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John’s Believe It Or Not… August 28th

In 1996 Charles and Diana divorce. In 1963 King speaks to March on Washington. In 1968 Riots in Chicago fracture the Cold War consensus. In 2006 Fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is arrested. In 1963 Mahalia Jackson (the Queen of Gospel) puts her stamp on the March on Washington.

John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

Oh-Oh! It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1996 Charles and Diana divorce.

After four years of separation, Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, and his wife, Princess Diana, formally divorce.

On July 29, 1981, nearly one billion television viewers in 74 countries tuned in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, to Lady Diana Spencer, a young English schoolteacher. Married in a grand ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of 2,650 guests, the couple’s romance was, for the moment, the envy of the world. Their first child, Prince William, was born in 1982, and their second, Prince Harry, in 1984.

Before long, however, the fairy tale couple grew apart, an experience that was particularly painful under the ubiquitous eyes of the world’s tabloid media. Diana and Charles announced a separation in 1992, though they continued to carry out their royal duties. In August 1996, two months after Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to divorce, the prince and princess reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous settlement, and the right to retain her apartments at Kensington Palace and her title of “Princess of Wales,” Diana agreed to relinquish the title of “Her Royal Highness” and any future claims to the British throne.

In the year following the divorce, the popular princess seemed well on her way to achieving her dream of becoming “a queen in people’s hearts,” but on August 31, 1997, she was killed with her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris. An investigation conducted by the French police concluded that the driver, who also died in the crash, was heavily intoxicated and caused the accident while trying to escape the paparazzi photographers who consistently tailed Diana during any public outing.

Prince Charles married his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, on April 9, 2005.

Diana and Charles seated and not looking like they want to be there.
This says it all… (Getty Images)

* 1963 King speaks to March on Washington.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the African American civil rights movement reaches its high-water mark when Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks to about 250,000 people attending the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The demonstrators–black and white, poor and rich–came together in the nation’s capital to demand voting rights and equal opportunity for African Americans and to appeal for an end to racial segregation and discrimination.

The peaceful rally was the largest assembly for a redress of grievances that the capital had ever seen, and King was the last speaker. With the statue of Abraham Lincoln–the Great Emancipator–towering behind him, King used the rhetorical talents he had developed as a Baptist preacher to show how, as he put it, the “Negro is still not free.” He told of the struggle ahead, stressing the importance of continued action and nonviolent protest. Coming to the end of his prepared text (which, like other speakers that day, he had limited to seven minutes), he was overwhelmed by the moment and launched into an improvised sermon.

He told the hushed crowd, “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettoes of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.” Continuing, he began the refrain that made the speech one of the best known in U.S. history, second only to Lincoln’s 1863 “Gettysburg Address”:

“I have a dream,” he boomed over the crowd stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

King had used the “I have a dream” theme before, in a handful of stump speeches, but never with the force and effectiveness of that hot August day in Washington. He equated the civil rights movement with the highest and noblest ideals of the American tradition, allowing many to see for the first time the importance and urgency of racial equality. He ended his stirring, 16-minute speech with his vision of the fruit of racial harmony:

“When we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews, and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

In the year after the March on Washington, the civil rights movement achieved two of its greatest successes: the ratification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the poll tax and thus a barrier to poor African American voters in the South; and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public facilities. In October 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968, he was shot to death while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee–he was 39 years old. The gunman was escaped convict James Earl Ray.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther KIng (C) waves to supporters 28 August 1963 on the Mall in Washington DC (Washington Monument in background) during the "March on Washington".
The civil rights leader Martin Luther KIng (C) waves to supporters 28 August 1963 on the Mall in Washington DC (Washington Monument in the background) during the “March on Washington”. (ABC News)

* 1968 Riots in Chicago fracture the Cold War consensus.

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, tens of thousands of protesters against the Vietnam War battle police in the streets while the Democratic Party tears itself to shreds concerning a platform statement on Vietnam. In one day and night, the Cold War consensus that had dominated American thinking since the late 1940s was shattered.

Since World War II ended and tensions with the Soviet Union began to intensify, a Cold War consensus about foreign policy had grown to dominate American thinking. In this mindset, communism was the ultimate enemy that had to be fought everywhere in the world. Uprisings in any nation, particularly in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America, were perceived through a Cold War lens and were usually deemed to be communist-inspired. In Chicago in August 1968, that Cold War consensus began to crack and crumble. The Democratic Party held its national convention in Chicago that year. Problems immediately arose both inside and outside the convention. Inside, the delegates were split on the party’s stance concerning the ongoing Vietnam War. Many wanted a plank in the party’s platform demanding a U.S. withdrawal from the bloody and frustrating conflict. Most of these delegates supported Eugene McCarthy, a committed antiwar candidate, for president. A majority, however, believed that America must not give up the fight against communism. They largely supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey. As the debate intensified, fights broke out on the convention floor, and delegates and reporters were kicked, punched, and knocked to the ground. Eventually, the Humphrey forces were victorious, but the events of the convention left the Democratic Party demoralized and drained.

On the streets of Chicago, antiwar protesters massed in the downtown area determined to force the Democrats to nominate McCarthy. Mayor Richard Daley responded by unleashing the Chicago police force. Thousands of policemen stormed into the crowd, swinging their clubs and firing tear gas. Stunned Americans watched on TV as the police battered and beat protesters, reporters, and anyone else in the way. The protesters began to chant, “The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching.”

The world–and the American nation–was indeed watching that night. What they were witnessing was a serious fracture beginning to develop in America’s previously solid Cold War consensus. For the first time, many Americans were demanding that their nation withdraws from part of its war against communism. North Vietnam, instead of being portrayed as the villain and pawn of its Soviet masters, was seen by some as a beleaguered nation fighting for independence and freedom against the vast war machine of the United States. The convention events marked an important turning point: no longer would the government have unrestrained power to pursue its Cold War policies. When future international crises arose–in Central America, the Middle East, or Africa–the cry of “No more Vietnams” was a reminder that the government’s Cold War rhetoric would be closely scrutinized and often criticized.

A Chicago police officer squirting mace at demonstrators during a protest outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
A Chicago police officer squirting mace at demonstrators during a protest outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (britannica.com)

* 2006 Fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is arrested.

On this day in 2006, Warren Jeffs, the leader of a polygamist sect of Mormons, is arrested by a highway patrol officer during a traffic stop in Nevada. At the time of his arrest, Jeffs was facing charges in Arizona and Utah of arranging marriages between men and underage girls. The 50-year-old self-proclaimed prophet had been on the run from the law for more than a year and was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. After his father’s death in 2002, Jeffs assumed leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a group that practices polygamy. The group, which is estimated to have around 10,000 members, a number of them based in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, is a radical breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, which banned polygamy in 1890. In September 2007, a jury in Utah convicted Jeffs on two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice for his part in arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old first cousin. At trial, the girl testified she was forced to wed her cousin, and then forced to have sex with him against her will. When she asked Jeffs to release her from the union, he reportedly instructed her to submit to her husband, in mind, body, and soul. A Utah judge later sentenced Jeffs to two consecutive terms of five years to life in state prison.

In 2008, state authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, a compound Jeffs founded for his followers in 2004. Acting on a series of tips, Texas officials removed over 400 children from the compound on suspicions they were being abused. The children spent several months in temporary state custody before Texas courts ordered them returned to the ranch, stating they weren’t at immediate risk of abuse. However, more than half a dozen men from the sect were eventually convicted of child sexual assault and abuse.In July 2010, the Utah Supreme Court reversed Jeffs’ 2007 convictions on the grounds that the jury in his trial had received faulty instructions. However, in December of that same year, Jeffs was extradited to Texas to stand trial on charges of sexual assault. In August 2011, a jury convicted him of child sexual assault in a case involving a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl whom he had wed in what his church referred to as spiritual marriages. Jeffs, who fathered a child with the 15-year-old, was sentenced to life in prison.

Warren Jeffs (C) is held by two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SWAT officers
Warren Jeffs (C) is held by two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department SWAT officers (Getty Images)

* 1963 Mahalia Jackson (the Queen of Gospel) puts her stamp on the March on Washington.

If the legendary gospel vocalist Mahalia Jackson had been somewhere other than the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1963, her place in history would still have been assured purely on the basis of her musical legacy. But it is almost impossible to imagine Mahalia Jackson having been anywhere other than center stage at the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963, where she not only performed as the lead-in to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech, but she also played a direct role in turning that speech into one of the most memorable and meaningful in American history.

By 1956, Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was already internationally famous as the Queen of Gospel when she was invited by the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to appear in Montgomery, Alabama, in support of the now-famous bus boycott that launched the modern Civil Rights Movement and made Rosa Parks a household name. It was in Alabama that Jackson first met and befriended the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom she would support throughout his career.

Indeed, if Martin Luther King, Jr., had a favorite opening act, it was Mahalia Jackson, who performed by his side many times. On August 28, 1963, as she took to the podium before an audience of 250,000 to give the last musical performance before Dr. King’s speech, Dr. King himself requested that she sing the gospel classic “I’ve Been ‘Buked, and I’ve Been Scorned.” Jackson was just as familiar with Dr. King’s repertoire as he was with hers, and just as King felt comfortable telling her what to sing as the lead-in to what would prove to be the most famous speech of his life, Jackson felt comfortable telling him in what direction to take that speech.

The story that has been told since that day has Mahalia Jackson intervening at a critical junction when she decided King’s speech needed a course-correction. Recalling a theme she had heard him use in earlier speeches, Jackson said out loud to Martin Luther King, Jr., from behind the podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” And at that moment, as can be seen in films of the speech, Dr. King leaves his prepared notes behind to improvise the entire next section of his speech—the historic section that famously begins “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream….”

Mahalia Jackson sings for crowd at March On Washington 1963
Mahalia Jackson sings for crowd at March On Washington 1963 (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources: 

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

13 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… August 28th”

    1. Yes, the day Diana died was so sad for millions around the world. We need another Dr. King right about now. Thanks for commenting, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Has there ever been anything so inspiring and revolutionary as that march on Washington culminating in Mahalia, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and that fabulous speech by Martin Luther King. It demanded change!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I realize it wasn’t a Monday when all those things happened, John, but it’s a perfect collection for a Monday.
    Great pics. The one of Diana and Charles really does speak a thousand words. How extraordinary to get both othose expressions in one photo. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m always amazed by the “coincidences” I find when seeking out these gems from the past. I loved that picture of Charles and Diana too! Hugs and Happy Monday, Teagan!

      Like

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