On this week’s In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the late Lena Horne, the legendary actress, singer, dancer and Civil Rights activist whose career in theatre, film, television and activism spanned seven decades until her death in 2010.
civil rights movement
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the late U.S. Congressman and iconic Civil Rights leader and advocate, The Honorable John R. Lewis, with the conclusion of an interview conducted at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas at Austin. John Lewis died in July, 2020.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the late U.S. Congressman and iconic Civil Rights leader and advocate, John R. Lewis, with an interview conducted at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas at Austin. John Lewis died in July, 2020.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 93rd anniversary of his birth, with excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches and commentary from the Honorable Andrew Young, the late Robert F. Kennedy, and President Barack Obama.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. speaks with Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, award-winning historian, consultant and Harriet Tubman scholar, and author of Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the late Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.: Civil Rights icon, former President and CEO of the National Urban League, and former Executive Director of The United Negro College Fund, with highlights of his address at the Summit on Race in America at the University of Texas at Austin in 2019. He died on March 1, 2021.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron, the legendary Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and long-time Home Run King, and former Negro Leagues baseball player, who passed away January 22, 2021.
On this week’s program, In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. concludes a tribute to the late John Robert Lewis, Congressman from Georgia’s 5th Congressional District and Civil Rights pioneer and leader, with an interview recorded in May, 2020.
On this week’s program, In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents Part One of a tribute to the late John Robert Lewis, Congressman from Georgia’s 5th Congressional District and Civil Rights pioneer and leader, who passed away July 17, 2020.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a 2019 conversation with Dr. Robert F. Jefferson, Jr., Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico and author of Brothers in Valor: Battlefield Stories of the 89 African Americans Awarded The Medal of Honor.
Intro music [00:00:08] The In Black America theme music, an instrumental by Kyle Turner.
Announcer [00:00:15] From the University of Texas at Austin, KUT Radio, this is In Black America.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:00:22] Yes and no. For one thing, many of the World War two individuals and also families are very close knit. So what I had to do was basically introduce myself and then also talk about what the nature of my work was all about. And then I also had to relay my own family history. Like they would ask me this when I first met them and say, Where’s your family from? That was the first question from both of them. What was, you know. Where was my family from? And also, what did your what did your grandfather and what you felt? What is your father did that that was really the way to death, that we broke the ice on having any kind of conversation about the war altogether.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:01:01] Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. Associate professor of history at the University of New Mexico and author of Brothers Invalid Battlefield Stories of the 89 African-Americans awarded the Medal of Honor, published by Lyons Press since the Civil War. African American soldiers have been serving this country with distinction. Brothers in Valor is a history lesson on the 89 African American soldiers who were awarded the nation’s highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The history lesson cover those courageous servicemen from the Civil War to the Vietnam Theater. Jefferson paints a vivid picture of African American soldiers who carry the flag of freedom, but had to face the fight to be recognized as patriots, heroes and leaders. I’m John L. Hanson Jr. and welcome to another edition of In Black America. On this week’s program, Brothers in Valor, Battlefield Stories of the 89 African-Americans awarded the Medal of Honor with Dr. Robert F. Jefferson, In Black America.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:02:04] Well, this book largely grew out of my first book because I had I had questions about how the public saw African American soldiers during the Second World War and also how did they perceive their conduct in the face of battle. For me, I really struggled trying to answer that question. And I also wanted to see if there were any kind of historical undercurrents to that question. So that led me to thinking about, okay, all of these men who have been recognized for these these acts of gallantry in the face of battle. And also, what did they think about notions like and also definitions of courage and things like that? Our community is very steep, but they, I think, is steep in applying conduct to basically write. And I think that that’s something that they carried forward from basically the Civil War even down through the present day that we live right now.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:02:59] Dr. Robert F Jefferson Jr has long been interested in African-Americans involvement with military service. His previous books focused on the relationship between African-American GIs and their communities during World War Two and Fighting for Hope, African-American Truth and the 93rd Infantry Division in World War Two and postwar America. In his latest book, Brothers in Valor, Jefferson presents the 89 African-Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor. Consider this These African-American soldiers march forward when all odds were against them, both on the battlefield and off. They reshaped the very definition of courage under fire during some of the most harrowing moments in U.S. military history. The heroes Jefferson write about in his book face certain death with nerves of steel without flinching. In turn, their courage and determination left an indelible mark on the American landscape. Recently, In Black America, I spoke with Jefferson.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:04:01] Well, I was born in Darlington, South Carolina. My family moved from there to, uh, to to Norfolk, Virginia, where basically I, I grew up. I spent my formative years and went to school at the University of, uh. At the University of Michigan graduate school. But before that, I was I basically went to school at Elon College in North Carolina. So I’ve been I’ve been pretty much all over the place, I think.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:04:29] Any brothers and sisters?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:04:30] Yeah, I got. Oh, my gosh. I got. I got. I got two brothers and I got four sisters.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:04:38] So I guess at home growing up, it was never a dull moment.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:04:42] No, it wasn’t was. You can ask my mom about that too. Every time she walked in the door, it was always something.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:04:47] What were some of your favorite subjects while you were matriculating to high school?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:04:51] For me, my favorite subject was, uh, I. It was actually political science. I had a high school teacher who. He had a way of basically bringing, um, bringing government to life for us. And that’s what really got me interested in teaching, because he would come into the classroom and you didn’t know, you didn’t know what to what to be prepared for. He asked you to. Just bring your brain with you and that’s it.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:05:17] And what led you to major in history?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:05:21] Well, my father, um. He taught African history. Mm hmm. And in South Carolina, he was. He was actually a master school teacher in South Carolina. And, um, he he was also somebody who was who had a tendency to captivate students. He would take me to his classes when I was, you know, when I was growing up. And I sit in the back of the room and I’d watch I just watch how students basically hung on his every word as he was talking. I mean, for for a kid growing up, you know, you think your parents are good. What they’re doing is not really, um, it’s not really extraordinary. But as the years went by, I realized that he was doing something phenomenal in the classroom, and I wanted to. I wanted a piece of that.