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tv   Lectures in History 1960s African American Voter Registration  CSPAN  February 2, 2020 9:10am-10:00am EST

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you. we will toast to our right to drink alcohol. thank you for coming. >> this is american history tv on c-span3. we feature 48 hours of programs and loring our nation's past. nation's past.r >> next on "lectures in history", emory university professor carol anderson teaches a class about efforts in the 1960's to register african-american voters in mississippi. she describes some of the leaders of the movement, their tactics and the opposition they faced. carol: so as you know, on monday we ended with the freedom rides. riders were being
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funneled into parchment prisons as a way to hush them up. to hush them up quietly without the cameras rolling. the visual image was essential for movement area to be able to see the violence of jim crow. but it wasn't over. bobby kennedy and jack kennedy knew it. jack kennedy is giving his state of the union address and president kennedy is all, we are fighting for democracy and freedom and there is an opportunity for what is happening here on the globe because we have all of these people. it was the middle of decolonization. africans, asians arabs, latinos, , those nations are getting free. imperial bonds are loosening and
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he sees this as an incredible moment for freedom in the global south. but he didn't mention the american south. in this freedom struggle. a kind of silence there. but he needed that silence, because what he was dealing with, he had just come back from the vienna summit. remember the one, his brother was trying to get the freedom riders to be quiet on? that didn't go so well. he met with khrushchev. khrushchev took him to school. i mean ooh. this wasn't pretty. it really wasn't pretty and it was kennedy's fault.
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he acknowledged that later on. he thought what he could do, because he has his own charm, he can walk in and charm, one of those charm fellows, nikita khrushchev. khrushchev who has been in the war, who has survived joseph stalin. i love ariana's face right there. survive that. he wasn't prepared. imagine going into a summit meeting with the head of the soviet union, and you haven't done your homework. have you ever walked into -- >> [laughter] carol: and he just wasn't ready. and afterwards, he told a new york times reporter, khrushchev beat the hell out of me.
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because the bay of pigs, the debacle where the u.s. tried to invade cuba, after fidel castro had taken over the island and knocked out batista. the bay of pigs went about as well as the vienna summit. so he has got stuff on him. he is trying to figure out, how do i rethink, reestablish authority, democracy, strength as imitating out of the u.s. after i have had the bay of pigs and vienna? well there was a problem wanting to reestablish, because you also have the south blowing up. black folks struggling to be free. and refusing to be quiet.
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about jim crow and the brutality of jim crow. so bobby has got to figure out something. what bobby figures out is, i have got to find a way to find the sweet spot. that thing that allows my brother to be presidential, for america to be calm, to resume the aura of strength, democracy and freedom, while also providing something to the civil rights folks so that they feel that they are being heard and their needs are being met. what on earth could there be? what could i do, offer then that is so vital and essential, but
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boring? really boring? so that no camera will want to be there, that nothing is going to jump off? you know what he came up with? registering black folks to vote in mississippi. so let's talk about that. [laughter] carol: so this is where you have got this disjuncture between policymakers and what they think is happening and what is really going on on the ground. if he has spent a minute and think through it, you are saying, if i am seeing folks getting burned up because they are trying to ride a bus and what am i going to see happening?
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when they are trying to vote or even register to vote? remember, so much of the power of the south was predicated on disenfranchisement. massive disenfranchisement. this is why you have the power of the southern democrats in congress because they are getting elected over and over and moving up the ranks in terms of seniority because they only have to be responsive to a small band of the electorate in the south. you are pretty much assured of getting reelected and reelected and reelected and reelected and reelected and reelected, right. so that kind of power, not going to give it up easily. but he is thinking, we have got this. we've got this. he sets up an arrangement where
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the irs is going to fund a new organization, provide tax-exempt status for a new organization dealing with voting rights, and he will try to funnel four of the big civil rights organizations under the heading of this organization. this would be the voter education project. and it sounds brilliant on paper. because what it is designed to do is to provide something that the civil rights workers want while apparently being boring enough, because you are just registering folks to vote. you have got this image. think about registering folks to vote. there is a table, there is some registration cards.
