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What Happened to Amelia Earhart?

June 30, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

The trailblazing aviator’s disappearance remains a source of fascination—and controversy.

On the morning of July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Lae, New Guinea, on one of the last legs in their historic attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Their next destination was Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean, some 2,500 miles away. A U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the Itasca, waited there to guide the world-famous aviator in for a landing on the tiny, uninhabited coral atoll.

But Earhart never arrived on Howland Island. Battling overcast skies, faulty radio transmissions and a rapidly diminishing fuel supply in her twin-engine Lockheed Electra plane, she and Noonan lost contact with the Itasca somewhere over the Pacific. Despite a search-and-rescue mission of unprecedented scale, including ships and planes from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard scouring some 250,000 square miles of ocean, they were never found.

In its official report at the time, the Navy concluded that Earhart and Noonan had run out of fuel, crashed into the Pacific and drowned. A court order declared Earhart legally dead in January 1939, 18 months after she disappeared. From the beginning, however, debate has raged over what actually happened on July 2, 1937 and afterward. Several alternate theories have surfaced, and many millions of dollars have been spent searching for evidence that would reveal the truth of Earhart’s fate.

The Castaway Theory

In her last radio transmission, made at 8:43 am local time on the morning she disappeared, Earhart reported flying “on the line 157 337…running north and south,” a set of directional coordinates that describe a line running through Howland Island.

In 1989, an organization called the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) launched its first expedition to Nikumaroro, a remote Pacific atoll that is part of the Republic of Kiribati. TIGHAR and its director, Richard Gillespie, believe that when Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland Island, they continued south along the 157/337 line some 350 nautical miles and made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro (then called Gardner Island). According to this theory, they lived for a period of time as castaways on the tiny, uninhabited island, and eventually died there.

U.S. Navy planes flew over Gardner Island on July 9, 1937, a week after Earhart’s disappearance, and saw no sign of Earhart, Noonan or the plane. But they did report seeing signs …read more

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How Alexander Hamilton's Widow, Eliza, Carried on His Legacy

June 30, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Eliza Hamilton poured her energy into founding a free school and an orphanage in New York to help children in need.

After Vice President explains.

“Eliza Hamilton wanted to find a way to honor Hamilton’s memory, in the place where their last home had been together,” says Mazzeo.

Eliza was also driven by her faith. As biographer Ron Chernow has written, the deeply religious widow also “believed passionately that all children should be literate in order to study the Bible.”

Hamilton Free School Established in Northern Manhattan

According to documents unearthed in the early 1900s by the New-York Historical Society, Eliza started out by finding a small house near Fort Washington, the Revolutionary War fort that was located at the intersection of present-day Fort Washington Avenue and W. 183rd Street, to be repurposed as a schoolhouse. But the number of students quickly grew, that improvised setup wasn’t adequate.

The widow couldn’t afford a bigger place, but a group of wealthier women in the area decided to help. In March 1818, the group petitioned the New York State Legislature to incorporate a free school, and asked for $400 to build a new school building. Legislators approved the application and the school received some annual city funding.

Eliza Hamilton and her benefactors moved quickly, and by the end of May, they’d already built a one-room, 1,050-square-foot schoolhouse with a slanted roof—big enough for 40 to 60 students—around what is now Broadway between W. 187th and W. 189th streets.

On the Hamilton Free School’s shoestring budget, it could afford just one teacher, who also doubled as the school’s janitor, according to the reminiscences of William Herbert Flitner, who attended the school in the 1840s. “All of the scholars came from the locality between High Bridge and Kingsbridge,” he recalled many years later.

Flitner recalled that the school provided students with textbooks, and that they studied arithmetic by doing calculations on slates. Spelling was taught from Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book, a popular text of the time.

It’s unlikely that Eliza was involved on a day-to-day basis, according to Mazzeo. However, “We know that Mrs. Hamilton did regularly visit the school and give out awards on prize days, so she remained involved with the school’s central mission and with celebrating its achievements.”

Eliza was giving much of her time to her other big project—helping to found the city’s first private orphanage …read more

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Slavery Persisted in New England Until the 19th Century

June 29, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

The colony of Rhode Island once had the highest percentage of enslaved people in New England, and was a dominant player in the global slave trade.

Slavery was a dominant feature of the antebellum South, but it was also pervasive in the pre-Civil War North—the New England states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island all have a history of slavery. In the early colonial period, Europeans invaded these lands and enslaved the Native people who lived there.

As New England colonists drove Native nations out of their homes, they replaced these enslaved Native people with enslaved Africans and invested heavily in the slave trade to power their economy.

