Mello, Mark: The Underground Railroad in New Bedford, Massachusetts

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New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod is the locale of our program. Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and “New Bedford became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans” who had been able to escape bondage.

The stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford.

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background. Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

Phillips, Barbara: The Dialogue of Race

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This is the second of two interviews with civil rights Attorney Barbara Phillips. She is a contributor to the book “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections From the Deep South: 1964-1980,” whose editor Kent Spriggs we interviewed in December 2017.

In part one Phillips shared stories and experiences from her 40 year legal career as a community organizer and Civil Rights Lawyer.  In this, part two of our conversation, we discuss her essay “Framing the Contemporary Dialogue of Race,” that is featured in “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers.”  We discuss the changing rhetoric about race, the Second Reconstruction and a Supreme Court decision addressing race prior to the 1980s.  These decisions defined a broad scope for just and equal rights for black people in the United States.

As a retired civil rights attorney and retired professor of law at the University of Mississippi, and formerly a Program Officer of the Ford Foundation in the Human Rights unit of the Peace and Social Justice Program, she continues her life’s work as a community organizer in Oxford, Mississippi, and continues promote community justice programs around the world.

When Barbara Phillips and I visited by phone from her home in Oxford, Mississippi, on March 6, 2018, we began our conversation when I asked her about the essay “Framing the Contemporary Dialogue About Race.”

The books Barbara Phillips recommends are “What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America,” by Thomas Frank, and “Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice, and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism,” by Leela Fernandes.

Phillips, Barbara: Protecting and Defending Civil Rights

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We continue our series on “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers,” a book in which our guest Attorney Barbara Phillips is a contributor, and Attorney Kent Spriggs, our guest in December 2017, is the editor.  Now retired, Barbara Phillips first worked as a community organizer in rural Mississippi.  Later, as an attorney she protected and defended the civil rights of women and people of color while based primarily in Mississippi and then California. Eventually, she became a professor at the University of Mississippi Law School.

In this, part one of two interviews with Barbara Phillips, she shares her stories and experiences of her 40 year legal career.  In part two we discuss her opinions on how to frame the contemporary dialogue of race.

When she and I visited by phone from her home in Oxford, Mississippi, on March 5, 2018, we began our conversation when I asked her to describe her experience as an intersectional black, female lawyer.

Sullivan, Michael Gene: Political Theater, Black Men and the Police

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Theatre as a commentary on the condition of society is the subject of this edition of Radio Curious. The topic is the relationship of police and black men in America in 2015. Our guest is Michael Gene Sullivan, the resident playwright, director and a principal actor in “2015: Freedomland,” this year’s production by the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

The first question and answer on the frequently asked questions page on the San Francisco Mime Troupe website is: “Why do you call yourself a Mime Troupe if you talk and sing?” The answer is: “We use the term mime in its classical and original definition, ‘The exaggeration of daily life in story and song.’”

When Michael Gene Sullivan and I visited by phone from his home in San Francisco on June 29, 2015, I asked him if “2015: Freedomland” was an exaggeration of daily life in story and song from his perspective.

The book Michael Gene Sullivan recommends is “The Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Force,” by Redley Balko.

Massey, Orell: The Impact of Martin Luther King, Jr. on One Man

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To assist in the consideration of the impact of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the United States, I invited my friend Orell Massey to join us again here at Radio Curious.  In February 2014, when Massey first visited us he shared his experiences as the first and, so far, the only black law enforcement officer in the history of Mendocino County, California.  Prior to becoming a Deputy Sheriff here 23 years ago, Massey served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was primarily assigned to the Foreign Service Embassy detail. A native of rural South Carolina, he suffered under the cloud, terror, threats and fears brought on by racial segregation throughout his childhood and early adult years before joining the Marine Corps.   Now, he continues to work part time as a Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff, since his retirement in 2017.

When Orell Massey visited the Radio Curious studios on January 14, 2018, we focused on the effect that Martin Luther King, Jr. had on his life.

The Civil Rights song featured is “Can’t Turn Me ‘Round” performed by The Roots.

The book Orell Massey recommends is “I Never Had it Made: An Autobiography of Jackie Robinson,”  by Jackie Robinson and Alfred Duckett.

Spriggs, Kent: Legal Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

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In all successful social and political changes in here in the the United States and elsewhere, civil disobedience plays a significant role. Bus boycotts, sit-ins and marches, coordinated with constitution based legal challenges to blatant racially based restrictions imposed by the white supremacy in the American south, were at the core of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Our guest in this edition of Radio Curious is Attorney Kent Spriggs, the editor of “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections from the Deep South, 1964-1980.”  Spriggs compiled the voices of 26 lawyers, black and white, from the south and the north who began their law practices in the mid-1960s and successfully ended significant aspects of the then existing racial segregation. They describe their backgrounds and provide context for their civil rights litigation and other basic legal rights, as well as how their successes later advanced other movements for social justice.

