The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. A lot to get to this hour. This is going to be a busy show and a big one in the Obama administration. The issue of gun violence, specifically the idea of gun violence being treated as a public health issue that almost derailed President Obama's nomination for surgeon general, the doctor named Vivek Murthy. Republicans held up Vivek Murthy as nomination for basically a year in order to try to make some sort of scapegoat out of him for the NRA.
Despite that year delay, Vivek Murthy was ultimately confirmed and he served as surgeon general under President Obama. He served as surgeon general, in fact, until President Trump fired Dr. Murthy from that job in twenty seventeen. Well, President Biden has just brought Vivek Murthy back to be surgeon general again. He was confirmed by the Senate last night. He should be sworn in soon. Tonight, the Senate also confirmed the official, who will be Vivek Murthy? S boss at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr.
Rachel Levine, was confirmed tonight to be assistant secretary of health. That is a history making appointment. Dr. Levine is now the first transgender official to ever be confirmed by the US Senate, the highest ranking transgender US government official in history. She will be the number two official at HHS. All Republicans except two voted against her nomination. Only Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted for her. So she'll be Vivek Murthy boss. Dr. Levine's boss at HHS will, of course, be the new secretary of Health and Human Services, Harvey Basara.
He was also recently confirmed he will be sworn in soon. No Republican senators voted for him at all, but Democrats were nevertheless able to confirm him on a party line vote in order to become health secretary. Mr Basara had to leave his previous job, which was attorney general of the state of California. And there had been a bunch of discussion that Congressman Adam Schiff of California, a frequent guest on the show, had such a high profile role, particularly in the first impeachment of President Trump.
There had been lots of discussion that Congressman Adam Schiff might replace Hofmeyr Basara. He might get appointed to be California attorney general once Basara got confirmed for his cabinet position in Washington. Well, today we learned that Congressman Adam Schiff will not be going home to California to take that job. He will stay in D.C. as a congressman and an important one as chair of the Intelligence Committee. Instead of him, California's governor picked for the new attorney general job in California, a man named Rob Bonta.
He is a state representative in California. He will now become the first ever Filipino American to have that very powerful gig. Attorney general of the most populous state in the country. At the Justice Department in Washington, though, there's trouble, we've been reporting for weeks now, for months now on how the Trump presidency and the tenure of Attorney General Bill Barr really ripped the US Justice Department apart at the seams in some important ways. President Biden's new attorney general, Merrick Garland, he has been confirmed.
He is in position now, but he's not just got the hard work to do of running federal law enforcement as attorney general, he's now got to figure out what to do with all of the Trump and Bill Barr era scandals that are still straggling around the halls of main justice, dragging their entrails down the hall. I mean, where do you start at least four different Trump cabinet secretaries? We now know at least four of them were referred to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution, for various kinds of corruption, for cabinet officials.
And all of those criminal referrals were dismissed out of hand instantly. Criminal cases, of course, against the president's friends or against people who could conceivably testify against President Trump in their criminal trials. Those cases suddenly dropped by the Justice Department or interfered with at sentencing by the Justice Department, even after guilty pleas were entered, even after convictions were handed down by juries. The president's personal lawyer, not the one who went to prison, the other one, the president's personal lawyer of late, implicated in both of the scandals for which the president was impeached.
Mr. Giuliani, the subject of an active federal criminal investigation. But the US attorney's office investigating him was blocked from getting search warrants for Mr. Giuliani in conjunction with that case, thanks to direct interference from Trump appointees at the highest levels of the DOJ, reaching down and stopping search warrants being issued in the criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani. I mean, that's not OK. It's it's not just a mess there to clean up like it isn't a bunch of cabinet level agencies after the Trump administration at the Justice Department in particular, it's not just a mess left over.
It is an ongoing mess. And it's not just past scandals that need attending to its current cases that have been tampered with along the way during the Trump era. It's interference in law enforcement that still needs to be ferreted out, fixed and potentially prosecuted as corruption in its own right. It is a huge, complex, really bad problem that the Biden administration has had foisted on it. And I don't think it's getting nearly enough attention, frankly. And this is like you loan somebody your car for a week and they did give it back at the end of the week.
