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Mormons Tried to Stop Native Child Slavery in Utah. They Ended Up Encouraging It

November 14, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore


Brigham Young leading the expedition to the new Mormon land of Salt Lake City, Utah.

When Brigham Young and his band of Mormon settlers marched into Utah in 1847, they saw a vast expanse of land they envisioned as a sanctuary. Salt Lake City would soon become the bustling center of life in the Latter-Day Saints Church. But that life would rest in part on the backs of people who were not Mormon—and who weren’t even voluntarily in Salt Lake.

They were Native and black slaves, and their story is an often forgotten part of the Mormon settlement of Utah.

Mormon pioneers had long been on the hunt for a permanent home. The sect had experienced conflict with its neighbors in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri. The last straw came in 1844, when the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, was assassinated by an angry mob in Carthage, Illinois. After Smith’s murder, his fearful followers began to migrate west.

When they did, they entered territory owned not by the United States, but by Mexico. Though slavery was technically illegal in Alta California, of which Utah was a part, it was big business. Mexican colonists in the area enslaved Native people and used their labor to work their lands and tend their children.

Some groups of Native people, including the Utes, participated in the slave trade, raiding nearby tribes, capturing potential slaves and selling them to the Mexican elite. They also stole horses and sold them to travelers. By positioning themselves as slave traders, not potential slaves themselves, people like Ute Chief Walkara, or Walker, could evade the enslavement of their own people while maintaining a powerful status relative to other bands and tribes.

But Walkara was unprepared for the tenacity of the Mormons. For Mormons, Native Americans—whom they termed “Lamanites”—represented an economic and religious opportunity. According to a prophecy in the original text of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites were destined to become “white and delightsome” once they converted to Mormonism.

Many Mormons believed slavery was immoral and opposed any kind of enslavement. But once they reached Utah’s Salt Lake Valley, they were initiated into the slave trade by a bloody incident that launched them, even if unintentionally, into the role of slave owners.


Native Americans of the Shoshone tribe in Salt Lake City, Utah, circa 1860.

“Early one morning we were excited at …read more

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How the Great Depression Became the Golden Age for Monopoly

November 14, 2018 in History

By Mary Pilon

When times got tough during the Great Depression, people played board games—especially the game that’s all about making money.


Monopoly, although originally created in 1904, was popularized during the Great Depression.

When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, people had played Monopoly for at least three decades. But the downturn proved to be an unlikely golden age for the real estate board game—and one with riddled with irony.

Elizabeth J. Magie, the game’s originator, first received her patent in 1904 for the Landlord’s Game, which she designed to teach the world about the evils of capitalism. Her game spread throughout left-wing political circles for decades, until a version of it made its way into the hands of the Quakers in Atlantic City in the early 1930s. It’s a rendition of that game which was sold to Parker Brothers during the Depression and became a commercial success, saving the company from the brink of bankruptcy.

The success of Monopoly befuddled many. Why, in a time of great financial despair, would families and friends want to gather around and swap cash and real estate?

Nor was Monopoly’s success isolated; it echoed a broader trend of board games flourishing during the Great Depression.

Board games offered budget-friendly entertainment.


1930s ad for Parker Brothers Monopoly.

No one felt more surprised by the board game boom at the time than than Parker Brothers executives. With most American household budgets buckling, it felt only logical to game industry executives that retail, particularly for diversionary products, would plunge along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Then, and now, there are many reasons why board games remain a bright spot in economic downturns, typically bleak spots for retailers. Board games are relatively cheap, reusable and can entertain a wide age range. One Monopoly board can keep a family occupied for many evenings, a plus considering the budget-stretching demands of the moment.

Another theory: people stayed in. Edward Parker, the grandnephew of the founder, George Parker, recalled years later, “During the Depression, people did not have enough money to go out to the shows . . . So they stayed home and played Monopoly.”

