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tv   Lectures in History Martin Luther King Robert Kennedy Civil Rights  CSPAN  January 16, 2023 8:00am-9:16am EST

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longtime the civil rights attorney fred gray whose clients included martin luther king jr., rosa parks and other participants of the mid 199 50s montgomery bus boycott, recalls his early career in alabama and the fight for racial equality. mark up degrove offers a reassessment of jfk's presidency as he confronted domestic and foreign challenges. and actors portray dell gates to the second virginia convention of march 1775 at its original location, st. johns church in richmond, virginia, leading to patrick henry's famous words, "give me liberty or give me death." you can find a full schedule of what's airing today online at starting now, it's lectures in histor university of south carolina professor patricia sullivan teaches a cla about the 1960s civil rights movement and thenvolvement of martin
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luther king jr. and robert kennedy. .. we are concerned with getting the things we want, the things we have to have to be able to function. >> by 1967 the freedom movement was changing force. >> across the nation black men and women circle for control of their lives.
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through the ballot box, on the street, in the the call for power challenge seven relationship between blacks and whites in america. >> okay, so that's just a little review of where we were last week with the documentary from eyes on the prize, looking at black power, stokely carmichael provides a really great introduction. and what purpose the black vote is coming out folds into this part, fold in the civil rights movement at this stage. so the years after the passage of thes civil rights act, voting rights act as demonstrated in what we've covered so far was a time of racial reckoning comparable to the years after the civil war. civil rights legislation as you know this man legally mandated segregation, our laws in disfranchisement in the south and broaden citizen protection
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rights. black power represented the broad-based struggle of african-americans to define the meaning of freedom in the country were structures racial inequality and injustice remains deeply rooted. so this site, and this is most glaring and northern areas, this sense of racial inequality and n deeper systemic and rooted in history and society. and northern areas by making 60 new half of african-americans lived in northern and western urban areas and cities. as we discussed in class across a term the migration of black americans themselves to cities in the north and west world war i mosey up to the 1950s transform america'sh racial landscape. while many left the south seeking freedom, freedom from the terror and repression of jim crow, they faced widespread discrimination resulting in
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overcrowded segregated neighborhoods with substandard housing, inferior schools and limited job opportunities. for many there was a feeling of no way out. now, in this light as you recall when we are doing the early 60s we read an article by gertrude to samuels a freelae reporter who visited five cities in 1963 in the spring of 1863, and described as a type of her piece said a report on the forms of negro revolution is taking as discrimination, economic and social in the north, and this was even more crucial in the south at the stage. and the two images, one shows a parent and children protesting gaoutside the school committee n boston i i can't segregate scs in 1963, and the other is in harlem confrontation between police and a man in 1964 around the harlem race, racial uprising
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after the shooting of james powell. so let's's see. the 1964 civil rights act and voting rights act did little to affect these conditions. for a minority of african-americans who wereta prepared to take advantage of the opportunities created by civil rights legislation, they could achieve significant advances even as racial prejudices persisted. but for the many trapped by generations of poverty and substandard education, conditions did not change. martin luther king, again we read this piece earlier on, in an op-ed on january 1, 1966 in the amsterdam news, and you see it appear, the excerpt with all the struggle and achievement the seeds the seeds of freedom have grown only a bud, not yet a flower. the black american is still far from equal. he is straitjacketed in the least skilled most underpaid
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strata of our society. to put it succinctly, the negro in america iss an impoverished alien in an affluent society. now,ti realizing that the civil rights legislation would do little to remedy these conditions, ete cetera in demand for change and energize the movement for black compartment. the question conditions in urban areas and routine policing abuses along with the hope started by the civil rights movement created explosive conditions. robert kennedy was elected to the senate and entered the senate in early in 1965 described a crisis as he called quote unparalleled in our history. so aligning with the black power movement, which we've looked at in some detail, was assisting struggle to compel white americans to face the consequences of the nation's racial past, and realize the opportunities the civil rights
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movement to ban bend the con a new direction. kennedy and king each offered a unique kind of leadership in this regard. both were shaped by their expenses to take care of the civil rights movement and the grasp of the depth and nature of a crisis that would determine the country's future. so today we're going to look at these tumultuous years between 1965-1968, largely throughgh the evolution actions of king and can be. both men iconic figures in the aftermath of theirir assassinations, often obscuring the challenges and struggles of their final years which would deeply intertwined with the racial reckoning fostered by the civil rights movement. these years were marked by escalation of america's war in vietnam at successive summers of urban rebellion sparked by police brutality and terrible conditions. so as the reading for today demonstrated, there is no clear
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path forward. and that's sort of evident in i the title comes the question for you all, i title for the chapter you read, i martin luther king, do youle remember what is the title of that chapter? anybody? oh, yeah, just sent himo chaos. okay descent into chaos. okay chaos right when we look back at history. we see things as evolving but really it's it's so much is happening and ralph ellison the noted writer the invisible man made this comment right around the same time. this king was wrote his column. we are living in a time of chaos within the total political structure. we do not have the political structures that can contain the energies set loose by the passage of the civil rights bills. so that's again black expectations and also white reactions white backlash as a movement expands and it's
