Nu History Podcast – 11 – Environmentalism in 20th Century America

In this long and fascinating episode Lilly and Alex are joined by Nick to talk about his specialism of environmental history, particularly in the political and activist movements through 20th Century America.

You can listen through Spotify below, or head to Anchor for links to follow on Apple, Google and wherever else you get your podcasts.

Hamilton

A History of our time?

The forgotten founding father?

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Legacy, what is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see[1]

 

I honestly could not resist writing a piece about Hamilton. Hamilton is the 2015 musical phenomenon written by Lin Manuel Miranda and inspired by R. Chernow’s 2004 biography titled Alexander Hamilton that has since reached London’s West End as of December 2017.

I have been extremely lucky to have watched the performance twice! Now I feel it would be appropriate to examine the historical significance of the musical about the man who is on the $10 bill and how it resonates to a present-day audience on both sides of the Atlantic. I will focus more on social and political matters as opposed to the economic and military. If you wish to see the musical in the future, please note I will make mention to some elements in the plot.

 

The Backstory

 

Alexander Hamilton’s Early Years

My name is Alexander Hamilton and there’s a million things I haven’t done just you wait, just you wait…[2]

Let’s start with the backstory. Alexander Hamilton was an American statesman who fought numerous battles in the Revolutionary War against Britain and became the first United States Secretary of the Treasury. The story narrates the life of Alexander Hamilton, an unlikely founding father who was born on the British island of Nevis (now St Kitts and Nevis) in January 1757/1755 as there is some debate amongst historians regarding this, although it is widely considered to be 1757. Born outside of wedlock, his father abandoning the family and his mother dying when he was still a child, his prospects on the face of it appeared dire.

Hamilton’s mother, Rachel Fawcett was married to Johann Michael Lavien before she met James Hamilton, the father of Alexander Hamilton. Lavien seized Fawcett’s estate in St Croix (now United States Virgin Islands) in probate court upon her death and sold off a sizeable portion of Fawcett’s items.

Hamilton later became a clerk at Beekman and Crugar, an import and export firm. The firm traded with the colonies of New England and New York. At 14/16, Hamilton was placed in charge of the firm when his employer was away at sea for five months. Hamilton’s cousin, Peter Lytton briefly looked after him and his brother, James Jr Hamilton before he committed suicide. From this point henceforth, the brothers were separated though remained on Nevis.

Hamilton (Alexander) was taken in the custody of Thomas Stevens, a local merchant and the older Hamilton (James Jr) became a Carpenter’s Apprentice. By this point Alexander Hamilton was well read and enjoyed writing in his spare time. In 1772 a devasting Hurricane hit St Croix, in response Hamilton (Alexander) wrote a letter to his father pertaining to the Hurricane in enormous detail and his thoughts on the destruction. The letter gained popularity after it was published in the Royal Danish-American Gazette by Journalist, Hugh Knox. This popularity garnished the attention of community leaders. This was a real turning point for Hamilton, as the news of his letter impressed the leaders so much they collected funds to send Hamilton to study in New York. This proved to be an invaluable opportunity for Hamilton, which no doubt paved the way to his military and to a higher extent, his political pursuits.  Much of these accounts from Hamilton’s early life are touched upon during the musical’s opening number, Alexander Hamilton.[3]

 

The musical synopsis

 

The story develops and looks at how he overcame these difficulties in early life looking at how he established himself in New York City; at King’s College (now Columbia University), his personal life, military /political exploits, his relationships with other founding fathers; John Laurens, Marquis de Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and not forgetting his relationship with political rival, Aaron Burr, which ended in Hamilton’s death on 12th July 1804 as a result of the famous Burr-Hamilton duel on the day before.

This is all set at a time of revolution and increased animosity towards the British in the colonies, chiefly regarding taxation. This animosity occurred since 1765 and arguably more so after the Boston Massacre of 1770 when a group of American colonists were shot by soldiers who were stationed in Boston to control heighted colonial unrest, the capital of the Provence of Massachusetts Bay.

What Hamilton (the musical) does so well is create a visually stunning performance, amalgamating the history of a nation with the contemporary, a retelling of history, predominately in the form of hip-hop and casting actors from ethnic minority backgrounds in major roles within the production. This invariably is told as a history of our time, in other words to reflect the society of the US and the UK today.

 

The historical legacy

Ethnicity & Immigration in the United States

Let’s start with the casting. A conscious decision was made regarding the casting. The story is told by a diverse group of actors from different backgrounds. This is true in both the US and UK productions. Notably, the roles of the founding fathers; Hamilton, Burr, Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Mulligan/Madison, Lafayette/Jefferson and Washington were played by actors from an ethnic minority. This is also true of the Schuyler sister roles in the musical; Angelica, Elizabeth “Eliza” and Margarita “Peggy”. For reference, the Schuyler family were influential Dutch landowners that held much prominence in New York, Elizabeth Schuyler was a fourth generation American and the wife of Alexander Hamilton. They married in December 1780 and their courtship was acknowledged during the song Helpless.[4]

 

Immigrants we get the job done[5]

 

Essentially what the musical does is it tells the story about an immigrant trying to establish a place for themselves through hard work, grit and determination. These are traits not so different in people today. What Hamilton was doing back in the 1700s, hundreds if not thousands of immigrants since then have aspired to work hard for their livelihoods and prosper in their endeavours. Looking at the United States today many people can trace their ancestry back to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This applies to the original Broadway cast. For instance; the Musical’s creator, Miranda who played Hamilton has Hispanic heritage from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Not to dissimilar from the character he was playing in that respect that they both had a personal connection to the Caribbean as Hamilton was born there. However, he was of Scottish and French Huguenot descent, although there is speculation that Hamilton’s mother was of mixed racial descent there is no substantial evidence to support these claims. Philippa Soo who originated the role of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza is of White European and Chinese descent and lastly another example would be Daveed Diggs who originated the role of Lafayette/ Jefferson whose mother was Jewish and his father, African-American.

These examples really do highlight and bring to prominence what America looks like today, by casting actors from an ethnic minority it really does bring life to the storytelling and above all accessibility. Yes, in real life the founding fathers were of White English, Scottish and Irish descent, yet despite that, the casting of Hamilton brings forth the idea of inclusiveness and allows for a more cathartic experience for audiences that resonate with them. This is a great way to promote history to more people that might otherwise feel alienated from this episode of history.

Looking beyond what race these characters were back then, now in the present day the United States is a melting pot of cultures from across the globe. In a traditional sense it is the primary and secondary source material found in archives, manuscripts and books to name but a few that provide us with the know-how. It is the power of theatre that allows us to look beyond the traditional historiography for a moment and build a bridge taking elements of the past and mixing it with the present to generate interest and come away thinking; it does not matter who you are or where you come from, we all have an opportunity to make a difference.

Consequently, looking at it in this sense, the story of Alexander Hamilton’s journey from orphan, to immigrant, to statesman serves as a timeless inspiration that immigrants past, present and future strive to better themselves and as a result shape society in enterprise, business, education, government, science, healthcare and as the musical reflects, the arts.

