tv Thomas Holt The Movement CSPAN March 28, 2021 9:00am-10:01am EDT
islamists come in and all other strange groups and extremists with an agenda because the mainstream don't want to do with these issues. >> to watch the rest of his program visit our website booktv.org and search for ayaan hirsi ali or the title of her book "prey" using the search box at the top of the page. >> i am virginia prescott from georgia public broadcasting and i am welcome you today to this virtual author talk event from the atlanta history center. tonight we're talking with thomas c. holt about his book the movement movement"the african american struggle for civil rights." you can purchase the book directly from a cappella books. there's a link in the chat at the bottom of your screen. you can also link at the atlanta history center website and buy the book from there. we do all know the names of rosa parks and dr. martin luther king, jr., john lewis, thurgood marshall.
they are giants and he was of the civil rights movement. well, this new book "the movement" challenges the popular narrative that it was charismatic leaders showing the way that drove revolutionary change. he argues it was the accumulated grievances of ordinary citizens that fueled and sustain the movement. we will dig into that and is thomas and are talking resubmit your questions via the q&a feature at the bottom of your screen and i will try my best to get as many of them as possible. to introduce our speaker thomas c. holt is professor emeritus of african-american history at the university of chicago. his previous books are children of fire, history of african-americans, and the problem of race in the 21st century. among his distinctions he is the macarthur genius awardee and former president of the american historical association and member of the american philosophical society.
thank you so much for joining us to. >> thank you for having me. >> you began with two many women you write about in this book who were not so well known in the struggle for civil rights, kerry fitzgerald and eileen morgan. i want to start with the first, kerry fitzgerald, your maternal grandmother. how did she figured into the resistance? >> well, i begin with a string of my grandmother because it captures i think some of the themes you just noted that it wanted to explore in the book, that my grandmother as i describe in the book in 1944, early 1944 basically had a rosa parks moment where, this is in virginia, she gets on a bus going from lynchburg, virginia, to danville, her home.
she took a seat in the so-called white section of the bus and as it turns out for number of reasons i discussed in the book, she's not arrested like rosa parks for some of the other people. but i think her experience was exemplary that moment in history. one, the circumstances, social context was such that she felt her grievances that had built up over time, that she could challenge the segregated seating, which was lost in virginia at the time. and also although this is something that i think
undoubtedly other unsung, and recorded incidents of this sort, it did not lead to a movement at that point, although it had all the marks of some of the incidents that occurred in the '50s and '60s. but rather it would be another decade before the kind of social changes and developments after world war ii would enable the broad kind of, broad-based and sustained movement for civil rights that developed in the 1955 through the '60s. >> i would like to talk about some of those. your grandmother was among those as you said that at but also newly conscious of the means and the possibility to act. what were some of the material
changes that made these actions possible at the time in the 1940s? >> that's another way in which she was exemplary of the story i want to tell because my family had been, like most black families of the south, a majority, farmers either tenant farmers, a few owned land, but for the most part either tenant farmers or sharecroppers which was a system that exercised extraordinary control over every aspect of your life actually. it was worse in places like virginia, south carolina. you also had a degree of control of your residence. that was part of the contract, if you will, or working as a tenant for a sharecropper on a farm. your subsistence. and only when that begin to break down which is a big part of the story i want to tell does
it open up the possibility that individual acts like my grandmother can become larger collective acts drawing in hundreds and thousands of people who would challenge the jim crow system. >> so another note you make in the book to distinguish the rural southern experience especially the northern urban experience but also the new cities of the south, the cities of the new south. this urban life exposed fault lines. what do you mean by that or what are some of those fault fs that made this movement possible? >> often less noted that the great migration at the end of world war i and accelerates with world war ii in which thousands of african-americans moved to northern cities also brought them into southern cities. the growth of southern cities is
quite phenomenal during this time. that means again the breakdown of the kinds of social control that were true in the rural south on farms as sharecroppers and so forth, first of all residency suffered. the capacity to build institutions is much greater in the city. on the one hand, and then on the other hand, to get to work you needed to travel by bus for most part. most people did not have cars. my family didn't have a car until i was almost a teenager. on the buses you get this situation in which the tension around the segregated system and segregated jim crow ideology
