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Quarantined for Life: The Tragic History of US Leprosy Colonies

March 31, 2020 in History

By Natasha Frost

Stripped of their most basic human rights, patients nonetheless built lives and communities.

For millennia, a diagnosis of leprosy meant a life sentence of social isolation. People afflicted with the condition now known as Hansen’s disease—a bacterial infection that ravages the skin and nerves and can cause painful deformities—were typically ripped from their families, showered with prejudice and cruelly exiled into life-long quarantine.

In the United States, patients were confined to a handful of remote settlements, where over time, a crude existence evolved into one with small touchstones of normalcy. But patients were consistently deprived of fundamental civil liberties: to work, to move freely and see loved ones, to vote, to raise families of their own. Some who bore children had their babies forcibly removed.

By the 1940s, after a cure emerged for the condition—and science made clear that most of the population had a natural immunity to it—other countries began to abolish compulsory isolation policies. But in the U.S., even as leprosy patients’ health and conditions improved, old stigmas, fear of contagion and outdated laws kept many confined for decades longer.

READ MORE: in 1971. For some, that “home for life” translated more closely to a prison, however picturesque. “You were brought here to die,” said Sister Alicia Damien Lau, who first came to the Molokai in 1965, in a 2016 interview. “You were not able to leave the island.”

While patients’ families could visit, they were housed in separate quarters, and allowed to communicate only through a chicken wire screen. “They catch you like a crook and you don’t have any rights at all,” Olivia Robello Breitha, a longtime patient, wrote in her 1988 autobiography. “They didn’t care about ruining a life… I was just a number.”

Known as Kalaupapa for the name of the peninsula, the settlement was one of a small handful of leper colonies in the United States, where patients were stripped of their rights and sent to live out their days. Among them were tiny Penikese Island in Buzzard’s Bay, off the coast of Massachusetts, and the Carville National Leprosarium, in Louisiana. With almost 8,000 patients over about 150 years, Kalaupapa was by the far the largest.

READ MORE: Why the Second Wave of the Spanish Flu Was So Deadly

The ‘separating sickness’

A federally operated institution for some 350 leprosy cases in Carville, Louisiana. Photographed in 1955.

Named for Gerhard Armauer …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Hate Paying Income Tax? Blame William H. Taft

March 31, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Republican president William Taft successfully advocated for a permanent, national income tax.

Every year, millions of Americans have to amass their financial records and fill out forms—or pay professionals to do it for them—in order to file their federal tax returns. It’s an annual ritual that traditionally takes place in the spring, though in 2020, the Internal Revenue Service delayed the April 15 filing deadline by three months, due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

For those who grumble over having to contemplate those numbered boxes on the IRS Form 1040, they have William Howard Taft to thank. The nation’s 27th President, who served just a single term from 1909 to 1913, is probably best known for being the heaviest president in U.S. history as well as the first to ride in an official presidential limousine, and for his obsession with golf. But Taft also established the federal income tax as a permanent part of Americans’ lives.

READ MORE: Why We Pay Taxes

Abraham Lincoln First Imposed an Income Tax

Taft didn’t actually invent the idea of a federal income tax. That would be Abraham Lincoln, who in 1861 convinced Congress to pass the Revenue Act and impose a temporary 3 percent tax on incomes over $800, as an emergency measure to help finance the massive military expenditures required by the Civil War. That measure was allowed to expire in 1872.

Investors panicking in the New York Stock Exchange in 1893.

The idea of a federal income tax resurfaced after the Panic of 1893, an economic downturn so severe that it caused a quarter of the nation’s labor force to lose their jobs. As Jeffrey Rosen notes in his 2018 biography of Taft, populist Democrats argued that the tariffs and excise taxes that the government depended upon for revenue put a disproportionate burden upon struggling farmers and workers, and argued for a tax that would capture more of affluent Americans’ income.

In 1894, they joined forces with progressive Republicans to pass legislation that created a 2 percent tax on incomes over $4,000, along with reduced tariffs. But that tax didn’t last long. In an 1895 case, Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, the Supreme Court found that directly taxing Americans’ income was unconstitutional.

Even so, progressives’ desire to pass an income tax and cut back on taxing imports …read more

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What Language Did Jesus Speak?

March 30, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

While historians and scholars debate many aspects of Jesus’ life, most agree on what language he mainly spoke.

