tv Author Discussion on Minority Contributions to America CSPAN October 13, 2019 4:21am-5:12am EDT
♪ >> i'm the provost at the university of tennessee at martin and tiff pleasure of hosting this session, shared history, americans of hispanic and african decent. southern festival books remains completely free thanks to strong community support f you'd like to donate to support the festival, you can do so on site at the festival headquarters or online via the humanity's tennessee website. you can purchase copies of the books that will be discussing today at the books sales area which is up on the memorial
plaza and after the session both of our authors will be signing books at the signing tent. our session today is going to focus on two books, dr. kerry gibson's book el norte, epic and forgotten story of hispanic north america and kristina coles american founders how people after african decent established freedom in the new world. in just a minute we will hear from both of the authors and after that questions from the audience. dr. carry gibson grew up in united states and graduated from the university of georgia before moving to london england more than 20 years ago, she worked as a journalist for the guardian and observer newspapers for more than a decade before returning to academia, earning her ph.d from the university of cambridge in 2011 with thesis that focused on the hispanic caribbean and
era of the haitian revolution. in 2014 she published her first book empire's cross roads, history of the caribbean from columbus to the present day. this book el norte, epic and forgotten story of hispanic north america published in february of this year, work has taken her in extended travels, trips to latin america, caribbean, u.s. and europe. dr. kristina coles examines questions surrounding race and ethnicity with an interdisciplinary comparative transnational and transhistorical framework, a dual doctorate in history, sociology from the new school of social research, professor of the african and atlantic world at virginia state university from 2004 and 2011 and currently lecture in the american study's
department at the university of virginia. while her book american founders help people of african decent establish freedom, decades of research, founders not academic project but meant to be invitation for all americans to engage in their shared history. we will begin with carry gibson. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you for the kind introduction, i want to say how great it is to be at southern festival books in nashville because i spent my childhood in springfield, tennessee, i have family in the area, i come to the festival quite a few times and real pleasure to be here on this side of the audience, so it's a real honor, i'm going to do a short reading from my book that outlines why i wrote it and
the more personal story behind it, before do they i want to talk through what's in el norte, history of the hispanic past of the united states and going through it chronologically and i start with columbus and take it to 2017 and i move across the book mostly in order because there's a lot of information to get in here and i didn't want to hop back and forth in time. i also made -- really we wanted to make a point in writing it and making quite a large landscape and i wanted -- quite a few maps in the book but i wanted to get a sense of this scale of this past and, you know, when we talk about the hispanic past, i think sometimes people sort of reduce it down to the border land, the rio grande valley of texas and what i wanted to show that this is a story that reaches from, you
know, to canada, story of méxico, united states, cuban, puerto rico for the most part. but i also we wanted to give a sense of that scale, so i traveled 10,000 miles to -- in researching i went to cuba and puerto rico multiple times and in this book i tried to get a sense to have landscape and each chapter i kind of put it around the place, some of the places will be obvious like los angeles and others less obvious like what their connection is, you have to read it to find out. not going give anything away but i also we wanted to give a sense so next time when you're traveling in the state, you know, this will kind of perhaps be more on your mind and because once you start looking for the traces of hispanic past the united states you begin to see them everywhere.
