tv Protests for Black Citizenship CSPAN May 19, 2018 10:30am-11:56am EDT
other american artifacts programs at any time, by visiting our website. >> the massachusetts historical society hosted a panel of four historians discussing the ways blacks have protested for citizenship sincerely days of american republic. topics include abolitionists and self-proclaimed colored friedman in boston, orators sojourner truth and frederick douglass, anti-lynching activist ida b. wells, and the experiences of african american soldiers during world war i. is about 90 minutes. >> hi there. good evening, and welcome to you all. thank you so much for being here. as catherine said, i am claire austin and am a trustee here at the massachusetts historical society. it is my distinct honor to introduce our panelists tonight. from the black lives matter protests that began in ferguson, missouri, to the women's march that struck the world on january
21st, 2017, 673 marches on all seven continents, and to the march for our lives, which took place on tuesday, and the protests in sacramento demonstrating against the police shooting of a man who was talking on a cell phone in his grandmother's backyard. people are organizing and taking to the streets in ways they have not done in double decades. but their activism, the efforts to change the prevailing discourse about citizenship, its rights, privileges, and responsibilities is not unprecedented. those precedents extend back to -- beyond the protests of the 1960's, the decade of demonstrations when they are most often compared, to the earliest years of the american experiment in democratic self government. here to explore with us tonight are four preeminent historians.
stephen kantrowitz is a historian of race, politics, and citizenship in the 19th century united states and teaches courses on the civil war era, slavery, and slave revolt. his second book, more than freedom, showed how boston's 19th-century black activists sought to recast their relationship, helped bring about the civil war and to find a policy of slave emancipation to the idea of political equality. his current work explores groups in the air of the 14th amendment, and he has books planned on scholars and native scholars in postwar wisconsin, and transformations on american citizenship in the civil war era in wisconsin, where people struggled to shed light on the relationship between citizenship
and civilization. john stauffer received his phd from yale university and is a summoner r and marshall s k professor of english and african american studies. he has written several books. two of his books were national bestsellers and several have won numerous awards. he is also the author of of more than 50 academic articles and his essays have appeared in time, the new york times, the wall street journal, and the washington post. he has also advised three award-winning documentaries and in a consultant for future -- feature films, including django unchained, released in 2012, and the free state of jones. he teaches courses on autobiography, the 19th-century novel, and historical fiction, and is working on it biography of charles sumner.
crystal received her degree from princeton and is director of african american studies at yale university. her publications include the impact of racial and sexual politics on women's history, how are the daughters of eve punished, rape during the american civil war, published by the university of mississippi press in 2011, and general benjamin butler and the threat of sexual violence during the american civil war, which appeared in the spring of 2009. her prize-winning book, southern whores, uses the work of two women, journalist ida b wells and rebecca latimer felton to examine the roles of both black and white women in the politics of racial and sexual violence in the american south. wells spearheaded national campaigns against lynching, while felton came to prominence
by encouraging white men to lynch black men accused of raping white women. despite being on opposite sides of the lynching question, both sought protection from sexual violence and political empowerment for women, and southern whores is a drama that reveals how these lives played out in women. she is working on two books currently as well. chad williams is an associate professor and chair of the department of afro-american studies. he earned his phd from princeton university and specializes in african-american and modern united states history, military history, and african american intellectual history. his first book was praised as a landmark study and won numerous awards, including the 2011 liberty legacy foundation award, and the 2011 distinguished book award from the society for military history.
,n the aftermath of a massacre he co-edited the charleston syllabus, which was circulated among history teachers and faculty and was recently published by the university of georgia press is the charleston syllabus. he is currently completing a study of w.e.b. dubois in world war i. i can think of no better historians to guide us through a conversation on the relationship of citizenship and protest in the american past. please give a warm welcome to our panel. [applause] >> thank you all for coming out. thank you, claire and gavin, for getting the ball rolling and coming up with this idea, and to john, crystal, and chad for agreeing to be part of it. we are going to each talk for minutes, no more than that, and then we will talk
to each other. then you will talk to us and we will talk to each other. our theme tonight is protests and citizenship, and i want to start us off almost 200 years ago, when free african-americans in boston began calling themselves colored citizens. that self-description was an act of protest and an act of invention. to explain what i mean by that, i need to say a few words about the conditions of black freedom in the time before the civil war. but simply, there was much to protest. the massachusetts constitution said all men are born free and equal, and slavery died in the 1780's. black men in massachusetts were eligible to vote, and many did, but slavery hung like a cloud over black people's freedom and citizenship. so, free and equal did not carry with it the equal rights we attached to those terms today. black people were barred from
most professions and skilled trades, excluded from most hotels and restaurants, attended segregated schools, wrote in -- rode in segregated railroad cars, and as some of you may know, the term jim crow is applied to railroad cars, which were invented in massachusetts in the 1840's. white supremacy haunted free black life, not just in the realms of law and occupations and trade and public accommodations, but denied them a dignified civic existence. they were chased off the boston commons when they assembled to celebrate their, placards and cartoons made fun of them in ballrooms and in the streets, and the most popular form of entertainment in the day was blackface minstrelsy, and hence the term jim crow and others which haunted african american life. one example of how attainment didn't save you, when the first african-american to try a case before the massachusetts bar,
robert morris, approached his opposing counsel to introduce himself, the man literally screamed at him. he was that upset that a black man was presuming to practice law, enter into this kind of world as his equal. they were not equal to other citizens, not just in law or practice, but because slavery shadow their lives. article four of the constitution seemed to say that the rights of the citizens of all the states were for all the states. for black people, that was not the case. they were haunted both by the negro sailor act in southern and by the fugitive slave law, which allowed them to be captured or sold into slavery with little due process. when we think about african-american life in the 19th century, we must not think about it in progressive terms.