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if you think about it the way we do now -- not quite like now, but you just do it. but remember this is mississippi. remember we have the poll tax. we have the literacy test, we have the understanding clause. we have got election day terrorism. we have the power sitting there to infect reinforce massive -- in fact reinforce massive disenfranchisement. just registering folks to vote is not going to be that easy. but this is the name of the organization. the council of federated organizations. what he is going to do, and it is going to be tricky, he is going to try to bring sclc, the
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southern christian leadership conference, and the naacp together. there is already a bit of -- the naacp, big dog. we have been here since 1909. right? and roy wilkins had been with the naacp since the early 1930's. and he waited his time, did his work, moved his way up the organizational ladder and finally in 1955 became the head of the naacp. what else happened? emmett till. >> rosa parks. carol: the montgomery bus boycott.
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who was heading up the montgomery improvement association? martin luther king. imagine. you have waited 20 some years to be head of the civil rights movement leadership, and was in the moment the year you become the head, there comes this guy out of montgomery that all of a sudden the media is flocking all around, talking about the leader, the leader. there was this kind of rivalry there. wilkins would help king out of numerous jams, don't get me wrong. but we have to take into account when we talk about alliances, we are talking about the real deal stuff about people and organizations working together and the frictions that happened when you are dealing with people who believe they should be here and somebody else is getting something they should have.
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kennedy would have to work through this relationship between sclc and the naacp. what he really wanted was to defuse the power of the student shock troops. because students are fearless. you think about that moment after the beating at the bus station and it looked like the freedom rides were over? and core is just like -- and diane nash is like, you got this. send some more students down. you don't stop us because you are going to beat somebody. we are stronger than that. democracy is stronger than that. the students kept coming. kennedy is looking up going we
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have gotten them in argument prison but that is only -- there are more students parchments and even hold. we have got to figure out how to defuse the power and the energy of the students. something happened that was going to help with that conversation. and that something was members of sclc and sncc met at the department of justice with bobby kennedy. he is the attorney general. they are demanding protection from the federal government for freedom riders and protection doesn't mean shepherding them in to parchment prisons. this means real protection. they are on it. and he is coming back. and they are -- [making dog noises]
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so finally he is like, look. you know when you get "look" -- and he is like, look. freedom rides aren't working. not working. am i clear? there is something that will work. you want real civil rights, freedom, protection? that comes from the vote. let me see you fight for the vote. we are going to help you fight for the vote. we have this wonderful organization we just created, the council of federated organizations. and we are going to help you in terms of providing protection and resources for you to go into mississippi and register black folks to vote. what do you think?
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he is like, you didn't answer that quite the way i was hoping you would answer so let me help you with that. you know we have got this war going on. right now you have deferments. i will see to it that you keep your deferments. you go to mississippi. you don't go to secede be, you are going to vietnam. i want you to think about that as 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds right now. i am assuming all of you are about 18, 19. the 29-year-old is going, yeah. i will take that. vietnam, mississippi. which one are you choosing? vietnam? mississippi? >> it ain't really good in
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mississippi either. carol: vietnam? she says it ain't really good in mississippi either. this is what you are choosing between, vietnam and mississippi. so you are having to make another choice. where do i think i can do the most good? that is the perimeter, where do -- parameter where do i think i , can be the change agent? they chose mississippi. >> did anyone choose vietnam? carol: not that i know of. not that i know of. that is not to say it didn't happen. while this debate is going on, there is a sncc member in massachusetts, bob moses.
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moses had an aura status in sncc because he had what i call quiet power. you know that saying, not the one who is blustering the most or hollering the most or the one who is the flashiest, but there is just something. yeah, quiet power. chad's like i got quiet power. [laughter] i saw that. so moses had that. moses had been asked by the head of the naacp in mississippi to come down to mississippi and help register folks to vote. so even separate from what is
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called the bobby kennedy organization, moses was on his way down. and he gets to mississippi, with about 12,000 residents and 250 african-americans registered to vote. >> like volunteering or is he -- carol: he is volunteering. that is moses. he will be appropriately named. he went down to mccomb, mississippi and began setting up civic education classes. because remember when we are talking about the schools, talking about the textbooks in the schools, and in these jim crow schools, the textbooks for black children didn't mention there was a 13th amendment, 14th
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amendment, or a 15th amendment. if what you are reading is what you know, the new don't have a full sense that slavery has been abolished, that you have equal protection under the law with due process and birthright citizenship and the right to vote. so when you begin to set up the civic education classes, it begins to help the folks understand they are not just mississippi citizens. they are citizens of the united states of america. with a whole range of rights that the state of mississippi has not yet fully acknowledged for african-americans. it is one of those things. once you begin to see, it is like your vistas just widens up
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and you are thinking, wow. then he sets up registration classes. what is it going to take to get through a literacy test? remember, about half of black adults in mississippi had five or fewer years of formal education, jim crow education. being able to read the constitution and then interpret it, like you have got a harvard jd, and there was moses, sitting down with the folk, working them through how do you get through the literacy exams. you are beginning to see the power of this thing. emory. >> like in church, or did
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mississippi allow these -- these night courses, morning courses? carol: he was going whenever and wherever. that is one of the things about movement building. you go to where the people are. you go when they are, you go where they are. so with all of these courses and literacy tests and helping folks with civic education classes and voter registration classes, he begins to try to register black folk to vote. there was a young man down in mississippi named hollis watkins. hollis is noticing the work that moses is doing. hollis is impressed. he was about 17 at the time.