While scholars generally agree that Jesus was a , Jesus probably didn’t know more than a few words in Latin. He probably knew more Greek, but it was a common language among the people he spoke to regularly, and he was likely not too proficient. He definitely did not speak Arabic, another Semitic language that did not arrive in Palestine until after the first century A.D.

So while Jesus’ most common spoken language was Aramaic, he was familiar with—if not fluent, or even proficient in—three or four different tongues. As with many multilingual people, which one he spoke probably depended on the context of his words, as well as the audience he was speaking to at the time.

READ MORE: The Bible Says Jesus Was Real. What Other Proof Exists?

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Source: HISTORY

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Before Vaccines, Doctors ‘Borrowed’ Antibodies from Recovered Patients to Save Lives

March 30, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

Doctors first tried injecting patients with blood plasma in the early 1900s. The method has been used against diphtheria, the Spanish Flu, the measles and Ebola.

In 1934, a doctor at a private boy’s school in Pennsylvania tried a unique method to stave off a potentially deadly measles outbreak. Dr. J. Roswell Gallagher extracted blood serum from a student who had recently recovered from a serious measles infection and began injecting the plasma into 62 other boys who were at high risk of catching the disease.

Only

Korean War Troops Were Saved by Plasma Treatments

A US Army chaplain prays while wounded soldiers get dressings and plasma at a medical station on the war front, Korea, August 10, 1950.

By the 1940s and 1950s, antibiotics and vaccines began to replace the use of convalescent plasma for treating many infectious disease outbreaks, but the old-fashioned method came in handy yet again during the Korean War when thousands of United Nations troops were stricken with something called Korean hemorrhagic fever, also known as Hantavirus. With no other treatment available, field doctors transfused convalescent plasma to sickened patients and saved untold numbers of lives.

Greene says that convalescent plasma was even deployed against 21st century outbreaks of MERS, SARS and Ebola, all novel viruses that spread through communities with no natural immunity, no vaccine and no effective antiviral treatment. Today, the best treatment for Ebola is still a pair of “monoclonal antibodies,” individual antibodies isolated from convalescent plasma and then cloned artificially in a lab.

READ MORE: The Most Harrowing Battle of the Korean War

Fighting COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma


Dr. Kong Yuefeng, a recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city’s blood center in Wuhan, China on February 18, 2020.

One of the best-known modern uses of convalescent plasma is for the production of antivenom to treat deadly snake bites. Antivenom is made by injecting small amounts of snake venom into horses and allowing the horse’s immune system to produce antibodies that neutralize the poison. Those equine antibodies are isolated, purified and distributed to hospitals as antivenom.

In March 2020, doctors at Johns Hopkins University began testing convalescent plasma as a promising stop-gap treatment for COVID-19 while the search continued for a permanent vaccine. The advantage of convalescent plasma is that it can be drawn from recovered patients using the same …read more

Source: HISTORY

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World Wide Web (WWW) launches in the public domain

March 30, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 30, 1993, four years after publishing a proposal for “an idea of linked information systems,” computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee released the source code for the world’s first web browser and editor. Originally called Mesh, the browser that he dubbed WorldWideWeb became the first royalty-free, easy-to-use means of browsing the emerging information network that developed into the internet as we know it today.

READ MORE: The Invention of the Internet

Berners-Lee was a fellow at CERN, the research organization headquartered in Switzerland. Other research institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University had developed complex systems for internally sharing information, and Berners-Lee sought a means of connecting CERN’s system to others. He outlined a plan for such a network in 1989 and developed it over the following years. The computer he used, a NeXT desktop, became the world’s first internet server. Berners-Lee wrote and published the first web page, a simplistic outline of the WorldWideWeb project, in 1991.

CERN began sharing access with other institutions, and soon opened it up to the general public. In releasing the source code for the project to the public domain two years later, Berners-Lee essentially opened up access to the project to anyone in the world, making it free and (relatively) easy to explore the nascent internet.

Simple Web browsers like Mosaic appeared a short time later, and before long the Web had become by far the most popular system of its kind. Within a matter of years, Berners-Lee’s invention had revolutionized information-sharing and, in doing so, had dramatically altered the way that human beings communicated. The creation and globalization of the web is widely considered one of the most transformational events in human history. 4.39 billion people, including you, are now estimated to use the internet, accounting for over half the global population. The average American now spends 24 hours a week online. The internet’s rise has been the greatest expansion in information access in human history, has led to the exponential growth in the total amount of data in the world, and has facilitated a spread of knowledge, ideas and social movements that was unthinkable as recently as the 1990s.

