Milestones: Friday, August 4, 2023
‘WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD’ — Jazz legend LOUIS ARMSTRONG, born on Aug. 4 of either 1900 or 1901, was a trumpet player who appeared in many films. Among his most beloved and classic singles was “What a Wonderful World” The trumpet player was also known as Satchmo. He appeared in many films. Popular singles include “What A Wonderful World,” and Armstrong’s famous duet with Barbra Streisand in “Hello, Dolly” (with Barbra Streisand). Asked to define jazz, Armstrong reportedly replied, “Man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”
Queens College (part of the CUNY system) on July 6, 2023 opened its new Louis Armstrong Center. The home where the jazz icon and his wife Lucille lived in Corona served as the Louis Armstrong House Museum for many years, and is across the street from the new center.
ESTABLISHED JUILLIARD STRING QUARTET — WILLIAM HOWARD SCHUMAN, born Aug. 4, 1910, was an American composer who in 1943 won the newly-established Pulitzer Prize for Composition for his “Secular Cantata No. 2. A Free Song,” which G. Schirmer published and the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed. Schuman’s other compositions include American Festival Overture, New England Triptych, the baseball opera The Mighty Casey [on Casey Stengel, who managed both the Yankees and the Mets] and On Freedom’s Ground, written for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Schuman not only established the Juilliard School’s present-day status as a world-renowned conservatory, but as its president, also established the Juilliard String Quartet, and the Literature and Materials of Music program, a groundbreaking music theory curriculum, according to the school’s website. Schuman was instrumental in creating the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which is home to Juilliard, and served as its first president. Schuman was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for his contributions. He also received a National Medal of Arts in 1985 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 1989.
The Juilliard School was originally called the Institute of Music Art, which was founded in 1905, five years before Schuman’s birth.
BUT DIDN’T STAY NEUTRAL — President Woodrow Wilson on Aug. 4, 1914, officially proclaimed that the United States would remain neutral as World War I erupted in Europe. A vast majority of Americans reportedly supported neutrality and Wilson’s hope in staying neutral as that the U.S. could remain “impartial in thought as well as in action.” However, Germany’s quarantine of the British Isles, which were a key U.S. trade partner, sabotaged Wilson’s mindset, as did the Germans’ sinking or attacking U.S. ships. Even though Germany issued repeated apologies to the still-neutral U.S., the sinkings continued, with a breaking point reached when a German submarine torpedoed the ocean liner Lusitania without warning just off the coast of Ireland, killing 1,201 of the 2,000 passengers, among them 128 Americans. After Germany sank more U.S. merchant ships in March 1917, President Wilson asked Congress to declare war against Germany.
The Senate voted 82-6 on the war declaration; while the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50. Among those voting nay was Republican Jeanette Rankin of Montana, the nation’s first woman member of Congress,
GRUESOME MURDER BECAME A RHYME — A 30-ish spinster named Lizzie Borden was the prime suspect in the murder of her parents, Andrew and Abby Borden who, on Aug. 4 1892 were discovered hacked to death inside their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie resided with her wealthy parents; only she and the maid, Bridget, were home when the bodies were found, and Lizzie was arrested and charged with double-homicide. Her trial attracted a national spotlight. However, Lizzie’s Christian demeanor, and the absence of blood on her hands or clothing, led an all-male jury to conclude she could not possibly have been the killer, and she was acquitted.
At the time, the Falls River police, still distrustful of the fingerprinting technology that was becoming mainstream in forensic science, refused to test for prints on the suspected murder weapon. Had the fingerprints been collected, they could have proven either Lizzie Borden’s innocence or guilt without further doubt, and perhaps could have prevented the tarnishing of her reputation that became a famous nursery rhyme.
GUILTY VERDICT CAME 4 DECADES LATER — Three CIVIL RIGHTS WORKERS WERE FOUND SLAIN in Mississippi, on Aug. 4, 1964. The three young men James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (the latter two being white), were working with the Mississippi Summer Project that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had organized to increase Black voter registration. The three workers disappeared on June 21, after law enforcement picked them up and charged them on false pretexts of speeding. The workers’ car was found burned on June 23, and then-President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered an FBI search for the men. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the escalation of the search. The murders provided the key incentive for Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights bill on July 2. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover also opened a new bureau office in Mississippi.
Edgar Ray Killen, one of the culprits in the kidnapping and murder case was found guilty on the 41st anniversary of the murders and sentenced to 60 years in prison. At the time he was 80 years old and was still a vocal white supremacist, as well as a part-time Baptist preacher. Killen died on January 11, 2018, six days before his 93rd birthday, at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi.
SOUTH AFRICA’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT — NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA, who would later become the first Black democratically-elected president of South Africa, was arrested on Aug. 4, 1962 for his activism as a Black South African lawyer and political reformer, although he had clashed with the white minority government for much of his own life (He was born in 1918). Initially sentenced to five years in prison, Mandela was forced into a new trial a year later, charged with sabotage, high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and handed a life sentence. During his imprisonment, he earned a law degree from the University of London. Meanwhile, others took up Mandela’s mantle, launching a “Free Nelson Mandela” campaign that expanded into an international outcry against apartheid and racism in general. In 1990, a newly-elected and reform-minded president, F. W. de Klerk ended the ban against Mandela’s African National Congress and ordered his release from prison in February 1990.
Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their work with the South African government. Months later, in 1994, Mandela was elected president in South Africa’s first multi-racial election.
FIRST BLACK U.S. PRESIDENT — The first Black President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Hawaii, a year after that Pacific territory became the 50th State. Fast forward to his landmark speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which catapulted Obama onto the national political stage and set the stage for his own successful presidential campaign four years later. One catalyst for Obama’s win was the onset of a major recession in the late summer and fall of 2008, which was blamed on Republican President George W. Bush. His first year in office, Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Obama’s accomplishments included the landmark passage of a stimulus bill that saved the auto industry and helped America rebound from the recession, built the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare,” which has withstood multiple Congressional repeal attempts and Supreme Court challenges.
Other accomplishments included the Seal Team Six captured and killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, secured the Iran Nuclear Deal and witnessed the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court. Obama was re-elected in 2012 to a second term.
REVENUE CUTTER SERVICE — The United States Coast Guard, one of the country’s five armed services, is a unique agency of the federal government dating back to Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress established the Revenue Cutter Service, and authorized a ten-vessel fleet be built to enforce tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. Also known as the Revenue Marine Service, the fleet expanded along with the U.S. in size and responsibilities as the nation grew, and was merged with the Life Saving Service in 1915 to become the U.S. Coast Guard, now part of the Department of Homeland Security. The U.S. Coast Guard is simultaneously both a military force and a federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security and stewardship missions.
The Coast Guard also has a creative outreach tradition named the Coast Guard Art Program (COGAP), which “uses fine art as an outreach tool for educating diverse audiences,” through displays at museums, libraries, Congressional offices, and at Coast Guard locations around the US. Coast Guard artists, many of whom are well-known professionally, also gather at the Salmagundi Club in Manhattan each summer for a COGAP exhibit and awards ceremony.
See previous milestones, here.
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