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he was like, look at this guy harvard,wn here from doing this work. then he says to moses, but you know, if you really want to be about it, mccomb is easy. where you really need to go is to amity county because there is about one black person registered to vote between the two counties. what moses knew was that if he took the easy route -- and understand when i say easy, i have it in big quotes. he knew that in order to fully gain the trust, because movement building is also about trust. in order to gain the trust of black mississippians, he would have to go where they live.
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he went into amity county. it got almost like quiet in here. he started doing the civic education classes, voter education classes, then he went to go register some folks to vote. he got arrested. think about that. you just got arrested for registering american citizens to vote. but he knows he has the protection of the federal government. so he calls john doerr, who is
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an assistant in bobby kennedy's office. he calls john doerr with the one phone call he gets. he calls john doerr and is like, i need you to know i have just been arrested for registering black people to vote. i believe that is what that federal protection is all about. john doerr is like, thank you so much for conveying that information. two days later the naacp bails bob moses out of jail. moses goes back. he continues to work with the people. then he finds another group and they go to register to vote. now, part of the problem is that where moses had been staying was right across the street from state representative eh hearst.
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eh hearst was a segregationist white supremacist of the first magnitude. moses was staying right across the street from him. but even worse than eh hearst, and that is bad, was his son-in-law billy jack caston. billy jack had terrorized black people as long as he had -- he could terrorize black people. he saw what moses was doing. you begin to think how this threatens the power structure. when you have counties that are 50% black but you have only got like one registered voter there, if you can get all of them registered and voting, all of a sudden you have different officials which means you are getting different policies, which means, i don't know, maybe
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eh hearst isn't going to be a state representative for too long. this is really going after a segregationist white supremacist power structure. he is like yeah. moses goes down to the courthouse. he has got a couple of guys with him. they are going up the steps to register black folk to vote. billy jack caston shows up, pulls out a knife, turns the handle around and bam, hits moses. moses staggers. billy jack is not done. he starts wailing on him. remember nonviolence, you learn how to take the blows. because what you know -- we have talked about these ethnic notions. what you know is the moment you
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swing back, becomes justifiable homicide when they kill you. multiple reasons for nonviolence. as a strategy. wailing on him. and moses goes into his zone, that a kind of zen zone. the two black guys who were with him, who he was going to help register to vote, they saw billy jack, and they took off running. so it is just -- yeah. you know when your boys step up and leave you? like whoa. when billy jack is done, moses is a bloody mess. billy jack is really proud of what he has done. he and his boys walk away. when they are gone, moses stands
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up, bleeding, just bleeding. the two guys who had run away, they are like looking, and he is like, you ready to go register to vote? yeah. you see that kind of strength. that is that quiet power leading. he calls john doerr. they couldn't register as i recall. he calls john doerr from the house across eh hearst and says i want to report a beating. i was beaten. john doerr says i know. he's like, you know? yes, i already have the fbi report. but i will come down and i will see what i can do, what is going on. j edgar hoover was the head of the fbi.
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j edgar hoover was not a, how does one say? he was so not feeling the civil rights movement, civil rights leaders, civil rights goals, civil rights civil, civil, no. that is j edgar. as far as he was concerned, they were communists. just communists. so when john doerr has the fbi report and says, ehh. he gets down to mississippi and he sees moses. bruised. that is not what the fbi report said. what john doerr was expecting was maybe a bruise here. he wasn't expecting what he saw. and he stepped back.
