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Milestones: Tuesday, July 11, 2023

July 11, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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AFFAIR OF HONOR — Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounded the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, during a gun duel on July 11, 1804. Born and raised as an illegitimate son on the British Leeward Islands, Hamilton was self-educated in law, and was a talented writer, penning pamphlets about the revolutionary cause, but anonymously. Later, as Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, Hamilton founded the nation’s first bank and established the national mint-based metallic system (both gold and silver standards). He had also managed to make bitter enemies of both Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, against whom he campaigned, causing Burr to lose the Federalist nomination. When Hamilton attacked Burr’s character, he was challenged to a duel, or as it was called at the time, an “Affair of Honor.” Hamilton shot into the air, but Burr’s return bullet hit Hamilton in the stomach and he died the next day. Hamilton’s fate was a déjà vu of his own 19-year-old son’s death during a duel, three years earlier at the same spot in Weehawken, New Jersey. The younger Hamilton had been defending his father’s honor.

As affairs of honor rarely turned out fatal, Hamilton’s death outraged the country. Burr was charged with murder. However, as he was still vice president, he returned to Washington and was able to finish his term with immunity from prosecution. He later got involved with a scheme involving the Louisiana Purchase.


THE JULY PLOT — A German army officer brought a bomb to Adolf Hitler’s headquarters on July 11, 1944, in one of more than 40 plots to assassinate Hitler. Count Claus von Stauffenberg, who ranked high in Germany’s security detail through his role of chief of staff to the commander of the army reserve, had grown disgusted by the level of atrocities by the Nazi dictator, as had many with close access to Hitler. On July 11, Stauffenberg on July 9 was summoned to Berchtesgaden to report to Hitler on the current military situation; he had already acquired the bomb the previous week, and the plan was to detonate it on July 15. But Hitler was then called away to East Prussia after Germany’s loss at Normandy. The assassination attempt was postponed.

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Von Stauffenberg had been seriously mutilated prior to this plot and lost an eye, his right hand, and two fingers from his left hand.


AUTHOR CITES HER FATHER’S EXAMPLE — Nelle Harper Lee’s book, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” was published 63 years ago, on July 11, 1960, and became a bestseller almost immediately. Lee wrote the story from 6-year-old Scout’s point of view but the crux of it centers on her father, Atticus, an attorney defending a Black man named Tom Robinson who is unjustly accused of raping a white woman. The story reaches its climax at the trial as Scout sees her father lose the case but still carries himself with dignity. Harper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize the following year for her heartwarming and compelling story, and she cited her own father, a state legislator, as the inspiration for Atticus Finch, a courageous man who insists on living his private and public lives with equal integrity.

Librarians voted “To Kill A Mockingbird” the best novel of the 20th century. At one point, Finch tells his daughter, “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”


SET A PRECEDENT — JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, born on July 11, 1767, was the son of Abigail and Founding Father John Adams — the second U.S. President. Quincy, as he was known, became the sixth president. He and his father each served only one term and were defeated when each ran for re-election. In John Adams’ case, he lost to Thomas Jefferson. John Quincy Adams lost to Andrew Jackson. After his presidency, John Quincy Adams served in Congress for a much longer period — 17 years, representing Plymouth, Massachusetts, until his sudden death from a stroke. He collapsed on the floor of the House of Representatives and died in the Speaker’s Room two days later.

In 2001, George W. Bush continued the precedent that the Adamses had set, when he took the oath of office as President. His father, George H.W. Bush, had been the 41st President from 1989-’93. George Bush, the 43rd President, served two full terms.


THE KING OF SIAM — He may have played a Siamese king on Broadway, but YUL BRYNNER was actually Russian. Born as Yuliy Borisovich Briner on July 11, 1920, in Vladivostok, Russia, he was actually a circus trapeze performer on the trapeze before getting his big break on stage in the title role of King Mongkut in the acclaimed and popular musical “The King and I” (1951). Brynner won a Tony Award for his portrayal and then an Oscar in the 1956 film version. Brynner also appeared in “The Ten Commandments,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Westworld.” During this time, he continued to play the role of King Mongkut for a total of 4,625 performances and was presented with a special Tony Award for that accomplishment in 1985.

Brynner, whose family was stripped of its wealth and eventually left Russia, was also an advocate for people seeking asylum, and he served as a special consultant to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.


ADVOCATING FOR BLACK RIGHTS — W.E.B. Du Bois and 28 African American intellectuals and activists founded the NIAGARA MOVEMENT on July 11, 1905. The name they chose alluded both to the location of their founding and to the “mighty current” of protest they hoped to release. Convening for three days on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the group founded what would grow into a powerful post-slavery Black rights organization that fought racial segregation and advocated for the full incorporation of African Americans into U.S. society. Although the Niagara Movement itself lasted only until 1910, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which had been founded the year before, adopted its goals, which decades later grew into the civil rights movement.

Du Bois and his group had opposing viewpoints from those of his contemporary, Booker T. Washington, who believed that Blacks should remain in the South and, notwithstanding the Jim Crow laws, work alongside whites. At the time, Booker T. Washington, who had founded the land-grant Tuskegee Institute, was considered the foremost voice on Black issues.


FIRST U.S. SPACE STATION — The United-States-launched SKYLAB FELL TO EARTH on July 11, 1979, after just more than six years as the nation’s first space station. Skylab was part of the Apollo Applications Program that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had established in 1965 to adapt spacecraft for a myriad of scientific missions. The 82-ton spacecraft was launched into orbit on May 14, 1973, and accommodated three successive crews of visiting astronauts who completed investigations of the human body’s adaptation to the space environment, studied the sun in unprecedented detail, and undertook pioneering Earth-resources observations. Two additional crews were assigned to Skylab missions, each of which set a new space-endurance record. However, Skylab’s orbit began to deteriorate due to increased solar activity, and it re-entered the atmosphere, disintegrating in the process.

Scientists, who expected the re-entry and breakup to happen, calculated the odds as 1 in 152 a person being hit by some of the falling equipment. However, Skylab fell to earth over the Indian Ocean and Australia, with no known casualties, after having broken up into a shower of pieces.


NOTABLE NEW YORKER EDITOR — E.B. WHITE, whose books became beloved children’s classics and a widely-consulted writing guide, was born on July 11, 1899. An editor at The New Yorker, he was the co-author of “The Elements of Style,” one of the most acclaimed (and used) English-language style and composition guides. White’s first children’s book was “Stuart Little,” centered around a mouse who is born into a human family and gets to drive a car and teach a class on justice. White also authored Charlotte’s Web, about a young girl who saves a pig from slaughter and the friendship the animals form with a spider.

William Strunk, Jr. was the main author of “The Elements of Style.” White added a chapter on writing and composition.

See previous milestones, here.

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