have an extra force and, in fact, if you think about it, it reinforces on a daily basis the insult of the jim crow regime, the segregated system. in a way that other aspects of life did not have same emotional impact, so much like my grandmother on that bus that i described earlier on, it was just the patent insult of being forced to give up a seat and then move, to surrender it to a white passenger. but other aspects of the segregation system didn't actually have that kind of in your face kind of situation. that happens in cities, both black and white working-class
folk have to, whether it is getting to work or getting into town, going to movies, whatever, have to use the buses. so it's not an accident that the flash point, if you will, of, that set off the movement. not issues about employment, not even issues about voting, all of which are important but it didn't set off this kind of the action that happened in the area of a public accommodation that were common to cities and that brought black and white into conflict entity into twot way than other aspects of the segregated system. >> that was really illuminating to me that it begin, transportation is that flash point and that also stretches back to plessy v. ferguson. that was all about the streetcar lines in the 1890s. what are some of the other ways which are book does challenge this notion doesn't struggle for
civil rights begin in the mid-20th century. what are some other strategies for resistance that did begin in the 19th century into place and early parts of the 20th century? >> as a matter of fact many of the strategies, techniques, tactics that we see in the '50s and '60s we can trace it back to actually before the first full chapter of the book i began in new york in 1856, so before the civil war where an older lady who was trying to get to church on sunday is thrown off what then was a horse-drawn car. there was a great protest around that and there were similar protests during the civil war and after, and the closest parallel to what happened in the
'50s i think in the 1890s again a number of southern cities, about 26 i think, there were boycotts of streetcars, these were horse-drawn streetcars at the time. because of segregated service or no service at all. so there's a long history. some of those were successful during the civil war era actually they manage in some cases to achieve desegregated services. and his civil rights law was passed in 1875 that barred any kind of discrimination of public accommodations of all sorts. but it was overturned by the supreme court in 1883, and so than in 1890s with the rise of more intense forms of state laws, because often these were
not by law segregated but by the practice of individual enterprises, streetcar companies, it. by the 1890s of course you had enforced by state law. it comes directly out of the plessy v. ferguson decision that seem to justify or to validate the possibility of separate but equal, separate or segregated facility. >> this is child again and i might come bus boycott and the civil rights movement. you point out there had been hundreds or more than a hundred racial conflicts on buses in birmingham, alabama, in the year leading up to montgomery. why montgomery? what did rosa parks refused to move, why did that ignite a spark in montgomery and why
then? >> well, there is not only a good study of the bus records in birmingham, so we know statistically that there were hundreds of cases where people come individuals, would challenge the system. they got arrested. they got thrown off the buses, whatever. it didn't lead to a movement. in montgomery, there had been leading up to the famous case of rosa parks, there been a number of cases over the years, certainly over the past year through a number of cases. in fact, in which people had been, had faced this kind of discrimination, young and old. interesting enough, what also make in the book is its working-class women who often are the ones protesting and to
basically take the lead in challenging the system, and that's in the record here . but i think it was a number of factors in montgomery. you had again a leadership that had been systematically challenging, or trying to find ways of challenging, bringing suits to challenge the segregated buses. on the one hand, well known e. d. nixon who was a of the sleeping car porters but also head of the naacp for a while in montgomery and people like rosa parks who had also been very much engaged for almost a decade in civil rights activities. and had actually counseled one of the young girls who had
experienced discrimination and protested it on the buses. as well as the local college. there were a bunch of faculty that were also engaged. so it was a multi tiered coalition that was waiting to form around the right incident, the right incident turned out to be that evening when rosa parks, just trying to get home, not intending to challenge the system, and she was sitting in the seat that was actually set aside for black people, but the bus as usual as often happens the bus gets crowded and, therefore, the black people have to surrender their seat and move further to the back and maybe stand to give their seats to a white passenger here in that context, and also the other
factor was this is only a few months after the emmett till murder and the trial which resulted of course in a not guilty verdict, that was very much on her mind as well. so the combination then of these factors leads to a broad, , the possibility of a broad coalition come together in mobilizing to challenge the system, which became the montgomery bus boycott. which begin first of the day just to test things out, then it extended and, of course, lasted almost a a year. was in that context of course martin luther king who was a recent arrival in birmingham, montgomery rather, sees leadership of that organization and, of course, the rest is as they say history.