But now, you know, while you need your car to get to school and get to work and do your errands and stuff, it turns out the guy you lent it to spent the time that he had it pouring sugar in the gas tank and stripping out all the wiring and inviting an extended family of raccoons and squirrels to live permanently in the back seat and make nests. Hey, Maric, here's your car back. Thanks for the loan. I hope it's still cool that that's going to be your daily driver in your commuter car.
Watch out the squirrels bite. I mean, we have to use the Justice Department for stuff. So, yeah, this is about what the last administration did. But it is a current problem. And for all the help that Attorney General Merrick Garland is going to need, handling that disaster and digging out from it.
I mean, just this week, the Bill Barr appointee who inexplicably got put in charge of the US attorney's office in D.C. just this week, he appears to have actively screwed up potentially all the most serious prosecutions of alleged January 6th US Capitol attackers. He did that this week. Even now, the Trump folks, the left over at the Justice Department are still messing stuff up. Really serious stuff. That's at the top of the priority list for Garland. So for all of the help that Merrick Garland is going to need in cleaning this up, in righting the ship at the Justice Department, so far, this is important.
He has none of his senior staff in place to help him get a hold of things there. None of them. He's been confirmed, yes, but nobody else. Republicans have blocked all the other appointees at senior posts at the Justice Department so far, including one that's coming to a head tomorrow morning. And I'm going to be watching that when it comes to a head tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. in the Senate. And I will tell you why. Here's the thing to know.
This is Swisher County, Texas Tech, in the Texas panhandle, Amarillo is an hour due north, Lubbock is an hour due south from the county seat and little Swisher County, which is called Tulear, Tulia, Texas. Does that name ring a bell for you? Even if you have no connection to Texas at all and you don't know the name of every little town of five thousand people in Texas, the name Tulia, Texas, might ring a bell for you.
If, for example, you ever watch 60 Minutes on CBS since Tulia, Texas was the subject of one of the most astonishing interviews the great Ed Bradley ever put on TV as part of that show. Early one morning in nineteen ninety nine, Tom Coleman's efforts culminated in the arrest of 13 percent of Trias adult black population. They were rousted out of bed, paraded in front of local television cameras, in handcuffs, many of them half dressed and charged with selling cocaine to Tom Coleman at various times over the course of his investigation.
The town newspaper declared Tulia streets cleared of garbage. It may be no coincidence that the road led Tom Goldman to the town's black community. It was well known that he had used racial slurs in front of his superior officers in Tulia.
Everybody is making a big deal. Oh, God. He's he he said words like, oh, let's put him in electric chair. Well, yeah, that word was bad back in the 20s, 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s. But now it's just a common it's just a common slang, you know? I mean, people you can watch TV and hear that word. You know, it's a greeting.
Coleman told me he used the N-word to fit in with blacks during his investigation and admits he also used it among his white friends.
The word yes, sir.
I've used that word. I've used it a lot. Yeah, so. Is that a greeting you'd use with me? Oh, no, sir, not you. But it's OK to use it around. Other people, Yasser. Oh, no, not you, sir, you I would never look in the face and call the N word, but I otherwise use it all the time, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in a 60 Minutes interview and for 60 Minutes, that's saying something.
But the overall story was just insane. This is sort of a small town, right? About five thousand people, as I say, in the Texas panhandle. One morning, they mass arrest more than a tenth of the entire black population of the town. And all of them, more than 40 people arrested. They're all accused of being big time, like cartel level drug dealers and drug kingpins. Here's that. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert described it at the time.
And in a column that he called Kafka in Tulia, he said, quote, Kafka could have had a field day with Tulia. On the morning of July 20, 30 law enforcement officers fanned out and arrested. More than 10 percent of Tulia is tiny African-American population. Also arrested were a handful of whites who had relationships with blacks. The humiliating roundup was intensely covered by the local media, which had been tipped off in advance. Men and women, bewildered and unkempt, were paraded before TV cameras and featured prominently on the evening news.
