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This Week in People’s History, Oct. 3-Oct. 9

Exercising the right to vote in Mississippi (in 1963). Air travel revolutionized (1958). Feds can't prove their case (1918). Markets plummet (1973). A new way of walkin' (1923). Deadly influenza (1918). None dare call it mutiny (1971)

A poster advertising the 1963 Freedom Vote in Mississippi

October 3, 1963 (60 years ago).  At mass meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, a large group of Mississippians, the vast majority of whom are disfranchised by the state's racist voter registration rules, gather to pick candidates to run in the fall 1964 election. They nominate Aaron Henry for governor and Edwin King for lieutenant governor, the first integrated ticket for the state's leadership since the Reconstruction era. 
    Because the Henry-King ticket had almost no chance of appearing on an official ballot, in November 1963 civil rights activists held the Freedom Vote, a mock election with polling stations in neighborhood locations such as churches, drug stores, gas stations and barber shops. 
    Polls were open for three days beginning November 2. By the 4th, 78,869 ballots had been cast across Mississippi, four times the number of blacks who were registered to vote in the state.

October 4, 1958 (65 years ago). International travel is revolutionized when a commercial jet carrying passengers crosses the Atlantic for the first time. The trip from New York to London takes six hours and 12 minutes, compared to the 11 hours and 30 minutes that a piston-powered airliner needed for the same journey. 

October 5, 1918 (105 years ago). A federal criminal trial ends in  a hung jury and the U.S. Justice Department fails for the second time to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that The Masses magazine and the leading members of its staff -- Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, John Reed, Josephine Bell, Henry Glinterekamp, Arthur Young and C. Merrill Rogers, Jr. -- had violated the Espionage Act by publishing a magazine opposed U.S. participation in World War 1.  
Twice the Justice Department attempted to convince a jury that magazine's leadership had committed a crime. After the second failure to secure a conviction, the charges are dismissed, but it is far too late to save the magazine, which had to close down more than a year earlier, because the Post Office would not deliver it to the subscribers.

October 6, 1973 (50 years ago). Financial markets go into free-fall, giving rise to these New York Times headlines: "FED WEIGHS BID TO SPUR ECONOMY AS MARKETS PLUMMET WORLDWIDE," "Global Fears of Recession Grow Stronger," and "A Day (Gasp) Like Any Other." Front-page photos, with no captions, show the faces of three anonymous desparate-looking stock-exchange workers. The lead of the top story: "As pressure built in the credit markets and stocks spiraled lower around the world on Monday, the Federal Reserve was considering a radical new plan to jump-start the engine of the financial system." The Crash of 1973 hits hard.

October 7, 1923 (100 years ago). The first section of the Appalachian Trail opens with a 16-miles path from Bear Mountain in NYS, to the Delaware Water Gap on the border of NJ+PA. With an objective of having a hiking path from Maine to Georgia, the Trail would be 2194 miles long by 2023.

October 8, 1918 (105 years ago). An epicenter of the mushrooming influenza pandemic is the U.S. Army's Camp Grant, where some 40,000 raw recruits are receiving basic training while living, sleepimg and eating in dangerously overcrowded conditions. Camp Grant's first influenza fatality took place on September 25. The camp experienced 100 fatalities in a single day just nine days later, on October 4. On October 8, soon after Col. Charles Hagadorn, the camp's 52-year-old commander, receives the latest daily report on the recruits' health, he kills himself with a bullet to the head.

October 9, 1971. U.S military operations in Vietnam take a dramatic turn for the worst when five U.S. soldiers at Firebase Pace near the Cambodian border refuse orders to go on patrol outside the perimeter of the firebase. At the same time, U.S. media widely reports that 65 soldiers at Firebase Pace have signed a letter to Sen. Edward Kennedy protesting that they were being ordered to participate in offensive combat operations despite the Pentagon's claim the U.S. has ceased combat operations in Vietnam.

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