Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Thanksgiving

November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving

Sorry to rain on your Thanksgiving Day Parade, but today’s holiday myth covers up lots of tragic history. Europeans were in contact with northern Atlantic Coast Native Americans long before that English religious cult landed in Massachusetts, and indigenous people paid a heavy price for it. There were earlier meetings between native peoples and French and Basque fishermen and whalers, and Giovanni da Verrazzano documented contacts with native peoples in the Carolinas, New York Bay, and Narragansett Bay in 1544. John Smith met the Powhatans in 1608. Henry Hudson met Mohican people in 1609. The Spanish were as deadly to the indigenous nations of Florida as they had been in the Southwest and Southern Hemisphere.

Six years before the Mayflower, in 1614, Captain Thomas Hunt visited Massachusetts, where he abducted two dozen Wampanoag people from Patuxet and brought them to Spain for sale as slaves. One of them learned English and worked in Newfound as a translator in 1616, and on the New England Coast, which had been depopulated due to diseases brought by Europeans, in 1619. The man, Tisquantum, called Squanto by the English, remained, and was there when the so-called Pilgrims arrived in 1620. He helped the newcomers establish a mutual defense pact with the remaining Wampanoag people, as they and the English were threatened by the much larger Narraganset nation. They had a meal during their meeting, the mythic basis for today’s gluttonous orgy of stuffed turkey, candied yams, and pumkin pie.

Fifty years later, the good Christian people of Plimouth Colony attacked their native allies, killed their chieftain, and displayed his severed head on a pole in their settlement. They celebrated that event on June 29, 1676 with (you guessed it) a feast of thanksgiving.

More:

“Before Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims, There Was Patuxet,” Virginia Williams, Atlas Obscura

“The rise of Thankstaking,” Russell Contreras, Axios

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Armistice Day

November 11, 2022

Armistice Day

Today Veterans Day is observed in the United States. It was originally named Armistice Day and commemorated the time the agreement to stop The Great War was signed, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. After World War I failed to be The War to End All Wars, the U.S. observance was officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954, probably because veterans of later wars vote and dead WWI soldiers don’t, and we already had Memorial Day. Britain still commemorates the WWI Armistice and those who died to achieve it, and today it is known as Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations.

More:

“History of Veterans Day,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

“A day by many names, celebrated all the same,” Jason Duhr, Stars and Stripes

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Juneteenth

June 20, 2022
Juneteenth

(General Orders. Department of Texas June 19, 1865)

Today is officially “Juneteeth, Observed,” a federal holiday, but yesterday was the historical holiday. On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger sailed into Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which began: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This ended the legal institution of chattel slavery in the former Confederate States, two years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, 10 weeks after Appomattox.

Contrary to popular belief, Juneteenth didn’t end slavery in the United States. It still existed in states which hadn’t seceded from the Union, like Kentucky, New Jersey, and Delaware, until January 1, 1866, six months later, when the 13th Amendment became effective. Slavery among the tribes of Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma) did not effectually end until August 1866.

More:

“Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day,” Kenneth C. Davis, Smithsonian.com

“Juneteenth,” Teresa Palomo Acosta, Handbook of Texas Online

“Juneteenth,” Stephanie Hall, Folklife Today

“What Is Juneteenth?” Henry Louis Gates, Jr., PBS

“Juneteenth,” Teresa Palomo Acosta, Handbook of Texas History

“The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth,” NMAAHC

Related:

“Freedmen’s Bureau,” Cecil Harper, Jr., Handbook of Texas History

Updates:

“Juneteenth holiday marking the end of slavery becomes law after decades of inaction,” Seung Min Kim, Washington Post

“How the US Military Helped Create the Juneteenth Holiday,” Blake Stilwell, Military.com

“When Did Slavery Really End in the United States?” J. Gordon Hylton, Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog

“Here are the four myths of Juneteenth that are not based on facts,” John Burnett, NPR

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DC Emancipation Day, 1862: It Was Slaveowners Who Got Reparations.

April 15, 2022

DC Emancipation Day, 1862: It Was Slaveowners Who Got Reparations.

