tv Authors Eddie Glaude Jon Meacham CSPAN April 21, 2022 1:45pm-2:30pm EDT
>> cox is committed to providing eligible families access to affordable internet through the connect and computer program, bridgingthe digital divide one connected and engaged student at a time. cox : bringing us closer. cox along with these television companies supports c-span2 as a public service . >> i'm going to take controlhere because otherwise i won't be able to . you all may remember in 1962 njohn kennedy held a very successful statevisit to france . and mrs. kennedy was enormously popular on the farewell dinner, closing o dinner in front of de gaulle bu and others k said i used to s be the president of the w united states but now i am simply a man whoaccompanies jacqueline kennedy to paris . i'm the man who accompanied her to new orleans.
this is like saddam's baghdad. there's pictures everywhere. with a serious question. you wrote a marvelous book about baldwin and what he meant in real time and can mean to us. give us your origin story with baldwin. when did you first read him and when did he become so vital to you? >>. [inaudible] re s>> eddie is a cigar man, th only goodthing about going to morehouse . >> can you imagine? my first encounter, was my serious encounter with
baldwin was in graduateschool . you would think i went to high school in the coast of mississippi so wecan tell that story another day. at morehouse i was kindof avoiding him in some ways . and in college , in n graduate school i was in elephant man. i wrote my most of my first year onralph ellison . i didn't want to deal with baldwin because he made my colleagues faces turn red. they were flushed as they read him because he was telling the truth. so i really didn't begin to have this serious encounter with him until i started teaching. my first job was at bowdoin college in maine, brunswick maine ckand i taught every year. and i started teaching in the street and suddenly we began to open up and became
somewhat amused to me.you have the honor of writing. >> starting with you, aside from that. >> this is awhat we have to go through. no, actually we don't because he's in the studio at home. you have the honor of talking with john lewis in his last days. talk about that experience. >> i first met john lewis during the last election in 1992. there was a georgia senate runoff. and george's become the new louisiana. you all arealways having elections down here . and on an election night if it you're a politician or a journalist, you tend to want to give the impression that you're off doing important
things. what you're really doing is eating cheese cubes but in a different room. but you want to give the impression of that . so white's fowler was running against paul coverdale and i was covering him for the chattanooga times. my hometown newspaper. i walked into the ballroom in atlanta and there was john robert lewis and lillian just standing there among the people. he was a senior congressman, already a civil-rights monument in many ways. and it began in a conversation as eddie kindly says it didn't really stop until the week before he died on july 17 2020. and part of my, one thing i had to fight in that relationship was treating
john lewis as the acceptable kind of black guy that everyone like me would want. i sometimes call it the easy listening version of thecivil rights movement . because john even in the beginning in 1966 at kingston springs tennessee not far from where i lived, stokely carmichael and john lewis went to battle over different approaches to the same and. in many ways. and john was seen as somebody with doctor king. it was the sunday school version, nonviolence, one of those leaders who was siding with stokely carmichael and the problem with john lewis after 1963 was every time president johnson called john woodson his suit to the cleaners and he get off clean
he was seen as too much a part of the establishment that was trying to be shifted. but ultimately the way i resolved that if i did successfully was through the language hrof the southern church. of which i'm a part in a broader sense. not a very good christian as robert louis stevenson said. the duty of a christian is not to succeed but fail cheerfully and if so i'm the most cheerful guy you'll ever encounter . but he was on that bridge. he was on the freedom ride. he was in nashville coming c out of the american theological seminary, a school there. the fancy kids went to morehouse. john and bernard lafayette, james bethel.
