Category Archives: History 101

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks Ignites Bus Boycot

Rosa Parks (ca. 1955)
Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (ca. 1955) Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she began. National Archives Record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). Source: Ebony Magazine

By History.com

In Montgomery, AlabamaRosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws. The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience.

“The mother of the civil rights movement,”as Rosa Parks is known, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. She worked as a seamstress and in 1943 joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

According to a Montgomery city ordinance in 1955, African Americans were required to sit at the back of public buses and were also obligated to give up those seats to white riders if the front of the bus filled up. Parks was in the first row of the black section when the white driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white man. Parks’ refusal was spontaneous but was not merely brought on by her tired feet, as is the popular legend. In fact, local civil rights leaders had been planning a challenge to Montgomery’s racist bus laws for several months, and Parks had been privy to this discussion.

Learning of Parks’ arrest, the NAACP and other African American activists immediately called for a bus boycott to be held by black citizens on Monday, December 5. Word was spread by fliers, and activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the protest. The first day of the bus boycott was a great success, and that night the 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., told a large crowd gathered at a church, “The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.” King emerged as the leader of the bus boycott and received numerous death threats from opponents of integration. At one point, his home was bombed, but he and his family escaped bodily harm.

The boycott stretched on for more than a year, and participants carpooled or walked miles to work and school when no other means were possible. As African Americans previously constituted 70 percent of the Montgomery bus ridership, the municipal transit system suffered gravely during the boycott. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Alabama state and Montgomery city bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On December 20, King issued the following statement: “The year old protest against city buses is officially called off, and the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged to return to the buses tomorrow morning on a non-segregated basis.” The boycott ended the next day. Rosa Parks was among the first to ride the newly desegregated buses.

Martin Luther King, Jr., and his nonviolent civil rights movement had won its first great victory. There would be many more to come.

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005. Three days later the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor in the U.S.Capitol Rotunda.

History 101

By History.com

October 6, 1926: Babe Ruth sets a World Series Record

On October 6, 1926, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hits a record three homers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the World Series. The Yanks won the game 10-5, but despite Ruth’s unprecedented performance, they lost the championship in the seventh game. In 1928, in the fourth game of another Yanks-Cards World Series, Ruth tied his own record, knocking three more pitches out of the same park.

The 1926 championship promised to be an exciting one. The AL champs had a powerful lineup, later called the “Murderer’s Row,” that included the great Babe, the young “Columbia Lou” Gehrig, and the leadoff man Earle Combs. For their part, the Cardinals had the intimidating Rogers Hornsby along with ace pitchers Flint Rhem and Bill Sherdel.

But the Yanks were heavily favored, and they won the first game easily. They lost the second, though, thanks to an outstanding full-game performance from St. Louis pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. The next day, Cardinal Jessie Haines pitched the whole game–and hit the only home run–in his team’s 4-0 Game 3 victory.

By the fourth game in the series, the underdog Cards were up two games to one. The Yanks needed to pull it together, and for one game, they did. Veteran Waite Hoyt pitched all nine innings while St. Louis shuffled through its entire bullpen. And the Babe–the Sultan of Swat, the Caliph of Clout, the Wali of Wallop–hit his three homers and led the Yanks to a 10-5 victory. Unfortunately for the Bombers, that game didn’t decide the series. Though they won the next game in 10 innings, they lost the next one by eight runs. And they were losing the seventh game by one run in the ninth inning when the Bambino stepped to the plate again. With a 3-2 count, Ruth drew his eleventh walk of the series and trotted off to first base. The Yanks’ hopes plummeted as quickly as they’d risen, though, when second baseman Hornsby nabbed him as he tried somewhat ploddingly to steal second. The game was over. Thanks to the magical Bambino, the Bombers had lost. On October 18, 1977, Yankee Reggie Jackson became only the second player to hit three homers in a single Series game.

 

History 101

September 30, 1955: James Dean Dies

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On this day in 1955, movie star James Dean dies at age 24 in a car crash on a California highway. Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder, nicknamed “Little Bastard,” headed to a car race in Salinas, California, with his mechanic Rolf Wuetherich, when they were involved in a head-on collision with a car driven by a 23-year-old college student named Donald Turnaspeed. Dean was taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:59 p.m. Wuetherich, who was thrown from the car, survived the accident and Turnaspeed escaped with minor injuries. No charges were ever filed against him.

James Byron Dean was born February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He studied drama at the University of California, Los Angeles, before moving to New YorkCity, where he appeared in plays and TV shows and took classes at the Actors Studio with legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg.

