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tv   Public Affairs Events  CSPAN  May 26, 2022 6:04am-6:43am EDT

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consequential decisions. thank you once again for your time, thank you for the book.
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welcome everyone to the college of arts and letters. this has been absolutely invaluable to have the palm beach book festival here is really the heart and soul of our mission. we believe, as your hometown
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public research university, that these are the kinds of events that the university should be doing. kim bringing ideas to both our students, as well as a community. there is no better way to bring ideas to a group them through reading great books. and, so, thank you for organizing this festival and bringing it to your home for the palm beach book festival. the first author is very exciting to me, all of our authors connect to the colleges mission and different ways. this one especially to a new african american studies program, just launching and our college. and, of course, we have a creative writing program and a masters of fine arts and creative writing. a lot of those folks do more writing, this book bans genres in interesting ways and is certainly the kind of book we want to be talking about here
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at florida atlanta university. we are so excited for this first author and louis is not going to introduce her. >> thank you, lee hepburn as a friend and a board member to our festival, she is the moderator today as well as the books editor for oprah magazine and her website. and, the curator of oprah's book club. she has a big job, there. she chose south to america for this year's oprah pick. we also think we know the south, the civil war, gone with the wind, the cloak looks plan, slavery, plantations, football. but, in south to america the author shows that the meaning of being american is linked to the south. and our understanding of history and culture is the key to understanding the nation in its entirety. the author is the professor of african american studies at princeton university, she is the author of many
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award-winning books as well as awards including the 2019 biography prize. from the pan american foundation dr. perry is a native of birmingham alabama who grew up in cambridge massachusetts, and chicago. she currently lives in philadelphia. please welcome ali hepburn and dr. imani perry. >> welcome, so pleased to be here. i will put my box down, here. thank you everybody for coming it, it is just a pleasure to be here and to speak to you about this wonderful book today. i guess the first thing is that we tweeted something about whether florida is considered part of the deep south. it started a thread that was
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very interesting. so, sam imani what would you say an answer to that question? >> absolutely, absolutely. i love that you posed that question. i think our image of florida tends to be sells florida and it tends to be miami and disney. and, the first sentence of the florida chapter is florida's a pistol. >> i was going to cite that. >> it is a double entendre because it is about the shape, part of a point is that the panhandle is certainly the deep south. it is as much alabama, georgia, and the like as anything else. but, they double entendre is also that it is in a pistol in the biblical sense, it is an instructive letter.
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it is an argumentative letter, florida is in many ways like texas and nation onto itself. it also teaches us a great deal about the history of this country. you remember that spain was here first in terms of european encounters. it is where you are aware of the incredible diversity of indigenous people, people of african descent over multiple generations. as well as multiple groups of europeans. it is a deep south because you can point to a very clear things. orange county, the highest rate of lynching anywhere, where disney world is. >> >> i was stunned by that statistic in your book. >> i was stunned by that statistic but it's important -- >> the highest rate of lynchings in the country. >> in the country, yeah. and that disney world lies atop it is, in some ways, representative of what we do with history. right? we ate, i think this is across the board, we tend to sanitize
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history. all nations do this, they want their histories to be tidy and prettier than they are. and part of what's interesting about the south is that people sort of make the save the country cousin in other regions, so as not to deal. because you can't deny the ugly -- >> such a good point. >> so you have to pretend that's not of the center, one of course it is, because that's the place where wealth was produced for the entire nation. >> details of that for us, elaborate on that. >> yeah, one of the things i keep saying is, you know, in the book i keep saying that they're all these days that could be beginnings of the nation. but all of them are in the south, all of the beginnings. so, you could start at 60 19, which is one day that it is compelling for jamestown, or the roanoke colony. or you could do the 16th century, 15, hundred 15 20. because florida is a part of
