March 31st 1870: Thomas Mundy Peterson Votes!

The founding fathers may have declared that “All Men are Created Equal” but it took the 13th Amendment (1865) to the U.S. Constitution to end the institution of slavery, the 14th Amendment (1868) to grant citizenship to former slaves,Thomas-Mundy-Peterson and the 15th Amendment (1870) to guarantee that all men, regardless of race or color, had the right to vote (women would have to wait another half century for the 19th Amendment).

Tom Peterson was born October 6, 1824 on the Mundy family farm in what is now Metuchen, New Jersey. His father worked for Ezra Mundy and both father and son adopted that last name from time to time. His mother, Lucy, was a manumitted slave of Andrew Bell in Freehold, New Jersey. Tom was born free thanks to his mother’s status and also New Jersey’s Gradual Emancipation act of twenty years before.

By 1828 the family had moved to Perth Amboy, New Jersey which had become an enclave of progressive idealists. Marcus and Rebecca Spring had established the Raritan Bay Union there, a sort of cross between a boarding school, utopian community, and artist’s colony. The Union attracted intellectuals and artists, including Angelina and Sarah Grimke and abolitionists and reformers like James Birney, Edward Palmer, and Caroline Kirkland. Bronson Alcott spent time there, and Henry David Thoreau surveyed the property.

Tom Peterson was working in the stables of one of the Union’s students, John Lawrence Kearny, when news of the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment arrived in Perth Amboy. Both Kearny and Marcus Spring encouraged him to go exercise the right of a free citizen. Regular elections were not scheduled until the fall, but the city was holding a special election to decide if they were going to revise their city charter or abandon it in favor of a township form of government.

This was an important vote – deciding how a free people should govern their selves. Some were appalled at the notion of a black man voting—one man tore up his ballot and vowed to not vote again for a decade—but many in the city were proud that their city had the first Negro voter under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Peterson voted to revise the existing charter—the side that prevailed—and was named as one of the committee tasked with doing just that.

In 1884 the citizens of Perth Amboy presented Thomas Peterson a medal. The back of the medal bears the words:

   AT AN
     MARCH 31TH 1870

In New Jersey, March 31st is celebrated annually as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day to mark the right of all citizens to vote.

March 30, 1863: Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of lincoln healy aAlmighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.
And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

March 29, 1952: Harry Truman sizes up the GOP

There are some very good reasons why the Republicans have been out of office so long and haven’t been able to get back in control.Truman minimum wage

The first reason is that they were voted out in 1932 because they had brought the country to the brink of ruin. In the 1920’s the Republican administrations drew back in petrified isolation from our world responsibilities. They spent all their time trying to help the rich get richer, and paid no attention to the welfare of the workers and the farmers. All in all, they paved the way for the biggest economic smashup this country has ever seen.
That is the reason the Republicans were thrown out of office in 1932 and one of the very good reasons why they have been kept out ever since. People don’t want any more “Great Depressions.”

The second reason why the Republicans have been out of office for 20 years is that the Democratic Party has been giving the country good government. Instead of trying to build up the prosperity of the favored few, and letting some of it trickle down to the rest, we have been working to raise the incomes of the vast majority of the people. And we have been steadily expanding the base for prosperity and freedom in this country. The people have kept right on reelecting Democrats because we have been serving them well and they know it.

The third reason the Republicans have been kept out of power for years is because they have never been able to agree on a sensible program to put before the country. They have been on almost every side of every question, but they have seldom or never been on the right side.

In 1936 they said the New Deal was terrible and they were against it and all its works. And in the election that fall they just lost by a landslide.

In 1940 they admitted there might be some good in some parts of the New Deal, but they said you needed a Republican to run it. And they were overwhelmingly beaten again.

In 1944 the Republicans said the New Deal might have been good in its day, but it had gotten old and tired and it was no good any more. But the people didn’t agree, and the Republicans were snowed under once more.

Now in 1948 they said—well, as a matter of fact, by 1948 they were so sure of winning that they really didn’t bother to take a position on anything. And they got just exactly what they deserved—they got another good licking.