They were drug traffickers. One in all, said the sheriff, among the forty six so-called traffickers were a pig farmer, a forklift operator and a number of ordinary young women with children. If these were major cocaine dealers as alleged, they were among the oddest in the US. None of them had any money to speak of. And when they were arrested, they didn't have any cocaine, no drugs, no money, no weapons were recovered during the surprise roundup.
The first convictions, nevertheless came quickly. One of the few white defendants, a man who happened to have a mixed race child, was sentenced to more than three hundred years in prison. The hog farmer, a black man in his late fifties, was sentenced to 90 years in prison. A twenty four year old black man was sentenced to 60 years in prison and so on. The entire operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted an 18 month undercover operation.
The arrests were made solely on the word of this one officer Tom Coleman. Mr. Coleman's alleged undercover operation was ridiculous. There were no other police officers to corroborate his activities. He did not wear a wire or conduct any video surveillance. He did not keep detailed records of his alleged drug buys. He said he sometimes wrote such important information as the names of suspects and the dates of transactions on his leg. In trial after trial, prosecutors put Coleman on the witness stand and his uncorroborated, unsubstantiated testimony was enough to send people to prison for decades, uncorroborated, unsubstantiated.
What was all the more amazing about this was that the cop in question, who was the single handed law enforcement source and the source of all evidence? In this entire roundup of more than 40 people, the cop in question cheerfully admitted that he had absolutely no evidence, absolutely no corroboration, absolutely no way to substantiate anything that he was saying against any of these people whatsoever. All of it all of it was just what he said, which he was happy to admit, because clearly that was enough.
They were all given harsh sentences ranging from twenty to three hundred forty one years in prison, even though the arrests had turned up, no cocaine, no drug paraphernalia, no weapons, no money or any other signs of drug dealing. The convictions were based solely on the uncorroborated word of Tom Coleman, who had followed none of the standard procedures routinely used in undercover drug operations across the country.
Just for the record, did you wear a wire or other recording device? No, sir. Did you have any video or photographic evidence that the bias took place?
No, sir. Did you have any independent eyewitness testimony from another undercover officer? No, sir. Did you have any fingerprint evidence? No, sir.
But don't you want something more than your word? Mm hmm.
Another little piece of evidence that can point the finger at that person?
Yes, sir. That would have helped. But that's not how the operation went. Sentences of up to three hundred and forty one years in prison. Dozens of people arrested, convicted, sentenced to very hard time. The cumulative number of years that these folks got in prison was over seven hundred and fifty years in prison.
They're all arrested that one day, all based on that one officer with no supporting evidence whatsoever. Texas state officials at the time were beside themselves, by which I mean they were delighted. More than 10 percent of all the black people in that town arrested and put in prison. A third of all the black men in that town give that officer a reward. They actually did give him an award, the Texas state attorney general at the time gave that officer the Law Man of the Year award.
The state attorney general of Texas did that. And then it all fell apart. It all fell apart. Astonishingly. More than a dozen people convicted on drug charges are expected to be freed from Texas prisons today, this after the officer whose testimony sent them to prison was charged with perjury. NBC's Jim Cummins is in Tulia, Texas, with more on this story. Jim, good morning. Good morning again.
That's right. It was a huge drug case for such a small town involving minorities. But now apparently it is falling apart. In July nineteen ninety nine, the authorities in Tulia, Texas, population five thousand eighty one, made a drug bust, arresting forty six people, thirty nine of them black, as part of a sting operation conducted by one undercover cop. Tom Coleman, posing as a long haired biker with a drug habit, claimed he bought cocaine from the suspects.
Some plea bargained for a short prison sentences. The others went to trial. And on the strength of Coleman's testimony, only 19 of them were sentenced to a total of about 800 years in prison. But on judicial review, Coleman's cases began to fall apart.
Every transcript from every trial that ever took place around this thing around the thing has evidence of Tom Coleman perjuring himself on this.
One woman, Tonya White, could prove that she was three hundred miles away in Oklahoma City cashing a check the same day Coleman testified she sold cocaine to him in Tulia. There is outrage over this drug bust. The Texas legislature passed a bill calling for the release of all the suspects until the appeals of this case are heard.
