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tv   Book Discussion on The March on Washington  CSPAN  January 10, 2016 1:00pm-1:46pm EST

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added to the republican presidential candidate and end they give the invocation. >> host: thank you very much. >> guest: thank you. ..
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>> the first march on washington was planned during the second world war. it was called off at the last minute. so the organizers of the 1963 march had it in mind during that entire period they would need to revive this idea of the march and they talked about it pretty constantly for that period and then starting in 1962 they thought that for a number of reasons this was the time to actually put it on. it was a march that was very long in the planning and well thought out and finally carried forward. >> why was that first march canceled? what was the focus of the first march? >> it is important to understanding the march that happened to know what that was
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about. this is a time when roosevelt called to be the arsenal of democracy and support it by building airplanes, tanks, weapons to support the allies in europe and asia.
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this is the central point to a whole array of injustice that african-americans were facing from being shut out of the armed forces when they could be in the armed forces. the whole array of demands and the reason it was called off is
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at the last-minute initially president roosevelt refused to do this. we cannot force public companies to hire people. we cannot tell them about their unemployment. he said we cannot meet your demands. but test last minute, when it became -- at it -- clear that hundreds of thousands of americans were going to march on the nation's capitol in the middle of this mobilization for the second world war suddenly the president backed down. he agreed to, what was really the most important, it wasn't the only demand, and that was to issue an ex executive order that will ban defense contractors.
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any company that had a defense contract to build planes, tanks, weapons, with the federal government had to agree to hire people regardless of their race, religion, national origin or their color. so this was an ex executive order. it was not a law. it was issued to meet the demands of the war. because it was an executive order it would expire after the war. it only applied to a company with a defense contractor.
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>> how important was president crank? >> he was the president of the railroad union that excluded african-american americans and women from their membership. a number of reporters as a result of this, black men who worked on the luxury train cars, that crossed the country. the equivalent of a flight attendant today. they turned to phillip brand off who was not a porter. he was a well-known socialist activist. he published a newspaper.
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and they turned to him because he was a well-known speaker and writer. he was a very good speaker. they turned to him as a spokes person. he became a very effective spokesperson for this growing union that was now at the time in the 1920's a very small and powerless union. his initial claim to fame came when he forced the pulman company to sign a contract with these reporters. this is the first major contract that was won on behalf of that order in the 1930s. he affiliated with the nation of labor. that established him as by the 1940s he was known for this.
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they called off the march in 1941. phillip was active in the 1963 march as well. >> that is right. he was the director of the march. the march known as martin luther king's march on washington. king established himself as an important leader. he was well known for his leadership in the bus boycott. he had formed the southern christian leadership conference. he was widely known as the leader of the southern civil rights movement. this movement that was based on non-violent civil disobeadance aimed at ending the system of crowe in the south.
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he was a tremendous speaker and everybody knew it. he wasn't the only. in many ways, the principle leader of what we would know as the civil rights movement, and i think it is important to remember this was a national movement. it wasn't just focused on ending jim crow in the south. martin luther king was well known and when randolph went to organize the march that was called up everybody said you better get king' support. he went to king and king said i
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will support you but let's expand the goal. it isn't just about employment discrimination it is also about winning the rights to vote in the south. randolph lived in new york city and he had the right to vote to so this wasn't on his mind but for people in the south this was on their minds. that is where the slogan for the 1963 march came from. this was a march for jobs and freedom. in some ways, this was a merging of these two, sort of northern and southern wing, the northern wing being emphasizing jobs and justice, being rooted in the labor movement, and then freedom coming from the southern wings arguing for voting rights, arguing for desegregation,
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access to schools, public basis, and in that wing, martin luther king was the most common figure in the march. the march is a merger of these two. on the actual day of the march martin luther king's role was interesting. he was the last to speak. the first was a phillip randolph who opened setting the tone explaining what the march meant and the jobs and freedom and the importance of ending discrimination and fighting for economic justice, winning jobs for everyone, winning living wage jobs. he set out that connection between jobs and freedom. a mantra that was repeated throughout the day. and all of the other speakers took up the connection and talked about the connection between economic injustice and
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racial inequality between jobs and freedom. by the time martin luther king came to the stage people were worn out. >> how long had this been going on? >> this had been going on for two hours. that was just the event at the lincoln memorial. this was an exhausting experience. everybody knew they could bring people back and focus on going home and continuing to struggle. he was chosen as that role. everybody knew as a really tremendous speaker he could do that.
