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.

Ida Wells-Barnett

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

We remember
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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.
click to order
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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
Readers comment

“Work for
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

Peace quote

“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

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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

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March 31, 1492
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella ordered the expulsion from Spain before August of all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity under penalty of death.

March 31, 1970
The Oakland, California, Induction Center revealed that over the prior six months, half those drafted for the Vietnam War had failed to appear, and 11% of those who reported then refused induction into the U.S. Army. Later that Spring 2500 University of California-Berkeley students at once turned in their draft cards to the Oakland Center.

March 31, 1972
Protesters – singing, blowing horns and carrying banners – launched the latest leg of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s 56-mile Easter march from London to Aldermaston, Berkshire, England.
The banner used in the 1960s Aldermaston marches.
Peace quote

“War does not determine who is right, only who is left.”
– Bertrand Russell

March 31, 1991
Before dawn on Easter, five Plowshares activists boarded the USS Gettys-burg, an Aegis-equipped Cruiser docked at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. They proceeded to hammer and pour blood on covers of vertical launching systems for cruise missiles.
“We witness against the American enslavement to war at the Bath Iron Works, geographically near the President’s home.” They also left an in-dictment charging President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff with war crimes and violations of God’s law and international law, including the kill-ing of thousands of Iraqis.
Remembering Aegis Plowshares


April 1, 1841

Brook Farm, perhaps history’s most well-known utopian community, was founded by George and Sophia Ripley near West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Its primary appeal was to young Bostonians who were uncomfortable with the materialism of American life, and the community was a refuge for dozens of transcendentalists, including authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Following four days of demonstrations against the Military Services Act that devolved into rioting in Quebec City, Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden sent in troops from Ontario to stop the violence. Orders from the soldiers were read only in English to the mostly Francophone demonstrators, and when the they didn’t disperse, the troops fired, killing four and wounding 70.
[see March 28, 1918]

A memorial in Quebec to those who died
protesting conscription into World War I
More about Brook Farm

April 1, 1932
500 schoolchildren, in the depth of the Depression, paraded through Chicago’s downtown section to the Board of Education offices, demanding that the school system provide them with food.

April 1, 1955
The African National Congress had called on parents to withdraw their children by this day from South African schools in resistance to the Bantu Education Act. That 1953 law transferred education of the Bantu (blacks) from religious missions to state-controlled schools. Mission education, argued then-Minister of Bantu Education Dr. H.F. Verwoerd, not only tended to create “false expectations” amongst the natives, but was also in direct conflict with South Africa’s racially separatist apartheid policies.
Whites, who were in complete control of government and society, comprised only 14% of South Africa’s population. Verwoerd presented to Parliament:
“When I have control of native education, I will reform it so that natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them. There is no place for him (the black child) in European society above the level of certain forms of labour…What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?”
Peace quote

“The majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy.”
– Nelson Mandela

April 1, 1983
Tens of thousands in the United Kingdom formed a “peace chain” 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) long to express their opposition to nuclear weapons. The chain started at the American airbase at Greenham Common, passed the Aldermaston nuclear research center, and ended at the ordnance factory in Burghfield.

At the same time 15,000 people took part in the first of a series of anti-nuclear marches in West Germany. They were protesting the siting of American cruise missiles on West German territory.
Contemporaneous coverage of the Peace Chain


April 2, 1917
Jeanette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, took her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first woman ever elected to Congress, she became the only member to vote against U.S. entry into both world wars. Though American women weren’t granted the right to vote for three more years with passage of the 19th amendment, women in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Washington had full voting rights before statehood.
Rankin was instrumental in passing laws that made married women citizens in their own right.
Peace quote

“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

April 2, 1966
One hundred thousand Vietnamese demonstrated in DaNang against both the U.S. and their South Vietnamese governments. Civil unrest spread also to Hue and the capital, Saigon.

April 2, 1970
Massachusetts, in the midst of the Vietnam war, enacted a law which exempted its citizens from having to fight in an undeclared war.
The U.S. Congress had never formally declared war on North Vietnam as required by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
Peace Dove
lapel pin


April 3, 1958
10,000 British joined a rally in advance of a three-day, fifty-mile peace march from Trafalgar Square, London, to Aldermaston, Berkshire. Berkshire was the site of the AWRE (Atomic Weapons Research Establishment). This march marked the beginning of many protests against Britain’s devel-opment of nuclear weaponry. Thousands made the march along the same route for many years.

