tv Lectures in History The Reconstruction Era CSPAN October 16, 2021 11:00am-11:56am EDT
muck. >> wow. >> wow, along with these television companies, supports c-span2 the as a public service. >> you're watching c-span's american history tv. next, it's lectures in history, an opportunity to join students in college classrooms. this weekend historian henry luce gates jr. talks about -- louis gates jr. talks about his work on reconstruction during a virtual class at the citadel military college of south carolina. and then brandeis university professor abigail cooper teaches a class on lives of african-americans during the reconstruction era. and later director paul sparrow moderates a discussion on president roosevelt's relationship with the supreme court. find more schedule information at c-span.org/history or consult your program guide. and now, henry louis gates jr. ..
about the african-american museum his response is instantaneous as if he has nothing else to do. of course, he does. he's a university professor and director in the center of african and american research and harvard university. he's emmy award and journalist and cultural critic and institutional builder who was author or coauthor 25 books and all of which helped open america's eyes and minds. he has empowered african-americans to explore family history through geology and science. he serves on a wide array of board including the ncaap legal defense fund. he's received 55 degrees, awards
too numerous to name in recognition of talent, contribution throughout the country. he proudly serves on the selection committee in scholars program with the most access to our education and american students in south carolina. honor and privilege to have you with us today. >> thank you, mr. mayor. the more quickly you answer an e-mail, the shorter your answer it can be.
the longer that you wait you have the guilt factor, right? you have to make up and say, oh, yeah, i've been thinking and blah, blah. if you answer right away you say, great, got it, get back to you, hope you're well, see you, bye. [laughter] >> i made a film about reconstruction for two reasons, one because until recently thanks to pbs series never talked about reconstruction. i don't know about you guys but i never said reconstruction at all in school. we skipped from surrender and civil rights movement. [laughter] >> everybody forgets what happened in between.
it's also -- i made it as a mirror for the moment because in a nutshell most simply put reconstruction, 12 years of maximum black freedom followed by rollback. does that sound familiar? 8 years of black president and white rollback. nobody could believe when barack was elected the first and then president will be elected no matter what your politics who at a minimum manipulated the troops of white supremacy in order to gain and to attempt to maintain his support. and i think i mentioned this to joe once, i first realized the backlash against having a black
family when i was in in previous series at jim crow museum, fare state university. fare state in michigan and obama had been in the white house for a couple of. already in that museum they had a space dedicated to racist images of barack obama and i'm not talking about just with big lips or, you know, standard of black inferiority i mean, really nasty obscene. i'm already shocked. i lived with one of the things i studied. the image of the black, that's
good and bad and numerically the bad image outnumber the good, all of the caricatures in that video clip the 1890's. two reasons, photography becomes really cheap and you can distribute 4-color images for almost nothing and topography was invented in 1860's and was very expensive. who better than black people, black skin, white eyes, black lips. look at the black, look at the white, look at the green. i mean, three or four images used over and over again in tens of thousands of these racist
images. when i left the state university that day, the old songs from the 60's, what it is isn't exactly clear. literature this is the end of racism. he's going to be in mount rushmore. there were people that were pissed off, pardon my french, mr. mayor of having a black man in the white house and you saw that the most counterintuitive unlikely thing happened was donald trump succeeding barack obama and the white house in part because the alt-right rollback to -- embodiment of a black person in the white house represented. it was reconstruction.
the rollback reconstruction. so i decided that i was going to change the sequence of my films and pbs and do the first major treatment of reconstruction. what is reconstruction? well, it's america's second founding. remember lincoln's new verse of freedom. the passage of the 13, 14, 15th amendments. 13 on december 1865 and the 13th amendment it was amendment that ended slavery. it was not emancipation proclamation. in 1860 there were 3.9 enslaved african-americans. maybe most 500,000 gained freedom through the emancipation proclamation. remember to be free you -- it only applied to confederate states and enslaved person had
to get behind union lines in order to quote, unquote be free. nobody was counting heads. that leaves 3.4 enslaved people who weren't free by the emancipation proclamation. they were only free by the radcation of the 13. 1865. years later the e radcation of the 14th amount. birthright citizenship, equal clause and it's been used over and over again and the gift that keeps on giving. sorry that's my doorbell. amazon will have to wait.