So later today, in the same courthouse where they were convicted, the remaining 13 people will be released by a judge. That was June two thousand and three.
That was a morning report that aired on NBC on the Today Show that morning. And then later that day, that judge did free everybody because it turns out, when pressed when somebody actually tried to defend these people against these charges, when you started to investigate whether or not what this one cop had said was true, it turns out the case is against all of them were entirely made of. Basically, I'm a trial judge, so two months ago, District Judge Ron Chapman ruled that all Tulia suspects had been improperly convicted.
Yeah, yeah. Today, 12 of those still doing time were brought back in to the same courthouse where they had been tried. Let these people go, let them go today.
And Judge Chapman did release them on their own recognizance until their cases are decided on appeal. Meanwhile, Coleman has been indicted for aggravated perjury.
In another case, it was jubilation for them and their loved ones.
Joe Moore was the first to be convicted and he got 90 years. He was asked what he had lost from this experience.
Just about my life tonight, most of the Tulia drug suspects now have a chance to resume their lives. Great day. Great day.
Good afternoon. My name is Vanita Gupta. I'm an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Following a dramatic hearing at the Swisher County Courthouse today, retired District Judge Ron Chatman granted bail and ordered the immediate release of 13 individuals who are wrongfully convicted of drug charges in Tulia, Texas, and have been in prison for years. Since their arrest, Judge Chapman found Tom Coleman to be, quote, the most devious, nonresponsive law enforcement witness this court has witnessed in 25 years on the bench in Texas, according to the court's findings.
Coleman submitted false reports, misrepresented his investigative work and misidentified various defendants during his investigation. In addition, testimony by Coleman and other law enforcement officials involved in the Tulia drug sting revealed Coleman's arrest on theft charges and abuse of official abuse of official capacity while conducting the two year investigation. Did you catch that last bit, the cop in question here, the cop who made up all the information that resulted in the arrest of all these people in them all getting these 60, 90, three hundred year sentences, the cop himself got arrested during the course of this investigation for theft and abuse of office.
The Cafcass upending of this town was the work of this one crooked police officer who himself had been charged with theft and abuse, who would go on, in fact, to be convicted of perjury. That young civil rights attorney who went to Tulia, Texas, in the wake of all these convictions, who went through all of the cases and realized that they were all built on nothing, who personally lined up lawyers from all around the country for more than 30 defendants who didn't have any defense counsel, whose appeals had already been rejected, who acted as lead counsel herself for the NAACP and all those defendants cases as they pried this thing open, who got the crooked cop to break down and melt down on the stand in March?
Twenty three, which did break open the case and all the convictions were overturned and all the prisoners were freed. And in August 2003, Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry issued a full and complete pardon for all of those poor people. That young civil rights attorney who exposed what happened there, who made that happen? Her name is Vanita Gupta. I basically spent two full days in the Suffolk County courthouse going through files, trying to piece together the stories of these cases and and then found out who their family members were in the town and just drove to their homes and spent a fair amount of time really, really just kind of getting to know them.
It wasn't just the little lady with the little boys. She was the little lady with a lot of power, a lot of knowledge and a lot of caring.
We will not rest in our quest to write the horrific wrongs that have been inflicted on our times and on this community.
I came back to New York and I made a chart of the forty six individuals and kind of compiled all that information we needed to put law enforcement on trial.
I also realized that I was one attorney with forty six potential clients to mobilize the law firms in New York City and Washington, D.C. footage from one of several documentaries that has been made about this landmark miscarriage of justice and what it took to expose it. And it. That lawyer, Vanita Gupta, went on to become the head of the civil rights division at the US Justice Department under President Obama, widely respected in that role, she served in that very high profile job without any whiff of scandal or trouble.
President Biden has since nominated her to be the number three official in the whole Justice Department, assistant attorney general in that nomination. She has, among other things, the support of every major law enforcement organization in the country, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which is the police union organization that twice endorsed Donald Trump, even though they support Vanita Gupta. Vanita Gupta is one of the senior Justice Department officials who is not confirmed in this administration because Republicans are not only blocking her nomination, they are slow walking it through the Senate.