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:06:07] What led you to Wayne State University?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:06:10] Wayne State University. Um, i, i, i, I was actually hired there by someone. I was. I was recruited to go there by someone who actually was the subject of my first book, Fighting for Hope. African-American. Uh, true. So the 93rd Infantry Division in World War Two and, uh, and postwar America. Right. He he. I met him for the first time, and he said, you know what? We’re going to try to see if we can get you to come here. And at that time, when I was in graduate school, I thought he was just pulling my leg. But soon enough, like a couple of years later, he was he he came to me and said, you know what? We want you to come and do a job, too. So I did that. And, and that’s how my Wayne State, um, experience started. I mean, he was waiting was a great place to be, by the way.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:06:59] How long did you stay at Wayne State?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:07:01] I stayed there for three years.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:07:04] The reason I ask that question, because I’m from Detroit. So how did you like living in Detroit?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:07:08] Oh, it was. It was great. The one thing about Wayne State is that you get you get nontraditional students coming into your classes and the stories they told about, you know, what life was like in Detroit. I tell you, it was almost like a history lesson every time that I stepped into the classroom with them. And I learned I think they learned I learned just as much from them as they learned from me. I learned what cities like Detroit, what makes them tick. Mm hmm. And, um, it it just was a phenomenal experience.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:07:39] What led you to the University of New Mexico?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:07:41] Well, I came here as a result of, um, basically, uh, I applied for the job here as the director of the African Studies program. The thing is, I didn’t know anything about New Mexico. I didn’t know anything about. I didn’t know anything about the Southwest when I first got here. And, um, I found that I. I was learning on the fly as I got here. I mean, I just. For one thing, I fell in love with the Southwest. I love being here. And I also, like, um. I also like, uh, the University of New Mexico, because the student body here is quite unique. The things that I teach in the classroom, they have a, they have a way of taking the things that we talk about during our discussions. And then they go home and, and I see they’re having these discussions when they go home to and go to their dorms and then they come back and they have these really interesting collective questions about what life was like during the giving period and so forth. And then they also apply it to their own lived experiences. I think that’s that that in itself is really fascinating.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:08:44] Have you grown to appreciate the Indian culture that’s in New Mexico?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:08:48] Oh, yes, I have. My wife and I, every chance we get, we try to go and do these field trips around the state here to see this, to see the landscape, and then also to try to imagine what it was like to live here at the turn of the century. You know.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:09:03] Obviously, this book that you’ve written is not the first book on military. What initially sparked an interest in African-Americans in the military?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:09:12] Well, my grandfather served in World War Two, and he went when I was growing up. He used to tell me stories about what it was like to be in the segregated Army in the 1940s. And he the way he talked about it was he always it always came back to, I think, community and also family, because for him it was really important for him and he was one of the one of the first people to basically leave home and my family. So when he as he was talking about these things, I became fascinated in what military life meant for basically the collective home for African Americans as a whole. And that’s what led me to write in my first book.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:09:51] Was it difficult in and in researching this particular subject?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:09:56] Yes and no. For one thing, um, many of the World War two individuals and also families are very close knit. So what I had to do was basically introduce myself and then also talk about what the nature of my work was all about. And then I also had to relay my own sense. The history. Like they would ask me this when I first met them and say, Where’s your family from? That was the first question. All that from most of them. What was, you know, where was my family from? And also what did you what did your grandfather and what you felt what did your father do that that was really the way that that we broke the ice on having any kind of conversation about the war altogether.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:10:38] And the thing. If you’re just joining us, I’m John L. Hanson Jr. And you listening to In Black America from KUT Radio. And speaking of Dr. Robert Jefferson Jr., associate professor in the Department of History at the University of New Mexico and author of Brothers in Valor Battlefield Stories of the 89 African-Americans awarded the Medal of Honor. Dr. Jefferson, what led you to write this particular book?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:11:04] Well, this book largely grew out of my first book because I had questions about it. I had questions about how the public saw African-American soldiers during the Second World War and also how did they perceive their conduct in the face of battle. Mm hmm. For me, I really struggled trying to answer that question. And I also wanted to see if there were any kind of historical undercurrents to that question. So that led me to thinking about, okay, all of these men who have been recognized for these these acts of gallantry in the face of battle. And also, what did they think about notions like and also definitions of courage and things like that? Our community is very steep, but I think it’s steep in applying conduct to basically. Right. And I think that that’s something that they carried forward from basically the Civil War even down through the present day that we live right now.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:12:02] I found it interesting, which was the history lesson for myself, is that prior to it actually being named as we know it today, the Medal of Honor, it was called something else. Can you take us through that progression?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:12:15] Yeah, it was for many of those who didn’t. First of all, it did not get the I guess, the designation of the Medal of Honor until the Civil War. It was something that was you know, it was thought about during the American Revolutionary War. The Continental Congress, in fact, was trying to figure out ways in which to strike special medals for acts of gallantry, for basically their for their generals, people like George Washington and and and Horatio Gates and also Daniel Morgan and others. But then later on, they started thinking about, okay, what about the business of foot soldiers who basically stayed in the ranks? So they started. They looked. By the time the Mexican-American war rolled around, they started thinking about how could they basically acknowledge everyday soldiers for the things that they were doing and in the face of fierce fighting. So but about a civil war, the whole notion of what honor meant and what courage meant was then codified, I think. And Abraham Lincoln said that he wanted to do something else with that. So that’s how the Medal of Honor came into being.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:13:21] When you sat down to write this particular work, were there any particular avenues you definitely wanted to pursue?