Dean rose to stardom in 1955 with his role as Cal Trask in East of Eden. He reportedly beat out Paul Newman for the part. Dean’s performance in the film, based on the John Steinbeck novel, earned him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. It was the first time in Oscar history that an actor was nominated after his death. The young actor’s next film was “Rebel Without a Cause,” also released in 1955, in which he played a rebellious teen named Jim Stark. The film, which co-starred Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, turned Dean into the poster boy for disaffected youth and cool. Dean’s final film “Giant,” released in 1956 after his death, was an epic tale of a Texas cattle rancher and his family. Dean starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson and was nominated posthumously for a second Oscar for his performance as Jett Rink.

Dean’s success as an actor enabled him to pursue his passion for racing cars and motorcycles. Despite his short life and brief acting career, he endures as a Hollywood icon. He is buried at Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana, where fans continue to flock to his grave every year. People also pay tribute to Dean at a memorial located near the accident site in Cholame, California.

 

History 101

September 22, 1862: Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation

 

By History.com

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million black slaves in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration as America’s 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. He avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and radical Republicans, as well as his personal belief that slavery was morally repugnant. Instead, Lincoln chose to move cautiously until he could gain wide support from the public for such a measure.

In July 1862, Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would issue an emancipation proclamation but that it would exempt the so-called border states, which had slaveholders but remained loyal to the Union. His cabinet persuaded him not to make the announcement until after a Union victory. Lincoln’s opportunity came following the Union win at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. On September 22, the president announced that slaves in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free.

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The proclamation also called for the recruitment and establishment of black military units among the Union forces. An estimated 180,000 African Americans went on to serve in the army, while another 18,000 served in the navy.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, backing the Confederacy was seen as favoring slavery. It became impossible for anti-slavery nations such as Great Britain and France, who had been friendly to the Confederacy, to get involved on behalf of the South. The proclamation also unified and strengthened Lincoln’s party, the Republicans, helping them stay in power for the next two decades.

The proclamation was a presidential order and not a law passed by Congress, so Lincoln then pushed for an antislavery amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ensure its permanence. With the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, slavery was eliminated throughout America (although blacks would face another century of struggle before they truly began to gain equal rights).

Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, the original official version of the document is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

 

History 101

September 15, 1978: Ali Defeats Spinks to Win World Heavyweight Championship

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On this day in 1978, boxer Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks at the LouisianaSuperdome in New Orleans to win the world heavyweight boxing title for the third time in his career, the first fighter ever to do so. Following his victory, Ali retired from boxing, only to make a brief comeback two years later. Ali, who once claimed he could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” left the sport permanently in 1981.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He earned a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker in October 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, Ali defeated the heavily favored Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ, after which he famously declared, “I am the greatest!”

During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. armed forces and in 1967 was convicted of draft evasion and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring in October 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. In June 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction for evading the draft.

At a January 1974 rematch at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, Ali defeated Frazier in 12 rounds. In October of that same year, an underdog Ali bested George Foreman and reclaimed his heavyweight champion belt at the heavily hyped “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire, with a knockout in the eighth round. On February 15, 1978, in Las Vegas, an aging Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks in a 15-round split decision. For Spinks, who was born in 1953 and won a gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the fight was just the eighth of his professional career. However, seven months later, on September 15, Ali won the title back, in a unanimous 15-round decision.

In June 1979, Ali announced he was retiring from boxing. On October 2, 1980, he returned to the ring and fought heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round. After losing to Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981, Ali left the ring for the last time, with a record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts. In 1984, he was revealed to have Parkinson’s disease. Spinks retired from boxing in 1995 with a record of 26 wins, 17 losses and 14 knockouts.

 

History 101

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President Ford announces his decision to pardon former President Richard Nixon

by History.com

 

September 8, 2018: Ford pardons Nixon

 

In a controversial executive action, President Gerald Ford pardons his disgraced predecessor Richard M. Nixon for any crimes he may have committed or participated in while in office. Ford later defended this action before the House Judiciary Committee, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.

The Watergate scandal erupted after it was revealed that Nixon and his aides had engaged in illegal activities during his reelection campaign–and then attempted to cover up evidence of wrongdoing. With impeachment proceedings underway against him in Congress, Nixon bowed to public pressure and became the first American president to resign. At noon on August 9, Nixon officially ended his term, departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

Ford, the first president who came to the office through appointment rather than election, had replaced Spiro Agnew as vice president only eight months before. In a political scandal independent of the Nixon administration’s wrongdoings in the Watergate affair, Agnew had been forced to resign in disgrace after he was charged with income tax evasion and political corruption. Exactly one month after Nixon announced his resignation, Ford issued the former president a “full, free and absolute” pardon for any crimes he committed while in office. The pardon was widely condemned at the time.

