On This Day in History…. August 9, 1973: Richard Nixon becomes the first president to resign




On This Day in History…. August 9, 1973: Richard Nixon becomes the first president to resign

Richard Nixon is pictured. | AP Photo

Gallup said the figure is the highest since a few months before Richard Nixon resigned. | AP Photo

This week marks the 39th anniversary of Watergate finale

Source: WaPo, 8-7-13

It’s only happened four times before, but it turns out the days of this week directly coincide with President Nixon’s tumultuous, surreal, last week in office in 1974….READ MORE

On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. 50th Anniversary: President John F. Kennedy Gives Televised Speech on Civil Rights to the Nation




50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.


John F. Kennedy delivering the Civil Rights Address (Wikimedia Commons)

On This Day in History June 11, 1963…. President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech on civil rights to the nation from the White House oval office paving the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It was a busy day for the civil rights movement; Alabama Governor and strong segregationist George Wallace in his “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” physically prevented two African American students; Vivian Malone and James Hood, from registering at the University of Alabama despite a court order the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. President Kennedy was forced to send the US National Guard to end the conflict, and ensure the students could enter the university building and register.

Hours later, in the early morning of June 12th, African American civil rights activist and leader Medgar Evers was killed in Mississippi. He was shot in the back while entering into his home after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Evers was shot by Byron De La Beckwith, who belonged to the White Citizens’ Council, a segregationist group. Although first arrested on June 21, 1963 for Evers’ murder, it took until 1994 for De La Beckwith to be convicted of the crime. Also in the north, Boston city school officials began a ten year battle with the NAACP over segregation the same evening as President Kennedy’s speech.

It was against this turmoil in the nation over civil rights that President Kennedy called and booked time on all three major networks for him to speak to the nation at 8 PM EDT on civil rights and the situation in Alabama.

In a hastily drafted speech by Ted Sorensen and revised by Kennedy. The President told Americans that segregation is a “moral issue” that is wrong. Kennedy stated; “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated.” President Kennedy accomplished two points in his speech, the introduction of civil rights legislation, and the beginning of significant comprehensive school desegregation.

Kennedy pleaded to the American people that civil rights is the responsibility of all citizens; “It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all… Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”

Kennedy specifically emphasized the lack of action since the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 in the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education which ended the legality of the separate but equal system. Kennedy lamented; “Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job. The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.”

In his speech, President Kennedy began an active pursuit of Congressional legislation that would end segregation, stating; “Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law…. I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.”

Kennedy also introduced the pursuit of the vote for all African Americans stating; “Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.” With his speech that night, Kennedy was pushing in motion not only the Civil Rights Act, but the subsequent Voting Rights Act passed two years later in 1965 which guaranteed the vote to all Americans.

Kennedy concluded his speech with a request of support from the American public for his sweeping and necessary proposals based on Constitutional rights for all Americans; “Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents…. This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.”

Kennedy submitted a civil rights bill to Congress the next week on June 19, which historian Robert Dallek in his biography of President Kennedy, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 described as “the most far-reaching civil rights bill in the country’s history.” The law would guarantee the right to vote for all with the minimum of a sixth grade education, and end discrimination in all public and commercial facilities establishments and accommodations. Kennedy also requested that the attorney general be granted expanded powers to implement school desegregation, asked to end job discrimination and create job training opportunities and a “community relations service.” Kennedy used the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution to justify the contents of his proposed bill. President Kennedy continued pushing Congress to pass civil rights legislation with bipartisan support until his assassination five months later in November 1963.

The leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. approved of President Kennedy’s speech and described it as ‘the most sweeping and forthright ever presented by an American president’.” King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on August 28th, over two months later during the March on Washington would eclipse Kennedy’s speech as the most relevant to advancing civil rights.

However civil rights would become central to Kennedy’s legacy, and without the President taking initial action with this speech and laying out his bold vision and plan to make a civil rights a reality for all Americans, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never would have passed and signed into law on July 2, 1964.


The Day President Kennedy Embraced Civil Rights—and the Story Behind It

Source: The Atlantic, 6-11-13

50 years ago today, the president gave his now-famous Civil Rights Address. But it was Martin Luther King Jr. and the Birmingham protesters who deserved the credit.

“Can you believe that white man not only stepped up to the plate, he hit it over the fence!” That was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s private verdict on President John F. Kennedy’s famous Civil Rights Address, delivered fifty years ago on June 11, 1963….READ MORE

John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Speech Remembered On 50th Anniversary

Source: Huffington Post, 6-11-13

On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave his Civil Rights Address, calling for the legislation that later became the Civil Rights Act Of 1964….READ MORE

Watch: JFK’s civil rights speech, 50 years ago

Source: MSNBC, 6-11-13

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation after a day of racial turmoil in the state of Alabama….READ MORE


Peniel E. Joseph: Kennedy’s Finest Moment

Source: NYT, 6-12-13

JUNE 11, 1963, may not be a widely recognized date these days, but it might have been the single most important day in civil rights history….

But the most important event was one that almost didn’t happen: a hastily arranged speech that evening by President John F. Kennedy….READ MORE

Tufts Professor Recalls Momentous, Overlooked JFK Speech From 50 Years Ago


Source: NPR Boston WBUR, 6-11-13

When Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodations.

Fifty years ago Tuesday, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation in a televised speech sometimes called one of the best of his presidency. But that speech would be overshadowed by other events of June 11, 1963, and of the early hours of the next day.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with Peniel Joseph, a history professor and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, about this date 50 years ago, which he calls the most significant date in civil rights history….READ MORE


Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights

June 11, 1963

Source: Presidency, UCSB


Good evening, my fellow citizens:This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was rounded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or cast system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The executive branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to de-segregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect, I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all–in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.
Thank you very much.

Delivered from the President’s office at 8 p.m.

Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights,” June 11, 1963. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=9271.

On This Day in History…. May 17, 1973: Senate Watergate Committee Begins Televised Hearings 40 Years Ago



On This Day in History…. May 17, 1973: Senate Watergate Committee Begins Televised Hearings 40 Years Ago

Watergate Hearings Televised 40 Years Ago

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-17-13

David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Richard Milhous Nixon was “not a crook,” or so the 37th U.S. president would have us believe.  But such denials at a Nov. 17, 1973, news conference meant little or nothing by then, six months to the day after North Carolina Sen. Sam Ervin opened two weeks of often-riveting, live televised hearings on the Watergate scandal….READ MORE

On This Day in History April 4, 1968… 45th Anniversary: Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee




On This Day in History April 4, 1968… 45th Anniversary: Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel a day after giving the speech ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ to striking sanitation workers.

PHOTO: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his last public appearance at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968.  The following day King was assassinated on his motel balcony.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his last public appearance at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968. The following day King was assassinated on his motel balcony. (Charles Kelly/AP Photo)

The Murder of Martin Luther King Jr.

Source: ABC News (blog), 4-4-13

Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., 45 years ago, on April 4, 1968….READ MORE

Tributes mark 45 years since Martin Luther King’s assassination

Source: 7Online.com,. 4-4-13 

Thursday marks the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assasination in Tennessee. The civil rights leader was shot on April 4, 1968, while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis….READ MORE

Forty-Five Years Ago: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: New Yorker (blog), 4-4-13

On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered one of his most famous speeches, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top….READ MORE

Walter Cronkite’s CBS News Coverage of MLK’s Death

Source: CBS News

Cronkite covers the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and Nobel Prize Winner. Dr. King was killed in April 4, 1968 in Memphis….VIEW VIDEO

Martin Luther King’s Final Speech: ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ — The Full Text

Source: ABC News, 4-4-13

By The Rev. MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr., MEMPHIS, Tenn., April 3, 1968

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It’s always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself.” But I wouldn’t stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding. Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember — I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Now we’re going to march again, and we’ve got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be — and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we’d just go on singing “Over my head I see freedom in the air.” And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, “Take ’em off,” and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham. Now we’ve got to go on in Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us when we go out Monday.

Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there.

But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech.

Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he’s been to jail for struggling; he’s been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he’s still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit.

But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that?

After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned.

Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? — Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain.

We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town — downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something that we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an “insurance-in.”

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end.

Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base…. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side.

They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that “One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony.” And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather to organize a “Jericho Road Improvement Association.”

That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles — or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.”

And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you. You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up.

The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital.

They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

“Dear Dr. King, I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

“While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us.

The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

On This Day in History… April 14-15, 1912: Titanic’s Sinking 100 Years Later Centennial Anniversary — Unsinkable Ship Strikes an Iceberg and Sinks in the Atlantic Ocean


Day in History


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.




On this day in history… April 15, 1912, the British luxury liner Titanic sank in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland, less than three hours after striking an iceberg. About 1,500 people died. (NYT)

April 14, 1912: RMS Titanic hits iceberg… April 15, 1912: Titanic sinks

Source: History.com

At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the British ocean liner Titanic sinks into the North Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. The massive ship, which carried 2,200 passengers and crew, had struck an iceberg two and half hours before.

On April 10, the RMS Titanic, one of the largest and most luxurious ocean liners ever built, departed Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The Titanic was designed by the Irish shipbuilder William Pirrie and built in Belfast, and was thought to be the world’s fastest ship. It spanned 883 feet from stern to bow, and its hull was divided into 16 compartments that were presumed to be watertight. Because four of these compartments could be flooded without causing a critical loss of buoyancy, the Titanic was considered unsinkable. While leaving port, the ship came within a couple of feet of the steamer New York but passed safely by, causing a general sigh of relief from the passengers massed on the Titanic’s decks. On its first journey across the highly competitive Atlantic ferry route, the ship carried some 2,200 passengers and crew.

After stopping at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up some final passengers, the massive vessel set out at full speed for New York City. However, just before midnight on April 14, the RMS Titanic failed to divert its course from an iceberg and ruptured at least five of its hull compartments. These compartments filled with water and pulled down the bow of the ship. Because the Titanic’s compartments were not capped at the top, water from the ruptured compartments filled each succeeding compartment, causing the bow to sink and the stern to be raised up to an almost vertical position above the water. Then the Titanic broke in half, and, at about 2:20 a.m. on April 15, stern and bow sank to the ocean floor.

Because of a shortage of lifeboats and the lack of satisfactory emergency procedures, more than 1,500 people went down in the sinking ship or froze to death in the icy North Atlantic waters. Most of the 700 or so survivors were women and children. A number of notable American and British citizens died in the tragedy, including the noted British journalist William Thomas Stead and heirs to the Straus, Astor, and Guggenheim fortunes.

One hour and 20 minutes after Titanic went down, the Cunard liner Carpathia arrived. The survivors in the lifeboats were brought aboard, and a handful of others were pulled out of the water. It was later discovered that the Leyland liner Californian had been less than 20 miles away at the time of the accident but had failed to hear the Titanic’s distress signals because its radio operator was off duty.

Announcement of details of the tragedy led to outrage on both sides of the Atlantic. In the disaster’s aftermath, the first International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea was held in 1913. Rules were adopted requiring that every ship have lifeboat space for each person on board, and that lifeboat drills be held. An International Ice Patrol was established to monitor icebergs in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. It was also required that ships maintain a 24-hour radio watch.

On September 1, 1985, a joint U.S.-French expedition located the wreck of the Titanic lying on the ocean floor at a depth of about 13,000 feet. The ship was explored by manned and unmanned submersibles, which shed new light on the details of its sinking.


Source: The Sun, 4-14-12


    • 9.45am: The ship approaches an area known for icebergs about 400 miles south of Newfoundland.
    • 11.40pm: Iceberg rips open the side of the Titanic.


  • 12.25am: Order given to put women and children into lifeboats.
  • 12:45am: Lifeboat number seven is the first lowered – with only 19 of 65 capacity.
  • 2:18am: Titanic breaks in two.
  • 2:20am: Ship goes under.


Source for many of the links: NYT

From History.com

News Coverage

From National Geographic


  • Around the world, prayer, music and flowers remember sinking of the Titanic, 100 years on: In the birthplace of the Titanic, residents will gather for a choral requiem. In the North Atlantic, above the ship’s final resting place, passengers will pray as a band strikes up a hymn and three floral wreaths are cast onto the waves.
    A century after the great ship went down with the loss of 1,500 lives, events around the globe are marking a tragedy that retains a titanic grip on the world’s imagination — an icon of Edwardian luxury that became, in a few dark hours 100 years ago, an enduring emblem of tragedy…. – WaPo, 4-14-12
  • US, British ships to meet at Titanic sinking spot: Titanic fans aboard cruise ships are journeying to the spot where the great liner hit an iceberg exactly 100 years ago on Sunday, as somber ceremonies are held on land to mark the disaster.The anniversary has taken on an international character, with artists, scientists and museums engaged in months-long preparations for commemorating events in Britain, Canada, Ireland and the United States, with an emphasis on dignity.
    The Titanic was built in Belfast, and sailed from Southampton toward New York, but it was from Halifax that ships were sent to retrieve the bodies. And 150 of the tragedy’s 1,514 victims are buried here.
    One century to the hour after the fatal encounter with an iceberg, more than 1,700 passengers on two cruise ships — the MS Balmoral from Southampton and the Azamara Journey from New York City — plan to meet at the site where the Titanic went down to witness a partial reenactment.
    The ship’s captain will announce a collision and a distress call will ring out.
    Passengers then plan to throw wreaths into the sea at 2:20 am about 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Halifax at the time and place the ship sank.
    Some participants in the memorial events — many of them history buffs or descendants of passengers of the doomed voyage — came with personal stories about how the Titanic touched their lives…. – AFP, 4-14-12
  • Titanic mystery: 100 years later, questions linger in NJ: On April 27, Bracken and Charles Haas of Randolph, president of the Titanic International Society, will gather with other members of the international group in Secaucus for the RMS Titanic Centennial Convention, for a candlelight service…. – NJ Star-Ledger, 4-14-12
  • Remembering the Titanic in Southampton: A hundred years after the ship left Southampton, the port city marked the anniversary of the epic disaster with a recording of the ship’s whistle…. – NYT, 4-10-12
  • Halifax to remember the Titanic with Night of Bells ceremony: It was 100 years ago tonight that the R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and later sank about 700 kilometres from the port of Halifax killing 1,500 of the 2,200 people aboard.
    The province of Nova Scotia is inviting the public to help commemorate the sinking and the lives that were lost at an event called Titanic Eve – Night of the Bells.
    It will be an event rich in memory and symbolism, beginning with a candlelit procession that will start at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street…. – CBC News, 4-14-12
  • Coast Guard cutter to spread 1.5 million rose petals atop the Titanic’s watery grave: A Coast Guard cutter will depart from Boston to spread 1.5 million dried rose petals over the resting place of the Titanic, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, the Coast Guard said today.
    Crewmembers from the cutter Juniper will spread the petals atop the ship’s watery grave on Saturday. Members of the Coast Guard-led International Ice Patrol will also cast five wreaths from an HC-130J Hercules aircraft based out of Elizabeth City, N.J., the Coast Guard said in a statement.“I think it’s important. It is a chance to experience 100 years ago — how things have changed with transatlantic voyages,” said Petty Officer Rob Simpson, who will be on board the Juniper.
    The wreaths and rose petals will be blessed at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Coast Guard base in Boston hosted by the agency, as well as the Titanic Historical Society, the Titanic International Society, and Titanic Museum Attractions…. – Boston Globe, 4-9-12
  • At Sea on the Titanic a Century Ago: We may not know everything that happened that fateful night on April 15, 1912, but the ambition and folly of the Titanic’s maiden voyage are still with us…. – NYT, 4-13-12
  • Twists of Fate: The Titanic narrowly avoided a collision with another ocean liner, the New York, at the beginning of its ill-fated journey…. – NYT, 4-13-12
  • Experts Split on Possibility of Remains at Titanic Site: In 1986, Congress passed a protective law known as the RMS Titanic Memorial Act, but officials at the ocean agency and elsewhere agree that it has no teeth…. – NYT, 4-14-12
  • World’s largest Titanic attraction opens in Belfast: Resembling both an iceberg and the prow of the doomed ship that sank on its maiden voyage, the $160 million, six-story Titanic Belfast has drawn more than 40,000 visitors since it opened March 31…. – USA Today, 4-12
  • ‘Titanic at 100′ at South Street Seaport Museum: Titanic-themed entertainment abounds this weekend, and not just on the screen but in the city…. – NYT, 4-12-12
  • Titanic exhibit “Titanic at 100: Myth and Memory” — South Street Seaport Museum: A scale model of the RMS Titanic sits on display at the opening of the “Titanic at 100: Myth and Memory” exhibition on April 10, 2012 in New York City. The exhibit opened at the Melville Gallery, part of the South Street Seaport Museum, on the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s launch on her maiden – and only – voyage. The exhibition features mayday communications from the ship, personal artifacts from survivors, production items from Titanic films and interactive multimedia tours through the ship. The British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, killing more than 1,500 people on April 15,1912 after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City…. – Times Union, 4-10-12
  • History Lost And Found: A Letter From Titanic: Many famous names went down with the Titanic, like the American millionaire John Jacob Astor IV, the wealthiest person on the ship, and Macy’s department store owner Isidor Straus.
    But you may not know about one of the ship’s doctors — John Edward Simpson. Aboard the Titanic, Simpson wrote a letter to his mother back home in Belfast. It was mailed from the great ship’s last port of call before it made its disastrous turn across the North Atlantic.Over the years, though, the letter fell into the hands of a collector, and the Simpson family thought it lost forever — until now…. – NPR, 4-14-12
  • Titanic Continues to Have a Long Afterlife – Advertising: Marketers and media companies are feeding an apparently ceaseless interest in the Titanic with an outpouring of TV programs, books, and many other collectibles…. – NYT, 4-12-12
  • New Books About the Titanic and Its Passengers: Two books explore the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic…. – NYT, 4-14-12
  • Titanic, a story told in movies, plays and books: Mention Oreo cookies or the Girl Guides and no one’s likely to hark back, almost without thinking, to 1912. Both came into being that year. It’s the sinking of the Titanic that brings the time most readily to mind.
    The disaster has entered the language: “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” for any futile gesture that will fail to ward off impending calamity.
    It’s also become a cultural touchstone for any writer or filmmaker seeking to evoke the years immediately prior to World War I and symbolize the approaching death of a gilded era.The Titanic has featured most prominently in movies too numerous all to be mentioned here…. – Toronto Star, 4-14-12
  • Deborah Hopkinson: ‘Titanic’ review: Gripping ‘Voices’: When the ‘unsinkable’ met the unthinkable:
    TITANIC: VOICES FROM THE DISASTER, Deborah Hopkinson, Scholastic Press, $17.99, 304 pages
    On April 15, 1912, 17-year-old Jack Thayer was returning home from a European trip with his parents. A first-class passenger on a grand new ocean liner, he enjoyed a lavish dinner. It was a cold evening, growing colder. “There was no moon,” he said, “and I have never seen the stars shine brighter.” Before the night was through, Jack Thayer would find himself in desperate trouble. His ship, the Titanic, struck an iceberg and began to sink.
    “Titanic: Voices From the Disaster” is gripping from the first page. West Linn writer Deborah Hopkinson begins her history for middle grade and young adult readers by laying out the bare facts of the tragedy. The Titanic was an extraordinarily elegant ship, too big to sink. How then, could she have struck an iceberg? Why weren’t there adequate lifeboats or a plan for using them? Hopkinson answers those questions and introduces a number of vivid characters: “a stewardess, a 9-year-old boy, a science teacher, a wealthy gentleman, a brave seaman, an American high school senior, a young mother on her way to start a new life, and more.”…. – The Oregonian, 4-14-12
  • Titanic: A ship full of myths: Probably the most outlandish belief ever about the sinking of the Titanic is that it wasn’t the Titanic . . . .
    British writer Robin Gardiner got three books out of his premise that it was actually sister-ship the Olympic that went to the bottom in a massive insurance scam gone horribly wrong.In Titanic: The Ship that Never Sank, The Great Titanic Conspiracy and The Riddle of the Titanic, the latter co-authored with journalist Dan van der Vat, Gardiner builds on a collision in 1911 between the Olympic and a Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke….. – Toronto Star, 4-12-12


United Press International/File

Artist Willy Stoewer’s vision of what the sinking must have looked like

  • Survivors of the Titanic | Survivors from the famous shipwreck tell their stories: At 11.40pm on 14 April, 1912, the famously ‘unsinkable’ ocean liner, Titanic, struck an iceberg. Two hours and 40 minutes later she sank deep into the freezing Atlantic waters. Less than a third of the people on board survived.
    Over the years, the BBC has heard from some of the men and women who lived through that ‘night to remember’. Their memories, and internal BBC documents about the controversies that followed, are now gathered together to tell the true story of the disaster.
    Hear the survivors describe a night they could never forget…. – BBC
  • Titanic memories from Canadians: Titanic survivors with a connection to Canada were a mixed bag of infants to autocrats, with an equally mixed bag of stories as they disembarked in New York from the rescue ship Carpathia…. – Toronto Star, 4-13-12
  • ‘They watched the ship go down’Toronto Star, 4-13-12
  • Titanic: ‘I heard the screams’ recalls officerJoseph Boxhall Joseph Boxhall was aged 28 when he became fourth officer on the Titanic:

    Joseph Boxhall, the fourth officer on RMS Titanic, was on duty the night the liner sank, but survived the disaster after he was ordered to take charge of one of the lifeboats.
    In a BBC radio interview in 1962, the Hull-born officer recalled the moment the liner hit the iceberg on 14 April…. – BBC, 4-14-12

  • Titanic 100: We survived: Just over 700 people escaped from the Titanic after it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on the night of 14 April 1912. More than 1,500 others were not so fortunate.
    The survivors scrambled into lifeboats or plunged into the icy water. In the years after the disaster, some of them spoke publicly about the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage.
    Here, with the help of archive images and audio, listen to what happened through the voices of crew members Charles Lightoller and Frank Prentice and passengers Eva Hart and Edith Russell…. – BBC, 4-9-12
  • The terrible cries for help lasted 20 or 30 minutes… then faded away – Titanic first class passenger John Thayer:
    CLOSE to death adrift in the dark Atlantic, John Thayer watched as the Titanic slipped beneath the waves.The 17-year-old and his parents had been first-class passengers on the doomed liner 100 years ago.
    Miraculously, John – heir to an American railroad fortune – survived the disaster with his mother and wrote a vivid first-hand account of the catastrophe 28 years later.
    John committed suicide in 1945 and for decades A Survivor’s Tale was forgotten – but it is now back in print to mark the centenary.
    Here is an edited extract…. – The Sun, 4-14-12
  • Titanic: Unlikely friendship in lifeboat eight: Able Seaman Thomas Jones and the Countess of Rothes became friends after surviving the tragedy
    He was a crewman from Wales, she was a countess from London travelling first class on the biggest passenger liner of the time.
    If not for one of the biggest maritime disasters in history, it is unlikely their paths would ever have crossed.
    But aboard Titanic’s lifeboat number eight Able Seaman Thomas Jones and Lucy Noël Martha, Countess of Rothes, struck up an unlikely friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.And now 100 years later their descendants have met for the first time.
    Thomas William Jones was 32 years old when he boarded the Titanic as a member of the deck crew at Southampton.
    The Countess of Rothes, who was “of independent means”, was just a year older than the crewman when she boarded at the same port with her Scottish husband’s cousin and her maid…. – BBC , 4-14-12
  • Unsinkable Molly Brown’s daughter chose Paris over Titanic: Helen Brown Benziger couldn’t resist April in Paris. What 22-year-old socialite studying abroad could?
    The City of Light, from its spring fashion shows to its blossoming boulevards, had a certain je ne sais quoi.
    That magnetism, that state of mind, later romanticized in song, presumably altered the course of history for the only daughter of the heroine who came to be immortalized as “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown.
    Benziger, who years later settled in Old Greenwich, chose Paris over the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
    The year was 1912…. – Greenwich Times, 4-11-12
  • 200,000 Titanic-related records are published online:
    More than 200,000 records relating to the Titanic have been published online to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on 15 April.
    The documents provide information about survivors and the 1,500 people who died, including a number of wills and hundreds of coroner inquest files.
    The collection has been gathered by the subscription-based family history website Ancestry.co.uk.
    However, access to the Titanic records collection is free until 31 May 2012…. – BBC, 4-9-12


  • The Titanic Sails Today: The White Star liner Titanic, the largest vessel in the world, will sail at noon tomorrow from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York…. – NYT, 4-10-1912
  • Allan Liner Virginian Now Steaming Toward the Ship: A wireless dispatch received tonight by the Allan-line officials from the steamer Virginian states that the Titanic flashed out wireless calls for immediate assistance. The Virginian put on full speed and headed for the Titanic…. – NYT, 4-15-1912
  • Latest News From the Sinking Ship: Dispatches from the Titanic to the Marconic wireless station in Cape Race, Newfoundland…. – NYT, 4-15-1912
  • Noted Men on the Lost Titanic: Sketches of a few of the well-known people among the 1,300 passengers lost on the Titanic, including Col. Jacob Astor and his wife, Isidor Strauss and Benjamin Guggenheim…. – NYT, 4-16-1912
  • Biggest Liner Plunges to the Bottom at 2:20 a.m.: The Carpathia found at daybreak this morning only the lifeboats and the wreckage of what had been the biggest steamship afloat…. – NYT, 4-16-1912
  • Titanic’s “C.Q.D.” Caught by a Lucky Fluke:
    By Harold Thomas Cottam, wireless operator on the Carpathia:
    Carpathia’s wireless man had finished his work for the night, but going back to verify a “Time Rush,” he caught the call for help…. – NYT, 4-19-1912
  • Thrilling Tale by Titanic’s Surviving Wireless Man:
    By Harold Bride, surviving wireless operator on the Titanic:
    Wireless operator recounts the final hours of the ship…. – NYT, 4-28-1912


  • Titanic: A century of fascination: Stephen Cox, a UC San Diego English literature professor who has written extensively about Titanic, including a book, has some ideas about why the tragedy retains its pull on the public’s imagination, 100 years later and counting.
    “It’s a story about people, and it’s a story about people who are like us,” he said. “We’re interested in thinking about what we would have done under those circumstances.”
    It took the Titanic two hours and 40 minutes to sink, roughly the time of a Shakespearean tragedy, Cox said. People had time to think about what they were doing, and why. The decisions they made — Get on a lifeboat? Go back for others? Sink or swim? — say something about them and their character. And, by extension, something about us…. – UT San San Diego, 4-13-12
  • William Neill: Titanic ‘disaster tourism’ disrespects victims, academic claims: The city of Belfast has “coarsened itself” by exploiting the sinking of the Titanic to draw in tourists, an academic has claimed.
    Titanic anniversary: Belfast’s monument to the Titanic tale Belfast has spent £97m – Northern Ireland’s biggest-ever outlay on a tourism project – on Titanic BelfastThe city is throwing a three week “festival” to mark the opening the Titanic Belfast museum and the centenary of the launch of the fated ocean liner.
    William Neill, a professor of urban planning at Aberdeen University, said: “Belfast is unique in terms of the significance of the Titanic but the question must be raised as to whether that memory has been treated with enough respect.
    “The city has lived with the shame of the sinking for many years. That has turned a corner and it is important that the role Belfast’s great shipyard played in our maritime history is acknowledged.
    “Whether what is now a mythic legacy should have been tied so closely to financial gain through selling ‘infotainment’ is more debateable.”
    Professor Neill is to address a conference on the phenomenon of ‘disaster tourism’ in Berlin. More than 1,500 people died when the RMS Titanic sank on April 15, 1912 after striking on iceberg…. – Telegraph UK, 4-4-12
  • Paul Heyer: Fascination with Titanic is unlikely to sink, prof says
    Paul Heyer is a WLU prof who has just published a book called Titanic Century. He is in big demand these days as an expert on media coverage 100 years ago and Titanic myth-making.
    It’s downright painful for Paul Heyer to admit that he passed up on a chance to be an extra on the set of movie producer James Cameron’s 1997 megahit Titanic.The professor of communication studies at Wilfrid Laurier University is an expert on how the passenger ship and its tragic story have been represented in all kinds of media.
    He is the author of the just-released book, Titanic Century: Media, Myth and the Making of a Cultural Icon, an update of a scholarly work he published in 1995.
    Heyer says he was teaching at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., back in the 1990s, when he was asked if he would like to spend two weeks in San Diego, Calif.
    “Titanic was in production and they were looking for extras with some connections to the Titanic,” Heyer recalls. “They wanted people who had written about the Titanic, or members of the Titanic Historical Society.”
    To this day — and maybe even more so now that the movie is back on the big screen in 3D to mark the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking on April 15, 1912 — Heyer regrets saying no…. – Guelph Mercury, 4-13-12
  • ‘The Titanic For Dummies’ Written By University Of New Haven Professor Stephen Spignesi Covers Historic Disaster, Detail By Detail: Fact No. 1: There was nobody named Jack Dawson on the Titanic.
    Fact No. 2: The man named J. Dawson who was among the passengers and died on the Titanic, and whose grave movie fans visit in Nova Scotia, was not Jack, the character Leonardo DiCaprio played in that 1997 blockbuster movie.
    “The Titanic for Dummies” will teach you that, and thousands more facts about the legendary disaster.So if his first Titanic book was “complete,” why write a new one?
    “I was already a ‘Dummies’ author. I’ve written three of them,” Spignesi said, referring to “Second Homes for Dummies,” “Lost Books of the Bible for Dummies” and “Native American History for Dummies.” “I had done the [Titanic] book in 1998. I had already put in the time to do the research and had a massive archive of books, articles, videos and facts.”
    With that research in hand, he persuaded Wiley, the publisher, to let him write “The Titanic For Dummies” on the 100th anniversary of the disaster, which happened on April 14-15, 1912. More than 700 passengers and crew members survived the sinking of the Titanic, but more than 1,500 died.
    Spignesi, 58, who teaches English and history at University of New Haven in West Haven, said that “The Titanic for Dummies” is different in format from his previous book.
    “‘The Complete Titanic’ was straightforward history, and the ‘Dummies’ books are very modular and nonsequential,” he said. “They’re meant entirely as reference books.”… – The Hartford Courant, 4-8-12
  • Morgan Woodward: St. Cloud historian has a Titanic love Woodward uncovers St. Cloud ship connections: “It teaches us about ourselves; you look at the Titanic disaster and it’s the microcosm of Edwardian society — kind of this culmination of arrogance and hubris,” Woodward said.
    “The ship slipped below the waves in the wee hours of April 15; it’s all over the front pages on the 15th, which was a Monday, so people knew about it right away,” he said…. – SC Times, 4-13-12
  • Crossing the Ocean, 1912 vs. 2012: THE 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy is being widely observed on both sides of the Atlantic, at museum openings, special exhibits and lectures, theatrical performances, concerts, readings and walking and graveyard tours. Guests at some events are invited to dress in fashions of the era, and Titanic-themed cocktails and re-creations of the elaborate first-class meal from the storied liner’s last dinner will be served. Two Titanic Memorial Cruises to the site of the sinking are planned, and the ships are scheduled to be there on the anniversary, April 15.
    But what was life onboard the Titanic actually like? Not much like taking a cruise today.
    Traveling on the Titanic was a voyage of purpose, primarily to transport mail, cargo and passengers, many of whom were emigrating, as steadily and safely as possible.
    Designed to withstand harsh seas and cut through water, the Titanic was built with efficiency in mind. Ships today are capable of traveling at speeds similar to the Titanic’s but rarely do, as cruising is about pleasure, said John Maxtone-Graham, a maritime historian and author of the newly published book “Titanic Tragedy: A New Look at the Lost Liner.”…. – NYT, 4-8-12

Titanic today
Titanic … as it looks today, resting on bottom of the Atlantic

On This Day in History… December 7, 1941: 70th Anniversary of Japan’s Bombing Attack on Pearl Harbor


Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.


Official United States Navy Photograph

On this day in history… December 7, 1941: At 7:55 am local time, Japanese warplanes attacked the United States Pacific fleet at their base, Pearl Harbor in Oahu, Hawaii. The Japanese hit nineteen ships, eight of which where battleships. The ships were either enturely sunk or severely damaged from the attack; this included 188 aircraft that were also wrecked. The attacks killed 2,280 and wounded 1,109 from the military, and also killed 68 civilians.

The next day on December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress, calling December 7 a date that will live in infamy, and declaring war against Japan; leading the United States into World War II.


GUAM BOMBED; ARMY SHIP IS SUNK; U.S. Fliers Head North From Manila — Battleship Oklahoma Set Afire by Torpedo Planes at Honolulu 104 SOLDIERS KILLED AT FIELD IN HAWAII President Fears ‘Very Heavy Losses’ on Oahu — Churchill Notifies Japan That a State of War Exists Japan Starts War on U.S.; Hawaii and Guam Bombed — New York Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

Congress Declares War on Japan; 3,000 Casualties in Hawaii Air Raid; Senate votes 82 to 0, House 388 to 1 within 33 minutes after President’s address–Two U.S. warships sunk, others damaged– Washington reports destruction of Tokyo planes and subs. Losses In Pearl Harbor World War in Fact 3,000 Casualties in Air Raid on Hawaii Counterattack Starts Landon Pledges Support War Against the Axis Attack on Hawaii Congress Votes Declaration Of War Against Japan More Aid for President Connally’s Resolution — Christian Science, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

TOKYO ACTS FIRST; Declaration Follows Air and Sea Attacks on U.S. and Britain TOGO CALLS ENVOYS After Fighting Is On, Grew Gets Japan’s Reply to Hull Note of Nov. 26 TOKYO ACTS FIRST AND DECLARES WAR By The Associated Press, New York Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1.

