John Conyers

John Conyers (2000)
Duration: 00:25:40

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Themes: Leadership | Urban Challenges |

Guests: John Conyers
Host : Darryl Wood [bio]Darryl Wood hosted the show for ten years from 1988 to 1998 under the title American Black Journal. His shows focused on the skills and talents of many of the nation's leading African-American business people.

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Producer : Tony Mottley

Summary: In this program, broadcast in 2000, host Darryl Wood interviews U.S. Rep. John Conyers on a number of related topics. Woods questions Conyers on the changing focus of civil rights issues in the United States and efforts to win congressional approval for slavery reparations legislation. The interview offers valuable insights into the nation's shifting debate over civil rights issues at the turn of the century.

From the emergence of the national Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s well into the 1970s, the debate over civil rights issues in the United States had focused primarily on African Americans. The integration of schools and other public facilities and the campaign to adopt the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had all been debates solely in black and white.

With the emergence in the 1970s of organized efforts to promote more equitable treatment of women and other minority groups, the debate over civil rights had become much more complex. By the late 1990s, debates over civil rights policy addressed such issues as the rights of the disabled and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the 1980s and 1990s saw increasing attacks on civil rights policies, most notably affirmative action. Affirmative action, adopted in the 1960s and 1970s, intended to compensate for the nation's long history of discrimination against African Americans.

In the interview, Wood asks Conyers - an important leader of the Congressional Black Caucus - whether the shifting focus away from civil rights toward human rights was helping to turn back the clock on civil rights in America, to the detriment of African Americans. Conyers discusses the complexity of the contemporary civil rights debate, the challenges to affirmative action, and the importance of leadership from the federal government.

Conyers spotlights the political struggle to enact federal legislation that would provide reparations to African Americans for the historical injustice of slavery. He draws parallels between the reparations movement for African Americans and other historical cases - such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the Holocaust - in which reparations were provided. He refers to a specific piece of legislation (HR40) that had been introduced in Congress in an effort to forge an agreement on reparations.

The program provides important perspective for understanding the state of the civil rights debate in America at the turn of the century.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 16, File 8, Conyers, John Jr.