Bill Gwaltney

National Parks Service

the full report

Greg Olson (00:01):

Hello, everybody. Welcome to a civil conversations episode. My name is Greg Olson and I am the founder of GROWL Agency. And better yet. We have Wayne Hare and Bill Gwaltney on the show today. And I’m going to turn over there. How you gentlemen doing?

Wayne Hare (00:25):

Well in Oakland, California. Thank you.

Greg Olson (00:27):

So why don’t we get started here? Why don’t we have Wayne I’d like you to kick off. We’d done so many of these shows. Bill, you’ve been a great guest on this show also. And in the past we’ve got seven or eight of these, I think going on now, Wayne doing a tremendous job telling these stories, but I thought Wayne, I want to hear it from you. Tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, the Civil Conversations Project that you started and then introduce Bill.

Wayne Hare (00:56):

Hey, thanks so much, Greg. Yeah, I’m Wayne Hare. Along with a few other people we founded a nonprofit. The roots of the nonprofit started about three and a half years ago. As I began to write and publish stories about race in America pertaining specifically to black Americans and really trying to try to change the narrative that America tells itself about race, trying to bring my, my goal and my, and my mission and my desire is by getting more information out there, people understand that race and racism exists and the harm it does to America overall. And then when George Floyd was, was murdered a number of people came to me and, and decided, or wanted me to, you know, kind of up the game a little bit. So we started as nonprofit the Civil Conversations Project. And that really is the goal to have civil conversations about race trying to get people to understand what racism is and how it affects the country and how pervasive it is within this country. I’ve known Bill Gwaltney for quite a few years. And Bill is a pretty you know, I’m, I’m personally, I’m very interested in history. I find it just fascinating. But I’m not even, I don’t think I would even say I’m an amateur historian Bill Gwaltney on the other hand is his actual bonafide historian. Amongst other credentials bill is past president of the African American museum curator’s association Bill was a historical consultant to the us Congress in the development of the African-American museum on the mall. He was a historical consultant to Danny Glover and Denzel Washington’s movie glory. He was a found, or is the founding commander might be as title of the reenactors of the Massachusetts 54th infantry. Let me know if I get that wrong Bill who played a dominant role in the civil war. Bill’s a reenactor himself, a direct descendant of Buffalo soldiers and above a bunch of other things. So, Bill just fill in what I left out, but thank you both for being here today.

Bill Gwaltney (03:36):

That’s great. When it’s, you know, w what people should know is that this isn’t about me. This is about all of us together, and it’s about having, as you point out a civil conversation. And what I guess I want to say is that one of the things that makes race so hard to talk about is that it’s so hard to hear this, regardless of who you are, because depending on whether you feel like you’ve been oppressed, or maybe your ancestors were part of the oppression, it’s very easy to either have either shame or guilt, and neither of those leads to a real conversation. So what you guys are drawn to do is super important and in a big way, it’s exactly what Carter G Woodson tried to do when he established what was originally Negro history week. So just the word Negro tells you how long ago this goes back.

Greg Olson (04:30):

What timeframe are we looking at for that?

Bill Gwaltney (04:38):

We’re talking the 1920s, 1920s, we’re talking just post world war one. And one of the things that would sensitivity was a teacher and school administrator in the segregated Washington DC school system. He said, we should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history, what we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world, void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice, there should be no indulgence in undue eulogy of the Negro. The case of the Negro is well taken care of one of these shown, how he has far influenced the development of civilization. So he was a thoughtful person back then. And I think what the question is that Wayne brings up in this particular concept is, is very important because it’s my opinion that we’ve allowed it to become dumbed down. We do that in a couple of ways. You know, we, we use one or two word themes. The park service taught me that a theme is a complete sentence expressing a complete thought. So when you have a sentence, you have a beginning, a middle and an end, you have a point that you’re going to, when you just say stuff like this, year’s theme is the black family. You really haven’t helped me understand what you mean by that. What you’d like me to understand about that, what areas of depth you’d like me to, to pursue in that? So, one of my questions about the way black history month has been operated for many years is why do we always have the same, what I call the same 12 tired Negroes. It’s always, you know, George Washington, Carver, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, great people and important people. But if you live in Wisconsin, how about we talk about Wisconsin? How about we talk about people who were important locally and regionally, and not talk about these 12 people. Like there’s some sort of superheroes, they were just people like everybody else. So that’s a concern. And, and of course, by doing that, we put the history in the far past and don’t make it come into the present era. The other question that is certainly one that Wayne asks is why does it always seem to have an only an Eastern focused geographically? Why is there not more interest in and enthusiasm for black history in the West? There’s tons of African-American history from trappers and traders to, to attempted settlers, to law enforcement officers, to Buffalo soldiers, to, to, to ranchers and Cowboys. There’s just layers of information, but it’s always about something that happened in the East.

