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ladies role as political advisor to ronald reagan and about the causes she took up including the fight against drugs and aids. that's 9pm eastern sunday here on american history tv on c-span 3 over 1 million african-american served in the armed forces during world war ii up next washington post writer deneen brown and education consultant lynn williams discussed the challenges they faced they argue that while fighting fascism overseas these soldiers also had to battle racism at home. this event was hosted by the us holocaust memorial museum, and they provided the video. good morning, and welcome to the museum's facebook live series. i'm your host historian, edna friedberg. in each episode we explore a different aspect of holocaust history and its connections to its influence on it's relevance to our world today. here in the united states
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february is black history month and to commemorate this special month. we will honor today black americans who served in the united states military during world war ii and helped to defeat nazi, germany. their service is even more remarkable when viewed against the backdrop of racism and persecution that they faced at home even while fighting for their country abroad. this history has often been buried or overlooked and we hope to shed some light on it and it's intersection with holocaust history in today's program. i'm very pleased to be joined by two special guests today to help bring this chapter to life. first deneen brown is an award-winning journalist for the washington post and an associate professor in the philip merrill college of journalism at the university of maryland. hi there denise. hello. good morning. it's great to be here. so glad you're here. and lynn williams is a long time friend and colleague who is an
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educational program consultant to the museum. so good to see you lynn good to see you too, and good morning to both of you and our guests. during today's program, please. send your questions for denene and lynn by posting them in the comments section and we'll get to as many of them during the course of the live show as we have time for. but lynn, let's begin with you and setting the scene. we have a lot of international viewers of this program may be less familiar with the american context. tell us about some of the pressures that average americans were grappling with in the 30s and 40s and more specifically the way that racism influenced the country at that time. well in order to understand this period i think i'm going to focus on three major realities. the first one was that the united states was in the throws in the middle of the great depression there were bread lines and here you see this is a migrant workers that are huddled in this tent during the great
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depression. the second was that we were coming out of about 12 years away from world war. i and americans were not interested in foreign engagements. they really wish to be isolationists and had did not have the stomach. for another entanglement. the third really is the intolerance in general. there was animosity against jews very pervasive against foreigners and racism, you know was also at playing rampant all over the country. we think that the south but this is a restaurant in ohio the picture that you're seeing in front of you and white trade only so that's a prevalent message at the time. there were limited opportunities for black people much of the country was still segregated.
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so schools and public transportation bathrooms. everything was basically segregated not only in the south but much of it in the north. and then finally there was violence. it was someone lynched in the south perhaps every day. these are students at howard university in washington dc. it's a historically black university that are protesting. what are they protesting their protesting in favor of a national anti-linching law that it be passed which is very strange since lynching is is definitely murder. and for people who may not be familiar with the term lynching they will have seen ropes hanging around nooses hanging around the necks of those howard university students. it was mob violence were typically a person an african-american person would be surrounded by a racist mob hung
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up in lynched, but i want to emphasize that the target here is not just the the victim directly of the murder, but the entire community these were crimes designed to intimidate and create a cult an atmosphere of terror and fear. so against this backdrop, i'd like to turn to you dineen where we can focus on how this scene that lynn has just described intersects with our history here at the holocaust museum. how did racism impact black americans who join the military as the us entered the war? i know you've done some reporting in this area? yes, i get again. good morning, um more than 1.2 million black men and women enlisted in the military help fight and europe. here you see a photo of some of the black men who? fought overseas in europe during world war ii. this is and here's a photo of some of the the black women who
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served in europe. black americans and the military during world war ii faced racism and discrimination really horrible treatment in europe both by white american soldiers and sometimes by europeans the troops are segregated by race. they lived in seven often lived in segregated barracks. many relegated to menial duties some veterans that i talked to during my reporting told me that um black soldiers are often ill-treated and that sometimes the german prisoners were actually treated better than the black american soldiers the german prisoners. sometimes had more rights and privileges given to them than black american soldiers. it's really a very jarring scene to imagine. i'd like to pause for a moment to greet our viewers who are watching us from all around the
