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tv   Clint Smith How the Word Is Passed  CSPAN  August 18, 2021 11:14am-12:15pm EDT

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>> thank you, my brother. good night, everybody. ♪♪ >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual piece. american history tv documents america story and sunday tv brings the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more including media,. >> the world changed in an instant. media comp was ready. >> media com along with these television companies support c-span2 is a public service. >> hi, everyone. welcome and good evening. on behalf of harvard bookstore, i am thrilled to introduce this virtual event with clint smith
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presenting his new book, how the board is passed, a reckoning with a history of slavery across america debuted at number one on the new york times bestseller list. tonight he's in conversation week. thank you for joining us virtually through virtual event like tonight, harvard bookstore continues to break authors and work to our community. every week we house event here on our zoom account this much featuring offense with miranda, stacey abrams and the conversation stones. please check out the event involve brother, sign up for our e-mail newsletter for updates. this evening's discussion for conclude with time for your questions. if you have a question for our speakers at any time tonight, click on the q and a button on your screen and we will get through as many as time allows.
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this will have closed captioning available depending on the version of zoom you are using you may need to enable captions yourself by clicking on the closed caption button on your screen. in the chat i will post a link to purchase copies of how the work on as well as the length to donate support of our series and store. your financial contributions make event like tonight possible and help ensure the future of a landmark independent bookstore in harvard square. thank you all so much for showing up and tuning in and support of our office and also the incredible staff at harvard bookstore we appreciate your support now and always and he may have experienced infertile gatherings technical issues may arise. we will do our best to resolve
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quickly. you for your patience and understanding. i'm delighted to introduce our speakers. clint smith is a staff writer at the atlantic and author of the poetry collection county defense which won the 2017 honorary award for best poetry book from the black caucus of the american library association and was a finalist for an naacp image award. his writing has been published in the new yorker, new york times magazine, poetry magazine, the paris review and many other publications. a finalist for the national award for fiction, a runner up for the literary piece prize winner of the club prize and new york times ten best books of 2017. debut novel free food for millionaires with a national
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bestseller and top ten books of the year was for the times of london npr's fresh air and usa today. they will be discussing groundbreaking new books, half word is passed a reckoning with the history of slavery across america. in the book, doctor smith recount nine sites that memorialize or evade their connection slavery from the african burial ground from lower manhattan confederate memorial capitol petersburg virginia to a juneteenth celebration in galveston texas, how the word is explores the ways in which america commemorates with thorough research and clarity. the new york times praises unapologetically subjective american emory is an extraordinary contribution to the way we understand ourselves. i am honored to turn it over to
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our speakers, the digital podium is yours. >> hi, how are you? >> so quick. i am proud to be her. i can't think of any way to celebrate what happened the last 24 hours better than being in conversation with one of my favorite writers. >> well, number one of the new york times bestseller list, pretty incredible". when we build your monuments, we're going to put that on the model. [laughter] >> oh man last month. >> it's wonderful to be here, i am so happy happy this is happening because i think is amazing. this is really amazing and moving to read.
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it's beautifully written, incredibly important document as well as a secondary source because you are writing about your experiences of what it's like to understand the way slavery is understood today in 20202021. how long did it take you to write this book. >> i started may 2017, began to be conceptualized at that time watching the confederate statues come down in new orleans. robert e lee jackson davis from down my hometown in new orleans and thinking about what it means that i grew up in a majority black city has just started thinking about how the city is in their relationship in the history of slavery, it's embedded in the physical infrastructure of that city and
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are profoundly about opened up and started thinking about how the places across the city across the ocean. so much of this, inviting it for years or so much of this is animated by trying to write into the cap fill the gaps that i felt like i had experienced and was carrying from a young age and trying to answer a lot of questions and so boys in my own education that i hadn't had answered to so the book was almost a process of filling the gaps. >> memorized your booklets so i was wondering if you could read one paragraph on page 171 when you talk specifically about what you just said and the reason i want you to read it is because i want those here today to see how beautifully you render the emotion and memory and inspiration of this so it's starting with i was born.