indeed, the arc of history was going the other way. in many states, where a free black man could vote at the beginning of the 19th century, they cannot vote by the civil war. the crackdown on the rescue of fugitive slaves led to a renewed fugitive slave law in 1850 that may black freedom much more precarious throughout the entire united states. the dred scott decision in 1857 said essentially black people could not be citizens of the united states, even if they were citizens of the states where they live. and the most popular form of antislavery activity in the 19th century united states was colonization, which was a polite word for deportation. all of that taken together, african-americans responded to that by claiming equality through protest. they adopted or invented
institutions that proceeded from egalitarian principles and use those as platforms to press for an equal place in american life. they first build a counter public, a black counter public of churches, schools, lodges, literary and burial societies where they could secure their own ends in dignity apart from white people. but they repeatedly and consistently reached out from that counter public and insisted on their equal status in the wider world, and sought white allies to help them achieve that. they used as their platforms for these appeals, the languages that would have been familiar to the people around them. the world of natural rights, theory, and practice, beginning with the declaration of independence, all men are created equal, and including the massachusetts constitution's more expensive version of that, all men are born free and equal. this led to petitions and suits against slavery. slavery ends in massachusetts because slaves sue for their freedom. that is how it comes to an end.
that is why the supreme court of massachusetts ruled in the 1780's that there is no more slavery in massachusetts under its constitution. they demand better civic treatment, protest against indignity, and demand a place in the worldwide brotherhood of christ. the king james version they would have been familiar with, ask god is made of all blood of 17, men to dwell on the face of the earth. they take that seriously and pursue that in other realms, in the realm of freemasonry, which is another critically important project which involves the majority of black activist men in this time. in all of these ways, they are saying these are essential truths that are basic to our understanding of ourselves as americans, given by god, but not only given by god, made real by us. so an alabama slaveholder comes and testifies before the
massachusetts legislature and says god will free the slaves in his own time. the legislators look around and call up lewis hayden, a leading black activist, and have him come up. hayden says yeah, that will free the slaves in his own time, but he will do so through the agency of his people, blessed with a free gospel. in other words, freedom and equality through works, agency. that was their vision of citizenship. in 1829, david walker gave life to the phrase colored citizens in his pamphlet "appeal to the colored citizens." protesting slavery, colonization, christian hypocrisy, and warning that slaveholders would wreak judgment upon them. but he said what a happy country this will be if the whites will listen. that became the spur for the interracial abolition movement, for the conversion of whites by
blacks to an egalitarian view of the united states. that is what literally set william lloyd garrison on his path as a liberator. as black people were vanguards egalitarianismship through protest. they called themselves colored citizens. what they meant by that was different than our legalistic notion of citizenship. they were calling on an emotional vision, but not just what a happy country this will be. david walker was not that naive and these activists were not that naive. they knew this was not just a gift or a matter of love or belonging, it was something you claimed, something you won. if you wanted to claim the mantle of citizen, you had to offer persistent protest against unequal treatment. frederick douglass' favorite
quotation from byron, hereditary bondman, know ye not, those that must be free must themselves strike a blow. that meant pushing blacks and whites together toward direct confrontation with the slaveholders, not just as martyrs, but militants. it meant defending others from being captured and spiriting them away to canada or defending them where they were. so you had people that said i have a position in splitting white unable treatment is a violation of natural law. please sign this and pass it around at the meeting tonight. afterward, when we get to court square, make sure to put it a -- safely in your pocket, because while we are picking up the railroad tie and knocking down the door to the courthouse, you would not want to fall to the ground.
