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tv   Michelle Duster Ida B. the Queen  CSPAN  December 21, 2021 12:59am-2:03am EST

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and talking and then they said no which was an infamous terrorist group in the seventies generally she was saying it for a fact that then his influence on history and as a failure at the time signing up the figure that he ndwas. >> with the cnn national security analyst vice president for globall studies and fellow at new america
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author of the new book the rise and fall of osama bin laden. his book is available online at your local a bookstore also thank you to all of our viewers. >> welcome to today's virtual commonwealth club humanities program commonwealth club board member and your moderatorod as we continue to host virtual events we are grateful for thehe continued support of our members and donors we hope you'll also consider making a donation online or text donate (415)329-4231. the club also thinks that bernard osha foundation for supporting today's event and for being the bookstore
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partner and george hammond to help organize today's event just a reminder if you have a question for today's guest please submit those in the chat. now it is my pleasure the author of i will be the queen the great-granddaughter of fight it be wells and has written and edited or contributed to 16 books for both adults and children to navigate african-americans working on several public history projects for streets and monuments as historical markers in the united states she has received several awards including the 2019 multigenerational activist award from the illinois human rights commission. and the 2019 mlk social justice award from dartmouth.
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welcome. first, thank you for being here. how are you throughout this pandemic quick. >> thank you so much for having me. it is such an honor. >> l you feeling through all of this? >> i am good. we just had a nice big snowstorm. [laughter] >> this is the perfect time to have a conversation. you are snowed in. so first congratulations on the book and let's start off with a couple of things from the book i believe she's considered as one of the most dangerous negro agitators. you have done your people and mind a service that can be
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weighed or measured. so your great-grandmother the first description from her fbi file and her second description from frederick douglass. so was she a dangerous agitator and so one of my goals the work that she did was uncovering the atrocities at hand with the status quo at the time about what was going on in the black community. so from that perspective of the government she was in agitator. but then in order to do that
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so she agitated for freedom and equality. she wasn't agitating for blowing anything up at all. right? but she was considered dangerous negro agitator because she was is influencing people in the black community so i had a vested interest and then you have somebody that agitating and then to boycott and migrate with part of this resistance and she was considered a major
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annoyance. >> it is dangerous when you put it that way. absolutely. the system in which she was operating. was that hard to get her fbi files quick. >> it was not hard as i thought it would be. at this point there are so many things available. >> i found it both to be informative and unusual. is not just your standard biography and then in mississippi that they need to people on a tour has showing how she influenced your life as an author and she used her own voice for protection and investment but then it's activism long after her
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passing. so in the book you write about how much you and your grandmother some in what ways are youou to alike? >> she was my grandmother's mother. i never got a chance to meet her because she died 32 years before i was born. and then i learned to research. so those who are researching a family but then i was writing and some publications but then she kept a journal so that gave me insight into her
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thoughts that was never available in her public writings because she was a journalist. so there were some similarities which are interesting considering i neverin met her. >> so you learn that you are both writers and it is apparently your calling as well are there other writers or was it just either be to you? >> pretty much either be and other family members. but then i have one that is next-generation after me. so then one was a follow-up of 20 great-grandchildren. so it definitely stands out compared to my cousins. >> can you describe her?
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was she tall or short? we have seen the photographs but can you give us more? >> my great-grandmother was actually quite petite and i included that information i where i describe her on the train. >> yes we will get to that but it's important to note she was under 5-foot tall. and especially when she was younger she was quite petite. i don't know how much she weighed but maybe 120 pounds so she was a tiny woman in stature which makesmo her more
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significant with how feisty she was. >> there are already several biographies about your great-grandmother even her own. what is different about so what makes h this book different mennonites also information about my own journey because i been talking about this for a while and i do your questions what was like to grow up so i thought i would answer that and share this information and to get a peek as a historic figure and as an ancestor. and then i also want to have people understand with the
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experience of african-americans in this country she lived in a very specific time period a lot of things happen before her and then after her and at all connected and then how the present is impacted by the past. >> tell usav more about you so you write in the book about your journey so maybe give us a few highlights. >> about my life? [laughter] >> born and raised the south side of chicago. >> growing up in the predominantly black neighborhood. and then when it came to the city. so with the predominantly black neighborhood so i was a little older when i went to
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integrated schools and then they went to dartmouth so i was very interested in how african-americans were portrayed specifically but it bothers me i didn't see as many people who looked like me year lived like i did on television. and it struck n me. >> and this book is loaded with images newspaper clippings, photographs, a wonderful unique color portray past andnd present. >> the artist is named monica.
