THIS WEEK IN HISTORY MAY 5 – MAY 11


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Monday

May 5, 1818
Political philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany. His ideas, laid out in the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, and in many other publications, considered the state, class divisions, the nature of industrial capitalism, and culture and religion as oppressive forces.

May 5, 1925
Biology teacher John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a Dayton, Tennessee, high school in violation of state law. Working in a public school, he was prohibited by statute “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”

John Scopes

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Peace quote

“If a state is allowed to dictate that a teacher must teach a subject in accordance with the beliefs of one particular religion, then the state can also force schools to teach the beliefs of the person in power, which can lead to suppression of all personal and religious liberties.”
John T. Scopes

May 5, 1991

The last U.S. cruise missile left Greenham Common Air Base in England, the site of a decade of women’s anti-nuclear protests. The encampment persisted for nearly another decade until it was returned to public access.

Protesters leave Greenham Common for the last time
Peace link

Tuesday
May 6, 1916

Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman started the No Conscription League in the U.S. to discourage young men from registering for the draft which had passed Congress the previous month.
This was prior to American troops’ being sent to Europe in what is known as World War I.

Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman
Read the No-Conscription League Manifesto

Peace quote

“Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labeled Utopian..”
– Emma Goldmann

May 6, 1944
Mohandas Gandhi, due to declining health, was released from his last imprisonment in India, having spent 2,338 days in jail during his lifetime.

May 6, 1970
U.S. Senate hearings began on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Similar amendments had been introduced in every Congress since 1923.

Writer and editor Gloria Steinem testified: “During twelve years of working for a living, I’ve experienced much of the legal and social discrimination reserved for women in this country. I have been refused service in public restaurants, ordered out of public gathering places, and turned away from apartment rentals, all for the clearly stated, sole reason that I am a woman.”
Gloria Steinem in 1970
Steinem’s full testimony FAQ on the ERA

Peace quote

“Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That’s their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.”
– Gloria Steinem

May 6, 1979
125,000 rallied in Washington, D.C. to oppose nuclear power.

Wednesday

May 7, 1954

The battle at Vietnam’s Dien Bien Phu ended after 55 days with Viet Minh insurgents overrunning French colonial forces, and forcing their surrender. An agreement for complete French withdrawal was negotiated within two months in Geneva, Switzerland.

The battle began in March, when a force of 40,000 Vietnamese troops armed with heavy artillery surrounded 15,000 French soldiers holding the French position under siege. The Viet Minh guerrillas had been fighting a long and bloody war against French colonial control of Vietnam since 1946.

French prisoners being marched by Viet Minh out of Dien Bien Phu, May 7, 1954

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May 7, 1955
The Reverend George Lee, one of the first black people registered to vote in Humphreys County, Mississippi, and who used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote, was murdered in his hometown of Belzoni.
The county sheriff had initially refused to accept Reverend Lee’s poll tax (a tax collected before someone was allowed to vote, which became unconstitutional in 1964), but he was later allowed to vote after contacting federal authorities. That, and the subsequent registration of 92 other negro citizens he helped register, angered some white residents of the county.
Rev George Lee

His assailants were never caught, and Reverend Lee is considered the first martyr of the civil rights movement.

More on Reverend Lee

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May 7, 1984

American veterans of the Vietnam War reached a $180-million out-of-court settlement with seven chemical companies in a class-action suit relating to use of the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam. The veterans charged they had suffered injury and illness from exposure to the defoliant used widely in the war to eliminate jungle cover for Vietnamese forces opposing the U.S. military presence.

Book review about the ongoing effects of Agent Orange
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May 7, 1996
15,000 protesters demonstrated against the import of French nuclear waste to Gorleben, Germany. Water cannons were used to disperse the crowd.