there were 100 students. imagine that, there's one little school with 100 students on the cumberland river in benashville. there's john lewis, james neville, ultimately diane nash. it's just an incredible story. but what i realized watching him and talking to him in those i guess almost 30 years as he was in the house and as he became and to me this is one of the most fascinating things about john lewis is he became a kind of walking monument. he was kind of in the anniversary business. he took congressional delegations back every year to selma. if you need something on an anniversary he's always there . and he's the only public
figure i've ever known who could be at the scene of his great tribe that should have beenall about him . and yet it was the most un-self-referential thing you can imagine which is hard to do . so you would be standing on the pettus bridge with him sn but it really wasn't about him. even though you were there an because of him. and that was a kind of charisma in the purest sense of the word. it was a gift from the gods that as an old teacher of mine once said one definition of charm is plthe capacity to make other people love you without theirquite knowing why . and somehow or another that's what john did . >> it's fascinating, you talk about selma.
some of this socomplicated because we talk about that . there's three marches and in some ways with baldwin the complexity of selma as evidenced, there is plenty sunday and then there's the march that king gets up and turns around and says the lord. >> he didn't show up on plenty sunday. >> and then they sing nobody going to turn usaround and then the third march of course is when everyone goes . they leave, they get angry, they go organize. typically we tell the story of selma in this uncomplicated way. the way in which we tell it kind of flattens out the complexity of the moment because baldwin is going to identify with those young folk an interesting sort of
way even though he's an adored king. >> it is flattened out i teach this. we think of tulane as the vanderbilt of louisiana so thank you. >> it's already mister princeton. did you get your passport stamped on the way? so the way the story is told, if we were watching this on tv you have lewis and hosea williams coming across the bridge at 3:00 in the afternoon. late gray afternoon, march 7, 1955. wind is blowing. john is wearing his overcoat tiand his backpack with a copy of richard hofstetter's american political tradition. cahe doesn't expect to be arrested so that was the rule
. you always take a book. and they go to john cloud, the major. he says it's an illegal march . john says may i have a word and they say there's no word to be had. they kneel to pray and as their knees hit the asphalt the troopers, with the teargas. people think by the hrway one of the reasons john lewis everybody was throwing up was because of the teargas, itwas because they were concussed . that was why. so then basically abc is playing and the first broadcast version of judgment at nuremberg frank reynolds breaks in that night with the bulletin. it wasthe first significant news bulletin to be broken into since dallas . this is march 1965. and then what's the next scene?
it's lbj. giving the great richard goodwin speech, there are moments in the life of a nation where history is made and forms a turning point in man's unending search for freedom x. so it was at appomattox, so it was last week at selma and we shall overcome. then the voting rights act is signed and everything's fine. right? what's. so one of the ways i teach this is johnson speech was on march 15. buddy sunday was march 7. eight days is a long time so what happened in those hteight days? a lot of the politics that baldwin captures that eddie's talking about but also lyndon johnson asserting control over the entire situation. so two things happen, one thing is he forces chang to go to judge frank johnson and follow the court orders about
the nature of the march and in what i think is one of the most important moments in modern american history because the lesson of it i think lives on, he summons george wallace to the oval office. lbj had very deep christian thoughts so the person would think and lbj would loom. he was in a rocking chair and he leans over george wallace and 'wallace says he controls voting boards or something and johnson says wonderfully don't ship me george wallace. and then he says towards, this is not about 1968, it's not about 1988. it's about history. and when you die do you want a pine scratch stony grave that says george wallace hated or do you want a beautiful against granite monument that says george wallace, he built?
and that's the fundamental question it seems to me of citizenship. is you want to hate or do you want to build? one of the things eddie and i debate off-line is the extent to which and i'm right in this debate just so you know. the extent to which progress is measured and be, celebrated. so talk a little bit about that. >> one of the things that i insist on in our conversation was that while white america deliberates between whether or not it's going to hate or lives we have to raise our babies. while you're trying to decide what kind of human being you want to be, whether or not you're going to be monstrous,
we have to protect ourselves. we have to figure out how to raise our children in a society that fundamentally despises them. so the task or the question rather isn't whether or not we're going to hate or build. the m question is whether or not to allow anger and rage to overwhelm our moral lens. when we think about this moment because there is this moment remember when young full in broward county alabama and they argue for self-determination they use this symbol of what the black panther. >> ..