explain whos who i am and the rt of the book is pretty much straight up history with reflections and i will, so my journey to el norte taking my by england and later to islands in caribbean and before ending not far where i began in georgia, the appalachian town had dramatic transformation when i was why n high school. in 1990, freshman year, the school consisted of a majority english-speaking student body with only handful of people with english and second language classes, by the time i was senior esl classes were full, thousands of workers and family mainly from méxico moved to
delton for work. i graduated in 1994, only months after the north america free trade agreement nafta came into force. 1200 miles from the border but méxico had come to us, today my old high school had a student body that's about 70% hispanic, what started in spanish language classes was augmented by people who can teach me about banda music and telenovelas. finally my experience had been filtered through two decades of living in one of the world east most multicultural cities, london england, my family moved
away from dalton years ago and i hadn't thought about the town or the question of immigration in the united states in any serious way until 2012 election. i was in washington, d.c. working on history of caribbean and as i watched and read the coverage i was struck by the general turn of the media conversation, the way hispanic people were depicted surprised me because the language seemed unchanged from rhetoric of decade earlier. the sub text and implications were the same, little recognition of a long shared past and instead the talk was lack of documentation and the use of mexican as shorthand for illegal immigrant, the reality of who was coming to the united states had long been more complex not least because plenty of immigrants and citizens have roots in all the distinct nations of latin america, the spanish-speaking population that
such rhetoric exposed exploded in 2016 presidential race. during which chants to build the wall between the united states and méxico could be hard at campaign rallies for donald trump but when i started this project that election was still years away. this book is still concerned with the question that arose in 2012 but now they are given a new urgency, there's a dire need to talk about the hispanic history of the united states. the public debate in interval between elections had widen, for some time the president has been out of sink with the past as well. much of the hispanic history of the united states has been unacknowledged or marginalized given that this past predates the arrival of the pilgrims by a century, it has been every bit as important in shaping the united states of today. i realized watching my mexican schoolmates that if my name were
garcía instead of gibson entirely different set of cultural assumptions and expectations placed upon me. i too had moved to the south, i was born in ohio because of my father's job, we were also catholic, my grandmother didn't speak english well and i had lots of relatives in foreign country, yet my white little class faces shielded me from indignities and like most people in the united states, with the obvious exception of native americans my people are from somewhere else, i'm a rather late arrival, the majority of my european mix of irish, danish, scottish and my father's side 1840's, maternal grandparents came from italy in period of second world war, before in the case of grandfather and after the case my grandmother, the pressure to americanize is great in 1950's and my grandmother who never lost her heavy italian accent felt necessary to raise
my money in english, she died before i could learn, what continued to bother me was why had i other italian americans been able to transcend those but not those with hispanic names, plenty of hispanic american who is have a much deeper past in the united states than do i, why are they still treated as strangers in their own country. language belonging community, race, nationality, these are difficult questions at the best of times, but they are especially pain at the moment. this book is an attempt to make some historical sense of the large complex story of hispanic people in the united states. i will leave it there. >> thank you. so like carrie, i have written a book that's trying to expand the way we think about the american narrative, my book is called american founders, how people of
african decent established freedom in world and the story begins in 1492. i'm going to read a little bit from excerpts from the book and then we will have questions and conversations. so also i think there's -- there's 200 images in the book that are on the cover, tinny handful of the individual who is were described in the book. historical narratives shape how we imagine our place in the world in the past much of american history has limited african americans to few roles, slavery or civil rights movement and gives the impression that mainstream history is the patrimony of white people, if we turn you have lights in history, becomes evident that people of color were there at every point and not just passive observers.
the distinction between american history and african-american history is imaginary. american founders explores 3 things that we can figure traditionally conventions of american history. first, slaves were americans, citizenship rights were recognized by the state who participated widely and meaningfully in ordinary and watershed event that compromised history of americas and slave individuals were instrumental to the negotiation and course of virtually every major new world historical event before demise of slavery and demise of slavery itself was epic multifaceted revolution in which enslaved people play seminole roles. second, in the era that proceeded the abolition of american slavery, not all black people were slaves despite slavery, people of color, won freedom because of military service or marital relationships purchased their own freedom,
secured in courts, most cloonley liberated themselves through flight, and contributed greatly to development and ways, the third theme undergoes the first two, black and white americans not only share the same new world history, they share the same an rest dye, enslaved and free people of color frequently had european relatives whose descendants became black and white americans. cannot be reduce today slavery. african and descendants proceeded the english and suddenly becoming the united states. this book chronicles many ways in which afro american men and women help found and develop not just the u.s. but the america as a whole by forming communities, continually undermining and eradicating the new world slavery and championing
universal citizenship. people of african decent followed in mission from canada to chile, unbroken tradition of slavery in americas. seventeenth century afro americans continue today establish, defend towns and settlements throughout the americas as explorers, soldiers, cowboys, pirates, agents, rebels and maroons. the black democratic paveed the way for and shaped the national independence wars that started at the end of the 19th century.
