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tv   Book Discussion on The Lynching  CSPAN  July 17, 2016 12:15am-1:01am EDT

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a look at the best selling books continues with, "if you can keep it" in which eric metaxis weighs in on the intentions of the founding fathers when they wrote the constitution, and the state of liberty in america today. and in "killing kennedy"" really looks at the assassination of president john f. kennedy. next, former bill clinton campaign adviser, dick morris, lays out a strategy in ""carmageddon"" he thinks willied donald trump to victory in the 2016 election, and republican strategic peter sweitzer criticizes the financial dealings of the clinton in "clinton cash." rounding out the list, cores terrorism righter looks at how the fight against extremism can be won in "defeating jihads." a look at current best sellers. many of the authors have appeared or will appear on booktv.
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you can watch them every weekend on c-span2 or on the web site. booktv.org. >> hi. want to give you a few quick reminders. first first one is turn awe your cell phone, and tonight we have c-span here, so please when it
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comes time for q & a, there's a microphone set up right there by the pillar so please line up at the mic to ask your questions. finally, when we're doing, please stack your chairs against any bookshelf. that will make our lives much easier so thank you. now, more importantly, lawrence leamer is the author of 12 "new york times" best shelling books from the kennedys to johnny carson to cocaine trafficking in peru. he was a magazine writer for many years wrote a play about rose kennedy. we're here tonight to talk about his most recent book "the lynching" the epic courtroom bat that brought down the klan and the ininvestigates the lives of three men, george wallace -- you can boo -- kkk leader robert shelton and legendary civil rights lawyer and the cofounder of the southern law poverty center, morris dees.
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it starts with the 1981 trial that starts a hate time in mobile, alabama and ends in one of the most important courtroom victories against the klan. a gripping book and an important one. bryan stevenson, the author of "just mercy and the founder of the equal justice initiative" has said, we ignore the account at our peril. so we'll not ignore it. please join me in can being lawrence leamer. >> thank you very much. last year after charleston president obama said that slavery is america's original sin. it's a pity it took so long for a president to say that and it was our first african-american president who did so. but it was -- did not make it nonetheless true. as i i've investigated this book about lynching in alabama, i've gone back to the early history of slavery and followed it. one thing that i find important
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or crucial to it is the row over sexuality in slavery. in the hundreds of -- the 300 years of slavery, the slavemasters would come down and essentially have their way with the women in the slave quarters. by the time of the civil war there was a large mixed blood population in the south, millions and millions of people have mixed blood. i remember when i was doing the book i was living in montgomery, alabama and met this colonel. black with a white wife. that was unusual. he had a plantation and insite node his plantation. i thought i gallon -- i'll go out weapon go in the living room and there's this family portrait. these two families there. a black family and a white family. they're in the living room. i said, who are the white folks? he said they're my family. they're part of my family that my great-grandmother was raped by the slavemaster and these are
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my family, and some of my family members have passed as white and some have lived as blacks. so that was the southern reality. after the civil war, with the klan, the klan began, and the klan started lynching, and the whole idea was against the fear of the black male, and that was -- in the birth of the nation, the most socially american -- socially important american film, it was about these klansmen going out to protect white womenhood. in the early part of the 20th 20th century. ida welts, a young black journalist living in memphis, tennessee there had been six linkings in the last two month -- lynching in the last two months for supposedly raping white women. she wrote a pete for the memphis paper saying we all know that's not true. that's not what happened and if we told the truth about whitewoman, it would not be
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governor the reputation of white women. this white establishment was so upset, and the white newspaper, they have had an article saying that this person who wrote that should be castrated. when they discovered it was a woman, they burned down the newspaper. and so lynching went on for 70 years. a lynching an average of once a week, a racial lynching in the south. from 1870 to 1955. and psychologically a brilliant device to hold black people down. imagine if you're a black mother. do you raise your mild to stand up bold and tall or raise them to get off the sidewalk when a white person casts and duck his hat and lower his hand? if you wanted to live you did the later. so the lynchings went on. the last one in 1955, and then in march, 1981, in mobile, alabama, people woke up that morning and there was a body of
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a black man in -- hanging from a tree. i have to see how this is going to work for the -- that morning this is the body that was hanging from that tree, and it was a white neighborhood. black people came into the neighborhood, and they saw this, and they started crying. they got down on their hands and knees and they knew what happened. they enough it had been a racial lynching. the police didn't say that. michael figger is a state senator showed up. black senator. he took pictures of the lynching and he turned and texas pictures across the street of three men standing there, benny haste, the top klan leader, his son, henry hays, and tiger knolls.
