[Howard Zinn raw #21: Zinn and Studs Terkel explore United States’ divisions]

A conversation between Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn at an alternative media event Berkeley, California. They speak about activism, racism, and making change in the United States.

0:04Copy video clip URL Howard Zinn talks with audience members before the start of the event. He moves behind the curtain on the stage.

0:58Copy video clip URL A man at the podium makes an announcement about the Pacifica Radio Network and informs the audience that tonight they’re partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance. A woman takes the podium and speaks on the impending destruction that will be released on Iraq by the United States Government. The first man returns to talk about upcoming events.

4:34Copy video clip URL A man praises Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel as inspirational figures to those working in alternative media.

6:15Copy video clip URL Alice Walker takes the podium. She talks about John Lennon and his premature death and says that it’s a rare thing that Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn are still with us and we should appreciate it. She recites excerpts from poems by Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda.

10:33Copy video clip URL Alice Walker tells the audience, “I met Studs Terkel – who just told me we’d never met – when he interviewed me after the publication of my first novel in 1970.” She says her novel is about sharecropping set in rural Georgia and that what she loves about Studs is that he had read the book, knew what it was about, and really listened. Walker talks about meeting Zinn at a dinner at Spelman College when she was a student. “He was probably the first white man I had ever sat next to. And he was definitely the first white man that I had ever, in my life, seen actually listening to black people speak. I was stunned. That’s why I was quiet.”

12:11Copy video clip URL Walker praises Zinn and Studs and their endurance throughout their careers. She says that Zinn and Studs are both listeners who have committed themselves to bringing out the unheard voices of history. She quotes, again, Pablo Neruda.

14:03Copy video clip URL Walker recites a poem she composed for Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel’s appearance:

I have been a standing self in this world

I have braved both pleasure and disgust

I have lived my words

The stranger appeared and I did not look away

The crazy youth wandered by and I sometimes followed him

The virgin cried and I investigated her tears

I am a man, a person, an elder, shining and wise

I am someone who happily discovered the use of my ears

I am someone who happily discovered the use of my mind

I am someone who happily discovered the use of my heart

I meet the young people, the soldiers, the prisoners, the students

The poor people, the people of color, the Indians, and the women of the planet

And I am not afraid of them

And for their part, they do not seem to be afraid of me

I sit and eat quietly the bread of resistance

On the wrong side of the barricade

I am an elder, shining and wise

I have lived my words

I have discovered the use of my heart, my mind, my tongue

And for that reason alone I have become devout

A listener devoted to the sound of the human voice

I have lived long enough to be able to tell you

That I prefer it to sound happy

For the sake of the generations, I have become magic

I have become the ear that speaks

16:33Copy video clip URL Alice Walker gifts candles to Zinn and Studs. “You should light them and remember that you have many friends who love you in Berkeley, that to us you are yourselves candles that light up the darkness of silence.”

17:00Copy video clip URL Howard Zinn and Studs Terkel take the stage. Studs says, “One fast word about having forgotten Alice Walker. My explanation is simple: she dazzled me so much it blew my mind.” He says one of his regrets in life is having never had Howard Zinn as a teacher.

18:36Copy video clip URL Studs Terkel interrupts himself to open up his jacket flap, show the audience his microphone and tell them, “We are wired.” He jokes about a recording of their conversation getting into the hands of the Independent Counsel.

19:22Copy video clip URL Zinn praises Alice Walker’s brilliance as a student. He tells an anecdote about seeing a student in Hawaii reading The Color Purple, asking her how she liked it, and her replying that it changed her life. Zinn talks about meeting Studs for the first time on a book tour in 1964. He says his interview with Studs was great because he had clearly actually read the book. Zinn says later that night, he recieved a call from Studs, who had an extra ticket to a Pete Seeger concert. “That was a great evening.”

23:32Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Zinn’s involvement with the Freedom Summer in 1964. He says that Zinn coined a phrase, “the hierarchy of values,” that he’ll never forget. He and Zinn tell a story from Zinn’s book The Southern Mystique about a direct action undertaken by students in SNCC in segregated Atlanta in 1964. Zinn recounts how one of his colleagues purchased seven tickets for black students to attend a production of “My Fair Lady” at the Municipal Auditorium. The theater staff were buzzing around trying to figure out what to do and eventually a member of the staff called the mayor of Atlanta, who said that his advice was to turn off the lights.

