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Sandra Bland dies in jail after traffic stop confrontation

July 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Only July 10, 2015, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia pulls over a 28-year-old Black woman, Sandra Bland, for failing to signal a lane change. After a heated encounter, he arrests her and takes her to a nearby jail. Three days later, on the morning of July 13, she is found dead in her cell, apparently by suicide. The circumstances surrounding her death lead many to question how Bland could end up losing her life following a minor traffic stop.

Bland’s case drew international outrage over the treatment of Black people by white police officers and became a painful case cited in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Encinia’s dashcam and Bland’s phone both recorded partial videos of the incident. Bland refused Encinia’s orders to put out her cigarette and get out of her car, at which point he brandished his Taser and told her, “I will light you up.” Encinia later claimed that Bland kicked him, prompting him to wrestle her to the ground. The alleged fight was not captured on video—save for Bland describing being knocked to the ground and telling Encinia she has epilepsy. Several days later, an officer sent to deliver Bland her breakfast found her dead, and an autopsy concluded she had hung herself with a plastic bag.

Bland’s family and friends immediately questioned not only her treatment but also the official report of her suicide. Bland was reportedly in good spirits around the time of her arrest, excited by the prospect of a new job she was due to start in a few days. Her death—almost exactly a year after the killing of Eric Garner by the New York Police Department—fit into a pattern of police violence and systemic racism in law enforcement that became increasingly visible to the American public over the course of the 2010s.

The jail where Bland died was found to have been ignoring protocols regarding prisoner observation, and in 2017, Texas passed the Sandra Bland Act, which attempts to educate police officers about mental illness and de-escalation and mandates that jails divert people with mental health or substance abuse issues into treatment.

Bland’s name became known across the country shortly after her death and was chanted at racial justice protests for years.

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Source: HISTORY

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One of the Most Daring WWII Air Raids Targeted Hitler's Critical 'Gas Station'

July 10, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

U.S. airmen were awarded five Medals of Honor for this risky, low-flying bombing mission.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, a total of 177 B-24 Liberator bombers took off from Allied airfields near Benghazi, Libya, heading northeast over the Mediterranean Sea with more than 1,700 U.S. airmen aboard. Operation Tidal Wave—one of the most daring, and costly, raids of

‘Bloody Sunday’ Deemed Heroic But Unsuccessful

A gasoline refinery and storage facility used by Nazi armed forces in flames after a bombing raid by the U.S. 9th Army Air Force.

Of the original 177 Liberators that departed Benghazi for Operation Tidal Wave, only 92 returned. Germans destroyed 54 of the bombers, while others were able to land in other Allied airfields. More than 300 U.S. airmen were killed in the raid, with more than 100 captured by the Germans and nearly 80 interned in Turkey after their planes were forced to land there.

Despite the bravery on display on “Bloody Sunday,” as historians dubbed it, the Ploesti mission was a strategic failure. “Hitler’s Gas Station,” though damaged, was not destroyed; the oil refineries were back at full production within weeks. “It took many more missions, mostly done at a high altitude, to eventually knock out that oil field,” says Michael Sellers, a filmmaker whose late grandfather, John L. Sullivan, served as a bombardier navigator in the 93rd.

By war’s end, the “Traveling Circus” would fly 396 missions, more than any other bomb group in the Eighth Air Force. Members of the 93rd, along with later generations of their family members, have met for decades in reunions in the United States as well as at Hardwick, the former air base in England where the group made its home during the war. Sellers chronicles the ongoing reunions (the first one of which he attended with his grandfather in 2001) and the 93rd’s wartime service in his documentary Return to Hardwick: Home of the 93rd Bomb Group.