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country. good morning to you. thank you for joining us from omaha, nebraska, boynton beach, florida, farmington, connecticut tullahoma tennessee, not far away and rehoboth beach, delaware and centerville, minnesota. and also good morning to you in birmingham, alabama. we also like to welcome our international viewers, whatever the time of day is there in berlin london nicaragua in the city of puglia in italy barcelona quito ecuador in brazil, argentina, peru and tanzania. we are so glad to have so many of you watching. so lynn deneen has described the ways that the us military was segregated was unjust, but let's make this more personal you knew one of these black soldiers later in his life. please tell us about dr. leon bass and specifically his experience as a black soldier during his training even before deployment. i had the privilege of really
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spending a great amount of time with dr. bass because he volunteered and spoke to young people from all over at the museum. this is a picture of dr. beth in his uniform when he was a sergeant. and he grew up in 19. he was born in 1925 and grew up in philadelphia his his parents were part of that great migration that was happening throughout this period where blacks are moving up north into cities and changing the landscape of cities and in in many large cities. he went to an all black school, but was an excellent school and he excelled in his studies. so as soon as he finished high school, he volunteered world war ii had started and he passionately volunteered for the army in 43, and he went into the army as a sergeant. and as he put as he put it it was really a shock to his system
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because he's trying in georgia. so the minute he hits georgia whether he is in uniform or not. he's faced with segregated everything and he's told to you know, you can't use this water fountain. you've got to move to and to you know, the color only water fountain and so he experiences racism in the south in a very different way in codified is to local law. many of the many of those that enlisted in volunteered were you know highly skilled very smart and they knew they had to be. you know better in order to excel in anything and especially in the military. when you say better you mean better than their? white peers. yes, they had to be more dedicated. they had to be um, you know, they had to demonstrate that. over demonstrate how smart they were they really had to have
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achieved and be ready to fight for their place to just get equal footing. so what was sergeant bass's assignment in europe? and how did he come to feel about the sacrifices that he was making? well, he was he joined the 183rd engineer combat battalion and it's an all black unit. they usually had a white commanding officer whether they were with each unit or not, but he drove tanks took part in building roads as the engineer battalions did clearing the way for soldiers. he was took part in the battle of the bulge and that was the first time where he really saw dead. and bodies as a soldier at this young age of both strangers and people he knew. and so that was that was you
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know, really impactful on his life. we have a comment from a viewer named richard writes in i often wonder why these men volunteered because today more than ever we know they were often treated poorly by their fellow soldiers. i think as a group they had more pride and richard's comment actually leads in very nicely to a clip we have directly from dr. bass describing this in 1988 where he discusses the impact that's seeing a dead soldier had on him while he was serving. let's hear how he described and i remember another time. i saw someone i didn't know he happened to be white his. but my age and he was on the ground and his eyes were wide open. they were blue. he had blonde hair and his hands were frozen above him his body because the weather was so cold. he had been alongside the road for a while and i looked down into those eyes, and i realized that i could end up just like that. and that's when i began to question my wisdom.
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for having join the army and i wanted to know why i was there. what the heck am i doing here? when i can't get a drink of water. when i can't ride on a bus when i can't even a restaurant and here i am putting my life on the line fighting for rights and privileges that i denied. yeah, and it's important to remember that that don't be young man and a young no to me a child at the time, but it's shaping his the world. and sergeant bass was not alone in seeing this disjuncture back home momentum was building for black americans to fight racism at home while simultaneously fighting for their country abroad lynn. could you tell us a bit about what came to be known as the double v campaign? yes, because black americans remained conflicted and the double v campaign came about in response to a letter that was
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written in 1942 to the pittsburgh curry or it was a black newspaper at the time and this is one of you know the publication headline. should i sacrifice to live happier american? well, that's a question that was really asked consistently in the black community. and the letter was written by james thompson this you see and that campaign lasted throughout the war and it certainly affected those who fought here. shares veterans from my in 1947 that are still embracing the double v. it's victory at home as well as overseas in abroad with the access power so they want to fight hate on both fronts and discrimination. and when you're describing media outlets newspapers like the courier the black press was