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:13:29] Oh, yes. I wanted to look at. For me, I wanted to understand the two periods the World War two period and the Vietnam War period. And the reason why is because it was personal for me. And I think, as I said before, my grandfather served in the Second World War, but I also had some uncles who served in the Vietnam War. And the stories they told were quite it was strikingly different from what my grandfather talked about. And I wanted to understand. So how did this these ideas about basically gallantry, courage, honor? How did they basically say how did they change over a 20 year period? I mean, the way my uncles talked about it, it was about it was about saving lives and it was about it. It was about basically being able to come home in one piece and have their brothers who were fighting next to them come home in one piece. For my grandfather, they were basically fighting for their own fight for something much more than that. So I wanted to understand that there’s a continuum there that that I think we we really ought to pay attention to when we start thinking about this. The African-Americans serving just serving in overseas operations.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:14:34] Tell us about the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. William H.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:14:39] Carney was somebody who fascinated me from the very beginning because he was somebody who was he was very outspoken about about the about the Civil War, what it was all about. He knew from the very beginning he and those who basically went in from the very beginning, they knew that they were fighting for much more than just fighting for much more than just themselves. They were fighting for their community. They were fighting for They were just basically fighting for freedom. And with that, they said if if they couldn’t be free and if they couldn’t secure their own freedom, then they could. Make a claim for anybody else to be free. So Carney and I, I make a I really make a point of this in that opening chapter based on the flag. It’s basically encompassing all of those things. And it conjures up all of those ideas that they had about being free. So then he is somebody who was very selfless. He was a, um, he was somebody who, uh, he was a he was an eloquent orator. I mean, he could talk about what these ideas meant for him. And he was also somebody who could convey that to the people who served next to him. He was a phenomenal figure. But if you remember, he does not basically be recognized and the first recipient until years later. And I think that tells us something about where the country was going at that time.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:16:07] For decades, you talk about you. We talked about for decades.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:16:10] That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Um, and, you know, actually, I had a conversation with somebody here today and and we were talking about, okay, so we have these 89 individuals who are recognized for the acts of gallantry. We’re are the modern day heroes. And I said, you know what? This is a part of a historical trend that we’re living through. Um, and I think this happens when it comes down to thinking about what, um, what the meaning of, uh, of courage is and what gallantry means. I think the country constantly has to basically revisit that every time a person puts their lives on the line for something larger than themselves.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:16:49] I found it fascinating that these individuals went into war and they were not treated the same way as their white counterparts.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:17:00] They were not. They were actually fighting a war within a war.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:17:03] Exactly.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:17:04] They found that not only did they basically had to perform admirably in the face of, uh, in the face of fierce fighting, but they also had to fight those who basically saw them as being less than human beings who supposedly were supposed to be fighting alongside of them and is due to that two front war that they were fighting those battles, that they came back and they were able to come back. They came back with, I think, a in a large view, uh, of what basically democracy meant, what freedom and equality meant, and also access to opportunity.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:17:38] Meant and talked to us about Christian Fleetwood.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:17:41] Fleetwood, one of the one one of them, one of the most interesting individuals that I encountered in my research. He. Was somebody who, um, gave of himself very, uh, gave himself selflessly, uh, based on the field of battle. He wanted to be, um, he wanted to be, uh, you know, he wanted to be an officer. Um, he saw himself as a leader of men and. Time and time again when the country basically found itself, um, moving towards a, an emergency in which basically arms would be taken up, he would put himself forward as being somebody to volunteer for that fight, only to be discouraged. But at the end of the day, he found himself as basically being the cad ray for officers standing who would stand later on. And basically in the World War One Army, they would be the ones who would basically carry the flag forward for people, people like him. He’s one of the he’s one of the most fascinating people. But he’s also, I think, in that pantheon of heroes that I talk about at the end of the book, um, he, um, he served as a vivid example of what commitment to duty and uh, and also commitment to freedom means, I think.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:19:07] Talk to us about the National Convention of Colored Men.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:19:11] The National Convention of Colored Men. That is, if you think about when these men that that that. This organization came into being. It was during a time when, um, Black collectively were trying to, um, they, they were trying to establish themselves not only as basically as men, but also as leaders within their own community. This for them, I think, wow, it is so much about them, um, that we, that we, we really don’t know. Um, we, we need to know the communities from which they emerge. We also need to know, okay, what are the things that basically motivated them to do some of the things that they would do later? I thought I found this period to be one in which, uh, people were saying, You know what, we’re going to be recognized as We’re going to be recognized as respectable, upstanding individuals. And that organization epitomized that.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:20:15] All these stories were, I can say, fascinating, but I got stuck on William. Henry Thompson.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:20:23] Thompson. Somebody Who. Wow. All these people you’re mentioning, it basically brings back a flood of memories for me.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:20:33] I know it did.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:20:34] Um, yeah. Uh, is somebody.
Announcer [00:20:40] Who.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:20:42] Want to describe him. He is. He’s somebody who is very, uh. I would say he’s very he’s very humble, but he’s also a part of this group that comes out of Paterson, New Jersey. Right. Who has their own ideas as to what. They have their own ideas as to what, uh, what freedom means. But at the turn of the century, um, when they were fighting, uh, in the Spanish-American War. They were flying. They were also basically carrying the flag, so to speak. But they were also there realizing that many of the things that they were fighting for were not going to be they were not going to be able to realize them once they returned home, if they returned home. Um, and it is funny about that group is that one of the things about them is that they are right there on the cusp of the Buffalo soldiers who were serving in, you know, in the West at that time. And many of them were basically trained by those former, um, Buffalo soldiers. Um, and I think they, they ended up basically be a deeply influenced by the way that they carried themselves both in uniform and out of uniform. But and I think that, you know, Tompkins epitomizes that.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:21:59] I think I asked this question prior to we have an interview last month. Were there any aha moments that. Occurred while you were researching and then, you know, you know, putting your thoughts on paper.
