tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 22, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PDT
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight conversation with dr. henry louis "skip" gates, jr. "the african-, americans: many rivers to cross." blackse first time arrived on this continent to the second inauguration of president barack obama. a conversation with dr. henry louis "skip" gates, jr. coming up right now.
stations and there is a companion text of the same name. we will start our conversation by taking a look at a clip fro "the african americans: many rivers to cross." >> i asked been much of my life searching for the stories of the african-american people. our first notation of anthony them as antonio the negro. i have always wanted to tell their history. five centuries in the making. history and i have traveled around the country and across the globe to chronicle it. receive wealth inherited from the slave trade question mark but people changed american society. >> i will start in a moment by talking about what happens tomorrow night here in pbs and the series premieres. let me go back to what happened
this past weekend. alreadys a slave," there is oscar buzz. >> it was great. it had a $50,000 esa and grossed art,000 and started an seeders and black theaters. it started extra very well. -- extraordinarily very well. the movie will be in wide release in a couple of weeks. it did extremely well on opening weekend. the dates to be considered for an academy award. it did extremely well this weekend. i want to ask about that because there are so many movies and documentaries and
books about the african-american experience in america. to what extent and we will get to president obama on the last part of the series but to what extent does his presence in the white house, and african-american first family in the white house, what is the link between that reality and all of these various films and books and documentaries that are getting airings now ? about howthink affirmative action affected our generation, affirmative action starts in 1968, 1969. what we're seeing is or decades later. people who were able to go to historically white colleges and and whoties like i was are now in positions of authority and positions in which they can make things happen, we were becoming of age. so you're seeing this whole group of people who have more authority in certain arenas than
any other generation before us in the african-american community. more crossover power, and we have the ability to make things happen. these events are coming together. i do not think it is directly effect of the president. the president is a direct effect of these larger policies of affirmative action. >> you are speaking of clarence thomas, the only african- american. if justice thomas was here he would say the opposite. african-americans have been stigmatized by affirmative action and your argument is it opened up the door to this goodness and enrichment we are being exposed to. >> absolutely. where would clarence thomas b without affirmative action? he would never have gotten into yale. i would not have gotten into yale. the class of 1966 that yale had six like men. then 1996.
was there a genetic blip in rac e? to have a quota on roman catholics as well as by people and i am sure they had one on jewish people as well. those of us who benefited from at theone that stands gates and let more people in, the gates can keep other people out and unfortunately justice thomas i believe falls into that latter category. the value iswhat of our being exposed to all of these various films and documentaries, specifically on "the african americans: many rivers to cross." >> every time there is a racist incident, politicians call for a on race. they mean a feel-good session or a town meeting, you accuse and
apologize and sing, "we shall overcome" at the end and everyone goes home feeling better and there is another murder of a black boy. what -- where do real conversations about citizenship occur? think about what you learn in first grade. i pledge allegiance to the flag. your teacher was shaping you to be a citizen but she never said i'm going to teach you how to be it iszen or today citizenship lessons. they did it by demonstration. that is where we have to put the conversation about race and the reason that i wanted to do this series, the first comprehensive treatment of the whole sweep of african-american history is though cosby -- since bill cosby did his in 1968 was to provide the tools through which a teacher could incorporate african-american history into the story, the grand narrative
of the founding of america, its settlement, its people in, and it's great prosperity over the last several centuries. tavis: your statement that professor gates assumes that people want that history to be taught, this is not the kind of stuff they want in the curriculum. >> we do not have to be anecdotal. the southern poverty law center published a story examining how the civil rights movement is taught. you would think with mlk day, how many times do you hear "i have a dream" in january and february ? only three states get an eight. only three states get a b. 35 states get an f including the great state of california. that is reprehensible. the first thing we have to do is provide the tools so we have a dvd with six hours of impeccably researched history. we have a great companion book. and now we have to lobby the
school district, state legislatures, to put african- american history where it alongside in the classroom. and not only is a separate course because most legislatures will not do that. i am talking about integrating the stories so that, let's say not only do we learn about george washington, we learn about the slave kerry washington. he ran away from mount vernon and fought for the british and then when the british lost, went to nova scotia with the free black community, the former black patriots and then when nova scotia did not work out, they went to sierra leone and settled there. that tells a former story of american history and george washington than simply george washington chop on the terror -- the cherrywnee and did not
