June 21, 1915 – Women’s Suffrage Speech by Anna Howard Shaw: “The Fundamental Principle of a Republic”

Anna Howard Shaw (1847 – 1919) was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. She was born in the U.K., but her family emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Massachusetts when she was four. She was intelligent and ambitious, but continually had career paths closed off to her because of her gender. She persevered, however, and eventually became not only a physician but also one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States. Because of her experiences, she became an outspoken advocate of political rights for women.

Anna Howard Shaw

Anna Howard Shaw

Shaw first met Susan B. Anthony in 1887. Anthony encouraged her to join the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), and beginning in 1904 and for the next eleven years, Shaw served as the president of NAWSA.

During the early 20th century, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, NAWSA members, began employing “militant” techniques (e.g. picketing the White House during World War I) to fight for women’s suffrage. But Shaw maintained that she was “unalterably opposed to militancy, believing nothing of permanent value has ever been secured by it that could not have been more easily obtained by peaceful methods,” and in 1915, she resigned as NAWSA president and was replaced by her ally Carrie Chapman Catt.

Anna Howard Shaw with Carrie Chapman Catt in 1917

Anna Howard Shaw with Carrie Chapman Catt in 1917

She continued to speak out for women’s rights, however, and the speech she delivered on this date at the City Opera House in Ogdenburg, New York iduring the New York State equal suffrage campaign is considered to be one of the top 100 speeches of the Twentieth Century.

Some of the highlights of her speech:

If woman’s suffrage is wrong, it is a great wrong; if it is right, it is a profound and fundamental principle, and we all know, if we know what a Republic is, that it is the fundamental principle upon which a Republic must rise. Let us see where we are as a people; how we act here and what we think we are.”

And God said in the beginning, “It is not good for man to stand alone.” That is why we are here tonight, and that is all that woman’s suffrage means; just to repeat again and again that first declaration of the Divine, “It is not good for man to stand alone,” and so the women of this state are asking that the word “male” shall be stricken out of the Constitution altogether and that the Constitution stand as it ought to have stood in the beginning and as it must before this state is any part of a Republic. Every citizen possessing the necessary qualifications shall be entitled to cast one vote at every election, and have that vote counted. We are not asking as our Anti-Suffrage friends think we are, for any of awful things that we hear will happen if we are allowed to vote; we are simply asking that that government which professes to be a Republic shall be a Republic and not pretend to be what it is not.”

We have our theories, our beliefs, but as suffragists we have but one belief, but one principle, but one theory and that is the right of a human being to have a voice in the government, under which he or she lives, on that we agree, if on nothing else.”

You can read the entire speech here.

June 17, 1972 – Watergate Break In

On this day in history, a security guard discovered five men breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee inside the Watergate Building in Washington, D.C. The men were later found to be linked not only to the CIA but to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, or CREEP.

The Watergate Complex from the air

The Watergate Complex from the air

The scandal led to the discovery of multiple abuses of power by the administration of Richard Nixon, articles of impeachment, and the subsequent resignation of Nixon from the presidency on August 9, 1974. The scandal also resulted in the indictment of 69 people, with trials or pleas resulting in 25 being found guilty and incarcerated, many of whom were Nixon’s top administration officials.

The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, and the extension “gate” has come to be associated with scandal generally.

May 3, 1946 – Albert Einstein Speaks About Racism at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania

In the twenty years before Einstein died, he almost never accepted invitations to speak at universities. In 1946 he broke his self-imposed rule to give an address and accept an honorary degree from a small, traditionally black university near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Einstein had moved to Princeton in 1933 to escape the coming Holocaust in Europe. Princeton was not a haven from racism, however, and while Einstein was an exception, blacks and Jews were generally not welcome. In fact, as Fred Jerome reports (38 J. Blacks in Higher Ed 114, 2002-3):

As late as September 1942, while United States and Allied troops were battling fascism overseas, the Princeton Herald ‘explained’ that admitting black students to the university, while morally justified, would simply be too offensive to the large number of Princeton’s southern students.”

Albert Einstein in 1946

Albert Einstein in 1946

At the end of the war, when black soldiers returned home after fighting for “freedom and democracy,” they found themselves facing a newly hostile American populace, who resented these soldiers in uniform for having the audacity to consider themselves equal. A wave of anti-black violence began in 1946, resulting in 56 African-Americans dead, mostly veterans.

Racial segregation was the rule in most of America in May 1946, with separate and unequal public and private facilities from housing and schools to buses and beaches not only throughout the South but also in many other parts of the country. Even the blood donated to save lives was collected at racially segregated blood banks (when blacks were allowed to donate at all), with “white” and “colored” blood kept in separately labeled storage units. (Princeton’s Logos Journal, Issue 4.3)

One of the most publicized instances of white resistance to black notions of equality forged in World War II occurred in February 1946, when five hundred Tennessee state troopers with submachine guns surrounded the African-American community of Columbia, Tennessee. The trouble started when a black Navy veteran accompanied his mother to a radio store to complain about a botched repair job. The white repairman (also a veteran) followed him and his mother out of the store, and attacked them as they left the building. Although the black veteran was struck first, he was arrested and jailed on a charge of attempted murder. Hostilities quickly escalated.

More than one hundred black men were arrested. Twenty-seven were charged with rioting and attempted murder and two were shot awaiting bail in the local jail. The riot made national headlines.

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

Three months later, Thurgood Marshall came to town as the lead attorney for the defense. He barely escaped being lynched himself. Einstein publicly joined the “National Committee for Justice in Columbia, Tennessee,” which was headed by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Einstein’s speech shortly thereafter at Lincoln University was not a coincidence. At Lincoln University he declared: “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people, but a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” But according to Fred Jerome, who has written extensively on Einstein’s collaboration with the organization “The American Crusade to End Lynching,” the press largely ignored this speech, letting it sink into “a historical black hole.” [“The American Crusade Against Lynching” was created in 1946 and headed by Paul Robeson. The organization was labeled a “communist front” by the FBI, and members, including Einstein, were branded as communist sympathizers.]

Einstein at Lincoln University in 1946

Einstein at Lincoln University in 1946

Einstein showed great courage in saying and doing what others would not. As he explained in his Lincoln University speech:

There is … a somber point in the social outlook of Americans … Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am dearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of ‘Whites’ toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. … The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.”

Speaking out in the face of injustice, torture, oppression, and genocide is still something every American can do. And determining what is not said is as critical as listening to what is. As sociologist Murray Edelman observed, “perhaps the most powerful influence of news, talk, and writing about problems is the immunity from notice and criticism they grant to damaging conditions that are not on the list.” (Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle, 1988) It was Einstein’s ability to see what was not obvious, and to share these insights with the world, that made him such a great man.

Einstein with the children of Lincoln University Faculty, May 3, 1946

April 25, 1910 – Charles Evans Hughes Nominated to the Supreme Court

Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. (1862 – 1948) was an American statesman, lawyer, and Republican politician from New York. He served as Governor of New York, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, United States Secretary of State, a judge on the Court of International Justice, and the 11th Chief Justice of the United States (1930–1941).

Hughes graduated third in his class from Brown University at the age of 19, having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. He entered Columbia Law School in 1882, where he graduated in 1884 with highest honors. While studying law, he taught at Delaware Academy. He is said to have had a photographic memory and a great intellect.

Charles Evans Hughes, 1908

Charles Evans Hughes, 1908

Early in his career, Hughes lectured at Cornell Law School, New York University Law School, and served as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. Hughes was the Governor of New York from 1907 to 1910, defeating William Randolph Hearst in the 1906 election to gain the position.

In 1908, Hughes was offered the vice-presidential nomination by William Howard Taft, but he declined it to run again for Governor.

As the Governor, Hughes produced important reform legislation, helping to counter political corruption, extending the state’s regulatory authority, and expanding governmental police and welfare functions.

Gubernatorial portrait of Charles Evans Hughes

Gubernatorial portrait of Charles Evans Hughes

On this day in history, April 25, 1910, President William H. Taft nominated Hughes for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice David J. Brewer. The Senate confirmed the nomination on May 2, 1910, and Hughes served as associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1910 to 1916.

In 1916, Hughes resigned form the Court to accept the Republican nomination as its presidential candidate, to run against incumbent Woodrow Wilson.

After Hughes was defeated by Wilson, he returned to the practice of law. In 1921, he was appointed Secretary of State by President Warren G. Harding.

After leaving the State Department, he again rejoined his old partners at the Hughes law firm, and became one of the nation’s most sought-after advocates. From 1925 to 1930, for example, Hughes argued over 50 times before the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1926 to 1930, Hughes also served as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and as a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague, Netherlands from 1928 to 1930.

Herbert Hoover, who had appointed Hughes’s son as Solicitor General in 1929, appointed Hughes Chief Justice of the United States on February 3, 1930. Hughes was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 13, 1930, and served in this capacity until 1941. Hughes replaced former President William Howard Taft, a fellow Republican who had also lost a presidential election to Woodrow Wilson (in 1912) and who, in 1910, had appointed Hughes to his first tenure on the Supreme Court.

Portrait of Hughes as Chief Justice.

Portrait of Hughes as Chief Justice.

Upon his return to the Supreme Court, Hughes took progressive stances, upholding legislation protecting civil rights and civil liberties, and writing the opinion for the Court in Near v. Minnesota (283 U.S. 697, 1931), a landmark decision that recognized the freedom of the press by rejecting prior restraints on publication, a principle that was applied to free speech generally in subsequent jurisprudence.

Hughes was a centrist, who, however, was often aligned with the court’s three liberal Justices — Louis Brandeis, Harlan Fiske Stone, and Benjamin Cardozo — in finding some New Deal measures constitutional.

But President Franklin Roosevelt was growing increasingly unhappy with the Court, which struck down some of his efforts to push through several New Deal measures intended to bolster economic recovery during the Great Depression. He avoided a confrontation in the election year of 1936. After he won that election, however, he proceeded to introduce, on February 5, 1937 his so-called “Court packing” plan. In essence, he sought to counter the opposition to his programs by expanding the number of justices, in order to create a pro-New Deal majority on the bench. His Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937 would have granted the President power to appoint an additional justice to the U.S. Supreme Court for every sitting member over the age of 70½, up to a maximum of six.

McClure's Magazine

McClure’s Magazine

The plan came under heavy attack, with Hughes working behind the scenes to help defeat it by rushing important New Deal legislation through the court and ensuring that the court’s majority would uphold their constitutionality. Perhaps the most important such case was West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (300 U.S. 379, 1937), in which a divided Court, with Hughes writing for the 5-4 majority, upheld the constitutionality of Washington state’s minimum wage law, and by implication, much more of the New Deal.

FDR’s court-packing legislation was presented to Congress on February 5, 1937. The West Coast Hotel ruling came several weeks after the legislation was presented to Congress, with Associate Justice Owen Roberts joining the more liberal wing of the bench. Justice Roberts had previously ruled against most New Deal legislation. Thus his switch here was widely seen by contemporaries as an effort to maintain the Court’s judicial independence by eliminating Roosevelt’s rationale for judicial reorganization. His move came to be known as “the switch in time that saved nine,” but Hughes and Roberts both later claimed that the Chief Justice had already convinced Roberts to change his method of voting months before Roosevelt announced his court-packing plan.

Ultimately, Roosevelt’s proposed court packing plan failed. The entire episode created a public relations nightmare for Roosevelt and also sapped his influence over Congress.

Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times

Hughes wrote 199 majority opinions during his time as Chief Justice, from 1930 to 1941. He died on August 27, 1948, at the age of 86.

April 19, 1984 – District Court Reverses Conviction of Korematsu

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, fear and prejudice towards the Japanese reached a fever pitch. These attitudes extended to both citizens and non-citizens of Japanese descent living in the United States.

At the time, approximately 120,000 people of Japanese descent lived on the West Coast, and about 70,000 of these were American citizens. There was never at that time, however, nor thereafter, any proven case of espionage or sabotage on the part of Japanese or Japanese-Americans in the United States.

Nonetheless, in February 1942, General John DeWitt, the commanding officer of the Western Defense Command, recommended that “Japanese and other subversive persons” be evacuated from the Pacific Coast. He claimed:

The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted. To conclude otherwise is to expect that children born of white parents on Japanese soil sever all racial affinity and become loyal Japanese subjects ready to fight and, if necessary, to die for Japan in a war against the nation of their parents.”

Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans.

Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans.

He also said that there was “no ground for assuming that any Japanese, barred from assimilation by convention as he is, though born and raised in the United States, will not turn against this nation when the final test of loyalty comes.”

posted_japanese_american_exclusion_order

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (known himself for not having enlightened attitudes about the Japanese) acted on this recommendation by signing Executive Order 9066. This authorized the Secretary of War or any designated commander, at their sole discretion, to limit and even prohibit some people from being in areas that were deemed critical to national defense and potentially vulnerable to espionage. The ensuing restrictions on people of Japanese origin included forced removal to assembly and relocation centers much farther inland. Ten relocation camps scattered across the West were built to accommodate the Japanese that included the group of 70,000 American citizens.

Map of forced internment camp locations — used for the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II.

Map of forced internment camp locations — used for the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II.

Soon after the order was enacted, Congress sanctioned the executive order by passing a law that imposed penalties for those who violated the restrictions pursuant to the order.

Fred Korematsu was an American-born citizen of Japanese descent who grew up in Oakland, California. When Japanese internment began in California, Korematsu evaded the order and moved to a nearby town so he could remain near his (non-Japanese) girlfriend. He was later arrested and convicted of violating Exclusion Order No. 34 issued by General DeWitt, which barred all persons of Japanese descent from the “military area” of San Leandro, California. There was no question at the time of conviction that Korematsu had been loyal to the United States and he was not a threat to the war effort.

Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu

Korematsu challenged his conviction but the federal appeals court ruled in favor of the United States, and Korematsu’s appeal brought the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (323 U.S. 214, 1944).

On December 18, 1944 the Supreme Court decided the case, with a 6-3 majority on the Court upholding Korematsu’s conviction.

Justice Hugo Black, writing for the majority, sided with the government and held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Korematsu’s rights. He stated that “we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of the military authorities.” Justice Black argued that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of “emergency and peril.”

Justice Hugo Black

Justice Hugo Black

Justice Robert Jackson dissented, expressing his view that the military ruling had no place in law under the Constitution. Korematsu’s only crime, he wrote, was “merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.” Nevertheless, he opined that “The military reasonableness of these orders can only be determined by military superiors. I do not suggest that the courts should have attempted to interfere with the Army in carrying out its task.”

apanese-Americans in California being sent to internment camps in 1942.

Justice Owen Roberts disagreed, writing “I dissent, because I think the indisputable facts exhibit a clear violation of Constitutional rights.” He also objected that a relocation center “was a euphemism for prison,” and that the internment of the Japanese was based upon “the disinformation, half-truths and insinuations that for years have been directed against Japanese Americans by people with racial and economic prejudices.”

newspaper_headlines_of_japanese_relocation_-_nara_-_195535

Justice Frank Murphy agreed with Roberts in his dissent, finding that “this exclusion of ‘all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien,’ from the Pacific Coast area on a plea of military necessity in the absence of martial law ought not to be approved. Such exclusion goes over ‘the very brink of constitutional power,’ and falls into the ugly abyss of racism.”

In 1984, Korematsu challenged the earlier decision through a writ of coram nobis in Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406 (N.D. Cal. 1984). (A writ of coram nobis is the name of a legal order allowing a court to reopen and correct its judgment upon discovery of a substantial error not appearing in the records of the original judgement’s proceedings which, if known at the time of judgment, would have prevented the judgment from being pronounced.)

In this later case, Korematsu provided evidence establishing that the Justice Department had suppressed information from governmental sources that contradicted the Army’s assertion that the Japanese American community represented a national defense risk. The District Court granted his writ and overturned Korematsu’s original conviction. However, the District Court emphasized that in issuing this decision, it had the power to correct only errors of fact, not errors of law. The essential holding of the 1944 Korematsu decision — namely, that a race-based exclusion program founded on considerations of military judgment did not violate the Constitution — remained untouched.

The U.S. Government officially apologized for the internment in the 1980s and paid reparations totaling $1.2 billion, as well as an additional $400 million in benefits signed into law by George H. W. Bush in 1992. In January of 1998, President Bill Clinton named Fred Korematsu a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

korematsuclinton

Korematsu has never been officially overturned, and as Dean M. Hashimoto in “The Legacy of Korematsu v. United States: A Dangerous Narrative Retold” notes: “Popular wisdom has it that Korematsu has silently passed away as legal precedent.” But in fact, as he points out, “The Korematsu case has been applied in a traditional manner under stare decisis, primarily from the 1940s through the 1960s, in cases involving postwar regulation, immigration law, and national security law.” From the 1980’s onward, however, as he shows, treatment of the case changed:

Justices assign negative persuasive weight to the result reached in Korematsu. This approach recognizes that Korematsu is now publicly perceived to have been decided incorrectly. By placing Korematsu in its historical context, the Court therefore is able to use it in a way substantially different from ordinary stare decisis.”

As he observes, “The Court’s reliance on evolving interpretive methodologies has mirrored changing public sentiments about the Japanese internment.”

April 16, 1862 – D.C. Compensated Emancipation Act

On this day in history, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia. Passage of this law came eight and one-half months before President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation.

220px-Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863

Upon signing the bill, Lincoln issued the following statement:

“FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

The act entitled “an act for the release of certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia,” has this day been approved and signed.

I have never doubted the constitutional authority of Congress to abolish slavery in this district, and I have ever desired to see the National Capital freed from the institution in some satisfactory way. Hence there has never been in my mind any question upon the subject except the one of expediency, arising in view of all the circumstances. If there be matters within and about this act which might have taken a course or shape more satisfactory to my judgments, I do not attempt to specify them. I am gratified that the two principles of compensation and colonization are both recognized and practically applied in the act.

In the matter of compensation, it is provided that claims may be presented within ninety days from the passage of the act, “but not thereafter”, and there is no savings for minors, femes covert, insane or absent persons, I presume this is an omission by mere oversight, and I recommend that it be supplied by an amendatory or supplemental act.”

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Washington, April 16, 1862

The act provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to former owners who were loyal to the Union of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to locations outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 for each person choosing emigration. To that end, the act set aside $1 million. Over the next 9 months, the Board of Commissioners appointed to administer the act approved 930 petitions, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.

In Washington, D.C., African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation. Until 1901, they celebrated Emancipation Day on April 16 with parades and festivals, when a lack of financial and organizational support forced the tradition to stop. It restarted in 2002.

In 2005, pursuant to D.C. Law 15-288, April 16th would become a recognized legal public holiday in D.C. and the DC Emancipation Day parade along Pennsylvania Avenue took place again after an absence of more than one hundred years.

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You can find out more about current celebrations of D.C. Emancipation Day here.

March 23, 2015 – Utah Reauthorizes Use of Firing Squad for the Death Penalty

On this day in history, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed legislation reauthorizing the state to use the firing squad in the event that the drugs required for lethal injection are unavailable. Prior to this, the firing squad was an option, but was only allowed for inmates who chose this method prior to its elimination in 2004.

Lethal injection remains the primary execution method for Utah and the 31 other U.S. states that allow the death penalty as a punishment for certain murders.

Between 1973 and January, 2017, 157 people were exonerated from Death Row according to the Death Penalty Information Organization (DPIC). (You can check their website for updates.)

For Inclusion on DPIC’s Innocence List, defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and subsequently either-
 
a. Been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row, or

b. Had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution, or

c. Been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.

No one from Utah is on their list; most of the persons on the list are from the South.