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really vibrant diverse at the time. i remember reading that the circulation the official circulation of the courier the pittsburgh courier than was about a quarter of a million, but that represented surely only a fraction of the number of readers copies of newspapers would have been passed from friend to friend, you know within a restaurants barber shops families neighbors so many many more people were reading about this debate. yes. janine before i turn back to you. i want to offer some special thanks to partners and friends who helped us prepare for today's episode particularly to thank the embassy of the kingdom of the netherlands for their assistance the afro-american historical and genealogical society and also an author named joe wilson who wrote a book about the 784th tank battalion that we'll learn about a little more in a moment for the insights and information that they shared with us. we are grateful for your support. janine let's put another face another personality to these
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experiences. just last year you interviewed a gentleman named dr. james baldwin. tell us about dr. baldwin and his path to military service. yes, dr. james baldwin. he was born in 1924 and north carolina. and we see a picture of him there. it's a young man in, north carolina. he attends segregated schools. he's living in a segregated society segregated by race. we know that lynchings for rampant and and across the country then he graduates from high school with honors, and he goes off to college after six months and college he decides to enlist in the army. and he he is in that 784th tank battalion, right? which yes one of the dockery go
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ahead, please. james baldwin is assigned to the 784th tank battalion. this is one of one of three all black fighting units. it's model was it will be done. it was a segregated unit that had an excellent combat record. according to my research i read that the 784th tank battalion proved proved to be one of the finest. and one of the finest fighting forces and that and the american arsenal as len was saying many of these men felt that they needed to prove themselves prove that they were better than their colleagues proved that they were. fierce fighters and this 784th tank battalion which dr. james baldwin was a member of made
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valiant efforts in europe and proved to be a fierce fighting unit. and before being deployed to the european theater, he was promoted to the rank of corporal. so looking back. what did corporal baldwin encounter when he arrived to europe? so when when they were shipped to europe they were hit hard. the 784th tank battalion arrives in england it travels to france and then it travels to the netherlands black soldiers again and europe they face racism, but they're also facing a really warm reception from europeans as they travel through these towns
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fighting the germans here. we see a photo of corporal james baldwin. i think the photos taken in 1945. somewhere in germany. he told me he wasn't quite sure which town he was in germany when this photo was taken. and what about his interactions with locals with civilians? so many of those black american soldiers when they rolled through these towns they were greeted with warm receptions from civilians. we see here that a black american soldiers helping. a little girl with her doll off a truck that that may have been in the netherlands one of the towns and the netherlands again, we see here. some young people and the
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netherlands posing for photo with black american soldiers. lynn we have a couple of questions coming in from viewers that i'd like to post to you to one from a woman named kimberly is asking if you could speak a little bit about the experience of black american soldiers upon their return to the us after the war and as a subset of that doreen writes to ask were black americans able to access the post-war gi bill benefits for college and mortgages as white veterans work. could you speak to that a little please? i think they're both excellent questions. yes, you can imagine we know how celebratory it was for victory in world war ii and white soldiers. certainly, you know, we're applauded and and praise it wasn't quite the same for black soldiers when they came home the
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discrimination not only continued but right if in terms of the gi bill for many of them were denied at the access that was given to other soldiers to the mortgages and the college benefits. so yeah, it was greatly diminished and the experience even taking it further and i think jenny janine can speak more to this there was violence. he soldiers came home proud. armed trained and enjoyed wearing their uniform which costs many of them as they walked and returned to their communities. it's not just a question of personal dignity. it had very very real and dangerous consequences and dangers, janine. could you give us one example of that? what happened to a returning sergeant soon his return to america? sure, i want to talk about sergeant isaac woodard he in
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1946. he was discharged from the army with honors. he's a decorated soldier who fought the nazis in europe. he returns to the united states and he's again discharged with honor from the army. he takes a bus south heading home to south carolina. on the way home on the bus. he asked the bus driver whether he could stop to use the restroom. there was a policy for bus drivers to allow passengers to take a bathroom break. as len pointed out many of the soldiers who came back after having thought for democracy in europe were expecting to be treated with some sense of dignity here in the united states. to be treated with honor to be
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treated with respect to be treated as equals. so isaac sargent isaac, what would is on the spas traveling south? the bus driver does not want to stop to allow him to use the restroom. um there may have been. somewhat of a you know a confrontation on the bus verbal content confrontation on the bus. we're not quite sure what happened, but at the next town the bus driver stops, he calls the police. the police chief and the south carolina town greets the bus he pulls sergeant woodard off the bus. and again, this is a decorated soldier. pulled him off the bus. he beats him and then he takes his nightstick and he jams his nightstick and to sergeant woodard's eyes gouging his eyes out.
