This week in history
For the week of Sep. 24, 2023
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911): African American. Lecturer, writer, and civil rights activist. The long career of this remarkable women integrated political and social activism with notable literary achievement. A brilliant speaker, Harper lent her eloquence first to the movement to abolish slavery, and later to efforts on behalf of educational and economic opportunity for African Americans, the temperance movement, and the campaign for womenis suffrage. She was also a talented and successful poet and fiction writer. Her 1859 short story iThe Two Offersi is believed to have been the first short story by an African American to be published in the United States, and her 1892 novel Iola Leroy went into three editions
Eric Williams (1911-1981): Trinidadian. Political leader and writer. Educated in Trinidad and in England, Williams taught at Howard University before returning to Trinidad in 1955 to enter politics. His party, the Peopleis National Movement, won a landslide victory in the elections of 1961, making him prime minister of the colony and then, in August of the following year, of the newly independent republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He was repeatedly returned to office, serving as prime minister until his death. Under his leadership the republic became the most prosperous Caribbean nation in the British Commonwealth. A scholar as well as a statesman, Williams also wrote a number of books on Caribbean history.
Cabrillo Day : Portugal. This holiday, celebrated most commonly by Portuguese on the West Coast, commemorates the discovery of California by Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo when he sailed into the harbor of what is now San Diego in 1542.
George Gershwin (1898-1937): Jewish American. Composer. Gershwin won international fame in the 1920s as a composer of scores for Broadway musical comedies, collaboration with his brother, the lyricist Ira Gershwin; their songs include iI Got Rhythm,i iThe Man I Love,i and iSiWonderful.i Gershwin also wrote successful concert music using blues and jazz themes, notably the Rhapsody in Blue, and the African American ifolk operai Porgy and Bess.
Bessie Smith (1894-1937) : African American. Blues singer. Bessie Smithis authentic country blues style was first recorded in 1923. During her first year as a recording artist, she sold over two million records. Known as the iEmpress of the Blues,i she achieved her greatest fame between 1924 and 1927, when she was accompanied by some of the great jazz artists of the time.
Confuciusi Birthday (551-479 B. C. E.): Republic of China (Taiwan). Celebrated as Teacheris Day in Taiwan, this date is the anniversary of the birth of Confucius, the founder of the main doctrines of Chinese philosophy, and is one of the eight national holidays observed in the Republic of China. iConfuciusi is a Latin version of his title Kiung fu-tzu, meaning iMaster Kiung.i Confucius is revered by all Chinese as the iTeacher of All Generations.i Colorful rites are performed at all Confucian temples on this day.
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954): Italian American. Scientist. Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1938 for his research on radioactivity. In 1942 he created the first self-sustaining chain reaction in uranium, an achievement that made possible the development of the atomic bomb and other devices using nuclear energy.
Jose Morelos (1765-1815): Mexican. Political and military leader. A village priest, Morelos joined the uprising led by Father Miguel Hidalgo in 1810 to fight for Mexicois independence from Spain. Appointed a lieutenant, Morelos became the most successful commander of the rebel forces, rising to the position of supreme commander. His victories culminated in the capture of Acapulco in 1813. He then led the effort to convene a congress, which issued a declaration of independence and a constitution for Mexico. Factional conflicts among the leaders weakened the insurgent movement, however, and Morelos lost his command. In 1815 he was defeated, captured, tried, and executed by the Spanish.
National Farm Workers Association (1962): Mexican American. On this date Cesar Chavez founded a union of agricultural laborers, most of them Mexican and Mexican American migrant workers. The event was one of the signs of a rising activism among Latinos and a new resolve to press for economic and social justice.
Ronald H. Brown (1941-1996): African American. Lawyer, civil rights activist, politician. Appointed by President Clinton on January 21, 1993, Ron Brown became the first African American to hold the office of secretary of commerce. He was born in Washington D.C., and later graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. After serving four years in the army in both Germany and Korea, he earned a law degree from St. John's University. He served as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and became a leader in the civil rights movement as deputy executive director, general counsel, and vice president for Washington operations for the National Urban League. In 1988, he became chairman of the Democratic Party. He died in a plane crash while on a trade mission to Bosnia and Croatia.
Independence Day: Nigeria. This national holiday commemorates the nation's achieving independence from Britain in 1960.
National Day: People's Republic of China. This marks the anniversary of the victory of the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong over the Nationalist. Forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and the declaration of the People's Republic of China in 1949. This holiday is celebrated on October 1 and October 2.