History Lesson of the Month
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision, ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public educational facilities was unConstitutional. The case was brought on behalf of Linda Brown, a young black girl from Topeka, Kansas, who had been denied admission to her local elementary school on the basis of her skin color.
At the time, public facilities were segregated based on the justification that a 1896 Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars conformed to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. But in Brown’s case, the all-white school she wanted to attend was closer to her home and was far superior to the all-black school that other children of her skin color and from her neighborhood were required to attend.
By mid-April 1775, Paul Revere recognized that English General Thomas Gage was preparing to move against patriot leaders. Although most of them had left Boston and the surrounding area, Revere and Dr. Benjamin Church and Dr. Joseph Warren remained. Revere vowed to stay and serve as messenger when needed.
On April 15, Revere and Warren met to discuss their thoughts on Gage’s plans. They decided he probably intended to move on Concord to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock and to seize arms stored there. The next morning, Revere rode to see Hancock and found he and Adams had returned to Hancock’s birth home in Lexington, having returned after the Provincial Congress had adjourned. They asked Revere to warn Concord residents about their suspicions.
On March 22, 1765, the British government passed the Stamp Act on the American colonies.
Coming on the heels of three other major tax increases (the Sugar Act, the Currency Act and the Quartering Act), the Stamp Act more than any other gave impetus to the growing independence movement in the Colonies. It created an easily articulated grievance against what the colonists saw as Great Britain’s efforts to undermine their economic strength and independence.
On Feb. 21, 1848, The Communist Manifesto was published in London by a group of revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League.
Written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the pamphlet summarized the doctrines of the League, which was a group of German workers living in London. While in Brussels in January 1848, Marx wrote the pamphlet; it was essentially a rewrite and expansion of a model tract Engels wrote for the League in 1847.
Following comments from an unnamed British officer to Parliament that the British need not fear the colonial rebels, because “Americans are unequal to the People of this Country [Britain] in Devotion to Women, and in Courage, and worse than all, they are religious,” Benjamin Franklin penned this reply which was published in the London newspaper, the Public Advertiser, on Feb. 7, 1775.
Fifty-two years ago today, President Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell speech and warned about “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” He said, “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes,” he said. “We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Fourteen years ago yesterday (Nov. 19, 1998), President Bill Clinton became the second U.S. President to be impeached.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, Clinton was not impeached over his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky. The articles of impeachment charged him with lying under oath to a Federal grand jury and obstructing justice.
The Cold War arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union began as the two World War II “allies” were still mopping up in Germany. Both sides wanted to learn all they could about German rocket and atomic technologies, and both wanted to get their hands on the scientists who were developing them.
Joseph Stalin’s forces captured the atomic research labs at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in May 1945. U.S. forces removed V-2 missiles from the Nordhausen complex that was built under the Harz Mountains just before the Soviets took possession of the facility.
On Oct. 15, 1962, U.S. intelligence workers analyzing photos taken by a U-2 spy plane discovered that the Soviet Union was building medium-range missile sites in Cuba. Seven days later, President John F. Kennedy gave a televised address to announce the discovery to Americans and to proclaim that he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting offensive weapons to the islands. The President made it clear that America would not stop short of military action to end what he called a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”
For the next 13 days, Americans believed that nuclear war with the Soviet Union—a war that would leave major U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles incinerated—was about to break out any second.
No one, particularly not Gen. George Washington, doubted Benedict Arnold’s skill as a military commander. But Arnold had many faults, among them: he was hotheaded, a glory seeker, brash and haunted by the ever-swirling taint of corruption.
Following his victory at Ticonderoga in 1775, his life became one of humiliation and pain. He wanted to invade Canada, but he was rebuffed and the command was turned over to another officer. He sought reimbursement for the money he had spent on the Ticonderoga excursion, but the Massachusetts Committee of Public Safety passed his request to the Continental Congress. This caused his unpaid soldiers to mutiny. They arrested Arnold and negotiated for themselves with Massachusetts.