Decades later, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation presented its 2001 Profile in Courage Award to Gerald Ford for his 1974 pardon of Nixon. In pardoning Nixon, said the foundation, Ford placed his love of country ahead of his own political future and brought needed closure to the divisive Watergate affair. Ford left politics after losing the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter. Ford died on December 26, 2006, at the age of 93.

 

History 101

September 1894: Labor Day Becomes a Federal Holiday

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Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers, and Labor Day 2018 occurs on Monday, September 3 (it’s traditionally observed on the first Monday in September). It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.

Labor Day, an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters.

In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.

People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

Many of these events turned violent during this period, including the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions: On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers’ rights squarely into the public’s view. On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.

In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories. More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified.

Many credit Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.

Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings. For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.

 

History 101

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August 25, 1939: The Wizard of Oz Debuts

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On this day in 1939, The Wizard of Oz, which will become one of the best-loved movies in history, opens in theaters around the United States.

Based on the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), the film starred Judy Garland as the young Kansas farm girl Dorothy, who, after being knocked unconscious in a tornado, dreams about following a yellow brick road, alongside her dog Toto, to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz. Along the way, Dorothy encounters a cast of characters, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Wicked Witch of the West. Though the scenes in Kansas were shot in traditional black and white, Oz appears in vivid Technicolor, a relatively new film process at the time. Nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category, The Wizard of Oz lost to the Civil War-era epic Gone With the WindThe Wizard of Oz won a Best Song Oscar for “Over the Rainbow,” which became one of Garland’s signature hits. Garland won a special award at that year’s Oscar ceremony, for Best Juvenile Performer.

Filmed at MGM Studios in Culver City, CaliforniaThe Wizard of Oz was a modest box-office success when it was first released, but its popularity continued to grow after it was televised for the first time in 1956. An estimated 45 million people watched that inaugural broadcast, and since then The Wizard of Oz has aired on TV countless times. Today, some of the film’s famous lines, including “There’s no place like home” and “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” are well-known to several generations of moviegoers.

The Wizard of Oz spawned two sequels, Journey Back to Oz (1974), an animated film featuring the voice of Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, and Return to Oz (1985). A remake with an African American cast, The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, was released in 1978 with music arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones. The Wizard of Oz was one of the first 25 films to be put on the National Film Registry, which is reserved for culturally or historically significant movies.

 

History 101

August 19, 1964: The Beatles Kick Off First U.S. Tour at San Francisco’s Cow Palace

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The Beatles took America by storm during their famous first visit, wowing the millions who watched them during their historic television appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But after the first great rush of stateside Beatlemania, the Beatles promptly returned to Europe, leaving their American fans to make do with mere records. By late summer of that same year, however, having put on an unprecedented and still unmatched display of pop-chart dominance during their absence, the Beatles finally returned. On August 19, 1964, more than six months after taking the East Coast by storm, the Fab Four traveled to California to take the stage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco for opening night of their first-ever concert tour of North America.

Although in retrospect it would seem a laughable underestimation of their drawing power in America, Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein chose venues like the 17,000-seat Cow Palace for the 1964 tour expressly because he feared that the Beatles might not sell out large sports stadiums like San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, where they would play their final official concert in 1966. Suffice it to say that the Beatles had no difficultly filling the Cow Palace, which was packed with 17,130 screaming fans when the group bounded to the stage shortly after 9:00 p.m. on this day in 1964 and launched into “Twist And Shout.”

The Beatles’ set that night and throughout the tour that followed featured only 12 songs, most often in this order:

”Twist and Shout”, “You Can’t Do That”, “All My Loving”,  ”She Loves You”, “Things We Said Today”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “If I Fell”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Boys”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Long Tall Sally”

At other stops on the tour, the Beatles’ performances would last approximately 33 minutes, but the show that night in San Francisco lasted some five minutes longer—not because of any difference in the Beatles’ performance, but because of police intervention to stem the growing pandemonium. Within the first few seconds of the first song that night, at least one radio journalist traveling with the Beatles had been trampled to the ground along with a young female fan who broke a leg in the melee. And thanks to an offhand comment  by George Harrison about the group’s favorite candy in the days leading up to the show, the Beatles themselves were pelted with flying jelly beans throughout that night’s set. Though John, Paul, George and Ringo were uninjured, they left the Cow Palace that night by ambulance after their limousine was swarmed by berserk fans. It was a scene that would become familiar to them as they continued on their first historic tour of America in the months ahead.

 

History 101

August 11, 1984: Reagan jokes about bombing Russia

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On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan makes a joking but controversial off-the-cuff remark about bombing Russia while testing a microphone before a scheduled radio address. While warming up for the speech, Reagan said “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Although the press throng and his aides in attendance laughed at the obvious joke, the comment unnerved Democratic opposition leaders and those already fearful of the hard-line posturing Reagan had displayed toward the USSR since assuming office in 1981. Others simply dismissed his remark, which came at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, as a moment of poor taste.