Kent Spriggs, raised in Washington, D.C. went to the Deep South in 1965 after finishing law school in New York.  He has been a Civil Rights lawyer since he arrived there over 50 years ago. Spriggs, now a resident and former mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, and I visited by phone from his home office on December 4, 2017.  We began our conversation when I asked him describe the contributors and some of their stories in “Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers.”

The three books Kent Spriggs recommends are: “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein; “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race” by Beverly Daniel Tatum; and “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness,” by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West.

Zimring, Frank: When Police Kill Part Two

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This is the second in a two part series on why police in the United States kill more citizens than in any other developed nation.  Our guest is Professor Franklin E. Zimring from the Law School at the University of California at Berkeley.  He is the author of the 2017 book “When Police Kill.”

In part one, Zimring discusses why police killings are such a serious problem in the United States. He asserts it is in large part because of widespread ownership and use of handguns, which increase the vulnerability of police to life-threatening assault.

Here, in part two, Zimring explains how the problem of police killings can be effectively controlled without major changes in the performance or the effectiveness of police.

When Frank Zimring and I visited by phone from his office in Berkeley, California, on November 17, 2017, we began with his discussion of ways to effectively address the problem of police killings.

The book Frank Zimring recommends is “Memos From Midlife: 24 Parables of Adult Adjustment,” his only non-law related book.

And finally for full disclosure, Frank and I met in elementary school in Los Angeles.

Zimring, Frank: When Police Kill Part One

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This program is devoted to some of the reasons why police in the United States kill and who the dead are.

Of the 1,100 killings by police in the United States in the year 2015, 85% were a result of a fatal shooting. 95% of those victims were male.  The death rates for African Americans and Native Americans are twice their share of the population.

Our guest in this first of a two part series on why police kill, is Franklin E. Zimring a law professor at the Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley.  He is also the author of “When Police Kill.”

Zimring’s conclusions, based on evidence garnered from the empirical research revealed in his book show: 1) “Police use of lethal force is a very serious national problem in the United States”; 2) “Killings by police are a much larger problem in the United States than in any other developed nation, in large part because of widespread ownership and use of handguns which increase the vulnerability of police to life-threatening assault;” and 3) “Police killings are a very specific problem that can be effectively controlled without major changes in the performance or the effectiveness of police.”  This third point is the topic of part two in this series.

And, for the sake of full disclosure, Frank Zimring and I have been friends since our early years in elementary school.

Frank Zimring and I visited by phone from his office at Boalt Hall Law School in Berkeley, California on November 17, 2017.   We began our conversation when I asked him to discuss policing as a governmental function.

Best, George: John Brown and Harper’s Ferry

Harper’s Ferry National Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the easternmost corner of what is now West Virginia. This tiny national park, just over a square mile in size, is the location of the 1859 raid led by John Brown, a white abolitionist. Outraged by the sustained existence of slavery in southern United States, Brown and his armed supporters snuck across the river at night attempting to take over of the government arsenal, arm the nearby enslaved people and foment a revolt.  Brown’s intended efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in his conviction for treason and death by hanging.  Nonetheless, he foreshadowed the growing discontent of slavery that would lead to the civil war.

I joined Ranger George Best on October 12, 2017, for a tour and stories, which began at the 1848 now defunct armory amid background sounds of the rivers, railroads and other machinery  He begins with a description of the Foundry, Harper’s Ferry largest building.

The books George Best recommends are: “A Walker’s Guide to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia,” by Dave Gilbert, “The Strange Story of Harper’s Ferry” by Joseph Berry, and “Harpers Ferry Under Fire” by Dennis Fryer.

Pace, Charles & Wagner, Sally: A Visit with Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Frederick Douglass

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass were good friends from the mid 19th century to the late 19th century, and were active leaders in the fight for the rights of women and blacks throughout their lives.  From time to time they got together to visit and talk about America, as they knew it. In this archive edition of Radio Curious recorded in May 1998, I met with Chautauqua scholars Sally Roesch Wagner and Charles Pace who portrayed Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglass.

We began our conversation when I asked them each to tell us what it was like to be an American during their life time.

The book Frederick Douglass recommends is, “The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces Together With Rules, Which Are Calculated to Improve Youth and Others, in the Ornamental and Using Art of Eloquence” by Caleb Bingham. The book Charles Pace recommends is, “W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868 to 1919,” by David Levering Lewis.

The book Elizabeth Cady Stanton recommends is, “The Woman’s Bible” edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The book Sally Wagner recommends is, “The Homesteader: A Novel,” by Oscar Micheaux.