tv Book Discussion on The Black Calhouns CSPAN February 21, 2016 3:30pm-4:10pm EST
research showed that there was some positive impact did not actually have an impact on larger scale and the ultimate conclusion that i came to was a very simple premise was that technology in and of itself only amplifies under human forces. so what that means wherever the human forces are positive and capable, you can use technology and things get better. be where those human forces are indifferent or possibly corrupt or fundamentally unable to take advantage of technology, no technology turns things around. this goes in direct contradiction with earlier quotes that i mentioned where people believe that technology in and of itself causes social change that we are looking for. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. ..
>> thank you very much. thank you very much for being here. i'm delighted to be in beautiful savannah. i have been asked to speak a little bit about myself, to say what role books have played in my life and how i first became interested in writing. i think the iorta tng i think the important thing to begin with is that i was born 1937 and have seen some important changes in american life. i graduated from radcliffe college in 1959, which means i had a harvard education. i wish i studied more and enjoyed myself less. after college i had a terrific job as a reporter at life
magazine, job i loved even though i was paid less than a man doing the same work. life is probably where i first thought about writing as a career. the part being born in 1937 was that most young women with a college degree got interesting if ill-paying jobs and then quit to get married. i gave up life because my first husband wished me to. i did not work again for 15 years. i've been married twice. my first husband was film director, my second husband was a journalist, foreign correspondent, and editor. i have two wonderful children and two delightful grandchildren. because i was basically an only child with a mother who was a voracious reader, books have always played an enormous part in my life is a traveled in the summers with my mother. i don't see how could i have gotten through childhood and adolescence without books. from dr. doolittle and nancy
drew to 17th summer and the catcher in the rye, which the housemaker in my quaker boarding school confiscated from my room as unsuitable. i remember certain great traveling book moments. for example, reading moby dick straight through on a train from new york to california, which may be the best way to read moby dick. discovering a new favorite, h.g. wells, blahs he was the only english language author library in a transatlantic liner, and arriving in london from school in new york to have my mother greet my by thrusting a book into my hands and saying, you have to read this. it was the first james bond. i have been asked about my life in letters and what inspired my latest book. the idea of a life in letters muses me because it makes me think of brilliant and prolific people who write all day and talk about books all night.
my life in letters has been sporeatic, intermittent and late. my first book was published in 1986. my second book was published in 2001. and my third book was published in 2016. i clearly have not had a life in letters. but all three of my books have been inspired by the same impulse. family stories. my first book, the horns, was inspired by objects found in my grandfather's trunk. my second book, american patriots, the stories of blacks in the military from the revolution through desert storm, was inspired by the great uncle who died as an officer in the first world war, and my third and current book tells the story of the black calhouns of atlanta. the founding family. who are the black calhouns? they were an extended atypical african-american family who-from
1865 to 1965, north and south, were also typically americans in their dreams and as separations. they were typically american because their founding father, my great-great grandfather, moses calhoun, impress siltly believed in the american dream. although he was a slave until he was 35, he was cultural, geographically, and historically lucky. he was lucky because despite laws mandating illiteracy for blacks he had been educated in slavery. his owner, andrew bone apart calhoun, an atlanta physician, a first man to sign georgia's article of secession and a cousin of john c. calhoun wanted a literate butler and was powerful enough to ignore the laws. mouses was geographically lucky because he lived in a town and not on a plantation, and was historically lucky because the great new reconstruction amendment to the constitution
gave him everything he needed for luck and freedom. besides the 13th amendment, which made him truly free, the 14th gave him equality under the law, and the 15th gave him the vote. he was, therefore, an american citizen with all the rights of every other american citizen. as an enter surprising and -- enterprising and intelligent man moses took advantage of everything that reconstruction had to offer. i don't know what would have happened to my great-great grandfather without reconstruct, but with it he was a able to create a successful life for himself and his family and i amassed enough money and property so that in 1886, 20 years after the end of the war, the atlantic constitution would call hem the wealthiest colored man in atlanta. the black calhouns, moses and his mother and sister, had a sort of family business with andrew calhoun. moses was a butler, his mother was the cook, and his sister was