>> this leads to a couple of different questions we have from the audience. the difference in tactics in different cities. the freedom rider bus pulled into albany, georgia, a couple of years later when we meet charles sherrod, cordell reagan, those are two of the freedom writers you introduce us to indie book, two of hundreds of students who were jailed for lunch counter sit ins. this is where the tactic of jail, no bonds, came into play. first of all, what was behind that and what else can out of albany, georgia, that movement there? the question we have is how did the civil rights movement differ in specific parts of the city? maybe you can help us tease that out how it played out in albany as compared to other places. >> the movement evolved over time, different tactics, sit ins
at lunch counters, massive demonstrations in the streets, and eventually voter registration campaign towards the end. the voter registration had always been part of it but he became much more prominent later on. actually in albany, wasn't so much they were free to writers. they were called freedom writers by the streets because freedom writers had gained something because they came from further south, for the west i guess i should say. but it began as a testing of the public accommodations again at the bus station, some students got arrested those students drew in charles sherrod and cornell reagan to wanting to protest,
and those protests eventually became mass street demonstrations which had that been part of the repertoire. i i mean, they're even street demonstrations early in the century but for the most part it had not been a part of the repertoire of the movement at that point in time. that was one of the changes that occurs in albany. now, the jail without bail idea gained prominence. it actually began in a much earlier movement that bayard rustin was involved in in 1947 where a were testing safety issue on the buses and they were arrested and decided simply to refuse mail on moral principles and just stay in jail and serve their time. it was picked up again in
demonstrations that occurred in south carolina, shortly before albany. charles sherrod had have ben involved in that particular incident. and so then it comes to albany and becomes one of the principal parts of the strategy or tactics if you will of movement action. the idea that we have hundreds of people and thousands eventually in the street that you overwhelm the capacity of the jail, southern jails to hold an edge great a crisis. rather than being arrested, pay your bail or your find a whatever the case may be, you solicit i will not cooperate with an unjust system, and you go to jail instead. that puts pressure on the local
authority to have to deal with that. and so then that carries to birmingham and other cities subsequently. >> there's another question about the albany movement. christine i think is writing a book about the albany movement. often overlooked is any discussion in the civil rights movement. what impact you think it had a future marches and demonstrations? what i think you dropped out of that is the use of music. why was singing and marching in such an important part of the movement? >> i think, well, and case of albany, i should back up. there was some music in the movement in fact, as early as the meetings at highlander school where the idea just before the student nonviolent according to mcgee was formed
in 1960, 1950s, we shall overcome was one of them. and, of course, the labor movement had used the song in its movement for some time. what happened in albany is that since the movement was anchored in a church, and it's just natural in a black church to express oneself with music. music come in the context was very democratic form because it is a congregation itself that is speaking and expressing itself. so it's sort of reverses the usual or dominant feature speaking to the congregation. the congregation is speaking back at it also brings them together. it's a powerful effect if one is ever been in the current situation where music mixes together in a common cause in a
way that speeches or other things they not have the same effect because they are expressing themselves and they are -- it is very inventive. it's not just singing a set tune. people and things because, related to local events, because expressing themselves. and so it becomes a very powerful part of the movement i think especially in demonstrations. it is a form of discipline for the demonstration. at least in my experience. and so it becomes -- out of that albany movement comes the sncc freedom singers, bernice reagan and some of the other young women who were in the church there to form this organization,
this group that tours the country and becomes a fund-raising mechanism for sncc so that's one element of it. i think the most important element is how it in fact, shaped the very action, the very, i don't want to say, robbery that certainly the sense of togetherness -- camaraderie -- that is able to sustain action and testament. >> i want to also encourage christine did a podcast production about albany called shots in the back, if you're interested in that, a little bit of local history. back to the question behind the civil rights movement differed in specific parts of the country. the freedom riders, they do take up the course bonds freedom rides take off in 1961. a pretty smooth ride. of course john lewis famously
beaten up or attack in south carolina but then they get to alabama and things are different. there escorted out of town and then a right in mississippi. i'm not sure people realize that they were jailed in mississippi prison for a month. this is like, this is mississippi, you quote somebody in the beaucoup calls it the american congo i think someone -- naacp. give us some examples of how the mississippi movement is very specific. this isn't a nationwide one size fits all kind of approach. >> up to that point what i describe, what happened in the movement, , what i emphasize wee what i call new south cities. that is, the cities, new south of the 19th century, they are