U.S. AND JAPS AT WAR; CONGRESS GETS F.D.R. MESSAGE IN CRISIS TODAY Report Fleet Acts to Contact Foe — Chicago Daily Tribune: Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

U. S. Warships Struck in Pearl Harbor Attack. — Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec 8, 1941, p. 8.

Attacks Precede War Declaration; Tokyo Notifies Envoys After Surprise Raid Upon Pearl Harbor Base — Los Angeles Times, Dec 8, 1941. p. 1

Japanese Bombs Burst on U.S. Islands — The Washington Post, Dec 8, 1941, p. 10

Tokyo Bombers Strike Hard At Our Main Bases on Oahu; JAPANESE HIT HARD AT BASES ON OAHU AMERICAN NAVAL BASE ATTACKED PROM AIR — The United Press, New York Times, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

JAPANESE INVADE MALAYA: F.D.R. WAR MESSAGE TODAY; Guam Is Attacked; Nippon’s Seizure Of Wake Reported Enemy Aircraft Carrier Said To Be Sunk After Surprise Raid on Pearl Harbor Base — The Associated Press, The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

Hawaii Attacked Without Warning With Heavy Loss; Philippines Are Bombed; Japan Declares War on U.S.; Hawaii Bombed, Losses Heavy — The Washington Post, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.

JAPS OPEN WAR ON U.S. WITH BOMBING OF HAWAII; Fleet Speeds Out to Battle Invader Tokyo Claims Battleship Sunk and Another Set Afire With Hundreds Killed on Island; Singapore Attacked and Thailand Force Landed — Los Angeles Times, Dec 8, 1941, p. 1.


    • Pearl Harbor on the nation’s front pages: The attack on Pearl Harbor was front-page news the next day, and some newspapers even managed to put out special issues the same day of the attack…. – WaPo, 12-7-11
    • A date which will live in infamy: Dec. 7, 1941: The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor is attacked by Japanese planes launched from six aircraft carriers. Four US battleships are sunk, and four others damaged. Over 2400 Americans are killed, including 1177 on the battleship … – LAT, 12-6-11
    • Survivors, veterans mark somber Pearl Harbor remembrance: Some 120 aging survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor were among 5000 people who marked its 70th anniversary on Wednesday with a quiet, often emotional ceremony at water’s edge. With a light rain falling, … – Reuters, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor remembrances: In ceremonies throughout the country, people gathered to remember a day that changed history on a December morning 70 years ago. In Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a US Marine firing detail prepares for a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attack … – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor: Survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor gathered Wednesday to remember the 2,400 people who lost their lives exactly 70 years ago.
      “Just as every day and unlike any other day, we stop and stand fast in memory of our heroes of Pearl Harbor and the Second World War,” Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander for Navy region Hawaii, told the gathering.
      U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus took note of the devastating legacy of the two-hour attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.
      “The history of December 7, 1941, is indelibly imprinted on the memory of every American who was alive that day. But it bears repeating on every anniversary, so that every subsequent generation will know what happened here today and never forget,” Mabus said…. – CNN International, 12-7-11
    • Nation Marks 70th Anniversary Of Pearl Harbor: In wheelchairs and on walkers, the old veterans came Wednesday to remember the day 70 years ago when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. But FDR’s “date that will live in infamy” is becoming a more distant memory. … – AP, 12-7-11
    • Snafu mars Pearl Harbor 70th anniversary ceremony: A snafu marred the critical moment of silence Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor ceremony observing the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack.
      Each year, the tradition calls for a moment of silence to start with the sounding of a ship’s whistle. The quiet is then broken when military aircraft fly over the USS Arizona Memorial in missing-man formation.
      The timing is carefully choreographed so that the moment of silence begins exactly at 7:55 a.m. — the moment Japanese planes began bombing the harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. But on Wednesday, emcee Leslie Wilcox was still speaking at 7:55 a.m., even as the Hawaii Air National Guard’s F-22’s roared overhead on schedule 42 seconds later.
      The moment of silence was held a few minutes late, just before 8 a.m. It was obvious to those who had attended the commemoration before that something was off, but some in the audience for the first time didn’t notice…. – CBS News, 12-8-11
    • Pearl Harbor remembered 70 years later: Ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor have been held across the United States. It was the surprise attack on the US navel base in Hawaii which brought America into World War II. Survivors gathered on the island to remember the fallen.Nearly 2,500 American service members died on December 7 1941…. – euronews, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Survivors remember attack, pay respects on 70th anniversary: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 remains deeply imbedded in the American psyche. On the 70th anniversary, Michael Ruane looked back at how the nation reacted to that fateful event: For a time on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of Americans were … – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Survivors remember Pearl Harbor: About 120 survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor observed a moment of silence to commemorate the Japanese attack and the thousands who lost their lives that day 70 years ago…. – WaPo, 12-8-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Nation promises survivors it will never forget: A grateful nation delivered a heartfelt message Wednesday morning to the dwindling number of survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack: Rest easy. We’ll take it from here. Allow us to repay the debt by carrying your burden. On the face of it…. – LAT, 12-7-11
    • Pearl Harbor Day: Survivors remember attack, pay respects on 70th anniversary: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 remains deeply imbedded in the American psyche. On the 70th anniversary, Michael Ruane looked back at how the nation reacted to that fateful event: For a time on Dec. 7, 1941, millions of Americans were … – WaPo, 12-7-11

“If December 7 is going to teach us anything, it should be that we must remain vigilant at all times, not just to avoid war, but vigilant among ourselves so that we would not use this as a justification to set aside our most honored document, the constitution.” — Sen. Daniel Inouye

  • Senator Inouye Recalls Pearl Harbor Attack’s ‘Black Puffs of Explosion’: Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a witness to the Pearl Harbor attacks, spoke today on the Senate floor about the 70th anniversary of the day he thought the world was ending.
    The bombing, he said, “began a period of my life where I became an adult and I hope a good American.” He added, “It is something that I will never forget that changed my life forever.”
    Only 17, Inouye was getting ready for church on Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941, in Hawaii. He was listening to music when the radio announcer interrupted the programming with screaming. Inouye and his father ran outside…. – ABC News, 12-7-11
  • Pearl Harbor Day: Celebrities Who Served In World War II (PHOTOS): When the bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, Americans immediately went to work. In addition to a homefront that saw citizens plant victory gardens, buy war bonds and fill the factories, the military flooded with brave young heroes, ready to defend…. – Huff Post, 12-8-11
  • Pearl Harbor Still a Day for the Ages, but a Memory Almost Gone: For more than half a century, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association gathered here every Dec. 7 to commemorate the attack by the Japanese that drew the United States into World War II. Others stayed closer to home for more intimate regional chapter ceremonies, sharing memories of a day they still remember in searing detail.
    But no more. The 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack will be the last one marked by the survivors’ association. With a concession to the reality of time — of age, of deteriorating health and death — the association will disband on Dec. 31…. – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Remembering Pearl Harbor, 70 years later: Seventy years ago Dec. 7, the nation was shocked by the news from Pearl Harbor, a place many Americans had never heard of before. The battleship USS West Virginia is engulfed in flames after the surprise Japanese attack …Yet without declaring war, Japan had launched a massive air attack on the ill-prepared U.S. naval forces in Hawaii. The damage — 2,402 Americans killed, four battleships sunk, 188 aircraft destroyed — wouldn’t be known publicly for weeks.
    The 70th anniversary is being marked by hundreds of Remember Pearl Harbor events, new books, and Wednesday’s two-hour History Channel special, Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After (8 p.m. ET)…. – USA Today, 12-6-11
  • ‘Pearl Harbor: 24 Hours After’: History’s splendid Pearl Harbor documentary shows FDR quickly set national tone: Network / Air Date: Wednesday at 8 p.m., History
    The 24 hours after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, were “the turning point of the 20th century,” declares the narrator of this History special.
    Even by standards of TV shows, that’s a bold claim. But “Pearl Harbor” spends the next two hours systemetically and effectively arguing that it’s true…. – NY Daily News, 12-6-11
  • Declassified Memo Hinted of 1941 Hawaii Attack: Three days before the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was warned in a memo from naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii, a new and eerie reminder of FDR’s failure to act on a basket load of tips that war was near…. – U.S. News & World Report, 11-29-11
  • Remembering Pearl Harbor: The phrase lives on, and 70 years have not dimmed the meaning and memory of that day…. – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Nation pauses to remember Pearl Harbor: Survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will remember the 2400 people who lost their lives 70 years ago Wednesday. The annual commemoration in Hawaii begins at 7:40 am (12:40 pm ET ) at the Pearl Harbor … – CNN International, 12-6-11
  • Preserving veterans’ stories on 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Globe & Mail, 12-7-11
  • Pearl Harbor attacked: A witness remembers, 70 years later: Around 8 am on Dec. 7, 1941, Army Private Francis Stueve sat down to breakfast with the rest of the 89th Field Artillery battalion, stationed at Pearl Harbor. “As quiet a day as you’ve ever seen,” Stueve remembers now. “Beautiful sunshine, nothing … – WaPo, 12-6-11
  • Pearl Harbor survivors are fading away: Ten years ago, as America prepared to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, The News-Sun met with three Navy men from Waukegan who were there on the date which will live in infamy: Ambrose Ferri, John Haffey and Jay Kough….
    Those men have joined the ranks of Pearl Harbor survivors who lived to see postwar America, and now have started to fade away. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are only 3,000 Pearl Harbor veterans still among us nationwide…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-6-11
  • 70 years after attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle’s raid on Japan still garners interest: Almost 70 years after the United States struck Japan in a bold bombing raid that did little damage but lifted the spirits of a Pearl Harbor-weary nation, Thomas Griffin relishes the role he played that day as a navigator in one of Jimmy … – WaPo, 12-5-11
  • Pearl Harbour attacked 70 years ago – A soldier remembers: It was on this day (December 7th, 2011) in 1941 that Japan launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. At 07:55 local time the first wave of between 50 and 150 planes struck the naval base for 35 minutes dropping … – ABC Online (blog), 12-7-11
  • 70 Years Later: Using Historic Times Articles and Social Media to Remember Pearl Harbor: Overview | What happened on Dec. 7, 1941? Why is the attack on Pearl Harbor such an historically important event? In this lesson, students learn about the 1941 attack by reading an archival Times article from the day after, and then either create a series of Twitter posts that document the attack and resulting declaration of war, or write a “Historic Headlines”-style summary and analysis of the event and its repercussions — and their connection to today…. – NYT, 12-6-11


Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Japan December 8, 1941

Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941

Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Speaker, and Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American Island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounding determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Statement by President Barack Obama on the 70th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. Today, Michelle and I join the American people in honoring the memory of the more than 2,400 American patriots—military and civilian, men, women and children—who gave their lives in our first battle of the Second World War. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families for whom this day is deeply personal—the spouses, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters who have known seven decades without a loved one but who have kept their legacy alive for future generations.

We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory. They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into our closest allies. When the guns fell silent, they came home, went to school on the G.I. Bill, and built the largest middle class in history and the strongest economy in the world. They remind us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one. All of us owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous. And as today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end and we welcome home our 9/11 Generation, we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us. On this solemn anniversary, there can be no higher tribute to the Americans who served and sacrificed seventy years ago today.


  • Craig Shirley: Five myths about Pearl Harbor: President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” And that day, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, has lived in infamy for 70 years. Yet even as the memory of the attack has lasted, so have the misperceptions surrounding it. On this anniversary, here are a few myths worth dispelling.

    1. The U.S. government had no knowledge of a potential Japanese attack before Dec. 7.
    Beyond the obvious signs of Japan’s increasing aggression — including its sinking of an American naval vessel in the Yangtze Riverand its signing of the Tripartite Pact with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany — various specific war warnings had been sent by Washington to military commanders in the Pacific for some days before Dec. 7.

    2. On Dec. 7, Japan attacked only Pearl Harbor.
    Though the attack on Pearl Harbor was the most crippling and caused the most American losses, Japanese forces also struck the Philippines, Wake Island, Guam, Malaya, Thailand and Midway that day.

    3. The U.S. military responded quickly and decisively.
    For months after Pearl Harbor, the United States suffered defeat after defeat in the Pacific theater.

    4. Japanese Americans were the only U.S. citizens rounded up after Pearl Harbor.
    Within 48 hours of the attack, more than 1,000people of Japanese, German and Italian descent, all considered “enemy aliens,” were detained by the FBI.

    5. The attack on Pearl Harbor convinced the public that the United States should enter World War II.
    The attack persuaded Americans to support entering part of the war, not all of it. Before Pearl Harbor, the United States was largely isolationist, and there was almost no call to get involved in another European war.

    WaPo, 12-2-11

  • Nigel Hamilton: Pearl Harbor — and Our Moral Identity as a Nation: As U.S. intelligence reported on the number of Japanese troop transports and warships gathering off the coast of Thailand and Malaya in the first days of December 1941, it became obvious to all but Republican ostriches that the Philippines would soon be targeted, and that the United States, unless it wished to become a vassal state, would be drawn into the war, whether it wished or not.
    On the night of December 6, 1941, discussing the latest intelligence reports with the President in his Oval study on the second floor of the White House, Harry Hopkins remarked sadly that it was a pity the U.S. could not pre-empt the Japanese attack on the Malay Barrier while the menacing Japanese invasion fleet was still off shore.
    “No, we can’t do that. We are a democracy and a peaceful people,” President Roosevelt said. “But we have a good record.”… – Huff Post, 12-5-11
  • Pearl Harbor anniversary: It still lives in infamy: Gilbert Sandler describes how, after Pearl Harbor, Baltimoreans worked and played, worried and sacrificed under the shadow of war
    Today, marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan and the official entry of the United States into World War II. These stories are excerpted from the book, “Home Front Baltimore” (Johns Hopkins University Press)…. – Baltmore Sun, 12-7-11


Publications in honor of the 70th anniversary include the following:

  • Stephen Gillon, Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War (Basic, 2011).
  • Craig Shirley, December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World (Thomas Nelson, 2011).
  • Stanley Weintraub, Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 (DaCapo, 2011).

On This Day in History… September 11, 2001: President Barack Obama & Former President George W. Bush Observe the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, Pentagon & United Flight 93 with Memorials


Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


The 10th Anniversary of 9/11

From left: Laura Bush, George W. Bush, Michelle Obama and President Obama observe a moment of silence at the National September 11 Memorial. | AP Photo


On this day in history… September 11, 2001… Terrorists hijack two passenger planes crashing them into New York’s World Trade Towers causing the collapse of the 110-story twin towers& death of 2,752 people.
Terrorists hijack a passenger plane and crash it into the Pentagon causing the death of 125 people.
Attempt by passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 to retake control of their hijacked plane from terrorists causes plane to crash in Pennsylvania field killing all 64 people onboard.

What was 9/11?: On September 11, 2001, 19 members of a terrorist group called al-Qaeda hijacked four U.S. airplanes and used them to strike various targets on the East Coast. The carefully planned attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, making it the worst attack on the United States in history…. – WaPo, 9-10-11


Archives: President George W. Bush’s Address to the Nation after Terror Attacks (Full Text) — Globe & Mail, 8-26-11

Full Text September 11, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the 9-11 “A Concert for Hope” — Kennedy Center in Washington, DC WH, 9-11-11

Full Text September 11, 2011: President Barack Obama’s 9-11 Message to the Families — Remarks at National September 11 Memorial in New York & United Flight 93 Memorial WH, 9-11-11

Full Text September 11, 2011: Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech at the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon, Washington DC WH, 9-11-11

9/11 anniversary: President Obama’s reading at World Trade Center LAT, 9-11-11

Bush Reads From Lincoln Letter at Ground Zero: Former President George W. Bush read a letter President Abraham Lincoln wrote to a widow who lost five sons in the Civil War during commemorations for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero in New York. (Sept. 11)… – AP, 9-11-11

Full Text September 10, 2011: President George W. Bush’s Speech at the Unveiling of the Flight 93 National Memorial, Shanksville, Pennsylvania Fox News, 9-10-11

Full Text September 10, 2011: Vice President Joe Biden, President George W. Bush & President Bill Clinton at the Unveiling of the Flight 93 National Memorial, Shanksville, Pennsylvania WH, 9-10-11

Full Text September 10, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Marks the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, the September 11th Terror Attacks & Pays Tribute to the First Responders WH, 9-10-11

“”It will be said that we kept the faith. That we took a painful blow, and we emerged stronger than ever before.
It is worth remembering what has not changed — our character as a nation has not changed.
These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear.
The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit — these patriots defined the very nature of courage.
Our people still work in skyscrapers. Our stadiums are filled with fans, and our parks full of children playing ball…..
Too many will never come home. Those that do carry dark memories from distant places, and the legacy of fallen friends.”
Our strength is not measured in our ability to stay in these places; it comes from our commitment to leave those lands to free people and sovereign states, and our desire to move from a decade of war to a future of peace.
Debates — about war and peace; about security and civil liberties — have often been fierce these last ten years. But it is precisely the rigor of these debates, and our ability to resolve them in a way that honors our values and our democracy, that is the measure of our strength.
After 9/11, to his great credit, President Bush made clear what we reaffirm today: the United States will never wage war against Islam or any other religion. Immigrants come here from all parts of the globe.
They will know that nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America. They will be reminded that we are not perfect, but our democracy is durable, and that democracy — reflecting, as it does, the imperfections of man — also gives us the opportunity to perfect our union. That is what we honor on days of national commemoration — those aspects of the American experience that are enduring, and the determination to move forward as one people.” — President Obama at “A Concert for Hope” at the Kennedy Center in Washington

    • Obama’s remarks at Sept. 11 observance in NY: Text of President Barack Obama’s remarks at New York City’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as provided by the White House. He read from Psalm 46…. – AP, 9-11-11

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” — — President Obama, Psalm 46

“President Lincoln not only understood the heartbreak of his country, he also understood the cost to sacrifice and reached out to console those in sorrow.” — Fromer President George W. Bush

“Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
‘A. Lincoln'” —
ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S LETTER TO MRS BIXBY, 1864, Washington, November 21, 1864 read by Former President George W. Bush at the 9/11 Memorial

“Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights. Since then, we’ve lived in sunshine and in shadows. And although we can never ‘unsee’ what happened here … we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born, and good works and public service have taken root to honor those we loved and lost.” — New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in opening the ceremony

“They were our neighbors, our friends, our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children and parents. They were the ones who rushed in to help, 2,983 innocent men, women and children. We have asked their families to come here to speak the names out loud to remind each of us of a person we lost in New York, in Washington and Pennsylvania.” — New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in opening the ceremony

“Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.” — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

“Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.” — former New York Governor George Pataki read the last verse of “No words cried out so fully from the broken heart of our nation as those of a poem called “The Names,” written a year after the attacks, by the United States’ Poet Laureate, Billy Collins.

“Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.” — Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay

“If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone,
who keep long vigil by the silent dust.
For my sake turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand
to do something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I perchance may therein comfort you.”
— New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also turned to a poet, Mary Lee Hall, who wrote “Turn Again To Life”

“I know these memorials — and you’ve been through many — are bittersweet moments for you, because as you sit here right now, unlike a month ago, everything’s come back in stark relief. It’s not a thought, it’s precise. You remember that God-awful empty feeling, you remember being sucked into your own chest and that feeling of hollowness. But I want you to know something else. Your physical presence here today gives hope to thousands of Americans who under different circumstances are trying to come to grips with the losses that you had.” — Vice President Joe Biden attended the Pentagon ceremony

Ten years ago today, ordinary Americans went to work or boarded a plane and found themselves fighting on the frontlines of a battle they did not choose. They acquitted themselves with grace and courage, just as the thousands of men and women who enlisted to fight in our armed forces— many on the anniversaries of this day—in order to exact justice for their fellow Americans. We will never forget those who died ten years ago today, we will never forget those who died in the war that started on that day, and we ask God to comfort and bless their families. From across this great nation, grateful Americans honor those who defend our homeland. God bless America. — Sarah Palin

“What happened above this Pennsylvania field was among the most courageous acts in American history. For as long as this memorial stands, we’ll remember … the sacrifice they made and the lives they spared. The United States will never forget…. Americans are alive today because the passengers and crew of Flight 93 chose to act, and our nation will be forever grateful.” — Former President George W. Bush at United Flight 93 Memorial, Shanksville, PA

“There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly lay down their lives for other people to live.” — Former President Bill Clinton at United Flight 93 Memorial, Shanksville, PA

“Ten years later, I’d say America came through this thing in a way that was consistent with our character. Some things haven’t happened as quickly as they needed to. But overall, we took the fight to al- Qaeda, we preserved our values, we preserved our character.” — President Barack Obama in an interview with NBC News

Bush After 9/11 Says He Has No Regrets: “The work that was done by intelligence communities during my presidency was part of putting together the puzzle that enabled us to see the full picture of how bin Laden was communicating and eventually where he was hiding. It began the day after 9/11.

I, of course, remember (White House Chief of Staff Andy Card) whispering in my ear. I remember the faces of the children. … It was a moment of clarity because people were going to watch how I reacted, and I had enough experience with crises to understand that if you’re head of an organization, it’s important to project calm in the initial stages of a crisis.

The key thing that I tried to do was to say let’s gather facts so we know what’s happening. The problem that I faced — and the truth of the matter is, many in my administration faced — was during certain moments during the day, there was a fog of war, and the information flow was just really inaccurate. … We needed to take steps to make sure that the attack was a four- plane attack, not a 10-plane attack. We just didn’t know. … My mind eventually became focused on finding out who did it and seeking justice, but initially it was respond and prevent.

There were moments when I said I’d like to be alone and just thinking through the ramifications and making sure that my thoughts were clear. I prayed for the victims. I prayed for our country. I would see people jump off buildings, and it just was horrific, but I was also determined to lead the country.

The first two statements were on the fly. I didn’t realize I had missed the mark. … I just did the best I could do given the circumstances, but obviously it wasn’t the best setting for a president to try to calm the nerves of the country. I wanted to speak from the Oval Office. I wasn’t going to address our nation from a bunker. It would have been a huge psychological victory for the people who attacked.

The job of the president was to say here are the facts, here’s what we’re dealing with, and deal with them. Not to feel sorry for yourself, or not to say why did it happen under my watch? That’s not a leadership trait that is admirable. … I felt like I had the capacity to deal with the crisis, and you don’t know until it happens. When I look back on it, I don’t feel a sense of being overwhelmed.
Not that I can think of. I mean, I think the response, laying out tools so that future presidents can have a better chance to protect the country, it’s a legacy that I hope historians will say, ‘It’s a good legacy: He used tools that he thought were necessary and then he helped work with the Congress to codify them, so future presidents, if they so choose, can use those tools.’

My mind was just churning over the events, the response, the information that had been given through a variety of National Security Council meetings. … And then just as I was kind of dozing off, (a Secret Service agent said) ‘Mr. President,’ and off we go. I had the T-shirt on and the running shorts and grabbed Laura, who didn’t have her contacts on, grabbed (dog) Barney. We must have been looking like a motley crew as we headed down. … It was almost surreal, these big pneumatic doors as you’re heading into the bowels of the White House, guys in black uniforms and guns.
I didn’t want to sleep down there because I knew I needed to be rested for the next day, and the bed looked horrible. Harry Truman must have bought the bed. It was one of those pullouts with a metal bar in the middle. I was envisioning Laura and I kind of fighting for the soft space.” — ABC News, 9-11-11


    • 9/11 Remembered 9/11: The 25 Most Powerful Photos: One decade after 9/11, an unsettling number of images from Ground Zero and its environs remain seared in our collective memory — unsurprising, perhaps, given the scope and scale of the destruction. But the fact that the deadliest, most visually arresting attacks occurred in New York City also meant that many of the world’s best photographers were, in effect, already on the scene when the terrorists struck. Here, to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and in hopes of lending coherence to our shared, turbulent recollections, LIFE.com presents the 25 most stirring, visceral photographs from that day, featuring pictures from the likes of James Nachtwey, Joe Raedle, Spencer Platt, Mario Tama, and other celebrated photojournalists (and one intrepid amateur). These are the pictures we remember: wrenching, indelible photographs that tell the tale of a still- resonant late summer day that changed everything…. – Yahoo News

9/11 LIVE: Scenes from the 9/11 anniversary: As the nation and the world mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Associated Press journalists are tracking down the most salient details of the day, and capturing the mood, from ground zero to Afghanistan and everywhere in between…. – AO, 9-11-11

    • Once More, an Outpouring of Grief on 9/11 A Day That Stands Alone in History: Thousands gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that dramatically changed a city and a nation…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • 9/11 anniversary: Obama’s day, from mourning to hope: It was a day to mourn the memory of things past while hoping that resilience will create a brighter future as President Obama visited all three sites scarred the deadliest act of terrorism in the nation’s history on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. … – LAT, 9-11-11
    • 9/11 anniversary: Obama closes day with “Concert for Hope”: Closing a day of 9/11 remembrances at a “Concert for Hope” in Washington, D.C., President Obama reminded Americans Sunday evening of their resilience as he paid tribute to the losses suffered a decade ago while recalling the country’s enduring values.
      “Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights,” the president said from the stage of the Kennedy Center along the banks of the Potomac River. “Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed.”
      “These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear,’ the president said, citing the rescue workers who rushed to help on Sept. 11, 2001, and the passengers who stormed the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93.
      Obama hailed the services of the more than 2 million Americans who have served in the volunteer military over the last decade, even as he warned of the price of war…. – LAT, 9-11-11
    • Obama Concludes 9/11 Anniversary at the Kennedy Center: After stops in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and at the Pentagon, the president finished his day of 9/11 tributes with the “Concert for Hope” at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center. Following performances by the Marine Chamber Orchestra, Washington National Cathedral Choir, Alan Jackson, Denyce Graves, and Patti LaBelle, Obama gave a speech in which he called the United States “stronger than before” the terrorist attacks ten years ago. Opening with a passage from the bible (“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”), he focused on themes of resilience and sacrifice. Obama also touched on some of the less inspiring byproducts of the tragedy, including the country’s ongoing wars in the Middle East, debates over civil liberties, and racial and religious tensions, making sure to reaffirm that, “The United States will never wage war against Islam or any religion.” Mostly, though, he struck an optimistic tone, telling listeners that future generations would visit 9/11 memorials for a reminder that, “Nothing can break the will of a truly United States of America.”… – New York Magazine, 9-11-11
    • Obama: America does not give in to fear: Ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, America has emerged stronger and its character remains unchanged, President Obama said Sunday.
      “These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear,” the president said at a concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the last in a series of events Mr. Obama attended to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks. ” Our people still work in skyscrapers. Our stadiums are filled with fans, and our parks full of children playing ball.”
      The president spoke of young girls who lost their father in the attack on the Twin Towers and said their hopeful future is the “ultimate rebuke” to the terrorists who took their father’s life…. – CBS News, 9-11-11
    • Obama: U.S. Stronger After 9/11: It was a long, solemn Sunday for President Obama, who marked the 9/11 anniversary by saying that the past decade has been “a story of American resilience.” In his final speech of the day in Washington, D.C., on Sunday evening, Obama said that despite the problems of the past 10 years, America is stronger. He said, “It will be said that we kept that faith. That we took a painful blow, and emerged stronger than ever before.” He also reminded Americans that it’s worth remembering what has not changed since the attacks: the nation’s character. He also referred to some of the debates over policy that many have found frustrating in recent months, saying, “It is precisely the rigor of these debates, and our ability to resolve them in a way that honors our values, that is a measure of our strength.”… – The Daily Beast, 9-11-11 USA Today, 9-11-11
    • 9/11 anniversary: Ceremony at World Trade Center 10 years after September 11: Ten years after the darkest day in American history, the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and officials including President Obama and former President Bush gathered to honor those lost. Ten years after the darkest day in American history…. – New York Daily News, 9-11-11
    • Obamas ‘particularly moved’ at 911 site: President Obama was impressed by the memorial at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan, and he and the first lady were “particularly moved” by the readings during Sunday’s service there, spokesman Josh Earnest said…. – Politico, 9-11-11
    • Why Obama picked Psalm 46 to read at New York 9-11 anniversary: President Obama read Psalm 46 at the New York ceremony Sunday marking the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.
      Principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest explained why Obama selected that psalm. “The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate — he believed it was particularly appropriate to use — to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger,” Earnest said…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 9-11-11
    • Obama and Bush lead 9/11 observance: Under a sky as clear as the one that filled with flames, smoke and ash the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, tens of thousands of people gathered at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan Sunday morning to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks that day and to reflect on the tumultuous decade that followed.
      Ten years after two airplanes flying low over New York struck the twin towers, killing 2,753 people, President Barack Obama was joined by his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, in paying tribute to the victims, their loved ones and a nation changed by force, and by will. Counting the casualties from a third plane that crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed by hijackers into a field in Shanksville, Pa., 2,977 people died on 9/11.
      It was the first time Obama and Bush have appeared together at Ground Zero, site of the most deadly of the attacks that defined Bush’s presidency while greatly shaping Obama’s – and it was their first meeting since January, 2010…. – Politico, 9-11-11
    • America marks 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 terror attacks: A moment of silence at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. The reading of names in a grassy western Pennsylvania field. A visit, by President Obama, to the Arlington National Cemetery graves of 60 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
      With these solemn gestures, Americans across the world began marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the Pentagon in Virginia and World Trade Center in New York.
      Under sunny skies, reminiscent of the clear blue morning 10 years ago when hijackers crashed four jetliners, killing nearly 3,000 people, ceremonies began Sunday morning at Ground Zero. Obama and former president George W. Bush, along with their wives, walked slowly along the North Memorial Pool, where the north Trade Center tower fell…. – WaPo, 9-11-11
    • America Remembers Terror Victims, Honors ‘9/11 Generation of Warriors’: AP President Obama lays a wreath as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks are observed at the Pentagon Sept. 11. Americans told stories of loved ones, read from Scripture and waved the flag Sunday as they honored the memories of those who died…. – Fox News, 9-11-11
    • N.Y.C.: Moments of silence at ground zero: Moments of silence were observed in New York City Sunday on the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and killed nearly 3,000 people….
      Sixty bagpipe players and drummers led the World Trade flag through the memorial, where the flag was unfolded and held aloft by the Honor Guard…. – CBS News, 9-11-11
    • George W Bush addresses mourning families with Abraham Lincoln letter as he commemorates lives lost on 9/11: Former U.S. President George W Bush read a letter today written by Abraham Lincoln as he addressed the families of thousands of victims killed on 9/11 this morning.
      Commemorating the sacrifices of those lost in the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush cited Lincoln’s letter to Mrs Lydia Bixby, penned in 1864.
      The text, regarded highly among Lincoln’s finest works of writing, addresses a bereaved mother of five sons who were thought to have died while fighting for the Union in the Civil War…. – Daily Mail UK, 9-11-11
    • Bush and Obama: Side by Side: At ground zero, the president defined by his response to Sept. 11 and the one who has tried to take America beyond the lingering, complicated legacy of that day…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • Bush and Obama: Side by Side at Ground Zero: For the first time on Sunday, President Obama and former President George W. Bush stood together at the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, listening as family members read the names of lost love ones and bowing their heads…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • At Pentagon, No Words Will Fill Void: Families of the 184 people who died in the attack remember the moment…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • In Shanksville, a Silent Field: At 10:03 a.m., instead of an explosion, there was quiet remembrance…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • In Pennsylvania, a Wall of Names: President Obama and his wife, Michelle, placed a large wreath at the memorial…. – NYT, 9-11-11
    • Obama, Bush see raw emotions at 9/11 events: * Obama continues war on militants begun by Bush
      * Two appear together for first time in 18 months
      * Obama: U.S. overcomes slavery, fascism, terrorism (Updates with Obama remarks)
      President Barack Obama picked up where his predecessor George W. Bush left off in the war against Islamic militants after the Sept. 11 attacks, and on Sunday both saw the raw emotions that linger 10 years later.
      The 10th anniversary of the attacks marked the first time the Democratic and Republican presidents have appeared together publicly since January 2010. But, joined by their wives, the two men made a show of solidarity at Ground Zero in New York, walking in tandem along a memorial pool at the site of the north tower of the World Trade Center. [ID:nS1E78A00A]
      They nodded their heads during a moment of silence, the only sound the roaring of the waterfall in the pool.
      Afterward, they appeared together behind bullet-proof glass near where the names of those killed on Sept. 11 were read aloud…. – Reuters, 9-11-11
    • U.S. marks 10 years since 9/11 with solemnity, prayer: With simple and solemn ceremony, the United States marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Sunday with prayer and remembrances at the sites where thousands of Americans died.
      President Barack Obama was joined by former President George W. Bush at the site of the World Trade Center in New York, a moment of bipartisan unity to honor the dead reminiscent of the way the country came together in the wake of the attacks.
      Hand in hand with their wives, they walked to the site as the ceremony opened at 8:46 am, the precise moment the first hijacked plane smashed into the first tower. A church bell rang twice…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 9-11-11
    • Families, dignitaries mourn at World Trade Center in N.Y.: Beneath a cloudless sky eerily reminiscent of the fateful day 10 years ago, officials, families of those killed and other mourners gathered on Sunday in a national day of commemoration at the site of the World Trade Center to recall the terror attack in New York City.
      In a show of unity that crossed party lines, President Obama and former President George W. Bush led dignitaries at the site. They and their wives toured the North Memorial Pool, the scene of the fallen north tower that collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
      Each president held his spouse’s hand and the quartet made its way around a wall that is etched with the names of the nearly 3,000 who died in the collapse of the towers.
      Then Obama and Bush hugged some family members of those killed and went over to pay respects to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who rose to national prominence for his handling of the crisis. Also attending were present and former governors…. – LAT, 9-11-11
    • President Obama Honors 9/11 Victims at WTC Site: President Obama and his wife Michelle Obama today paid respect to 9/11 victims by visiting the North Memorial Pool in the footprint of the spot where the north tower of the World Trade Center stood on this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack…. – ABC News, 9-11-11
    • Remembering those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks: With solemn gestures, Americans across the country mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the Pentagon in Virginia and the World Trade Center in New York…. – WaPo, 9-11-11
    • Americans mark 9/11 anniversary: The United States is commemorating the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, with the country in a sombre mood and on high security alert. President Barack Obama attended a ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero … – Financial Times, 9-11-11
    • America Remembers the September 11 Attacks: With solemn tributes, the United States is marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3000 people and launched the country into a decade of war. Events were held at the sites of each attack a decade ago…. – Voice of America, 9-11-11
    • 9/11 Remembered as Officials Monitor Threat: U.S. President Barack Obama joined former President George W. Bush at the World Trade Center in Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people, reading a passage from the Bible at a ceremony attended by the families of the victims.
      Obama was later greeted with cheers and applause at a memorial in Pennsylvania, where he laid a wreath at the site near Shanksville where one of four hijacked airliners crashed. The New York ceremony, in the shadow of a new skyscraper that will be the tallest building in the U.S., took place while thousands of police officers worked overtime under a terror alert stemming from what Mayor Michael Bloomberg called a “credible but not corroborated” threat.
      The president was joined at Ground Zero by Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Christopher Christie of New Jersey. The men read letters, poems and religious passages as surviving family members recited the names of the victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Also honored were the six killed in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center…. – Bloomberg, 9-11-11
    • Ground Zero ceremony honours 9/11 victims: The names of the September 11 dead, some called out by children barely old enough to remember their fallen mothers and fathers, have echoed across Ground Zero in a haunting but hopeful tribute on the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks. … – Sydney Morning Herald, 9-11-11
    • In Shanksville, Thousands Gather to Honor Flight 93 Victims: The dedication of a memorial here on Saturday to the 40 passengers and crew members who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, provided an opportunity for two former presidents to appeal for unity.
      Ten years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a special report on the decade’s costs and consequences, measured in thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and countless challenges to the human spirit.
      Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington. But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in a field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current discord…. – NYT, 9-10-11
    • United 93 families dedicate Sept. 11 memorial: Vice President Joe Biden joins Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush in Pennsylvania to honor the passengers and crew who fought back that day…. – LAT, 9-10-11
    • Bush, Clinton speak at memorial for Flight 93: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke solemnly Saturday at the unveiling of the memorial for victims of United Airlines Flight 93.
      “With their brave decision, they launched the first counteroffensive in the war on terror,” said Bush, who appeared emotional as he spoke near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to families and friends of those who died in the crash.
      All 40 passengers and crew members were killed after confronting hijackers aboard the Boeing 757 on the morning of September 11, 2001.
      The hijacked plane, widely believed to be targeting the White House or the U.S. Capitol, crashed in a field outside Shanksville…. – CNN, 9-10-11
    • Flight 93 Honored in Pennsylvania: The 40 passengers and crew who fought back against their hijackers aboard Flight 93, which crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 and never reached its target, were honored Saturday for their heroism in a ceremony dedicating the first phase of a memorial at the newest U.S. national park.
      “They never made it because of the determination and valor of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, that plane crashed in this field, less than 20 minutes by air” from Washington, D.C., where it appeared to be headed, said Jon Jarvis, director of the … – WSJ, 9-10-11
    • Obama, Bush, Clinton Remember Sept. 11: Former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for a ceremony dedicating a memorial to the victims of United Flight 93, which crashed into a field during the September 11th, 2001 attacks. … – Voice of America, 9-10-11
    • Obama tells NBC country is safer than it was 10 years ago: Reflecting on the 9/11 anniversary, President Obama told NBC News this morning that there is no doubt the United States is safer now that it was 10 years ago. He said this is a consequence of more effective homeland security and the US taking the fight…. – ABC News, 9-11-11
    • For 9/11 anniversary, Obama honors war dead at Arlington: President Barack Obama and first lady Michele Obama have visited Arlington National Cemetery where they paid tribute to members of the military killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
      One day before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Obamas made a pilgrimage to Section 60 of the cemetery. The White House says that’s the burial ground for military personnel killed in those two wars. Those conflicts have claimed 6,213 military personnel…. – The Virginian-Pilot, 9-10-11
    • George W. Bush lays wreath at Pentagon: Former President George W. Bush has paid silent tribute to Sept. 11 victims in a wreath-laying at the Pentagon.
      Bush was joined by his wife, Laura, as he placed a wreath of white flowers by the 9/11 memorial stone embedded in the wall outside Corridor 4. That’s near where hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building, killing 184 people.
      Also at Saturday’s brief ceremony were Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen…. – Politico, 9-10-11
    • September 11 commemorated by Obama in address: President Barack Obama commemorated Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in his weekly address Saturday, urging the nation to come together and remember those who lost their lives. “We’re remembering the lives we lost—nearly 3000…. – Politico, 9-11-11
    • Obama pays tribute to 9/11 victims, vows America will be vigilant in weekly address: President Obama will take part in the memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center site Sunday. How concerned are you about a terrorist plot? President Obama used his weekly address to pay tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept 11…. – New York Daily News, 9-10-11
    • President Marks 9/11 Anniversary in Weekly Address: President Barack Obama used his weekly address today to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and pay tribute to the first responders, the nation’s military members, and those who lost their lives…. – Department of Defense, 9-10-11
    • Remembering the audacity of the twin towers: The soaring twin towers of the World Trade Center became an affirmation of the American value of dreaming big. To the engineer who designed them, their loss on 9/11 remains heartbreaking, but he’s found the resilience to keep dreaming…. – CS Monitor, 9-10-11
    • How 9/11 looked from the air-traffic control center that saw it coming: The air-traffic controllers in ‘Boston Center’ – the facility that oversaw Flight 11 – speak of what happened on 9/11, from the confusion of the first moments to the frustration that military jets could not get to New York City faster…. – CS Monitor, 9-10-11
    • Witness: With President Bush after the planes hit on Sept 11: Two Reuters reporters traveled with George W. Bush on September 11, 2001 on what began as a feel-good trip to Florida to promote education.
      Here are some of their memories of that day, and those that followed, as they watched Bush’s evolution from the leader of a country enjoying peace and prosperity to a wartime president…. – Reuters, 9-11-11