end of 18th century, i should say. citizenship during critical period ofnation building, soldiers, lawyers, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, educators, artists and local and international activists. in 20th century afro americans continue today champion the ideals of universal rights, quality of justice and civic engagement through endeavors and politics law academia, science, law, medicine, business, journalism and art. men and women used courts to petition and alter legal frameworks of slavery, african americans capitalized on political instability and conflict to undermine slavery, this can be served thousands of black militia members, this can
be said of the thousands rebels who defended freedom militarily as well. conquistadors and black pirates, people of color served in every military engagement throughout the americas including north america and in many cases getting freedom for themselves if they weren't already free. the american revolution itself, seen as part of century's long process of emancipation of the united states where black americans sought freedom on both sides of the conflict. thousands joined patriot army including james, enslaved virginian who served as double agent helped to foster the yorktown victory and british surrender, promise of freedom, vast ranks of men and women who left plantations to aid the british in exchange for their freedom made american revolution among the largest in american
history. afro americans engaged in revolution proceeded and paveed the way for declaration of independence of 1776 favorable to communities were part of american life defacto political movement that is shaped the larger events of the analysis of revolution, south carolina and far beyond locals. throughout the americas, afro americans took up arms both for and against the state as patriots and loyalists, militia, rebel slaves and regular army officers to state claim to rights, the language of emancipation proclamation shows that lincoln understood that the military service of black americans was essential to the winning civil war. history has too often been misconstrued as something based
on purity when it is in reality based on interaction. many of us have been conditioned to think americans as binary terms, black or white, slave or free, north or south, anglo or latin, us or them. as it turns out we always have been intertined. anthony johnson was among the first many cases. they along with americans have significant european ancestry is beyond question. you'll notice that many people of the people in portraits have european ancestry which says about the balance of the color line that has put americans apart. until the first quarter in 19th century, vast majority of
americans arrived in the new world as slaves. americans today are descendants of slaves and slave owners, many women have fundamentally shaped american history and massive contributions in every possible way. men and women should encourage us to think more deeply about what we mean when we say we are americans. americans of african decent help today liberate all americans from conceptions of citizenship. seeking and defending the ideals of liberty and justice even in the midst of slavery and discrimination, african americans were crucial to the founding of modern world and development of democracy. we will not understand american history until we understand that african american history and recognize that it is not solely a story of oppression, oppression extremely dangerous against such people of african
decent and black people were architects and founders of america at large. continue encourage the united states to live up to ideals and shrines in founding documents, african-americans were innovators, visionaries and scientists, made enormous contributions not just through american history but humanity. multiculturalism is not correct. convention that is shape how we think about history and race and not result of kinds of racism that are easy to identify. perhaps insidious the assumptions of consciously and unconsciously understand ourselves and how we fit into the world around us.
>> thank you both for sharing some of the great information that you have provided in these two books and it is -- these are books that share small parts of lots of people's stories, i guess that i would like to invite the audience to come up and ask some questions if you're interested in asking a question, there's a microphone to my left, please come over to that so we can hear you. but i guess i'd like to start carrie, with you, when we say hispanic history of the u.s. this often brings to mind the south western part of the united states or texas and california, how does this story connect to the south and to tennessee? >> it's a great question. we don't think it does but there's a whole hispanic history
>> when the spaniards started trying to set a settlement in florida in 1500's they didn't really -- they claimed everything north of it, so place that is we think of today as south carolina and florida and the georgia coast are part of what they envision florida, so you have, for instance, this is one of the stories that i really liked and tried to put a settlement in georgia in 1526 and it failed but some slaves that were on it ran away. this is from the earliest nonindigenous people to stay here and this is 1526, this is coastal georgia.