trying to industrialize and to modernize which requires outside capital which requires a sense of order that racial violence and so forth, you know, it's up against that. the goals of business people and others who want to maintain racial subordination but they don't want it to be the kind of thing that happened. there is a divide between a place like birmingham, montgomery, greensboro, nashville, these places which have those aspirations and people among the white politicians and ruling class, if you will, who want to sustain segregation but they want to do
it more politely, you might say. so they were vulnerable to the kinds of movement actions, black sit ins, street marches, things of that sort. which in some sense were especially hitting the consumer side of the economy in those places. i mean, often they would organize at the christmas or easter season precisely in order to put maximum pressure on the economy and thus get concession. okay, mississippi as a whole kettle of fish. it's very world and especially in places where the movement was most active in. it is still, although it is changing and changes rapidly actually during and after the movement, it is still very much a plantation-based economy except for places like mobile
and so forth. a lot of what was being done in places like montgomery or birmingham would be as tactics, would be irrelevant really in the situation, and dangerous point on the other hand, it was with black population that was 60%, say in the delta, it was the right place to register people to vote and be able to put pressure and to bring about change to the political process. so that's where the goals in some ways of the movement shift more directly, not that voting had already come had always been a part of the objective, but it that been emphasized in the same way that it would be when the movement moved to mississippi. thanks to the freedom ride, it
carried people right into mississippi so they began to try to organize in various parts of that state. and to focus on actually gaining political power because that made sense in that context. >> if you have questions please type into the q&a. i got one from john who says, sounds like using to emphasize the decentralized impact of the movement versus more centralized leadership leveraging. any similarities in the decentralized impact the van and the blm black lives matter efforts today? >> i think they are very similar actually in many respects, different times, different context and different folk, but i would argue that part of the strength of the movement was decentralized aspect if you will or leadership. there were a number of organizations, we mentioned them
>> who wanted a compromise, who wanted a way of moving over. they were so committed to lyndon johnson, this was seen as worthy. it's not just the young people of the people who had been working very hard to bring this challenge about. they were deeply i think disappointed in their reaction. again not just the party as a whole but the people they thought would be on their side and i think that began to shift the actually, only a few months after that was the
beginning of the selma movement, the selma march. that was something like eight or nine months after and of course the foundation of those projects in lowndes county for the black panther party and then a year later during the march of james meredith after he was shot, the march against fear he called it, stokely, michael and the perfect audience and platform for articulating the idea of how as noble, not integration, not just people rights power. so i would do it from a lot of people who were disillusioned, who i think
that's about the time bob moses left the movement for example. for more complex reasons undoubtedly but it was a turning point. in a movement that had been getting pretty optimistic despite all of the harshness and death that it had endured to come to that point. and to lose that fight. >> there was a real exodus of leaders from the before movements, those for help sponsor the march on washington and produce this march on washington in 1963 and we have a poor people's campaign started before doctor king was assassinated but it had a march also in washington. didn't get the same kind of level of momentum . and if your argument is that is not about the charismatic
leaders necessarily carry this movement, why did so much the road after his death ? was it success, then the civil rights act after that, is that what happened? >> i think the chronology is a little more,here . between the selma march which was a great success, really quite effective ironically very much the same that in the 19th century in terms of having federal registrars to go in and register people leave that aside for now . and but after that, there was i guess a number of things. one was clear that some of the issues facing black america were not as amenable
to the kinds of movements that we've been seeing. to some extent terrain shipping in thenorthern states . so the actions in chicago and new york and detroit and so forth. and the problems of the late economic in the sense of a change in the economy. we look back on it and we see a move from industrial to a service economy which is picking up pace at the time. the movement of jobs outside of the city. these are structural changes that not exactly that caught people by surprise because there were people analyzing this in the early 60s and late 50s but it sort of outran the kind of tactics that had been come to the four in the movement as such.