And by now the Republicans can’t figure out what to do. Every day you hear a new Republican theory of how to win the election of 1952. One theory they have is that they ought to come right out and say they are against all advances the country has made since 1932.

This is the kind of dinosaur school of Republican strategy. They want to go back to prehistoric times. Republicans of this school say: “Let’s stop beating about the bush—and let’s say what we really believe. Let’s say we’re against social security—and we’re against the labor unions and good wages—and we’re opposed to price supports for farmers—that we’re against the Government doing anything for anybody except big business.”

March 28, 1861: President Lincoln hosts his first Formal Dinner

The men in his cabinet wore black; their wives wore flowing gowns with jewelry and flowers in their hair. Every detail was formal.

At seven the party gathered in the Blue Room where they were joined by the President and Mrs. Lincoln. As the state-dining-room-2006-tallMarineBand played, all marched to the State Dining Room where gas and candle light illuminated the glittering surfaces of mirrors, polished silver, and crimson and white damask, and flowers and ferns massed about.

The guests took their places at the long, rectangular table with the president and Mrs. Lincoln facing each other halfway down. The conversation was convivial but all paid attention when the president spoke.

At one point the Attorney General, Edward. Bates, started remonstrating against the appointment of an indifferent lawyer to a position of considerable judicial importance, but the President took exception.

“Come, now Bates, he’s not half as bad as you think. Besides that, I must tell you, he did me a good turn long ago. When I took to the law, I was going to court one morning, with some ten or twelve miles of bad road before me, and I had no horse. The judge overtook me in his wagon. ‘Hollo, Lincoln! Are you not going to the courthouse? Come in and I’ll give you a seat.’ Well, I got in, and the judge went on reading his papers. Presently the wagon struck a stump on one side of the road; then it hopped off to the other. I looked out, and I saw the driver was jerking from side to side in his seat; so says I, ‘Judge, I think your coachman has been taking a little drop too much this morning.’ ‘Well I declare, Lincoln,’ said he, ‘I should not much wonder if you are right, for he has nearly upset me half-a-dozen times since starting.’ So, putting his head out of the window, he shouted, ‘Why, you infernal scoundrel, you are drunk!’ Upon which, pulling up his horses, and turning round with great gravity, the coachman said, ‘By gorra! That’s the first rightful decision you have given for the last twelve-month.”

As the table burst into laughter, the President gave the Attorney-General a knowing nod.


March 25, 1916: Ishi, the last the Yahi tribe, dies

His name wasn’t really “Ishi”. “Ishi” translates only as “man” from the Yahi language. But he didn’t need a distinctive name, as “Ishi” was the only “ishi” left in his tribe.

He was born around 1860 in Butte County in Northern California, but even as he came into the world his world was already disappearing around him. The Gold Rush had disrupted the Great Spirit – mining waste poisoned the salmon streams, and the new settlers’ livestock pushed the deer and other game out of the old grazing lands. ISHI_1_1916

The few Yahi left started to raid cattle to stave off starvation and extinction. White settlers reacted with a vengeance, and at the Three Knolls Massacre in 1865 did their best to extirpate the tribe.

After the massacre there were only 30 Yahi left alive. Cattlemen used dogs to track and killed the few survivors.  The remaining Yahi fled into the hills.

There they hid for the next 40 years, following their traditional lifestyle – they gathered acorns, ground them into flour and cooked the mush. They skinned deer, wildcats and rabbits for clothing and blankets.

It was tough. Soon there were only five Yahi. Then two. When Ishi’s mother died in 1911, he was alone.

Butchers found Ishi scavenging in a corral at Oroville on Aug. 29, 1911. They took the undernourished and terrified man to the Oroville Jail.

When two University of California professors, Alfred L. Kroeber and T.T. Waterman, heard about him they arranged for him to live at the university’s new museum of anthropology in San Francisco.

Ishi took to the friendly anthropologists, their colleagues and their families. He worked as an assistant at the museum, explaining his language — which had been presumed extinct. He identified objects in the museum collection (baskets, arrowheads, spears, needles, etc.) and demonstrated how they were made and how they were used.

The anthropologists recorded Ishi singing traditional songs. But he never told them his real name.