this -- these petitions for equality in a militant struggle against slavery were two sides of the same coin. they were the same revolutionary activity, and they were revolutionary activity, much like the revolution of 1770. if this sounds familiar, the idea that equality is earned through protest, if it is sounding familiar to you, like every protest you have ever attended, it is because the colored citizen of the 1830's, 1840's, and 1850's, establish the terms of what protest means for us. just as their militant insistence on equality continues to define the best of what we mean by citizenship. in these days of crisis, we are often asked to think about the lessons of history and what they can teach us. sometimes we are called to embrace dr. king's moral arc, which is long but bends toward justice, or the stirring implications of the possibilities in "once-in-a-lifetime, the title
tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme." but justice, like history, is not a tidal wave or a tendency or a moral arc in defense of itself. justice is deduced by people from the circumstances and given life by their action. by their protest. at least in part, that is how history is made as well, and that is why protest matters and why the people who call themselves colored citizens still demand our attention. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for inviting me. this is a wonderful idea and a wonderful panel, and a wonderful turnout. the massachusetts historical society, about a year ago, published a collection called the future of history that was inspired by a colloquium in which several hundred people from all over were invited to
discuss the large idea of history and how it could be relevant for individuals in their lives today, regardless of whether or not they were professionals historians, or not. i have the great fortune and honor to be present for that. i was asked to write a piece, and i borrowed from, of course, a piece that i have long taught called the american protest literature, from tom paine to tupac. the article i ended up publishing is based on a number of quotes or near quotes from activists and protesters throughout american history, which is history is the activist's muse. i firmly believe that. it is the foundation of the course that i have taught, and yet, throughout american history and american culture, scholars
have tried to separate, sever, or downplay that relationship between history and activism. in the scholarship, there is a long, rich tradition, including from colleagues of mine, who argue that writers are obsessed fresh start -- with fresh starts, to be original is either for historians or a nonfiction writer. you need to look forward and think forward, not backward. america, the united states is a nation of fresh starts. it is still a new world. and yet, when you look at the history of writing, the degree to which men and women of all different genders and ethnicities and races, regardless of where they come
from, are drawing and being inspired by and recognizing that the past profoundly shapes their understanding of their present and can shape their future -- that is extraordinary. to such a degree that i often quote orwell's 1984, a book that, since the election of president trump, has achieved a new bestseller status. orwell is obsessed with the hate of totalitarianism, and one reason why he hates totalitarianism is because of the use and misuse and flagrant fabrication of history of the past. in fact, the party slogan in the book, a line that is repeated more than any other line, is this -- "who controls the past controls the future. who controls the future
controls the present." i think control is too strong of a verb. change it to shape. who shaped the past, shapes the future. it is a profound statement, and it is how our understanding of the present and the future has evolved. it is one of my own areas in the civil war era, you see this extraordinary self-conscious remaking of the past, such that major figures of the 19th century are truly erased from much of the 20th century. that leads me to a couple of specific examples i would like to provide about the relation between the past and the
present. frederick douglass and sojourner truth, the reason i want to focus on them is because they understand the importance of their visual public persona. the most recent book i did was on frederick douglass. i found out he is the most photographed american in the 19th century. there are more separate photographs of frederick douglass than of any other american in the 19th century. more than lincoln, custer, twain, anyone else. i have run the numbers, and you can ask me and i can show you. there are a few unknowns, like grant. no one has added up the archives of grant. but the larger point -- sojourner truth is one of the most photographed women in the 19th century. douglass and truth are also hugely admired public speakers,
orators, among the greatest male and female orators in the 19th century. douglass can command speaking -- could command a higher speaking fee than any other orator, and this was back when it came with celebrity, like being an actor. it was a form of entertainment. douglass, for the first 15 years -- 50 years of the united states -- 19th century, is virtually out of print. benjamin quarrels brings douglas back into print in 1948 with his narrative. my bondage and my freedom was his best-selling book. it does not come back in the print until several decade
later, then the life and letters 1950's, butd in the that is published by the communist press, which sells like 1000 copies a year. it is not until roughly 1990 that douglas is systematically taught in the classroom. sojourner truth is still rarely taught in the classroom. this raises the question of why were they so in love with photography? the three answers -- the most important of which is they recognize the true value of photography. photography told the truth. the lens told the truth. douglass essentially said even if you put a camera in the hands of the white racist, words i can't trust, he is not using a hand or drawing a sketch. i can trust the camera. sojourner truth said the same
thing, they were cast as activists and protesters. the standard photograph for a man, and it is in the manuals, photographers told men to look above the camera lens, anywhere but into the camera lens. the idea was, you are achieving visionary gaze. douglass always looked right at the lens. he was immaculate in his look. he looked like a citizen at a , time when most whites argued blacks could not be citizens. and this is someone who was a powerful and effective orator. his look and photographic image was profoundly compelling. photographers chased after him, hoping to invite him to sit in their studios.
it was a great honor to photograph frederick douglass, for photographers. and his photographs were widely collected and circulated, and collected in albums by people who never even knew him. so this look of staring directly into the camera lens, one convert said he looked majestic in his wrath. and that is a perfect expression of douglas, majestically wrathful, dressed up as if he is entitled to any of the most powerful and wealthiest places in the country, and equal to anyone. sojourner truth does the same thing, from the perspective of a woman. she is more famous for her photograph than her presence at meetings, which is a big deal an use she was then --
effective orator. she presented herself to the world as a respectable, middle-class, educated woman, a representative american woman who, like douglass, deserved the right of citizenship and equality. the motto that she put under her photos was i sell the shadow to support the substance. and she is often photographed with knitting needles and yarn. and look closely at some of these cardste de viz, email me and i will send you some of them. how the yarn is portrayed in the photographs is that the yarn forms the contour of the united states.
