July 2, 1921 – Knox-Porter Resolution Officially Ends U.S. Involvement in World War I

On this day, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution officially ending United States involvement in World War I. The bill had been derived from two separate resolutions drafted by Senator Philander Knox and Representative Stephen Porter, both Republicans from Pennsylvania.

President Harding signed the resolution in Raritan, New Jersey, where he was playing golf with Senator Joseph S. Frehlinghuysen at the Raritan Valley Country Club. Harding walked back to the Frelinghuysen estate across the street, signed the document, and then returned to complete his round of golf.

President Warren G. Harding was an avid golfer

The Knox–Porter resolution also declared peace with the recently separated nations of Austria and Hungary. A U.S. House of Representatives history site reports that “By declaring peace, the U.S. hoped to consolidate its power in the postwar world and play a prominent role in the treaty-making process.”

June 30, 1936 – Influential Book “Gone With the Wind” Published

Margaret Mitchell’s 1,037-page novel, Gone with the Wind, published on this day in history, became one of the best-selling novels of all time. Mitchell’s book won the 1936 National Book Award and the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. Two years later, she sold the movie rights for a record-high (at that time) $50,000. A 2014 Harris Poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible.

Photo: Anthony Calvacca/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images

On December 15, 1939, the movie adaptation premiered in Atlanta. (By opening night, seven million copies of the book had been sold.) As the New York Times observed in 2020:

. . . the 1939 classic — still the highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation — has enduringly shaped popular understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction perhaps more than any other cultural artifact.”

Set in Georgia during the Civil War and Reconstruction, the novel centers around Scarlett O’Hara’s struggles and romantic entanglements. The story presents a romanticized view of the Old South and puts the nostalgic Lost Cause mythology front and center. (“The Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” or simply “the Lost Cause,” is an American pseudo-historical ideology that advocates the belief that the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was heroic, just, and not centered on slavery. You can read more about it and its central tenets here.)

Both the book and the movie have contributed to many people’s impressions of what slavery was “really” like, and adds a soft, romanticized mint-julep-y glow to notions about life on a southern plantation before the Civil War. It is also profoundly racist. Not only is this movie and the book that inspired it a total misrepresentation of the facts, but examining how the Antebellum South, the Civil War, and Reconstruction are remembered is critical to understanding the social and political situation in today’s United States.

The Antebellum South:  Just one big party, if you were white….

The Antebellum South: Just one big party, if you were white….

The book’s author Margaret Mitchell was no abolitionist. She called black men “apes,” and indeed, in a famous scene that takes place during Reconstruction late in the movie, she portrays Scarlett as being attacked by “…a squat black negro with shoulders and chest like a gorilla. … so close that she could smell the rank odor of him” as he tried to rape her.

Still, you object, weren’t there quite lovable slaves on Scarlett’s plantation? You may be thinking of Mammy, who Mitchell describes as looking “sad with the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey’s face.”

Scarlett with "Mammy"

Scarlett with “Mammy”

Then there was Scarlett’s loyal farmhand, the slave Big Sam, who, Mitchell writes, when he saw Scarlett after the Civil War was over:

“…his watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.”

The book and movie would have you believe that slaves – docile and loyal, sided with their Southern masters and hated and feared the Yankees. In fact, however, thousands of slaves – those who could, at any rate, abandoned their masters at the first opportunity and fled to the north. They also volunteered to serve in the Union Army, and by war’s end according to historian Eric Foner, some 180,000 had done so, over one-fifth of the adult male black population of the U.S. below the age of forty-five. There was an excellent reason why Southerners were afraid to educate and/or arm their slaves. Surely if owners treated them so benevolently, this would not have been an issue, and the owners knew that.

Following the Civil War, Southerners were still not reconciled to freedom for blacks, and fought back in every violent and nefarious way they could. Blacks in the South experienced a progressive narrowing of options. The Ku Klux Klan, along with supposed law enforcement officials and judges, all conspired to keep blacks in de facto servitude to whites. (See, for example, the book Slavery By Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon, which shows you how, long past the time of the Civil War, slavery was actually still alive and well in the South in all but name, with active support of the state and federal governments. Laws defining very petty crimes, such as against “loitering,” were used liberally to convict black men, who thereby became a source of involuntary labor, much of it quite punitive. Among those making use of the resultant convict lease system were railroads, mining and lumber companies, and planters, with the arresting and convicting authorities kept happy with kickbacks.)

Black convict labor, 1930s

Black convict labor, 1930s

The rewriting of history helped perpetuate this web of oppression, and the popular acceptance of the slavery system as halcyon helped alleviate any guilt or doubts anyone might have had, had they even known what was happening with blacks. Gone With the Wind was seminal to this revisionism.

The climate on the film set wasn’t as bad as the book’s dialogue, but it wasn’t great either. MGM had ‘whites only’ and ‘blacks only’ signs on the bathrooms during the shooting, until a group of black performers threatened a work slowdown. Individual cars were sent each day to pick up the white performers, but all of the black actors had to carpool to the studio. The film’s producer, David O. Selznick, did not honor a promise to NAACP leader Walter White to hire a black consultant for the film, because he suspected (undoubtedly correctly) that such a person might want to make changes to the content of the film.

Not just Hollywood:  Lancaster, Ohio, 1938; photo by Ben Shahn

Not just Hollywood: Lancaster, Ohio, 1938; photo by Ben Shahn

And then there was the Premiere. One million people came to Atlanta for it, held at the Loew’s Grand Theatre, on December 15, 1939, this day in history. It marked the climax of three days of festivities hosted by Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield, which included a parade, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags and a costume ball. Eurith D. Rivers, the governor of Georgia, declared December 15 a state holiday. Alas, the black actors could not attend the premiere, because Georgia’s Jim Crow laws prevented them from sitting with the white members of the cast. (To his credit, Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event, but Hattie McDaniel, who eventually won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy, convinced him to attend.)

At the premiere, from left:  Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, Margaret Mitchell, David O. Selznick and Olivia de Havilland

At the premiere, from left: Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, Margaret Mitchell, David O. Selznick and Olivia de Havilland

Nor could black moviegoers attend, at least not in the South. As the Pittsburgh Courier’s Atlanta correspondent opined in its December 23, 1939 edition, “Negro reaction to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind will have to wait until the film comes North.”

But blacks were reacting, nevertheless. As The Root reports:

“Black folks picketed from coast to coast. Some unions urged boycotts. In Chicago, the Defender called for “a mass protest” and in an editorial observed: ‘Gone With the Wind is propaganda, pure propaganda, crude propaganda. It is anti-Negro propaganda of the most vicious character. It is un-American propaganda. It is subversive.’ In Philadelphia the president of the National Baptist Convention Inc. condemned the film as a ‘disgrace.’”

African-American attorney civil rights crusader William L. Patterson excoriated the film in “The Chicago Defender” on January 6, 1940:

“It has lied about the Civil War period shamelessly. It has distorted and twisted the history of an era… “Gone With the Wind” has glorified slavery. …[It] has martyred the southern plantation owner. In martyring this relic of barbarism [it] not only ‘morally justifies’ the slave breeding pen and the degradation of Negro womanhood and manhood, it has scorned upon and desecrated the love that democratic white America has for freedom and truth.”

To portray the relationship between masters and slaves as benign was as patently absurd as the recent claim by a member of a Colorado school board that slavery was given up by the South “voluntarily.” Are we to believe that the rape of young black girls by their white masters and the regular beatings of slaves were voluntary or benign acts as well?

Moreover, in 1939, the Ku Klux Klan was still quite active; just one month before the release of the movie, 8000 Klansman marched in Atlanta! Jim Crow laws in the South prevented blacks from enjoying the same rights as whites, and Southern senators in Congress continued to block the passage of a federal anti-lynching law, saying it “encroached on state sovereignty.”

Ku Klux Klan rally in Tampa, FL,  Jan. 30, 1939. (AP Photo)

Ku Klux Klan rally in Tampa, FL, Jan. 30, 1939. (AP Photo)

Perhaps the best way to memorialize the premiere of this movie is to devote some time to thinking about why the book and movie remain so popular, and what might be done to mitigate the effects of their mis-history.

June 28, 1971 – Supreme Court Decides Cassius Clay, Jr. (Muhammad Ali) v. U.S.

On this day in history, the Supreme Court decided Cassius Marsellus Clay, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali, Petitioner, v. US (403 U.S. 698).

As the Court noted:

The petitioner was convicted for willful refusal to submit to induction into the Armed Forces. 62 Stat. 622, as amended, 50 U.S.C.App. § 462(a). (1964 ed., Supp. V). The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. We granted certiorari, 400 U.S. 990, 91 S.Ct. 457, 27 L.Ed.2d 438 to consider whether the induction notice was invalid because grounded upon an erroneous denial of the petitioner’s claim to be classified as a conscientious objector.” (Footnote omitted)

Daily News Backpage June 29, 1971

In February, 1964, at age twenty two, Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight boxing title by upsetting Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. Two days later, Clay revealed that he had become a convert to the Muslim faith. The following week, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad declared that Clay would be renamed Muhammad Ali.

In February 1966, the Selective Service informed Ali that he was, for the first time, eligible for military service. Ali announced his objection to serving in the Vietnam War, claiming that “war is against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an.” Notably, he added:

‘Why should they ask me to put on a uniform,’ he said, ‘and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?’”

A review of the case by the Inter Press Service News Agency explained that Ali applied for conscientious-objector classification, only to have multiple appeals rejected. At the scheduled induction, Ali refused to answer all three times his name was called. Ali was immediately stripped of his boxing license and championship, and in 1967, he was indicted and convicted by the Justice Department of violating the Selective Service laws.

(It should be noted, as Marty Lederman writing for SCOTUSblog pointed out, that DOJ convened a hearing before a designated “hearing officer,” Lawrence Grauman, a well-respected former Kentucky state judge. Judge Grauman concluded that Ali had a sincere religious objection to war in any form, and he recommended that the service grant Ali status as a conscientious objector. The DOJ, however, did not forward Judge Grauman’s report to the appeal board, or even tell Ali what the judge had concluded. Instead, DOJ wrote its own letter to the appeal board, advising that it should reject Ali’s conscientious objector claim.)

Ali demonstrating against the Vietnam War

Eventually, the case made it to the US Supreme Court (Lederman reviews the complex journey in detail.) Lederman explains that the statutory test for conscientious objector status was whether an individual was opposed to war in any form. Objections to a particular war didn’t count.

This distinction was critical to the case.

The appeals board had found that Ali’s objection was selective, because he acknowledged he would be willing to fight for Islam in a “religious” or “holy” war, and whether that concept varied among different strains of Islam.

Lederman provides fascinating details about how the Court moved from its initial inclination to find against Ali. Thomas Krattenmaker, one of Justice Harlan’s law clerks (Justice Harlan was assigned the writing of the majority opinion) began to review the canonical Nation of Islam texts Ali had cited as the basis for his religious objection. Krattenmaker, Lederman writes, “came to understand that the prospect of such a ‘holy war’ was entirely abstract and hypothetical – contingent upon future events and a divine decree that were unlikely ever to occur.” Thus it seemed that Ali’s case was similar to the 1955 case Sicurella v. United States (348 U.S. 385) in which a Jehovah’s Witness claimed to be only willing to fight in a “theocratic war” at Armageddon. The Court concluded that was unlikely to occur. . . . Lederman writes:

Ali’s willingness to fight in a war only if commanded to do so by God made his case analogous to Sicarella’s, Krattenmaker reasoned: Ali was, as a practical matter, religiously opposed to fighting in any wars that might actually occur.”

He persuaded Justice Harlan of his position.

John Marshall Harlan II

(You can watch a video of Tom Krattenmaker, Eugene Robinson and Michele Norris discussing the case on an NPR segment, here.)

The justices then got into a debate on the Islamic notion of jihad, or “holy war.”

The justices were divided four to four (Thurgood Marshall was recused because he had been Solicitor General in an earlier phase of the case).

As an excellent Federal Judiciary Center history recounts, Justice Potter Stewart circulated an alternative opinion based on the narrower ground that that the DOJ had erred in advising the board that Ali was insincere and that his beliefs were not religious. Since the board could have reached its decision on those incorrect bases, there was no need to decide the harder question of selectivity. Stewart’s opinion persuaded a majority of his colleagues, who adopted it as the Court’s per curium (a brief opinion of the Court as a whole, rather than of any individual justice).

Justice Potter Stewart

On June 28, 1971, this day in history, the Court issued its decision in Clay v. United States, reversing the finding of the Selective Service System specific to the facts of Ali’s administrative proceedings. The Court thereby avoided, as Lederman notes somewhat wryly, deciding whether the theoretical prospect of participating in a “holy war” against Islam meant that members of the Nation of Islam were, or were not, “conscientiously opposed to participation in war in any form.”

Meanwhile, in 2018, the notoriously uninformed President Donald Trump announced he was considering granting a posthumous pardon for Muhammad Ali, prompting a lawyer for his estate and family to say thanks, but no thanks: The boxing great had his criminal conviction overturned by the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago.

You can find a thorough review of the case and events leading up to it as well as pertinent documents in the aforementioned history prepared for the Federal Judicial Center, here.

June 25, 1984 – Supreme Court Decides Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council Establishing Principle of “Chevron Deference” for Administrative Actions

“The Chevron Deference” is a term derived from the landmark case decided on this day in history, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984). In that case, the Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, found that:

With regard to judicial review of an agency’s construction of the statute which it administers, if Congress has not directly spoken to the precise question at issue, the question for the court is whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

Kevin W. Saunders, writing for the Arizona Law Review in 1988, noted that “When the administration of a statute is entrusted to an administrative agency, the agency is naturally faced with questions as to what the statutory terms mean.” (“Agency Interpretations and Judicial Review: A Search for Limitations on the Controlling Effect Given Agency Statutory Constructions,” online here.)

In Chevron, Saunders pointed out, the Court did not grant the agency view mere deference, but instead granted controlling weight, even without finding an explicit delegation to the agency of the authority to construe the statute. If the delegation was implicit rather than explicit, Justice Stevens wrote, “a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrator of an agency. (footnote omitted)”

Justice John Paul Stevens

In 1990, Cass R. Sunstein argued in the Columbia Law Review in “Law and Administration after Chevron” (online here) that the Chevron principle is “quite jarring to those who recall the suggestion, found in Marbury v. Madison and repeated time and again in American public law, that it is for judges, and no one else, to ‘say what the law is.’” But, he adds, “it is also strikingly reminiscent of the New Deal enthusiasm for agency autonomy and the New Deal belief in a sharp disjunction between the realm of law and the realm of administration.”

What Chevron did, Sunstein asserted, was to alter the distribution of national powers among courts, Congress, and administrative agencies.

As a discussion of the Chevron Deference on the Cornell law website points out, however, in subsequent Supreme Court cases, the scope of the deference has been narrowed:

. . . only the agency interpretations reached through formal proceedings with the force of law, such as adjudications, or notice-and-comment rulemaking, qualify for Chevron deference, while those contained in opinion letters, policy statements, agency manuals, or other formats that do not carry the force of law are not warranted a Chevron deference.  In such cases, the Court may give a slightly less deferential treatment to the agency’s interpretation, giving a persuasive value under the Court’s ‘Skidmore deference’ analysis.” 

The “Skidmore Deference,” as the website Ballotpedia explains, was developed in the opinion for the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case Christensen v. Harris County (529 U.S. 576) and named for the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Skidmore v. Swift & Co. (323 U.S. 134).

Unlike Chevron deference, which requires a federal court to defer to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute if the interpretation is considered reasonable, Skidmore deference allows a federal court to determine the appropriate level of deference for each case based on the agency’s ability to support its position.

Controversy over the Chevron Deference can be seen in recent cases before the court involving Medicare. (They include Becerra v. Empire Health Foundation and American Hospital Association (AHA) v. Becerra.) As reported in Penn’s “Regulatory Review,” during oral arguments over one of the cases held in January, 2022, “the complexity of the Medicare system led U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who used to teach courses on regulation at Harvard Law School, to acknowledge that ‘the chances I understand it correctly are near zero.’” Justice Neil Gorsuch, on the other hand, said that Chevron allows agencies to supplant courts, which are supposed to interpret the laws. Critics also argue that Chevron encourages Congress to grant agencies broad discretionary authority that should remain with lawmakers.

Update: James Romoser, Editor of ScotusBlog, reported of the newly decided American Hospital Association v. Becerra:

In a narrow and unanimous opinion [written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh] on [June 15, 2022], the court did not overturn the Chevron doctrine. Instead, it just ignored it. And in doing so, the court may have portended the future of Chevron, which already has been narrowed considerably over the years. Rather than a single, decisive blow or a continued death by a thousand cuts, the court might simply snuff out Chevron with the silent treatment.”

ScotusBlog continues:

Notably, the opinion does not contain even a single citation to Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, even though hundreds of pages of briefing and a large chunk of the oral argument focused on the continued vitality of the landmark 1984 case and the doctrine it created.”

June 22, 1940 – France Signs an Armistice with Nazi Germany During WWII

On September 3, 1939, France declared war on Germany, following the German invasion of Poland. In early September 1939, France invaded Saarland, Germany. When the quick victory in Poland allowed Germany to reinforce its lines, the offensive was stopped. By mid-October, the French had withdrawn to their starting lines.

The following eight months were called “The Phoney War “ during which little actual warfare occurred. The Phoney War ended with the German invasion of France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, sparking what became known as the Battle of France.

German advance through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and northern France beginning May 10, 1940, via UK English Heritage Org.

This unsuccessful battle for the Allies resulted in the capture and subjugation of all four countries by Germany. It also witnessed the famous evacuation of Allied troops from the French port of Dunkirk, engineered by a British campaign, “Operation Dynamo,” beginning on May 26.

The French First Army mounted a defense at Lille, France, which drew German forces away from Dunkirk. In The Second World War, Volume II: Their Finest Hour, Winston Churchill described the Allied defense of Lille as a “splendid contribution” that delayed the German advance for four days and allowed the escape of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. (p 94)

Soldiers from the British Expeditionary Force fire at low flying German aircraft during the Dunkirk evacuation, via Wikipedia

Total Allied evacuation stood at 165,000 on May 31. Between May 31 and June 4, another 20,000 British and 98,000 French were saved; about 30,000 to 40,000 French soldiers of the rearguard remained to be captured. The total evacuated was 338,226, including 199,226 British and 139,000 French. 861 vessels of all kinds, including small motor craft and yachts manned by volunteers, were used in the rescue.

As Churchill told the House of Commons on June 4:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Around 16,000 French soldiers and 1,000 British soldiers died during the evacuation. 90% of Dunkirk was destroyed during the battle. The Allies were also forced to abandon nearly all of their equipment.

Although the French Army fought on, German troops entered Paris on June 14. The French government was forced to negotiate an armistice at Compiègne, France on this day in history, June 22, 1940. It did not come into effect until after midnight on June 25.

German horse-drawn artillery entering Paris in June 1940© ullstein bild via Getty Images

The armistice established a German occupation zone in Northern and Western France that encompassed all English Channel and Atlantic Ocean ports and left the remainder “free.” The Zone libre,, based in Vichy, France, was to be governed by an administration “friendly” to the Nazis.

Article 19 of the armistice required the French state to turn over to German authorities any German national on French territory, who would then face deportation to a concentration camp. One of the German signatories, Wilhelm Keitel, a German field marshal (later named a war criminal) who held office as Chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), the high command of Nazi Germany’s Armed Forces, gave verbal assurances that this clause would apply mainly to those refugees who had “fomented the war,” a euphemism for Jews, and especially German Jews who until then had enjoyed asylum in France.

All occupation costs were to be borne by France, approximately 400 million French francs a day. French soldiers would remain prisoners of war until the cessation of all hostilities. Nearly 1,000,000 Frenchmen were thus forced to spend the next five years in prisoner of war camps.

June 19, 1897 – Birth of African American Architect & Civil Rights Activist James Homer Garrott

James Homer Garrott, born on this day in history in Montgomery, Alabama, was an African-American architect active in the Los Angeles area in the mid-20th century who designed more than 200 buildings. Described as a “pivotal black Avant garde modernist of the 1940s era,” he was the second African-American admitted to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Los Angeles.

Garrott’s father James Henry Garrott was a builder who contributed to the construction of the buildings at Tuskegee Institute. In 1903 Garrott’s family moved to Los Angeles, where Garrott attended Los Angeles Polytechnic High School. Six years after graduating from high school, Garrott found a job with Pasadena architect George P. Telling.

James H. Garrott, architect, circa 1915

In 1928 Garrott took the California State architect exam and after passing it, he opened his first office.  Soon after, Garrott received one of his earliest architectural contracts, the African American-owned Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company building. Seven years after Garrott’s death in 1998, the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1939 Garrott partnered with another architect, Gregory Ain, to open a new office.  [Ain was a left-leaning white architect who had the misfortune to attract the attention of J. Edgar Hoover. The New York Times wrote of Ain: “His left-leaning politics made him the object of decades-long F.B.I. surveillance and McCarthy-era witch hunts that took their toll on his career and legacy.”]

In 1946 Garrott was the second African American accepted as a member of the  American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Los Angeles.

James Homer Garrott, 1948

By 1954 Garrott had designed and built at least 750 homes in four Los Angeles housing projects.

Blackpast.org reports that Garrott was also a civil rights activist.  Through this work he became close friends with liberal Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. This relationship with Hahn led to Garrott receiving nine architectural commissions in various parts of the county. In 1960 he designed the Westchester Municipal Building for the City of Los Angeles.

Westchester Municipal Building, designed by James Garrott

Although Garrott was most active in the 1950s, he continued to design buildings throughout the Los Angeles area up until 1970. One of his last commissions was the Public Library for the City of Carson in 1968.

In 1974 Garrott received emeritus status from the American Institute of Architects and in 1975 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Minority Architects and Planners of Los Angeles.

Garrott died on June 9, 1991, in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

June 16, 1963 – Valentina Tereshkova Becomes World’s 1st Female Space Traveler

Valentina Tereskova, a former cosmonaut of the Soviet Union, was the first woman to fly into space at the age of 26 on this day in history. Tereskova was selected from more than 400 applicants. She spent 71 hours on the Vostok 6, orbiting the Earth 48 times. Her three-day mission was the 12th human spaceflight in history, following several Russian Vostok and American Mercury flights. 

Valentina Tereskova via New Mexico Museum of Space History

Before her selection for the Soviet space program, Tereshkova was a textile factory worker and an amateur skydiver. She joined the Air Force as part of the Cosmonaut Corps and was commissioned as an officer after completing her training. After the dissolution of the first group of female cosmonauts in 1969, Tereshkova remained in the space program as a cosmonaut instructor. She later graduated from the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy and re-qualified for spaceflight but never went to space again. She retired from the Air Force in 1997 having attained the rank of major general.

It took another 20 years after Tereshkova’s flight before the former Soviet Union’s Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman in space in 1982. Two years later, she earned the spot of being the first woman to walk in space.

This article offers details about other women pioneers in space.

June 13, 1967 – Thurgood Marshall is Nominated to the Supreme Court & Book Review of “Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America” by Wil Haygood

Thurgood Marshall was born on July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating from Howard University School of Law in 1933, he established a private legal practice in Baltimore.

He began his 25-year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934 by representing the organization in the law school discrimination suit. In 1936, Marshall became part of the national staff of the NAACP. In 1940, he established the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) as a separate legal entity, and served as its executive director.

In that position, he argued several cases before the Supreme Court, including Smith v. Allwright, Shelley v. Kraemer, and Brown v. Board of Education, which held that racial segregation in public education is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

Thurgood Marshall in 1957

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Marshall to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Marshall as the United States Solicitor General.

On June 13, 1967, President Johnson nominated Marshall to the Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Tom C. Clark, saying that this was “the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.”

At Marshall’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, as his eventual clerk Stephen L. Carter recalled:

To this day, the 1967 battle over Marshall’s confirmation to the Supreme Court remains one of the two most vicious in our history — the other being the 1916 fight over the nomination of Louis Brandeis, in which the opposition to the first Jewish justice included seven former heads of the American Bar Association, the president of Harvard and former U.S. Attorney General George Wickersham, who described Brandeis’s supporters as a ‘bunch of Hebrew uplifters.’ But because there was no television — cameras were not introduced until 1987 — we engage in collective forgetting.”

Arguments against confirming Marshall ranged from accusations that he was a “Communist sympathizer” to that he was “prejudiced against white people in the South” (per Mississippi Democrat James Eastland). But as Carter notes, the biggest objection was that, as a Black man, Marshall couldn’t possibly be smart enough. (While he graduated first in his class at Howard University School of Law, it was after all a Black school.) Never mind, observed Carter, his remarkable record as an advocate – Marshall won 29 of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court. He was Black, so by definition he could not possibly be up to the job.

Nevertheless, Marshall was confirmed as an Associate Justice by a Senate vote of 69–11 on August 30, 1967. He was the 96th person to hold the position, and the first African American.

Wil Haygood, in his book Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America begins by taking takes us back to Marshall’s childhood to tell us what it was like for a young, smart, ambitious kid growing up in a world in which he couldn’t even use most public bathrooms or be admitted to many restaurants and hotels. But this never diminished his spirit and determination. On the contrary, it inspired him further not only to achieve, but to work for change for everyone else.

9780307957191

This book uses the Senate confirmation hearings for Marshall’s Supreme Court nomination as scaffolding to structure his story; the author goes back and forth in time, basically telling in large part the history of black America from post-Reconstruction times onward. It is a nasty and brutal history which will often have you cringing (there are, for example, two blow-by-blow accounts of lynchings, though the accounts are quite germane), but will greatly enhance your understanding of the country as it is today.

Thurgood Marshall with the president who nominated him to the Supreme Court, Lyndon Johnson

Thurgood Marshall with the president who nominated him to the Supreme Court, Lyndon Johnson

At Marshall’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, as his eventual clerk Stephen L. Carter reported,

Marshall once described his legal philosophy as this: “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.”

Marshall served on the Court for 24 years, compiling a liberal record that included strong support for Constitutional protection of individual rights, especially the rights of criminal suspects. His most frequent ally on the Court (the pair rarely voted at odds) was Justice William Brennan, who consistently joined him in supporting abortion rights and opposing the death penalty. Brennan and Marshall concluded in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty was, in all circumstances, unconstitutional, and never accepted the legitimacy of Gregg v. Georgia, which ruled four years later that the death penalty was constitutional in some circumstances. Thereafter, Brennan or Marshall dissented from every denial of certiorari in a capital case and from every decision upholding a sentence of death.

Justice William Brennan

Marshall retired from the Supreme Court in 1991 due to declining health. President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Marshall; Bush couldn’t have found someone more diametrically opposed to Marshall in jurisprudence or integrity.

Evaluation: If you only read about the life of one trailblazing hero, I recommend reading about Thurgood Marshall. His unparalleled bravery in spite of constant threats against his life, his unflagging dedication to others, and his unfailing good humor and optimism in the face of unrelenting efforts by whites to keep him down, is utterly amazing and inspirational.

I’ve seen some reviews opine that Devil in the Grove, also about Marshall, is superior to this book. I found it excellent as well, but the fact is, when you’re writing about a true giant of a man like Marshall, it’s hard to go wrong.

Rating: 4.5/5

Hardcover published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. Audiobook published unabridged on 12 CDs (14 1/2 listening hours) by Random House Audio, an imprint of the Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2014

A Few Notes on the Audio Production: The narrator, Dominic Hoffman, is nothing short of sensational. He has a couple of mispronunciations (e.g., Estes Kefauver), but I can’t really complain because his overall performance is so outstanding.

June 11, 1968 – LBJ Speaks Out for Gun Control

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-618) was initially prompted by the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The president was shot and killed with a rifle purchased by mail-order from an ad in the magazine “American Rifleman.” Congressional hearings followed and a ban on mail-order gun sales was discussed, but no law was passed until 1968.

The April 4, 1968, assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., shortly followed by the June 5 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, compounded by shifting societal attitudes towards gun ownership, renewed efforts to pass the bill. On June 11, 1968, a tie vote in the House Judiciary Committee halted the bill’s passage.

On this day in 1968, President Johnson issued a statement on the tie vote on a Gun Control Bill in the House Judiciary Committee:

The deadlock in the House Judiciary Committee, which resulted in the defeat of the strict gun control legislation I recommended yesterday, is a bitter disappointment to all Americans and to the President. There is no excuse whatsoever for failure to act to prohibit the interstate mail-order sale of rifles. Of the 2 million guns added each year to the arsenal already in the hands of millions of Americans, 1 million are sold by mail order houses in interstate commerce, and 30 percent of the murders by firearms committed each year in this country are by rifle and shotgun fire.

“I hope that the House Judiciary Committee will promptly reconsider this shocking blow to the safety of every citizen in this country.”

On reconsideration nine days later, the bill was passed by the committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee similarly brought the bill to a temporary halt, but as in the House, it was passed on reconsideration. House Resolution 17735, known as the Gun Control Act, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 22, 1968 banning mail order sales of rifles and shotguns and prohibiting most felons, drug users and people found mentally incompetent from buying guns.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a gun control bill at the White House on Oct. 22, 1968.Credit…AP

Unfortunately, subsequent laws emphasized protections for gun owners. The Gun Violence Archive collects data on gun violence deaths in the U.S., which have reached epic proportions. The CDC recently stated:

Firearm injuries are a serious public health problem. In 2019, there were 39,707 firearm-related deaths in the United States – that’s about 109 people dying from a firearm-related injury each day. Six out of every 10 deaths were firearm suicides and more than 3 out of every 10 were firearm homicides.”

June 9, 1836 – Birth of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson – First Woman to Qualify in Britain as a Physician and Surgeon

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, born on this day in history in London, England, was an English physician and suffragist. She was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. She was the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor in Britain.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson by Swaine. A Wellcome Collection image via UK Science Museum

At age 24, Anderson began serving as a surgery nurse at Middlesex Hospital in London. She unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in the hospital’s medical school but was allowed to have private sessions in Latin, Greek and pharmacology with the hospital’s apothecary, while continuing her work as a nurse. She also employed a tutor to study anatomy and physiology three evenings a week. Eventually she was allowed into lectures until the male students complained and she was barred. She was obliged to leave the Middlesex Hospital but she did so with an honors certificate in chemistry and materia medica (pharmacology). Anderson then applied to several medical schools, including Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and the Royal College of Surgeons, all of which refused her admittance.

The UK Science Museum writes about the reasons men were opposed to women being doctors:

It was thought that women were biologically unable to cope with the stresses and strains of work and higher education.

For example, a Dr Edward H. Clark published his book ‘Sex in Education’ in 1873 in which he argued:

‘higher education in women produces monstrous brains and puny bodies, abnormally active cerebration and abnormally weak digestion, flowing thought and constipated bowels’.

Menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause were thought to leave women frail, unstable and incapacitated, making them unsuitable for public life.”

A BBC history reports that the Society of Apothecaries did not specifically forbid women from taking their examinations. Thus in 1865 she passed their exams (with the highest scores) and gained a certificate which enabled her to become a doctor. The society immediately changed its rules to prevent other women entering the profession this way.

With her father’s backing, in 1866 she established a dispensary for women in London and in 1870 was made a visiting physician to the East London Hospital. Here she met James Anderson, a successful businessman, who she married in 1871 and with whom she had three children.

She remained determined to obtain a medical degree, so she taught herself French and went to the University of Paris, where she successfully earned her degree. The British Medical Register refused to recognize her qualification.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson via Univ. of London

In 1872, she founded the New Hospital for Women in London staffed entirely by women. Anderson appointed her mentor, Elizabeth Blackwell, as the professor of gynecology.

In 1876 an act was passed permitting women to enter the medical professions in the UK. The “Enabling Act” (39 & 40 Vict. Ch. 41) gave the 19 licensing bodies the option to allow women with foreign medical degrees to take their examinations. This meant that women doctors who had trained abroad could potentially become registered as doctors in Britain, although it did not allow for them to train there. According to the Englishwoman’s Review, the act “was not passed on behalf of the few women who wish to obtain medical degrees but on behalf of the many women who wish to place themselves under medical advisers of their own sex.”

In 1883, Anderson was appointed dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, which she had helped to found in 1874, and oversaw its expansion.

A 1900 portrait of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, via Wikipedia

In 1902, Anderson retired to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. In 1908, she became the mayor of the town, the first female mayor in England. She was a member of the suffragette movement and her daughter Louisa was also a prominent suffragette.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson died in Aldeburgh on December 17, 1917 at the age of 81, just two months before the Representation of People Act extended the right to vote to women over 30.

Today, 45.5% of registered medical practitioners in the UK are women.