MetroFocus: April 28, 2021

“SHE TOOK JUSTICE: THE BLACK WOMAN, LAW, AND POWER”   

Throughout the course of this past year’s reckoning over racial injustice, there’s been a push to understand our past more fully as we attempt to build a better future. But this reexamination of our nation’s complicated history didn’t just start in 2020. It’s been going on for years. Roughly a decade ago, Civil Rights Attorney and John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Gloria Browne-Marshall started work on what would become “She Took Justice: The Black Woman, Law, and Power — 1619 to 1969.” The book reveals the courage Black women have demonstrated in the face of overwhelming racial prejudice and gender oppression. It also illustrates how they became leaders, organizers, lawyers, and judges in the fight for equality. As part of our ongoing Chasing the Dream coverage, Professor Browne-Marshall joins us to explore the stories of these true American heroes.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

DURING THIS PAST YEAR'S RECKONING OVER RACIAL INJUSTICE, THERE'S BEEN A PUSH TO UNDERSTAND OUR PAST MORE FULLY AS WE ATTEMPT TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE.

BUT THIS REEXAMINATION OF OUR NATION'S COMPLICATED HISTORY DIDN'T JUST START IN 2020.

IT'S BEEN GOING ON FOR SOME FOR SOME TIME.

FOR INSTANCE, ROUGHLY A DECADE AGO, PROFESSOR GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL STARTED WORK ON WHAT WOULD BECOME HER BOOK CALLED 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE: THE BLACK WOMAN LAW AND POW ER, 1619-1969.'

THE BOOK REVEALS THE COURAGE THAT BLACK WOMEN HAVE DEMONSTRATED IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING RACIAL PREJUDICE AND ILLUSTRATING HOW THEY BECAME LEADING ACTIVISTS, ORGANIZERS, LAWYERS AND JUDGES IN THEIR FIGHT FOR EQUALITY.

TO HELP US EXPLORE THE STORIES OF THE TRUE AMERICAN HEROES, IT IS OUR PLEASURE TO WELCOME BACK PROFESSOR GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL.

AND SHE JOINS US TONIGHT AS PART OF OUR I'M GOING CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

SO, PROFESSOR, WELCOME.

GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK AGAIN.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

LET ME START WITH A COUPLE OF BIGGER PICTURE QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND THEN I DO WANT TO FOCUS ON SOME OF THE STORIES YOU TELL.

THE BOOK IS SO POWERFUL AND SO COMPELLING AND SO THOUGHT PROVOKING AND THERE ARE SO MANY MARVELOUS STORIES.

I WANT TO TOUCH ON A FEW OF THEM.

BUT LET ME START WITH A BIGGER PICTURE QUESTION HERE.

IN THE BOOK, IT'S MENTIONED THAT LAW WAS THE ENEMY OF THE BLACK WOMAN AND THEN IT BECAME HER WEAPON.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT, FIRST BEING THE ENEMY AND THEN BECOMING THE WEAPON?

WELL, WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE LAW WAS MADE TO ENFORCE THE SOCIAL NORMS OF BLACK PEOPLE, PEOPLE OF COLOR, BEING AT THE BOTTOM, BEING WORKERS FOR LIFE AND SO, IF GENERALLY PEOPLE OF COLOR, AFRICANS IN PARTICULAR, ARE WORKERS FOR LIFE, THEN WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE BLACK WOMAN?

UNDER LAW, NOT ONLY DID SHE LACK ALL HUMAN RIGHTS AS A HUMAN BEING, BECAUSE SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LABORER, BUT SHE HAD NONE OF THE DIGNITIES, NONE OF THE PROTECTIONS THAT WOULD COME WITH BEING A WOMAN.

SO, BY RACE AND BY GENDER, SHE WAS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LEGAL TOTEM POLE AND LAW WAS CREATED TIME AND TIME AGAIN TO KEEP HER THERE TO USE HER IN ANY WAY, ABUSE HER IN ANY WAY THAT WOULD BENEFIT THE COMMON SOCIETY OF WHITES AND AT THE SAME TIME GIVE HER NONE OF THE PROTECTIONS.

AND THIS WAS RELIGION-BASED.

AND THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT EVEN MORE DIABOLICAL.

HOW DO YOU -- YEAH, HOW DO YOU MEAN THAT?

HOW DO YOU MEAN THAT?

BECAUSE THAT MIGHT SOUND ODD AND STRANGE TO PEOPLE.

WE LIKE TO THINK OUR RELIGIONS ARE BRACING AND UPLIFTING?

