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tv   [untitled]    April 27, 2012 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT

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marvin in washington d.c. and here's what's coming up tonight on the big picture the average american history textbook weighs four and a half pounds is eight hundred eighty eight pages long and contains hundreds of lies omissions and half truths so how can teachers give children a comprehensive and accurate history of america will pose that question and more dr james lowe and tonight's conversations with great minds also why do republicans support violence against certain women and is the time our war criminals you know bush cheney rumsfeld among others got the public trial they deserve those questions and more in the night's big picture rumble and saturday is national workers memorial day a day of remembrance for working men and women who have been injured sickened or killed on the job and unfortunately our nation has
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a lot of remembering to do and action to take i'll explain closed religious. freedom once conversations in the great minds i'm joined by dr james lowe and dr alone as a sociologist historian and author a graduate of carleton college who received his doctorate doctorate in sociology from harvard university he taught race relations for twenty years at the university of vermont and has been an expert witness in more than fifty civil rights and voting rights and employment legal cases among dr loans many awards and honors is the first annual speed back award from the american sociological association for sociological research applied to the field of intergroup relations are too low and is currently the distinguished lecturer for the organization of american historians a visiting professor of sociology at catholic university visiting professor of african-american studies at the university of illinois. he's the author of numerous
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books including the american book award winning best seller two lies my teachers told me everything your american history textbook got wrong dr low and joins me now in the studio welcome sir nice to be here for a nice having you with us what stimulated you early on to study sociology. i think that actually growing up i was interested just curious about the social world for instance nobody's asked me that question incidentally. i can remember as a little kid maybe i was ten i read the newspaper in decatur illinois my hometown right in the center of illinois and there was some story about a house of ill repute and i'm not sure i knew what that meant maybe that was explained to me and guided terms by my parents and then i asked my dad if we could drive past it and dad took us on the sunday drive so on this sunday we went past the house of bill the pew so maybe it was always there i didn't even know what sociology was before i went to college actually so it was it was college they got
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me into it sure and led to kind of the history of sociology in a way that you've only got right into us history is a different question and a different story ok and that one. i have been asked before and i know the answer and that is my very first full time teaching job was at tougaloo college at studio eugene it's not a very well known college up here in washington d.c. but it's a good college very good and it's in mississippi and it's african-american so i'm teaching the course i expected to be teaching in sociology but i'm also pressed a detour into service to teach one section of a course called the freshman social science seminar so this was a course that had been invented by the history department in fact it was a required course and it introduced into you know the girl psych econ social at center and he did this in the context of african-american history made since ninety nine percent of our students be an african-american well that's the same chronology
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as shall we say regular american history second semester begins not only right after christmas it also begins right after the civil war so such as russia begins i have a new group of seventeen students that first day of class i don't want to do all that talk all the talking at first. so i ask my students ok. but what happened during reconstruction right after what went on there and my what happened to me was a whole reaction i better call it a no no reaction because sixteen out of my seventeen students said to me that's the time when right out of the civil war reconstruction blacks took over the government of the southern states but they were too soon out of slavery and so they screwed up and white folks had to take consoles again birth of a nation. as free movie as out of the working nation gone with the wind of old into one and of course these are all african-american students i thought my gosh what
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must it do to you to believe that the one time your group was center stage in american history they screwed up now it be a different matter if this happened but it didn't happen this is in fact what we in sociology call b.s. history that is bad sociology. so what what actually happened of course the reconstruction governments were never taken over by black folks all of the southern states had white governors throughout the period all but one had a white legislative majority second of all the governments didn't screw up without exception across the south they vote better state constitutions than the southern states have now much better than texas for instance for mississippi's they started the public school systems for both races there were scattered schools for white folks but no system that included the whole state and of course there were no schools at all for black folks it was illegal a felony to teach even free blacks to be ignorant so they didn't screw up so anyway i went to nearby schools i watched and this was just before massive school