They're trying to trip it up, trying to keep her from being confirmed. And here's the thing. Here's why this is all worth knowing already. Who do you think is the Republican senator who is leading the charge against Vanita Gupta and has stopped her from being confirmed thus far? So Merrick Garland doesn't have any of his top people there with him at the Justice Department. Vanita Gupta is going to be the number three official, the Justice Department. She's not there yet.
Why is that? Well, there's a Republican senator taking point on this, leading the charge to try to keep her from being confirmed. Who is that? The senator from Texas. A senator from Texas who used to be attorney general of the state of Texas, it's Texas Senator John Cornyn, who, when he was attorney general of the state of Texas, is the guy who gave Officer Tom Coleman, the Texas Law Man of the Year award for his great work in Tulia, Texas, before Vanita Gupta came in and exposed to that guy actually was before he was convicted of perjury, before every single one of those cases was overturned because that guy made them all up and they all got full pardons from Rick Perry because of the Kafkaesque nightmare and disaster that was that guy who John Cornyn named Man of the Year.
I wonder I just wonder if Senator John Cornyn might be at all embarrassed about this and about the young lawyer who came to Texas and exposed this thing, this terrible and cartoonishly evil thing that he had helped along, that he had celebrated, that he had given an award to. It is now Senator John Cornyn leading the charge against Vanita Gupta to be the number three official at the US Justice Department. Even against all of those law enforcement organizations endorsing her.
Judiciary Committee is due to vote on her nomination tomorrow. Republicans led by John Cornyn have been demanding that Vanita Gupta actually needs to come back and do her confirmation hearings over a second time. That is not going to happen tonight. We have obtained exclusively, I think, the reply letter from Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Dick Durbin, the reply to Republican senators demanding that she needs to do her confirmation all over again. Senator Durbin telling Republicans, no, they are not going to stop Vanita Gupta nomination any longer.
It says in part, quote, Dear senators. Well, I always appreciate hearing from colleagues on the committee your request to hold a second hearing on Vanita Gupta. The nomination to be associate attorney general appears to be little more than a delay tactic aimed not at gathering more information, but at obstructing a highly qualified and historic nominee who's dedicated her career to the protection and expansion of civil rights. The committee will not hold a second hearing from his Gupta, and her nomination will move forward with a committee vote.
A second hearing on Gupta's nomination is unwarranted and unnecessary. The committee will vote on her nomination tomorrow. Sincerely, Dick Durbin, committee chairman. Vanita Gupta is going to be confirmed by the Senate, ultimately, she will be the number three official at the US Justice Department under Merrick Garland, and that is despite unified Republican opposition to her, led by the senator who she humiliated and exposed in Texas nearly 20 years ago for his enabling, encouraging, celebrating role in one of the worst, most racially explosive, astonishingly brazen law enforcement put up jobs in the last generation.
Senator Cornyn, I do not know if he's ashamed by his role in all of that. I wonder if he ever tried to get the award back. But his effort to get revenge on the woman who had to come in and fix his mess, that effort will fail. She will win and he will lose again. God bless Texas, it's going to happen tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. and the Judiciary Committee, everyone will be watching. Today in the Senate, we saw something we basically never see.
This was the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, and the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, squaring off opposite each other at a hearing. I don't know if you watch a lot of footage of the US Senate, you might not be quite as big a civics in our desire. But this is you know, this is something that doesn't happen. If you're the leader of one of the parties in the Senate, you don't sit on any committees.
And so you never see them at hearings. You never see either of them sitting up at the dais at a committee hearing like this, let alone both of them at the same time, at the same one. But that is how important this hearing was today. The leaders of both parties in the Senate came in person in part so they could yell at each other. This was the first hearing on one Senate bill, one before the People Act, which is the Democrats big voting rights protection bill.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder and a bunch of other witnesses gave testimony on the bill to the Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Today, as I said, the leaders of both parties were there in person. This voting rights legislation is probably the one thing that could stop the hundreds of state level voting rights rollbacks that are currently in the works in Republican controlled states. It has already passed the House, but how can it pass the Senate?
