Kicking off a new season of public programs at Roosevelt House, we are pleased to present a discussion with acclaimed journalist Samuel G. Freedman on his widely praised new book, Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights. In this riveting and eloquently written chronicle, Freedman reconstructs and reconsiders the early life of one of American history’s most important, yet largely neglected, political leaders.
Joining the author in conversation will be iconic broadcast journalist and host of numerous landmark PBS television series Bill Moyers, who will offer his own reflections on Humphrey—a man he knew well and considered a mentor. The discussion will be led by the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House, Harold Holzer.
The most pressing and controversial question at the 1948 Democratic Convention, which marks its 75th anniversary as this book is published, was not who would emerge as presidential nominee—incumbent Harry S. Truman, was the presumptive choice—but whether the party would finally embrace the cause of civil rights and embed it in its national platform. As Into the Bright Sunshine powerfully and dramatically illustrates, it was on the final day of that gathering when the 37-year-old, relatively obscure mayor of Minneapolis provided a resounding answer to that question with a history-altering speech. Defying Truman’s desire to occupy the middle ground on matters of racial equality, Hubert Humphrey urged the delegates to “get out of the shadow of state’s rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights,” words that move not just the party forward, but the country.
Humphrey’s journey to that pivotal speech runs from a remote, all-white hamlet in South Dakota to the mayoralty of Minneapolis as he tackles its notorious racism and anti-Semitism, and on to his role as a national champion of multiracial democracy. His allies in that struggle include a Black newspaper publisher, a Jewish attorney, and a college professor who had fled Nazi Germany. His adversaries are white supremacists, Christian Nationalists, and America Firsters, one of whom tries to assassinate him. Into the Bright Sunshine celebrates one of the overlooked landmarks of civil rights history, and illuminates the early life and enduring legacy of the future vice president and presidential candidate (20 years later) who helped bring it about.
Samuel G. Freedman is a journalism professor, columnist, and the author of several previous books, including: Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights; and Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church. Freedman was a staff reporter at the New York Times from 1981 through 1987. From 2004 to 2008, he wrote the paper’s “On Education” column, winning first prize in the Education Writers Association’s annual competition; and, from 2006 through 2016, he wrote the “On Religion” column, earning the Goldziher Prize for Journalists. As a professor of journalism at Columbia University, he was named the nation’s outstanding journalism educator by the Society of Professional Journalists.
Bill Moyers is a legendary broadcast journalist, author, and a founding organizer of the Peace Corps. He is a former senior White House assistant and press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson; publisher of Newsday, which was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes under his leadership; senior news analyst for CBS News, where he was a senior correspondent for CBS Reports; and a senior news analyst for The CBS Evening News. Moyers served as producer and on-air host of several groundbreaking series for public television, including NOW with Bill Moyers (2002-2005), Bill Moyers’ Journal (2007-2010) and Moyers & Company (2011-2015). He won more than 35 Emmy Awards, nine Peabody Awards, and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the author of Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times; Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues; Moyers on Democracy; Healing and the Mind; The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets; and, with Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth.
Harold Holzer has served since 2015 as the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. A prolific author with more than 50 books to his credit, he won the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Prize and a 2008 National Humanities Medal. His next book is Brought Forth on this Continent: Abraham Lincoln and American Immigration.