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desegregation so i watched black teachers teaching all black classes this white supremacist history that was complete b.s. . because they were just teaching what was in the book so i tried for about a year and a half to get a historian there were more than one historian to write a new book they were too busy doing little monographs in. stuff so eventually i got a grant i've put together a team of students and faculty ad to go lou and also to college which is a nearby white school and we wrote a new history of mississippi well this was aimed at ninth graders where this was a required course and the state rejected our book for not just public schools for any school use. we sued them in the hallway of the first circuit yes. well no we didn't go they didn't appeal it it was in the federal court of course and the case is called alone at all versus turnip seed at all. there are people in mississippi named turnips it's one of the reasons we made him a lead defendant. anyway it was
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a dramatic. trial in fact and the key moment of drama happened with john turnip seed on the stand he was one of the seven member mississippi state textbook board five of whom had voted against our book including him there were five whites and two blacks on the board i think you can figure that one out. and he was asked by the assistant attorney general for the state of mississippi why did you vote against this book which is a good question because there was a good book and he had us turn to page whatever it was when eighty nine i think where there was a photo of a lynching now mississippi in fact had more lynchings than any other state it's a matter of history and it's important and it makes a difference in how society operates but he said and i can quote him exactly i committed to memory when it when he said it he said now you know some ninth graders especially black male ninth graders i pretty big and we were at least i worried
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that teachers especially white lady teachers might have trouble controlling their classes with material like this in the book so our book was going to cause a race war well we had already protested our book with an overwhelmingly white class and with an overwhelmingly black class and both classes had liked it all the pieces better than. so we had material for rebuttal testimony but we didn't have to use it because at this point the judge who was an eighty three year old white mississippian who was believe in the first amendment students' rights to controversial material like this and also in the fourteenth amendment equal rights when he took over the questioning and he asked quote but that happened didn't it didn't mississippi have more lynchings than any other state and mr turner she replied and i quote him he said well yes but that all happened so long ago why draw on it now and the judge says well it is a history book and we know that each other and so we're going to win this case. and that was an ordinary mason moment moment we did win the case i'm curious how when
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you first stepped into that class and were confronted by the lack of knowledge among african-american students about their own history in their state and the misinformation the textbook how is it that you knew the to the true story that's a good question to one key reason was that when i will my doctoral dissertation i don't feel dissertation is called the mississippi chinese between black and white and it's actually still in print they made a movie out of it not a very good movie but a movie nevertheless. doing the research for that i had to learn about the reconstruction period of course. and if it isn't the secret this whole live about reconstruction was just that a lie i mean historians were coming to that conclusion at about that time having gotten it wrong for for many decades. so that was part of it but the biggest part
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of it was i actually read newspapers published in the eight hundred sixty s. and seventy's particularly newspapers in vicksburg and this one newspaper in particular was a democratic newspaper because you have to remember in one thousand nine hundred the democrats were the party of overt white supremacy that the two parties flipped well. pretty sure flip flop on this in sixty four nine hundred sixty four yeah they call themselves the white man's party and that's what they were well so this was a democratic newspaper and these newspapers were outspokenly political back then more so than fox news you know and so they this guy the editor who actually starts off utterly obsessed with reconstruction just simply because blacks were voting and got to participate in the political process gradually here he agrees that they're not that bad and then he even suggest well you know since. blacks are going to be voting from here on out little did he know that that wasn't going to happen but
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since they are maybe we ought to become democrats and he i mean republicans and he switched the paper briefly to become a republican and then. the vicksburg racial it occurs which is a which killed a bunch of black folks and pretty much removed them from politics even before the the state went democratic and he realizes that we can remove them from politics and so he switches back to being democratic and i'm sitting there reading this and saying ok this didn't happen then because republicans were terrible and were destroying the state quite the opposite it happened because they were succeeding they were building a an alliance that would have kept them in power and so the democrats used violence to threaten that now that would have been was at is stevens in the radical republicans and those folks and that and that that is absolute remarkable he was in pennsylvania with that he were in mississippi yeah but and to the thirteenth fourteenth and fifteenth yeah the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were passed
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then and the forty the members particularly his assault equal rights under the law and due process it's a i think it's a crown jewel of our constitution but of course it got forgotten from about eight hundred eighty in till about one thousand nine hundred sixty you know right now and they're trying to apply it to corporations and i will continue this conversation in just a moment more conversations with great minds dr james lowe an apparatus. you
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know sometimes you see a story and it seems so you think you understand it and then something else you hear sees some other part of it and realize that everything is ok. i'm sorry welcome to the big picture. mr.