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he thought, this has got -- i got to begin to rethink the fbi's commitment to civil rights protection here, because what this report is saying is not what the evidence is. what moses tells him is, i will be all right. i just wanted you to know the depth of the violence. the depth of the violence is going to get worse because there is a man who has been helping me named herbert lee. and herbert has been driving around, driving me from place to place, from house to house. anybody live in the country? own it. ok. and you know, houses aren't like they are in the city right up against each other, you can look in the window and see what your neighbor is fixing for dinner. you know? t ke that.
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you have got acres between these homes. walking them is not the most efficient way of trying to get something done. herbert lee was driving moses to these homes. helping folk. with civic education classes. remember, moses is living right across the street from eh hearst. eh hearst sees what is happening. eh hearst sees her bradley -- herbert lee facilitating. voter registration in mississippi. moses tells john doerr, protect herbert lee. i fear for his life. protect him. protect him. protect him. john doerr says ok. will do. gets on the plane and flies back
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to d.c. to protect him. you know, work on some stuff. the moment he gets there, he sees the notice. herbert lee has been found shot to death. eh hearst shot him. state representative eh hearst shot him. hearst claimed that -- how do you say this -- it was self-defense. i am going to walk you through this like we walked through scottsboro. so, herbert lee drove up in his truck, got out of his truck with a tire iron, swinging it at mississippi state representative eh hearst. now, all who believe that story, please raise your hand. [laughter]
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are you saying it lacks credibility? it does. but he had witnesses. >> of course. >> the son-in-law. carol: the son-in-law. and a black man. timothy, that look like, what? named lewis allen. who said yeah, it happened just the way representative hearst said it happened. he got out of the truck swinging a tire iron at him, and so representative hearst had to protect himself. so he shot him. bob moses is listening to this and going, that is not adding up. that is really not adding up. let's see what we can do here.
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he begins to talk to louis allen. he is going, is that how it really happened? yes. no really, is that how it really happened? yes. is that how it really happened? no. and louis allen was afraid for his life. he would leave mississippi. before he left, he promised bob moses he would come back and tell the truth. and the truth was that herbert lee drove up. the moment he got out of his truck, eh hearst shot him, then took a tire iron and planted it under his body. louis allen would come back to mississippi because he missed
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mississippi. his business was in mississippi. he was in lumbering. lumber. he would come back and then louis allen suffered three shotgun blasts to the face on his last trip back to mississippi. bob moses took that death on his shoulders and in his heart and in his soul because he is like, louis allen, if i hadn't talked to him and convinced to tell the truth, that man would still be alive. but one of the things that became really clear to him, what became really clear to him was
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that it was going to take more than what sncc had been able to do. to bring voting rights to mississippi. it was going to take more than this structure of council of federated organizations. because there are bodies piling up, and nothing is moving. nothing is changing. how do you create change? but moses comes up with is freedom summer. and freedom summer will be that moment where he is saying we have to bring in students, because you know, you are
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fearless. [laughter] students from around the nation to come to mississippi, set up freedom schools, and register folks to vote. now, the people that he is bringing in, black students and white students, and not just white students. white students from the ivies whose fathers and mothers are judges and senators. they begin to think through strategy. even mississippi is
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not crazy enough to do damage to the students and we can get some work done here in changing the power structure. any questions? ok. wow, really? emory. >> how are the finances looking? how are they going to sustain all the volunteers and -- carol: he is asking about finances. fundraising for the movement is always precarious. and so this is where you have celebrities like harry belafonte fully engaged in fund-raising. you have a man named stanley levinson that j edgar hoover was
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convinced was a communist, and levinson worked hand-in-hand with martin luther king in fund-raising, particularly up north. there is a wonderful article, king?"nded it talks about that fund-raising effort because money is always tight. yeah. mark. >> you said the sentiment was that even mississippi wasn't crazy enough to damage the students they were bringing in but every time we see that item in this course, seems like mississippi is crazy enough. carol: [laughter] are you wanting a spoiler alert? >> i am skeptical. carol: that is going to be next week's lecture. yes, emily. >> did eh hearst ever face repercussions? or did he walk away scott free?
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carol: he walked. yeah. remember, what we have been dealing with is the lack of value on black life. the black life has no value. and so gunning down a black man who is trying to help register people to vote has no value. josh. >> i was wondering how moses attracted white students from the north and other places with substantial background. carol: he is out of harvard. he is brilliant. he has got that quiet power , charisma. and this is a moment in the
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1960's where students believe that they can make a real difference. where they can change the course of this nation's history, and they are ready to do that work. you take that sense of fearlessness and you mix it with the kind of visionary zeal and a cause, yeah. they flocked down to mississippi. freedom summer is going to be something. yes, nate. >> going back a little bit, was j edgar hoover ever confronted about the falsified fbi report? what happened? [laughter] aware, but -- carol: j edgar hoover was interesting. >> that is one word.
