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tv   President Biden Delivers Remarks on 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre  CSPAN  July 2, 2021 12:46pm-1:33pm EDT

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arrival of the reconstructive french ship designed after the french vessel that brought major general back to the united states in 1780. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. on may 31st, 1921, tensions led to the arrest of a black man led to a predom nantsly white mob marching. black wall street was burned to the ground and hundreds of african-americans were killed. next, president biden's remarks in tulsa, oklahoma where he traveled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tulsa race massacre.
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[ applause ] when i enrolled as an undergraduate at the university of pennsylvania, i my grandmother gave me a manuscript written by her great grandfather j stratford. he was a memoir of his own father buying his freedom. continuing through his life as a successful business owner and
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hotelier in tulsa, oklahoma. it was by reading this memoir that i understood a part of family history that had only been spoken about in whisper. the tulsa race massacre that had destroyed our family business and criminalized our patriarch j.b. stratford. j.b. had a hotel business in tulsa that would have been worth over $2 million in today's money. his hotel, the 54-room hotel on historic greenwood avenue was burned to the ground during the tulsa race massacre of 1921, along with over 30 square blocks of black owned property. causing him to flee to kansas and later to chicago to save his
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own life. he was falsely indicted for inciting the riot by an inflamed white grand jury for daring to stand up with his community to stop a mob from breaking into the jail and lynching a black teenager named dick roland. sparking the backlash, which ended in the massacre. my family worked to get these charges against j.b. dropped post humanously. i know how lucky i am to have this family history passed down from generation to generation. this history was the one thing that they were not able to steal from us. as thankful as i am to know my history, i understand the history has no firm line to divide it from the present.
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just as there are survivors still with us today from this tragic event, the mentality of the mob to declare there were never again again be another bl wall street in tulsa. that mentality also still survives and many institutions and fortunately in many people's hearts. today we welcome president joe biden here to stand beside us as we continue the fight for justice for the survivors and descendents of the tulsa massacre. he understands that as a nation we are and we must be strong enough to confront the dark periods of our history with a bold agenda of equity, repair and healing. j.b. stratford died without
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seeing justice for the crimes against him and his community, but i am sure we will see justice in my lifetime thanks to the efforts of all of you here joining us today. and now i introduce to you president joe biden. [ applause ] >> well, thank you. please, if you have a seat, sit down. and i've got to make one check here.
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i just had to make sure the two girls got ice cream when this is over. imagine how excited you would be when you're four, five -- >> almost five. >> almost five years old coming to hear a president speak. my lord. in my faith we call that purgatory. lauren, thank you for that gracious introduction and in case you were wondering, in delaware we were a small state, we have the eighth largest black population in america and we have one of the most talented members of congress. so if i didn't walk around and pay my tribute to lisa blunt rochester, my congresswoman immediately --
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[ applause ] >> how are you, rev? good to see you. we have a distinguished group of people here and i want to thank lauren for sharing the powerful story and for helping the country understand what's happening here. and to all the descendents here today and to the community and civil rights leaders and members of the congressional black caucus that are here, thank you for making sure we all remember and we never forget. you know, there is a verse in first corinthians that says, for now we see in amirademily but face-to-face now i know in part then i shall know fully. i just toured the hall of survivors here in greenwood cultural center and i want to thank the incredible staff for hosting us here.
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[ applause ] and if i didn't say what my father would insist on, please excuse my back. i apologize. but the tour -- in the tour i met mother randle who is only 56 years old, god love her, and mother fletcher who is 67 years old and her brother, her brother van ellis who is 100 years old. and he looks like he's 60. thank you for spending so much time with me. i really mean it. it was a great honor and a genuine honor. you are three known remaining survivors of a story seen in the mirror dimly, but no longer, now your story will be known in full view. the events we speak of today
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took place 100 years ago and yet i'm the first president in 100 years ever to come to tulsa. i say that not as a compliment about me, but to think about it. 100 years and the first president to be here during that entire time. and this place, this ground, to acknowledge the truth of what took place here. for much too long the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness, but just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place. while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. it erases nothing. some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they
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can't be buried no matter how hard people try. and so it is here only, only with truth can come healing and justice and repair. only with truth. facing it. but that isn't enough. first we have to see, hear and give respect to mother randle, mother fletcher and mr. van ellis. [ applause ] and so all those lost so many years ago. to all the descendents of those who suffered. to this community. that's why we're here, to shine
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a light, to make sure america knows the story in full. may 1921, formerly enslaved black people and their dee depend events are here in tulsa. a boom town of opportunity and a new frontier. on the rail tracks that divided the city already segregated by law they built something of their own, worthy, worthy of their talent and their ambition. greenwood, a community, a way of life. black doctors and lawyers, pastors, teachers, running hospitals, law practices, libraries, churches, schools. black veterans like the man i had the privilege of giving the command coin to who fought, volunteered and fought and came home and still faced such
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prejudice. veterans had been back a few years helping after winning the first world war, building a new life back home with pride and confidence, where mom -- there were at the time mom and pop black diners, grocery stores, barber shops, tailors, the things that make up a community. at the dream land theater a young black couple holding hands, falling in love. friends gathered at music clubs and pool halls, at the monroe family roller skating rink. visitors staying at hotels like the stratford. all around black pride shared by the professional class and the working class who lived together side-by-side for blocks on end.