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here we see a photo of sergeant woodard with his mother. he's blinded their patches over his eyes. this beating of sergeant woodard makes national headlines and president harry truman hears about the speeding. many people may know or may not know that president truman had a soft spartan soft spot and his heart for veterans. when he sees this photo of sergeant isaac woodard, he's just taken aback. i mean, it's just a horrible sight. this beading and the photo eventually leads president truman to desegregate. the arm the military and also desegregate the federal workforce. it's beyond troubling to hear
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this kind of story it's terrifying and impossible to really imagine the feeling that must have been to know for these soldiers. you've put your life on the line. you're coming back and the idea that you feel proud of that service makes people want to kill you for it to have that patriotism trampled on must have been so profoundly disillusioning, you know negating the promise that the service might have represented as an opportunity. we have a viewer comment and audience comment from a man named peter. he writes in that even jackie robinson an officer 761st tank battalion was pulled off a bus and killeen, texas for not moving to the back of the bus while he was enduring a court-martial his unit was called up to fight for general patton robinson was acquitted but never got to fight with his legendary unit. so these are not isolated isolated incidents. lynn i'd like to return to dr. leon bass because he spent many
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years not talking about what he had seen in europe, especially in concentration camps that had recently been liberated. thanks and recognition only came later in his life when he began to publicly discuss the atrocities he had seen could you tell us a bit about dr. bass's personal trajectory, please? yes, dr. you know as sergeants sergeant ambass was only 20 years old when he first encountered and you know those holocaust victims that he saw at that camp in april 1945 and he kept that in it certainly had a profound effect, but like many survivors it took him 20 or 25 years to find his voice and it happened when he as a teacher. he's an educator. he's become, you know doctor of education. he's principal of the school and he's in his class and a holocaust survivor is speaking. his students are you know
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listening but not as intently and he then begins to share his story. and it's there where he really found the importance of him as a witness and from then on it became his mission to share his observations and insights with students all over and all over the united states and canada. and let's hear him. once again describe in his own words what this meant to him and what he took away from it. it's not a black problem. it's not a white problem. it's a human problem. and we've got to face it. and as dr. king says injustice anywhere is the loss of justice everywhere you see wish that effect and it's true what affects you affects me. your pain has to be my pain. my pain has to be your pain. i know it's been 40 some years. but that doesn't make it go away. it only makes us become more
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aware that we today have to do something that to stop that which created the final solution. and that something is racism. really racism is that the root of all of this under that umbrella comes bigotry and prejudice and discrimination unemployment people who are unemployable large institutions filled with those who are drug addicts and those who are criminals all because somehow we have come to grips with that institution of coral racism. and we have to because we see the ultimate of racism which was what i saw at booking ball. yeah, that ultimate consequence. he really understood what the consequence was for not finding his voice not actively fighting against you know, this kind of hatred and racism and you know, so put him in touch with survivors from all over and one of those survivors robert weisman.
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in 1991 in vancouver, they met this is a picture of robert weisman as a teenager and they met and engagement when robert remembered clearly and here they are the two of them together. remember clearly meeting seeing not meeting but seeing leon bass at buchenvolved in that april and he's looked up. he said it was the first black person i'd ever seen. and i looked up and i realized you our thought you were my messiah and many years later. um as they as he met the grandchildren of another survivor youth of guam who referred actually on it to dr. bass and the members of his unit as black angels. so certainly their presence had a great impact on those that on
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the survivors those that he helped. and that for many we've heard that for many of these survivors. this was the first black person that they had ever seen and for them. this was the face of america. this was the face of a nation that had fought for their freedom were having many audience comments. excuse me coming in about the impact that dr. leon bass had when he spoke about his experiences because he spoke far and wide just to read one karen writes to say that dr. bass spoke at an event that i brought my students to his impact on them was amazing and another woman writes adele writes that dr. leon bass liberated my father at buchanwald concentration camp. my dad had the chance to speak with him years ago at an event at rutgers college. so there's someone who you know might not be alive. if not for the efforts of soldiers like, dr. bass. janine how about dr. baldwin? who i know you've had the chance to meet and talk to personally
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has he been recognized for his service and bravery and how did you cross paths with him? so yes, dr. james baldwin received two bronze stars in 1946. and many other honors and awards last february. i went to the embassy of the kingdom of the netherlands where they were honoring black american soldiers on the 75th anniversary of the defeat of of the germans and and these occupied towns. here's a photo that i took of dr. james baldwin with officials at the embassy of the netherlands. they have just given him a certificate of appreciation for his service and in the 784th tank battalion, which roll through talents in france and
