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tv   Discussion on Great Minds of the Harlem Renaissance  CSPAN  December 30, 2017 1:59pm-3:30pm EST

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think one of the takeaways here is that lobbying itself is not the enemy, but really what is the underlying cause of the revolving door lobbying is that congress itself has prospectively lobotomized it. they no longer hire high-quality staff to stay for long periods of time. now what we see is people work at the white house and the drill agencies just buy enough for them to be able to go and make some money, so i think the take away here might be to try to bring back the public spirit of the wanted to preserve for the greater good and working governments. >> every weekend book tv
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offers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books. keep watching for more here on c-span2 and watch any of our past programs online a book .. hello and welcome to grapevine, harlem renaissance, 19th annual book library festival. i am benedict carton, with african-american studies, we appreciate your attendance today. the festival runs through saturday, october 14th. for all the most up-to-date information on this festival and all the other programs throughout the year, visit ballstothebooks. all one word. this is funded through donations was one way to help us through this kind of
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programming is friends of fall for the book. to learn more visit please visit their website again. we ask that you please remember to silence your cell phones and thank you for filling out a survey and improve the festival of the future. thank you to our main sponsor in african-american studies so we are pleased to have here marylouise patterson and jeffrey stewart, two writers who examine key figures of the harlem renaissance, langston hughes and alain locke respectively. in letters langston, doctor marylouise patterson explores the relationship her family, her mother had with langston hughes. in the new negro, the life of alain locke, jeffrey stewart follows the career of the central figure in the harlem renaissance. it is important to say
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something about the subject that they write about. they celebrate, both are offers celebrate artistic genius in a society that said you did not belong. there great gift to many through their art is to say this is how we do belong. without further ado, marylouise patterson, thank you. [applause] >> thank you, everyone. thank you, george mason university, thank you, professor benedict carton, thank you for inviting me. this is, these two people, langston hughes and alain locke, very important people in american history, certainly in american literature. i would like to introduce you to my parents, and the parents
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of my co-author, who knew langston hughes for over 30 years and corresponded with him for over 40 years. and this is an introduction, these two sets of parents, my parents, william and louise patterson and evelyn crawford, her parents, evelyn and matt crawford, their uniqueness perhaps was that they were african-american communists. and they were very close friends of langston for most of their lives and for the first half of the 20th century. i would like to show you the 17 minute video so that you will get a sense of who they were.
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the letters, the correspondence is in a book that we co-edited entitled letter to melanchthon from the harlem renaissance to the red scare and beyond. i also want to say the voice you want to hear is the voice of paul robeson. there are pictures without labels on them. if you want to know who the people are you can ask me afterwards. [inaudible conversations] ♪ i will see you fast to sleep
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♪ as i see ♪ my baby ♪ my baby ♪ like a little bird ♪ >> we knew langston hughes from the beginnings of our lives. he wrote to each of us to welcome us into the world. he did this because of his closed ties, louise thompson and william paterson and matt crawford. he wrote me a card from paris, from langston, glad you are here. and in california the following year, when i came along a few
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years later he me a handwritten first draft of this poem. i found a folder's lying in the snow with a star on it. do you know? and the an original manuscript, i thought this would be over and by the time you are a big girl, i hope the red star will be shining everywhere and he will take a long time to enjoy it so be a nice baby and grow up strong. from langston. and patterson began with louise thompson who would later become the louise thompson patterson, the first to have a close
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personal friendship with hughes and childhood friends crawford and evelyn gray crawford into the poet's life. >> louise thompson in my mother, evelyn gray became best friends in the early 1920s, and my mother as she was known to family and friends worked as a stenographer in san francisco. nathaniel crawford migrated with his family from hampton, alabama, and attended high school. >> louise was a teacher in virginia. she and langston met when he was there for a speaking engagement. louise left hampton and moved to harlem.
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she witnessed a strike against the administration and felt she could no longer be part of this goal. once in harlem she became part of the circle of artists and intellectuals whose most prominent figure was langston hughes. and on vacation, during that trip, san francisco born william lorenzo patterson. pat and langston met earlier during the heyday. in new york in 1920 and well-known in one of harlem's most prominent attorneys and dedicated political access. he would later become a national leader of the american communist party. ♪
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>> in the summer of 1928, with her friend louise, who introduced her to langston hughes, and artist aaron douglas and the brilliant writer, langston hit it off immediately and after a few weeks she would return to the bay area and sweetheart matt crawford who she married the following year. in her early days in new york as secretary to langston, and not neale hurston. and by wealthy white patron, and the relationship with a dramatic halt, and no longer
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control langston or louise and humiliated them both. >> she was another woman who had been a patron of the arts, particular interest was primitive people, she did not want them to write poems on these protests, seems to be primitive, had control you and when -- >> didn't have to worry. going to college, and west virginia. >> tried to ruin and made it hard for langston for a long
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time. >> in 1932 langston was on a speaking tour, in oklahoma, dear mister crawford, thank you, i would be happy to appear in oakland, i should be in california in april, nice to see her, sincerely, langston hughes. by may of that year my father and langston had become fast friends. late that month's, a telegram about an exciting prospect louise had been organizing from new york. here is a copy of a wire from louise, all players must arrive in moscow by july 1st. very necessary you should arrive new york by june 15th,
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wire immediately, louise. and get a path forward, that would be your decision, and had been invited to moscow to make a film inside black and white with the state of race relations, and they were roommates during their stay in the soviet union. in the heavy atmosphere, they forged a friendship for political struggle. william paterson has gone to the soviet union earlier. by 1928, a political philosophy and traveled to moscow.
