You are browsing the archive for 2019 September 20.

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Enslaved Couples Faced Wrenching Separations, or Even Choosing Family Over Freedom

September 20, 2019 in History

By Tera W. Hunter

Loved ones could be sold away at any time. Here’s how married couples coped.

For is professor of history and African American studies at Princeton University and the author of Bound in Slavery and To Joy My Freedom, among other books. Follow her on Twitter: @TeraWHunter.

History Reads features the work of prominent authors and historians.

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D-Day is called off and postponed until June

September 20, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

June 6, 1944 is considered one of the most pivotal moments in modern history. Better known by its codename, D-Day, the Allied assault on five beaches in Nazi-occupied France was the result of over a year of planning and jockeying amongst various military and political leaders. On January 31, 1944, several key leaders agreed to postpone the invasion over concerns that there would not be enough ships available by May, finally setting the stage for the June invasion.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began urging British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to open a second front almost as soon as the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941. After the American entry into the war at the end of that year, the three nations agreed that such action was necessary but disagreed on how it should proceed. British leadership, for whom the slaughters and stalemates of World War I’s Western Front were still relatively recent memories, eventually prevailed upon the other Allies to first attack Italy, which Churchill called Europe’s “soft underbelly.” With plans to attack German-held North Africa and the Italian island of Sicily underway, the three leaders agreed in May of 1943 to assault the European mainland. In December of 1943, American General Dwight D. Eisenhower and British General Bernard Montgomery were presented with a detailed plan for the invasion, codenamed Operation Overlord.

READ MORE: D-Day’s Deadly Dress Rehearsal

Both generals argued for increasing the scope of Overlord from three divisions to five divisions supported by three airborne divisions. Eisenhower was eager to enact such a plan in May, but had concerns over the availability of landing craft. The Italian campaign, which provided the Allies with valuable experience in amphibious landings, was also taking up many of the boats that would be necessary for the Normandy invasion. By the 31st, all relevant commanders had come around to this way of thinking and signed off on an early-June invasion.

D-Day would be postponed once more, by a single day—high winds on June 4 forced Eisenhower to push the “great crusade” back one more day. Finally, on the morning of June 6, the long-awaited invasion of France began. By the time the sun set the Allies had established a foothold, the first step in a march that would lead them all the way to Berlin and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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Source: HISTORY

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10 Inventions From China's Han Dynasty That Changed the World

September 20, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The 400-year rule of the Han Dynasty generated a slew of innovations in everything from agriculture to metallurgy to seismology.

When a commoner named

“Administrative documents continued to be written on boards of wood and slips of bamboo for several centuries—they preserved better, perhaps,” Yates explains. But after the collapse of the dynasty, Cai Lun’s improved paper came into its own.

The Suspension Bridge

An undated photograph of a Chinese built suspension bridge, with boats docked at a pier in foreground, in the Szechwan Province, China.

According to Robert Temple’s highly-regarded history of Chinese inventions, The Genius of China, the Han Dynasty saw the development of the suspension bridge, a flat roadway suspended from cables, which probably evolved from simple rope bridges developed to span small gorges. But by 90 A.D., Han engineers were building more sophisticated structures with wooden planks.

Deep Drilling

Han Dynasty salt miners in the First Century B.C. were the first to build derricks and use cast iron drill bits to dig holes as deep as 4,800 feet into the Earth in search of brine, which they would extract from below with tubes, according to Temple’s book. The technique they developed was the forerunner of modern oil and gas exploration.

The Wheelbarrow


A model of a Chinese wheelbarrow. It can accommodate a much larger wheel, thus reducing the rolling resistance, and by having the wheel almost directly under the load it reduced the weight on the user’s arms.

The wheelbarrow was developed in China perhaps as early as 100 B.C, according to this 1994 article by M.J.T. Lewis in the journal Technology and Culture.

The Seismograph


The Chinese astronomer, mathematician and seismologist, Zhang Heng (78-139 A.D.) described the earliest seismoscope known in about 132 A.D. Arriving shock waves displace a pendulum linked to a mechanism which opens the jaws of the dragon facing the direction of the earthquake. A ball falls from the dragon’s teeth into the mouth of a toad below to record the event.

Zhang Heng, an early Chinese scientist, explored fields ranging from astronomy to clock-making. But he’s probably best known for creating the first device for detecting distant earthquakes, which he introduced to the Han court in 132 A.D. Its design was simple—an urn equipped with a pendulum.

When it picked up a vibration, it dropped a ball from the mouth of a metal dragon into a metal …read more

Source: HISTORY

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"Roots" premieres on television

September 20, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

January 29, 1977 sees the premiere of Roots, a groundbreaking television program. The eight-episode miniseries, which was broadcast over eight consecutive nights, follows a family from its origins in West Africa through generations of slavery and the end of the Civil War. Roots one of the most-watched television events in American history and a major moment in mainstream American culture’s reckoning with the legacy of slavery.

The miniseries was based on Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which he claimed was based on research he had conducted into his own family history. Though these claims were later debunked, the story succeeded in dramatizing and personalizing the brutal, true story of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in America. It begins with Kunta Kinte, a warrior belonging to the Mandinka ethnic group and living in what is now the Gambia. Kunta is captured and sold to slave traders, endures a harrowing journey aboard a slave ship, and is eventually sold to a plantation owner in Virginia. The story follows the remainder of his life, including a brutal scene in which he is tortured into acknowledging his slave name, Toby, and continues to follow his family for several generations. Kunta’s daughter, her son George, and his sons Tom and Lewis experience life on various plantations and are subjected to many historically-accurate brutalities, including the separation of slave families and harassment from whites after the abolition of slavery. The book and miniseries were recognized for balancing this sweeping narrative with intensely personal stories and brutally realistic depictions of the horrors of slavery.

Due to fears about the audience’s reaction to these depictions, ABC decided to air Roots on eight consecutive nights as a way of cutting its losses. Instead, Roots achieved unprecedented popularity. An estimated 140 million people, accounting for over half of the population of the United States, saw the series, and its finale remains the second-most-watched series finale in American television history. A cultural phenomenon, it was nominated for 37 Emmys and won nine, including Best Limited Series and Best Writing in a Drama Series. A sequel miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations, aired in 1979 to impressive ratings and several more award nominations.

Some found Roots to be divisive—future president Ronald Reagan opined that “the bias of all the good people being one color and all the bad people being another was rather …read more

Source: HISTORY