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mother randle was just six years old. six years old, living with her grandma. she said she was lucky to have a home and toys and fortunate to live without fear. mother fletcher was seven years old, second of seven children, the youngest being mr. van ellis who was just a few months old. the children, former share croppers, and they went to bed at night in greenwood mother fletcher said they fell asleep rich in terms of the wealth. not real wealth, but a different wealth. a wealth in culture and community and heritage. one night -- one night changed everything. everything changed. while greenwood was a community to itself it was not separated from the outside. it wasn't everyone, but there was enough hate, resentment and
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vengeance in the community. enough people hobbled that america does not belong to everyone and not everyone is created equal. native americans, asian-americans, hispanic-americans, black americans, a belief enforced by law, by badge, by hood and by noose that speaks to that lit the fuse. it lit it by the spark that it provided. a fuse of fury. it was an innocent interaction that turned into a terrible, terrible headline allegation of a black male teenager attacking a white female teenager. white mob of 1,000 gathered around the courthouse where the black teenager was being held,
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ready to do what still occurred, lynch that young man that night, but 75 black men including black veterans arrived to stand guard. words were exchanged, then a scuffle, then a shots fired. hell was unleashed, literal hell was unleashed. through the night and into the morning the mob terrorized greenwood, torches and guns, shooting at will. a mob tied a black man by the waste to the back of their truck with their head banging along the pavement as they drove off. a murdered black family draped over the fence of their home outside. an elderly couple knelt by their bed praying to god with their heart and their soul and they were shot in the back of their heads. private planes -- private planes dropping explosives, the first and only domestic aerial assault
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of its kind on an american city here in tulsa. eight of greenwood's nearly two dozen churches burned like mt. zion, across the street at vernon ame. mother randle said it was like a war. mother fletcher says all these years later she still sees black bodies around. the greenwood newspaper publisher a.j. smitherman penned a poem of what he heard and felt that night and here is the poem. he said, kill them. burn them. set the pace. teach them how to keep their place. reign of murder, theft and plunder was the order of the night. that's what he remembers in the poem that he wrote. 100 years ago at this hour on
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this first day of june smoke darkened the tulsa sky. rising from 35 blocks of greenwood that were left in ash and ember. razed in rubble. less than 24 hours -- in less than 24 hours 1,100 black homes and businesses were lost. insurance companies, they had insurance many of them, rejected claims of damage. 10,000 people were left destitute and homeless. placed in internment camps. as i was told today they were told don't you mention you were ever in a camp or we will come and get you. that's what survivors told me. yet no one -- no arrests of the mob were made. none. no proper accounting of the
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dead. the death toll records by local officials said there were 36 people. that's all. 36 people. based on studies, records and accounts, the likelihood -- likely number is much more in the multiple of hundreds. untold bodies dumped into mass graves. families who at a time waited for hours and days to know the fate of their loved ones are now descendents who have gone 100 years without closure. as we speak the process -- the process of exhuming the unmarked graves has started and at this moment i'd like to pause for a moment of silence for the fathers and mothers, sisters, sons and daughters, friends of
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god and greenwood. they deserve the dignity and they deserve our respect. may their souls rest in peace. [ moment of silence ] >> my fellow americans, this was not a riot. this was a massacre. among the worst in our history,
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but not the only one. and for too long forgotten by our history, as soon as it happened there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory, our collective memories, from the news and every day conversations. for long times schools in tulsa didn't even teach it, let alone schools elsewhere. and most people didn't realize that a century ago the second ku klux klan had been founded -- the second ku klux klan had been founded. a friend of mine john meacham when i said i was running to restore the soul of america. he wrote a book "the soul of america." there is a page 160 in his book showing over 30,000 ku klux klan members in full ra gail i can't,
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reverend, pointed hats, the robes, marching down pennsylvania avenue in washington, d.c. jesse, you know all about this. washington, d.c. if my memory is correct there were 37 members of the house of representatives who were open members of the klan. there were five, if i'm not mistaken, could have been seven, i think it was five members of the united states senate open members of the klan. multiple governors were open members of the klan. most people didn't realize that a century ago the klan was founded just six years before the horrific destruction here in tulsa. and one of the reasons why it was founded was because of guys like me that are catholic. it wasn't about african-americans then, it was about making sure that all those polish and irish and italian and
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eastern european catholics who came to the united states after world war i would not pollute christianity. the flames from those burning crosses torched every region of the country. millions of white americans belong to the klan and they weren't even embarrassed by it, they were proud of it. and that hate became embedded systematically and systemically in our laws and our culture. we do ourselves no favors by pretending none of this ever happened. it doesn't impact just today because it still impact us today. we can't just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know.