Obama’s 9/11 speech: national unity, personal loss: Searching for unity long vanished since the day terrorists astonished America, President Barack Obama will hail national resilience and remember hurting families when he gives the main speech of his Sept. 11 commemorations.
Obama will honor victims at each of the sites where nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 2001 attacks — first at ground zero in lower Manhattan, then in Shanksville, Pa. and at the Pentagon. Yet his only address to the nation will come at night, lasting about 15 minutes during an event at the Kennedy Center in Washington…. – AP, 9-9-11


    • Richard Norton Smith, Michael Beschloss: Historians Discuss What’s Changed, What Hasn’t After 9/11: From Americans’ collective outrage and response right following the 9/11 attacks to today’s political divisions, Jeffrey Brown speaks with historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith about what has changed — and what hasn’t — in the United States since the 9/11 attacks…. – PBS Newshour, 9-121-11

RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Well, it’s interesting. We’ve been obsessed understandably with all that’s changed. A great deal has changed. We should begin by acknowledging that the greatest change obviously is for those who lost a loved one 10 years ago today or in the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Life will never be the same for them.
To the rest of us, there’s a certain amount of trauma. I think geography is a factor. I think if you live in New York, it’s much more real than if you’re in Terre Haute. Much of what has changed, like the proverbial iceberg, is beneath the surface. Government, we’re all thinking about this, the age of cutting back on government, the fact is government has been transformed, expanded by, I saw one estimate $600 billion has been spent over the last ten years on domestic security. New agencies have been created. Old agendas have been torn up.
On the other hand, think of what hasn’t changed. We had a brief moment of unity, of coming together, of common purpose, of collective outrage and a collective response. And that seems very much to be in the rear-view mirror….

Something I think we can take great pride in, and that is if you look back at earlier wars, World War I, World War II, along with the fervor, the patriotic ardor can come fear and civil liberties can be endangered. Famously, German-Americans came under attack during World War I. Sauerkraut was renamed liberty cabbage. Beethoven records were smashed in the streets of Cincinnati. There may be a direct connection between liberty cabbage and freedom fries, but I think there has been an enormous… um, we saw Ray’s piece earlier.

The danger, and I understand her concern, the fact is there will undoubtedly people who say, we’ve built the memorial. You know, we’ve dedicated this shrine, and as you said, there are other problems that are crowding for our attention. History is not static. And certainly not in as dynamic a society as this.
On the other hand, the issues surrounding 9/11, the questions arising out of 9/11, whether it’s civil liberties, for example, or the role of government in protecting us or projecting force around the world American foreign policy, all of those that have been filtered through 9/11 will be at the heart of this election, and so in that sense the conversation goes on.

Come back in 30 or 40 years and ask whether 9/11, in fact, was as some fear the beginning of a longer period of American decline or, in fact, a springboard to a new era of American greatness.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: That’s right, you know. And right after 9/11, people said and, you know, you sure wish it had come true, that we would never have the same kind of partisan antagonism we had before because 9/11 brought us all together as Americans. And this would be not only a different country and a different politics. Go back a couple months and take a look at that congressional fight over the debt crisis and you will see that 9/11 sadly did not change our politics in that way.

Well, I think to look at a positive one, it’s you know another thing we all talked about was living in America would never be the same again. That we would be afraid to go to shopping malls, to airports or to train stations or there would be a permanent sadness in some way. Those things have not turned out to be true. So anyone who thinks that there is something in our DNA that really does make this society a group of Americans I think has been proven right.

I think for instance we were talking earlier about our own memories on 9/11. I had just been to my younger son’s kindergarten. He was just about five years old, got in the car to go home and heard the first reports of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. He was almost five. Changed our lives. He doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t quite get it.

Well, I think one way of looking at it is you know what Churchill said about there is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result? We were hit on 9/11. It sure was not without result, but this country really has come back. And so, if you remember where we were ten years ago and compare that to now, I think really we should, while being very sad about what happened and those that lost their lives and their families, there’s an element of this about which we should feel exhilarated.

That is going to depend on how secure the world we live in is during the next couple of decades. If this turned out to be essentially one event, we conquered it then it will be almost a singular event in American history. But if we are living, and I’m afraid this may be true, with the scourge of terrorism through the rest of our lifetimes and beyond, this will be something that essentially opened our eyes to a reality that is going to always be there.

“The people who died on 9/11 weren’t members of the armed forces. They were civilians. They were normal people. That places this in a category all its own as a terrible, terrible day in American history. We’ve had a lot of terrible days in our history, but people never signed up for that…. It’s very visceral for a lot of people. We feel it with our guts, not our heads.” — Jonathan Earle, an associate professor of history at Kansas University

9/11 Left Permanent Scars on the American Psyche A moment in history unlike any other, experts say: “I’m a historian, not a psychologist, but I can tell you that 9/11 has affected the American mentality significantly on several fronts. Of course there’s been a loss of our sense of overall security. And there’s been a loss of our sense of preeminence in the world.
But I think 9/11 has collectively thrown us back, psychologically and politically, into a Cold War mentality. It’s the national belief, not seen since the early to mid-1980s, that we are now, again, in an intractable global struggle with no end in sight. And with that perception of increased vulnerability, there has also been a rise, which many Americans wouldn’t even necessarily realize has taken place, in our willingness to trade off civil liberties and privacy for measures that we believe will make us safer.
It’s very hard to make forecasts about how all this will all play out long-term. But you could argue that, looking back in 50 years, we’ll actually see 9/11 as a major turning point: A permanent change in the American sense of self.” — Ethan Katz, an assistant professor of history at the University of Cincinnati — MSN, 9-11-11

  • Teaching 9/11: How educators are responding 10 years later: Attempts to teach 9/11 has forced educators largely to abandon textbooks in favor of more flexible and vibrant resources – from online art to in-class presentations by witnesses…. – CS Monitor, 9-9-11
  • Teachers tackle lessons of 9/11: The question of when an event becomes history depends on who you ask, said John Johnson, a history professor at the University of Northern Iowa.
    “The sort of old-fashioned view is you need a great deal of perspective, and you probably should give a significant event like 9/11 quite a few years.”
    “I feel different. I believe the more modern view is the morning newspaper or the latest tweet is history.”
    “I would rather have professional historians weighing in on recent events along with everybody else, rather than saying, ‘As a historian, I can’t say anything for 10 years.'”
    “Revisionism is a reality of history, and it is one of the beauties of history because every event will mean different things to different generations and be looked at from different angles.” WCF Courier, 9-11-11

On This Day in History… September 11, 2001 Headlines: 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 Terror Attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, Pentagon & Flight 93


Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


25 Most Powerful Photos


On this day in history… September 11, 2001… Terrorists hijack two passenger planes crashing them into New York’s World Trade Towers causing the collapse of the 110-story twin towers& death of 2,752 people.
Terrorists hijack a passenger plane and crash it into the Pentagon causing the death of 125 people.
Attempt by passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 to retake control of their hijacked plane from terrorists causes plane to crash in Pennsylvania field killing all 64 people onboard.

September 11, 2001: The Pictures We Remember: One decade after 9/11, an unsettling number of images from Ground Zero and environs remain seared in our collective memory — unsurprising, perhaps, given the scope and scale of the destruction. But the fact that the deadliest, most visually arresting attacks occurred in New York City also meant that many of the world’s best photographers were, in effect, already on the scene when the terrorists struck. Here, to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and in hopes of lending coherence to our shared, turbulent recollections, LIFE.com presents the 25 most stirring, visceral photographs from that day, featuring pictures from the likes of James Nachtwey, Joe Raedle, Spencer Platt, Mario Tama, and other celebrated photojournalists (and one intrepid amateur). These are the pictures we remember: wrenching, indelible photographs that tell the tale of a still-resonant late summer day that changed everything….. READ MORE


A DAY OF TERROR: COMMUNICATIONS; A Flood of Anxious Calls Clog Phone Lines:
Terrorist attacks in New York City and at Pentagon cause significant but temporary disruptions in telephone service in Northeast; major telecommunications carriers say problem was caused not by physical damage but by network overloads as extraordinary numbers of people tried to make calls in aftermath of incident; handful of television stations are knocked from airwaves after loss of transmitter atop World Trade Cente….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE ARABS; Condemnations From Arab Governments, but Widely Different Attitudes on the Street:
Arab governments condemn terrorist attacks in United States, but there is something of sense of inevitability in region whose leaders have warned for months that American support for Israel could have violent consequences; some Arabs say terrorists may well be American, but intense speculation focuses on Osama bin Laden or related organizations; all Palestinian groups deny any involvement; photo of celebration in Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut….

NYC; When the Unimaginable Happens, and It’s Right Outside Your Window:
Clyde Haberman comments on terrorists’ destruction of World Trade Center, observing that Americans have now experienced what Israelis have to face every day….

A DAY OF TERROR; Bush’s Remarks to the Nation on the Terrorist Attacks:
Transcript of address to nation by Pres Bush following terrorists attacks against US using hijacked jetliners….

A DAY OF TERROR: FINAL MOMENTS; Solicitor General Got 2 Calls From Wife on Doomed Plane:
Theodore B Olson, solicitor general of US, relates two cell phone conversations he had with his wife Barbara after she had been herded into back of hijacked airplane that eventually smashed into Pentagon; says pilot was apparently with Barbara Olson in back of plane; says she was trying to do something….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE HOPES; Survivors Are Found In the Rubble:
Desperate efforts to rescue those trapped under tons of twisted rubble around towers of World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, which collapsed after they were rammed by hijacked jetliners, described….

BASEBALL; Cashman Accounts for Players as Stadium Is Evacuated:
New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman starts accounting for members of team who live in Manhattan, networking with others, on morning of terrorist attack of World Trade Center and Pentagon; Yankee Stadium is evacuated and closed….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Some New Yorkers voice intense anger at terrorist attacks; some express express shock at failure to prevent such attacks in first place….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Broker working on 55th floor of 2 World Trade Center describes making it to street, where he finds piece of paper listing airliner’s itinerary and information about flight from Boston to Los Angeles….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Roundup of personal accounts of people during morning rush hour as they learned of catastrophe at World Trade Center….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Ferry boat crew member recalls how on day before German tourists were exclaiming how beautiful World Trade Center is, and now it’s gone….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE RESPONSE; Rescue Workers Rush In, And Many Do Not Return:
Attempts by New York City firefighters to rescue occupants of World Trade Center towers after they are rammed by hijacked jetliners described; instinctive efforts may have cost many their lives; 200 remain unaccounted after explosions collapse two main towers onto first wave of rescuers as they snake through stairwells and hallways; loss may be worst disaster in New York City Fire Department’s history….

A DAY OF TERROR: INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES; Officials Say They Saw No Signs of Increased Terrorist Activity:
Counterterrorism officials say that electronic eavesdropping intercepts obtained in hours after attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon indicate that terrorist operation was carried out by militant Islamic organization headed by Osama bin Laden; say they had no precise warning of attack, even as civilian flight controllers apparently tracked commercial aircraft involved in attacks as they veered far from their normal flight paths over northeastern US; acknowledge failure to detect any sign…

A DAY OF TERROR: VULNERABILITY; Physical and Psychological Paralysis of Nation:
Attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon shut down much of United States, compelling Americans to acknowledge that nameless terrorists can engage in multiple acts of war inside world’s most powerful country; overwhelming desire to do something to help victims sweeps much of country, creating crowds at blood centers; many Americans at first demand quick response against terrorists only to have their anger smothered in shadows that surround their enemy….

A DAY OF TERROR: HOSPITALS; Pictures of Medical Readiness, Waiting and Hoping for Survivors to Fill Their Wards:
Comment on scene at New York City hospitals in aftermath of wholesale carnage at World Trade Center; at hospitals throughout lower Manhattan, hundreds of doctors and nurses work as though all are part of one bit MASH unnit, tending to wounded at front lines of war….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE BACKGROUND; A Trend Toward Attacks That Emphasize Deaths:
American civilians at home and abroad have been targets of largest and most destructive terrorist attacks of last quarter-century, including Pan Am flight 103, bombing of federal office building in Oklahoma City and bombing of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; terrorism experts say coordinated attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon are culmination of 20-year trend toward assaults that aim to kill many people in technically complex operations, often orchestrated by assailants….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT; Driven Underground, Administration and Congressional Officials Stay on the Job:
Terrorist attacks in Washington and New York using hijacked planes force top officials and quarter-million federal workers out of offices on Capitol Hill and drive government underground to secure retreats for much of day; Congressional leaders are evacuated to undisclosed secure location outside Washington following attack on Pentagon; later return with pledge of bipartisan solidarity; Pres Bush returns to White House from Florida, following zig-zag route through two successive Air Force bases….

A DAY OF TERROR: TRANSPORTATION; With City Transit Shut Down, New Yorkers Take to Eerily Empty Streets:
Subway services is shut down across New york City after terrorist attack on World Trade Center; buses, ferries, taxis and gypsy vans are overtaxed, and New Yorkers make their way through eerily empty streets on foot; photos show second plane slamming into south towe….

A DAY OF TERROR: TERRORIST VIGIL; Security Alerts Go Into Effect Across Nation:
Hundreds of thousands of workers in government buildings and prominent office towers across US are sent home early, leaving downtown areas large and small in wake of terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon….

A DAY OF TERROR: TRANSPORTATION; Left to Fend for Themselves, a Nation of Travelers Scrambles for Transit Options:
United States goes into gridlock as terrorist attacks in New York and Washington lead to virtual shutdown of nation’s transportation system, including grounding of every airplane in country; bus and train companies shut down as well….

The War Against America; The National Defense:
Editorial says terrorist attacks on New York and Washington make it imperative for nation to determine how an open and democratic society can better defend itself against terrorist threat that conventional armies and weapons cannot defeat; says nation must get better and more timely intelligence, which is best defense against terrorism, and light but lethal weapons to attack terrorist compounds in remote locations; says US must make it clear to its allies that they can no longer stand on sidelines…

A DAY OF TERROR: SECURITY; Boston’s Airport Security Is Described as Standard:
Investigators begin trying to pinpoint how terrorists managed to penetrate two airliners that set off from Logan International Airport in Boston and ultimately slammed into World Trade Center in New York; Logan’s level of security is considered typical of large international airports….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE WORRIES; Families and Friends Hoping for Reassurance Find Frustration and Anguish:
Comment on anguish and frustration felt by families and friends waiting for news about loved ones who were at World Trade Center…

Many Sporting Events Called Off or Postponed:
Terrorist attacks at World Trade Center and Pentagon cause cancellation or postponement of numerous sports events in US….

A DAY OF TERROR: SECURITY; Fear’s Ripple: Closing Down, Tightening Up:
Attack on World Trade Center prompts scores of other buildings and institutions near and far to close their doors, send workers home and take measures to heighten security; photo of grounded airliners at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airpor…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VICTIMS; Talk Show Figure and TV Producer Among Lost Passenger:
Among airline passengers killed in terrorist attack on World Trade Center are Berry Berenson, the photographer and widow of actor Tony Perkins, Barbara B Olson, talk show personality and wife of Solicitor General Theodore B Olson, and David Angell, executive producer of television show Frasier….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE AFGHANS; Condemning Attacks, Taliban Says bin Laden Not Involved:
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers condemn terrorist attacks on America and say Osama bin Laden, terrorist suspect they are sheltering, was not involved; contend they have insisted that bin Laden refrain from political and military activities while in Afghanistan, but American intelligence officials believe that bin Laden’s ties with Taliban are increasingly close and that his freedom of movement may have increased in recent months….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE WORLD’S REACTION; European Nations Stand With U.S., Ready to Respond:
World’s governments express solidarity with US as democracy under attack; European Union and NATO officials will meet to discuss common approach to battle against terrorism; European officials quietly discuss how to assist US if it engages in military action in retaliation; Pres Vladimir Putin of Russia expresses support for retaliation; comments by other European leaders note….

A DAY OF TERROR: CONGRESS; Horror Knows No Party As Lawmakers Huddle:
Dozens of members of Congress from both parties stand side by side on East Front of Capitol and declare they will stand united behind Pres Bush and not bow to attack on nation’s freedom; twilight tableau intended to help calm nation is capped with singing of God Bless America; Capitol and nearby Senate and House office buildings are evacuated earlier in day after assault on Pentagon….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE ECONOMY; A Tragedy Adds More Confusion To the Outlook For U.S. Economy:
World Trade Center tragedy cancels all forecasts about American economy, and whatever happens next in US, in turn, will inevitably affect global economic outlook; big issue, beyond huge initial costs of repairing damage caused by attack, centers on whether American consumers might stop spending until they know who is responsible for assaults and whether they might happen again

A DAY OF TERROR: IN THE CAPITAL; In the Day’s Attacks and Explosions, Official Washington Hears the Echoes of Earlier One:
Many of capital’s elder statesmen reach back to Pearl Harbor for apt comparison with terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon, and many of them regard Sept 11 attack as worse of the two; photo of members of Congress singing God Bless America….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE GOVERNMENT; Trying to Command an Emergency When the Emergency Command Center Is Gone:
New York City’s two-year-old Emergency Command Center, World Trade Center, is supposed to act as nerve center in any calamity but is rendered useless within minutes after hijacked jetliners crash into both towers of World Trade Center, causing their collapse; emergency officials say despite all planning that occurred after bombing in 1993, none of scenarios played out envisioned such a disaster, which had potential to kill all those responding….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE PSYCHOLOGY; Attackers Believed To Be Sane:
Experts on psychology of terrorism hold that attacks visited on New York and Washington were in all likelihood work of perfectly sane people, not madmen; studies suggest people willing to sacrifice their lives in such attack are almost never disturbed loners sometimes conjured by news media or by Hollywood films, but are almost always part of larger organization that has recruited them, tested their courage and trained them to carry out their missions with precision….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE TALK ONLINE; Web Offers Both News And Comfort:
Major news Web sites were quickly overloaded, and many links to not-so-major news sites stopped working as result shortly after terrorist attacks in New York City and at Pentagon using hijacked jetliners; sites served not only as sources of information but for conversations and forums about tragedy….

A DAY OF TERROR: VERBATIM; Bush Aides Speak Out On Attacks:
Excerpts from statements deploring terrorist attack on US using hijacked planes by Defense Sec Donald Rumsfeld, Transportation Sec Norman Mineta, Atty Gen John Ashcroft, House Speaker J Dennis Hastert and Senate majority leader Sen Tom Daschle….

Reaction From Around the World:
World reaction to terrorist attacks against World Trade Center and Pentagon, using hijacked jetliners, discussed….

Metro Matters; City Turns, Temporarily, Into a Small Town:
Crashing of jetliners by hijackers into World Trade Center in Manhattan is new degree of horror for New York City, which has had its share of traumatic experiences; reaction of residents demonstrates that city knows how to survive unspeakable trauma, turning itself into small town when visited by tragedy (Metro Matters)….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE ELECTIONS; Pataki Orders Postponement Of Primaries Across State:
Gov George E Pataki orders primary elections across New York State postponed indefinitely as city officials struggle to cope with terrorist attack on World Trade Center….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE AIRLINES; Scores of U.S.-Bound Planes Are Diverted to Canadian Airports:
Scores of planes from around world are redirected to Canadian airports as United States closes its airspace after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington; domestic Canadian airlines cancel all flights as airports prepare to accept diverted airplanes….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE MEASUREMENT; Columbia’s Seismographs Log Quake-Level Impacts:
Crash of two hijacked planes into World Trade Center in Manhattan and collapse of two towers create shock waves that register on sensitive instruments at Columbia University meant to monitor earthquakes….

BASEBALL; Mets Wait on Word: No makeup date has been determined for game between New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates canceled in wake of attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Former Sen George Mitchell, man with long experience trying to defuse terrorism in Northern Ireland and Middle East, finds himself waiting for subway train at 168th Street and Broadway, trying to get home; his flight to Washington from La Guardia was canceled because of World Trade Center disaster; he describes such a terrorist act as being ‘war itself’….

A DAY OF TERROR; Calling for Help Or to Give Help:
At least three businesses in trade center set up phone numbers for those looking for friends or relatives: Morgan Stanley, largest tenant with 3,500 employees, Empire Blue Cross and Aon Risk Services

U.S. ATTACKED; President Vows to Exact Punishment for ‘Evil’:
Hijackers ram two jetliners into World Trade Center towers in New York City, eventually toppling them in hellish storm of ash, glass, smoke and leaping victims; third plane crashes into Pentagon in Virginia, and fourth plunges to ground near Pittsburgh; military is put on highest state of alert; National Guard units are called out in Washington and New York; two aircraft carriers are dispatched to New York harbor; Pres Bush, who remained aloft on Air Force One shortly after attacks, later addressed…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE FEDERAL RESERVE; The Financial World Is Left Reeling by Attack:
US Government, concerned that terrorist attack could ignite economic and financial problems in US and around world, scrambles to reassure markets and keep global slowdown from becoming something worse; Federal Reserve issues statement saying it is operating as normal and is making credit available to banks that might need it; banks report no major problems, and financial markets are closed, masking what could be considerable difficulties whenever they reopen; markets will remain closed Sept 12…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE MILITARY; U.S. Armed Forces Are Ordered on Highest State of Alert to Protect and Reassure:
Jet fighters fly patrols over New York and Washington, and warships steam along Atlantic and Pacific coasts in case they are needed to protect major cities and landmarks from another wave of suicide attacks; military officials appear before reporters in effort to assure public that damage to Pentagon has not diminished military’s ability to carry out its mission; say search for survivors at Pentagon will take priority over retaliation; every member of US armed forces and every installation….

THE PRESIDENT; A Somber Bush Says Terrorism Cannot Prevail:
Pres Bush vows to retaliate against those responsible for terrorist attacks on New York and Washington; addresses nation from Oval Office; declares he will make no distinction between terrorists who hijacked passenger jetliners and crashed them into World Trade Center and Pentagon and those who harbor them; says terrorist acts cannot touch foundation of America; says America saw evil and very worst of human nature….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE OPERATION; Terrorism Carefully Synchronized and Devastatingly Effective:
Simultaneous highjacking of four airliners and successful use of three of them as flying bombs against World Trade Center and Pentagon represent ingenious marriage of old-school hijacking and ever-more-familiar suicide bomb; terrorists managed to board flights undetected, overcome flight attendants, penetrate cockpits and put one of their own in control of aircraft; synchronization of attacks in New York and Washington noted….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE REACTION; Absorbing a Blow to the Heart of America’s Financial Center:
Many corporations, reeling from attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon, suspend operations, closing offices, scrambling plans and struggling to maintain contact with workers; business on Wall Street and in much of downtown New York comes to halt, and offices in major cities are evacuated; Morgan Stanley employs some 3,500 people in World Trade Center, many at its individual-investor operations….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Passengers on US Airways flight circling over Westchester County (NY), waiting to land at La Guardia Airport, react to captain informing them they will be unable to land at La Guardia because an American Airlines Boeing 767 had crashed into World Trade Center…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
John L Tishman, chmn of Tishman Realty and Construction Company, which served as construction manager of World Trade Center three decades ago, joins other Tishman executives in watching disaster unfold at World Trade Center; as South Tower crumbles, Tishman is speechless, and later, wordlessly, goes home….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
New Jersey residents view attack on World Trade Center as speechless and helpless spectators….

A DAY OF TERROR: AN ASSESSMENT; When an Open Society Is Wielded as a Weapon Against Itself:
News analysis of terrorist attacks against US; by hijacking civilian airliners and ramming them into World Trade Center and Pentagon, ‘new kamikazes’ of 21st century used very accessibility of an open society as weapon against it; lesson seems to be that even superior military power is vulnerable and may have inadequate defense against terrorism….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE TIES; In U.S., Echoes of Rift Of Muslims and Jews:
Muslims and Arab-Americans across US brace for repercussions from terrorist attacks on New York and Washington even though there is no definitive information yet about who was behind them; attack resonates particularly among Muslims and Jews, whose kin in Middle East are locked in bitter battle; Muslims struggle to assert their identities as loyal American citizens and to say their religion does not approve of violence against innocents; Jews, meanwhile, cannot help linking victimization of Ameican….

A DAY OF TERROR: WASHINGTON; Stunned Tourists, Gridlocked Streets, Fleeing and Fear: White House and Old Executive Building are frantically evacated as government-wide security alert spreads across Washington in wake of terrorist attack on Pentagon; bureaucrats and other workers run screaming down Pennsylvania Avenue; traffic gridlock grips city; city eventually empties to await return of Pres Bush, and eerie mood prevails as armored vehicles and military policemen take posts at key intersections downtown….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Cab driver who emigrated from Egypt nine years ago responds to terrorist attack by expressing his love for America, observing that it is country that tries to help everybody….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Woman working on 82nd floor of World Trade Center, who had been in building during 1993 explosion, describes how after making it down staircase to street, she experienced horror of seeing mangled and dismembered bodies….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Harriet Cordero, who repairs office equipment, was supposed to go to World Trade Center at 9 am to repair postal machine for company there, but she decided to stop first to make another service call at an office building on Broadway–decision that most likely saved her life….

A DAY OF TERROR; Some Embassies to Stay Closed Today:
At least 12 American embassies to remain closed on Sept 12 in wake of terrorist attacks at home….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE VOICES; Personal Accounts of a Morning Rush That Became the Unthinkable:
Reaction of passengers on train heading to Pennsylvania Station upon seeing World Trade Center towers in flames….

Living Up to ‘Bravest’ and ‘Finest’ Slogans:
Photo of people standing on window ledges of World Trade Center’s north tower as it burns; photos of firefighters exhausted from their labors and mourning lost colleagues….

Article describes scenes of horror in Lower Manhattan after World Trade Center towers were rammed by two hijacked jetliners….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE REACTION; A Tough City Is Swept by Anger, Despair and Helplessness:
Article describes mood in Manhattan following crashing of two hijacked jetliners into towers of World Trade Center; New Yorkers become united; are emotional and easily moved to sudden tears as well as acts of kindnesses….

A DAY OF TERROR: NEWS ANALYSIS; Awaiting the Aftershocks:
News analysis of terrorist attacks on World Trade Center towers in New York City and on Pentagon with hijacked jetliners; devastating and astonishingly well-coordinated attacks plunge nation into warlike struggle against enemy that will be hard to identify and certainly hard to punish with precision; sense of security and self-confidence that Americans take as birthright suffers grievous blow, from which recovery will be slow….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE BUILDINGS; Towers Believed to Be Safe Proved Vulnerable to an Intense Jet Fuel Fire, Experts Say:
Experts in skyscraper design say cause of collapse of twin towers of World Trade Center in Manhattan following crash by hijacked jetliners was most likely intense fire fed by thousands of gallons of jet fuel; high temperatures of perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 degrees probably weakened steel supports, causing external walls to buckle and floors above to fall straight down–leading to catastrophic failures of rest of buildings….