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the united states. the reason you had european encounters with the south first is because this is a land of incredible abundance. right? so, this desire to figure, what can we do with this? it's like a fountain of youth, of gold. maybe not those things, but prosperity. you combine that with an free labor. of africans. and so much wealth is produced. once again, their sugar, there's tobacco. once you get to king cotton, it builds a wealth of this country, it is what enables the united states to become a global power. even, and i think this is really important, the reason washington, d.c. is in the south, i know that's another place we can argue about, is because that southern colonies had to pay the revolutionary war debt. because that is where the prosperity was. and then, the way that our government is organized. the electoral college, the
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separation of powers combined with federalism. these have to do a southern interests. so, the south has moved the nation about, it's a bread basket historically. so, the whole nation is indebted to the south, for better and worse. >> i think it's fascinating, and i never thought about it that way. you, know i thought about the backward cousin sort of thing, but not as the engine. the, enjoy the architect of many ways of the country. but let's step back a little bit, or return to the florida chapter later. i love how the book is divided. for those of you haven't read it, it's so rich in every nugget, in every nook and cranny, with interesting facts that i haven't read before in many cases. imani organize a book by region, she doesn't cover every region of the country about focuses on a few and they are fascinating. but the book opens with a scene in 1804, in new orleans, at a ball. where people are dancing the
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quadruple, and it struck me. you felt as though you are there reading that chapter, that is seen a particular. so, where did you get that detail? because it felt like real on the ground, i was at the, party i was at the ball. >> yeah, i'm an archive junkie. right? i just love to -- >> is that a thing? i've never heard anyone say the before. >> i know. i think i made it up, but it's true. and i love newspapers. so, much of the detail, the historic detail, comes from newspapers. i love, and it's incredible, because people in historic newspapers you can find the colors of peoples dresses, the scent. we so, for me, the real task as a writer now is to combine the scholar, the researchers digging with wanting to get the sensory, the emotional --
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>> it's almost novelist stick. >> thank you. that's the aspiration. that is something about wanting to be inside history, i think, that is not just being transported but i actually do think it helps us understand ourselves, right? once you get past the way we tell historic narratives, right, the noble story. to actually think about people living and feeling and breathing. i think that, actually, is especially useful now. >> for those who haven't cracked the book yet, what are you trying to convey in that section? >> i'm trying to convey the in fact -- a part of the argument is i want us to get out of the british inclination of telling history as a kind of straightforward narrative. i'm talking about the quadrangles, they're metaphor but they're actually real. there is this moment when the
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louisiana purchase has taken place and this is happening between the creole's. they end up having this physical battles over the dances, because the french quadrille and the british quadrille are different dances. the way the english did it, it took longer. and so, there was this conflict over how it was the time for a french song but the english weren't done with their dance yet. and it actually turns bloody. so, it's a metaphor but it's actually real. there were real tensions, cultural tensions. and that language of a quadrille was used to talk about politics, the political quadrille. the different interest, the competing desires for accumulation and power and control of land and empire, all of those things.
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so, it's a moment that captured so much about the 19th century. and i think we forget that there is still these conflicts about what was going on globally in the 19th century. and as countries at the center of that, in so many ways. >> it also conveys the kind of multiculturalism of the country. >> from the beginning. >> talk about that. >> yeah, so, i think that there are places, and florida is one of them, and louisiana, where it's a parrot. because there is multiple language communities. but there is a multiculturalism that exists all the way through. multiculturalism amongst indigenous groups, which we often forget, and that is part of what i try to get out of the florida chapter. talking about the politics of different indigenous groups amongst africans. >> cubans, puerto ricans. >> yes, right. and that's really important, because a part of why the book goes all the way down to the caribbean is it's important to
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understand this was all considered one region. florida is a place where you remember that, more than other parts of the country. but the caribbean and the southern united states, before all of the global powers settled on to what's belong to whom, this was all a single region and there is a lot of movement. i had a lyft driver yesterday, i have to say this, because what's drivers are part of the book. airlift driver yesterday, while trying to get here, which is a whole saga. >> from new orleans. >> from new orleans. we're talking and i said, are you from belize or honduras? he's a black man. he laughed, said i've from honduras, my grandmother was from believes. because i could hear in a speech pattern. then he tells me the story about his grandmothers from believes, she moved to savannah, as fathers of savannah and. he's in the military, he goes to onshore, as falls on top of the honduran women. and it was one of those moments