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most of us know about this, many people think this was a march to give that speech. right? if we only remember that, we really forget what the goals of the march were. and certainly we don't keep in mind a very long history that i lay out in the book. >> what time of day was martin luther king speaking? >> king was in the late afternoon around 4 o'clock. >> how long of a speech did he give? >> the full speech was about 15 minutes long. it was longer -- he went over the allotted time. i think everybody was given ten minutes. but everybody went over i think. >> who was the most radical speaker that day? >> you know, that is a really
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interesting question. i would like to emphasize how radical everybody was. he had been arrested during the first world war decades earlier for opposing the war. this was at the height of the cold war when being a socialist was an incredibly dicy position to be in. king talked about being a socialist and he was fully in line with this idea of in order to achieve equality it would not be enough to remove the barriers to access. this would require a reworking to ensure people had access to
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dece decent education and jobs. everybody who went to that speaker's podium was on board. they would not have been there, they would not have endorsed the march. their organizations, which they all supported, all represented, would not have endorsed this march. this was a radical message and one i think we need to. so many people were brought together around the message that was powerful and radical. i think the most militant person who was there who was a speaker was john lewis who is in congress.
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they were high school students that were extremely militant. there is a great story about his speech. it was written in committee. in the spirit of snick, it was a hyper-democratic organization. they wrote this speech together and they also circulated it the night before thinking we want everybody to hear it. the problem is some people who were not so radical got ahold of it and objects to the militancy and the tone of the speech. >> did he tone it down? >> well, he did. and this became a really important moment in the history of the civil rights movement. this criticism of the speech got remembered as an example of the radicalism and the militancy of the civil rights movement getting toned down and reframed.
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i think in the book i explain an important nuance to that story. the principle people toning down the speech were not the kennedy administration or white liberals who were moderates supporting the march. the principle objections to the speech came from randolph and ruston who was randolph's executive assistance. ruston was probably the person most responsible to introducing the idea of non-violence to the united states. he studied this strategy that had been developed in india and he imported it to the sieve civil rights maybe movement in 1941. when he saw don lewis' speech he
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objected to one phrase in particular where lewis said this is a revolution. we need to be out in the streets and march through the south like sherman did in reference to the union general during the civil war who burned large post to the ground. he said we need to march through the south like sherman did and burn jim crow to the ground. and he paused and added non-violently. this was a dramatic affect. this was the student non-violating revolution. these references to violence were too much for ruston and randolph and other violent leaders. they said you can be militant. randolph pointed out that he was going to call for a revolution. in his speech, he did say this is a massive moral revolution
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for jobs and freedom. but the references to violence were too much. another objection that was raised by a lot of the readers was the fact that john lewis said they would not support john f kennedy's civil rights bill. this was aimed at primary insuring equal access into the south to desegregation of schools and protecting voting rights. all of the leaders thought this bill was too weak and didn't have enough enforcement power. as kennedy introduced it didn't include a spare employment law. the law that was the principle objective of the march on washington back in 1941. a law prohibiting employment discrimination on the bases of
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race, color and religion. president kennedy didn't support this provision. so everybody who was behind the march on washington wanted to push kennedy's law further. the problem was that they said we don't want this law. this law is too little too late. so the two ways in which they got him to tone down the speech were to drop the explicit reference to violence and race and marching through the south. and to say this is a weak law. we have a lot of problems with this law. but we want it and we want more which was the official message of the march. the march wanted to pass that law but they wanted to make it stronger. in fact, one of the the principle outcomes of the march in washington, one of the most important victories of the march was to organize a national movement around adding a fair employment clause to kennedy's
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civil rights bill. they succeeded in making it a stronger and more powerful law in part because of that criticism that john lewis had originally used to say we don't want the law at all. john lewis talked about this actually. he has written a memoir and talked about how it was hard toal challenge the older, experienced leaders and he said they convinced me to change the outlines of my message but not the central part of the message which is what is needed is a massive revolution. that was something i think was echoed by the other leaders of the day. >> randolph, first speaker. second speaker? we will do all ten by the way. >> the second speaker was
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walter ruth, the president of the united auto union. this was a union that supported the civil rights movement for a long time. roy wilkins who was the president of the naacp. they were the largest civil rights organization. it was the oldest civil rights organization. it was an organization that had won a tremendous victory just less than a decade before by bringing the legal case that resulted in the supreme court case brown vs the board of education which made it illegal
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to segregate public schools according to race. in the decade after that law and that court victory they had pushed and pushed to actually turn that legal decision into a reality. by the 1960s, very few schools in the south and for the north for that matter became integrat integrated. they were forced on pushing the kennedy administration to enforce this decision. but i think an important element of his speech was echoing the point that a phillip randolph made in the opening speech which is that desegregation and anti-discrimination laws, laws aimed at enforcing the right to vote and ending the ban on public accommodations, were not going to be effective unless
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african-americans had access to decent paying jobs. one of the important things about his speech, which wasn't central to the naacp message, echoed ran randolph and that is this isn't going to be achieved without proper employment. he, like john lewis, was critical of president kennedy's civil rights bill. he likened it to watered down medicine saying it will not do any good unless we make it stronger. he said we need to push to strengthen the bill. >> i guess the fourth speaker was john lewis who had been pressured during the previous night to change his speech and he came in and a speech.