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and the netherlands fighting the germans. during this event. i was just it was really amazing to hear the story the story told by dr. james baldwin of his service. you could hear pen drop in the audit auditorium as baldwin told about rolling through these towns and the netherlands and and fighting the germans. i had a chance to interview dr. baldwin after the event. and again, he told me his story of fighting the germans. he told me that he fired an 81 millimeter mortar gun at nazi troops, which had a stranglehold and holland during the war. um, here's a quote that i really loved from my interview with him. he says we took 23 cities and
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three days. we were really moving. we were taking the city's meaning killing germans and running them out. we came in and we freed them we liberated them to know i had a role in the liberation of holland means a lot. so again the embassy of the netherlands honored baldwin and hundreds of other black soldiers as part of their commemoration of the 75th anniversary of what they called the liberation. freeing them from german occupation and oppression and i hope you'll both have a chance to go and look at the lively discussion that's happening in the comments section of this show. we're getting audience reflection about dr. james baldwin, including two one from a viewer named nadine who says that he is 96 years old and still brilliant and that she plans to share this program on facebook and someone else writing in to say that james baldwin attended attended
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fayetteville state university, which is another historically black university and that he is celebrated by the students and alumni there. so certainly a hero i'm also struck looking at these pictures of then corporal baldwin in europe and then later at the embassy of the kingdom of the netherlands thinking. these are people whose lives otherwise would never have intersected how the forces of history brought them together in powerful in moving ways. in the last minutes that we have left. i'd like to ask you both kind of more reflective question. here. we are more than 75 years after the holocaust of you know, a violent eruption of racism and we are still grappling with the forces of bigotry and hate. what messages do you hope that viewers will take away from these complex stories of true american heroes and lynn. let's start with you. yes, you know one thing is that certainly the struggles still continues for not only black
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people but for all americans and understanding history is exceedingly important because history shapes us and personally and really shapes us and so i would say that for me this commitment to understanding where we've come from and why we sit where we sit today is everyone's mission and then going forward knowing is leon bass who? countries that dr. bass who found his voice understood that what each of us does matters janine yeah, i'm i'd like to say that you know racism is truly an ugly evil and this world and it's important that we fight racism. i often say that it's important that but people educate themselves about racism race is
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a social construct it is it is a it's a term that's invented by a society to divide us by our skin color. what i believe is that we're all human. we're all part of one race the human race. we're just walking around here in different packages, but we truly are part of one race of people. and it's important that we we see each other just as humans when you cut me i bleed. i think if we are able to overcome this racial divide that's society has tried to construct to divide us. we will find i think we'll we'll find a better world and the world will be better as a result of that. well, i want to thank you both
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very much for helping. we hope to introduce some of our audience members to history. they may never have heard of before and to help us to honor even belatedly these men and women who were charting very very difficult waters at a time of competing pressures. thank you. thank you. i'd also like to close with a comment from a viewer named peggy peggy writes that white history has been every day for many years spoken about textbooks written about while black history was excluded celebrating the contributions of black soldiers is writing a wrong giving true history and allowing them to tell their stories. this is about being better human beings. and peggy, i'm sure we all are in agreement with you. we hope that you will come back to the museum's website to see in their own words again more firsthand testimony from african-american soldiers. who fought for the us during the war.
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if you like american history tv keep up with us during the week on facebook twitter and youtube learn about what happened this day in history and see preview clips of upcoming programs follow us at c-spanhistory. this weekend we visit san francisco to hear the story of the chinese in america from historian charlie chin. he leads a group of college students through the chinese historical society of america than on a tour through the streets of chinatown. most people consider the chinese to be the ones who are least likely to assimilate and unbelievable stories are told about them due to sheer ignorance amongst them that for instance the chinese eat vermin constantly. here's a classic example. this is a box of rat poison and on its name is rafaun rats. we see there's a little chinese man eating a rodent and it promises that if you use this
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rat poison, it will be as efficient as a chinese in getting rid of the rodents on your property here again is another popular cartoon in this cartoon. we see a chinese like an octopus doing all these various jobs. he's making boots. he's rolling cigars. he's making shirts and as you look carefully you'll see he's also taking the money away leaving european american young men idol for want to work if you're not quite sure and some people question. wait a minute chinese making cigars. how did that have when did that happen? the chinese was synonymous with making cigars in the 1800s until this started to happen. there were certain manufacturers who began to use cigar bands that said made by white men to ensure that the chinese companies would not be able to survive this kind of encouragement led to anti-chinese rallies and the anti-chinese rallies led to these incidents.