Reagan’s tough, anti-communist rhetoric and his policy to increase American defense spending contrasted with the Soviet policies of former Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, who had tried to cultivate improved relations with Soviet Russia on friendly terms, offering cultural and technology exchanges. In retrospect, many analysts view Reagan’s get-tough policies as responsible for scaring the Russians into spending more on their military just to keep pace with American military expenditures—a fact that likely led to the collapse of the Russian economy and, by extension, the country’s communist political system.

Although Reagan, a former actor, was known for his clever way with words, the “bombing Russia” joke was considered by many to be an embarrassing political gaffe—not the first of his career. In 1969, while serving as governor of California, Reagan responded to student protestors at the University of California at Berkeley by saying “if there has to be a bloodbath then let’s get it over with.” Some of his more witty comments include a comparison between politics and prostitution and the 1980 campaign quip “a recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.” Even after an attempted assassination in March 1981, Reagan never lost his sense of humor. The first thing he said to his wife Nancy when she arrived at the hospital was “honey, I forgot to duck.” (This quote was originally attributed to boxer Jack Dempsey after losing a championship match to Gene Tunney in 1926.)

Although it is not known what Soviet leaders thought of Reagan’s joke, the comment did color some Americans’ opinion of Reagan, whose approval rating dropped in the aftermath of the incident, temporarily boosting the electoral hopes of Democratic presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. Reagan recovered and beat Mondale; he began his second term in 1984.

 

History 101

August 4, 1944: Anne Frank captured

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Acting on tip from a Dutch informer, the Nazi Gestapo captures 15-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family in a sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The Franks had taken shelter there in 1942 out of fear of deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. They occupied the small space with another Jewish family and a single Jewish man, and were aided by Christian friends, who brought them food and supplies. Anne spent much of her time in the “secret annex” working on her diary. The diary survived the war, overlooked by the Gestapo that discovered the hiding place, but Anne and nearly all of the others perished in the Nazi death camps.

Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began arranging a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam.

On her 13th birthday in 1942, Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. Less than a month later, Anne’s older sister, Margot, received a call-up notice to report to a Nazi “work camp.” Fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in the secret annex the next day. One week later, they were joined by Otto Frank’s business partner and his family. In November, a Jewish dentist—the eighth occupant of the hiding place—joined the group.

For two years, Anne kept a diary about her life in hiding that is marked with poignancy, humor, and insight. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne’s spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

On August 1, 1944, Anne made her last entry in her diary. Three days later, 25 months of seclusion ended with the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo. Anne and the others had been given away by an unknown informer, and they were arrested along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later.

Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. After the war, he returned to Amsterdam via Russia, and was reunited with Miep Gies, one of his former employees who had helped shelter him. She handed him Anne’s diary, which she had found undisturbed after the Nazi raid. In 1947, Anne’s diary was published by Otto in its original Dutch as Diary of a Young Girl. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 50 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the nearly six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.

The Frank family’s hideaway at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam opened as a museum in 1960. A new English translation of Anne’s diary in 1995 restored material that had been edited out of the original version, making the work nearly a third longer.

History 101

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower is pictured with Dr. Hugh Dryden (left) and Dr. T. Keith Glennan. NASA was created on Oct. 1, 1958, to perform civilian research related to space flight and aeronautics. President Eisenhower commissioned Dr. Glennan as the first administrator for NASA and Dr Dryden as deputy administrator, swearing them in on August 19, 1958.

July 29, 1958: NASA Created

By History.com

On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.

NASA was created in response to the Soviet Union’s October 4, 1957 launch of its first satellite, Sputnik I. The 183-pound, basketball-sized satellite orbited the earth in 98 minutes. The Sputnik launch caught Americans by surprise and sparked fears that the Soviets might also be capable of sending missiles with nuclear weapons from Europe to America. The United States prided itself on being at the forefront of technology, and, embarrassed, immediately began developing a response, signaling the start of the U.S.-Soviet space race.

On November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, which carried a dog named Laika. In December, America attempted to launch a satellite of its own, called Vanguard, but it exploded shortly after takeoff. On January 31, 1958, things went better with Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite to successfully orbit the earth. In July of that year, Congress passed legislation officially establishing NASA from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and other government agencies, and confirming the country’s commitment to winning the space race. In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared that America should put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission achieved that goal and made history when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, saying “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

NASA has continued to make great advances in space exploration since the first moonwalk, including playing a major part in the construction of the International Space Station. The agency has also suffered tragic setbacks, however, such as the disasters that killed the crews of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986 and the Columbia space shuttle in 2003. In 2004, President George Bush challenged NASA to return to the moon by 2020 and establish “an extended human presence” there that could serve as a launching point for “human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”

 

History 101

July 25, 1925: Monkey Trial ends

In Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called “Monkey Trial” ends with John Thomas Scopes being convicted of teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee law. Scopes was ordered to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed.