A DAY OF TERROR: ATTACK ON MILITARY; A Hijacked Boeing 757 Slams Into the Pentagon, Halting the Government:
Hijackers slam Boeing 757 jetliner into Pentagon, triggering thunderous explosion and fierce fires at defense complex and killing and wounding unknown number of people; surprise assault, first in history of 58-year-old building, is within hour of attack on World Trade Center towers in New York City; American Airlines Boeing 757 jetliner with 58 passengers and six crew members is used in attack; fuel-laden plane, diverted while on Washington-Los Angeles flight, slams into west wall of five-sided…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE MARKETS; Stocks Tumble Abroad; Exchanges in New York Never Opened for the Day:
Financial markets plunge in Europe and Latin America before trading is halted after attacks that destroy World Trade Center and damage Pentagon; American markets do not open and will remain closed Sept 12; it will be first time that news has kept New York Stock Exchange closed for two full days since Great Depression; stocks fall 4.6 percent in Spain and 8.5 percent in Germany; price of Brent crude oil for November delivery jumps to $28.87 per barrel, up $1.50; price of gold at afternoon fixing…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE MEDIA; As an Attack Unfolds, A Struggle to Provide Vivid Images to Homes:
Article appraises news coverage of terrorist attacks against World Trade Center and Pentagon with hijacked jetliners….

BASEBALL; Selig, in a Sense of Mourning, Cancels Baseball Games:
Major League Baseball Comr Bud Selig calls off full schedule of 15 games and says he will make subsequent decisions on future games in wake of terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon; it is third time in history that warlike act prompted postponement of major league games; Selig comment….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE MILITANT; America the Vulnerable Meets a Ruthless Enemy:
Terrorist attacks against World Trade Center and against Pentagon, using hijacked airliners and possibly killing thousands, underscores vulnerability of world’s only superpower that has been concern of American defense experts, but has been studied and celebrated by many of terrorist groups that are on list of suspects believed responsible for attacks…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE RIVERS; A Battered Retreat On Bridges To the East:
Survivors of disaster at World Trade Center make exodus over East River bridges to get out of lower Manhattan; they walk in bewilderment and fear, many covered with ash; the strong try to assist the weak; photo of scene on Queensboro Bridge….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE AIRLINES; For the First Time, the Nation’s Entire Airspace Is Shut Down:
Federal Aviation Administration shuts down airspace over United States to commercial traffic minutes after two commercial jets slam into World Trade Center, first time government has taken such drastic step; all planes on ground are barred from taking off, and those in air are given option of continuing to their intended destinations or diverting to nearest airport; most airlines order their plans to land as soon as possible, placing thousands of passengers far away from where they intended to …

A DAY OF TERROR: THE SCHOOLS; Parents Converge to Take Students Home, and Officials Seek to Keep Safe Those Who Remain:
Parents converge on schools to take their children home, or phone their children to tell them that their mothers or fathers are all right; school officials seek to keep safe those children who remain….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE THREAT; Bush Aides Say Attacks Don’t Recast Shield Debate:
Bush administration aides say terrorist attacks against US using hijacked jetliners should not recast debate over usefulness of proposed missile defense system since shield, which is centerpiece of administration’s national security planning, even though proposed shield could not prevent kind of assaults that occurred on World Trade Center and Pentagon….

WILLIAM SAFIRE: Essay; New Day Of Infamy:
William Safire Op-Ed column holds that US must pulverize bases and camps of groups responsible for attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon once their identities are reasonably ascertained; says piloting expertise needed to slam airliners into targets suggests connection with Egyptair crash of 1999; says US intelligence agencies will need a shakeup; praises New York State Governor George E Pataki and Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani for sticking to their posts and reassuring citizens, and says Pres Bush…

A DAY OF TERROR: THE AIRPORTS; Security Long a Concern At United States Airports:
Investigators say terrorists who hijacked four airplanes from three airports on Sept 11 exploited inadequacies in security that they have been warning about for more than a decade….

The War Against America; An Unfathomable Attack:
Editorial says unfathomable terrorist attack on World Trade Center and Pentagon is one of those moments in which history splits and we define the world as ‘before’ and ‘after’; says that if four planes can be taken over simultaneously by suicidal hijackers, then Americans can never be quite sure again that any bad intention can be thwarted, no matter how irrational or loathsome; says it will be hard to match desire for retribution with need for certainty and with knowledge that lives of civilians….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE ISRAELIS; Spilled Blood Is Seen as Bond That Draws 2 Nations Closer:
Israeli officials and most Palestinian leaders, including Yasir Arafat, condemn terrorist attack on United States, but Israelis also take cold comfort in concluding that Americans will now share more of their fears, while some Palestinians rejoice at same thought; big crowds of Palestinians march in celebration in Nablus on West Bank….

A DAY OF TERROR: CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK; Live Images Make Viewers Witnesses to Horror:
Critic’s Notebook column appraises television coverage of collapse of World Trade Center towers after terrorists attacked them with hijacked jetliners….

A DAY OF TERROR: THE WARNINGS; Years of Unheeded Alarms:
Terrorist attacks against US using hijacked airliners come after years of debate among experts, who have warned repeatedly of country’s vulnerability to such attacks; alarms have generally gone unheeded….

A DAY OF TERROR: SCHEDULES; Disruptions and Closings Are Expected to Continue: Lower Manhattan is expected to remain cut off from rest of city on Sept 12, and schools and stock exchanges will be closed; subways, streets and bridges leading to Lower Manhattan are also expected to remain closed; other disruptions related to destruction of World Trade Center noted…..

A DAY OF TERROR: DISASTER PLANNING; Attacks Halt Meeting: Terrorst assaults in New York and Washington, DC, halt annual meeting, Big Sky, Mont, of officials of Federal Emergency Management Agency where one of topics was how to prepare for terrorist attacks….


On This Day in History, September 11, 2001… President George W. Bush’s Address to the Nation after Terror Attacks (Full Text)


Day in History


With retired firefighter Bob Beckwith standing next to him, President George W. Bush uses a bullhorn to address rescue workers Sept. 14, 2001, at Ground Zero, the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. White House photo by Eric Draper

With retired firefighter Bob Beckwith standing next to him, President George W. Bush uses a bullhorn to address rescue workers Sept. 14, 2001, at Ground Zero, the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush’s Address to the Nation after Terror Attacks September 11, 2011

The following is the official White House transcript of the speech given by President George W. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Good evening. Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes, or in their offices; secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers; moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

Full Text August 29, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Hurricane Katrina’s 6th Anniversary




Statement from President Obama on the Six Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Source: WH, 8-29-11

Six years ago today, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, upending families and ravaging communities – and no one will forget the tragic events of those days.  But what’s required of us is more than remembrance – what’s required of us is our continued efforts to make sure that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast fully recover, and to make sure that our response to such disasters is the best it can possibly be.

Over the past several years, we’ve seen what Americans are capable of when tested.  We’ve seen the grit and determination of people on the Gulf Coast coming together to rebuild their communities, brick by brick, block by block.  At the same time, we’ve made sure the federal government is doing its part to help.  We’ve cut through red tape to free up funding for recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.  We’ve taken steps to help school systems get children the tools and resources they need for a proper education.  We’ve broken through gridlock on behalf of tens of thousands of displaced families, making sure they have long-term housing solutions. And we’ll keep at it until these communities have come back stronger than before.

When it comes to disaster response, we’ve worked very seriously to enhance our preparedness efforts so that Americans are ready before disaster strikes, and to strengthen our recovery capabilities so that we’re more resilient after disaster strikes.  Over the last week, we have experienced the power of another storm, Hurricane Irene.  Before the storm made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA worked closely with our state and local partners to preposition supplies and teams of first responders, and support their response efforts. Those response efforts are ongoing and we will continue that partnership, responding as quickly and effectively as possible, for as long as necessary, until the affected communities are back on their feet.

Today is a reminder of not just the immediate devastation that can be caused by these storms, but the long term needs of communities impacted by disasters – whether in Mississippi or Alabama, Tennessee or Missouri, North Dakota, or the east coast states impacted by Hurricane Irene. This Administration will stand by those communities until the work is done.

On This Day in History…. June 13, 1971: NYT Publishes “Pentagon Papers” 40 Years Later Declassified


Day in History

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


Donal F. Holway/The New York Times

Daniel Ellsberg, outside a federal courthouse in 1971, faced 12 felony counts as a result of his leak of the Pentagon Papers; the charges were dismissed in 1973.


On June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a documentary history tracing the ultimately doomed involvement of the United States in a grinding war in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
They demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance.
The Government sought and won a court order restraining further publication after three articles had appeared. Other newspapers then began publishing. They, too, were restrained, until finally, on June 30, 1971, the United States Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of 6 to 3, that publication could resume.
Forty years later to the day June 13, 2011 the government has declassified the entire Pentagon Papers, and will be releasing them, giving the public and historians the opportunity to read the entire 7000 page document in its proper order and without ommisssions, with the exception of 11 words. — (Adapted from the NYT)


  • Pentagon Papers Online: Full Text 
  • (The original front page story on the Pentagon Papers of the Washington Post from the Pentagon Papers here and here.)


    • 40 years after leak, the Pentagon Papers are out: Call it the granddaddy of WikiLeaks. Four decades ago, a young defense analyst leaked a top-secret study packed with damaging revelations about America’s conduct of the Vietnam War.
      On Monday, that study, dubbed the Pentagon Papers, finally came out in complete form. It’s a touchstone for whistleblowers everywhere and just the sort of leak that gives presidents fits to this day.
      The documents show that almost from the opening lines, it was apparent that the authors knew they had produced a hornet’s nest…. – AP, 6-13-11 
    • After 40 Years, the Complete Pentagon Papers: It may be a first in the annals of government secrecy: Declassifying documents to mark the anniversary of their leak to the press. But that is what will happen Monday, when the federal government plans to finally release the secret government study of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers 40 years after it was first published by The New York Times.
      Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, said the report should not have been secret even in 1971.
      At first blush, it sounds like the release of one of the worst-kept secrets in history — finally unlocking the barn door four decades after the horses bolted. The study, after all, has already been published by The Times and other newspapers, resulting in a landmark First Amendment decision by the Supreme Court. It has been released in book form more than once. But it turns out that those texts have been incomplete: When all 7,000 pages are released Monday, officials say, the study can finally be read in its original form.
      That it took until the era of WikiLeaks for the government to declassify the Pentagon Papers struck some participants as, to say the least, curious…. – NYT, 6-13-11 
    • Pentagon Papers to be declassified at last: The disclosure of the Pentagon Papers four decades ago stands as one of the most significant leaks of classified material in American history. Ever since, in the eyes of the government, the voluminous record of U.S. involvement in Vietnam has remained something else: classified.
      In the Byzantine realm of government record-keeping, publication of a document in the country’s biggest newspapers, including this one, does not mean declassification. Despite the release of multiple versions of the Pentagon Papers, no complete, fully unredacted text has ever been publicly disclosed.
      On Monday, the National Archives and Records Administration will change that, as it officially declassifies the papers 40 years to the day after portions were first disclosed by the New York Times. In doing so, and in making the papers available online, the Archives could provide researchers with a more holistic way of understanding a remarkable chapter of U.S. history.
      It could also bring a small measure of solace to advocates of open government frustrated by what they see as the overzealous classification of important documents. They note that tens of thousands of the classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks also remain classified…. – WaPo, 6-13-11 
    • Pentagon Papers declassified today. Will we learn any shocking new secrets?: The release 40 years ago of the Pentagon Papers, which showed how several presidential administrations had misled Americans about their intentions in Vietnam, was a historic moment. Now, people can read the report just as government officials themselves saw it.
      The US government is releasing the Pentagon Papers in their entirety on Monday. This 7,000 page report, known formally as the “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” is one of the most famous secret documents in the nation’s history.
      It is also a secret document that was poorly kept, as RAND researcher Daniel Ellsberg leaked much of it to The New York Times – a dramatic act of defiance that bolstered freedom of the press after the Supreme Court voted to allow the Pentagon Papers’ publication.
      Stories based on the report began appearing in the Times 40 years ago today. Given that much of it has been public for so long, will we learn any new secrets from today’s release of the entire project?
      Well, for one thing, historians will now get to view the Pentagon Papers in their proper order, with all supporting volumes, as top government officials themselves saw it.
      “The fact of the matter is that no one, outside the people properly cleared to view top secret, has seen the real Pentagon Papers,” says the National Declassification Center on its blog…. – CS Monitor, 6-13-11 
    • The Pentagon Papers are released in full to the public: On Monday the National Archives released all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, the explosive documents that detailed four administrations’ worth of deception on Vietnam. Some of the content has been public since 1971, and the release is not likely to reveal many new secrets. But this is the first time that Americans can read the papers in full without a security clearance.
      Officially known as the “Report of the OSD Vietnam Task Force,” the Pentagon Papers were a secret analysis of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The papers showed that while U.S. leaders said one thing about the conflict publicly, they were thinking something entirely different behind closed doors.
      Forty years ago today, the New York Times first published excerpts of the papers. Daniel Ellsberg, the task force participant who leaked the documents, believes they still have something to teach. He recently told the Times that the papers show that Congress, not presidents, should have the power to make war…. – WaPo, 6-13-11 
    • Pentagon Papers to be fully declassified: The Pentagon Papers, a window into U.S. action in Vietnam that has been officially closed for decades, will be declassified, the National Archives said.
      The National Archives and the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Presidential Libraries Monday “will release in its entirety the official Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force (commonly referred to as the Pentagon Papers),” the Archives said in a release Thursday.
      “This is the 40th anniversary of the leak of these Papers by The New York Times. Approximately 2,384 pages or 34 percent of the report will be opened for the first time as compared to the Senator (Mike) Gravel (D-Alaska) Edition of the Pentagon Papers, the most common benchmark used in Pentagon Papers discussions,” the release said.
      While some sections of the documents were leaked to the press, no complete, fully unredacted version of the text has ever been released to the public, The New York Times reported.
      “This was a secret history project to try to figure out why we were in such a national security tangle,” Timothy Naftali, director of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, told the Times. “And now with all the material together in one place, you can see how our government wrestled with the problem.”
      “The fact that the Pentagon Papers were still secret is an embarrassment to the United States government,” said John Prados, senior fellow at George Washington University’s National Security Archive. “You’ve been able to read them for 40 years, but they’re still secret.” – UPI, 6-10-11 
    • Tim Naftali: Nixon Library to make Pentagon Papers public: After more than 40 years, the federal government has declassified the Pentagon Papers, and the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum will be one of the first institutions to make the document available.
      The Nixon Library already has a copy in the vault that was part of President Richard M. Nixon’s papers. It will be released at 9 a.m., June 13, 40 years to the day that leaked portions of the report were printed on the front page of The New York Times, near a picture of Nixon accompanying his daughter Tricia on her wedding day.
      Until now, the public has been able to read only the relatively small portions of the report that were leaked, including what Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg gave to the press and volumes that were read into the Congressional record by then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.
      “On June 13, you can look at and touch the Vietnam Task Force Study,” library Director Tim Naftali said, referring to the report’s formal name. “You can see how the authors intended it to be read.”
      The public will be able to read all 7,000 pages except for 11 words on one sheet that federal agencies refused to declassify.
      Naftali said he didn’t know what those 11 words are…. – – OC Register, 5-27-11 
    • Eleven Words in Pentagon Papers to Remain Classified: The Pentagon Papers that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg four decades ago have been formally declassified and will be released in their entirety next month — except for eleven words that remain classified.
      David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, announced the surprising exception to the upcoming release of the Papers at a meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board on May 26.
      The nature of the censored words was not described, but the National Declassification Center said on its blog that all eleven of them appeared on a single page. The Center also said that the release next month “will present the American public with the first real look at this historic document,” because it will be more complete and accurate than any prior edition of the Papers.
      From a security policy point of view, the decision to maintain the classification of eleven words is questionable because it invites attention and speculation, not to mention ridicule, focused precisely on that which is withheld…. – FAS, 5-26-11


    • Fredrik Logevall: Today’s Release of Pentagon Papers Has ‘Contemporary Resonance,’ Says Cornell History Professor: Fredrik Logevall, Cornell University professor of history, is a leading historian of the Vietnam War. He is the author of several books on the Vietnam War, including “Twilight War,” to be released by Random House in early 2012.
      “The leak of portions of the Pentagon Papers forty years ago by Daniel Ellsberg showed clearly the degree to which the Johnson administration concealed from the public and from Congress its grim assessment of the situation on the ground in the South Vietnam, and its plans for escalation. Lyndon Johnson and many of his aides in 1964-65 doubted that the outcome in Vietnam really mattered to U.S. security, yet they Americanized the war anyway, the papers show.
      “We also know that Nixon’s view of Ellsberg’s action was initially mixed. He relished the thought that people would know of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ secret escalation, but he feared that his own secret policies would be revealed, notably his bombing of Cambodia. Nixon’s attempt to block publication had a boomerang effect and only increased the publicity surrounding the story. Ultimately, the leak and his response to it would play a role in his downfall.
      “The issue also has contemporary resonance, with Wikileaks and the Obama administration’s response similar to that of the Nixon administration forty years ago. In both instances the government charged that the leakers were guilty of stealing government property, that by their actions they had endangered U.S. national security, and that they should be tried under the Espionage Act.” – Newswise, 6-13-11 
    • 40 Years After Leak, Weighing the Impact of the Pentagon Papers: In 1971, parts of a secret Pentagon report began to surface in The New York Times calling the Vietnam War’s validity into question. Forty years later, the Pentagon Papers were declassified and released in full Monday. Jeffrey Brown discusses the leak’s significance with historian Michael Beschloss and journalist Sanford Ungar…. – PBS Newshour, 6-13-11 
    • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Well, people had — many people who were critics of the war had a lot of their worse suspicions confirmed, that the Johnson administration had been very secretive and had not told the truth about key episode, and also learned about other things, like the Kennedy administration’s involvement in the coup that led to the assassination of President Diem in November of 1963.
      But the more shocking thing was this. You know, before 1971, there was a feeling that government documents that were leaked or stolen or published against the will of the government, that was something the Soviet foreign agents did. That was something Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs did.
      In fact, the Pumpkin Papers is one reason why the Alger Hiss archive, one reason why this was called the Pentagon Papers, so there was that connection. But this was the first time that this was really seen as an episode of patriotism. And ever since 1971, we have begun to believe the idea of a crusader who finds government secrets that shouldn’t be secret, gives them to the public.
      Shortly after this was Watergate. We saw what bad secrets government can really keep…….Of the Plumbers, this squad that the Nixon administration organized to go after leaks like this.
      And it is almost poetic. Almost exactly a year after the Pentagon Papers were published was the Watergate break-in, June of 1972. Richard Nixon has this famous meeting with H.R. Haldeman in which he’s using government secrecy to cloak a crime. He is telling Haldeman, use the — tell the CIA and the FBI to stay the hell out of this.
      This was national security — exactly what people feared would happen and exactly the argument that they made for opening these secrets….

      …Well, the irony that it was The New York Times that first did this, because, in 1961, exactly a decade earlier, John Kennedy went to the publisher of The New York Times, who had told him that we have got this information that you are planning an attack on Castro’s Cub at the Bay of Pigs. Do you want us to publish or not? Kennedy said, please don’t. The Times said, OK, we won’t.
      Later on, Kennedy said, I wished you had published it, because it would have stop head this fiasco from happening.
      That is how much things have changed.
      Nowadays, I would say that, for a publisher who is a boss of editors and reporters who come across information like this, the burden is much more on the government to show why something like this will cost lives or directly jeopardize American national security.
      And, oftentimes, if the government makes that argument, they do not win. In the old days, they almost always did…. – PBS Newshour, 6-13-11


    • James Rosen: Five Myths About the Pentagon Papers: For his book about the Nixon presidency, The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate (2008), Fox News Washington Correspondent James Rosen intensively researched the Pentagon Papers and interviewed many of the key players in the case. Among them was Daniel Ellsberg, the disaffected former Marine and Defense Department consultant who turned against the Vietnam War and leaked the documents to the New York Times. The Times’ series of excerpts from the top-secret study began forty years ago Monday, triggering both a historic Supreme Court ruling on the scope and limits of press freedoms and also the domestic spying that resulted in President Nixon’s resignation. Here, James examines five prevalent myths about the Pentagon Papers.
The July 1, 1971, front page of The New York Times.

On This Day in History May 25, 1961… 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Moon Speech to Congress


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.




On this day in history… May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced in an address to a joint session of Congress his goal of sending and putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Stating “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”


  • President Kennedy’s Speech and America’s Next Moonshot Moment: President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961. Photo Credit: NASA
    This journey into the future has its foundations 50 years in the past, when President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge that transformed the tentative early steps of human spaceflight into a giant leap for mankind.
    In just a short six weeks in the spring of 1961, a trio of dramatic events set the stage for our first journey to another world: Soviet Yuri Gagarin’s first human spaceflight on April 12, was followed on May 5 by Alan Shepard’s first American flight. Then, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy went to Congress for an address on “Urgent National Needs.”
    Kennedy told Congress and the nation that “space is open to us now,” and said that space exploration “may hold the key to our future here on Earth.” Then he issued an audacious challenge to NASA that seemed unthinkable after just a single U.S. spaceflight… – Nasa.gov, 5-25-11
  • Race to Space, Through the Lens of Time: On the 12th, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth — one more space triumph for the Soviet Union. Though the flight was not unexpected, it was nonetheless deflating; it would be more than a month before Alan Shepard became the first American in space, and that was on a 15-minute suborbital flight. On the 17th, a force of anti-Castro exiles, trained by the C.I.A., invaded communist Cuba at the Bay of Pigs — a fiasco within 36 hours. Mr. Kennedy’s close aide Theodore Sorensen described him on the 19th as “anguished and fatigued” and “in the most emotional, self-critical state I had ever seen him.”
    At one meeting, his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney general, “turned on everybody,” it was reported, saying: “All you bright fellows. You got the president into this. We’ve got to do something to show the Russians we are not paper tigers.” At another, the president pleaded: “If somebody can, just tell me how to catch up. Let’s find somebody — anybody. I don’t care if it’s the janitor over there.” Heading back to the Oval Office, he told Mr. Sorensen, “There’s nothing more important.”
    So, 50 years ago, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, declaring: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
    There it was, the challenge flung before an adversary and to a nation on edge in an unconventional war, the beginning of Project Apollo.
    Echoes of this time lift off the pages of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillan), a new book by John M. Logsdon, a political scientist and longtime space policy specialist at George Washington University. He has drawn on new research in archives, oral histories and memoirs available in recent years to shed new light on the moon race.
    The famous speech came after five weeks of hand wringing, back-channel memos and closed-door conferences, often overseen by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. In those meetings NASA and Pentagon officials, scientists and engineers, budget analysts and others decided that sending astronauts to the Moon by the end of the sixties was the country’s best shot at overcoming the Soviet post-Sputnik command of the orbital front in the cold war…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • The Moon and Man at 50: Why JFK’s Space Exploration Speech Still Resonates: Fifty years ago today (May 25), President John F. Kennedy presented NASA and the nation with a historic challenge: To put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s.
    Kennedy’s dramatic 1961 speech jump-started NASA’s Apollo program, a full-bore race to the moon that succeeded when Neil Armstrong’s boot clomped down into the lunar dirt on July 20, 1969. The moon landing was a tremendous achievement for humanity and a huge boost to American technological pride, which had been seriously wounded by several recent space race defeats to the Soviet Union.
    The impact of Kennedy’s words lingers still, long after Apollo came to an end in 1972. The speech fundamentally changed NASA, ramping up the space agency’s public profile and creating a huge infrastructure that continues to exist today. [Photos: John F. Kennedy’s NASA Legacy]
    “This is the most significant decision made by our national political leaders in relation to space activities,” said Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. In addition to starting up humanity’s first journey to another world, he added, “it transformed NASA into a big space-spectacular agency, which it wasn’t before.”
    Kennedy made his speech before a special joint session of Congress just four months after being sworn in as president. Filled with proposed policy initiatives (the moon challenge being the last and most dramatic of these), the address was an attempt to get his presidency on track after a very bumpy start…. – Space.com, 5-25-11
  • The 1961 JFK Speech That Sparked ‘Apollo’ and Led Space Exploration to New Heights: NASA’s exploration solidified scientific understanding of moon’s formation and planetary science.
    Fifty years ago, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
    His vision became NASA’s Apollo program, which conducted six successful manned lunar landings during 1969-72 and brought the crews and the moon rocks that they collected safely home. As Kennedy intended, the Apollo program established the nation’s preeminence in spaceflight, but it also produced a revolution in scientific understanding of the moon, sparking a debate that continues today about the relative merits of manned and robotic exploration.
    Kennedy’s call to action was viewed as a largely geopolitical maneuver, intended to achieve U.S. supremacy in rocketry and space travel at a time when the Soviet Union had gained a huge head start by launching Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, and Yuri Gagarin — the first man to orbit Earth. There were defense implications: rockets that launch manned capsules into orbit could also propel nuclear weapons across intercontinental distances.
    Whether Apollo had a strong scientific purpose at first or not, the president’s speech “was tremendously influential,” said retired astronomer William E. Howard, who served in military, academic, and intelligence organizations. “[It] inspired a lot of people to go into science.”… – Fox News, 5-25-11
  • JFK’s Man-on-Moon Dream Shown on Tapes to Be Offset by Worry Over Stunt: Then U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives a speech on the nation’s space effort before a special session of Congress in Washington, on May 25, 1961. Source: AFP/Getty Images
    John F. Kennedy’s call to send a man to the moon symbolized the soaring ambition associated with his presidency. In private, he was more a cold-eyed realist, concerned that the mission would be dismissed as a costly “stunt” and might be better recast as a military venture.
    A presidential recording to be released today by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum reveals a Kennedy conversation in the Oval Office with then-NASA administrator James Webb in which the president expresses doubts that belie his public promotion of manned space travel.
    “This looks like a hell of a lot of dough to go to the moon,” Kennedy told Webb at the September 1963 meeting.
    The release marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, in which he said the U.S. should commit within the decade to “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” Kennedy said.
    Two years after that address, the president was confronting budget issues as he was contemplating his 1964 re-election campaign, acknowledging that the moon mission probably wouldn’t be accomplished during his time in office.
    His conversation with Webb took place on Sept. 18, 1963, two months before the president was assassinated in Dallas…. – Bloomberg, 5-25-11
  • JFK had doubts about moon landing Questioned costs, voters’ reactions: “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. “I predict you are not going to be sorry,’’ NASA Administrator James Webb said to JFK. (Abbie Rowe/ JFK Library And Museum/ File 1961)
    Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and audaciously declared that before the end of the decade, the United States should land a man on the moon.
    “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space,’’ he said, delivering a confident rejoinder to the Soviet Union’s successes in the space race.
    But two years later, the president struggled with doubts about the expensive program as he prepared for his reelection campaign and worried that public and congressional support was waning, according to a newly declassified tape being released today by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.
    The recording of a frank, 46-minute White House meeting with NASA Administrator James Webb in September 1963 provides a window into Kennedy’s thinking, revealing political calculations as well as more personal reactions. At one point during the conversation, Kennedy asks, “If I get reelected, I’m not — we’re not — go[ing] to the moon in my — in our period are we?’’
    Webb tells him no, and Kennedy’s voice drops with disappointment: “We’re not going . . . yeah.’’
    “What I love is that you get every part of him as a person — him doubting the American public is interested in it; then he asks are we going to land in my presidency,’’ said Maura Porter, an archivist at the Kennedy Library. “This is just two months before his death and he thinks space has lost its glamour with the American public — he doesn’t see space being a political positive as he goes into the ‘64 campaign.”… – Boston Globe, 5-25-11


  • Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961
    President John F. Kennedy Delivered in person before a joint session of Congress May 25, 1961:

    Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.
    I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.
    Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
    I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
    First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.
    Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.
    Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.
    Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars–of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau–will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.
    Let it be clear–and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make–let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62–an estimated seven to nine billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
    Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.
    It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.
    I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.
    This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.
    New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further–unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
    JFK Library


  • JFK’s Moon Shot: Q & A With Space Policy Expert John Logsdon: On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the 20th century. He challenged Congress and the American people to put a man on the moon, and return him safely to Earth, by the end of the decade.
    The rest, of course, is history. NASA’s Apollo program roared to life, and just eight years later Neil Armstrong’s boot crunched down into the lunar dirt. [Photos: JFK and NASA]
    Kennedy’s announcement came close on the heels of two embarrassing American Cold War defeats. The Soviet Union had put the first human being, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in space on April 12, 1961. Less than a week later came the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a failed CIA-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
    As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s momentous speech approaches, SPACE.com caught up with historian and space policy expert John Logsdon, author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” (Palgrave Macmillian, 2010). [50 Years of Presidential Visions for Spaceflight]
    Logsdon chatted about what drove Kennedy to make the speech, and what it means today:
    SPACE.com: What did Kennedy hope to achieve with this speech? Was he just interested in beating the Soviets, or did he also want to jump-start a space program that was still in its infancy?
    John Logsdon: In the immediate aftermath of Gagarin, on April the 20th, he had asked his advisers to find him a “space program which promises dramatic results in which we could win.” So that was the guidance he set out: something in space, dramatic, win.
    There were no real alternatives, either in space or, as he told his science adviser, in any other area that would have the impact of a space achievement. The Soviet Union kind of had defined the playing field as space success, and Kennedy came to the conclusion that he had no choice but to accept that game rather than try to shift the stakes into something else. [Biggest Revelations of the Space Age]
    SPACE.com: Why did Kennedy choose the moon? Were there other options that could also have shown American technological superiority and restored our pride?
    Logsdon: Well, the technical basis for choosing the moon was, it was the first thing that [famed rocket designer] Wernher von Braun and others in NASA said the Soviet Union could not do with its existing rocket. They would have to build a new, larger rocket to send people to the surface of the moon. And so the moon became the first thing where the United States had, as von Braun said, a sporting chance to be first. [Giant Leaps: Top Milestones of Human Spaceflight]
    SPACE.com: JFK’s announcement charted the course of NASA for a decade. What were its longer-lasting effects?
    Logsdon: I think it’s charted the course of NASA for most of the 50 years since, in the sense that it created a large organization built around large engineering projects centered on human spaceflight, with an institutional base of civil servants and contractors and facilities that exists today, and still has the expectation that the country will provide support.
    I kind of look at the budget curve for Apollo as a rollercoaster. Kennedy’s commitment took the space program up the front end of that rollercoaster and over the top, and the momentum has lasted a long, long time. I think it’s just about gone now…. – Space.com, 5-25-11

1961 – JFK – Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs

Triangle Shirtwaist fire: Why it inspires plays and poetry readings 100 years later

Source: CS Monitor, 3-25-11

A defining moment of labor history, the deadly fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York remains a powerful touchstone even after 100 years.


Susanjoy Checksfield (c.), a founding member of the Triangle Fire Coalition, joins marchers at a rally to remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, during its 100th anniversary commemoration on March 25 in New York.

Bebeto Matthews / AP


One hundred years ago today, at 4:45 p.m., a fire ignited in a scrap basket inside New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Within 28 minutes, the factory burned down and 146 workers died, mostly young immigrant women or children. Some fell to their deaths leaping from windows, others perished falling down empty elevator shafts. The majority were trapped inside the main work floor because the exit doors were locked by management – supposedly to prevent theft.

This tragedy gave human face to a vigorous labor movement, and nearly a dozen workplace-safety laws were passed in the immediate wake of the disaster. It was the worst workplace disaster in the nation until 9/11, but cultural observers say the incident has penetrated the national consciousness in ways that go beyond safety regulations and labor organizing.