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where you feel like i'm vindicated with a book. but it is because these movements have happened for so long, we talk about them like they're new. but this is the history. and it's important to tell. when we see more recently, lots of central americans coming to the united states, that's not new. it's also the case that lots of, you know, people from what is now the united states went there. right? lots of the political history of central america is based in new orleans business. right? so -- well, one of the things that really struck me about the book is that it is a mixture of exploring figures, people we have known from the past. but, coming at them from a different point of view, also, as you were just talking about as a lyft driver, talking to every day people and sprinkling their stories through out. how did you arrive at that
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notion? >> i want to to kind of break the genre of the travel narrative, i want to add, as opposed to saying okay i am going to go to these important historic sites i wanted it to feel like a set of encounters. you move through these places, i am asking readers to come with me, travel with me. you do not necessarily have to agree with me but i want to point some things out that you might find interesting. as we are traveling and the encounters, the encounters are with people. they encounters are with the landscape, artifacts, and then i want to dig a little deeper. and also, capture some of the cultures and stability of the south india indians. when i talk to somebody that culture is shaped like by the local place. that is part of the truth of the place. >> let's go to harpers ferry,
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it is interesting because you want to harpers ferry because of its importance in our country's history, which you can recount for our audience in case they do not know, in the meantime you had this whole internal dialogue going on in your head, thinking about tony horowitz's book of confederates in the attic. and then you encounter someone who is a reenactor of the civil war. >> yes, i have this internal dialogue because tony horowitz was an absolutely lovely person. i had not read confederate in the attic when he was living. and then i read it and i was so frustrated with him. i was like here you are so confederate reenactor's sympathetic. i am frustrated with him. he has one conflict in the book with someone and it is my friends mom. i was grumpy about that. i was also thinking he was able to access something that i would not be able to access as
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a black woman. i would not be able to access those kind of conversations with confederate reactors. >> in west virginia. >> in west virginia, and yet, i get to west virginia and that is the first conversation i have with a confederate reactor. it was a moment of kids mid. this is a man who is an archivist by profession. >> you bonded over that, right? >> yes, yes. he is a rihanna tour for the maryland regiment. he spends his leisure time volunteering at harpers ferry, the site of john brown's raid that he intended to emancipate africans. he kind of tried to start a civil war that would free black people before it happened. in some ways he failed almost immediately and they were defeated. >> some people thought it was a suicide mission. >> right, like frederick
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douglass and harriet tubman, she called him sick, she was not feeling well. we do not know if she actually was not feeling well. it was just me not a very well thought out plan, arguably. but a passionate one driven by a deep sense of justice. that is where i started in west virginia, partially because everybody was wondering why i was going to west virginia, by myself, a black lady. i went and we should have this conversation, i called him bob in the boat without his not his name. it was so interesting because part of me was like, i am not going to confront him about being a confederate reenactor, i have been socialist of someone born in alabama. socialized as a southern black woman and girl that you do not start this stuff, because it
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can explode me. i was fascinated me and i realized we are so similar. because, his passion is to live inside history, as is mine. and yet, i cannot figure out why he could figure out why we wanted to live in that part of history. and i could not ask him. he sold me the story about the glasses. reenactor, if you read confederates in the attic you also know this, i know lots of questions to ask him because i had that book. he tells me he goes out into a field and they say you have to take off those glasses. everything has to be authentic and accurate. i curate for the time period. >> they get fined if not. >> yes! he is like, all right, i have to get glasses for the 19th century. they were super expensive, took a long time. he gets them and he said i could not see out of the things
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anyway, because they were so thick back then. for me it was such a poetic moment. you look through the confederacy's lens, there is a lot you cannot see. so we were looking more and fixated on much of the same historical terrain with a different lens. >> if you were to write a list of the pros and cons of the deep south. you talk about some of the businesses, the industry, is the companies that have originated from their. talk about that aspect a little bit. >> well, yeah, i mean so much of our culture emerges from the deep south. all of our soda, all of it. [laughs] i have to set this aside, i get irritated when you take those quizzes. the reo southern quizzes. they say do you call soda
