Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (2021) Movie Script

If you have ever owned a slave,
please raise your hand.
And there's not one hand going
up anywhere in this theater.
Slavery is not our fault.
We didn't do it.
We didn't cause it.
It's not our responsibility.
But it is our shared history.
And when we try and turn it
into something that it's not...
when we try and make
more light of it than it was,
then we are denying
who we really are,
and we are impeding our ability
to truly move forward
as a community or as a nation.
We're at the Lorraine Motel.
And right outside Room 306,
there's a wreath,
which is approximately
where Dr. King was standing
when he was shot down.
And if you look
across the street,
there's a building over there
from where the shots were fired.
It was a shot
that almost couldn't miss.
Exactly one week
before Dr. King was shot
there was a demonstration here
in Downtown Memphis
to support the striking
sanitation workers,
and my dad took
my older brother and I
to that demonstration.
It broke into violence,
and my dad told us to run.
It's difficult
to think about now,
because there was a young Black
teenager named Larry Payne
who lost his life that day.
He encountered a police officer
and was killed, and...
It's just one of those events
in my childhood
that made me realize
how lucky I was.
Uh, how lucky I was
not to end up like Larry Payne.
And how lucky I was
to have come out of Memphis...
in the way that I did.
We've gotta give ourselves
to this struggle until the end.
Nothing would be more tragic
than to stop...
at this point in Memphis.
We've gotta see it through.
Tonight, Jeff Robinson
will tell us stories
that we've not heard.
Stories that we think we know
but have not wrestled
with their meaning yet.
The story of us.
Ladies and gentlemen, give it up
for Jeff Robinson, y'all.
Hey, y'all.
I was 11 years old in 1968.
And to my young eyes,
we had been on a path toward
racial justice that was amazing.
There was the Civil Rights Act,
the Voting Rights Act.
We were winning on buses
and at lunch counters.
We were seemingly, to me,
at a tipping point
where we were either
gonna roll forward
with this incredible momentum
on racial justice
or we could roll back.
And then April 4th happened.
And King got shot in the neck.
And it felt like
the whole thing
just rolled back.
Because then came Richard Nixon
and the War on Drugs.
We're 50 years later now.
And once again,
young activists in America
are making Americans
take a look in the mirror,
in terms of our true history
of race and racial prejudice.
Once again, the young activists
are calling us to account.
Once again, America is having
to look at issues of race
dead in the eye, and once again,
we are at a tipping point.
And the question
for all of us in this room is:
"What are we gonna do about it?"
We are our own worst enemies
when it comes to making
true racial progress in America.
And unless we are willing
to take a long and hard look
in the mirror,
this concept of taking two steps
forward and three steps backward
is where we are going to
continue moving in this country.
In 2011,
my wife and I became parents.
My sister-in-law who lived here
in Queens passed away,
and we became the parents
of her then-13-year-old son.
And if you ask Matthew
Liam Brooks, "What are you?"
He will tell you,
"I'm Puerto Rican,
Tano Indian
and African American."
And he's very proud of that.
And when I look at him, I say,
"I understand, dude.
But you're a young Black male.
'Cause that's
what America is gonna see."
And all of a sudden,
the surface skimming
that I felt like
I had been doing about...
On the history of race and
what racism meant in America,
it wasn't enough,
and so I started reading more.
And I found myself
getting angry
and feeling ignorant.
I went to Marquette University
and I graduated
from Harvard Law School.
I've had one of
the best educations in America,
and I started learning stuff
about the history of race
in this country
that I had never heard before.
And I thought, "How could
I not have known this?
How could I not have been
taught this?"
And I started thinking,
"If I don't know this,
I wonder how many other people
don't know."
Slavery had nothing to do
with the war.
That was not the cause
of the Southern states seceding.
That was not the cause
of the first shot being fired
on that fort over there.
It was about money.
And it was not about slavery.
It was about Morrill Tariffs.
It was about more money.
Lincoln wanted to impose
45 percent more taxes
on the Southern states.
Taxes on the goods the Southern
states were producing.
And those goods were,
cotton, tobacco and rice.
And those goods...
were produced by slave labor.
All of it.
Isn't that right?
No. Well, I mean...
Ninety-five percent of it?
Isn't that right?
If it's 95 percent produced
by slave labor,
enslaved people...
and the North is saying,
"We're gonna tax you on that
because we want
some of that money,"
and the South is saying,
"No, wait a minute.
We're the ones producing, so you
shouldn't be taking the money,"
that money wouldn't exist
without slave labor.
That did affect the bottom line,
wouldn't you agree with that?
They chose to stay.
In most cases, in the South,
that's the way it worked,
because they were treated
as family.
And they knew what they had.
They didn't know what they were
being faced with if they left.
So your view is that enslaved
people were treated as family?
Then why wouldn't it be
all right for me to own you,
as long as I treated you
like family?
If that's the way
economics work.
Would you be satisfied
with that?
In today's world?
In any world.
In today's time?
At any time.
So was slavery evil?
I'm not denying that.
And this flag has
nothing to do with that?
This was
a soldier's battle flag.
I think I need to...
I'm a little sick today,
and so I'm just standing
in the heat.
Uh, thank you for talking to me.
I will say that.
I... I appreciate that.
Thank you very much
for talking to me.
Yes, sir.
I needed to walk away. Uh...
I am definitely interested
in engaging
with people that don't agree.
But it seemed like facts...
were not that important
to this gentleman.
He knew that what he was saying
made no sense whatsoever,
but he believes it so deeply...
that he's unwilling
to let go of it.
So I don't know
if he can be reached.
But I know that if no one tries,
he definitely won't change.
People aren't just good or bad.
People are many things.
Every person in this theater
knows that's true,
'cause every one of us has been
a saint or a sinner
at some times in our life.
And you know what?
Countries aren't
just one thing either.
They're many things.
America has demonstrated
its greatness
time and time and time again.
And America is one
of the most racist countries
on the face of the Earth.
Those two things
are not mutually exclusive.
It is not an either-or.
And the reason I'm asking us
to think about this
is that, literally,
the future is at stake.
Can I see a show of hands?
How many people can see
a triangle
in the form on the board?
Just throw your hands up.
How about a circle?
How about a star?
The Star of David?
You realize none of those shapes
are on this screen?
Not one of them.
Not one of them.
But what your brain does
is to fill in the gaps,
so that the world makes sense.
And we look at these shapes
and we say,
"I kind of recognize them."
And so we fill in the gaps
so the world makes sense.
And that
doesn't have any problem
when you're doing
something like this.
But the thing is
that we can fill in the gaps
on all sorts of things,
including our judgments
about people.
And sometimes, what we're
filling in the gaps with
comes from a really ugly place.
This is the only time tonight
I'm going to ask you to do this.
I want you to work with me,
and I'm gonna ask you to,
loudly and quickly,
say the color, not the word.
- Are we ready?
- Yes.
Ready? Go.
Red, yellow, blue, green, brown.
Blue, brown, red, yellow, green.
Red, yellow, blue, green, brown.
Blue, brown, red, yellow, green.
Blue, br...
This thing is 80 years old.
And what it does
is to simply demonstrate
that you are making connections
between the word and the color
below your conscious level.
You don't even know
that you're doing it.
And when that connection
is broken,
it actually takes
just a little bit more time
to get to the right answer.
That is the heart of the science
about unconscious bias.
Whether it's unconscious bias
or deliberate bias...
the person experiencing it
experiences exactly
the same thing.
If you don't get the job because
a racist doesn't hire you,
or because somebody
has unconscious bias,
you still don't have a job.
If you get arrested
because somebody had bias
to call the police
because someone Black
is existing in space
and they're nervous,
whether it's unconscious
or deliberate,
you still have to deal
with a law enforcement officer.
The difference is meaningless
when it is talking about
the experience of the person
who is victimized by it.
I'm moving from D.C.,
I'm sweating right now.
I'm in my apartment.
But, you know...
somebody called the cops on me
in my own building.
About... How many of y'all?
About six of y'all showed up.
New at 5:00, a rude welcome
to the neighborhood
for a man
on the Upper West Side.
He was moving
into his apartment building
when a half-dozen NYPD officers
suddenly showed up.