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>> i was born and raised in the city filled with statues, confederate soldiers, whiteman on pedestals and black children playing, where black people like trumpets and trombones, whistles and the wind. my hometown in new orleans there at least 103 statues, parks, schools named after confederate figures, slave owners and defenders of slavery. for decades, black children have marketing to prevent named after children them, named after robert mills, a confederate from louisiana brent had a of education who fought against these segregation and belief in the supremacy of the caucasian race. every time i returned home, i would drive out those who thought of me this way. >> i read that paragraph and it
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hits right here because i think what really kills me is all of these little children have no idea. i am positive your teachers are talking about it, i'm positive the principal is insane isn't it wonderful that every thank you think i have to go and do this at this for passing by a certain street and without knowing or without being taught by history because history is either considered shameful or to revise and think of it as something just part of it but the reality of true history which is not even disputed, it's painful because of the center, it means that a certain body is property. so at one time did you make that connection between lester who it
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is and how you feel about it? >> for so many of these statues the memorials around new orleans, i had no idea growing up. i used to be at the city parks under federal statutes, the man who ordered the civil war on the way to school everyday, i went to robert e lee beaufort blvd. to go to the grocery store. again my parents lived on a street named after enslaved people so i didn't know those things at all growing up, i had no real conception of who these folks were to the extent that i did, i was just told they were important men in louisiana history and what's interesting is robert e lee is even an
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important man in louisiana history, he's from regina so there are multiple levels to this absurdity. >> so why are we told these things? why are children told that these men are important to us and why do we review a piece monuments? what you say to your kids about this? >> the reason confederate statues to slaveholders were erected was with specific intentions distorting the legacy and tumult their legacy in a way that's much more favorable than the reality of the project they were tied to so the confederacy is historical fact product and primary source documents. a territory that defeated the united states to raise an army predicated on expanding.
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white supremacy is that it turns that statement from incomparable into an ideological one and it attempts to say anything that is reflective of my political sensitivity instead of being surrounded in primary source documents were 1861 it says verbatim are position is aligned slavery, the greatest material in the world. they were vague about why they're in the union, they were quite clear about why the civil war was about to begin so the idea that we would have statues of robert e lee and jefferson davis schools named after lecture represents late 1900 sf attempt to essentially gaslight this country into thinking who these men were is not who they
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actually for we see that like alexander stephens in 1861 a cornerstone speech where he says the confederacy is founded on the principle of superiority in the attempt to engage in child slavery. 1865 comes back and people are like what you have to say for yourself? you lost the war, this country attempted to this union and you said all these things about slavery and he was like, i never said that. they would like what you talking about? we were there and saw you, it was in the paper. he said he must be mistaken, i never said that. it's parallel to some of the same things we say now where people are trying to tell us we are not seen for we just saw an attempt to tell us that things are not about what the people have engaged in that behavior
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say so i learned about these things, many of the steps i learned from the process of writing the book, i think i knew he was named after confederate leader until maybe two years ago and this was my middle school but i think part of what happens when you learn this history as it provides clarity about why our society collectively is in this today and why one community looks one way and another? another way is not because of the people in the communities often because of what's been done to the communities generation after generation because they are just apples, they are reflecting the stories we tell them they invest themselves into narratives narratives shape public policy which shapes people's lives so that's not to say taking on a statue of robert ely will reduce
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the racial wealth gap but it's to take that's part of a much larger ecosystem of factors and ideas and stories that shape how we think about what community's deserve or don't deserve. >> quickly, when you talk about imperial turning into ideological, it's this powerful idea when we take real facts and make them into opinion mercury which are very different things but what i was curious about, what really upsets me about the book and what's going on not just in america but around the world is a profound resistance to reckoning, profound resistance to the empirical. when i see that fighting to hold onto something when i was reading your book, i kept on focusing on should i focus on the individuals who don't want history taught which is literally happening in certain legislatures america right now
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or should i focus on the fact that we have public historians, well-intentioned guys willing to tell the truth about their community and ancestors parts i was really moved by what he's trying to do or in new york so these individuals, the way fees are structured, an individual will be a kind of archive, literally a guide where they will walk with clint and we become a guide, it's a fictional dramatic aspect where the book is structured which i found appealing inclusive of our experience or how to feel about history which i really admired so what i want to ask you, would you focus on? you focus on the individuals willing to confront the truth or do dwell on the fact that there
