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tv   Author Discussion on The American South and Jim Crow  CSPAN  February 27, 2023 4:39am-5:40am EST

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against because american exceptionalism means that we're the greatest. that's what it means. but we have to really say, are we you? what does it mean to have low self esteem? that's america, right? and to be willing to be vulnerable about narrative. and it's something i constantly am trying to figure out so i can't really answer it because you're right. i went to all these other they're telling the story. they're not pushing back. now, some than others, but they're not pushing the story. and so what does it mean and we know it because we're not scared to tell the holocaust story we're not and but we are scared to tell our own you know, this is the why do we have to always be the saviors, whether it's you know i think about joseph campbell, the hero and the the whole myth about, you know, joseph campbell's work. and that's really in the question is what if cannot be the home of the brave. we will never be the home of the
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free. yeah. on that note, beautifully. thank you both for being here. we'll be at the authors colony. come and see these it is my absolute pleasure to be here with you all today. the southern of books to moderate to be in discussion with. two esteemed authors here and to also be in conversation with you all at the end. my name is brandon byrd. i'm an associate professor of history here at vanderbilt university. more importantly, again, i'm here with our two guests. i will lead by introducing professor amani imani perry,
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born just nine years after the 16th street baptist church bombing. birmingham, alabama dr.. was instilled from an early age with a strong instinct for justice and progressive change. the rich interplay between history, race, law and culture continues to inform her work. as a critically acclaimed author and the hughes rogers professor, african-american studies at princeton university, perry's work reflects beautiful and deeply complex history of thought, art and imagination. it is also informed by her background as a legal historian and to of the racial inequality in american law. her latest book, brilliant book, which we are here to discuss today, an instant new york times bestseller and a finalist for the 2022 national book awards south to america, a journey below mason-dixon to understand the soul of a is an essential odyssey through american south, and the way it defines american
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identity and breathe. the letter to my sons. perry the terror, grace and beauty of coming of age as a black person in contemporary america and. what it means to parent our children in a unjust world. conceived as a letter to her young, this uplifting and often lyrical meditation on living offers compassion. dignity and resilience as a balm to all children facing a world rife racial hatred. the book was a finalist for the 2022 chautauqua prize. excuse me if i'm not pronouncing that correctly and a finalist for the naacp image award for excellence in nonfiction. she is also the author of five other books, including award winning biography looking for the rain, the radiant in radical life or lorraine hansberry, perry's writing has appeared in the new york times atlantic, new york magazine and harper's many other publications. she earned her ph.d. in american from harvard university, a j.d.
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from harvard law school, and lln from georgetown university law center, and a b.a. from york college in literature and american studies along. professor perry, i am pleased to be here in conversation with professor margaret burnham, renowned legal civil rights advocate and former judge margaret burnham is, the founder of northeastern university school of law, civil rights restorative justice project, crt, rj, and author of bye hands, now known jim crow's legal. the other brilliant work that we're here to discuss today through c rj burnham has led teams of law students in investigating acts of racial violence in the jim crow era, including hundreds unsolved murders of black people among, other historical failures of the criminal justice system, the project serves as a resource for scholars and organizers involved in initiatives seeking justice for these crimes, drawing the extensive database of cases
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collected by c, r, rj by hands known a finalist for the kirkus prize and longlisted for the carnegie medal, offers a paradigm shifting of jim crow era violence, the legal apparatus that sustained it and its enduring legacy. in a series of harrowing cases from 1922 1960, the book challenges our understanding of the era by exploring the relationship between formal law and background legal norms from battles over state and federal jurisdiction to the outsized role of local sheriffs in enforcing racial hierarchy. burnham maps the criminal legal justice legal system in the mid-20th century south and traces the unremitting line from slavery to the legal structures. this period and through to today. in her early career burnham represented civil rights and political, including angela davis, and in 1977 she became the first african-american woman to serve in massachusetts judiciary. she was appointed by president
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biden to serve on the civil rights cold case records review board, a national initiative charged with reviewing the records of murders and other acts of racially motivated violence that occurred between 1940 and 1979. burnham, a university distinguished professor of law at northeastern university, where she's been on faculty since 2022. on 22. excuse me. thank. corrected. i. so without further ado for just a bit of applause. please welcome to the service service. so to begin, you know, i a brief introduction of these two works but if you can i would love to hear from both you professor burnham, you professor just you know, in your own words, how would you describe these works,