WELL, THE -- WHEN WE LOOK AT THE ATTACK OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT BY THE EUROPEANS, THEY WERE GIVEN CARTE BLANCHE BY THE POPE.

AND SO, THE POPE SAID, YES, ALL THESE PEOPLE OF COLOR, WHETHER AFRICAN, NATIVE AMERICAN, ASIAN, SHOULD BE THE FOOT STOOL FOR THE EUROPEANS, BECAUSE THEY ARE HEATHENS, AND SO, ONCE THEY'RE OUTSIDE OF THE EMBRACE OF GOD, THEN THEY'RE OUTSIDE THE EMBRACE OF LAW AND OUTSIDE OF THE EMBRACE OF COMMUNITY IN SOCIETY.

SO, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THESE AFRICAN WOMEN, THEY ARE WOMEN WHO ARE AT THE VERY LOWEST POINT OF LAW PROTECTION.

THEY HAVE NO PROTECTION.

THEY ARE PROPERTY.

AND SEEM TO BE UNDER LAW WILLING AND ABLE AS HEATHENS TO BE USED WHATEVER MECHANISM IS IN PLACE FOR THE COMMON SOCIETY'S GOOD.

SO, THAT MEANS THAT SHE IS UNABLE TO PROTECT HERSELF OR HER CHILDREN, HER HUSBAND, HER FAMILY AND SO THE LAW WAS ALWAYS BEING USED TO KEEP HER IN HER PLACE.

I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE TITLE OF THE BOOK, BECAUSE I ALWAYS FIND TITLES FASCINATING WHEN I TALK TO AUTHORS.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT JUSTICE, WE TEND TO THINK OF JUSTICE AS BEING THIS OVERARCHING CONCEPT AND PROCESS HERE.

AND YET THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK IS 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE.'

WHY DID YOU DECIDE THAT THAT WAS THE APPROPRIATE TITLE TO USE HERE?

BECAUSE NO ONE GAVE THE BLACK WOMAN JUSTICE.

AND IT'S INTERESTING TO ME IN MANY WAYS BECAUSE PEOPLE SOMETIMES BELIEVE IN THE LAST 15, 20 YEARS AFTER THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT THAT BLACK WOMEN ROSE UP TO BECOME WHO THEY ARE TODAY, KAMALA HARRIS AS VICE PRESIDENT, MICHELLE OBAMA, LEADERS OF CERTAIN FORTUNE 500 CORPORATIONS, BUT BLACK WOMEN, IF I CAN SAY WE, ALWAYS HAD THESE ATTRIBUTES.

IT WAS LOOKING FOR THE OPPORTUNITY AND WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY WASN'T THERE, WE HAD TO PUSH THAT FORWARD.

WE HAD TO DEMAND OUR PLACE AND CARVE IT OUT AND THAT MEANT THAT WE HAD TO TAKE JUSTICE, BECAUSE JUSTICE WAS NOT GOING TO OPEN ITSELF UP TO US.

AND WE HAD TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY IN CERTAIN INSTANCES.

LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING.

A GOOD PLACE TO START, IN THE BEGINNING OF YOUR BOOK.

YOU MENTION SOME HISTORICAL FIGURE, BUT YOU START WAY BACK HERE.

AND THE FIRST CHAPTER, YOU INTRODUCE US TO WHO WAS THEN PRINCESS NZINGA IN WHAT IS NOW THE WEST AFRICAN NATION OF ANGOLA, BUT WAS VERY DIFFERENT BACK THEN.

TELL ME WHAT IT WAS ABOUT HER, THE MAJESTY YOU DESCRIBE HERE, AND WHY YOU DECIDED THIS WAS THE RIGHT JUMPING OFF POINT FOR YOU IN YOUR STORIES?

I WANTED TO CONNECT THE STORIES SO THEY WE CAN UNDERSTAND THE FLUID WIDFLUIDIT HISTORY.

AND AS A LEGAL HISTORIAN, I ENJOY HELPING US TO UNDERSTAND THAT LAW HAS PLAYED A MAJOR ROLE, AND SO, WE HAVE THIS PRINCESS IN ANGOLA THAT CONNECTS TO AMERICA BECAUSE THE AFRICANS WHO ARRIVED IN 1619 IN THE VIRGINIA COLONY WERE FROM ANGOLA.

AND SO PRINCESS NZINGA HAS WATCHED HER FATHER INTERACT WITH THE PORTUGUESE, WHO HAVE NOW INVADED WHAT WE WKNOW NOW AS ANGOLA.