[laughter] >> ever wonder why america has birthright citizenships because they couldn't figure out how to make enslaved citizens because of jim scott, chief justice, said the families never had people -- had citizenships but scholars disagree but with roger thought that that was true and black people never were and are not and never will be citizens even if they're free. if you're wondering how many black people at any given part-time were free, you could say maybe 10% of the total black community. 10 to 12% was free. so in 1860, 488,000 and the surprise 260,000 lived in slave
states. more free black people living in the slaved states than the north which is complete free but black people even free black men in the north could not vote except in 5 of 6. only other 5 -- in all other states but connecticut and the state of new york, 250-dollar property requirement which was pretty tough thing to do. so free black men in the north didn't get the right to vote until the 15th amendment which is 1870, however, this is the biggest surprise, joe, for me, maybe one of the two or three biggest surprises in the series
was that black men in confederacy, 10 of 11 confederacy states because tennessee had gone back to the union, got the right to vote in the summer of 1867. 4 years before my free black ancestors. free black grandparents who lived in virginia. ironically 30 miles from where i was born. and one set on my mother's side and one set on my father's side and two sets are free by the american revolution. one of my forefathers, he fought in the american revolution, he's a free black men and my brother
and i wrote an essay in "the new york times". in 1863 that part of virginia succeeded and became west virginia on june 20th, 1863 despite that fact, they could not vote even though they were free in the free state of west virginia in the middle of civil war. they didn't get right to vote vl 1870 and all the black men got the right to vote because of the reconstruction amendment. i call the summer of 1867 the first freedom and 80%, 80% of all eligible black men registered to vote. think of that. we aren't 80% to vote today. [laughter]
>> the men were largely illiterate because enslaved people were barred from reading and write. they actually voted. they served ballot, 500,000 men cast their ballot. grant won the electoral college overwhelmingly, but he only one the popular just by over 300,000 votes so back men had elected a president and in south carolina, that was ground zero for black reconstruction and block power. south carolina and the majority in the house of representatives, speaker of the house, the treasurer, it was black as black could get and that scared the jesus of not only former confederates but also white
liberal people. ladies and gentlemen, nobody thought all these black people were going to vote. now, south carolina, mississippi were black states. south carolina and mississippi and louisiana were majority black states. georgia, alabama, florida were in the 40's, almost majority black states. that was mini black republic and it was much -- much too powerful to allow that to stand. so something had to be done about it. so simultaneous with the fact that between 1870, 1877, two senators, senators were poynant. 16 black men go to congress and 14 to the house including richard cane who is a man and
united states senate and despite and during reconstruction, 2,000 black men are elected or appointed state and local office according to eric, 2,000 despite the great gains there was a constant rollback, constant resistance to reconstruction. 1866 and 1876. eight major massacres of black people. 8 lynches and i would like to say the list because it's just so horrendous. maridian, lynchings in that ten-year period, intimidation
fraud. ku kluz klan in first iteration. the 13th amendment in december 1865. the klan was born in december 1865 too. there's a parallel discourse and thesis simultaneously during the whole period of reconstruction. it wasn't like it was bliss and then rolled back. there was resistance at every moment to black political power and it was the ballot that was the contention. also cotton main export of the united states till the 1930's. somebody has to harvest it and taken away the source of free labor so what do they do? substitute it with slavery, sharecropping, laws that allow idle black men to be picked off
the street and be put on the chain and then the depression, the great depression until 1920's. they changed the name. the right to vote was guaranteed by federal troops located in those 5 -- 10 confederate states that we have been talking about, divided into 5 military districts and federal troops protected the right to vote for black men and then conservative supreme court, many of the justices appointed by abraham lincoln starting in 1876 that said the 14th amendment is about state action and private action or private behavior and then the famous civil rights cases of
1883 struck down civil rights act of 1875. black people had rights in 1875. 100 years to almost get back. it was not until the passing of the civil rights act of 1964 and voting rights act of 1965 that the black rights guarantied by the constitutional amendments and the civil rights act of 1865 would be restored. the supreme court declared the civil rights act of 1865 unconstitutional and we know ferguson declared the law of the land. how do you inscribe their prohibition if the right to vote by the 15th amendment of the
constitution of the united states, you can't repeal it very easily. they repealed prohibition but nobody was trying to repeal the 14th, 15th amendment, some genius came up with the nefarious idea and starting 1890 with the mississippi plan, every southern state and get for one reason and i'm going to quote. i will not say the n word but refer to it. this is from governor kimble who was a stone-cold racist. taxes, literacy. quote, no used to equivocate or
lie. the n word from politics, not the ignorant but the n word. remember, mississippi the first state to send black men to senate in 1873 and this mississippi man spread throughout south. south carolina which i love. by the way, joe agreed that if i did this lecture he was going to buy me a house. [laughter] >> a house that i've been looking at and writing about richard. [laughter] >> if i had place down there. oh, i forgot where i was.