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you know, and you maybe what the origins of them were what led you to write these books principal arguments that sort of thing just ground up. it would be wonderful. so, first of all, i'm really grateful to be here. grateful for your moderating skills. professor brandon, i've been on a book tour, so it's really great land in nashville where we we're virtually at end of the tour and. i've had a lot of chance to both think about the book and to think about the fundamental questions that folks are asking about the work. the work really began in 2007. that was the year that president bush signed a bill called the emmett till act. the purpose which was to spur investigations of cases, the traditional civil rights that had not been adequately handled, where had been major injustices
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resulting in, for example, the release of the man who killed medgar evers and the release of the man who killed the four girls in birmingham. and the federal government took this on a project. and we thought this something. i was a civil rights worker in mississippi in 1964. and i thought, this is something that we really should explore. it quickly became apparent to us that that federal government was not going to move forward with any kind of robust engagement with this period. and moreover that there was a period of time where the facts were less known and the families had experienced these violent acts of terrorism 1938, 1930 and 1940s had not yet been fully explored. and that's how we got into the project. and the book is a partner with an archive that we've created at our university of 1000 cases as
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of violent homicides from the jim crow era in the south. from 1930 to 1954. all having occurred in the states of the former confederacy. let me just say one other word, which is. in 1964, a horrific lynching took place in franklin county. mississippi. i was in mississippi in 1964, two counties away, two or three counties away from franklin. and it was not until the early 20th, first century that i and my colleagues from snick knew about that lynching. and indeed it was a lynching and it was sad as well. and my ability to help those families that inspired me to spend now 15 years on this project. thank you brandon and thank you
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to so i want to begin by saying that i am so excited to teach brennan's book i think is going to be transformed our understanding of the history of race and with respect to law and also extralegal violence. and so i want to be a fan for a moment. and so a i mean, the the basic sort of premise of the book of my book is that we talk in this country often about south as this place that is somehow other indifferent, an outlier to the nation as opposed to what i think is a more accurate account, which is actually it's the center of the country. it has moved the country about is where the country began and it actually set ways of the country. and that as the sort of ground zero of what the u.s. project
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been, if we want to understand how to get some something closer to being in right relation to the just society to the beloved community, that's actually where you have to situate your attention structurally. it is part memoir, part travelog part history. it's a story. it's a book that is a series of encounters with places and people and i sort of meet people along the way. i have really interesting encounters. i had a really interesting encounter again yesterday that maybe i'll get a chance to talk about and then kind of dig underneath the encounters and tell and at the land write encounters with people encounters with the land and kind of try to tell something of the story. places, i think everywhere go actually there is there's a lot to learn about not just the human condition generally, but specifically about what we're doing here. so that's sort of the gist of
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it. it's it is. and it has been a kind of extraordinary journey, actually, sort of the book came out in january and now to sort of i've traveled the south again as i since it's been out and so it's sort of it's a book that continues as i think of it as the book is an invitation, it also has been the sort of extensive relationship beyond the pages of the book as it were, some great professor. i would love to pick on something you just said and hear both of your thoughts on this and connecting that to something that you write on. let me get my roman numerals correct. 69 of the introduction to sustain a heroic self concept. it has inevitably been deemed necessary to distance america from the embarrass summit over this truth and so the south, the seat of race in the united was turned on out and into this
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country's gully and sorry the proceedings in this clarifies the truth is that this country was built upon genocide. it was built upon indigenous dispossession. it was built upon african. correct. so i'd love to hear more from both of you again about what we what we learned. we center the united states in all of its in some instances, beauty. we see that, oh in many instances is horror. what happens when you center that in a narrative of u.s. history what do we learn about u.s. history exactly from a history of the u.s. south. i mean, i think we learn about we learn. why we have people who live on the street, why we're facing disaster, why we have incredible wealth, and also such incredible suffering simultaneously.