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:22:15] Well, for me, the thing that struck me the most was that, um, for the World War One guys, the Henry Johnsons. Mhm. Um, I was really surprised that they were not acknowledged, um, at the time and forgotten that he was not acknowledged, just basically being a, a medal of Honor recipient because of what he did. Now if you remember, that story just acts in the face of battle. Mhm. The legendary in fact um, his community and communities along the eastern seaboard would basically sing praises of what he did. Right. But it never reached basically the halls, It never reached the ears of policymakers until much later on and in fact, into the 21st century, where we actually see him being accorded the recognition that he deserved. So that was for me, that was like that was the moment for me, because I was like, you know, I heard stories about, you know, Needham Roberts and Henry Johnson. I heard them from grade school. Um, but just what happened to, you know, after the war and then also how that is, you know, the left, I think the legendary, um, uh, whispers of what he did, um, carried forward and how the process to which he was basically, uh, recognized. I thought that he, um, I thought he should have been recognized way before then. And in fact, I was kind of surprised that he wasn’t recognized before then. Then the other thing is, here’s one more thing, um, for Vernon Baker. Baker is somebody, um. Gosh, I read his memoir before I actually started doing research on what he did during the Second World War. And this is a this is a man. Who was very humble. He was. He’s very down to earth. He talked about his upbringing in a very frank and I think candid way. But what he did, um, basically in Italy. To me. It told me what everyday people could do when they’re basically faced with these moments of adversity. They will rise to the occasion. And Baker, I think, epitomize that. But, you know, at the end of it and what really struck me about him was that even when he was recognized by President Clinton, he still was thinking about his comrades who basically perished on that during the time he was fighting, he still remembered them. Um, and I think that basically resonates with all of them is that they they felt like they would not be who they were if. Yes. It’s not for those people that served alongside it, though. Right.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:25:12] Right. Why was it important for you? You you wrote the narratives of their stories in the beginning of the book. At the back of the book, you have a synopsis of all the 89 recipient. Why was that important to include that also?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:25:28] Well, the reason why I wanted to do that is because I only talked about, um, those who, um. I only talk about those whom I think whose actions basically fit the framework of which in which I was writing. But I also wanted to make sure that, listen, we don’t we don’t forget all 89 of these individuals, because what they did was, was, uh, remarkable in itself. It was phenomenal. Um, I also wanted to make sure that I kept them together as a composite group. Um, if we, if we acknowledge, if we acknowledge some and, and fail to acknowledge the others, then we’re committing the same. We basically, I think we committing the same mistake that they had done previously that the military had done previously in, um, acknowledging their actions.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:26:22] Dr. Jefferson, what do you want readers to come away with?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:26:25] Well, from this book, after reading it, I want them to understand that individuals are motivated by much more than basically, um, I guess, notions of visibility, uh, publicity and so forth. But what moves the most? I think what moves them mostly is the strength of character. And also the courage of conviction. Um, if we acknowledge that and we acknowledge that by reading their stories that we, I think we acknowledge the best parts of ourselves.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:26:58] Well understand. Any final comment, Dr. Jefferson?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:27:01] And any comments?
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:03] Any final comments?
Dr. Robert F. Jefferson Jr. [00:27:04] Yeah, absolutely. Um, I want to thank you for having me on on your program today. And I want everyone, uh, if you get a chance to read this, too, you take a step back and to reflect on what it means basically to be, um, but basically to be and to be, uh, in the society that we are in right now. And then also what’s going to be required for us basically going forward in the future. That’s what I want to impart to everyone who’s listening to this program.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:36] Dr. Robert Jefferson Jr., Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico and author of Brothers in Valor Battlefield Stories of the 89 African-Americans awarded the Medal of Honor. If you have questions, comments or suggestions as to the future In Black America programs, email us at In Black America at KUT dot org. Also, let us know what radio station you heard us over. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The views and opinions expressed on this program are not necessarily those of the station or of the University of Texas at Austin. You can hear previous programs online at kut.org. Until we have the opportunity again for technical producer David Alvarez. I’m John L. Hanson Jr. Thank you for joining us today. Please join us again next week.
Announcer [00:28:31] CD copies of this program are available and may be purchased by writing In Black America. CDS KUT Radio, 300 West Dean Keeton St. Austin, Texas 78712. This has been a production of KUT Radio.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. discusses the career of legendary photographer Ernest C. Withers with Richard Cahan, author of Revolution in Black and White: Photographs of the Civil Rights Era by Ernest C. Withers.
Announcer [00:00:15] From the University of Texas at Austin, KUT Radio, this is In Black America.
Richard Cahan [00:00:23] The pictures that he took from the 1942 to 1968. They were really documenting the movement. They were documenting the dream. And it ended with, you know, the assassination of Martin Luther King. And obviously, the movement continued. But times changed. His cameras changed him. He moved on to a 35 millimeter camera and took mostly color film. So it’s a whole nother look at, you know, there’s a there’s a beauty to this, you know, classic black and white photography. He really knew what he was doing. And and I think the pictures after that, not that they don’t have value, but they don’t have the drama. That’s why we really took the whole collection. And we said, what’s the most important message he had? And that message, I think, was kind of the the beauty of resistance, the resilience that African-Americans had during these decades.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:01:11] Richard Cahan, author of Revolution in Black and White photographs of the Civil Rights Era by Ernest C Withers, published by City Files Press. It was a self-made man. He was one of the most prominent African-American photographers during the civil rights years. During the course of his career. He took thousands of photographs that documented the movement from the Emmett Till trial in 1955 to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. What started out as a way to support his family turned into a pictorial history of life in the South and the epic events that helped shape this nation. Whether it was there for the Little Rock school battle. He was there for Medgar Evers funeral and the Memphis sanitation workers strike. He was also there to photograph weddings, high school proms and nightlife on Beale Street. I’m John L. Hanson Jr. and welcome to another edition of In Black America on this week program Revolution in Black and White photographs of the civil rights era by Ernest C. Withers with author Richard Cahan In Black America.