and you still have street marches and so forth addressing those issues but they didn't have the same effect . and so this came only after efforts in chicago which is told after selma, before the poor people's march. which was also cases, where it was unsuccessful. and i think they faced many of the complexities of trying to move the needle into the social change with their tactics that had been detected in the movement. having to get the poor people's campaign , in 1968, the, this is fully evident
and there's some political programs that were supposed to be addressing some of these issues but of course had the vietnam war competing with those programs among other things. so it's a very different concept than say you want to cut into the town line in the 1940s and 50seven in the mid-1960s . so it's hard to say even if the king had lived whether the march on the poor people's campaignwould have succeeded . what leaders or measures they would have been able tomake . there was a problem of succession at some point but that's an open question. >> is interesting also that
in chicago martin luther king junior was, doctor king was leading people a rally and a protest and stones and bricks thrown out them. that is not an image we see so was that just simple northern, the stories not as interesting in the north or was it all those other factors that you're talking aboutthat was robbing attention from the movement ? >> i would venture is perhaps too simple an explanation or maybe the beginning which is that the movement up to selma had really been quite literally a demonstration. as you show just this an anachronistic system in the south, but to a broader national public system in the
north and west that you mobilize the people's support and selma is a perfect example. your overwhelming support across the nation that this cannot stand and that people should be allowed to vote and therefore you get the political pressure to pass the voting rights act. when you go north attacking racism in the north, racial oppression, racialdeprivation , then who are you going to appeal to who will implement that. you go to chicago and there's mayor daley who is very powerful in the democratic party. he's not dennis or eastland out of mississippi. he's someone other that johnson very much depends. he's going to be reelected.
or anybody else for that matter. and so the geography i think shifts the dynamic, very dramatically and i think this was recognized at the time that you moved to the north and now you're basic tactic of exposing something that is anachronistic and morallyevil . your finding there. place in the north that has formally provided you some kind of political support. and so you get people in the streets throwing bricks and so forth.that's if they had been racist and done things like that before, it started in the 1940s i mean, with the attacks on people who tried to move into black neighborhoods but now it's, there's no counterforce challenging that to any great
extent. so the dynamic is very different. now, one would have to: it would take explanation to try to tease that out but i think that's basically the answer to your question. why and would falter at that point. >> thank you for that. but only close you write about a lot of hidden figures in the movement including, women of the mississippi movement . and a question here from anna , do you think sammy lou hamer has been given the recognition she deserves during the civilrights movement ? >> certainly in the literature on the movement. i mean, most of the promise around mississippi law as a whole is recognized that but
she's grown over time so i'm proud to say one of my former students wrote a biography and her role, her development as a activist and her role from the 1920s on as well as her impact on student nonviolent donating committee in the 60s. but she had been, she worked in the naacp and had worked in variousother organizations . and so her place i think is worthy of movement activists themselves. they go very well to a crucial figure of the older generation and she was one that generation. guide and nurture the younger generation coming in in the 50s and 60s. most of the other people may
have gotten less attention. we tend to forget the people who are doing voter education and registration back in the 1940s. who are still active. in the 1960s and they drew on those experiences. and these were important. stephanie clark for example. an important figure in the movement. so i think that's you know, a counter argument. it had some beneficial views. my point though again, back to my book, people who are on some don't make the history book but when you look at who got arrested, in birmingham. got arrested in montgomery.