Read more: Life for the Average Family During the Great Depression

The game not only provided cheap entertainment, it also offered a psychological elixir, as Parker said, it gave people “a feeling of wealth.” “But what kept it going is the chance for …read more

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Humans Are Just as Violent as Neanderthals, Scientists Conclude

November 14, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Contrary to popular scientific opinion, it turns out life for Neanderthals probably wasn’t any more violent or dangerous than it was for our modern human ancestors.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany compared the head injuries suffered by Neanderthals and the earliest modern humans living during the Upper Paleolithic era—between 80,000 and 20,000 years ago—and found that both groups experienced similar levels of head trauma.

Their findings, published online in Nature, challenge the common assumption that Neanderthals lived particularly treacherous and violent lives, and struggled on a daily basis to survive the harsh conditions of their existence.

Neanderthals are commonly thought to have relied on dangerous close range hunting techniques, using non-projectile weapons like the thrusting spears depicted here.

The view of Neanderthal life as unusually violent and dangerous relies largely on case studies of Neanderthal skeletons that showed a high number of injuries, especially head injuries. As possible causes for these injuries, scholars have pointed to violent social behavior, the risks of a highly mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle in difficult Ice Age conditions and attacks by carnivorous animals such as bears or hyenas. Neanderthals are thought to have used close-range, non-projectile hunting weapons, like thrusting spears, which would have brought them dangerously close to their prey.

While most of this previous research was done on a case-by-case basis, and often compared the Neanderthals’ injuries to present-day modern human injuries, the new study was a population-wide analysis of Neanderthals and Upper Paleolithic modern humans in Western Eurasia.

The researchers analyzed a collection of fossils containing more than 800 samples, sorting by presence of skull trauma, sex, age at death, the level of preservation of the remains and the location where they were found. No matter what statistic model they applied, the researchers discovered no difference in injury rates between the Neanderthals and early modern humans.

“Our findings refute the hypothesis that Neanderthals were more prone to head injuries than modern humans, contrary to common perception,” the study’s lead researcher Katerina Harvati, said in a university press release. “We therefore believe that the commonly cited Neanderthal behaviors leading to high injury levels, such as violent behavior and inferior hunting capabilities, must be reconsidered.”

Scientists have recently been discovering more and more information about Neanderthals that contradicts the brutish stereotype of ages past. Recent studies have revealed that Neanderthals made the earliest cave art, …read more

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How Alexander Hamilton's Men Surprised the Enemy at the Battle of Yorktown

November 14, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Hamilton’s leadership in the war’s last major land battle would deliver the future Secretary of the Treasury his long-sought glory.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, known for his famous, fatal duel with Aaron Burr—and his ability to draw sold-out crowds to a hit musical examining his life—played a key role in a battle that brought an end to the American Revolutionary War. And in fighting the key battle, Hamilton and his men employed what might seem like a risky strategy—unloading their weapons before their advance.

Appointed by George Washington in 1781 to command a light infantry battalion in Marquis de Lafayette’s Division, Hamilton helped lead the attack at the Battle of Yorktown in Yorktown, Virginia, which would become the war’s last major land battle. The siege lasted from September 28 to October 19, 1781, with the French attacking the British fort at Redoubt 9 and Hamilton attacking Redoubt 10 simultaneously. The double-pronged advance led British General Charles Cornwallis to surrender.

Alexander Hamilton.

“In Hamilton’s day, showing courage on the field of battle was one of just a few ways for an unknown person to win fame,” says historian Michael E. Newton, author of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years. “Hamilton had a genius and was hard-working but did not come from an illustrious family like most of the Founding Fathers. He knew that winning glory in battle would make him famous and help him further his career.”

Brendan McConville, professor of history at Boston University, adds that Hamilton had always been sensitive about his humble roots so it was important to him to prove himself during the war. “He had been with Washington as a key aide throughout most of the war, but wanted glory on the battlefield,” he says. Hamilton “saw victory on the battlefield as a way to win reputation.”