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she is on instagram and social media. she is anan amazing artist and a very specific style. it was appropriate for this o type of the to bring to light these historical figures many people are familiar with their names and images and very common but so just added to how this book could be framed.
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>> this is william monroe charter. >> what about the artist last name? >> stella one more time because i think people want to look it up ahanonu. >> i'm still trying to wrap my head around the woman 5-foot tall, avoid slavery, the eldest of eight children becomes head of the household at age 16 goes to college , audiences with presidents with constant fbi surveillance, married, three children with chicago's first female probation officer and a
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schoolteacher owns a newspaper and a white male-dominated profession and wrote an autobiography became one of the greatest investigative journalist. deciding all of these accomplishments so where did i did b wells get her strength from? did anybody guide her? >> and he encouraged her and provided her opportunities. >> he actually introduced her. >> and that influence that she also had a lot of colleagues. and working with marcus garvey
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over the late 19 century early h century that all these people are working together and it makes sense because they are all working for the same goal. so they have conferences and conventions during that time. >> so you mentioned mostly men and that is because men were the ones who put themselves in the position of leadership so in addition i'm sorry if i didn't catch it but do remember any other women either her colleagues that help to guide her?
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>> in the autobiography when i was doing the research mentioning that cofounder of the naacp in both cofounders of the national association of colored women and also interacted and actually she had a friendship with susan b anthony so she did interact with women in a slightly different way but then there is a fight for racial equality. >> so when you describe the court battles at the age of 22, she decides to take on the powerful chesapeake ohio and southwestern railroad. give the back story that led
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up to her deciding the real vote? >> my great-grandmother ida b wells was living in memphis and teaching in tennessee which is about 14 miles away so she had to take the train. and in 1881 with the law to be segregating public transportation so she just ignore the law and then continued writing as before. and then eventually in 1883 they asked her to move from thehe ladies car to the colored car and she refused. and it was thrown off the train in a violent way.
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> she was literally. >> three men. the train conductor into of the baggage men removed her physically. because she was fighting and one of the things that she wrote about in her journal that was heart wrenching was how she felt that as a women other people on the train here at those that were removed from the train so the sense that those that don't belong just because she is african-american adds insult to injury that's on the things that she mentions is how black women whoas were nursing white children were welcomed on the train. so she felt as a professional
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educated woman to be treated with that level of disrespect and then the w idea that it was separate but equal but they were not. that is why she sued. >> when youiv say they are not equal but can you give a description of what the colored cars conditions were like? >> so those that were designated there were men and women. and second of all white men a lot ofth them describe and people also smoked in the colored car. it was near the front of the train so you see the old trains were they have the smoke coming out so the smoke
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was coming into the windows and she found that to be intolerable. and that is absolutely unequal. so at this time she is 22 years old. and i had mentioned earlier stages 16 she ends up having to take care if everybody's so briefly tell us what happened to her parents. >> in 1878 both of her parents my great-great-grandparents died from yellow fever within one day of each other and she was 16 years old and ultimately stand up taking care of her five remaining siblings because one died along with her parents and another died earlier. there were six remaining. and at the age of 16 despite
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the fact several of her father's friends volunteered but then to divide all of them on her own. >> and writing in the book doing it for a couple of years. 's analysis give back to the lawsuit. this is such a great story. so the lawyer who is black and ends at betraying her and then she hires another lawyer who is white so christmas eve now 1884 she wins with $500 in damages and that back then was equal to one year of a teacher salary so the victory was
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short-lived what happened? >> obviously the railroad made a decision they cannot let the black woman when a lawsuit because it would set a precedent for other people toto sue them. so they would fight tooth and nail and they appealed the case all the way up to the tennessee supreme court. so in 1887 which was three years later the case was overturned or the verdict was overturned and she was never awarded the money and in fact she had to pay court costs that added up to $200 which is almost five months of a salary so that was a triple lossea because then it disillusioned
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her when it comes to how african-americans can have justice in the court system. >> this story enrages me and it also brings me thinking about how our legal system was you so much people of color and those who have very little and the system has been little on —- used to give us the rights that we are entitled to isn't that schizophrenic within our legal system? so then you write she took the loss really hard and on page include a passage from page her journal about her courtroom experience. maybe would read the last few lines we can have a sense how she wrote about it. >> my great-grandmother wrote
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it is possible together my race in my arms 25 far away with them there is no redress. no peace or justice in this land for us. we already fought the battles of the weak and oppressed. so teach me what to do so i am sorely disappointed even leading the children of israel out of bondage into the promised land. >> i want to include my great-grandmother's original writings so people could hear her voice but then also the insight into her emotional state.