A century later, those events have been commemorated from Los Angeles to Vermont, in more than 100 literary works ranging from poetry to plays, documentaries, and an opera….READ MORE

On This Day in History… January 28, 1986 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


President Reagan and his staff, like most Americans, were glued to their television sets in the wake of the Challenger explosion, waiting for news and watching replays of the disaster. (left to right) Ronald Reagan, James Poindexter, Pat Buchanan, Alfred Kingon, Don Regan, Edward Djerejian

Bill Fitzpatrick / Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library


    On this day in history… January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in Texas, all seven of its crew members were killed. School children around the nation were watching the launch’s telecast live to witness the send off of the first schoolteacher sent to space Christa McAuliffe, who was among the deceased crewmembers.
    On that afternoon instead of giving his State of the Union Address in the evening President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation about the Challenger Disaster memorably ending his speech with words; “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

  • The horror dawned slowly: …One of the smaller solid rocket boosters could be seen looping out and back in toward the shuttle, trailing smoke. Other trails appeared.
    “Obviously. . . a major malfunction. . . has occurred,” the voice of Mission Control, Steve Nesbitt, who normally speaks crisply, said slowly over the NASA public address system.
    “They’re coming back,” said Reader’s Digest writer Malcolm McConnell, who has covered 10 launches. He and several other reporters started running, planning to make their way to the landing strip several miles away where the shuttle was to return in an emergency. There were confused shouts, swearing, a short scream.
    Then, still looking up, McConnell sat back down. “Where are they?” someone asked. “Dead,” he answered flatly. “We’ve lost ’em, God bless ’em.”
    Phrases drifted down from Mission Control. “. . . Appeared nominal through engine throttle-back . . . apparent explosion. . . . Tracking crews have reported that the vehicle had exploded.”
    Shortly, there was the announcement that an “impact point” had been located in the ocean…. – Washington Post Archives, 1-29-86
  • President insists space program go forward, delays State of Union address: Sharing a nation’s shock over the explosion of the Challenger, President Reagan has voiced his deep sorrow to the families of those who were aboard the space shuttle. But he also stressed the importance of going forward with space exploration. Because of the tragic event yesterday, the President after consulting with leaders of Congress postponed his State of the Union address until next Tuesday. He also sent Vice-President George Bush to Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center to convey his concern for the families of those aboard the space shuttle.
    Mr. Reagan instructed acting NASA director Bill Graham to fly to Cape Canaveral with the Vice President to begin probing the cause of the explosion and and then to proceed with the space program. “These people were dedicated to the exploration of space,” the President stated. “We could do no more to honor them, these courageous Americans, than to go forward with the program.”
    The President was having an Oval Office meeting with top aides when he learned that the shuttle had blown up. He stood in “stunned silence” as he watched a televised replay of the disaster, said White House spokesman Larry Speakes.
    “It’s a terrible thing,” Mr. Reagan told TV reporters. “I just can’t get out of my mind her husband, her chidren, as well as the families of the others on board.”
    Asked if he felt special remorse because of his decision to send a teacher into space, Mr. Reagan replied that all those aboard the Challenger were citizens. “I don’t think there’s anybody who’s been on there who’s not a volunteer,” he commented. “They were all aware of the dangers and risks.”… – Christian Science Monitor Archives, 1-29-86


  • Challenger: 25 years later, a still painful wound: For many, no single word evokes as much pain. Challenger.
    A quarter-century later, images of the exploding space shuttle still signify all that can go wrong with technology and the sharpest minds. The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 — a scant 73 seconds into flight, nine miles above the Atlantic for all to see — remains NASA’s most visible failure.
    It was the world’s first high-tech catastrophe to unfold on live TV. Adding to the anguish was the young audience: School children everywhere tuned in that morning to watch the launch of the first schoolteacher and ordinary citizen bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.
    She never made it.
    McAuliffe and six others on board perished as the cameras rolled, victims of stiff O-ring seals and feeble bureaucratic decisions.
    It was, as one grief and trauma expert recalls, “the beginning of the age when the whole world knew what happened as it happened.”… – Boston Herald, 1-28-11
  • Challenger 25th anniversary: Memories of the day: On a bright blue morning in Florida in 1986, the Challenger shuttle launched into space. Twenty-eight years had passed since NASA had first formed. Shuttle flights had become routine. What set this one apart was the diversity of the crew and the addition of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle took off buoyed by hope and pride, watched by a nation enamored with the great U.S. space program and by schoolchildren filling classrooms early in the morning.
    Seventy-three seconds later, the shuttle disappeared into an orange and white cloud, and the nation stood in shock and disbelief.
    President Ronald Reagan, in a moving broadcast to the nation that afternoon, paraphrased a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a young American airman killed in World War II saying the crew “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”… – WaPo, 1-28-11
egypt riots

This 1986 photo shows the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, from left, Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judy Resnick. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • Challenger explosion: How President Reagan responded: A quarter century ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff. President Reagan’s reaction framed the response of the nation.
    It was shortly before noon on January 28, 1986. President Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office, preparing for a traditional pre-State of the Union luncheon with television news anchors. Then, as Reagan remembered it, Vice President Bush and National Security Advisor John Poindexter strode into the room with terrible news.
    “All they could say at the time was that they had received a flash that the space shuttle had exploded,” Reagan said later.
    In that flash, US history changed. The space program had suffered its most dire tragedy yet, with its fate perhaps now hanging in the balance. And President Reagan himself – with no warning – faced a pivotal moment of his presidency.
    Reagan and his aides crowded into an adjoining room to watch the unfolding tragedy on a nearby TV. A photo taken at the moment shows them, stunned, looking down at the screen – Chief of Staff Don Regan, his face twisted; Assistant to the President Pat Buchanan, arms crossed, brow furrowed; NSC chief Poindexter glum; and the president himself, jaw set, hands together. Reagan looks as if he is already preparing himself for the task to come.
    On a replay, they saw the Challenger explode.
    “It was a very traumatic experience,” Reagan remembered…. – CS Monitor, 1-28-11
  • Remembering space shuttle Challenger: Five ways it changed spaceflight: Twenty-five years ago Friday, the space shuttle Challenger came to a tragic end, exploding on liftoff and claiming the lives of seven astronauts. We remember the loss of the Challenger and its crew, yet we often forget the contributions it made to space exploration.
    The night of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan told the nation: “The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.” Here are five ways the Challenger pushed spaceflight forward…. – CS Monitor, 1-28-11
  • Challenger Explosion: Last Words and Video: NASA recently honored the Challenger mission, which famously exploded and disintegrated on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. The space organization has released the final words and transcript of the Challenger mission by way of its operational recorder voice tape. The following are the last recorded words of Commander Francis R.Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialist 1 Ellison S. Onizuka, and Mission Specialist 2 Judith A. Resnik. Also on the mission were Mission Specialist 3 Ronald E. McNair, Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis and civilian Christa McAuliffe, who won the “Teacher In Space” contest…. – International Business Times, 1-28-11


  • Ronald Reagan: Speech on the Challenger Disaster, January 28, 1986: Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.
    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.
    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.
    We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the member of the Challenger crew, were pioneers…. – Teaching American History
  • Ronald Reagan: Address to the Nation on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, January 28, 1986: The sight of the Challenger exploding is seared into each of our minds. A few days after the explosion, I attended a memorial service in Houston for the crew. I stood next to Jane Smith, the wife of Michael Smith, one of the crewmen on the Challenger. She gave me a most remarkable gift, a three-by-five card that her husband had written before the flight and left on the bedroom dresser. He wrote about the importance of their mission. It was such a personal, generous gift that I didn’t feel right about keeping it. I made a copy and gave her back the original. I’ll never forget her generosity in offering me that part of her husband’s final days… – Ronald Reagan Library
  • Three days later, President Reagan delivered the following remarks at a memorial service held in Houston following the Challenger disaster, Jan. 31, 1986: We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share the grief we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.
    Our nation’s loss is first a profound personal loss to the family and the friends and loved ones of our shuttle astronauts. To those they have left behind – the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and wives, brothers, sisters, and yes, especially the children – all of America stands beside you in your time of sorrow.
    What we say today is only an inadequate expression of what we carry in our hearts. Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to measure the brave sacrifice of those you loved and we so admired. Their truest testimony will not be in the words we speak, but in the way they led their lives and in the way they lost those lives – with dedication, honor and an unquenchable desire to explore this mysterious and beautiful universe.
    The best we can do is remember our seven astronauts – our ChallengerSeven – remember them as they lived, bringing life and love and joy to those who knew them and pride to a nation.
    They came from all parts of this great country – from South Carolina to Washington State; Ohio to Mohawk, New York; Hawaii to North Carolina to Concord, New Hampshire. They were so different, yet in their mission, their quest, they held so much in common…. – Teaching American History
  • President Obama Honors Astronauts Lost in Space Exploration: “We pause to reflect on the tragic loss of the Apollo 1 crew, those who boarded the space shuttle Challenger in search of a brighter future, and the brave souls who perished on the space shuttle Columbia. Through triumph and tragedy, each of us has benefited from their courage and devotion, and we honor their memory by dedicating ourselves to a better tomorrow.”


  • Gil Troy in Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented The 1980s: During one of his presidency’s most searing moments, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members including the teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, Reagan’s eloquent speech reassured Americans. Yet his choice of words was instructive. In 1962 John F. Kennedy dreamed about a man on the moon continuing the quest for scientific knowledge. When George W. Bush in 2003 would eulogize the shuttle Columbia astronauts, he would combine nationalism and theology, praising their “idealism,” and soothing with Isaiah’s words that “Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Reagan’s speech was more individualistic, focusing on the astronauts as explorers, hailing their “daring” and “dedication.”
  • Kurt Ritter in Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator: Reagan’s delivery openly communicated his personal grief as he addressed the nation following the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986. Kathleen Hall Jamieson has noted that Reagan’s “intimate conversational style” constituted “an unprecedented level of self-disclosure on television.” It was not without effect, Jamieson noted: “His moments of self-revelation invite us to conclude that we know him and like him.”
  • J. Jeffery Auer in Reagan and Public Discourse in America: As Anthony Lewis wrote after the 1986 Challenger explosion, “People waited: Not for an answer . . . but for words of consolation. They came, with rare grace, from President Reagan . . . in a few words, simple and direct . . . he expressed our inchoate feelings. He was touching without being mawkish. He was dignified. Listening to Mr. Reagan, I thought I understood better than ever before the mystery of his enormous popularity as President. . . . the main reason for public affection lies, as always, in Mr. Reagan’s personality and his ability to communicate it. . . . In cold print the next day his words seemed flat. But when he spoke, there was tangible emotion in them, resonating with his listeners.”
  • Michael Schaller in Reckoning with Reagan: America and Its President in the 1980s: Reagan had an instinctive ability to reassure and soothe the feelings of grieving Americans in the aftermath of tragedy. For example, following the disastrous explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986, the president’s moving eulogy, written by Peggy Noonan, stressed the theme of renewal. The astronauts had “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” A grateful nation would reach out for new goals, and even greater achievements in order to commemorate “our seven Challenger heros.”
  • Lou Cannon in President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime: Although some of the participants in this meeting were more than willing to talk about what had happened, the story of the Reagan-O’Neill confrontation was completely overshadowed by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger later in the day. O’Neill said subsequently that he had seen “Reagan at his worst” in the Oval Office and “Reagan at his best” in his nationally televised speech after the Challenger tragedy. “It was a trying day for all Americans, and Ronald Reagan spoke to our highest ideals,” O’Neill wrote.
  • Davis W. Houck & Amos Kiewe in Actor, Ideologue, Politician: The Public Speeches of Ronald Reagan: The scheduled 1986 State of the Union Address was delayed due to an unforeseen event. In his address to the nation on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, Reagan eulogized the Challenger’s crew. Anticipating the shock of the disaster, which was televised live to many whose exhilaration had been replaced by horror, Reagan understood his role as a comforter who had to console the nation as well as to contextualize the event. Twenty-five years of space exploration had dazzled the nation, he stated, but we must not forget that the Challenger’s crew were still pioneers, brave spirits who wished to pull us into the future. To further soothe the pain, Reagan reminded America that the visibility of the nation’s space program was part of the American belief in freedom, unlike the Soviets who hid disasters out of fear of exposure. America was thus superior to Reagan’s old nemesis, the Soviet Union, even in times of a domestic disaster.
  • Mary E. Stuckey: Slipping the Surly Bonds: Reagan’s Challenger Address (Library of Presidential Rhetoric): Millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, watched in horror as the Challenger shuttle capsule exploded on live television on January 28, 1986. Coupled with that awful image in Americans’ memory is the face of President Ronald Reagan addressing the public hours later with words that spoke to the nation’s shock and mourning. Focusing on the text of Reagan’s speech, author Mary Stuckey shows how President Reagan’s reputation as “the Great Communicator” adds significance to our understanding of his rhetoric on one of the most momentous occasions of his administration. – Amazon.com
  • Colin Burgess in Teacher in Space: Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger Legacy: Two days after the Challenger tragedy President Ronald Reagan gave a moving testimony at a memorial service for the seven astronauts at Johnson Space Center’s central mall. In his speech he recalled the moving words of the poem “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee (reproduced at the front of this book) and reminded those present that the spirit of the American nation was based on heroism and noble sacrifice.
    It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and who gave it with little thought of worldly reward.
    Today the frontier is space and the boundaries of human knowledge. Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain. Our nation is indeed fortunate that we can still draw on immense reserves of courage, character, and fortitude — that we are still blessed with heroes like those of the space shuttle Challenger.
    Man will continue his conquest of space, to reach out for new goals and even greater achievements. That is the way we shall commemorate our seven Challenger heroes.
  • Peter Levy in Encyclopedia of the Reagan-Bush Years: In times of great tragedy, such as the spacecraft Challenger disaster, Reagan had the ability to deliver moving speeches that portrayed a deep-felt sorrow. By doing so, Reagan disarmed those who, based upon his demand for spending cuts in social programs, sought to portray him as an uncaring president.

On This Day in History… January 20, 1961 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.




On this day in history… January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated the 35th president of the United States.

  • 50 years later, JFK’s words resonate: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country . . .”
    It’s been 50 years since the phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address first resonated from Capitol Hill and challenged Americans to take pride and be willing to sacrifice in making the world a better place. The fourth-shortest inaugural address delivered by a U.S. president, Kennedy’s 14-minute speech promoted public service and was a catalyst to programs such as the Peace Corps and NASA’s push to send astronauts to the moon… –  Boston Herald, 1-20-11


  • 50 Years Later, JFK’s Inaugural Address Continues to Resonate: On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, watch an excerpt of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the steps of the Capitol that began his presidency on Jan. 20, 1961.:
    U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge, but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. Remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof, let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let both sides explore what problems unite us, instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
    Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
    Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
    And, so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
    With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that, here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.
    Mp3 Download
  • President Barack Obama: “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”
President Obama delivered remarks on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration at the Kennedy Center in Washington.


  • Kennedy’s Inauguration Still Captivates, 50 Years Later PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • Why Is JFK’s Legacy So Enduring? PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years Later, Why Is America Still In Love With JFK?: On a frigid day, exactly 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy took office with the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The world had high hopes for this dashing fellow from Boston — at just 43, the youngest president elected to office, and the only Catholic. While other presidents’ anniversaries come and go without fanfare, Kennedy will be honored this week with celebrations worthy of a king…. – MSNBC, 1-19-11
  • Robert Frost and J.F.K., Fifty Years Later: It was a bright and blustery day in Washington fifty years ago today for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. An old newsreel reporting the day’s events notes that the city was recovering from a blizzard and that “battalions of snow fighters kept Pennsylvania Avenue clear for the swearing-in ceremony.” That earnest footage also communicates the enthusiasm that accompanied the event for many in the country. It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us. Nixon, recently defeated, even manages to smile brightly. Yet it was a new day, a new age: Kennedy was, at forty-three, then the youngest President and the first born in the twentieth century. (The past, though, had not been completely thrown off, judging by the top hats that Eisenhower and Kennedy wore to some of the festivities.)
    The anniversary marks Kennedy’s brief but era-defining inauguration address, but it also marks another coming together of custom and modernity, of the past and the future: the eighty-six-year-old Robert Frost reciting “The Gift Outright,” which ends with the lines: 

    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    New Yorker, 1-20-11

  • JFK: Great man, great liberal, great American, great goals, great nation: Today America celebrates the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy assuming the presidency with Kennedy remaining the most popular president of the last 50 years. Let’s end the mythology that America is moving to the right. In a Gallup poll released in December, Americans gave John F. Kennedy an approval rating of 85 percent, the highest of any of the nine presidents who have served in the last 50 years…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years After the New Frontier Dawned, a Toast to Kennedy: On Thursday in the nation’s capital, the guest of honor was in effect President John F. Kennedy, who had been inaugurated 50 years earlier. And 15 members of Kennedy’s White House staff gathered for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the Capitol where he gave his famous speech, to celebrate the anniversary and reminisce…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Biden, others celebrate 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration: Vice President Biden led the celebration on Capitol Hill today for the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961. The celebration included remarks from Caroline Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and House Speaker John Boehner…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
Caroline Kennedy on Jan. 13, 2011, in Washington.
  • Congress pays tribute to 50th anniversary of JFK’s inaugural address: Congressional leaders today paused to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that motivated a nation 50 years ago. In the rotunda of the US Capitol, congressional officials, aides, and Kennedy family members listened in silence to the 14-minute, 1,355-word speech that Kennedy delivered on a blustery day in 1961. Top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – attended the event.
    “Sadly, this is the first congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration,” Boehner said, before looking over at the president’s daughter. “Caroline, there’s still time.”
    Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, both delivered remarks. “It took President Kennedy just 1,355 words to summon a new generation and set in motion generations of service and sacrifice – to reignite the fires of idealism and patriotism in millions of Americans,” Kerry said…. – Boston Globe, 1-20-11
  • Obama celebrates JFK’s ‘unfinished life’: President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the “unfinished life” of John F. Kennedy and said his inauguration 50 years ago and his accompanying call for Americans to serve their country still “inspires us and lights our way.” “We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible,” Obama said. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States”.
    Obama confessed that “I don’t have my own memories of that day.” But, Obama said, “even now, one half-century later, there is something about that day, Jan. 20, 1961, that feels immediate, feels new and urgent and exciting, despite the graininess of the 16-millimeter news reels that recorded it for posterity.” He said Kennedy could have a chosen a different life, one of luxury, but that he opted instead for one of leadership and idealism, “soaring but sober that inspired the country and the world” five decades ago….
    “I can only imagine how he must have felt entering the Oval Office in turbulent times,” Obama said, as the audience applauded and laughed. He said Kennedy led a “volatile America, in this tinderbox of a world,” with a steady hand, “defusing the most perilous crisis since the Cold War without firing a single shot.” “He knew that we, as a people, can do big things. We can reach great heights. We can rise to any challenge, so long as we’re willing to ask what we can do for our country,” Obama said, recreating one of the more memorable lines from Kennedy’s inaugural address. – AP, 1-20-11
  • At the Kennedy Center, Gratitude to a President Fond of the Arts: President Obama and performing arts luminaries gathered at the Kennedy Center Thursday night to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, with many paying homage to the inspiration they drew from the slain president. In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama characterized Mr. Kennedy as a visionary leader who made ardent strides in nuclear disarmament, civil rights, and space exploration in a “tinderbox of a land.”
    “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect,” Mr. Obama said “Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid: Honoring JFK’s legacy: The whole world watched with excitement and expectation in 1961 when Senator John and Jacqueline Kennedy moved into the White House with their young family. No one noticed when I first came to Washington the same year. I was a law student, a new father and to make ends meet, a Capitol Police Officer.
    At the end of those long days, I would often pass the White House on my way home. I can still vividly remember seeing Caroline’s pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn.
    Fifty years later, it is a great privilege to be with Caroline – as well as the Vice President, Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Secretary Chao, and all of you – to remember the history and the hope of Caroline’s father’s presidency.
    We also remember and honor President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who led an exemplary life of public service, and who did so much for so many who had so little. We extend our condolences to his loved ones…. – The Hill, 1-20-11


  • Thurston Clarke: Passing the Torch to a New Generation 50 Years Ago a Young John F. Kennedy Took the Oath of Office, Changing the Presidency – and a Nation – Forever: “Not just the youngest elected but also the first Catholic,” notes historian Thurston Clarke. “And also elected by the slimmest vote, majority in the popular vote. And so that’s another reason that he had to give a speech for the ages. A speech that would unite the country.”…
    “You had all of the celebrities in Washington,” said Clarke. “You had a feeling that this was a gathering of the best and the brightest in the country.”…
    “I think you would find that John Kennedy contributed most of the passages and the famous words that we remember: ‘The torch has been passed to a new generation.’ The “Ask not’ line. ‘Bear any burden.’ All of those were Kennedy. He had a Sorenson draft in front of him. On January 10th he flew to Palm Beach, he looked at the draft, and he dictated his changes and his additions to the draft.”…
    “People remember this as a kind of Cold War speech because of ‘We’ll pay any price, bear any burden,'” said Clarke. “But most of the rest of the speech was about peace and about negotiations and about the threat of nuclear war.”…
    “When Kennedy said, ‘Ask not,’ people knew that this was a man who’d been decorated in World War II,” said Clarke. “Who’d almost lost his life trying to save the surviving crew members of PT-109. So it wasn’t Where does he get off saying ‘Ask not’? He had the credentials to make this claim on people.”…
    “I think what we do – what John Kennedy did – is we compartmentalize things,” said Clarke. “There was so much that was accomplished, that was on its way to being accomplished. We put this in one compartment. And then we have the other compartment, is this terribly reckless sexual life.”…
    “I think it’s what we thought could have happened,” said Clarke, “because in the last 100 days of his life he was suddenly beginning to have the courage to do the things that were going to make him a great president. And one was the civil rights bill and the other was the test ban treaty.
    “But the beginning of his presidency – and what turned out to be the end of his presidency – were both times when the American people hoped that … this president was going to solve their problems, and was going to become what he hoped to be, which was a great president.”… – CBS News, 1-16-11
  • E.J. DIONNE JR.: JFK’s words: The torch still burns: It’s remembered as a day chilled by “a Siberian wind knifing down Pennsylvania Avenue” and illuminated by “the dazzling combination of bright sunshine and deep snow.” On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration…. – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?: The John F. Kennedy inaugural address was 50 years ago to the day – on Jan. 20, 1961. It remains an iconic American speech and is the subject of Google’s Thursday home-page doodle. Google’s logo is drawn using words that Mr. Kennedy used on that historic day.
    How good was Kennedy’s inaugural address? Very. Historians generally rank it as one of the four best US presidential inaugural speeches of all time. William Safire, former New York Times columnist and Nixon speechwriter, included it in a volume he compiled of the greatest speeches delivered in history, writing that it “set the standard by which presidential inaugurals have been judged in the modern era.”… – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • JFK and Obama: Their Similarities and Differences: History shows that despite their differences in ideology, most U.S. presidents have qualities in common with their predecessors. On this fiftieth anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, President Obama is marking the midpoint of his four-year term in office. The comparisons are inevitable as Mr. Obama begins the third year of his presidency, a year in office that Kennedy left unfinished… – CBS News, 1-20-11

On This Day in History… Supreme Court Decides Bush V. Gore & 2000 Presidential Election in Bush’s Favor

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings



On this day in history…December 12, 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court made Republican George W. Bush president-elect over Democrat Al Gore as the justices reversed a state court decision for recounts in Florida’s contested election. (The nation’s highest court agreed, 7-2, to overturn the order for a state recount and voted 5-4 that there was no acceptable procedure by which a timely new recount could take place.) (LAT)



  • Ten years after Bush v. Gore, the fight goes on: Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500,000. But it was the contentious recount in Florida – halted by the Supreme Court – that gave it to Bush. What that meant still is being argued. Some battles in American history and politics never end, at least in terms of passionate public argument. The Civil War. The Vietnam War. Abortion. The Red Sox and the Yankees. Bush v. Gore. Fortunately, the last one did not come to violent revolution. But the end of the 2000 presidential election – marked Sunday by the 10-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United States – is just as debatable. The closest presidential race in US history came down to 537 votes out of 101,455,899 cast. Gore had won the popular vote by more than half a million, but it was the contentious recount in Florida – eventually halted by the Supreme Court – that gave it to Bush in the Electoral College, 271-266…. – CS Monitor, 12-12-10



  • “Voters who cast ballots incompetently are not entitled to have election officials toil to divine these voters’ intentions, Al Gore got certain Democratic-dominated canvassing boards to turn their recounts into unfettered speculations and hunches about the intentions of voters who submitted inscrutable ballots.” — George Will, Christian Science Monitor
  • George F. Will: A decade after Bush v. Gore: The passions that swirled around Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that ended 10 years ago Sunday, dissipated quickly. And remarkably little damage was done by the institutional collisions that resulted when control of the nation’s supreme political office turned on 537 votes out of 5,963,110 cast in Florida.
    Many controversies concerned whether particular votes could be said to have been cast properly. Chads are those bits of paper that, when a ballot is properly cast by puncturing spots next to candidates’ names, are separated from the ballot. In Florida, there were “dimpled” chads that were merely dented and “hanging” chads not separated from the ballots. Furthermore, there were undervotes (ballots with no vote for president) and overvotes (votes for two presidential candidates) and ill-designed (by a Democrat) butterfly ballots…. – WaPo, 12-12-10

On This Day in History…. November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was Assassinated in Dallas, Texas

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings



On this day in history… November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States (1961-63), was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. by Lee Harvey Oswald, while in a Presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas heading towards the Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was in a open limousine waving at the cheering crowd with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly when three shots in succession erupted, which hit the President, and the Governor. The motorcade rushed to Parkland Hospital, where President Kennedy was pronounced dead at 46 years, 30 minutes after the shooting. As news of the assassination was first announced on CBS by anchor Walter Chronkite, there was an immediate outpouring of grief by the nation that mourned the lost of an idealized young President. In a new book “The Kennedy Detail” Secret Service agent Clint Hill has said; “It has taken me decades to learn to cope with the guilt and sense of responsibility for the president’s death, and I have made it a practice to keep my memories to myself. I don’t talk to anybody about that day.”

At 2:38 p.m. Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as the 36th US president, aboard Air Force One with Jackie Kennedy standing by his side, still wearing the clothes stained with the President’s blood. Police arrested Oswald two hours later. Oswald, a Soviet sympathesizer with ties to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had shot Kennedy from the school book repository building. Two days later, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner fatally shot Oswald, as he was being transferred from Dallas Police Headquarters to the Dallas County Jail; Ruby claimed he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy any further grief.

Three days later on November 25, 1963 a state funeral was held for the slain President. It was a preceded by a repose of Kennedy’s body in the East Room of the White House for 24 hours on the 23rd. On Sunday, the 24th, the President’s coffin was carried by the same horse drawn carriage as President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier before him, to the Capitol building where his body laid in state for 18 hours, with 250,000 people visiting his casket.

File:Kennedy salute.gifOn Monday, one million gathered on the route of the processional from the Capitol to St. Matthew’s Cathedral, where the funeral was held. Foreign dignitaries from 90 countries, including 19 heads of state came to pay their respects, and millions of Americans watched the funeral on TV, which was covered by then three big networks; ABC, CBS, and NBC. After the Requiem Mass, as the President’s body was carried from the cathedral, three year old John Jr. saluted his father’s casket giving the mourning nation an iconic image to remember. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, after the service Jackie Kennedy lit an eternal flame that remains burning over the President’s grave site.

This past March historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published her book “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation,” speaking to PBS’s Newshour about the purpose of the book and looking back at the memory of President Kennedy, she claimed; “And what I was trying to get at was how Americans in the moment viewed John F. Kennedy. It seemed to me that, in the decades since his death, there’s been so much historical revisionism, much of it appropriate, that dismantled the hagiography that grew up around him in the immediate aftermath of his assassination. But it had become increasingly difficult for students, for younger people, even people of my own generation, to recover that moment, the kind of idealism and faith that people had and the way that President Kennedy was viewed in his time…. So, I was thinking, how can I recapture this? And I went into the archives. I asked the archivist. I remembered the condolence letters. I remembered Mrs. Kennedy thanking the public.”

  • 47th anniversary of JFK’s assassination in PhotosMSNBC, 11-22-10
  • Kennedy assassination: Where were you? (Photos): Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and JFK’s assassination. Today is one of those thankfully few dates in American history that rocked the nation with a tragedy so big it stopped the clocks in people’s memories. Forty-seven years ago, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas…. – WaPo, 11-22-10
  • Nov. 22, 1963: The Death of a President Remembering the Fateful Day in Dallas When President John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated: It seems so long ago, and so recent. Those of a certain age will remember where they were 47 years ago today when they heard about the shots ringing out in Dallas. Subsequent assassinations of public figures did not quell the pain felt by the nation when President John F. Kennedy was killed, less than three years after entering office, at the age of 46. Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was waving to the cheering crowd as his motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street when gunfire was heard. The president slumped into the back seat of his open limousine with gaping wounds in his head and neck. He lost consciousness immediately…. – CBS News, 11-22-10

Walter Cronkite announces death of JFK on CBS

  • John F. Kennedy, in memoriam: It’s Nov. 22, and that may never be a normal date for political America. A full 47 years after the assassination of President John Kennedy, his murder continues to attract attention from historians, politicians, popular culture, and, of course, conspiracy theorists — just as it has since that fateful day in Dallas. The USA TODAY website has an interesting retrospective on JFK’s America, including a photo gallery… – USA Today, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas 47 years ago today: Forty-seven years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed while riding in a motorcade through Dallas with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas officials. Kennedy’s birthplace on Beals Street in Brookline reopened on Sunday for a small ceremony marking his death. The National Park Service, which runs the site, officially closed for the season in October. At the JFK Library in Dorchester, a memorial wreath has been installed in the lobby of the presidential library. The library recently upgraded its internet presence to focus on the date 50 years ago when JFK was elected president. The National Archives has collected hundreds of thousands of documents relating to Kennedy’s assassination and the multiple investigations into the shooting of the president. Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself murdered on Nov. 24, was charged with shooting Kennedy from the sixth floor of what was then known as Texas School Book Depository in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. The building is now a major museum. Boston Globe, 11-22-10
JFK Assination

Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson takes the presidential oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas just two hours after Kennedy was shot. (Cecil Stoughton)

  • Front pages largely ignore today’s anniversary of JFK assassinationUSA Today, 11-22-10
  • JFK Assassination Anniversary: Eternal Flame Flickers but Still Burns: Forty-seven years later, it all seems part of another world defined by black-and-white television, the black-and-white certainties of the Cold War and black-and-white racial relations. Even if he had served two full terms as president, JFK (born in 1917 and afflicted with Addison’s disease) almost certainly would be long dead by now. Few remain who were close to John Kennedy (aside from his daughter, Caroline) following the deaths of Ted Kennedy last year and “ask not” speechwriter Ted Sorensen three weeks ago.
    Today’s Americans – no matter what age – have become hardened by the shock of wrenching events from the 9/11 attacks to the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and the shooting of Ronald Reagan. But for teenagers born after World War II, this was not how it was supposed to be in 1963. Assassination meant John Wilkes Booth and Mrs. Lincoln’s evening at the theater…. – Politics Daily, 11-22-10
  • John F. Kennedy Assassination Still Intrigues, 47 Years Later New JFK Documentary and Motion Picture Will Probe Grim Day in Dallas: 47 years have passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but the man who served less than a full term in office still casts a long shadow over the American politics and culture even as his relatives have slowly retreated from it. A new movie, as well as a documentary featuring Secret Service agents on duty in Dallas when JFK was shot, ensure that the Kennedy assassination will not fade from our minds any time soon.
    In January, when JFK’s nephew Patrick leaves Congress, it will be the first time since 1944 that no member of the Kennedy clan is on Capitol Hill. The retiring Rep. Kennedy was not even born when his uncle was killed, but the events of that day in Dallas still capture the interest of Americans. The documentary about the Secret Service is set to air Monday night on Discovery…. – ABC News, 11-22-10

Discovery JFK Assassination

  • The John F. Kennedy assassination: Four unanswered questions: The Kennedy assassination, a pivotal moment in American life, has fascinated historians, conspiracy theorists, and filmmakers, among others. Some questions might never be answered….
    Forty-seven years ago today President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was an event of only a few seconds, but it was a hinge of history, something of such political and cultural importance that at dusk on Nov. 22, 1963, America was a different country than it had been at sunrise. Sheer shock was part of it. Almost everyone past preschool age at the time can say where they were when they heard the news, as today a new generation will always remember what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. Given its importance, the Kennedy assassination over the generations has been a subject of unending fascination to historians, filmmakers, novelists, conspiracy theorists, and ordinary citizens alike. Notable works range from director Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a dense, purposely chaotic take that depicts the assassination as the work of a conspiracy, to attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book “Reclaiming History,” a massive book of over 2,000 pages that attempts not just to refute conspiracy theorists, but to mock them, so that no one will take them seriously again…. – CS Monitor, 11-22-10
  • Young, old visit Dealey Plaza to mark anniversary of JFK assassinationDallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • 47 years after JFK assassination, Sixth Floor Museum serves visitors who remember and those not yet born: Today, exactly 47 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the museum that has chronicled that fateful day finds itself in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing – using updated technology – to those who were yet to be born. “We’re at a pivotal moment right now,” said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. “We’re changing from memory to history.”… – Dallas Morning News, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Secret Service agents reflect on loss of a president: We couldn’t help, but we felt like we failed. It was a terrible feeling. –Jerry Blaine, former Secret Service agent
    After mostly avoiding the spotlight for decades, many of the former U.S. Secret Service agents who were assigned to protect President John F. Kennedy are now offering their accounts of the day he was assassinated, 47 years ago Monday. After the first shot hit the president, former agent Clint Hill says, “I saw him grab at his throat and lean to his left. So I jumped and ran.” Hill is the man seen running toward the limousine in the famous film of the shooting, captured by a bystander named Abraham Zapruder. Hill jumped onto the back of the presidential car, in a desperate attempt to protect the president. “Just before I got to the car, the third shot hit him in the head.” Hill says.”It was too late.”
    First lady Jackie Kennedy had climbed onto the back hood of the car, but Hill moved her back into her seat, and attempted to shield the two of them from any further bullets, as the car sped to the hospital. As the president’s head lay in her lap, Hill heard Mrs. Kennedy say, “Oh, Jack, what have they done to you?”
    A newly detailed account of the assassination is laid out in the new book “The Kennedy Detail,” by former agent Jerry Blaine, written with journalist Lisa McCubbin, based on interviews with many of the agents who covered Kennedy. Former agent Hill, who has rarely granted interviews about the shooting, wrote a foreword…. – CNN, 11-21-10
  • Kennedy bodyguard nearly shot successor: A member of John F. Kennedy’s elite security detail wrote in a new book that he nearly shot the president’s successor Lyndon Johnson, just hours after the late leader was felled by an assassin’s bullet. Gerald Blaine, a member of the US Secret Service, recounted, in his just-published book “The Kennedy Detail,” that on the night of the assassination, he was assigned to protect the newly-sworn President Lyndon Johnson. In an interview with CNN Monday, 47 years after Kennedy’s November 22, 1963 assassination, Blaine discussed how he almost mistakenly shot Johnson.
    “It was about 2:15 in the morning at The Elms, which was Johnson’s residence before he became president. I heard, all of a sudden, a person approaching,” Blaine said. The now-retired secret service agent said that, fearing an attempt against the life of the new president, he raised his gun and put his finger on the trigger, only to see Johnson rounding the corner of the residence. “He turned white, he turned around and walked in — and that was the last that was ever said of it,” Blaine recalled…. – AFP, 11-22-10
  • JFK’s Assassination: ‘Changing From Memory To History’: Most any American who was over the age of five or so on Nov. 22, 1963, has answered this question more than once: Where were you when you heard President Kennedy had been killed? Many of us were at school or at work. Many recall the moment when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite told the nation that “President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time — two o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” Even the usually unflappable Cronkite had to pause for a moment, take off his glasses, and collect himself before going on.
    Today’s Dallas Morning News has a story headlined “47 Years After JFK Assassination, Sixth Floor Museum Adapts To New Era.” It underscores how things are changing as more and more Americans can’t relate to what happened in Dallas because they weren’t even born then. After all, the Census Bureau says nearly 70% of the population is under the age of 50. So, as the Morning News says:
    “On the one hand, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza wants to keep jogging the emotions of those old enough to recall the tragedy. On the other, it needs to find ways to explain the killing — using updated technology — to those who were yet to be born. “‘We’re at a pivotal moment right now,’ said Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director. ‘We’re changing from memory to history.’ ”
    According to the Morning News, those who are too young to recall what happened on that day want much more than “artifacts in glass cases” and a plaza that has been “preserved to look like it did the day the president was shot.” They want interactive displays and lots of context. Adapting the museum to a changing population obviously makes sense…. – NPR, 11-22-10
  • First Poster: Katie Holmes as Jackie in ‘The Kennedys’: The eight-part miniseries premieres on The History Channel in 2011. The first promotional poster of Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy Onassis has hit the web. Monday is the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “We have these wonderful seamstresses who are creating beautiful dresses that are obviously replicas of real things [Kennedy] wore,” Holmes has said. “Her great style was both appropriate for every event that she went to and also classic, and also things that were wearable. I feel really lucky to be playing her.” The poster also shows Greg Kinnear as JFK, Barry Pepper as Bobby and Tom Wilkinson as their father, Joseph. The eight-part miniseries premieres in early 2011. It was also recently announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will star and produce a movie about the JFK’s assassination…. – Hollywood Reporter, 11-22-10

On This Day in History…. Woodstock 1969 40 Years Later…

Woodstock 1969 40 Years Later…

On this day in history… August 15-18, 1969, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in Bethal, New York on Max Yasgur’s Dairy Farm. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the outdoor festival, which featured 32 musical acts over three days, and was seen by an overwhelming turnout of a half a million attendees. The festival left a lasting cultural legacy in history, and its impact went well beyond to those who attended. Rolling Stone magazine hailed Woodstock as one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll”. The cultural phenomenon was immortalized by a film that won the Best Documentary Oscar in 1970. The documentary brought the Woodstock experience to those who did not make it there embedding it into the cultural landscape. According to festival organizer Joel Rosenman, “That’s what means the most to me – the connection to one another felt by all of us who worked on the festival, all those who came to it, and the millions who couldn’t be there but were touched by it.”