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the important thing to remember about the speech is it is often remembered and i teach about the civil rights movement and in my courses i try to use these speeches/documents and it is easy to find john lewis' original speech. the one that is edited it printed all over in textbooks and on the web. what is hard to find is the speech he actually gave. the one after it was edited. and i think that it is remarkable speech. it is by far the most radical and militant. very firery speech. he left out the calls for violence. the we are going to burn jim crow to the ground. but he said we need to be in the streets. we need to achieve the policy he
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said. and he goes into a fantastic set of examples of how this law as it is being introduced by president kennedy might affect various african-americans. and a lot of leaders were affected by this. he pointed a maid who earned $5 when the total income in the house was a $100,000 a year. he said we need a bill that will achieve equality for a maid like that. a bill that will achieve equality for the unemployed and homeless. he sort of called for, and it tremendo tremendously, strengthened the civil rights bill some of which were things in the official demands. the march called for a federal
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policy that would end unemployment and provide jobs for all of the unemployed, black or white workers. they were calling for raising the minimum wage to a level that they said would provide a decent standard of living for a family. they called for raising the minimum wage to $2.50. in today's terms that would be $15 an hour. they were calling for an increase and all of this rested on the principle that it would be one thing to end discrimination. it would be one thing to insure integration. but that wasn't going to make people feel equal. the only way to make people equal is to create a society in which people had access to the standard of living that would provide them with the decent standard of living. decent jobs, decent housing and decent education.
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>> the fifth speaker in washington on august 28th, 1966. who got to follow john lewis? >> one of the -- she was not an official speaker. she wasn't actually an official spokespeople for the march but daisy beats was the leader of the naacp branch in little rock, arkansas and was famous for leading the integration of the little rock high school and leading these young black students who had gone into the school under tremendous opposition, massive crowds of white supremecist yelling at them. and daisy baits led the movement and was a newspaper publishers and very well known. it fascinated me she wasn't invited to be one of the official speakers. several weeks before the march, a number of women who were
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involved in the civil rights movement and were principle leaders, people like daisy baits, polly murray who helped organize the march back in 1941 and was the principle strategy gist of that movement. and people like ella baker who was another member of the naacp went to a phillip randolph and they said we notice you don't have one woman invited to speak and they have been central to the movement. they didn't say anything. they didn't make a commitment. and later they released the list of official speakers and still there was not one woman listed official speaker.
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a number of women who were involved in the movement threatened to picket rand awful who he did publicity. he was giving a speech at the national press club to call for the march and to publicize the march and they threatened picket him but they decided in the last minute not to do this. in a last-minute deal the men agreed to allow daisy baits to speak. in a further insult she wasn't asked to give a major address. it wasn't an official address. she was supposed to introduce the heroins of the movement. it was a break in the march/affair. she was allowed to stand up and she introduced rosa parks who had been really famous as a
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leader of the montgomery bus boycott. dianne ash who was involved in the south. she was allowed to introduce them. they stood up, people clapped and then that was over and that was the end of the woman. these are the women in the movement. and that actually was a very important event for these women who after the march, a number of women talked about how they realized they would have to push harder for gender equality. this represented a turning point, i think in the broader history of feminism. a number of these women are involved in the next year or so in building the national organization for women which emerged as the principle feminist leader in the 1960s.
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this would be an important moment but at the time it was an insult and a lot of the women there thought of it as such. daisy bates got up, she wasn't on official speaker, but got up did this and sat down and then they went on with the official program of the day. >> we started with a phillip' randolph, walter ruder, white, roy wilkins, john wilson, daisy bates, who followed? >> eugene carson lake was another speaker. he was the representative of the national catholic counsel. he was a representative of the catholic church. all of the major denominations or the prodestants were mostly
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given their support. explaining the ways in which their own religious tradition upheld the principles of the civil rights movement. there was questions before the march as to whether you know these denominations, the catholic, the prodstents or the jews, saw discrimination as a violation of their religion. how would they think about the other aspects like calling for the raising of the minimum wage, a federal job creation program? what they found was these were important parts as well. the catholics for a long time were very strong supporters of the union movement, they had supported ideas of calls for economic justice.