Darren Martin streamed the
encounter live on Instagram.
He says one of his neighbors
called the police
thinking that he was actually
breaking into the apartment.
Even claiming
that he had a weapon.
So this is 106th Street
in Manhattan?
And on the night in question,
uh, looking at where this car
is parked right here,
is this where your U-Haul was?
Our U-Haul was parked
right outside.
Right over here
where this car is.
Right in front of the building.
And then, it looks like 56 is...
Right over here, yeah.
So this is the apartment
that I was moving into.
Yeah, this is it.
And it's outside.
It's a regular building. Looks
like any other walk-up here.
I don't know what those cops'
intentions were when they came.
They were looking for someone
with a weapon.
I could've been killed.
Can I go see my guy?
Can I go upstairs?
Not right now.
Why can't I go anywhere?
We have to check it out.
What's the problem?
I live here.
We gotta do our investigation.
What are you investigating?
Listen, they called, right?
We're doing our job. That's it.
Who called?
If you're doing nothing wrong...
Who called?
Someone called us.
Well, I'm glad
that this is nothing more
than a cramped space
in a hallway
in an apartment building
on 106th Street in New York,
and not another landmark
where another person
from our community
is killed by the police
and we're asking why.
The biases and prejudices
about race in America
are so deep in our DNA
that sometimes we don't even
recognize that they're there.
the Implicit Association Test,
if you haven't taken it.
It's up on the Harvard website,
and it tests your implicit
or unconscious association
on all kinds of things. On race,
on gender, all kinds of things.
And I was interested,
as I was looking at all
of this information,
so I went and took it,
and, uh, it made a mistake.
So I had to take it again.
Uh, because, see,
it gave these results,
and it's like, "That ain't me."
So I took it again.
And it had the same results.
A negative impression
of Black males.
A negative impression of myself.
And I thought,
"Where did that come from?"
All right, Betty Jo,
where you at?
Well, he's got his hands up
there for her now.
This guy's still walking.
He isn't following commands.
Time for a Taser, I think.
That looks like a bad dude too.
May be on something.
He may have just been Tasered.
Shots fired!
Unit 321,
we have shots fired.
We have one suspect down.
Has your brother been
in terms of who he was?
Yes, he has. The narrative...
uh, started out as Terence
being a suspect.
Well, he was a student,
not a suspect.
Just left school
15 minutes earlier.
Fifteen minutes later,
he was dead.
In the media, he was a thug.
He was a criminal.
He was a drug addict.
He was a bad dude.
Nobody ever humanized
my brother.
And I had to let America know
who that bad dude was.
That was my twin.
He was a father.
He was a son.
He was a brother,
an uncle, a cousin.
He was a friend.
He had a family who loved him.
And my brother did not
deserve to die,
with his hands in the air.
Nobody deserves to die
and take
their last breath alone.
He took his last breath alone.
He laid in the street
like an animal.
George Orwell did not write
about a year.
He wrote about
a mindset of oppression.
And there are two things
that he said
that I would strive for each
of us to please remember
as we go forward.
The first,
"Who controls the past,
controls the future."
And, "Who controls the present,
controls the past."
A government that is in power
has the ability
to shape the views
of the population it governs
by putting out a narrative
that sometimes has nothing
to do with the truth.
Yeah. It was...
There are several things
that are problematic there.
The first is that Andrew Jackson
died almost 16 years
before the Civil War.
The second is that
if he had said,
"There's no reason for this,"
it wouldn't have been
because he was saying,
"There's no reason
to have slavery,"
because Andrew Jackson had no
problem with enslaving people.
He was a slaver.
And Andrew Jackson will
tell you
what he thinks
about slavery himself.
Andrew Jackson posted this ad
offering a reward
for the capture
of an enslaved person
who had escaped from him.
And the ad describes
the enslaved man,
what he was wearing,
where he might run,
promises to pay all expenses
involved in capturing him
in addition to the $50 reward,
and $10 extra
for every hundred lashes
any person will give him,
to the amount of 300.
That's who Andrew Jackson was.
And that is who is on the face
of our $20 bills.
Countries aren't
just one thing.
They would sell enslaved people
out of this location
six days a week.
Everyone from newborns
to 70-year-olds
were sold out of here.
For enslaved people
to make the most money
for the traders
and for the sellers,
they have to be prepped first.
Prep could be everything from
high-fat and high-protein diets
to get them
into better physical shape,
as well as, you know,
fresh clothing.
You have this sort of prepping
of the skin through oiling.
If they're looking
a little bit older,
they could either dye the hair
or pluck any grays
that someone would have,
things of that nature,
in order to,
when they come up
onto the block,
they're able to garner
the largest amount of money.
And I'm looking at, here,
a "List of Negroes."
And it says, number one,
the name is Sunday,
the age is 45.
Enslaved people,
they didn't have last names,
until the 1870 Census.
And so it was the question of,
"What is your name?"
Because the names
could be changed
each time you were sold?
They would be changed.
That's the first thing that is
changed every time you're sold.
So on all broadsides
you will ever see,
this is just the name
they come to the sale with.
And keep in mind
that the enslaved property
of slave owners was worth more
than everything else they owned.
It was worth more
than the plantation.
It was worth more
than the land.
More than the goods that are
produced on that plantation.
More than the house. More than
any other liveries they have.
So the first thing
that's going to be sold
to pay for a debt
is your enslaved.
Because you didn't have to
buy them outright.
You could mortgage them.
When it came
to movement of enslaved,
prior to being brought
onto that block,
they're going to be chained.
Now, everyone's
going to be chained.
It's not just
going to be grown-ups.
It's not going to be
the elderly.
It'll also be the children.
And so I think
what I'm looking at are shackles
that were designed
for an adult male,
and shackles that were designed
for a child of maybe 3 or 4.
Yes. Yes.
what are...
the three holes that I see in
these bricks in the walls there?
They're fingerprints.
Um, enslaved people would
begin to learn a skill
at the age of about 6.
And so fingerprints
and hand prints and thumbprints
exist all throughout the city,
because enslaved people built
the city.
And so on churches,
on businesses, on...
In alleyways, you see these.
In theaters, you see these
all throughout the city
in very, very subtle ways.
And if you don't know
what you're looking for,
- you may not see them.
- But they're there.
Absolutely, and they are a way
of the enslaved
who created this city
and created the economy
that created this country
to remind us,
"Hey, I was here too."
And so if I make
the statement to you:
"America was founded
on white supremacy."
You could say, "Jeff,
that's an extreme statement."
And what I would say to you is,
"Don't believe a word
I say about it.
Just listen
to what Americans said."
Because they were willing
to tell you
exactly what they thought.
All you have to do is go look.
We know that in 1619,
20-and-odd enslaved people
were brought to America,
landed in Jamestown.
And by 1636,
less than 20 years later,
we launched the first
American-made slave ship,
the Desire.
And it wasn't built
in Alabama or Mississippi.
It was built in Massachusetts.
And look at the name
of the ship. The Desire.
And the names
of the three subsequent ships
built in America to go to Africa
to get enslaved people.
The Fortune, the Hope
and the Prosperity.
They are telling you with
language that is crystal clear
what they think about
the concept of white supremacy.
In 1662, Virginia passed a law
that said,
"Children of enslaved mothers
are also enslaved."
Very simple law.
Why did they need it?
Because it was clear
that white slave masters
were raping Black women
on a normal and regular basis,
and these rapes
were producing children.
And the law just wanted to say,
"We don't want there
to be any mistake.
If those babies come out
with blue eyes or freckles,
those aren't people,
those are enslaved people."
The law made sure to know that.
Virginia then passed a law
"If slaves become Christians,
that doesn't mean
that they're freed."
Because you become a Christian
if you are enslaved
only by the charity
and piety of your owner.
This is the language
that Americans were using
to describe
the institution of slavery.
They equated it
with charity and piety.
1669, Virginia passed a law,
"An enslaved person's death
while resisting a master
is not a felony."
Would you look
at those words, please?
And think about the videos you
have seen in the past ten years
of Black and brown people
ending up dead
in altercations
with police officers
when they are unarmed?
It's still not a felony.
In 1739,
there was a slave revolt
in Stono, South Carolina,
that was incredibly violent.