  • Woodstock: How Does It Sound 40 Years Later?Time, 8-24-09 Time Woodstock Videos
  • Woodstock: 40 years later: BABY BOOMERS won’t let go of the Woodstock Festival. Why should we? It’s one of the few defining events of the late 1960s that had a clear happy ending. On Aug. 15-17, 1969, hundreds of thousands of people, me among them, gathered in a lovely natural amphitheater in Bethel (not Woodstock), N.Y. We listened to some of the best rock musicians of the era, enjoyed other legal and illegal pleasures, endured rain and mud and exhaustion and hunger pangs, felt like a giant community and dispersed, all without catastrophe…. – NYT, 8-16-09
  • Woodstock Nation, Part 1: The Woodstock Music & Art Fair began 40 years ago this Friday afternoon at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y. I had seen an advertisement in the July 27, 1969 Sunday New York Times Arts section, and ordered tickets — $18 for all three days, Aug. 15, 16 & 17, 1969…. – Projo.com, 8-14-09
  • Woodstock Nation, Part 2: The music went for 24 hours: BY THE TIME CARLOS Santana finished playing Soul Sacrifice Saturday afternoon at Woodstock, he was a major star. “Every band changed the vibes,” recalls Dena Quilici, one of the many there from southeastern New England. And the crowd came alive for Santana. The by-now broiling sun, the hunger and thirst and mud, the Army helicopters intermittently turning fire hoses on us full-force to cool us off – “all those troubles kind of went away once you just settled down and started listening to the music,” says Ty Davis…. – Projo.com, 8-14-09
  • Woodstock Nation, Part 3: We had pulled it off: Despite two days of uncomfortable conditions, peace and music are both holding out. Sunday is the acid test. The storm bore down on us, all hard rain and whipping wind, just after Joe Cocker ended the set that opened Woodstock, Day 3. “The ground was slippery red clay, and then it really looked like Baghdad,” remembers Dottie Clark, one of the many from southeastern New England who were there. “People selling the junk of the time were packing up, my friends were crying, and I was laughing. I thought it was funny. I said, ‘Someday you’ll see that this was something.’ ” Cocker had finished his set with what may have been the best live performance ever given: With a Little Help From My Friends…. – Projo.com, 8-14-09


  • LIFE Classic: Woodstock: LIFE’s Best PhotosLife Magazine, 8-09
  • Music and Memories – NYT, 8-16-09
  • Re-’Taking Woodstock’ – the complete 1969 concert setlists and playlists, in order: The book, Taking Woodstock, by Elliot Tiber with Tom Monte, has been adapted to a film with the same name directed by Ang Lee, and the picture will be released on August 28, 2009. However, this upcoming weekend marks the actual 40th anniversary of the summer outdoor festival of “peace and music,” that changed popular culture in the United States and around the world from that moment on. The original concert took place starting Friday evening, August 15, and ran through Monday, August 18, 1969. Over 400,000 people showed up, nearly 1/2 million…. – Examiner, 8-12-09
  • Woodstock Flashback | Remembrance of Things PastNYT, 8-17-09
  • Woodstock ’94: Watchin’ puddles gather rain: Do you remember the Mud People? Not Max Yasgur’s liberated hippies of 1969, but their children: the gleeful renegades of my generation tumbling through the mud 25 years later as blue-haired Berkeley punks led them in song at Woodstock ’94…. – Chicago Sun News,
  • Woodstock’s Worst Legacy: Violence And Greed In 1999: Today marks the 40th anniversary of the final day of the original Woodstock (the music actually carried over into the wee hours of August 18), so a lot of people are re-evaluating the lasting legacy of the festival. Did it really usher in a message of peace and love, or was it simply the beginning of a brand name? Is it truly a great representation of the era’s mentality or just another slice of Boomer nostalgia?… – MTV, 8-17-09


  • Four decades after the three days of mud and music: Woodstock is 40: Woodstock is one of those points in history that defined a zeitgeist. It was peaceful, drugged-up, loaded with a new type of kid out to make changes in the world, populated by a whole group of musicians redefining the market, and it worked. Thousands of people were there, and took their stories home to those who weren’t, passed them on to their children long after the fact. And it was filmed, documented and documentaried, which further defined what it was and how it was assimilated into our culture. And this weekend, it turns 40…. – Examiner, 8-16-09
  • 40 years later, Woodstock’s spiritual vibes still resonate: “A community grew out of Woodstock,” says organizer Michael Lang in his new book The Road to Woodstock. “A sense of possibility and hope was born and spread around the globe.”
    Rock historian Pete Fornatale goes further. “I wanted to make the case that Woodstock was a spiritual experience,” says the author of Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock. Fornatale is no religious zealot. “I’m not a believer. I’m not a nonbeliever. I’m a wanna-believer,” he says. But he’s clearly on a crusade to explore the spiritual dimensions of the festival, which organizers moved from the town of Woodstock to a farm near Bethel, which means “House of God” in Hebrew. “Spirituality may not be the first thing people associate with Woodstock,” says Fornatale, who recently talked about his book at the Museum at Bethel Woods, situated on the site of the festival. “But young people were searching for an identity and for a meaning that they found there that weekend.” – Houston Chronicle, 8-16-09
  • Music Review | The Heroes of Woodstock Back to the Garden, Without the Shock, or All That Mud: Tie-dye and peace symbols were everywhere at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Saturday, and many of the people wearing them were pointing at a grassy hillside and saying, “When I was here in 1969. …” – NYT, 8-16-09
  • 40 years later, Woodstock a thriving business: Back in 1969, Woodstock organizers billed their three-day festival as “An Aquarian Exposition.” But although the concert became free when an expected crowd of 200,000 grew “half a million strong,” it was conceived as a business proposition…. – Reuters, 8-16-09
  • Pete Fornatale: OPINION: Why is this Woodstock anniversary so different?: I’ve been doing Woodstock anniversary celebrations on the radio since the first one in 1970. Without a doubt, the 40th this weekend is the most powerful and profound for me. What has changed? The mythology hasn’t. That began not long after Woodstock was over. In his audio documentary, “The Sixties,” made in 1971, the late, great Walter Cronkite had the following to say about the fabled music festival: “Twenty-seven days after ‘Tranquility Base,’ on an un-tranquil sea of mud, there was a walk in space that 400,000 long-haired pilgrims in and out of sweatshirts called ‘the greatest weekend since the creation.’” The Garden of Eden image has long been used to sanctify Woodstock….. – Newsday, 8-16-09
  • To Be Old and in WoodstockNYT, 8-16-09


  • Woodstock at 40: Everywhere a song and a celebration: Playing an electric guitar that seemed as charged and as amped as the sold-out crowd of 15,000, 15-year-old Conrad Oberg of Florida opened the 40th anniversary Woodstock concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Saturday by playing the instrumental version of The Star-Spangled Banner that Jimi Hendrix made famous in August 1969…. – USA Today, 8-15-09
  • Woodstock – A look back in booksExaminer, 8-15-09
  • The Long, Strange Trip of Woodstock Ventures: Woodstock was a business. A very poorly run business. The four organizers, John Roberts (who died in 2001), Joel Rosenman, Michael Lang, and Artie Kornfeld were all in their 20s when they formed a company called “Woodstock Ventures” with the original intention of building a recording studio and retreat in the upstate New York town where Bob Dylan lived. They were in it to make money, but it didn’t quite work out that way. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though, and two things were definitely in their favor early on: they had a great idea and they knew their audience….. – Huffington Post, 8-13-09
  • Woodstock: A Moment of Muddy Grace: BABY boomers won’t let go of the Woodstock Festival. Why should we? It’s one of the few defining events of the late 1960s that had a clear happy ending…. – NYT, 8-9-09
  • Pete Fornatale, Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren: Three Days in August BACK TO THE GARDEN The Story of Woodstock, THE ROAD TO WOODSTOCKNYT, 8-9-09
  • Pete Fornatale: BACK TO THE GARDEN The Story of Woodstock, Excerpt – NYT, 8-9-09
  • Michael Lang with Holly George-Warren: THE ROAD TO WOODSTOCK, Excerpt – NYT, 8-9-09

Woodstock Remembered

Woodstock 1969: A Retrospective

Richie Havens – Freedom – Woodstock 1969

Santana – Soul Sacrifice – Woodstock 1969

Jefferson Airplane Saturday Afternoon Woodstock 1969

The Who – My Generation – Woodstock 1969

Joe Cocker – A Little Help From My Friends – Woodstock 1969

Crosby Stills Nash A Long Time Gone Woodstock 1969

The Star-Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock 1969

On This Day in History…. February 12, 1809 the 16th President Abraham Lincoln in born

By Bonnie Goodman, HNN, 2-12-09

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings


On this day in history… February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States was born in a one-room cabin on his family’s Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. This made him the first president to born out of the thirteen original colonies.

abraham-lincoln-625 On the bicentennial anniversary of his birth, historians and the public alike revere Lincoln as one of the country’s greatest presidents, but Lincoln entered the Presidency in 1861 during the country’s most divisive times and on the brink of civil war. Prior to winning the presidential election for the new Republican Party in 1860, Lincoln had worked as a lawyer, a state legislator in Illinois, and served one term as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives, he ran for the Senate twice, but lost both times.

Lincoln presided over the country’s greatest challenge, the Civil War against the Southern Confederates states, and steered a victory that preserved the Union. In 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery, one of the main contention points between the North and South, thereby ending an institution that kept a large portion of America’s population in bondage. Lincoln was known as a master debater for his soaring oratory, and his Gettysburg address is one of the most quoted speeches in history.

Lincoln became the first President assassinated in office, when John Wilkes Booth Lincoln shot him on April 11, 1865 in Ford’s theater just two days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederacy at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The President became a martyr for his country, but was unable to see through his plans for reconstruction after the war.

Two hundred years later, Lincoln’s vision for rights and freedom for African Americans, a process which begun with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution ending slavery, has come to fruition with the election of another president from Illinois, Barack Obama. Obama, the nation’s first black president, has compared himself to Lincoln throughout his presidential campaign from his announcement to seek the presidency in front of the Illinois State Legislature in Springfield to his inauguration ceremony where he was the first president since Lincoln to be sworn in with the Lincoln Bible.

On the eve of Lincoln’s bicentennial, President Obama praised Lincoln stating, “For despite all that divided us – North and South, black and white – he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people. And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.”


  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln was the first president born beyond the original 13 states…. – US News & World Report, 2-10-09
  • From kids to Obama, nation marks Lincoln’s 200th: Folksy, melancholy Abraham Lincoln would have been dumbfounded by the fuss over his birthday Thursday. Bells tolled, wreaths were laid, speeches intoned and banjos picked to mark the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in a Kentucky log cabin. At the Lincoln presidential museum in Springfield, hundreds of excited schoolchildren joined in reciting the 16th president’s Gettysburg Address — an attempt to break the record for the biggest worldwide crowd reading it aloud together. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Happy 200th, President Lincoln: Bells tolled, wreaths were laid, speeches intoned and banjos picked across the nation Thursday in honor of the Great Emancipator. Abraham Lincoln was hailed on his 200th birthday with celebrations from his home states of Kentucky and Illinois to the nation’s capital. President Obama and congressional leaders praised Lincoln as the embodiment of American ideals of freedom, equality and unity. – USA Today, 2-12-09
  • Reflections On Lincoln’s 200th Birthday: As the nation marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the hallowed image of the sixteenth president seems to be everywhere. It is estimated that more than 14,000 books have been written about Lincoln. In this Lincoln bicentennial year, there are books about books about Lincoln. Record high prices are being paid for authentic Lincoln memorabilia. President Obama, a big fan of Honest Abe, has described Lincoln’s life as “a fundamental element of the American character.” – CBS News, 2-12-09
  • 200 years later, a more complex view of Lincoln: Born 200 years ago Thursday in a log cabin on the Kentucky frontier, Abraham Lincoln today sits deified in a marble temple on the National Mall in Washington. Americans are still trying to figure out how he came such a long way, and what kind of man made the trip. Having saved the Union, freed the slaves and redefined freedom, Lincoln was struck down in his hour of triumph. He is the most compelling figure in U.S. history, the subject of about 16,000 books in English, more than anyone except Jesus and Shakespeare. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • A Curious-Looking Hero Still Mesmerizes the Nation Even Tiniest Lincoln Relics Command Reverence: As Washington prepares to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth Thursday, Abraham Lincoln is venerated as a national saint — part man, part myth…. – WaPo, 2-11-09
  • Ford’s Theatre packs in the stars for reopening: Presidential present and past intersected again Wednesday night when President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama joined stars in honoring one of his inspirations: Abraham Lincoln. The Ford’s Theatre Society held a star-studded reopening to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and award film greats George Lucas and Sidney Poitier with Lincoln Medals. The invitation-only ceremony was held at Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • Laying claim to Lincoln: States go all out for celebration of 16th president’s bicentennial – Indianapolis Star, 2-8-09


  • Historian James M. McPherson about Lincoln mystique: Three things, I think. … He leads the Union to victory but then is martyred at the very moment of victory.
    The second thing is the Emancipation Proclamation, the abolition of slavery, one of the great events I suppose in American history from several perspectives.
    And the third I think is just the unlikely, log-cabin-to-White House, rags-to-riches, obscurity-to-fame-to-tragedy trajectory of his life.
    There’s nobody else quite like that I think in our history who appeals on several levels of fascination, curiosity, horror. …
    Also, Lincoln did not keep a diary. A lot of his letters, especially his personal letters to his wife, and hers to him, were destroyed. So there are some mysteries about Lincoln.
    Lincoln has become a touchstone for a succession of contemporary viewpoints. The gay community wanted to find a gay Lincoln, so they managed to do that, with or without evidence. The radical civil rights movement sometimes invoked Lincoln, as Martin Luther King did in his “I Have a Dream” speech. … But then Lerone Bennett damns Lincoln as a white supremacist who held back the cause of black freedom and equality.
    So everybody has to find Lincoln as either a supporter or as a whipping boy. It’s a remarkable phenomenon. I don’t think it’s true of any other American. You don’t find that happening very much, let’s say, with George Washington. But you do find it with Lincoln. – Dallas News, 2-11-09
  • Ronald C. White Jr. “10 Questions for Abraham Lincoln scholar”: His life. He starts with less than one year of formal education in a backwoods frontier town in Kentucky. And yet somehow he rises from that to become president of the United States. Lincoln’s story is even more compelling to people in Europe. He’s the American story — anybody can rise to whatever level they want….
    I want to evoke the unpretentiousness of Lincoln. There were no street numbers on houses in his day. “A. Lincoln” is what he had on the front of his house in Springfield (Illinois, when he served as state legislator)….
    I want to portray him in all his humanity. He’s not some marble god sitting in a memorial. His humor and satire could bite and hurt. He was a shrewd politician. He gets no high marks as a husband, with all that Mary went through with their two young sons dying (at the ages of 2 and 10). This is not a saintly biography, but a story of the development of Lincoln….
    He had the ability to combine high and low culture. He could speak to the common person. I argue that he wasn’t some spontaneous genius, but he worked very, very hard at it. I often say to my students, “There is no such thing as good writing. There is good rewriting.” That’s what Lincoln did. And there’s a beauty in his language. He wrote “out loud” — he would whisper a word out loud as he wrote it. For his First Inaugural Address, the last paragraph was suggested by [then Secretary of State] William Seward, whose suggested wording began, “I close.” Lincoln extended it to, “I am loathe to close.” You can hear the music of it….
    He loved poetry. That’s one of the keys as to why he was a good speaker. John F. Kennedy also loved poetry. Our best speakers have an ear for poetry. Lincoln loved to read Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Shakespeare. He said he read with two senses: his eyes and his ears. He loved to read poetry aloud, to hear the sound of it. One of his secretaries said, “The president read Shakespeare until my ears almost burned off.”…
    He would write notes on little slips of paper and stow them in his top hat or in the bottoms of the drawers of his desk. He was thinking things through. He always began with a problem: The problem of slavery. The problem of secession. The problem of the Dred Scott decision. He would work his way into looking at the problem through his writing. I call his notes his “intellectual diary.” Sometimes his notes would become the basis of a future speech….
    The most important lesson Lincoln could teach Obama is that he will need to school himself. Lincoln taught himself to be president on the job. Painfully aware of his own shortcomings — in administrative abilities and military understanding, to name but two — his success wasn’t simply in the nature of his political genius… but in the hard work he expended day after wearing day in the White House. – UCLA Today, 2-12-09
  • Harold Holzer “Honest Abe Made History in New York”: “It can truly be said that Lincoln was made in New York. His political career took flight only when he triumphed at Cooper Union and his speech was reprinted in five New York daily newspapers and republished in a best-selling pamphlet and when he posed for Brady — a pose that launched a thousand engravings and lithographs and virtually did the campaigning for him during the presidential race when Lincoln himself, true to tradition, stayed home and said nothing.” – MSNBC, 2-11-09
  • Harold Holzer “A Curious-Looking Hero Still Mesmerizes the Nation Even Tiniest Lincoln Relics Command Reverence”: “He’s approachable and unreachable at the same time…. He compels us to learn more, but there’s always something we’re not going to get. – WaPo, 2-11-09
  • Henry Louis Gates, editor of “Lincoln on Race and Slavery” “Abe Lincoln: Born in a log cabin, 200 years ago”: “Lincoln’s accomplishments and a century and a half of mythologizing have had Lincoln’s image so capacious that you can find anything there.” – AP, 2-8-09
  • Gary Scott Smith “The legacy of Abraham Lincoln”: On Feb. 12 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The relatively short history of our nation makes this a particularly momentous milestone. Of all of our leaders after the founders, only Franklin Roosevelt approaches Lincoln’s renown and stature. In poll after poll, historians and political scientists rate Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents, often the greatest.
    Many have portrayed Lincoln as a paragon of piety, a champion of freedom, a demigod, and the national redeemer. Despite his unorthodox views, many laud Lincoln as the nation’s most exemplary Christian chief executive. No American, Theodore Roosevelt insisted, more fully applied what the churches taught than Lincoln. The 16th president “stands at the spiritual center of American history,” historian Sidney Mead argued.
    Most scholars and other Americans, though, portray Lincoln much more positively. As we see it, during the most trying time in American history, Lincoln testified to God’s sovereignty, held together a coalition of free and border slave states, kept his fragmented party from falling apart, defeated the rebel states militarily, liberated four million slaves, and preserved the Union. Henry P. Tappan, the president of the University of Michigan, wrote Lincoln in 1862 that he hoped the history of the country would someday read: “Then the United States redeemed and regenerated commenced a new career of prosperity and glory; and Abraham Lincoln was hailed by his countrymen and by mankind as the second father of his country, and the hero of Liberty.” Tappan’s wish has largely been granted. – Early County News, 2-11-09
  • William Bartelt “Indiana working to bolster its Lincoln legacy”: Her death in 1818 left Lincoln with an early sense of human mortality, said William Bartelt, author of “There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth.” Thomas Lincoln, a farmer, remarried about a year later. Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln bonded with Lincoln and his older sister and encouraged young Abe’s voracious appetite for reading and learning, said Bartelt, an adjunct history professor at the University of Southern Indiana. “We can’t underestimate the importance of Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, who came in and showed him a great deal of love and I think really built up his self-confidence,” he said. “She destroys all of the stepmother myths. She said he was the best boy she ever saw.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • Eric Foner “Revoking Civil Liberties: Lincoln’s Constitutional Dilemma His suspension of habeas corpus is part of what some consider the “dark side” of his presidency”: In the months before he was assassinated, Lincoln found, to his surprise, that he was unable to convince Missouri’s Republican leaders—who had grown accustomed to their newfound powers—to put an end to martial law in the state. The lesson he learned, historians say, may have been a simple one: “It is much easier,” says Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University, “to put these restrictions in place than it is to stop them.” – US News & World Report, 2-10-09
  • Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond “Virginia Embracing Lincoln”: “If you look at what children are taught, you see only praise for Abraham Lincoln. I would think white Virginians think Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president.” – Richmond Times Dispatch, VA
  • Gerald Prokopowicz “Lincoln dinner speaker welcomes questions”: “It’s always good to travel around to see what people are doing to remember Lincoln’s birthday,” he said. Prokopowicz was a commercial and real estate attorney before entering graduate school to pursue history, his “passion.” “I always loved history and law proved less interesting,” he said. He became interested in Lincoln while in graduate school at Harvard. He was a research assistant under David Herbert Donald, who wrote the 1995 New York Times bestseller “Lincoln.” “Up to that time I’d seen him as a mythic figure, a plastic saint,” Prokopowicz said. “I was already interested in the Civil War period and Lincoln was always in the back of my mind but working with Professor Donald helped me get a closer look at this figure.” “When I began to study him I found him fascinating, not because he was flawed but because he was real.”… “In North Carolina, some people respect Lincoln but he’s not a universally admired figure as in the Midwest, where every town has businesses or schools or streets named after him,” he said. “I’m curious to visit your part of country again and see how Lincoln is viewed across the country. He is really a universal figure in a lot of ways.” – Redlands Daily Facts, CA, 2-11-09


Abraham Lincoln

  • Obama praises Lincoln’s legacy at Ford’s Theatre: Calling the theater “hallowed space” where Lincoln’s legacy thrives, Obama praised him for restoring a sense of unity to the country, according to the prepared remarks he was to deliver to the crowd. “For despite all that divided us — North and South, black and white — he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people,” Obama said. “And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • “Obama and Lincoln: parallels between the centuries:” President Barack Obama is not the 21st-century Abraham Lincoln, although if you followed his campaign, you could be forgiven some confusion. From the time two years ago when Obama declared his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Ill., to his pre-Inaugural celebration before the Lincoln Memorial, Obama has linked himself to that earlier tall, skinny fellow from Illinois who was born 200 years ago today…. But drawing too many parallels between them is premature in the fourth week of Obama’s presidency. That might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing, said Jason Jividen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Saint Francis. That people fall for the Obama-as-Lincoln story says something about the adept politics of Obama’s campaign and the desire of reporters for a story that resonates so powerfully with American history. “There’s nothing remarkable about politicians appealing to Lincoln,” Jividen said Wednesday. Teddy Roosevelt’s supporters compared him to Lincoln, as did Woodrow Wilson’s and Franklin Roosevelt’s. “So much of this comparison has been initiated by Obama and his speechwriters,” Jividen said. – News Sentinel, IN, 2-11-09
  • Caroline E. Janney “Historian: Obama will affect how we remember Lincoln on the 200th anniversary”: “Lincoln, who was born 200 years ago on Feb. 12, is known as a great speechwriter, thinker and consensus builder,” says Caroline E. Janney, an assistant professor of history who studies Civil War memorials and remembrance. “While people are watching how Obama is following Lincoln, many may not realize that today’s president is shaping the way we remember the 16th president. Memory is always crafted by its contemporary context.”
    “Obama has consciously constructed his connections to Lincoln from announcing his campaign in Springfield to using Lincoln’s Bible during the inauguration. Obama and his staff are hoping to use the nation’s collective memory to set the tone for this administration. The way Lincoln’s image is used will affect how we remember Lincoln. In the celebration of his 200th birthday, it will be interesting to see what celebrations focus on and what images from 2009 will carry forward.”
    “Two prominent ways Lincoln is remembered are as the great emancipator and as a rugged frontiersman who was a self-made man. But these perceptions are contested. Some historians argue that slaves emancipated themselves and Lincoln was not the key force in their freedom. Others try to dispel the image of him as frontiersman who educated himself because he was part of a middle-class family and he married a woman from a slave-holding family.”
    “People are going to remember different things during different points of history. Even if this year was not the 200th anniversary, national healing is still important because our nation has been so polarized in recent years. Of course, this is nothing like the 1860s, but it’s always helpful to look at the past to see what we can learn from it.” – Lafayette Online, 2-11-09
  • Michael Burlingame “Obama encourages connections to Lincoln”: Lincoln historian Michael Burlingame will follow Obama with his own remarks at the ALA banquet. “I hope he discusses what he admires most about Lincoln’s leadership, his inspiration from Lincoln’s anti-slavery position and as a war leader,” Burlingame said. “Lincoln was a war president and Obama is, of course, a war president.” – Galesburg, 2-11-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Historian: Lincoln ahead of his time”: “First of all, he would kill anybody in debates. He was so good at debates. He could stand on par with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert [and] Jay Leno without missing a beat, and people would feel a sense of his person as a result of that….
    I think the fact that [President Obama] has embraced Lincoln is only a good thing. It means he’s got a mentor. Whenever a president looks back on history, it means they don’t have to start all over again. I think the main thing that [Lincoln] would do would be to assure Obama that he had been through difficult times before and that somehow this country has the strength to get through these difficult moments. He would probably tell him that he has to keep a continuing conversation with the American people. That’s what Lincoln did so well during his presidency.” – Chicago Sun-Times, 2-11-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin talks about Lincoln and his team of rivals: “What an extraordinary experience it was to have spent so much time with this man who created the most unusual team in presidential history, made up of his chief rivals, each one of whom was better educated, more experienced, more celebrated than he, each one of whom thought he should be president instead of Abraham Lincoln. And yet in the end he was able to bring this group together into a team that won the war, saved the union and ended slavery forever….
    Certainly the situation he is facing is as difficult as anyone has faced since the Great Depression. Probably not as difficult as Lincoln faced with the country falling apart right beneath him, with the possibility that Washington, had it been attacked by the Confederates, the whole government structure would have been undone.
    Lincoln later said that if he’d known the pressures he was going to be under from the inauguration to Fort Sumter, those six weeks, he would not have felt he could have lived through them. I’m sure that Obama is feeling that enormous sense of pressure right now.” – Herald Tribune, 2-10-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Historian: Obama should take pointers from Abe Lincoln”: “Hillary Clinton was his biggest rival. I think she’ll be a very good secretary of State.” “Obama will have to decide what he’ll have to do” about the welter of sticky problems he faces, said the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and author…
    “He refused to give in to despair,” said Goodwin, adding that Lincoln found consolation in the idea that he might be able to leave the world a better place…. – Bradenton Herald, 2-10-09

On This Day in History… August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr gives his “I Have a Dream” Speech

On this day in history… August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr gives his “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial….

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his I have a dream speech

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I have a dream” speech

Martin Luther King’s Speech: ‘I Have a Dream’ – The Full Text

PHOTO: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on this day on Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington, Washington, DC.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on this day on Aug. 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington, Washington, DC. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Aug. 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

On This Day in History… August 28, 1968: Police and Protesters clash at the DNC

Documentary on the Chicago ’68 Riots – by Bonnie K. Goodman

By Bonnie Goodman, HNN, 9-9-08

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings

On This Day in History… August 28, 1968: Police and anti-Vietnam War demonstrators clash at Chicago’s Democratic National Convention…

Sources and Further Reading:

James E. Campbell, The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote, (Texas A&M University Press, 2000)

Maurice Isserman, Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s,
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Frank Kusch, Battleground Chicago: The Police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention, (Westport, CT. Praeger, 2004).

Mark Kurlansky, 1968: The Year That Rocked the World, (Random House, Inc., 2005).

Jon Wiener, Tom Hayden, Jules Feiffer, Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight, (New Press, 2006).

On This Day in History… June 30-September 11, 1862: Eugenia Phillips is sentenced to Ship Island by Gen. Butler

June 30-September 11, 1862: Confederate Eugenia Phillips is sentenced to Ship Island by “the Beast” General Butler

By Bonnie Goodman, HNN, 8-19-08

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings

On this day in history…June 30, 1862 to September 11, 1862, Eugenia Levy Phillips, an ardent Confederate was arrested and sentenced to time on Ship Island, Mississippi because she laughed during a Union soldier’s funeral procession in New Orleans.

Eugenia Levy Phillips in her later yearsEugenia Levy Phillips in her later years

During the Civil War, women in the South contributed on many levels to the cause through volunteer work, as war supply collectors, seamstresses and nurses, but the far more committed chose to rebel against the Union officials. Many Southern women took advantage of the new politicizing position the war granted women by demonstrating their loyalty to the South through fiercer methods, often through illegal means including, smuggling, espionage, and belligerency. Phoebe Pember summed up Southern women’s devotion best when she wrote, “women of the South had been openly and violently rebellious from the moment they thought their states’ rights touched. They incited the men to struggle in support of their views, and whether right or wrong, sustained them nobly to the end. They were the first to rebel – and the last to succumb.” (Rosen, 44)

The South’s small Jewish population adamantly sided with their Southern neighbors and so did their women. The majority of these Jewish women were not recent immigrants, but American born and shared the lifestyle and values of their Christian counterparts. As Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly write, “Rosana [Osterman], the Levy sisters, and the Natchez M[a]yer daughters were not, of course, recent immigrants but rather the American-born descendants of earlier migrant generations. But they, like Jews throughout the country, both newly arrived and long established, saw themselves as wholehearted Americans and fashioned their lives and identities in response to an American reality quite unlike anything Jews had ever experienced elsewhere.” (Diner and Benderly, 106) These women were Jewish southern belles and lived their lives accordingly.

These Southern Jewish women were integrated in Southern society, and were attached to a lifestyle they had become accustomed to, and as the war demonstrated Southerners and the Confederacy were more tolerant of Jews than the Union army that ravaged the South, Southern Jews recognized this and devotedly aligned themselves with their beloved South at all costs. As the doyen of American Jewish history Jacob Rader Marcus writes, “The Southern Jewesses were fanatically, almost hysterically, passionate in their sympathies for their new regime. Were they trying to prove that they were more ardent than their neighbors? Why?” (Marcus, 31)

The Levys were a prominent Southern Jewish family. When the Civil War broke-out they became loyal supporters of the Confederate cause. Two of the sisters, Eugenia Levy Phillips and her younger sister Phoebe Yates Levy Pember, would be remembered in history as ardent Confederates, expressing their devotion at opposite extremes. Phoebe Pember nursed the wounded Confederates. She was one of the South’s most remembered female hospital matrons and a nurse in the largest military hospital in the Confederacy during the Civil War. She was the chief matron at Hospital Number Two at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from 1862 to 1865. Pember’s older sister Eugenia, however, was such an ardent Confederate that her devotion to the cause showed no boundaries, and she is remembered for supposedly serving as a Confederate spy and for her hostility to one of the Union’s fiercest generals, Benjamin Butler, who was known for his hatred of the Confederacy as much as his anti-Semitic attitudes.