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well the magic conversations are the great minds of dr james lowy dr alone is a sociologist historian and author a graduate of crawled in college he received his doctorate in sociology from harvard university is the author of numerous books including the american book award winning best seller lies my teacher told me everything your american history textbook got wrong and teaching what really happened. let's get back to it. and also i want to mention we talked some about the civil war reconstruction your
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newest book the confederate and neo confederate reader the great truth about the lost cause this is i find this actually fasting. you mentioned during the break that george zimmerman quoted you and three dead guys on his website in that context and this seems to be a thread through at least that of your work that i'm familiar with i've read lies my teacher told me and in fact i interviewed you on the radio some years ago but this and some of your articles. is this notion of creating the hero and the false here alternately and how it becomes a kind of jingoistic. form of well nationalism is not quite the right word but if you know how does that all relate to george zimmerman and what i'm going to do with that relates to george zimmerman he quoted me on quite a different context it was interesting he quoted me from lives meant to tell me and i think page three sixty seven now this implies he read the whole book. the book
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among other things it's not all about race but some of it is and it seems to me it certainly intended this and anti-racist book i think as you read it you realized you know i didn't know that we did that and i didn't know that that's what happened then and so on and. let's just put it this way the end of every system didn't seem to have a blow off on mr zimmerman as he read the first three hundred sixty six pages well and to the extent that he's been reinvented as a hero by some of the folks on the right and and and for that matter trayvon martin has been reinvented as as either the hero or as the villain you know by some characters we have this tendency and in american history to to deify or villainize way beyond what's realistic and you puncture a lot of those wounds in your books i'm curious do you think that that's a human characteristic is that just kind of a call back to tribalism or is that something that americans do more than other
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countries think it's both i think that certainly we do it more than others i think there's a reason for that that is to say. every nation i think is ethnocentric every nation thinks its system is the best well maybe not every nation it's a little hard to believe that zimbabwe does right now but anyway. swedes for instance they say look we've got a higher standard of living than than america for instance we've got a longer life span than almost any other country on the earth were great but sweets cannot tell themselves we are the dominant culture on planet we are the dominant economy we are the dominant military we the united states why those three things the dominant culture hit me upside the head to a limp six olympics is ago when i saw the chinese female divers high five each other after a really good dive well they did not learn that out in sync and province you know they learned that from america indeed in that case from from africa america if you will so in those ways we are the dominant culture military and and economy
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so i think it's easier for us to be ethnocentric then and also i think it's stupid or forced to because the thing wrong with a sense of some is it basically keeps you from learning from your own mistakes because you don't see them you don't admit them and it also keeps you from wanting from other cultures because you already know yours is better is that how ethnocentrism becomes in a phobia sure sure that it's related. it to hitler did his whole blowed in arizona blood on earth where the soil and he had been there and supremacy and germany had always been a great country and it's only the jews that have kept us from reaching our destiny and all that kind of stuff and it seems like i realize you know the old cliche he who mentions the nazis first loses the argument but but is that it seems like we would have learned the less of jingoistic now that we learned that what they did was wrong. and you know it was we were sure and we can go there but you learned i
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mean i was just i just spent part of today reading about and i think you're going have a segment about this i think i heard you say that about the war crimes. well i was thinking first of vietnam i was reading some stuff needed to do some research about me lie and so on the me line massacre and nobody in our country almost nobody ever gets brought to trial for anything wrong we do the exception is lieutenant calley who got three years of house arrest for murdering at least one thousand people and otherwise it's very very difficult to call people to task especially the the architects of the policy you know i mean when when general westmoreland back then and we can talk about rumsfeld in iraq and so on when they when westmoreland says essentially the iraqi and the iraqi people that was a slip the vietnamese people are the enemy and we've got to keep the body count up and that's how we measure our progress is not an invitation to war crimes so. i
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don't think that's a radical thing to say i think that's just a honest thing to say if you read the historical record why can't we face are passed on honestly we certainly want germany to you know and you've done a marvelous job with lies my teacher told me in doing that i'm curious about what we do if you are saying here has this old saying everything you know is wrong you know what everything we know is wrong about the civil war civil war you know this book course it has the confederate flag on the front it tells the confederate story but not the way that it's being told these days i have asked more than five thousand people mostly teachers around the us for about the last six or seven years why did the south secede i always get four answers i get they seceded for slavery for states' rights because of the election of lincoln or tariffs and taxes or arguments about same and then i ask these teachers to vote and overwhelmingly whether i am asking in north carolina where i did it first or in northern minnesota
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where i happened to do it second or north dakota worked on it or overall overwhelmingly black audience in memphis or central florida or cleveland or southern california always states rights wins a clear majority about sixty to seventy percent of my of my huge audiences are teachers say states' rights you know what's the matter with that well it's completely false it's what's the matter with it as the southern states leave the union and that's why this is called a reader because it includes what they say as they leave the union south carolina first and then each one says we are upset with states' rights we are seceding because we are mad at some states and the rights they're trying to. manifest for instance be canceled restates free states pennsylvania for instance is messing around with the fugitive slave act a little bit they say we know it's a national act we can't do anything about it but we can and then they. proceed to