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demands and expectations. so the watts rebellion in august of 65 again, which we've mentioned, but that is a pivotal turning point in american history and in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. it was a turning point for both king and kennedy. as you may recall it lasted for six days covered 45 miles of los angeles and beyond surveys estimated that at least 30,000 people participated 34 people were killed in 25 of whom were african-american and more than 1,000 injured and 4,000 arrested. now king who at this point was planning a campaign to challenge surrogation in the north to take sclc to northern city and apply what they learned in the south to conditions there. he flew immediately to los angeles. and he walked the streets of watts the watts community. he met with patrick community meetings and heard the grievance
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of people and the abuses they suffered from police as well as lack of city services and and litany of things and he was overwhelmed by what he saw and what he heard. in a stormy meeting with city officials the police chief william parker lectured king that violence was to be expected quote when you keep telling people they are unfairly treated and teach them to disrespect the law. a shaken king told reporters after that meeting. to treat this situation as though it was some a result of some criminal element is to lead the community into a potential holocaust. early at 66 again as you read in adam fair class book king took sclc to chicago where he would attempt to employ the tactics of non-violent direct action in a campaign targeting poor segregated housing conditions. and what was called a campaign
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to end slums. he hope this would enable black americans to channel their anger and frustration into collective action aimed at securing change and improving conditions. so another question from from that particular chapter. so what happened was the campaign a success. what was some of the challenges that king faced in chicago page? he was basically forced to kind of reassess this basic assumptions about american society because it wasn't a success for him because whites basically controlled and profited from these slums and you know, he basically said, you know, there's something seriously wrong with capitalism and you know a society without slums poverty or unemployment a society of free health care for all and a society dedicated to peace but whites were not ready for deep radical change,
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basically. okay, so just the general opinion liberals in chicago weren't supportive of this efforts, right? i mean mayor daley was a much more wiley customer than the people they dealt with in the south. african-americans were pretty cynical about using these techniques when the challenges are so great. and he said he faced a kind of violence that he hadn't seen before. yeah, wasn't he trying to get married daily not reelected. well, he thought maybe you know the pressure if daily did not come through but of course my daily was reelected and he had significant black support, you know, people are tied into political patronage. so but as you said page he made him confront really reassess his understanding of race in america and and this depth of the structures of racism in these cities and what it would take to actually create change. at a time when the pressures were really high again in the
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wake of watts and the sense of that these tensions would continue to explode unless some change was secured. so it was during this time and in this image, actually, he's stoned during a march and his age are trying to protect him during that and here he is giving a talk in chicago. so chicago was a celebrant experience. he was there into the summer. and during this time in june as we discussed he goes to mississippi to join. strictly carmichael for nikisic and other activists who pick up after james meredith was shot of with this march against fear to mississippi, and i think it's just good to remember the kind of relationship king developed with stokely carmichael and cleve sellers who told us that about that when he came to class on thursday during this march march relaxing was how how just glad he was to be going through
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mississippi being greeted by, you know, african-americans in these rural communities and and even though this was the the the mart where because of please harassment and being evicted from the school where they set up their camp overnight and all kinds of problems with the police carmichael had been arrested for several hours and he came out of that went to a major rallying greenwood and issued a call for black power and you know, that is but we've talked about that but it's um, it represented approach that had stick had been using, you know, black empowerment for a number of years, but it's really captured the attention of the nation and and got a real reaction. and what was king's view of i mean do you recall from that account kings response to black power? anybody claire are you talking about very importantly talked about in the cleveland salaries
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book either cleveland's house book is stokely karma time. i remember in that book. sellers mentioned that he was talking to him like presenting these ideas and he was basically saying how i get my work you have been sitting at like it could be an option, but it's not necessarily like okay. yeah, i mean he was open to it. right and i think yes. yeah. haley in the stokely carmichael account. i remember that he had a quote from king that said like people who have power don't speak of their power. so he just was saying that like the movement should speak for itself. they don't have to call it power. okay, okay, but really good points. and so, you know, it's just a question of tactics, right and and it also king felt that the reaction of white liberals to that and to the press and he was correct. i mean people reacted in a that that means what that's kind of racism. that means separatism and all these alarming things.
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whereas you saw what carmichael said at the beginning of their clip what it meant. it was about organizing the community black empowerment and even king, you know, so king after that march he'd be constantly reporters would ask him what he thought about black power. he never dismissed it, right he changed the conversation and at one point he said i'm going to get this quote, correct. oh, let's see. yes, he said. he turned the question around and he would answer by pointing to the poverty and injustice that endured in america and and the need for a militant thrust forward. so he's talking about militancy something more militant has to happen and you know what you call it to him again, that could be a distraction and the press really harped on that and of course that was a story about the march against fear, which one is about much more than that
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voter registration the harassment they experience and again the kind of camaraderie between the various representatives of the movement. so robert kennedy who i mentioned he took his cd of an attorney general under his brother and stayed into august at 64. then he ran for the center from new york and enter the senate in in january of 1965 and he begins to move on a parallel path with king during these years now as attorney general and jfk's administration. he was shocked to witness the depths of the poverty and rachel segregation in urban areas outside of the south. and he was influenced by james baldwin's essay in the new yorker in november of 1962 that ended up providing the basis for the fire next time. kennedy spoke in this very room in the spring of 1963 when he came to, south carolina. and focusing talking to southerners white southerners.