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i thought that it's important for people to see the full picture of who she was so that was disappointed and then she joined her faith. >> as i sit here i still don't understand how someone whose parents tie and a brother dies when she is 15, steps in and takes charge of family and then at 22 she does all of that and then files a lawsuit then loses a nasty pay out of her own pocket. it is an incredible story and that alone should give people a reason to go read this book it is amazing. let's talk about journals and
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diaries. at know if i should call it a diary or a journal that where is hers? >> my great great grandmother donated all of ida's papers and works to the university of chicago archives. it's also been published who adds a lot with the information that ida was talking about that i have a copy of her diary. it is interesting for me to see her hand writing. another thing i want to mention looking throughri her diary all in the margins ofnd it's a normal paragraph and it
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is very interesting toof see the original of the diary. >> so how many pages are we talking about? >> a little over 100 pages. >> when did she keep it? from what age did she start quick. >> 1885 through 1887 so about two years. >> and she stopped? she didn't keep a journal after that? >> that is the only one that we have.av unfortunately, there were a couple of incidents my grandmother told me about of mysterious fires and i wondered what that was about. so it is possible she had other journals but they just did not survive.
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>> doo you keep a journal or diary? >> i do. i started i think when i was in third grade. >> it's a little diary that has the key. [laughter] >> do you keep the diary? >> i do so that is a way to process. >> do you think the diary writing is a lost art or dc that coming back. >> based on what i see in stores were there are journals galore but that is such a private thing it's hard to knowno exactly how many people are engaging in it but people
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must be doing it because they are beautiful journals. >> talking more about the journals so what do you say to young people or older people? do you encourage them and why should we do it? >> i think it's important for people that they document what they are feeling and what they are going through and one of the things my grandmother did in her journal which was interesting to me was and then to critique the play. she was inho theater often and
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write her thoughts of the play or about the books that she read. so it was a way for her to process what she was experiencing in for me for what her passions were my her social life was like in the kind of things that she did in her free time and how she reacted to them. >> and encourage people who are listening to use the chat to have a question so you mention madame cj walker a woman that your great-grandmother nuking you talk more about their relationship? >> as we know she was an entrepreneur a so she and my great-grandmother has slightly different tasks where they came together for justice.
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and then as a philanthropist so she was supported financially of those initiatives may great-grandmother was involved in and then their lives converged when there was an effort to have a peace conference and they were both selected as delegates to c go to the peace conference to talk on the world stage about how we could resolve what happened in world war i which is one of those that i did include with the fbi assessment why she should be denied her passport. >> you write on page number seven in your book, as a black woman, she had to fight to battles, racism and sexism ended so tirelessly.
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so one such battle involve the struggle to be included in the suffrage movement the right to give women the right to vote. and the leaders were white women in the story of how she outsmarted them at the national march for suffrage is such a good story can you tell us what she did? >> my great-grandmother was involved in political organizations and she founded the suffrage club and so she was selected to represent them in washington dc but she traveled with the delegation but once there they black women were asked to march in the back of the parade. and ultimately my great-grandmother inserted herself front and center of the delegation during the march.
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when it started they could not find her. she walked alongside the parade route and jumped out of the crowd to assert herself front and center with the illinois delegation. all 5 feet of her.? [laughter] >> that is awesome. we have another question for mom —- from those that are attending. is there a play or a book she liked in particular? >> she mentioned autobiographies but those that are considered classics for us with those writers other than names of books. but she did read the bible she mentions how she reads the bible multiple times when they were growing up that's the only book.
