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tv   Lectures in History Conversation with Rep. James Clyburn D-SC  CSPAN  December 11, 2021 10:55pm-11:36pm EST

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companies. bringing us closer. cox support c-span2 as public service. >> next american history tv lectures in history, democratic congressman james cryburn of south carolina talks about role as committee chairman as new african-american museum being built in charleston, south carolina. then andrew roberts wins winston churchill's legacy against criticism. and kidnapping of daniel boone 13-year-old and tensions between settlers and native americans on the 1776 western frontier. a schedule of programming is available at or on your program guide.
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here is lectures in history.
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[inaudible] >> about 19 -- 20 years ago. developed the idea of the national african-american museum and congressman clyburn was busy as anyone in the country. if you went to his office in on capitol hill it was like grand central station. he was coming and going and everybody taking
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time, consultation with him and i went to ask the congressman if he would consider chair. and he was so busy. i was timid to ask and he said, well, joe, let me ask henly, whose wife he lost days ago and he was busy as can be in washington and get to south carolina as often as they could and by two weeks later he called me back and he said, joe, hen i will said yes and i will. jim crowburn never missed a meeting of the international african-american and those meetings. >> in charleston. as busy as he was not only did he not miss the meetings but he was prepared. he had read everything and had been decimated
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to the board members, he's historian and taught history and would give things going and it would be conflict of interest. and i've known the congressman since 1970. congressman, i knew the congressman since 1970 and congressman, one thing that congressman
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ran for south carolina house of representatives, congressman jim and narrowly defeated. in fact, we all went to bed that night knowing that clyburn would be creating and the next morning we found out that jim was not elected. and congressman, so many people would have railed or something was done wrong and the way that you, sir, handled that great disappoint to you and to us who were so
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fervent to have you elected. i will still call you mayor. please don't tell the current mayor that i'm doing that. i think i've done that in this as well. thank you so much for telling that story because there's a little more to that story that help to firm the relationship. during that time whoever led would be designated as chair of the delegation and running together. and you felt that you would be reelected and
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that we could be elected. and to help with that, i will never forget, you gave up all the media -- we were divided. radio and television. you decided and gave us all of your media time and ewe knew at the time that might not lead the ticket but you thought it was more beneficial to the state and to the charleston for the two of us to get elected. i've never forgotten that and i really believe that part of what led me to be able to accept very disappointed defeat was having to experience the
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way you were able to sacrifice your first place with victory. so thank you so much for that relationship and so when you ask why i joined the effort as chair committee, i did go, my dear wife of 58 years because i didn't want to take on another responsibility and you're taking on too much and so bringing her into that decision and i want to thank you for the relationship that you had with emily as well. she admired and respected you a great deal. and i really, really hope that what you're doing and what we have worked together to do will do her memory
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proud. so thank you so much for having me here with you. >> well, thank you. and i love emily too. she was most wonderful person and she was one of those people that if you were in her company, you just felt better, her goodness and her quality was really -- was so inspirational. congressman, when you taught history at ca brown high school back then in late 60's, i guess, what were the history books like. what did they teach, what did you have as material to teach you about african-american history. >> not much. i became teacher in charleston in january of 1962. i spent 3 years at brown
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teaching history. what i did when i was teaching i taught from the newspapers rather than from the textbook. most of my fellow teachers thought that i i was going to get fired but i did not -- [laughter] >> but i never got fired, in fact, i had a hard time keeping people out of my classroom because i felt that history ought to be a part of the living person and to bring those students into history, just think, for example, i was teaching at the time that we had cuban crisis when the russians placed those missiles down in cuba. i was standing to my classroom.