Initially, according to Newton, command of the assault on Redoubt 10 was given to someone else. Hamilton objected, claiming it was his turn and that he had seniority. “When Washington overturned the previous decision and gave Hamilton the command, Hamilton rushed to his friend and second in command, Nicholas Fish, and exclaimed ‘We have it! We have it!’ ”


Washington preparing his troops for the final battle of the Revolutionary War in Yorktown. Alexander Hamilton is the rider on the right.

The Patriot strategy in the attack was to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How Stan Lee's X-Men Were Inspired by Real-Life Civil Rights Heroes

November 13, 2018 in History

By Dante A. Ciampaglia


Marvel Comics Publisher, Stan Lee, with a book of ‘Spider Man’ comics which he created along with comics of the Hulk, X-Men and the Black Panther.

It’s impossible to imagine American pop culture without Spider-Man. Or the Hulk. Or, thanks to a decade’s worth of mega-blockbuster films, Iron Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, and Ant-Man. These stories—all co-creations of Marvel Comics impresario Stan Lee, who died on November 12, 2018 at 95—were swashbuckling adventures with a human bent. The characters weren’t all powerful; they felt pain, anguish, regret; they won, but also lost. And many of them were informed by the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.

Through stories of characters who were demonized by the public as the terrifying Other, Lee drove home messages of tolerance and acceptance while rejecting demonization and bullying. “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said 2017 video published by Marvel. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”

The greatest manifestation of that idea was the X-Men. Introduced in September 1963, the X-Men were a team of teenage mutants, led by their teacher and mentor Professor Charles Xavier, who fought super-criminals and other mutants, led by Magneto, bent on the destruction of humanity. But rather than be a black-and-white battle between good and evil, the X-Men had a wrinkle: mutants were hated by the “normal” humans they defended.

“I loved that idea,” Lee told the Guardian in 2000, as the first X-Men movie hit theaters. ”It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time.”

The Long Battle Towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (TV-14; 2:57)

That metaphor extended to the characters themselves, with Professor X and his vision of harmonious human-mutant coexistence standing in for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while Magneto’s rigid attitude toward the defense of mutantkind reflected the philosophy of Malcolm X. The Sentinels, a brand of massive mutant-hunting robot, were introduced two years later as readers watched on TV as black Americans were beaten and abused by white police officers.

“There’s kind of an undeniable set of allegories that are going on there,” says Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. “The X-Men was probably the most explicitly political of the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Inside Jonestown: How Jim Jones Trapped Followers and Forced 'Suicides'

November 13, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

The 913 deaths in Guyana under cult leader Jim Jones were more mass murder than suicide.

In 1975, Rev. Jim Jones, the religious cult leader and civil rights activist, hinted at things to come. “I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me,” he said during a sermon at his Peoples Temple church in San Francisco. Just two years later, on Nov. 18, 1978, those words became reality when 913 people, one-third of them children, died during what would be known as the Jonestown Massacre, one of the worst mass killings in American history.

In 1977, Jones, the self-proclaimed “messiah” of his evangelical flock, led his followers to a remote jungle in Guyana to live in in the days after the massacre. He told the newspaper some drank the poisonous potion willingly, while it was forced upon others. “It just got all out of order,” he told the Post, adding that it took about five minutes for the cyanide to prove fatal. “Babies were screaming, children were screaming and there was mass confusion.”

All the while, Rhodes said, Jones was telling them they would “meet in another place” and chanted, “mother, mother, mother”—”an apparent reference to his wife who lay dead not far from the altar,” according to the Post. Jones died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Scheeres says a tape recording from the last night, “the so-called death tape,” had been edited dozens of times. “It is my belief that Jones was pausing and stopping the tape any time there was any disruption, any interruption or any time anyone was protesting what was happening,” she says. “He wanted the world to think this was some uniform decision, that they willingly killed themselves for socialism, to protest the inhumanity of capitalism—he gave various reasons for the mass death.