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we should know the good, the bad, everything. that's what great nations do, they come to terms with their dark sides and we're a great nation. the only way to building a common ground is to truly repair and to rebuild. i come here to help fill the silence because in silence wounds deepen. and only as painful as it is only in remembrance do wounds heal. we just have to choose to remember. memorialize what happened here in tulsa so it can't be erased.
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we know here in this hallowed place we simply can't bury pain and trauma forever and at some point there will be a reckoning, an inflection point like we're facing right now as a nation. what many people hadn't seen before or simply refused to see cannot be ignored any longer. you see it in so many places. and there's greater recognition that for too long we've allowed a narrowed cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. the view that america is a zero sum game where there's only one winner. if you succeed, i fail. if you get ahead, i fall behind. if you get a job, i lose mine. and maybe worst of all, if i
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hold you down, i lift myself up. instead of if you do well we all do well. we see that in greenwood. this story isn't about the loss of life but a loss of living, of wealth and posterity and possibilities that still reverberates today. mother fletcher talks about how she was only able to attend school in the fourth grade and eventually found work in the shipyards as a domestic worker. mr. van ellis has shared how even after enlisting and serving in world war ii he still came home to struggle with a segregated america. imagine all those hotels and dinners and mom and pop shops that could have been passed down this past 100 years. imagine what could have been done for black families in green wood, financial security and generational wealth.
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we come from backgrounds like my family, working class, middle class family the only way we were ever able to generate any wealth was in equity in our homes. imagine what they contributed then and what they could have contributed all these years. imagine the thriving green wood in north tulsa for the last 100 years, what that would have meant for all of tulsa, including the white community. while the people of greenwood rebuild again in the years after the massacre it didn't last. eventually neighborhoods were red lined on maps, blocking black tulsa out of home ownership. a highway was built right through the heart of the community. lisa was talking about our west side what 95 did after we were occupied by the military after dr. king was murdered. the community, can you get off black family and businesses from jobs and opportunity.
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chronic underinvestment from state and federal governments denied greenwood even just a chance of rebuilding. we must find the courage to change the things we know we can change. that's what vice president harris and i are focused on, along with our entire administration including our housing and urban development secretary marcia fudge who is here today. because today we are announcing two expanded efforts targeted toward black wealth creation that will also help the entire community. the first is my administration has launched an aggressive effort to combat racial discrimination in housing. that includes everything from redlining to the cruel fact that a home owned by a black family is too often appraised at lower
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value than a similar home owned by a white family. and i might add, and i need help if you can answer this one, i can't figure this one other, congressman, but if you live in a black community and there's another one on the other side of the highway that's a white community, built by the same builder, and you have a better driving record than the guy with the same car in the white community, you're going to pay more for your auto insurance. shockingly the percentage of black american home ownership is lower today in america than when the fair housing act was passed more than 50 years ago. lower today. that's wrong. and we're committed to changing that. just imagine, if you don't deny millions of americans to build their own home, we made it possible for them to buy a home
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and build equity into that home and provide for their families. second, small businesses are the engines of our economy and the glue of our communities. as president my administration oversees hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts for everything from refurbishing decks of aircraft carriers to installing railings in federal buildings to professional services. they have a thing called -- i won't get into it all, not enough time now, but i'm determined to use every taxpayer's dollar that is assigned to me to spend going to american companies and american workers to build -- that build american products and as part of that i'm going to increase the share of the dollars the federal government spends to small disadvantaged businesses including black and brown small businesses. right now it calls for 10%. i'm going to move that to 15% of every dollar spent.