There were some white people
that were actually beheaded.
And the state of South Carolina
and they responded quickly.
By 1740, they had passed
a 58-chapter law,
and the purpose of that law,
in their words, not mine,
"So that the slave may be kept
in due subjugation
and obedience."
This wasn't just social racism
or individual racism.
This was the law
inscribing this.
Can you talk just a little bit
about where you're taking us?
I'm taking you on Ashley Avenue
between Fishburne
and Line Streets.
Now, the neighborhood
didn't look like it looks today.
It was a lot of farmland
and some wooded area.
Some people just refer to it
as the Ashley Avenue Oak.
Lynchings or hangings took
place here on this very spot.
This happened from slavery,
it happened
all the way up
until the early 1900s.
So there were lynchings here
even after the Civil War ended?
Well, everybody needs to know
what happened here
so that we would all
be able to learn from it.
Because it's a part
of our history.
American history.
The word "slavery" appears
once in the Constitution.
That's in the 13th Amendment,
outlawing slavery.
And if you go back
to the historical documents,
what you'll see is that the
Southern states would get upset
when the word "slavery"
was used. And for God's sakes,
we don't wanna make
white people uncomfortable.
So the Northerners said,
"Don't worry,
we won't use the word 'slavery'
when we go to the Constitution.
We'll call them things like
'such persons.'"
The Three-fifths Clause
in Article I, Section 2
of the Constitution.
All those Black folks
in Virginia, 236,000?
Well, they will be counted
as three-fifths of a person.
Each one of them.
Article I, Section 9,
no ban on migration
or importations of such persons
until 1808.
What are they saying?
"We have built
all of these ships
to go get enslaved people,
and we need at least about
20 years to keep doing it."
So the Constitution says,
"You can keep doing it
for the next 20 years."
Article II, Section 1.
"Each state shall appoint
a number of electors
equal to the number of
senators and representatives."
What we are talking about,
is the Electoral College.
The Electoral College
was based on the fact
that the Southern states
were concerned
about the power
that they would have
to prevent the government
from taking
the enslaved people from them.
And this was
one of the compromises.
That Three-fifths Clause?
Three-fifths of 236,000
adds a lot of delegates.
Article IV, Section 2,
no freedom for a runaway,
because slaves have to be
returned to owners on demand.
And people have said
that the folks
who wrote our Constitution
were brilliant.
And I agree with that.
They were brilliant
and they were sneaky too.
Because they said,
"You know, somebody may try
and amend the Constitution
and get rid
of Article I, Section 9.
So in Article V, they said:
"You can't amend Article I,
Section 9, until 1808."
This is how important
the concept of white supremacy
was to the people
that founded the country.
When they were talking about
life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness,
they saw that
as being completely consistent
with enslaving people.
The law picked a side.
If you read the historians,
they will tell you
that modern-day
police departments
were originally formed,
especially in the South,
in slave patrols.
I am not saying
that modern-day police officers
are members of a slave patrol.
They are not.
There are law enforcement
officers all over America
who are fighting
for racial justice
and Constitutional and decent
policing in our communities.
But I will tell you this:
People in my community,
from my great-great-great
grandfathers on down,
have had a reason
to fear that badge.
Because the people wearing it,
and the weapons and guns
that they carried,
were used to oppress us.
So the next time
you're wondering,
"Why is there such animosity
in the Black community
when it comes to policing?
Why is there such concern?"
It's in our DNA.
I always used to tell Eric,
you know,
"Don't have any interactions
with the police officers.
Because the police officers,
they have the upper hand.
You have to remember,
they're the ones with the guns.
They're the ones
that could arrest you,
and no matter what you say."
So he would say,
"Oh, yeah, I know, Ma."
And, um, even with all the talk,
we can talk to our children
as much as we want,
it's not always gonna be
a good turnout
when things like this happen.
Mm, right.
That's Eric. Eric is,
I think, five months old
in that picture, if that old.
He was my first-born.
Eric was a gentle giant.
He was a person
who cared about other people
and who thought
everyone was his friend.
Are you serious?
I didn't do nothin'.
What'd I do?
If you can share it...
what was going through your mind
as you heard your son saying,
"I can't breathe"?
Until now, I cannot look
at that video in its entirety,
because when I seen it
for the first time,
I remember me going through
this house banging on walls,
yelling at the police officers,
"Let him go! Let him go!"
Now I could see exactly
what they did to him.
Do not touch me.
When this tragedy
happened to me,
I just wanted
to take to my bed,
and just go to sleep,
and just wake up when this
terrible nightmare was over.
But it was never over.
And the Holy Spirit spoke
to me one evening and says,
"Are you gonna lay there
and die like your son?
Or are you gonna get up,
lift up his name,
and let people know
exactly who he was
and not let
the media demonize him?"
My son will not have
died in vain.
We are gonna support him
every step of the way.
Me and my grandchildren,
my nieces, nephews, sisters,
everybody is going
to support this cause,
'cause we won't rest
until we get justice.
Even though it's too late
for my son,
we have to save other lives.
How would you like your son
to be remembered?
Well, I would like my son
to be remembered as
the sacrificial lamb, that
everyone knows his name now.
And I am so glad that
it is making a difference,
that people are more aware
of the cruelty
and the injustice that's
going on with people of color,
and maybe they will stand up
and take notice, and say,
"Well, hey, we have
to do something about this."
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
- This is real.
- We see what's actually going on
in this world today.
And I'm just hoping
that his name
will live on in history forever.
And as long as I live,
I will always say his name,
and I will ask everyone else
to please say his name
and tell people
what does it mean to them.
His name was Eric Garner.
Eric Garner was his name.
Is his name.
In case you doubt
the lyrics to the third verse
of the national anthem
that you just heard,
these are the handwritten lyrics
from Francis Scott Key.
"No refuge could save
the hireling and slave
from the terror of flight
or the gloom of the grave."
He is celebrating
the murder of enslaved people.
And why would he do that?
He was the wealthy owner
of enslaved people.
He came from a Maryland
plantation-owning family.
In United States
v. Reuben Crandall,
he prosecuted a man
for possessing
abolitionist literature.
He was the city prosecutor
in Washington, D.C.,
and he sought the death penalty.
And here is
his closing argument:
"Are you willing, gentlemen,
to abandon your country,
to permit it to be
taken from you
and occupied
by the abolitionist,
according to whose taste it is
to associate and amalgamate
with the Negro?"
I guess he wrote a nice poem,
but that's
who Francis Scott Key is.
By 1835, cotton
from enslaved people's labor,
55 percent of U.S. exports.
So when we see America starting
to become industrialized,
we see that cotton from
the labor of enslaved people
was a critical part of this.
Twelve U.S. presidents
owned enslaved people.
This covered about
50 of America's first 60 years,
and that's why
I am saying to you,
the people
that founded this country
had no problem
with white supremacy.
They depended on it
to make America a great nation.
So when did slavery end
in New York?
Slavery in New York ended
in 1827,
but to really understand
New York's rise,
in terms of becoming
a financial powerhouse,
it's important to understand
the connection between New York
and enslavement,
even after slavery
was abolished in New York City.
The building behind us
is the Cotton Exchange,
established in the 1850s,
one of the greatest commodities
exchanges in the country.
New York was
a center for finance,
is still the center for finance,
and this is
where slaveholders would come
to get all their endeavors
financed and insured.
We found out recently
that major insurers
like AIG and Aetna
insured enslaved people
as goods.
Enslaved people who died
en route
during the Middle Passage,
enslaved people who died
on the plantation,
all those people,
with their lives, were insured.
So they had
life insurance policies.
Also, major investment banks,
like the now-defunct
Lehman Brothers,
provided financing
for slaveholders.
So the economy of New York
was entwined with slavery.
We're walking up
just from the waterfront,
right back here,
about a block away,
and as we're coming
to the corner
of, uh, Water and Wall Streets,
there is this little park.
I have an idea in my mind
when you say "slave market."
But can you just tell us,
what was happening on this site?
So there was
a municipal market, a pavilion,
that operated
from 1711 until 1762.
By the mid-1700s, one in five
New Yorkers were enslaved.
So they created
this municipal market,
where once you were kidnapped
and brought here,
you would be sold
at this pavilion.