In March 1925, the Tennessee legislature had passed the anti-evolution law, making it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With local businessman George Rappalyea, Scopes had conspired to get charged with this violation, and after his arrest the pair enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. Hearing of this coordinated attack on Christian fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate and a fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. Soon after, the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense, and the stage was set for one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.

On July 10, the trial got underway, and within a few days hordes of spectators and reporters had descended on Dayton as preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street to keep the faithful stirred up. Inside the Rhea County Courthouse, the defense suffered early setbacks when Judge John Raulston ruled against their attempt to prove the law unconstitutional and then refused to end his practice of opening each day’s proceeding with prayer.

Outside, Dayton took on a carnival-like atmosphere as an exhibit featuring two chimpanzees and a supposed “missing link” opened in town, and vendors sold Bibles, toy monkeys, hot dogs, and lemonade. The “missing link” was in fact Jo Viens of Burlington, Vermont, a 51-year-old man who was of short stature and possessed a receding forehead and a protruding jaw. One of the chimpanzees–named “Joe Mendi”–wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora, and white spats, and entertained Dayton’s citizens by monkeying around on the courthouse lawn.

In the courtroom, Judge Raulston destroyed the defense’s strategy by ruling that expert scientific testimony on evolution was inadmissible–on the grounds that it was Scopes who was on trial, not the law he had violated. The next day, Raulston ordered the trial moved to the courthouse lawn, fearing that the weight of the crowd inside was in danger of collapsing the floor.

In front of several thousand spectators in the open air, Darrow changed his tactics and as his sole witness called Bryan to the stand in an attempt to discredit his literal interpretation of the Bible. In a searching examination, Bryan was subjected to severe ridicule and forced to make ignorant and contradictory statements to the amusement of the crowd. On July 21, in his closing speech, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed. Under Tennessee law, Bryan was thereby denied the opportunity to deliver the closing speech he had been preparing for weeks. After eight minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a guilty verdict, and Raulston ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100. Although Bryan had won the case, he had been publicly humiliated and his fundamentalist beliefs had been disgraced. Five days later, on July 26, he lay down for a Sunday afternoon nap and never woke up.

In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict on a technicality but left the constitutional issues unresolved until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Arkansas law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

 

History 101

Photo Credit: Asagan at English Wikipedia

By History.com

Sheriff Pat Garrett shoots Henry McCarty, popularly known as Billy the Kid, to death at the Maxwell Ranch in New Mexico. Garrett, who had been tracking the Kid for three months after the gunslinger had escaped from prison only days before his scheduled execution, got a tip that Billy was holed up with friends. While Billy was gone, Garrett waited in the dark in his bedroom. When Billy entered, Garrett shot him to death.

Back on April 1, 1878, Billy the Kid ambushed Sheriff William Brady andone deputy in Lincoln, New Mexico, after ranch owner John Tunstall had been murdered. Billy had worked at Tunstall’s ranch and was outraged by his employer’s slaying-vowing to hunt down every man responsible. Sheriff Brady and his men, who had been affiliated with rival ranchers, were involved with the gang that killed Tunstall on February 18. Billy’s retaliatory attack left Brady and Deputy George Hindman dead. Although only 18 years old at the time, Billy had now committed as many as 17 murders.

Following his indictment for the murder of Sheriff Brady, Billy the Kid was the most wanted man in the West. Evading posses sent to capture him, he eventually struck a deal with the new governor of New Mexico: In return for his testimony against the perpetrators of the ongoing ranch wars in the state, Billy would be set free. Although he kept his word about the testimony, he began to distrust the promise that he would be released and so he escaped.

Once a fugitive, Billy killed a few more men, including the gunslinger Joe Grant, who had challenged him to a showdown. Legend has it that Billy managed to get a hold of Grant’s gun prior to the fight and made sure that an empty chamber was up first in the man’s revolver. When it came time to fire, only Billy’s gun went off and Grant was left dead.

Legendary Sheriff Pat Garrett finally brought Billy the Kid in to stand trial. The judge sentenced Billy the Kid to hang until “you are dead, dead, dead.” Billy reportedly responded, “And you can go to hell, hell, hell.” Two weeks before his scheduled execution, Billy escaped, killing two guards in the process.

Garrett mounted yet another posse to bring in the Kid. After tracing him to the Maxwell Ranch, Garrett shot him to death. No legal charges were brought against him since the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide.