Ishi eventually succumbed to tuberculosis at age 54. The museum staff cremated him (except for his brain, which was removed in an autopsy) with his bow and arrows, acorn meal, shell-bead money, tobacco, jewelry and obsidian flakes by his side.

March 24, 1937: President Roosevelt’s therapy at Warm Springs, Georgia

In the spring of 1925, one afternoon when the train came in there were two gentlemen who came off the train, one of them in the arms of the other. And the one in the arms of the other was Fred. And there was also a lady who came off the train and she came off in the arms of the brakeman. She was a lady from St. Louis who weighed about two hundred pounds.FDR Warm Springs

Well, I did not know what to do about it. I had not the faintest idea. They assumed, of course, that I was a doctor and a lot of people since then have assumed that I am a doctor. So, in the meanwhile, we put Fred to bed and we put the lady to bed and in the morning they came down to the pool. Fred—I wish you could have seen him. I thought he was in the advanced stages of tuberculosis so I got Dr. Johnson to come over from Manchester to look him over because I thought we would have to do more than send for a doctor.

Well, the doctor said that fundamentally, although he could not move a leg or an arm, there was nothing the matter with him. So we put him in the pool and he sank. So we got Fred a life preserver and from that time on he sort of floated gaily around the pool. Mind you, that was the public pool; we did not have any patients’ pools in those days. And the two hundred pound lady? We put her in the pool and she floated. In fact, she floated high.

Well, of course we had to give them the exactly diametric opposite of my treatment. We had to feed eggs and cream and all sorts of things to Fred to put flesh on his bones and, as to the lady, we had feed her just as little as possible.

So, as the days and weeks went by, old Dr. Roosevelt, who did not know anything about it at all, finally persuaded Fred to see if he could not get his legs down to the bottom of the pool. That was easy, because they did not have any flesh on them anyway.

But, when it came to the lady, that was different. Old Dr. Roosevelt put the lady alongside the edge of the pool—there was a hand rail there—and I said, “Just concentrate. Use your mind. Just think about getting that leg down to the bottom of the pool.” Well, she would get about half way down and then I would take hold of her right leg and push a little and push a little and finally got the whole leg down to the bottom of the pool. And finally I said, ‘Concentrate and hold it there.’ And then, gently, I would move over to get the left leg down and as I moved the left leg down up came the right leg.

So you see these girls who think they are physiotherapists don’t know anything about it. I invented it first.

March 23, 1900: South Carolina Senator Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman explains the Voting Rights Act

I want to call the Senator’s attention to one fact. He said that the Republican party gave the negroes the ballot in order to protect themselves against the indignities and wrongs that were attempted to be heaped upon them by the enactment of the black code.Tillman-27Nov-1906

I say it was because the Republicans of that day, led by Thad Stevens, wanted to put white necks under black heels and to get revenge. There is a difference of opinion. You have your opinion about it, and I have mine, and we can never agree.

I want to ask the Senator this proposition in arithmetic: In my State there were 135,000 negro voters, or negroes of voting age, and some 90,000 or 95,000 white voters. General Canby set up a carpetbag government there and turned our State over to this majority.

Now, I want to ask you, with a free vote and a fair count, how are you going to beat 135,000 by 95,000? How are you going to do it? You had set us an impossible task. You had handcuffed us and thrown away the key, and you propped your carpetbag negro government with bayonets. Whenever it was necessary to sustain the government you held it up by the Army.

Mr. President, I have not the facts and figures here, but I want the country to get the full view of the Southern side of this question and the justification for anything we did. We were sorry we had the necessity forced upon us, but we could not help it, and as white men we are not sorry for it, and we do not propose to apologize for anything we have done in connection with it. We took the government away from them in 1876. We did take it. If no other Senator has come here previous to this time who would acknowledge it, more is the pity. We have had no fraud in our elections in South Carolina since 1884. There has been no organized Republican party in the State.

We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895. Then we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.

We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina to-day as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got.

As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores..

March 22, 1972: The Equal Rights Amendment is approved by the Senate

Mr, Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her„ If she walks into an office for an interview, the first guestion she will be asked is, “Do you type?”ERA

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question,, Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally- unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress, The unspoken assumption is that women are different.