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do little things like they pass a law saying we know that our shonda rhimes our state police our deputy sheriffs and so on that they have the job of tracking down any escaped slave and stuff you do what you have to under this bill but we're not paying you for that time just totally upset south carolina so it's going is upset by new york because new york norm no longer allows what's called slavery transit or temporarily for they used to be for instance the nice white folks from charleston didn't want to spend august in charleston i understand that having done it recently so they'd rather go to new york city and see someplace but they'd like to bring the cook along and new york now says oh if you bring your own slave cook into new york we're trying to run a free state she becomes free south carolina is outraged about this it's one of the reasons she's to seed so i was the basis of the dred scott decision that dred scott went to minnesota with his master exactly and when he came back down south he said hey wait a minute i was in flint state i'm free now and so the issue here well that was
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trickier because minnesota i think was a territory then yes there's no question that new york does have the right to do this within their even mad at new hampshire because new hampshire lets blacks vote now who votes in america is the state's right at this point it's not until the fifteenth amendment that you mentioned earlier past two whole years later during reconstruction that it becomes a national matter so what business is it of south carolina well they make it their business using the scotus an example they they say look we've got this law this decision this is black folks have no rights white person is to respect and here you new hampshire and letting them vote this is an outrage we've had enough with the cd so there's the seating again states' rights and totally about slavery and yet most teachers teach it exactly back which really shows the power of neo confederate so that's why the book is called the confederate and neo confederate reader right now the new two thousand and four reinvention it's interesting i grew up in. and i
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learned as a child in school is that the south seceded in large part to protect slavery but also to protect an agrarian way of life you know caught me what in the north was industrializing my children grew up in atlanta and in public schools they learned that the south seceded is the northern bankers were ripping off the southern plantation ours. and other b.s. yeah i know it's just it's really quite remarkable. sundown towns one of your books is about sundown towns we have about three minutes here i'd like to get into and what i want to miss there is ok it's place a sundown town is a town that's all white on purpose. they get the name i need to say that a lot of towns are all why don't purpose in for instance pennsylvania or in maryland but the term isn't used much east of ohio but nevertheless there are sundown towns. that the name comes from places like for instance men to talk with scots which up until the one thousand nine hundred sixty s. or maybe even one nine hundred seventy had a sign it it's the limit saying nigger don't let the sun go down on you in minutes
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one same sign and hawthorne california same sign in pekin illinois and you don't have to have a sign as i mention when i went to write this book having i grew up in the middle of illinois as i mentioned earlier i knew i was going to do more research and illinois than any other single state i thought i would end up with maybe ten sundown towns in illinois and maybe fifty across the country i had no idea i had these signs of the n. word on them while they don't always have to sign as i said but if they can have they they think that there are several towns for instance actually sounded a whistle at six pm in fact some still sound as we speak to tell blacks to be gone now they will deny and some people will deny that that's the purpose of saying well it's the six o'clock whistle but if you interview folks in the town they say yeah well that's what that means but you wouldn't want to be a black person a black resident in that town at six or one i mean you really wouldn't so it's can be a whistle it can be just a known fact. you know. often there was no not even an ordinance but the city
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police were still in force is still with us there are still many i was in a county in illinois three years ago justice brock obama was taking office this was january three years ago this county calhoun county is north of st louis voted for obama fifty two forty six just as did the united states same percentage. and no black household has lived there for decades there's been repeated stories of people who have been black people who have been hanged for being there after dark and so on i asked a good person a person of goodwill as to do you think it black family could move here today and she said i really don't think so she said maybe if obama works and miracles maybe in three or four years but not now well that's an example of what. what do we do. well i have to two suggestions first i want to out them all and so if any of your viewers know of a sundown town e-mail me about j.
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lo and j l o e w e n at u v m i still get my e-mail at the university of vermont dot edu i'd love to hear from you there at my website that is the ones i know about so that's the first step towards healing to admit it. and then the second thing is . i think we have to make cause with the good people in the lots most of the folks aren't in favor of this but if you have a two percent thought minority that thinks this is the right thing to do does your brick through their window with a move in order to beat up their kids at school then the family almost has to leave and then i do have a third proposal and that is i actually think the. white house holds in sundown towns or sundown counties should lose their homes or homestead interest mortgage interest deduction from their income tax. and it's suzanna up and then suddenly they want to find a black household. dr james wood thank you so much for being with us sure it's been
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a it's been an honor to see this and more conversations the great minds go to our web site of conversations with great minds dot com. coming up after the break a prominent conservative political action committee wants congress to let student loan interest rates double screwed over america's college students graduates and their families so are republicans going to listen to the money and make higher education in america even less affordable all that and more internet is big picture .
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you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so silly you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realize that everything you thought you knew you don't i'm sorry welcome is a big issue. here even when you. look in the loan itself you'll get the real headline with none of them are the problem with the mainstream media today is that they're completely disconnected from the viewers and for what actually matters to those viewers and so that's why young people just don't watch t.v. anymore if they want news they go online and read it but we're trying to take those stories that people actually care about and transfer them back to t.v. .


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