[laughter] >> louisiana in 1898. in 1998 there were 301,000 black men to vote and after they passed state constitutional convention in 1891, by 1904 that number was under 30,000. had been reduced precisely to 1,342. think about that. that's how devastatingly effective the rollback construction was. one more thing which was the narrative. the narrative, it's not about the civil war. it's not. it's about reconstruction and focuses on the south carolina majority black legislature. they become the metaphor for
incompetence, ignorance, one moment in the film where all the black men, they had just passed law making legal for black men to marry white men and that's where the invention and ever wonder why others -- there's not stories about black men raping white women. block slaves in the plantation, they're not stories about rape. the whole thing about rape was invented as part of the narrative that black men want today rape white women or propensity to rape white women. that's postcivil war and it's part of the lies told about
black men. so if you look at -- if you go back and i actually made my graduate class, it's 3 hours long, we watched the whole thing. it makes you want to vomit but remember -- and that propaganda was with the direction of the confederate monuments but the monuments were a granted version of the narrative but the historian ebs, united daughters of the confederacy mildred.
i wished that i could have met old mildred. she was a smart cookie. it has 20 principles. libraries, the professors and before they decided where whether they were going the buy a book about the civil war or use it in their classroom she wanted them to measure the thesis of the book against her 20 principles and that's why it's the measuring and that's why i will quote 3 of 20 principles. mildred says the south fought in civil war to hold slaves. the book that speak to slave holder and finally, book that glorifies abraham lincoln.
[laughter] >> mildred's common core was the lost cause and so by the time the last reconstruction congressman left, congress in 1901 was in place and then professor dunning, william dunning in colombia, they wrote academic histories about reconstruction saying that it was the worst moment in the history of democracy and i'm going to tell you how bad it was because i dug up the passing for you joe, let me find it. it's from thomas dixon. thomas was a novelist.
he wrote another book before in 1902 called the leopard spot, everybody knows where that comes from. it's also in the bible. it's in the old testament. this is what he said. i want you to listen to this. huge prosperous joke, actually amendment to reverse the order of nature, turn society upside down and make a thick lip those negro and yesterday taken from the jungle, the strongest race of all in history and demagogues who are experimenting with a social dynamic. it was a joke.