i think they believe it's around darian, the area, the expedition through the south going through alabama and in louisiana kind of around louisiana and arkansas but it's interesting that at various points i encountered so i was in montgomery recently and in capital paintings sort of depicting of history and they were done in 1920's, one of desoto in front of chief and they look like they are about to have a standoff. i was struck by that but, again, kept showing up especially in alabama because he -- well, through part of it, and then there's the case of -- the story of st. agustin in 1965 and that's come out of spanish and french conflict that began at the end of paris island between
french refugees who tried to establish a settlement and the spanish ran them off and massacred them which is -- which compressing complicated story, so you get -- when you start of digging at it, the south is full of the stories and i guess one last thing to mention is there were all the missions in florida and i have a mouth of them, especially in 1600 and a lot of them were destroyed, they were quite humbled both, but you can see, this is sort of the commission in the 1600's, this is the south, and it's fascinating to think actually the story of -- of hispanic people in the u.s. start here, there were also parts of north carolina, you know, some sort of argue that maybe tennessee, some of this isn't, you know, we can't trace things exactly yet
but the story actually opens here. [inaudible] >> yes. yes. louisiana -- >> it's quite funny. the whole spanish element to it. >> if you like to ask a question -- [inaudible] [laughter] >> mississippi which i think -- [laughter] >> kristina, let me ask you, what's the relationship between african american history and slavery, how do you understand that?
>> document the stories of these individuals who were shaping american history within slavery but outside of slavery as well, but i want to make the larger point that, you know, slavery is a transhistorical institution that existed since the beginning of human civilization and the very first, you know, civilization, 50% of the population was enslaved and slavery in ancient greece, asia, africa, precolombian america, so in the ancient world it didn't have anything to do with race, it had to do with the rules of religion, you know, the natural order was considered to be a hierarchy one so you didn't need race to justify or taking someone else's, most individuals on the earth were unfree
somehow. you might be a servant, subject, apprentice, the idea that individual rites and -- and freedoms, very recent ideas, one of the things that happened in americas, story and at the very moment individual freedom or developing and the public ideals, the very same moment that slavery is becoming this new capitalist sort of nightmare that's based on mass production for mass consumption and it's happening, new type of slavery and still thinking about individual rights and government are happening at the same time and yield some very interesting distressing tensions that we saw but this is to say that i think that african americans had become reserved for people of
african decent, there's people of european decent and indigenous people who are enslaved, eventually hereditary condition, that's the way that it ends up working out and this idea of completely strip get away rights for individuals as well as prepeople of color, that's a new thing of modern american slavery story to have free people who are no longer enslaved, this is why i argue in the book that people of color both enslaved and free on the forefront of the struggles to eradicate slavery, to put the ideals of democracy in practice, military struggles, legal battles, cultural, you name it. so i would say that the relationship between african american history and slavery is that african american history on the front lines of trying to eradicate and ultimately dismantle slavery, for example, american civil war, i would argue that it is fugitive slave,
people abetting them and putting war into motion and you can see south carolina, people are not responding properly to these, you know, fugitive individuals and they're not being returned properly and instigate the american civil war and insist on fighting it, so the story around the america that is people of african decent are responsible for eliminating slavery. i think another fruitful way to think about history of slavery and the violence and discrimination that comes with the fallout of slavery is to think about the relationship between slavery and european american history. >> okay. thank you. >> carrie, i guess another question that i'm curious about is what -- what gaps in the existing national narrative do you think el norte fills?
>> i think it's quite a few in different sort of ways and i sometimes think about history as being, we really think totality and it's fragmented and i think of like u.s. history, multiple layers, like, you know, the first layer is the indigenous history of this country and the second layer is europeans arriving and, you know, the arrival of enslaved african, the third layer is independent struggle, the fourth layer and if we -- they all sit on top of each other, they all complement each other, one of the layers that has been missing is the story of the spaniards and then later on by hispanic people, people from latin america and have been missing from the narrative and what it brings and kristin's book focuses too that we try to take approach because so many people, for instance, in your book are from, you know,
brazil, you know, from cuba, from all over, but we both take, i think, quite wide term generous idea of the americas and i think that was missing, you know, i guess one of the more radical things i try to do in this book, hey, why don't we position the u.s. for what it is which is part of latin america, part of this whole continent, we were all formed by same forces and all have individual trajectories but to kind of acknowledge that there's this shared -- now, sure the spaniards were more successful than méxico with sort of density of colonial settlements and that sort of thing but d -- but the initial encounters start here with the spaniards. so i think that was definitely the big gap i was trying show
