This Week in History April 7th – April 12th
April 7, 1979
Thousands protested against the nuclear industry in Sydney, Australia. The country is by far the world’s largest exporter of uranium (and thorium ores and concentrates), the radioactive heavy metal necessary for the power generation and weapons industries.
The marchers were from groups concerned about many related issues: the link between the uranium industry and weapons proliferation; the environmental destructiveness of nuclear power;
the impact of uranium mining on Aborigines and workers in the industry; weapons testing in the Pacific, and the secret history of the British nuclear weapons tests in the region; and the Cold War nuclear arms spiral and Australia’s contribution to it through the hosting of U.S. military bases, allowing nuclear warships to use Australian ports through the ANZUS alliance (among Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.); weapons testing in the Pacific, and the secret history of the British nuclear weapons tests in the region.
Sydney anti-uranium protest
April 7, 1994
Genocide in Rwanda began. Over the following 90 days at least a half million people were killed by their countrymen, principally Hutus killing Tutsis.
This day is commemorated annually with prayer vigils in Rwanda.
Canadian Gen. Romeo Dallaire, head of the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Rwanda, a tiny African nation formerly a Belgian colony, had warned of impending slaughter, but was ordered not to attempt to intervene.
PBS interview with General Dallaire, what he knew and what he watched happen
From the background to the aftermath of the genocide
from the Peace Pledge Union
April 8, 1952
President Harry S. Truman attempted to nationalize the steel industry in order to avert a nationwide strike. He was concerned about a shortage of steel needed for the war effort in Korea.
Listen to or read President Truman’s speech (with study guide)
The dilemma Truman was trying to resolve (also with study guide)
April 8, 1993
Women in Black of Lund, Sweden, demonstrated in solidarity with their Serbian sisters suffering amidst the conflicts resulting from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. “We dressed in black. We knew that despair and pain needed to be transformed into political action. Our choice of black meant that we did not agree with everything that the Serbian regime was doing. We refused their language which promotes hate and death. We repeated: “DO NOT SPEAK FOR US, WE WILL SPEAK FOR OURSELVES”
April 9, 1898
Ida Wells-Barnett, a journalist, speaker and advocate for suffrage, wrote to President William McKinley requesting federal action against those who lynched the U.S. Postmaster of Lake City, South Carolina.
Though the federal government had previously refused to involve itself with the thousands of lynchings, leaving them to be dealt with at the state level, Ms. Wells-Barnett insisted that a postmaster’s murder was a federal matter.
“We most earnestly desire that national legislation be enacted for the suppression of the national crime of lynching . . . .
Her open letter to President McKinley
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Union printed Detroit made
April 9, 1947
The first freedom ride, the “Journey of Reconciliation,” left Washington, D.C. to travel through four states of the upper South.In response to a Supreme Court decision (Morgan v. Virginia) outlawing segregation on interstate busses, the group of both black and white Americans rode together despite “Jim Crow” state laws making it illegal.
Together on the bus, and arrested several times for being so, were George Houser, Bayard Rustin, James Peck, Igal Roodenko, Nathan Wright, Conrad Lynn, Wallace Nelson, Andrew Johnson, Eugene Stanley, Dennis Banks, William Worthy, Louis Adams, Joseph Felmet, Worth Randle and Homer Jack.
Two African-American members of the group, Rustin and Johnson, served on a chain gang for 30 days after their conviction in North Carolina. The integrated bus tour was sponsored by CORE (Congress for Racial Equality) and FOR (Fellowship of Reconciliation)
Read more about the freedom rides
All great legislation grows out of mass movements organized by people like you and me.
Three important movements from our history that President Obama referred to in his 2nd Inaugural address.
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Union printed Detroit made
April 9, 1995
Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara first publicly acknowledged error in prosecution of the war in Vietnam. “Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.”