paragraph 2. the republican party, the name in the south for a century not because they needed but because two years after, remember, the summer of 1867, two years after the war in peace they inaugurated the second war on the people on the south. their attempt was to establish ban on rules on society was a conspiracy against human progress. it was the blackest crime of the 19th century. not the fact that it's 150,000 men died in the civil war, but giving black men the right to vote. and so how did the civil rights movement culminate? john lewis and friends, men and
women getting beaten, why, over voting rights. it took all of those years. took the voting rights act to get the right to vote back and for stacey abrams, first of all, if i was joe biden i would go to black church every sunday and thank jesus. [laughter] >> if everybody forget, joe biden was walking dead when he came out of new hampshire. when he came to south carolina, someone said the press wasn't gathered around him. bernie was the man, bernie had the momentum. james clyburn, jesus spoke to me and joe biden is going to be president and it happened. clyburn delivered south carolina. stacey abrams delivered georgia. she turned georgia and what has happened, republicans about 2,000 recommendations trying to suppress the black vote all over
>> thank you very much. thank you. you know, skip gauge has been wharton supporter of our international african-american museum from the early days of the idea and now under construction and open in july of next year and articulate the significance of the museum on the side where more enslaved africans were brought than any other place in our country. >> yeah, according to the last estimate, i looked at 48% of all our african ancestors came to
the united states through the ports of charleston. charleston is our elise island. 388,000 africans brought directly from africa. that's a lot and another 42,000 came in the american slave trade. so what's that, 388, 42 and haiti got 773,000. cuba got 950,000 africans, most of them after 1808 when the slave trade became illegal in the united states. one of the reason john c calhoun was so especially he wanted
slave to continue but wanted to open the slave trade. that was pretty extreme even for apologist for slavery. jamaica got 1 million africans. 680,000 landed on the island of barbados. are you ready for this, ladies and gentlemen, brazil, 5 million africans. 5 million africans. but half of -- 48%, virtually half of those 388,000 africans came directly from africa came through charleston. so that's the first reason that a museum, proper african-american museum should be located in charleston. the second is because charleston was ground zero for reconstruction. so the museum that has to be in part. there's a reconstruction museum and because of robert smalls, that's where his house was.
that was the house that i was alluding that joe was going the buy for me. [laughter] >> you -- we have to bring -- i'm on joe's board in some kind of exploited -- exploit -- exploited capacity or other but when we got to programming, excuse me, it's dry in here. when we get to programming, programming is about reconstruction and has to be part of it but the slave trade, slavery in south carolina, black rise as it was called, all that has to be part of the museum. so it's fact enough that the landing ground for virtually half of the imported africans who were brought here in chains came to charleston, that's fact enough alone for there to be a museum created but charleston has so much more going for it because of the history of reconstruction and rollback to
reconstruction. charleston, south carolina is a very complicated place. i happened to like it. i love going to charleston. i haven't bothered to go to the museum and confederacy. i hope you understand, but you know what, every time i'm there, joe, and i pass that and that line is long. i mean, before covid i hadn't been done the charleston since and, you know, people are fascinated by the confederacy and i don't blame them. someone made a joke about i'm the only black man because of my tv show finding your roots i'm the only black man making feel good about owning slaves, trying not the make them feel guilty. i don't believe -- i don't believe the guilt is heritagable because your great grandfather owned slaves, you're not come
mr. sit and you don't have to go around punishing, so when i reveal in finding roots that somebody's ancestors owned slaves or fought for the confederacy, i don't think lesser of them and i don't feel that they should think lesser of themselves or their -- it's your blood kin. you're not responsible, i don't want to be responsible everything my family -- i don't want to be responsible what my cousins do let alone what dead people did. [laughter] >> so i think that that's very important but it's very complicated. slavery was an evil thing. it was against the rights of humanity and we have to construct the narrative that allows for the complexity of our history and without name calling and i'm like our museum which
joe's brainchild will be legacy and i'm glad that you asked me to be part of that but i want the complex story to be told through the museum. >> it has to be the -- the whole story has to be told and one of the things that the lost cause did was create afiction, the whole, fiction about african-american including the fiction that it really wasn't hard being on a plantation, you know, they took -- everybody is nice and all of that. so -- >> right. >> the museum is going to, you know, granular fashion presentthe truth about experienn charleston, south carolina. what made charleston so wealthy was rice. >> rice. >> the rice was planted in