Much like analysing the first line in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” as being true to a society where it was acceptable in some states; particularly the south to keep Black African slaves. Looking at this declaration by todays standards, there would be a consensus refuting that declaration. It is how a particular place in time within society can interpret events.

 

But how is this argument historically significant for the UK?

Very much so. The UK very much like the US has been a magnet for settlement throughout history, going further back in time before the formation of the UK some of the earliest setters came from the Roman Empire, Germanic speaking tribes; the Angles, Saxons and Jutes known collectively as the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings and the Normans and French Huguenots.

In more recent history since the 19th century immigration from outside of Europe started to take shape chiefly from British colonies. In the 20th century immigration started to become more pronounced after the decline of the British Empire and many people settled from former colonies and countries making up the Commonwealth from the East, Africa and the West Indes. The imagery used once more in the UK casting reflects the society of the UK today and at the same mirrors Hamilton’s own backstory. Strikingly, Jamael Westman who currently plays the title role of Alexander Hamilton has Irish roots from his maternal side of the family and Afro-Caribbean roots from Jamaica on the paternal side.

Other examples include; Rachel John who currently plays Angelica Schuyler, her mother immigrated to the UK from Trinidad, Michael Jibson who currently plays King George III hails from Yorkshire, Leslie Garcia Bowman who currently plays Charles Lee/Ensemble comes from New Zealand and Rachelle Ann Go who currently plays Eliza Hamilton was born in the Philippines to name but a few. In all essence the full cast does reflect modern British society, just as the Broadway cast does in the US. The subject content is largely on American history and that this episode in history is not as well known in the UK, the idea nonetheless remains the same. By bringing forth historical content to the stage it serves as a virtual source to appeal to those that would not necessarily read about the content. What’s more the diversity of the cast has more of an impact resonating with members of society that are not always included in retellings of history, much like the argument that was put forth previously under Ethnicity & Immigration in the United States.

Knowing Brixton is a short distance from Victoria, the London home for Hamilton, just shy of 37 years the Brixton Riot occurred in April 1981. This was at a time when recession hit, those of Afro-Caribbean descent living in the area were particularly affected by lower job prospects and public services. Hamilton justly serves as a history of our time told by society as it is today, all backgrounds coming together to tell the story of a struggling immigrant intent to shape the future and leave a legacy, two things that are not to dissimilar to the actual narrative.

 

The “forgotten” Hamilton

A wife’s tale

I put myself back in the narrative… I’ll live another fifty years, it’s not enough[6]

 

There is much mention about the roles of women in Hamilton. However, for the purposes of this piece I will examine the role of Eliza Hamilton nee Schuyler, Hamilton’s wife of 21 years before his death. A fundamental conclusion to the musical details a wonderous segment, regarding Eliza Hamilton’s role in preserving the legacy of her husband, Alexander Hamilton. After Hamilton’s death Eliza along with the help of her son John Church Hamilton organised and arranged his political writings in view of publication. This was to ensure his legacy in American politics was not forgotten by the people. What the musical does so well is it attributes Chernow’s school of thought, that Eliza Hamilton’s role was significant in preserving Hamilton’s memory and conveys this with such vigour. This is considering she was left widowed, having to settle Hamilton’s debts and knowing that he had an affair with Maria Reynolds (this was publicly declared by Hamilton himself in the self-published, “The Reynolds Pamphlet” in 1797). The musical suggests Eliza Hamilton, upon hearing the news of Hamilton’s affair burns her correspondence with her husband in the song titled Burn.[7] Although it is not certain Eliza Hamilton burnt her letters, the musical nevertheless supports Chernow’s school of thought that she did destroy her letters but there was no evidence to suggest how.

Her passion and devotion to keeping Hamilton’s memory alive really hits home when her contribution to Hamilton’s legacy is explored in Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story[8], knowing that Eliza Hamilton lived in a male dominated society in commerce, politics and education, she was able to rise above her station and truly make a difference by getting Hamilton’s “story” out there for all to see and hear.

Eliza Hamilton did not stop there, not only did she ensure Hamilton’s writings were preserved, she also ensured to help orphans in New York city. Hamilton himself was an orphan, this in part must have played a large role in Eliza Hamilton’s efforts to help orphaned children. Together Alexander and Eliza Hamilton had eight children and one known foster daughter, having been caring for eight children and bringing in a foster daughter into the Hamilton household, it was apparent Eliza Hamilton cared deeply about children.

Eliza Hamilton helped to establish the first private orphanage in New York city in 1806 along with her friend Joanne Bethune. Eliza Hamilton was the Vice-President of the organisation and continued her support well into her nineties. It was called the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York, this organisation still exists to this very day by helping to care for children ensuring access to education, health care and support. Today it is named Graham Windham. This is where the whole idea of legacy intertwines, by preserving Hamilton’s legacy and crafting a legacy of her own.

Hamilton’s death must have been a horrible prospect for Eliza Hamilton to have dealt with but reviewing her contribution after his death, some goodness has come out of it by helping the next generation of orphans in a city where as a child orphan himself, Alexander Hamilton thrived. Though Hamilton could not live to see his legacy, Eliza Hamilton lived for another 50 years after her husband’s death in that time ensured others could see it.

 

My personal thoughts on Eliza Hamilton’s significance

Writing as a 21st century woman it is incredible to think that Eliza Hamilton achieved a great deal in her own right at a time, considering women’s suffrage was not on the agenda at the time of the Orphan Asylum Society of the City of New York’s creation and when she was organising Hamilton’s writings for preservation. As with the section on Ethnicity & Immigration, we see many women in professions doing what Eliza Hamilton did; women historians, women social workers and women carers to name but a few. That is another great legacy to add to mix, we see her character in many of the women of today, very much a living history of our time.

To end on, the musical really does highlight Eliza Hamilton’s prominence regarding Hamilton’s legacy. The staging was beautifully crafted, whereby during the first Act Hamilton was centre stage in the story. Eliza Hamilton, on the other hand was not standing on the main stage, she was staged with the characters; Maria Reynolds and Angelica Schuyler, seemingly fighting to declare their love for Hamilton during the musical’s opening number but for it to be bellowed by them at the same time, “I loved him”.[9] However, at the end of the second Act, Hamilton casts himself aside from the spotlight but close to his wife to reveal much of his legacy is owed to Eliza Hamilton, where she is the one standing in front of the legacy she preserved. Alexander Hamilton is often credited as America’s “forgotten” founding father, the end piece almost appears as if there was a forgotten behind the forgotten in the form of Eliza Hamilton.