Richard Cahan [00:02:17] That is very true. People really, you know, talk a lot in Memphis about the kind of the honor of being photographed by whites, whether it was by whether he was, in a sense, you know, came to their house when they were just photographed. And I think that that, you know, he he had a lot of self-confidence in himself. He always, you know, positioned himself right directly in front of his subjects. He certainly had the skill because he had done this for so many years, so many decades. And he made the scene, you know, he you know, an event wasn’t even an event in listeners whether he was there. So in a sense, people waited for him. There’s so many smiles in this book. They are so pleased that he’s that they’re being photographed such a different time than today when, you know, you know, when you when so many people are weary about being photographed, they don’t want to be photographed.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:03:07] You know, when owners see. Withers began his photographing career in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. He couldn’t go to the public libraries or be admitted to his best hospitals. Had it not been for his sister who gave him his first camera while he was in high school. We can only imagine what life would have been like for him, whether it is the genes behind many of the iconic photos we see today documenting the civil rights era. Besides his work with the moment he recorded on film The Everyday World in the south of African-Americans, proms, funerals, people where work and play and street life, he created a stunning record of what it was like to live in Memphis and the Mid-South. He also was a noted baseball photographer documenting Negro League Baseball. He also was a noted music photographer taking thousands of photographs of early jazz, blues, rock and roll and R&B performers. With his work is archived in the Library of Congress and is slated for the permanent collection of the Sony Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Recently In Black America spoke with Richard Cahan here regarding this amazing photojournalist.
Richard Cahan [00:04:17] They call my colleague Michael Williams and I. They call us photo historians, which is a term we never even heard before. We we were called it. We were both photojournalists and I was what’s called the picture editor. So I work with photographers and photographs. And and I learned that there’s a lot of impact that words and pictures can can have when they’re work together. And I think we’ve all learned that now, you know, try to put up a Facebook post without a picture and you’ll realize how important pictures are.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:04:46] And in your previous life, you a program officer at a foundation.
Richard Cahan [00:04:51] I was for a short time, but most of my life has been as a photojournalist. I worked for the Chicago Sun-Times for six years and I worked for newspapers most of my life. I was a journalist down at I put journalist down on my iris.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:05:04] I know. That’s right. So what sparked that initial interest in photojournalism?
Richard Cahan [00:05:08] Well, I actually it’s it’s a long story. But to make it very short, I, I became. I’m interested in the idea of words and pictures working together. I think I was a kid and I went to the library and I got a Jackie Kennedy book about a tour of the White House. And I realized that through pictures, you can go anywhere in the world and with words, you can explain it all. So, uh, it was exciting to me then, and it still is now, six decades later.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:05:37] Is your alma mater the school that beat Michigan the other day?
Richard Cahan [00:05:40] It is. It is. And it’s a school that has almost beaten several other top basketball teams. I’ll believe it when I see it.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:05:48] I have to say. How did you happen to come across Ernest Withers?
Richard Cahan [00:05:52] I was down in Memphis and a friend of mine said I had to go see the Withers museum. There’s a little museum at the end of Beale Street that’s run by Roslyn Withers, who’s the daughter of Ernest Withers, and she keeps this little photo museum open till about midnight so that people who listen to music and drink on Beale Street can kind of end up there. And as she says, people come into the museum drunk and they oftentimes leave sober because they see these photographs, which is which are really great gifts to America, of photographs of the civil rights movement and photographs of entertainers and photographs of the end of Negro League baseball that Ernest Withers took starting in the 1940s. And he continued almost up until his death in 2007.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:06:40] How did Ernest become interested in photography?
Richard Cahan [00:06:43] Well, he was actually it was during World War Two, and he was on the he was stationed in the Pacific Islands, and he found that if he took pictures of GI’s standing in front of bushes and holding their guns, that they loved it and they sent it back home. And he realized that there was really a business of taking pictures. And as soon as he got out of the Army in 1946, he started his own business. And and really, this is a book of somebody who was really hungry, hungry to make a living. He had eight children and he took on just about any assignment. You know, he was the that’s really one of the things that makes him unusual. He was the school photographer. He photographed proms. He was at funerals. He’d wake up every Sunday morning and go to churches and photograph churches. And and as he kept doing it decade after decade, he realized that he was really just as much of a historian as he was a photographer.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:07:39] I was interested in in reading that his entree prior to taking pictures of the servicemen when he went to the Pacific, he was there to photograph the construction of a runway or airport, or right?
Richard Cahan [00:07:50] Yeah, right. That was his job. He was a photographer and he was documenting things for the the Army Corps of photographers that were out there in the Pacific.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:08:00] Now, one would think that if you’re a photographer, you got all this elaborate equipment. But he didn’t have that.
Richard Cahan [00:08:05] He didn’t. He uh, number one, I don’t think he could afford it. And, you know, he had camera little very simple cameras. I mean, they’re not simple by today’s standards, but they were there were box cameras that I remember.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:08:18] I remember.
Richard Cahan [00:08:19] Yeah. That took little two and a quarter negatives. And he always talked about how he never could afford long lenses, you know, telescopic lenses. So his feet were his long lens. If he needed to get a close up, he walked up to people.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:08:31] Tell us about the story when when Joe Louis, his wife, came to his school and he was the others, do they tend to go up to take a picture?
Richard Cahan [00:08:39] Yeah, he was in he was in elementary school and he had just gotten a camera from his sister, his sister’s boyfriend, who had given him a camera. And, uh, this is Louis was at the school and he had the camera, and again, he didn’t have a telephoto lens, so he had no choice but to just walk down the aisle, go right up to the front and take a picture. And I think everybody was shocked that he had that nerve. And he loved the kind of the good feeling that it came from, you know, from being able the camera gave him kind of a an entree, you know, to anywhere he wanted to go in the world.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:09:13] Richard now, he photographed over 60 years worth of work, Right. How did you decide on what to include in this book? Is this part one?