stokely carmichael says i been to jill x number of times i'm not going to jail. we want black power. so this ongoing battle of how do we respond in the gap between will you hate or will you build. what kind of humans? being we would be. how will we raise our babies? what we do in the interim as you make those decisions? we debate aboutes the pace of progress. the pace of the progress. how long can the last, how long must we wait for you to prospers do we have to lose another george floyd for your progress? do we have to lose our own babies as weight on your progress? what do we do in the intro while we fix -- there's a story to be told from the vantage point of lyndon baines johnson but then there's a story to be told from the vantage point of those black
folk who bore the burden and the brutality of what was happening in the midst of the high political drama in the white house. jimmy baldwin was always committed to the idea of the new jerusalem, that we were always engaged -- is that rain? [laughing] i am fromik here, i know that kd of rain. i'm like, that's when you pull over on the side of the highway and wait for it. >> i knew john berry barrg to bring a flood. [laughing] >> so the question becomes, baldwin is, baldwin is always committed to the idea of a new jerusalem but he insisted that -- and i want to insist, i don't want to at least voice, that in order for that to happen we have tto grow up and confront ourselves honestly about who we are as a nation.
>> so my argument, is i'm not asking anybody to wait. we broadly put get her house in order. i think this is a description of human nature and a perennial struggle between lighttr and dak in good and bad that unfolds in her individualize and then in a democracy in the fullness of the nation itself because the democracy is a largely, not entirely, but largely the fullest manifestation of ourrt individual dispositions of heart and mind, and those dispositions of heart and mind give it just enough force and just enough focus to create the rule of law. and so that's one slight amendment i would propose. one of my favorite lines of bald ones -- baldwins comes was talking about sncc in florida,
what is a tallahassee. and he says somebody asked -- was a sit in i think. someone asked me, and had this vision, writers know this, you have a vision of baldwin back in a motel with his typewriter, right? filing the piece. it may have been esquire, i can't recall on that. but he wrote this picky set people ask what got into these kids? america. thesea is what got into kids. so what was baldwin's and the cloudy and definition of america in that sense? >> madness. >> madness? >> yes. a madness in the sense of the renaissance. not clinical sense. but what is madness in the sense?
this refusal to live the truth, to live in this false sense, the we believe we're of the shining city on on the hill, to use reagan's kind of adjective on john winthrop description of jesus. you b know, with augustine. >> he approved it. can i interrupt you? i know this isst important. we'll get back to the import stuff, but -- the reagan, and this, eddie and i have discussions about president reagan. they are called spatz if we were married. >> can you do that in louisiana? >> probably not. so reagan's phrase, shining city on a hill, is adding the adjective to a life of the sermon on the mount. jesus said it should be a city on the hill and his light shall not be hid. reagan did that so well that
i'veth actually heard ministers- true story -- the pulpit say, as jesus said, america shall be as a city, shining city upon a hill. and i never knewrs president reagan but i did know mrs. reagan a little bit. [laughing] as jimmy stewart said, if ronnie married nancy the first of he would've won an academy award. but i heard this, i was at lunch i would eat and she wouldn't, and i said, you know, i just heard ais minister say this is, it's amazing. president reagan approved on jesus, andkewe she looked and se said, well yes, that's the. kind of thing ronnie did a lot. [laughing] may someday we'll be loved as nancy davis loved ronald reagan. now go back to baltimore. >> i don't believe that. y'all believe that quacks know, i'm just -- >> how could i make thatt up?