Senator Schumer keeps saying failure is not an option on this bill in particular. Today, he said this bill will pass this body, meaning it will pass the Senate. Why does he keep saying that, though? I mean, is he cheerleading for that to happen or is there some plan to make that happen? Republicans are one hundred percent, a thousand percent opposed to this. How is it going to pass? Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of the great state of Minnesota.
She's chair of the Rules Committee and she ran this landmark hearing today. Senator, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for your time. Thank you, Rachel.
And by the way, thank you for covering. Vinita is hearing tomorrow I'm going to be there and she'll just be fantastic job, perfect for this moment in time with major prosecutions going on of hate crimes and a thank you for really showing her strength as a candidate and how great she'll be in the Justice Department. Thank you. Well, thank you for saying so, I mean, I'm struck by both the back story about her, what she's done and how she ended up as a relatively young person in these high level positions in the Justice Department because of her incredible track record, starting at a really young age.
But the bad blood behind what appears to be some of the Republican led opposition to her, it just strikes me as something that ought to be national news. If you if you gave the Tulia, Texas, detective an award, maybe you should step aside when Vanita Gupta sits down in your committee hearing. But I guess we'll see that resolved tomorrow, Bud. But speaking of it with our hearing, this is a moment, though, this bill, when you look at some of the things we've been dealing with on the floor tonight, led by Chris Murphy dealing with a background check bill that 80, 90 percent of the American people want all of the things that are just stuck.
A lot of it has to do with Republicans attempt at gridlock. I personally favor getting rid of the filibuster. But what you saw in our hearing today with the strength of this bill, you didn't just see Eric Holder testifying for it. Trevor Potter, remember that name? The former head of the Federal Election Commission, Republican, had a chief counsel to John McCain in both his presidential races, testified for the bill because he believes we just need to have pick up our democracy again, as I said on the inaugural stage, brush it off, move forward as a country.
Hundreds of bills trying to suppress the vote. Yet we had one hundred sixty million people vote in November in the middle of a pandemic. Why? Because a number of states had extended vote by mail. They made it easier to register. They made it easier to early vote. Why would we close the door on that? Now, this is a moment you only get maybe every 50 years for civil rights, for elections. And that is why Senator Schumer made this as one and why we are so devoted to passing this bill.
I feel like the devotion to passing this bill is something that I am seeing in real time and here and I and I believe in the sincerity of it. What I don't understand is the plan to get it passed. This, if the filibuster is still in place, then the only way to pass things without Republican support is to go through budget reconciliation. This isn't, broadly speaking, the kind of thing that can pass through budget reconciliation. What is the what is the plan to hope that public support eventually drives Republicans to change their minds?
Let's start with this.
It's passed the House. That's always a good thing. Number two, first time we've ever had a hearing on this bill, and we're going to have a markup to get it to the floor, which we can do in a 50 50 Senate after in April, the month of April. And my committee then we go forward in this bill led by Senator Merkley, is doing a great job. We go to the floor and there, of course, we there's nine bipartisan provisions in there.
We do try to build support. But barring that, we already have Senator Manchin talking about the fact that with some version of this bill or any bill, he's willing to move to a talking filibuster. You know what that means? That means we actually make make the other side speak. We make them stand and speak, and they have to come in day after day and night after night, like in Mr. Smith goes to Washington and own their objections to common sense reforms supported broadly by Democrats and Republicans out there.
To me, it's a little like the American rescue plan. They were the objecting to that, but the people wanted it and we got it done with fifty one votes. So we start with getting it to the floor and from there jump ball. A lot of things can happen. Sign me up for a front row seat. Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Rules Committee, that's more than just determination. That sounds like a plan. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight.
We'll have you back to talk about it more as it goes through the process.
All right. Thank you. All right. Much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
She was the only person who showed up for Geographe that day, September 12th, nineteen seventy four, Valerie Banks and her backpack were the only ones in class. A court had just ordered city of Boston to desegregate its public schools. The court said Boston had to begin busing white kids to black schools and black kids to white schools, an effort to force the schools to integrate. Lots of families from white neighborhoods in Boston balked at the idea of sending their kids to school in traditionally black neighborhoods.
