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  History from the grass roots . . .

This Week in History is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice.

To the real peace advocates - YOU!

Publisher, Carl Bunin • Editor, Al FrankDetroit, Michigan
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This week at a glance.

Aug 18

•Suffrage ratified
•Apartheid I: Olympians denied
•Apartheid II: Steve Biko died

Aug 19
•Anti-slavery appeal to Jefferson
•Shah of Iran returned to power
•Sit-ins in Oklahoma City
•Apartheid III:
Whites only

Aug 20
•First slaves imported
•LBJ's Great Society

Aug 21
•Nat Turner's slave rebellion
•People stand up to tanks
•Peoples' Peace Rally
•Klansman convicted

Aug 22
•LBJ preempts the truth
•Resisters arrested in Camden
•Olympics: no Rhodesia
•Finally some justice for Silkwood
Aug 23
•Gandhi fasts for justice
•2 million hands for freedom

Aug 24
•France joins nuclear club
•Lettuce boycott helps lettuce workers

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August 18, 1920
Women throughout the U.S. won the right to vote when the Tennessee legislature approved the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the last of 36 states then required to approve it). An amendment for universal suffrage was first introduced in Congress in 1878, and Wyoming had granted suffrage by state law by 1890.

This amendment to enfranchise all American women had been introduced annually for 41 years without passage; it had gotten two-thirds of both houses of Congress to approve it just the year before.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
In the Tennessee House, 24-year-old Representative Harry Burn surprised observers by casting the deciding vote for ratification.  At the time of his vote, Burns had in his pocket a letter he had received from his mother urging him, "Don't forget to be a good boy" and "vote for suffrage."

Should the 14th Amendment have been interpreted as guaranteeing to women the right to vote?

Teaching With Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment (National Archives)

All great legislation grows out of mass movements organized by people like you and me.

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August 18, 1963


James Meredith

James Meredith, the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, became the first to graduate. His enrollment at “Ole Miss” a year earlier had been met with deadly riots, forcing him to attend class escorted by heavily armed guards.


James Meredith being escorted to his classes by
U.S. marshals and the military.

Who was James Meredith

August 18, 1964

South Africa was banned from taking part in the 18th Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the country's refusal to reform its racially separatist apartheid system.     

Read more

"No matter how deeply buried it is, the truth will always come to surface."

August 18, 1977

Steve Biko, the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement resisting apartheid, was arrested at a roadblock outside King William’s Town. He died while in custody from abuse during the weeks of interrogation that followed.

Steve Biko

" So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.""The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." - Bikospeech in Cape Town, 1971

More about Biko

Stephen Biko
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August 19, 1791

Benjamin Banneker, the first recognized African-American scientist, a son of former slaves, sent a copy of his just-published Almanac to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, along with an appeal about “the injustice of a state of slavery.”

More about Benjamin Banneker, his achievements and his letter to the president

Benjamin Banneker

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August 19, 1953

Royalist troops surrounded, bombarded and burned the residence of the Mohammed Mosaddeq, the recently dismissed elected Iranian Prime Minister. After having briefly fled his country for Italy due to the rioting over his unconstitutional dismissal of Mosaddeq, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was returned to the Peacock throne with dictatorial power. All this was done with the planning, financing and assistance of the CIA and its British counterpart, MI6.

Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mosaddeq

Background on Mosaddeq

Stephen Kinzer on the U.S.-Iran relationship in perspective

Back to School

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August 19, 1958

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council in Oklahoma City, led by Clara Luper, a high school history teacher, began sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters, inspired by success in Wichita, Kansas.
[see August 11, 1958].

2008 TV interview with Clara Luper More about Clara
Clara Luper

There's more peace and justice history to see

For a more complete listing for this week or to visit another month

August 19, 1989

Anglican Bishop and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu was among hundreds of black demonstrators, members of Mass Democratic Movement who were whipped and blasted with sand stirred up by helicopters as they attempted to picnic on a “whites-only” beach near Cape Town, South Africa.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Students from Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT visited South Africa and presented peace symbol buttons from to students there
as well as Bishop Desmond Tutu.

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August 20, 1619

The first enslaved Africans brought to North America arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship.

August 20, 1964

A nearly $1 billion (about $5 billion in current dollars) anti-poverty measure, the Economic Opportunity Act, which created Head Start, VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), and other programs that became part of the “War on Poverty,” was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

Sargent Shriver & LBJ
Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, drafted the legislation and became director of the Office of Equal Opportunity which implemented the new law.

The "Great Society"

Peace quote

"Rarely are we met with a challenge… the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved Nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such as an issue…..the command of the Constitution is plain. It is wrong - deadly wrong - to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country."
- Pres Lyndon Johnson
introducing the Act to Congress


August 21, 1831

Nat Turner, a 30-year-old man legally owned by a child, and six other slaves began a violent insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia.They began by killing the child’s stepfather, Joseph Travis, and his family. Within the next 24 hours, Turner and, ultimately, about 40 followers killed the families who owned adjacent slaveholding properties, nearly 60 whites, while freeing and inciting other slaves to join them.

Militia and federal troops were called out, and the uprising was suppressed with 55 African Americans including Turner executed by hanging in Jerusalem, Virginia, and hundreds more killed by white mobs and vigilantes in revenge.

