Over the last few days I've been literally overwhelmed with congratulations and expressions of solidarity, whether it's been in meetings or on the streets or in restaurants; in the black and brown communities in northern California, wherever I've gone I've been greeted with hugs and kisses and it's really been beautiful. Even in a city like San Jose, among the white population, many many people have come out and have congratulated me and have told me that actually, they were behind us all the time. [applause] And during these last days I have sensed a real feeling of unity and togetherness and a kind of collective enthusiasm which I have rarely experienced on such a massive scale.
As black people, as brown people, as people of color, as working men and women in general, we know and we experience the agony of the struggle for existence each day. We are locked into that struggle. The parallels between our lives and the lives of our sisters and brothers behind bars are very clear. Yet there is a terrifying difference in degree between life on this side of the bars and life on the other side. And just as we must learn from the similarities and acquire an awareness of all the forces which oppress us out here, it is equally important that we understand that the plight of the prisoner unfolds in the rock-bottom realms of human existence.
My freedom was achieved as the outcome of a massive, a massive people's struggle. Young people and older people, black, brown, Asian, Native American and white people, students and workers. The people seized the keys which opened the gates to freedom. And we've just begun. The momentum of this movement must be sustained, and it must be increased. Let us try to seize more keys and open more gates and bring out more sisters and brothers so that they can join the ranks of our struggle out here.
And of course in the eyes of his superior he was a very, very dangerous example to the other GI's. He had to be eliminated. So he was falsely accused with killing two white officers in Vietnam. In Biên Hòa, Vietnam. We must free Billy Dean Smith. We must free Billy Dean Smith and all his brothers and comrades who are imprisoned in the military. [applause]
And in doing this, the prison movement must be integrated into our struggles for black and brown liberation, and to our struggles for an end to material want and need. A very long struggle awaits us. And we know that it would be very romantic and idealistic to entertain immediate goals of tearing down all the walls of all the jails and prisons throughout this country. We should take on the task of freeing as many of our sisters and brothers as possible. And at the same time we must demand the ultimate abolition of the prison system along with the revolutionary transformation of this society. [applause] However, however, within the context of fighting for fundamental changes, there is something else we must do.
Virginia Foster Durr discusses her early life and how she became aware of the social justice problems plaguing twentieth-century America. Descended from a wealthy southern family that emigrated to Alabama during the early 1800s, she begins by telling stories she heard from her grandmother about life in the antebellum South. She explains what life was like on the plantation when she was a child, focusing on race relations between her family and the black workers employed by her grandmother. Her grandmother practiced noblesse oblige, giving gifts and parties to the poorer white and black families in her community. Throughout the interview, Durr reflects on her relationship with her father, addressing his disappointment in the fact that she was a girl and listing his various disciplinary methods. While Durr's parents carefully maintained an aura of condescending tolerance toward the blacks they employed, not all of her relatives were as gentle.
Oh certainly. I'm like most southerners, I'm very interested in family history. Of course, you never are interested until you get old, when you are young, you don't pay any attention to it much. But as you get older, you are always very much interested in it, at least I am, and I think that most people are. But the trouble is, that the old people that could tell you the most about your family are dead by that time, so you have to depend on recollection or what family papers there are or family letters. As far as I know, my father's family were English and the name Foster comes from \"forester\", you know, the king's forester. Probably they were woodchoppers, but they arrived in this country way back yonder, about 1700 or thereabouts. The story was that one brother settled in Massachusetts and one brother settled in Virginia. They settled around South Boston in Virginia and there are a lot of Fosters still around there and there are a lot of black Fosters. You know, Dr. Luther Foster over here at Tuskegee is named Foster and he came from that area. We can't claim kin, but the fact is that there are a lot of black and white Fosters in that area still. But my great grandfather came south, you see, with Gen. Greene's army in the Revolutionary War and he fought at Cowpens and Kings Mountain under General Greene and then after the war was over, the newly formed United States of America gave General Greene a tremendous lot of land in Georgia to settle his soldiers on, it's called Greene County. As I recollect, Madison is the county seat of Greene County.
The person that I remember best was Old Easter. She was a black woman who had been a slave. You asked what happened after the Reconstruction, they all said that the slaves never would leave or else they came back and when I was a child, the whole back yard was still full of these slave cabins that were full of old men and old women who had been slaves and still lived on the plantation. You see, they were scared of freedom maybe. I don't imagine they had any money, I suppose they may have gotten a little bit, but they still were there and were fed. I remember sitting in their laps. I think that this was one reason that it was hard for me to swallow the prevailing theory about blacks being so inferior. Because as I recall, certainly in the case of Easter, she ran the plantation . . . she was a little sharp black woman who wore white aprons and dresses and a white starched bandana on her head, she ran the plantation. She wore the keys. You couldn't get a cookie unless you asked Easter. She put the food out for every meal and I'm sure that she even planned the meals. She may have asked my grandmother about some things, but she was in charge of everything and she was always in charge of us children. We did exactly what she told us to do. She had a very great dignity. One thing that I always remember about her was that she never laughed. I think that a sense of humor is very hard on a dictator because she was always dignified and autocratic. She couldn't punish us, I mean by any physical punishment, but she could punish us by saying, \"You're not going to get your morning cookie.\" We used to have cookies in the middle of the morning or lemonade in the middle of the afternoon. But she was absolutely the law and there was no appeal. Neither to your mother or your grandmother or whomever you complained to about Easter. That was just too bad, because they always thought that Easter knew best and she really did. She was a very wise woman and she really was a woman of tremendous achievements, because she ran that whole place.
Then my grandmother would take us to town, the little town of Union Springs. I got the idea at that time that she owned the town. She wouldn't even go into the stores, whoever ran the store would come out to the carriage. She had two carriages besides two or three buggies and one carriage was an open carriage, a Victoria and she had matched horses, bays, sort of reddish horses. And there was a coachman with a high silk hat, named Washington. I knew as a little girl that she owned the town. She was the biggest, richest person in town. If you go through all those clippings about when she died, you'll see all the tributes to her. Then, as I said, the people that ran the stores, she never had to get out and come in, they would always come out to the buggy or the carriage and ask her what she wanted and bring out the things. And she would buy us the most beautiful material, real linen and real lace and all of our underwear was made out of real linen and lace, made by Miss Paulk, who lived next door. They had fallen, on evil times, I suppose that they had gone to the war and lost their lands. Anyway, they had a big beautiful house too, but they had lost all their money, so Miss Katie Paulk sewed for my grandmother. Our dresses would be embroidered with a lot of scollops, hand embroidered. Well, I got the idea that this was bliss. Just lavish bliss. And I adored it, I was absolutely entranced by it. Granny Foster would go to church and in the winter, she would go in her carriage, which was lined with red satin and she would wear a little bonnet and a little fur cape and when you went to the church with her, Wash would get out and open the door and then she would have her royal progress into the church. You knew that she owned the church. I'm sure that she kept it up mostly. The preacher was named Dr. Bell. I was conscious that Dr. Bell was obligated to my grandmother. So, once again, grandmother owned the church and she owned the town and owned the great big house with white pillars and owned the plantation and she was the queen bee. And that was what I wanted to be when I was little. I wanted to be like my grandmother and have everybody love me and everybody obligated to me. When Christmas came, it was marvelous. They would have a great big tree. In the morning, it would be just the family, you know, with presents and then in the afternoon, she would have in the