 

 

 

[1] L. Manuel Miranda, “The World Was Wide Enough” as performed by L. Manuel Miranda & L. Odom Jr. in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[2] L. Manuel Miranda, “Alexander Hamilton” as performed by The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[3] Ibid; “Alexander Hamilton”

[4] L. Manuel Miranda, “Helpless” as performed The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[5] L. Manuel Miranda, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” as quoted by D Diggs and L. Manuel Miranda in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[6] L. Manuel Miranda, “Burn” as performed by P Soo in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[7] Ibid; “Burn”

[8] L. Manuel Miranda, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” as performed by The Original Broadway Cast in Hamilton: An American Musical Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

[9] Ibid; “Alexander Hamilton”

 

Woodrow Wilson & the 14 Points

This January is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points. Wilson addressed to congress a 14-point programme to aid with universal peace on January 8th, 1918. These peace negotiations were intended to take affect after World War I. On the face of it, the 14 points looked as if they were a “cure” to fully eradicate aggression, hostility and above all out war amongst nations. However, this was not meant to be. This post will look at what kick started the 14 points, what they were and the lasting impact of them.

 

What kick started the 14 points?

The United States of America entered World War I in April 1917, three years after the war was started. The entry into the war was heavily due to unrestricted warfare on submarines and that American ships were sunk. Unrestricted submarine warfare allowed vessels like freighters and tankers to sink from submarines without warning. Germany initiated this in early 1915 when they considered the waters surrounding Britain to be a war zone and as a result attacked ships, including merchant and neural ships. It was a type of naval warfare and considering that Britain and Germany were two prominent colonial powers, they relied heavily on colonial imports for produce, another reason why this warfare was lucrative. This warfare occurred in the surrounding waters of western Europe. For one thing the British ship, Lusitania, despite mainly being a passenger ship also carried munitions. This was enough for the German navy to justify the sinking. 1,201 lost their lives and drowned at sea, including some 128 Americans. When the United States and other neutral countries   put pressure on Germany, they stopped.

However, this suspension was not to last. Germany, not wanting to appear passive wanted to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare again. On January 8th, 2017, a year before the 14 points were addressed, Kaiser Wilhelm was persuaded by navy leaders that this warfare should go ahead, despite some reservations from the German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg who did not attend discussions. On February 1st, 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare was resumed by the German navy and the United States entered the war 2 months later.

With the help of some geographers, historians and political scientists, Wilson arranged these professionals under the watchful eye of Edward M House, Wilson’s advisor. They were put to work to study and analyse topics of discussion likely to appear in peace talks, concerning American and European (Allied) interests of international relations, economics and society. It was from these studies that Wilson’s speech came about, the 14 Points.

 

The 14 points

The 14 points advocated acts of diplomacy and addressed what the causes for war are in his opinion. He also alluded to how war could be avoided in the future. The list of the 14 points are listed before-

1.

To abolish secret treaties between nations. An organisation should be set up, involving different countries and its members would constitute talks to solve international problems.

 

2.

Freedom of navigation outside territorial waters, unless otherwise specified by an international agreed convention.

3.

Equality of trade relations and eliminating trade barriers as much as possible between nations.

4.

To reduce armaments, to ensure greater international safety.

5.

Colonial claims to be adjusted, relating to all European nations who hold colonial territories.

6.

The evacuation of all Russian territory in Eastern Europe and to the Ottoman Empire, this later became known as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, when Soviet Russia exited the war.

7.

To restore sovereignty in Belgium.

8.

French territory taken should be restored to them, particularly Alsace Lorraine.

9.

To realign Italian borders in the north, whereby the Italian speaking areas are within its own borders.

10.

Self-determination for the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

11.

Occupied areas of Eastern Europe; Montenegro, Serbia and Romania should be restored and free from occupation. Serbia should not be land locked and allowed sea access.

13.

Secure sovereignty for Turkey but other areas that make up the Ottoman Empire should have the right to Self-determination such as Bulgaria and territories in the Middle East. Free passage of the Dardanelles to be permitted.

14.

An independent Poland, free from occupation and allowed sea access.

 

The speech was very nearly not made at all as Wilson knew that the British Prime minister, David Lloyd George made a similar speech on January 5th, 1918, outlining very similar aims to Wilson’s intended 14 points. These aims were then known and agreed to by the British dominions. After some persuasion from House, Wilson made the speech as planned and proved to be a very successful precursor to the eventual Armistice later in the year and the Paris Peace Conference, the following year

 

Aftermath

When news of the speech spread to Europe it garnished much support in general. Wilson knew that these 14 points were integral to American interests as they were fundamental for global commerce and safety to the American people. Events preceding the war had brought about a spat of aggression and domination. In addition, a new school of thought under the Bolsheviks was looming and proved successful in the October revolution of 1917, when Imperial Russia became but a memory. In this sense, the United States had to abandon its Isolationist principles for a time.

However, in Europe the two allied leaders of the time were rather sceptical of Wilson’s idealism. The British and French leaders, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau held reservations regarding the applicability of all 14 points. For it to be successful, the 14 points had to apply to all nations, the Allied and Central powers alike and Wilson was not entirely sure how these points would be administered. The 14 points were translated into German and distributed to their readership. No hostility came about because of it and it was said that these points inspired a call for surrender.

 

Evaluation

Looking back at this event which took place 100 years ago, the remnants do appear in the modern world today, as International cooperation is a commonplace to ensure universal peace, suffrage and trading relations. However, Wilson’s notion of the ill-fated League of Nations was not to last as another international conflict soon ensued in 1939, World War Two. Essentially, not knowing the damage of what the war repatriations on Germany could do in the not to distant future appears unfortunate. The harsh realities of the reparations appeared to be a catalyst for what was to come in 1930s Germany, nevertheless that on its own is not enough to justify a single cause for further conflict. Putting the counterfactual to the side for a moment, what resulted after World War 2 was another call for peaceful resolutions on an international scale, the United Nations. Although, there is certainly a long way to go to reach the end goal for international peace, conflict has taken many guises under the Cold War and the War on Terror, nevertheless it is hard to deny that the 14 points and the aim to provide peaceful diplomacy has done much to pave the way to fruition.

The Kite Runner- Using Literature as a source for recent times

The post will look at the historical significance in Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 bestselling novel, The Kite Runner. The novel is a coming of age story focusing on Amir born into a Pashtun family in Afghanistan. Recently, as of Monday 10th July I went to watch the stage adaptation of it with another blogger- lauraljpotter. This got me thinking as there is plenty to right about. Particularly, life in Afghanistan during the 1970s, during the Soviet occupation and the Taliban occupation. I also touch upon Afghans who immigrated to the United States of America during the late 1970s and 1980s, mainly commenting on the accounts in the novel. For starters, I will explain the basic premise of the story and provide a general historical account of the country. Minor spoilers of the plot will be announced to emphasise the historical value of this time period.