it is unavoidable. it is clearly the eastern half, sending a message that this woman is a symbol of the union, a symbol of the nation, like douglass, a public face of the nation, which happens to be black, which reflects the importance of multiracial democracy. the reason for their love of photography is they associate it with freedom. americans have a love affair with photography and portraiture is the main vogue but it is limited primarily to the free states. one of the reasons is because that slaveowners recognized the threat that photography could
highlight the humanity of slaves. in fact, john c calhoun sees an anti-slavery image in "the liberator" and tries to pass a federal law against any image that could be construed as anti-slavery. the southern states systematically oppressed any freedom of debate as it related to critiques of white supremacy or slavery. in the largest sense, and i will connected to the present, frederick douglass and sojourner truth took advantage of the technologies of their day, much the way activist take advantage of technology today, particularly with social media and particularly with black lives matters. many increasingly, african-americans
have realized they don't want to leave home without a camera. why? added -- at an abstract level, we all know that we can distort an image with the camera, we can create multiple exposures, we can solarize -- the camera still has a sense of truth. by bringing a camera with you, you can document. in the 20th century, douglass' and sojourner truth's portrait s inspired artists, based on the -- inspired artists based on photographs. their visual legacies protested theyings and segregation, rallied for several rights and celebrated lack power. they dignified the black body that white americans have so
often tried to destroy, according to coates in his recent book. it is significant that douglass, in particular, was a precursor, anticipates black lives matter, . but before that anticipates the , black panther party and black power in his demand for visibility, substance, and self determinism in his own community. douglass and other black leaders recognized the importance of taking it upon themselves to police and protect black communities, beginning in the antebellum period and extending
into reconstruction in the south. clubs as a weight to protect each other as a way to protect -- black lives matters leaders and built upon both the black power and black panther. the last point, i will make about the past resonating with the present, his representation was immensely power in the 19 century. the most powerful form is what is known as southwest humor. it relates to the tall tale, tough talk, bombastic
confidence man. it is a form of representation ody andn the par imitation, at best, becomes a burlesque that invokes a certain degree of laughter and the imitation becomes amusing. so, it reaches a broad audience. it highlights or exposes the contra district -- the contradictions and absurdities of culture. tall tales and confidence men circulate and are most popular in american culture in those s in whichhose era incongrueties. a profound separation between the ideal and the real,
especially between, accredit dreams and social and economic realities. the great activists and protesters using -- using burlesque humor is mark twain, "huckleberry finn," capturing the post revolutionary movement, the counterrevolution after the end of reconstruction, which twain burlesques or imitates the manner of the confidence man. in "huckleberry finn," the confidence men are tom sawyer is a convoy, but also the duke and the daufin. and huck's friendship with jim repudiating tom,
the conmen, and one of the most effective forms of protest in our time now draws directly from twain. that is alec baldwin playing trump on "saturday night live." [laughter] thank you. [applause] >> i would like to thank the mass historical society for organizing this panel, in particular claire and gavin for , pulling this together and steve, for inviting me to join you in this conversation. >> we cannot hear you. i do not shout.
i will try to speak loud. i also wanted to give a shout out to mel paynter because three of us on the panel are her prodigies. we came to protest citizenship via her. i thought it was appropriate you mentioned truth. here in boston, in a public lecture given in 1833, maria w . store, a pioneer abolitionist and women's rights activists invoked black womens demand asking for sexual justice. what if i am a woman? what would it mean to acknowledge women, especially black women, as full citizens of legal capacity and political consent? if black women were granted not just the rights of life, liberty and happiness, but of self , sovereignty, then they would
-- they would also be entitled to the legal protections of those rights. she called for the inclusion of black women as fully human and autonomous beings, the owners of their own bodies with the ability to withhold consent. stewart, like many black women, insisted on sexual justice as a natural right. in doing so, black women and their allies influenced the republican's party's vision for equality through the course of the 1850's and reconstruction. their radical campaign for justice -- for sexual justice taken together with evolving , republican ideas about equality, made possible the emergence of a new sexual citizenship. my scholarship traces black women through sexual violence during the transition from slavery to freedom and revealed
how their claims for sexual justice informed national debates about the meeting of -- the meeting -- the meaning of freedom and citizenship. black womens' relentless defense of themselves under impossible circumstances informed not only the anti-lynching discourse espoused by abolitionists, but also influenced the republican party's vision of racial equality from the 1850's until the end of reconstruction. taken together, black womens' radical campaigns for sexual justice and the republican ideas about equality for free blacks and fugitive slaves reveals the emergence of a new sexual citizenship that culminated during the civil war, when black women gained the right to withhold consent and legally testify as victims of sexual assault under military law. during reconstruction, however,
as the rights -- during reconstruction, however, as the republican governments lost political power in the south, black women lost hard won rights of protection as night riders and klansmen sexually brutalized black women all over the south, and were once again denied to testify against white men in cases of sexual assault. black women such as ida d. wells organized sexual justice as a right of citizenship. in the decades before the the civil war, black women with the aid of a few white women, managed to draw attention to the master slave rape narrative. their campaigns for sexual justice took on many forms. from written protest to violent protests, we can think
of. jacobs we can think of a slave , who killed the master who raped her. we can think of margaret garner and her escape across the ohio river and the murder of her daughter. together, these women black and , white, challenged the laws, traditions, and ideas that reinforced white men's sexual power and placed black women outside the legal and moral definition of rape. these were the years in which black women and their allies waged war against slavery and began to imagine a new kind of american citizenship that included black women and every woman's right to withhold consent and to legal protection. during the civil war, abraham lincoln passed the liber codes , which made rape a war crime. in the liber codes, there were no racial limits on who could bring charges of sexual assault. black women armed themselves
with new legal tools to negotiate a deeply abusive sexual terrain, but one that for -- that, for the first time admitted that they could be , raped in the eyes of the law. in other words, seizing their new rights as wartime citizens, black women demanded legal protection and sexual justice under military law, and sought to define freedom and equality in the new racial and gender terms. the black women who testified before military courts, military marshals were among many former , female slaves who mobilized military law in defense of themselves and their new rights, and what i call wartime free people. during reconstruction and the rise of jim crow, black women remained vulnerable to sexual violence and continued to think in legal and political terms about how best to protect themselves, refusing to accept the racial and sexual politics of the antebellum hierarchy.