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he focusing on the consequences of racial discrimination. he emphasized the north as well as the south right usc wasn't the surrogated yet. so he's telling people we've got to move, you know, these things have to happen boating rights, but that this problem is not just southern it's national and then he said time is running out fast for this country. okay. so here's a sense again of that this it's so deep so wide and that white america is so really ignorant of our history and of the need to really move forward on all fronts. now in the aftermath of watts kennedy pushed back on the call for law and order which was the dominant response across the political spectrum from democrats republicans. he said there is no point in telling -- to obey the law. to many -- the law is the enemy. in harlem bedford stuyvesant, it has almost always been used against him. and he would elaborate on this
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point and speeches before white groups. noting that he was not only talking about the police. he said the law did not protect african-americans from unscrupulous landlords substandard living conditions and merchants who cheated black customers. quote we have a long way to go before the law means the same thing to a black man as it does to us. kennedy went to watts with his aid peter edelman just a two of them. they were in la he said to peter let's go to watts. they jumped into taxi and they rode to the center of watts and walked around saw peter said it was like seeing a burned out area a war-torn area in your own country. i mean, it's the record was throughout and they talked to people and ask them about their lives and what and the really the every almost everyone talked about. no jobs low paying jobs, you know that that condition persisted no changes after after
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watts. he began supporting a group that was founded in the aftermath of the rebellion. the watford is brought watts right as workshop, which was created for young residents of watts and became a major part of the black arts movement. kennedy supported sent money visited with them and even campaign there when he was running for president in 68, so he's connecting with these forces that are helping to build up these communities and supporting young a young black people now when he was created about black power, get my thing. he in the way for the meredith march he said well you can interpret black power in many ways. and it could raise he said tactical concerns because he felt that the future of the country depended on black and white people working together. but he said he prays the march the march against fear for
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demonstrating that black citizens would keep up their efforts. for full equality and until they establish full equality and he himself embraced black self-determination and community empowerment which was evident and in the bedford stuyvesant project, which was an innovative redevelopment project. that was run by people in the community. they'd raised money from the federal government philanthropy businesses and people in the community would develop plants for renovating homes. education programs job training and the rest but what's particularly interesting is that kennedy had been a south africa a very famous trip to south africa in june of 60 six when he was invited by antipartheid student group and remarkable trip where he makes these comparisons between america and south africa and the struggles that both countries have to overcome. ah, and so what he was most
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concerned when this conversation about black power would come up was about whites. you know, white what do white people thinking and and white attitudes white ignorant he talked about the ghetto of our ignorant and backlash, you know this kind of supporting politicians who play on those fears and resentments and so there was a cover story and look here. he is in bedside. just put that up there because i mentioned that that picture but this article suppose god is black. front page on life magazine where the popular magazines like people magazine today. suppose god is black by robert kennedy and then you went inside the magazine and he was writing about his trip to south africa and this exchange he had with an africana who justified apartheid talking about the bible and this is what he said, but suppose god is black. what if we go to heaven and we all alive so treated the -- and inferior and god is there and we look up and he's not white. what is our response then?
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okay, and that sort of comment in the summer of black power provided a different angle of vision? third successive wave of urban uprisings raising from a ranging from omaha, nebraska, des moines, iowa to chicago cleveland, brooklyn, troy new york and a number of other. above the cities president johnson had been mostly silent about the se uprisings and the crisis behind them and was increasingly obsessed with the war in vietnam. during his during 1966 his administration doubled the budget the projected budget for military aid by 10 billion dollars. that's five times. what administration spent on anti-poverty programs right here. and of course johnson's more on poverty began with high hopes. um spoke out when pressed he was
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giving a speech on vietnam and reporters. wanted to know what do you think about what's going on? and he says this -- riots threatened to jeopardize civil rights gains, okay. and response onto whether black power or riots will create new antagonisms among white. look at what he says. i'd like you to read that and tell me what you think about that. what is he saying? you must recognize that while there's a -- minority of 10% in this country. there's a majority of 90% that is not --. whites have come iraq whites have come around to the viewpoint of wanting to see equality and justice given to their fellow citizens. but they want to see it done under a law under law and in an orderly manner what? does suggest he understands it doesn't understand at this point after you see where we've come by 19. if anybody how is it different?
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from king and kennedy's assessment of um, it really seems a lot like the the sort of old way of thinking of like, oh, it's a privilege that you get to like have these things like equality and good schools and etc now whenever it's supposed to be the opposite of that of like no you deserve this because you're a human not just because you know why people decided one day to like think that you deserved something and that's really seems a lot like the the old mindset of that which is disturbing it will take yeah, right. he's also directly contrasting what kennedy said about how we need to move away from law and order as a solution and he's saying this is exactly what we need law without violence and totally undermining the entire civil rights movement. anybody else act? he's showing that he doesn't
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understand american poverty and in that he's articulating this vision of legal integration and legal equality and saying that we've done it you have rights. let's stop we're done, you know, he's ending the war he's declaring, you know that it's over. so he's illuminating his own his lack of understanding being that he'd never been to these communities of poverty and that he's articulating a vision of of you know, a stratified legislative. you know victory over oppression. okay. is this surprising? lee johnson simon civil rights legislation the voting rights act. but again he saw that yes ritual almost wonder if there's no layer of like political self-interest here right that he wants to like in his analysis if the law was the only barrier to true social equality like and he fixed the law then he fixed racism basically and he can claim credit for that whereas if he extends his analysis right like he has to reckon with the fact he didn't do enough.