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the three chancemen. they lived across the street. that's where you go to look for the killers but the mobile establishment did not want a lynching to have taken place in their pristine city. so, three young white men were accused and arrest for this murder. totally independent. the city of mobile was willing to convict these three men, sentence them to life in prison, possibly execute them for a crime they did not commit. so, three days -- a couple months later the grand jury in mobile -- usually grand juries just do whatever the prosecutor wants them to do. they said, no, we can't do this. that would have been it. a lot of people talk about states rights and you can't have the federal government involved. well, the justice department, civil right division, came down in the presence of barry kowalski, young lawyer, and an fbi agent and they worked this
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case, and they got tiger noles, the 17-year-old to admit he had done this. to admit that there had been a black bank robber in birmingham, alabama, when he robbed a back and came out, he shot and killed a white police officer. that at the klan meeting a few days before the lynching they said if -- it was largely a black jury -- if he is found innocent or there's a hung jury, they're going to come and find a black man and kill him. and so that friday evening, these two young klans meant -- michael donald was a 19-year-old kid, good young man, youngest of seven children and his aunt wanted him to get a pack of cigaretted. he went out to get the pack of cigarettes. they came up to him in a car, took him out in the woodses and he knew what would happen. so he fought back with immense courage.
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got up three times and fought back. finally they got him down, took the hanging rope out of the car, put their boot on his head, and pulled the rope tight against him and strangled him, and then they slit his throat. they could have left him there but that want wasn't good enough. it was symbol the klan was still alive and strong. they brought him back to mobile and hung the body in the tree. and so tiger knowles pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, and henry hays went on trial for his life in mobile. morris, a young man started the southern poverty law center, came down are for the trial and he thought these two men have done this but this is not them. they're just the young people. what they were told by the leadership of the klan. the leadership is responsible ultimately and i have to find a
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way to sue them and to bring down the klan. that was his idea. the middle part of my book is a story of the three crucial men, george wallace, a four-time governor of alabama, robert shelton, the united -- wizard of the unites klan of america. morris dees. he grew up a segregationist, just like everybody was a segregationist. he went to the university of a.m. -- university of alabama as a lawsuit. in the then took off and was george wallace's student campaign manager. imagine that in '61 as a young lawyer he took on the case of a chancesman who bludgeoned people in the freedom writers. a person asked him why can you do this? he realized it was wrong, two years later at the time of the bombing in birmingham, that were
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done by members have to nights klans of america, morris was a baptist ministry-went to his church that morning and he said, folks, there's been a -- something bad has been done to our fellow baptists. they said tell us, brother, and morris dees said these black girls in birmingham were killed in a bombing there was utter violence ex-leave us alone, brother, don't talk about this. he wanted them to help in some way. they would not do it. and in the end he said let us pray. let us pray we can do something about this. he bowed his head and shut his eyes and when he opened his -- looked up, it was not a single person left in that church. not a single white person in that church was going to help these black children. that was the racial reality of the south and of alabama. morris dees made a great deal of
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money in the book publishing, and 1971 he started the southern poverty law center, with the idea of using the law to bring racial justice and social justice in alabama and throughout the south and he brought five young lawyers, smart young lawyers to work with him. they did great cases in. sell mark the bleak part of town there, was just dirt roads. and so he had a lawsuit that there had to be paved roads there. not only the white folks section. integrated the police in -- the state police. and he took an the klan. and his -- the southern poverty law center was firebombed. white supremacists came out one evening to husband house and he had security then. they were going to kill him. this was a struggle. he other lawyers working with him felt that this was just too much.
