Tag Archives: U.S. 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.

Advertisements

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 – 08/26/09

Fannie Sellins

Back in the day on August 26th, 1919, labor organizer Fannie Sellins was brutally gunned down in West Pennsylvania. Dubbed ‘the angel of mercy’ for her unionizing efforts, Sellins had successfully organized workers in Missouri and West Virginia before United Mine Workers of America leader Philip Murray, impressed by her dedication, offered her a position with the union. Sellins then moved to Pennsylvania to begin organizing in the western part of the state. Assigned to the Allegheny-Kiski Valley, the area had a dubious reputation for repressing unionizing efforts. Undeterred, Sellins successfully organized workers anyway in the anti-union lands known to labor as “Black Valley.” As part of her efforts, Sellins was present on that fateful night when the workers of the Allegheny Coal and Coke Company were confronted by company guards and deputies. In the ensuing violence, she was shot to death as was a miner named Joseph Starzeleski.

As has been all too historically the case with the criminal injustice system, no one was ever convicted of killing Fannie Sellins. The “angel of mercy” was shown none.

Subversive Historian – 08/10/09

The Nueces Massacre

Back in the day on August 10th, 1862, the Nueces Massacre occurred in Texas. With the Civil War raging in the not-so-United States, many German immigrants living in Texas did not wish to serve in the Confederate Army. They continued their objections even after a new confederacy conscription law was passed that sought to force their hand into the ranks. Faced with the enforcement of a draft, the Germans dissenters in Texas plotted escapes to other states and even to Mexico. Such ventures carried with them the risk of death as Captain James Duff of the Confederate army considered those who fled conscription as traitors. Seeking refuge despite the threat, a group of German dissenters attempted to trek to Mexico, when Duff learned of their plans. His men descended upon the immigrant group along the Nueces River in Texas as fighting commenced. Many Germans were killed in the massacre as others were executed after having been taken prisoner.

The names of those who lost their lives mark the only monument in a former Confederate State for union sympathizers.

Subversive Historian – 08/06/09

Hiroshima

Back in the day on August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In the last phases of World War II, the devastating blast from the B-29 bomber known as the “Enola Gay” killed an estimated 140,000 people, the grand majority of which were civilians. Many in Hiroshima died instantly while tens of thousands more succumbed to radiation poising in the following years. The massive death wrought by the first usage of atomic weaponry in human history was rationalized under the context that it saved lives by hastening Japan’s surrender. However, historian Howard Zinn has argued against the notion citing General Eisenhower and Admiral Leary in making the case that Japan was on the verge of surrendering and that the bombing was unnecessary.

Sixty-four years later, however, a majority of people in the United States remained unconvinced by the Zinn Master’s work. According to a new poll, sixty-one percent still contend that the bombing was “the right thing to do.”

Subversive Historian – 07/30/09

The New Orleans Race Riot of 1866

Back in the day on July 30th, 1866, a race riot broke outside of the Louisiana Constitutional Convention held in New Orleans. Radical Republicans convened to amend the previous constitution of the Southern state that had failed to enfranchise blacks. They also sought to prohibit former Confederate soldiers from voting. With President Andrew Johnson’s granting of overtures to veterans and politicians of the Southern Confederacy, people like New Orleans’ Mayor John T. Monroe were able to return to their pre-Civil War posts and enact “black codes.” Delegates and supporters of the Convention held at the hall of the Mechanics Institute had sought to reverse those regressive perversions of Reconstruction politics when violence erupted. African-Americans marching in support of the effort were attacked outside by a white mob. Described as an “absolute massacre” the assault that ensued claimed the lives of more than thirty African-Americans and three white supporters as it disrupted the convention effort.

The race riots of New Orleans illustrated to the nation the deadly politics of destruction aimed at Reconstruction.

Subversive Historian – 07/28/09

The Eviction of the “Bonus Marchers”

Back in the day on July 28th, 1932, hard up World War I veterans encamped in Washington D.C. were forcibly evicted. Having taken place during the depths of the Great Depression, the marchers, dubbing themselves the “Bonus Expeditionary Forces,” and numbering in the tens of thousands, pressured Congress to accelerate payments promised to them for their services. Tensions escalated, however, when a newly introduced bill that proposed to pay out the cash bonuses much sooner than the originally scheduled year of 1945 was blocked in the Senate. A month later, eviction orders were given to clear out the encampment. In the initial attempts, bonus marchers resisted and when word reached President Hoover’s desk the army was called in.

The soldiers of the time, commanded by Douglas MacArthur, descended upon the veterans of yesteryear as the encampment ended up engulfed in flames. So too did the hopes of the destitute marchers who were abandoned in their time of need by a government they once put their lives on the line for.