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why, you know, we are being eaten away by environmental toxins in much what you know, it's if you begin the project with the idea that we're going to build this empire then after we're going to build this country after the revolutionary war and we're going to we're going to be willing to move people out and grind down other people's lives in the service of building this sort of castles of wealth and power or. right. if that's the that's inception point, then you develop of doing and being that are sort of ruthless and relentless lists and so and that's not, you know has a racial it has a gender dimension but it also just has it's a way of deal of being in relation. and so for me, the what we learn is actually sort of why we are
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this way, right? that's i always about that deborah cox song, right? did we get here? nobody supposed be here. you know, and i and that's the story. but i also and i should say because, you know, the book is a lot about it's also we learn a lot about freedom dreaming. right. and this is why i think that the snake reference is so profound for me. and i'm always i sort of feel like so much of life is actually devoted to to snake because i, i there's something so extraordinary about a tradition of imagination and, resistance and struggle, not withstanding. ah, you know, the, the, the, how so much of our history is, that is something that's important to learn about the human condition. and also for me that's where the promise lies. so to on the question, what is there to learn about studying this or looking, examining, traveling through and looking at
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southern experience? so i let me just say three things. first of all, one of the chapters in my book about rendition. and here i talk about the ways in which southern states and northern states develop relationships around the fact that individuals who are fleeing from the south and at metropolises in the north, i the one i focus is detroit and that initiate a battle between states over who is to own this black body was the body to be returned to the south and thereby most often to a lynch mob? or was the body to remain in michigan? and i look at a number of these cases and discuss the of lawyering strategies and organizing that was in play and i think i'm really probably
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first one to take a really in-depth look at this and what it and what it tells us is first of all how on national african-american community gets knit together around these particular struggles that start in the 1920s and go through the 1940s. you know how, the michigan community begins to relate to the community in georgia and mississippi when they're attempting to secure the freedom of these latter day runaway slaves. and so that's one point. the second point that i try to make in the book is that the southern story is not a southern story. people are left from the south and they took the south with and not only that, there's also a better story that has a lot to do in and in the narrative that i relate to, the way in which
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the federal government and allowed south to be the kind of set violent south as far as african americans are concerned that i talk in the book. so this this this is not just about what's going on with your local sheriff and your local police chief. it's also what the the failure, the lacuna, the vacuum coming out of washington, d.c., when indeed we are supposed to be one country. and then the third point is, i try to surface and grapple with forms of resistance during the 1930s and the 1940s, which i lay the groundwork, the kind of movements which we are all so familiar emerging first in the south of the 1950s, late 1950s and 1960s. and so i talk about not just the sort of formal methods of protest, but as well, the more
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both subversive of, but also less visible forms of resist and humanity making that that that folks had to engage in order to endure and live. great. thank you. and let me just for those who not read the book yet, they are going to eagerly read it as soon as you leave this room. the puzzlement additions were phenomenal. whole thing the connections between these marooned communities, black folks in a place like detroit and antebellum era. how those are connected. these latter day cases of fugitive enslaved people for all intents and purposes draws connections that again, i frankly have not seen any other scholar make. all. i want to talk a bit about stakes, talk about connections about past, present, future
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because that is something that in my reading is clearly in my reading is explicit here that these books engage with they are books that are meant to move people. right. so i wonder if both of you could speak to what's to what ends. you may hope that readers would put books that engage so thoughtfully with the past, but also a present that you make clear as being wrapped up in that past and. on that note, too, i wonder if there are any responses of you have been on tour, if there are any responses that you've heard from readers that have struck as maybe particularly just particularly striking. so imani's books been a lot longer than mine. i know she's got she's got a whole bundle of responses that she could talk about. and i've come back next year and here but you guys say for a
