Category Archives: History

Subversive Historian – 08/28/09

The March on Washington

Back in the day on August 28th, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Black union leader A Phillip Randolph first proposed the idea for a mass convergence on the nation’s capital. With organizational help from various civil rights groups, the planned demonstration faced disagreements from parties involved as to its stated objective. Some groups wanted to focus on black poverty while others wanted to show public support for the Kennedy administration’s proposed civil rights legislation. When the march finally took place, John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee had to tone down the criticisms he levied against President Kennedy. The demonstration would later culminate on the steps of the Lincoln memorial with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream,” speech.

The following year, the Civil Rights Act would be passed into law due in part to that massive show of support for the civil rights movement during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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Subversive Historian – 08/27/09

The Kellogg-Briand Pact

Back in the day on August 27th, 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in the city of Paris by fifteen nations pledging to halt wars of aggression. In the wake of the ravages of the First World War, the United States and France had originally approached the notion of the pact through a bilateral agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand discussed formally abolishing any possibility of war solely between the two nations, when Kellogg thought it best to extend the invitation to all nations. Among the initial signatories to the pact that called for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy” were France, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and Japan. Forty-seven nations would follow in formal adherence. Of course, wars of aggression would also soon follow, as was the case, for instance, when Italy invaded Ethiopia.

By not clearly delineating the boundaries of self-defense and having no enforcement behind it, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was practically useless in achieving its aim as evidenced most tragically by the outbreak of World War II.

Subversive Historian – 08/25/09

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Back in the day on August 25th, 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was formed in New York. A. Phillip Randolph, a socialist once dubbed as ‘the most dangerous black man in America’ was designated as its leader. The BSCP was extremely significant as a black union dedicated to organizing on twin fronts against the Pullman Company and racism in the U.S. labor movement. Under Randolph’s guidance and the slogan “Fight or be Slaves,” the brotherhood fought for many years to counteract the paternalism of George Pullman’s company while seeking the recognition by the American Federation of Labor of being an international. The latter came first as the BSCP was finally granted the charter from the AFL in 1935. Two years later, Randolph made history when the union signed a contract with the Pullman Company that increased wages and decreased working hours.

It had been the first time a white owner had ever come to official terms with a black union leader.

Subversive Historian – 08/24/09

The Communist Control Act

Back in the day on August 24th, 1954, the Congress of the United States passed the Communist Control Act into law. President Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked upon signing the bill saying that it was “designed to place into the hands of our law enforcement agencies, better weapons for combating the Community menace.” Though Senator Joseph McCarthy had been disgraced prior to the act’s passage, there still existed an anti-communist hysteria among the political establishment. It was in such a climate that the legislation’s text declared that its purpose was to “outlaw the Communist party” and “prohibit members of Communist organizations from serving in certain representative capacities.”

The language of the Communist Control Act, however, was much more about giving the state the ability to harass and contain members of the party. It also allowed for the deeming of other organizations as infiltrated by Communist agents in order to destabilize them.

Subversive Historian – 08/14/09

{Osceola: before the college football appropriation}

The End of the Second Seminole War

Back in the day on August 14th, 1842, the second Seminole War in Florida came to an official end. Prior to the onset of renewed conflict, President Andrew Jackson, who in the first war led army attacks on Seminole villages burning them down to the ground, saw to it that the Indian Removal Act become law during his administration. When the legislation was passed in 1930, it called for all natives to be moved to lands west of the Mississippi River. Clearly affected by this, the Seminoles of Florida did not want to leave their land and resisted instead. The Second Seminole War ensued as surprise attacks on white settlements and U.S. troops were coordinated and led by the native warrior Osceola. General Winfred Scott led a surge of U.S. troops into Florida in response as war raged on. The Seminoles were dealt a devastating blow when Osceola was captured and died in prison in 1838.

Four years later the war came to an end with many Seminoles forcibly moved west from their land to Oklahoma. That’s why when people ask me if I have a $20 dollar bill on me, I say “Oh, you mean an Indian Killer?”

Subversive Historian – 08/13/09

Newspaper Guild Strike of 1936

Back in the day on August 13th, 1936, a newspaper guild strike was called against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. At the center of the dispute was the firing of two long-time employees by the management of the William Randolph Hearst owned daily. Editorial staff members of the P-I believed that the real reason behind the dismissal of the two had to do with their membership with the American Newspaper Guild union. As a result, they joined in solidarity with the strike effort. Hearst ultimately had to halt distribution of the P-I for a number of issues but did not budge on labor’s demands for three and a half months. In that time, staffers out on strike set up their own paper titled “The Guild Daily,” and sold 20,000 copies of its first issue! Many of Seattle’s labor organizations, in time, came to the defense of the newspaper guilders and Hearst finally relented settling on terms favorable to the workers.

Earlier this year, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased printing once more; only this time not as a result of a strike. Instead, the newspaper became the largest daily to go completely online. Perhaps it’s time for another edition of “The Guild Daily.”

Subversive Historian – 08/12/09

Anti-Tamil Race Riots in Sri Lanka

Back in the day on August 12th, 1977, riots erupted in Sri Lanka aimed at its minority Tamil population. The outburst of violence, which was certainly not the first such occurrence of its kind, followed the aftermath of national elections that brought the right-wing Sinhalese United National Party to power. The vote also made a coalition of Tamil political parties known as the Tamil United Liberation Front the leading minority opposition force. They interpreted the capture of a number of parliamentary seats as a referendum on Tamil succession as the population endured a gradual codification of their unequal minority status in the country. The roots of the riots that followed took place as ethnic Sinhala policemen reportedly opened fire in an altercation at a Tamil carnival in the Northern Province city of Jaffna killing four. The violence that ensued claimed the lives of hundreds more Tamils.

The roots of the tension date to European colonialism when the British consolidated the territory and its inhabitants in the 19th century employing ‘divide-and-conquer’ tactics between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. After leaving in 1948, the rest is history…