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>> i love the story of how she stood up to the secret service over all things buttons and says in memoriam martyrs and negroes are soldiers december 11, 1917. without talk about the fascinating and heartbreaking back story i encourage everybody to read about it because it is remarkable. with the secret service agents that demand she stopped the distribution of these buttons? [laughter] >> i'm sorry it makes me laugh every time. >> so they were buttons she was distributing and honor of
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soldiers who were killed at camp logan in houston and she was so outraged the united states government would kill its own soldiers. >> tell us about that and give us a back story. >> some kid was killed outside of houston where black soldiers were being trained to fight for freedom and democracy that they were harassed and humiliated in houston to the point they decided they had to defend themselves and as a result they were court-martialed and hanged. without that was a complete outrage and the soldiers needed to be memorialized in the government needed to be criticized. >> so did she come up with the
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idea for the buttons? >> yes. she is very clear so my great-grandfather, her husband they felt they needed to be memorialized and the first to have a memorial service at churches and they called the church leaders to find a space and nobody was willing to do that. she decided she would pass out the buttons so that people would know what happened and then she can recoup some of the cost of printing the buttons. >> secret service agent show up at her front door and tell us about her interaction and how she dealt with these. >> with the new york fellowship lead where she gave people job training.
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and then basically they confronted her and she gladly handed it to them and they told her she's criticizing the government she would be charged with treason and she said go ahead. [laughter] and then that low negroes who had courage to speak up against the government and they cannot keep her shut. so she made it clear to them idea you to arrest me i will probably go to jail because i believe in us so much that it is worth going to prison for. but they were so stunned that she was not incentive aided on —- incentivized. so they looked at her said
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they never bothered her again. >> but they didn't go to make sure there was no more buttons. >> so they shut it down going to the back door basically. >> she was very particular about her appearance and concerned her reputation never be tarnished. why was she so concerned with others might think or say about her? >> that's one of the things with that extreme level of danger that black women in particular experienced. because you have to remember
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mostly black people and mostly men so there was a social atmosphere that your life could be taken at any time so regardless of race and there were different expectations so in order for her to feel to gain respect she had to be extremely vigilant and how she looked. and then to be confronted and then to make sure they apologize not only to her face that to the public about what him fight about her because
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she could be in great danger if she was not an upstanding citizen. in addition she was a teacher in addition she was a teacher to have a certain look. >> and her work as the investigative journalist it really put her on the map and she became a pioneer but we think of now as investigative journalism interviewing people associate with lynchings in any capacity even when they seem disinterested in their cases they were not rest until the truth was made public. so that is what triggered her crusade. so what was that event? >> so in 18923 of my
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great-grandmother's friends and they were proprietors and businessmen who owned a grocery store. and that is what turns my great-grandmother sensibility that this lynching is about punishment of the crime that black men were violating white on —- black women knowing they were not guilty at all of any crime. noticed that lynching was being used as a tool of domestic a terrorism and with that racial hierarchy to get rid of the leaders in the black community. so shend put two and two together and what she wanted
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the whole world to know what was really going on. unfortunately people were ability on —- believing the false narratives and with traveling across the country she went to england and gave speech and even when she faced threats of violence and how did those threats affect her? did she have anyone to confide in when things were terrified for her? >> that is actually unclear to me because she doesn't really talk that much about who were her confidants or how she continued to go forward. and a lot of it was her faith.
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and then to stop doing this because she was stirring up trouble. but she continued to do it anyway. so some people really wanted her to stay silent. and then how some people today, something personal happens. is something personal happens if you know what the situation is and you cannot get justice there is a fire name will
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change the some type of way and that is personal to her. >> you know how busy she was quick she traveled and did her newspaper work and networking. >> she married ferdinand barnett. so talk about what their relationship was like what kind of person was he? and as my great-grandfather i come from both. and then when ida met him she was ten years older and he was an established attorney and with that conservatorysp newspapers and also an activist in his own way. and that was a really good
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match because the personality was more laid-back and quiet and unassuming and confrontational. and then they complemented each other how old was she when she married mr. barnett? >> she was 23 years old which is ancient or somebody born in 1862. she doesn't have children up until then. now in her thirties. during the time she was married to him she has three children. >> shehe has four children. she has children in her forties? >> yes. my grandmother is her youngest daughter and my grandmother was born when ida was 42.
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>> that is highly unusual back in the day? >> so she was an older mother and then to remember my great-grandfather was ten years older. and was 52 when my grandmother was born and so how do they work in a household? but then they did not have to commute.
