THIS WEEK IN HISTORY MARCH 31ST – APRIL 5TH
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.
“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?”
“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.
“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.
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
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
click to order
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 . . .
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
“Our scientific power has outrun our
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
click to order
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.
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”
“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.
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). . .