This week in history

 February 28 in History

 Today's birthday

For the week of Feb. 22, 2015

Santiago Iglesias (1872-1939): Spanish Puerto Rican. Labor organizer and political leader. Iglesias first became involved in activities demanding civil rights for workers as a 12 year-old apprentice carpenter in his native Spain. Immigrating to Cuba three years later, he continued to organize laborers to demand better working conditions first there and then in Puerto Rico, where he rose to leadership of the Federacion Libre de Trabajadores de Puerto Rico. He was the organization's president from 1900 to 1935. An active Socialist, he eventually entered electoral politics, serving in the Puerto Rican senate from 1917 to 1933 and as Puerto Rico's representative to the U.S. Congress from 1933 until his death.

Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin) (1876-1938): American Indian (Sioux). Writer and activist. Born in South Dakota to a full-blooded Sioux mother and a white father, Zitkala-Sa became an eloquent writer of essays and memoirs and a leader in the movement to advance the civic, educational, and economic opportunities of American Indians while recognizing and preserving American Indian cultures. As secretary of the Society of American Indians and then president of the National Council of American Indians, she lectured, wrote, and lobbied on behalf of Indian legislation, and was instrumental in the passage of the Indian Citizen Bill of 1924. On June 2, Congress extended the rights of citizenship to all American Indians born in the United States. Previously, only part of the American Indian population had been granted citizenship through treaties, statutes, naturalization, and service in the armed forces.

Peoples Power Day: Philippines. This commemorates the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines as a dictatorship from February 22 to February 25. It was on February 25 that Ferdinand Marcos left the Philippines and Corazon Aquino was recognized by the United States as president.

William Edward Burkhardt DuBois (W.E.B. Dubois) (1868-1963) : African American. Writer and civil rights activist. Scholar, Writer and editor, DuBois was the most important leader of the effort to secure basic civil and human rights for African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Trained in sociology, history, and philosophy, he wrote a number of scholarly works about the social conditions of blacks in America. The most famous of these, The Souls of Black Folk, was especially influential; it attacked Booker T. Washington's strategy of accommodation and urged a more activist approach to improving the conditions of Black Americans. DuBois founded the Niagara Movement, an organization of Black intellectuals working for civil rights, in 1905, and in 1909 helped to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He edited the NAACP magazine The Crisis until 1934, when he resigned to devote his time to teaching and writing.

Casimir Funk (1884-1967): Jewish Polish American. Scientist. Funk discovered Vitamins as well as making contributions to understanding sex hormones, hormone-vitamin balance and cancer treatment. His work stimulated public interest in diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies.

Enrico Caruso (1873-1931): Italian American. Opera singer. The most acclaimed operatic tenor of his time, Caruso was also the first great singer whose voice is preserved in recordings.

Haing Ngor (1951-1996) Cambodian American. Physician, actor. Haing Ngor arrived in the United States after escaping imprisonment by the Khmer Rough following the 1975 take over of Cambodia by that party, and endured four years of torture and starvation. He had to conceal his medical training to escape, which after a Vietnamese invasion ousted the Khmer Rough. He immigrated to the United States in 1980 to resume his medical practice. In 1984, Ngor won the Academy Award for Best supporting actor for his portrayal of Dith Pran in the movie The Killing fields. Ngor was the first nonprofessional to win and Oscar for acting since Harold Russell in 1946 for the Best years of Our Lives. He was shot to death outside his on this date. He was 45 years old.

Jose de San Martin (1178-1850): Soldier and statesman. With Simon Bolivar, San Martin led the movement of Spain's South American colonies to win their freedom from Spain. In 1811 he resigned from the Spanish army to organize the armed resistance to Spanish rule in the land of his birth, modern day Argentina. He raided an army there and led it over the Andes to Chile, taking Santiago in 1817, and then organized a Chilean navy to transport the rebel army to Lima. There he proclaimed the establishment of a new country on July 28,1821. Although he was made leader of the new nation, he came into political conflict with Bolivar and retired to France.

Nation Day : Kuwait. Also observed on February 26, this two-day holiday marks the successful pushing back of Iraqi troops from Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991.

Blanche K. Bruce (1841-1898): African American. Legislator. Born into slavery, Bruce represented Mississippi in the United State Senate from 1875 to 1881. The only African American to serve a full term in the Senate before Reconstruction. Bruce opposed the exclusion of Chinese from the United States and fought for citizenship rights for American Indians.

Ralph Ellison (1914-1994): African American. Writer. Introduced to literature by his mother, who worked as a domestic, Ellison attended Tuskegee Institute on a music scholarship. However, in 1936 he moved to New York City, where he began to write short stories while supporting himself as a freelance photographer and audio engineer. He served in the merchant marines during World War II. After seven years of effort, he published Invisible Man in 1952, which won the National Book Award. Since then, the book has become a classic of African American literature and has been translated into seventeen languages. He taught and lectured widely, was appointed to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, served on the National Council on the Arts and Humanities and the Carnegie Commission on public television, and was a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He died on this day at his home in New York City.

Independence Movement Day: South Korea. Although Japan annexed Korea in 1910, a movement for independence arose in 1919. However, it was not until the end of World War II that Korea became independent, and then only as the two separate states of North and South Korea.

Three nOne Day (Samil-Jol): Korea. From 1905 to 1945, Japan dominated Korea. This day commemorates the March movement of 1919 of massive demonstrations against Japanese rule. The movement was suppressed and Korea, although divided at the 38th parallel, became independent only after the end of World War II.

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