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between 1870 and 1900 these things happened repeatedly throughout the western territories in california here for instance is the anti-chinese riot of denver, colorado in 1870 when 3000 citizens are tempted to burn the chinatown to the ground. they caught one unfortunate men and lynched him in the street in los angeles in the 1870s 18 chinese people will lynched in the streets three of them women. extreme but not isolated was the rock springs wyoming massacre of 1885 when every chinese in town was taken to the edge of town and shot. in the middle of all of this the china's exclusion act is put into effect the chinese exclusion act said essentially no more chinese are allowed to enter the united states. period this meant that chinese were home in china visiting family who attempted to return could not reenter. it did could qualify as residents, but they could not bring their
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families here. they could bring their sons here if the sun was registered as the son of a resident, but they could not bring their families here. no women. the only people who are allowed to bring chinese women were a special exempt group known as those persons necessary for international trade this meant ambassadors teachers and students and merchants, which is why to this day when china's american families enter here we talk and they say, oh we've been here for five generations. we've been here for six generations. we know they were founded by a merchant because there's no other way. they could have stayed as a family. as the laws began to stack up very quickly it produced this effect number one the chinese became ineligible aliens by virtue of their race because they were members of the mongolian race. they could never ever become american citizens and then it was only a short step to ensure that ineligible aliens were not allowed to buy land in eligible aliens were not allowed to join most professions by law.
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ineligible aliens were not allowed to marry american citizens or i should clarify. a chinese resident who was an ineligible alien could marry an american woman who was a citizen but she would automatically lose her american citizenship and become a person without papers. if a american citizen married a chinese woman who was a resident. she could stay. because of something most most of us have forgotten up until relatively recently the law considered the wife the property of the husband. i know most of us have gone way beyond that now. this was the situation chinatowns existed they shrank because there was no real immigration to speak of they shranked increasingly because there were no women here basically chinatowns became known as the bachelor's society because people visiting would assume that all these men were were bachelors there were no women apparent but of course, in fact, most of them were married they had left overseas to go to
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go to other countries to support their families back in china. learn more about the chinese experience in america sunday on american artifacts at 6pm eastern 3pm pacific here here on american history tv. here this week we're looking back to this date in history. the german zeppelin hindenburg queen of the skies seen here
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from a universal news real camera plane as its fed over new york to its magic end at lakehurst, new jersey now lies at the naval air station at twisted mass of metal. shortly after these pictures were taken showing the great skyliners saluting the millions watching it from below on its first trip of the season the huge craft exploded while docking and plays to a fiery end taking the lives of almost half its 99 passengers and crew. hours late on its trip from hamburg because of head winds the zeppelin had to ride out a thunderstorm along the jersey coast before heading for the air station and nosing its way to the morning mass. the wind is bad and the docking is a ticklish one, but it's all a thrill for the crowd of happy passengers eager to land after their trans oceanic trip slowly the big ship warps in and the ground crews rush for the mooring lives in another 10 minutes or so the great would have been snugly docked but as the passengers crowded the
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windows to watch a roar and a burst of flame near the big tail bins turned the ship into a flaming inferno. passengers and crew the fortunate among them fell are jumped and were dragged to safety before the fiery furnace took their lives heroic worked by navy and army men risking their lives around the white hot skeleton snatched more than one gazed and half burned passenger from the blazing records, but for the most of those trapped in the incandescent tangle, there was no hope it's the greatest of miracles that anyone came out of faster alive follow us on social
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media at c-span history for more this day in history clips and posts. 50 years ago on june 10th 1971 president richard nixon lifted a trade embargo against communist china that had been in place for 21 years less than a year later in february of 1972. he made a historic trip to the people's republic of china the first ever by an american president. next on reel america a time for peace a us information agency film documenting president nixon's trips to china iran, austria, moscow and poland. 3/5 of all the people in the world today have spent their lifetimes under the shadow of nuclear confrontation. the winter

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