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or he could right one person. that's very well put as well. i mean this measuring look look at what i've done and that's what said after the what's uprising so after i've done after all i've done look at this and the disconnect between law that opens it up and then the reality of how do you actually enact this and deal with the generations of exclusion in the consequences? so that that's going to play out as we continue on this is johnson's point of view. he's the president and you have people like king and kennedy very high profile powerful people really pushing in another direction during this period and interestingly again the summer of '66 this changes as things escalate but in the summer of 66 major newspapers place blame on the johnson administration. thomas foley the washington post noted that a third summer of riots shows at the bargain basement penny pinching approach does not work. the new york times editorialized
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that the johnson administration chocolate programs would set the targets far too low it is not the riots in the slums, but these lame and inadequate programs that are really the real disgrace of richest nation on earth. foley cautioned and i think this is really present as the riots flare from city to city the bitterness becomes more deep-seated leading to a breakdown in communication between the races then political action becomes impossible. so that notion ellison had we build the political structures, right and it's part of recognizing this not pushing it away. um later that summer 66 and 66 is really a rich year where things are pretty fluid and there seems like there's some possibility the senate government operations committee held a remarkable series of highly publicized hearings on crisis in american cities. kennedy robert kennedy sat on the committee and worked very
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closely with the chairman abercroft of connecticut in organizing the testimonies close to a hundred witnesses testified over six week long period the new york times compared to a six week long seminar. witnesses included civil rights leaders city planners labor leaders housing experts foundation officials police officers mayors clergy government officials and others. the hearings covered a wide range of subjects, but kennedy and robocop identified the most immediate and pressing problem as the conditions of life for the majority of black americans living in urban areas. kennedy let off as the senator from new york. he he came down from the senate? and sat in the witness chair, and he was the first one to testify. just give me a few highlights. he really laid everything out. he talked about the root causes
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of the urban crisis starting with federal policies around highway construction and housing. and the insurance system of segregation and discrimination that had that had grown up over generations and the consequences endemic poverty. and rampant unemployment and these are some of the things he pointed out one third to a half of get our residents live in poverty that was left off. 43% of housing was substandard education was segregated unequal and inadequate with a high school dropout rate as high as 70% and infant mortality two times the national average and this is his vision we need he insisted that we needed more than poverty programs housing programs and employment programs though. we needed all of them. we will need an outpouring of imagination ingenuity discipline and hard work. and again community action black empowerment. as any insisted communities must
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play a central role in developing and implementing programs people acting on matters of mutual concern with the power and resources to affect the conditions of their own lives. so during the course of the hearings. he they would have mayors testified they had sam you already from la who was just unrepentant. and they had the mayor of cleveland where there had been a major uprising that summer and the mayor comes in. he starts saying well communists are behind this and criminal elements are behind this and kennedy has all the reports from cleveland on housing on unemployment on schools any chapter and verse he describes to the mayor mayor the conditioned in his city. and the mayor said well i guess. we don't we have you know, we don't need communists. they're not the cause. i mean he just sort of backed up it just put the information before him. but at the same time he's
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putting the information before the country. so these hearings are really and what's surprising to me as a historian. little is known about these. i mean, they're volumes and the current commission report goes over this territory in about two years down the road, but they are really putting forward the crisis the problem defining what needs to be done and showing the tremendous limitations of the poverty programs that are not integrated. they're not holistic. they're just you know, not enough and not well coordinated. the last person to testify in the last hearing was in december. with martin luther king and and it really to see king and kennedy, you know in in conversation in this hearing room at the end of six weeks of these these remarkable exploration of of the issues and the problems kennedy. i mean king described his time in chicago. and said, it was the first time he had experienced.
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the grinding poverty exploitation and despair that prevailed an urban neighborhoods king and his family moved into the west side of chicago and lived like a member of the community and really felt that there was it an uprising that summer while they were there so he really felt it in a way that that just accelerated his efforts he he observed again and king on vietnam. he sort of he's he's spoken out. he's pushing for negotiations, but he's careful not to take the attention off of the issue of racial equality and the problems the many problems they're facing but in this hearing he observed that the johnson administration spent liberally on a war in vietnam where american security was not at stake. and he questioned the wisdom of a conflict justified by vague commitments to a reactionary regime. and this is a famous quote from king the bombs of vietnam exploded home destroying the
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hopes and possibilities of decent americans. meanwhile, he said the war on poverty. with scarcely a skirmish at no time has a total court total coordinated and fully adequate program been conceived. kennedy asking and is an interesting back and forth between the two of them, but he asked him what he thought. the extent of poverty and alienation was understood outside of ghetto areas to what extent that people really understand that. not at all sid king. the problem as you know, he told kennedy is that ghetto dwellers are often invisible thoughts are known words unheard feelings unfelt. kennedy conceded that lack of understanding of the bitter conditions that existed in these urban communities was deeply troubling and expressed deep concern to where this combination of factors would lead the united states. riots king famously warned in
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the final analysis. turn out to be the language of the unheard. so we're coming to the end of 66. and again, the chronology here is important and i'm not going to go into detail, but during the fall of 66 robert kennedy makes it really important. speech. at uc, berkeley he talks to 15 more than 15,000 students crowded outside in the greek theater, and i think what's really interesting about it. the anti-war movement is full steam ahead students and it's very mostly white students are really involved in anti-world movement. what is he say in that speech that any of you that that struck you as where his focus is and what he wants the students to pay attention to anybody when is this? yeah. hey just just one of like his final quotes kind of got me is um, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to help make the choices that will determine the greatness of the nation.
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okay, so i think that you know, he's really speaking to these students about what's going on and you know majority white students who, you know have an opportunity to create change and make change, but they have to make that choice for themselves. but no that's a real thing. i mean he talked he talked a lot to college audiences because he really looked to young people and it's true as a future, you know, hopeful and especially young people who have the opportunity for college education. you know, and there was a since then that you owe, you know you oh you need to use that to really help imagine a way forward and work collaboratively to do that. so that's an important point and one of the things it's a long speech that really stood out to me again underscoring what? he said what we we came here to talk about the most important thing facing us and you students. is the revolution within our gates the challenge we have
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gathered here to consider the struggle of the -- american to full equality and full freedom the revolution within our gates. i mean kennedy's opposed to the war. he supportive of challenges. he's working in the senate but this is and of course we here today and we're looking at all the things that carry through from this period that continue effect this year to where he speaks about, you know, give every -- the same opportunity as every white man to educate his children provide for his family live in a decent home and win human acceptance, and i think that that is really like was a really key for me. he's educating them. you know, these students haven't been to community a poor community probably maybe some but doubtful, you know, so he's trying to open their eyes get them concerned and and really give them an understanding of what the challenges are not just for you know for the country for the future direction of the country.