They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional. It has been observed before, that society for a long time, discriminated against another minority, the blacks, on the same basis – that they were different and inferior, The happy little homemaker and the contented “old darkey” on the plantation were both produced by prejudice.

As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black.

Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable, There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as “for men only.”

More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet. No women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court, There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives, Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous.

It is true that part of the problem has been that women have not been aggressive in demanding their rights. This was also true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression and even cooperated with it. Women have done the same thing. But now there is an awareness of this situation particularly among the younger segment of the population.

As in the field of equal rights for blacks, Spanish-Americans, the Indians, and other groups, laws will not change such deep-seated problems overnight. But they can be used to provide protection for those who are most abused, and to begin the process of evolutionary change by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine it’s unconscious attitudes.

– HON, SHIRLEY CHISHOLM of New York In the House of Representatives, May 21, 1969

March 21, 1865: Nellie Worth welcomes Sherman’s Troops to Glen Burnie North Carlolina

There was no officer with the first men that came, and our drooping spirits were revived about one o’clock by the sight of a Yankie officer. He came in the house and introduced himself as Lt. Bracht, Mamma and I immediately appealed to him for protection and he soon had order restored in the house, and gave us a guard. I think he was very much of a Sherman's marchgentleman. He was very kind to me, that was something I did not expect, I did not think there was a gentleman in the whole Yankie Army, but now I know there is one if no more.

He came too late to save any of our property that the Yankies wanted. They carried off every single thing we had to eat, did not leave a grain of corn or coffee, or anything that would sustain life one day; they found all our silver and took every knife, fork and spoon we had in the world.

. . . They carried off a great many of our clothes, have not left to flinders and carried off my best dresses and two of Mama’s alike.

Every one of our darkies went and Ma and I have had to do all of the washing and ironing and scouring. I have done all the cooking. The house is so dirty I don’t think we will ever get it clean in ten months. The Yankies burned our barn and swore they would burn the house over our heads, but Providence saved it, I can’t tell you now how.

. . . . I sat in the parlor and played on the piano, and sang for the Yankies till twelve o’clock Thursday night. The first that came compelled me to play for them, but I vowed I would play nothing but Southern songs and I know you would have been surprised if you have looked in an seen how coolie I was sitting there surrounded by most deadly enemies, singing the “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “Dixie” with all my might, I am confident that I never in all my life sang so well. I breathed all the fire in my soul into those two songs.

Well Pat, I must close by telling you that the Yankies never caught papa and that we are not quite starved to death, though we came very near it, we went five days without a mouthful of bread. You will excuse the paper I know as it is all the Yankies left in the house, and tis a wonder they left this.

Oh how I do hate the very name of Yankie! They can never prosper. May the chilling blight of heaven fall on their dark and doomed souls. May all the powers of earth and heaven combine to destroy them, may their land be one cast scene of ruin and desolation as ours is. This is the blessing of the innocent and injured one, I forgive them? May heaven never.

March 18, 1925: The Tri-State Tornado

A severe thunderstorm formed over southeast Missouri in the early afternoon hours of March 18, 1925.

A tornado was spawned by the storm about three miles northwest of Ellington, Missouri, just after one o’clock that Tornadoafternoon. The tornado lifted from the ground for a brief period of time just after touching down, typical of many, small tornadoes. But then it touched down again, and held the land with a vengeance and stayed on the ground.

The tornado barreled across southeast Missouri, southern Illinois and southwest Indiana at breakneck speed. Unrecognizable at times, the tornado turned into a huge black wall of debris that caught people off-guard. At times during its life, the tornado reached F-5 status with winds in excess of 300 miles per hour.

It traveled at an average ground speed of 62 mph (still a record) and travelled an incredible 73 mph from Gorham, Missouri, to Murphysboro. As the tornado passed by, a barograph trace at the Old Ben Coal Mine in West Franfort, Illinois, recorded the lowest pressure ever taken of 28.70.

It dissipated three and a half hours later about three miles southwest of Petersburg, Indiana. 695 people were dead and more than 2,000 were injured; 15,000 homes were destroyed in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.

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