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just imagine instead of denying millions of entrepreneurs the ability to access capital and contracting, we made it possible to take their dreams to the marketplace to create jobs and invest in our communities. the data shows young black entrepreneurs are just as capable of succeeding given the chance as white entrepreneurs are, but they don't have lawyers, they don't have -- they don't have accountants, but they have great ideas. does anyone doubt this whole nation would be better off? that's why i set up the national small business administration that's much broader because they're going to get those lines. instead of consigning millions of american children to underresourced schools, let's get each and every child three and four years old access to school not day care, school.
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in the last ten years studies have been done by all the great universities that shows that have increased by 56% of possibility of a child no matter what background they come from, no matter what, if they start school at three years old they have a 56% chance of going through all 12 years without any trouble and being able to do well. and a chance to learn and grow and thrive in a school and throughout their lives and let's unlock more than incredible creativity and innovation that will come from the nation's historically backed colleges and universities. i have a $5 billion program, give me the resources to invest in research centers and laboratories and high demand fields to compete for good paying jobs in industries like -- of the future like cybersecurity. the reason why they don't, their
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students are equally able to learn as well and get the good paying job that start at 90 and 100,000 bucks but they don't have the money to provide and build those laboratories. so guess what, they're going to get the money to build those laboratories. so instead of just talking about infrastructure, let's get about the business of actually rebuilding roads and highways, filling the sidewalks and cracks, installing streetlights and high speed internet. creating space, space to live and work and play safely. let's ensure access to health care, clean water, clean air, nearby grocery stores stocked with fresh vegetables and food . i mean, these are all things we can do. does anyone doubt this whole nation will be better off with these investments? the rich will be just as well off, the middle class will do better and everybody will do
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better. it's about good paying jobs, financial stability, being able to build some generational wealth. it's about economic growth for our country and outcompeting the rest of the world which is now outcompeting us. but just as fund amount as any of these investments i've discussed is maybe the most fundamental, the right to vote. the right to vote. a lot of the members of the black caucus knew john lewis better than i did, but i knew him. on his death bed like many i called john to speak to him. rev, all john wanted to do was talk about how i was doing.
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he died, i think, about 25 hours later, but do you know what john said? he called the right to vote precious, almost sacred. he said the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society, this sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like i have never seen even though i got started as a public defender and civil rights lawyer with an intensity and aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time. it's simply unamerican. it's not, however, sadly, unprecedented. the creed, we shall overcome, is a long time mainstay of the civil rights movement as jesse jackson can tell you better than anybody. the obstacle to progress that has to be overcome are a constant challenge. we saw it in the '60s but with the current assault it's not just an echo of a distant
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history, in 2020 we faced a tireless assault on the right to vote. restrictive laws, lawsuits, threats of intimidation, voter purges and more. we resolved to overcome it and we did. more americans voted in the last any -- in the midst of a pandemic than any election in american history. you've got voters registered, you've got voters to the polls. the rule of law held. democracy prevailed. we overcame. but today let me be unequivocal. i've been engaged in this work my whole career and we're going to be ramping up efforts to overcome again. i will have more to say about this at a later date the truly unprecedented assault on our democracy. the effort to replace nonpartisan election administrators and to intimidate those charged with tallying and reporting the election results.