Eugenia Levy Phillips, born in Charleston in 1819, was the daughter of Jacob Clavius Levy, a merchant, and Fanny Yates Levy, an actress. She married U.S. Congressman Philip Phillips of Mobile, Alabama when she was 16, and went on to have nine children. Phillips was a leading figure in Alabama politics from the 1830s to the 1850s when he was elected to the United States Congress in 1852. After one term in Congress, he established a law practice in Washington, D.C. Eugenia and her husband differed greatly in their political beliefs; Phillips was a Unionist, while Eugenia was probably one of the fiercest secessionists in the District of Columbia. Eugenia also socialized with other secessionists and women suspected of spying on the Union for the Confederacy, particularly Rose O’Neal Greenhow, well-known Confederate spy. Eugenia Phillips writing in her journal claimed, “American women knew nothing of war, believed less in the cruelties and fearful vindictiveness of the Federal governm[en]t. Thus the Southern women gave free expression to the feelings which habit had made but second nature, and spoke of their hatred and determination to sustain their rights by encouraging in their husbands, sons, and fathers every resistance to tyranny exhibited by the Republicans.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

Eugenia’s associations and excessive antagonism toward the Union made her a target for government surveillance. On August 24, 1861, Federal officers came into Eugenia and Phillip Phillips’ home arresting both of them. Phillip remained under house arrest for a week, but Eugenia and two of their daughters, Fanny and Caroline as well as Eugenia’s sister, Martha Levy, where taken to Rose Greenhow’s house to be imprisoned. The Union had arrested Greenhow the previous day for relaying plans for the first Manassas Campaign to Confederate General McDowell. There all five women remained imprisoned in two rooms in Greenhow’s attic with hardly any amenities. Eugenia Phillips described it in her journal, “The stove (broken) served us for table and washstand, while a punch bowl grew into a washbasin. Two filthy straw mattresses kept us warm, and Yankee soldiers were placed at our bedroom door to prevent our escape.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

Despite the fact that Union officers had no evidence against her and her family, they remained imprisoned, though Phillip Phillips was allowed to visit and bring food baskets, albeit under strict Union supervision. Eugenia believed her loyalty to her country should not be considered a crime to imprison her for, writing in her memoir, “Again I ask what is my crime? If an ardent attachment to the land of my birth and expression of deepest sympathy with relatives and friends in the South constitute treason than I am indeed a traitor. If hostility towards black Republicanism, its sentiment and policy-it is a crime-and I am self-condemned…!” (Rosen, 288) Southern women were outraged at the North’s treatment of women with no reason, especially the imprisonment of Eugenia’s two daughters. Phillips had to use his influence with Edward Stanton, Senator Reverdy Johnson from Maryland, and Supreme Court Justice James M. Wayne, the former mayor of Savannah, to secure his family’s release. However, the Union exiled the Phillips family from the nation’s capital, forcing them to relocate to the Southern states. The whole family was also required to take an oath as a condition of their parole to “not to take illegal actions against the Union.”

It would not very long for Eugenia to again to breech the agreement. After leaving Washington the couple first traveled to Norfolk, Virginia and then on to Richmond through Savannah, eventually settling in New Orleans in the closing weeks of 1861. Although conditions were unfavorable for Phillips’s law practice, the family settled there because it appeared to be safe from Union army invasion. By April however, the Union army was closing in on the Mississippi River. News Orleans surrendered on April 29, 1862.

By May 1, 1862, Major General Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts took over command of the city. Butler tried to control the city with an iron fist. The historian Bertram Wallace Korn describes Butler as a “conniving careerist and political opportunist of major proportions, who was given the title of ‘Beast’ by the Confederacy for his severity during the early military occupation of New Orleans.” (Korn, 164) While historian Robert Rosen writes ” ‘Beast’ Butler was the worst, the Union Army had to offer. He was nicknamed spoons for thiefery of spoons and silverware imputed to him and his soldiers.” (Rosen, 290)

In addition to this reputation as a beast, Butler was also a known anti-Semite, who throughout the war openly expressed his hatred for Jews, many of whom had settled in the South. Korn transcribes Butler’s sentiments toward Jews, “They were a tightly-knit and highly-organized nation who set themselves apart and defended themselves against others even when one of their group was wrong. They were all ‘traders, merchants, and bankers.’ He said that the only Jews he ever knew had “been principally engaged in the occupations [i.e. smuggling] which caused the capture which has occasioned this correspondence.” They were supporting the Confederacy with whole heart – ‘two of them certainly are in the Confederate Cabinet.'” (Korn, 164)

When General Butler occupied New Orleans in May 1862, the Southern population treated the Yankees with such contempt that they refused to comply with Federal orders. Southerners formed mobs to attack Union soldiers; they refused to serve Yankees in their businesses; priests refused to pray for the president of the United States, and one man was even sentenced to be hung for burning the Union flag. Despite the harsh punishments the Yankee soldiers issued to New Orleans natives, the women believed these rules did not apply to them and that they were exempt from all harsh treatments because of their gender. Many of New Orleans’ women expressed extreme belligerency toward Union officials.

The majority of the women who acted in this manner were upper class. As historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes, Butler “recognized that the perpetrators were generally young, often ‘pretty and interesting,’ and frequently socially prominent, the kind of individuals who would attract both attention and sympathy if harsh measures turned them into martyrs.” (Faust, 209) At the same time, however, Butler knew he had to control their actions, for as he recalled in his memoir, “a city could hardly be said to be under good government where such things were permitted.” (Butler, 417) On May 15 in retaliation to the women’s disrespectful behavior Butler issued his infamous General Order No. 28, known as the “Women order”:

General Order No. 28. As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans . . . it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation. (Butler, 421, 418; Faust, 210).

The order put Eugenia Phillips in danger of yet again being imprisoned because of her fierce loyalty to the Confederacy, and her utter disregard and respect for the Union. Phillips was vulnerable to Butler’s wrath because she was both Jewish and a member of the city’s Confederate aristocracy. In an attempt to avoid Butler’s anger Eugenia and the Phillips family remained for the most part at home. However, Eugenia still managed to attract Butler’s fury. The Phillips’s house was situated next to city hall. The day of Union Officer Lieutenant DeKay’s funeral procession passed by the street, Butler caught Eugenia blurting out in laughter and cheering on the terrace of her home. As Benjamin Butler biographer Hans L. Trefousse writes, “High spirited and intensely loyal to the Confederacy, she had been in trouble before when she was apprehended for espionage in Washington. This time, not espionage but merriment was to prove her undoing.” (Trefousse, 118)

Eugenia denied she had laughed at the funeral procession. There have been two accounts explaining why she was laughing. First Eugenia’s daughter Caroline claims it was because Eugenia heard of a Confederate victory and was in a celebratory mood, while other accounts including Eugenia’s own excuse, claim she was laughing at the antics of her younger children at a party. At first when Butler called her to the Customs House, as Rosen writes, “Eugenia, active in raising money for the widow of a man executed by Butler for having hauled down the flag from the federal mint, believed she was being prosecuted for her pro-Southern beliefs.” (Rosen, 291) At the Customs House Butler screamed at Eugenia, “You are seen laughing and mocking at the remains of a Federal officer. I do not call you a common woman of the town, but an uncommonly vulgar one, and I sentence you to Ship Island for the War.” Eugenia’s reply further angered Butler as she wrote, “Again my insolence aroused this son of liberty, particularly as in reply to his accusation I had said: ‘I was in good spirits the day of the funeral.'” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

Eugenia’s response and her refusal to plead and beg for freedom led to her harsh punishment rather than her original crime. As she explained in her journal, “I noted that he took a mighty long time to write my sentence, and I suspected that he hoped by delay I would throw myself on his mercy, or beg his pardon, or promise never to do so again. Nothing of this kind ever crossed my brain, and, full of holy indignation and determination to meet with silent contempt this outrageous insult, I quietly folded my arms and looked on him while he wrote. Not a word of appeal or explanation broke the ominous silence. My accuser had made the charge and sentenced me without judge or jury.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

Butler wrote in Special Order No. 150 delineating Eugenia Phillips’ sentence: “…having been once imprisoned for her traitorous proclivities and acts at Washington, and released by the clemency of the Government, and having been found training her children to spit on officers of the United States, for which act of one of those children both her husband and herself apologized and were again forgiven, [she] is now found on the balcony of her house during the passage of the funeral procession of Lieut. DeKay, laughing and mocking at his remains, and upon being inquired of by the Commanding General if this fact were so, contemptuously replies, “I was in good spirits that day.” (Korn, 164; Special Order No. 150)

Butler ordered Eugenia to remain on Ship Island, a known yellow fever quarantine station situated off the coast of Mississippi. The island was infested with mosquitoes. In the summer the heat could be fatal while hygiene and proper food was hard to come by. Butler allowed Eugenia to have one servant to accompany and attend to her during her imprisonment, and she took her loyal servant Phebe with her. She was also not allowed to communicate with anyone but Butler and her maid; any letters she wrote her family were reviewed by Union guards, and only after she was freed did her family truly learn about her living conditions on the island.

On June 30, 1862 Eugenia commenced her imprisonment, first living in a former railroad boxcar and then in an abandoned post office building. Butler allowed Mr. Phillips to send Eugenia some food, mostly beans and spoiled beef. The harsh conditions took a heavy toll on Eugenia Phillips; the deprivation of food nearly destroyed her health, and Eugenia suffered from brain fever, which was considered nervous exhaustion. Her continued pride and loyalty to the Confederacy was the main reason Butler did not release Eugenia earlier. As she wrote in her journal, “The ‘great’ Gen. Butler sent once a week to inquire after my health. He, no doubt, hoped I would at last cringe and beg. Thank God, who gave me strength and patience to keep me from this black stain.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

September 11, 1862, after nearly three months on Ship Island, Butler finally released Eugenia. When she arrived home and her husband opened the door, she believed he was seeing a ghost as believed as he was not certain she was still alive by that point. Publicly while she was imprisoned her whereabouts were vague. (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

Throughout her time on the island, Eugenia was able to send out a few letters to her family, which described the “gruesome” and inhumane conditions she was forced to live in; these letters according to George Rable “made her imprisonment a cause célèbre.” Eugenia’s imprisonment caused an uproar from Southerners. The press throughout the country carried the story. Most people believed the sentence was too harsh for the crime. Korn explains, “The war which Butler waged upon this Jewess and other Southern women made him the Confederacy’s ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ with a price upon his head.” (Korn, 164) The citizens of New Orleans visited the Phillips family home as a sign of support.

The Jewish community and other Southern women abhorred the treatment that Eugenia was receiving at the hands of Butler. Mary Chesnut, a Christian friend of Eugenia Phillips, wrote in A Diary from Dixie, “Mrs. Phillips, another beautiful and clever Jewess, has been put in prison again by ‘Beast’ Butler for laughing as a Yankee funeral procession went by.” (Chesnut, 266) There was even talk of Southerners planning to rescue Eugenia. According to Trefousse, “It was a sentence as harsh as it was sensational. Southerners talked of rescuing the lady, but they lacked the necessary ships and found it impossible to carry out their chivalrous plan. Butler pardoned her in September, two and a half months after her arrest, but this action did not dispel the popular belief that he was a cruel tyrant.” (Trefousse, 118)

Butler regretted that Eugenia’s imprisonment had the opposite effect than he intended. He wanted to make Eugenia’s treasonous behavior toward the Union an example of what happened to women who display such behavior. Instead, as Rable writes, Butler turned “an irksome rebel into a martyr,” which was the main reason he chose to release her from Ship Island early. Eugenia Phillips, according to Rable, “had shown considerable public relations acumen, and her prison journal reveals an ironic sense of humor, especially in her wry proposal to use a steam device to pump moisture into the rock-hard bread. Though not exactly besting Butler, she had played the wily Massachusetts politician to a draw.” (Clinton, 142) Despite the cruel punishment that awaited her, Eugenia remained loyal to the Confederacy. As William Garett noted, “her proud Southern spirit never quailed and she remained firm to the last in the opinions she had expressed.” (Rosen, 293)

Eugenia Levy Phillips’s devotion to the Confederacy appeared “unquestionable,” as Lauren Winner describes. Although Eugenia was a practicing Jew, she saw herself especially during the war as primarily a Southerner who would support her “country” at all costs, which she did. As Winner explains, Phillips “was so unswerving in her devotion to the Confederate cause that the Union suspected her of being a spy.” (Clinton, 195) Eugenia Phillips and her sister Phoebe Pember have been the Southern Jewish women most remembered by historians, and their devotion has been elevated beyond their religion, which was the hope of most of the Southern Jewish women that volunteered in support of the cause.

Sources and Further Reading

Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benjamin F. Butler, (Thayer, 1892).

Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut, Ben Williams Ames, ed., A Diary from Dixie, (Harvard University Press, 1980).

Catherine Clinton, Nina Silber, eds., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, (Oxford University Press, 1992).

Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, (University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

Bertram Wallace Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society, 1951).

Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, (Ktav Pub. House; American Jewish Archives, 1981).

Eugenia Phillips, Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862.

Samuel Proctor, et al., eds., Jews of the South: Selected Essays from the Southern Jewish Historical Society, (Mercer University Press, 1984).

Robert Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, (University of South Carolina Press, 2000).

Special Order No. 150, Headquarters Department of the Gulf, June 30, 1862.

Hans L. Trefousse, Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!, (Twayne Publishers, 1957).

Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On This Day in History… April 23-30, 1968: Columbia University Students Stage a Strike

April 23-30, 1968: Columbia University Students Stage a Strike

by Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HNN, 4-29-08

On this day in history…April 23-30, 1968 leftist students took over Columbia University, NYC occupying five buildings on the campus before forcibly being removed by the police.

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the most turbulent years in modern American history. The year was just beginning and yet as early as Aprils it was already volatile. Opposition to the Vietnam War was at an all time high, so much so that President Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for another presidential term. Just a few weeks before Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, and student protests raged across the country’s universities, peaking in April 1968 with the stand off at Columbia University. According to historian Jeffrey Meyers, the protests “took place during a volatile and often explosive period in American history: between the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (September 1964) and the student riots in Paris, May 1968, between the assassinations of Martin Luther King in Memphis, April 4, 1968 and of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968, between the March on the Pentagon, October 1967 and the bloody protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, August 1968, between the Tet Offensive February 1968 and the My Lai Massacre, March 1968, and the escalating protest against the war in Vietnam.” (Myers, 2003) On April 23, leftist students began a strike at the university, which lasted eight days, culminating in a riot in the early hours of April 30 when the police busted the students.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Columbia University

In 1962 Tom Hayden, a twenty-one year old student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor created the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Along with other student activists at the university, they wrote out the Port Huron Statement, the organization’s statement of principles. In only two years, there were 40 SDS chapters on university campuses. Among the organization’s purposes was educating their fellow students about “the evils of capitalism, the plight of blacks, and the perfidies of the military-industrial complex.” (McCaughey, 427) In 1965, as the US was going on the offense in Vietnam, SDS turned its attention to the war.

On March 10, 1965, Columbia University established the fifty-second chapter of SDS, led by Ted Kaptchuck and Dave Gilbert. In its first few months, the chapter focused its attention on building its membership, which included campus radicals and sympathetic faculty, and trying to determine what the relationship was between the university and the country’s defense establishment. (McCaughey, 427) There were other leftist student groups at Columbia including the Columbia Citizenship Council (CCC), organized in 1959 with a mission to help the local community. Most of the University’s chaplains sympathized or supported the leftist groups.

During the revolt a majority of students supported neither the protesters nor the counter protesters. As Robert A. McCaughey writes in his account, “The students who joined SDS, CCC, and anti-war groups and who became sufficiently persuaded of the complicity of the university in the perpetuation of whatever evil they were protesting to move to shut it down were a minority in a minority.” McCaughey, 428 Columbia University had 20,000 students at the time, 6,000 of whom were undergraduates. By comparison, the radical organizations on campus boasted just three hundred members, with another seven hundred more providing moral support. SDS had just fifty members with another hundred supporters. The majority of the student activists were undergraduates. McCaughey, 428

Leading up to the Revolt: SDS Protests 1965-1967

Student protests against the university’s authority commenced in the spring of 1965. The university took minimal actions against the protesters to minimize media attention. University President Grayson Kirk believed the best policy was to keep the disruptions to a minimum, which would have worked, according to McCaughey, “had student protesters wanted immunity in exchange for not directly challenging the president’s disciplinary authority. But it was precisely the latter that the protesters wanted.” (McCaughey, 431) The students primarily opposed military-related recruiters on campus including the NROTC, the Marine Corps, the CIA and Dow Chemical (which supplied Agent Orange for the Vietnam War).

The university’s patience was tested in the spring of 1967 when CIA and Marine Corps recruiters came to the campus sparking anti-war protests. Two incidents prompted President Kirk to ban all indoor demonstrations for the next academic year. By the fall of 1967, SDS seemed to be losing momentum. The majority of Columbia’s students opposed the protests, SDS could not forge alliances with other leftist groups, and the groups were divided by internal battles. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, noted on October 30, 1967 that the tactics of SDS were ineffective.

The Three Issues at the Center of the Revolt

There were three central issues behind the revolt with two factions merging together for a common goal; opposition to the university’s administration. The first issue was Columbia University’s proposed expansion into Harlem. The university was planning to build a new gymnasium on city park property in Morningside Heights bordering Harlem. Both Columbia students and local residents would be using the gym; however, they would use separate entrances. Although Harlem civic organizations approved the project, militants objecting to the use of separate entrances, claiming this was an example of blatant racism. (Meyers, 2003) African-American students from the Students’ African-American Society (SAS) and the CCC protested the expansion, calling the new building “Gym Crow.”

At SDS there was a power struggle between Ted Kaptchuk, who wanted to focus on membership, recruitment, and education (what critics referred to as the “praxis axis”) and Mark Rudd, who was more interested in “direct confrontation with authorities.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd, a junior who had just returned from an extended trip to Cuba, believed in participatory democracy. On March 13, 1968, Rudd was elected chairman of the Columbia SDS chapter on the slogan: “How to get the SDS Moving Again and Screw the University All in One Fell Swoop.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd was unpopular with many. Columbia’s faculty disliked his arrogance, and those on the radical left objected to his suburban New Jersey upbringing, his athletic country club good looks and his male chauvinism. Tom Hayden described Rudd as “absolutely committed to an impossible yet galvanizing dream: that of transforming the entire student movement through this particular student revolt, into a successful effort to bring down the system.” But Hayden also described Rudd as “sarcastic and smugly dogmatic.” (McCaughey, 437)

Another of the issues that preoccupied radical students was the university’s often secret involvement and affiliation with the Institute of Defense Analysis. (Conlin, 284) The IDA did not issue contracts, but affiliated universities got preferential treatment from agencies that did. Columbia’s involvement with the IDA was common knowledge. What was not known, however, was the extent of the university’s military research. Columbia’s Institute of East European Studies was accumulating economic data for the CIA, while faculty members may have been conducting some contract research. The news came as a surprise to the university community. SDS was firmly committed to convincing the university to disengage itself from the IDA, and in March 1968, around 1,700 Columbia students signed a petition urging the university to break its affiliation as had other universities such as the University of Chicago.

The third issue was the university’s crackdown on the protesters, though this was slow to materialize. In February when two hundred students protested against Dow Chemical recruiters on campus, they went unpunished, as did Mark Rudd a few weeks later when he shoved a lemon meringue pie in the face of the visiting New York City director of Selective Service. But when at the end of March Rudd and a hundred members of SDS staged a new protest at Low Library six of the group’s leaders were identified and put on probation. Immediately the gym issue became relevant, and SDS students began protesting the disciplinary action, declaiming: “No disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 440) The students claimed their constitutional rights had been violated.

Spring 1968 Events Leading up to the Campus Revolt

In early 1968, the tension that had been mounting around the country’s campuses had “reached a fever pitch.” (Davis, 39) The primary reasons were the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek another term, and Martin Luther King’s assassination. SDS saw Johnson’s announcement as a reason to distrust all US institutions including the university administration. As Kirkpatrick Sale explains: “April began the escalation of student resistance that would mark this spring as the most explosive period up to that time in the history of American universities.” (Sale, 429) Columbia’s SDS protest coincided with the Tens Days of Resistance, a massive demonstration against the Vietnam War on campuses all over the country. Fifty colleges and universities participated. On the campuses there were “rallies, marches, teach-ins, and sit-ills, climaxing in a one-day ‘student strike’ on April 26.” As Sale writes, “It was a demonstration of significant proportions — probably as many as a million students stayed away from classes … and yet somehow its impact on the public was slight.” (Sale, 429)

It was the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. at Columbia that made the April riots all but inevitable. One of the chaplains at Columbia, John D. Cannon, believed there should be a memorial service. President Kirk and Provost David Truman were not invited until they heard about the plan and insisted on participating. Their presence prompted the SAS not to attend. Held on April 9, the service was well-attended, and was going smoothly until Mark Rudd came to the pulpit while Truman was speaking and “proceeded to declare the service an ‘obscenity’ given Columbia’s systematic mistreatment of blacks and workers King had lost his life championing.” (McCaughey, 441)

Afterwards Rudd left the chapel with forty other students; the walkout shocked the faculty and administration in attendance. The administration was unable to take disciplinary action against Rudd because Chaplain Cannon essentially blessed Rudd’s action by claiming “that St. Paul’s welcomed the views of anyone ‘who sincerely believes he is moved by the spirit.’” (McCaughey, 441) Although it appalled history Professor Fritz Stern, who caught Rudd before he departed and told him “his actions in the chapel were akin to the takeover of Socialist meetings by Nazis in Weimar Germany.” (McCaughey, 441) As McCaughey claims, “This would not be the last time this analogy was invoked in the weeks that followed.” (McCaughey, 441)

SDS found what they believed was a legitimate excuse to protest the administration. SDS adopted the race issue and the gym as their own, and on April 12, the chapter’s steering committee voted to mount demonstrations throughout the spring in protest of the gym and the university’s connections with the Pentagon “war machine.” Then on April 17 at the SDS general assembly, nearly a hundred students voted in favor of spring demonstrations. April 23 was set as the day for the first day of the protest, which would begin with a noontime rally at the sundial in front of the Low Library. Rudd’s mastermind planning included two pre-protest steps to “assure a crowd at the sundial.” (McCaughey, 441) In a letter entitled “Letter to Uncle Grayson” on April 19 Rudd “listed three nonnegotiable demands that SDS had settled on: the cessation of gym construction; Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA; and no disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 441) Rudd also began negotiating with other student groups to embrace their issues of concern. According to McCaughey, this “marked a new departure for SAS, which until now had avoided involvement in any campus issues that were not directly related to the circumstances of black students.” (McCaughey, 441)

Although the Ten Days of Resistance was according to Sale “the largest student strike in the history of the country,” it was dwarfed by the sheer size of the Columbia strike, which dominated the press. The media made it seem as if other universities were copying Columbia. (Sale, 429) Over a million students participated in the nationwide strike on April 26. The next day there was a huge anti-war rally in Central park with eighty-seven thousand attending. Still the eight-day saga at Columbia unfolded in the media and stood out in the minds of many as the ultimate student protest. (Davis, 41)

April 23, 1968: Day One

On April 23, 1968 at noon the SDS, CCC, SAS and the university’s black students joined at the sundial in a protest that drew more than a thousand students. (Davis, 39) The SDS and SAS demonstrated at Columbia’s Low Library, but decided they needed to take a more active approach. The groups wanted to get into the Low Library to confront President Kirk, but counter-protesters, the anti-SDS–Students Columbia 1968  JPGfor a Free Campus–blocked the front entrance and the building’s rear entrance was locked. Mark Rudd tried to take charge, using a bullhorn to organize the students. Someone spontaneously suggested the group exit to the grounds of the proposed gymnasium. At the gym site, they were prevented from entering by the police and one student was arrested. As a result, SDS’s main grievance shifted to the student that had just been arrested. Rudd wanted to organize “a democratic decision-making event, proposing a future student strike.” (Boren, 174) However, when someone suggested regrouping again at the sundial the frustrated group moved again.

But instead of moving to the sundial they went to the lobby of Hamilton Hall. It was there that Rudd gained leadership control of the protest, suggesting that the protesters “take a hostage and occupy Hamilton Hall, the main classroom building of Columbia.” (Boren, 174) Their chosen hostage was the university’s interim Dean Henry Coleman, who had not left the building after 6 P.M. in the evening when the majority of the students and faculty had already left. The protesters held him in his office for 24 hours. Coleman was an agreeable hostage, partially because he was treated well by his captors: “We had more food than we could possibly eat.” (Davis, 40)

Although the protests had started off haphazardly, the students began organizing themselves. Rudd acted as the leader, and “appointed a steering committee.” (Boren, 174) The students began drafting their demands to the university, and organized a stand off with the authorities. They also set about posting all over the interior of the building Che Guevara posters and political slogans. (Boren, 174) As Meyers reports, the students “took their revolutionary style and dress, their beards and berets, from Che Guevara” and seemed, as “Dupee wrote, ‘to unite the politics of a guerrilla chieftain with the aesthetic flair of a costumer and an interior decorator.’ ” (Meyers, 2003) Hamilton Hall became a closed occupation and several dozen armed black activists were invited. (McCaughey, 443)

The students made six demands. The first two were the withdrawal from the IDA and a moratorium on building the gym. The others included the right to stage indoor demonstrations, the establishment of open hearings on student discipline, the dropping of charges against the student arrested at the first demonstration, and the granting of amnesty for past, present, and immediate future acts of the protesters. (Colin, 287)

April 24, 1968: Day Two

On April 24, the second day of the revolt the two factions broke ranks, the black students no longer wanting to collaborate with the white ones, and kicked them out of the building. The dynamic changed at midnight, when the SAS voted “that an ongoing occupation of Hamilton–now dubbed Malcolm X Liberation College–should be a blacks only project.” (McCaughey, 444) Although Rudd and SDS were shocked, they agreed to leave. The black students began fortifying the building against a possible police attack and they took over keeping Coleman hostage. (Boren, 174-175) The white students not knowing what to do, took up the suggestion by one of the black students to “Get your own building.” (McCaughey, 444) Rudd, SDSers and white student protesters chose to take over the Low Library, and particularly make their headquarters in President Grayson Kirk’s office. They easily took over the building almost uncontested in the early morning hours. Soon however, there were rumblings that the police were approaching, prompting Rudd and other SDS leaders to jump from the window. The remaining twenty-five students remained there Columbia 1968  JPGunchallenged for the next six days, with many others joining. Rudd wanted to occupy other buildings, but SDSers voted against it fearing it would scare away support, prompting Rudd to briefly resign his post.

The administration made its headquarters in the unoccupied part of Low Library, and although President Kirk wanted to call in the police and resolve the strike quickly, Provost Truman opposed such action. The administration feared the black students would incite residents in Harlem and was cautious in dealing with them. Support grew rapidly for the strike with students taking over other buildings on campus. Students opposed to the strike “began marching on the city campus” and tried to retake Hamilton Hall, without success. (Boren, 175) (McCaughey, 444)

April 25, 1968: Day Three

Day Three ended with graduate students taking over Fayweather Hall. However the most important event of the day was the faculty’s decision to try to resolve the strike. The faculty made their headquarters in Philosophy 301 where they convened an emergency meeting. Daniel Bell offered the most popular resolution, which called for the students to vacate the occupied buildings and a tripartite committee consisting of faculty, students, and the administration to decide on appropriate disciplinary action. He ended by claiming, “We believe that any differences have to be settled peacefully and we trust that police action will not be used to clear university buildings.” (McCaughey, 447) The SAS released Dean Coleman, and he joined the meeting that almost unanimously endorsed Bell’s proposal.

Kirk and Truman were not as supportive. President Kirk announced that classes were canceled until Monday, and Provost Truman told the faculty the police might need to be called in. In response the faculty created the Ad Hoc Faculty Group (AHFG), which would insert itself between the police and the students.

The students were for the most part were unwilling to work with the faculty. The university hoped to end the stand off by announcing that construction on the gymnasium would stop. But things remained at an impasse for four days. The students demanded amnesty for those involved in the revolt, while the administration resisted, fearful that amnesty would give students an incentive to stage another strike later. (Boren, 175)

The day also marked the occupation of another building, after students in Fayerweather considered abandoning their occupation, hard-line SDSers moved on to Mathematics Hall. Later it would be the scene of the most radical protests. National radical leaders came to the campus to endorse the plight of their local chapters. Black Power leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also came into to speak with the African-American students occupying Hamilton Hall.

April 26, 1968: Day Four

Faculty members were staying round the clock at Philosophy Hall, but in the early morning Provost Truman warned that the faculty must leave. The administration called in the police “to secure the campus,” and plainclothes policemen scuffled with faculty members at the building. (Boren, 175) Still President Kirk decided to withhold widespread police action, holding out the hope that the AHFG could work out a compromise. A break seemed in sight after a meeting with SDS leadership; Rudd agreed to meet on the next day, Saturday, with AHFG at Philosophy 301.

April 27, 1968: Day Five

AHFG was willing to offer Rudd full amnesty for the protesters at the meeting, but he exclaimed, “Bullshit,” and left. Day Five also saw the appearance of national SDS leaders including Tom Hayden, who held control over one building. (Boren, 175) Counter protesters tried to stop food from being delivered to those involved in the strike. Other strike supporters served as supply blockaders around the occupied buildings.

A routine set in on campus. With the exception of those in Hamilton, protesters moved in and out of the buildings easily. The protesters made themselves comfortable inside the five buildings they were occupying. As Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin write, “protesters slept in the president’s office, smoked his cigars, drank his sherry, and rifled through his files for politically incriminating documents…. Life inside the ‘liberated’ buildings was tense but passionate, sleepless yet amusing.” (Isserman, 229)

On day five even a marriage took place between two of the protesters, Richard Eagan and Andrea Boroff, who recalled, “We went out on the balcony, and the [university] chaplain proclaimed us children of a new age. There were flowers. There was cake. They took us out and marched us around campus with people banging on pots and pans. . . . Someone had keys to a faculty office and they gave us a honeymoon suite.” (Isserman, 229) The day ended with a rally: “The effective united front among all the variety of SDSers was neatly symbolized on Saturday night, when three SDS leaders addressed a crowd of antiwar marchers who collected outside the university gates: Mark Rudd, Ted Kaptchuk, and Tom Hayden, ” as Sale recounted. Sale, 437, 438

April 28, 1968: Day Six

The calm peace was about to turn violent. On Sunday the AHFG, consisting of sociology Professors Immmanuel Wallerstein, Daniel Bell, Allan Silver, history Professors David J. Rothman and Robert Fogelson and economics Professor Peter Kenen, drew up the “Bitter Pill Resolutions”:

  1. Cancellation of the gym construction.
  2. Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA
  3. Establishment of the principle of collective punishment for the building occupiers
  4. The disavowal by the faculty of either party, students or administration, that refused to accept these resolutions. (McCaughey, 452)

The faculty involved with AHFG voted in favor of the resolutions, but when Kenen and Bell presented them to Provost Truman, he asked them not to present them at the joint faculty meeting or he would resign. At the meeting 400 members of the faculty from the university’s six schools decided to take a centrist position, neither repudiating their president nor abandoning the students. (McCaughey, 453) Meanwhile outside of Low, the power struggle between strikers and counter protesters increased, reaching a boiling point as the anti-protesters circled the building, blocking the delivery of food. The scene, featuring strikers precariously balanced on window ledges, was famously captured by Life magazine in an iconic photograph.

Columbia  1968 JPG

April 29, 1968: Day Seven

Day seven was make or break in the strike and became known as “the day of decision.” Desperate to resolve the matter, the administration told the police to prepare to remove the students in the next 24 hours if they would not agree to end the strike. The intervention would take place in the early morning hours. This detail was kept from AHFG. President Kirk was open to considering the “bitter pill” resolutions, but the university’s trustees wanted changes made. (McCaughey, 455) The protesters’ reaction to the resolutions showed that police action was inevitable. The SDS’s Strike Coordinating Committee refused to compromise without a guarantee of amnesty. Hamilton Hall protesters also refused to go along. Only the Majority Coalition accepted the resolutions, and after one last skirmish with Low’s food suppliers, they vacated their barrier to the building.

April 30, 1968: Day Eight

Eight days into the stand-off there was no solution in sight. The two groups could not meet in agreement, and university officials were concerned that the confrontation was only escalating. As Boren writes: “With major facilities of the campus held by student radicals, a growing national interest in the students’ revolt, and the threat that residents of Harlem might decide to intervene, President Kirk gave the police permission to remove the students on April 30, eight days into the occupation.” (Boren, 175) It was the only way to end the stalemate. The administration, the police, and Mayor Lindsay feared that despite an attempt to remove the students quietly, there would be a riot. It was this fear that had prolonged the strike for so long. One of the mayor’s advisers, Barry Gottehrer, who had watched the proceedings develop since early on in the strike, believed police action could “result in a massacre.” (McCaughey, 456) Mayor Lindsay looked for advice from Yale’s President Kingman Brewster, who told him, “the very future of the American university depended on punishing the strikers.” (McCaughey, 456) His advice helped persuade the mayor to allow the police to move in.

In making that decision, the university administration was giving up its right to control the situation, leaving the police in charge. Provost Truman claimed afterward: “It was like deciding to take an airplane ride and having to leave everything in the air to the pilot.” (McCaughey, 456) The police intended to clear each building one at a time. A thousand police officers were sent in to remove the approximately 1200 students. Police would enter unarmed and the removed students would be transported in vans to jail and booked. Many things could go wrong and ultimately they did. Outside, students and faculty could attempt to stop the police from entering, and inside the officers would be dealing with uncooperative students. It was the perfect recipe for an eventual riot.

At 2:00 A.M. police officers entered the campus to break up the revolt. James Kirkpatrick Davis says the “assault by officers” lasted “nearly to dawn.” (Davis, 41) The first building emptied out was Hamilton Hall; the black students holding the facility had agreed in advance to leave peaceably. Fifteen minutes later the eighty-six protesters were escorted out of the front entrance. The second building emptied was Low Library, at 2:25 A.M. When the police entered they met only passive resistance; ninety-three students were arrested. As one student recounted: “We all gave passive resistance and were dragged out–heads were banged, clothes were torn, some people were bleeding. Nothing serious though.” (McCaughey, 457) Avery Hall was next at 2:30 A.M. After students refused to leave the police broke down the door. Inside they encountered some resistance and both students and police officers received minor injuries; forty-two students were arrested.

