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tv   Reconstruction and Jim Crow Laws  CSPAN  April 26, 2021 10:47pm-11:35pm EDT

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every weekend on c-span 3. next on american history tv, historian henry lewis gates talks about reconstruction which lasted from the end of the civil war until 1877. the amendments passed during this time -- for african americans. the subsequent jim crow law. measures used in southern states to reestablish white
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supremacy. the national constitution center hosted this event. >> ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the national constitution center. [applause] you heard the passion of professor gates downstairs. we are just going to jump right into this conversation. the one thing i have to say is i think you could tell it is urgently important to bring as many school kids as possible to come see that incredible exhibit. and that is why i am thrilled that last week, dr. william, the superintendent of the school district a philadelphia sat with me and announced at the cool school district and the constitution center lunching a program to bring tens of thousands of philly school districts to the
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constitution center every year. >> wow. big [applause] >> we are calling it the constitutional ambassadors program. we seek support. those great kids are going to start experiencing this in their classroom. come see that civil war exhibit. see the constitution center. connect to classrooms around the country using our virtual constitutional exchanges for hour-long conversations about the constitution. moderated by a judge or master teacher. >> wow, that is great. >> it is amazing. an amazing project. i'm so excited. all right. lead professor gates does need big -- needs no introduction. he is author of this best selling book, stony the, road reconstruction to the white supremacy. the rise of jim crow. the companion book to the series which has run on tbs. the book is superb. it tells the story with more vivid detail and more powerful
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images than i have seen before of how the promise of reconstruction, which we saw in the gallery was brutally freighted by south. and the heroic efforts of african american intellectuals and others to try to resurrect that promise. we are going to jump right into the conversation, but before we start we're going to see a clip from the series. >> most of us know that our country fought a civil war in the 18 sixties. the lessons known about came afterward. the chaotic exhilarating and ultimately devastating period known as reconstruction. >> did you ever study reconstruction in school? >> no. >> a paragraph or two. >> it never really studied. >> i never learned anything about the construction. the reconstruction. >> reconstruction was our shining moment. shining moment. ÷4■to tr country. >> overnight people who had
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been defined as property take leadership positions and the south. >> this is an incredibly heady moment. kind of like barack obama becoming president. >> that those black folks had no idea of the cliff they were heading towards. >> reconstruction produced a violent backlash. a racist backlash. >> i want us to tell the truth about our history. not to punish america. i want to liberate us, but we cannot get to liberation if we do not acknowledge what we have done. >> do you believe that we as a nation are still in the process of reconstruction? >> you might as well say it never ended. we are still trying to come to terms with the consequences of the end of slavery in this country. >> this is a chapter of our history that has been misrepresented and misunderstood. it is time that we acknowledge the true story and complete the
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work of reconstructing america. big >> [applause] thank you. thank you. thank you. i want to correct one thing you said. you said that every schoolchild in philadelphia should see this exhibition. every schoolchild in america should see this exhibition. >> your hair. absolutely. >> the most amazing exhibition about reconstruction that i've ever seen. i've learned things that i have never seen different drafts of the three reconstruction amendments. so thank you. thank you to members of the board and all the people who support this bzo for making this education possible. we never really have dealt with the issues raised by reconstruction. >> thank you so much for that. i learned so much from that and
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i will ask you what you learned but also what you want americans to know about those reconstruction amendments themselves the 13, 14 15th amendment. >> one of the -- 13th amendment abolished slavery. most people know it now because of do vernon's documentary we did not know it before. the emancipation proclamation about slavery. and of course it didn't. maybe half 1 million 4 million enslaved people were able to get behind union lines and gain their freedom before the end of the civil war. but the institution of slavery was only abolished by the ratification of the 13th amendment. the 14th was set so i look, widely equal protection clause and birthright citizenship. ever wonder where birthright citizenship came from? charles sudden or his colleagues were trying to figure out what is the status