for sure. >> i think we have a question. >> excuse me. so i'm puerto rican and when going to puerto rico i am often times seen as the american cousin, but here in the states i am often sometimes certain token for being brown. i have sometimes difficulties negotiating like the complexity of my identity and i was wonder if you could comment on an interesting moment or changes in history of like people of color identifying themselves. >> thank you for your question o.i will start and i'm sure you have something to say on that too because i write about puerto rico quite a lot in el norte, two moments jump out at me on the basis of your question, one is not puerto rico, but after the mexican-american war when
51% of méxico became u.s., california, big chunk of the west n california when they were creating the state constitution they were going to give right to vote to white men and so actually looking around they realized, wait, who is white, what does white mean when somebody is brown and that is -- that's the kind of constant theme in the west in 19th century and 20th, a whole jim crow aspect to the west in places certainly texas and california where mexicans were suppose today sit in balcony of cinemas and restaurants didn't serve people. we also see about brownness and that's also a gap that needs to be filled and needs to be discussed. the other interesting moment is after the -- after the spanish american war when puerto rico becomes a colony, i believe it's around 1902 there's a legal challenge involving this young woman who wants to immigrate to
new york and she's pregnant and she's seen and challenges i'm a u.s. citizen and becomes this whole question of like, wait a minute, what is puerto rico, and finally gets answered, answered in the court case but really answered in 1917 with jones act and so at that point it becomes official but the fact that, you know, again it brings up the question of identity and citizenship, it's like, well, wait, you know, if you are controlling us, then we should have freedom of movement, why am i not allowed to come here and i write a lot about puerto rico because puerto rico is super important to the idea of the hispanic past because puerto rico within latin america history has a unique place as well. it followed somewhat different trajectory to the other countries, so -- so, again, it continues and i think we saw this in the aftermath of maria, a poll that showed that about half the country didn't realize
that puerto rico was part of the u.s. and that's -- so people kind of believed it didn't deserve disaster relief because it's foreign country and no, no, no, it is a common wealth and so ways to go and kind of reconciling these things but clearly as you say in your own personal experience, broader public sense too. do you want -- >> i mean, my family -- my dad's family is from cuba so -- my mom's family is from the american south and my -- it cause node write my first article in graduate school which is what color is cuban because a lot of answers to that question and certainly growing up in miami which is a place that uniquely in the story of -- i will add one thing that's not in the book. the oldest documented christian marriage in what becomes the united states took place in
st. agustin, 1565 between an african woman and a spanish soldier. i don't think she was enslaved and so that's the earliest, to me that's the american story right there. >> yeah. >> but in the case of miami, they experienced -- cuban culture, hispanic culture is the dominant culture in south florida since 1986, sort of a different relationship, i think, to being latin and the issues about race are certainly not resolved at all but i will say in general, in my looking at colonial history, education on comparing mixed-rate children colonial virginia and colonial cuba and what i found that the very definition of whiteness,
much more class, and these are communities who were often catholic and in virginia protestant individualism discourse, the notion of whiteness was strict and you get into this period where ultimately in 1800's one drop rule, there's the story, i don't know if it's -- american journalist interview u.s. journalist interviewing haiti, what portion of your population is white and he said 99%, she said i think he misunderstood the question and he said, one drop rule. it puts the perspective of race. the way we consider identity ethnicity really changes
depending on place, very site specific. >> another question which i was reading through your books it came clear that these are interventions in a lack or they're trying to remediate a lack in american history but the fact that we have a session called about hispanic and african decent to try and intervene and bring something into the larger mainstream american history, you know, that's not where you want it to be i don't think in 25 years, so if we were to move forward 25 years from now, what would your work have led to in changing what american history or will we continue to talk about hispanic american or african american
history? >> i mean, quickly, i always enjoy seeing my book in the bookstore but it is generally in the african-american history section which i'm a big fan of african-american history but i also believe that the story is american history first off and so i would love for a time when we could consider this a shared history, visions of the south and talking about how the south has been -- you know, not a minority culture, they've been a dominant majority presence in the american south and where i live in the eve of civil war, the majority of population was of african decent, it was kind of gone with the wind vision of how american history was, as i said multiculturalism isn't a new thing, some sort of mention that we had on the panel that takes about minority americans,