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they's come down for the civil rights struggle. they didn't come down here to live in an armed camp. and an armed camp it was. so they all left. and morris dees continued with this lawsuit. very difficult idea. never been done before. to find the head of the organization responsible for what the individual members did. he brought it to trial in 1987, in montgomery. seeking $10 million judgment against the united klans of america, the biggest klan group in america. he said things to push people to do violent acts. he was very smart in what he said him didn't say explicitly. he just would say do what has to be done. that's what he did in selma in 1965 when a bunch of klans men
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went out and shot and killed a woman as she drive with a young black man. and so in that courtroom they all testified, and finally tiger knowles, one of the two murderers, he testified first originally, too, and he was kind of bloodless the way he talked about it. no emotion. at the end of the trial, when morris made his final comments, tying knowles said i want to speak, too. i'd like to speak again. and they said we want do this. but morris had a good instinct about this and he let him get up and talk. ...
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took over that building and that money was given to mrs. donald who bought a house when she lived in the projects until then. it destroyed the clan. that was the end of the largest clan organization in america. from then on, the law center used the legal theory again and again against any number of the racist and white supremacist groups. until today, they don't exist.
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any of the groups that reach a southern part, the organizations have going after them and destroying them. that's the most positive things the center has done. as for george wallace, i mean, i knew george wallace. my first experience as a journalist in 1967 at university of oregon i spent five days with george wallace. george wallace towards the end of political career, called aids and was in a sad mood. he was in his wheelchair smoking a cigar and he said i'm so sorry, i'm afraid i'm going to hell and his aide said, you're not going to hell, you were born-again christian, you're going to heaven. you don't have to worry about this. george said, you know i flew
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those planes in japan i sent those bombs for those people but i don't fear for that, i fear i'm going to hell because i said things that killed people. i said things that killed people and so he did. his word set off people like shelton, set off the clan. george wallace worked with the clan. he did the dirty work for the white establishment that must never be forgotten in the beginning of the 20th century there are 180 black people who could vote in alabama, the white politically establishment couldn't stand that so new constitution was put through saying you had to have $300 or 40 acres of land or you couldn't vote and so the next year there
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were only 5,000 african americans left on the ballot roles in alabama. after world war ii, blacks who had fought in the war, working overseas had the money and the land that they could vote so they went and put a new bill legislation through that said if you we wanted to register to vote, you had the past the test on the constitution. in some of the counties you could be a black harvard ph.d in constitutional law and you wouldn't be able to pass that but the struggle went on, the struggle for civil rights -- it was struggle of people throughout this country but also was a legal struggle and that's what this book is about. it's about largely the federal government and the enormous roles it has had in advancing us. without the federal government we would not have a successful right move we have and the freedoms we have. now, i know there are a number
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of black young intellectuals these days that say that things have not gotten better, that we are back where we always were, i say they're wrong. i mean, at the end of my book we are -- there's a museum, a civil right museum across the street from the law center and i was there as a group of black family reunion from lord's county, they all moved to the north and they were coming back and stood with them, we saw that it was a new world and they were part of a new world and we must remember how far we come, talk to these people and he said, you know, we -- in that museum michael donald was there. there's michael donald, there's his mother, the clan going and
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robert shelton the head of the ku kluz klan. here is a cartoon. the klan newspaper. here is morris and mrs. donald after a successful verdict and here is michael donald's picture at that civil rights museum where that day morris told -- told these black people who had moved north and come back to the reunion that these -- that these people -- these heros like michael donald and so many others will not be forgotten. they must be remembered forever. and that's true. just the way people remember the holocaust we must remember this,
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we must remember the struggle. it's been a long road. it's a long road but we are good long ways up that road. we are up that road because of any number of people. we are up that road because in 1903 when for the first time the transit system in mobile, alabama was segregated for a year, for a year, the black people of mobile boycotted that. i'm not talking 1954, 55, 56, i'm talking 1903. nobody remembers that. nobody remembers that, they're not even part of acknowledged history but they were there and they took us up that road. martin luther king took us up that road. malcolm x took us up that road. muhammad ali took us up that road but we still have a long ways to go. it is a black struggle but it's not only a black struggle, it's my struggle and it's your struggle too.