In addition, if you were
already enslaved in New York
and your slaveholder
didn't have something
for you to do during the day,
you could be rented out
for the day at this market.
Like any other transaction
that might occur in the city
where the city would impose
a tax to get revenue,
the slave trade was just
another thing to be taxed?
And that's why New York City
was such a pro-slavery city.
When we say that to people,
they're shocked.
New York was pro-slavery.
New York received,
from cotton alone,
$200 million
in that time's currency.
So if you could imagine
the interests that would
wanna protect that.
How many of you knew that
the mayor of New York City
advocated that New York leave
the Union during the Civil War?
He didn't say,
"Join the Confederacy."
What he said was:
He was saying,
"We can't give this up.
If we withdraw from the Union,
we don't have to join the South.
We can make business deals
with the North
and business deals
with the South.
The money will keep coming in."
So, what was the role of slavery
in America
on the eve of the Civil War?
Well, that yearly
cotton production,
1.5 million pounds in 1790,
try 2.3 billion pounds,
60 percent
of U.S. exports by 1860.
If any of you have ever held
a ball of freshly picked cotton
in your hand,
with no stems
or no sticks on it,
you will know that
it weighs virtually nothing.
How much of that
do you think you had to pick
to get to 2.3 billion pounds
of it?
And how did they do that?
Because the number
of enslaved people
wasn't 700,000 anymore.
It was 4 million.
And remember,
we're not bringing over people
on slave ships after 1808.
Now, history will show
there were definitely ships
of enslaved people
brought after 1808,
but that market dried up
very quickly.
This was done by breeding.
Black women were bred...
so that they would bear children
who could continue
American cotton production.
The value of enslaved people,
in 1860 dollars,
$3.5 billion dollars.
One hundred billion dollars
in today's money.
More millionaires per capita
in the Mississippi Valley,
that's Tennessee,
Mississippi and Louisiana,
than any place else in America.
Today, that is one of the
poorest sections in the country.
There are all kinds of people
who are desperate
to make arguments
that the Civil War was about
something other than slavery.
In the state of Texas,
elected officials
are trying to pass laws
that will require
their schoolteachers
to teach that slavery was
a side issue in the Civil War.
And my response to that is,
once again, don't believe me.
Just go back and look
at what the states said.
Georgia was essentially saying,
"You freaking lied to us.
You told us that we could keep
these people as enslaved people,
and now you're taking them
away from us,
and we're leaving the Union
because of it."
And you know what?
Georgia was right.
They were promised
that they would get to keep
people as enslaved people.
I'm from the state of Tennessee,
and if I wanna go
to my home state
and walk into
the Tennessee statehouse
to see
one of my state legislators,
I gotta walk past this guy,
Nathan Bedford Forrest,
who was either
the originator of the KKK
or one of its first
Grand Wizards,
somebody that was
clearly involved
with the KKK
coming to a height of power,
somebody that was
a Confederate soldier,
and what he had to say about
the Civil War,
at least he was honest.
"If we ain't
fighting for slavery,
then what the hell
are we fighting for?"
Ignorance is not bliss,
because it allows
a false history to thrive.
"Who controls the past,
controls the future."
And if slavery just ended,
and then we had
the Civil Rights Movement,
and everything was fine,
then what are we still
complaining about?
"Who controls the past,
controls the future."
And your children,
they are being taught
that slavery was a side issue
in the Civil War.
Six months before
the Emancipation Proclamation,
Abraham Lincoln passed the
Compensated Emancipation Act.
What did that do?
He freed D.C. slaves,
and first,
he set up a commission
to pay approximately $300,
which was about $7000
in today's money,
in compensation
to former slave owners
for each enslaved African freed.
Please read that carefully.
I'm not fooling.
After nine months,
900 slave owners
were paid $1 million,
in 1860 money...
for lost property.
So when people have a discussion
about reparations for slavery,
it's a false debate,
because reparations
have already been paid.
They were paid to slave owners.
At the very same time
that America refused
to give the Negro any land...
through an act of Congress,
our government was giving away
millions of acres of land
in the West and the Midwest.
Which meant that
it was willing to undergird
its white peasants from
Europe with an economic floor.
But not only
did they give the land...
they built land grant colleges
with government money
to teach them how to farm.
Not only that,
they provided county agents
to further their expertise
in farming.
Not only that, they provided
low interest rates
in order that they could
mechanize their farms.
Not only that,
today many of these people
are receiving
millions of dollars
in federal subsidies
not to farm,
and they are the very people
telling the Black man
that he ought to lift himself
by his own bootstraps.
And this is what
we are faced with,
and this is the reality.
Now, when we come
to Washington...
in this campaign,
we are coming to get our check.
So, what happened
after the war?
Something was happening
in the South,
because the enslaved people
who were newly freed
had been in the starting blocks
for 246 years.
And when the word "go" came,
they were ready.
'Cause what many people fail
to recognize
is Reconstruction
was actually working.
In 1868, before
the 15th Amendment passed,
there were 700,000 Black
registered voters in the South.
Two thousand Black men
served in elected office.
There was a Civil Rights Act
in 1875.
I bet most of the lawyers in
this room don't even know this.
It outlawed
racial discrimination
in housing, schools, public
transportation and jury service.
It was just overruled
by the Supreme Court in 1883.
And then Rutherford Hayes
got elected president.
And in 1877, he withdrew the
Northern troops from the South,
and what happened then is that
the Confederates regrouped
as organizations like the KKK.
The Southern states
started passing laws
to enforce and maintain
white supremacy,
and if you want an example
of what was happening,
in 1896 in Louisiana,
there were 130,344
Black registered voters,
and two years later,
there were just over 5000.
Why do you think 125,000 people
decided not to vote?
There was a chance
at the end of the Civil War,
and there was Reconstruction,
and it was working.
And they reached
the tipping point,
and they just rolled right back.
And this is
what we rolled back to.
In 1896,
the United States Supreme Court
decided Plessy v. Ferguson.
Mr. Plessy got on a train,
on purpose,
knowing he would be arrested,
to test the law in America.
And the United States
Supreme Court said,
"The law of America
is separate but equal."
It's not the custom,
it's the law of the land.
Now, I'm gonna ask you
to look at that image
and understand what was normal,
accepted and American...
in our country.
Because you wanna talk
about race in America
at the turn of the 20th century,
well, there were race riots in
New Orleans and New York City.
In 1901,
105 Black people are lynched.
1902, 85 Black people
are lynched.
Between 1877 and 1950,
more than 4000 racial,
terrorized lynchings in America.
This article appeared in
the Chicago Defender,
December 20, 1947.
It says,
"Enraged, jealous whites
shoot down
successful businessman.
Believed Dixie gang
murdered young father.
Enraged whites, jealous over
the business success of a Negro,
are believed to be the lynchers
of Elmore Bolling,
who was found last week
riddled with shotgun
and pistol bullets.
Those who know say Bolling
has long been a marked man
since he was rated
by whites here
as too successful
to be a Negro."
Your family found
your father's body in a ditch.
Is this the ditch that
we're looking at now?
Yes, this is actually the spot,
and it's ingrained in my memory
where I'm just looking at him
in the ditch with his eyes open.
We heard the shots.
We thought that someone
was killing some cows,
but we actually heard the shots
that killed my dad.
We all went down there,
not knowing what to expect.
His truck that he was driving
was still running,
with the lights on.
He had been shot
six times with a pistol
and once in the back
with a shotgun.
I knew that
what had happened to my father
was extremely bad.
I cried most of the time
until my mom finally sent me
away with the neighbor.
This is a fabulous picture.
Could you tell us who is here?
This is Mom, Bertha Bolling.
Bertha Nowden Bolling.
Um, and this is my dad,
Elmore Bolling.
And one of the things
that we always laugh about,
the children,
is that this thing in his hand,
actually, is her purse.
She kept the money.
So on this picture,
Dad took her purse
and had it under his arm,
because that was the money.
What was the trajectory
of your family
after your father was lynched?
By my father being
the main breadwinner,
we went from prosperity
to poverty almost overnight.
And my mom, she became
a presser in a dry cleaners.
And her arms had
the burns that showed...
