This Day in History – August 7th – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… AUGUST 7th

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1930 – Lynching in Marion, Indiana.

A mob of ten to fifteen thousand whites broke into the Marion jail and lynched two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, who were suspected of murder and rape. A third suspect, sixteen-year-old James Cameron, was beaten but escaped being hung. A local photographer took the iconic photo of the two men hanging from a tree surrounded by a gleeful crowd. Despite this photographic evidence, no one was ever indicted for the lynching. A Jewish man, Abel Meeropol, was inspired to write the song, “Strange Fruit,” when he saw the photo. The song was later famously recorded by Billie Holliday.

I recently saw someone, a white man, wearing this red hat that said “Make America Great Again.” Tell me again, when was it that we were so great. 1930?

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1956 – Dynamite explosion in Cali, Colombia.

Seven army trucks loaded with dynamite, and parked overnight in an old train station, exploded. The early morning explosion of 1,053 boxes of dynamite killed 1,300 people and injured thousands more. The crater left by the blast was fifty meters wide and twenty-five meters deep. No cause for the disaster has ever been determined, although the president of the country blamed opposition terrorists.

Knowing nothing of this incident, I’ll go with the theory of someone trying to grab a quick smoke.

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1970 – Marin County courthouse shootout.

In January of 1970, during a racial confrontation in the exercise yard of Soledad prison, three black prisoners were shot and killed by a white guard. He was exonerated of any misdoings. A short time later a different white guard was killed in retaliation. The three black prisoners accused of this crime, including George Jackson, became known as the “Soledad Brothers.” In an effort to seek his own justice, the seventeen-year-old brother of George, Jonathan Jackson, entered the Marin County courthouse with three weapons under his raincoat, including a sawed-off shotgun. He threw a weapon to the defendant on trial, a Black Panther member accused of stabbing a prison guard. They released two other prisoners and took everyone in the courtroom hostage.

Their demand was that the Soledad Brothers be freed. In trying to make their escape they took Judge Haley, the prosecuting attorney, and three jurors as hostages. They taped the muzzle of the shotgun under the judge’s chin. Trying to escape with a rented van, they encountered a roadblock where the police opened fire. Jonathan Jackson, Judge Haley, and two other kidnappers were killed. The prosecutor was paralyzed for life and one juror was slightly wounded.

I remember it as an ugly, violent scene. The law and order folks, with racial overtones, went berserk with righteous indignation. Revolutionary violence was in vogue during that era, with bombings and shootings the order of the day. Much like now, with school shootings being the order of the day. But strangely now, the current wave of violence only results in muted handwringing from the law and order crowd. Go figure.    

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Birthdays:

1742 – Nathanael Greene.

Revolutionary War general. A Quaker and a blacksmith from Rhode Island, Greene was expelled from the church for showing an interest in military science. Inspired by Lexington and Concord, Greene was at the siege of Boston and so impressed George Washington there that he was made a major general. He fought at the battles of Trenton, Brandywine, and Germantown, and was quartermaster at Valley Forge. Washington then assigned him to the southern colonies to fight the British there. Leading a weak army against a formidable British force led by General Cornwallis, Greene devised a brilliant campaign. Utilizing hit and run tactics, he led the British on a chase through swamps and wilderness until they were far from their supply lines and weakened. Eventually the Continentals pushed the English out of Georgia. After the war he was rewarded with a small plantation outside of Savannah, but he was never very successful as a landowner. Greene died at the early age of forty-six from sunstroke.

Some rise to the occasion during times of stress but never find their footing afterwards.

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1836 – Evander McIvor Law.

Confederate Army general. He became a general at the tender age of twenty-six, fought in many major battles of the Civil War, and was wounded twice. The brigade he commanded at Gettysburg fought in the bloody encounters at Little Round Top and Devil’s Den. After the war Law settled in Florida and established a military college that, along with some other schools, were combined to form the University of Florida. When Law died in 1920, he was the last surviving general of the Confederate Army.

In 1890, Law gave a speech in which he said the “Vast accumulation of wealth to so few people might cause the United States problems in its future.” He went on to state that giving so much power to so few was the biggest reason for corruption and decay within our nation. Hear hear! But he did not hesitate to declare himself in favor of lynching for certain crimes.

And there for a moment I almost liked the guy.

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1927 – Carl Switzer.

Switzer played the role of “Alfalfa” in the “Our Gang” comedy shorts of the 1930s. Typecast, he struggled to find movie roles after that series ended. He had a brief part as Donna Reed’s date in the beginning of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and his last role was in “The Defiant Ones.” Later, he became a dog breeder and hunting guide. In 1959, he was killed by a gunshot wound in a dispute over fifty dollars.

Through third grade I lived in a town that had a movie theater. Every Saturday afternoon I’d troop off to see a matinee. Admission was twelve cents; obviously this was a long time ago. Most of the time the feature was a western, but not always. Some of those films remain stuck in my memory. “Down to the Sea in Ships,” “Mighty Joe Young,” “The Boy with Green Hair,” and “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” There was a whole presentation back then, not just a movie. Starting off with a cartoon, then “Previews of Coming Attractions,” followed by a newsreel, or, joy joy joy to me and my little buddies, an “Our Gang” short. This was almost two decades after the shorts had been shot, a different era, but to us it didn’t matter. We were mesmerized watching the comedic antics of kids our own age. For the joy Alfalfa, Spanky, and the rest bought for a while.it’s sad that life didn’t turn out better for many of them.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.

Sources:

BlackPast.org

History.com 

Wikipedia.org 

CivilWarEF.BlogSpot.com

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We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

*  Lead-In Image – The Little Rascals (1994, movie poster) – Universal Pictures Home Entertainment / Poster Design B.D. Fox Independent

little rascals movie poster 1994 universal

* Lynching In Marion (audio/video) – NPR’s “All Things Considered” & Dick Marvin / YouTube.com

* 1956 Colombia Explosion (video) – British Pathé / YouTube.com

* 1970 Marin County Courthouse Shootout (video) – Marques Vickers / YouTube.com

* Nathanael Greene (video) – ColonialAmerica.com / YouTube.com

* Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (tribute video) – MandyRascal / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 2

December 3

December 5

December 8

December 9

December 11

December 12

December 13

* December 15

December 16

December 18

December 19

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

December 28

January 1

January 3

* January 4

January 6

January 7

January 8

January 11

January 12

January 14

January 15

January 17

January 19

January 22

January 23

January 24

January 28

January 29

February 1

February 2

February 3

February 5

February 9

February 10

February 12

February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 22

February 25

February 28

February 29

March 2

March 4

March 6

March 9

March 11

March 12

March 14

March 15

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 22

March 23

March 27

March 28

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 4

April 6

April 9

April 11

April 13

April 16

April 18

April 21

April 22

April 23

April 26

April 28

April 29

May 1

May 2

* May 3

May 5

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 11

* May 13

May 16

May 17

May 22

May 24

May 26

May 27

* May 28

May 29

May 31

June 1

June 3

June 4

June 8

June 10

June 11

June 13

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 22

June 24

June 27

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 9

July 10

July 13

July 14

July 15

July 19

July 20

July 23

July 24

July 25

July 29

July 30

July 31

August 2

* August 3

August 6

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 25

September 26

September 27

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 4

October 5

October 7

October 10

October 11

* October 12

October 14

October 15

October 16

October 18

October 20

October 24

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 30

October 31

November 1

November 3

*November 4

November 5

November 6

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 11

November 13

November 14

November 15

November 16

*November 17

November 18

* November 19

November 20

November 23

November 24

November 26

November 28

November 29

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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