tree and did not tell a lie. tavis: this is six weeks, every time and a different episode of "the african americans: many rivers to cross," brought to us by professor gates. back to your wine earlier of the data brought to us by the southern poverty law center about what is not being taught in schools, help me understand why you feel this will be or can be? the first thing you have to do is provide a well researched product. something that conforms to the highest scholarly standards and the highest standards of production. we have done that. all i can do is provide them because my first hat is i am a teacher but i am an activist. influential activists like you and the black congressional caucus, all those legislatures and organizations like the naacp and that national urban league to join with me and help to demand, to lobby for the
integration of black content into the curriculum. i cannot do that alone. i can make a documentary series. the second has to be a team effort and we have to recognize that as politically important as raising the percentage of black people in the middle-class or reducing the number of black men in prison or reducing the poverty level. it is of crucial importance because the only way you can combat racism systematically i think is through the classroom. effortlessly, and visibly. not only teaching about race and racism in black history month, we are teaching about it every day. we are teaching about the reflectingamerica as a black presence every day effortlessly. we have to do that with the new curriculum. tavis: this oak is published by
-- book is published by smiley books. a beautiful book. it is beautifully done by a wonderful team. this was the companion to what you are seeing on pbs. real piece of work create i want to talk specifically about the six part series and without going through much faster too much detail. what are we going to see tomorrow night? in 1513 wheretart no other series has started. when we took african-american history we always start in 1690. jamestown, the first african americans landed at a place called port comfort. we now know thanks to the work of historians like john thornton
and linda haywood, they are from angola. everyone starts the story there but they were not the first africans to come to what is now the united states. the first african came in 1513. he was a free black man, not a slave and his name was juan garrito and he came with pots leon,on, -- ponce de looking for the fountain of youth like a white guy. he goes with cortez all the way to baja, california, mexico, looking for the mythical black amazons and he comes back to mexico city and files a petition in 1538 to the king of spain asking for pension and he claims, this is how you know he is a brother. he claims to have invented the growing of wheat. because -- your majesty, i also invented wheat.
we have his portrait. we have a picture of him. the first slave whose name we know came in 1528, his name was esther von -- estaban. peopleon a ship with 600 that was shipwrecked. he turns out to be of really linguist and becomes a translator. he wondered all the way to arizona, new mexico, and back and goes back again, 15,000 miles. this brother some more of the continental united states than any other non-native american before lewis and clark. we startith this contrast between a free black man and a black man who was a slave to show that the black experience, the story of black america was always multivalent, multilayered. it was always complex. it was not always about slaves or free people or whatever. we move from there to tell the story of anthony johnson. in jamestown. -- 1525 and25
gained his freedom in some way. even he was -- it or at an indentured servant. 250 acres and has white indentured servants working for him and a black man. we know that because in 1654 the black man either took him to court or he took the black man to court because the black man said i should be treated as an indentured servant like the white servants and get my freedom after seven years. anthony johnson says you are my slave for life and anthony johnson wins and that codifies slavery as a race-based thing in virginia thereafter. it is cap located. -- complicated. that we havehow been in this country for half a millennium and that we have had lots of ups and downs.
it is a story of travail and suffering but also of great triumph. even ending with the second inauguration of president obama is in extending. you would think it is a note of triumph on one hand. a black man is elected and reelected at the same time we have 75% of live births out of wedlock, we have the highest male prison rate for african- americans in our history. the percentage of black children living at her been a poverty line is in the mid-30%. you know what it was on dr. king died, just slightly higher. we did this to deconstruct this idea that we are somehow in a post-racial society because president obama was elected and reelected.
questionwas asked a and i gave the answer to the question i was asked. some people tried to label that as me smashing the president. >> someone accused you of doing that, why would they do that? i was asked a question and i answered the question. offafrican-americans better five years into the obama presidency and the answer as you and i both know is no. you just lay that out. if you look at the data. substantively, we are not. all hell breaks loose about tavis smiley smashing the president and that is not what it was. the data is going to indicate on myhad austin goolsby radio show last week. he concurs with this point. the data is going to indicate that obama is out of office after eight years, black people
lost ground in every single leading economic indicator, category. something magical would have to happen for that not to be the case. >> i do not know the state of the let's presume it was true. -- the data but let's presume it is true. after 500 years of history, we know that this is not obama's fault but i am getting to a question which is this. 50 orll the historians, 100 or 200 years from now when historians look back, how will they juxtapose that in the era of the first black president after being 500 years, we lost ground in all these categories? those indicesme are true and a lot can happen in the next three years and let's hope that it does.