 

History 101

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

July 7, 1930: Building of Hoover Dam Begins

By History.com

On this day in 1930, construction of the Hoover Dam begins. Over the next five years, a total of 21,000 men would work ceaselessly to produce what would be the largest dam of its time, as well as one of the largest manmade structures in the world.

Although the dam would take only five years to build, its construction was nearly 30 years in the making. Arthur Powell Davis, an engineer from the Bureau of Reclamation, originally had his vision for the Hoover Dam back in 1902, and his engineering report on the topic became the guiding document when plans were finally made to begin the dam in 1922.

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States and a committed conservationist, played a crucial role in making Davis’ vision a reality. As secretary of commerce in 1921, Hoover devoted himself to the erection of a high dam in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. The dam would provide essential flood control, which would prevent damage to downstream farming communities that suffered each year when snow from the Rocky Mountains melted and joined the Colorado River. Further, the dam would allow the expansion of irrigated farming in the desert, and would provide a dependable supply of water for Los Angeles and other southern California communities.

Even with Hoover’s exuberant backing and a regional consensus around the need to build the dam, Congressional approval and individual state cooperation were slow in coming. For many years, water rights had been a source of contention among the western states that had claims on the Colorado River. To address this issue, Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact, which broke the river basin into two regions with the water divided between them. Hoover then had to introduce and re-introduce the bill to build the dam several times over the next few years before the House and Senate finally approved the bill in 1928.

In 1929, Hoover, now president, signed the Colorado River Compact into law, claiming it was “the most extensive action ever taken by a group of states under the provisions of the Constitution permitting compacts between states.”

Once preparations were made, the Hoover Dam’s construction sprinted forward: The contractors finished their work two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. Today, the Hoover Dam is the second highest dam in the country and the 18th highest in the world. It generates enough energy each year to serve over a million people, and stands, in Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen’s words, as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”

 

History 101

June 30, 1953: First Corvette built

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On this day in 1953, the first production Corvette is built at the General Motors facility in Flint, Michigan. Tony Kleiber, a worker on the assembly line, is given the privilege of driving the now-historic car off the line.

Harley J. Earl, the man behind the Corvette, got his start in his father’s business, Earl Automobile Works, designing custom auto bodies for Hollywood movie stars such as Fatty Arbuckle. In 1927, General Motors hired Earl to redesign the LaSalle, the mid-range option the company had introduced between the Buick and the Cadillac. Earl’s revamped LaSalle sold some 50,000 units by the end of 1929, before the Depression permanently slowed sales and it was discontinued in 1940. By that time, Earl had earned more attention for designing the Buick “Y Job,” recognized as the industry’s first “concept” car. Its relatively long, low body came equipped with innovations such as disappearing headlamps, electric windows and air-cooled brake drums over the wheels like those on an airplane.

After scoring another hit with the 1950 Buick LeSabre, Earl headed into the 1950s–a boom decade for car manufacturers–at the top of his game. In January 1953, he introduced his latest “dream car,” the Corvette, as part of GM’s traveling Motorama display at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The sleek Corvette, the first all-fiberglass-bodied American sports car, was an instant hit. It went into production the following June in Flint; 300 models were built that year. All 1953 Corvettes were white convertibles with red interiors and black canvas tops. Underneath its sleek exterior, however, the Corvette was outfitted with parts standard to other GM automobiles, including a “Blue Flame” six-cylinder engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission and the drum brakes from Chevrolet’s regular car line.

The Corvette’s performance as a sports car was disappointing relative to its European competitors, and early sales were unimpressive. GM kept refining the design, however, and the addition of its first V-8 engine in 1955 greatly improved the car’s performance. By 1961, the Corvette had cemented its reputation as America’s favorite sports car. Today, it continues to rank among the world’s elite sports cars in acceleration time, top speed and overall muscle.

 

History 101

June 24, 1997 : U.S. Air Force reports on Roswell

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On this day in 1997, U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in RoswellNew Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

Public interest in Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, began to flourish in the 1940s, when developments in space travel and the dawn of the atomic age caused many Americans to turn their attention to the skies. The town of Roswell, located near the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico, became a magnet for UFO believers due to the strange events of early July 1947, when ranch foreman W.W. Brazel found a strange, shiny material scattered over some of his land. He turned the material over to the sheriff, who passed it on to authorities at the nearby Air Force base. On July 8, Air Force officials announced they had recovered the wreckage of a “flying disk.” A local newspaper put the story on its front page, launching Roswell into the spotlight of the public’s UFO fascination.