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so the white religious leaders emphsized the connection between racial equality and economic justice again picking up on the theme of jobs and freedom. >> the seven speaker. >> floyd mckissic represented the congress of ratcial equalit. this was an organize that bear ruston, the associate director of the march, helped form during the second world war. this is the organization that first implemented these ideas of non-violent civil disobediance. and the leader and co-founder of
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core who was james farmer was in prison. he was supposed to speak that day. he was on the official program but had been arrested for a protest in the south. and the kennedy administration actually offered to arrange his relief. he said i am not going to leave. there are other people that have been arrested and he said i am not going to leave my comrads in jail while i go to washington to give this speech. so floyd read the speech that james farmer had written from jail. he was the seven speaker.
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>> who followed floyd? >> whitany young was the national director of the national urban league. it was a large african organization. they were pioneering at the time a marshall plan for the negat e negative -- negro. and this was based on the aid given to the european governments after the world war
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ii. so infrastructure development for schools and hospitals. whitney young said if the federal government can put the support into helping poor people in france than certainly the federal government can put their support to helping poor people in the united states. and he said because of the long history of depression, slavery, jim crow, discrimination, it was called for for the federal government to put a commitment on the scale of the marshall plan into fighting racial in inequality. and this echoed again that message of the march. it was one thing to end discrimination but that wasn't going to end the legacy of the century of inequality. whitney young used his speech to eco that central message of
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jobs. >> all right. i think we have nine out of the ten speakers because martin luther king finishes. who else? >> matthew ammon who was a representative of had churches and a represent of rabbis spoke as well. throughout the day, there were a number of people that came to the podium. there were musicians, bob dillion spoke, peter paul a mary, there was justin baker who was an actress that came. she had been living in europe and she came and gave an address. she actually read a letter from americans who were living in paris as she was at the time. >> there were a number of smaller events and people who came to the podium. >> professor jones, does their exist video of the march from
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start to finish anywhere? >> there is, yes. this is something that much of it is actually available online. >> most of it is online. he was controversial and gay and a homosexual. he was arrested in the 1950s for
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homosexual sex. while he was by far a widely known principle architect of non violent use. he was a tremendous grassroots organizer. if you want to build a massive march and make a tremendous leader this is the person you need to call on. so when randolph decided that he wanted to reorganize this march he said well of course. the first person he called was ruston. and ruston and him put together a plan to organize support for this. when randolph went to get support from the major civil rights organizer and leaders, a number of them raised objections to ruston gaining the policy. the principle objection came from roy wilkins who was the
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president of the naacp. this is a guy who is a former communist and been arrested. we cannot have him be the spokesperson for this march. randolph initially conceded. he said we will not do that. he said i will be the principle director for the march. and i will be the official leader of this march. and everybody said well of course we cannot object to randolph and another socialist and radical. but nobody could object to him. he said now you have agreed to that and i am going to name my assistant and he essentially put ruston in the principle job of organizing this march. randolph remained the official spokesperson. he gave the opening speech and ruston was the person in the
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background and not in the background. if you look at life magazine, for example, when they covered it, they have a picture on their front cover with ruston and randolph with the title the leaders. so it was clear to everyone who was the leader of this. but it allowed in a sense to deflect some of the criticism and the scrutiny to have randolph in the official position. ruston did get a chance to speak. he came out at the very end. after martin luther king spoke. ruston and randolph came back on the stage and they read the full list of the demands of the march for the official demands of the march. and beared ruston led everybody there or asked everybody to raise their hands and pledge to go home and keep fighting until they realized the full list of
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demands. he got on the stage and he was there but he was not one of the official speakers. >> in david marines book about detroit he talks about the i have dream speech was given by king two months before he spoke in washington. >> that was a very important event for the march that occurr occurred later. it demonstrated, and it was almost as big as the march on washington, it demonstrated this type of event could have a positive impact. a lot of people were worried about having such a massive demonstration at a time when tension was very high. there was a lot of frustration at the slow pace of progress toward integration. there had been a great deal and a high level of violence against
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civil right activist in the south. there was criticism about the president's ability to protect people. people were worried about violence at the march. the march in detroit had been peaceful. it had been successful. it been a public relations success. it led a lot of people who were hesitant about the march in washington to say we can support that. as you mention, martin luther king previewed his i have a dream speech. it is interesting they recently discovered a recording of him giving the same speech almost a year earlier in north carolina at a high school where this was given. this is a speech that he had actually pioneered several years before. the outline of it when he spoke initially with the first time of this refrain of the i have a dream was used when he spoke before the labor movement.
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it was a speech he had perfected over time. one of the stories by the time it came to august of 1963 his advisors told him not to give the eye of the dream speech. if you watch him, there are recording of this speech. he begins not with the i have a dream refrain but with the image of a check that is written by the government, he alludes to the promise of freedom in the founding documents in the constitution and declaration of independence and said this check has come back marked insufficient funds and we are here to demand be gain progress on this promise of democracy. he gets half way in the speech


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