the nurse maid. they were considered favored slaves. a.b. calhoun appeared to be a relatively benevolent and generous owner. after the war he deeded property to moses' mother and sister. the story of the black calhouns is a story of the family of moses, whose descendents would pros sir in the north and familiar of moses' sister whose descent dents stayed and prospered in atlanta from 1865 to 1965 they lived through the civil rights american, both a wonderful and a terrible century for black americans. the century over freedom, aspiration and achievement. on the other hand, for the the freedom was ephemeral. except for a lucky few the doors were closed. it's important to american that american slaves were freed
without compensation, education. american emancipation compared to brit ' -- reconstruction lasted ten years but the spirit was engraved on the psych keys of all the black calhoun through the generations. they not only believed in america but believed they had a role to play in the progress of their country and community. as might be expected the black calhouns moved north fulfilled their aspirations and achieved success. less expected, perhaps, those who stayed in atlanta, and equally successful in aspirational lives in some sways even more successful. obviously life in the north was easier than life in the south. northern parents could raise their children where there were no white whites only signs on
libraries, museums and parks. but high achievement was the norm on both sides of the family with interesting differences. northern achievement tended to be political and publication and southern achievement was professional and private. the other differences were personal. among the black calhouns northern marriages tended to be unhappy and families more dysfunctional. with more divorce, adultery, et cetera, and southern marriages were longer lasting and seemed to be happier. my personal theory is with fewer choices and opportunities southerners turned inwards towards family, church and community. while northerners had more choices, they also had more temptations. moses calhoun waited until he was three to marry. at 36 he found a bride who was 15 years younger, looked white and had been born free in new orleans. the two beautiful daughters, cora and lina calhoun, were both
highly educated in the so-called missionary schools that sprang up over the old confederacy after the war. sponsored by white northern fill an to the preyses these colleges instead confidence as well as rigorous academies into their students who were being trained to become the first black teachers in the south. cora graduated from atlanta university and lina graduated from fisk in nashville, tennessee, where massachusetts chute due boyce, who was preparing for harvard fell in love with her. back in mavs where due boyce's family has leafed in freedom, young willy was both the star student and the star athlete. but he had never before seen such confident young men or beautiful girls as he saw in the south.
and he was bowled over by what he described in this autobiography as the rosy apricot beauty of 16-year-old lina calhoun of atlanta. dubois named his teachers to be the talented ten. the ten percent of the negro race whose job was to uplift the 90%. both calhoun girls married successful young men, breaking willy dubois' heart she married other graduate who would principal of the first black high school in nashville, and later in the classic black middle class way, being something of a renaissance man, successful on optometrist, and their cousin, the daughter of moses' sister, married a graduate of atlanta university
who became the very prosperous and highly respected first black licensed real estate broker in atlanta. while cora and lina calhoun and their husbands moved north in the wake of -- the supreme court decision that entrenched white sprem circumstance their cousins' families stayed in atlanta to remain pill lahars of -- pillars of the black community. cora and leap ma moved to north to raise their two sons. jedwin, a former republican an differentist, became a democrat, writing pamphlets for the 1910 elect that let black men for the first time leave the republican party and elect a democrat as governor of new york. ed than i's -- won no, the first national guard unit, the 369th 369th regiment known as
harlem's own the most highly decorated american unit in the first world war. although it fought in french uniforms under the french flag because racist president, woodrow will son, did not want blacks to bear arms for america. cora's oldest son, second lieutenant harold horn, professional soldier veteran of the pancho via campaign died in the war, not battle but the influenza pandemic. black life in the south was at touched by the world war. the granddaughter of moses' sister married a captain who became one of the most beloved members of atlanta's black community and the father and grandfather of three mother doctors. while life in the south remained difficult for blacks in general, for some atlanta blacks in particular, life was very good indeed. a business culture rather than a planter culture, atlanta always had one eye on northern
investment. while inpunished certain black political aspirations it rarely punished black business at operations. atlanta was good place for enterprising and family orient blacks. cora horne, true member of the talented tenth, came into her own during the war as a red cross organizer, as secretary of the brooklyn urban league, a director of the big brothers and big sisters federation where what's mentor to the very young paul robson and pointee of the mayor of new york to the brooklyn victory committee. the war years were actually cora's slow years. the former suffragist became an active thrust 1920. meanwhile, in 1919, she made her granddaughter, lina horne, the child of her second son edwin, a lifetime member of the naacp at the age of two. cora was a busy woman and edwin
