History Lesson of the Month
In the late evening hours of July 20, 1969, hundreds of millions of people watched in rapt attention the grainy black-and-white footage of Neil Armstrong as he exited the lunar module Eagle and became the first man to set foot on the moon. As he did, he uttered the now-famous line: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
That step culminated an eight-year project to fulfill President John F. Kennedy’s goal of beating the Soviet Union to the moon. It took more than 400,000 scientists, engineers and technicians and about $100 billion in today’s currency to achieve.
The U.S. Constitution was ratified 224 years ago today.
The document that became the Constitution developed after three months of debate. It was signed on Sept. 17, 1787 by 38 of the 41 delegates present. But according to Article VII, it would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 States.
Fifty-eight years ago today, the United States Supreme Court decided Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka and ruled that separate but equal school facilities stamped an inherent badge of inferiority on black students and public school systems were required to integrate “with all deliberate speed.”
Did integration accomplish what the court sought to accomplish? Hardly. Today, thanks to the Department of Education, children are required to attend a school near their home, with few exceptions. Most minorities now live in cities, while most white students now live in the suburbs and rural areas.
The Civil War’s first casualties from hostile fire came not on soil in a Confederate State, but in Baltimore, Md., on April 19, 1861. (A gun explosion during Ft. Sumter surrender ceremonies had killed two Union soldiers.)
Maryland was a border State that was divided over its loyalty to the Union or the Southern cause. President Abraham Lincoln had received just 2 percent of Baltimore’s vote for President, with most of the votes going to Southern Democratic candidate John Breckinridge. Most of the State’s western counties also went for Breckinridge.
A battle over the Bank of the United States between President Andrew Jackson and Congress turned into a Constitutional issue when Congress sought to censure Jackson for not turning over classified documents he used in his decision to veto Congress’ vote to renew the bank’s charter.
The Senate, led by Jackson’s nemesis Henry Clay, passed a resolution demanding to see Jackson’s papers. When Jackson refused, Clay introduced a resolution to censure Jackson.
The seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was born on March 15, 1767, according to conventional wisdom. But Jackson’s birth history may be murkier than that of the current President.
The official history lists Jackson’s place of birth somewhere in the woods of northern South Carolina or southern North Carolina to Irish immigrant parents. Supposedly, his father died in an accident shortly before or about the time of Jackson’s birth. His mother died during a cholera outbreak in 1781 while serving as a nurse to prisoners of war on board a ship in Charleston Harbor. Jackson was then raised by uncles.
By the late 1800s, the Spanish empire was rapidly waning and primarily consisted of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.
But Spain’s hold over Cuba was becoming tenuous. The Cuban people were growing increasingly unhappy with Spanish rule, and the Ten Year’s War of 1868-1897 did not alleviate their grievances. Although the war was over, minor rebellions continued.
Over the next several days, we will be making upgrades to our site. During this time, you may see some issues, including but not limited to the site loading more slowly than normal. Additionally, on Thursday morning your ability to post comments will be turned off for a few hours. These upgrades should be completed by Friday morning if all goes as planned. Thanks for your patience. –BL
On Jan. 20, 1981, within minutes of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States, 52 U.S. captives who had been held in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, were released. It ended a sad 444-day saga in American history.
In the early 1770s, the patriot movement was slowly gaining steam in the colonies. People like Samuel Adams were looking for ways to bolster the movement and resist what they saw as English tyranny.
The Boston Non-Importation Agreement — in which area merchants pledged not to buy certain goods from Great Britain, including tea — had collapsed. Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson, whose salary as Governor was augmented by bribes for allowing the smuggling of tea in addition to the British Parliament-imposed tax on tea, wanted to capitalize on the tea business even more. Estimates at the time indicated Americans consumed between 3 million and 6.5 million pounds of tea each year.
On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot while riding through Dallas in an open-top convertible at approximately 12:30 p.m. Thirty minutes later he was pronounced dead at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.
Of course, everyone knows the “official” story. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine and communist sympathizer who had tried unsuccessfully to become a citizen of the Soviet Union and had married a Russian woman, shot Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building with a Mannlicher-Carcano Italian military rifle fitted with a scope. Oswald was captured and arrested in a movie theater about 30 minutes after shooting a police officer who had stopped to question him. The arrest occurred less than 90 minutes after the Kennedy shooting.
Two days later, while being moved from the Dallas County Jail to a more secure jail, Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. Ruby died of lung cancer in a Dallas hospital some three and a half years later.
The official Warren Commission report of 1964 concluded that neither Oswald nor Ruby were part of a larger conspiracy, either domestic or international, to assassinate Kennedy. But the report did little to assuage those who believed Oswald either did not act alone or was in fact a patsy and did not actually kill Kennedy.