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>> i went to make a motion picture. and over here. >> in this country. >> pictures from this -- anywhere in the world and eventually the film was canceled. >> it kept going. >> i was able to travel all the way, i am picturing one of those expressions because there are types like myself and i wanted to know how they live.
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>> they were profoundly affected and uplifted by their trip to soviet central asia. on their return they would both become active in the fight in alabama. this time they also joined the communist party convinced the only hope for black americans was a fundamental change in an oppressive political, economic and social order. langston remained in the soviet union until spring of 1933. >> back in the states, langston -- langston spoke nearly half and went to visit them at his alabama prison. later he traveled -- louise had
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also gone to spain. during that time there was a focal point for anyone who had anything at all. from all over the world. there was the ransom. >> it was the written word and they are all aligned and wrong. >> langston pulled back from 1978 and i was there. together in 1938 langston in harlem, their most successful
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production was langston's play don't you want to be free. >> throughout the 30s and 40s langston spent a lot of time in california at the home of a wealthy friends. he would come to berkeley to go to the barbershop and visit my family. he was playful and lighthearted some of the time but also confided in my parents and found family among us. and on syria's personal and political, he called this clarification. in 1941 he was attacked by the confusion for an early poem he had written, occasionally borrowed small amounts of money, paying them back promptly when he got his next check from a speaking engagement or publishing
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project. langston was called to testify about his political views before the infamous senator mccarthy. he sent our parents a summary of this testimony was a touching note explaining with paul roberson he had not enforced to name names. >> langston invited my parents and me to broadway. by father was disturbed by the play and langston -- and saw tuesday night, and thank you for sending us several other books. it is difficult to define my reaction to simply heavenly. i cannot say i liked it.
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it did not appeal to me. simply heavenly does not say what needs to be said. and simply childish. the time and place called for something else, the dominant moral role in american life. thanks again. one must do more than bring speakers into progressive life. and they require anger and surprise. i certainly am sorry i wasn't at the theater the night you all came as i would've loved to say hello to you. your letter is greatly appreciated and valid in a
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number of ways. when it comes to plays it is a miracle to end up with anything, after 20 to 30 others they were handed creation from producers and records so all i can say is i did the best i could under the circumstances. your serious consideration is something to be grateful for and hope to see pressures let up. this correspondence, a break in the friendship between these two men. and another opinion. in the 1960s langston's visits with us were less frequent, what we were doing and thinking. mary louise was in moscow and in graduate school in new york when news of her marriage to a
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fellow student at friendship university was announced, and in summer of 1966, on his way back from the states, langston passed through paris where i was living. my parents were visiting me at the time and the four of us -- and langston teased me that evening telling me i had no business speaking french better than he did and after saying goodbyes, he watched langston walk up the shell and serve the next morning, the last time i
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would see him, >> someone who along with our parents dedicated his life to the cause of justice for black americans and other oppressed people from around the world. he was our uncle and our friend, and the book you suggested we read and a rightful place. >> in america, in the kitchen, i left. tomorrow, nobody will daresay to me in the kitchen then, they will see how beautiful we are. i am -- in america. ♪ [applause]
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>> now you have met my parents, william and louis patterson, michael other's parents, evelyn and matt crawford and had a glimpse of their 40 plus year friendship with langston. you will love our book, letters from langston from the harlem renaissance to the red scare and beyond co-authored by me and evelyn louise crawford. my mother, louise, was the last survivor of the aforementioned quintet and when she departed in 1999 we were left with a trove of letters from langston to our parents we had grown up
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with, and they kept any letters our parents must've written him. in 2002 we went to the library and your yale university for the james weldon johnson collection where langston's papers reside to see what if anything langston had kept. low and behold he kept just about everything including letters we had written to him that we had long ago forgotten about. we sat there in silence, overwhelmed by what we found and slowly realized this 40-year correspondence was a window into the most important sociopolitical events of the 20th century. and additionally, the correspondence displayed black