The Air Force soon took back their story, however, saying the debris had been merely a downed weather balloon. Aside from die-hard UFO believers, or “ufologists,” public interest in the so-called “Roswell Incident” faded until the late 1970s, when claims surfaced that the military had invented the weather balloon story as a cover-up. Believers in this theory argued that officials had in fact retrieved several alien bodies from the crashed spacecraft, which were now stored in the mysterious Area 51 installation in Nevada. Seeking to dispel these suspicions, the Air Force issued a 1,000-page report in 1994 stating that the crashed object was actually a high-altitude weather balloon launched from a nearby missile test-site as part of a classified experiment aimed at monitoring the atmosphere in order to detect Soviet nuclear tests.

On July 24, 1997, barely a week before the extravagant 50th anniversary celebration of the incident, the Air Force released yet another report on the controversial subject. Titled “The Roswell Report, Case Closed,” the document stated definitively that there was no Pentagon evidence that any kind of life form was found in the Roswell area in connection with the reported UFO sightings, and that the “bodies” recovered were not aliens but dummies used in parachute tests conducted in the region. Any hopes that this would put an end to the cover-up debate were in vain, as furious ufologists rushed to point out the report’s inconsistencies. With conspiracy theories still alive and well on the Internet, Roswell continues to thrive as a tourist destination for UFO enthusiasts far and wide, hosting the annual UFO Encounter Festival each July and welcoming visitors year-round to its International UFO Museum and Research Center.

 

History 101

June 16, 1884 : First roller coaster in America opens

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On this day in 1884, the first roller coaster in America opens at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York. Known as a switchback railway, it was the brainchild of LaMarcus Thompson, traveled approximately six miles per hour and cost a nickel to ride. The new entertainment was an instant success and by the turn of the century there were hundreds of roller coasters around the country.

Coney Island, a name believed to have come from the Dutch Konijn Eilandt, or Rabbit Island, is a tract of land along the Atlantic Ocean discovered by explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. The first hotel opened at Coney Island in 1829 and by the post-Civil War years, the area was an established resort with theaters, restaurants and a race track. Between 1897 and 1904, three amusement parks sprang up at Coney Island–Dreamland, Luna Park and Steeplechase. By the 1920s, Coney Island was reachable by subway and summer crowds of a million people a day flocked there for rides, games, sideshows, the beach and the two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, completed in 1923.

The hot dog is said to have been invented at Coney Island in 1867 by Charles Feltman. In 1916, a nickel hot dog stand called Nathan’s was opened by a former Feltman employee and went on to become a Coney Island institution and international franchise. Today, Nathan’s is famous not only for its hot dogs but its hot dog-eating contest, held each Fourth of July in Coney Island. In 2006, Takeru Kobayashi set a new record when he ate 53.75 hot dogs with buns in 12 minutes.

Roller coasters and amusement parks experienced a decline during the Great Depression and World War II, when Americans had less cash to spend on entertainment. Finally, in 1955, the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, signaled the advent of the modern theme park and a rebirth of the roller coaster. Disneyland’s success sparked a wave of new parks and coasters. By the 1970s, parks were competing to create the most thrilling rides. In 2005, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, introduced the Kingda Ka roller coaster, the world’s tallest (at 456 feet) and fastest (at 128 mph).

By the mid-1960s, the major amusement parks at Coney Island had shut down and the area acquired a seedy image. Nevertheless, Coney Island remains a tourist attraction and home to the Cyclone, a wooden coaster that made its debut there in 1927. Capable of speeds of 60 mph and with an 85-foot drop, the Cyclone is one of the country’s oldest coasters in operation today. Though a real-estate developer recently announced the building of a new $1.5 billion year-round resort at Coney Island that will include a 4,000-foot-long roller coaster, an indoor water park and a multi-level carousel, the Cyclone’s owners have said they plan to keep the historic coaster open for business.

 

History 101

June 9, 1856: Mormon handcart pioneers depart for Salt Lake City

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In an extraordinary demonstration of resolve and fortitude, nearly 500 Mormons leave Iowa City and head west for Salt Lake City carrying all their goods and supplies in two-wheeled handcarts. Of all the thousands of pioneer journeys to the West in the 19th century, few were more arduous than those undertaken by the so-called Handcart Companies from 1856 to 1860.

The secular and religious leader of the Mormons, Brigham Young, had established Salt Lake City as the center of a new Utah sanctuary for the Latter-day Saints in 1847. In subsequent years, Young worked diligently to encourage and aid Mormons who made the difficult overland trek to the Great Salt Lake. In 1856, however, a series of poor harvests left the church with only a meager fund to help immigrants buy wagons and oxen. Young suggested a cheaper mode of travel: “Let them come on foot with handcarts or wheelbarrows; let them gird up their loins and walk through and nothing shall hinder or stay them.”