horn was a successful man bud that it had an unhappy marriage. edwin was known to have a lady friend in manhattan, his son had an unhappy measure, despite baby lina. both of my mother's young parents decertained her before she was two. after making small kill only the black sox baseball scandal of 1919, ted horne left his job to pursue easy money on the fringes of the reacts, while lina's mother, a member of an old black brooklyn family from massachusetts, left to pursue an unsuccessful theatrical career. until she was six yours old she lived in brooklyn with heir grandparents where her grandmother never spoke to her husband except to say, good morning, mr. horne. post war black life in the north changed radically in the 1920s. now a voter, cora horne, became
a republican activist, certainly for historical reasons but possibly to annoy her activist husband. she campaigned for calvin coolage in the 1924 election as a member of the speakers bureau for the republican party and an organizer of the eastern division of the run national women's auxiliary. something else happened in the 1920s. suddenly, harlem was in vogue. not just in new york, but around the world. harlem's sudden vogue stemmed from a combination of reasons. from the fact that harlem night clubs protected by a compliant mayor happily ignored prohibition to the discovery of african tribal arts in german colonies which caused picasso to change the faces of heir painting into masks to a smash broadway show called shuffle along, fast-paces review with a
hit song called "i'm just wild about hari" and a hit dance called the charleston, to a whole new group of black poets and novelists, including cora's third son, frank horne, known as the family intellectual, frank horne became a prize-winning poet and young second temperature member of the harlem renaissance, in typical black middle class family he had a day job. he was a practice, opt moll mall gist. in the -- on alcohol mall gist. he was dean and the first black acting president as of a college in georgia. he could hey been a model for the college in ralph ellison's "invisible man." frank wrote, i'm initiated into the negro race. on i'm the enterer of back
doors, side doors and sometimes no door at all. meanwhile, core are's southern cows skin and daughter were also club women but of a very different nature. middle class black southern women concentrated on self-improvement, rather than do-gooding our uplifting the race, which could be a dangerous occupation in the 10920s south. they formed talk circles to discussion hurt to all temperature and travel, but politics was forbidden and do-goods wag done through atlanta's first congregational church. cora's daughter had her first experience. in 1923mer mother wanted her daughter with her but mostly left her with straineer. lena became an opt of contention between her mother and grandmother, pulled between her secure brooklyn life and wherever her mother was in the south.
young lena who went to a roman catholic primary school in brock lynn, now attend one-room southern school houses where the other children always hated her. in 1927, however, lena's life changed completely when her mother eloped to have van practice with a white cuban military officer. for two years she remained in the south, happy at last. living next to her frank's fiancee in the girl's dorm of the school. frank himself would be rescued from the back doors of the south in the next decade by invitation to join fdr's so-called black cabinet as assistant director of negro affairs in the new deal youth administration. in 1929, lena left the south and went back to brooklyn permanently, where her beloved grandfather took her to museums and the theater. she was so smitten by fred astaire on broadway in "the gay divorce" she asked for and
received singing and dancing lessons. both leading to starring rolls in middle class black brooklyn's young amateur theatrics as well as notice in the black press. everything changed for lena in 1932, however, when cora horne died and her mother returned from cuba with her husband, now a refugee from the latest revolution who spoke no english. needing money, gasoline's mother took her out of girl's high school to audition for the chorus of the cotton club, a big, glamorous, mob-run show chaste of black talent for all-white audiences in the middle of a black community. lena's father was one of the rare blacks allowed in to see the show because his best friend, former world war i black officer was now the numbers king of harlem. lena, 16 years old and beautiful, whose mother protected her virtue by sitting in the dressing room every night-was also famously
protected by the black mob. by 1935, however, lina was ready to move on. against the wishes of the cotton club, lena's mother took her to boston to sing with a orchestra, black musicians playing white music, the ritz-carlton hotel. the first black orchestra and she was the first black singer to appear at boston's ritz. she sang by blue moon "in a white direction bus lena was tired of show business and took a vacation on her own to visit her father, who now lived in pittsburgh, where he owned a small hotel with a discrete private gambling den in pittsburgh lena met and married my father, lewis joan who had a job in city government and his older lawyer brothers were important in black democratic ward politics.