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radical activism. they are choosing to make a commitment to progressive struggle that they knew would lead them financially strapped. leslie, it illuminated a profound friendship. we realized we had to share this discovery. it couldn't just remain our family treasure. we had to write a book for uncle langston, we knew that one who never stopped because we knew he had never stopped believing that workers deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor or in biblical terms the meek deserve to inherit the earth they till. he never stopped believing in the imperative to struggle for true democracy in america, the america that never was but could be as he poignantly wrote in his poem, let america be america again. i would like to make three points about langston from the vantage point of being one of his nieces. the first, there was the langston who was politically
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independent outside joining the national negro congress. the only groups he joined that i recall were writers groups, most of those were politically progressive. he was also artistically independent holding a normal 9-5 job only twice in his life and only for a few months. one was at atlanta university and the other was at chicago. despite the fact that he was a famous screenwriter, playwright, poet heard on the radio and request speaker for many events, he was penniless most of his writing life, borrowing from friends, thankful for the largest of his patrons and the few awards that came his way. he survived mostly from his speaking engagement which forced him to be on the road for weeks and months at a time often in dilapidated car facing grueling schedule, everyone to two days and during the humiliation of jim crow
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accommodation this, landed somewhere he had friends or slept in his car. this constant travel and substandard travel conditions meant he was ill. this along with chain-smoking had to have taken a great toll on his life shortening it to 65 years. it wasn't until the 1960s that he made any real money and only got to enjoy it 5 to 6 years, he died in 1967. there was the langston who kept his radical ideological beliefs to the end of his life. this is proven by the fact he maintained an open friendship with my parents who were known communist and other open black communists like ishmael in chicago, and 1950s or the hint
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of sympathy, and vanished, divorced, jailed or dead, sound familiar? donald trump was mentored by roy cohn who was mentored by and worked with the infamous senator joe mccarthy for whom the term mccarthyism was coined and master of the art of bullying, smear campaign, lying and the use of the new media, tv, which proved perfect for his popularizing of his fear mongering theatrics. leslie, langston loved black people. he loved are colored people and oppressed people but he especially loved black people. in all complexity and contradictions, our walk and attitude, our expression, food and generosity, humor and blues, language and rhythm, strength, unrelenting struggle for freedom, equality, dignity
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and ability to live without fear. he never stopped giving his voice to people are being the voice of his people, he never stopped assisting young writers and to hear the songs and voices of their people. thank you. [applause] >> just want to say i'm honored to hear this session with professor jeffrey stewart. >> i am honored to be here with you. is this -- is this -- i was confused, someone told me it was the black mike and i thought there was a racial
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narrative coming in here, and didn't decentralize the moment but anyway i am so glad to be at george mason where i taught for many years among friends and colleagues, to be here with a finished -- i couldn't finish his, and at the same time i was so nurtured by the community of scholars here who valued me and helped me move along in the path that led to its conclusion. i am so pleased to be here at george mason, my colleagues. and howard university, in that process, one of the things i think about working on a book for a long time is you
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accumulate many different resources. you talk and work and interact with so many people and at some point something he said to you, some things that was done and whoever comes back and fits and helps suture together the thoughts and ideas hanging apart for a long time and one of those people for me was professor eleanor trailer, professor of english at howard university. i was working with my great friends, richard powell, professor of art history. the blues aesthetic. and struck me, helped pull together, it was special about
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what i wanted this book to say so at the time in the late 80s everybody was all involved and in love with alex haley's roots even though historians were always nitpicking it to death but partly because it was so popular. we all know that as historians. we hate to see journalists move into our territory and do a job better than we could but they are writers. i will read this little part. alex haley's roots is a story relating to questions expressed through a search for reunion. in such a story, the questor defined himself in past and present parts, achieves totality and fulfillment as he reunites with his source, a very old story told east and
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west, a beautiful story that assures us we belong to continuity and there is order in the universe to assert our job is defined and reconciled and experience the fulfillment, that unity achieves. significantly, however, this is not the story afro american literature has characteristically told nor is it the story told in the oral folklore upon which that literature is in large part hills, prayer rabbit, signifying monkey, john, the conqueror, the anonymous author of the wondering blues sinkers, none of the mythological carriers, and the object of that.