Amazingly, many Mormons followed his advice. On this day in 1856, a band of 497 Mormons left Iowa City, Iowa, and began the more than 1,000-mile trek to Salt Lake City. They carried all their goods in about 100 two-wheeled handcarts, most of which were heaped with the maximum load of 400 to 500 pounds. Each family usually had one cart, and the father and mother took turns pulling while any children old enough helped by pushing.

The handcart immigrants soon ran into serious problems. The Mormon craftsmen who had constructed the handcarts back in Iowa City had chosen to use wooden axles instead of iron in order to save time and money. Sand and dirt quickly wore down the wood, and water and heat made the axles splinter and crack. As the level terrain of the prairies gave way to the more rugged country of the Plains, the sheer physical challenge of hauling a 500-pound cart began to take its toll. One British immigrant who was a skilled carpenter wrote of having to make three coffins in as many days.

Some of the pilgrims gave up. Two girls in one handcart group left to marry a pair of miners they met along the way. The majority, however, struggled on and eventually reached the Salt Lake Valley. Over the course of the next four years, some 3,000 Mormon converts made the overland journey by pushing and pulling heavy-laden handcarts. Better planning and the use of iron axles made the subsequent immigrations slightly easier than the first, and some actually made the journey more quickly than if they had used ox-drawn wagons. Still, once the church finances had recovered, Young’s followers returned to using conventional wagons. The handcart treks remained nothing less than heroic. One Mormon girl later estimated that she and her family had each taken over a million steps to reach their goal, pushing and pulling a creaking wooden handcart the entire way.

 

History 101

June 02, 1997 : McVeigh convicted for Oklahoma City bombing

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Introduction

Timothy McVeigh, a former U.S. Army soldier, is convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy for his role in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

On April 19, 1995, just after 9 a.m., a massive truck bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast collapsed the north face of the nine-story building, instantly killing more than 100 people and trapping dozens more in the rubble. Emergency crews raced to Oklahoma City from across the country, and when the rescue effort finally ended two weeks later, the death toll stood at 168 people, including 19 young children who were in the building’s day-care center at the time of the blast.

On April 21, the massive manhunt for suspects in the worst terrorist attack ever committed on U.S. soil resulted in the capture of Timothy McVeigh, a 27-year-old former U.S. Army soldier who matched an eyewitness description of a man seen at the scene of the crime. On the same day, Terry Nichols, an associate of McVeigh’s, surrendered at Herington, Kansas, after learning that the police were looking for him. Both men were found to be members of a radical right-wing survivalist group based in Michigan, and on August 8, John Fortier, who knew of McVeigh’s plan to bomb the federal building, agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence. Two days later, a grand jury indicted McVeigh and Nichols on murder and conspiracy charges.

While still in his teens, Timothy McVeigh acquired a penchant for guns and began honing survivalist skills he believed would be necessary in the event of a Cold War showdown with the Soviet Union. Lacking direction after high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and proved a disciplined and meticulous soldier. It was during this time that he befriended Terry Nichols, a fellow soldier who, though 13 years his senior, shared his survivalist interests.

In early 1991, McVeigh served in the Persian Gulf War and was decorated with several medals for a brief combat mission. Despite these honors, he was discharged from the army at the end of the year, one of many casualties of the U.S. military downsizing that came after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps also because of the end of the Cold War, McVeigh shifted his ideology from a hatred of foreign communist governments to a suspicion of the U.S. federal government, especially as its new elected leader, Democrat Bill Clinton, had successfully campaigned for the presidency on a platform of gun control.

The August 1992 shoot-out between federal agents and survivalist Randy Weaver at his cabin in Idaho, in which Weaver’s wife and son were killed, followed by the April 19, 1993, inferno near Waco, Texas, which killed some 80 Branch Davidians, deeply radicalized McVeigh, Nichols, and their associates. In early 1995, Nichols and McVeigh planned an attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, which housed, among other federal agencies, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)–the agency that had launched the initial raid on the Branch Davidian compound in 1993.

On April 19, 1995, the two-year anniversary of the disastrous end to the Waco standoff, McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck loaded with a diesel-fuel-fertilizer bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and fled. Minutes later, the massive bomb exploded, killing 168 people.

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was convicted on 15 counts of murder and conspiracy, and on August 14, under the unanimous recommendation of the jury, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection. In December 2000, McVeigh asked a federal judge to stop all appeals of his convictions and to set a date for his execution by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. McVeigh’s execution, in June 2001, was the first federal death penalty to be carried out since 1963.

Michael Fortier was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about McVeigh’s bombing plans. In a federal trial, Terry Nichols was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to life in prison. In a later Oklahoma state trial, he was charged with 160 counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree manslaughter for the death of an unborn child, and one count of aiding in the placement of a bomb near a public building. On May 26, 2004, he was convicted of all charges and sentenced to 160 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.