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of these people that had been property for a quarter of a millennium. a quarter of a millennium. they came with birthright citizenship which was brilliant, actually. and then finally that is 1868, and finally the ratification of the 15th amendment with effectively gave blackmon the right to vote. it said that race cannot be used to prevent or prohibit any american from voting. but it is very curious about the 15th amendment is that black people in the south who had been formerly enslaved and free in the ten, 11 the confederate states got the right to vote three years before. it was a surprise to me egg when i started doing research for what became our series and it's a surprise for most of you
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that if you were a former slave or had been free in the south it was one of the for reconstruction amendments that gave black men the right to vote. that was what we call the first freedom summer. the freedom summer of 1867 when 80.5% of all eligible black men intended the 11 confederate states registered to vote. here is the kicker. you know how we demonize the south as opposed to the north and we have a fantasy that there is no racism in the north? if you were free, big from three sets of three negros as we would have called ourselves. three sets were free by the outbreak of the american revolution. the third set, on my father's brother's side were free in
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1823. they lived 30 miles from where i was born. i have a tremendous amount of stability in my family. it is now big in west virginia, but it was in virginia at that time and so my great-grandfather genre edmund actually fought in the american revolution and because of him he was a free negro. sons of the american revolution. go figure. not exactly a predominantly black organization. you know what i'm talking about. so, hold this in mind. west virginia becomes a state. it joins the union in the middle of the civil war. it becomes a state june 20th, 1863. my -- and they had -- my three negro ancestors had cousins just across the border around wind chester virginia. those cousins who had been
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enslaved got the right to vote three years before my free ancestors got the right to vote. because in the north -- we can only vote in the five new england states and the state of new york if you satisfied a 250 dollar property requirement. is that not amazing? that is so shocking, but it is true. even when west virginia became a state, they refused to get black men -- they don't even like black men in west virginia today. we're only talking about a handful of people. they refused to give them the right to vote. it was those for reconstruction acts that really laid the groundwork for citizenship and for the right to vote. now i first studied reconstruction -- [interpreter] i did not study at all in high school. i studied it at yale.
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my sophomore year i took to semester survey courses. introduction to africa american history. oliver, where are you? we were afro americans that that's. i'm remember that? the professor went on to get a pulitzer prize for his biography of lizzy that's grant. w. e. b. the voices book, black reconstruction published in 1935, and it was radical, because it challenged the school of historians at columbia university and they were -- of the mythology of reconstruction being a dismal failure and an embarrassment to the history of american democracy. dubois's -- eric the owner, the chief consultant to our series it's so ironic that he is our leading reconstruction historian at columbia
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university. it is almost as if, i think he's about to publish his tenth book on reconstruction on the 13th or 14th or 15th amendment which should be out in september. i think it is a personal mission for him to refute the terribly racist claims made by -- his own predecessors in the history department at columbia and set the record straight. he had us read the voices book black reconstruction and then a book by logan. most of you have not heard of logan, the wreath and logan was the third or fourth black man to get a ph.d. in history from harvard. at one time it was engaged to migrate and. so i'm very biased about logan. he wrote a book called the betrayal of the negro, and it is about the period immediately following reconstruction. reconstruction people argue about it but generally it's