Avendano, Duran’s great-uncle, survived the Ploesti mission, but was killed during a test flight in England in January 1944. “It was not just to remember my uncle, but all the veterans that served in the Army Air Force, and specifically in the 93rd Bomb Group,” Duran says of his work researching Operation Tidal Wave, as well as his visits to Hardwick and other reunion activities. “It was our wish to keep …read more

Source: HISTORY

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The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter first appears, sparking a movement

July 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Outraged and saddened after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed a Black teenager in 2012, Oakland, California resident Alicia Garza posts a message on Facebook on July 13, 2013. Her post contains the phrase “Black lives matter,” which soon becomes a rallying cry and a movement throughout the United States and around the world.

Garza said she felt “a deep sense of grief” after Zimmerman was acquitted. She was further saddened to note that many people appeared to blame the victim, Trayvon Martin, and not the “disease” of racism. Patrice Cullors, a Los Angeles community organizer and friend of Garza, read her post and replied with the first instance of #BlackLivesMatter.

As the hashtag became popular on Facebook and Twitter, Garza, Cullors and fellow activist Opal Tometi built a network of community organizers and racial justice activists using the name Black Lives Matter. The phrase and the hashtag were then quickly adopted by grassroots activists and protests all across the country, particularly after the subsequent killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and a number of other African Americans at the hands of police officers or would-be vigilantes like Zimmerman.

Simple and clear in its demand for Black dignity, the phrase became one of the major symbols of the protests that erupted after Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. While polling showed that a majority of Americans disapproved of the Black Lives Matter movement when it first began, in the years following, support for its central arguments grew.

After the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis unleashed a nationwide protest movement against police brutality and racism, support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased by a 28-point margin in two weeks—almost as much as it had in the preceding two years, according to the New York Times.

Perhaps more than any other phrase since “Black Power,” “Black Lives Matter” became a singular rallying cry for the American and global racial justice movements.

READ MORE: Black History Milestones: Timeline

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Source: HISTORY

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How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Help Win the Civil War

July 9, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

Lincoln was so taken with the new technology—which he called ‘lightning messages’—that he sometimes slept on a cot in the telegraph office during major battles.

Nearly 150 years before the advent of texts, tweets and e-mail, President Abraham Lincoln became the first “wired president” by embracing the original electronic messaging technology—the telegraph. The 16th president may be remembered for his soaring oratory that stirred the Union, but the nearly 1,000 bite-sized telegrams that he wrote during his presidency helped win the Civil War by projecting presidential power in unprecedented fashion.

The federal government had been slow to adopt the telegraph after Samuel Morse’s first successful test message in 1844. Prior to the Civil War, federal employees who had to send a telegram from the nation’s capital needed to wait in line with the rest of the public at the city’s central telegraph office. After the war’s outbreak, the newly created U.S. Military Telegraph Corps undertook the dangerous work of laying more than 15,000 miles of telegraph wire across battlefields that transmitted news nearly instantaneously from the front lines to a telegraph office that had been established inside the old library of the War Department building adjacent to the White House in March 1862.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Slept on a Cot in the Telegraph Office During Pivotal Battles

Lincoln, who had a keen interest in technology and remains the only American president with a patent, spent more of his presidency in the War Department’s telegraph office than anywhere else outside of the White House, writes Tom Wheeler in Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War. As a president who craved knowledge, he trod a well-worn path across the executive mansion’s lawn to the War Department to monitor the latest intelligence arriving in dots and dashes.

David Homer Bates, one of the four original members of the U.S. Military Telegraph Corps, recounted in Lincoln in the Telegraph Room that several times a day, Lincoln sat down at a telegraph office desk near a window overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and read through the fresh stack of incoming telegrams, which he called “lightning messages.” As telegraph keys chattered, he peered over the shoulders of the operators who scribbled down the incoming messages converted from Morse Code. He visited the office nearly every night before turning …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Alexander Hamilton's Complicated Relationship to Slavery

July 8, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

The Founding Father opposed slavery, but he bought and sold enslaved people for his in-laws—and possibly even his own household.

