today in history

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July 31st 1492: Spanish expulsion

On this day in 1492, the Alhambra Decree went into effect, thus expelling Jews from Spain. Issued in March by Ferdinand and Isabella, the joint Catholic monarchs of Spain, the decree ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity by July 31st. This measure was pushed for by the monarchs’ adviser Tomas de Torquemada, who spearheaded the Spanish Inquisition aimed at rooting out heresy. Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to the expulsion after successfully completing the reconquista - the unification of Spain under Christian rule - with the conquest of Granada. By the July deadline, the majority of the nearly 200,000 Spanish Jews chose to leave the country rather than renounce their religion and culture. Many of these Sephardic Jews moved to Turkey, Africa, and elsewhere in Europe, though they often encountered violence as they tried to leave the country. Those who fled to neighboring Portugal were expelled from that country only four years later when King Manuel married the daughter of the Spanish monarchs. The Jews who remained became conversos, suffering mistrust and harassment; indeed, some such converts did continue practicing Judaism in secret. The policy of religious conformity continued in 1502, when Spanish Muslims were also ordered to convert to Christianity. The importance of the expulsion is often overshadowed by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, on a voyage funded by the Spanish monarchs, also in 1492. The Alhambra Decree was formally revoked by the Second Vatican Council in 1968, as part of a general attempt by the Spanish government to make amends for the painful legacy of the expulsion.

July 31, 2015

Today We Honor Laurence Fishburne

‘Laurence Fishburne, nicknamed “Fish” started his theatrical career at the young age of 10. He became the first African American to portray Othello in a motion picture by a major studio when he appeared in Oliver Parker’s 1995 film adaptation of the Shakespeare play. His rise to fame came starring in movies such as “Cornbread, Earl, and Me”, “School Daze”, “Boyz in the Hood” and the blockbuster trilogy “Matrix”.’

(photo: Laurence Fishburne)

- CARTER Magazine

Medicaid and Medicare Turn 50

50 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare and Medicaid. 

Despite their popularity with seniors, the disabled, the needy, and those who might otherwise have to care for them, Medicare and Medicaid have done enormous damage to the U.S. health care sector and to individual liberty.

Read recent Cato Institute research and commentary on this topic: 

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                                                July 6th, 1957

                                    The day John met Paul.


            


The Quarrymen 
played at the garden fete of St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool. 

The performance took place on a stage in a field behind the church. In the band were John Lennon (vocals, guitar), Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).

That evening the group was due to play again, minus Colin Hanton, this time at the Grand Dance in the church hall on the other side of the road. They were due on stage at 8pm, and admission to the show, in which the Quarrymen alternated on stage with the George Edwards Band, was two shillings.

While setting up their equipment to play, the Quarrymen’s sometime tea-chest bass player, Ivan Vaughan, introduced the band to one of his classmates from Liverpool Institute, the 15-year-old Paul McCartney.

McCartney wore a white jacket with silver flecks, and a pair of black drainpipe trousers.

Lennon was decked out in a checked shirt, tight pants (“Drainies”) and his hair was slicked-up in the fashion of his supreme idol, Elvis Presley.

The pair chatted for a few minutes, and McCartney showed Lennon how to tune a guitar - the instruments owned by John and Griffiths were in G banjo tuning. Paul then sang Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock and Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula, along with a medley of songs by Little Richard.

“I remember I was amazed and thought, ‘Oh great’, because I was obviously into the music. I remember John singing a song called Come Go With Me. He’d heard it on the radio. He didn’t really know the verses, but he knew the chorus. The rest he just made up himself. I just thought, ‘Well, he looks good, he’s singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me.’ Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.”  -Paul McCartney.

Lennon was equally impressed with McCartney, who showed natural talent for singing songs that The Quarrymen worked hard to accomplish. 

“I dug him.”, as John recalled. So much so that John asked Paul to join his band the next day. John stated that he made the momentous decision somewhat begrudgingly.  “I was the kingpin”, John said; far more talented than his fellow bandmates. With Paul’s obvious talent and personality, his agreed-upon and unquestioned position as the group’s “leader” would be in jeopardy, or at least, lessened to a degree.  “I had to decide whether to make myself stronger or make the group stronger”, John said. Fortunately, Lennon decided to “make the group stronger” and asked McCartney to join.