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1865 to 1877. the voice of the buck ends in 1877. logan's book begins in 1877. that is the period of the rollback, to reconstruction. it takes a while to roll it back because blackmon had an enormous amount of power. five people were in the majority. south mississippi, louisiana, almost in the majority, florida, alabama, and georgia, florida, alabama, and georgia, there were 16 black men elected to congress between 1870 and 1877, including two united states senators. in south carolina theb of the house, secretary of state, one of the great moments of the film, i go to john klein burns office and he has all the reconstruction congressman on his will and he could do a whole black history lesson. but systematically,
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step-by-step, the redemption honest, the former confederates wrote -- and they disenfranchise those black men. and they did it in such a clever way. what are you gonna do? you've got your guy 13th, 14th, 15th amendments to ratify. you can't go that way. you can go around. there were state constitutions which then unfolded over the next 16 years. each of the former confederate states. that is one they established poll taxes. literacy tests. comprehension tests that only a law professor could possibly understand. do you want to know how dramatically effective these state constitutional conventions were? louisiana won the majority of black states. before this state constitutional convention it had 130,000 black men
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registered to vote. the new constitution was ratified in 1898. by 1904, that number of hundred 30,000 black men registered to vote had been reduced to 1342. there were 2000 black man elected to office according to eric during the reconstruction period. the last reconstruction congressman, george henry right, bids farewell to the congress in 1901. and there would not be another black man elected to the congress until 1929, when oscar to priests from chicago is elected to congress. how was he elected to congress? because all these black people take part in the great migration. went from mississippi and particularly into chicago. one from mississippi and the other southern states north. and because of the 15th amendment they had the right to
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vote. so they voted a northerner in to congress. -- and introduction to its rollback. that is why we need a four hour series. the first hours about reconstruction, the great heights that black people achieved just out of slavery? in this great moment when abraham lincoln's we birth for freedom was first realized. first experience with interracial democracy. and it was greeted by the rise of white supremacy. i said that the 13th was ratified december 6th, 1860, five ku klux klan was celebrated 1865. there were eight haram's. major between 1866 and 1876. strike it memphis. ending in hamburg, south
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carolina, in 1876. so this one was not a untroubled period. the ku klux klan hearings and all of these volumes are online now and you can read them. that is the closest that we have come in this country to a truth and reconciliation commission. grant sent troops to suppress the click click glenn. all these black people had been victimized by the ku klux klan because they have been trying to vote. why men were raped, black men were, lynched they were threatened, even arrived, there were offers of bribes to keep them from voting because they had so much power and i think that the manifestation and expression of all of that power not only scared the daylights out of the former south, as you might expect, but i don't think the north was ready for all of that white power.
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because the north was complicit with the rollback of reconstruction. certainly you could see by 1872, 1873 is the great depression the united states. it's called the panic of 1873. until the great depression started in 1949 it was called the great depression. you looked around and said do we really need to protect the slaves? aren't they? free can they stand on their own feet? how are you went to enslaved people for a quarter of a millennia, 250 years that expected to stand on their own feet after a mere 12 years. that's exactly what happened. the -- was compromised. presidential election of 1876 was deadlock. in 1877 the compromise, one of the agreements of the compromise was federal troops, the few remaining federal troops protecting black people's right to vote would be withdrawn and black people would be on their own.
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and the supreme court was complicit in this. 1870, six -- decision, and the death now, scholars argue about when reconstruction was over, black people basically had a funeral. a big church in washington, 1883, right after the supreme court said that the civil rights act of 1875, which established equality, social equality as it was called then, black people could ride in street cars and stay in hotels and etc, etc, etc. the supreme court said that was unconstitutional and frederick douglass, the former united states senator, langston, richard green, or the first black regiment of harvard all gathered in the church and the church was like this. langston spoke. it was faith that said how could the country do this to us? how could they abandon us?