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is a humongous pockets of people saying no, that's part of my history to bat for your? last month to bachelor a little boy and go to a school with this name? >> i'm fascinated by and part of the reason i go is because one of the largest confederacies in the country in petersburg virginia, 30,000 are very thick the memorial day celebration, i don't go to a place like that because i have hopes of convincing those people to believe what is true, i go there because i think as a researcher and reporter, asa journalist, a curious person, i am genuinely trying to understand how they come to believe what they believe so it was important to me to go to that place not in an
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antagonist is stance or not in a way to attempt to prove them wrong or suggest that -- is an update happening on my computer right now -- virtual world. it's not an attempt to convince them of something they don't want to believe, it's an attempt to gain clarity and i got clarity so many people history is not about empirical evidence, it is a story they've been told the story they tell and an heirloom cross down across generations, it's deeply entangled in their emotional sense of who they are in the world so providing them, showing them the declaration of the confederate isn't necessarily going to move her ship how they
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think because it's not about evidence or thinking know or don't know, it's their relationship to the people who told them certain stories so for me, i do think part of what's evidence in the book, there are a lot of people were not antagonistic to new information or necessarily to the truth literally just don't know. i think about donna and grace at monticello were two women on the tour guide at monticello who had given this hour-long tour that was quite direct about jefferson's morally consistent about jefferson relationships to slavery and enslaved 600 people these women were clearly unsettled what they were hearing and i went up to them after and they were like i had no idea
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jefferson was enslaved, i had no idea. these are folks who bought plane tickets, rented a car and got a hotel room and came to monticello had no conception of the idea that this place was plantation and the person who lived there enslaved hundreds of humans, that's how so many people in this country have such little understanding of what slavery was, how it shaped the founding of the country and how it continues to shape every part of our social, political and economic infrastructure. >> are thinking about them a lot, i was thinking very hard about those two women in monticello since i've been reading the book and they are innocent chalk about what's going on. i feel compassion for them but almost seems to be, it is hard
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to believe. it's hard to believe the privilege of saying i will not see that world continue to do so and why are you telling me? i thought let's assume these are innocent people who just didn't know because squirrels didn't teach it to them and it was shocking to me because when i was 16 years old, part of my history class was to read particular institution so i read the entire book when i was 16 and i was a new american, i came to america when i was seven so after nine your speaking english, i read an entire book and it changed the way i think about slavery and when i became a history major in college, was an easy thing for me to understand because, you quote this a lot in your book, your somebody doctor king quoted in terms of understanding slavery
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was not an institution in which people were not happy about it, they were not treated well. have you seen netflix recent show high on the hog? meth no but keep people keep talking about it and saying they read the book and watching the show so i haven't but i definitely need to. >> there's an episode about jefferson particular how he gave to the enslaved people he had so they had to grow gardens to have sufficient calories to do the heavy work of outdoor labor and when you think about a rich man like that was able to save us very clearly in your book is able to read, he writing and think about democracy because
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plaintiff people for doing free labor for him he didn't even feed them properly so when you think about it that way, how can we click about be ideals of democracy the hypocrisy of the architect of democracy? was so disturbing to me but i was wondering about the emotional resistance people have not been converted and is a beautiful passage he wrote on page 172, it's one paragraph you got everything in this one paragraph and i told you i memorize your book. >> i can tell. [laughter] this is also a format i'm not familiar with. >> i'm trying to keep you on your toes begins with many of
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the people and it's one paragraph. >> for many of the people i met, the story of the confederacy, the story of their home, of their family and the story of their family is the story of them so when they are asked to reckon with the fact that their ancestors go to work to keep my ancestors enslaved from others resistance to facts documented by primary sources and contemporaneous, they are forced to confront the lies. they are forced to confront the flaws of their ancestors. greg stewart, a member of the confederate veterans told the new york times in 2015 charleston massacre, were asking me to agree that my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were, accepting such a reality means the deterioration of a narrative
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that had long been part of their lineage and the integration of so much of who they believe themselves to be. >> is it possible for us to believe that george washington, thomas jefferson were monsters? is not hard-pressed to say? is it possible you can be a beautiful thinker and amazing architectural case and be a courant and the monster trucks. >> it's interesting even that formulation is fascinating because i'm almost less interested or asking to except my great-grandfather was a monster and are not interested in the interiority of your grandfather's spirit, it's much less distinct or relevant to me if you think or don't think your right grandfather was a monster, what's more important is that you accept by your brand product