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moment. so i think you know i think a lot about the uses of history. i guess for me that the big the you know of the meta point for me is that i feel quite that it's time to get past the sort of adolescent disposition of of of a national story through mythology that it's time to grow up and tell and tell a story true that and that that but that isn't sort of enough, right? because there literally billions of facts in the right and we make choices about which which facts to weave together a story and those and that decision is a reflection of values right and so for me there are so the uses of history as matches there are people who want to debate it. there was an article that came out not that long ago about decrying presentism and telling
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of of u.s. history. but the reality is we we always respond to present concerns and the present concern for me is the question of the various forms of injustice that is heightened in the current moment. right. in a really of dramatic way. and this question of of what institutions will hold. but also, you know, what are the conditions under which people live is always so so so the stakes for me are actually immediate and the ideas that is not, you know, everything i write is always an invitation. so i'm thinking, well, if we open up a distinct way of seeing the story of the nation and we and we open sort of different kinds of question ones, right? whether there are things about sort of understanding the role of of trees in our in our, our, our national story or understanding the parallels between, you know, what what, undocumented workers in chicken plants experience now and what
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black folks experience working in chicken plants, 50 years ago. and those kinds of an understanding that the similarities, those kinds of things, i'm hoping become potentially move people, as you said, reactions have been really wonderful. i think the most for me, the most dramatic set of experiences are when people start to tell me stories about the places i write about in the book that expand understanding and translate. you know, i love idea of a book as a living document. and so, you know, that, that happens especially i mean, the story in nashville in particular i have i write about pearl high in the book and which my grandmother went to to and the grandmother was a nonce and uncles of people who work my department at princeton went to and then every time i've come back to nashville then i hear more and more stories about pearl and it just moves me so deep, you know that those kinds of things are what, you know,
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kind of feels like that the most of meaningful experience for. me that it can it can connect to people stories. so i would say, you know, i an argument that the my book the this material interrogates engages with the discourse we're having our country around reparations. since and i illustrate that with a case brownsville tennessee involving a man named elbert williams who in 1940 was a member of the newly formed acp branch that wanted to vote for in the presidential election. these republicans black republicans and they wanted to vote for wendell willkie. and they went down to the courthouse in brownsville and
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tried to, you know, sort a sneak around, see how they would be received. well one day later, the law enforcement in the county came and visited a man by the name of alisha davis and told them, give us all the names of your acp members and get out of and never come back. now, alicia davis had been in brownsville for four generations and the next day they went over to the home at 1:00 in the morning, went over to the home of elbert williams, who had just, by the way, with his wife listened to the on the radio to a fight between. joe lewis and a competitor. and so he's feeling pretty good. he's in his pajamas and, sneakers and the law says, come with me. and he does. and of course, the next time his wife, him, which is a few days later, it's on the banks of the hatch river. and he had been shot and killed,
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obviously killed, but, you know, brutal, brutally lynched. and we've visited my students and i visited. in 2018 brownsville, 60% black, by the way. and single chance to vote in brownsville until the late 1950s. and there's a white mayor, a woman named was joe matherne. and we went to her office and we said, what can you do to return this case to the brownsville community? make it live in this community? can you do for the families that were banished from brownsville? and she said to. in 2018, there's opinion in this town about what happened in 2019 40. but in other words, what can we do? we're doing nothing. and let me finish the story, which is that three years later,
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a black mayor gets elected in brownsville. 2000. few, few later gets elected. and the local agrees. it's time to revisit and reopen this case. and time to find where bones of elbert who could not be mourned at the time of his death, where they lay in brownsville. that has to take place all over this country. if we are ever really going to be able to deal with, account for and repair to what happened only in this little period i'm talking about 1939, 55. so that's that would be one of many examples of our efforts to identify describe along with
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these families what were pair, what reparation would actually look like in these cases. mm hmm. great. thank you. i have further questions, but for the sake of time, also, because we've been told to vacate the room earlier than even the time we have allotted, i would love to open it up to hear from y'all. we have microphone set up over here. if you could. if you have a question, if you could say loudly, little basin your voice so that we all on c-span so we can get that captured there. oh yes yeah please. thank you. i was what professor perry said earlier. i was struck by your phrase, adolescent mythologies.