Thursday

May 8, 1882

The American Peace Society was established when the peace societies of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania merged to become a national organization. Currently based in Boston, the merged organization was a result of the leadership of William Ladd, an advocate of a “Congress and High Court of Nations” for solving international disputes.
William Ladd, one of the founders of the American Peace Society

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May 8, 1933

Mohandas Gandhi began a 21-day fast to support political rights for the Dalit (or untouchables) whom he called Harijans, the children of God. He had been jailed by the British to interfere with his movement to end colonial control of India. He was released the day after he began his personal purification because the colonial authorities were afraid he might die in prison.
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May 8, 1962
An estimated 9,000,000 people in Belgium participated in a ten-minute work stoppage to protest nuclear weapons.

Friday

May 9, 1967

In April, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali had refused induction into the U.S. Army based on his religious convictions.
He claimed, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.” On this day, following his indictment by 24 hours, he was stripped of his title and his license to fight by the World Boxing Association.
In June, a court found him guilty of draft evasion, fined him $10,000, and sentenced him to five years in prison. He remained free, pending numerous appeals, but was still barred from fighting for three years.

Read more

Peace quote

“No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end.”
– Muhammad Ali

May 9, 1969
The New York Times revealed the United States had been secretly bombing Cambodia—officially a noncombatant, neutral country—during the Vietnam War.
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May 9, 1970

Five days after the Kent State killings [see May 4, 1970], 100,000 marched in Washington, D.C. against the Vietnam War. On the same day, about 600 Canadian protesters defaced the Peace Arch at the U.S.-Canadian border in Blaine, Washington.

Saturday

May 10, 1967
Army Captain Howard Levy, a physician, was imprisoned three years for refusing to train U.S. Special Forces soldiers for Vietnam. He refused an order to perform the training as he considered it a violation of his medical ethics.
“The United States is wrong in being involved in the Viet Nam War. I would refuse to go to Viet Nam if ordered to do so. I don’t see why any colored soldier would go to Viet Nam: they should refuse to go to Viet Nam and if sent should refuse to fight because they are discriminated against and denied their freedom in the United States, and they are sacrificed and discriminated against in Viet Nam by being given all the hazardous duty and they are suffering the majority of casualties.”
– From the Supreme Court case, Parker, Warden, et al. v. Levy.

May 10, 1968

Peace talks began in Paris between the U.S. and North Vietnam with businessman, former New York governor, ambassador and cabinet secretary W. Averell Harriman representing the United States. Former Foreign Minister Xuan Thuy, heading the North Vietnamese delegation, immediately demanded cessation of U.S. bombing.

May 10, 1980

The National Organization for Women (NOW) organized 85,000 people to march in Chicago in support of Illinois’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A chronology of the Equal Rights Amendment, 1923-1996
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May 10, 1994

Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president. He had won the country’s first election in which all South Africans could vote, regardless of race. Mandela had spent nearly three decades imprisoned for his part in the struggle to attain political and civil rights for black and colored citizens. This ended more than three centuries of white rule, beginning with the Dutch in 1652.

Brief biography of Nelson Mandela South African chronology

Nelson Mandela
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Sunday

May 11, 1973

Charges against former Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg (including conspiracy, espionage, and larceny) for his role in the release of The Pentagon Papers (a comprehensive classified study of the origins and conduct of the Vietnam War) were dismissed.

Judge William M. Byrne, citing government misconduct, including attempts to bribe him with an appointment as FBI Director, and previously undisclosed wiretaps of Ellsberg. His compatriot, Tony Russo, a former RAND Corporation analyst, was also released.

Read chapters from the Pentagon Papers history of the war
Daniel Ellsberg’s website

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers a book review

Peace quote

“There should be at least one leak like the Pentagon Papers every year.”
– Daniel Ellsberg

Readers comment

“I’ve been receiving the weekly edition for years – I always find it inspiring – there are always several items that take my breath away. Some good, some bad, of course. But the mixture always seems just right.
Thanks again”
– Tom Brown
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

May 11, 1975
80,000 turned out in New York City’s Central Park to celebrate the end of the Vietnam War.

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