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what would i say to students, let's talk and when all they saw in the newspapers and videos about were the russians bringing these missiles down to cuba, not far from charleston where they live and so what i did was we would pick up the newspapers and i said, now here is what is happening today. let's go over chapter 22. chapter on cuba and let's talk about the background and relationship that is many of those students even until this day. so i -- you know, that's the kind of thing i ididn't get. the teacher would tell us that for a test, for instance, well, we have a ten-question test here, what's the date that this happened, what's the date that
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columbus discovered america, what's the date, this that and the other. i hated that. when i started teaching on my first day in the classroom i would tell my students, pull out pen and paper. i want you to write down two days. number 2, 1066ad. those are the only two years i want you to remember. [laughter] >> you the roman empire fell in 467 and opened up the new world in 1066. that to me were the two big dates to remember. other than that we talked about issues and issues led to them in their daily lives. >> congressman, you provided gate leadership to those young people and i remember the
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ambassador of the united states, students and a couple of others became the real distinguished leaders and they all would point back to being in jim clyburn's class. the impact that you had on those kids was absolute hi remarkable. >> well, thank you. we grew up there and these guys were named ambassador. >> that's right. >> i need you to be -- certain assessing at the time. when i came back to washington and i never shall forget that when he stepped to the podium after being sworn in he pointed over to me. i noticed when i got there, there's a little mark on the floor that they took me too and that's where i stood.
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he pointed to me and he said that i wish you all could be in one of those classes because he opened up the world to me and that did everything for me and as i was walking out of church, emily's service and i look over to my right and standing there was james i didn't know that he was there when i was doing the service. he told me he would never have missed that because he was in a little group that used to meet in our apartment. we lived in an apartment just a few books from here and he and ralph dawson, they would all come to our house and we would have these
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sessions. now just talked about the world at large so they there was more, much more to their lives which is just on charleston east side where brown was. so that is to me the backdrop to this great vision that you had and still hold onto in the international african-american museum. not the charleston african-american museum but the international museum. the kinds of things that i was trying to teach james and so many others. by the way ralph is not retired from from wall street. he used to be the
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general counsel for american express. that's what came out of those classes and there's so many other things i can talk about but that's not what we are here to talk about today. >> one thing we will get to the museum quickly but when congressman, when you lost the election in 1917, the newly elected governor john west, fellow students, was a graduate saw jim clyburn's character and the way that he was braced, handled that and employed congressman clyburn to be the first director of the south carolina human affairs commission and then the congressman, governor west, went around the state and making ties and connecting business interest and other
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interest together that they will serve south carolina to move forward as more racially together community. wouldn't you say that congressman? >> absolutely, absolutely. reflected upon my statement. i did not say it earlier but when i was asked what happened in that election i simply said it looks like i didn't get enough ropes and when i was pressed i delved to that. it looks like i didn't get enough votes. that was the headline on thursday morning after tuesday election. having just been elected governor of south carolina, was going out which was nothing but hunting ground, passing through charleston to pick up newspapers. and he immediately -- he
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told me to please have me call him and i called him and he asked me to be here in monday, i did. and we -- he offered me a position on his staff and he said to me at the time, i said, no, i think -- he said to me, if i had your talent i would be a little more conscious than you are. that started the relationship and my desk in colombia was a desk that he had a governor. john west -- when i became majority whip he said john would be so proud of this. i want you to have his
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desk. >> wow. >> he gave me the desk he had as governor and sitting behind the desk right now every time i to my office. and i would hope that would be somewhat lessons to some of your students. my dad use today tell me all of the time. you never say the thing that's on your mind. i'm not going to say what's on my mind that morning after that night. but certainly i talked about the results and made all the difference. different headline, i don't think i've ever gotten the call from john west and wouldn't be sitting here now. it's the number 3 guy among democrats in the house of representatives. >> i agree with that, congressman. i raise that question for the students because it's such important life lessons in that and you