given the recalcitrance of the tea party. the silent second term motivating the tea party is the word race. i think the people in the tea party are -- some are clearly disturbed ideologically by a government but subconsciously at least they are totally obsessed with having a black man in the white house. many of these guys would rather see the country go bankrupt then for a black man to succeed. i would say that it would show the limited effect of an individual to transform large systemic forces that have a long history. ofrting with three centuries slavery, for centuries of slavery and a century of jim crow. you cannot wave a wand and change all that magically. you just cannot which is why i think that americans need to understand the deleterious historical impact, the lasting impact of where -- the way our
ancestors were treated. even one man is brilliant and charismatic as barack obama cannot come in and erase centuries of systematic institutional dissemination against our people. we started by talking about affirmative action. class isk upper-middle- quadrupled so people like you and i having this conversation, it is -- it was impossible to do this for decades ago. and you will see my book -- publishing my book, you are a one-person media empire. at the same time it is almost as if the system lettuce and and shut the door -- let us in and shut the door on everyone else. so how we can begin to address the problems facing black america economically and that is the single failure of the civil rights group. very few of the leaders in the history of civil rights had an economic analysis because we thought it was a matter of xenophobia. here are the black man. fear of the black face, the
black bodied but blackness coded for deeper economic analysis and i know cornell west agrees. the printable effect of the civil rights movement is the creation of a new black upper class and maybe he was right. i think that we need more theomic-based solutions to problems afflicting the black community and that is a way to redefine affirmative action. i grew up before why people -- white people in west virginia and there is a culture of poverty. i have seen why people perform exactly the same pathological forms of behavior as black people do when they are systematically deprived, whether it is getting pregnant, doing drugs, dropping out of school, whatever we are talking about. we should have affirmative action for poor white people, too. tavis: what is the message for
black people who are watching the series, all americans will watch it on pbs but specifically for african-americans. we know that we are still dealing with the impact and the reverberation of this history. what is the message to us because history is written backwards and our lives are lived forwards. >> i will quote you on that root.com. is true on -- of the episodes, we made our ancestors made our way. they had no reason to believe in the future. no reason to believe in the future yet they believed in the future and deferred gratification. they valued education as a lives generations' depended on it even though they saw no end to slavery. very few black people embraced back to africa it movements. a tiny movement -- number went
back to africa. they said we are going to make america live up to the ideas of the constitution and they produced one of the world's great cultures and individuals who were just as brilliant and made contributions to the world civilization. they produced a world civilization, a world-class civilization in music, dance, oratory, religion, writing. the great miracles in human civilization. i think it means that each individual has the responsibility to get out of bed and learn the abcs and learn your math tables and not use race and racism as an excuse. sex, youwants to have do not have to have a baby when you're 16. you do not have to do drugs. our churches should be turned into black history schools and computer schools like hebrew schools for jewish people. chinese or korean on
the weekend. we have to stop making excuses. one of the things i am careful to show is that her and this affects of institutional instructions and -- institutional instructional racism. you cannot wait for a black man or white hand -- a white man to ride in on a horse and save you. with what you said about saving ourselves. do you get these -- how do you get these black people to care about a future they will never see? ancestors our slave do it, what made them believe that one day if they kept on keeping on that there would be a tavis smiley and there would be a skip gates? i do not know. it was america. one of the most astonishing developments and mysterious development in human history that the slaves believed, kept the faith so we could be here today. tavis: "the african americans: many rivers to cross the book is
called "the african americans: many rivers to cross -- the book is called "the african americans: many rivers to cross ." it everye seeing tuesday night brought to us by dr. henry louis "skip" gates, jr. pbs.ing tomorrow night on thanks for some wonderful work and it is a blessing to have you on this program. >> thank you and keep doing what you're doing. tavis: thanks for watching and keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with -- about poverty in america, why it persists, and what we could you to eradicate it. that is next time. we will see you then. time.
hello and welcome to this is us. i'm becca king reed. today we're in santa cruz about to jump on the newly renewed rail line. we'll get a lesson on railroad history from sandy lion. and what powered motorcycle has set a world record. and a designer who was invited to fashion week. and a man who's saving the world with his power plant that fits into hi