Books by Jack Newfield
The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth the Mania /
RFK: Memoir /
Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King
American Rebels /
American Monsters: 44 Rats, Blackhats, and Plutocrats
The American Government: Who Really Rules New York /
City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York
Somebody's Gotta Tell It: A Journalist's Life on the Lines
The Education of Jack Newfield
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Freedom Democratic Party
& the 1964 Democratic National
A Perspective by Jack Newfield
A Prophetic Minority
coalition-versus-insurgent organizing issue was crystallized at
the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
To honky-tonk Atlantic City came the anti-Establishment
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party: sixty-four poor rural
Negroes and four white integrationists.
Their only credentials, as Murray Kempton wrote, were
“their wounds and their faces.”
They came to challenge the right of the regular
segregationist delegation and to represent Mississippi at the
MFDP said they represented the 850,000 unregistered Negroes of
the Magnolia State.
At first it seemed as
if the poor petitioners’ challenge would be brushed aside as a
rude intrusion of Lyndon Johnson’s ceremonial coronation.
But forty-eight hours before the convention opened, the
credentials committee held a nationally televised hearing that
shamed the nation’s conscience, already in mourning for the
murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner.
Joseph Rauh, former
leader of the ADA and the MFDP lawyer, told the committee, “I
have only an hour to tell you a story of moral agony that could
Edward King, the
oft-beaten white minister at Tougaloo College, said, “We do
not apologize for not holding our convention in Neshoba
Martin Luther King,
Roy Wilkins, and James Farmer all testified for the Freedom
the day was out liberal Democrats like Congresswoman Edith Green
and Senator Wayne Morse had been won to the MFDP’s side. The
rude intrusion suddenly became a specter threatening to tear the
Democratic Party open.
The intrigues of the
next seventy-two hours are lost in the half truths of sleepless
thousands of students and civil-rights workers kept vigil on the
boardwalk, intricate negotiations were undertaken by Rauh,
Hubert Humphrey (whose own vice presidential hopes were in the
balance), and the national civil-rights leadership.
By Tuesday morning the President offered the MFDP two
seats at-large plus a guarantee that all future convention
delegations would be integrated.
There followed a
dramatic caucus in a Negro church, where Roy Wilkens, Walter
Reuther, Wayne Morse, Martin Luther King, and Bayard Rustin came
to urge the delegation of cotton-choppers and maids to accept
the two-seat compromise as an “incredible triumph.”
James Farmer took an agnostic position, while James
Forman and Bob Parris of SNCC urged rejection of the
The delegates finally voted unanimously to reject the
civil-rights leaders, and Social Democrats were shocked.
One of them said, “Those fools snatched defeat from the
jaws of victory.” They
suddenly realized the New Radicals were uncompromising Utopians
who would not abide by all the rules of polite protest.
They realized there was revolutionary
feeling within the movement, and that the anti-leader
anarchism was real and ran deep.
For their part, SNCC
and the MFDP discovered their liberal friends cared more about
the threat of Goldwater and the ambitions of Humphrey than about
the absolute morality of a cause; they discovered that even the
best liberals, those who sometimes supported civil disobedience,
would at some point divide politics and morality and bend their
knees to reality.
In the months that
followed, Atlantic City became an irrational watershed—or
Krondtadt—for both the Social Democrats and the New Left.
People who had not been there, like Irving Howe and Nat
Hentoff, chose up sides. No
one seemed to disagree with his political allies who had been
there. The decision
against the compromise became a metaphor whereby everyone
defined the emotional intensity of his radicalism.
Those who opposed the compromise were branded irrational,
destructive, and nihilistic.
Those who supported it were labeled sell-outs, lackies of
the President, betrayers of the radical creed.
The Socialists decided the students needed a political
education about how to function in the grown-up world of realpolitik,
and the students decided the Social Democrats’ coalition would
always turn on the poor as it had in Atlantic City.
All of this was
unnecessary and tragic. There
were good people on both sides of the dispute; there seems to be
no right and wrong position, no great principle involved.
Certainly the great principle the New Left claims was at
stake—decision-making by the poor—is a myth.
The SNCC workers almost handpicked the MFDP delegation in
Mississippi, and controlled it while at the convention.
The unreal and
unnecessary nature of the Atlantic City debate, I think, extends
to most of the furor over coalition politics as opposed to what
SDS calls “the creation of popular left opposition.”
Both are needed.
* * * * *
Fannie Lou Hamer's
speech at the 1964 DNC
Fannie Lou Hamer (born Fannie Lou
Townsend on October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting
rights activist and
civil rights leader. She was instrumental in organizing
Freedom Summer for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became
the Vice-Chair of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the
1964 Democratic National Convention in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her plain-spoken manner
and fervent belief in the
Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an
electrifying speaker and constant activist of civil rights. . . .
On August 23, 1962, Rev.
James Bevel, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC) and an associate of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a sermon in Ruleville, Mississippi and
followed it with an appeal to those assembled to
register to vote. . . . Hamer was the first volunteer. She later
said, "I guess if I'd had any sense, I'd have been a little scared—but
what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was
kill me, and it seemed they'd been trying to do that a little bit at a
time since I could remember."
On August 31, she traveled on a
rented bus with other attendees of Bevel's sermon to
Indianola, Mississippi to register. In what would become a signature
trait of Hamer's activist career, she began singing Christian hymns,
such as "Go
Tell It on the Mountain" and "This
Little Light of Mine," to the group in order to bolster their
resolve. . . . Bob Moses . .. dispatched Charles McLaurin . . . to find
"the lady who sings the hymns". McLaurin found and recruited Hamer. . .
. On June 9, 1963, Hamer was on her way back from
Charleston, South Carolina with other activists from a literacy
workshop. Stopping in
Winona, Mississippi, the group was arrested on a false charge and
jailed. Once in jail, Hamer and her colleagues were beaten savagely by
the police, almost to the point of death.
Released on June 12, she needed
more than a month to recover. . . Hamer was invited, along with the rest
of the MFDP [Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party] officers, to address
the Convention's Credentials Committee. She recounted the problems she
had encountered in registration, and the ordeal of the jail in Winona,
and, near tears, concluded: "All of this is on account we want to
register to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic
Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America,
the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to
sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened
daily because we want to live as decent human beings—in America?"
Hubert Humphrey (who was campaigning for the
Vice-Presidential nomination), [along with]
Walter Mondale, and
Walter Reuther, as well as
J. Edgar Hoover . . . suggested a compromise which would give the
MFDP two non-voting seats in exchange for other concessions, and
secured the endorsement of
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the plan. But when
Humphrey outlined the compromise, saying that his position on the ticket
was at stake, Hamer, invoking her Christian beliefs, sharply rebuked
"Do you mean to tell me that your
position is more important than four hundred thousand black people's
lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have
lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the
plantation where I worked in
Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of
Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP,
everything will be all right.
God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this
way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for
poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator
Humphrey, I'm going to pray to Jesus for you."
Future negotiations were conducted
without Hamer, and the compromise was modified such that the Convention
would select the two delegates to be seated, for fear the MFDP would
appoint Hamer. In the end, the MFDP rejected the compromise, but had
changed the debate to the point that the Democratic Party adopted a
clause which demanded equality of representation from their states'
delegations in 1968.—Wikipedia
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Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection.
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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story
of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer
American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.
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