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and it brought to the tennessee legislature and their their recent laws that have been passed is suppressing the teaching of history and the banning books that tell the truth about histories and i mean, what what what makes me wonder is this this refusal to accept truth. these arguments that, you know, there are well competing opinions about this. you know, there's you know, you should to both sides and all this nonsense. i mean, there's this. atmosphere. how is it possible to get that to get beyond i mean, you'd have to do that in order to, like you said, move beyond these
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adolescent mythologies. i mean you know, on one level, i want to say, if i if i the answer right. but but one of the things, though, that i i think is really essential, and i think it's part of, you know, why we all who are all three of us do the work that we do is that you is it it's really important not to not allow my mother talks about this all the time as you know, you you you fight within the terms of the institution as much as you can. you also have to be an insurgent right. so just as people in the context of enslavement had to steal away meetings where you learn to read right we have to actually treat the study of history with a kind insurgency when it is denied in in in in in schools. right. we do it elsewhere. right. and it can't be. i mean, and i think that and so it's a part of what to write a book that to write books that
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actually have a work, have a life outside of university. that's part of the fact that function. right. is to sort of make that knowledge more accessible. i suggest, you know, i was i was just in terms of what margaret just said, that's so important is if we think even the discussion around reparations tends to talk about that period at all and this is such recent that you know the question repair and and frankly there will be in future a great deal to repair about this moment right so we accumulate leading wounds in this moment and so that seems to me that there's no choice but to but to choose to do otherwise is irrespective of what the legislatures say. so i would you know. i would recall a german author whose name of completely forgotten. but what they started burning books in the 1930s in germany.
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he said what's wrong with my book? why aren't you bring so? so i would say we to do two things. number one, continue to writing books that are worthy, being burned right. and also and also, you know, we have to begin to continue to cultivate alternative spaces of learning. so in my generation, of course, it was a freedom in mississippi. you know, the places the kentucky now highland do you know. so we have to continue to build in, you know, and nurture and support these alternative sites of learning while also insisting on that the history that we are recording get taught in our public spaces, our public
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schools, our public universities, so on. so i hope tennessee is not a bellwether on this, but it's not the only state that it is absolutely not the only state. not the only state. great. thank you. other questions. thank you so much to professor bird and professor burnham and professor perry for being here today. i just wanted to say that the work that you, professor burnham and professor perry have done in keeping that idea of a beloved community alive for people of my generation writing a dissertation right now at, vanderbilt in part about the freedom schools and that work means the world to me and i professor perry in particular. i've been so inspired by your writing since i was an undergraduate and and don't think i would be here and in the power of scholarship to do
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something good, at least just as deeply as i do without it. so you very much for that. and i embarrassed to say how much i spent of your brilliant, brilliant talk so far, thinking i wish i addressed better for this encounter and you look gorgeous. i have explanations, but not excuses, as they say. but my question, professor perry, is i'm just dying to hear about the encounter you alluded to yesterday in nashville and any other tidbits that you would have to be in a sequel were there one to your brilliant and thank you again to everyone thank you. so i met a man yesterday who is from murfreesboro and who was talking to me about a white man
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that i mean, that, you know, young and i'm 50, now he's 40. so i said, you know, it's all relative. and and he was about his experience in the navy. and he said to me and he was talking about being in a unit that was tracking down a sleeper cell in india. and he said, you know, by the time we finished and we eliminated this person, i didn't know who was right and who was wrong, what was the right side of things. and then he said, and he's taught and you start talking about religion. and he said, you know, he said, i've been all over the middle. and he said and me now, you know, and they say jesus was was an arabic guy. but he said, you know, i met a lot of people out there when none of them named matthew, mark, luke or john. so somebody lived right and and right and went he you know. and so we had this conversation,
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you know, the about hermeneutics, about the interpretation, biblical interpretation and the ease with which you know interpretations of right and wrong be distorted for people's personal advantage and power. and i have. and that that those kinds of have been when i almost every time i'm you know, i'm in the south a lot but particular with with poor and working class folks of every, you know, democrat ethic. and so there's something there that i think is important to hold on to right we have this incredibly painful history, unjust history and we also have the history of folks who have close to the land, who have who a kind of earnestness and an openness. and there's a lot possibility there. we a couple weeks ago
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participated in the 90th anniversary of highlander. and there is know again, you know, there's a lot that's still living in terms of freedom dreaming. so i guess that i don't know if i'd ever write a sequel, but i continue to be of inspired by the traditions i think that was the point to me. yeah, you and the questions questions. i'm white and i'm from the so i honestly don't know the answer to this question but how important are black churches still in the movement to? real equality, certainly in the sixties they were very important. so let me talk about the my period, which is the fifties, the and the forties. and and say that oftentimes,