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but to preserve a monstrous cause and it's almost like how we think about people were like there's not a racist bone in my body where there's no racist blood in my heart for whatever formulations we've used and it's like i'm not interested in this spiritual or physiological notions of racism in relation to your body, i think it's more important to think about, having a much more robust conversation now relative to what we had before thinking about history systems and structure. i think all the time about talk to teachers in 1963, i think was published in 1964 because a lot of amazing things and one of the things he said, black children
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are told over and over and over again that they are criminals. the role of the teacher is to help the child understand that although the world tells them over and over they are criminals that is in fact society in history that created the conditions that child is growing up in that is the criminal in its intuitive thing for many of us and it's clear for many of us i think, i know this from having been in high school english teacher and having fun growing up norman's that there's a lot of folks internalized it with the falsehood and we are inundated with this. in my case i was inundated with growing up in normans and sometimes you don't have the language or the framework to push back against it, there can be a psychological and emotional perhaps you know what you are
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hearing is wrong but don't necessarily know how to say it or how to say why it is wrong or explain it someone people tell you these things, the things confederate veterans in the confederacy literally created after the civil war in the 19th century in order to distort and confuse an entire to entire society so we don't know what to believe. the goal is not to make everybody a white supremacist, it's meant to make everything so cloudy and foggy to think about maybe it wasn't fought over slavery so it makes things murky and it's difficult to have a consensus and to operate from the same foundations of knowledge and truth so then you have people, confederate veterans who genuinely believe
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what they believe because it's entangled in this deep sense of self psychological and emotional it's kind of like couldn't care less what the primary source documents or acceptors i. >> can you talk about the lost cause? i think that's one of the most important things that not taught in history. you and i understand what is but i think the average person doesn't know what the lost cause is. can you define it for us? >> a multipronged effort primarily engaged with, by through the confederacy after the end of the civil war essentially is saying slavery was not that bad and slavery was
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a civilized institution that the senator from south carolina said it's a positive good and black people are much better off here enslaved than they were in africa. the other part is slavery was not bad, the war wasn't even about slavery so it doesn't really matter and then it's also saying that the people fighting the confederacy were people who were simply fighting other families to fund themselves, we literally caught the war and as one of the people i met, a guy's name jeff, if they had just stayed north, everything would happen find. in my mind i'm saying fine for who? not for the 4 million enslaved
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black people so it is centering a group of people who are the perpetrators of the crime so essentially attempting to distort and misrepresent the nature of what the war of slavery" slavery as an institution was and who you brought up before, i think people take for granted or don't even know that until the civil rights movement and historians with his book and particularly kenneth, the predominant view in the early 20 century was the one propagated by phillips who set the plantation was a great place for slavery in fact how most americans, through the 1910, 30s to 50s thought of
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slavery until you had historians come and make clear that the reason the disparities tweaked black-and-white communities existed in the mid- 20th century in the way they did was intimately tied to an institution that ended less than 100 years ago so grounding inequality which is self evident but wasn't part of this national and public discourse of how we understood what inequality was. >> i think this is important because when i was researching and looking into colonialism and imperialism, so often the christianizing force, taking of the savages and making them into nobles, that is a common ideology found throughout the 17th to 19th centuries to
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justify their systematic campaign of feeling. rather than looking at the nations out of the criminals, they make the objects of their criminality into criminals themselves, that's the ultimate cap fighting we are speaking about. what's hard about what we said and agreeing upon, as documented in your book, those hearing are saying if you are white, you feel back listening to this, i don't want to deal with it. i've also heard people of color and community members saying that was a long time ago and i have seen the african-american community where you have immigrants saying about american descendents of slaves well, i don't know what your problem is rather than looking at the systematic roots as to why you
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have less capitol to start with, how could you possibly get somewhere? i was curious, how do you reconcile with all the different voice -- for me, i am thinking maybe i can't read certain groups. okay, i'll try, i'll try but if i can't, how to write even reach members of my own community who reject and support the majority's view? >> that's a great question. i am sympathetic to those who say we cannot only consume black media or black history grounded in our oppression or slavery or jim crow. i believe black in this country is a beautiful remarkable heterogeneous, centuries long