that defined protection as a right guaranteed to only elite women and building on wartime experiences they sought broad , notions of female protection by insisting it was a basic right of citizenship. newly-freed black women were unwilling to return to the antebellum sexual and racial status quo that allowed white men to brutalize and rate them them.rape for black women in the south, another warhead just begun, as southern white anxiety about the social meanings of emancipation intensified in the south. different constituencies sexuale of different fantasies that would strip black
women of their newfound rights. the radical overthrow of reconstruction, southern white men managed to flip the antebellum script of racial and sexual violence. prior to the war, abolitionists espoused a political narrative of the rape of black women by white men. after the war rape was defined , as a crime committed on white women by black men. in constructing the image of the black racist southern white men , sought to challenge black whilerights as citizens, -- the portrayal of black men as beastly and unable to control their sexual desires served to justify lynching, segregation and disenfranchisement. , at the same time, justifications for lynching and protection of white women who would allow for unprecedented violence against african americans, and it also placed -- it also served to terrorize
women and placed limits on the sexual freedoms and political rights. by the 1890's, southern white men had found in the image of -- found, in the image of black rapists a powerful tool for , maintaining white supremacy. while the justification for mob violence never coherent with oherred withever c reality lynchings and the threat , of rapes served as warnings that the new south was a dangerous place for women who crossed boundaries. still, out of this, renewed sexual violence against black women in the south emerged a powerful anti-rape movement led led by ida b. wells. the publication of her 1892 pamphlet, "southern horrors"
marked a renewed campaign on the part of black women for sexual justice. wells understood that -- wells understood what black women had gained in the civil war and its aftermath, and had lost in winning the peace. yet, like the black women who fought for freedom before her, wells insisted on equal protection under the law. like stewart, wells turned to the press to make her case. in doing so, she provoked the emergence of the black club women's movement that would carry the campaign for sexual justice well into the 20th century. and i would argue and need a -- argue anita hill, who spoke out against clarence thomas' sexual harassment is part of that longer tradition and narrative of black women making protection andal equal sexual justice under the
law. i would also argue that part of argue the also etoo comes out of this tradition of black women making the case as it citizens, that they have a right to , protection. oftentimes when we think about citizenship, we forget the way that not just black people were category.rom that the work that black women have done to make the case for equal protection and citizenship really opened up conversations for both black people and women to make particular claims. i will end there because we will have plenty of time to talk about present movements, like black lives matter. [applause]
>> thank you everyone, for being -- thank you, everyone for being here. a want to thank claire and gavin for organizing the event. my fellow panelists, it is a great honor to bat cleanup. i am going to pull us out of our 19th-century hole and into the 20th century and hopefully, make some connections to the 21st century. if you didn't know already, this year marks the centennial of world war i one of those , forgotten wars, oftentimes overshadowed by much bigger conflicts like the civil war. no shea to my fellow -- no shade to my fellow panelists here. world war i was a watershed moment in united states history and there are many reasons why this is the case.
you can certainly look at the military significance of the war, its political, cultural, economic significances, we would probably need another event to fully to delve into all of that. -- to fully delve into all of that. for this panel, i think we should recognize world war i as a pivotal moment in the history of protest and citizenship, and -- citizenship. more specifically world war i as , a pivotal moment in the history of african american protest and citizenship. in july, 1918, w.e.b. dubois, born 150 years ago in rick barrington, massachusetts, the first african-american to receive his phd from harvard university, the cofounder of the naacp, and, at the time of the war, arguably a leading scholar, intellectual and eloquent voice on the so-called race problem, . he wrote an editorial in "the crisis" magazine, which he edited.
for nearly four wars, the war had been rages. but 1918, w.e.b. dubois predicted, in his words would be , a great day of decision. and he wrote, "we of the colored race have no ordinary interest in the outcome that which the german power represents today spells death to the aspirations negros and all darker races for equality, freedom, and democracy. let us not hesitate. let us, while this war lasts, forget our special grievances and close our ranks, shoulder to shoulder with our own, white fellow citizens and the allied nations fighting for democracy. we make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly, with our eyes lifted to the hill."