Greg Olson (07:31):

You know, so we’re here to talk about, you know, black history month Wayne, right? And if you’re not society, my job out of any of this is to try to keep these kind of keep our speakers on track, because we do have a lot of things that we’ve talked about from white privilege. I’ve learned a lot. We also are here to talk about, so Wayne, we, you and I have had discussions about black history month. I’ve been on as I’ve been looking at this from different lenses through business, I’ve been seeing like, where we know what LinkedIn is, right. I mean, so LinkedIn has the Marcus Garvey flag, right? It’s the Pan-African flag that we were talking about. You know, so now they’re displaying that and they’re putting content in, I have never seen that before or what hadn’t notice that maybe Wayne, but I think we’re starting to see some more education about that, but I think we’re beyond, there is not the same 12 tire Negroes that you talk about Bill. So we are starting to see how can people connect to these stories? How can, it’s hard for younger people. And even my age now is this connect to old history. I mean, you’re trying to go back to the 1920s and I’m like, okay, who are these people? How does this relevant today? And it is very relevant. So Wayne, I want to give you a chance you’re the, or creator of this show of like very thoughtful. And I think, you know, you have had some discussion that why you don’t think it works very well, but I think this year or the past 12 months, we’re seeing a lot more effort about black history, but I, but I just want to know what your thoughts are on this. And then let’s, let’s have a discussion.

Wayne Hare (09:06):

Thank you very much. Yeah. You know, in the years that I’ve kind of inserted myself into the issue of race. I’ve learned a few things, the primary thing that I’ve learned it, maybe the primary two things I’ve learned is that races in this country is, is just unbelievably complex. It’s about a thousand layers, and I’ve learned that it’s very, very difficult to talk about it. So I’ve got a couple of, of issues that surround black history month, right. It looks like, it looks like are we still on, okay, you, you, you went away there from home, but you know, this year I am seeing some very you know, sort of exciting black Americans being presented to the public. I think that’s great. And I really do. I mean, I’m not, I’m not being sarcastic about that. I liked the diversity of interesting people and heroes that we’re seeing out there. I do though, what I think about race relationships in this country. And I think about how you know you know, black Africans you know, and then eventually black Americans have an advocating for you know, full citizenship and, and you know, equal treatment and so on and so forth for at this point for 402 years you know, the civil war that was fought and slavery ended in 1960, 1960. Here we go, you know, 1865. And you know, and here we still are. We the you know, board versus Brown board of education versus Brown was decided for equal education in 1954. It was civil rights 1963, excuse me. The voting rights act 1964, I’m sorry. The civil rights act 1964 voting rights act you know, 1965 the equal rights amendment 13th and 14th and 15th amendment to the constitution, 1868 Bill? 66, 67 69, I think. Yeah. So here we still are, you know, just, just chipping away, you know and I’m just trying, not right now, not to be angry or emotional use any bad words, you know, like how can we still chipping away at this, you know, I’m 71 years old, you know, 55, 60 years ago. I was hearing people say, well, gee, you know, let’s not push it. Let’s not make this try to make this happen too fast. And I’m kind of wondering when this might happen that black Americans, you know, have an equal place in this country. And so, my frustration is that is that you know, once a year we carve out a month, we’ll go, okay, this is black history month. You know, we’ll honor you know, black Americans in their contribution. I wonder a couple of things. Why isn’t it, you know, since we’re Americans, why is it just part of American history instead of, instead of a carved out and then, and then forgotten, and, and even the month, you know, I’m seeing these corporations hang banners saying, you know, honoring black history month, and I’m wondering, are you doing anything besides hanging a banner? You know, Banner’s a good, but you know, I’m a big believer that well done is a much more important and a better compliment than well sad. Abandoned doesn’t mean very much for me. So, I am you know, kind of with building I’d like to see different people you know, really, truly interesting people that, that Americans can relate to honored, but I’d like to see this be you know you’re not just carved out for, and, you know, pretend that we pay attention to it for, for, for 28 days. Of course we did pick the shortest month. And just have it be you know just have black history that people don’t have to go someplace to take a special class or pay attention to it. And as long as I’m blabbing on it, maybe I just haven’t noticed this in other years, but this year I noticed a really lot of pushback from white Americans to even the concept of black history in Orem, Utah which is a beautiful really a beautiful city at the foot of the mountains, North of salt Lake city. A number of, of white parents petition to excuse their children from, from any black history the scholastics this month, they didn’t even want the kids participating. I don’t, I don’t even know what that was about. I really can’t. I just can’t imagine what that was about, but whatever it was about, that’s a sad and disturbing you know, commentary of where at least some white Americans are on their fellow black Americans.

