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This week at a glance.

May 30

•"1st" Memorial Day
•Organizers killed

May 31
•Desegregation needed urgently
•Playwright convicted
•Congress cuts bombing funds

June 1

•Ex-slave makes sojourn for truth
•Gay rights pioneer
•Senators clash
•School prayer unconstitutional
•Vets oppose the war

June 2
•100s of slaves freed
•Plant seizure ruling

June 3
•Garment workers organize
•Woman refuses to give up her seat
•Scientists: no nuke testing
•Belgian COs-OK
June 4
•Angela Davis acquitted
•NZ nuke free
•China v. democracy

June 5
•A book that changed a nation
•Senator's wife pays no war taxes
•World Environment Day

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May 30, 1868

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was first observed some say [see May 1, 1865] when two women in Columbus, Mississippi, placed flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers, both Confederate and Union. War widow Augusta Murdoch Sykes, one of the Columbus planners, pointed out that “after all, they are somebody’s sons.” It is now celebrated to honor all those who have died in America’s wars.

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country....” -from an order from the Grand Army of the Republic

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May 30, 1937

1000 striking steel workers (and members of their families), on their way to picket at the Republic Steel plant in south Chicago where they were organizing a union, were stopped by the Chicago Police. In what became known as the “Memorial Day Massacre,” police shot and killed 10 fleeing workers, wounded 30 more, and beat 55 so badly they required hospitalization.
More on the incident

Watch a video oral history with historic footage

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May 31, 1955

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered (in a unanimous decision known as Brown II after the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education) that school integration be implemented “with all deliberate speed,” ordering the lower federal courts to require the desegregation of public schools.
Between 1955 and 1960, federal judges held more than 200 school desegregation hearings. The decision reiterated “the fundamental principle that racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional . . . . All provisions of federal, state or local law requiring or permitting such discrimination must yield to this principle.”

A timeline of school integration

Peace quote

"Today's Constitution is a realistic document of freedom only because of several corrective amendments. Those amendments speak to a sense of decency and fairness that I and other Blacks cherish."
- Justice Thurgood Marshall

May 31, 1957

U.S. playwright Arthur Miller was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal the names of associates who were alleged to be Communists.
The conviction was ultimately set aside on appeal.
Arthur Miller

"Great drama is great questions or it is nothing but technique. I could not imagine a theater worth my time that did not want to change the world."
- Arthur Miller

May 31, 1973

A bipartisan majority (69-19) of the U.S. Senate voted to cut off funds for the bombing of Cambodia (Vietnam’s neighbor) despite pleas from U.S. President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

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June 1, 1845

Sojourner Truth (born Isabella Baumfree, but went by the name she believed God had given her as a symbolic representation of her mission in life) set out from New York City on a journey across America, preaching about the evils of slavery and promoting women's rights. She had been a slave with several owners but was legally free when slavery was abolished in New York state.

Read more about Sojourner Truth

Peace quote

"Truth is powerful and it prevails."

- Sojourner Truth

June 1, 1932

Gay rights organizer Henry Gerber published an article in Modern Thinker magazine attacking the view that homosexuality is a neurosis.
In 1924, Henry Gerber, a postal worker in Chicago, started the Society for Human Rights, America's first known gay rights organization.

"The Society for Human Rights is formed to promote and protect the interests of people who are abused and hindered in the legal pursuit of happiness which is guaranteed them by the Declaration of Independence, and to combat the public prejudices against them."
After having created and distributed a newsletter called “Friendship and Freedom,” Gerber was arrested and held for 3 days without a warrant or being charged with any infractions. Upon release he lost his job for "conduct unbecoming a postal worker.”
Following the last of his three trials, in which the charges were ultimately dismissed, Gerber moved to new York City and re-enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving another 17 years. He lived until 1972, passing away at the the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C., living long enough to see the Stonewall Rebellion
[see June 28, 1969], the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

More on Henry Gerber

Peace quote

"Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts."

- Barbara Gittings

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June 1, 1950

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine), then the only woman in the Senate, and just the second in U.S. history, denounced Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and his “red-baiting” tactics on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in a speech called “A Declaration of Conscience.”

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism—the right to criticize;
the right to hold unpopular beliefs;
the right to protest;
the right of independent thought.”

Text of the Senator Smith’s Declaration

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June 1, 1963

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and readings from the Bible in public schools violated the establishment clause of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution in School Dist. Of Abington Township v. Schempp. The Court reasoned that the daily practice was unconstitutional because a public institution was conducting a religious exercise and “that public funds, though small in amount, are being used to promote” a particular religion. “It is not the amount of public funds expended; as this case illustrates, it is the use to which public funds are put . . . .”

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June 1, 1967

The Vietnam Veterans Against War (VVAW) was founded in New York City after six Vietnam vets marched together in a peace demonstration. The group was organized to give voice to the growing opposition to the escalating war in Indochina among returning servicemen and women.