Some 10,000 people joined the 1958 rally.

David and Renee Gill at the first Altermaston march 1958 (left)
and at the April 2004 march (right)

…still protesting for
nuclear disarmament.

Their story

April 3, 1963
Black residents of Birmingham, Alabama, sat in at several lunch counters seeking to be served as customers. It was part of “Project C” (for Confrontation) on “B Day” (for Birmingham) organized by Reverends Fred Shuttlesworth of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). They issued a Birmingham Manifesto: “. . . the patience of an oppressed people cannot endure forever.”

April 3, 1968

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee. King was there to support sanita-tion workers striking to protest low wages and poor working conditions.

“. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
King was assassinated the next day.
Read the speech  …or listen
Watch an excerpt of his final and prophetic speech
Did you know?
in 1959 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King travelled to India to learn about the statregy of peaceful non-violent resistance.

1″ lapel button

Union printed Detroit made
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April 4, 1958

Four thousand began the first of eleven consecutive annual Easter protest marches. It took three days on foot from London to Aldermaston AWRE (Atomic Weapons Research Establisment) base in England.

Aldermaston March, 1st Day, 1958.
Watch one of the marches
Did you know . . .
the first peace symbol buttons were made in 1958 using white clay . . .

keep reading

April 4, 1967
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, in a speech to Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church in New York City, called for common cause between the civil rights and peace movements. The Nobel Peace Prize winner proposed the United States stop all bombing of North and South Vietnam;
MLK delivering the important speech
declare a unilateral truce in the hope that it would lead to peace talks; set a date for withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam; and give the National Liberation Front a role in negotiations.
” . . . this war is a blasphemy against all that America stands for . . . .”
Read the speech or listen  | Impact of the speech

Peace quote

“Our scientific power has outrun our
spiritual power.
We have
guided missiles and misguided men.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr


April 4, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr., 39, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to help with a strike by sanitation workers.

Riots in reaction to the assassination broke out in over a hundred cities across the U.S., lasting up to a week; cities included Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. The federal government deployed 75,000 National Guard troops. 39 people died and 2,500 were injured.
Reverends. Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel shortly before he was shot.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-New York) was campaigning for president. Learning about the assassination just before speaking to a large rally, he said, “we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.”
Indianapolis experienced no rioting that night.
Sen. Robert Kennedy speaking to a large, mostly African-American rally
about the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
continued (info, photos, links). . .

Are you still dreaming?

graffiti seen in detroit
now as a button tribute to 
Martin Luther King”s famous 
1963 speech
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April 4, 1969
CBS cancelled “The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour,” a television show which featured edgy political satire and such rock bands as the Beatles, the Who, Jefferson Airplane and the Doors.

Smothers brothers
The brothers had refused to censor a comment made by Joan Baez. She wanted to dedicate a song to her husband, David, who was about to go to jail for objecting to the draft during the Vietnam War.

David Harris and Joan Baez
More about the show

Joan Baez and the Smothers Brothers sing Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”
Peace quote

“The only thing that’s been a worse flop than the organization of non-violence has been the organization of violence”
– Joan Baez


April 5, 1910
Emil Seidel was elected mayor of Milwaukee and became the first socialist mayor of a major city in the United States. During his administration the first public works department was established, the first fire and police commissions were organized, and a city park system came into being.
In 1912, the Socialist Party nominated Emil Seidel as their vice presidential candidate to run with Eugene Debs.

Emil Seidel
Read more about Emil Seidel  Milwaukee’s Socialist Era
There’s more peace and justice history to see

April 5, 1930
Mohandas Gandhi and his followers reached the end of their 400 km (240 mile) march to the Indian Ocean coast at Dandi. He had left his ashram with 78 satyagrahis (“soldiers” of peaceful resistance), but the procession grew over the 23 days of traveling on foot until it stretched more than 3 km (2 miles).
When they arrived at the seaside, Gandhi made salt by allowing seawater to evaporate. This simple task was an act of civil disobedience because the British Raj, the governing colonial authority, had made salt-making a monopoly and a crime for others; additionally, there was a tax on salt, a necessary element of the Indian diet. Gandhi picking up salt.
continued (info, photos, links). . .

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