The story starts in the mid-seventies focusing on Amir’s friendship with Hassan, who is the son of the family servant and the strained relationship Amir has with his father Baba. The themes Hosseini highlights are the following; friendship, identity, love and redemption, spanning across time from Afghanistan in the mid-seventies towards California in 2001. The modern state of Afghanistan was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Duran but long before this happened the area was conquered numerous times. The earliest account we know was in 330BC, when Alexander the Great conquered it. In the 700s AD, Arab armies invaded the area and the inhabitants of the area converted to Islam. Later in 1218, Genghis Khan’s army penetrated the area. This is interesting to note as it explains the ethnic mix of people that live in Afghanistan and this is still visible today, this will be explained in more thorough detail further on. Conflict did not end there as in the mid-1800s Britain and Russia clashed in order to gain control of Central Asia. There was a power vacuum in Central Asia due to the declining Ottoman Empire, Qajar dynasty and Qing dynasty in the region. This was called “The Great Game” as Britain and Russia vied to occupy these territories. Eventually “The Great Game” led to the First Anglo-Afghan War. By the end of the 1800s, Afghanistan was unwilling to allow British presence in the region and refused a mission to be set up in Kabul. This resulted in the Second Afghan War. At the time Britain acquired an empire that stretched all around the globe, it was coined as “the empire, where the sun never sets”. Before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was still a part of India and in 1893, the British established an unofficial border to separate Afghanistan and British India. A third war ensued between the Afghans and the British. In 1919 the Third-Anglo War concluded. To summarise, what this short piece does is provide a background account to the complex history of Afghanistan up until when the story starts.

Now we will focus on the country of Afghanistan in the sixties until the seventies. It was a different place to what it became in the early noughties. It was a relatively safe and stable country since 1933 when Zahir Shah quelled unrest by becoming king. Before Zahir Shah, since after the Anglo-Afghan Wars there was always a power struggle in order to establish a long lasting dynasty in Afghanistan. In the twentieth century Emir Amanullah tried to rule and incorporate western influences in Afghanistan, but civil unrest in the country ousted him out. However, from what the background account tells us, this proved to happen throughout the course of history. In particular for those who had money and prominence, life in Afghanistan was very good, full of lavish hill top homes and festivities. Life was full of excitement and opportunities were abundant. This was looked at in Hosseini’s novel. Notably, Baba and Amir’s comfortable home, Amir’s schooling, Amir’s birthday celebrations and the Kite flying competition. This reveals that Amir had a stable and comfortable home life. Expanding on this western travellers often ventured through Afghanistan as a pit stop before moving on to India. This particular route was known as the “hippie trail”.

However, that air of stability soon collapsed when in 1973 King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin. Two ideologies developed during this time in wanting to prevent gradual western ideals that occurred in the royal Afghan court. One ideology supported communism and the Soviets. This group was called the People’s Democratic of Afghanistan. Another ideology advocated for a return of religious values in society. It was the PDPA that ended up being more successful first in 1978, within a year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, plunging Afghanistan into the Cold War as a potential satellite state. They did this to strength the communist ideology of the PDPA in Afghanistan as well as extending their on sphere of influence in Central Asia. However, war ensured as not everyone was happy with the Soviet invasion, in “The Kite Runner”, Babi, Amir’s father did not want the Soviets to take control of Afghanistan. Using Babi as an example, many affluent families in Afghanistan and those who held close ties to royalty were suspected to be reactionaries and many of them like Babi and Amir had to flee to neighbouring Pakistan and as a result became refugees and wait admitted asylum. It was from there that many families moved on to the United States of America, like what Babi and Amir did. Babi and Amir like many Afghans settled in Fremont, California. A majority of Afghans who fled Afghanistan settled in the San Francisco Bay area of California like Fresno, Los Angeles, Virginia and other major areas like Illinois, Florida and Washington. Many Afghan migrants worked in unskilled professions or in the public sector. Some Afghan professions mentioned in “The Kite Runner” were traders, teachers, policeman and gas station attendants. Life was not always easy for any particular new arrivals to the USA but what Hosseini does draw attention to is the fact that it was perhaps easier for some to assimilate into the new American culture, whereas for others it was more difficult. This was looked at in the form of father and son, Babi and Amir. Babi struggled seeing as he had established himself in Afghanistan it was bound to be difficult to pack up and start again, particularly as he was living in a comfortable hill top home in Afghanistan. In Fremont he was living in an apartment block. For Amir, you could argue that it helped him pursue his dreams of becoming a writer as he improved his English, went to college to major in Creative Writing and found love and married Soraya. In essence embracing his new opportunities and attempting to pursue the “American Dream”.

The Soviets tried their best to capture all of Afghanistan, but this did not happen, they found it difficult to penetrate the countryside and this remained relatively untouched. The Soviets eventually realised that they couldn’t continue funding a conquest they knew they could never win. The geography of Afghanistan is testing as it is a heavily mountainous land-locked country. Again, more civil unrest ensued and much of the country was being taken over by mujahedin groups. The capital, Kabul managed to quell this for three years as Najibullah, an ally from Moscow was able to control the area. Eventually, Kabul fell and Najibullah lost control. Even still these rival mujahedin only managed to control the city until 1996, when they were ousted by much younger jihadis. They were known as the Taliban and controlled everyday life in Afghan society from there on in, including the vibrant capital Kabul. Kabul changed drastically under this leadership. Kabul was once a place where men and women could sit in university together and women weren’t told what to wear. This all changed when the Taliban took control and implemented a strict regime on Afghanistan.

In more recent time, in the noughties Afghanistan garnished much negative connotations and further turmoil. Most notably, the War on Terror, Afghanistan was used as a testing ground by British and American forces. After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre all attention went on combating Al Qaeda, the Terrorist group responsible for the heinous act and capturing their ringleader, Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban were told in “The Kite Runner” in the form of one character the antagonist, Assef who frequently tormented Amir and Hassan. He constantly made fun out of Hassan’s ethnicity of being a Hazara. Some people like Assef did not like the Hazara people as they held a belief that they were not true Afghans and how they polluted the country. This was ironic in the story as Assef himself had a Pashtun father and a German mother. Many Hazara people as a result faced widespread discrimination in everyday life. This is something that many Hazara people face even today. Harking back to what I mentioned earlier, there were two different ethnic groups mentioned in the story, one were the Pashtuns and the other group was the Hazaras. The Hazaras were said to be descended from inner Asia and more specifically around Mongolia. This makes sense considering how many times different armies came to conquer and/or settle in Afghanistan. However, this theory is not entirely confirmed and we do not know for sure where they actually descended from.

Afghanistan faced much hardship over the years and history seemingly starting to repeat itself in the form of occupation, then reoccupation, then occupation, then reoccupation an endless cycle it seems over the centuries and something that still lays bare in Afghanistan today; whether that be when Alexander the Great first captured the land or as early in 2009 when Obama increased the number of American troops to arrive in Afghanistan.

When Politics Come to Sport: A History of Protest and Boycott at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Politics and professional sport have forever been intertwined. Recently this has become more apparent with a number of news stories demonstrating this relationship. The American footballer Colin Kaepernick has made headlines and received a great deal of harassment for kneeling during the American national anthem at matches in protest of police violence against African Americans. There has been a great deal of political fallout over the choice to ban Russian para-athletes in the Paralympic Games, leading to the hacking of WADA. There was also the recent death of Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, famous for her protests against the Soviet Union during her career. My fellow W.U History contributor Matt wrote about Mandela’s use of the 1995 Rugby World Cup back in 2014, so I have decided to focus on the use of political protests in the modern  Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Despite the repeated attempts (and harsh punishments against those do) of theIOC and IPC, the Olympics and Paralympics have rarely been politically free.