“It’s heartbreaking—you can hear him instructing parents, don’t tell your children they’re dying. It’s scaring them. You can hear the children at the beginning of the tape—murmuring, making kid noises in the background—and then you can hear kids screaming. You can hear them saying no. It’s a horrific scene. Which is why the whole ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ saying is so odious and so completely wrong. A third of the people who died that night were minors …read more

Source: HISTORY

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First Wrecked Slave Ship Discovery Yields Brutal Details

November 13, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The small, 340-ton São José-Paquete de Africa set out from Mozambique in December 1794. Even though the ship was no more than no more than 130 feet long (and probably closer to 100), the crew had packed 543 captive people aboard. The crew shackled them in place to prevent them from taking over the ship before it landed in Brazil, where they planned to sell them in the Portuguese colony’s thriving slave trade.

The crew “knew a certain number of people are probably going to die on the voyage, and to make it profitable they need as many people as possible,” says Jaco Boshoff, a maritime archeologist at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and co-founder of the Slave Wrecks Project.

“People would literally have been squeezed up against one another,” he says. “The British eventually started chasing slave ships in the 19th century; and they mentioned that you could smell them a couple of miles away, from the stench of these poor people being squashed up together.”

But the ship never made it to Brazil. On December 27, the São José became stuck between two reefs in Cape Town’s Camps Bay. There, the ship broke to pieces, killing 212 of the captive people who’d spent the last three-and-a-half weeks in chains. That left 331 survivors, whom the crew sold to white farmers in South Africa, which was then under Dutch rule. After that, the ship remained lost at the bottom of the ocean until the 2015, when researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project announced they’d identified it.

READ MORE: The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

The São José is likely the first discovered slave ship wreck that went down with captive people aboard, preserving pieces of shackles and barrels, and possibly biological clues about the people who died and where they came from. And the work’s not over yet. Researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project are still analyzing its remains to glean new information about the Portuguese ship, whose story holds historical importance for Europe, Africa and the Americas and highlights a shift in the Atlantic slave trade.

The São José set sail at the end of a century that had seen an explosion in the slave trade. Up until that point, most European and American slave ships <a target=_blank …read more

Source: HISTORY

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California Wildfires Have Been Fought by Prisoners Since World War II

November 13, 2018 in History

By Volker Janssen

The war had turned forestry work into a form of civil defense, and prisoners a new army on the home front.

When it comes to California’s natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, floods—a surprising cohort of first responders have served on the front lines since World War II: prison inmates.

While the idea of using prisoners for back-breaking, low-cost labor on road crews harks back to the late 19th century, the state of California first tapped inmates to fight brush and forest fires in 1942. After military conscription and war industries rapidly emptied the state’s forestry camps of able-bodied men serving in the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the state forestry found itself in a manpower crunch. Worse, fire marshals predicted that bombing and ‘sabotage’ by Japanese Americans increased the risk of fires and could threaten crucial watersheds and food production in the area of various Army installations and ship-building plants.

Read here about how the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program helped shape America’s national parks.

Opened in 1941 as the first minimum-security prison for men in the state, Chino prison, located 50 miles east of Los Angeles, stepped into the void. Together with the state forestry service, it established 14 forest camps over the course of the war. The first one opened on a 10-acre plot at Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest early in 1942. As of 2014, there were nearly 40 camps statewide, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports, with prisoners performing more than 3 million hours or more of emergency-response work annually. As the Golden State’s record wildfires increase, those numbers will likely rise.

Both black and white prisoners in California’s camp-conservation program would turn from public safety risks into first responders who saved not just fellow convicts, but civilians, guards and forestry personnel. Courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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The role has been a unique one. Participating inmate volunteers, who are pre-screened (no violent offenders or arsonists allowed) and trained, have worked mostly as laborers maintaining public lands. But they also have served increasingly as emergency responders to fires, floods, earthquakes and in search-and-rescue operations. In addition to pittance wages, inmates receive sentence reductions, work furloughs and a slightly greater sense of personal freedom, since shackles and armed guards are largely absent from the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Kitten Mummies Found in Pyramid Were Likely Strangled by Priests

November 12, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered dozens of mummified cats along with 100 wooden gilded statues of felines and a bronze statue of a cat goddess named Bastet. These artifacts were found inside the King Userkaf pyramid complex in the Saqqara necropolis, a famous burial ground for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities announced.