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on my journey now, can't anybody turn me around? neither the folklore nor the literary traditions deny the value or desirability of reconciliation of the past but what they emphasize and place into language as central, experience is not the quest for roots and the act of ruthlessness and this rootlessness, a characteristic, a characteristic of what he began to find in the rest of black culture that was actually a source of creativity. one thing i focused on was the analysis of the great
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migration, and hundreds of thousands, millions of african-americans out of the south into the north in world war ii and afterwords that really created the harlems, chicagos, pittsburghs, critical mass of blackness. most of the people like charles johnson, looked at this is the product of social forces, the opportunity created by world war i for employment in wartime industries, the push of jim crow and lynching in the south. >> of consciousness change, he says it is the change in consciousness of the people in the south to sees opportunity, to see a future that was different from the past that led them to respond to these
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conditions, a new psychology to sees opportunity and make a new man and new woman out of it so this idea here that consciousness is very important, okay? that is the philosopher in him, and the choice of how you respond to those, the love of black people, that agency that despite everything that was going on, people had the ability to pick up their lives into something new, to transform themselves and make a new negro out of their situation and that agency, that consciousness and on their own agenda that made for the new
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negro. in the 1920s, 8 is thought of as being a great time but the 1920s are a lot like today. you have a conservative president, the rise of nativism, the national origins act of 1924 cutting off immigration of almost all non-whites to the united states, the ideology of 100% americanism, hypernationalism and in that time, african-americans created the renaissance so when we think about now a lot of negativity, we need to about the fact that that is not really new and what we need to focus on is creative
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resources to do something and turn off so much attention to the noise, white racism and other demonizing forces in this society so lock became the person at the head, the surfer on the waves, the migration of working class and lower middle class people out of the south and the wave of all this talent we were seeing here. langston hughes, and richmond berkeley, jacob lawrence the catherine done, essentially giants in literature, poetry, visual arts, folklore, performing arts and they transformed american culture,
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creativity and that is an important story to keep in mind as we struggle with our current situation, not so much looking back, having connection but what about the past is useful for us. a new negro is always possible even in the darkest times, even today and particularly the art of the harlem, not detached from social condition of the people in which that was embedded. it wasn't just art for art's sake but art for people at stake even as artists struggle
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-- art and culture could be used to reinvent and repurpose and revitalize black and brown communities throughout the united states, haiti, the caribbean, latin america and africa. and lock was gay and his gayness is not considerable, at a time he was naacp, and normative family affair, he felt alienated from communities around protest politics fearing he would be outed were exposed and rather than retreat from racial struggle as some did, he found a way to use something he
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loved, art, to revitalize the race and reinvent the negro as the quintessential american artist. indeed, people of color have always been a driving force in the creative industries in america but what locke said is they can be essential to the black people and not be put off, not be marginalized for that, a new way of thinking about who and what the negro is came out of so many queer, gay and lesbian artists at the time. the issue of art had something politics and economics trouble didn't, believed in the power
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of imagination, and could be tapped and used as a way outside of us but that rootlessness in our own self could be connected to other people, and bond with the fact that we are moving in circles, and crystallize that movement into song or poetry come into a dance. it is really about the harlem renaissance and the benefits and obstacles and tragedies, and the notion of black identity even as we fight for its survival and vindication
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and the unique part of locke's life, the reason it takes so long to work on it is his travel, his cosmopolitanism. when essay called cosmopolitanism and culture and what he was trying to say is part of us, being exposed outside of us. and can't be so barricaded in our culture, so hunkered down to what is outside of it, being more cosmopolitan and transnational had been away for us to become more understanding of our own culture, dialogueing with the outside. becoming who we need to be.
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but he would worry sometimes about identity politics at times contains a kind of danger that can become a new dungeon, the prison house, 20s and 21st-century are great opportunity with new forms of transportation, to discover the outside in terms of geography and mentality and it is through the struggle with that which is not us that it becomes something larger and better. the idea of reinvention was part of locke's struggle and something he did in the 30s. generally he was not on the side of radicals, protests, for
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a variety of reasons, some of them personal and some he felt you could get further without dramatizing racism but he began to be involved in the anti-fascist movement supporting people in the spanish war, particularly, and iran, basically other medical things in spain, part of the national negro congress. so much so that by the 1940s he began to be investigated by the fbi so even in the year before his death he was still being hauled in, questions, so that is a cost here which we show
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with langston and yet that did not deter him. he was able to reinvent itself. that was probably his greatest triumph, to understand that which he disagreed with and incorporate that into his own subjectivity. i want to close with another signature, the new negro is very important that another one was mentioned earlier, beauty. has my colleague professor rose reminded me when i was here at george mason, beauty comes from pythagoras, pre-socratic, even before plato continuing the ideas that beauty is universal. as aristotle put it beauty is a virtue, an ideal.