READ MORE: The World’s First Web Site

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18-year-old Ryan White, national symbol of the AIDS crisis, dies

March 30, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 8, 1990, 18-year-old Ryan White dies of pneumonia, due to having contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. He had been given six months to live in December of 1984 but defied expectations and lived for five more years, during which time his story helped educate the public and dispel widespread misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.

White suffered from hemophilia and thus required weekly blood transfusions. On December 17, 1984, just after his 13 birthday, he was diagnosed with AIDS, which he had contracted from one such transfusion. It was later revealed that roughly 90 percent of American hemophiliacs who had received similar treatments between 1979 and 1984 suffered the same fate. White was given six months to live, but recovered from the illness that had brought his disease to light and eventually felt healthy enough to return to school.

Though the scientific community knew that AIDS could only be transmitted through bodily fluids, the community around White’s Russiaville, Indiana school was paranoid that he would contaminate his classmates. White was denied entry to his school, and when the Indiana Department of Education ruled that he must be admitted the local school board unanimously voted to appeal the decision. From August of 1985 until the following June, White’s family and their opponents—who at one point held a fundraiser in the school gymnasium to support the cause of keeping him out—fought a legal battle that garnered national headlines. A diverse array of public figures appeared with White and spoke on his behalf, including Elton John, Michael Jackson, Alyssa Milano, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former President Ronald Reagan.

White was eventually allowed to return to school and spent his remaining years living a relatively normal life, although he made regular media appearances in an effort to educate the public about his illness. By the time of his death, just months before he was to graduate high school, White had become one of the leading figures in the movement to destigmatize HIV/AIDS. Several months later, the Ryan White CARE Act became federal law, providing a dramatic boost in funding for the treatment of low-income, under-insure and un-insured people with HIV/AIDS.

READ MORE: The History of AIDS

…read more

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When Polio Triggered Fear and Panic Among Parents in the 1950s

March 27, 2020 in History

By Volker Janssen

Since little was understood about the virus that left some paralyzed and others dead, fear filled the vacuum.

In the 1950s, the polio virus terrified American families. Parents tried “social distancing”—ineffectively and out of fear. Polio was not part the life they had signed up for. In the otherwise comfortable World War II era, the spread of polio showed that middle-class families could not build worlds entirely in their control.

For the Texas town of San Angelo on the Concho River, halfway between Lubbock and San Antonio, the spring of 1949 brought disease, uncertainty and most of all, fear. A series of deaths and a surge of patients unable to breathe prompted the airlifting of medical equipment with C-47 military transporters.

Towns Practice Extreme Social Distancing

Children in San Angelo residential areas watch Texas Health employees spray DDT over vacant lots in the city to combat a recent increase in the number of polio cases. All theaters, swimming pools, churches, schools and public meeting places were closed.

Fearful of the spread of the contagious virus, the city closed pools, swimming holes, movie theaters, schools and churches, forcing priests to reach out to their congregations on local radio. Some motorists who had to stop for gas in San Angelo would not fill up their deflated tires, afraid they’d bring home air containing the infectious virus. And one of the town’s best physicians diagnosed his patients based on his “clinical impression” rather than taking the chance of getting infected during the administration of the proper diagnostic test, writes Gareth Williams, Paralyzed with Fear: The Story of Polio. The scene repeated itself across the nation, especially on the Eastern seaboard and Midwest.

The virus was poliomyelitis, a highly contagious disease with symptoms including common flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, fever, tiredness, headache, a stiff neck and stomach ache. For a few though, polio affected the brain and spinal cord, which could lead meningitis and, for one out of 200, paralysis. For two to 10 of those suffering paralysis, the end result was death.