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it's our struggle, why is it our struggle, it's our struggle because because you and i cannot be free, you and i cannot be free until everyone is free. thank you. [applause] any questions? >> that was a great presentation and as a southerner and as a one-time reporter in the south i consider this book a great contribution to the period and even though all this has been written about many times before what i read about the book is fantastic ands -- and as i said a contribution writing but i would like to bring it to the present if you don't mind. you wrote the other day the connection and possible
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parallels between george c wallace and mr. trump, the republican candidate and i'm wondering, you know, there's been a lot of talk in recent months about the parallels between hitler and trump, what about the parallels between wallace and trump, what can you tell us about that? >> well, i think there are a lot of parallels. george wallace was a very smart man and he understood the white southern mentality, the southern mentality better than anybody in the generation, probably better than linda johnson. he understood it. he knew the young man that segregation was going to end. he knew absolutely it was going to end. but he knew that if he became supporter in the south he could advance politically. he would become governor, senator, he could have become the clerk of alabama, the clerk
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with nelson mandela ended apartheid in south africa. he might have done that. he had the ability. but he shows a different root, cynically because it was a way to advance. i believe that when donald trump talks about shipping, sending 11 million undocumented workers out of this country when he's elected president, i think he knows that's not going to happen. i think he was looking with no kind of background as political candidate and using the media to advance himself, he needed these issues that were so enormous, so radical that they would get the attention, the attention and he's a smart, he's understanding the white -- the white working class, the lower middle class. george wallace wasn't understanding. if he was elected president he
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wouldn't do that. the same is true with muslims about not allowing muslims in this country. maybe little bit more of a possibility, so i think is that parallel. george what his needed violence and he wanted potential of violence at his rallies. he wanted to have protestors there. he didn't really want to break out but he we wanted to come close. trump did that, trump is backed off from that, that is -- that is -- the third part of it is, you know what, both george wallace and donald trump is not just about racism, i mean, george wallace when i spent that week with george wallace in '67, they were talking about him as a racist, i wrote the first piece of the new republic, hey, it's more than that. these white people showing up to rallies, they are afraid of being left by.
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why is donald trump so popular, because the white folks, not just white folks, working-class folks, we don't like to use working class but the inequality should use it. they were democrats, right, overwhelming. they felt betrayed. so many of them felt to the republican party and the republican party betrayed them too and they moved onto donald trump and, i tell you what, donald trump will probably betray them too. >> first i would like to complain, your book made me get up at 5:00 this morning to keep reading, i'm tired. [laughter] >> secondly i would like to ask in your emotional response to the research, did anything surprise you? >> i guess, okay, i confess i'm aging northern liberal and -- [laughter]
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>> we had this idea that the south -- yeah the south was bad but we were pretty bad up here too. in new york if you're a black person you couldn't get a room in a hotel room and go to a decent hotel in the 60's, in new york if you're black in the 19th century you couldn't get a skilled job, skilled labor, you had to take the lowest of the jobs. that's just the way it is. we know how bad racism was in america, but i have to tell you, it was worst down there and worst in the evil of it and how it affects everybody and that's my point. it doesn't affect just the blacks, it destroys the whites. we destroy that society and row -- romanticize all they want..