perhaps more than any other editorial in dubois' career, it captured the attention -- captured the tension that remains alive and well today. ago, during the time of the first world war, seditious and mattered for african-americans -- war, citizenship mattered for african-americans. it is very important to emphasize that. even in the midst of segregation, disenfranchisement, racial violence, degradation of the citizenship status of african-americans -- they did not forget that they were indeed -- were, indeed citizens. , dubois and other african-americans approached the world war as a test of their citizenship and an opportunity to bring effective meaning to it. just as they had in previous wars african-americans would
, demonstrate their loyalty and affirm their citizenship by sacrificing on and off the battlefield. 100 years ago, protests also mattered. from the start of american entry in the war in april 1917, most black people accepted the fact their native duty to the nation, the nation had a reciprocal obligation to treat black people as citizens. african-americans would be loyal and patriotic, but they also demanded their rights, the most fsis, -- asystal crystal emphasized, being safety and protection. let me offer one vivid example of how this played out during the war. the east st. louis massacre brutally demonstrated the lack of safety and protection
afforded to black citizens. on july 2, 1917, white mobs unleashed a fury of violence against the city's black community. the pogrom left over 6000 ashest neighborhoods in left over 6000 african-americans homeless, over 100 men, women, and children dead. in response, the naacp organized a silent protest and parade in new york. nearly 10,000 african-americans, the men dressed in all black the , women and children dressed in all white, signifying respectability, dignity, somberly marched down fifth avenue to the sound of muffled drums. they carried signs that read, "your hands are full of blood. we have fought for the liberty of americans in six wars. our reward was east st. louis. patriotism and loyalty
presuppose protection and liberty. make america safe for democracy." dubois, impeccably dressed with his walking cane in hand, was at the front of the march. it is important to remember that black protest has always to control and eliminate. in his 1917 war address, second president woodrow wilson " if there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression. the espionage act of 1917 made a crime punishable by 20 years in prison to interfere with the armed forces of the united states or to promote the success of its enemies. " african american leader and future organizer of the march on
washington in 1963, april randolph, was arrested for distributing copies of his radical newspaper, but he escaped conviction because the white judge believed no negro could be smart enough to publish and intellectually happen sophisticated newspaper like "the messenger." the espionage act was strengthened the following year by the sedition act, which severely curtailed freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. the government's military division spent countless hours investigating potential negro subversion. as editor of "the crisis" and himself under government surveillance, dubois recognized that protests carried severe risk. his editorial were therefore a pragmatic decision.
it is reflected the genuine believe that african-americans , were first and foremost americans, that the principal , duty as citizens was to their nation. win the war now, protest later. having demonstrated beyond reproach that they were loyal rights -- loyal citizens, rights would inevitable be -- inevitably be forthcoming. how did the majority of african-americans responded to dubois's advice? they were stunned. under no circumstances, they argued should they forget their , special grievances. the war demanded that they fight for their rights even more vigorously. dubois' harshest critics branded him a traitor to the race. in fact, he would spend the rest of his life second-guessing his
decision to support the war and regretting his advice for african-americans to close ranks with their fellow white citizens. he recognized that so long as race and the color line remained the central feature of american life, closing ranks around a romanticized ideal of citizenship was impossible. i believe that remains true today. in some ways, the error of dubois' judgment was born out in world war ii, when black americans called for a double v, victory against white supremacy abroad and victory against white supremacy at home. [buzzing] that means my time is almost up. [laughter] if it were not for the world war ii era, the evolution of the modern civil rights movement would have likely looked much different. 100 years after the end of world war i, there are some people that say black people, as american citizens should close , ranks and forget the special
grievances. that protest, especially when it hits the sensitive nerves of loyalty and patriotism, is inappropriate. my response to that is that protest, as it has been emphasized is the most powerful , expression of citizenship, and remains absolutely necessary for bridging the gap between citizenship as an ideal and is a lived reality. i am also convinced, even though he may have been wrong 100 years ago w.e.b. dubois would agree , with me today. thank you. [applause] >> i assume we have time to talk to q and a. five minutes? ok.
one question -- it goes directly what you had to say, chad. on one level, war and protest and militancy are agents of social change. on the other hand, we also know that they are devastating producers of rape and assault and murder and of the violation of civil liberties by states and individuals. so, this cuts a bunch of different ways. in fact, in that moment in the 1840's and 1850's, radical abolitionists knew it would. a white abolitionists at the women's rights convention of 1851 said that is a barbarous principle. you are not free because you strike the blow. where did that idea come from?
a radical woman will have that perspective, right? she said no, if these are truly natural rights. you shouldn't have to kill for them. i wonder how that fits into our understanding of the protest tradition. >> are you looking at me? i have really been fascinated with the correlation between war and protest. i think, in many ways, you can trace the long arc of the black freedom struggle through moments of war, even beginning with the american revolution and certainly continuing throughout , the civil war, world war i, i studied world war ii, thinking about even the vietnam and our current military conflicts in their various forms today. i think war unsettles the social and political order in profound ways and creates spaces and opportunities for
african-americans and other marginalized groups to assert their citizenship in very deliberate and explicit ways. probably the most being through military service. the civic obligation of military service and the argument that if you put on the uniforms, as frederick douglass talked about, there is no way the nation can deny you your rights as citizens. and that has been a very powerful force, and has been a powerful force for change, especially when we think about the role of soldiers and veterans in movements for citizenship rights and social justice. but at the same time, as you said, it has also created these moments of intense repression as well, which is an important part of that story. and i think it is important to
recognize that war is not the answer. [laughter] but it has served as an important opportunity at the same time. >> and for women in the south during the civil war, we know the rights of citizens in some ways were suspended, when war is being waged. yet, in the context of the civil war with the liber codes, there was a new modern rules of warfare that set out to actually protect citizens in many ways. and for black people and black women in particular, these new laws allowed them to challenge some of that brutality of war. so black women who are bringing , rape charges are usually women who have been raped by white union soldiers. and also what we see is -- when
black men join the military , there is this kind of understanding that you are giving up your right as a citizen when you join the military, that you are a soldier, and what that means. and we see black soldiers pushing up against those contradictions. and we look at the knees, for example, during the civil war, what you see is black people -- black men protesting what they see as their rights as citizens being violated, whether that is being flogged or being denied the same rights white soldiers are allowed. and oftentimes, there is an argument that black men don't understand the rights of freedom or citizenship because they are actually trying to challenge some of the unjust realities of what it means to serve in the military and not wanting to give up the new rights as citizens. there are these kinds of contradictions where you see