They balked, especially at having black kids come to what had been all white schools. And so that's how young Valerie Banks ended up in the geography classroom all by herself. The first day of school under that court ordered busing program, white parents just flat out refused to send their kids to school if they were going to be black kids there, too. Within a year and a half of busing starting in Boston, a third of white kids got taken out of Boston public schools.
And it is painful to see that young girl sitting all by herself in that classroom. But it only got more traumatic for kids like Valerie from their black students on their way to school were the target of big racist mobs in Boston, often really violent protests by white people in Boston. They threw rocks at the kids while they got on the bus. Black kids had to duck, shattering glass coming at them through the bus windows. As the buses were attacked, hears a woman screaming at a bus full of black children who are being taken home after school.
The photographer said she was yelling to those little kids, go home and stay home, yelling at the little kids. People walked through black neighborhoods in Boston wearing Ku Klux Klan gear. They said a mannequin of a black person on fire, an effigy. This is a building in a white neighborhood in Boston, a message for all the black kids, all the black students being bused in to see on their way to school. Every morning we blurred what the word is, but you know what the word is.
The trauma those kids had to endure, it would have been it would be almost unbelievable if there weren't the pictures to prove it. I remember riding the buses to protect the kids going up to South Boston High School and the bricks through the window, signs hanging out those buildings go home, pictures of monkeys, the words the spit people just felt was all right to attack children.
I had no idea what to expect, but something I didn't know anything about was I didn't know anything about, you know, they didn't like because I didn't know anything about what was in store for us. But when we got there, it was like a war zone.
I came back and I told my mom and I never forget. I said, Ma, I am not going back to that school unless I have a gun. Exactly. At 14 years old, I am not going back to that school.
At overt racism, this racist attacks in Boston over busing, it took years before any of that simmer down, but scars for those who lived through it never faded away. Boston remains an incredibly unequal place to live by just about every metric. And twenty fifteen, the net worth for a white family net worth for white family living in Boston was roughly two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Net worth of a black family living in Boston was an average of eight dollars.
Boston Police Department is sixty five percent white, even though white people make up less than half the city, that's still today. If you look at what the city itself is investing in, where they're doling out lucrative contracts of the more than two billion dollars handed out by the city between twenty fourteen and twenty nineteen in contracts, one half of one percent of those contracts went to black owned businesses. And you see it in representation at the highest levels to the mayor of Boston has only ever been a white man.
For all time, for the last ninety one years, that white man has been either of Irish or Italian descent, full stop. Ninety one straight years of Irish American or Italian American men. The city of Boston has never been represented by a black person at the highest level. The city has never been represented by a woman until now. This is Kim Jayney. Her family has lived in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury for six generations. When she was 16 years old, Kim Janie became a mom while she was still in high school.
After she graduated high school, she started a community college. She ultimately enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She worked a job cleaning bathrooms while she was a student at Smith so she could afford tuition and to provide for her daughter. She then spent years as an organizer and advocate, pushing to reform Boston's public schools. Twenty seventeen. She was elected to the city council in Boston. She was chosen by her peers then to become the city council's president.
That choice was made last year and as city council president. Well, there she was. In place, that is how this week Kim Jany became mayor of Boston, the last mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, just resigned to become President Biden's labor secretary. When the mayor resigns, the line of succession in Boston is that the president of the city council gets automatically elevated to be acting mayor. That makes Kim Jayney, as of this week, the first black person to lead the city of Boston, the first woman to lead the city of Boston.
She was also one of those Boston kids in the 70s who was pelted with rocks and racial slurs on their way to school. Janie was 11 years old when she got on those desegregation buses in Boston. She was bused to a school in the same part of Boston where they set that mannequin of a black person on fire. Yesterday, yesterday, she went back to that school that she was bused to in nineteen seventy six. She went back this time on her first full day as the mayor of Boston, Massachusetts.