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most often black churches were perhaps the only places that that could breed and nurture resistance. and this was this, you know, obviously in whining about homicides and lynchings and many of these cases, many of these situations ended up in churches that were in effect, where where the service was, in effect, a protest service. so so, you know, the militancy, all the military, the anger, the fury, the militancy, the beauty, the love is all in these services that i describe it's so critically know, obviously critically important for all of all that they do to build a black collective to build black culture, to nurture black culture, to nurture a black voice. all of that is, you know, across the decades and, you know,
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people don't go to church as much as did, but they also still find those veils to, be places where these things can be can nurtured. i'm going to ask for another question in a second, but if i could jump in briefly. throughout all of this, something that has been on my mind in part to a number of things i've said is the need to keep in mind one one thing that we get from both these works, just this real master movement between, the regional and the national and should also say a transaction, a global. there's a connection here between we have a conversation about reparation and repair. how does that fit into a global framework? when we talk about our various national mythologies, how do they fit into various imperial
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projects of both u.s. and how does that fit into a global histories? all but one thing that i think we should note, too, that an even as your move so massively local between regional or national even global there's real attention to the various south's within a southern history. so i wonder if both your speak or speak to just a bit about what we learn from your attention to. i want to say hyper local, but what's the local? what do we get from attention to, you know, a case in brownsville, but also you take us to in the case that being from that area i know well the case of herman lee council murders black there what do we get from, you know, attention not just a broader history of southern education in the history of pearl harbor. well, so so know. yeah i think.
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and localization critically important for scholars that you know you have to be you have to go as imani did you got to go there to know there and and so it's you know obviously our work has to be situated in the broader anti-colonial. movement of in which we live which includes areas study haiti the caribbean and obviously we to we have to have you know fully understand and comprehend that you know that the south is not just a place but it's also a state of mind. and but but at the same time, for me in my work it's particularly to appreciate not
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just the not just the similarities, but especially the differences between a place like durham and a place like birmingham. so i have a chapter on birmingham and i have some work on durham. and, you know, i ask my readers to ask themselves the question, how does birmingham end up being birmingham instead of let's north durham or charlotte, you know, how does happen? these are both, you know, industrial cities, large numbers of african-american and and white workers coming out of the thirties at the same time. how does one make this turn and the other made that turn. and in order to fully to get grapple with that and translate it into something that's readable, you really have to know the locale even while you appreciate and understand that these are national and indeed global phenomena that are influencing what's going on in the ground in. mm hmm.
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yeah, i absolutely would agree with that. and i one of the questions that i that that gotten most is why? because at the end of the book, i go to in the caribbean and the bahamas and also to cuba. and part of that is because it's important to me to under to remind people that at the time of settlement, this was the this was that was one region. right. the caribbean, the u.s. south. right. and that was region because it it offered much the same thing to these kind of opportunities to to to build wealth through the what the climate would yield. but there's something about and so so that sort of linked the encounter that that reality. i think for me opened up a great deal in terms of understanding how the south is related to the larger world. so for example, we're talking about how in new orleans businessmen shaped the history
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of central america. right. is a key that what the on the sort of historic relationship between cuba and mobile was and part the most important sort of inspiring which i you know you might have thoughts about about this as well for for thinking in that way both the local and the international is the history of the black press, which i spent a lot of time in writing a book on the on the history of the song, lift every voice and sing it is this model of attentive to historically over the course of 100 plus years of being attentive to local and their struggles and the minutia and also understanding those local communities as part of a black world. so for me, that kind of historic documentation becomes a sort of scholarly inspiration for how to approach the work that i do. so let me just pick up on, on, on the black press, but for the black, we would not have been able to do this project. and i'm really talking about the
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local birmingham world, for example, but it's really the national press, it's the pittsburgh courier, it's the baltimore african-american, it's the chicago defender, the amsterdam news, those are the newspapers that were able to carry stories because some of the local black there is no black press in jackson, mississippi. i mean, there's a newspaper, but it can't it can't tell you anything about what's going on in mississippi in the 1930s and 1940s. and so the only way people find out about going on is through these national through the chicago defender. so these porters are coming up from mccomb, mississippi, on the trains. and when come back, they got a stack of chicago defenders with them. and those newspapers are telling them what's happening in the county next door to them. and so these are and they don't always get it right. they don't always get it right. you know, the names might be
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wrong. the dates of death might be wrong, but but but but they're recording and they are creating a national knitting together a national black world and preserving the history for folks like us who come 50 years later, don't ask me why 50 year why? it took 50 years to get here, but who come 50 years later and want to talk about these events? yes. yes. mm. who wants to take home. we got time for a final question. yeah. just to set closure. okay. is that deep enough in. thank you. thank you so much for your work. oh, my god. it's in a valuable to have it in red and in white and black and white, whatever.