>> part of this idea that we are the shining city on the hill, that we are the redeemer nation, that we are an example of democracy, that particular illusion stands in or keeps us from confronting who we actually are. >> sure. >> and so there's a kind of falseness that we live in that t lines us to the truth of who we are. we know this intimately in the south and this is what the no chance saloon is all about. blanche, you know, streetcar named desire. what does it mean to imagine oneself in a particular sort of way? and to evade what is looking back in the mirror. looking back at you, so there's again about just where what has gotten into these young folk, well, the madness of america has gotten into them. it is a madison calls forth in interesting ways. >> but my sense of that sentence from baldwin is that it's a good thing, that america, that what
was getting into them in protesting, in seeking justice was the aspirational element which creates one poll as to which there was then -- there is this gap you talk about. >> so i don't really read that sentence in that way, that the motivation for these young folk to act as a kind of aspirational claim about america as it could be. tly saying right when you think about particularly when he's and howard how i open up the book. he's at howard in an apartment with many of the young activists right there. were these various clicks you had the au center grouping of folk, julian bond, and those folks you had the fisk nashville group. so that's the atlantic group over here the fish nashville group.
that's diane nash james john lewis and those folk and then you had the dc phone. nag, right. this is stokely carmichael this you know muriel tilling gas this does folk, right marion barry the first marion berry was the first president of sin. people don't remember this right? and so they're in this apartment building. no liquid can be found so somebody new a bootlegger, so they went out and got some bootleg scotch. and they're going at the top of you know till the sun comes up. and baldwin sees in their eyes exhaustion these are the young people. who believed wholeheartedly? in nonviolent discrimination. i'm nonviolent protests. stokely carmichael said he never broke non-violent discipline, but once is when the police attacked dr. king?
the so-called black power said he never vote broke non-violence, but once and in stokely says america made these young people i mean baldness is america made these young people. so i want to connect these two formulations, right? one is not just simply kind of aspiration. it's a description of the context out of which these young folk. courageously if that makes sense it does. but i want to ask you a question. you wrote the biography of hw bush president bush you just cited nancy reagan the nancy reagan story, which i don't believe. why would i sit around and think art i'm gonna make up a nancy because you are john mitchell now, so you should hear my julia
grant story. whatever that means right, so. what does what does it mean what i want to understand you? oh jesus. that's a journey. from herbert walker bush george herbert walker bush the reagan before the stuff you've written. yeah to john lewis. yeah. to write about john lewis to publish that and after he goes on to glory what do you what do you see because i see a difference. i see a shift. yeah accent john major. are we doing is we're gonna do a 50 minute hour to have to pay you. yeah for therapy. yeah. no talk to me about that journey from from there to here. all right. can i slightly reorder the question? no, okay. so there is something here's the
commonality. let's start there. okay, the commonality is these are the only two living people i've ever written about. and i didn't fall in love with either one of them. but i came to love them. which is different. they come from radical arguably the it's hard to imagine two people coming beginning their lives in a different more different place, right so poppy bush is born on june 12th, 1924 and milton, massachusetts grows up in greenwich greenwich country day school andover joins the united states navy on his 18th birthday, july. 12 1942 shot down on saturday, september 2nd 1944 over chichi jima. loses two crewmates spent the
rest of his life every day. asking why was i spared and not them? a man of immense empathy a man of immense ambition those two things were in constant conflict. ultimately, he resolved them in his mind that. it mattered less what he did to a mass power and more what he did when he had it. and we can argue all you want about that. and that's the way he saw it. john lewis great grandson of an enslaved man born in slavery born 1863 62 um son of a sharecropper overcame his childhood stutter by preaching to the chickens and on the farm in troy used to say that the chickens listened to him more carefully than his colleagues in congress ever did.
and never saw a white person until he was 14 except for the mailman. had an instinctive revulsion about segregation when he would go into town. moved by the gospel very uninterested in theology interested instead about how do you apply the sermon on the mount? didn't like a preacher from montgomery you came over and was talking about. sweet by and by didn't care about the sweet buy and buy wanted it right then. so radically different my view and you'll disagree. probably is that they represent they both represent? parts of the american experience that i think are worth.