As a girl growing up in Boston, I was nurtured by a family who believed in me and surrounded by good neighbors who knew my name. It was my village. But when I was just 11 years old, school busing rolled into my life. I was forced onto the front lines of the 1970s battle to desegregate Boston public schools. I had rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus simply for attending school while black. And just yesterday, on my first full day as mayor, I visited my childhood alma mater.
I saw students happy to be back in school with their teachers and friends instead of the pain and trauma that I had experienced in middle school to think that my teenage grandsons were born at a time when there had never even been a black woman on our city council. And today, my six year old granddaughter Rosie and other little girls can see themselves represented in Massachusetts, highest court, the halls of Congress and now in the fifty fifth mayor of Boston. The new mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, Mayor Kim Jany, joins us live here next.
Stay with us. Here's how Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker put it. He said, quote, How far behind is Boston? Welcome to one of the few major American cities that has never elected anything but a white male mayor in cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. This barrier fell a generation or more ago. Even cities that don't boast particularly big black populations like Seattle and Denver have elected black mayors, in some cases more than one. But here, here in Boston, the old line held.
Not anymore. Joining us now for her first national interview since becoming mayor of the great city of Boston is Kim Jany. Madam Mayor, thank you so much for being here and congratulations. Thank you so much.
It's an honor to be here. I'm a big fan. Thank you for having me. It's nice of you to say, well, let me just ask you one of the one of the things you said in your speech when you're sworn in today was that you bring to this moment life experience that is different from the men who came before me. Tell me tell me about what that means for this job for the city of Boston, how that will influence this incredibly large job you're taking on now.
Well, as as a woman growing up, as a little girl growing up in Roxbury, as a as a black woman who has lived through some of our darkest days and in our city, I certainly bring all of that with me. But I also know that our city is a city of hope and possibilities. And so I am encouraged certainly by what I saw when I visited my childhood alma mater. As you have said, I was bused during the desegregation era here in Boston.
It was a very traumatic experience of growing up, a very violent time in our city. And me sitting here as mayor does symbolize how far we've come as a city, but we have a lot of work to do. Yesterday, on my first full day as mayor, I had the opportunity to go back and see a young people learning in the classroom. I actually visited a classroom where they were studying desegregation in Boston. And to be there in that classroom, as someone who lived through that experience and able to share that experience with the students was pretty incredible.
And to be there as the first black mayor and the first woman mayor for our city was just mind blowing. It was great to see students in the classroom learning and engaged and not having to worry about that painful time in our history. That being said, we do have a lot of work to do in Boston. These issues, these challenges are not new. They are centuries old in the making. There is a lot of work to do when it comes to combating structural racism in our city.
And I will bring my lived experience to my unique perspective as a black woman to this work. It strikes me also from a national perspective, Boston has a pretty unique role right now in the response to the pandemic just because Boston is a not only a tech hub, but also a health care capital for the country. And Massachusetts has had a hard time with covid is the vaccine rollout in Boston and other elements, logistical elements of the covid response now going to land in your lap as as mayor as you take on these responsibilities?
Yes, it's a huge priority for me, making sure that we are rolling out the vaccine equitably so communities that have been hardest hit, it's no surprise that communities of color have been hit particularly hard, disproportionately here in Boston and in other cities across our nation. And that's due to the pre-existing inequities before covid. And so it is incredibly important that we make sure we're getting the vaccine out equitably, that we are reaching all communities and lifting up those who have been hardest hit.
And that is a number one priority for me so that we can reopen safely and make sure we're getting businesses open and workers back to work and our students back in the classrooms with their teachers and their peers.
Kim GenY sworn in today as the new mayor of the great city of Boston, again, congratulations. You have a huge task ahead of you. Godspeed. Come back frequently and it's good. It's so good to see you in this job.
I'd love to. Thank you so much, Rachel. Take care. All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us. Heads up for tomorrow's news at one fifteen p.m. Eastern, we are expecting the first formal press conference of President Biden's tenure in the Oval Office. First one he's done since he's been president. We will all be watching Vanita Gupta confirmation hearing, which ought to be fireworks 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. The Judiciary Committee is going to be a big day tomorrow in Washington.
See you again tomorrow night.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC.