Monday, November 21, 2016


During Thanksgiving in America, people eat food, watch sports, go to parades, walk in the park, shop, and do a diversity of actions. Millions of Americans eat sweet potato pie, apple pie, and other foods. Likewise, there is a hidden history of Thanksgiving that many people don’t know about. First, thanksgiving ceremonies have existed for thousands of years. There are harvest festivals that deal with paganism thousands of years ago. Today, the pagan iconography of the cornucopia relate to many harvest rituals.  Also, believers in God, for thousands of years, have used other thanksgiving actions to give thanks to God for the many blessings in the world. There have been thanksgiving ceremonies in American soil during the 1500’s. The modern Thanksgiving Holiday has its origin from the history of 17th century New England in America. Back then, there were the Puritans and the Pilgrims. In England, during the 1600’s, the Protestant Reformation was in its infancy. The England territory had a monarchy and many people wanted a parliamentary system to have political strength. The Church of England still had rituals and doctrines from the Catholic Church. Therefore, the Puritans wanted to eliminate the Papal influences and reform the Church of England. Yet, the Pilgrims wanted to break away from the Church of England completely. Henry VIII and King James I of England were Anglicans. Religious prosecution against both the Puritans and the Pilgrims (or Separatists) was commonplace in England. The Pilgrims came into New England first and the Puritans second. First, the Pilgrims left England to the Netherlands in 1609 (after Archbishop Tobias Matthew raided homes and imprisoned many pilgrims). They came into Amsterdam and then to Leiden. In Leiden, they worshiped as they pleased, but the Dutch society was unfamiliar to them. Many Pilgrim children started to adopt Dutch customs. English authorities arrested William Brewster still in 1618. The Pilgrims formed the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. Therefore, the Pilgrims used the Mayflower to travel into America. Some traveled in the Speedwell ship too. The Mayflower traveled into many places and anchored in Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620. On December 21, 1620, the first landing party arrived at the site of what later became the settlement of Plymouth. Plans to immediately begin building houses, however, were delayed by inclement weather until December 23. They experienced a brutal winter. On March 16, 1621, the first formal contact occurred with Native Americans.

A Native American named Samoset, originally from Pemaquid Pointin modern Maine, walked boldly into the midst of the settlement and proclaimed, "Welcome, Englishmen!" He had learned some English from interacting with English fishermen and trappers (most probably from Bristol) operating in the region.  It was during this meeting that the Pilgrims learned how the previous residents of the Native American village of Patuxet had died of an epidemic thought to be smallpox. They also discovered that the supreme leader of the region was a Wampanoag Native American sachem (chief) by the name of Massasoit. They learned of the existence of Squanto (also known by his full Massachusett name of Tisquantum), a Native American originally from Patuxet. Squanto had spent time in Europe and spoke English quite well. Samoset spent the night in Plymouth and agreed to arrange a meeting with some of Massasoit's men. Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them. Squanto had learned the English language during his enslavement in England. The Wampanoag leader Massasoit had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient. The Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest in 1621. The exact time is unknown, but James Baker, then Plimoth Plantation vice president of research, stated in 1996, "The event occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11, 1621, with the most likely time being around Michaelmas (Sept. 29), the traditional time." Seventeenth-century accounts do not identify this as a thanksgiving observance, rather it followed the harvest. It included 50 persons who were on the Mayflower (all who remained of the 100 who had landed) and 90 Native Americans. The feast was cooked by the four adult Pilgrim women who survived their first winter in the New World (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White, along with young daughters and male and female servants). Later, more Native Americans should experience genocide by the Puritans, Pilgrims, and other European imperialists. That is why it is understandable that many Native Americans refuse to celebrate the Thanksgiving Day on every 4th Thursday in November each year.

Back then in 1963, Birmingham, Alabama was the most segregated city in America. Violence and harassment were experienced by black residents of Birmingham for years and decades. Interracial unions during the 1930’s were redbaited and many union members were even assaulted by racists. Bull Connor was a commissioner of public safety in the city back in 1937. By 1963, Birmingham was almost 350,000 people with 60% white people and 40% black Americans. Yet, it had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks in department stores, bus drivers, bank tellers, or store cashiers. The majority of jobs available to black people were manual labor in the Birmingham's steel mills, work in household service and yard maintenance, or work in black neighborhoods. When layoffs were necessary, black employees were often the first to go. The unemployment rate for blacks was two and a half times higher than for whites. The average income for blacks in the city was less than half that of whites. Significantly lower pay scales for black workers at the local steel mills were common. Racial segregation of public and commercial facilities throughout Jefferson County was legally required, covered all aspects of life, and was rigidly enforced. Only 10 percent of the city's black population was registered to vote in 1960. Birmingham’s economy stagnated. The reason was that the city shifted from blue to white collar jobs. There were 50 unsolved racially motivated bombings between 1945 and 1962. Black people fought back too. Alabama banned the NAACP in 1956. So, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). In that same year, the ACHHR fought to end segregation and discrimination via lawsuits and protests. The courts overturned the segregation of city parks and then Birmingham responded by closing them. Shuttlesworth's home was repeatedly bombed, as was Bethel Baptist Church, where he was pastor. In 1958, he was beaten with chain and his wife was stabbed when he tried to enroll his child to an all-white school.  

After Shuttlesworth was arrested and jailed for violating the city's segregation rules in 1962, he sent a petition to Mayor Art Hanes' office asking that public facilities be desegregated. Hanes responded with a letter informing Shuttlesworth that his petition had been thrown in the garbage. Looking for outside help, Shuttlesworth invited Dr. Martin Luther King and the SCLC to Birmingham, saying, "If you come to Birmingham, you will not only gain prestige, but really shake the country. If you win in Birmingham, as Birmingham goes, so goes the nation.” Eugene “Bull” Connor was a racist and had a contentious personality. He wanted segregation. He believed in the slanderous lie that the Civil Rights Movement was a Communist plot. Churches were bombed in the city too. In 1958, police arrested ministers organizing a bus boycott. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a probe amid allegations of police misconduct for the arrests, Connor responded that he "[hadn't] got any d___ apology to the FBI or anybody else", and predicted, "If the North keeps trying to cram this thing [desegregation] down our throats, there's going to be bloodshed." Connor was known to delaying sending police to intervene when the Freedom Riders were beaten by local mobs. Connor was so antagonistic towards the Civil Rights Movement that his actions galvanized support for black Americans. President John F. Kennedy later said of him, "The Civil Rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln." Connor was an extreme conservative. A group of white moderates worked to defeat him politically, because of economically slow progress in the city. The Citizens for Progress was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other white professionals in the city, and their tactics were successful. In November 1962, Connor lost the race for mayor to Albert Boutwell, a less combative segregationist. However, Connor and his colleagues on the City Commission refused to accept the new mayor's authority. They claimed on a technicality that their terms would not expire until 1965 instead of in the spring of 1963. So for a brief time, Birmingham had two city governments attempting to conduct business.

The Russo-Japanese War lasted from February 8, 1904 to September 1905. It represented a new era of time. It was fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan. Each side wanted to dominate regions found in Manchuria and Korea. Their disagreements caused the war to exist.  Most of the war took place in the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria. The battles also transpired in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea. Russia sought a warm-water port on the Pacific Ocean for their navy and for maritime trade. Vladivostok was operational only during the summer, whereas Port Arthur, a naval base in Liaodong Province leased to Russia by China, was operational all year. Since the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, negotiations between Russia and Japan proved impractical. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan rapidly industrialized, embraced many Western ideas, and wanted to maintain its sovereignty at the same time. Tsarist Russia expanded its territory to the East. It conquered Central Asia, Afghanistan, and other local states. It stretched into parts of Poland and into the Kamchatka Peninsula in the east. With its construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway to the port of Vladivostok, Russia hoped to further consolidate its influence and presence in the region. In the incident of 1861 Russia had directly assaulted Japanese territory. Fearing Russian expansion, Japan regarded Korea (and to a lesser extent Manchuria) as a protective buffer. By 1897, a Russian fleet was in the Port Arthur. After three months, in 1898, China and Russia negotiated a convention by which China leased (to Russia) Port Arthur, Talienwan and the surrounding waters. The two parties further agreed that the convention could be extended by mutual agreement.  In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion happened. The Boxer Rebellions about Chinese people trying to get rid of Western imperialists from China. Russians, Japanese individuals, other Europeans, and Americans united to end the Boxer Rebellion. Afterwards. these imperialist interests further controlled China. During the rebellion, 100,000 Russian soldiers were stationed in Manchuria. Russia didn’t vacate Manchuria immediately. The Japanese tried their best to negotiate with Russia about Korea and Manchuria. Meanwhile, Japan and Britain had signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902. In that agreement, the British sought to restrict naval competition by keeping the Russian Pacific seaports of Vladivostok and Port Arthur from their full use. The alliance with the British meant, in part, that if any nation allied itself with Russia during any war against Japan, then Britain would enter the war on Japan's side. Both Japan and Russia had competing negotiation interests and goals. Russia was not interested in negotiation with Japan. Russia wanted to build up militarily. By early January 1904, the Japanese government had realized that Russia was not interested in settling the Manchurian or Korean issues. Russia refused to compromise, so on February 6, 1904, the Japanese minister to Russia, Kurino Shinichiro was recalled and Japan severed diplomatic relations with Russia. Nicholas II’s ego and autocratic personality prevented negotiations to prevent a war. It is also true that Nicholas II wanted to promote Russia's prestige and he was a racist. He called the Japanese racial slurs. He had a false sense of security and underestimated the Japanese military strength. Japan issued a declaration of war on 8 February 1904. However, three hours before Japan's declaration of war was received by the Russian government, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the Russian Far East Fleet at Port Arthur.  On the night of 8 February 8, 1904, the Japanese fleet under Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō opened the war with a surprise torpedo boat destroyer attack on the Russian ships at Port Arthur. The attack heavily damaged the Tsesarevich and Retvizan, the heaviest battleships in Russia's far Eastern theater, and the 6,600 ton cruiser Pallada.  These attacks developed into the Battle of Port Arthur the next morning. England worked with Japan to fight against Russia. The Russians experienced massive defeats by the Japanese. The Russian fleet was blatantly annihilated. Then, the Treaty of Portsmouth existed which ended the war. Both sides accepted the offer of Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to mediate; meetings were held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Sergius Witte leading the Russian delegation and Baron Komura, a graduate of Harvard, leading the Japanese delegation. The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed on September 5, 1905 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Seavey's Island, Kittery, Maine, while the delegates stayed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Witte became Russian Prime Minister the same year. The effect in Japan was that it caused Japanese imperial power to grow. The Japanese people wanted a stronger peace treaty in their favor since they believed that the peace terms were too restrained. Russia suffered more economic problems after the war. There was high inflation and revolutionary movements were growing. This influenced the Russian Revolution of 1905. The revolts in Russia in 1905 ultimately influenced the Russian Revolution in 1917.

By Timothy

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