Since that moment, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, without realizing it, created the most important duo in the history. Without Ivan Vaughn, Paul and John would have never met. Thank you to everything that made those two boys meet each other. It was exactly 58 years ago today. In 2015, we are still grateful to know such amazing persons. They will forever be alive. Maybe not physically, but all they”ll always be in our hearts. 


  • Nowhere Boy (2009): (x)
  • BBC2 Radio Special: (x)
  • The Quarrymen (July 6 1957): (x) (x)
  • Paul McCartney Interview: (x)

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March 7th 1965: Bloody Sunday in Selma

On this day in 1965, a civil rights march took place from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama; it became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. At this stage, the Civil Rights Movement had been in motion for over a decade and already achieved legislative success with the Civil Rights Act. However the focus of the movement now became making the promise of equal franchise guaranteed in the Fifteenth Amendment a reality. While African-Americans exercised the right to vote in the years after the amendment’s passage in 1870, discriminatory measures like literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses were soon implemented across the country to deprive them of the vote. Thus in 1965 civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. made voter registration the core of their efforts, centering the campaign on the particularly discriminatory Selma, AL. On March 7th - 'Bloody Sunday’ - as the six hundred unarmed marchers were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were descended upon by state troopers who viciously beat the protestors. The violence encountered by these peaceful marchers, which was captured on television and broadcast around the world, led to national outcry and caused President Johnson to publicly call for the passage of his administration’s proposed voting rights bill. After securing the support of federal troops, another march was held on March 21st, and with the protection of soldiers the marchers managed to arrive in Montgomery after three days. The marchers were met in Montgomery - the epicentre of the movement and the site of the 1954 bus boycott - by 50,000 supporters, who were addressed by King. Their efforts were rewarded when, in August of that year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that ensured all Americans could vote. This was one of the crowning achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Selma to Montgomery march is commemorated as one of the most important moments of the struggle.

“We are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us. The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now…not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom
- King’s 'Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March’ - 25th March, 1965

50 years ago today

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June 12th 1942: Anne Frank receives her diary

On this day in 1942, Anne Frank received a diary for her thirteenth birthday. She had seen the book, bound with red and white checkered cloth, a few days before and her father gave it to her for her birthday. Frank, a Jewish German national, lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Her family went into hiding in 1942 to escape the persecution of the Jewish population, and Frank documented her experiences. Her group was eventually betrayed after two years in hiding and Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from typhus in March 1945. Her father survived, and upon his return to Amsterdam found his daughter’s diary, which documented her life from 14th June 1942 to 1st August 1944, and had it translated and published.

Anne Frank would have turned 86 today

“It is nearly a year since he has been gone. On so many days - his birthday, an anniversary, watching his children running to the sea - I have thought, “But this day last year was his last to see that.” He was so full of love and life on all those days. He seems so vulnerable now, when you think that each one was a last time. Soon the final day will come around again - as inexorably as it did last year. But expected this time. It will find some of us different people than we were a year ago. Learning to accept what was unthinkable when he was alive, changes you. I don’t think there is any consolation. What was lost cannot be replaced. Someone who loved President Kennedy, but who had never known him, wrote to me this winter: “The hero comes when he is needed. When our belief gets pale and weak, there comes a man out of that need who is shining - and everyone living reflects a little of that light - and stores some up against the time when he is gone.” Now I think that I should have known that he was magic all along. I did know it - but I should have guessed it could not last. I should have known that it was asking too much to dream that I might have grown old with him and see our children grow up together. So now he is a legend when he would have preferred to be a man. I must believe that he does not share our suffering now. I think for him - at least he will never know whatever sadness might have lain ahead. He knew such a share of it in his life that it always made you so happy whenever you saw him enjoying himself. But now he will never know more - not age, nor stagnation, nor despair, nor crippling illness, nor loss of any more people he loved. His high noon kept all the freshness of the morning - and he died then, never knowing disillusionment.
“…he has gone…
Among the radiant, ever venturing on,
Somewhere, with morning, as such spirits will.”*
He is free and we must live. Those who love him most know that “the death you have dealt is more than the death which has swallowed you.”” —- Jacqueline Kennedy, Look, November 1964
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July 25th 1865: James Barry dies