these are majorities. before 1920 to the africans came to the new world and europeans and mexicans in 1810. the american south, people of african decent outnumbered. so to stop imagining this history without them, in other words, once we incorporate the actual demographics it'll become easier to think about this interconnected. i don't think it's an either/or story by the way, american history and i think there's all the roots, indigenous, they're african, they're hispanic, they are anglo and asian and they all can fit together. i mean, i think that's part of the problem is that i think that what we are both asking readers to do is to kind of complicate what has been presented as very
simple, very segmented narrative and go, you know what, not going to get historical narrative that that you want to hear, what happened and overlaid and complex and just accept, you know, if you could change kind of the public mood away that the public in general approaches history i think it would be to go, okay, this is going to be messy, but let's dive in and let's see how things connect and when you start looking for history of connection it becomes very hard to write just, you know, the segment of histories because everything -- i was amazed reading your books how many people connect and how many events and i think that would be the thing if we were to kind of go forward 25 years, i mean, obviously makes sense chronologies and things like that but to go into moments with eyes much more widely kind of open, think about roots that have been, you know, kind of
left out before and big national moments, like where do they fit in, how does the narrative change and it's like sometimes i feel like writing the books is a bit like, you know, being a kid playing in clay, it's messy, it's a messy business and that's what makes it so exciting and i hope that's what readers feel when they start to read the book, wow, it's complicated and messy but come to an understanding and that's what we can put forward as historians. >> there was a brief mention of the color line as far as africans go and i read a good bit about color is an issue within, among african americans, you know, the idea that the lighter skin you are the closer the white you are, the better you are and hierarchies based on that and that sort of thing.
is that -- i'm wondering if that's the case with hispanic americans as well? is there this phenomena of color line, if you will? >> i will say that hispanic approaches generally speaking are so graded and so finely tuned that it's beyond color line. it's unbelievable to look at comments, every possible combination you can think of human beings, they draw a picture of it and invented name for it. i feel like there's a session with the gradation and i'd also say that different between work in latin america versus the united states, is that there's a color line, you can get instances of people who look incredibly european, they appear white and i would argue white in latin america and on the other side of color line regardless of
what their patrimony is. i think show it is absurdity of whiteness in particular and certainly say name is jim, black smith, very light completed. they had european ancestors. >> i will make a comment on more contemporary, it has a very complicated relationship to color and blackness because of history with haiti.
some people said i didn't know i was black until i went to the u.s. they would argue from latino, argentina and perú, you come to the u.s., you're brown and you're latino. development of latino. i talk about it in the book and the -- it's a way to mobilize and bring those groups of people together because certainly cubans and mexicans, for instance, it is not necessarily community where people are, you know, not necessarily in close proximity geographically, that's changing as well, but also a question of language within the u.s. and whether or not you speak spanish. i mean, certainly in the 50's there was the kind of post war kind of -- post war generation mexican americans, raised children to speak english and
gets lost in the family or spanish is imperfected. the person asked about family in puerto rico. cultural identity rather than racial. it's part of the whole sort of package if that makes sense. >> we have a few minutes left and i want to shift gears and ask a question about being authors, if you could share just real briefly what was the most difficult part of writing each of your books? [laughter] >> i think it was emphasizing scholarship. because of the scale is so wide you to rely on work of other scholars and you have to make a lot of editorial choices, what
did those -- what needs to go in and making sure that you're challenging narratives and accepting that this is how this happened and, you know, and also trying to get a good balance of actors and not just sort of focusing on the main historical figures, i think we both try to include more women who have been overlooked and i found out quite challenging because the people not in archival records or -- can disappear but thankfully there's been so much amazing scholarship in the last 20 years and especially like the things from florida and the areas that i didn't know nothing about going into and such great bodies of work out there to -- to come and help me along the way, yeah, doing the synthesis was hard work. >> if you go on -- my books have been 15 times as long, so many individuals that i could have include. i'm standing in the shoulder of many, many scholars, 1850 black
gastonian and ps, not only african americans soldiers who fought for the revolution, african cuban, afro mexican and indebted to scholars who have been hiding in plain sight of the information that i was able to correlate. >> great, i want to thank you both for writing the wonderful books, important books and sharing such important information today and i hope that you will help me in thanking [di