Irish athletes protested their inclusion in the Great Britain team. In 1906, the Irish high jumper Peter O’Connor had the British flag raised for his silver medal position; he scaled the pole with an Irish flag and waved that instead while his teammate Con Leahy remained at the foot of the pole to guard him. This led in 1908 to the team name being changed to Great Britain/Ireland and even allowing in several events Ireland to compete separately despite Irish independence not being achieved until 1911.

The 1956 Olympics faced a number of boycotts from countries due to a range of political tensions. The Suez crisis led to Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq boycotting. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland also boycotted in protest of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Finally China decided to boycott upon Taiwan being allowed to compete. Supporters of countries such as Australia vocally supported the Hungarian athletes in protest of the Soviet invasion. For the most part tensions never reached a boiling point except during the water polo, which became known as the Blood in the Water match. The match was between the Hungarians and the USSR, with the match turning violent very quickly. The match earned the name after the Hungarian Ervin Zádor was punched by one of the Russian team leading to him bleeding from his forehead. The spectators of the match were mostly Hungarian, Australian and American leading to an almost riot, only avoided by the police moving the crowd out. The Hungarians won the match and eventually the gold medal.

South Africa’s participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games caused a huge deal of controversy between 1960 and 1992. Not only did many of the African nations protest against the policy of Apartheid itself, but South Africa’s attempts to send only white athletes caused controversy. Many Western countries however continued to try and include South Africa in the competitions; South Africa was only officially banned from the Olympics in 1970. They had been disinvited from the Olympics in 1964 and 1968, due to the protests from African countries.  However, until the Dutch hosted the Paralympics in 1980, the South Africans continued to participate in the Paralympics. They were only expelled by IPC in 1985. With the exception of the a few countries from the Eastern Bloc and Finland, white majority countries did not boycott but a number of countries with non-white majorities did. The 1976 Games also had a boycott because of the continued inclusion of New Zealand, after the protests of a number of African countries. New Zealand’s rugby team had toured South Africa despite the majority of countries boycotting Apartheid South Africa;  twenty nine countries in all, mostly countries from Africa and the Middle East. Upon the end of apartheid, South Africa was allowed to compete with a multi-racial team.

Perhaps the most famous of all Olympic protests was Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico Games. The American pair had placed first and third in the 200m respectively but drew outrage on the podium during the American national anthem. The pair both raised their fists, the well-known symbol of the Black Power movement, in protest of the treatment of Black Americans. Martin Luther King Jnr had been assassinated earlier in the year and despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act, unsurprisingly racial tensions were still high. The pair were booed as they left and were quickly punished by the IOC, leading to their expulsion from the games and Olympic Village. The implications of their protest continued to affect the pair after the 1968 Games. Both were subject to deaths threats and criticism in the US. Neither pair competed again in the Olympics, although both men continued in sport.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were not the only athletes to protest during the 1968 Olympic Games. Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská had already upset Soviet authorities earlier in 1968 having signed the protest manifesto ‘The Two Thousand Words’ during the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalisation that threatened the Soviet Union’s control over Czechoslovakia. Upon the Soviet invasion in August 1968, Čáslavská was forced into hiding in the Moravian mountains. Having lost her training facilities she trained for the games outside in the forests of Moravia, using logs as beams and potato sacks as weights to defend her titles from the previous Games. She only received permission at the last minute to participate in the 1968 games. While Čáslavská managed to defend two of her medals and gained a further two medals, controversy arose when two judging decisions favoured Soviet gymnasts over her. As a protest Čáslavská bowed her head and turned away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. While she received no punishment from the IOC, Čáslavská was banned from sport events in Czechoslovakia and abroad. This forced her into early retirement. It was not until the threat of ceasing oil exports to Czechslovakia by Mexico was she allowed to leave the country in 1978. In 1985 under the pressure of the IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch she was finally allowed to return to the sport as a coach and judge. After the fall of communism Čáslavská held a number of positions within the IOC.

The 1980 Olympics in Moscow caused one of the largest boycotts in Olympic history. Due to the decision not to hold the Paralympics by the Soviet Union, instead it was hosted by the Netherlands with no boycott. Upon the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US gave the ultimatum for the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan or there would be a boycott of the games. Despite the efforts of the IOC, no compromise was made; in all, mostly because of the boycott (although a few were for other reasons) sixty six countries who were invited to be part of the games did not attend. These were mostly African and Asian countries. Several Western countries did not fully boycott, but did protest by refusing to attend the Opening Ceremony, or athletes competed under the Olympic flag rather than their own.

The following games in 1984 were held in Los Angeles, where this time the Soviet Union and a number of their allies boycotted. However this boycott was on a much smaller scale, only 14 countries. The boycott was called because of claims of security concerns and an anti-Soviet climate. The Paralympics were mostly boycotted again by Soviet countries; however East Germany, Poland and Hungary participated when they had boycotted the Olympics.

Since 1992, despite political concerns, there have been no large scale boycotts or major political gestures at either the Olympics or Paralympics. Despite concerns about the 2008 Beijing Games and possible boycotts being discussed, the Games were largely successful.

The reluctance to boycott more recently has no exact reasoning, but is probably down to several reasons. Primarily I believe this is mostly down to the large cost, in both money and time that athletes – and their supporters – must dedicate to helping their training. Athletes had previously been outspoken about missing their chances to compete due to political interference but were more likely to toe the line. Today they would be less likely to accept their countries’ decisions to boycott, they are less likely to risk their position at the Games by protesting at all. The end of the Cold War has also removed one of the biggest political obstacles, but while there are still tensions between Russia and the USA, the Olympics almost seem to now be seen as an opportunity to compete, in a non-violent way.

This is America: Projecting Prosperity in the Cold War

From the late 1940s through the 1950s and into the 1960s, how the United States portrayed itself to the world was seen as an important aspect of fighting the Cold War. The ‘Cultural’ Cold War was seen as just as important, because it was necessary to show the U.S. as not only strong economically and militarily, but also to make the U.S. likable. There was anti-Americanism in the world, and not just in the Middle East and Latin America. It was also found in Japan and Western Europe, who often saw the U.S. as hypocritical. Portraying the U.S. in a certain way was not just about combating communism but strengthening ties between allies. President Eisenhower, who was President between 1953-1961, thought Trade Fairs used to showcase American Culture were the cheapest way of fighting the Cold War. They were the cheapest way of protecting national defence and strengthening ties with allies. Psychological warfare grew as the Cold War started in earnest, and it also became an underlined threat in security reports, with the National Security Council underlining the importance of the cultural side of the Cold War to American security in their report on the United States Information Agency (USIA), a program set up by Eisenhower in 1953 to portray American prosperity abroad, and also run by the State Department.

this is america
Portraying the American Way: a house in the suburbs, a young family, prosperity all built on free enterprise and innovation was the tone of many propaganda pieces. Taken from: http://www.herinst.com

How did the US want to portray itself?