Rhode Island addressed its history of slavery on June 22, 2020 when Governor Gina Raimondo announced that the state’s official name—“Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”—would no longer appear on state documents. Instead, the state will just identify itself as “Rhode Island.”

Slavery Was ‘Integral’ to Building Northeast Cities

“Most of the general public in the U.S. has no understanding of the very long history of slavery in the northern colonies and the northern states,” says Christy Clark-Pujara, a professor of history and Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island.

“They don’t have a sense that slavery was integral to the building of New York City and places like Newport and Providence, that many of these cities had upwards of 20 percent of their populations enslaved…and that slavery lasted in the North well into the 1840s,” she says. “Some states, like New Jersey, never abolished slavery, so slavery legally ends there in 1865.”

Colonist Roger Williams coined Rhode Island’s longer name in the 17th century, at a time when the word “plantation” referred to a new settlement. The word evolved during the 19th century, becoming synonymous with the enslavement of Black people on large farms. This is the meaning it has today, and the main reason why activists have previously called for Rhode Island to take “plantation” out of its name.

Yet even in the 17th century sense, the word “plantation” signified European colonization, a violent practice intertwined with slavery, says Margaret Ellen Newell, a history professor at The Ohio State University and author of Brethren by Nature: New England …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Thomas Jefferson's Anti-Slavery Passage Was Removed from the Declaration of Independence

June 29, 2020 in History

By Yohuru Williams

The founding fathers were fighting for freedom—just not for everyone.

With its soaring rhetoric about all men being “created equal,” the Declaration of Independence gave powerful voice to the values behind the American Revolution. Critics, however, saw a glaring contradiction: Many of the colonists who sought freedom from British tyranny themselves bought and sold human beings. By underpinning America’s nascent economy with the brutal institution of chattel slavery, they deprived roughly one-fifth of the population of their own “inalienable” right to liberty.

What isn’t widely known, however, is that Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in an early version of the Declaration, drafted a 168-word passage that condemned slavery as one of the many evils foisted upon the colonies by the British crown. The passage was cut from the final wording.

So while Jefferson is credited with infusing the Declaration with Enlightenment-derived ideals of freedom and equality, the nation’s founding document—its moral mission statement—would remain forever silent on the issue of slavery. That omission would create a legacy of exclusion for people of African descent that engendered centuries of struggle over basic human and civil rights.

READ MORE: 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

What the deleted passage said

In his initial draft, Jefferson blamed Britain’s King George for his role in creating and perpetuating the transatlantic slave trade—which he describes, in so many words, as a crime against humanity.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.

Jefferson went on to call the institution of slavery “piratical warfare,” “execrable commerce” and an “assemblage of horrors.” He then criticized the crown for

“exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

This passage refers to a 1775 proclamation by Britain’s Lord Dunmore, which offered freedom to any enslaved person in the American colonies who volunteered to serve in …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How the 'Big Three' Teed Up the Cold War at the 1945 Yalta Conference

June 25, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill hammered out postwar matters like the creation of the United Nations, the fate of Eastern Europe and the ‘dismemberment’ of Germany.

By February 1945, it was increasingly clear that not only would , and tune in Sundays at 9/8c for all-new episodes.

…read more

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What Was Alexander Hamilton's Role in Aaron Burr's Contentious Presidential Defeat?

June 25, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Hamilton lobbied against Burr, but another federalist cast the deciding vote for Thomas Jefferson.

As the presidential election of 1800 approached, Americans were more divided than ever before. The incumbent President John Adams faced off against Vice President Thomas Jefferson, the former secretary of state and author of the Declaration of Independence.

To Jefferson and his supporters in the rising Democratic-Republican (or Republican) opposition, building the strong national government favored by Adams’s Federalist Party meant trampling on the rights of states and individuals, and destroying the revolutionary freedom on which the nation had been founded.

At the time, there was no popular vote, and no separate ballots for presidential and vice presidential candidates. Electors from each of the 16 states in the Union each cast two votes; the candidate who received the most votes became president, while the runner-up became vice president. This undeniably flawed system had led to Jefferson becoming Adams’s VP in 1796, after losing the nation’s first contested presidential race by just three electoral votes.

In the 1800 election—a drawn-out battle between two starkly different visions of America’s future—it would cause an outright constitutional crisis.

A Historic Tie Between Jefferson and Burr

Voting in 1800 took place over a period of months, and the campaign, which was largely fought in the nation’s partisan press, got really nasty. Republican newspaper editor James Callender notoriously accused Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character,” while a Federalist writer named “Burleigh” claimed that if Jefferson won, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest, will openly be taught and practiced.”