Richard Cahan [00:09:25] You know, I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why. Because the pictures that he took from the 1940s to 1968, they were really documenting the movement. They were documenting the dream. And it ended with, you know, the assassination of Martin Luther King. And obviously the movement continued. But times changed. His cameras changed. He moved on to a 35 millimeter camera and took mostly color film. So it’s a whole nother look at, you know, there’s there’s a beauty to this, you know, classic black and white photography. He really knew what he was doing. And and I think the pictures after that, not that they don’t have value, but they don’t have the drama. That’s why we really took the whole collection. And we said, what’s the most important message he had? And that message, I think, was kind of the beauty of resistance, the resilience that African-Americans had, you know, during these decades.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:10:21] How did you decide on the titles of the different chapters of photographs?
Richard Cahan [00:10:25] Oh, well, there there are nine chapters, and each chapter is a is a song title of, uh, usually a popular rhythm and blues song or blues song. And, and we just had made a list of civil rights songs, and they all seemed to fit, you know, these sections of the book.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:10:42] Talk to us about when Ernest really got his calling to become a photojournalist when he started working for The Chicago Defender.
Richard Cahan [00:10:50] Yea so, so he started Ernest Started is really just a commercial photographer. Right. He was there’s a great story that he used to go on Sunday mornings to Negro League baseball games at Martin Stadium, and he would take pictures instead of taking pictures of the the action, he would take pictures of the crowd because everybody got dressed up. This was like Easter every Sunday morning was like Easter. And and everyone looked really good. And he’d rush home to his studio. He’d process the film, he’d make prints. His wife would drive the prints in their oven. And then he rushed back to the ballpark before the game ended so that he could sell those prints. And that, you know, I think the key to him, to Ernest, was that he was willing to take on just about any assignment. So in the early 1950s, when when Negro newspapers were really an essential part of of the community, he was getting jobs with, you know, the Tri-State Defender, the Chicago Defender, other newspapers, where he was realizing that they didn’t have a white papers. Usually they relied on the Associated Press to send pictures. And he, in a sense, became his own press service. So he would take pictures of a basketball game or a graduation. And then he would you know, there were there were several dozen, you know, Negro newspapers in those days. And he would send them to all the newspapers, and that helped him make a living.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:12:13] When did he first photograph Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Richard Cahan [00:12:16] It was in 1950, uh, 1956. Mm hmm. It was one year after Rosa Parks refused to sit down and there was a yearlong boycott. And on the morning that they boycott in the morning that this case was settled and the boycott ended, he was on one of the first books, one of the first busses in Montgomery, and he was he literally waited for Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy to take a seat. About an hour or two later, as they rode the busses up front for the first time.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:12:46] How did he develop a kinship with with the movement and Dr. King?
Richard Cahan [00:12:50] You know, I think it was just that he was always there. Withers was often called the official photographer, Martin Luther King’s official photographer, and that really wasn’t true. They liked each other. But, you know, King didn’t have the money to really pay somebody. So it was really that that whenever King was in Memphis, whenever King was anywhere near Memphis, Withers was always there. He wasn’t the official photographer, but they were very close. Andrew Young, who I know you’ve had on your program many times, he talks a lot and in introduction about how important Withers work was in spreading the spreading the word. I guess it’s the visual word, you know what what it all looked like. And he was very appreciative.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:13:31] I know. That’s right. If you’re just joining us, I’m John L. Hanson Jr. and you’re listening to In Black America from KUT Radio. And we’re speaking with Richard Cahan, author of Revolution in Black and White Photographs of the Civil Rights Era by Ernest Withers. Richard, in looking at the photographs of Mr. Withers work, there seemed to be a distinction that I guess he developed over time to make his photographs of those well, that when and Withers photographs was taken, you know, it was the Withers photograph.
Richard Cahan [00:14:07] That is very true. People really, you know, talk a lot in Memphis about the kind of the honor of being photographed by Withers, whether it was by whether he was, in a sense, you know, came to their house when they were just photographed. And I think that that, you know, he he had a lot of self-confidence in himself. He always, you know, positioned himself right directly in front of his subjects. He certainly had the skill because he had done this for so many years, so many decades. And he made the scene, you know, he you know, an event wasn’t even an event unless interest Withers was there. So in a sense, people waited for him. There’s so many smiles in this book. They’re so pleased that he’s that they’re being photographed such a different time than today when, you know, you know, when you would when so many people are weary about being photographed, they don’t want to be photographed. You know.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:15:00] You’re right. Obviously, this was a dangerous job when he was out photographing the movement. How do you develop that tenaciousness?
Richard Cahan [00:15:08] Well, he likes to say that he learned a lot of it in World War Two is as a soldier. But he was very aware of it. He was roughed up a couple of times, once at the end of Medgar Evers funeral. The police just, you know, got his cameras threw him in almost like a cage. Him and a lot of other people. He was spit out a lot, he said. And, you know, he was he wasn’t a large man, but he he was he had played football in high school. He was a quarterback. So, you know, like all quarterbacks, he kind of knew where to move and he knew how to protect himself. And, you know, he he wasn’t too worried. But it took an awful lot of courage. You know, he really developed moves. Oftentimes, a white writer or journalist would come down to the south and Ernest Withers would be not only his chauffeur, but really his eyes and ears to get him through the south. And the same held true with Black for Black journalists who came down from Jet or Ebony and, you know, didn’t know the ways of the South. This is where he grew up. And he really understood a lot of the kind of the mores of of how to how to conduct yourself.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:16:15] I’m glad you mentioned that because I kind of skipped over. But you brought this full circle back to me when he first started taking photographs for the Black press. I’m trying to remember the newspaper he went to work for, and he was under that editor, a publisher’s tool, which for a while, right?
Richard Cahan [00:16:33] Right. Well, it was. You’re thinking of Alex. Uh, Alex. Alex. I’m thinking of Wilson. Uh.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:16:40] I think it was Wilson.
