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Milestones: Tuesday, June 27, 2023

June 27, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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RECONSTRUCTION-ERA POET — PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR, born on June 27, 1872 at Dayton, Ohio, to formerly enslaved parents from Kentucky. Dunbar, who began writing prolifically in high school, was the only African American student in his class, and felt called to  “interpret my own people through song and story, and to prove to the many that after all we are more human than African.” He became a prolific Black poet, novelist, playwright, journalist and public speaker. One of his period’s most popular and beloved authors, Dunbar was the first Black writer to earn a living exclusively through literature. Among Dunbar’s works, according to the Poetry Foundation, were his dialect poems “Majors and Minors” (publishers: Hadley & Hadley, 1895) and “Lyrics of Lowly Life” (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1896).

Frederick Douglass, the Black American abolitionist and orator, called Dunbar “One of the sweetest songsters his race has produced and a man of whom I hope great things.” However, Dunbar suffered from ill health and died, at age 34, of tuberculosis.

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THE WOBBLIES — Armed with the slogan, “One Big Union for All, “ a coalition of 43 labor groups gathered to create the  INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD, founded on June 27, 1905. The IWW, which came to be known as The Wobblies, were distinct from the American Federation of Labor, which cigar-maker and labor leader Samuel Gompers organized in 1886. The Industrial Workers of the World opposed AFL’s acceptance and embrace of capitalism, and its ban on non-skilled workers joining the craft unions. The IWW and its leader, Bill Hayward of the Western Federation of Miners, were considered revolutionaries with a modus operandi of having the workers control production.

The IWW was the only labor organization to oppose U.S. participation in World War I, and it did so by limiting the production of copper. The U.S. government’s response was to hold its members criminally liable through the newly enacted Sabotage and Espionage Acts.

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A BIRTHDAY FOR THE ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ SONG — Mildred J. Hill, the 19th century schoolteacher who is widely credited with composing the “Happy Birthday” song, was born on June 27, 1859. The song, known then as “Good Morning to All,” (sometimes called “Good Morning to You”), was published in an 1893 anthology titled “Song Stories for the Kindergarten,” with an alternate title of “Song Stories for the Sunday School.” Mildred J. Hill and her sister, Patty Hill, are widely credited with having composed and written the lyrics to “Good Morning to All,” even though some sources dispute this fact. In 1924, the song was amended to include a second stanza, “Happy Birthday to You.”

Although some individuals and publishers, such as Warner/Chappell, still claim to own the copyright to “Happy Birthday To You,” the song has been in the public domain since 1934. To circumvent copyright issues involving “Happy Birthday” being sung in large public areas, some restaurants have their staff come up with different songs when presenting the cake and candles.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAPTAIN KANGAROO — BOB KEESHAN, born on June 27, 1927 in New Jersey, was Captain Kangaroo to generations of children. Keeshan made his acting debut on the “Howdy Doody Show” as the original Clarabell the Clown whose girl’s name hid the fact that the silent character was always played by a man. Keeshan was fired from “Howdy Doody” (Clarabell remained with that show) but found great success being a children’s entertainer as Captain Kangaroo, a role he played for almost 30 years (1955-1984) as a model of patience and wisdom.

Bob Keeshan and Fred Rogers of the PBS children’s program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” enjoyed a longstanding friendship.

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OVERCAME HER DISABILITIES — HELEN KELLER, born June 27, 1880 in Alabama, lost her vision and hearing at only 18 months old when she fell ill with an inexplicable high fever, which some sources attribute to either bacterial meningitis or scarlet fever. Her parents sought the advice of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and, through the Perkins Institution, secured Anne Sullivan as a teacher. Keller was the daughter of a Confederate soldier; Sullivan, a New Englander, and herself blind, became known as “the Miracle Worker,” for her success in teaching 6-year-old rebellious Helen to read, graduate cum laude from Radcliffe College, and then become an author and lecturer.

The play and movie “The Miracle Worker” chronicles the story of Anne Sullivan and her work with Helen Keller. Anne Bancroft won an Academy Award for Best Actress as Anne Sullivan, and Patty Duke, playing Helen, won for Best Supporting Actress, at 16, the youngest at the time to win. Later in a 1979 TV adaptation, Patty Duke played Anne Sullivan and Melissa Gilbert played Helen.

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MORMON LEADER ASSASSINATED — JOSEPH SMITH JR., and his brother, HYRUM SMITH were both shot to death on June 27, 1844 at the hands of an angry mob in Illinois.    Joseph Smith was the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and, in 1844, the presidential candidate of the National Reform Party. Both Smith brothers were hauled before court and charged with riot and treason. However, the rioters were the ones who invaded the Smiths’ prison; and the brothers died while trying to barricade themselves. His murder made him the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to be assassinated.

Hyrum Smith was, at the time, on the Nauvoo City Council and an independent candidate for the Illinois state legislature.

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NEVER VISITED AMERICA — JAMES SMITHSON, who died on June 27, 1829, bequeathed money for an educational institution in a nation that he had never visited – the United States. Born in Paris, France in 1765 but with no record of the exact date (in part because his birth was illegitimate), Smithson nonetheless gained success in England as a scientist and mineralogist, prolifically publishing scientific papers for the Royal Society of London, of which he was made a fellow in 1787. Smithson studied and defined calamine (an ore derived from zinc, which was eventually renamed as “smithsonite”), the chemical composition of human tears and snake venom, among other natural substances. By the time he died in Genoa, on June 27, 1829, he had amassed wealth, which he conditionally bequeathed to the United States, “at Washington under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”

The condition was unusual: Smithson, who never married and had no immediate heirs, willed that if his nephew died without heirs, then the Smithsonian Institution would be the beneficiary. The nephew in question indeed died without any heirs. Smithson became a posthumous immigrant when his remains were removed from Italy to Washington, DC, in 1904.

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ACROSS THE PACIFIC OCEAN — The TRANSPACIFIC YACHT RACE, first sailed in 1906, takes place this year June 27-July 1 from Long Beach, California to Diamond Head lighthouse just east of Honolulu, Hawaii — some 2232 nautical miles apart. The race, held in odd-numbered years (to avoid conflicting with the Bermuda race) is one of the oldest ocean races in the world. It originated when the late Clarence MacFarlane of Honolulu, corresponded with yachtsmen of San Francisco and Los Angeles prior to 1906, succeeded in persuading several mainland yachtsmen to participate in a race to Honolulu. The 1906 earthquake moved the race’s start to Los Angeles.

The  Auckland Anniversary Regatta, founded in 1840 and the America’s Cup, established in 1851, are considered by many to be the oldest ocean yacht races.

See previous milestones, here.


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