You know, that came along
with that kind of labor.
And that was the labor
that put me through college.
The lynchings occurred
for terroristic purposes.
They wanted
to keep Blacks terrified,
to keep them from trying
to do things, and it worked.
Was anyone ever prosecuted?
The killers who,
actually, one of them
actually admitted
that he killed my father
because he insulted his wife
over the telephone,
were never indicted.
And that was
what made me decide
to do the historic marker.
I had to have some symbol
to tell the world
that here was a good man
that was killed
just because he was successful.
And am I correct
that it is on, literally,
the very spot
where your father was killed?
Within feet of where
he was actually killed.
And Confederate monuments
started appearing in America.
And these weren't monuments
that were built
right after the Civil War,
when people were thinking,
"Oh, my God,
we just lost this war,
and our heroes
are so dear to our heart,
we wanna memorialize them."
No, no. They came
mostly in the 20th century.
This is a guy named John Pelham.
What did he do?
Well, he resigned
from West Point in 1861
to join the Confederate Army,
and here's what he did
to get a monument.
"He displayed a genius
for dashing to a spot
that commanded the battlefield
and bravely raining shot
and canisters
on forces that greatly
outnumbered his own."
Translated, he killed a whole
bunch of American soldiers
in defense of slavery.
And they built
a monument to him for that,
not for something else.
When people say, "Well, George
Washington owned slaves too,
and he has a monument. Are you
gonna take away his monument?"
And my response is
the Washington Monument
was not built
because George Washington
owned slaves.
He did own slaves,
and he will be damned for that.
Having said that,
George Washington
led the Revolutionary Army,
and, I don't know,
he founded the country?
So maybe that's why
they built him a monument.
The fact that he owned
enslaved people
had nothing to do
with his monument.
The Confederate monuments
were built for one reason,
to honor people for what
they did from 1861 to 1865.
And those monuments honor people
during that time period
for doing one thing,
maiming and murdering
American soldiers
so that they could keep
owning enslaved people.
That's where the monuments are.
Those are the top ten states.
And this is
who we are in America.
What's up, y'all?
Tami Sawyer here.
I'm live at the
Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.
Right here
in Memphis, Tennessee.
I just wanted to come down
and let
Nathan Bedford Forrest know,
uh, that he has
a formidable opponent.
I was asked,
"What's one thing
you think you could
make happen in a year?"
I said, "We can get
these damn statues removed."
And I didn't believe it,
but I said,
"That sounds like one thing
we could do."
And, um, I went on Facebook,
and I made a post that said,
"Who wants to talk about
these statues?" And next thing,
we had filled
Bruce Elementary gym
with 350 Memphians of all ages,
races, genders,
sexualities, creeds,
even a descendant of Nathan
Bedford Forrest himself,
who came together to say,
"We want Nathan Bedford Forrest
and Jefferson Davis
and all Confederate memorabilia
removed from our city."
Take them down.
Take them down.
Protect the people,
not the statue.
Protect the people,
not the statue.
Protect the people,
not the statue.
How do you respond
to the people that say,
"This isn't about slavery
or oppression of Black people.
This is about Southern culture
and Southern history
and maintaining our history"?
I think that those people
need to, one, learn history.
When people talk
about Southerners,
they think about white people.
But the economy of the South
and the culture of the South
was built off slavery.
The food we eat, right?
Fried chicken, ham hocks,
collard greens.
That's Black people.
The music we listen to.
Elvis is not Elvis
without Black musicians, right?
Martin Luther King
was killed here, right?
the blood of Black people,
seeps so deeply
into the ground of the South,
you cannot look at...
You cannot describe Southerners
or Southern history
or American history with
the exclusion of Black people.
And so the people who say
that we're rewriting history,
they rewrote history.
Now, if we had
a statue that says,
"Here lies the graves
of a notorious slave owner
and his wife,
who only became one
of the richest people in Memphis
because of his brutal practices
towards Black Americans."
But that's not the history
that people are ready
to reconcile.
And I see our Black kids, their
lights go out in their eyes
at 3, 4, 5 years old.
They believe they're lesser than
by the time
they've reached kindergarten.
And if we can change anything,
I believe that we could change
the landscape of our city
so they didn't have
to be reminded on a daily basis
that they are considered
second-class citizens
by many people in this country.
History is being made
in Memphis tonight.
Within the next few hours...
both the Nathan Bedford Forrest
and Jefferson Davis statues
will no longer stand
in our city.
While we watched
the cranes come in,
the park get filled
with workers,
and I was right
across the street to witness,
at 9:01 on December 20th, 2017,
Nathan Bedford Forrest
rise above that pedestal
for the first time
since he was placed.
What was that feeling like?
It's a complicated feeling.
One of relief, one of joy,
um, and one of sadness.
Where was the sadness from?
We had to fight so hard, right?
Like, that I had friends
who went to jail for this,
that a woman was killed
for this, right?
And that our statue came down,
and almost another thousand
stand across the country.
And that people are working
harder to protect them
and tell us that we are wrong
or attention-seekers
than they are to reconcile
and get to a point of truth
and understanding about
who these people were.
February 10, 1915, The Birth
of a Nation is released.
D.W. Griffith's stupendous
motion picture production
of Thomas Dixon's famous story,
The Clansman.
It employed the services
of 18,000 people
and a symphony orchestra of 40.
As you can see, it took
three years in production.
It was one of the first movies
screened in the White House.
And it had white actors
in blackface, like this one.
And this story, by the way...
does damage...
not only
to every Black person...
but it takes the issue
of sexual assault
and twists it in a way
that's incredible.
Because, of course, rather than
let a Black man touch her...
she'll jump to her death.
This is what Woodrow Wilson
had to say about the movie.
"The white men were roused
by a mere instinct
of self-preservation
until at last, there had
sprung into existence
a great Ku Klux Klan,
a veritable empire
of the South,
to protect
the Southern country."
This is the president
of the United States.
Folks, this was entertainment.
This was a pleasant evening
at the movies.
This is who we are as Americans
at the turn of the last century.
Over your shoulder is a bridge
with a man's name on it.
And I have seen
pictures of that bridge
ever since I was
a young, young child,
and I see the name
Edmund Pettus.
I think there are
very few people in America
who know who Edmund Pettus
really was.
Edmund Pettus was
a powerful leader in this area.
He was a former U.S. Senator.
Uh, most importantly,
he was the Grand Dragon
of the Ku Klux Klan.
Highest leader.
When this bridge was completed,
I think, in 1940 or so,
they wanted a symbol.
They wanted
to name, uh, the bridge
after somebody who, uh,
would send a signal
of "stay in your place,"
because symbols
are more powerful than words.
And so this
is a very powerful symbol.
Every time someone cross
the Edmund Pettus Bridge,
it gets in them.
Every time someone see
a photo of it, it gets in them.
Every time one sees something
on TV, it gets in them.
So that's why, in the Senate,
uh, I got...
I introduced a resolution
to change the name
from Edmund Pettus Bridge
to the Freedom Bridge.
And the state of Alabama,
last year, passed a law
that said you cannot change
the names of any of these
so-called iconic
white supremacist symbols.
- And somebody says,
- "Well, this is history."
This is symbolism.
This is not history.
We ought never confuse
symbolism with history.
Symbolism is somebody's idea
about a response to what
happened. Not what happened.
You are to move off
of the street immediately
and assemble in front
of Lehman's Pontiac Dealer,
otherwise you will not
be protected.
And here it is,
50-some years later after that,
and we're still fighting
for the right to vote,
we're still fighting to keep
our children from being killed,
we're still fighting
to keep our people
from being incarcerated,
we're still fighting
for all kinds of things.
So that just demonstrates
the depth of white supremacy.
And I didn't fully
understand that.
The Greenwood neighborhood
in Tulsa
was called Black Wall Street
by many people.
These are some of the images
of how Black Americans
were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
in 1921.
The level of economic
advancement was astounding.
Six hundred businesses,
21 churches,
21 restaurants,
30 grocery stores,
two movie theaters,
six private airplanes,
a hospital, bank,
post office, schools.
Libraries, law offices,
even a bus system.
On May 30th of 1921,
a young Black man was arrested
and accused
of trying to assault
a white female
elevator operator.