The U.S. wanted to portray its ideals in a way to remind people of why they were arming and spending so much on defence, to protect those ideals. It underlined ideals of social mobility, political freedom, cultural diversity and affluence while portraying the characteristics of American life as one rooted in democratic ideals and the ‘American way’ of productivity and innovation. Characteristics which were focused on often countered that of communist ideals, and focused on a similar sort of rhetoric. These characteristics included:

  1. Religion – Americans were religious, opposed to the ‘godless’ communism of the USSR
  2. Family – American families were nuclear and suburban, which was more socially and emotionally fulfilling and gave better chances to their children
  3. Property – Unlike Soviet people, Americans could own their own homes
  4. The U.S. was dedicated to peace and would not get involved for its own interest, unlike the Soviets who wanted to spread communism

Criticisms: What was it missing?

Tensions at home were often the criticism of Trade Fairs. The U.S. was criticised for its treatment of race. This was usually ignored from propaganda, and when it was mentioned it was to say it was something they were progressing on, or to underline it was a Southern problem not a U.S. one. Racial tensions got so bad in the U.S. that many African-Americans refused to be a part of their propaganda, such as Louis Armstrong. After the Little Rock Crisis in 1957, in which nine black students were prevented entry into Little Rock Central High School, he refused to be the face of black America and jazz in one of the U.S. tours.  Propaganda also ignored issues of poverty in the U.S. Although more affluent shown by its growing suburban life, 50 million people still lived below the poverty line.

A lot of the criticism of propaganda itself was the expense. It cost a lot of money to put together brochures and advertisements and send showcases on tour. Although there were criticisms of subversion of the State Department, these did not focus on subversion by the CIA but by communists, which fed on growing fears in the early fifties by McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Trade Fairs too did not necessarily fare well themselves, and in 1956 they proved no more popular than Soviet Fairs and did less well than the Chinese fairs. There were criticisms that there was no real sense of what American culture was. In Moscow in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev claimed that the U.S. display felt like a Department Store instead of an exhibit of culture, showing off American Materialism. The message of capitalism was certainly getting through, but was democracy?

Moscow 1959

The Moscow 1959 exhibit is one of the most famous and important fairs in the U.S. cultural Cold War. Not only was it the first time the U.S. had the chance to reach Soviet people since the late 1940s, it was also part of a cultural exchange program between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In June 1959 the Soviet Union displayed their exhibit in New York, and the following month the U.S. exhibited theirs in Moscow. Walter Hixson underlines that this was a new way the Cold War was being fought, especially with Khrushchev’s visit to the U.S., and showed the changing relations between the two leading world powers.

the miracle kitchen
Nixon and Khrushchev look over America’s Miracle Kitchen. Innovative… or ‘simply gadgets’?

The Moscow exhibit portrayed all of American prosperity and advancement, of course continuing its trend with a section on the ‘People of Plenty’, illustrating how the American economic system benefited U.S. citizens through affluence and prosperity. It had also originally had a more self-critical section in which it discussed racial issues in the U.S. and how it could go forward. However, some Southerners reacted badly to this and it was pulled out. The rest of the displays focused on the theme of American prosperity, with ones on Disney, The Miracle Kitchen, and an IBM computer which could answer a series of questions, as well as a display of consumer goods, including Pepsi Cola, which even Khrushchev liked.

The most famous part of this exhibit is that of The Miracle Kitchen, for stimulating The Kitchen Debate between Vice President Nixon and Khrushchev. Although the debate centred around the kitchen and its modern gadgets, it was really one of differing ideologies and underlining the different principles of U.S. capitalism and Soviet communism. When Nixon said these were homes affordable for ordinary Americans, not just the rich, Khrushchev said all Soviet people have a home and don’t need to pay for one. When Khrushchev said the U.S. was a slave to technology, Nixon said it made home-life easier, opening up time for leisure. The New York Times criticised the debate for ignoring substantive issues and claimed it was more of a political stunt than anything, but it did increase Nixon’s popularity at the time and cement the Trade Fairs place in fighting the Cold War in public consciousness.

the kitchen debate
Nixon and Khrushchev discuss their differing positions, and their mutual dislike of Jazz at the 1959 Moscow Exhibit

The Leader of the Free World

Propaganda was used to portray U.S. strength and prestige and its position in the world. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Western Europe had relied on the U.S. for aid. Its image as the leader of the free world was an important one to hold up. It was not just about boosting the U.S.  image but that of capitalism’s. It is important to remember that not long before the 1950s had been the Great Depression, which for many was seen as the great failure of capitalism. Reinventing the system was also a part of this propaganda to describe the American economic system as ‘People’s Capitalism’. No longer just for the few, it proclaimed, but for the many. According to this, capitalism had gone through a peaceful and democratic revolution and was not like the capitalism of the 1920s and 1930s, which led to mass poverty, corruption and Depression. These were all major themes of U.S. propaganda in the Cold War.

 

The Role of Greenland in WW2 and The Cold War

Although Greenland has always been one of the more remote places of the world, its position leaves it with a potentially very significant role to play in any world-wide conflict. The Geographical location of Greenland is important for three reasons, the first being that it is part of the land that forms the ‘GIUK Gap’ which is an important naval choke point in the north Atlantic that is between the landmasses of Greenland, Iceland and the UK. Secondly Greenland is the perfect place for weather stations that are necessary for detecting conditions that may affect weather farther south and East. Finally radar stations are needed in Greenland in order to track aircraft due to it being on the shortest route between Europe and the United States.

Obviously the biggest examples that could include this region are World War Two and the Cold War. But before WW2 in 1934, the importance of the region was first discussed by the USA. In this year a mass flight of US bombers from Washington D.C to Alaska was undertaken in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the U.S. Army’s latest long-range bomber, the B-10, but it did something else: It demonstrated the importance of the Arctic to aviation. At this point the USA was most concerned about Japan and the potential for their attacks on Alaska as Anchorage, Alaska is almost exactly equidistant from Tokyo, New York City and London. That’s part of the reason it’s one of the world’s largest air cargo hubs today. Once WW2 was underway however, they soon saw a similar significance to Greenland as If you fly between the eastern United States and eastern Europe or Russia, or between the western United States and western Europe, you will need to pass over Greenland.