SHE'S WATCHED HER FATHER NAVIGATE THE EGOS OF THE TRIBAL MEN FROM THIS NATION, WHICH SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID WAS AS LARGE AS CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK STATE AND NEW JERSEY.

AND SHE'S WATCHED HER BROTHER PLAY AROUND WITH THE SPEAR AND THE SWORD WHILE SHE UNDERSTOOD HOW TO USE THE KNIFE, SHE WAS TRAINED WITH THIS, BECAUSE THEY SAID SHE HAD SUCH A NATURAL ABILITY.

SO, THEY GAVE HER PRIVATE LESSONS IN HOW TO BE A WARRIOR.

AND SO, THERE WERE SO MANY AFRICAN QUEENS THAT HAVE COME OVER TIME, THERE ARE STILL AFRICAN KINGS AND QUEENS TO THIS DAY.

SO, I SAID, LET ME TRACE HER BATTLE AGAINST THE PORTUGUESE, WHO SHE FOUGHT TO TRY TO STOP THE SLAVE TRADE.

YOU MENTION, ALSO, AND I THINK THIS IS FASCINATING, THAT AFRICA HAD A HISTORY, A LONG AGO HISTORY, OF -- OF WOMEN LEADERS, BLACK WOMEN LEADERS, WHO WERE ROYALTY, WHO WERE POLITICALLY ADEPT.

WHO WERE MAMARSHALLY ADEPT.

WHY DID YOU THINK IT WAS SO IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THAT, THAT NOTION OF ROYALTY AND LEADERSHIP HISTORICALLY FOR BLACK WOMEN IN AFRICA?

BECAUSE I DON'T THINK PEOPLE REALLY UNDERSTAND, LIKE, THEY BEGIN THE HISTORY WITH SLAVERY AND WE SHOULD BEGIN THE HISTORY IN AFRICA, THAT'S THE PROPER PLACE.

AND PROPERLY BEGIN IT WITH OUR ROYAL PEOPLE WHO HAVE FOUGHT AND THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN APART OF OUR HISTORY AND FEW PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THEM AND QUEEN NZINGA IS -- THINK ABOUT THIS, UNESCO EVEN SUPPORTS THIS, AND THAT'S THE LAW WRITTEN DOWN.

IN 1622, SHE NEGOTIATED A PEACE TREATY WITH THE PORTUGUESE.

SO, HERE SHE IS IN THE FAMOUS STORY, THAT THEY HAD NO CHAIR FOR HER, THEY WANTED HER TO SIT ON THE FLOOR AND SHE CALLS OVER HER MAID SERVANT AND THEY LEND THEIR BACK AND SHE SITS ON THEIR B BACK.

IT'S AMAZING STORIES.

THAT WAS FASCINATING THAT SHE DID THAT.

I'M NOT SITTING ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF YOU.

I'LL CREATE MY OWN THRONE, IF YOU WILL, TO DEAL WITH THEM.

LET ME ASK YOU, THERE'S ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT ASPECT OR AREA OF THE BOOK WHERE YOU'RE FOCUSING ON -- AND THAT IS PEOPLE WHO CHALLENGE THEIR BONDAGE THROUGH THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

AND THERE ARE A NUMBER OF THOSE STORIES THERE.

YOU TELL ONE, AND I HAPPEN TO BE A LITTLE BIT FAMILIAR WITH IT, SO, I WAS FASCINATED TO SEE IT, ABOUT A WOMAN, AN ENSLAVED PERSON BACK IN MASSACHUSETTS BACK IN THE LATE 1700s, ULTIMATELY LATER BECAME ELIZABETH FREEMAN, BUT TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT HER STORY AND WHY YOU WANTED TO INCLUDE IT HERE.

WELL, MUMBET IS WORKING FOR A VERY PROMINENT MAN IN MASSACHUSETTS, THE ASHLEYS, AND THEY ARE ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST FAMILIES.

HE SERVED IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR.

BUT WHAT REALLY -- I FIND IT FASCINATING, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BLACK WOMAN AND THE WHITE MISTRESS.

NOW, REMEMBER, WHITE WOMEN HAD TO REAL RIGHTS, EITHER.

THEIR RIGHTS CAME TO THEIR HUSBANDS.

BUT THEY WOULD TAKE THEIR ANGER AND THEIR FRUSTRATION OUT ON THESE BLACK WOMEN THAT WORK IN THE HOUSE AND THIS WOMAN TOOK HER ANGER OUT ON MUMBET'S LITTLE SISTER AND MUMBET STOOD IN THE WAY AND MUMBET GOT THIS HORRIBLE BURN ON HER ARM FROM THE SLAVE'S MISTRESS, MISS ASHLEY.