lena was now a young house wife 0 who made occasional forays into show business mostly because her husband needed the money. despite the birth of my baby brother, little teddy, lena, finally aware of lewis philandering called an end to the marriage, leaving her children with heir father and stepmother in 1940 she went back to new york to look for work. living at the harlem ywc ha she had the calhoun -- big band in the 1930s and and 1940s were like 1960s rock groups in popularity and lena made recording with barnett and artie shaw, barnett, shaw, and benny goodman were the only ones who
hired black musicians. lena was tired of bands and it hassed touring. she wanted to be in new york with her children. she now got another career break, singing at cafe society in greenwich village. cafe society was unique in its day. beside presenting extraordinary young talent like billy holiday and zero moss still it was the only integrateed nightclub outside of harlem with black patrons as well as black performers elm lena was a hit. unbeknownst to most patrons cafe society was a fundraising outlet for the then legal communist party of the us -- u.s.a. if she had known lena doubtless would not have cared. she did not know a communist from a republican. but in the 1950s, every performer would be blacklifted. now, however, she was able to bring me and little teddy to new york, where we all entered her
childhood brooklyn home. little teddy's visit was short-lived, however. lewis' cruel divorce agreement stipulated i would live with my mother and teddy lived with our father, but my mother and i were soon to move even farther away. because of her cafe society success she received an offer from hollywood. not from the movies but from a new nightclub called the little toking. once again she was an overnight sensation, with lines background the block. one man who came night after night was mgm's roger eden, the man who discovered judy garland, lena had the first contract in hollywood for a black performer but night not have a happened without world war ii. she arrived in held at the same time that walter white of the naacp and wendell wilkie began they're campaign with hollywood
prewitt prizer to eliminate stereotypes of people of color, including anything grows, erics and latins fork the sake of wartime allies. lena's contract stipulated no servant or jungle roles, which almost single hand deadly expected to prove to the allies that america, unlike germany and japan, was not a racist country. so, lena became known as the first black movie star. she became the first black member of the board of screen actors guild and the first black person to appear on the cover of a movie agency. despite ale lies of color, her scenes were always isolated from the main portion of the movie so they could easily be cut out of the picture when it was shown in the south. in fact, except for cabin in the sky and stormy weather she was cut out of every picture she made in hollywood when they were shown in the south. unless the cast was all break, the southern rules stipulated that blacks in movies could only
be shown as servant types. those nightclubes continued to be hugely important theatrical venues front cotton club, to ritz-carlton think greenwich village's cafe society and hollywood's little trog, and in 1942 she became the first black entertainer to appear at manhattan's very elegant savoy plaza hotel. once again she was an overnight sensation. so well noticed she was featured in item, life in "newsweek," all in the same february 1943 week. nightclubs game lena recognition but world war ii made her a star. black g.i.s needed a pinup, and lena was always embarrassed she was the only one. while two atlantic cousins married tuskegee airmen she was chosen as queen of the 2 h -- of
their cam about arm was cakes out of uso for refusing to sing at -- her grandmother would have been proud. the post war years saw many chengs in lena's life. one door was shut and others were opened. by 1947, her movie career was essentially over, but her nightclub and performing career went from strength to strength. in 1947 she went to europe for the first time. she had great success touring the still war-torn british isles. cabin in the sky were deemed unfit for white g.i.s they had been shown throughout the british fleet and she also had a major success in paris and married her second husband, white conductor, couple poser and arranger, who became a
wonderful stepfather to me. they came home to find the black list which began in 1947 with he hollywood ten. all screenwriters and former communist party members who went to prison for refusing to testify before a congressional committee. the blacklift touched all professions. lina was finally named in 1950 when she was listed in red channels. her crimes including her appearance at cafe society, and especially her friendship with two men, w. e. b. dubois and paul robson, because they were actually her grandparents' friends the relationships were more dutiful than political. hollywood communists had indeed woo edlen na -- wooed lina but robson warned against it. she was ban ode from network tv for ten years, her nightclub career and international touring career never suffered.