All of the historical records
that the kid tripped
in the elevator
and bumped into
this white woman.
But he was arrested,
and the rumor mill started,
and a lynch mob formed.
Well, the men in Greenwood
were World War I veterans,
and when they heard
about the lynch mob,
they got their guns and
went down to the courthouse.
Not to break anybody out,
but to keep the lynch mob out.
On June 1st, 1921,
white people rented airplanes.
They got
burning balls of turpentine,
and they dropped them
on the businesses
and homes in Greenwood.
And when Black people ran out
of the burning buildings
and homes,
they were shot dead by
white people standing outside.
I get angry
when I read about this
referred to as "the Tulsa Riot."
This was not a riot.
This was a massacre.
This was the cost
of preventing a lynching.
I thought the world
was coming to an end.
I felt, "Well, what in the world
is going on?"
Being as young as I was,
I didn't understand.
But it was quite a mess.
It was quite something.
Would you introduce yourself,
Tell folks your name?
My name is Lessie Evelyn Randle.
It was Benningfield
before I married, and, uh...
I am 100 and... years old.
I remember, I don't know
what you call them, rebels,
or what they were, came in,
and, um, they just spared
Grandmother's home,
they didn't burn her home.
But the homes all around us
were burned,
and stores were just...
cleaned out and everything,
but it was quite something.
I never wanted to see
anything like that again.
I saw two or three being
shot down as we were escaping.
At one time,
we went in an area
where they had killed so many,
just had them piled up
in the street in a pile.
And I thought that was terrible.
I remember thinking that.
I said, "What are these people
doing lying around like this?"
One of the people told me,
"They're dead.
They were killed."
I said, "Oh, my God."
That, of course, scared me,
being a kid and everything,
but it was quite something.
So this is
a city-owned cemetery?
The name of it is...?
Oaklawn Cemetery.
And it was a place
where we have
very credible evidence,
eyewitness testimony
that's been passed down,
that bodies were dumped.
And we've gotten
documented stories
from white citizens
that live in Tulsa
who had families here
during the massacre and before.
'Cause one of the guys
that I interviewed told me,
he said, "My father took me..."
You used to be able to walk up
to the rail system.
He said they brought rail cars
through here, flatbed rail cars,
and they just rolled bodies off.
But our contention was
the bodies were dumped
all the way
where the underpass is,
and they intentionally put
the interstate
on top of their bodies,
knowing that nobody
would ever think...
To look under the road.
...to look under the road.
What is the most
reasonable estimate
of how many people died?
You're looking at 4000 people...
...that you cannot account for.
Yeah, I agree.
So it's a genocide.
It's an ethnic cleansing,
you know?
Even to call it a massacre
marginalizes it,
you know,
because it's just too big.
It's too big of a story.
You see the steps
over to the left?
- Yes.
- We call those
the Steps of No Return.
And why are they called
the Steps of No Return?
'Cause the houses
were never rebuilt.
- Yeah, it's a powerful...
- Mm-hm.
Powerful place to be.
And you look forward,
you look at the city,
and you just imagine what was.
And what could have been.
Yeah. Oh, my gosh.
If this hadn't been destroyed.
This city could've had
an incredibly
different destiny.
- Yeah.
- Definitely.
I never wanted to see
anything like that again.
Of course, you never know
what may happen again.
You never know.
Because the way it's going now,
from what I've seen...
I feel like
anything could happen.
How is it possible that
this could happen in America
and not be taught
in history books
up one side and down the other?
Do you know how many people
were prosecuted
for the Tulsa Massacre?
Do you think law enforcement
didn't know
who rented an airplane
on June 1st?
Do you think law enforcement
couldn't tell from the pictures
who were walking around town
with shotguns
over their shoulders
to figure out who may have shot
some of the Black people?
Do you really think
law enforcement
didn't know what happened?
The reason I have shown this
and shown
the pictures of lynchings,
is that these kind of things
could not happen
without law enforcement
or direct involvement.
You can't hang somebody from
a tree in the middle of the city
and have the police
not know about it.
The hand you see
in that picture
is the hand
of Emmett Till's mother.
That woman is one
of the bravest women
in American history,
because she took
her personal tragedy...
...her incredibly
personal tragedy,
and she made a decision.
"I am going to make America
look at who we are."
And in 1955,
this next picture appeared
in newspapers across America.
And I believe, personally,
that many white people
across America woke up
and looked at this picture
in the paper,
and said something
to themselves like this:
"I know those colored people
down there
are causing a problem...
but I didn't sign up for this."
Everyone thinks that America
is still
one of the most segregated
countries in the world
because of social individual
prejudice and finances.
And I'm not saying
that those two things
don't have some relationship
to our segregated country.
What I am saying is federal,
state and local governments
deliberately sabotaged
Black homeownership.
This wasn't a mistake.
This was the deliberate policy
of the federal government.
The Federal Housing Authority
drew redline maps
of every major city in America.
That's the redline map
of Brooklyn, New York.
"A," or green ranking, meant
the neighborhood
was homogeneous.
A "B," or blue ranking,
meant it was still desirable
and expected to remain stable.
A "C" ranking meant
it was declining,
beginning to be integrated,
on Black neighborhoods.
And a "D" ranking was red,
for redlining,
any Black presence at all.
And this was the truth
from sea to shining sea.
And then we reach 1954,
with Brown v. The Board.
I will tell you, this had
a major impact on my life
in terms
of school desegregation.
This is what Thurgood Marshall
argued in the Supreme Court.
And doesn't that make sense?
What the heck is
"separate but equal" except:
"You are not human enough.
Don't drink my water
out of my water fountain,
don't use the bathroom
and my toilet,
don't go to school
with my children."
Let's stroll
and see if we can find
our eighth grade
graduation picture
and second grade
First Communion picture.
Uh, it used to be down here.
I think the lights may
come on as we walk.
Yeah, there we go.
There it is.
Ah, here we go.
Yeah, but this...
There's First Communion.
That's First Communion.
That's me.
- That's Opie right there.
- That's right.
That's my older brother,
My older brother, Herbert, and I
were the first two Black kids
to come to school at St. Louis.
Opie, you and I met each other
the summer before
the second grade,
and that was the start of
one of the best friendships
I've ever had in my life.
Well, as we were going
to school here
and different things
were happening in the world,
I remember when King
was assassinated, for example.
Uh, Op, what do you remember
about that?
I remembered that, uh,
I think it was the first time
I saw my father
be armed with a shotgun
in our house
just because of the fear
of... Just of civil unrest.
But, you know, we were
still so young at that time
that we didn't have a true sense
of what was really going on.
Uh, we were just having fun.
And we would go places,
um, and the only thing
that really...
I think the first time
that I felt any discomfort is,
and you might recall this,
uh, we took the bus
to the Crosstown Theater.
And the movie Patton
had just come out,
with George C. Scott.
And at the Crosstown...
we went and we had to sit
in the balcony
because Jeffery wasn't allowed
to sit in the main area.
Uh, I didn't think much of it
because I wanted to sit
in the balcony to start with.
It's pretty neat up there.
But it was the first time
that I realized
that there were differences
on how we were treated
by others.
And I remember it was something
that we kind of brushed off
in our childhood, but looking
back on it, it's, uh...
It's just sad.
One thing I remember
more than anything else
about those days,
where y'all were concerned,
and hopefully you don't even
hardly remember this,
because I tried
to take care of it
in a very professional manner.
Um, we went to Sacred Heart
in Walls, to a basketball game,
and we were all
getting out of the car,
and we were walking
into the gym.
And a man grabbed me by the arm
and said, "What are you doing?"
And I said, "Pardon me?"
And he said,
"We don't allow Blacks in
the gym, or to play in the gym."
So this is Mississippi,
which is right over the line.
And I said,
"Well, that's fine."
Uh, and I remember turning
to y'all, and I said,
"They've got a problem
with the clock,
and with what's going on here,
we all are out here.
We're leaving."
And the parents of the team,
they were fine with it.
I explained
to a couple of them.
We were walking out
the gym door,
and the pastor there
at Sacred Heart was coming in.
He stopped me, and he said,
"Mr. Orians,
what are you doing?"
And I said,
"Well, this is what happened
when I went in the gym."