IT WAS THERE, MUMBET DECIDES, I KEEP HEARING ABOUT THIS MASSACHUSETTS CONSTITUTION THAT GIVES YOU RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS, WHY DON'T I HAVE ANY RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS?

SO, SHE GETS A LAWYER AND SHE DECIDES -- NOW, SHE RETAINS A LAWYER, AND WE'RE IN 1780.

SHE SUES FOR HER FREEDOM UNDER THE MASSACHUSETTS CONSTITUTION WANDS.

AND WINS.

AND FASCINATED BY THE STORY.

I WAS FASCINATED BY IT A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO.

I VISITED THE AREA, I WENT TO A HISTORICAL SOCIETY AND DID SOME RESEARCH ON HER.

I WENT TO HER GRAVESITE.

SHE HEARS THE MASSACHUSETTS CONSTITUTION BEING READ WHERE IT SAYS ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED FREE AND EQUAL AND SHE SAID, I GUESS THAT SHOULD BE ME.

AND THE FACT THAT SHE GETS A LAWYER TO REPRESENT HER WAS -- IS AN ASTONISHING STORY.

AND CERTAINLY REPRESENTATIVE OF YOUR TITLE, 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE.'

WE MENTIONED COLONIAL TIMES.

AS A HISTORIAN AND SOMEBODY WHO HAS DONE RESEARCH AND SIGNIFICANT WRITING ON THIS, BECAUSE YOU TALK IN THE BOOK ABOUT SEVERAL OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS, THOMAS JEFFERSON, GEORGE WASHINGTON, AND CLEARLY WE HAVE THAT PARADOX THERE THAT WE'RE WRESTLING WITH NOW, WE'RE BECOMING MORE AWARE OF IT, THE IDEA THAT -- THAT THEY WERE EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTERS WHO CRAFTED A NEW NATION AND YET THEY WERE SLAVE HOLDERS.

HOW DO YOU AS A HISTORIAN THINK WE SHOULD BE RECONCILING THESE HISTORICAL FIGURES HERE, THEIR GENIUS AND THEIR FRAILTIES AND THEIR MORAL SHORTAGES HERE?

HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THAT?

I THINK YOU JUST SAID IT.

I MEAN, THEY WERE FULLY FLEDGED HUMAN BEINGS, SO, THEY DID HAVE THESE FRAILTIES.

AND WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT.

I THINK IN THIS COUNTRY THERE'S A VERY IMMATURE OF LOOKING AT OUR HISTORY.

THAT WE CAN ONLY LOOK AT IT AS THIS GLOSSED OVER HEROIC TIME PERIOD.

WE CAN'T SEE ANY OF THE BAD, AS WELL AS THE GOOD.

AND SO THIS BAD PART, ONCE WE ACCEPT IT, I THINK WE CAN MATURE AND GROW AS A NATION.

GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS A SLAVE HOLDER AND THE PENNSYLVANIA LAW, BECAUSE THE CAPITAL WAS LOCATED IN PENNSYLVANIA DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, HAD A PART OF IT UNDER THE QUAKERS THAT EVERY SIX MONTHS, IF A PERSON WAS ENSLAVED AND KEPT THERE FOR SIX MONTHS, THEN THEY WOULD BE FREE.

HE WOULD LEAVE ONE DAY BEFORE THE SIX-MONTH DEADLINE, GO BACK TO VIRGINIA AND THEN TAKE ALL OF THE SLAVES WITH HIM AND THEN COME BACK AND RESTART THE CLOCK.

HE WAS DOING THIS EVERY SIX MONTHS.

AND ONE OF HIS SLAVES, ENSLAVED WOMAN THERE, SHE WAS NOW IN THE PRESIDENCY, YOU MUST BE TREATED REALLY WELL.

YOU'RE AN ENSLAVED WOMAN OF THE PRESIDENT, GEORGE WASHINGTON, THIS BELOVED FIGURE.

SHE RUNS AWAY.

AND NOW HE SENDS BOUNTY HUNTERS FOR HER AND THIS MAKES THE NEWS BECAUSE THEY'RE SAYING, GEORGE WASHINGTON NOT ONLY IS A SLAVE HOLDER, BUT HE WON'T LET THIS ONE WOMAN GO.

HIS EGO WOULDN'T TAKE THE FACT THAT SHE LEFT AND WOULD NOT COME BACK.