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okay. all right. now by 67, so we're shifting into 67 and things really i mean chaos is a word i mean things feel like they're coming apart the war lyndon johnson has close to 400,000 grand troops in vietnam. the anti-war movement is growing exponentially and broadening out against the majority of americans still support the war right countries at war but there's a very active vocal and growing anti-war movement. and racial disturbance at summer would break out in more than 150 cities. the nation really seemed to be coming apart at the seams. now king as i mentioned had voice concerns about vietnam. as soon as the bombing began and lyndon johnson americanized a war and he sent ground troops and began a bombing campaign that really pulled us into the war. fully and so king called the
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negotiations, but again, he was hesitant because again speaking out against the war but you know, it just distracts from the issue the main issue you're concerned about but it really it stuck with them snick in january of 1966 as after one of their try with jimmy jackson. i think jimmy lee jackson. no. birthday sammy young sammy young was a veteran and a navy veteran sneak organizer was shot and killed at a gas station when he tried to use a white. restroom which again was illegal the civil rights act outlaw that so with that sneak finally came out and wrote a statement against warren vietnam opposing the war in vietnam saying they would support people who chose not to go to vietnam and as a result of that julian julian bond was not seated. he was elected to the state legislature at georgia. remember nick they refused to see them. so this is the reaction right? king leaves the protest about
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bonds failure to be seated, but he still you know, but by 60 70s ready and one of the things that again the war is escalating, but he sees a magazine ramparts magazine. early in 67 which has a photo essay on the children of vietnam. and it describes over a million deaths. over 1 million deaths and casualties, wounding, crippling of children with images of people napalm, children, and nsa talking about the tools of war that america is using, gases, bombing, defoliants and this really shakes him up. he has to speak out. and he joins a march in chicago but as they coming out is in new york city and the speech he gives at riverside church, pointing at the wrong thing, and it's called beyond vietnam, a
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time to break the silence. this is one of the strongest public statements made against the war by a figure of the stature. he spoke for nearly an hour, and i urge you to read the speech.ut it's really a powerful, well thought out analysis of the war and its impact on america and on of course vietnam. he talked about his own evolution from seeing the war as an enemy of the poor by taking all the resources to appoint an assessment of the wars horrific impact on all parts of vietnam. king concluded he could v not raise his voice against violence in theut ghettos without havingo first spoken clearly about the greatest purveyor of violence today, my own government.o it was america's initiative to take responsibility to take the initiative to end the war and urges the johnson administration to begin the cessation of all bombing to open the way to
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negotiation. the speech was a powerful appeal to end the war, but also to face the deep and malady within the american spirit, spirit, seen in inequities and injustices in the society i continue to spend more money on military defense that upon social uplift. the reaction was predictable. life magazine described as demagogic slander that could've been written by radio hanoi. from this government. "washington post" said king had diminished his usefulness to his cause his country and its people. they compartmentalized, this is your civil rights, this is something king is holistic, right? it's impacting the country andnd what's happening in vietnam is the shame of america. and at this point, so king was not deterred. he feltt he knew he suspected there would be this kind of reaction but he felt somewhat of influence had to say america was wrong.he i have become so disgusted, he
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said, and withop the american people are being brainwashed by this administration. now -- people are moving around different ways. robert kennedy, poverty is in his sight and is on the committee chaired by joe clark of pennsylvania where they're really doing a a deep dive into poverty, having hearings and starting to go into the field to see, get on the ground, sooth going on and find out what people n need, and this is marin wright. man rightly been a leader of the sit in movement in spellman and now had gone to law school and was back to mississippi was he only had three black lawyers. so she became the fourth. the first black woman was clark in mississippi and she testified before clark's committee and says the conditions were worse y in mississippi than they were three years ago when the war on poverty begin. its result of the culmination
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things, landowners pushing blacks off the land, making it difficult for them to get access to food stamps and all the rest. it it's a crisis. they decide to go to mississippi and see for themselves and they have hearings in jackson, and this is daniel hamer, okay, fannie lou hamer, leaders described the conditions, they describe the chums around the historic program which they built up in which the state is taking over with white business leaders and moderates with the support of the johnson administration. so after hearing this he decides i want to go see. so he goes with marian wright and amc more, remember was bob moses media contact in mississippi and he just goes and seas. and he's just flabbergasted by the poverty, just floored by what he sees. here they are in a shack, windowless shack, children with bloated stomachs from malnutrition and sores, and he
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was shocked, and he goes back to washington more determined to shake the johnson administration, go to the secretary of agriculture and says you need to get food down there, unico food commodities, and stop charging people for food stamps. if they have no money they can spend eight dollars to get food stamps for the family. the guy didn't believe him so he said okay, send your agent and pick the aides who down, he's right, it's true, it's terrible. so he squeezes out of agriculture department, and they continue to go around and he developed a close relationship with marian wright who ends up marrying peter edelman. that's people with king, but the summer of 67 which is known as the summer of love for the counterculture is a long hot summer in american cities. the harvest of american racism which was a report based on
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research of 23 of the affected cities that had uprisings that summer concluded that the most salient feature of the disorder was a former generalized rebellion on the part of certain sectors of the negro community against white control of black areas. in newark, the worst were in newark and in detroit. in newark, there were five dates of street battles which approached the scale of watts. meany many died in the vallf police gunfire, six people killed when please find indiscriminate into the crowds. including a 74-year-old man who was walking to get his car and a mother who camedr out to find hr children. so it's chaos, right? chaos. at the end, 26 people were were dead, mostly african-american, and more than 700 injured. less than a week later was detroit. exploded into what was called
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the largest urban disturbance of the 20th century. as a contest in newark in terms of city leadership and political representation, detroit had to like african-american congressman. they had a significantly blackt middle class and again they still have people in poverty, and the police, they had a very progressive mayor but he could not bring the police in. and what sparked this was those in after-hours bar and they were celebrating the return of two veterans from the vietnam war, and the police raided that, arrested a bunch of people. that's got things going and just escalated and went on for four days, and the police, first, it grew beyond the control of the police. governor romney sent an 8000 national guard, and in one of the cases the national guard met a flash from a window with a