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but today as for the act of voting itself i urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters. and in june -- in june should be a month of action on capitol hill. i hear all the folks on tv saying why doesn't biden get this done? well, because biden only has the majority of effectively four votes in the house and a tie in the senate with two members of the senate who vote more with my republican friends. but we are not giving up. earlier this year the house of representatives passed for the people act to protect our democracy. the senate will take it up later this month and i'm going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage. the house is also working on the john lewis voting rights act which is critical to providing new legal tools to combat the new assault on the right to
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vote. to signify the importance of our efforts today i'm asking vice president harris to help these efforts and lead them, among her many other responsibilities. with her leadership and your support we're going to overcome again. i promise you. but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work. and finally we have to -- and finally we must address what remains the stain on the soul of america. what happened in greenwood was an act of hate and domestic terrorism with the through line that exists today still. just close your eyes and remember what you saw in charlottesville four years ago on television. neo-nazis, white supremacists, the kkk coming out of those fields at night of virginia with lighted torches. the veins bulging as they were screaming. remember this? close your eyes and picture what it was. well, mother fletcher said when
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she saw the insurrection at the capitol on january the 9th it broke her heart. a mob of violent white extremists, thugs said reminded her of what happened here in greenwood 100 years ago. look around at the various hate crimes against asian-americans and jewish-americans. hate that never goes away, hate only hides. jesse, i think i mentioned this to you, i thought after you guys pushed through with dr. king the voting rights act and the civil rights act, i thought we moved. what i didn't realize -- i thought we had made seen mouse progress and i was so proud to be a little part of it, but do you know what, rev, i didn't realize hate is never defeated, it only hides. it hides. and given a little bit of oxygen, just a little bit of
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oxygen by its leaders it comes out of there from under the rock like it was happening again as if it never went away. so, folks, we can't, we must not give hate a safe harbor. as i said in my address at the joint session of congress according to the intelligence community terrorism from white supremacy is the most lethal threat to the homeland today, not isis, not al qaeda, white supremacists. that's not me, that's the intelligence community under both trump and under my administration. two weeks ago i signed into law the covid-19 hate crimes act which the house had passed and the senate. my administration will soon lay out our broader strategy to counter domestic terrorism and the violence driven by the most heinous hate crimes and other forms of bigotry. but i'm going to close where i started. to mother randle, mother
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fletcher, mr. van ellis, to the descendents and to all survivors, thank you. thank you for giving me the honor of being able to spend some time with you earlier today. thank you for your courage. thank you for your commitment and thank your children and your grandchildren and your nieces and your nephews. to see and learn from you is a gift, a genuine gift. dr. john hope franklin, one of america's greatest historians, tulsa's proud son whose father was a greenwood survivor said, and i quote, whatever you do it must be done in the spirit of good will and mutual respect and even love. how else can we overcome the past and be worthy of our forbearers and face the future with confidence and with hope. on this sacred and solemn day
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may we find that distinctly greenwood spirit that defines the american spirit, the spirit that gives me so much confidence and hope for the future, that helps us see face-to-face a spirit, that helps us know fully who we are and who we can be as a people and as a nation. i've never been more optimistic about the future than i am today. i mean that. the reason is because of this new generation of young people, they are the best educated, they are the least prejudiced, they are the most open generation in american history and although i have no scientific basis for what i'm about to say, but those of you who are over 50 how often did you ever see -- how often did you ever see advertisements
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on television with black and white couples? not a joke. i challenge you, find today when you turn on the stations, sit on one station for two hours and i don't know how many commercials you will see eight to five, two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them. that's not by accident. they're selling soap, man. not a joke. remember old pat goodell used to say do you want to know what's happening in american culture? watch advertising because they want to sell what they have. we have hope and folks like you, honey. i really mean it. we have hope but we've got to give them support. we have got to give them the backbone to do what we know has to be done. as i doubt whether any of you would be here if you didn't care
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deeply about this. you sure as devil didn't come here to hear me speak. but i really mean t i really mean t let's not give up, man. let's not give up. as the old saying goes, hope springs eternal. i know we've talked a lot about famous people but my colleagues in the senate used to always kidney because i was always quoting irish poets. they think i did it because i'm irish. they think i did it because we irish we have a chip on our shoulder a little bit sometimes. that's not why i did it. i did it because they're the best poets in the world. you can smile. it's okay. it's true. there was a famous poet who wrote a poem and it's stanchion i think is the definition for i think what should be our call today for young people. he said history teaches us not to hope on this side of the
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grave, but then once in a lifetime that long fore tidal wave of justice rises up and hope and history rhyme. let's make it rhyme. thank you. [ applause ]
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>> tonight on american history tv vanessa smiley a national park service project manager discusses misconceptions surrounding the american revolution southern campaigns. the emerging revolutionary war blog and the office of alexandria co-hosted the talk. that starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. >> on may 31st, 1921 tensions over the arrest of a young black man for his apparent interactions with a white woman led to an armed mob of white men marching on the predominantly african-american greenwood district in tulsa, oklahoma. over the next day the neighborhood known as black wall street was burned to the ground and


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