IT WAS LIKE, HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE BEING A SLAVE IN THE PRESIDENT'S MANSION, LIKE, OF ALL PLACES.

I MEAN, HOW DARE YOU STILL WANT FREEDOM?

AND THAT'S WHY SHE TOOK JUSTICE.

EVEN WHEN PEOPLE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THAT BURNING LIGHT INSIDE OF A BLACK WOMAN, THAT SHE KNEW SHE WAS MORE THAN SHADOW, MORE THAN SOMETHING TO BE BRED TO MAKE THE LABOR FORCE FOR THIS COUNTRY, WHICH WAS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY.

SHE WAS MORE THAN THAT, THE LAW MIGHT HAVE SAID SHE WAS NOTHING, BUT SHE KNEW SHE HAD SOMETHING INSIDE OF HER AND SHE KEPT THAT.

AND THAT MADE PEOPLE ACTUALLY RISK ALL TO GAIN THEIR FREEDOM EVEN IF IT MEANT LEAVING THAT HOME OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

YOU TELL SO MANY COMPELLING STORIES, ONE VERY INTERESTING ONE IN NEW YORK CITY, A WOMAN BY THE NAME OF ELIZABETH JENKINS.

NOW, WE ALL KNOW THE ROSA PARKS STORY, AND I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF MEETING HER ONCE BEFORE AND TALKING WITH HER BEFORE SHE PASSED AWAY.

ELIZABETH JENKINS -- JENNINGS, I'M SORRY, INVOLVED IN A SIMILAR CASE, BUT 100 YEARS BEFORE ROSA PARKS.

TELL US ABOUT ELIZABETH JENNINGS.

IN 1854, MANHATTAN, SHE'S GOING TO CHURCH IN HER SUNDAY BEST IN A STREETCAR AND THESE WOMEN AND MEN, WHITE WOMEN AND MEN DON'T WANT HER ON THE STREETCAR.

SLAVERY HAS ENDED.

SHE'S A FREE PERSON, THERE'S NO SLAVERY IN NEW YORK.

AND SHE'S ON THE STREETCAR, THEY DEMAND THE CONDUCTOR REMOVE HER BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT TO RIDE ON THE SAME PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AS SHE AND THEY DRAG HER OFF THE STREETCAR, BEAT HER UP, THROW HER ON THE GROUND, TEAR HER SUNDAY DRESS AND SHE SUES.

THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND, HER BROTHER IS A VERY HIGH LEVEL POPULAR MINISTER, SHE GETS A LAWYER, SHE SUES AND GETS DAMAGES.

NOW ONLY DOES SHE WIN, SHE GETS DAMAGES FOR THE PERSONAL INSULT AND THE TEAR TO HER DRESS.

TALKING ONCE AGAIN WITH PROFESSOR GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL ABOUT HER BOOK ENTITLED 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE: THE BLACK WOMAN LAW IN POWER.'

YOU TALK ABOUT -- ABOUT GOING TO COURT AND THIS GOES BACK TO, IN MANY WAYS, THE FIRST QUESTION THAT I ASKED, THAT YOU AND I TALKED ABOUT, THE IDEA THAT -- THAT THE LAW WAS THE ENEMY OF BLACK WOMEN AND THEN BECAME A WEAPON.

HOW DID YOU SEE THAT EVOLUTION, IF YOU WILL, WHERE THE COURTS PROVIDED NO -- NOT ONLY NO ASSISTANCE, BUT YOU KNOW, WE LOOK AT DREAD SCOTT AND HIS WIFE AND THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, WE LIKE TO THINK THE SUPREME COURT, THIS BASTIAN OF ALL WISDOM, THE SUPREME COURT SAYS YOU ARE PROPERTY.

YOU MENTION IN THE BOOK THAT EVEN FREE BLACKS IN MOST STATES COULD NOT TESTIFY IN COURT.

THEY WERE CONSIDERED FREE, BUT BECAUSE THEY WERE BLACK, THEY COULD NOT TESTIFY.

SO, HOW DID YOU SEE THIS EVOLUTION, THEN, IN THE COURTS, BEING THE ENEMY AGAIN, TO THE WILLINGNESS ON THE PART OF BLACK WOMEN TO SAY, I AM GOING TO USE -- EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE OBSTACLES, I'M GOING TO GET INTO COURT AND SEE WHAT I CAN ACCOMPLISH THERE.

WELL, IT'S THE BRILLIANCE OF THE BLACK WOMAN.

THAT'S WHY I START WITH QUEEN NZINGA.

BLACK WOMEN STARTED BRINGING LAWSUITS IN THE 1600s.