who brought the case in the montgomery supreme court and one victories. over segregation in montgomery. it was about four or five women, who brought suit. and all had been with us similar experiences. they are not household names. but they are representative of i think a broad section of the black community that was crucial to the movement. >> i was raised in thebaptist church . so i know these church ladies who are behind-the-scenes and make it possible just like they made it possible for judges to work, leaving possible for movement to. >> a message here from one of the artists, former student
attorney named stephen cook who had the pleasure she said of learning doctor cook when he was teaching at berkeley. tired from taking out, volunteering for the project so hello to you. thanks for the encouragement. let me pick up on that last point is we close. when you so the, those who weren't they towering figures, what does that allow and what does that tell us about activism going forward civil rights movement? >> what i tell reinforces the message. ella baker, bob moses. you wrote about it from the bottom up. the energy and the standing and power of the movement is in that broad section of the population that basically like rosa parks said about
her actions that december evening, i had enough. that becomes a sustaining way that you keep the movement immobilized it and it sustains itself. to some great degree. and it's not. >> so is not so much about him being held, it's about being recognized. recognized in a way that future movements could learn from those experiences. one of the motivations for writing the book were that i thought african-american history for more years than i like to admit. and over the side it's shifted from students who basically grew up during the movement to those of course
no ancient history and comments from them what we need is another martin luther king. that's exactly the wrong message. all due respect to martin luther king and many of the other leaders, they were very important but that the movement made them, not the other way around. so one needs to recognize that i think. and in any social movement, any mobilization might take place now. >> thomas holt, thank you for speaking with us. i appreciate your timetonight . >> thank you. >> got a load of questions that piled in the last moment that i did not get to know i'm sorry about those. thomas holds new book is called the movement: the african-american struggle for civil rights and we urge you
to support their local bookseller i know search via the link at theatlanta history center website . >>. >> tonight in prime time, eric berger discusses career of entrepreneur elon mosque in the history of his aerospace company paychecks. military affairs reporter leslie morgan looks at american military action in afghanistan. joby warrick of the washington post reports on america's efforts to destroy chemical weapons in syria is similar. fox news anchor martha maccallum provides a history of world war ii's battle of iwo jima. and mickey kendall argues that the modern feminist movement is excluding some women especially women of
color. that all starts tonight at 645 more scheduling information tori telfer or consult your program guide. >> recently heritage foundation senior call mike on dallas all argued identity politics are dividing america . a portion of the program. >> in my book the plot to change america was to expose these myths. one of the reasons why succeeds as it hijacks one of our best impulses as humans and that is the impulse to be compassionate. to side with the people who need our . however, these ideas were not , did not come from the grassroots. the grassroots were very open going to this later that they rejected being seen as marginalized or members of minorities as victims . they wanted to access the american dream individually through their own agencies
area these are people who were often times were aware that they were discriminated against. and yet they believed that they could improve their lot in life individually. the idea that could act as a collective is imposed by ideologues and activists have this idea of changing america in my i think is one of the most important things to pull out right away and say we should be very aware that our best impulses are being hijacked here. the other one is this idea of demography changing demography after the hart cellar act is an immigration law that justified necessitatedthis division of the country into groups . that's not thecase . america's demographics have been changing since the 1600s actually. the advent of the arrival of germans and scotch irish and in the 1850s scandinavians and new germans about 7 million of them from eating
on and the irish because of the potato famine and you have ellis island, a fusion of groups from our media and sicily and eastern europe and hungry. so america's democracy has always been changing. there was nothing about this new wave is just a continuation of the american story necessitated breaking the country into categories and minorities. >> the rest of this program visit our website, booktv.org. use the search box to look for mike gonzalez for the title of his book the plot to change america. >> look at publishing industry news. asian american and pacific islander authors and other members of the book industry a social media initiative to bring attention to violence perpetrated against members of their own community. effort #or stand up api asks to post by asian american
authors and to contact their local libraries and book publishers to inquire about making moretitles by a eip authors available . a children's book about the life of doctor anthony fauci will be released by simon and schuster, illustrated by alexander my follows anthony from his brooklyn beginnings through medical school and his challenging role working with seven us presidents to tackle some of the biggest public health challenges of the past 50 years. in other news marianne harris founder of the children's literature magazine printed as either the age of 93. her magazine started in 1973 included contributions from lots of john, nikki giovanni charles schultz and was often referred to asthe new yorker for kids . a book borrow from the queens public library front has been returned 63 years after its due date . the book collection of
stories about paul bunyan was checked out by many diamond in 1957 and recently returned alongwith a $500 donation to the library . this diamond now 74 and a literature professor said the book traveled with her throughout her life and academic career and it was time to make amends . the tv will continue to bring you new programs and publishing news. you can also watch all our past programs anytime booktv.org area class hello everyone, welcome back this is a contest event and i'm glad you are all joint. this is a book weapons to climb author corey felber from conflict women, swindlers, grifters and shape shifters of the feminine persuasion. tonight will be in conversation with writer laura how much you. syphilis is a bookstore le