This week in history
For the week of Feb. 18, 2024
Sholom Aleichem (born Solomon Rabinowitz) (1854-1916): Jewish Russian American. Writer. Born in Ukraine, Rabinowitz began writing in Yiddish in 1883, using as his pseudonym the Yiddish greeting i Peace be with you.i His best known works are his stories of Jewish life in the villages of Eastern Europe. Along with I. Peretz and Mendele Sforim, he is considered one of the founders of modern Yiddish literature.
Audre Geraldin Lorde (1934-1992): Lesbian. Poet and essayist. Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian who fought for justice through both her writings and her political activities. She held a number of teaching positions and toured internationally as a lecturer, forming coalitions between Afro-German and Afro-Dutch women, founding a sisterhood in South Africa, starting the Women of Color Press, and establishing the St. Croix Womenis Coalition. Her poetry collections include, From a Land Where Other People Live (1973), The Black Unicorn (1978), Our Dead Behind Us (1986), and The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance (1993). She won the American Book Award in 1989 for A Burst of Light and was appointed New York Stateis Poet Laureate by then Governor Mario Cuomo in 1991. Lorde chronicled her 14 year battle against breast cancer in works such as The Cancer Journals, before finally succumbing to the disease in 1992.
Luis Munoz Marin (1898-1980): Puerto Rico. Political leader. Elected Puerto Ricois first governor in 1948, Munzo Marin served in that office until 1964, instituting programs of economic development and social reform. He also proposed a plan for maintaining Puerto Ricois union with the United States while establishing the island as a self-governing unit exempt from U.S. taxes. This proposal became the basis for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, created by and act of Congress and proclaimed in 1952.
Beginning of Japanese internment (1942) United States. On this date President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring the removal of most persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to internment camps in rural Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. This act, a response to anti-Japanese feeling in the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, uprooted 120,000 people, including 71,000 U.S. citizens.
Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) : African American. Lawyer, politician, teacher. Born in Houston, Texas, Jordan graduated magna cum laude from Texas Southern University and Boston University Law School. In 1966, she was the first Black woman to be elected to the Texas State Senate. She later became the first woman and first African American elected to Congress from Texas.
First publication of the Cherokee Phoenix (1828): American Indian. In 1828 a system of symbols developed by Sequoyah to give written form to the Cherokee language made possible the publication of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper printed in an Indian language.
Maha Shivaratri (Shiva's Night) : Hindu. This festival honors Shiva who, along with Vishnu and Krishna, is one of the most important deities in Hinduism. It is observed in the spring and is celebrated with fasting and prayer and meditation.
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.