THE IDEA THAT WE ARE -- THIS MOST LITIGIOUS NATION IN THE WORLD, WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY.

THE WAY IS USING LAW, IF LAW CAN OPPRESS ME AND YOU TELL ME WE HAVE A COURT SYSTEM, I'M GOING TO USE LAW.

JUST THINK ABOUT HOW BOLD THAT IS, TO BE THOUGHT OF AS PROPERTY AND THEN AT THE SAME TIME SAY, WELL, YOU CLAIM THIS IS YOUR LEGAL SYSTEM, THAT YOU THEN, YOU KNOW, PURPORT TO SAY IS THE BEST SYSTEM AND THIS IS THE BEST COUNTRY, WELL, SHOW ME.

I'M GOING TO USE YOUR LEGAL SYSTEM AGAINST YOU.

I MEAN, IT'S JUST BRILLIANT.

AND I THINK OF THE BOLDNESS OF THESE WOMEN WHO SAID, YOU KNOW, THEN YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO TELL ME UNDER YOUR LAWS THAT I HAVE NO RIGHTS.

AND SO THEY WOULD CHALLENGE AGAIN AND AGAIN AND THESE FREEDOM CASES, THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF FREEDOM CASES.

I HAVE A HANDFUL THERE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DIFFERENT CASES THAT WERE BROUGHT BY BLACK WOMEN WHO SAID, IN A TRIBAL COURT, IN THESE TRIBUNALS, SOME OF THEM WERE ALLOWED IN REGULAR COURT, BUT MOSTLY IT WAS SLAVE TRIBUNAL COURTS.

IN THESE SLAVE TRIBUNAL COURTS, THEY SAY, WELL, THEY TOOK ME OUT OF THE STATE, THEY TOOK ME TO A FREE STATE AND I SHOULD FREE, RIGHT?

AND SO, IT'S LIKE, THEY WOULD BRING THESE LAWSUITS AND REPRESENT THEMSELVES.

BUT WE ALSO HAD, AND THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN WHITE PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL WHO THEN SAID, I'LL TAKE YOUR CARE.

REMEMBER THAT MUMBET CASE, NEEDED THAT WHITE MALE ATTORNEY TO ACTUALLY REPRESENT HER IN COURT.

SO THERE WERE ALWAYS PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL WHO WERE WHITE WHO WERE WILLING TO STEP FORWARD, NOT AS MANY AS WE SHOULD HAVE HAD AND NOT AS OFTEN AS SHOULD HAVE TAKEN PLACE, BUT THESE BLACK WOMEN SAID, EVEN IF YOU DON'T REPRESENT ME, IF I CAN'T FIND A LAWYER, I'LL REPRESENT MYSELF.

YOU ALSO TALK ABOUT THE WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT IN THE LATE 1800s, EARLY 1900s, BEFORE, FINALLY, 1920, I BELIEVE IT WAS, THE U.S. SUPREME COURT ACTED ON THIS.

AND THERE WERE FIGHTS WITHIN ALL OF THE STATES BEFORE THIS, THE MOVE SHIFTED TO, LET'S SEE IF WE CAN DO THIS IN THE FEDERAL SYSTEM.

AND YOU FOCUS ON THE FACT THAT THERE WERE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BLACK WOMEN LEADING THE SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT.

BUT THERE BECAME CONFLICT WITH WHITE WOMEN IN THE SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT.

NOW, THEY'RE ALL LOOKING FOR THE SAME THING.

WHICH IS THE ABILITY TO SAY, WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE.

WHAT -- WHAT CREATED THAT -- THAT FRICTION AND EVEN INDEED CONFLICT BETWEEN THE GROUPS?

WELL, THAT GOES BACK TO THE TITLE, 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE,' BECAUSE YOU WOULD THINK THAT THESE WOMEN WOULD BE ALLIES, BUT WHITE WOMEN WERE NOT, FOR THE MOST PART.

AFTER 1848 IN SENECA FALLS WHEN WHITE WOMEN AND FREDERICK DOUGLASS MET TO HAVE THIS DECLARATION OF RIGHTS AND THAT THEY SHOULD BE EQUAL, THESE WHITE WOMEN TURNED THEIR BACKS ON BLACK WOMEN LIKE IDA B.

WELLS-BARNETT.