Greg Olson (14:42):

Yeah. And I want to cut in there. I think, I mean, the thing that you and I have been sharing articles back and forth, and I don’t know bill has seen any of this, but I think even in the Western slope of Colorado has been some, Oh, I see. I’m trying to teach like, black history like this month. And I think people there’s things you read like it’s, well, it’s teaching hate or you’re teaching hateful moments, and we don’t want to teach them. We don’t want our kids to learn those things. And I don’t know why that is. And Bill, I don’t know if you have any idea, but I think that’s the thing that’s really hard for me to take when I read these.

Bill Gwaltney (15:14):

It is very hard to take. And I think it was, I can’t think of her name right now, but an African-American politician from the 1960s and seventies. And one of the things that she said all those years ago is that the problem with racism is that it’s so American. When you combat racism, people thinking you’re denigrating America, it shouldn’t be that way. America and racism ought to be two very different things. Wayne’s point about Orem, Utah is sadly a very good one, because what would even let people think that they could vote their way out of an opt out of a part of American history. My friend now to deceased Jim Horton, a wonderful historian used to say, African-American history is American history made in America by Americans. This is not some strange other, we’re not talking about no, the history of, of, of the planet, Xenon here. We’re talking about Americans, people who have been here for centuries and who all they want is the full rights of citizenship under the U S constitution.

Greg Olson (16:29):

Well, they’re more American than I am. I see. I mean, that’s what I’m saying. It’s like, you know, that’s the, that’s the point. And I think but we’re not going to, I mean, that, that’s still, how do we moving forward? How do we continue to have this discussion and change it if we’re afraid to talk about it in schools or were, you know, like Wayne talked about, we had Aspen’s a ski company, I think last month or the month before we talked about, you have to, we have to do more than hanging black lives matter or whatever banner, right. Wayne, up on up. So I think we’re, we’re really trying to push the moment. So I don’t, those are great discussions. I know Wayne’s got a moment. He’s got his hand up, but go ahead.

Bill Gwaltney (17:09):

Well, I was going to say very quickly that part of this is of expanding the shortest month in a year. One way to do that is yeah. Do whatever you’re going to do. Hopefully doing something meaningful, insignificant during February, but there are plenty of ways to increase one’s knowledge base. This is a book that I’m actually teaching from right now. It’s called the broken heart of America. It looks at race as political policy. It actually centers on the middle of the country St. Louis, Missouri, but it’s a very powerful book. And it’s something I, I think I can easily recommend another one stamped from the beginning by Ebrum, Zandi, it’s an incredible history of race and racial thought in America. And it actually lets you understand that this was embedded in early American religious thought, not just political thought. So if you want to know why racism goes so deep part of the answer is in this book and then one more and I’ll get Wayne to talk more. If you want to learn about the Black family, this is a great book by Herbert Gutman, the Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. So there’s a tons of excellent, excellent books. The information has been out there. It’s just a question of accessing that information. Wayne, I’ll shut up.