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beauty is often something denied minority people, minority communities, minority people are often described consistently as not beautiful in the discourse of white supremacy. dubois, contemporary and rival of alan locke put it best when he said beauty's variety is infinite, it's possibility endless, but beauty is denied the mass of human beings who are choked away from it and their lives distorted and made ugly. the charge to humanity is a challenge to all of us. as he rose, who shall write this universal failing? who shall let the world be
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beautiful? who shall restore to men and women the glorious sunsets and the piece of quiet. i think alain locke took up that challenge and obligation and provided one powerful answer by asserting something quite radical in the 1920s and even today, that black people are charged with writing this universal failing, demanding the right to be in our own lives, lives distorted by public discourse, race relations, he demanded the right of african-americans to speak and write about and carve out realms of beauty unnoticed by most americans because america has, for much of its history, been unable to see its
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life as beautiful, ground down daily by a labor unrewarding and a sense of ourselves as always lacking. alain locke proposed if we could see the intrinsic beauty of black people we might be able to get out of that unquiet sleep and not only discover a new negro among us but even a new america. [applause] >> we will open up the questions from the audience.
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>> that is useful. >> the harlem renaissance, was there any interaction? did they know each other? how did they react to each other? >> there was a lot of interaction especially because langston hughes is considered the poet laureate of the race and the first poet of the harlem renaissance to create a new form. he was able to use first free verse and lose song to create blues poetry which was original and alain locke was supportive of him, promoted his work, and got him of the relationship
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with osgood mason, but tensions emerged between them because alain locke felt counter to patterson's analysis, langston hughes failed to live up to the expectations that he had and after that whole relationship of patronage disintegrated, they were no longer friends. there is a lot of rivalry and tension in these relationships as well as this hothouse. >> i would add alain locke was also, charlotte mason, the one who introduced my mother to
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mrs. mason around 1885, langston born in 1902. and maintained that relationship with mrs. mason when louise and langston were no longer with her. >> i want to talk about the cost with weight patronage because on the one hand, one thing about the harlem renaissance as it was more interracial than -- tremendous tensions and power talked about his mason at the session with power and related, incredibly talented, powerful white woman who had no power outside black people. you had to have it.
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a lot of frustrations but alain locke in addition to everything else, his own mother was important to him. when she passed away, other mother figures to sustain him. while he was disappointed with a situation that occurred, for nurture, or stay with this person, a problematical person, but personal needs are overwhelming. >> harlem was a small community. everyone who was involved in the cultural life of harlem they all knew each other, all of them.
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the circles overlapped whether they were political circles, labor organizing, cultural circles, everybody knew everybody else. >> i think it was your mother, who left hampton to come to harlem and hampton in that period, can you say or about circumstances that caused her to leave virginia and go to harlem? >> that time in hampton there were very few african-american, most professors were white. often they did not have college degrees where those in hampton did. there was a student strike that preceded my mother leaving. the student strict conditions that hampton, they were really
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plantation conditions. they were separated, young men from young women, young women had to wear skirts of a certain length. my mother would describe the matrons, white professors, matrons would take a tape measure and measure the distance between their hymns to the ground to make sure they in fact met the description of how long their skirts needed to be. they would people inside the keyhole of their dormitory room to make sure men and women were not fraternizing and the south african, colonel schmutz his name was, visiting the united states to see what the new education of african-americans looked like, higher education.
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after which upon which they pattern educational programs. he went to hampden and they forced the student -- i am grappling for words. they almost had to kowtow to him and the students struck. the students ordinarily, the professors, white professors and black professors could only fit together on the hampden campus, they were told when they left campus they couldn't fraternize, black and white professors couldn't fraternize, students were forced, were expected to come, march into the dining room and they would
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sing to white professors and silence. they did not thing and they did not serve and went on strike and student leaders were expelled from the university of my mother wrote a letter to dubois, the literary magazine, she wrote him a letter about the strike and published that letter. she didn't expect him to, when contract was up at the end of the year she just couldn't return, the paternalistic attitude towards the students was more than she could take and she left and went to new york.
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>> i have a question about the content of communist thought and ideas and expectations of artists, often a stereotype that communist systems don't want to too great a range, representation or painting the less it serves a didactic purpose to teach, to keep an ideological path. this is the stereotype. i want you to engage with that stereotype relation to langston hughes and alain locke. >> i think probably early on, alain locke bought into that to a certain extent, one of the things he began to experience was the change that occurred in
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the communist party usa policy about this which occurred with the popular front and with that being declared, a shift occurred where the communist party in the united states felt white racism in the working class was a major problem and begin to enlist alain locke and others to talk about black culture as a way of working against that problem so he was actually after 35, 36, welcomed into summer camps and all sorts of things to talk about folk music and working-class. there was a shift, not to say was true beforehand, certainly a shift in being more open to
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black intellectuals in the cultural field after 1935 and more variety. that whole notion of the mechanistic approach to art has been debated a lot but even if you look at herbert's last book, the aesthetic dimension he critiques that and he was a marxist, literature has the probability of carrying imaginative possibilities, and even if the idea that the economic base strictly controls the superstructure, he found to be not really true and other people were critical of that as well. >> i would like to add the
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russian pollution of 1917 called to a lot of cultural people around the world, they saw in the freedom to be creative and right after the revolution, people like isadore duncan and a number of people went to the soviet union expecting and finding the artistic freedom they had not found or had difficulty struggling to have in the west so initially the russian revolution liberated art and creativity and was embraced by artists around the world including the impact of that revolution and ideology of the workers being able to actually set the policies and benefit from those of their own labor. ..