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project but deserves to have media and books and literature that reflects that experience. >> as well as the joy. >> absolutely. i very much agree with that and there are some people with this idea in communities who say underground railroad and i get the impulse but again part of white supremacy as it makes us feel like we talk about slavery all the time we actually don't talk about it in any way that commensurate with the impact on this country. part of what i want this book to make clear is his period of time, 1619 as beginning with slavery british american colony
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in 1865, for 250 years and it's not existed for 250. before the country was even a country that existed for 100 years longer, the one who opened the museum in 2016 was the daughter of an enslaved person, not the granddaughter or great-granddaughter, she was a daughter. someone going into intergenerational child slavery. my grandfather's grandfather was a slave. i imagine my grandfather was and i am mightily again we tell ourselves so long ago but in the scope of human history, it wasn't that long ago at all so the idea that i would have no impact on contemporary lands would look like is disingenuous. part of what i want to understand and feel is we are
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made to feel like slavery was this thing that happened in the jurassic period, dinosaurs and flintstones around. [laughter] i experienced a transformational understanding of my proximity to the spread of time, i was physically standing on the land where so much has happened, physically standing inside where enslaved people themselves lived walking across sand standing inside of buildings told they were free. i have a different sense of intimacy and a sensory experience, it makes me feel closer to it but the temporal aspect so i say that slavery is something that has profoundly
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shaped our country in ways i understood in an abstract way my slavery shaped america, i understood it but i didn't get it but i think it's important for us to not run from a history that is painful because we are made to feel as if that's the only way we could consume her history. we should consume this all that's been accomplished in spite of being brought out a flat history i think you can see examples of but in the united states and colonized groups of people across the world, these remarkable stories of art and literature and culture born out of unimaginable circumstances so
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i think it's both, we need to be in movies and books with a wide range of the painful aspects and joyful aspects but we also shouldn't allow ourselves to be convinced we talk about it too much because sometimes i tell people nobody would ever say there's somebody movies about lavery but there's not, there are not that many films or shows about that period of time. there is a world war ii movie winning the academy awards every year so that's absurd, too many world war ii movies. also adjacent to offensive but we are made to feel how we got
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underground railroads and fairs that are in bad art and great and bad literature but i don't think we should pretend that this oppressive aspect of our history did not exist and simply lift up more joyous aspects without understanding so much of that joy emerging from new generational pain and it can be framed in ways that are nuanced and thoughtful and not inundating people with this but laying out the reality of what happened and simply being honest and people confront on its most
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human term. >> i think to not have this history even though it can be painful is to lose your superpower because i think the history of resistance and survival and workarounds of the revolution that must have existed in your heart to somehow every single day insist on dignity, integrity, how did you not murder your slaver? you have to wonder, are enslaved people the kindest people in the world? [laughter] >> that's important to make sure we are not thinking about resistance and in some ways, gender terms. slave rebellion but resistance, there are means of enslaved
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people who resisted slavery and millions of different ways every single day. to build a family, your children and protect children and build community, to find love, all of those things are forms of resistance in the face of circumstances so many of us are unfathomable and it's important to have a holistic view of what resistance looks like that isn't limited as impressive as they are, any of these important historical figures but resistance was far more subtle but no less important. >> resistance are thinking about in particular going backwards in the book now is poetry. we were able to connect with our
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feelings and write our responses to oppression, to hatred and we were insisting and resisting with our humanity, our artistic ability to make something beautiful out of trauma and i was wondering because you are a poet, what your thoughts are. i was wanting you to share with us this incredible section on page 28. at the time i encountered that paragraph. >> the time i encountered this passage i was finishing my first collection of poetry, writing in the aftermath of rising, and poetry to process fries having two black people all around. i spent hours in re palm
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advising, adding, deleting until there were dozens of iterations on every line. i thought it was how all of my work given in response to brides stemming from a place of love. i love my community, i love my family, i love those hoping to build a better world than the one we live in. >> how about that for the most resistance? yes, i want back but i also want those in connection of poetry meets the dignity of responding radically. the fact that he could dismiss the art and yet have children who are black. to me, i will never consider
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thomas jefferson the same way. i could say you've had cool ideas you took from, you spun it, took ownership of it, i'm not going to forget ideas from white guys in europe as well and you're able justify your bad behavior and somehow white americans today are thinking he is a good guy. i want to know how far you can go back but this is important because i wanted to talk about you being an artist and there's a wonderful paragraph here on page 26, i am going backwards. donna and grace are the two women went meets when he goes to want to cello and that paragraph, if you could read that on page 26.