Wayne Hare (18:35):

Well, a few things Bill. I have to admit, I’ve never heard of the planet Xeon or, Zimbabwe or whatever the heck you said I was I’ve never heard of that. And I’m very happy to be able to supply the name that you, the historian couldn’t come up with. Shirley Chisholm was our first black Congressman. And she ran for president and, and was just a remarkable woman, but bill moving on yeah, those are great books, but people who seek out those books, you know, they’re, they’re already kind of part of the choir. They’re already open to black Americans being American, right. I’m really talking about, you know, the, the, you know, the Orem folks and the, and the, you know, the, the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people just like them. I mean, we’ve all heard at least bill you and I have heard is like black history month. Well when’s white history month and you know, it’s like, well you know, one answer is it’s the other 11 months of the year, but the real answer is it’s all 12 months of the year. You know, we don’t really have a black history month. We just have, you know, 12 months of white history and a little, little kid stuck, stuck into the middle of the calendar. And I’ll give you, I’ll give you a, a dramatic example about, of that, that I talk about pretty often, but when my when my son was a little kid and I took him to Washington DC to see the sites. And one of the things that we did was get a tour of the Capitol building by my Senator aid. It was, it was a really good tour. It’s super interesting. I recommend it to anybody. It ends in the, in the rotunda. And all the ceiling of the Tundra is a mural. The mural is 4,000 squares, square feet, dude. That’s a, that’s a big mural. You know, I’ve owned a lot of houses. I’ve never even come close to a 4,000 foot house. And the aid points you know, with, with great pride up at the mural in this building built with slave labor, right? Standing underneath the statue of freedom that was personally designed by a black man who wasn’t free. And he points up at the mural very proudly depicting the entire history of the United States. You know, so, you know, I’m kind of obligated to look up, I look up and then after a while, you know, really looking up and going, and finally I asked, Hey, is there anybody up there that looks like me? And so, he shuffles his feet, and everybody looks up and they all shuffle their feet. And after about 20 minutes of looking up, the answer is no. And so that’s really what I’m talking about. Like, like why would we expect people to pick up a book about black history when they go to the capital building? And the us government is saying is in essence black history, doesn’t it, it didn’t even happen in this country. It doesn’t matter you know, pay attention to the white guy on the white horse, or maybe the Chinese guy building the radio or the railroad or the, or the noble Savage, you know, confronting the military. But, but black Americans, yeah. There’s not even any such a thing. So we have such a, you know, we shouldn’t be, you know, you know, 402 years after we got here, you know, 165 years, whatever it is after the war to end slavery ended, we shouldn’t be here. We should be way beyond, way beyond where we are. How we get there. I don’t know.

Greg Olson (22:08):

Well, I think, you know, one thing I want to say, gentlemen, I’m going to say, we have about a 10 minute mark here. Okay. So set your timers. So one thing I think we have is we’re doing these types of stuff we’re doing these types of shows. I think there’s more and more of them out there. We have, I like, and for the listeners I never, this will be recorded, but you can check out to learn more what Wayne is doing out there. We also have recordings on So, we’re asking people to get involved, be more alert to the fact again educate, you know, maybe if I wanted to like, have a talk at your community or your you know, those things, that’s, what we’re trying to do is get these movements going. And when I want to bring up one thing and I shared this with Bill and here’s that logo we’re talking about right here, see on LinkedIn, if anybody can see my screen, you know, so we have honoring black history month. These are the things I’ve not seen in the past as much, you know, we might have like, had a little story, but when I go on here, you know, there’s different changes where we’re just talking through like more Mo I call it maybe more modern like connections to, you know, the black community of what this brand LinkedIn well-known is doing. So, again, here’s this flag we were talking about that bill. So I don’t know if either of you have any comments, here’s an example of a large tech corporation you know, reaching out now, what do they do after this? I have no idea, but I agree with you honoring black history month. And then March 1st, it goes away. You know, how do, how do we keep honoring this to keep educating? So it sticks us. So I don’t know if anybody has any comments on that, but that I just wanted to share that for the viewers.