In April 1940, Nazi Germany occupied Denmark on its way to an invasion of Norway, and almost a year later, the United States signed the US-Danish Agreement on Greenland, which permitted the United States to establish military bases in Greenland. Despite its remoteness from densely populated areas, Greenland is considered part of North America and thus falls under the Monroe Doctrine, which states efforts by European nations to interfere with North American issues will be opposed by the full ability of the United States. In July 1940, the foreign ministers of the Americas declared that “any attempt on the part of a non-American state against the integrity or inviolability of the territory, the sovereignty, or the political independence of an American state should be considered an act of aggression.” This was aimed at Nazi Germany, which had by then occupied several European countries that had possessions in North America and the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the Germans were undeterred and  in the summer of 1940, German ships, apparently on scientific or commercial missions, landed people on the eastern shore of Greenland. German submarines secretly landed other parties. These were all attempts to establish weather stations on Greenland (similarly attempted in remote areas of Canada as well) in order to help forecast the weather for Germans submarines at sea and for continental Europe. In the autumn of 1940 and again in spring 1941, German long-range aircraft flew over Greenland. This led to the belief that the United States had the authority to act to establish bases in Greenland to provide for its defense. During the course of the war, thousands of American aircraft flew over Greenland on their way to Europe. American soldiers were stationed in the icy territory as a defense mechanism, and American civilians and soldiers manned weather stations to assist the war effort farther east.

Perhaps one of the least well-known campaigns of World War II was the hunt for these German weather stations. The United States began doing this in 1940 and the job fell mostly on the shoulders of the US Coast Guard who patrolled with ships and aircraft, looking for German weather ships, or supply boats attempting to reach weather stations the Germans had set up. They were also assisted at this point by native Greenlander trackers who assisted in spotting. On top of these efforts there was also the ‘Sledge Patrol’ which was a 15 man mixed force of Norwegians, Danes and Greenlanders supported by the US who spent much of the war patrolling the coast and hunting Germans as well. On dog sleds, 2 and 3 man patrols would head out for a few months and attempt to find German weather stations in a game of cat and mouse, with the Germans Generally the mice and having to pack up their station and flee if discovered. The Germans did strike back however, in an attack on the Sledge Patrol’s base camp, killing one member of the team, Eli Knudsen, the only loss they endured.

The last land based weather station of the Germans was knocked out in October of 1944. Spotted by the USS Eastwind during a patrol, a landing party of Coast Guard sailors (Who, as part of this role, underwent special training under the supervision of commandos), made a nighttime landing and caught the Germans by total surprise, and were able to capture most of their documents. No more German land based stations were attempted after that, although offshore trawlers were still utilized.

Even before the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, some in the USA were looking ahead for what they saw as the next global conflict: The war between the United States and the Soviet Union. After WW2 the USA offered to purchase Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000 but was rejected. For several years Denmark was under pressure from its citizens to get rid of the American military bases, while constantly in a back and forth with the USA who would not drop the issue. Events elsewhere in the world in 1948 and 1949 quickly overtook these events. The Berlin Blockade, Soviet pressure on Finland, the coup in Czechoslovakia, and the detonation of the Soviet atomic bomb in 1949 all pushed the Cold War into high gear. It became politically impossible for the Danes to evict the United States from Greenland altogether.

By 1950, the United States was putting nuclear capable bombers into its base at Thule in northwest Greenland. The following year in 1951, Denmark and the United States signed an agreement that overwrote the 1941 deal where Denmark would keep sovereignty over Greenland, but the United States would be allowed permanent military bases. In the years that followed, the American presence spread. From Thule and other air bases, the United States and Canada built radar stations as part of the Distant Early Warning Line designed to detect Soviet bombers. In 1960, the United States activated the world’s first Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar in Thule. Greenland throughout the Cold War was used as a vital position from which to defend its North and Eastern borders from potential air, missile and submarine attacks.

The 1951 agreement lasted until 2004, when the United States and Denmark signed a new Greenland defense agreement.

Gnadenhutten massacre

This post will be about a massacre that occurred during the American Revolutionary war, the Gnadenhutten massacre. The Gnadenhutten massacre is also known as the Moravian massacre and occurred in the village of Gnadenhutten. Gnadenhutten was a Moravian missionary village. The term Moravian means it is a Protestant denomination of Christianity from Moravia, currently in the Czech Republic today.

The actual massacre itself was perpetrated by the colonial American militia on 8th March 1782. This militia was from Pennsylvania. The victims were the Lenape tribe. The Lenape tribe traditionally come from the Delaware region of the United States and along the Atlantic coast. However by the eighteenth century many were displaced by the expansion of the Europeans heading westwards. This occurred increasingly at the time of the American revolutionary war and many settled in Ohio. However it should also be acknowledged that they also headed further west not only from this reason but also because of the threat of the neighbouring tribe the Iroquois. The Lenape and Iroquois did have frequent tensions.

Some of the Lenape converted to Christianity, the Moravian branch and some of them sided with the American colonials whilst others were against them. After a while some of the tribe returned to their original areas as they were hungry in order for harvest. However a raid party of frontiersmen from Pennsylvania under Colonial David Williamson wanted to raid this areas after they were left abandoned and to prevent them being used by war parties for the ongoing revolutionary war. Interestingly there was no official course of action that was ever authorised for this.

Eventually the frontiersmen reached Gnadenhutten on the 7th March. At first their arrival seemed innocent in the sense that they wished to protect the Christian Lenape tribe and remove them to safety to nearby Fort Pitt, a fort built by British Colonialists in Pennsylvania. However they were later found to be accused of taking part in raids in Pennsylvania. The Christian Lenape tribe were very passive and denied all charges held against them. In spite of this Williamson and his men attended a council in order to discuss the matter about whether or not the Christian Lenape tribe had been involved in raids. The penalty was death and the majority voted for it as punishment. The Lenape upon hearing this prayed to God and that they knew they would be with God the following day.

The following morning the militia brought and concentrated the Christian Lenape to a ‘killing house’. The women and men were slaughtered in different buildings whereas the infants and elderly were massacred. Their bodies were thrown into the abandoned mission buildings.

It is said that two Christian Lenape boys who were involved in this massacre, miraculously survived it and lived to tell the tale. Many Americans disapproved of this act, whereas some hailed the Pennsylvanian frontiersmen who did this as heroes at the time.

Today a 11m monument stands tall at the site where this brutal act occurred, commemorating all that had died next to a reconstructed mission house similar to the ones that were used in the Moravian villages. The monument was erected on 5th June 1872, one hundred years after stating:

“Here triumphed in death ninety Christian Indians, March 8, 1782”

The Sinking of the Lusitania 1915

On May 7th 1915, the sinking of one ship would have drastic consequences for Germany, the RMS Lusitania sunk by U-boat 20.  We often associate the sinking of the Lusitania as the reason as to why the US entered to war against Germany.  But is it the main reason and was the Lusitania that significant?  It certainly saw a huge loss of life with around 1200 dead, with 128 of those being American.  Nonetheless, there were other ocean liners sunk whilst ferrying passengers, whom also included US citizens, so perhaps the Lusitania was the last straw?