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and then where my great-grandparents live so that saves a lot of time and in that neighborhood that they grew up in everything is in walking distance and with that sense of community people who live in a neighborhood. >> so those who are attending so if you look at your great-grandmother's diaries is or something that surprised you are shocked you going through them? >> that i dig into my great-grandmother's diary. there was anything that shocked me. but made it on —- but made me
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laugh. and those that they interacted with were hilarious. and those that she did not care for in the way she describes in by herself is funny to me. >> so i'm trying to remember like a bird face or just the way she would describe their physical appearance was funny. >> did she ever intend for her journals to be published? or of that when i die these go with me? >> so part of that was
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intentional about keeping that journal available because there were plenty of times to destroy it. >> so i gave the impression that she was okay. >> . >> are there any memories your grandmother has can train on —- has conveyed to you from ida b wells anything she specifically remembered? >> talking about with her work. as a journalist and suffragist. and then my grandmother waited tell us of those characteristics. a
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and then to speak up for yourself. and then and the frame values and education was that something nobody could take away from you. >> here is a comment and a question from someone. many white people say they know black history because they now mlk junior, rosa parks even the name ida b wells. and that they can learn from great-grandmother? >> one of the things about my great-grandmother that is inspiring to me is how
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business savvy that she was. in addition to being a journalist, she insisted of the a co-owner of a newspaper. and that is important when it comes to telling our stories and a lot of situations having ownership skills and opportunities to shape the information that is important to be published so if you on the publishing outlet you have more control with that information. so that has been something that is a guiding force for me when it comes into having input with african-american stories and how they are told. >> . >> i am intrigued because married to this woman who is a force of nature. getting all this attention. and in some relationships they
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will not like that and somehow relationships don't work. so what was that about him? apparently he was not threatened by the fact he was out there doing all of this. tell us more and how that to work?ore and how that >> based on the research about her father but he was attracted to her strength. and he encouraged her to speak up and fight but then to be something in the newspaper there were cases that happened with individuals who are falsely accused of crimes and present my great-grandfather
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with the newspaper and then would tell my great-grandmother and then say you should do something about that. and then he encourages her to speak up and fight for the right. so as an attorney he was behind the scenes providing the documentation and then to testify in front of the governor for instance and that is the dynamic. >> they are a real team and it is highly unusual to see that kind of thing. 2020 think was the worst year ever. the pandemic and the rise of
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racism the devastated economy the assault on democracy and all that being said one thing that came out t of 2021 of the good things was the posthumous special citation bestowed upon your great grandmother. better late than never. so talk to us t about that experience and what that has meant to your family. so my great-grandmother wanted to receive recognition and contributing that to journalism and for me it shows how timeless her work is and the documentation and all the countries history because it really is a first-hand chronicle of what washa going on during that time when it came
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to the brutal practice of lynching and she was very descriptive and then to put into perspective exactly how dangerous and violent and lawless the situation was for african-americans during that time. >> what books do we have now to look forward to? >>or i'm working on a couple of children's books. so with african-american in history to introduce so they can see themselves in the stories. >> will they be about your great-grandmother or s another subject? >> one of themut is about her. and the two others include many other.
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>> now going back to this book, and now we have another question coming in so would woodrow
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woodrow wilson when the most racist presidents we ever had so talk more about him and his attitude about segregation of black people in general. >> the situation with the soldiers in 1917 happened under woodrow wilson's terms of that says a lot that the soldiers to fight for freedom and democracy and also parts
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of the nation on —- the nation the elevate from the wilson white house. >> so it is just wonderful the school will be known as ida b wells high school and getting his name off. we are about the end of our conversation. this has been terrific i loved meeting you even though through zoom and all of the folks watching you are doing a terrific service for everyone during the writing that you do. so i have one final question orfor you. so what word your great-grandmother ida b wells say to us young and old and of all ages as we celebrate black history month 2021? >> i think my
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great-grandmother would say to believe in yourself that we all deserve aty the country has to offer life liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all of us. and then not be afraid to speak up for yourself. >> thank you to michelle. we encourage you all to buy the book. purchase her new book at your local bookstore. if you like to watch more virtual programs or support the commonwealth club efforts, visit commonwealth club. thank you.
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appeared on book tv and you can watch their programs anytime at >> good evening and welcome, i'm cnn correspondent holly firfer and i'm honored to be part of this whole book best in your living room so on behalf of the mj tca here in atlanta and the national jcc literary consortium welcome. we are in for such a fascinating evening tonight. with international best-selling author walter isaacson. are going to talk about his latest book "the code breaker: jennifer doudna,gene editing, and the future of the human race" . this is an unbelievably fascinating book


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