Democracy Now! - July 3, 2015
In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." He was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading the speech during a performance of historian Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book, "Voices of a People’s History of the United States." He was introduced by Zinn.
On June 27, Bree Newsome, a 30-year-old African-American woman, was arrested at the state Capitol after scaling the 30-foot flagpole and unhooking the Confederate flag. As police officers shouted at her to come down, Bree Newsome shimmied to the top, took the flag in her hand and said, "You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!" Newsome recited Psalm 27 and the Lord’s Prayer as she brought the flag down. As soon as she reached the ground, she was arrested, along with James Tyson, who had stood at the bottom of the pole to spot her as she climbed. The action went viral and was seen around the world. Democracy Now! was at the jail where Newsome was taken, where we spoke with her supporters. The flag was replaced about an hour after Newsome took it down. We also spoke with supporters of the flag, who rallied at the Capitol Saturday, and with the counter-protesters who confronted them.
We end our Fourth of July holiday special remembering the late legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger. For nearly seven decades, Seeger was a musical and political icon who helped create the modern American folk music movement. We air highlights of two appearances by Seeger on Democracy Now!, including one of his last television interviews recorded just four months ago. Interspersed in the interviews, Seeger sings some of his classic songs, "We Shall Overcome," "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He also talks about what has been described as his "defiant optimism." "Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That’s what [the album] 'Seeds' is all about," Seeger said. "And there’s a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousandfold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?"
Seeger led an illustrious musical career. In the 1940s, he performed in The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie. Then he formed The Weavers. In the 1950s, he was blacklisted after he opposed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt and was almost jailed for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger became a prominent civil rights activist and helped popularize the anthem "We Shall Overcome." In the 1960s, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and inspired generations of protest singers. He was later at the center of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. With his wife Toshi, Pete helped found Clearwater, a group to clean up the Hudson River. Toshi died last year just weeks before their 70th wedding anniversary. In 2009, he and Bruce Springsteen performed Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
Full episodes of Democracy Now! can be viewed at the link: https://www.freespeech.org/collection/democracy-now.