AND THEN THEY ALSO PLAYED ON THIS ISSUE OF LYNCHING, SAYING THAT THESE BLACK MEN ARE LYNCHING WOMEN AND -- ARE BEING LYNCHED BECAUSE THEY ARE ATTACKING WHITE WOMEN AND SO THE LYNCHINGS THAT ARE TAKING PLACE, WE'RE GOING TO SUPPORT THE LYNCHINGS AND THE BLACK WOMEN SAID, YOU CAN'T, BECAUSE IT'S UNTRUE, IT'S NOT ABOUT WHITE WOMEN AT ALL.

BUT THESE WHITE WOMEN PLAYED ON THAT TO GET THE SOUTHERN FEMALE SUPPORT.

SO, I THINK TOO OFTEN THE ISSUES THESE WHITE WOMEN HAD THAT THEY CARRIED FORWARD WERE ISSUES THAT WERE TO THE BLACK WOMEN'S POLICIES, BUT THE WHITE WOMEN HAD PREJUDICES TO KEEP BLACK WOMEN OUT.

SO, BLACK WOMEN CREATED THEIR OWN ORGANIZATIONS.

ONCE AGAIN, 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE,' BY CREATING HER OWN.

IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE SUPPORT OF WHITE WOMEN, THEY WOULD GO FORWARD.

BUT REMEMBER, THERE WERE MANY BLACK MEN THAT DID NOT SUPPORT BLACK WOMEN GETTING THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

AND BOOKER T. WASHINGTON WAS ONE OF THEM.

HE WAS THE MOST FAMOUS BLACK MAN AT THE TIME AND HE DID NOT SUPPORT BLACK WOMEN OR WOMEN GENERALLY HAVING THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

SO, SHE HAD TO GO FORWARD ON HER OWN, BUILDING HER OWN GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATIONS AND HER OWN SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SOCIAL SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS IN HER COMMUNITY.

MENTIONED THE NOTION OF LYNCHINGS.

THE HORRIFIC NOTION OF LYNCHINGS.

AND YOU TALK IN THE BOOK -- THE LYNCHINGS DOESN'T JUST MEAN HANGINGS, IT'S THE TERM FOR ANY EX EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS.

AND WE KNOW POSTRECONSTRUCTION INTO THE 1960s, IN ALL AREAS IN THE COUNTRY, THERE WERE PLACES SUCH AS INDIANA THAT WERE THE HOT BED OF THE KKK, THERE WERE SOME -- I SAW STATISTICS, SOME 5,000 DOCUMENTED LYNCHINGS IN THAT PERIOD.

DOCUMENTED.

AND HISTORIANS BELIEVE THERE ARE THOUSANDS MORE UNDOCUMENTED.

GIVE ME, GOT ABOUT FOUR, FIVE MINUTES HERE.

I WANT TO DO THIS AND I HAVE ANOTHER BIG PICTURE QUESTION TO WRAP UP WITH.

BUT GIVE ME A SENSE OF THE NOTIONS SURROUNDING THESE LYNCHINGS, ESPECIALLY INLE VOVING BLACK WOMEN THAT YOU TRY TO DISPEL HERE.

WELL, ONE IS IT WAS ABOUT THE ASSAULT ON A WHITE WOMAN.

WHEN WE GET TO THE 19th AMENDMENT AND THE ABILITY OF BLACK WOMEN AND ALL WOMEN, SUPPOSEDLY, TO VOTE, YOU SEE THE ATTACKS ON BLACK WOMEN.

BLACK WOMEN WERE LYNCHED.

SO, WE HAVE TO GET RID OF THAT NOTION.

WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT LYNCHINGS WERE AGAINST BLACK MEN WERE BASED IN MANY PARTS BY COMPETITION.

IF A BLACK MAN OPENED A STORE OR HAD A BUSINESS OR HAD SOMETHING THAT WAS BETTER THAN A WHITE PERSON, THEN THIS ANGER WOULD BE, HOW DARE YOU HAVE MORE THAN I DO, DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WHITE PEOPLE SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE MORE?

AND SO AFTER THE WAR, WORLD WAR I, WHEN BLACK MEN CAME BACK HOME IN UNIFORMS, THERE WAS AN UPTICK IN LYNCHINGS.

ALL THESE THINGS WOULD HAPPEN THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH AN ASSAULT ON A WHITE WOMAN AND WE ALSO NEED TO KNOW THAT, YOU KNOW, WHITE MEN WERE WEARING BLACK FACE AT THE TIME, SO THOSE ASSAULTS ON WHITE WOMEN COULD HAVE BEEN BY WHITE MEN IN BLACK FACE.

WE DON'T KNOW.