On this day in 1865, British surgeon Dr. James Barry died, upon which it was discovered that he was biologically female. Born Margaret Ann Bulkley, daughter of a grocer from Cork, she wanted to become a doctor but as a female was barred from medical school. Bulkley, her family, and liberal friends of her uncle (artist James Barry) concocted a plan to disguise her as a man under her uncle’s name and enroll in medical school in Edinburgh to allow her to fulfill her dream of being a doctor. Upon graduating medical school - technically the first woman to do so in Britain - Barry enlisted as a surgeon in the British Army. The plan was initially for her to move to Venezuela as a female doctor, but this fell through and Barry decided to continue in a male role. He served in India and Africa and rose to the high rank of Inspector General of military hospitals. Barry was a skilled surgeon, who had the highest recovery rate for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War and performed one of the first successful Caesarean sections; the grateful parents of this child named him James Barry Munnik Hertzog, and he went on to become Prime Minister of South Africa. Barry also focused on improving public health among the general populace, promoting improved sanitation standards and good diets. Barry was reportedly a difficult character, once arguing with Florence Nightingale, and often fought duels in defense of his honour when someone commented on his high-pitched voice and diminutive stature. When James Barry died of dysentery in 1865, despite once requesting that his body not be examined upon his death, it was discovered that Barry was biologically female. A nurse even found marks which indicated that Barry had once given birth. Army officials were so horrified that they had been tricked into accepting a female doctor that they locked away Dr. Barry’s service records, but the remarkable life of James Barry has since come to light and proved an object of fascination for historians.

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Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, known by his stage name Molière, –considered today as one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature– died on february 17, 1673.
One of the most famous moments in his life was his last.
Molière suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis possibly contracted when he was imprisoned for debt as a young man. In february 1673, while seriously ill and aged 51, he had premiered in a new play at his Théâtre du Palais-Royal. It was a joyous comedy with Molière as the title character, ironically about a severe hypochondriac fearing death, and named Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid).
A week later during the fourth performance, surrounded by whirling figures in outlandish doctors’ costumes, welcoming him into their brotherhood with a mock initiation ceremony, Molière collapsed on stage in a fit of coughing and hemorrhaging. He was so weak that his wife and friend Baron united in urging him to stop the performance. He refused and insisted on completing it. Afterwards he collapsed a second time with another larger bleeding and almost suffocated on stage, but the curtain finally went down. He was quickly taken home and died shortly later in his bed on 17 February 1673. Priests refused to take his confession, for actors had no social standing and had been excommunicated by the church. Nor would they permit him to be buried in holy ground. But the King Louis XIV interceded and he was finally buried under the cover of darkness.
Molière is listed as the first entertainer to have died during a performance.
The superstition that green brings bad luck to stage actors is said to originate from the colour of the clothing he was wearing in this play.

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15 March 44 BCE: The Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated.

As he took his seat, the conspirators gathered about him as if to pay their respects, and straightway Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the lead, came nearer as though to ask something. When Caesar with a gesture put him off to another time, Cimber caught his toga by both shoulders. As Caesar cried, ’Why, this is violence!’, one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side just below the throat. Caesar caught Casca’s arm and ran it through with his stylus, but as he tried to leap to his feet, he was stopped by another wound. When he saw that he was beset on every side by drawn daggers, he muffled his head in his robe, and at the same time drew down its lap to his feet with his left hand, in order to fall more decently, with the lower part of his body also covered. And in this wise he was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering not a word, but merely a groan at the first stroke, though some have written that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek, ’You too, my child?

All the conspirators made off, and he lay there lifeless for some time, until finally three common slaves put him on a litter and carried him home, with one arm hanging down. And of so many wounds none, in the opinion of the physician Antistius, would have proved mortal except the second one in the breast. (x)