With each building the resistance escalated, and it became more difficult to remove the protesters. Fayerweather Hall was the next building the police entered at 2:45 A.M. There the police encountered faculty and students who stood in their path in front of the doors. In the scuffle history Professor James Shenton received a head wound. The injuries continued to mount inside as students resisted the police; 286 students were forcibly removed. The last building was the Mathematics Hall, which was the most difficult to clear. It was there that the most radical students, SDSers, and Mark Rudd, were hold up. The lights were turned off, leaving the police in the dark. Students poured liquid soap all over the stairs to hinder the officers’ access. Students resisted removal and were taken out by force and injured in the process. They threw “bottles, flashlight batteries, furniture and anything else they could get their hands on at the oncoming police.” (Davis, 41) They could get violent, “biting, scratching, punching and even kicking police officers.” (Davis, 41) Stairwells and halls were barricaded with broken furniture, and even a janitor was thrown down a staircase to stop the police from advancing. (Davis, 41) In the end, 203 students were removed. In a little over an hour, all of the buildings were cleared of 711 strikers: 239 were from Columbia, 111 from Barnard, and the rest from other university/college campuses. Three faculty members were arrested. (Davis, 41)

Columbia 1968  JPG

The removal process was far more peaceful than many had feared with only 148 injuries, most of them minor. One police officer suffered a permanent back injury in the process. However, as observers, students, faculty, and families on the South Field were watching students being placed in the vans, a call went out from officers in the vans to other police on campus. It was then that the police came charging at the crowd, and riots and violence commenced. As McCaughey recounts: “A phalanx of police charged the spectators in the South Field, forcing them to retreat south and west until they were backed up against Ferris Booth Hall and Butler Library.” The gates were locked and the crowd could not escape the police. That was where the worst confrontations and violence occurred. As Peter Kenen observed: “Even those of us who were intellectually ready for police action were not emotionally ready for what we saw.” (McCaughey, 459) As Davis states, “the New York Police Department received the highest number of complaints ever received for a single police action. This was also the largest police action in the history of American Universities.” (Davis, 42) In the process, the police injured hundreds of students and faculty, and arrested hundreds more. The day would be remembered as the Battle of Morningside Heights. (Boren, 175)

The Aftermath

When the stand-off was finally over seven days later on April 30, 1968 Columbia’s president Grayson Kirk went into his office at 4:30 A.M. to survey the damage. Protesters had placed a sign on his window ledge that read “LIBERATED AREA. BE FREE TO JOIN US.” (Davis, 39) The state of the office surprised Kirk and the police officer who accompanied him. Kirk wondered, “My God, how could human beings do a thing like this?” The officer exclaimed, “The whole world is in these books. How could they do this to these books?” (Davis, 39) Provost Truman wondered: “Do you think they will know why we had to do this, to call in the police? Will they know what we went through before we decided?” (Davis, 39)

The university remained closed for the next week. Meanwhile, student radicals and SDS planned their next protests. For the rest of the term the students essentially remained on strike. (Boren, 175) On May 21 the students “placed a poster in Ferris Booth Hall which warned of ‘Showdown No. 2.’” (Davis, 42) They also distributed flyers that claimed: “Can an administration, which helps make weapons for Vietnam, steals people’s land and homes discipline anyone?” (Davis, 42) May 22, 1968 marked the second showdown, a much more violent revolt than the April strike. Students occupied Hamilton Hall again, and the more radical among the protesters set fires to parts of the campus. With this revolt, the administration wasted no time and called in the police.

Again, a thousand police officers were called to campus, and the confrontation turned violent. As Davis reports, the police “were in no mood to be pushed around by rowdy college students. Students threw bricks, rocks, and bottles at the lawmen. The police gave no quarter. It was a bloody, wild fight.” (Davis, 42) As with the last strike, the police forced back the crowds that had assembled to watch. Two hundred students were arrested. In a final revolt, that academic year in June students and faculty “dramatically marched out of Columbia’s official commencement ceremonies and held a counter-commencement exercise, officiated by former Sarah Lawrence College President Harold Taylor.” (Boren, 176)

Many of the liberal students at Columbia wanted to reform and restructure the university; many of the students’ demands were met to accomplish this. The university wanted to move on from the strikes, and in August President Kirk resigned, another marker of change that pleased the students. With the changes, SDS lost its less radical liberal advocates. (Boren, 176) Dick Greeman, an SDS veteran and one of the few Columbia faculty members that unconditionally supported the radicals wrote them: “To student rebels, allies must be sought in the black ghettos and in the ranks of labor, not on campus. It means that ‘a free university’ will only exist after we have won a ‘free society’ ” (Sale 440, 441) Many of the radicals left the university after that spring, while others were suspended for the most destructive actions, including Mark Rudd, who soon became the leader of the violent radical group, the Weather Underground.

The events at Columbia radicalized the student movement. The SDS’s slogan of “two, three, many Columbias” inspired radical students all across the country. As Boren explains, “The incident immediately ignited a number of student power demonstrations on campuses throughout the United States, fueled more by antiestablishment sentiments than by specific attainable goals.” (Boren, 176) Rudd later admitted that the stated reasons for the revolt at Columbia were just an excuse to challenge authority. “We just manufactured the issues…. The gym issue is bull. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody.” (Meyers, 2003) As Sale observes: “Conservative critics were right, for the wrong reasons, when they argued that if the university had given in on these demands the radicals would have found three others just as urgent; or, in the words of a famous Berkeley slogan, ‘The issue is not the issue.’ ” (Sale, 435)

Sources and Further Reading

Mark Edelman Boren, Student Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject, (Routledge, 2001).

Joseph Conlin, The Troubles: A Jaundiced Glance Back at the Movement of the Sixties, (Watts, 1982).

James Kirkpatrick Davis, Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement, (Greenwood, 1997).

Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Michael J. Lewis, “Activism & Architecture: A Tale of Two Cities,” New Criterion, Volume: 16. Issue: 10, June 1998.

Robert A. McCaughey, Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, (Columbia University Press, 2003).

Jeffrey Meyers, “Lionel Trilling & the Crisis at Columbia,” New Criterion, Vol. 21, January 2003.

Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, (Vintage Books, 1974).

On This Day in History… February 29, 1940: Hattie McDaniel became the first African American woman to win an Oscar

By Bonnie Goodman, HNN, 4-3-10

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. She blogs at History Musings

On this day in history….February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American woman to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind , which goes on to win 8 Oscars that night.

On February 29, 1940, Gone with the Wind the sweeping cinematic tale of the American Civil War and of the old South made its own history. The film, now considered a classic, was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Mitchell. Gone With The Wind won in ten Academy Award categories, and took home eight Oscar statuettes including the Best Supporting Actress category, which was awarded to Hattie McDaniel for her role as “Mammy.” McDaniel’s February 29, 1940 win was historic because she was the first African American to be nominated and win the Academy Award, which was even more exceptional considering the racist overtones in both the book and movie, and Hollywood’s attitude toward African American actors in the industry. In 1940, years before the civil rights movement altered the nation’s perceptions of African Americans, McDaniel’s win was groundbreaking in white Hollywood. However, it would not be enough to shatter the prevalent racial stereotypes.

From the time of its publication, Gone with the Wind angered African Americans and civil rights organizations, predominantly the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). When the news was announced that David O. Selznick was developing the novel into a film, many wanted Selznick to abandon the film, because the negative stereotypes were in a similar vein as D.W Griffith’s racist 1914 film, Birth of a Nation. They argued that it would lead to more discrimination against blacks and reinforce misguided stereotypes about Reconstruction. Daniel J. Leab notes: “As with the Griffith film, many moviegoers accepted David O. Selznick’s 1939 movie as historical and social truth even though Gone with the Wind merely repeated many of the earlier movie’s caricatures in a more up-to-date style — and in Technicolor.” (Leab, 112)

Blacks in both movies were caricatures, but in different ways. Griffith portrayed African Americans as vicious, whereas Mitchell portrayed blacks as faithful, ignorant and servile; as “one character in the film called [them,] ‘the simple-minded darkies.'” (Leab, 112) Mitchell, pro-Confederate, left the impression that black slaves were happy working on plantations. Civil rights leaders feared that the popularity of “Gone with the Wind [was] a barometer of American race relations in the 1930s and 1940s.” (Leff, 1999)

After the movie premiered there was little objection from racial groups such as the NAACP and only tempered responses from the National Negro Congress, because so much had been done during the pre-production stage to make sure the film was less offensive. Crisis, a leading black newspaper, claimed that the film “eliminated practically all the offensive scenes and dialogue so that there is little material directly affecting Negroes as a race, to which objection can be entered.” (Pyron, 145) In the pre-production stages Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, led the crusade to tone done the most derogatory caricatures from the novel. White was blond and blue eyed, but identified himself as African American because of his ancestry. He worked tirelessly to convince Seltznick that the changes were necessary. It was because of his early success in changing the script that the NAACP kept its objections to the film to a minimum. Leab explains, “Given the popularity of the novel and the ineffectiveness of the few protests staged against the film, there was little else that the NAACP and other groups could have accomplished.” (Leab, 112)

Another major point of contention was whether the offensive and racist word “nigger,” which was used in the book, should be used in the script. Selznick wanted to maintain historical accuracy, but at the same time, he claimed he did not want to offend African Americans. African-American leaders and White were not alone in pushing for the word to be omitted. So was the official movie censor, the Hays office. Selznick however, wanted the word to be used when African-American characters were speaking with one another. The blasck press threatened to boycott the film–and every film Selznick made in the future–if he used the words “nigger” and “darkie.” Selznick believed he was being fair with the script, because he already omitted some of the most offensive parts of the novel, including positive references to the Ku Klux Klan. He wrote Sidney Howard, the scriptwriter in 1937: “I, for one, have no desire to produce any anti-Negro film. In our picture I think we have to be awfully careful that the Negroes come out decidedly on the right side of the ledger, which I do not think should be difficult.” (Leff, 1999)

It is uncertain who in the end convinced Selznick not to use the word “nigger” although “darkies” and “inferiors” remained in the screenplay, as well as the stereotypical portrayals. Leonard J. Leff attributes the decision to Victor Shapiro, the studio public-relations director, while Earl Morris, the Pittsburgh Courier columnist believed he was responsible, and Walter White has been heralded as the one who finally convinced Selznick. It is also widely believed that Hattie McDaniel refused to use the word and took matters into her own hands. McDaniel’s role remains uncertain. It is possible McDaniel’s pressure finally forced Selznick to abandon the use of the word. As Jill Watts writes, “Just a few days before Selznick suddenly abandoned his fight, McDaniel had filmed scenes that would have required her to use the term. It was clearly absent in the final cut. Long after the filming of Gone with the Wind was complete, it was widely reported that McDaniel had refused to deliver lines containing the offensive epithet.” (Watts, 160) According to her biographer, Jill Watts, McDaniel’s resistance to the use of the word was unlike her; her career was based on his willingness to play “to white racist expectations.” (Watts, 160) McDaniel herself “never specifically claimed responsibility for changes in Gone with the Wind.” (Watts, 160)

The public’s inability to distinguish between fiction and reality was especially obvious in peoples’ views of Hattie McDaniel. Americans found it almost impossible to separate the actress from the character of Mammy, which she played. People thought she was a “Mammy who worked in Hollywood.” (Sturtevant, 69) Leab describes her character: “The most faithful of faithful souls is Scarlett O’Hara’s ever scolding but ever loyal mammy, who stays with her mistress through good times and bad, through the Civil War and after.” (Leab, 112) In fact, the studios promoted these images, and after McDaniel won the Oscar she became known as Hattie “Mammy” McDaniel for public appearances. As Sturtevant says: “In some sense, Hollywood is always participating in this fiction–the star system, especially during the first half of the twentieth century, fed off of audiences’ willing beliefs that performers were more or less authentically reflected in the roles they played.” (Sturtevant, 70)

Hattie McDaniel was the daughter of plantation slaves and knew very well the role of the servant; the role was one she repeatedly played on the screen and in real life when she was younger and struggling. In the early years of her career, she was a radio vocalist and blues singer. She appeared in forty films from the early 1930s until her death in 1952, and in all of them, she essentially played the same role, a domestic worker. McDaniel felt she had few other options. As she often said, “Hell, I’d rather play a maid than be one.” Hollywood simply didn’t give blacks the opportunity of playing roles that broke with stereotypes. As Sturtevant writes, “This rigid typing was the cause of a downturn which met Hattie McDaniel’s career following her Oscar victory. McDaniel had averaged ten films a year between 1934 and 1938–her roles were so small (and so similar) that she could finish shooting each quickly and move on.” (Sturtevant, 73)

The role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind was different than the usual black roles McDaniel had played. And she took ownership of the part, says Watts. (Watts, 166) Although Louise Beavers, who had co-starred in Imitation of Life, was considered the leading candidate for the role, Hattie McDaniel, auditioning in a full Mammy uniform, impressed Selznick. In an interview with the New York Amsterdam News, the country’s most important black newspaper, McDaniel stated, “When I read the book Gone with the Wind, I was fascinated by the role of “Mammy” and like everyone in the position to give it professional consideration, I naturally felt I could create in it something distinctive and unique.” (Watts, 166) She put her all in the role; the constant script changes allowed for improvising, and McDaniel went as far as directing herself in scenes. She put her experience as a blues singer, actress, and black woman in white America into the role to create a Mammy uniquely her own. As Watts writes: “If her character in Gone with the Wind did succeed in breaking new cinematic ground, as some have argued, then it was due to Hattie McDaniel’s reinterpretation of the role.” (Watts, 166)

McDaniel’s effort paid off. When Selznick reviewed the film in the fall of 1939, he concluded that McDaniel’s performance as Mammy really stood out far more than he had realized earlier and it “astonished him.” (Watts, 167) Although she was a supporting character, her portrayal of Mammy left a powerful impression. She “emerged as one of the film’s strongest characters.” (Watts, 167) Selznick raved about her performance. He sent her a congratulatory telegram and signed McDaniel to a long-term contract. In a telegram to Howard Dietz, his publicity man in New York, Selznick praised McDaniel, writing that she delivered “a performance that, if merit alone rules, would entitle her practically to co-starring.” (Watts, 167) To the vice president of production, Daniel O’Shea, “Selznick predicted that the actress’s contributions would leave a ‘sensational impression’ on film audiences.” (Watts, 167)

The black and white press agreed with Selznick and hailed McDaniel’s performance in their reviews of Gone with the Wind. The word was out that McDaniel’s performance was a highlight, and the sneak preview for the press confirmed it; after one scene featuring Mammy the audience actually applauded. The Chicago Defender wrote: “Hollywood almost cheered her every entrance.” The California Eagle cheered: “Hattie is the happiest person around these parts, for she knows she turned in her very finest performance to date.” McDaniel hoped her performance would allow African Americans to come to terms with the film that they had been so skeptical about. The black press was receptive to her role and the Amsterdam News praised “McDaniel’s ‘coveted’ role of Mammy, to which she brought the ‘dignity and earnestness’ that made her ‘more than a servant.’ She became ‘confidante, counselor, and manager of the O’Hara household.'” (Pyron, 144)

While the movie today is remembered as racist, in the South it was considered problematic. The city of Atlanta refused to allow the African American actors to attend the premiere along with the whites. An image of McDaniel was excluded from from the souvenir program because it gave her equality with her white co-stars.

McDaniel, despite her talent, found that her career options were limited. Columnist and radio personality Jimmie Fidler lamented, says Watts, that “something about all the hoopla bothered him. ‘Where does this Negro artist go from here?’ he asked. ‘Why back to playing incidental comedy maids, of course.’ With the film factory’s rock-solid racial barriers, Hattie McDaniel’s future, he believed, was bleak. Hollywood had no intention of providing her with any real opportunities to use her talents. ‘I don’t think it will be easy for me to laugh at Hattie’s comedy in the future,’ he stated. For I’ll never be able to overlook the tragic fact that a very great artist is being wasted.” (Watts, 174)

After the film’s release, the black press agreed that Hattie McDaniel’s performance was outstanding, but objected to the film’s depiction of African Americans, slavery, and emancipation. Melvin B. Tolson’s review in the Washington Tribune was representative. He commended McDaniel for playing “the nuances of emotion, from tragedy to comedy, with the sincerity and artistry of a great actor.” At the same time, he panned the film as “more dangerous than The Birth of a Nation.” This was because “The Birth of a Nation was such a barefaced lie that a moron could see through it… [but] Gone with the Wind is such a subtle lie that it will be swallowed as truth by millions of whites and blacks alike.” (Watts, 174, 175) Although there was an outcry from the black press, the NAACP declined to denounce the movie. As Watts observes, while the NAACP’s leaders “agreed the production was historically flawed and unflattering to African Americans, they contended that it was not egregious enough to campaign against it.” (Watts, 175) Privately, Walter White forced Selznick into making donations to the NAACP to show he supported the advancement of African Americans. Selznick’s donation: $100. (Janken, 267)

Many in the black press wondered why Hattie McDaniel wanted to be involved with the film and the role and objected to her participation. To that question, she responded: “This [was an] opportunity to glorify Negro womanhood. I am proud that I am a Negro woman because members of that class have given so much.” (Watts, 177)

In February 1940 the black and white press were pushing for McDaniel’s nomination for an Academy Award. McDaniel came to Selznick with clippings from the black press both about the black reaction to the film and support for the nomination. In December, Edwin Shallert from the Los Angeles Times praised McDaniel’s performance calling it a “remarkable achievement” that was “worthy of the Academy supporting awards.” (Watts, 177) Some black journalists asked readers to send letters to Selznick to “place McDaniel in the running for an Oscar.” (Watts, 177) A letter from Sigma Gamma Rho, an African American sorority, lobbied on her behalf, arguing that “without Miss McDaniel, there would be no Gone with the Wind.” After McDaniel won the award, they again wrote Selznick: “We trust that discrimination and prejudice will be wiped away in the selection of the winner of this award.” (Leff, 1999)

The outpouring of support led Selznick to give McDaniel a place on the Best Supporting Actress ballot, although he also put Olivia de Havilland into consideration for her role as Melanie. Also in the running for the award was Geraldine Fitzgerald for Wuthering Heights, Edna Mae Oliver for Drums Along the Mohawk, and Maria Ouspenskaya for Love Affair. In total Gone with the Wind garnered an unprecedented thirteen nominations and was the favorite to win big. Balloting began on February 15, 1940, with the winners announced at a ceremony on February 29. Despite the protests staged at the movie’s Chicago premiere and the hostility of the black press to the movie, almost everybody seemed to want McDaniel to win the award. In the afternoon before the award ceremony, McDaniel attended the Academy Awards banquet. She dined with the white cast and Selznick at the Coconut Grove where the ceremony was later held.

For the Oscar ceremony McDaniel wore an ermine stole over a blue gown and trimmed her hair and dress with gardenias. She entered the Ambassador Hotel with the same fanfare as the other actors; fans both black and white cheered her. The night was magical for both Gone with the Wind and Hattie McDaniel. As Leff writes: “the evening would be as radiant as the Oz of The Wizard of Oz, so magical that nothing could spoil it, not even a small band of demonstrators outside the hotel, protesting against the racism of Gone with the Wind.” (Leff, 1999) Fay Bainter, who won the Best Supporting Actress Award the previous year, was onstage to present this year’s winner. In trying to analyze how McDaniel was feeling in the minutes leading up to the announcement, Jill Watts writes: “Hattie McDaniel must have felt a surge of nerves and excitement. This daughter of ex-slaves, who had struggled with poverty and racial oppression, had finally broken into the highest ranks in Hollywood, ascending further than any African American had in the world of white show business.” (Watts, 179) As Fay Bainter made the announcement, there was silence in the room. “It is with the knowledge that this entire nation will stand and salute the presentation of this plaque, that I present the Academy Award for the best performance of an actress in a supporting role during 1939 to Hattie McDaniel.” (Watts, 179)

The room broke out in applause and as Hattie McDaniel stepped up to the podium to accept the historic award, “Clark Gable shook her hand and Vivien Leigh kissed her.” (Leff, 1999) In her remarks, which she prepared with the assistance of Ruby Berkley Goodwin, she said:

Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting for one of the awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you. (Jackson, 52)

The reaction of both the white and black press, demonstrated what McDaniel’s historic Oscar win signified in terms of advancement for African Americans. The white media were patronizing; as Victoria Sturtevant says, “they gushed self-consciously over the award and its recipient.” (Sturtevant, 75) Louella Parsons in her nationally syndicated column described the moment when McDaniel won the award: “En masse, the entire audience, stars in every place, stood and cheered their beloved Hattie McDaniel. Tears came to Mammy’s eyes as she made her way to the stage to accept the award.” (Sturtevant, 75) The quote is representative of the condescension. Especially telling were the words “their beloved Hattie McDaniel,” as if the white audience had an invested interest in her win, a comment that would not have been used if Olivia de Havilland had won the award instead. Referring to her McDaniel as “Mammy” was an example of the way in which the white audience blurred the line between the character and the actress. The Atlanta Constitution’s coverage was over the top, “enthusiastic to the point of defensiveness in its coverage of her award,” because the city prevented McDaniel from attending the Gone with the Wind premiere. (Sturtevant, 75)

The black press seemed less impressed with McDaniel’s win, relegating the story to the back pages. Only the Atlanta Daily World devoted its front page to McDaniel’s Oscar win. Some reported the win not as an accomplishment in itself, but rather as a signal of a possible change in the fortunes of black actors in white Hollywood. Clarence Muse wrote in the Chicago Defender that “Some day Hattie may thrill your souls with a modern mother role, glorifying Race youth.” (Sturtevant, 76) Muse was insinuating that McDaniel had not accomplished this. In fact, Hollywood would not allow her to have roles that portrayed African Americans as equals with whites. As Sturtevant explains: “McDaniel was important insofar as she was opening doors for more varied roles for black performers, not insofar as she had given the best supporting performance of 1939 in a glossy Hollywood feature about white people.” (Sturtevant, 76)

The only roles McDaniel would be offered in the years after her Oscar win were the usual stultifying fare for a black person. As Sturtevant states, “despite the Oscar, she was still regarded as a type, not as an actress.” (Sturtevant, 72) The Academy Award should have opened doors for McDaniel, instead she remained stuck in old stereotyped roles. As Sturtevant writes: “The differing responses of black and white audiences to McDaniel’s Oscar shed significant light on the relationships during this volatile period among Hollywood moguls, black performers, and the American public, black and white.” (Sturtevant, 70)

Sources and Further Reading

Carlton Jackson, Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel (Madison Books, 1993).

Kenneth Robert Janken, Walter White: Mr. NAACP (UNC Press, 2006).

Daniel J. Leab, From Sambo to Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pictures (Secker & Warburg, 1975).

Leonard J. Leff, “Gone with the Wind and Hollywood’s Racial Politics: Making Gone with the Wind Meant Dealing with Fierce Criticism from Black Newspapers and Public Officials,” Atlantic Monthly (December 1999).

Darden Asbury Pyron, Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture (University Presses of Florida, 1983).

Victoria Sturtevant, “But Things is Changin’ Nowadays An’ Mammy’s Gettin’ Bored: Hattie McDaniel and the Culture of Dissemblance,” Velvet Light Trap (1999), Vol. 44, pp. 68-79.

Jill Watts, Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood (HarperCollins, 2005).

On This Day in History… February 7, 1839: Henry Clay declares “I had rather be right than president.”

February 7, 1839: Henry Clay declares “I had rather be right than president.”

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HNN, Monday, February 4, 2008

On this day in history…. February 7, 1839 Henry Clay declares in the United States Senate “I had rather be right than president.”

The venerable politician and statesman Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky believed his time to win the Presidency would finally be ripe in 1840. There were many obstacles to his winning the Whig Party’s nomination. One of the most contentious issues in the country in the antebellum period was slavery. Clay tried to take a centrist position, but accusations flew in both the North and the South that he favored extremes. In the North he was accused of “being ultra” in favor of Southern slaveholders. In the South he was accused of being an abolitionist who plotted secretly to abolish slavery. (Remini, 525) As the historian Robert Remini explains, “It may have occurred to Clay that his apparent middle-of- the-road position invited attacks from both sides of the slavery question.” (Remini, 525) Clay felt the charges that he was an abolitionist were detrimental to his chances for the presidency, and he needed to clarify his views on the slavery question. But he intended to stick to his views regardless of the political consequences. As he famously said, “I had rather be right than president.”

In order eventually to capture the nomination he needed support from Southern Whigs, but at the same time, he needed support from the Northern Quakers who were passive abolitionists. The most important aspect was to distinguish himself from the most extreme abolitionists, the “ultras” which he did in a Senate speech on February 7, 1839. Clay’s speech, “Petitions for the Abolition of Slavery,” supposedly addressed a petition by Washington DC’s residents to abolish slavery in the district. Clay actually wrote the petition himself.

The speech was Clay at his worse, which his supporters lamented. As Carl Schurz writes, “It was an apology for his better self. Formerly he had spoken as a born anti-slavery man, who to his profound regret found himself compelled to make concessions to slavery. Now he appeared as one inclined to deplore the attacks on slavery no less, if not more, than the existence of slavery itself.” (Schurz, 164)

In the speech, Clay claimed the only thing he had in common with the abolitionists was “abhorrence of slavery,” but their positions were entirely different, and in no way did he identify with them. Clay hoped this would put the speculation to rest that he harbored secret abolitionist desires. He laid out in the speech the history of the “peculiar institution,” the constitutional and legal questions surrounding it, and the course of action that should be taken to resolve slavery. It was here that he distinguished himself most from the abolitionists while attacking their solution to the slavery problem.

As Remini writes, Clay charged that abolitionists were “setting back emancipation half a century” by their agitation. (Remini, 526) Still, he believed that emancipation was not the answer. Clay claimed he did not believe that blacks and whites could live in racial harmony, as abolitionists claimed. As Thomas Brown writes, Clay believed that the “Freed slaves would flood the North, compete with white laborers, and drive down their wages, or the country, would be convulsed by interracial warfare as blacks and whites sought to preserve the purity and separateness of the races.” (Brown, 144) Clay was concerned that a power struggle would lead to a war between the races, especially since the slaves outnumbered whites in some Southern states. Clay believed that this power struggle would lead to Civil War, and suggested that the status quo was the best approach to take to the slavery question. “It is not better for both parties that the existing state of things should be preserved, instead of exposing them to the horrible strifes and contests which would inevitably attend immediate abolition.” (Remini, 526)

According to Clay “time” was the solution that would eventually end slavery, stating, “Providence will cure all-abolition nothing. It may ruin all; it can save none.” (Remini, 526) He then proceeded to make a plea to the ultra-abolitionists to cease their crusade for the sake of the country. “I beseech the abolitionists themselves, solemnly to pause in their mad and fatal course,” he stated. Clay continued: “Amid the infinite variety objects of humanity and benevolence which invite the employment of their energies, let them select some one more harmless, that does not threaten to deluge our country in blood.” (Remini, 526)

The reactions to Clay’s speech were far ranging. For the most part the speech boosted Southerners’ opinion of Clay. As Shurz writes, “Clay received his reward — or punishment — immediately.” (Shurz, 166) After he finished speaking Senator John C. Calhoun, from South Carolina, lauded Clay, praising him for understanding the dangers of the abolitionist movement. Carl Schurz in his biography of Clay believed Calhoun stood up “as if to accept his surrender.” However, Remini describes Cahoun’s enthusiasm as “So spontaneous, so sincere, so fervent … that some wondered if another political alliance between northern money and southern cotton had been struck.” (Remini, 526) This alluded to the “corrupt bargain” of 1825, which handed John Quincy Adams the Presidency despite the fact that Andrew Jackson won the popular vote.

Calhoun proclaimed, “I heard the Senator from Kentucky with pleasure. His speech will have a happy effect, and will do much to consummate what had already been so happily begun and successfully carried on to a completion.” (Shurz, 167) Clay wanted the nomination so much that he had to take Calhoun’s humiliating words without saying anything. As Schurz explains, “Calhoun assigned to him a place in his church on the bench of the penitents, and the candidate for the presidency took the insult without wincing.” (Shurz, 168)

The speech offended the abolitionists, giving Clay the results he was looking for, distancing himself from them. Clay hoped his speech would increase his support among those he needed to help him garner the nomination. Still it was a turn off to many Northerners. Clay supporters like James G. Birney and John Greenleaf Whittier, who “once idolized Clay, now cast him off as something loathsomely hypocritical.” (Remini, 526) Clay claimed he wasn’t surprised by the response. “My abolition Speech was made after full deliberation,” he told a friend. “I expected it would enrage the Ultra’s more than ever against me, and I have not been disappointed.” (Remini, 527)

Clay should not have been surprised by the negative reaction or the long-term consequences. Before he delivered it, he read it to Senator William C. Preston of South Carolina, and several of his friends and colleagues to get their opinion. They believed that “The speech bears all the marks of that careful weighing of words characteristic of a candidate ‘defining his position’ on a delicate subject.” (Schurz, 164) One of the men believed it could have a negative impact on his presidential prospects, offending both the abolitionists and the pro-slavery factions. Upon hearing this Clay proclaimed the classic phrase he is most remembered for: “I trust the sentiments and opinions are correct, I HAD RATHER BE RIGHT THAN BE PRESIDENT.” Remini describes it as “the immortal utterance, the classic rejoinder, one that quickly entered the lexicon of American politics and was always associated with Clay’s name.” (Remini, 527)

Senator Preston repeated these words in a speech to a Whig rally in Philadelphia the following month announcing the phrase to the public. Then almost immediately Clay’s words were the talk of the nation, the newspapers reprinted his speech, and citizens found it to “noble and patriotic” and appropriate, while critics and “hard-nosed” politicians laughed upon hearing it. (Remini, 527) Clay may have wanted to be right, but he also wanted the Presidency, and his chances were slipping from him.

Soon after the speech, Clay felt the backlash. First Daniel Webster charged that Clay caused the Whigs to lose the 1838 election in Maine, and that the party should instead support a candidate who had more appeal, such as General William Henry Harrison. Webster was deliberately mounting a campaign against Clay, even going as far as to blame him for losing Harrison’s state, Ohio, in the 1838 election. To cap off this crusade, at the Anti-Mason National Convention in November 1839, the group nominated Harrison for President and Webster for Vice-President.

Politicians in the North, Abolitionists, and anti-Masons preferred Harrison as a presidential candidate to Clay. Another candidate who drew support was General Winfield Scott, whose military record was akin to Andrew Jackson’s. Fortunately for Clay, Webster took himself out of the running for the Whig nomination when he departed for England in 1839. Still Clay believed the nomination was his. As he wrote, “Moderation, conciliation, and decision, but above all firmness and decision should be our course. May it be guided by wisdom and lead to victory.” (Remini, 531)

Even before the Whig Convention Clay lost New York. Thurlow Weed, as Brown explains, thought “Clay had gone too far in his attacks [on abolitionists].” (Brown, 145) Both Weed and Thaddeus Stevens were Anti-Mason leaders, and wanted anybody but Clay as the nominee; they devised a plan to strip Clay of his 254-delegate majority.

A friend of Webster’s, Peleg Sprague, introduced a motion that changed the voting. Each state would choose three delegates to a committee, the committee in turn would ask their state which candidate they preferred. A vote would be held in private, and when there was a state consensus, the delegates would report it to the full convention. Clay’s supporters could not stop the motion even through it was obviously designed to strip Clay of the nomination, and soon Clay’s majority melted. Stevens and Weed preferred Harrison to Scott or Clay, but Scott’s candidacy seemed to benefit from their maneuvering. To counter this, Stevens released to the delegates a letter Scott wrote to Francis Granger that appeared favorable to the abolitionists. This was enough to damage Scott’s propsects and give Harrison–the least controversial choice–the nomination. Clay’s chance to capture the Presidency had ended.

Anti-Masons and abolitionists, the two groups Clay alienated with his February 7, 1839 speech, controlled the Whig Party. But Clay, says Remini, “also had a hand in engineering his [own] defeat. His Senate speech on February 7, 1839, against the abolitionists, more than any other single factor, undoubtedly prevented him from gaining a single northern state at the convention ‘except glorious Rhode Island.’ ‘I had rather be right than President,’ Clay had announced. So be it, responded the delegates.” (Remini, 554) Henry Clay would live to regret his words on the Senate floor, because ultimately they caused him to lose the nomination he wanted more than anything.

As we are now reaching a defining moment in the 2008 campaign with Super Tuesday around the corner, another candidate has been compared to Clay. Hillary Clinton has been haunted by her Senate vote for the Iraq war, but has refused to apologize for it, though her position on the war has evolved. In a February 2007 Christian Science Monitor article Daniel Schorr wrote, “Whether that will appease her supporters remains to be seen. What they apparently will not get from her are those three little words. ‘I am sorry.’ What her lack of contrition will cost her, that also remains to be seen…. She may take comfort from the ‘great compromiser,’ Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky, who on the Senate floor in 1839 declared, ‘I had rather be right than president.’”

Sources and further reading:

Thomas Brown, Politics and Statesmanship: Essays on the American Whig Party, Columbia University Press, 1985.

Henry Clay, The Works of Henry Clay, Barnes & Burr, 1863.

Robert Vincent Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Daniel Schorr, “Will voters accept Hillary Clinton’s nonapology? Her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq might cost her the presidency,” Christian Science Monitor, February 23, 2007.

Carl Schurz, Life of Henry Clay: American Statesmen, Volume: 2, Houghton Mifflin, 1899.

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