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>> people have understood slavery and post held only in abstract terms and do not picture the hand, they do not hear the fear or the laughter. they do not consider that these are children like their own. ...
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>> thank you. oh, my gosh, this is just, my head is exploding. this is an incredible conversation, beautiful but yes, we do have some questions. ashley ford -- >> ashley ford. >> yes. and -- >> "new york times" best-selling author ashley ford. [laughing] every time i see our books together my heart just letters. man, ashley, who talk to oprah yesterday. a real mvp. thanks for watching. >> what a beautiful memoir. >> hi, ashley, we love you. [laughing] >> ashley asks, which if any of
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the places you visited during the research would you want to return to? >> good question. >> probably the whitney plantation. i did return to it. i did my reporting at the place may be i guess, two, i think i went there in february 2019. and then i went back for a thanksgiving of 2019 because my family was all in new orleans for my grandmothers 80th birthday. and so part of what we did was we all went to the whitney plantation together as a family. i bite about my grandparents at the end of the book in the epilogue. i was there with my grandmother who, if you read the book, part of what i talk to her about is what she learned about slavery when she was carrying a lot of shame because she had been
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taught, had been taught so many of the lessons that everyone was taught in the early 20th century when you were learning about slavery. slavery was a civilized institution. there were benevolent slaveowners. they were saved from savagery of africa. she was on her own journey at 80 of sort of unlearning so much of what she had been taught her entire life. when we got to the whitney, this place in louisiana that centers the lives life of enslaved is surrounded by a constellation of plantations where people continue to hold weddings and take pictures in front of the homes of enslavers, have bridal suites informer in slave cabins. the whitney rejects that idea. we should understand the people who were held at that torture site were fully human individuals. when i went with my grandparents and my wife, my kids, my
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parents, it was so powerful to see the impact like like an minute tour could have on people. i was almost like watching them during the tour and i thought about writing about it but it almost one to reserve the intimacy of that moment. it was so powerful because what the whitney does the so exceptional but it shouldn't be. this is how the story of flavor should be told at every plantation across the country. i would go there, you know, it is an example of a place that is working really hard to tell the story of a plantation the way it should be told. i think it is a powerful place that can be a catalyst for all sorts of learning and unlearning and recalibration of how we understand what slavery was. so ashley, when you come visit me in new orleans we will go to the whitney. and we will eat cupcakes.
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[laughing] >> we have an anonymous attendee question who writes come was anything you came across in your research that surprised you? >> yes. i've got this question a couple of times over the past two weeks. i know we're running close in time so give rapidfire answers. angolan prison. i've been teaching a present for the last seven years in massachusetts and in d.c. but i was not prepared for what i saw when i was at angola, is specifically there's a whole lot to say about angola which is a prison built on top of the four plantation which disproportionally incarcerates black man in which they got in fields to virtually work for no pay. look, that place had a gift shop and it had shot glasses and coffee mugs and baseball caps and sweatshirts. on one of the coffee mugs it
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said, it had the silhouette of your watchtower and said angola, a gated community, as if to sort of the little or make a mockery of the thousands of people who were being held and contains be held in that prison. i have a lot to say about angola. i could've written an entire book just about that experience but i was deeply surprised, unsettled and haunted by the profound lack -- it almost, they're their craziness of a place like that. it just felt so wrong on so many levels. >> i just need a minute with that. okay. let's see here if i can read words again.