Egyptians mummified millions of cats in the Late Period from 664 to 332 B.C.E. When British explorers pillaged Egypt in the 1890s, they shipped many of them home to use as fertilizer, even transporting 180,000 cat mummies on one ship. The recently discovered cat mummies were found in a tomb dating to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom; apparently an instance of Egyptians reusing an old burial chamber, says Kara Cooney, a professor of Egyptian art and architecture at the University of California, L.A., who isn’t involved in the discovery.

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered dozens of mummified cats along with 100 wooden gilded statues of felines and a bronze statue of a cat goddess named Bastet.

View the 4 images of this gallery on the original article

“Animal mummies are a really interesting Late Period phenomenon,” she says. “It’s something that shows up when temples in Egypt are forced to privatize.”

After the government pulled temples’ funding, these temples supported themselves through a system similar to the indulgences the Catholic church would establish centuries later. The temples told people they could get their messages or prayers to the gods if they bought physical effigies of the gods from them, imbued their messages in the effigies, and then gave them back to the temples to pass along their messages to the gods.

Many gods like Bastet had a feline form or features, and this led worshipers to buy, essentially, a lot of dead cats. Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has demonstrated that many cat mummies died by strangulation.

“We don’t know all of the details of how this cult activity worked, but I would assume that the priests are the ones who are killing those cats,” Cooney says. “A lot of them are young kittens. So they’re breeding them in the temples, it seems, and then strangling them.”

In addition to the cat mummies and statues, archaeologists found statues and painted wooden sarcophagi depicting other animals: a lion, a cow, a falcon, cobras …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Thanksgiving History Facts and Trivia

November 12, 2018 in History

By Dave Roos

What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving? Which president made Thanksgiving a national holiday? Get Thanksgiving trivia to share around the table.


In Plymouth, Massachusetts, colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast in 1621 that is widely acknowledged to be one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. But some historians argue that Florida, not Massachusetts, may have been the true site of the first Thanksgiving in North America. In 1565, nearly 60 years before Plymouth, a Spanish fleet came ashore and planted a cross in the sandy beach to christen the new settlement of St. Augustine. To celebrate the arrival, the 800 Spanish settlers shared a festive meal with the native Timucuan people.

View the 14 images of this gallery on the original article

Thanksgiving may be America’s most beloved national holiday, but its history is all over the place. Even the details of the famous feast between the Plymouth Colony settlers and the Wampanoag Indians in November of 1621 are sketchy. The best account we have is a letter from English settler Edward Winslow that never mentions the word “Thanksgiving,” but tells of a weeklong harvest celebration that included a three-day celebration with King Massasoit and 90 Wampanoag men “so we might after a more special manner rejoice together.”

Over the centuries, that briefly-mentioned feast week has taken on a life of its own, with each generation adding its own take on the fall tradition. We’ve pulled together some little-known trivia so you have something to talk about (other than politics) around the Thanksgiving dinner table this November.

Where was the first Thanksgiving?

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast in 1621 that is widely acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. But some historians argue that Florida, not Massachusetts, may have been the true site of the first Thanksgiving in North America. In 1565, nearly 60 years before Plymouth, a Spanish fleet came ashore and planted a cross in the sandy beach to christen the new settlement of St. Augustine. To celebrate the arrival and give thanks for God’s providence, the 800 Spanish settlers shared a festive meal with the native Timucuan people. Read more.

What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving?

The Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth probably had little in common with today’s traditional holiday spread. Although turkeys were indigenous, there’s no record of …read more

Source: HISTORY