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just thank you, margaret and imani imani. i recently visited. i might try to make quick i recent visit the legacy museum bryant stevenson's legacy museum in in montgomery right i have an uncle that we know was lynched we don't know his name we know his brother's name. at least we don't this this part of the family and and i thought how strange is that what kind of trauma maybe i'm taking you to a place you don't really go. but if what kind of trauma is that? and i thought it was singular when i got down there, the museum though i see we know that is for a few years by my uncle but we but i went to the museum and i saw these the columns with
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unknown people who released that they have a note under. how does that happen. hundreds of people generally. yeah i mean yeah is it is it did the family whole family flee. i just it is just so astounding me that that thousands of people were linked and and i see all these unknown. sometimes you see same last name but you know this family because five or six people here no first names so let me let me just respond really quickly. you see that in wrongdoing, ricin, which i like. well, first of all, i want say that, you know, in our work, we cover we talk about lynchings, but it's not a book. lynchings, because lynching has just been used as kind of a trope for anti-black violence in, our discourse. but you know, we talk about police violence, people who died
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in the back of a police car or in a police station, you know, so, so we have to sort of break this. lynchings are important, but they are not the be all and end all of anti-black violence. you're talking my question. on the question of of of the invisible ization or intentional invisible. think of these cases. you know, i call the book by hands now known because i am referencing what was on death certificates by unknown. so the intent was to disappear these cases that was see intent and desire to this case. let me just say one other thing while have the mic so you know, in our communities we always talk you can hear kitchen talk, people talking in their kitchens and in their beauty polls. you don't have anybody there in a river or. you could get killed for anything.
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and, you know, that's of widely accepted. but you know, to me, i'm like, oh well, let's start counting. yeah, let's talk. start looking at what you could get killed for. let's put a name to the people who got killed for failing to tip hand or failing to say yes, sir, or walking on the wrong side of the of the street, all of which is in our cup. let's try to put a name to the folks who ended up in the river, like elbert williams in the apache river. let's let's try to name these people and we're just starting and let me tell you something. it's a shame that it took until this time for us to begin counting and accounting. yeah. and making a record so that you wouldn't be able to stand up here on october 16th and say you have a lynching victim in your family and you don't. that man's name. yeah how shameful. every year there are ten books
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written about world war two. yes. so then you don't know his name? yeah. thank you. that's good. shameful. thank you you. i asked to say really quickly part of what it what is so moved me about that what you just said is that it there's a tendency in this may not necessarily be widely but amongst in academia often to sort of one's hands up and say well we lot we don't have that there's gaps in archive and the reality is that there's so much that has yet to be explored and uncovered and it's really and so i find deep inspiration in you know in in the idea that we actually need to do the work of the counting
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and discovery and going in attics and and bedrooms and personal archives and trying to actually build the map back, you know, in a way that as opposed to just sort of giving up. i would also say really quickly, a lot of the bread the docker means that we you know that the idea of being documented is not universal right. so there's a lot when you go i mean, you can just see and census data right you can even see look at my my birth certificate didn't have a name on it initially right there's i mean you know and that's just that's 1972, right? i mean, so there's so the document, the race and documentation is a complicated story. and so you have to look at different kinds of resources to try to build those answers back and to redress the wrongs of the 20th century. is the project of the 21st century. i believe you write, it is not
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enough. set aside a little time or attention here or there to grieve our national sins. then soft as butter love that turn of phrase turn back to proclamations of greatness. because history is an instruction in what you neglect to attend to from the past, you will surely ignore in present. on that note, i'd like to end with an invitation to absolutely read these books to with them, to sit with them, to learn from them. because if we allow them to teach us, they will and they will move us. thank you for your time today. appreciate. enjoy the rest of the testimony.
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