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gunshot, and they shot a four-year-old girl. the flash was somebody lighting a cigarette. so, i mean, yet, this is playing out. at the president's request, at the governors request the president sent in the 89th and 101st airborne division along with tanks, machine guns and helicopters. many of the troops had recently returned from vietnam and one of the soldiers was asked about his mood heading to detroit, he said well, they say war. and at the end, 43 people were left dead, 33 of whom are african-american, more than 20,002,000 injured and 5000 arrests. investigations afterward revealed some officers of the national guard acted out of the desire for vengeance. police would take other badges, nament badges so they couldn't e identified. there was sniper fire from the
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motel. they're winning to the motel, the executed three boys on their knees, not threatening them. one of the officers was tried for murder and he was acquitted. and there were four more reports of police shootings and national guard shootings. this was a crisis. this was on the tv, the fifth largest city in the country, and this is what people saw when they turned her tv on. and the reporting, again, david brinkley since sunday morning mobs of angry negroes have polarized that paralyzed the city. military metaphors were used to cover the crisis, and reinforce the dominant white opinion of black carbon urban commus dangers, violence and crime infested. not seeing beneath the surface or how this all plays out. the press gave get attention to it like conditions that fueled these pitched urban battles, but
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it did set office, , for politil advantage. the republicans started getting on johnson say you haven't done enough to protect people on the street. and governor ronald reagan got into the action. now possible candidate for president and branded the racial strife in detroit and elsewhere as rights of lawbreakers and mad dogs against the people. president johnson went on television and delivered an address on o july 27 announcing that he had created a commission to investigate the causes of the riot and make recommendations. he denounced the looting, arson, plunder and pillage, and the criminals who committed these acts of violence against the people. hega said the fbi would continue to investigate for evidence of conspiracy. he's dressed important for law enforcement at all levels to be prepared to stop violence quickly and permanently, and announced that the defense department withh setting up new
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training standards for riot control. and then he a acknowledged as if just giving lip service to the fact that to attack the conditions that stirred violence, that he was committed to that and he praises administration for doing the greatest government effort ever in allme of american history to meet these ancient wrongs, starting to sound like a president we know. pat himself on the back, you know, and again no mention of expanding the war on poverty, really action to begin to deal with those conditions that he obacknowledged were at the rootf these problems. okay. and then he said let us pray, at the end, and closing. let us work for better jobs and housing a better education that so many millions of fellow americans need tonight. robert kennedy was watching the speech, and he explained with
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evidence and exasperation n that centcomyt he's done. he stopped going to do anything for the cities. frank mankiewicz who was with kennedy that night so what would you do if you were president?ma he said he would persuade the major tv networks, three of them, to cooperate in producing a documentary, again showing people, depicting life in a poor black urban community. let them show the sound, the feel, the hopelessness what it's like to think you will never get out. show a blackck teenager told by radio jingle to stay in school, looking at his older brother who stayed in school and is out of job. put a candid camera in a ghetto school and watch what a rotten system of education it really is. film a mother staying at that night to protect her baby from rats. they are not asking people to watch and experience what it means to live in the most affluent societyso in history without hope.
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he later reflected that the terribleiots and the feeling bobby had that night as he watched johnson had shifted the senators thinking about running for president. kennedy described this turmoil as as a gravest crisis in domestic affairs since the civil war. chris king was despairing. he told a meeting at the american psychological society that it is impossible to toverestimate the crisis we are facing. said it is time to tell it like it is to white he testified between the commission set up by johnson after detroit riots and he said the greater crimes of a white society with a real cause of the uprisings, he testified. the "politico" racial discrimination and the vietnam
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war. at this confetti declared he and his organization were very, very definitely opposed lbjle in 1968 unless he changed his stance on theng war. king fought off despair. told his wife, i think you read this in adams book of the people expected him to have answers, and he had none. but he would try and do what he could do to try to figure out a way to mobilize people and help them move ahead and channel the frustration and energy that's in despair that so many people were feeling. so he focused initially, he and his top aides focus on plans the summer of 68 to work in northern cities and build massive nonviolent demonstrations as a way to channel, again, the frustration, anger and boycott schools, picket outside plants
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gates comego protest local state and the look of it, just really have targets and just get people to follow that energy and draw attention. and during this time, interesting, sort of connection between kennedy and king is that marian wright was advisor to dre friends with robert kennedy threw e her boyfriend peter edelman and so she went to visit king on a way to atlanta say, i mean, visit kennedy on a way to atlanta to seeking. so they started talking and he said i was dr. king? well, he's just full of the despair, just what to do, things are just a boil. i mean, exploding. and he said, well, he said, i think all the poor people to washington, stay there and tell congress does something, and bears them, just force the
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issue, and so she went taking, king was planning to do something but she went, left his house, went to meet with them, the sclc was planning next summers campaign can change with the idea so they became planning what begin the poor people's campaign focused on washington. and i was going to ask you, i know we running for exam does anyone want to describe the poor people's campaign, with the goal was? what was a strategy? i think, i sort of laid it out but bringing people, shanties, anything to just camp out in view of the white house and congress and have civil disobedience if necessary, really, and what adam fare classes, what king is virtually proposing this new political movement rum scratch. so he begins organizing for
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that, and i i'm not going to get into it but i just want to mention to you, like i said, reminder, orangeburg happens m during this early 68 as things are moving towards this culmination, and that is emblematic about how people have manipulating fear black power for police crackdowns and false arrest and the rest. but the early months of 68 of king and can you would move forward in what would be their final campaign. kennedy, a series of developments early in 68, now, kennedy is thinking about it because he is worried about then cities, not the war but a series of developments early and 68 persuaded him to run and that he could run an actual have a chance of winning. one was the tet offensive which expose a total bankruptcy of johnson's policy in vietnam and really shifted public opinion come out against america's involvement in the war.