Was the Lusitania a valid target?  Well this has certainly raised a lot of debate among historians, it is claimed that the ship was carrying cargo of ammunition, specifically riffle cartridges.  Therefore it can be argued that it was a valid military target, maybe the fault should be therefore be pointed at the British for using a passenger liner carrying civilians as a rouse to transport ammunition.  It must also be pointed that German Admiral Hugo von Pohl, who was in charge of the German High Seas Fleet, wrote in February 1915 and declared in the German newspaper Deutscher Reichsanzeiger (Imperial German Gazette) that: “The waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole of the English Channel, are hereby declared to be a War Zone. From February 18 onwards every enemy merchant vessel encountered in this zone will be destroyed, nor will it always be possible to avert the danger thereby threatened to the crew and passengers”.  And that “neutral vessels also will run a risk in the War Zone, because in view of the hazards of sea warfare and the British authorization of January 31 of the misuse of neutral flags, it may not always be possible to prevent attacks on enemy ships from harming neutral ships”.  So Germany had made their intentions clear, and had sent a clear warning to all those travelling.  However heavy British and US propaganda ensured that Germany would receive the entirety of the blame, even though it had made its intentions clear.

The U.S entrance into the war was not because of the Lusitania being sunk by a torpedo, but rather because of the matter of unrestricted submarine warfare.  Wilson had written three notes to the German Government after the sinking of the Lusitania, the third note, on 21 July, issued an ultimatum, to the effect that the US would regard any subsequent sinking’s as deliberately unfriendly.  Later in August 1915, the White Star liner SS Arabic was sunk, killing 44 Americans, this sort of warfare turned Americans attitude to Germany, and helped Wilson get through Congress a decision for war.

Therefore the Lusitania saw a tragic loss of life, and it was another dark event during World War One.  Nonetheless, its sinking was turned into a political tool, and the people who died were to be revenged, or at least that’s how it was to be portrayed.  If the British had stacked it full of ammunition and was warned that ships would be sunk, and still went ahead anyhow, the blame on the loss of life, must be put on both parties, the British and the US and Germany must all share blame for the sinking of the Lusitania.

Of course, some controversies on the sinking will never be solved; did U-20 launch two torpedoes, or just one?  Was their other ammunition on the ship other than riffle cartridges?  We might never know, but there is more to this sinking than meets the eye.  But remember, the sinking did not directly bring the U.S. into the war, it was just one of a few factors!

#MLKAlsoSaid: Re-remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015

With the recent release of Selma, the historical film based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights marches, there’s been a rise in voices and opinions on the way not just Black History is remembered, but also the way in which we remember key actors within the Civil Rights movement. Recent hashtags trending on twitter, such as #MLKAlsoSaid, noting some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s less remembered quotes, and #BlackHistoryYouDidntLearnInSchool, commenting on the American education system’s lack of substantial material on the Civil Rights movement, have sparked new discussions. This has caused a spread in the idea that there is more to learn and to be told about one of the men who led it.

Born January 15th 1929, as Michael King Jr., Dr. King was raised in a strongly Baptist household, with his father and grandfather both practising Baptist ministers. He attended a segregated school, graduating at fifteen,  and afterwards attended Morehouse College to earn a B.A. in sociology, later graduating with a doctorate in theology at Boston University. In 1955,  he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, propelled by the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to leave her seat on the bus for a white passenger.  During the boycott, which lasted 385 days, Dr. King was arrested and his house was bombed. It was this Boycott and its eventual success in ending the segregation on buses that propelled King into the public eye as a key figure in  the Civil Rights movement. Now over fifty years ago, King led the boycott, aged at the time only twenty-six. His age is often a neglected part of his story. Dying at only 39, he was a young man during the movement, but is often misrepresented as someone older, neglecting the power youth, especially the role black youth culture had over the Civil Rights movement.

Coretta Scott King kisses Martin Luther King, after leaving Court in Montgomery, 1956 - Source
Coretta Scott King kisses Martin Luther King, after leaving Court in Montgomery, 1956 – Source

There have been criticisms that the version of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King taught in the mainstream education and spread through mainstream media is a sanitised or a  ‘whitewashed’ version of the man who movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Ava DuVerney, the director of Selma claimed that King has become only remembered for a four word catchphrase: a catchphrase that could easily fit into a clean version the ‘white moderates’ King dissented against himself could teach, or neglect to teach, kids in schools across America. Instead of remembering King as an anti-white supremacy advocate; as a man who believed that capitalism was an evil through not permitting an even flow of economic resources; as a man who objected the war in Vietnam and called out against mass poverty in the U.S., he and his beliefs have been simplified. The version taught is a version lacking what King was truly standing for, what he was fighting for and what he believed in.

Firstly, it’s his stance on violence that is often misinterpreted. During the riots caused by the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, and the subsequent lack of conviction or even dismissal of the police officer who killed him, there were claims that Martin Luther King would not have resorted to this. That Martin Luther King would not stand for such violence or for riots. After all, King himself stated: ‘I’ve told the kids in the ghettos that violence won’t solve their problems.’ Martin Luther King did not like violence. He was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent approach to racial inequality. However, only taking this part of a longer quote paints only half the picture. Although he did not condone violence, he understood that when an oppressor is using violence against an oppressed group, such as the American government was doing so against black Americans, it could not go ignored. The whole quote is as follows:

“I’ve told the kids in the ghettos that violence won’t solve their problems, but then they ask me, and rightly so; “Why does the government use massive doses of violence to bring about the change it wants in the world?” After this I knew that I could no longer speak against the violence in the ghettos without also speaking against the violence of my government”.

This quote, as well as King’s insistence that rioting is the language of the unheard – the unheard being the black Americans opposing American government – shows a King who did not mark violence or rioting as incomprehensible. In fact, it is notable how the words ‘riot’ and ‘protest’ could be used to describe the same event but each create a different image and connotation. Rioting, King claimed, is a result of ‘the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society’, which caused those who protest ‘to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.’

King, though non-violent, was no less passionate about the Civil Rights movement. As mentioned previously, he was angry towards ‘white moderates’ who took neither side concerning the movement. He was against white supremacist systems which actively acted against black Americans, stating that the  ‘great stumbling block in [our] stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice’. Therefore, those who would not take a stand, or would look the other way in terms of how black Americans were mistreated, were ‘as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.’ 

So, why is a trending twitter hashtag #MLKALsoSaid so important? The quotes that go ignored, or unspoken or hidden behind the more palatable I Have a Dream speech reflect a Martin Luther King who was not so complacent to U.S. government or politics. A man who championed that the riot is the language of the unheard, a man who fought and was killed for his attempts at ending white supremacy in America, a man who dismissed the ‘white moderate’ and criticised their indifference to the cause of black Americans, and who criticised the systems in America which kept 40 million in poverty, as they fought unneeded wars overseas in the name of democracy and freedom, while people in America were not free themselves. When you remember Martin Luther King, remember him for more than one speech in front of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. He was not complacent in the world of white politics, but fought against it. He did not condone violence, but he did not ignore the violence perpetuated against the black population. He knew what it was to be oppressed, to see oppression every day, and to want to get rid of it. He fought to change laws, and better the lives of black Americans through them. Although he acknowledged there was more to be done in society concerning equality than changing laws, he stated that laws ‘cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.’