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reflecting back historically, but i think personally and in terms of having taken a long time or the project spanning of good deal of time, how did that shape you and how did that shape your work and particularly perhaps also how did you approach writing from family papers or going through that and -- there seems to be an interesting story always about writers, but what is yours? >> my co-author of elaine louise crawford and i had never written
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formally prior to taking on this project and it took us almost 17 years to do this from the 2002 trip to yale university where we found this what langston had, this trove of c to the publishing of the book, which was 2016. it was quite a journey. first of all, we had to figure out, well, did we really think this was a book and we quickly came to the agreement that it was definitely a book. we then felt that we needed to clarify that although langston had to do what we called a tactical retreat when he appeared before mccarthy
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renouncing his earlier work which was seen as really progressive, but i was a young man and when i was a young man i did young man thinks, but now that i'm older i have thrown away those young men are just. that really wasn't true, but a tactical retreat he took at the time in this theory of mccarthyism that was mentioned in the film which for those of you that would during that time was a terrifying period, so we decided it was a book and yes that we had to show that langston these beliefs through his entire life and that open friendship with our parent through the mccarthy period was example of that and spoke to that improved that were at least we think the other thing is that the letters are just wonderful. they are filled with gossip,
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filled with first draft of his writing. their disappointments, the loss of their mothers, my mother and langston's mother could they are beautiful. beautiful letters and so we felt based on that that they needed to see the light of day and then we had to figure out, although we whereas you could could see we were born sisters we lived in different parts of the country and we had never collaborated on anything, so we loved each other dearly, but to have a working relationship with someone is something else entirely, so collaboration requires that you figure out how you will work together and so that took some time and then life kind of intervened as it tends to and we had no money, so all of this
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including that film we did on our own time. so, it took a long time, but even when there were long periods where we didn't come together, we would assign each other tasks and then not do them and then come back together and the start. we never gave up and we also had the support of the friends who-- and family members who understood the mission and who supported us through it, you know people who cooked meals and do all kinds of things, babysitter and so forth to make it possible for you to take a month off and just go into someone's basement and rights and try to work it out. then we had to figure out what the thread was and i did not know what people were talking about. what is the threat of the book.
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we mean what is the threat of the book, what is that even mean wax so there were a lot of challenges. i don't know if i would call myself a writer. we edited these letters and did a lot of research. we wanted to, not only introduce our parents to an audience that would know who they were, but also the activities, events, the thinking that was also skewered, so when they mentioned for instance in a letter the messy affair. well, who was massey and so we did a lot of research of the book and a lot of-- by rhett edwards, for instance brushing and what role did she play. all of that, we wanted to include in the book and we felt it was important to include the storm-- a sort of left out history to put it back into
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american history and american letters. lastly, i will just to say we had a champion in the canon, professor robin kelly who without him there would be no book, who championed this book from the very beginning, wrote a wonderful introduction and made it possible for the book to be published. >> wow, i was thinking about that i love listening to you talk and it always reminded me of things when you're talking about that mccarthy era and i hope i am saying her name rights , late professor here josephine who was actually one of the nicest people to me when i first came to george mason and
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she told me about living through the mccarthy period and she said that she was purging it-- was from virginia, white woman and she said they would get in their cars and drive out someplace to talk because they were constantly concerned about being monitored the people at their phones top 10 people had listening devices, so this was a real period of terror, which is something that i think a lot of people sometimes are worried about now that free speech was dangerous and you could end up losing your job or losing a mortgage on your house or whatever because of some were taken out of context and for me it was astounding when i realized that someone like locke who is not considered really was
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hauled into the fbi headquarters several times because in some ways i think there was an aspect that he was a closet radical and also, of course because he was homosexual and people could use that comes i think in my case one of the things i think was a struggle and i had to acknowledge at a certain point is that my education actually didn't prepare me to rights the biography. in other words, his education, harvard undergraduates, road scholar, authority on greek and roman culture, ex- patriot to germany, expert, i mean, in other words the realm of references that he produced that