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and that doesn't mean you're anti-, but that's the way it was against the policy. it was that end in the kerner commission report the ship kerner commission report which was done in document, int mean,i it's findings after two conclusions a kenyan kennedy had come to several years earlier and which were defined as a riverr club committee, the repot document the consequent to segregation and discrimination the long permeated american life and was a a stinging indictmentf white america. call for nothing less than a complete reordering of national priorities. unless drastic and cost remedies are undertaken at once, reportai said, there would be continuing polarization of the american community and ultimately a a distraction of democratic values. presidentre johnson disagreed wh the report and refused to accept it. he would let them come into the public son. he felt betrayed by the people who wrote it. he presented that the report failed to acknowledge, and the coast to your point, rachel,
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what his administration have achieved. i can't ignore the progress we've made to rightly wy on our book of laws. they are still stuck in that four years earlier, and he just not come at the same time he asked congress for 50,000 more troops in vietnam. so as you know from reading the chapter for today, king made his first trip to memphis on march march 18, 1968, to, to support striking sanitation workers who were seeking union recognition and a wage increase, and two days earlier robert kennedy announced he is running for president. this is king. i mean, that was one of the placards that the workers carried in memphis. he was 42 years old, kennedy was, and he said i run because i'm convinced this country is on the perils force and after strong feelings after what must be done at if you i'm obliged to
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do all that i can, i run to seek new policies in the budget in vietnam and in our cities. i've run because it is not unmistakable, unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous policies only by changing the men who are now making them. a in his brief statement he acknowledged the challenges ahead which no one could be certain in immortal can meet. that service in his brothers administration, he says, pot me something about the uses and limits of military power, as a cabinet member and sanded or he had seen quote the ugly and inexcusable deprivation that cause children to starve in mississippi, black citizens to riot write in watts, young i american indians who committed suicide because the lack hope and sauna future, and proud able-bodied families wait out the lights in empty idleness in eastern. kentucky in appalachia. ..le are not
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ordinary times and this is no ordinary election. two weeks later martin luther king would deliver were turned out to be his final speech in memphis. he had traveled a long distance from the 27 year old minister. we met in clark johnson's brilliant. >> so johnson's docudrama on boycott. you think about that. so, quickly, anything strike you about the tone of that speech and maybe connections with the earlier king or growth, anybody? >> sort of dismantling for challenging aspects of capitalism is the underbelly to his tone, right? and strengthening and supporting of black institutions. i think that takes sort of a position more in the front of his discourse than it had previously before it had been
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more about sort of political aspirations, movements, nonviolence, et cetera, but now the specific target is sort of the dangers of capitalism and how they fuel division, right? and so to not support certain businesses and rather turn to your black businesses, strengthen those institutions so you see a little bit more of a sort of-- i'm trying to be careful how i say this not necessarily black-powered about you more towards of tone of supporting black communities. a closer along the lines of what the black power movement was pushing to do. >> okay, yeah, good. and that's why the sanitation workers, we have to have unity and keep it into your sights and keep moving. there's a litany about life and glad he was born at this point
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and living now and you wonder what he says, i've been to the mountain top and i may not get there with you and this prescient. and when he saw boycott, he knew that his life was in danger and he was living in a way that he was exposed. and at this speech, the fact of what happens the next day it's valedictorian and in a way it's hopeful, people are struggling all over the world and it's a struggle and feels like he's coming to a place where he's feeling satisfied-- well, hopeful and balls of the experience of the movement ap the people, in memphis and the community rallying around these sanitation workers. but as you know, the next day he's killed on the balcony of his lorraine motel on the way to go to dinner and james earl ray was arrested two months later.
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i mean, he stayed -- so, that night, that day, we're almost to the end. so we've got a lead story. robert kennedy was running in indiana in the primary and he was flying from indianapolis, john lewis, great civil rights leader, working in his campaign and setting up a rally for kennedy in the african-american community in indianapolis. so, kennedy gets on the plane in munsey, he hears and he gets on the plane he hears that gets shot and when he lands in indianapolis he's heard that he's died and a reporter was there and i had is a he was immobile and he just sat with his hands in his head-- head in his hands and he gets off the plane and police, the mayor says-- the policeman says you can't go over there, it's dangerous. he said maybe for you. i could go with my wife and children and sleep in the
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streets, i'd be fine. if you can't do that, that's your problem. i'm going, i don't want any police with me so he goes to the park and to the hotel and people are waiting and it's hard for students to understand this is that without cell phones and all that, people didn't know. i mean, i don't know what time king was pronounced dead, but this was 9:00, he gets to this park and it's dark, people playing music and people dancing, and most people did not know. so he told them. and there's a clip. we doesn't have time to play it, but go on google, five minutes long, this extemporaneous speech. he tells them what happened and he says, i have some very sad news for all of you, and for all of our fellow citizens, and for all who love peace all over
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the world. martin luther king was shot and killed tonight in memphis, tennessee and he heard gasps coming from the crowd, no, no. john lewis said the sobriety of his tone moves through the crowd like a wave with his voice close to breaking and spoke simply, honestly and extemporaneously and he said he died in the cause of that effort. and in this difficult day, in this difficult time for the united states it's perhaps to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. the country can move toward greater polarization, black among black people and white among white filled with hatred towards each other or make an effort as martin luther king did, to replace that violence and bloodshed that spread across the land with an effort to understand with compassion in love. in the course of the speech he mentions, because it appears that a white man killed dr.
