This Week in People’s History, Sept. 26-Oct. 2
Racist Judges Get Schooled
September 26, 1963 (60 years ago). Mary Hamilton was an Alabama civil rights activist who had been convicted of contempt of court when, on the witness stand, she refused to respond to a prosecutor who insisted on addressing her as "Mary," and not "Miss Hamilton," in keeping with the racist custom of addressing whites as Mr. or Miss or Mrs. Doe, but addressing Blacks by their first name. Hamilton appealed her contempt-of-court conviction to the Alabama Supreme Court; on September 26, 1963, the court's nine justices, all of them white men, unanimously upheld the conviction. With the assistance of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Hamilton appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That court's nine justices (all of them white men) found in Hamilton's favor and reversed the Alabama Supreme Court. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_v._Alabama_(1964)
[This item has been updated with additional information.]
School Integration? Been There, Done That? No, Not Really
September 27, 1958 (65 years ago). In Little Rock, Arkansas, four years after the Supreme Court ordered an end to racially segregated public schools, Little Rock voters choose to close all public schools rather than comply the the Court's 1954 mandate. It's what's called a work-around; no public schools, no integration.
Of course, the fact that the majority of Black people in Little Rock were not allowed to register to vote makes the "democratic" decision a farce. Or tragedy.
Similar racist actions occurred throughout the South. As a result, there was not a single integrated school in the Deep South until 1961, nine years after the Supreme Court decision. To make matters worse, the rate of school integration reached its peak in 1988 (35 years ago!) and has steadily declined since, as the chart close to the top of https://finance.yahoo.com/news/charts-show-segregation-us-schools-15520… shows, proving that the Supreme Court can decide what the law is, but that's about it.
Much more information is available here: https://calendar.eji.org/racial-injustice/sep/27
A Very Deadly Parade
September 28, 1918 (105 years ago). Downtown Philadelphia is mobbed with 200,000 supporters of U.S. participation in World War I, part of a national week-long hyper-patriotic campaign to market war bonds to the public. The parade takes place against the advice of many Philadelphia doctors who are aware that the city is beginning to experience an epidemic of an extremely contagious and unusually deadly strain of influenza. Despite the doctors' advice, Philadelphia officials recklessly cause what is perhaps the deadliest 1-day event in U.S. history, a celebration that resulted in the death of an estimated twelve thousand participants and bystanders.
On this day, doctors in Boston, New York and Philadelphia were beginning to understand that a new strain of influenza was infecting thousands of people in the East Coast's major cities. The first Philadelphia cases had been reported on September 11 and the number of people infected was rising each day. Based on that information, many doctors advised the Mayor in the strongest language to postpone what would now be called a super-spreader event.
The Mayor, with encouragement from the White House, ignores the advice of local doctors; downtown Philadelphia is mobbed. Less than a week after the parade, every Philadelphia hospital was full to capacity with seriously ill flu patients, many of whom reported they had been in perfect health when they attended the parade. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/philadelphia-threw-wwi-parade-ga…
Prisoners of Conscience
September 29, 1943 (80 years ago). Five conscientious objectors who were imprisoned for their refusal to be drafted into the Army begin a hunger strike at the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to protest racial segregation of prisoners at mealtimes and the unnecessarily heavy censorship of their mail. They were asking prison officials to give prisoners the right to sit wherever they chose during meals and they were asking for a mail-censorship regime that only concerned matters that were relevant to prison security and conditions, whereas the censors were deleting (with scissors) everything concerning politics. visit https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/hunger-strike/ for more information and click on the image of the leaflet to read the striking prisoners' own words.
Broadway Says 'No' to Racism
September 30, 1933 (90 years ago). When the Irving Berlin musical comedy "As Thousands Cheer" opens on Broadway, one of its three stars, Ethel Waters, is the first Black woman to get top billing in a Broadway production. No one could have doubted she was a star, but for her to be billed as such was unprecedented. In addition, the audience hears Waters sing "Supper Time," a lament about lynching, which is the first time a Broadway show broaches the subject. An indication of how radical Berlin's choice of a star and subject matter are can be seen in the attitude of Waters' two (white) co-stars. When the show opened they refused to bow with Waters after the final curtain. Berlin told them, fine, then no one will take any bows. The two reluctant stars decided they preferred to bow with Waters than not bow at all. https://onlineexhibits.library.yale.edu/s/ohamstruggles/page/ew2
No Way to Run a Website
October 1, 2013 (10 years ago). Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, which is the U.S. healthcare system's biggest regulatory overhaul and expansion of coverage since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, opens with the unveiling of a new federal website, HealthCare.gov.
The program's rollout quickly turns from a moment of triumph into a disaster because the website's software has an unimaginable number of bugs. Millions of people who attempt to use the website to enroll in the program are unable to do so, because the software is so faulty. In its first week of operation, only 1 percent to those who attempt to enroll are successful.
Official explanations for the website's failures are later shown to be false. For example, the chief U.S. technology officer tells the media that the site was designed to accommodate 50,000-60,000 simultaneous users and not the 250,000 who attempted to enroll. But later it is revealed that when the site was tested before going live it crashed when it was accessed simultaneously by only 1100 users. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HealthCare.gov#Concerns_about_the_website
October 2, 1833 (190 years ago). Journalist William Lloyd Garrison and business owner Arthur Tappan hold the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Two months later, they convene a meeting of 62 supporters from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and all six New England states. Within five years of its founding, the society has some 1350 local chapters and about 250,000 members. The formerly enslaved Frederick Douglass joins in 1843, five years after his escape from bondage. http://www.americanabolitionists.com/american-anti-slavery-society.html