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i had to go and try to find out what they meant was enormous and that times it would be overwhelming. and the other thing i think his writing, the writing itself was a real challenge. i was writing a certain way when i got out of graduate school and was able to do some things, but it was a different kind of writing when you write life stories and robin kelly talks about it being completely different. it took me a while, i mean, i would produce chapters and just say no, that's not it. one of the people who actually helped me, david levering lewis, when i was working on an exhibition on paul rosen and i was telling him about my struggles and balancing all of the different aspects of locke and he said and i can even think of the author's name, but biography of marcel that was
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done was a model so i went and started reading that and i started reading models of biographies and that also gave me the idea that if you do a biography of marcel, the key is a novel, remembrance of things past and so even though i was going to chart the whole book about that, that gave me an idea that the new negro was the thread and once i got that idea i started seeing a pop up all over the place and that would help me get it together, so i think for me it's the people who i dialogued with and who reacted to my frustration with suggestions that really made the huge difference to continue to progress because you had-- or my
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case you had to go over more hurdles until you get to the end it's not just one thing and then the other and when talking about the letters, at times that was another issue is that box letters in his voice was so strong that it would overwhelm my voice and so i had to be able to create my own voice separate from his even though i used a lot of his letters, so that was a challenge as well and life intervened, as you said. >> i just want to add that we were told, but their voices saying, so that was the charge we got very early on from howard dotson who at the time was the head of the schomburg library in new york city, so that was always in our mind that we had
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to let their voices saying, but we weren't writing narratives the way he was writing narratives. we had sort of connected narrative because there were years where there were no letters and couldn't find any letters so we had to fill in what had happened that year during those years, but it wasn't the kind of writing that he was doing. [inaudible] >> including your 900 page book. >> i wanted to know, did you find anything about your parents that you did not know through these letters and where you are hesitant about what to reveal or was it something that will they were just too personal. >> i was going to speak to that before. first of all, you find your
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parents at the age that you are, i mean, you find them as younger people when you didn't know them , so what did they sound like, what were they talking about, how did they write, what are they wearing, thinking, doing, drinking, smoking and so we found that. first of all we found these younger people. my mother talked about orange blossoms when she went to new york that she found orange blossoms and i think that was gin and orange juice and then she started smoking, so we found our parents as younger people who are finding themselves and so that was something new, but i think overall what's we realize, i mean, both of us loved our parents.
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they were incredible people. they were steeled in a cauldron along with a wd to voice at a time that only 35 years post- emancipation. we are not talking about a long time away from the enslavement of black people and if you are talking about plessy versus service in her jim crow was then established as legal, that was only 1896, i mean, only four years before the turn of the 20th century. so, they chose in the face of that, i mean, they were one generation removed from enslavement which meant they were raised by people or they knew people who had been slaves. that had a profound effect on all of us and locke even closer,
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1885, only 20 years after the emancipation proclamation became the law of the entire land. so, i think our appreciation for the road they chose when they could clearly have become more mainstream bourgeois black people a part of that booze raw that actually had an education mean these are people with college educations. they chose not to do that and so there was a deepening of our love for them out of the understanding of what they chose not to do with their lives that could have personally they chose
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not to go that way, but to go the other way instead and we can argue that was the correct way to go or not, but that's what they did so their courage and it was really born out of a love for for their people and it was out of that national love comes this international and they are then able to embrace this international understanding and see the commonality of the struggle of people all over the world for the exact same thing. they wanted to come out of the yoga colonialism miming colored people all over the world so they could identify that they did that so this book became a labor to not only links and, but to our parents as well. i hope that answers your question.