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one is first of the nation. if you join the klan, they are going to show that to you. the other is gone with the wind. another equally romanticize saga of that time. we are only waking up finally now to rallies. many kind of brilliant historians are looking for cotton, without cotton there wouldn't be slavery and we were all products of that. we all benefit from that. we all grow rich on that. we all grow big over the slavery .
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>> i hadn't realize that he was a product of the south himself and the son of a farmer and had started out on the other side and i wonder if you could tell us a little bit more about why -- what there was in him or their background that you think accounted for the change in trajectory in his life and values? >> first of all, many people think he's jewish, okay. and i have friends that give a lot of money to law center and i say -- who are jewish, okay, morris is not jewish, he's baptist. no, he's jewish. what are you talking about? no, he's not jewish. his grandfather had jewish businessmen in montgomery that he admired and named three sons after the jewish businessmen. he grew up, his father was a farmer and he grew up with black friends.
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i met several of them. all of the time he saw these guys as a friend. they didn't come and eat at the table in his house, that's for sure. but they were friends, but he had an understanding and a feeling and his father had a little bit cotton jen. you get the same price a white man was. that wouldn't happen. you're going pay the black man's price. they treated black people as well in the context of those times. morris took him time to come to terms with this, okay. and he -- he, you know, it was a
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struggle for him and some people don't like to hear of this. they want to kind of idealize him. everybody wants to be advocates, he's more like óscar, morris, you know, finch was a fictional character and destroyed more lawyers than anybody because of what they can be and do and they can't. he's complicated and óscar was a real person and óscar saved thousands of jews and morris is a complicated man who struggled to change over years, a guy that's married five times, on the very day in wait forking the verdict to come down. everybody else is nervously waiting to hear, he's making a
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pass at a reporter. he does great things and continues to do great things. he deserves every award this nation can give as far as i'm concerned. >> i just happen into this session and i'm just thrilled to have been here. thank you. what -- is there a radical with little r approach to dealing with today's big issue equivalent to what morris did and his legal approach to taking down the structure. >> well, the problem today is you don't have the big groups, you have the individuals, you saw what happened in charleston last year. a young man that picks up stuff from the internet, you know, and that's -- as people are going more aware and watched by the fbi in homeland security.
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they are going tor more and more cautious the way they do things. it's going to be extremely hard to deal with this but we have -- one thing that has come from trump's campaign is resurgence of racism. i don't say -- he's not a racist. he's not a racist. i know the man. i know him. he is not the racist but brought the racist stuff for it. it is scary. it's in the american soul. let me tell you one thing about racism, racism always resides where antisemitism. as he grows older he becomes more antisemiattic and spends less time to worry about blacks because blacks are too stupid to rise on their own and only
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because the jews are pushing them to do this. that's his idea. you see that robert shelton was going to start a terrorist for middle east terrorist in alabama . we have to continue to watch. that's what we all have to do. that's just the way it is. it's in our -- it's in our soles. -- souls. it's in the american soul, unfortunately. it must be driven back down where it belongs. >> mack, i just have a couple of comments, not questions. when i was growing up my folks would write checks to southern
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something, i don't know what it was but i asked them about it, this was years ago and they told me what these folks were doing like you've been through and it was an eye opener for me. my folks grew up as republicans but when they got into their 80's my dad was subscribe to go mother jones. [laughter] >> and you know, you say that times have changed and they have changed a huge amount for people like that. some people saw it, some people didn't it. we experienced it as a little kid right here in virginia, i won't go into that. but what was interesting to me when i heard about your book is i began telling all your friends. look up this book, some to this event and i would ask them always when do you think the last lynching actually occurred in america and i have yet to find anybody that places it more recently than the 60's? and you opened people's eyes,
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this is still going on, you know, even though people working on it decades ago, it's still here, it's buried here, it's in the tea party, it's in the right wing, it's in donald trump and it's still embedded in this society. we've got a lot of homework to do. >> in 1965 i was taking a truck 500-mile truck and i got sick. i was walking and i stopped and this beautiful house there, there was mack odel and mack odell gave me the medicine that possibly saved my life so thank you for coming here mack. [applause] [laughter] >> some of us at that time in the 60's, i came out when kennedy form it had peace corps. i thought we had a duty to work in the third world to try and
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make the world a better place. my friends told me, the work is really back here at home. i didn't believe him until i got back from nepal. in the 70's i got back and said, yeah, the work is right here. [applause] >> thank you so much for writing this. [inaudible] >> one thing that's been on my mind is that that for some people it's useful for working class white americans to -- it's useful to play into this because then they can get them to vote for like the southern strategy
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or economic policies that don't serve their interests. so i was wondering if perhaps it is necessary to appeal to the -- to the real interests of these working class? i mean, if you don't do something for their own problems, make them vulnerable, something to help them have more security, housing, jobs, et cetera, that they're always going to be vulnerable. >> well, american politics sooner or later true populist politicians are going to rise and speak to this issues. it's sitting there waiting. it should have happened now. there should be a candidate that speaks to that and unfortunately this year there's not.