in the day before tv kept people home at night, she remained one of the highest paid performers in the -- nightclub performers in the world. by 1957 she was cleared by the black black listers and standard on broadway. broadway ignored the black list. lina was not the only black calhoun to be suspect. frank horne came under his own blacklifting cloud in washington where he was investigate bid the civil service loyalty board as a founder of the national committee against discrimination in housing. supposedly ferreting out unamericannism, black-lifting was an excuse for racism and antisemitism. the modern civil right era began in 1960 at cora horne's mall matter. in april 1960 a full-page ad pend in the to atlantic constitution: we, the students of the sick affiliated institutions forming the atlanta
university center have chinese our hearts, minds and bodies in the cause of gaining those rights which are inherently ours as members of the human race and the citizens of these united states. we must say in all candor we plan to use every legal and nonviolent means at our disposal to secure full citizenship rights as members of this great democracy of ours. the same year a young atlantic cousin, moses' calhoun great-great grand-niece was chosen to be a see dee segue great gator of an atlanta high school, until her mother had second thoughts and sent her daughter to a massachusetts boarding school. meanwhile, at the north, lena threw himself into the civil rights movement. she and frank sinatra duesed a carnegie hall benefit, one night which benefited the student
nobody violent coordinating committee, the youth branching over the southern christian leadership conference. len in went to miss on behalf of the naacp, the organization which she enrolled -- had been enrolled at the age of two, to join medgar evers at a voting rights ali two days before he was assays nateed. she went to the march on washington wearing her naacp cap and recorded a civil rights song called "now" that was banned from the raid glow several states. the enemies of civil rights had very powerful weapons at their disposal. but the civil rights movement won the high moral ground early and the long, a of justice turned towards the american blacks. the larger and more systemic aspects of official racism were defeated in what could be called a second civil war. it was a strange war, waged on one side by churches, children, and young people, and waged on the other by murders,
terrorists, snarling dogs and fire hoses. despite assassination and two many martyrs voting rights were amideast and jim crow was officially dismantled. by 1973, the city of atlanta the city too busy to hate, had a black mayor and former students on the atlanta university were now in charge of the municipality. although the 1970s are mournful years for len in who lost her father, husband, and son, the 1980s saw another extraordinary change in her career. she opened in a one, woman broadway show that brought her every honor and accolade known in the theater. the 1980s were decade of honors for black calhoun's north and south. in march 1981, the same month that saw lina's triumph tomorrow
to broadway returned. their great grandson solve moses' sister dade in 1984. his death was -- he was the longest practicing black doctor in georgia and the longest practicing doctor of any race in atlanta. the calhoun shared their bounties, gifts and achievements with their community and country and it's fair to say that the black calhouns is as much the story of america as much as of a family. thank you. [applause] [applause] >> anybody have questions?
[inaudible question] >> i can hear you, yes. >> i grew up -- where did you live? >> i lived in -- i was born in pittsburgh, and i grew up in california but my mother grew up on chauncey street in bedford stuyvesant. then called stuyvesant heights and she grew up on chauncey treat and went to brooklyn girls high school and went to catholic church in brooklyn, she adored brooklyn. a total brooklyn girl. >> i grew up in the '30s and '40s so in brooklyn, great years. >> yes, yes.
yes. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. any other nonbrooklyn question? >> i'd like to know what favorite story -- >> my mother, my goodness. that is a difficult question. well, the james bond story is one of them because she didn't even say, hi, she said, you have to read this book when i walked in the door. that's one of my favorites. she was a fun mother. i didn't see her all the time, but when i saw her, which was always on summer vacation, christmas, and big holidays, it was total fun. that was the good part. yes? >> can you come to the microphone? >> the microphone is off. >> it's on now.
>> a long way to go. besides james bon what was your nature's -- >> she loved reading history, especially french history. she knew everything about the queens of france. she loved that. and she was a voracious reader because she always felt she was uneducated because her mother took her out of school and put her in the cotton club, and everybody around her was so bright, she felt, and she was really uneducated. and so she read and read. she was self-taught basically. she had -- in a funny way in the south anyone-room school houses she was always the teacher's pet, even though the children hated her. they hated her accent and everything about her. she was always at the teacher's pet so she didn't really receive a bad education. thank you for your question.
[inaudible question] >> would you share the way your mother did o'stormy weather "during her one, woman show. >> she did it two times. >> yes,ey -- >> the question is why or how did my mother sing "stormy weather" twice in their one, woman broadway show. she sang it the first time the way she was told to sing it bit hollywood, pretty lips, len nark pretty lips. you always sang -- you spoke to the sound recording and you had to make your face very perfect, and she was always told to think of irene dunn. so the second time she sang it in the show was how she would sing it herself at her age then. so it was a much richer, fuller version. and the critics noticed that.