black people, i always say, what is good for black people is good for everybody, people. so when black people are may, for someit people, feel as a unique, special right. but, it is a right that is understood as a right of all citizens. raises all boats. i would just add to this that most black abolitionists, and arguably most abolitionists, defined slavery itself is a state of war. slavery was a warfare between master and slave. i am essentially paraphrasing frederick douglass. if you read most of the slave that is a central
, theme. when the nation state ends up in engaging in warfare against the slave states that succeeded, every slave, every african-american is recognizing this golden opportunity long before the lincoln administration does, that this is an opportunity to end slavery preserving the union is , inseparable from emancipating slaves and freeing them. so that relationship between , slavery and war, and the nationstate and war, is important. and william, who becomes part of the vigilance community in the north end of boston hill -- of beacon hill a close friend of , charles sumner, he published one of the first full histories of african americans, "proud patriots in the american
revolution," which traces the history of african-americans. the central question and theme is the degree to which the united states military had served as an important marker for african-americans and a symbol of citizenship. until the 14th amendment, the question of citizen ship was that of citizenship was widely debated in the united states. the dred scott decision said african-americans could not be citizens, but the two symbols of citizenship that most thaterners agreed on was if you served in the united states military, you are a citizen. if you received a u.s. passport, you are a citizen. there is precedent from that in
the revolutionary war, the war of 1812. william cooper knell documents that. i documented that in a conference at the massachusetts historical society. he was -- convincing lincoln to alter the emancipation proclamation to call for the blacks, using blacks in the military, recognizing that as a symbol of citizenship. trulya dramatic, revolutionary, shift from the limitary emancipation proclamation, which says nothing about arming black citizens. the u.s. military has functioned as one of the most sought after organizations for
african-american men in particular and opening up for women as well. to this day, the u.s. army is one of the only major institutions in the united states in which the ratio of enlisted men, black enlisted men , and black officers, is the exact same of the that same as the ratio of white enlisted men and white officers. which means that in the u.s. military, if you are an african-american you have as much ability to be promoted to officer status as if you are white. so far as i know, there is not another major institution in the united states like that. so you are absolutely right about what you say about the wars, but remember, the long history, not just of
,frican american activists protesters. but so is jim crow segregation. so is mass incarceration, because they are all dependent upon the threat of violence. >> can i take some questions? >> my name is john. over 50 years ago, when i was in the sixth grade in detroit, michigan, a well integrated school, probably 20% black, 50% women. the blacks went home to the north across an army reserve
field to their neighborhood. the whites walked south from school. when i invited, not quite invited, but they invited themselves, blacks to my backyard, to my basketball hoop, withbors said, please play her black friends, we do not have anything against him, at school. and i still cry when i hear my father telling me that the neighbors did that. i became a teacher some 30 years ago, and i believe that blacks are pretty much in the same boat now that they were then. they are not treated equally. they go home to their own neighborhoods, particularly in boston.
they deal with their own neighbors, who are almost entirely black. we deal with our neighbors, who are almost entirely white. our parties are almost entirely white. our dinners are almost entirely white. i'm sure there and -- sure theirs are almost entirely black. women have made huge changes in our societal structure. gays and lesbians have made huge changes in societal structure. and i cry over the fact that we have not come farther, in fact maybe we have gone a little bit backward, other than the elite phds andecome engineers and leaders in the military.
>> we only have a couple of more minutes for questions. >> that wasn't the question. it was a statement. what are we going to do in the next 50 years? that's a good question. protest. [laughter] that -- you can and 2018.did 60 it's not like nothing changed. a lot of things changed, for better and for worse, because of policy and the successful or unsuccessful protests of those policies. schools were as segregated in 1968 as they are today, but they were less segregated in 1888. right? accident.ot happen by we cannot forget the most
successful protest -- a backlash against racial equality. that is what we are living in. that is where we are. i think we need to take account of history happens because people make it happen. that is my two cents. >> your comments maybe think immediately after the war. one of the things he says is you , have freed us read now, leave us alone. oftentimes, when we think about the history of citizenship and protesters, there is some automatic correlation between civil rights and integration. and in some ways, the full affirmation of citizenship will be, or perhaps should be, the right for african-americans to be able to be left alone. to be able to make the choice, if we want to go back to our own
neighborhoods, then we have the right to do that. and i think that while integration is certainly important, and the right to integration is important, i think it is also important recognize the significance of a -- an evidence of autonomy and self-determination. >> i have a quick question. some brought this up earlier. in this era of fake news, we talked about the suppression of history. when you think about frederick douglass, agitate, agitate, taught in how he was the 1960's and 1970's, what leads to that sort of suppression? how can we make sure that fake history, like fake news doesn't , continue to perpetuate itself? [laughter]
>> sorry. you could use frederick douglass as an example. there are ways you can document your sources and have a certain transparency, so it makes it very easy for people to check sources and follow them. in the 19th century, in certain respects, the 19th century is closer to our own moment right now, in which there were not as many official channels of dissemination. >> i was going to say, policy matters. >> we also had the fairness doctrine. when you articulated a point of view on tv or on the radio, there had to be an opportunity for an alternate point of view next to it. as soon as that was abolished in the ronald reagan era, we got the rise of shock talks and
right-wing talk radio and talk -- and fox news. and now, the whole news ecosystem is organized around people talking to themselves and their chosen demographics, without regard to any form of reliability or verifiability. policy matters. elections matter. >> any more questions? >> you started to address the question i was going to ask, but historically how people have dealt with that moment, that time after the protest seems to succeed, hits a crest, and goes back down again when the repression falls down on it? haveor example, when you
-- after the civil war, after the end of slavery, you steal the title of the book, of "slavery of another name," and unchecked sexual violence, when after the civil war in south carolina, pitchfork ben tillman begins his career, slaughtering armed black men in uniform, or after world war i, when for a black man, especially in the southern states, a veteran, to put on that american uniform and march in a a parade is risking his life, and practically bringing down a death sentence. how do people respond to it? how do you keep the protest going? while i am in uniform, i will leave it to other people to determine whether that question may be applicable to our current situation or not.