By mid-December 1800, it was clear Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, had beaten out the Federalist ticket of Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. But there was a problem: At least Republican one elector had been expected to withhold his vote from Burr to allow Jefferson to come out ahead. None of them did, and each man had received exactly 73 electoral votes.

A Federalist Plot to Thwart Jefferson

The tie sent the election to the lame-duck House of Representatives, where Federalists dominated. Though public opinion favored Jefferson, many Federalists decided to throw their support to Burr, hoping to keep Jefferson from the nation’s highest office. Burr refused to confirm that he would turn down the presidency if the House voted in his favor, leading some people to conclude that he was secretly angling for the …read more

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Obergefell v. Hodges decided: Same-sex marriage is made legal nationwide

June 23, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

June 26, 2015 marks a major milestone for civil rights in the United States, as the Supreme Court announces its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. By one vote, the court rules that same-sex marriage cannot be banned in the United States and that all same-sex marriages must be recognized nationwide, finally granting same-sex couples equal rights to heterosexual couples under the law.

In 1971, just two years after the Stonewall Riots that unofficially marked the beginning of the struggle for gay rights and marriage equality, the Minnesota Supreme Court had found same-sex marriage bans constitutional, a precedent which the Supreme Court had never challenged. As homosexuality gradually became more accepted in American culture, the conservative backlash was strong enough to force President Bill Clinton to sign the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriages at the federal level, into law in 1996.

READ MORE: The Supreme Court Rulings That Have Shaped Gay Rights in America

Over the next decade, many states banned same-sex marriage, while Vermont instituted same-sex civil unions in 2000 and Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003. Gay marriage was the predominant “culture war” issue of George W. Bush‘s presidency, and even his successor Barack Obama, elected on a platform of liberal change in 2008, did not fully endorse same-sex marriage at the time of his election. Obama did state his opposition to DOMA and instructed his Justice Department to stop defending it in 2011. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional and declined to rule on a case regarding a California ban, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage there.

Obergefell originated with a gay couple, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who were married in Maryland, where same-sex marriage was legal, but whose marriage was not recognized by Ohio authorities. As often happens with Supreme Court cases, a number of similar cases in Ohio and elsewhere were consolidated into what became Obergefell v. Hodges. The Supreme Court heard arguments on April 28, 2015. On June 26, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that both bans on same-sex marriages and bans on recognizing same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.

READ MORE: The Tragic Love Stories Behind the Supreme Court’s Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Rulings

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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11 Anthems of Black Pride and Protest Through American History

June 23, 2020 in History

By Thad Morgan

From spirituals to ballads, funk and hip hop, these songs have provided a sound track to the pride and struggle of African Americans through the centuries.

For centuries, Black Americans have used music as a powerful tool. In the antebellum South, enslaved people sang spirituals to covertly plan their escape to freedom. Poems were put to music and performed to celebrate the eradication of slavery, and ballads and hip hop have been leveraged to protest violence and discrimination against Black Americans.

Below are 11 songs through history that have given voice to African American progress, protest and pride.

1. ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ — Unknown

J. Wesley Jones, choral director, leads 600 Black singers through a rehearsal in Chicago, August 1935. The group was rehearsing for the upcoming Chicagoland Music Festival where they would sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” at Soldier Field.

Throughout the antebellum South, spirituals became a vital form of folksong among enslaved people. Some were also used as a , “It’s our legacy here in America with the police department and any kind of authority figures that have to deal with us on a day-to-day basis. There’s usually abuse and violence connected to that interaction, so when ‘F*** tha Police’ was made in 1989, it was 400 years in the making.”

11. ‘Fight the Power’ — Public Enemy, 1989


(L-R) Rapper Flavor Flav, director Spike Lee and Chuck D of the rap group ‘Public Enemy’ film a video for their song ‘Fight The Power’ directed by Spike Lee in New York, 1989.

In addition to music, films in the late 1980s and 1990s spoke to the Black experience like never before. Movies like Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society offered a lens into underprivileged Black communities in the country. And Spike Lee’s quintessential 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, depicted racial tensions reaching a boiling point during a hot Brooklyn summer. Lee enlisted Public Enemy to write a song for the movie and originally suggested they remake “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Instead, the group crafted a theme song that pulled from the work of other Black artists:

“Got to give us what we want,
Gotta give us what we need,
Our freedom of speech is freedom of death,
We got to fight the powers that be,
Lemme hear you say,
Fight the power!”