McNamara in the movie, Fog of War
(resources include comprehensive lesson plans)
Robert McNamara & the Iraq War
April 9, 2000
Jubilee 2000 National Mobilization Day in Washington, D.C. brought together individuals and groups demanding cancellation of
third world debt.
“Every child in Africa is born with a financial burden which a lifetime’s work cannot repay. The debt is a new form of slavery as vicious as the slave trade.”
Jubilee USA Network
Peace and Justice, its the best job ever”
-Wendy Hamilton, Director, Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center and Gallery Detroit,MI
April 10, 1971
Ninety-year-old Jeannette Rankin, the first female member of Congress (R-Montana), and the only one to vote against U.S. entry into both World Wars, led 8000 in protest of the Vietnam War in a women’s peace march on the Pentagon.
“There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense;
for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.”
– Jeannette Rankin, 1929
“Wars, conflict, it’s all business. One murder makes a villain.
Millions a hero. Numbers sanctify.”
– Charlie Chaplin
April 10, 1972
Charlie Chaplin received an honorary Oscar for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” The British native’s political views had previously been criticized, as had been his failure to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Pressed for back taxes and accused of supporting subversive causes during the McCarthy era, Chaplin left the United States in 1952.
Informed that he would not be welcomed back, he retorted, “I wouldn’t go back there if Jesus Christ were president.” He returned briefly from exile, however, to accept this award and received the longest standing ovation in Academy Award history, lasting a full five minutes.
Charlie Chaplin, one of PBS’s American Masters
April 10, 1981
The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention) started gathering signatures of nations willing to abide by its limitations.
Currently, 109 countries have agreed to ban or limit munitions that cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants, or affect civilians indiscriminately. So far the restrictions cover mines, booby traps, incendiary weapons (such as Napalm) and blinding laser weapons.
This Life photograph of a naked child running down a street in Vietnam screaming in agony captures the effects of Napalm. Nick Ut’s photograph of Kim Phuk, taken in 1972, won the Pulitzer Prize ( Associated Press).
Not all country signatories have agreed to all its provisions How militaries think about incendiary weapons
April 10, 1998
The Northern Ireland peace talks ended with an historic accord—called the Good Friday Agreement—reached after nearly two years of talks and 30 years of conflict. Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell (D-Maine) was chair of the talks which established a Northern Irish Assembly for both the Irish Catholic republicans and the British Anglican unionists.
Senator George Mitchell
April 11, 1916
Mrs. Annie Besant, a Briton and active suffragist who moved to India, established the Home Rule League with autonomy for India from British colonial rule as its goal. Head of the Theosophical Society of India, she was also the publisher of the newspaper, New India, and Common Weal.
Annie Besant, founder of the India Home Rule League and publisher of New India.
More on Annie Besant and her varied career
There’s more peace and justice history to see
For a more complete listing for this week or to visit another month
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July • Aug • Sept
Oct • Nov • Dec
April 11, 1961
The trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann began in Israel. The man accused of leading Hitler’s effort to exterminate the Jewish people and others faced 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and war crimes, all of which took more than an hour to enumerate.
April 11, 1968
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just one week after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Known as the Fair Housing Act, it first outlawed discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing and now bans it for reasons of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.
One city’s decade-long struggle for open housing from the Seattle Municipal Archives
The struggle for Fair Housing
April 12, 1937
60,000 students across the U.S. took part in the first nationwide student strike. The protest was against participation in any war.
Posters from the anti-war movement of the 1930’s
April 12, 1963
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fellow ministers Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy, along with 60 others were arrested on Good Friday in Birmingham, Alabama, for marching downtown.
They had been denied a parade permit, and were violating a court order banning them from all protest activities. Public Safety Commissioner Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor had sought the injunction to put an end to a series of sit-ins, kneel-ins, boycotts and other nonviolent actions designed to challenge the local and state segregation laws.
Fred Lee Shuttlesworth (left), Ralph David Abernathy (center),
and Martin Luther King Jr. (right) march on Good Friday on April 12, 1963, in Birmingham