[laughter] >> you educate and cultivate the younger generation, the new generation. that is what the abolitionists did, many of them following the success of the counterrevolution. so frederick douglass, in his second edition of "life and times" in 1892, three years before he died, he says, i feel like i am at the beginning of the anti-slavery movement. i feel like i am starting it all over again. and i am not a young man anymore, and i don't have the energy that i used to. and what is his solution? we need to be vigilant about cultivating, educating the young generation. that is what he focused on. hisbest example is in world-famous -- there are numerous young people made pilgrimages to his home and
sought out his advice. and one young man knows he is speaking in new bedford and makes a pilgrimage. he is 21 years old and he is ambitious and very smart and incredibly hard-working. he has a private interview with douglass. douglass writes about this, and -- douglass writes about this and he says, i need your advice, what you think is the most important thing i should do with my life? is it best for society to be a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman or a banker or a teacher or an educator? what do you think i should do? douglass says, agitate, agitate, agitate. [laughter] and iprof. feimster: would argue that even in those moments where it seems like we have accomplished or won
something it's not like people , stop organizing or stop fighting. people think of 1964, they think of 1968 as these peaks. but just like white supremacy keeps evolving and remaking itself and coming up with new ways to deny people their basic rights, activists whether it is , african-americans or women, constantly campaigning and fighting and insisting on those rights. we have to be more creative. our strategies have to evolve. our protests about strategies have to evolve. , theis dynamic give-and-take. the backlash -- we often see it as a\. as john said, this is war. it was war before the civil war. it was war after the civil war. confederates did not say, we lost the war, let's be done. right?
they found new ways to keep denying black people their rights. black people had to find new strategies, whether it was legal strategies or what have you. and that is what we have to do now. we have to think about, what is our strategy? what is the endgame? women have to do it around abortion rights. right? just because we are not in a moment of triumph doesn't mean that after we hit benchmarks, it does not mean people are just sitting on their loins and going, ok, we are done with that. sometimes, we are not paying attention. because there are not these huge victories, people are working on the local level every day. they may not be on the news. when you see black lives matters, there were
organizations all over the country that were doing this work before you were thinking about black lives matter. it is about paying attention and being involved and engaged in your communities. people have been doing this work. >> you spoke beautifully about ida wells, who spent her life not winning and yet representing all of those struggles. right? >> hello. i have a question. in your point of view, reflect the struggle between the capitalist class and the white working class and the black working-class? i think there is a political tangle here that is right in front of our noses that most of us cannot see. i think that is what is behind, but i want to hear what you and other folks have to say about that.
[laughter] >> wow. american history 101. let's start where american history 101 should start, which is that the creation of race is a creation of a system of exploitation. right? that is what it is for. that is how it happened. it is intimately related with the creation of what we call class. it is inextricable from it in american history. we are still living in the aftermath of it. when we get out from under it, we will know. we are not there. we are still living in a post-emancipation society, really. >> one last very quick question. thank you for coming in talking to us today.
my question is rooted in results and tactics in winning justice. in the context in the talk about citizenship, and the choice of accepting citizenship and working within the system to try and win, talking about frederick douglass dressing up as the best citizen to show he is a good citizen and winning rights that 1960's, --r in the working outside the system because the system is corrupt and we don't want to have anything to do with it. and history, as understood in the context of the time and our time, how do you feel about the present day, working within the system or stepping outside the system, in terms of what you guys know about history, failures, and successes, those two opposing things?
>> i don't think it is an either or question. i don't think the two are mutually exclusive. . could point to dubois during world war i, he thought it was possible to work within the system to make change. at the same time you had ida b -- at the same time, you had ida b. wells working very much , outside the system to effect change. the two go hand-in-hand. i think that is true throughout the history of black protests, and it is still very much true today. >> i think that might be the right place to leave us. >> thanks, all. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> i approached abandoned huts. soldier cameamese
out of the ground. my the i saw him. it was too late. he threw a hand grenade at me. it hit one of the poles of the huts. it hit a beam and a bounced off. it went off. my jacket. it ripped my shovel. cut the handle off of it. it drew me to the ground. a piece of federal hit my leg. >> watch our five piece series .ith vietnam war veterans this weekend, "american ourory tv" is joining spectrum cable partners to showcase the history of selma, alabama. we learned more about the city's -- to learn more about the
IN COLLECTIONSCSPAN3 Television Archive Television Archive News Search Service
Uploaded by TV Archive on