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how could they throw as to the wolves in the way that they have done? two boys said famously, if you want to think about the rise and fall of black freedom, the sleeve went free. studded brief moment in the sun. and then moved back towards slavery again. and that is the history of the rise and fall of reconstruction. thank you for the incredibly says thanked recount of the -- you have in the book african americans held in slavery after the civil war and to think that in funeral was held after the civil rights decision was stunning. you have this picture in the book of the first colored
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senators and representatives in new york, and what is so incredible about what he just said is how central the right to vote was. now i understand why frederick douglass is that the right to vote was the most important of the group because african americans where the majority in 70 states, and why the evisceration of the right to vote was the core of redemption. tell us more about how the racist redemption based backlash eviscerated the right to vote, the supreme court decisions through terrorist violence and through discretionary -- discriminatory laws. >> sure. this lithograph is from 1972. i don't know if they can see it. it's famous. the famous senator and u.s. representatives. you know that the rioters
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project sent rioters to review former slaves. people would be very, very young during the civil war, the 1930s. they were very small. former homes occupied by slaves on plantations. they found grease covered, faded copies of that 1812 lithograph. you go home and there is jesus and martin luther king. now there's jesus, martin luther king, and barack obama. they had that. i studied the history of the lithograph. three of those men were born free. and we tend to forget. one was english. robert brown elliott was born free in liverpool. there was so much action. so much excitement about
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reconstruction that elliott shows up in bosnia, born free and educated, he's part of the british navy, shows up in boston, here's about all this opportunity in south carolina. coast to south carolina. richard harvey cain had been moved by the enemy church from new york to revitalize mother emmanuel. you know mother because that is where the 89 martyrs were so horribly murdered that day. richard harvey kane, a great entrepreneur, hires elliott to work for him and then elliott runs for the legislature and then for the congress. when richard greener graduates from harvard in 1870, endless opportunity, does he go to new york? does he go to boston? does he go to philadelphia? no, he goes to charleston, south carolina, because that is where the action was. we can't imagine it today.
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we can't imagine how much energy and optimism and energy, imagine what that was like if you were enslaved until 1865. and less, and then it's all gone. i was born in 1950. i often think what it would have been like to be black with the same capacities that we have now. you wouldn't have got to oxford. i wouldn't have gone to cambridge. you wouldn't have gone to yale. unlike, in the historically black university, lincoln, right on my brother. we would not have had those opportunities. i can imagine the heartbreak. when you read the speeches made in that day in 1833 and then
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douglass went to lincoln hall three days later and made another speech separately about the portrayal of the negro. if you ask, why would they do this? what remained the leading export from the united states through the 1930s? cotton. somebody hadrn cotton. you are moving from the economy where the labor was free, ostensibly, it's performed by sleeves, and it needed to be a place to maximize profits with the form of what? neo-slavery. share cropping. that damage. vagrancy laws. you saw three black men, for black men on the street, it could be arrested. but on the changing. images of chain gangs. that is where they'll come from. between 1889 and a 1930 or so
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307 black men are lynched in the name of many, many but not all are accused of raping young women. -- white women. nobody was accused virtually of raping a white woman in the south when the masters were away fighting, and the male slaves were back on the plantation. think about it. isn't that the case? lynching was a trip that was invented as part of a larger white supremacy must rhetorical superstructure. one of the fascinating things that i figured out when we were making the series and particularly when i was writing the book is that this was the time of america's first social media war. it was a battle between these convective images of black people as thieves, liars, penal,
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and this book is full of them. every chapter is followed by a visual essay, comprised of these horrible images which we have all seen. it is called memorabilia now. but black skin, thick red lips, wide white eyes with black pupils and wild here. these were black men stealing chickens. black men eating watermelon. black people male and female in every exaggerated, humiliating form through which you can represent a human being. hundreds and hundreds of thousands of these images are produced after the fall of reconstruction and particularly in the 1890s. why the 1890s? promo thaw graffiti is invented earlier on in the century but
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it comes cheap in the 1890s so that you can widely distributed for color images. straight cards, advertisements, postcards on games, so it was possible for a middle class white family from the time that your alarm clock went off because these images were everywhere, huge hit a alarm clock and you would see -- staring at you. you put your feet down and there would be a sam or aunt jemima figure that would have been embroidered into your bedroom slipper. go to have breakfast and your cozy. your egg cups had those images on it. you go to work and you come home, was the favorite game? ten little n***. every time someone saw an image of a black person it was a sand
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boat. it was this racist caricature. the whole point was to create bound to, however you want to put it, that racist image of yourself. or the black people do? they fought back with their own concept called the new negro. the talented ten. the educated black people said, well, we cannot win this war. maybe what you are saying is
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true about the an educated black people. but we are educated and refined and the concepts talks about 1890. i read the book. 1894. a scholar wrote to me last week and said no it started in 1877 and i've got the essay. is that ok. it starts in 1877. but the point is they foughtj?