Bill Gwaltney (23:49):

Well, I mean, I’ve got a couple of comments and I’m sure Wayne does too. I think part of it is what does happen when February is over. But part of it too, is that I believe American teachers need more training, more comfort in helping young people understand these stories. You’re just, you know, you can’t wait until you’re 25 and turn on PBS and, and watch some documentary. You’ve got to, it’s got to be American history. In fact I think that everybody from Carter G Woodson to Morgan Freeman look forward to the day when we don’t need a separate black history month. But right now we very much still do. We lack a comfort with complexity, we lack w we favor comfort over controversy, and we just are not comfortable with being uncomfortable. And, you know, these are hard conversations to have, but we’ve got to train ourselves as people and as Americans to have them because otherwise nothing will change. And what I think Maine’s talking about is there, there, there are plenty of people who were ready to stick their fingers in their ears when the word black or African-American comes up. We can’t do that anymore. It’s gee, this is American history. I look forward to the time when that flag, the, the, the Garvey black national flag is replaced by the United States flag.

Greg Olson (25:18):

That’s good points. So, Wayne, I don’t know. I mean, I just wanted to bring up a couple points that I’m noticing that I haven’t noticed before. You’ve helped me kind of open my eyes to these conversations. Right. and I think, you know, we have to, I mean, have to keep pushing this, the ball forward uphill. You know, and I know we’ve talked about Southern States and it’s going to be very challenging, but there are certain ways I think that, well, how do we get, you know, by what you’re doing is helping get momentum and starting to reach almost like bill we’re reteaching history, because some of the history books, as we’ve talked about in previous shows, they’re not even correct. Right. So that has been those we won’t go into that today, but I know the lawsuits in Florida, we talked about and you know, those types of elements have really caused a lot of controversy. Right? Cause kids are taught, like I wasn’t taught that. And we’ve had that conversation, Wayne, and it might’ve been with you. Like, what I was taught in school was not, you know, I’m now learning things that board ever taught to me. So those are the, those are the key points. So I guess Wayne is like, as you start to see things like LinkedIn, and they’re starting to say, Hey, we want to not just put the flag up. We also want to put some content behind here to educate, you know, use our power, our reach, our things like that, to start doing something. Is that effective? If more companies started doing that and is it, would it be more effective? Of course, if you know, GROWL started doing it more on an ongoing basis month after month versus just black history month is what I think you’re going to say.

Wayne Hare (26:44):

You don’t know what I’m going to say.

Greg Olson (26:46):

Yes. I don’t know. He did. I don’t know how heated you are right now is your air on? I just want to make sure you’re cool. Cause you know, no, you think, I mean, we try to give advice, Wayne. I mean, it is very controversial. I know that you’re, you know, you’re a, you want to see change happen and maybe there’s positives in certain areas we have seen, but this is more, we do this show. The more frustrated I become, because it doesn’t seem like things change very easily. And I think that’s what you see. So I just wanted to show examples of things I noticed in my day to day, what things I use. And you know, I know it’s not enough, but I don’t know. Like if you were to have an ask to corporate America or to individuals out there, you know, that’s where we, I think it has to happen.

Wayne Hare (27:29):

Corporations have a lot of power. I certainly, I certainly agree with that. And I don’t know what specifically advice I’d have for them other than what I said before, you know, well said. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s great. But well done. That’s what I’m wanting to see, you know? So, you know, I think there’s plenty of things that they can, they can do. I think, I think it’s up to them to figure it out, but all the only advice I give is, you know, do not stop at if you’re going to stop at hanging a banner, don’t hang the banner. I don’t care about the banner. I do want to go back to what a little bit about what Bill was talking about, what, what teachers might ought to be teaching you know, survey after survey has shown that the vast majority of teachers think that the civil war was not about slavery. So it’s a little bit hard for them to teach that it was about slavery and I, and I bring up the civil war because that’s really, you know, slavery, it, you know, until we kind of deal with that until we understand that and we still, we understand the South’s position, I don’t think we can really you know, move the needle as much as we need to on, on, on race relations in harmony in this country. And so I will go to the state of Texas, which they, they do not, they specifically do not teach that slavery had anything at all to do with the civil war. They referred to slaves in, in, in some, not all over Texas, but in some instances in Texas, they received, they, they referred to slaves as immigrant labor and they, they play down the civil rights era. So we need to get, we just need to get I guess I’m saying that so that white American maybe gets somewhat of a clue what the country is up against when it comes to making this whole and closing this divide. There’s an awful lot of pushback you know, again, people that, that, that, that would to keep their kids from even learning black history. So black history month, you know, I mean, I’m certainly not against it, particularly when we have more than just the same. It used to be when bill first was talking to me, it was 10 tired Negroes. Now it’s up to 12. So I guess two of them aren’t as tired as they, as the other 10, but I’m glad to see us getting beyond that, but we need to get way beyond that and have more than just a month. So we’re probably coming close to our time.