marshes. too muddy for animals to work so the rice plantations and rice fields were created by enslaved africans in mud on their hands and on their knees. >> all day long. >> all day long that made millions and so that's -- that's just part of the the fiction of african-american history that was told through the lens of loss cause and we are going to be back careful and honest about it and i think it also is inspiring, it's heartbreaking just like the work house here, enslaved african misbehaved and all of those stories have to be told because it's the truth and in doing so to enslaved africans
that were brought here and what they did and is sacrifices and the harshest of their lives so that would be part. it would be comprehensive. and by the way johnson green is on our board. >> okay. >> he lives in charleston now. >> well, you tell him i'm making him rich because i've a thousand zoom presentations with that painting behind me. you know, my daughter -- i see kitty smiling there. my daughter kitty picked that -- we moved to -- i was professor of cornell. that's where i gotten your and duke made me an offer and i didn't know if i wanted to live in the south. my first wife is white and my second wife is cuban, she's cuban american. we had two little girls and you talk about the new south and the old south. i was raised with george wallace and not decided if i wanted to
go south. i decided to go down to the national humanity center on can onsabbatical. it was very liberal. the first weekend we were there, you know how disoriented and what the hell why are you uprooting us out of school and bringing us here for. it was january of 1990, i guess, you could look it up. '89 or '90 and the raleigh paper said a young artist was having opening and i never heard of him and i've been collecting art since i was 19. i bought my first african art in african when i was 19 year's old and i was student at yale living
in taz ania for a year in a yale program working because i was premed. small little black boys. and so i was there working in this hospital. so anyway, i've been collecting art since i was 19. okay, there's a new black artist i never heard of. on that sunday we went to the opening and i told my daughters because i wanted them to start collecting. it's never too soon. and i said we are going to this exhibition, you can pick any painting you want. i will buy it and -- and i will buy it and my older daughter maggie picked that painting. isn't that amazing? and my daughter picked one just beautiful that's in our living room. you know, i led them to believe,
joe, that the paintings would be theirs but maybe when i'm dead. [laughter] >> well, they are going to have to wait. >> we will tell jonathan that story at our next museum board meeting and katie robinson remind me -- >> do me a favor. show him -- send him a tape so he can look at it and see his painting, so, you know, joe, i'm sorry, but i think it's 3:29 and i have to bail at 3:30 you want to ask me one more question? >> kelly, you have a short question for professor gates? >> just a quick one, yes, if we can get in a student question, was asking maybe what has been your most surprising or significant discovery from the finding your roots work. if you could share a quick story with us? >> well, that's a good question.
i thank everybody for watching finding your roots and i love watching that show and the number one show on pbs. i'm happy about that and season 7 is airing, multiple year series to grow its audience and i'm very -- i'm very pleased about that. in fact, i just -- i'm fully vaccinated so i tell you, i'm fully vaccinated and i just came back from la on saturday where we filmed find new guests under strict covid protocols for finding roots. the table where i sit with the guest and share the stories that we found used to be 3 feet in diameter and now it's 6 feet in diameter. the covid table. but i don't know, i like telling the story of oprah's great, great grandfather constantine winfrey because he's living in mississippi and he's living next door to white men and i think
he's 28 years old and when we go back to 1860 census looking winfrey's slave schedule and owns an 18-year-old black male servant. you can't be sure but you almost sure to take constantine and he's exactly 10 years older in 1870 to 1880. black people were only listed by name. a few counties where that's an exception, maybe half a dozen in 1850 and 1860 but only half a dozen. in all other county, in every other county in the united states, enslaved person was listed by age, by color being black or milatt or gender,
that's it. unanimous hash marks along with other property. so 1876 winfrey walks up to white man named watson, you know those 80 acres, nice bottom land with hills and stream through it, john says yeah, i would like to buy them from you. i don't have any money but i will give you 2,000 bails of hay in specified time. i can't remember what the contract said and john watson must thought constatine was a fool because watson said if you were one ounce under 2,000 bails of cotton or if you have 1,999 bails i get to keep all the bails and you lose, you get nothing and constatine said cool. we know that he was successful because i handed oprah the deed that john watson signed to