, Hamilton wrote that “all men have one common origin: they participate in one common nature, and consequently have one common right.” While hardly approaching the extreme paradox of Thomas Jefferson’s espousal of independence while enslaving hundreds of people, Hamilton’s relationship to slavery came with its own complex contradictions.

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Source: HISTORY

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Members of the Niagara Movement meet for the first time

July 8, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Niagara Movement members begin meeting on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. This all-African American group of scholars, lawyers and businessmen came together for three days to create what would soon become a powerful post-slavery Black rights organization. Although it only lasted five years, the Niagara Movement was an influential precursor to the mid-20th century civil rights movement.

Scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois was a founding member of the Niagara Movement. Twenty-nine men showed up for the group’s initial meeting, which discussed establishing an organization to fight racial segregation and promoting the full incorporation of African Americans into U.S. society.

Du Bois was determined to pit this new group in opposition to the platforms put forward by the Tuskegee Institute’s famed Booker T. Washington—then the nation’s foremost spokesperson on Black issues.

Washington had famously declared in his 1895 “Atlanta Compromise” speech that Black people should remain in the South and work alongside white citizens, even in the face of Jim Crow segregation and race-based violence.

The Niagara Movement opposed Washington’s ideas of appeasement. Members coordinated the creation of several state-level chapters and vowed to agitate for Black voting rights, better health care, education, employment opportunities and civil liberties.

Despite continuing to meet annually around the country, membership in the Niagara Movement only reached a high of 170. A large part of its lack of support was due to its opposition towards Washington, who wielded enough influence to limit publicity about the organization. By 1910, the Niagara Movement had completely disbanded, but its principles lived on in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

READ MORE: Black History Milestones: Timeline

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Source: HISTORY

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Why the 1918 Flu Became 'America's Forgotten Pandemic'

July 7, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

After the deadly pandemic was over, no one really wanted to talk about it—and besides, there was so much else going on.

The , he barely mentioned this important historical event.

“I am not going into the history of the influenza epidemic,” he wrote. “It encircled the world, visited the remotest corners, taking toll of the most robust, sparing neither soldier nor civilian, and flaunting its red flag in the face of science.”

Before 1918, Vaughan and many other doctors were extremely optimistic about their ability to combat disease. Although infectious diseases still accounted for a larger percentage of deaths in the United States than they do today, advances in medicine and sanitation had made doctors and scientists confident that they could one day largely eliminate the threat of these diseases.

The flu pandemic changed all that. “It was, for [Vaughan], a really traumatic event that made him question his profession and what he thought he had known about the possibilities of modern medicine,” says Nancy Bristow, chair of the history department at the University of Puget Sound and author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.

The 1918 flu is conspicuously absent from other doctors’ books, too. Hans Zinsser, who worked for the Army Medical Department during the pandemic, didn’t discuss it in Rats, Lice and History, his 1935 book about the role of disease in history.

“One of the reasons I think that we didn’t talk about the flu for 100 years was that these guys weren’t talking about it,” says Carol R. Byerly, author of Fever of War: The Influenza Epidemic in the U.S. Army during World War I. “They would say, ‘we really didn’t have much infectious disease, except for the flu;’ and ‘our camp did very well, except for that flu epidemic.’”

READ MORE: Why the Second Wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu Was So Deadly

The Spanish Flu Was Deadlier Than WWI (TV-PG; 5:42)

Few Personal Stories Were Published

It wasn’t just doctors. No one really wanted to talk or write about what it was like to live through the flu. Newspaper articles about the pandemic didn’t usually describe the personal stories of those who died or survived, says J. Alex Navarro, assistant director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and one of the editors-in-chief of The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: A Digital …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Christopher Columbus: How The Explorer's Legend Grew—and Then Drew Fire

July 7, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

Columbus’s famed voyage was celebrated by Italian-Americans, in particular, as a pathway to their own acceptance in America.