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-- accept disappoints with grace and you build for the future and that's one of many great lessons jim clyburn has given us but as human being but someone that you can trust and inspired those kids and was teaching and inspires members of congress right now. both sides, they look up to jim clyburn because of character and intellect and determination. it's really amazing. congressman, changing subjects a little bit, it would seem to me that the recent unfortunate efforts in my opinion to make it less easy for people to vote, just more cumbersome than it
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needs to be. that is a bit ram nicence, reminiscent of what happened after reconstruction and the different form and way but it seems to me that it's very unfortunate that in our country that there are any efforts that we should be respectfully believe we should make it easier and the less cumbersome for american citizen to vote rather than throwing opticals in their ways. what are your thoughts about that, congressman? >> yeah, you're right about that. i really believe that we have to be very, very careful in the great country that we have. i have said over and over again, this is a great country. it does not have to be great again. it's a great country. our talent is making the country's greatness accessible and affordable for all of its citizens and foundation upon which
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that greatness is made is right to the battle and we have grown in our pursuit of a more perfect union by opening up the doubt, that's what 1964 act was about and 1965 voting rights act was about and making the franchise, the battle more accessible to all of its citizens and for us to get to the point of backtracking that most important thing about democracy would be to destroy and
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take us off the pursuit and i think the fragile democracy that we have. we have been as ronald reagan only here for a long time. people that look to this country, for example, for a long time. i don't know that anybody will look with honor upon any country that would turn their back on pursuit of the section who will takeaway the right to vote as seem to be pursuant. i would hope that this would be an anomaly of state in pursuit of perfection. >> thank you, congressman.
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and i know that we have questions. carrie, we have questions ready yet? >> yeah. >> open it up. >> yeah. just as a reminder for any of the students, really any of our guests if you want to -- yeah, please just as a reminder for any of the student, really any of our guests if you want to put just for a minute, congressman, to 1960's and i think about, you know, the work that you did around the charleston hospital strike and, you know, think about, you know, that period as a time of such great upheaval, the assassination of dr. king and bobby kennedy and i'm wondering if you might draw some parallels or make some comparisons to our contemporary politics and, you know,
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what are the comparisons between today and 1968 if those are appropriate? >> well, not just 1968. i started teaching in charleston in 1962 and went to work for john russell in 1971. in 1968, i was in charleston at the time but i was running and in fall of '68i became director for the south carolina farm commission workers. that's where i really was at the time on this great massacre. i knew -- in fact, williams was one leading that and i was on my
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staff. so what was going on then, i was very much involved. so he and i stayed in touch through all of that and then i became -- in 1969 we had -- at the time of the hospital strike in 1969 we had congress worker strike and for some strange reason they asked me to get involved, negotiate and so we had two things going on simultaneously. but we met every evening to keep things and so
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that's why i'm a little bit concerned today about cutting off discussions. you have to find ways to keep the community going and if you stop talking, you are never going to get -- >> absolutely. >> so what was going on back then a lot of what you see today. i think it's reminiscent of that and i do believe that we can back then because people with open minds, some people with broad shoulders stepped up to get us back on track and back where we needed to go. that 1970 election he went after and here is joe, running for election, says i'm giving up on media. i paid for me, it's mine
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but more important for these two people for our legislator to be integrative and by the way i lost the election. and i've become first african-american to serve on the governor's staff and so we both came out. so i was telling young people all of the day, it may -- this experience that you have, it may look like the obstacle is a stone -- it could very well be a steppingstone if you respond appropriately to it. >> congressman, one of our wonderful librarians has a question for you. ruby murray asked, if you might say a little
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bit about the mitt call damage that the slogan defund the police did to candidates in the recent elections and do you have any suggestions for a better framework for, you know, the urgent need for police reform moving forward? >> yes, i do and i've been writing about it and i've been talking about it. i think that we all have to reimagine policing. i think that, you know, if you are a lawyer and you are by the association, two lawyers in south carolina. i saw the headlines about two who were disbarred because they did something wrong. so the same thing has to