27:01Copy video clip URL Studs explains how this anecdote illustrates the hierarchy of values: “Because the crowd was getting impatient, they want to see My Fair Lady. So what is more important in that moment? Was it that thing called segregation, a ritual? Or was it the fact they want to see a play?” Studs recounts another example of a boy from a racist family, cast in an integrated mixed-production of Finian’s Rainbow who went forward with the play and it changed his life. He gives another example of talking to white Southerners in Montgomery, Alabama who supported segregation, but were hostile to Studs’s suggestion that they wouldn’t go and see a baseball game with a black player.

29:21Copy video clip URL Howard Zinn talks about the march from Selma to Montgomery as the first time that the federal government pledge itself to protect Civil Rights activists from local and state authorities. Zinn recounts leaving the march a little early to fly home to Boston, running into Whitney Young at the airport and getting served a cup of coffee by a waitress wearing a pin that said “NEVER” (in reference to desegregation), who nonetheless served them coffee.

33:47Copy video clip URL Studs tell the story of C. P. Ellis, a former Cyclops with the Ku Klux Klan from Durham, North Carolina. Studs had a hard time tracking him down, but one he did, Ellis told him his story about growing up poor, everything seeming to go wrong, and his father, a Klansman, telling him that it was all to blame on black people. Ellis eventually joins the Klan for the opportunity to be somebody. The Klan was involved with trying to shut down Ann Atwater, a working-class black woman who was organizing black people in Durham to protest the stores not hiring black people. He slowly becomes aware of his class position and how he’s being taken advantage of by the Klan. When the Durham school system receives a grant, a series of meeting are organized to bring the whole range of black and white community organizations together, since they all have kids attending school. At the meeting, Ellis and Atwater are appointed co-chairs of a new committee. Ellis eventually got a job as a janitor at Duke University, got recruited into the mostly-black, mostly-female union and was elected business agent by a 4:1Copy video clip URL margin. Studs says when Ellis told him this he broke down crying and said that in that union, with those women, he felt like somebody.

39:57Copy video clip URL Howard Zinn continues the conversation on the hierarchy of values. “We very often give up on people, we categorize them. ‘Here. This person is a white racist,’ as if that person must remain a white racist forever.” Zinn tells a story about a white organizer in Mississippi organizing black brick workers in the 1960s. One day the Sheriff’s Deputy showed up and told him to come with him. They drove out into an isolated spot in the woods and got out of the car. The organizer was growing increasingly scared. The sheriff questioned him about organizing black brick workers. The sheriff said, “I know you’ve been organizing. You’ve been organizing those black workers in the brick factory, but there are also white workers in the brick factory and one of them is my brother. And these white workers need to be organized, so I’d like to get some of your material.”

43:42Copy video clip URL Studs asks Zinn about apathy among students on college campuses. Zinn says that even during the Reagan-Bush years of the 1980s, his students had lively discussions on class, race, economic justice, militarism and war. “I think what caused the notion that they were apathetic was simply that there was no great national movement as there was during the Civil Rights movement, during the Vietnam War, no central issue dramatic enough and big enough to create a national student movement, but students are always one inch away from such a movement.” Studs talks about guest lecturing at Wabash College, a right-wing college in Indiana. Studs’s talk recieved a standing ovation from the students, they came up to him after and asked, “Is what you say true?” Zinn recounts a speaking engagement at California Polytechnic State University, where he was warned about how conservative the students were. He says that he was talking as radical as he could about wealth inequality and militarism and the student response was overwhelmingly positive. Zinn says that the same thing happens to Noam Chomsky wherever he goes. “We have, in a way, decieved by the media into thinking that the American people are swallowing what the politicians are telling them.”

52:30Copy video clip URL Studs recounts an anecdote about waiting for the bus every day by two yuppies and never having anything to say. One say he says to them, “Labor Day is coming up.” He says, after a cold response, he digs in tells them about the Labor Day parade down State Street. The man turns to Studs and says, “We loathe unions.” Studs tells him about the Haymarket Affair and the 40-hour week movement, they get on the bus, and he never sees them again. “Now that’s an easy story to tell, but the fact is: why blame them? They just don’t know!”

55:35Copy video clip URL Zinn says there’s some new energy in the labor movement that comes from a recognition of how much wealth has gravitated to the top while working people have seen their wages stagnate. Zinn talks about attending a rally in support of Salvador women working in a factory north of Boston, unjustly fired for unionizing. He tells how they sat in at the factory and got arrested and how the story was covered in the Boston Globe and three days later, the fired workers were reinstated and the union recognized. “It took a little community solidarity and little militancy to do that.”

1:01:11Copy video clip URL Studs talks about how the UPS strike was the first time since Reagan that the public was generally in support of a strike. He talks about Reagan’s harsh dealings with the Air Controller Strike.



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