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Columbus’s heroic stature was further cemented by Washington Irving’s freely embellished 1828 bestseller, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, which launched the popular myth that only Columbus believed the earth was round and stood as the lone voice of reason against medieval Catholic Church authorities.

But starting in the second half of the 19th century, as more Irish and Italians immigrated to America, they embraced Columbus as a pathway to validate their burgeoning communities. San Francisco’s Italian Americans celebrated their first Columbus Day in 1869. In New York City, the earliest evidence of a distinctly Italian American Columbus Day was an event held in 1866, sponsored by a local chapter of the Italian Sharpshooters Association.

And in 1882, a group of Irish Catholic priests founded what’s thought of today as a chiefly Italian American organization, the Knights of Columbus. “It’s a measure of how much respect Columbus had,” says Connell, “that the Irish Catholics saw Columbus as a path to legitimization, just as the Italians would.”

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Christopher Columbus

Flood of immigration sparks anti-Italian violence

A lynch mob in New Orleans breaks into the prison where Italian immigrants were being held, accused of murder in 1891.

The masses of Italian immigrants who began arriving in America in the 1880s stood out from the predominantly Northern Europeans who came before them. Mostly poor farmers escaping starvation in Southern Italy, they had dark complexions, spoke little English and often lived in squalid, overcrowded tenements. They were frequently stereotyped as simple-minded criminals, and the press stoked fears of Southern Italians as all being members of the Sicilian mafia.

Anti-Italian discrimination occasionally engendered brutal acts of violence. In 1891, after the police chief of New Orleans was gunned down in the street, police rounded up 250 Sicilian immigrants without cause, trying nine for murder. After all were acquitted for lack of evidence, a 20,000-person mob organized by the mayor and other prominent New Orleans citizens stormed the prison and killed the nine men, plus two more Sicilians being held on unrelated charges. The mob then strung up the mangled corpses, in what was one of the largest mass lynchings in American history.

“One of the most startling things about the New Orleans …read more

Source: HISTORY

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This New Deal Summer Camp Program Aimed to Help Unemployed Women

July 7, 2020 in History

By Erin Blakemore

About 8,500 women attended the camps inspired by the CCC and organized by Eleanor Roosevelt—but the “She-She-She” program was mocked and eventually abandoned.

During the Great Depression, thousands of unemployed men picked up saws and axes and headed to the woods to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program that employed about 3 million men. But men in the CCC weren’t the only ones to take to the great outdoors on the New Deal’s dime. Between 1934 and 1937, thousands of women attended “She-She-She camps,” a short-lived group of camps designed to support women without jobs.

The program was the brainchild of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who wanted an option for the 2 million women who had lost work after the stock market crash of 1929. Like their male counterparts, they looked for work, but stigma against women who worked and women who took government aid made finding a job even more difficult. Many women were forced to seek dwindling private charity or turned to their families. Others became increasingly desperate, living on the streets.

Their plight deeply concerned Roosevelt, who wondered if they might be served by the CCC. The program, which sent men to camps around the country and put them to work doing forestry and conservation jobs, was considered a rousing success. But Roosevelt encountered resistance from her husband’s cabinet, which questioned the propriety of sending women to the woods to work.

READ MORE: 6 Projects the CCC Corps Accomplished: Photos

An Alternative to the CCC

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visiting Camp Tera at Bear Mountain, New York for unemployed women, which was opened at the suggestion of Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins and herself, in 1933.

Roosevelt turned to Hilda Smith, an educator with a background as a suffragist, social worker and college dean. For years, Smith had taught a free school that brought women workers to Bryn Mawr College, and she was hired by the Works Progress Administration in 1933. She came up with an alternative to the CCC camps that addressed many of the cabinet’s qualms.

Instead of focusing on jobs, the FERA camps would emphasize education and domesticity. The camps Smith envisioned gave women the chance to safely socialize and rest and trained them in things like housekeeping and clerical skills. Instead of putting women to work, they would …read more

Source: HISTORY

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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

Source: HISTORY