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take place with policing. it's an honorable profession. my cousin wilson clyburn was almost for 40 years a police officer in camden. i spoke of his ongoing service. i thought he was an honorable person who did an honorable profession. we cannot allow one bad apple to ruin the entire battle and that's what will happen if you don't get that bad apple out of the process and that's what we have to do. this whole notion that we seem to have is once you have gun or pin or a badge all of a sudden you're a saint and you cannot be held accountable and that what is allowed to creep into policing. we have to have police. it's an honorable profession to be in and i support that, but we
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should not go so far as to do to the current state of affairs along with black lives matter what happened in the 1960's, john wilson and i were demonstrating, we became known as the student nonvalid coordinating comedy. sncc and came up with a new slogan, burn, baby burn. that undermined the effort and i saw that along with john lewis just a few months before he passed away. the two of us sat in the back of the house chamber one day and we said that we needed to speak out. we didn't just standby and allow slogannary to kill the black lives
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matter movement the way it did the student movement that we were part of back in the 60's. i'm a lawyer. i keep talking about the student movement. you never heard me call it the civil rights movement. it has always been a civil rights movement. in 1960's were students. naacp was formed and these things always take place. we try to put things in a perspective. so i'm going to say to your students, keep facing the proper perspective and one of them is keep policing in the proper perspective
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and remember that it's not to destroy the profession. >> our good student and the president of the campus chapter of the young democrats, active in the young democrats statewide, tyler mitchell would like to ask you, given all of the events to have previous year, what are the prospects that america can build a stronger foundation in the area of social equality. >> i think the prospects are great. it could be better. my dad used to say something to me all of the time that i think about these days. where there is a will, there is a way. what we have to do is develop the will and i don't think enough people that develop the
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will to do what's necessary, it's so easy and to walk away from it is easy to pretend it is not going on. the hard part is working together and putting aside individual differences. you know, the mayor and i talked about my late wife and i said to people a lot, i was born and raised in the time -- i met him on the campus and we found out early in our marriage that our backgrounds were so different that we had to make significant adjustments in order to have a successful marriage. and i think the same thing applies to almost everything that we do. we have to learn that we have different backgrounds, different experiences and we have to learn from each other
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and, you know, you don't necessarily learn from people by shutting them up and you learn by listening to them. you get an atmosphere for some problems by coming together and so i would say the prospects are great but we can keep people engaging on a very personal level and that's the challenge for me to be able to set aside whatever my inclinations might be long enough to listen to the other guy to see whether he has a better idea and the same thing applies to women as well. i happen to be a father of 3 daughters. i listen to them. i talk to them. ..
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and injustice, and integrity and in service. for everyone to tune in today it certainly student for the class i'm honored to teach here, congressman we just thank you so much for being with us. a marvelous example you give all of us of public service, decency and what it means to be a citizen of our country. >> thank you so much for having me. if you have not done so already please do me a big failure read martin luther king's juniors a letter from the jail. that to me is one of the most timely as it documents i have ever read. i want to call your attention to one little part of that book. king wrote in that book, that
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we in this generation and so the good people when we see injustice, we do what's necessary to preserve this country. we have been an example to the world and we cannot allow any misfits to destroy that mantra that we have developed over the years. so thank you so much mr. mayor. to allow me too be here today i'm not disrespecting him.
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>> thank you certify could add a one thing if i could add for the students. in doctor king's letter from a birmingham jail, he was in jail he was not given any paper to write on. so he wrote that most amazing letter in the margins and the edges of the newspapers he was collecting the message is so powerful, the knowledge of that courageous industrious did truth can act it's really. thank you very much congressman. >> thank you break. >> thank all of you for being here today. >> the jenny glisten the lessons and histories on the go stream it as a podcast anywhere any time you're watching american history tv. in 2017 american history tv open smithsonian he is saved
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in men, women, children this really could be considered a pen. but african-american men, women, children who are resilient in holding onto humanity found to love one another, to practice their faith to grow gardens on the side of their cabins to supplement their diet into have new cultural practices. >> watched a full tour >> good evening everyone. the president and ceo and i am thrilled to welcome you to tonight's virtual presentation churchill today. there at the new york historical society election. i


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