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carol: kennedy did not like hoover. >> period. [laughter] carol: wanted him gone. there was a meeting that hoover had with jack kennedy one-on-one, just those two. after that meeting, the you are hereby fired notice was rescinded. >> wow. carol: hoover really did not face the consequences of a lot of the bad stuff that he did. in a and he was in power until 1972? i'm looking back at steve. early 1970's. he died somewhere in the middle of watergate. >> but he came into power around 1920.
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carol: right. yeah, so he came into power during the first red scare. right around the end of the first world war. and died during watergate. somewhere in that era. he put his stamp on that organization. daniel. about you tell us more what actually happened in that meeting and were there any other attempts on behalf of the kennedy administration to undermine the work that hoover was doing? carol: the rumors have it that kennedy liked women. a lot. and that there was evidence about how much. that is a rumor. because there was nobody else in that meeting.
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it is really hard to tell. it appears again, rumor, that one of the women that he liked a lot -- >> [laughter] carol: which he did. this is a g-rated show here, people. may have been compromised in terms of being a spy. >> [laughter] >> that is a movie. carol: i mean, a marie just said why didn't he save -- he stay faithful? every last one of you remembers that. >> [laughter] carol: again, these are rumors. these are little pieces folks are trying to put together. he couldn't stand hoover. bobby kennedy really could not
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stand him. bobby kennedy is hoover's boss because bobby kennedy is the attorney general. those two clashed. bobby wanted him gone. after that meeting, hoover stayed. yeah. >> you said the voter education project was like some of kennedy's reasoning behind that thing was it would have less press coverage and therefore on the down low be helping the civil rights movement, but without too much press. what was the media coverage like? because there ended up being violence. carol: the media coverage was not as high-profile at this moment, but it would be during freedom summer. yes. so when we get to freedom summer, the press is going to really come in because the killings are going to be horrific.
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joshua. >> how was wondering, during the voter education, how did local mississippians respond? in overcoming terrorism and their fears to work with folks? carol: so you mean, how did african-americans in mississippi? >> especially as we see lewis out when and herbert lee. carol: cindy lou hamer, been reading, right? good. she said when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you know, there comes that moment when you are not going to take it. not everybody stood up. but you had enough folks. you had vera in clarksdale, mississippi, who was using her independent business -- she was a hairdresser. she was using that as the spot
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where people were organizing. and because she did black women's hair, and she owned her shop, she wasn't dependent upon anyone else for her financial well-being. that economic independence allowed her. it wasn't like she didn't get harassed and her daughter didn't get harassed, but she was -- yeah. you have folks who just were sick and tired of being sick and tired. and were ready to put it on the line for a better future. when you think about it, that is what we keep talking about in the movement. we don't have everybody standing up. but we have enough people standing up. ok. thank you. oh, yes, alex? >> what was bobby kennedy up to while voter education wasn't
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happening in mississippi? carol: that is a great question. i'm not sure. except i know they weren't getting the protection bobby had promised. that lack of protection he had promised was sending moses into a direction bobby really didn't think this thing was going to go. so, backfire. ok. thank you. don't you dare. >> [laughter] [applause] [laughter] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> the upcoming caucuses and new hampshire primary, today we look back at visits to the granite state.
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>> there are too many students and parents believe that how much you learn in school is basically determined by what iq you were born with and what your family income it -- income is. >> i said mother it is clear that people still love you here, but you are still telling me what to do. a guy in the big cowboy hat strolled in the middle of fredericksburg, texas cups his hand and screams, "you had better listen to her too, boy." tonight bill clinton's stated the -- state of the union address given while he was under impeachment. >> perhaps in the daily press of events and the class of controversy, we do not see our own time for what it truly is -- a new dawn.
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>> explore our nation's past every weekend on american history tv on c-span3. >> several war scholar jeffrey hunt details the movement of general george meade and union forces from july 1863 as they follow confederates through virginia. this was part of pamplin's historical parks symposium. >> i am very pleased to introduce our last speaker for the afternoon. jeffrey william hunt is the director of the texas military forces museum at camp mayberry in austin, texas. and adjunct professor of history at austin community college. since 1988. taught god bless you. mr.


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