emulating and having inform what we do. hmm george hw bush was the last eisenhower republican. which is like saying you're the last dinosaur. right that that is dead dead that party. and that party was imperfect. but i believe that one way to think about american politics in life. from the new deal until now is that it's been a figurative conversation. between fdr and reagan on the relative projection of force against commonly agreed upon foes and rivals and the relative role of the state in the marketplace. and every american president has ascend except for the 45th has essentially governed on that field. and sometimes to switch metaphors to football sometimes, you know, there's a george w
bush who's over with ronald reagan on the 20. sometimes. there's a lyndon johnson over here with fdr. i've run this by bush clinton and president obama. they all agree president obama agrees with the concept that that was the dialectic. in which he governed? it was not a dialectic that has delivered. the results i think many people want which is one of the reasons it fell apart in 2016, right? the shift so i don't see that as a shift what i do see is four years ago exactly when i was closing the soul of america book. i believed that trump was the fullest manifestation of our darkest impulses. but that like joe mccarthy.
it would burn out not that it would go away. but that these forces ebbed and float. and what january 6th did and it took me a long time to get there. is it suggested to me that there was something more permanent about this? i still think it can be. okay. but i didn't foresee that and one of the things that eddie and i agree with just lest you think this is a marital therapy thing. is i dislike it? i disagree i should say. when people say about something terrible that happened charlottesville, so when they say this isn't who we are well, of course, it's who we are. where have you been? right. do you not know anything? do you literally know no american history? and i said this a while ago. but there wasn't a once upon a time in american history, and there's not going to be a happily ever after.
because this is a human enterprise. and it's why the work of folks like eddie. matters so much because eddie does something that i don't do. which is but is a historian of both our politics, but even more importantly of our intellectual. ambient philosophical life and the importance of ideas which is what drives the baldwin book. and even i would say go all the way back if you haven't read his book on it's called exodus with an exclamation mark, it's like jeb. with just so you know if you ever had that comparison no, no never that's what i'm here for. my work is done. thanks walter. it was about the the exodus narrative and how it shaped. the black experience in the
american experience so i i'm less than i was. right but i don't know. maybe maybe i'm maybe because i want to be forgiven for all the stupid things. i do. maybe i'm overly forgiving that's possible. maybe i just love too much. no, that's not it. that's not it. you know, i make sense that it does, you know and part of you know part of what it means for me at least to come out of the tradition out of which i come. right is to say to you. right in some ways. i'm glad you finally see it. well actually brought me home. no no what i mean by that is that it's all we all grow. i grew up up we both grew up in the south. is all we have to do is cross the railroad tracks. all we have to do is look at our life.
this is what you're saying, right? this is who we are it always has been and some of us have had to live the burden of the contradiction. some of us have had to endure it. some of us have lost people. lost and we watch for generations a country just walk past our dead. to not give a -- about them. and so when this revelation happens it's almost like a wonderful thing that you know americans we love we want to be padded on our backs. i got it. see, right, but it becomes the can under these moments of in this moment of crisis. when it feels as if the experiment stands on a nice edge. this kind of insight. sets the stage at least for me. for the possibility for us to be to be different to be together differently to be. otherwise, does that make sense? i know we're gonna go to town
because it does you this is well, of course since we're now mode. but this is really important point, you know, yeah. and maybe and this is where an eddie writes and he was kind of attacking me in his book, but he didn't he was sweet. he didn't do it by name. hold up. let me say this by the way, i sent him beginning again. i was debt tip tiptoeing around my criticism of ronald reagan. and he said eddie. if you're going to criticize reagan. go after him. what you had a parenthetical saying you might have been a racist. i said you might want to unpack that. it was literally within dashes. yeah, exactly. he's like no, i think you know, that's but that's what friend but i do this six times before breakfast so i completely but but so one of the things that eddie sort of dings me for and he just did it very gently and elegantly, is that somehow or another my view of his i mean if you disagree tell me some other