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king and if you want to be angry at all white men, you know, that's understandable, but i lost a brother and he was killed by a white man. it's the only time robert kennedy ever mentions his brother's murder or assassination in public, but he felt kind of a-- anyway i urge you to look at the speech and read it and he went on from there. as you know, so he goes on, he stopped campaigning. the next day, he gave -- he canceled all events until king's funeral, but the next day he gave one more talk in the city club of cleveland on the mindless menace of violence and speaks to what happened there and he talks about the violence of schools no books, violence of no heat in the winter and urge you to look at that and then that was it. he went to atlanta ap that was coretta king. he went to see dr. king twice. he was laid out at ebenezer and
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he went in the daytime and at night he asked john lewis to go with him and at 2:00 in the morning and john lewis describes going in and pays respects to king and then he marches with the people from ebenezer to morehouse and it's sort of the next chapter, and many white politicians went now, king was gone, but he was there, and people were glad to see him. and he goes on, he wins indiana primary big thing, he wins in nebraska, he loses in oregon, which is a minor setback, but goes on to california, which is the make or break state and oh, doing the wrong thing. and here, at the workshop hess people and he ran an amazing campaign in california and he won. and as you know, that is
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minutes, a half hour, not even after he's delivered his comments on winning because i was watching a tape of this and trying to go on the air news break, you know, kennedy's been shot and shot and died the next day. and you know, the two of those -- and you know, people say would he have won? he had a very good chance of being nominated. lyndon johnson had dropped out the end of march and his opponent would have been hubert humphrey and mccarthy was weakened at this point, but that was not to be. so i've just got -- you know, the response, after dr. king was killed, cities exploded, carmichael said don't touch king and on the march tried to bring him up and just wanted to and over 100 cities exploded
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over the days after king was assassinated. washington d.c. on a scale of what, and the first time you had military in the capitol protecting the capitol. it was just that -- kennedy he is carried back from new york to washington on a train, to be buried next to his brother and spontaneously people lined the tracks and close to two million people lining the tracks all the way down from new york to washington. so very powerful detours -- departures and people who understood and saw and acted, but how they connected to people in the country at this point moment and really were providing a way, with kennedy's campaign a new kind of politics that would begin to address these issues and dr. king, poverty, and the poverty campaign bridged racial lines and it was getting at ways that people could come together and
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press the country, as ali said, you know, it broken and said we have to change the whole architecture of america and rebuild america. so we don't want to end on a down note because i think one thing to say is that you know, what happens, the war on crime, which johnson had started. he emphasized policing and militarization. police and resources on that and not that and nixon is elected and nixon many mri amplifies that, starts the war on drugs and prison building so this thing takes off and you see people talk about, you know, the rise in incarcerations, traces from the johnson year it starts and goes straight to all of these administrations of appealing to the fears of people and ignoring the conditions that people are living in. you know, you've got to--
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the wire, that's early 21st century and you're looking at the consequences of looking away. but i think, maybe i should ask you while we're wrapping up. looking beyond the tragedy, that's what we get we end with that, there's tragedy, they're gone, but really, how they lived and how they moved this period in history which like this, with a did kennedy say, we are living in a time of chaos, we have two choices, we can face it and work to change things or we can turn away and let it fester and carry on. so, any thoughts about, you know, what the take-away is from the history of not just these two individuals, but this period and how these two individuals in particular moved through it? >> yes. >> the amend thing, even though there were moments of despair and feeling like there were no
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moving forward they continued to move forward and continued to meet with people, and they made that change or made ways for the change. >> yeah, that's right. and you know, the fact that living a life a certain way and knowing that it's, you know, do something. and clearly a ripple of hope and you don't know where it's going, but you participate and you use your privilege of education, you know, of being able to move through and to see things and other ways. and you know, organizing. this notion of community empowerment so all of these lessons are lived in the '60s. i think with these two have been put on -- iconic, and the last thing in the park, the park in -- it's stuck.
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oh, the wrong one. that's in the park where robert kennedy spoke in indianapolis and it's called the peace park and it's, you know, bronze figures of king, kennedy, stretching out towards each other. and one last quote, what he said about both of these and people in the moment said this is it, you know, i mean, james baldwin said we would have had a different world if not for so many assassinations and a tremendous loss of individuals and their capacity. i mean, what they represented and how they were involved in shaping the society at a pivotal moment. and said about them, both are fully aware of the risks they ran and the penalties they faced. the time to work against the current, american moral grain, yet, accepted the risk and paid
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the ultimate price for trying to make a difference in their time and trying to show mankind it's better than it is. we'll leave it at that and have a good weekend and see you next week. [applause]. ♪♪ >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more including charter communication. >> broadband is a force for empowerment, that's why charter has invested billions, building infrastructure. upgrading technology, empowering opportunity in communities big and small. charter is connecting us. >> charter


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