BUT WE DO KNOW THE RESULT WAS THAT BLACK MEN AND WOMEN, ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS CASES OF A BLACK WOMAN BEING LYNCHED, WAS MARY TURNER, WHO WAS PREGNANT AND HAD THE FETUS CUT OUT OF HER, STOMPED UP --

HANG HER FOR COMPLAINING ABOUT THE FACT THAT THEY HAD LYNCHED HER HUSBAND THE DAY BEFORE.

LET ME ASK YOU LAST QUESTION HERE, I'VE GOT ABOUT A MINUTE AND A HALF.

YOU'RE A HISTORIAN.

YOU'VE BEEN RESEARCH ON THIS.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM PUTTING THIS BOOK TOGETHER THAT YOU HOPE OTHERS WILL TAKE FROM IT?

I LEARNED ABOUT TENACITY THAT IS, DON'T BE ASHAMED OF YOUR TEN TENACITY, YOUR BOLDNESS AS A WOMAN.

THESE WOMEN HAD SO LITTLE AND DID SO MUCH WITH IT.

THEY LOST SOMETIMES, MANY TIMES THEY LOST THEIR LIVES, THEY LOST THEIR LIVELIHOODS, PEOPLE LIKE DA DAISY BATES, NEVER HAD THE LEGAL LIFE OR STABILITY PROTECTIONS THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE HAD AS WOMEN, AS AMERICAN CITIZENS, BUT THEY FOUGHT ON ANYWAY.

I LEARNED FROM THEM THAT YOU HAVE TO KEEP PUSHING FORWARD, NOT JUST FOR YOUR GENERATION AND YOURSELF, BUT FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS, BECAUSE WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF THOSE GENERATIONS OF WOMEN WHO FOUGHT AND THEY TOOK JUSTICE SO THEY WE COULD HAVE JUSTICE TODAY.

AND CERTAINLY, I SAID LAST QUESTION, ONE LAST, LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, THE IMPORTANCE OF US KNOWING THESE STORIES, WHY SO IMPORTANT?

EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW AMERICAN HISTORY.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

WE SHOULDN'T SHY AWAY FROM IT.

AND WE SHOULD GIVE RESPECT AND ATTRIBUTION TO THE BLACK WOMAN FOR WHAT SHE HAS BEEN THROUGH, FOR WHAT THIS COUNTRY HAS DONE FOR HER, FOR WHAT SHE HAS CONTRIBUTED INTELLECTUALLY AS WELL AS PHYSICAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE LABOR THAT SHE'S GIVEN TO THE INTELLECT SHE'S GIVEN AND CREATIVITY.

SHE IS AN AMAZING EXAMPLE OF WHAT A HUMAN BEING IS AND CAN BE DESPITE ALL OBSTACLES AND ANYONE SHOULD READ THESE STORIES AND FEEL THAT THEY, TOO, CAN DO MORE WITH THEIR LIVES, GIVEN WHAT THESE BLACK WOMEN FACED IN OPPOSITION AND WERE ABLE TO DO DESPITE EVERYTHING.

AND I LIKE TO END WITH, IF WOMEN WANT MORE RIGHTS THAN WHAT THEY GOT, THEY NEED TO TAKE THEM, NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT IT.

IF YOU DON'T GET IT, THEN YOU HAVE TO STAND UP AND ACTUALLY TAKE THE JUSTICE THAT YOU NEED.

YEAH.

I LOVE THAT QUOTE YOU HAVE IN THE VERY FRONT OF THE BOOK.

ESSENTIALLY, SHE WANTS IT, SHE NEEDS TO TAKE IT.

AND AS YOU TALK ABOUT HERE, 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE.'

IT'S PROFESSOR GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL.

THE BOOK ENTITLED 'SHE TOOK JUSTICE: THE BLACK WOMAN LAW AND POWER 1619-1969.'

AS I MENTIONED IN THE VERY BEGINNING, IT'S SUCH A POWERFUL AND COMPELLING BOOK, SUCH A THOUGHT-PROVOKING BOOK.

IN MANY WAYS, AND THIS IS INTENDED TO BE A COMPLIMENT TO YOU AS A RESEARCH AND WRITER, IT'S A HORRIFYING BOOK IN TERMS OF THE STORIES THAT ARE CONTAINED, STORIES THAT WE DON'T KNOW AND CERTAINLY AS A NATION, WE NEED TO KNOW.

PROFESSOR, ALWAYS GOOD TO TALK WITH YOU.

SO GLAD WE WERE ABLE TO GET TOGETHER AND DO THIS AND I'LL LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR NEXT CONVERSATION.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MON NEL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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