Richard Cahan [00:16:41] Yeah. Yeah. L Alex Wilson, right. People will know Alex Wilson because he was the very tall journalist who was punched and kicked around right at the Little Rock. And that was that. It was the night of that that was on TV that Eisenhower said he was going to send paratroopers out there. And Wilson was a big man and a really smart man. And you could tell how, you know, you know, he was just ganged up on. They they they kicked his you know, they they kicked him. They pushed his head off into the streets. And and Wilson, who was a former Marine.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:17:15] Refused to run. Exactly.
Richard Cahan [00:17:17] And and Withers was supposed to be there that day. And he just by assignment, he was in, uh, he was in Memphis and not in Little Rock. And he did a lot of photography of the of the Little Rock Nine. And Wilson was really the man. He was with them when King and Abernathy got on the bus in 1956. And Withers really respected him. They had a lot.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:17:38] About journalism from exactly their other pictorial books out there. What makes this particular book special?
Richard Cahan [00:17:45] You know, I think we use the photographs to set up history. I, I, I, I’m not a Southerner. And so a lot of this was new to me. And, and, and frankly, it was really eye opening. I and we we use photographs to tell the story of the integration of, say, the Memphis Public Library, the integration of the Memphis pools using first graders in 1961 to integrate Memphis public schools, which was pretty 13 first graders were used to to to break the color barrier. You know, you talk about the bravery of Jackie Robinson. Well, you can imagine the bravery of these first graders and their parents. Right. And and so it’s not so much a portfolio. When you open the book, you see about 250 photographs and you think it’s just going to be one of those big, beautiful portfolios. But there’s every picture let us on an adventure. And we really tracked down each picture and set it in context.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:18:45] Now, on the front and back inside, there is a picture of Andrew Young and then the first photograph of the book itself, there’s Andrew Young. Why those photographs?
Richard Cahan [00:18:56] Well, in it, Withers died in 2007, and in 2011, it was revealed that Withers was a paid FBI informant.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:19:04] Okay.
Richard Cahan [00:19:05] And in some ways, to some people like Dick Gregory, it made Withers a traitor. Mm hmm. But other people who knew Withers and who understood the times. It’s it’s it’s it’s much more nuanced. You know, he’s a it’s 1959. He’s a photographer in Memphis, and the FBI comes to him and says, we want pictures. How number one, how do you say no to the FBI? Right. Number two, it wasn’t clear. Yeah. At that time, a Hoover’s hatred of King and the movement was not clear in 1959. So it wasn’t like you were just switching sides. And Withers wrote in 2001 that the FBI had been following him for years. He didn’t say he was a paid informant. And he said he really tried to never get himself into, you know, controversial, secretive moments. And Andrew Young, who’s a big defender of Withers, said basically we had no secrets to hide. There was nothing to really divulge. And if Withers took photographs and told people where events were, it was okay with him.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:20:06] And you also write that Withers said that he may he made a habit of not being where decisions were being spoken about during his time with with the movement.
Richard Cahan [00:20:18] Exactly. He you know, Withers was a smart guy and he knew what he was doing. Now, that doesn’t take away the feelings that other people have had over the years that Withers, you know, betrayed them because they simply didn’t know what his dual role was. And I understand that on a personal level. But, you know, Withers, Withers you know, I don’t think his involvement with the FBI affects these pictures in the least and whether he should have been or shouldn’t have been. I don’t think we can really judge him because he’s not around to really stand up and defend himself. And, you know, it’s not as clear as it might seem at first.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:20:57] All right. You also talk about whether he had nine children.
Richard Cahan [00:21:02] Eight children.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:21:02] Eight children, and one was involved in an accident out in California. And Isaac Hayes did a benefit concert to bring them back to Memphis.
Richard Cahan [00:21:12] Exactly. And Isaac Hayes paid for.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:21:16] Tutor said he.
Richard Cahan [00:21:17] Taught me to write to head out to California and bring them back in on a special plane. You know, you I think people in Memphis understand this, but obviously, outside of Memphis, they have no idea how Withers was absolutely beloved, beloved by the entertainment community, beloved by the sports community. And and this is the guy that was. If you go on to, you know, Legacy.com and you read those comments afterwards, that’s how the book actually starts, that people write about somebody after they die. Oh, my gosh. He was just one you know, he was just always there. He was the guy that was, you know, photographing in the schools. And everyone, you know, really did love him and care about him. So it you know, there’s no question it was a shock when these revelations came out. But I think that if he was alive, he’d have a a good we would better understand what happened. You know, remember, Withers really also didn’t say no to the photo assignments. He was a photographer. This is what he did. You know, the school board wants the picture of the graduation. He says yes. You know, Jet magazine wants him to, you know, fly down or not fly down. But to drive down to Sumner, Mississippi, to photograph the Emmett Till trial in 1955. He said yes. And he ended up paying I think he got paid something like $75 for a week of work. But he just was somebody that wasn’t going to say no, because I think he loved it. He absolutely everybody he photographed, he knew he knew their uncle, their aunt, their family members. He was a really important part of this community in Memphis.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:22:48] Yeah. You also write about on the day that his dad died, he went to the funeral that day and did had an assignment later on that evening.
Richard Cahan [00:22:57] He did. He never he never shirked an assignment. His kids, who all love him and know him, but they also know that that their father’s first uh, I won’t say first love, but loyalty was work. Right. This is how, how their family survives.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:23:14] Now, we skipped the part that in early in his career, he did some little law enforcement.
Richard Cahan [00:23:19] Right. Right.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:23:20] And it was fired.