The title “Fight the Power” was inspired by a 1975 song of the same name by …read more

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How the WWII Tehran Conference Tested the Unity of the 'Big Three' Allies

June 23, 2020 in History

By Greg Daugherty

They had dueling agendas—and just four days to resolve them.

For four days in November-December 1943, as , and tune in Sundays at 9/8c for all-new episodes.

Roosevelt not only wanted Stalin to stay the course against Hitler, but to expand Russian operations into the Pacific and join the fight against Japan. The Soviet Union had held off declaring war on Japan, but it finally would in 1945.

Roosevelt was also thinking past the defeat of Germany and Japan. He wanted both Churchill and Stalin to sign onto his vision for a very different postwar world, with the Big Three plus China serving as “four policemen,” empowered to keep the peace. He brought with him plans for the United Nations, an organization he had named and would, according to a journalist who interviewed him shortly before his death, “consider the crowning act of his career.”

READ MORE: 9 Things You May Not Know About Franklin D. Roosevelt

What Churchill wanted

Winston Churchill with President Roosevelt and Stalin at a dinner party at the British Legation in Tehran on the occasion of Churchill’s 69th birthday, on November 30, 1943.

Churchill was considerably less enthusiastic about Operation Overlord, at least with the timing Roosevelt was pushing for (and that the British had agreed to the previous May). He also maintained that diverting resources from the Mediterranean theater would be premature; while Italy had officially surrendered, Rome remained in the Germans’ grasp. But the reasons for his apparent change of heart have been a matter of historical debate ever since.

In Closing the Ring, the fifth volume of his war memoirs, published in 1951, Churchill tried to defend himself against the charge that he had attempted to kill Operation Overlord, which he said had “become a legend in America.” He called the charge as “nonsense” and dismissed those who disagreed with his Mediterranean strategy as “simpletons.”

While some historians have accepted Churchill’s version of events, many later ones, drawing on more recently released documents, have challenged it. Cambridge historian David Reynolds, for example, writes in his 2005 book, In Command of History, that, “Churchill suppresses or doctors key pieces of evidence” regarding his opposition to Operation Overlord in his memoirs. Hamilton maintains that Churchill did “everything possible to subvert, sabotage and postpone D-Day.”

Precisely why Churchill would have opposed D-Day at that point may never be known, but there are any …read more

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How a New Vaccine Was Developed in Record Time in the 1960s

June 22, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

It took just four years to get the mumps vaccine ready for market—but its development leaned heavily on groundwork that had been established during World War II.

The invention of the modern mumps vaccine is the stuff of medical textbook legend. In 1963, a star researcher at the pharmaceutical company Merck took a swab of his own daughter’s throat to begin cultivating a weakened form of the mumps virus. And just four years later, in record time, Merck licensed Mumpsvax as the world’s first effective vaccine against this common and contagious childhood illness.

But a closer look at the history of vaccines shows that this popular origin story overlooks the decades-long search for a mumps cure that began in earnest during World War II. And it overshadows the fact that during the 1940s and 1950s, researchers chasing vaccines for polio and measles made incremental breakthroughs in lab techniques that ultimately made swift development of the 1960s Mumpsvax possible.

The ‘Jeryl Lynn’ Strain

Dr. Maurice Hilleman, circa 1958.

At 1 a.m. on March 21, 1963, a five-year-old girl in Philadelphia woke her father, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, complaining of a sore throat. Hilleman, a prickly genius working at Merck, immediately diagnosed her with a case of the mumps, a generally harmless childhood illness for which there was no treatment, and sent her back to bed.

But Hilleman couldn’t go back to sleep—he had an idea. Another research lab had just licensed a measles vaccine based on a new technique for growing weakened forms of a live virus in chicken embryos. Maybe he could do the same thing for mumps. Hilleman rushed to Merck for sampling supplies, came back and swabbed his daughter’s throat, then drove the viral culture back to the lab.

The mumps vaccine Hilleman developed in 1967 from that late-night inspiration is still in use as part of the combination measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine given to infants the world over. In the United States alone, mumps used to infect 186,000 kids a year in the 1960s. Today, thanks to the vaccine, there are fewer than 1,000 mumps infections annually.

Perhaps the most charming part of Hilleman’s mumps vaccine story is that he named the strain of mumps virus used to make the vaccine after his young daughter, Jeryl Lynn. The same Jeryl Lynn strain is still used in mumps vaccine production today.

READ MORE: Pandemics that …read more

Source: HISTORY