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right. >> thank you for doing all this research and writing this book, it's wonderful. i wonder if you could help us understand using your insights how nonracist trump is such a catalyst for so much bigotry of so many people? >> i don't think trump understanding on one level what he's doing. i think he -- he has no clear ideology, his ideology is to get attention. but he just has such brilliant instinct of the media. that's what he's about. he's transformed american politics and transformed the media, he's transformed the way television covers things. i mean, he's a pure genius. we will be studying his campaign forever and they're going to be little donald trumps showing up all over the place using his
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techniques for all sorts of reasons, but, you know, i just know he's not a racist, i know people who know him and -- and that's one thing. but that's what his language does. that's exactly language does and his words. >> i was just searching for how it works, you know, why it works in the way it does because it's profound so many people -- he wouldn't be so powerful if there weren't so many people following. >> what he does you see, he doesn't read, he doesn't study position papers, he just watches himself on television and he watches these talking hats and figures out what works. try something one night it works, it doesn't work you don't. he's constantly evolving that way and so many things take us in a direction.
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he isn't consciously doing this. it works, it's great. it makes more excited and more applause so let's go for it. [inaudible] >> how was what? [inaudible] >> how bad is it and how people are enlightened about this issue in. >> well n some ways -- [inaudible] >> she wants to know how much things have changed and how much they haven't. it's strange in the south
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because in some ways the south has resegregated. in alabama the black politicians made a big mistakes in -- the whites came to them and said, look, let's just redistrict things and you're going to have safe black districts and we are going to have our white districts and they went for it. they realized that they made a bad mistake you have the safe black districts and old white districts, you have a republican establishment that controls everything. in the schools in -- in montgomery, there are three targets and i've visited two of them and in the target schools there are about a third black, third asian american because there are a couple of automobile korean plant theaters. a lot of korean americans and a third white and people go there because they get a good education. i mean, i would have sent my daughter there, they are great schools.
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i wouldn't send my daughter to black schools that are holding pens for these kids, okay. that's the trouble and the educational system is so bad. alabama state university there. all black university. it's terrible. the people graduate from there barely lit rate. some get good education but some people don't get much of an education there but there's no pressure to change that. it's a new kind of geto mentality and i don't know where we go from there but at least black people can go wherever they want in the south, they can walk. it's funny because i had a white person, white son and talked about fountains, drinking fountainses some said color only and some said white only. what are you talking about? there weren't white only?
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they didn't put white only in the fountains? they didn't have to. assumed they were white only. they were colored but not white only. that apartheid world that was not created until the early years of the 20th century. that's what's interesting. that's when they came in. when i talked about that boycotting being system being segregated in mobile, up until then it was a very different world. not that they often had the money to go there but they could go to white restaurants but that changed. the south is at a crucial juncture now and we will see which way things go. okay, thank you very much. [applause]

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