Greg Olson (30:12):

I want to wind up here. I will share a screen of the Civil Conversations Project and where people can find information and look at the past content we’ve talked about, because a lot of things we’re talking about today, you can learn more about civil war monuments and things like that that have been big into the discussions of what’s happening out there. So I’m continue learning is what I ask people to do. And again, corporations you know, Wayne is there. I mean, we have, we have a lot of interests of getting you out in front of people to speak and to teach and go from there. Hey, Bill final closing comments. What would you like our listeners to take away?

Bill Gwaltney (30:52):

Two points, I think that the civil war is and will remain important, but so is the concept of reconstruction. So reconstruction is taught a little or not at all in schools. The other thing I would say is that we have a growing challenge, not a receding challenge, because we’re talking about trying to talk about African American history as American history in an era where people give some, some people give serious thought to forest fires started by lasers from outer space. So it’s, it’s not getting easier. It’s getting harder.

Greg Olson (31:31):

Yeah. I agree. There’s a lot of messaging we have to go through. So bill, thank you very much for that. Wayne, do you have a closing comment quote song? I know you’re all the way out. Thank you for being in your RV. And you’re I know you’re out in the West coast helping with managed like the vaccine super centers for vaccines out there. So you’re always giving, you’re always working hard. So any closing thoughts?

Wayne Hare (32:00):

Do I have an hour? Okay, Greg. I don’t know if I have any, any you know, real deep penetrating words of wisdom. I do one of the things I, that I hope for and I try to get across maybe two things is for people to understand how deeply racism or res is embedded in this country. And, and I only want them to know that, so they know a challenge. It is to kind of peel those layers back and, and just, and just get rid of it. But the main thing that I think that I really want you know, since most of America is white, what I really want most Americans understand is just how devastating to this country. You know, this racial conflict has always been, you know, this huge divide that we see, you know, its basis is in race. You know, the, the insurrection in the, in the Capitol, you know, unbelievable, none of us here ever thought we’d see anything like that. And, and, and the root cause of that disunion and disruption and unhappiness, the root cause of that is, is race. You know, it wasn’t an accident, you know, it, you know, it wasn’t, you know, the people who were carrying Confederate flags, they didn’t look up at the Flagstaff and go, well, Holy, here’s a Confederate flag up there that was intentional. It’s a deep, deep problem and solving it if you’re white and you’re listening to this solving, that problem will be good for you. It’ll be good for your kids. It’ll be good for your grandkids. So get on board for your soul, that’s it?

Greg Olson (33:51):

Yep. And I know Bill, you just had a text and said, race is a powerful illusion.

Bill Gwaltney (33:56):

Yeah, it is. I mean, scientifically race is a fantasy, but in fact, it’s been used to divide people and ruin lives for centuries.

Greg Olson (34:07):

Well, gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure as always. I’m going to share a screen here you know, go to If nothing lasts you can see a very handsome picture of Wayne Hare there. Learn a little bit more about this program past episodes here at grail agency, we’re proud to support this again, back to our latest videos. I think this is our eighth now. So we have things on the Confederate monuments chain planting the seed of racism. You know, we have a lot of great content relational policing now that we’ve had a lot of great conversations with great guests, Wayne, and we’ll continue to do it. So, gentlemen thank you so much for your time. All you’re doing to support people support this effort, and I look forward to having you on a future show.

Wayne Hare (35:01):

Thanks, Greg. And, and, you know, people don’t be bashful pressing that donate button when they go to the Civil Conversations Project.

Greg Olson (35:09):

That’s right. We should make sure. We mentioned that in the very beginning of the show to get out your credit cards when you start listening. So we’ll, we’ll work on that in the future, so it really helps everything. We’re everything you’re doing. Wayne. So thank you everybody for another listening to another civil conversations show. I’m Greg Olson and we’ve had Bill Gwaltney and Wayne Hare. Thank you.

Wayne Hare (35:31):

Thank you guys.

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