JOHN GIBSON, GUEST HOST: Thanks for staying with us. I'm John Gibson in for Bill O'Reilly.
In the "Impact" segment tonight, thousands of public schools are named after our founding fathers Washington, Jefferson, Franklin names that make many Americans proud. But some of the fathers owned or traded slaves. And now there's a campaign to change the school names. Is this political correctness gone too far?
Joining us from New Orleans is Carl Galmon, who has spearheaded the effort that has successfully changed 27 public school names so far in that city alone. And in Los Angeles, Glenn Ellmers, director of research at the Claremont Institute, who is not so crazy about this idea.
Let me ask Carl first. Carl, so who are the founders that you would like to see expunged from school names? And, by the way, only for schools that are predominantly black, or all schools?
CARL GALMON, LOUISIANA COMMITTEE AGAINST APARTHEID: First of all, you mentioned the word our founding fathers. During slavery, my ancestor was considered as property. They were not my founding fathers. In fact, they enslaved my ancestors. The transatlantic slave trade was the greatest crime against humanity since the birth of Jesus Christ. So, we need to get that straight from the inception.
GIBSON: Well, Carl, I mean, you can pick this bone with me if you want. But for most Americans, the majority of Americans, they're generally regarded as our founding fathers. If you want to exempt yourself now, that's fine.
GALMON: Well, it's a fact, my ancestor was property. Would you agree on that?
GIBSON: Carl, we're past that. I agree with it.
GALMON: No, we're not past that. That's history.
GIBSON: I'm asking about the schools. Yeah, fine. Let's get on to the point, Carl. We don't have all night.
I mean, you have got school's changed, names changed. Who are the founding fathers that you want expunged from schools? And do you insist on this where there are predominantly black students?
GALMON: Well, our entire school system has a 90 percent African-American student enrollment. And I think it's a disgrace to have African-American students marching down the street in bands during Mardi Gras with slave owners' names across their chest. That's a grave insult to our young students.
GIBSON: Name names. Who are you talking about?
GALMON: Robert E. Lee. PGT Beauregard, Jeff Davis, many of them that we found 51 schools.
GIBSON: You bring up names from the old confederacy. How about George Washington?
GALMON: Well, George Washington owned slave too.
GIBSON: How about Thomas Jefferson?
GALMON: He owned slaves as well.
GIBSON: How about Ben Franklin?
GALMON: Ben Franklin owned slaves. In fact, Ben Franklin sold slaves out of his general store for 30 years.
GIBSON: So you would prefer that those names were never associated with a school which has a predominantly black student body?
GALMON: Well, I don't think no African-Americans should be entertaining those kinds of individuals.
GIBSON: All right. So, Mr. Ellmers, maybe Carl has a point here. If you're a 9-year-old black student, why should you be subjected to going around and playing for the slave-owner Tigers, or whatever it is that your sports team is? Why should you lend your support in the sense of going to a school named after a slave owner?
GLENN ELLMERS, CLAREMONT INSTITUTE: It is true that Washington owned slaves. We shouldn't gloss over that fact. But I think much more significant is the fact that Washington is the founding father this country.
I know Mr. Galmon doesn't believe that. But it is, after all, the principles of the American founding themselves that led to the abolition of slavery and led to the vindication of the rights of black Americans in the civil rights movement. And it's a short step from disparaging George Washington and the founding fathers to disparaging the principles they championed.
GIBSON: Right. But wait a minute, Glenn, I've got to jump in because Carl will if I don't. You're not suggesting that George Washington envisioned that the people he held as slaves would fall under that constitution and that Bill of Rights?
ELLMERS: The founders certainly did include blacks when they said all men are created equal. Washington and Jefferson were clear that slavery was an evil. They did participate in it, although they recognized the contradiction.
But they were very clear that human equality did include blacks. They did not extend civil rights to them. Obviously, they did not abolish slavery immediately. It's almost certainly true they could not, given the political circumstances they were in.
GIBSON: Carl, apparently George Washington wrote at some length about how slavery was an evil and it out to be abolished. And there would be a time when it would. But it was not politically possible at that time because they had to hold those southern colonies together. Would you give him a little slack in that department?
GALMON: Let me just say this. Those words by him is the biggest joke since Batman. When George Washington was president, he had almost absolute power. With the stroke of a pen, he could have abolished child slavery here in North America. But he went along with the slave trade.
He owned slaves. It was slaves who cut trees that excavated his land. They worked for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) seven days a week.
GIBSON: Glenn Ellmers, Carl is saying George Washington had a responsibility to step up and act on his beliefs. If he really believed slavery was an evil and it ought to be abolished, he could have done something. Why couldn't he?
ELLMERS: It's simply categorically untrue to say that a president with a stroke of a pen he could have abolished slavery. The United States was not created as a monarchy. It was created as a constitutional republic where...
GIBSON: So, Glenn, what Carl is saying is that George Washington at that point had the political power to expend political capital to make that move. Now, is that true, or would the Civil War immediately followed the Revolutionary War?
ELLMERS: The founders did do a great deal to curtail slavery. They tried to put it in Lincoln's words in, of course, ultimate extinction. For instance, in northwest ordinance shortly after the country was founded, they explicitly excluded slavery from the northwest territories that would eventually become the Midwestern states of Ohio and Illinois and Michigan.
They did speak out against it. They abolished the importation of slavery. So they do a great deal. And most of all, they founded a country based on the idea of human equality.
GALMON: OK, they passed a what I call a proposition in 1808 saying you could not import any more Africans to being slaves. They didn't bring slaves from Africa. We were enslaved after we got to North America. We didn't land at Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us. I'd like to make that very clear.
GIBSON: Carl, you in a way, if you set young black kids apart and they don't learn about Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, you've kind of created a separate society. Is that really such a good idea?
GALMON: Basically, what did George Washington and Jefferson do for my ancestors?
GIBSON: They gave you the constitution, Carl.
GALMON: They didn't give it to me. They gave it to they friends. And later on, after the civil rights bill passed in 1964, we're the only race of people in America that had to get a civil rights bill passed and a vote...
GIBSON: Carl, wouldn't have had it. Thanks a lot. Thanks to you both for coming.