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tv   QA Author V. P. Franklin on the Untold Story of the Young Activists Who...  CSPAN  February 27, 2022 11:00pm-12:02am EST

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giving a front row seat to democracy. >> i think we could do a great thing if we walk in the street of mine. >> i think there been wonderful demonstrations, one of the best that chicago has ever had. we are interested in the education of our children. we want quality education.
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that is why we march today. >> the books we get are not good books, their secondhand books. we don't have enough books to go around. >> pre-much in favor of integration. >> that is a clip about the 19 two to three boycotts from the 2017 documentary called 63 boycott. dr. vicki franklin is one of the many stories told in your young book called the young crusaders. prof. franklin: i am document in the activities of children and teenagers in civil rights campaigns across the country that were organized by white activists and leaders, local politicians, local civil rights
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activists, the young people who participated in those activities. i am also documenting what the students and young people did in terms of organizing their own administration's. they organize themselves. they make significant changes. susan: what was the impact of these young people? prof. franklin: the major area where we know the young people work on the frontline doing most of the protesting or activism, civil rights activism were in schools of segregation. you had elementary schools,
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teenagers, to your high school students who agreed to be the first ones to integrate all white elementary schools, high schools. the focus initially was on the students. you know about the little rock nine. there were students who agree to be the first ones to desegregate the public schools in their town, in their city. this required a decision on the part of the town to let the students participate and do it. there may be some kinds of attack or protest against it. then the young people had to agree that they would be willing to sacrifice a lot of things in order to be the first ones to
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entities previously all-white public and private schools. these were usually very good students. they were honors students, they were presidents of a club. they were willing to make that sacrifice. they were willing to put all of that side and be subjected to whatever may come and be the first to re-segregate those schools. that is one area where those teens were called upon. >> how does your work in documenting children and teens understand public understanding of it?
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>> we had the story of dr. king and the large campaigns in selma and birmingham. most of those leaders were male at the time. research beginning in the 1980's and 90's began to document the role of women in the supper rights campaigns and marches. the story of the civil rights movement that begins to change is not just civil rights leaders. they were not determining what went on. it was women organizing in the ground -- on the ground in these local communities. serving as a bridge to the national civil rights organizations.
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it was women who organized protests with their local communities and they were attached to the longer -- large organization. they were attached to that. some people pointed out women's role as branch leaders. they bridged to the national movement. you also had women who organized these campaigns. you had a number of studies that documented women possible leadership roles in various civil rights protests and campaigns. we had the leaders who were women but we actually see who participated initially in many of these protests that would have been organized by women. the ones who actually participated were oftentimes teenagers. for example, in the case of
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some, you had civil rights activists coming to town holding meetings, usually in the churches saying that they were going to organize protests in downtown for the supermarket or bus terminal. they would have these meetings and all the local community's which show up essay tomorrow morning at 9:00 we are going to be out there picketing the bus terminals. make sure you are there. we need to desegregate this facility. 9:00 that next morning, many times it was the teenagers that showed up. it was the teenagers that actually showed up for these protests initially because they were not under the constraints that their parents were or the
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religious leaders in the community that thought if they participated in this march, in this protest, in this sit in that it would affect their livelihood but the teenagers would show up and they would participate in the marches and the protests and then they would be arrested. the teenagers would be arrested, taken to jail, their parents would be called and the parents will come and bail them out. and then the parents said my son and daughter did this, i need to participate as well. in many of these cases, many of these incidents it was the teenagers who initiated the protest and then adults, their parents joined because to some
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extent they were embarrassed that the teenagers had done this and they had not participated. in addition to teenagers and activism leading to this increased participation, you make the case that the conditions under which children were treated really began to up all people around the united states and around the world which added to its success. can you talk about that? >> the filmed footage of the attacks on children and teenagers, this was shown all over the country, all over the world. there was a response in terms of teenagers in other cities and other parts of the country, they said if they are doing this in
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birmingham, if this is what they are being subjected to in birmingham, in order to change a horrible situation, we have to understand that we have to do this too. the newspaper reports on the attacks, on the abuse and jailing of the students and the young people in the georgia and albany campaign which lasted years and the entire city was mobilized. the problem was that we started out with the teenagers being arrested in larger numbers and getting all of this filmed footage, this coverage of selma. and the students in other parts of georgia, other parts of the
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south, other parts of the country -- they said we need you -- we want to protest. what we are up against just as though students in albany, georgia who are going to jail and being bailed out by their parents. we are subjected to the same kinds of disco nation of lack of resources, lack of black teachers, administrators, principals, its address that we need to organize. usually we would just have a meeting in the cafeteria and talk about the fact that miss jones who works in the cafeteria was part of the demonstration that took place downtown two or three days ago and she has now been fired.
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we are going to protest the firing of ms. jones. they organize and start singing. they leave the cafeteria and then they march forth, downtown and we touched baton rouge. this is what happened. and then the students -- there was a reason associated with the school and then they marched downtown to protest what had happened with the arrest of students and teachers and then they would go downtown and then they would be attacked by the police. during their march. that is what we see. that is with the filmed footage is of. when students initiate their own protest. when a specific issue had come
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up, they mobilize, they march and then they are attacked. and then that serves as a way of initiating other young people to engage. we have the same problem. need to do this exact same thing. teenagers around the country saw this and said we are going to protest the situation we are being educated under in our town as well. >> you tell readers that religion was central to these young people's involvement in the early civil rights movement. how so? prof. franklin: yes, i call it the young crusaders because crusaders were on religious campaigns in the middle ages. in each and every one of these students's testimonies, where they were interviewed by
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journalists or other people collecting information, the students would say that i am doing this because it is right. it is the right thing to do. you have to keep in mind, this message is being reinforced in their church and at the same time, the protest meetings, they are taking place in the churches. these are children who had grown up in the church, who had been taught the attitudes about what is right, what is the christian thing to do. they are being instructed about the campaign that is being launched in their community, they are being instructed in the churches and before the protest
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begins, when they gather in the churches, before the protest begins, they start with prayer. these are children who are -- most of them grew up in the church but at the same time, the protests themselves are being organized in the churches. as they participate in these protests, they ask for assistance, help as they engage in this protest. it was a religious movement throughout for most of these children. it comes over again and again. each time the little rock nine
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approached central high school, they would be these different times they were not allowed to enter central high school and each time, they say we began with prayer. this was as we got ourselves together to go to central high school. we engaged in prayer. and then took off. at the same time, these students who were in these situations where they were the first ones to desegregate these schools, they were abused in various ways by teachers but mostly the students who did not want them
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there. one of the little rock nine said there was a chaplain in central high school and every day she went to that chapel to pray for the strength for her to make it through that day. it is a religious aspect of the students and the young people mobilization protest, it was very prominent and very important to their success. susan: your title today at the california -- university of california riverside, you spend your academic career document and tatian the story of the civil rights effort in the united states. you tell readers that this particular book has been decades
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in the making for you. tell me it's prominence. why has it taken so long few you to tell this story -- for you to tell the story? prof. franklin: it took me so long to get this book out because i was interrupted by various things. this was done at toebbe university. this was about the analogy of the civil rights area in 19 six to four and 1965. that came out in 2000. the research for the book was carried on throughout the 1990's. in the 1990's, i was reading the, southern school news, jet magazine.
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i was collecting the civil rights activism. this is a reference book. employment, housing, voting rights, entertainment, sports, the military. while i was working on that book i began to notice all of the references to children. i said i'm going to pursue this because it is everywhere.
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i began issuing this in 2001. that was my first article on the subject. it was on black high school student activism. this article was published in 2001. there was an article on black high school student activism. it was coming out of all of this. in 2001 i agree to become the head of the journal of legal history. -- negro history. they twisted my arm. the first thing i did was i changed the name to the journal of african american history. my first issue came out in 2002.
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as the journal editor i had to publish four issues each year and that took up all of my extra time. i had to put together 600 pages every year. i try to integrate my interest in student activism -- young people's activism and actually had a special issue of the journal of african american history. it came out in spring of 2003 on the history of black student activism. that was 2003. i had this special issue.
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that dealt with college students as well as high school students. i am continuing to work on the journal using these and then we get to the thing that makes historians's careers. anniversaries. for example, on the 50th anniversary of the ground decision, -- it came out in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of the brown decision. the next one i said what other anniversaries are coming up. the anniversary that was really important for me would be the
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50th anniversary of the children's crusade in birmingham. the 50th anniversary would be any 13. i said all right. here is the anniversary. do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary. i decided i would have my students at the university of california riverside, i would have my students --
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i had the students in the undergraduate seminar, i had the right on different protests in different parts of the country. my students went to jet magazine or they went to the local newspaper together information for the protests in chicago, the protests in milwaukee, the protests in cleveland. we are going to work on protesting cleveland. that is what these children did and another team of students would work on birmingham and another team of students would work on selma until the students gathered this information on this protests in these different places. southern as well as northern. they produced powerpoint
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presentations of the campaign in that city. from the student's powerpoint presentation we created an exhibit. an exhibit called children and teenagers -- it opened in may of 2015. the 50th anniversary of the children's first aid. it wouldn't from the students doing research in these cities and towns, producing powerpoint presentations and then from the powerpoint presentations to produce posters for an exhibit and the exhibit opened on the 50th anniversary of the children's crusade, they of 2013. i had other students after that,
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we have another expanded exhibit for 2014 because that was the 15th anniversary of the freedom schools and many of these protests in chicago, milwaukee and cleveland, when these protests began, they asked the students to break out on a specific data protest, on those days, the students would attend -- many students, not all of them, freedom schools who opened up in new york. in chicago, you had 50 freedoms goes open.
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they did not want it to be just every day, they wanted them to go to these freedom schools, to learn about the importance of their per dissipation in that boycott, the one-day boycott of the public school system, showing how that is related to the larger civil rights campaigns taking place. you had those schools open in boston and new york, chicago, milwaukee, cleveland, etc. during this protests. in 1964, we had freedom selma -- summer. those are the ones that people most know about. they know about the freedom schools. sometimes they were attacked, sometimes they were bombed. we actually published the newspapers that the children in mississippi produced in freedom schools. they were collected and published. the freedom schools in mississippi where well-known and
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famous. the 50th anniversary of the freedom schools served as a reason for the exhibit in 2014. most people realize that the freedom schools that started in boston and new york, chicago -- that is the information. that is what i am resenting in this book. teens that did the research. they created the exhibit. they opened on the 50th anniversary of the children's crusade and then the expanded version open from the 50th anniversary of freedom summer and the freedom schools. that exhibit traveled around to other university libraries.
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it went to drexel university in philadelphia. it was in the schools of atlanta. the exhibit traveled. but then when we had the opening of the exhibit, the sponsors, the university sponsors would get in touch with young people in that location who had participated in this protests and they would tell their story about what they did, why they did it and what have you. i was -- that was usually videotaped. what was really interesting to me is when i began doing this research and working with my students on the campaign, people
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in riverside, california, it is not a large town, it is barely a city. it is a server -- suburb of los angeles. i would meet them and i would say i am working on these student protests and demonstrations and the boycotts that took place in chicago and new york. the people of riverside said oh yeah we had that. i am just arriving but my joy did get there in 2007. i said this was a major civil rights campaign where children of color would not -- were not allowed to integrate into all-white public schools.
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many of them attended freedom schools. the people in riverside california said that is what we did. i said what? they said yes. in 1955. i said what happened? they said what happened was this was 1965, riverside, california, they would not allow mexican-american and african-american chosen to attend all-white public schools. they had separate schools for black and mexican kids. the parents had complained. the parent had complained about it. this was like please allow our children to attend other schools
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-- school officials said they did not know how this would transfer. in september of 1965, on the night before the first day of classes, the first day of school, mysteriously, the lowell public school, fire. it was a major fire in this sector in riverside. they said they are going to have to allow the children to attend public schools in the district. the parents met with the school superintendent to say now you are going to allow your students to tell you about the schools. the superintendent said it
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wasn't all burned down. they could still go there. there would not be any need to transfer. that is when they called the boycott. they launched the boycott in september and riverside. faculty members and students came from the university of california riverside and they served as the teachers that were open for these african american and mexican-american students who were boycotting schools. the boycott lasted five days, five straight days.
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the other boycotts were one-day affairs. in riverside, the boycott lasted five days because after the fifth day, the superintendent and the board of education in riverside decided they would allow the mexican-american children and african-american children to attend, to integrate into the all-white schools. so when we had the opening of the exhibit and included the riverside california story, i wasn't able to identify -- they were not able to put me in touch with anyone who organized that boycott in riverside in 1965. the parents and political leaders. they weren't around, i couldn't find it but i found the students who were the first ones who desegregated the all-white schools in riverside.
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at the inauguration of the exhibit in 2014, individuals who were the first ones to desegregate all-white public schools in riverside, california spoke about their experience and i have that on videotape. sometimes they were shunned by students, sometimes the students would make fun of them and try to make fun of them. eventually they said they got used to them being around and they actually graduated from those schools. so yes. it was a long journey. i had these exhibits. i had the various university libraries opened around the country. those 2014 or 2015 and then we had 2015 as a centennial year
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for the journal. i had to do all of that. i retired in 2015 from the university of california but i wanted to return because i came to the university of california riverside in 2007 because i had been teaching in new orleans. it was not recovering from hurricane katrina. i had various job offerings. i had just retired from the university of california. they offered me the position there. that was because the history department at dillard was consolidated into a humanities department.
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i arrived at the university of california riverside in 2007 and returned to new orleans in 2015. i met with colleagues at xavier university. i had visited with xavier's faculty before. when i mentioned the project i was working on, i set there is all this activism in the louisiana, that in each of these cities in the louisiana, high school students and children, desegregated public schools, they organized all of these protests. two colleagues at xavier university said i will get my
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students at xavier to document that we protested in cities in louisiana and new orleans, that rouge, shreveport and so students at xavier university engaged in research on these protests in those cities and created a powerpoint presentation of the protests in those cities that the children were engaged in and then we mounted the exhibit at xavier university in 2018. at the inaugural event in february of 2018, the opening of the exhibit they created, it was not the exhibit i created in
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california. we had a panel where children participated in protests in new orleans and the 1950's and 1960's. the connection was made by the individuals that were children and teenagers at the time who are now being depicted in the exhibit and they maintained that at the open of the exhibit and told a story about what happened and what they did. ok so that gets you up to 2018.
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i said now i need to sit down and write this book. i was retired, i retired the journal of african merit history. the last issue was fall of 2018. therefore i was able to sit down and write the book "the young crusaders." it was based on the research i had done and what my students had done in california and what students had done here in new york. >> it must have been quiet a compelling experience to learn what their forebears had done to advance the movement. we have about 20 minutes left in the conversation. i wanted to get some of the voices of people that you referenced. you tell us about the major points covered in the book.
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the children's crusade, the little rock nine, the individual activism. i want to put some voices on the so they can talk about what you learned about their experience. let's start with carlotta. she is one of the so-called little rock nine. i believe she was 14 years old. she was in september of 1957 when president eisenhower called the 101st airborne and then nationalized the national guard to protect the rights. let's listen to her. >> i was not about to succumb to that level of mentality that we confronted on a daily basis i stated above that. that is what allowed me to get through the whole year. just knowing that i had a right to be here.
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i just stayed above the whole situation. i don't know where i was when they were having this nonviolent training. i don't recall any of that and i have been asked many times about that as well in various groups and they wanted to know about my nonviolent training and i said no. we had on job training. >> what did you learn about the bravery of the young people who took on these causes? prof. franklin: as i alluded to before, this was the youngest one. what was really interesting is that she said she lived close to central high school and that she
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had to take a bus pass to central high school to get to the all-black high school. she felt she had a right to attend central high school because there was her neighborhood school. it was literally her neighborhood school. the high school closest to her home. we learned that. and then we learned you had the conditions that -- the daily conditions of the school, she and the other little rock nine mentioned that they were spit at. they had paints on their locker. matches would be lit in the school auditorium and thrown onto them. they were knocked down and --
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knocked down white's upstairs. they had food thrown at them in the cafeteria and they persisted. they stayed because -- some of them were even worse. she describes a night -- i guess this would be in october or november of 1957 when her grandmother and she and her brother were at home and they heard a car pull up and then shots were fired into their house.
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they ducked down. she described them ducking down and then the grandmother went to the closet and got her shotgun and then went to the window and fired the shotgun at a trashcan. she said she heard people scampering away. from that point forward, her grandmother kept a rifle ready there in the evening in case someone would come around and try to shoot into their homes again. it was not just the children bravery that was on display in these desegregation campaigns, it was their parents and their
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relatives helping them and providing them support while they were in this very difficult situation. most of the young people say they would not have been able to do this without the support of the community, their family and their friends. >> let's get another video in here. this is claudette, aged 15. she was involved in the bus protest in montgomery, alabama at that young age. let's watch. >> that day when the bus driver asked me to get up, i had this feeling, it felt like harriet tubman was holding me down. hands were holding me down on one shoulder. i was glued to the seat and i
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could hear the white passengers saying she has to move. that is the law. she has to move and i thought this is my time to take a stand for justice. >> rosa parks is memorialized in our history for refusing to move on december 1 of 1955 in montgomery but you say that young people were also involved in similar campaigns in various cities during that same time. what was their role? question was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that was eventually led to desegregation in montgomery following the boycott. she testified about her
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experiences and so on. she also had instances where the teenagers would be on the bus and they would refuse to give up their seats to a white passenger. they would be arrested. the information would get back to their family but also back to their friends and the parents of the students when they heard this, this happened in tallahassee. , when they heard about it, the students would march over to the police station or the headquarter to protest the
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arrest of those students. sometimes these students would be punished by their teachers. they were afraid this would have a negative effect on them and their positioning. . it had a snowball effect. so one student arrested led to marge's and protests in the downtown area.
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that would be one. or the student got arrested and then they were expelled from their high school. they would protest in the form of protest. until that student was allowed to return. this was just one example of the teenagers who launch these -- launched these protest. keep in mind that the ones who launched in february of 1960, they launched these protests that led to the nonviolent coordinating committee. those were teenagers. all four of them were teenagers
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who had been involved in this. the students -- these are teenagers, they are in north carolina. they were freshman. they were still teenagers. they told people what they were going to do the day before and the naacp said go ahead and do that. go and have the sit in. if you are arrested, we will bail you out. you have to keep in mind that many times i deal with teenagers but the teenagers would include
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community college students. the greensboro four who started the sit in quiet you referenced so many stores. at the end, you look at our times. after a 20 or hiatus of young people being activists, apartment students, the march for their lives. what would your advice be to the young people galvanizing on particular issues now based on your research? prof. franklin: i am really heartened by what the young people, the teenagers and young
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people are doing in the black lives matter, march for our lives, the climate protesters, the students led by this. i am really heartened by that further activity. they engaged in marches, protests, they petitioned legislatures etc.. my advice to the young people would be what about boycotts? that is where they have been most successful in bringing about social changes.
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this is about the failure of the government to rein in the fossil fuel industry. there were more leases to the fossil fuel companies today for more oil and cash. this is a real problem here. i would recommend that the young people think about how they can utilize the boycott to write about some kind of change. for example, why don't they target one of the large fossil
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fuel companies to say that we are not going to dine your guests anymore? that fossil fuel company, exxon mobil, chevron, whatever, when they target, they will begin to move more expeditiously and rapidly to the removal -- removable fuels. young people really should think in terms of targeting those boycotts and those industries
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that moved the air and the water and demanded that they change their activity or reduce the amount in the air. that would be my advice to young people. the boycotts have been very successful and meaningful in the past and they brought about all kinds -- those montgomery boycotts kicked off these protests. they can go from there. >> the story is on the boycotts, sit and margins. they are all told in v.p. franklin's book, "the young crusaders." thank you for spending an hour with cspan.
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prof. franklin: thank you for having me. >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast on our c-span now at.
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