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>> any further comments? >> that's a wonderful afternoon so far. a question and if it's too complicated we will save it for later. >> could you talk louder? >> i will try. you spoke eloquently in the beginning of the notion of african-american art and not looking back, but looking forward and i'm thinking both of you speak about-- is something
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that always struck me about locke's work on african art is that it's not a search for roots as other african-americans were in looking to africa. it was a search for kind of dialogue and i'm not familiar with the fruits of langston to africa in terms of his poetic work, but maybe you can speak to that and i guess the question would be a dialogue for the state of what, where the dialogue is going to what's the point of the dialogues i wondered if both of you could address that. africa's way of looking forward in dialogue to what? >> i think yes, you are correct. there is this whole line of thought about walking african arts and ancestry of wisdom and there is something to that, but i think is the idea that the
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lessons you get to apply to now to create arts now and so you are aware of the past, but you are trying to distill it into things you can use them and not just to create arts, but also to create a better world through that arts and even with langston going to africa and the blues the ideas to create some new work. i think that's why he's had such difficulty when working with carter g woodson. he didn't just want to study the history. he wanted to use the history to create something new and that has within it even if it's a poem a kernel or doorway until liberation of a better life and so i think that is what it's for is to create a better life through arts, one that is filled
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with art, but also sees an arch a different way of ranging our priorities than as normally because you have the booker t. washington thing and you acquire as much money as possible and they will leave you alone and then deploys this kind of like we didn't hinder-- hammer them enough, but i think hughes also, but particularly with hughes-- what locke had difficulty with was physically and emotionally bonding with the people and that was a constant struggle that he got better at overtime because he was kind of a neurotic person who when he finished his class he wanted someone else to open a door. he liked touched doorknobs and had all of these tics and things, which i think came out of the neurosis of black and
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toryism where you're just so worried about becoming the stereotype that everything has to be perfectly clean. the house has to be perfectly ordered just in case someone might come over. drives you crazy where i think langston had a much more sense of wanting to be with the people and seeing the people as a source of creativity and i langston hughes taught that a lot. i think that while locke often saw him as the edges to person i think part of the reason he was so attached to the artist, not only because he was a credibly handsome, but also because they were a source of a knowledge that had not been given him by his bourgeois upbringing and that was the path for him. >> i'm not sure i have anything to add to what has been so
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eloquently stated, but i think that langston also was on a mission in terms of assisting young writers. there was a picture in the video of him with gwendolyn brooks. he assisted young writers from all over the world and the number of those young writers were in africa and i think he realized that their voices were left out or do they were not published in the west. no one knew who they were so they are going to africa was important in terms of searching out those voices and trying to give them a platform to a greater audience outside of africa. he took polly marshall with him. and i'm forgetting, it was the
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second writer who went with him, so he was bringing young african-american writers also to meet their counterparts in africa, so i think he realized the importance of the connection of writers all over the world that there was an exchange that needed to take place and he championed that. >> think you. >> thank you very much. [applause]. >> come on up if you would like to meet the authors. >> c-span city tour take shoe to springfield, missouri and
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generous six and seven. while in springfield we work with media, to explore the literary scene and history of the birthplace of route 66 in southwestern missouri. on saddam wait-- saturday, generous six, new and eastern on book tv with author jeremy neeley talk about conflict occurring among the kansas missouri border and the struggle over slavery in his book, the border between them. >> 1858 john brown has left kansas and comes back to the territory he begins a series of raids into western missouri during which his men will liberate enslaved people from his or her and help freedom in the course of this they will kill a number of slaveholders so the legend or notoriety of john brown arose as part of this struggle that people locally understand as the beginning of the civil war. >> sunday, january 7, 2:00 p.m.
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on american history tv we visit the nra national sporting arm museum. >> peter roosevelt was probably our shooting this president, very added hunter. first thing he did when he left office was organizing go on a very large hunting safari to africa. this particular rival was prepared specifically for roosevelt. it has the presidential seal engraved on the breach and of course roosevelt's was famous for the bull moose party and there is a bull moose engraved on the side plate of this gun. >> watch c-span city tour sprinkle, missouri missouri, january 6 and 7 on c-span2 book tv and on american history tv on c-span3, working with our cable affiliates as we explore america. here's a look at some of the
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best books of the year according to national public radio. john gideon that shares her journal entries from a southern road trip in 1970 and her time reporting on that patty hearst's trial in 1976 in the south and west. and ali barter for jonathan recalls the life of former heavyweight champion and activist mohammed ali. historian robert explores the political of burgundy roosevelt. in the gulf university of florida professor jack davis provides a history of the gulf of mexico region and reports on the impact that oil, commercial fishing and tourism has had on its environment and wrapping up the look at the best books of 2017 according to national public radio's pulitzer prize-winning journalist lien cooper on the life of liberian president, the first democratically elected female president in african history.
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>> all across liberia can women were riveted by the story of this in jail female political dissidents who was standing up to the men running the country. eventually after a year and under pressure from women's groups and the international community they released her, but he had created a monster. the stage is now sets for the revolution that was overturned gender politics in west africa, but the men still had one more pack to play it was a doozy. i can stand up here for hours going on about what charles taylor did to liberia. that needs to the subject of his own but. the tribal work he started, the child soldiers, the hundreds of thousands of people killed, the wars he launched and ivory coast kidnapping children from their terrified mother's whose forces went on a raping achilles-- killing spree that spirit almost no one. once again as they have so many times before it was the liberian
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women they carry the country and while the men were waging war women in liberia all became market women traveling by foot to the border to get food to bring back to the starving populace. they had the babies of their rate this in the forest, strapped those babies on their backs and went back to their market stall or set on the side of the road selling oranges and they bided their time. when the war finally ended, they made their power-play. in 2005, 12 years before the nation became a secret facebook group and i'm with her buttons and bumper stickers sprouted on lapels and suvs in america the women of liberia held a master class in how to get a female elected president. [applause]. many of these authors have appeared on the tv. you can watch them on a website, book t


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