Transmitted primarily via feces but also through airborne droplets from person to person, polio took six to 20 days to incubate and remained contagious for up to two weeks after. The disease had first emerged in the United Sates in 1894, but the first large epidemic happened in 1916 when public health experts recorded 27,000 cases and …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier

March 27, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson, age 28, becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball when he steps onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson broke the color barrier in a sport that had been segregated for more than 50 years. Exactly 50 years later, on April 15, 1997, Robinson’s groundbreaking career was honored and his uniform number, 42, was retired from Major League Baseball by Commissioner Bud Selig in a ceremony attended by over 50,000 fans at New York City’s Shea Stadium. Robinson’s was the first-ever number retired by all teams in the league.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, to a family of sharecroppers. Growing up, he excelled at sports and attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he was the first athlete to letter in four varsity sports: baseball, basketball, football and track. After financial difficulties forced Robinson to drop out of UCLA, he joined the army in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After protesting instances of racial discrimination during his military service, Robinson was court-martialed in 1944. Ultimately, though, he was honorably discharged.

After the army, Robinson played for a season in the Negro American League. In 1946, he spent one season with the Canadian minor league team the Montreal Royals. In 1947, Robinson was called up to the Majors and soon became a star infielder and outfielder for the Dodgers, as well as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. In 1949, the right-hander was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player and league batting champ. Robinson played on the National League All-Star team from 1949 through 1954 and led the Dodgers to six National League pennants and one World Series, in 1955. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

Despite his talent and success as a player, Robinson faced tremendous racial discrimination throughout his career, from baseball fans and some fellow players. Additionally, Jim Crow laws prevented Robinson from using the same hotels and restaurants as his teammates while playing in the South.

After retiring from baseball in 1957, Robinson became a businessman and civil rights activist. He died October 24, 1972, at age 53, in Stamford, Connecticut.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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How Suffragists Raced to Secure Women's Right to Vote Ahead of the 1920 Election

March 27, 2020 in History

By Ellen DuBois

The 19th Amendment was ratified just in time to include women voters in the next presidential election.

The year 1917 was highly consequential for the

Suffragists had nine weeks to get women registered to vote. While there is no way to know exact numbers, it is generally accepted that one-third of eligible women voted in the 1920 election (versus two-thirds of men).

The era of woman suffrage was over. The era of women working their way up and through the political process had begun. As one suffragist put it, it was “the dawn of woman’s political power in America.”

Ellen DuBois is Distinguished Research Professor in the History Department of UCLA and author of numerous books on the history of woman suffrage in the US, including, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote.

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Source: HISTORY

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10 Virtual History Museums and Experiences to Explore From Home

March 26, 2020 in History

By Missy Sullivan

‘Walk’ among the terra cotta warriors. Tour Anne Frank’s secret annex. Read letters to FDR. And more.

The need for social distancing may have forced museums and historic sites around the world to close their doors for now, but many have made their spaces, exhibits and collections available to anyone with a digital device and a decent web connection. Some offer 360-degree tours, like the one that takes you into every nook and cranny of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Others present virtual exhibits or browsable online archives, such as the dozens on Google Arts & Culture’s site, where partner museums share treasures like the Rosetta Stone and ancient Egyptian artifacts (The British Museum, London)…iconic 20th century photos (the LIFE Magazine archive)…or troves of sports history (the Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland). Here are 10 standout virtual history sites worth exploring:

Xi’an Warriors

A view of the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an.

It was one of the most stunning archaeological finds of the 20th century. In 1974, farmers digging a well stumbled across a life-sized clay figure that, government archaeologists later discovered, belonged to a vast army of terra cotta soldiers created to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, in the afterlife. The massive mausoleum, created around 210 B.C., houses some 8,000 warriors, along with hundreds of chariots and horses—all arranged in battle formation. In 2017, a Chinese company, inspired by Google Street View, created an awe-inspiring virtual experience that lets visitors swoop down into the tomb and “walk” among the soldiers, viewing their unique facial expressions and traces of their original colorful paint at close range. You don’t need to read Chinese to appreciate the enormity of it all.

Click HERE for the experience.

READ MORE: 5 Things You May Not Know About the Terra Cotta Army

Smithsonian Museum of American History


James Montgomery Flagg’s ‘I Want You for U.S. Army’ poster, 1917, the most iconic image produced in support of the WWI recruitment effort.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History bills itself as the greatest single collection of U.S. history in the world, home to more than 1.8 million objects that each, in some fundamental way, defines the American experience. The museum offers about 100 online exhibits from its encyclopedic collections, each with a mix of photos, video, graphics and text on topics ranging from the life of Abe Lincoln (yep, they’ve …read more

Source: HISTORY