transfer those 80 acres over to her great, great grandfather and constatine who was illiterate signed his name in 1880. so somehow picking all the cotton brother learn today read and write. [laughter] >> years later he goes back to watson, i think it was watson and buys 250 more -- no, buys another adjacent 80 acres for $250 in cash. that's amazing. so you want to know why oprah is oprah because constatine great, great grandfather. i love that story. you know, i used to be able to memorize all of the stories that we found but now we've had well over 200 guests and i can't do that anymore. but oprah was in the first season and there's some stories that stick out. i particularly like doing stories of eastern european jews from the settlement. joe, i used to think -- when i
invented the series and i only did black people, african american peoples lives 1 and in 2006 and african-americans lives in 2006. i did maya, morgan freeman. anybody that plays god and the president, you have to have. popular this jewish lady, this lady wrote me i'm of russian jewish ancestry and i admired but you're a big fat racist because you only do black people and i looked at that and i was so shocked and had never occurred to me that i could trace ancestry of white people, asian people or anybody else. black, african-americans that's my brand. that's what i'm trained to do. and so i tell you a funny story, see joe gets me telling lie, this is what people call drinking and swapping lies. so i called a black woman coca-cola was my sponsor at the
time and the president of the coke foundation is a black -- was a black woman named ingrid jones, she's still alive but no longer with coke. and i called her and i was holding the lady's letter, ingrid, the jewish letter wrote me and said i'm a racist and she goes, what. then she got up, i was on the cell phone and so was she and i said, ingrid, what do i do, i thought the line had gone dead and i kept saying, ingrid, ingrid, ingrid, are you there. unbeknownst to me she had been sitting with all the white executives in the conference and walked out and got in the corner and went in the room so nobody could hear the conversation and just when i was about to hang up i go ingrid. skip, skip, stop shouting i didn't want anybody to hear. i only got one thing to say. i go what the? there's a lot more white people
drinking coca-cola than black people. i took that as a yes. [laughter] >> and so we changed the brand and we started doing everything. to make a long story short when i began the series i thought only black people couldn't do their ancestry. but it's hard to do eastern european to do black people because in 1791 katherine the great decided that essentially all the jews in russian empire should be confined to settlement which was the phrase beyond the pale comes from. pale. 5 million jewish people almost confined to the pale settlement. they weren't the majority of the people there but the majority of the jews in the russian empire lived in the pale settlement. special taxes, they couldn't own farming land. all kind, they had to pay taxes on candles. how cold can you get. who uses candles in religious ceremonies. i mean, the pernicious form of
anti-semitism and i just did -- oh, man. he's my buddy from martha's vineyard. who plays monk? somebody help me? somebody put it in the chat or just go on mute and tell me. >> tony. >> tony is a friend of mine and i just did him he will be in the next season and i learn ad lot about armenian genocides in 1850's but tony's family in kind of warmup his ancestor was killed horribly in 1895 when i believe 50,000armenians were tortured and killed by the turk -- by the ottoman empire and i
learned periods of events by tracing ancestry and joe i think it's a brilliant teaching tool because imagine for me, you know, i was a good student and i memorized the names of battles and everything, so i'm not speaking -- imagine how much more interesting the american revolution would have been to me that a free black man whose blood i inherited or dnai inherited mustered into the continent on christmas day 1778, 1774. man, i would have been writing reports on that brother my whole life. what we are able to do is tell american ancestry in a much more vibrant way by you looking over the shoulder of tony schlu watching him cry to tell him that his ancestor was crucified
upside down. this is true. crucified like jesus upside down in 1895. so anyway, that's why i do it. i love it. i don't get tired of it. and somebody amazing just -- oh. the other night two saturdays ago i was minding my own business, sitting near my kitchen watching last tango in halifax with my wife, my computer went ding and joe i looked and it was carol barnett's agent. i almost jumped through the of course. yes, of course. anyway, i love you, joe. >> skip, you're wonderful. thank you so much. >> let's talk about the interpretation in terms of slavery. notice the cabin behind me and
what's important on the cabin not unlike where people locked up animals at night the worked the field, not unlike ebb slaved women, men and children this can be considered a pen but african-american women and children again through resistance and resilience and holding onto their humanity found ways to love one another, to practice their faith, to grow gardens to supplement their diet and create new cultures practices. >> watch the full tour online at c-span.org/history. up next on lectures in history abigail cooper and her class is about 50 minutes. >> slavery to freedom revisited, radicals and