VVAW, through open discussion of soldiers’ first-hand experiences, revealed the truth about the nature of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

VVAW demonstrating against Iraq war 2004
The VVAW today


June 2, 1863

Abolitionist and former slave James Montgomery led 300 African-American troops of the Union Army's 2nd South Carolina Volunteers on a raid of plantations along the Combahee River. Meanwhile, backed by three gunboats, Harriet Tubman's forces set fire to the plantations and freed 750 slaves.

More on General Tubman
Harriet Tubman

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June 2, 1952

The U.S. Supreme court ruled illegal President Truman's order two months earlier for the Army to seize the nation's steel mills in order to avert a strike during the Korean war.

The decision


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June 3, 1900

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), a consolidation of seven smaller east coast needle trades unions, was founded.

Read more
Herman Grossman, ILGWU president

June 3, 1946

In Irene Morgan v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in interstate travel was unconstitutional as “an undue burden on commerce.”
The southern states refused to enforce it, however, and Jim Crow (the term for laws, local and state, that enforced segregation) continued as the way of life in the South.
Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a young woman named Irene Morgan rejected that same demand on an interstate bus headed to Maryland from Gloucester, Virginia.

Read more about Irene Morgan

continued (info, photos, links). . .

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June 3, 1957

Thousands of scientists, led by Barry Commoner and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, issued a call for banning nuclear weapons testing: “As scientists we have knowledge of the dangers involved and therefore a special responsibility to make those dangers known.”

“...Then on May 15, 1957, with the help of some of the scientists in Washington University, St. Louis, I wrote the Scientists' Bomb Test Appeal, which within two weeks was signed by over two thousand American scientists and within a few months by 11,021 scientists, of forty-nine countries....”
–Linus Pauling


Linus Paulng at a disarmament demonstration
photo: Robert Carl Cohen
Read “An Appeal by American Scientists to the Governments and People of the World.”
Pauling is the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes, for Chemistry in 1954;
for Peace in 1962. Read his acceptance speech, “Science and Peace”

"The problem of an atomic war must not be confused by minor problems such as Communism versus capitalism. An atomic war would kill everyone, left, right, or center."

Linus Pauling
February 13, 1950

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June 3, 1964

Conscientious objection, the refusal to bear arms in time of war on the grounds of moral or religious principles, became legally recognized in Belgium.

A history of European conscientious objection


June 4, 1972

Angela Y. Davis, a former philosophy professor at the University of California, outspoken black leader and self-proclaimed communist, was acquitted on charges of conspiracy, murder, and kidnapping by an all-white jury in San Jose, California.

More on Angela Davis
Angela Davis wearing a peace button from
speaking at The Grays Harbor Institute
Hoquiam, Washington April, 2007

Peace quote

"Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo - obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other."

- Angela Davis

June 4, 1987
New Zealand passed legislation declaring itself nuclear-free. In 1986, New Zealand had banned the entry of U.S. Navy ships from their ports in the belief that they were carrying nuclear weapons or were nuclear-powered. U.S. government protests of the policy led to breakup of the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States) defense alliance.

The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act of 1987 (which ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) prohibits the:
•   manufacture, acquisition, possession, control of any nuclear explosive device
•   aiding, abetting or procuring any person to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have control over any nuclear explosive device
•   transport, stockpiling, storage, installation, or deployment of any nuclear explosive device.

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June 4, 1989

Hundreds of civilians were shot dead by China’s People’s Liberation Army during a bloody military operation in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Students and workers had become part of a growing pro-democracy movement, gathering there continuously for weeks. The Chinese government still officially denies any deaths occurred; thousands who were arrested “disappeared” and remain unaccounted for.

"... deaths from the military assault on Tiananmen Square range from 180 to 500; thousands more have been injured . . . thousands of civilians stood their ground or swarmed around military vehicles. APCs [armored personnel carriers] were set on fire, and demonstrators besieged troops with rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails."*


*From a comprehensive overview prepared by the National Security Archive
based on formerly classified U.S. Government documents

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June 5, 1851

Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly began to appear in serial form in the Washington National Era, an abolitionist weekly.
The novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a tear-jerking tale of the hardships of slavery, became a central reference point in the national debate over the issue.
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June 5, 1972

Jane Briggs Hart, the wife of Senator Philip A. Hart
(D-Michigan), informed the Internal Revenue Service that she wouldn’t pay some of her taxes; instead, she deposited her quarterly estimated tax of $6,200 in a special bank account.
She wrote: "I cannot contribute one more dollar toward the purchase of more bombs and bullets."
Jane Briggs Hart

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June 5, [since 1972]

World Environment Day was established by the U.N. General Assembly to commemorate the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was established as a result of the conference.

The 1972 Stockholm conference

UNEP’s mission: To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations

Each year World Environment Day
adopts a theme.

For 2016 the theme of World Environment Day:

Past milestones of World Environment Day

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Publisher, Carl Bunin • Editor, Al Frank Detroit, Michigan

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