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here we go. from don who writes, could you speak about the creative process that led you to consider these histories in reported pros instead of poetry? >> when i originally conceived of the project i thought it would be a collection of poems. i thought i would write a poetry collection which the conceit was that each poem would be about a different monument in new orleans, and i would sort of create -- my first book was a collection of poetry and i thought okay, poetry is my primary form of sorts, or at least was for a long time. i realize that, one, i think i wanted to go to places outside of new orleans. so that was part of it. two, i realized it needed more room to breathe, that a poem would allow for. and in the three i also realized it could be only my own sort of
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extended meditations on my experiences at these places. it had to be in conversation with the experience of other people there. like, it had to have the voices of the guides. have the voices of the public historians. it had to the voices of the of the people i was encountering journeys. the chapter i write about angola is largely shaped around a guy named morris anderson who was incarcerated for almost 30 years and is on this tour with me. i think i could have tried to write the chapter without speaking to norse for being there alongside noris but when he and i are on this bus that's moving through fields where people he was once incarcerated with our literally digging crops and is looking down at sands and you see the calluses on his hand and he talked about how he used to work for seven cents an hour in fields that he said himself,
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like my ancestors might have been enslaved on the same land. it creates an entirely different sort of literary and sensory dynamic. part of what it wanted this book to do was bring the best of history, the best of journalism, the best of poetry, the best of literary nonfiction that i read, by the way, you don't already know i'm president of the chico fan club. here we are. it's amazing we have gone this long without me just turning is audited and be like so let's talk about -- truly. maybe our next harvard book store event. i wanted to do the best to bring all of that together to try to create something that almost wasn't defined by genre or confined by genre, and that attempted to sort of break it apart and break the pieces of each john roth that i love and put it together to create -- john roth -- different sort of
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literary and historical collage and make it feel like the reader was on this journey with me and that they were not being talked at, preach to others wasn't about tactics or you know, historical text by one or did to be so read like a novel. that's what i tried to do. >> i was wondering if you would mind reading as one last paragraph to close us out? one of the pieces that we haven't discussed is to focus on education. you start out on this project because you were teacher, you are concerned about your student but also you are a student. i think that you are clearly a lifelong learner as well as an artist and as one paragraph on page two, 293 the last paragraph was so beautiful. and i wanted to share it because i think there are educators in his audience right now and i think they should know why he wrote this book. >> this is about, this is about
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this project section, this is the last paragraph. much of what shape my desire to write this book was my experience as a high school teacher in prince george's county, maryland, right outside washington, d.c. though i was an english teacher, history inform both the way i approached the text we read and how i made since of the social reality of my students lives. it was as a teacher i first began to fully account the way history in this country shape the landscape of my students community, slavery to jim crow apartheid, the masculinization and beyond. i come to realize that those conversations with my students now a decade ago about how we might begin to understand our allies lives in relation to the world around us were some of the earliest parts of this book. i tried to write the sort of book i would've wanted to teach them. i hope i made them proud. >> we are so proud of you, clint. and everybody, go out and get this book.
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i believe every american should have this book. it is so beautiful and you do us proud, clint. thank you so much, harvard book store. everybody please support your independent bookstores. they are our lifeblood. they make our neighborhood and they are good neighbors. they are our teachers, , our friends. thank you, clint. >> thank you so much. thank you, everyone for attending. >> thank you so much. keep reading, , stacy for the o. have a good night. this was just an incredible conversation. thanks to both of you and yes by the book. i reposted the link. >> you will need -- [inaudible] >> goodbye, everybody. >> thank you. have a good night. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history
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tv documents on america's stories and on sundays booktv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding comes from these television companies and more including buckeye broadband. >> buckeye broadband all of these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service. >> walking from washington, d.c. to new york city, former "wall street journal" reporter neil king reflects on his nearly 300-mile journey. >> do we get a year later with all that had happened, all that as being shut income all of us walking around behind masks that long cold winter which was a pretty horrific event, , the
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eventually something out january 6th, the capital which a live nearby, the contested election, there's a lot of bad blood in air over all. so it made my desire to go out really i think it was the fifth day of spring and just walk through through a spring see it unfold and look up close and very slowly at the country is going through meeting people along the way trying to kind of understand where will we as a country at the moment. >> neil king on his nearly 300-mile journey, "walking to new york city" sunday at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. you can also find q&a interviews wherever you get your podcasts. >> american history is being replaced with a polarizing version according to which incented founder and president robert woodson. up next on booktv is "after words" p


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