my view of history is overly triumphalist and self. it's self-congratulatory for the country. i disagree. because of the power of narrative if you don't tell a story. that moves people to do to want to replicate something. that was good. then what is the point of it? then you're unilaterally disarming and my response is what we choose to leave out of our stories. reveal all too often the limits of our conceptions of justice. sure. i got applause you. i know i know. i've sort of forgotten they're here. so i was about to curse. but i just will just okay, but
you gotta tell the story right and so part of our task right right is that's why the blues? tells a different kind of story that's what that's how when you come when you cross those railroad tracks, which you guys used to do. you god younger you guys that's good. that's good when you cross the railroad track. yes in those midnight out. nobody could see not not he's doing the preacher thing now. yeah, you know you feel the voice begin to go. no, but you but you see the move right? so there's this so there's a story that has been told it's a question of what is what is thought of as the major plot line? and what is thought of as the subplot? here's it? here's a really direct question. sure farm here. we're gonna come to y'all our farm far than you all might. get a forum like is the world better off or worse off for my john lewis book? is better that's an easy
question. is it a celebration? is it is it because i know you i know what you struggled with in that book. yeah, what's better off? is the revelation that you just gave, right. i mean did you just said no. and the thing, is that the journey that we all make that we all take the path that we all take when we end up there. okay. you know as long as you end up there, yeah, and the point that i'm making here is that to pass a judgment or any is to say okay? now you see okay. now let's build a new america. let's be better midwives as it were and give birth to a new a new cut and i think as southerners. because i'm a i'm a mississippi boy. as southerners we have we have our hands, right? and we're at the heart of it as my yeah as my beloved friend imani perry says we're at the
heart of it. if only we would confront who we actually question questions one question we have you can only ask one. retarded we've gone on so long. we have one question who wants to ask the question? no pressure. we told everybody we were going to blow through the question and answer period we did say that don't make me call on you. yes, sir. project or walk up to i can't hear you sir. i'm sorry. i'm too old. come up to the mic doc. and then we're gonna run right because because we got to go. this is high church. it's like where's the incense? dr. glad one of the things you mentioned in your book.
is how exhausted how exhausted james baldwin was when he went to france and for many of us who grew up in the civil rights era? it's like we experienced it. and we're exhausted. so what would be baldwin's perspective would he want to stay now or what he wanted to flee? so i try to avoid anticipating jimmy's words, he wrote so many. that we can actually find an answer. and one of the reasons why i wrote begin again is because i was suffering from a kind of debilitating despair. right here. we were we had come out of ferguson all of these young people at risked their lives and some of them were ending up dead. found in their cause committing suicide so they said and the country responded to their efforts their organized efforts with the election of donald trump. just as the country responded to you know kings murder with the election of richard nixon twice.
and you feel like it's a specifically in task. having to push this -- bold up the hill again and again and again baldwin tried to commit suicide at least three times. right and no name in the street published in 1972. he's coming off of one of those attempts trying to make sense of this moment because he's trying to in some ways to tell a story that will offer resources for us to imagine how to keep struggling. so i think the way in which i came out of it. is that it's not the end to which we're trying to push the bolt. the value is in the actual pushing. to invoke talib kwali it's the beautiful struggle itself. and that's where meaning is found. because if we think that we have to see the end as a precondition for our struggle for a better america. we won't make it. we don't know.
both of these guys will be signing books downstairs in the peters >> both of these guys will be signing books downstairs. >> will be be signing the large posters that around the city? how will t that work wax there will be some eddie all heads. >> thank you. [applause] c-span now is a free mobile app featuring your unfiltered view of what's happening in washington live and on demand. keep up with today's biggest events with live streams of floor proceedings and hearings from the u.s. congress, white house events, the courts, campaigns and more from the world of politics all at your fingertips. you can stay current with the latest episodes of "washington
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