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coca-cola or pop? they are like, if you say coca-cola's southern. i am like, that is like a georgia and a texas thing. there is so much carbonated beverages. everywhere, coca-cola is not the favorite everywhere. that is an aside. so there is food culture, walmart culture, the fact that amazon comes from a person who is a native of houston. the grocery store is a southern concept. and, there is this drive to convenience. the fact that we are a car culture, everything to do with houston and oil. there is a convenience thing, and innovation part, and always the matched me with the experience of exploitation and hard living for hard folks or marginalized folks. i wanted, because that part of
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who we are. so much of who we are is rooted in the south. but, the hardest kabul living is also what's gives birth to another part of southern culture that shape so much. which is our music culture. american music's southern music. it is other music from the underside. and, it is music that is built. it comes out of peoples encounter with the land and labor country music, blues music, jazz, right? i guess that is the pro-part. this is incredible. >> and also the beauty. thinking about the florida chapter, again. and how in -- area of schedule. talk about that, about this area of florida. both about this beauty and what she saw there. >> right, so that is very
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important and she claimed eatonville, florida. she was born in alabama like me. but -- i just have to, she denied alabama. what was so interesting is that she was interested, this is a woman who is a native of eatonville, she goes to high school at florida baptist academy in jacksonville. and, eventually to howard university, morgan state, columbia. a strained as an anthropologist and spends much of her life writing fiction but also doing anthropological discovery of the history of african culture. across the americas and the caribbean, she traced their african retention's. folk tale, she is a folklorist, but she is also a keeper of culture, as it were. she is a participant observer. she is very invested in the story of her independent black
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town. >> the first independent black town. >> yes, thank you. she is also honorary and outspoken back and a brilliant storyteller. but, part of what i find so important about her is, for me that is the thread. what we were talking about before, in some ways, the reality of all of the multiculturalism of southern history that gets flattened into a black and white binary. she is tracking that in the 1920s and 30s. >> amazing journalist. >> amazing journalist. telling stories about race both in terms of the violence and in terms of the intimacy. >> she reads and a very contemporary way, that is pretty incredible. in fact, there was a new book unearthed that just came out pretty recently. >> yes, which was edited by my
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adviser from graduate school. >> skip gates worthy forward, right? >> yeah. >> you write in the nation's a imagined community, in our culture the community is difficult to sustain. why is that? >> i think there is a fundamental tension between the narrative of a war perfect union, a multiracial inclusive democracy. ellis island narrative, give us your pore, all of that. right? the history from the beginning of pushing people off of their land, grinding down peoples lives into virtually nothing but labor. >> and the heterogeneity that resulted. >> yes, and the designed.
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heterogeneity that resulted and the design of exclusivity of citizenship. i tell the story of an ancestor who was born in 1769 in maryland by some documentary accounts. i thought about her a lot as this woman, her parents were born as maryland as well. early 1700s at the very least, my ancestry goes back in this country. for them, for her to be born and lived and died and see the country built in 1776. established without her being considered as a member, that is not anomalous in our history. that part makes it very hard to have the other aspirational part. >> i am thinking again of the
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harpers ferry chapter. cannot remember the name of the guy who is executed. >> shields green. >> shields grain, yes, he was executed on the basis of opposing the country, opposing the government. and yet he was not a citizen, how could he be? >> right, he was not considered a citizen to how could he have committed treason? >> exactly. i want to ask something that i hear a lot of people saying, i do not agree with it but i want your take on it. some of it is the outgrowth of the 1619 project, asserting that as the true date our country was born. there is a lot of talk now about critical race theory, aren't we just going into this too much?
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isn't there too much emphasis on this, i guess my question to you is how do you refer that? >> first of all, it is very disorienting on people started talking about critical race theory. i was a law professor in a previous life and they were not talking about critical race theory. >> does everybody know what critical race theory is? >> i will just say quickly, critical race theory is a sub genre legal scholarship on race that focuses on the idea of context of antidiscrimination law it was possible to still have a practices laws saying you are color blind. right? how do you have a remedy for racial inequality in the context where there is no explicit reference to race? that is a shorthand, right?
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it is a rarefied feel, it has been influential in ways that speakers have helped people think in new ways about inequality. what was happening in schools is much more people teaching about the history of racial inequality. that fall disturbing to people, and my reaction in part was this. i think that by not teaching the history of racial inequality, of slavery, of jim crow. the various forms of experiences of indigenous people, of latino people, of asian americans, you actually stifle the moral imaginations of our children. and, when there are these formulations, will white children feel bad? it is sort of alarming to me because i do not ever have this
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idea that white children cannot identify with the suffering of others. i do not think we should ever think in that way, i think all of us have a capacity to have the kind of moral imagination where we can identify with the suffering of others, but also that we can see ourselves in people who talk not belong to our same categorical group. >> also, how can we reconcile our differences if we have not acknowledge the truth? >> yes, that is the core of it, i think this question around kids is so potent to may because when you have children and they find someone that they think of as heroic, they do not think that person is not categorically like me so i cannot imagine myself being moved by them. yes, i want to say this as well. we are in the midst of arguments over the dominant narrative of the country, right?
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one of them is a lost cause narrative, right? i think that we are going to have to. >> lost cause meaning? >> of the confederacy. instead of a championing of the confederacy. i think we are going to have to let go of the idea that there is a single narrative, we are going to have to understand our history as a history of debate around this questions. who ought to be a citizen, what roles should different people play, what does democracy mean in this detail? what does representation mean? i do not think that we have a single narrative, because these conflicts ab and flow but they are always there, right? >> we do not have a single founding moment. >> we do not! >> you play out in terms of florida how many different founders there were, it does not diminish our failing fathers, we are admitting that
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there are other beginnings and founding's. >> that is absolutely right, and, the founding fathers, and this is very important when we talk about the originalism with the constitution. they did not agree. they were making compromises, when you take those documents as though they were deeply hauled passionate believes they had to make compromises because they did not agree. so, again, there is always these negotiations. to enshrine them so that they were a single person. >> some of those disagreements ended in duels. >> yes, absolutely! >> that is how highly debated things were. i have a wonderful job, i have been with oprah for ten years and i curate oprah's book club, i run the books coverage for oprah and our new quarterly magazine. one of the privileges of the
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job is getting to talk to people like you, to read books like this, not only for professional reasons but because i love them personally. one of the things i think was your aim with this book was to pull aside evil. and so, talk to us a little bit about what's pulling aside the veil means and what your intention was also bentley. what you want people to take away from the book. >> yes, first of all i just want to thank you so much. not just with this book but with your support of me as a writer and thinker, it has meant so much. i love that you can read what i am trying to do. they pulling aside the veil, it is asking questions, it is an invitation. this is not a book. >> who coined that phrase? >> the veil as a metaphor,
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there is a series of people who have shaped, previous books have shaped these books. one of them is w. e. beta boys, who was the most prominent black intellectual of the 20th century. >> intellectual? >> intellectual, writer, founder of the naacp and the niagara movement. just an incredible, i mean, wrote novels and scholarship. and, founded the field of american sociology. just an incredible person. the first black man to get a ph.d. from harvard. in 1903 he published the souls of black folk, it started as a series of articles in the atlantic. and, he published it as a book. it introduces this metaphor of the veil. the veil is really a metaphor that is based am and represents the color line.
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they space between black and white communities in that time period. because of jim crow. the thing about avail is that those who live behind the veil come see out. but, those outside of a veil, even if you think about a fail at a funeral service cannot really see the face of the person suffering. it is also a metaphor about african american folk beliefs. which is, if a baby is born with a veil over their face, a membrane, they are gifted with second sight, can see ghosts and the other side. they can understand the complexity of this world and the world beyond. and so, to pull aside the veil is, in many ways, an invitation to the world of the kind of knowledge from those behind the veil. of various sorts. right? i am taking it out of the experience of southern african
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americans but trying to open it up for those of us who are behind the veil in so many different ways. because it is a way of rethinking, an invitation to the conception of who we are. i am so thrilled there are people who are willing to travel with me to do that. [inaudible]
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