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diversity of the african american community and there are of course upper class black people, because he's trying to defeat this racist image that had been created by the redemption assist -- it was true in our. it was true in novels and it was true in folklore. even if you read joe chandler harris is -- tails, he had a lot to preserve traditional black folk tale. sometimes though, he would put words an uncle remiss is mouth like black people don't need the right to vote. we don't need all that education. that is a real mistake. a waste of energy. he was into the social sciences, it was true with racial science. you all know about the science of eugenics. louis aga see.
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you know, those horrible the guarantied's that he made. a person who claims that they are descendant is suing harvard for using those. but aga sea was a stone cold racist, man. that was the only way that you could put it. all these discourses were united, science social, science is art literature, politics and orders to put that genie back in the lamp, the genie of black masculinity, the genie of the power of the voter, and it was devastatingly effective. ññiiñçs[c3ñl
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to be cuban i'm very partial to cuba. nobody could stop me. i've got family members. so i asked madeleine the first question. so they were debating whatever they were debating and i asked them which is more important in terms of and i use cuba as an example because it's contemporary -- giving people the right to vote
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or giving them economic freedom. right? predictably as they might imagine conte said one person one vote. don't open up cuba unless everybody could vote. madeleine said economic opportunity and independents. you give them the. the middle class -- sooner or later they will demand their rights. of course you could see this in china. now in a couple of other places where capitalism -- i went to china in 1993. there were billion bicycles. i went back ten years later and there were billion bmw's. you know? i was like whoa. i could not breathe either. it was like a time machine going back -- it rained. oh, that's the sky. the environmental controllers and not yet. why do i raise that? i used to wonder remember that
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speech i cited downstairs. he said economics is more important than politics. we are willing to forego the right to vote. if we could develop economics. we could be indispensable to the society if a person, a tradesmen, a trans woman, a craftsman, a craftswoman is indispensable, then why would you discriminate against a brick mason in philadelphia or a locksmith, or whatever it might be? or, but he was opposed to frederick douglas who said the most important thing was the right to vote. i used to -- i would teach. i love teaching. that's my day job. i taught a course on reconstruction and redemption. my phd is an english. so i'm teaching english in the department of african american studies. so this is about the concept of
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the new negro leading to the -- renaissance and then 1920s called the new negro renaissance. i asked the students to play with this. give me a scenario where it's not uncle tom selling out douglas for the race. making the case for book 18 washington. a lot of people do. it will say look at china. if black people had developed economically, butdkykykykmk#4 s- washington was training people -- was not going to put them in leading strong positions with the soon to be 20th century economy. he was training them more for a 19th century model of industry and trade. many of the lynchings, many of the lynchings, though they were
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under the name of a black man attempting to rape or raping a white woman -- when ida b wells and started investigating in 1892 and other people investigating, including walter white in the 1920s, it turned out it was economic competition. ida b wells is best friend had a grocery store. a market. across the street was a white -- kids or playing marbles. black and white kids. they got into a fight. it led to this huge conflict. the guy was jealous of the black man, essentially, igniting the community in memphis to lynch the man who, very well educated man, who had started that store with a couple of his partners. that example repeated itself throughout the south and at the heart of these so-called lynchings and so could
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economics -- if black people had gotten 40 acres and a mule, you'll know about 40 acres and a meal, spike lee has started a company called 40 acres and a mural. -- property on a ship without a doubt. the concept was big plantations would be divided up in the -- given to the former slaves and you could read a book by rose called rehearsal for reconstruction. in the georgia sea islands which was liberated by the union army later in the war. there were plantations that were divided up and black people were given parcels of land to develop. the person who single-handedly rolled back that policy was andrew johnson. andrew johnson sent general oh howard, the first head of friedman's bureau, the bureau of the civil war, -- hero of the civil war.