And he goes,
"No, that ain't happening."
And he went back in that gym,
and he got the coaches
and the parents together,
and we went back into the gym
and we played.
I didn't know that.
I figured not.
What I remember
about that tournament,
a kid on the other team, at
one point, calling me a nigger.
And I remember
there was a time-out,
and my dad must have been near
the bench, and I said to him,
"You know, this kid
called me a nigger."
He looked me in the eye
and he said,
"So, what do you wanna do
about it? Do you wanna quit?
Do you wanna cry?
Or do you wanna keep playing?"
And I was like,
"I wanna keep playing."
And he's like, "Then forget
about it and keep playing,"
which is what I did.
But I... My memory of that
was always just that
it was this kid, uh...
who had interacted with me.
I definitely remember the trip
to Walls, Mississippi,
because I remember
that you could
get a Coca-Cola for a nickel
in those machines,
and up here,
it was like 10 or 15 cents,
and I'm like,
"Damn, this is great.
Maybe we wanna live here,"
and my father's like,
"No, I don't think we do."
Uh, but it's one of the things
that, uh, you protected
all of us from,
um, and I just wondered
whether those things
were still in your head.
I was thinking about this work
that we're doing,
and thinking about
coming back to Memphis,
that the relationships
that I built here,
uh, even though I haven't
seen people in so long,
are some of the warmest things
that I can ever remember.
And these kind of relationships
are the things
that are important in life.
And it is so good
to see both of you.
And, uh, I just love the fact
that we were able
to grow up together.
Dick, I'm gonna
give you back this ball.
The first integrated
high school game in Memphis,
Catholic, 14,
Father Bertrand, 7.
There you go.
Thank you both so much.
All right.
Jeffery, man, good seeing you.
Dick, thank you, brother.
All right, buddy.
The promise of Brown, what
a lie that's turned out to be.
American schools today
are almost as segregated
as they were in the '50s.
This is the "victory" document
from the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The document that was circulated
in the Black community
the night before the buses
were gonna be integrated,
a bus boycott that lasted
for more than a year,
where Black women
were going into white homes,
being maids in those homes,
and they were getting up
at 4 and 5:00 in the morning
to walk to those homes
and then walk back
to their homes
in the Black neighborhoods
and get there
maybe at 8:30, 9:00 at night,
try and feed their families,
try and take care
of their families,
and then get up the next day
and do it all over again
for over a year.
And I get 15 minutes late
to work, and I get pissed off.
This is the victory document.
"The bus driver
is in charge of the bus,
and has been instructed
to obey the law.
Where did this come from?
This is the difference
that every Black person
in America knows.
It's the slip
between the law and living.
Yeah, the law says
you can ride that bus
and sit wherever you want,
but don't go getting yourself
killed over it.
"Talk as little as possible,
and always in a quiet tone."
Don't make
white people uncomfortable,
because the cost of that
could be your life.
And I... I don't know
what to say about that one,
and I definitely don't know
what to say about this one.
"If you feel you cannot take it,
walk for another week or two."
This is the difference
between the law and living
when you're Black in America.
When was the last time
you were here in this temple?
Hmm. Fifty years ago.
Larry's funeral.
I remember
it was around 700 people here.
I mean, they was all outside,
it was packed.
And Larry was
in a white casket.
And my mother and father
were standing at his casket.
And they was crying.
This is where the march
started, at Clayborn Temple,
and they marched downtown.
Larry and, uh,
some more of his classmates
had left school,
because the school was urging
everybody to go down there.
And so him and some of his
friends had went down there.
What did your family hear
about what actually happened
to Larry?
It was... Witnesses.
I mean, a lot of witnesses
at that time,
and they said that the officer,
Leslie Dean Jones,
he was running with a shotgun,
and Larry saw him
running with the shotgun.
So he ran in what they call
a boiler room,
and he ordered Larry
to come out.
And Larry, he came out
with his hands in the air
and said, "Don't shoot."
He put the shotgun
in his stomach
and pulled the trigger...
at close range.
At close range.
My mother,
she ran out the house,
she didn't have no shoes on,
and she reached to touch Larry,
and he put the barrel
in her chest
and told her to
"Get back, nigger."
And she said, "That's my son."
When I got home,
my father, Mason Payne,
he was in the driveway,
and he was crying.
And I said,
"Dad, what's wrong?"
He said, "Larry gone.
He won't be back.
He won't be back."
He was a young Black man,
in school and working.
He didn't have a chance
to live his life.
Larry was murdered
in cold blood
for no reason at all.
Devastated. We were devastated.
I mean, still going through it.
Still going through it.
Larry's gone,
but he will never be forgotten,
not by the Payne family.
But I must confess that, uh,
that dream that I had that day
has, in many points,
turned into a nightmare.
Now, I'm not one to lose hope.
I keep on hoping.
I still have faith
in the future,
but I've had to analyze
many things
over the last few years,
and I would say,
over the last few months,
I've gone through
a lot of soul-searching
and agonizing moments,
and I've come to see
that we have
many more difficult days ahead,
and some of the old optimism
was a little superficial,
and now it must be tempered
with a solid realism.
And I think
the realistic fact is
that we still have
a long, long way to go.
I think the biggest problem now
is that we got our gains
over the last 12 years
at bargain rates, so to speak.
It didn't
cost the nation anything.
In fact, it helped
the economic side of the nation
to integrate lunch counters
and public accommodations.
It didn't
cost the nation anything,
uh, to get the right to vote
And now we are
confronting issues
that cannot be solved
without costing the nation
billions of dollars.
Now, I think
this is where we're getting
our greatest resistance.
They may put it
on many other things,
but we can't get rid
of slums and poverty
without it costing the nation
A lot of people who want change,
they just don't want the change
to cost them anything
or to require them
to change anything
about the way
that they're living.
Fifty years ago,
this report came out.
It came out about three weeks
before King was killed
in my hometown of Memphis.
And these are the things
that it said,
the basic conclusion
of the Kerner Report:
Folks, this is what
they're saying 50 years ago.
"The deepening racial divide
is not inevitable.
The movement apart
can be reversed.
Choice is still possible.
Our principal task
is to define that choice
and press
for a national resolution.
To pursue our present course
will involve
the continuing polarization
of the American community
and ultimately the destruction
of basic democratic values."
Does that sound familiar?
"White institutions created it,
white institutions maintain,
and white society condones it."
This is 50 years ago,
and three weeks later, that's
what happened in my hometown.
King was killed
on April 4th, 1968.
He was scheduled to give
a speech in a Memphis church
that Sunday, April 7, 1968.
This is the title of the speech
that was found among his papers
in the Lorraine Motel
after he was killed.
I wonder what that speech
would have been like.
So in 1968,
the Fair Housing Act
ended 34 years
of legal redlining,
and what I wanna tell you for
a few minutes now is about luck.
Because if you look
at this picture,
the guy on your left
with the little gangster lean
and the tilted hat, that's me.
The guy in the front
with the hat
looking down
at my younger sister
is my younger brother, who's
seated in the front audience.
And that's my father, my older
brother and my younger sister.
That's the house we lived in
in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962.
In an all-Black neighborhood
in Memphis.
And what happened in '68,
after King was killed,
is that there was a developer
who was essentially buying
all the houses
in our neighborhood.
Well, my dad wouldn't
sell our house.
My dad and my mother
were converted Catholics,
and they wanted their kids
in Catholic school,
and that meant
schools in East Memphis,
and that meant
living in a white neighborhood.
So my dad made a deal
with the developer.
"You buy me a house,
and I'll give you my house."
We went looking at houses.
Every time
we would look at a house,
we would offer the asking price,
and the house would get sold
by somebody else,
or "Another agent sold it,"
or "We lost the contract
when we went fishing
and it fell out of the boat,"
and all these excuses.
This is the house
that we ended up living in.
Four bedrooms,
two and a half bathrooms,
a quiet place for me and my
brothers and sisters to study,
a good school district,
all the things
that Americans say you need
in order to be successful.
We went to look at this house
and offered the asking price,
and we had white friends of ours
go about a half an hour later,
and they offered less money,
and they sold it to them,
but they were buying it for us.
This does bring back
a lot of memories.