More about Nat Turner

Nat Turner's confession

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August 21, 1968

The Czechoslovakian people spontaneously and nonviolently resisted invasion of their country of 14 million by hundreds of thousands of troops and 5000+ tanks from the Soviet Union and four other Warsaw Pact countries.
The troops were enforcing the overthrow and arrest of Alexander Dubcek and his government. They had been implementing significant democratic reforms known collectively as “socialism with a human face,” or the Prague Spring.  

Cover of the magazine Kvety, with a photograph of the statue of St. Wenceslas in Wenceslas Square in the center of Prague. Graffiti on the statue reads "Soldiers go home" in Russian and "Dubcek - Svoboda" in Czech.


<Hundreds attempted to obstruct invading tanks.

Both Czechs and Slovaks argued with the soldiers and refused all cooperation with the occupying armies while showing broad support for the deposed government and its reform program. Moscow relented and returned Dubcek to office, at least temporarily.

Prague Spring in retrospect

Czech perspective

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August 21, 1976

Approximately 20,000 people, mainly women, from both Protestant and Catholic areas of Belfast, Northern Ireland, attended a Peace People's rally at Ormeau Park.

August 21, 1998

Samuel Bowers, the 73-year-old former Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, of ordering a firebombing that killed civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer 32 years before. Bowers had also been instrumental in the killing of three other civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for which he was never charged.
On Vernon Dahmer’s tombstone are the words,
“If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”

32 years to justice

Samuel Bowers

Dahmer's home after the bombing

Celebrate Black Peace & Justice

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August 22, 1964

Fannie Lou Hamer, leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), testified in front of the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention. She was challenging the all-white delegation that the segregated regular Mississippi Democrats had sent to the presidential nominating convention.

< Singing at a boardwalk demonstration: Hamer (with microphone), Stokely Carmichael (in hat), Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ella Baker.
Mississippi’s Democratic Party excluded African Americans from participation. The MFDP, on the other hand, sought to create a racially inclusive new party, signing up 60,000 members.
The hearing was televised live and many heard Hamer’s impassioned plea for inclusion of all Democrats from her state.
continued (info, photos, links). . .

Peace quote

"We are sick and tired of our people having to go to Vietnam and other places to fight for something we don't have here."

- Fannie Lou Hamer

August 22, 1971

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) arrested twenty in Camden, New Jersey, and five in Buffalo, New York, for conspiracy to steal and destroy draft records. Eventually known as the Camden 28, most were Roman Catholic activists, including four priests, and a Lutheran minister.

“We are not here because of a crime committed in Camden but because of a war committed
in Indochina....”
Cookie Ridolfi
The Camden 28

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August 22, 1972

Rhodesia’s team was banned from competing in the Olympic Games with just four days to go before the opening ceremony in Munich, Germany. The National Olympic Committees of Africa had threatened to pull out of the games unless Rhodesia was barred from competing. Though the Rhodesian team included both whites and blacks, the government was an illegal one, controlled by whites though they represented just 5% of the country’s population. It had broken away from the British Commonwealth over demands from Commonwealth member nations that power be yielded to the majority.

Read more

Inspired by the U.S.
Declaration of Independence

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August 22, 1986

The Kerr-McGee Corp. agreed to pay the estate of the late Karen Silkwood $1.38 million ($2.68 in 2008), settling a 10-year-old nuclear contamination lawsuit. She had been active in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union, specifically looking into radiation exposure of workers, and spills and leaks of plutonium.

Her story

No Nuclear
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Peace quote

"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him....We need not wait to see what others do."

- Gandhi


August 23, 1933

Mahatma Gandhi, weighing only 90 pounds, was released unconditionally from Sassoon Hospital in Poona because, after 5 days of his latest “fast unto death,” the doctors feared that his body could no longer stand the strain of fasting.
He had been taken to the hospital from Yeravda jail, which he had described as his “permanent address,” when he started his fast. He was protesting official refusal to allow him to continue his work with the Untouchables (he had called them harijan, or “children of God”) while in prison.

Gandhi leaving hospital, 1933

He had deliberately courted arrest, rejecting an order permitting him to reside only within the limits of Poona, and had been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.
Read about Mohandas Gandhi

August 23, 1989

Over one million joined hands across the three Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) in a 400-mile-long chain of resistance against control by the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). It was the 60th anniversary of the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact after the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany who had negotiated it. Generally called the Hitler-Stalin Pact, it secretly agreed to Soviet control of Latvia and Estonia, and German influence over Poland and Lithuania. Germany, again secretly, later ceded control over Lithuania to the Soviets for 7.5 million dollars in gold ($115 in 2008 dollars).

Baltic hands

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August 24, 1968 

France became the world's fifth thermonuclear power when it exploded a hydrogen bomb at the Fangataufa Atoll in the South Pacific. It had a yield of 2.6 megatons (the equivalent of more than two-and-a-half million tons of TNT) and heavily contaminated the atoll, leaving it off-limits to humans for six years.

Fangataufa test

Atmospheric and underwater nuclear weapons testing continued there for nearly thirty more years.

August 24, 1970

United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC) leader Cesar Chavez [seezer chah´vez] called for a consumer boycott of lettuce to support the strike against lettuce growers who would not negotiate contracts with the farm workers for decent wages and working conditions.

U.F.W. history

The United Farm Workers today


United Farm Workers show their support for the lettuce strike and boycott at a rally in Salinas, California.   Farm Labor leader Cesar Chavez, pictured at a rally in Salinas, California

Farmworker Movement
Documentation Project

Susan Due Pearcy

Posters and


Peace quote

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours."

- Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez
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