Richard Cahan [00:23:22] Yes. He was one of the he was one of Memphis’s first African-American patrol officers. And in those days, if you were Black, you could not arrest a white person. You could not carry a gun. And supposedly he was fired because he was bootlegging liquor. It’s hard to know, you know. You know, he says there was a jealous lieutenant. I have no idea. But, you know, he he. I’ll say this. I think that Withers was a hustler, but in the good sense of the word, he was trying to get ahead in life. And and that was just that’s that’s that’s one of the reasons why we have these photographs. The man who created a couple of million photographs because he never said no to an assignment.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:24:03] Also, you have pictures of Elvis Presley in there.
Richard Cahan [00:24:06] Yeah. Yeah. You know, Elvis Presley was certainly an important part of the Memphis music scene. And I think Elvis Presley made it pretty clear that he he learned a lot of his moves and a lot of his music from the African-American the Beale Street crowd. And he hung around. Oftentimes, there’s a picture of him at the Goodwill Revue, which was a radio station, his annual fundraising event in a 1956. Elvis was a big man in the white and African-American community. And there’s a picture of him just milling around with some young teenage, you know, performers. You can see them swooning for him. It’s funny. Elvis used to shop at a place called Lansky’s in Memphis, and the owner of it told Ernest that he should only photograph Elvis Presley, that that he would become a millionaire today if he had only photographed Elvis Presley. And I think he’s probably right. But who knew then? And I’m glad that Ernest Withers, you know, photographed other things because we probably have enough pictures of Elvis Presley.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:25:06] I know. That’s right. When you went back to Memphis to talk about Ernest, what was the reaction?
Richard Cahan [00:25:11] Oh, it was great. We had a book launch last month. And people were thrilled to finally see these pictures all put together in one place. I mentioned Ernest’s daughter, Roz. Right. She she still runs this museum. And you can see many of these pictures in the museum. But for all the people that can’t come down to the weather Collection museum, they have this chance to see, you know, a whole life devoted to photography. And and and it’s really and a lot of these pictures, Roz, and many other people have never seen before, because we got a chance to go back to the negatives and print these right from the negatives. So things that that Ernest himself probably had never seen before because he never made prints of a lot of it. You know, he was he was out getting another job.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:25:54] When you had an opportunity to to review some of the photos. Did you have an aha moment?
Richard Cahan [00:26:02] Oh, boy. I think I had a lot and you know, I had a lot of them. I thought the picture of that I mentioned of young Martin Luther King in 1956, sitting in the front seat with Ralph Abernathy is really an important photo. There’s another great photo of Moses Wright. Emmett Till’s great uncle. And he’s standing up in court. And I’ve read about this before. What a courageous move a Black man had never really accused, pointed at white people for a capital crime. And he stood up and he he points to the two men that were accused of the crime and Withers, who wasn’t supposed to take a picture, but he was he was in the front row holding his camera and he took a picture of of right standing up and, oh, my gosh, the this moment of bravery. And I’m so happy it was captured by somebody. And of course, it was Ernest Withers. He’s kind of like the Forest Gump, you know, no matter what happened, he was always there. And that’s that’s incredible.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:01] When looking at some of the photographs, I was particularly enamored with the one that had Dr. King arriving in Memphis.
Richard Cahan [00:27:09] Yeah.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:10] Just before. Well, it was it was the day before the assassination.
Richard Cahan [00:27:14] April 3rd, 1960, right? Yeah, It’s a it’s kind of a simple photo. But, you know, like everything else, when you look back at some photos, you you see it filled with kind of pathos. And interestingly, and this is kind of a a secret of the book, but that night, Martin Luther King gave the famous Mountaintop speech.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:36] Exactly.
Richard Cahan [00:27:36] And we looked for pictures and Ernest was not there.
John L. Hanson Jr. [00:27:40] Richard Cahan, author of Revolution in Black and White Photographs of the Civil Rights Era, about Earnest Withers, published by City Files Press. If you have questions, comments or suggestions as your future In Black America programs, email us at In Black America at kut.org. Also, let us know what radio station you heard us over. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The views and opinions expressed on this program and not necessarily those of the station or of the University of Texas at Austin. You can hear previous programs online at kut.org. Until we have the opportunity again for technical producer David Alvarez, I’m John L. Hanson Jr. Thank you for joining us today. Please join us again next week.
Announcer [00:28:31] CD copies of this program are available and may be purchased by writing to In Black America CD’s, KUT Radio, 300 West Dean Keeton, Austin, TX 78712. This has been a production of KUT Radio.
On this week’s In Black America program, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a 1983 interview with the legendary singer, dancer, actress and Civil Rights activist, who died in 2010 after a film, television and theater career that spanned 70 years.
On this week’s edition of In Black America, John L. Hanson, Jr. speaks with the Honorable Andrew Young, Civil Rights legend, former UN Ambassador, Congressman, and Mayor of Atlanta. Young was a participant in The Summit on Race in America this Spring, at the University of Texas at Austin.
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson presents a conversation with co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association Dolores Huerta and Andrew Young, civil rights legend and former UN Ambassador, Congressman and Mayor of Atlanta, speaking at The Summit on Race in America, hosted by Mark Updegrove at the University of Texas this spring.
On this week’s In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents an interview from 1983 with the late Lena Horne, the legendary singer, dancer, actress and civil rights activist whose career in film, television and theater spanned 70 years. Ms. Horne died in 2010.
On this week’s program, In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a tribute to the the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the 90th anniversary of his birth, featuring addresses by his widow, Coretta Scott King, and former President Barack Obama.
This week, In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. speaks with Joseph Rosenbloom, author of Redemption: Martin Luther King’s Last 31 Hours, about the events and circumstances that led to Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a 1998 interview with the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, one of the most revered couples of the American stage and films, on the 100th anniversary of Davis’ birth.
In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents the conclusion to an interview from 2000 with pioneering comedian, social critic, civil rights activist, author and wellness guru Dick Gregory, who passed away August, 19, 2017, at the age of 84.
In Black America producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents an interview from 2000 with pioneering comedian, social critic, civil rights activist, author and wellness guru Dick Gregory, who passed away August, 19, 2017, at the age of 84.