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two of those black people living on those georgia sea islands, to tell them that they had to give the land back to the former masters who had enslaved them. that is horrible. that was a horrible thing. they never had a chance to own land. never. i think by 1900 20% of the african americans in the south and some kind of land. that was not enough to create a middle class that would have sufficient economic -- to make a real difference. but without the ballot, those economic rights could not be protected. so in the debate between conte and madeleine in terms of specifically black americans in the civil war the most important thing that could have happened changed the fate, interracial democracy in
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america was protecting the black men's right to vote. and only men could vote. of course that's why i said black man. the people who are trying to rollback the civil war understood that that was the vulnerable point. if we could take the right to vote by intimidating them, discouraging them, threatening them, killing them, raping them, and then finally after 1890, taking it back through these dubious conventions, then we could put them back on the plantation. then we could call them slaves by another name. that is what they did. not only that. starting with the united -- of the confederacy in 1894, they even published textbooks. guides to text books about the
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civil war and reconstruction. i taught this woman -- you can fact check me. it's either milled rig rutherford lewis. but i tell my graduate course, her book called the measuring rod. 20 pin principles. if any book that a librarian was considering purchasing, or a teacher was considering using in the classroom, if any of those books violated any one of these 20 principles, the order was do not buy it. do not use it. do not teach. it you know is in there? the civil war was fought to free the slaves. jefferson davis, any book that said anything bad about jefferson davis, you could not do it. that the sleeves were mistreated. that they had not been happy in their condition. you could not do it. her common core was the lost
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cause. that was the beginning of the lost cause mythology that culminated in physical form with all those confederate monuments. all those confederate monuments, not literally everyone were built in the 1890s in the early years of the 20th century. they were the physical manifestation of redemption of the rise of white supremacy. when you -- when i heard about the murders of mother emanuel church. at first i thought that anybody who would pray with nine black people, including the preacher, and i did the last interview with -- as a turns a. that anybody who would pray with the people on wednesday night had a prayer meeting for an hour. and then systematically killed them. they had to be purely deranged. there must be an act of
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unfortunate side act by someone who is suffering from insane mental conditions. but he was a white supremacist. he knew what he was doing. he picked that church because it was the heart of the black community in reconstruction. and he was quoted as saying that they are stealing our -- . they're taking every job opportunities. the same kind of a wise and hemus accusations that the nazis made about jewish people in the 1930s. that is the logic of white supremacy or the in a logic. that is why if it could happen to black people, the with the exception of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments so close to the civil war which now historians estimate 750,000
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americans died. if it could happen to us to our ancestors it could have been anywhere and it could have been again. that's why we have to be vigilant. that's what i did the series. just to remind everyone the rights that you think are permanent and they can be snatched at anytime. those of us who love liberty and justice have to fight to defend those rights. [applause]
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[applause] thank you. [laughs] ♪ ♪ ♪
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weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tuesday evening of presidential economic addresses. it is customary for a newly-elected president to join a -- early in his term. modern presidents used opportunity to outline their economic crop plans. and even president biden's first address we will feature speeches from four of his predecessors. -- beginning with president reagan on inflation and interest rates to economic issues at the time. watch tuesday beginning at 8 pm eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. no as he approaches his 100th day in office, president biden will give his first address to a joint session of congress monday night, with the presidents address at 9 pm eastern on c-span. online at or listen
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live on the c-span radio app. author brendan discusses his book, -- examining the role that mr. wheeler played in the civil rights movement in north carolina through his position as mechanics and farmers bake in the 19 fifties and sixties. this event was part of the substation for the study of african american life and history's annual conference, and they provided the video. >> so glad to be here and so very, very excited to chop it up a little bit about about brother winford's excellent book. let me jump into my comments. dr. win for crafted and informative work that chronicles the life of one of the unsung titans of civil rights. in this work, doctor win for places john harvey wheeler in the center of a compelling civil rights narrative, thereby casting a


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