Yeah. And it looks
about the same as it was.
It really does.
Uh, maybe a little paint,
but this is pretty much
how I remember it.
We moved into this house after
Dr. King was killed in 1969.
And your family played a role
that I never quite understood
until you and I have
just recently talked.
Could you tell us about that?
Well, um,
my mother-in-law was a Realtor.
Now, she was
a 64-year-old Jewish woman
who had been born and raised
in Memphis.
And so she agreed
to be your parents' Realtor,
and she would show them houses,
and when they came
and saw this house,
it was a brand-new house.
The real estate agent
came to the door,
and at first,
I think she thought
my mother-in-law was
the customer.
My mother-in-law gave her
her card,
and when she realized it,
she said something
and slammed the door
in their face.
Uh, so by that time,
they'd seen so many houses,
they just said,
"We've got to find another way."
So then their friends,
Web and Pat Smith,
were the ones
who bought the house,
and when they came
and the Realtor saw them,
she was very excited and happy.
And so then
they bought the house
and transferred it
to your parents.
And what I remember
is you and Andy,
and my parents...
I have this memory of you guys
laughing in our living room,
and I knew it had something
to do with a house,
and I knew you and Andy
had somehow helped us
to get this house,
and we couldn't talk about it
until we moved in
because my parents
were concerned
that somebody would do
something to the house
if they knew we were moving in.
Yeah, well...
But then after you moved in,
did you have much difficulty
in the neighborhood?
I remember the first week
that we moved in,
my daddy sat
on the carport right here,
under the carport,
in a lawn chair
with a shotgun across his lap.
And he would sit there
until early in the morning
because he was gonna be ready
if somebody came to the house.
Wow, I didn't realize that.
I remember it took a while
for people to get used to us
living here.
The woman that lived
right here came over
the day we moved in,
to the front door,
and she had a plate
of chocolate chip cookies.
And I am addicted
to chocolate chip cookies,
and I have been
ever since I was a kid.
And she knocked on the door,
and my mom opened the door,
and I had run behind my mom,
just to see who it was.
And she said, "May I speak
to the lady of the house?"
And my mother said,
"You're looking at her."
And she just spun
and walked back to the house.
Taking the cookies with her.
I was like,
"Could I have just one cookie?"
And so that was
me and Herbert's room.
That was Teresa and Michelle.
And was that your room
or the bathroom?
That's the bathroom,
then my window...
Your window faces that way.
The yard looks even
a little bigger than I remember.
I just remember it being huge...
and having to use those clippers
along the edges of the fence
to cut that grass
that he never could stand.
With all the shit we were taking
about moving in here,
he's like, you know,
"My yard will be the best yard."
The showplace.
There's a cemetery right across
the street, and I remember, uh,
soon after we moved in,
I was over there one night.
Uh, I'd just
come out of the house,
I don't know what I was doing,
but I was sitting on the wall,
and a police car pulled up.
And the officers got out
and asked me who I was,
and they patted me down, and
they said, "Where do you live?"
I said, "I live
right across the street.
I'm just hanging out." They
said, "You don't live there."
And they brought me over here,
and of course,
Mommy answered the door,
and they're like,
"Just wanted to bring your son
home, make sure he was safe."
I'm like, "No. They were
saying I didn't live here.
They didn't believe me."
And then I remember Mommy
and Daddy always saying,
"Well, we don't
have to move far,
'cause we're just going
right across the street."
So the cemetery
across the street
is where they're both buried.
Shortly before my dad died,
he was asking whether he and
my mom made the right decision,
saying, "I know
it was hard on you
and your brothers and sisters,
and living in that neighborhood
had its challenges,
and maybe it wasn't
the right decision."
And, uh, I don't know
what would have happened
to my brothers
or my sisters or me
if we hadn't come here.
This is part of
what made me who I am.
This is what luck looks like.
I have worked as hard
as anybody in this theater
to get where I am today,
and I am proud of that.
But I am lucky.
I was not the smartest kid
in my neighborhood,
and that ball
that we saw rolling back
when King got shot,
the only reason I didn't
get crushed by that ball
is that I had
unicorns for parents,
who figured out some way
to get their kids
into a situation
where they had
a better chance to succeed.
And if that's what it takes
to have a legitimate chance
at success,
having unicorns for parents,
or just having dumb luck...
Is that really a country
that you want to live in?
And so when you hear words,
when you hear the concept
expressed of "white privilege,"
I am begging you to think
about that in a different way.
White privilege doesn't mean
that you haven't worked hard.
It doesn't mean that you haven't
overcome obstacles.
It means that you walk
through the world differently
than the Black and brown people
in this country.
It does not take away
from your hard work
or your accomplishments at all.
It simply says
this playing field is not level.
And that's because racism
is more than just prejudice.
It is prejudice
plus social power,
plus legal authority.
And Black and brown people
have never had
the last two in America.
Not when we were brought here
as enslaved people,
not during
the Civil Rights Movement,
and not while Barack Obama
was in the White House.
So, what did
our prison population look like
as we entered the Nixon years?
Looked like about that,
just under 400,000 people.
Here's what John Ehrlichman
had to say
about Nixon's strategy.
And when we hear, today,
America say,
"My God, the opioid epidemic,
it's taking our children.
This is horrible.
It's a medical issue.
We can't treat our children
as enemies in a war.
We have to help our children."
I'm not trying to be facetious
or to say that's not right.
Of course it's right.
But where was that sentiment
when crack cocaine was
destroying Black communities?
This is Bill Clinton
signing the 1994 Crime Bill,
a bill that did more damage
to racial justice
in the criminal legal system
than any bill that
I can remember in a long time.
This is not about
Democrat or Republican.
This is about America.
Bill Clinton is saying...
And he was speaking the truth,
because the values
that America has expressed
up to that point,
and with what that law did,
they were the values
of mass incarceration
and white supremacy.
So, what happened?
That's what happened.
And it wasn't an accident.
And so here...
are pictures of what
I refer to as "snuff films,"
things that we have now gotten
used to seeing in America.
The killings of Black
and brown men and women.
The ten cities with the largest
police departments
collectively paid out
$1.02 billion
between 2010 and 2015
in police misconduct cases,
which include alleged beatings,
and wrongful imprisonments.
You can't pay a billion dollars
for police misconduct
and not have criminal activity.
So we now know
that to some Americans,
Black Lives Matter
is a hate group.
And what I would encourage you
to think about...
is that the things
that they're saying
about Black Lives Matter
activists today
are the exact same things
they were saying
about Martin Luther King
in the '60s.
Martin Luther King was arrested
30 times in 12 years.
We have a word for that.
It's called "thug."
That's what we refer to
activists today as, in America,
because they're in our face.
They're making us look at things
we don't want to look at.
They're interrupting
our football games.
We've gotta give ourselves
to this struggle until the end.
Nothing would be more tragic
than to stop,
at this point in Memphis.
We've gotta see it through.
America was at the point
where we were going to move
from who we were
to who we could be,
and who we always wanted to be.
And I remember thinking
as a kid,
"Well, who's going
to lead us now?"
The leader that was going to
make this movement go somewhere
had been taken away,
and I think that's a lesson
to be learned about this work,
and a lesson that the women who
established Black Lives Matter
have learned clearly:
You can't kill one person
and stop
the Black Lives Matter movement.
And the three women that set it
up that way did it on purpose,
so that there would be leaders
in small communities
all around America.
- Say his name!
- George Floyd.
- No justice.
- No peace.
You are seeing Black people,
brown people, white people,
people from every race
in this country,
demonstrating together.
That has never happened before
on the scale
that it's happening right now.
- Say her name!
- Breonna Taylor!
The possibility of
radical change is in the air.
Whose streets? Our streets!
Whose streets? Our streets!
I want to tell you why
you were invited here tonight,
and it really comes down
to this:
50 years from now, somebody,
maybe in an auditorium
like this,
is going to be talking
to a group of people
about what happened
in this generation.
Did we turn up the volume
on our videos and our TV
and just let
that ball roll back,
like we have every single time
we've come to a tipping point?
Or did this generation decide
to do something different?
And I hope and expect
that each one of you
will be out there with me
pushing that ball
to a new direction.
Thank you very much
and good night.