l.a. lakers, and my third question is could you just tell me who youry favorite african american inventors? binky so muchen >> thank you so much. my favorite inventor is between
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mr. lever and mr. schultz, because of what they did for people all the way around the world. bruce latimer, by doingthe alexander graham bell's patentsv application, he is right at the foundation of telecommunicationa and electronics.nd these are important things all t around the world. wit modern life would not exist without artificial lighting. i think that his invention is very important and doctor charles, who has saved so many lives and impacted so many weause of the knowledge that have through the science ofh thi blood typing. again, this is a very importantt contribution worldwide. i think that answers your question. sorry i cannot answer all thre. >> we will move on to charlotte whatouth bend indiana.llo.
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>> caller: what an honor it iswf to talk to you. i wonder if you would talk about the buffalo soldiers. and the significance of thefalo buffalo soldiers to americanign history. >> well, >> well, i think the industry of buffalo soldiers is very important. p western expirationow was key toe his becoming a world power. we could not have done that if we would not have utilized allu of the land that the unitedri states is comprised in order to do this, it took tok people to go out there and mapped roads, telegraph lines,d and exploring the best places tr live anded everything. all all of this wasof accompanied by our armed forces, the,
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calvary and infantry, and buffalo buffalo soldiers were key elements of thatts effort. so i think that when people finp out about the efforts of the buffalo soldiers, they appreciate more about how we ab became a great nation and all on this happened right after the civil war up until the 20th century >> many other titles, they areof all biographies, they telle stories through people. why are you attracted to peoplee stories?intha >> i think people stories are important because most people dt don't envision black americans doing the things that everyone else when you see their stories ande, that they are just like anyone else's story, you get an idea of common humanity and understand
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those citizens are not exotic creatures. they are fellow citizens that are trying to do the same thingi to help make this a great natio. >> you are obviously hoping to influence individual young people. who is the biggest influence ono your? >> i would have to say in so many ways, jackie robinson. i was a baseball fan when i was a kid.ball fan i jackie robinson was also ablemy model in other ways.elligent a my mom always pointed out that he was very intelligent and articulate. he went to ucla. he ended up going ued to uclacl >> we are on the campus of usc [laughter] .> we will get excited aboutof c this. so much of what he did with his life was an example.ple. after you know, after his sportster he became ahi businessman. he pointed out things withd regard to economics the blackak americans needed to know about. it is very much a role model and
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mentor in many of the aspects of his life >> the next call from our auence is viewing audience is lisa inli nashville. tina: >> caller: thank you for taking my call. i love c-span 2 and book tv. hae mr. kareem abdul-jabbar, it is such an honor to talk you in to you in here about the book you had written. we an i realized you were an author, but i didn't realize how many w books he wrote. the how do you decide on the subject of your books? >> the title of my firstu d boo was giant steps, and it is myioh biography. i choose my subject matter with regard to how to they impact people and explain things about american life that a lotla ofam people aren't really aware of
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>> you have coauthor, raymond, how to use your relationship books. work?were? >> we work together in a very meaningful way. we sit together and we put together an overview of what we want to say and based on the different areas we want to toucr on.and defi i give him notes and thenned he writes some of the things that e want to say. we go back and forth with me writing and giving him things tm edit and vice versa. kim writing and giving me things to edit.r is >> is writing easy for you or if it a labor? >> writing is a labor for everybody. you know?eally you have to have a real set purpose to be a writer. the longer i do it, the easierto it gets it gets. >> the next question for you is from jane in california.aliorni. first, the joy in new york city.
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>> caller: good afternoon. i appreciate you raising the question of thereou being only n woman in the book. i would like to revisit that of question because i did not feel that you answered it. i appreciate his small festivals history and success there. my concern is that there is only one woman and there are several women inventors. invent why is there only one out of all the females, since they have actually done as many inventions as all of the other ones that we get in all the black history month calendars and i really hi appreciate it.
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>> the ones that we were able to find did not impress us quite ao much as doctor thomas.ourse, >> maybe there will be another book coming >> of course. we felt that the other ones were significant, and we didn't want to exclude women, but we featured doctor thomas' invention. there are many inventions thate women that are worthy of the books. >> you are also involved in education, which is a big effort to get students to study science technology and math and engineering and the like. is this in concert with that effort? >> yes, i think that the facta that all the people that are heroes in this book are mathematicians, engineers, and, chemists, and other people involved in science, it reallyc. ha a key issue in what you justw talked about with regard to stem
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education. so many young people don't understand that those subjects are the ones that will be the key for having a job in the 21st century. it will be very technologicallyc oriented with regard to the positioning for the job. wit people with a good math and science background will be able to find jobs in many areas, anda that is a keys, issue for many young people who are thinkingare about goin tg to college and trying to pursue higher educationigher >> it is time for jane in calabasas. >> caller: did you attend aic catholic high school in new york city? dream act yes, i did. i attended kalmar memorial academy. it is close now, but i graduated in 1965.ou so they >> didn't have an influence on
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you? >> yes, my high school definitely had an influence on an me.. understand what the fundamentals are in the classic foundation of education. we can knock it general diplomas er things that had to do with -h and then a lot of my friends went to school where they could take shop class and stuff like that, we can do that as much.sco everything was academically oriented. >> julie in birmingham. probably theab last. aller: hel >> yes, go ahead please. >> caller: yes, i am. i just have a comment. i think it is a wonderful thing that you have done this. as is a great idea, and thee re reasons behind it are very


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