On April 16, 1862, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act freeing the 3000 enslaved people in the District of Columbia. This was nine months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the Confederate states, many of whom actually remained in bondage until the the war’s end in 1865, and 20 months before ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which definitively outlawed slavery everywhere in the United States.

Tomorrow Saturday, April 16th, the District of Columbia will celebrate District Emancipation Day, with speeches, concerts, fireworks and parades. There’s a bit of rain on that parade, though, if you take a closer look at history. That 1862 act was called the Compensated Emancipation Act, and it authorized payments to DC slaveowners rather than liberation of enslaved people on moral grounds. It even sought to promote emigration of former slaves outside the borders of the United States.

In any case, Black Washingtonians had their freedom. That’s definitely worth celebrating.

More:

“When Slaveowners Got Reparations,” Tera W. Hunter, New York Times

“D.C. celebrates Emancipation Day,” Cuneyt Dil, Axios Washington D.C.

“D.C. celebrates its 160th Emancipation Day this weekend,” Elliot C. Williams, Alexya Brown, and Rachel Kurzius, WAMU News

“Bondage to Freedom: Commemorating DC Emancipation Day,” Karl Racine, Medium

“The DC Emancipation Day Celebration Is Back After Two Years. Here Are the DC Street Closures for Saturday’s Parade and Concert.”  Damare Baker, Washingtonian

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April 1, 1582: Pope Gregory XIII Invents April Fools’ Day. Maybe.

April 1, 2022

April 1, 1582: Pope Gregory XIII Invents April Fools’ Day. Maybe.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted the (you guessed it) Gregorian Calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March 32nd (really) to January 1st. People who didn’t know that March 32nd was now April 1st and were still celebrating the old New Year looked pretty foolish that day, hence April Fools’ Day.

Or maybe the story is just a prank. Pretty good tale, anyway.

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The History of Electric Cars

March 7, 2022

By the end of the 19th century, 38% of American cars were electric. But early car batteries were expensive and inefficient, and the vehicles were twice the price of a gas-powered car. Enter the cheap Model T, and goodbye electric autos. Now that gas-powered cars have warmed the climate, can the market for electric cars heat up again? A TED-Ed video by Daniel Sperling and Gil Tal, narrated by Jack Cutmore-Scott, and animated by Lobster Studio.

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Washington’s Birthday

February 21, 2022

Washington's Birthday

Today is officially Washington’s Birthday (observed) according to the federal government. This date is also known as Presidents’ Day in some states, combining observance of all your favorite chief execs (Millard Fillmore?) into one holiday.

Birthday boy and first president George Washington enslaved 319 human beings in Virginia during his lifetime, but the state’s current governor, Glenn Youngkin, won’t let that be taught in the Old Dominion’s schools. Virginia’s kids will need a field trip to Mount Vernon to learn about it. President Washington also signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, requiring authorities in free states and territories to allow slave-catchers to seize escaped refugees and transport them back into bondage.

Happy Black History Month.

More:

“George Washington, Slave Catcher,” Erica Armstrong Dunbar, New York Times

Related:

“More than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation.” Julie Zauzmer Weil, Adrian Blanco and Leo Dominguez, Washington Post

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Image (“George Washington Observes Black History Month”) by Mike Licht. Download a free copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

December 31, 2021

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” written by Frank Loesser, performed by Ella Fitzgerald.

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When Christmas Was Banned

December 22, 2021

Christmas was once Banned in Boston, and throughout Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. Some early American colonists weren’t too keen on Christmas. A video by History Dose.

More:

“Yuletide’s Outlaws,” Rachel N. Schnepper, New York Times

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Armistice Day

November 11, 2021

Armistice Day

Today Veterans Day is observed in the United States. It was originally named Armistice Day and commemorated the time the agreement to stop The Great War was signed, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. After World War I failed to be The War to End All Wars, the U.S. observance was officially renamed Veterans Day in 1954, probably because veterans of later wars vote and dead WWI soldiers don’t, and we already had Memorial Day. Britain still commemorates the WWI Armistice and those who died to achieve it, and today it is known as Remembrance Day in Commonwealth nations.

More:

“History of Veterans Day,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

“A day by many names, celebrated all the same,” Jason Duhr, Stars and Stripes

(more…)