Milestones: Friday, November 3, 2023
PANAMA DECLARES INDEPENDENCE — THE ROAD TO THE OPENING OF THE PANAMA CANAL IN 1903 was paved with violence. On Nov. 3, 1903, Panama declared independence from neighboring Columbia, an act largely bolstered by the United States; and a French-U.S. company that aimed to build what they believed would be a profitable waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Although the U.S. had, earlier in 1903, signed the Hay-Herrán Treaty with Colombia, granting the United States use of the Isthmus of Panama in exchange for financial compensation, the Colombian Senate refused to ratify the agreement as its members feared their country would lose its sovereignty. President Theodore Roosevelt’s response was to secretly back a Panamanian faction to instigate a rebellion, which began on November 3. The U.S. also sabotaged the Colombian military’s response by removing its trains from the railroad in Panama.
The United States recognized the Republic of Panama three days later, on Nov. 6, 1903.
LAUNCHING DOGS INTO SPACE? — AN EXPERIMENT THAT TODAY’S ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS WOULD CONSIDER CRUEL BEGAN ON NOV. 3, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first animal to orbit the earth into space — a part-Siberian husky nicknamed Laika that had been a stray on the Moscow streets before the Soviets enlisted her into its space program and planted her aboard the Sputnik 2 spacecraft. Laika was connected to electrodes so that scientists could evaluate the data on the biological effects of space travel. It might have been a great opportunity for a creature who could possess an understanding of the project. But Laika died from overheating and panic a few hours after the launch.
The Soviets then sent a dozen more canines into space as they prepared for the first manned mission. However, at least five of these dogs also died in flight. Finally, in April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1. He survived and landed safely back in his homeland.
D.C. RESIDENTS VOTE — RESIDENTS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ON NOV. 3, 1964 GOT TO CAST THEIR BALLOTS IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FOR THE FIRST TIME since 1801, when Virginia and Maryland ceded their land for the creation of a federal district. Starting that first year of the 19th century, residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Maryland whose land was now part of Washington, D.C. had lost their electoral vote allocation. The 23rd Amendment’s 1961 passage restored the citizens living within the District of Columbia the right to vote for their president and vice president, but only began to rectify what earlier Americans protested in 1801. The amendment itself was a compromise, as the push for granting the District full representation began in the 1950s as part of the Civil Rights movement. Even so, Washington. D.C. was only granted the minimal amount: 2 senators and one representative: for a total of three electoral votes.
The presidential election of 1964 was the first national election to implement the 23rd Amendment and contributed to the victory of incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater on Nov. 3, 1964.
LANDSLIDE FOR LYNDON JOHNSON — WASHINGTON, D.C. CITIZENS’ NEW-FOUND RIGHT TO VOTE FOR THE PRESIDENT on Nov. 3, 1964, contributed to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s victory over Republican challenger Barry Goldwater. In what was a 1960s version of the progressives’ fight against far-right policies, Johnson, who became president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated almost a year earlier, painted Goldwater as a hawk who was not above using nuclear weapons against the Communists. Moreover, Goldwater opposed civil rights and other programs to help the needy. Johnson campaigned as an experienced and cool-headed statesman who knew how to exercise restraint and cared about Americans’ needs.
Johnson won a landslide 60% of the vote, pushing back Goldwater and his policies almost a decade after Republican Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy was publicly censured on the Senate floor for his hunt-down of Communists within the U.S. Having fulfilled only one year of Kennedy’s unfinished term, Johnson was eligible but chose not to run for re-election in 1968.
ANOTHER KKK ACQUITTAL — THEY WANTED “DEATH TO THE KLAN” but wound up being killed themselves. Five members of the Communist Workers Party, who on Nov. 3, 1979, took part in a “Death to the Klan” rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, were shot to death by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis in what was called the Greensboro massacre. Joining the Communist Workers Party was a cohort of African-American mill workers. A procession of Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrived by caravan with the goal of disrupting the march. According to the videotape, the demonstrators initiated the violence by attacking the Klansmen, who opened fire on the Communists and Black laborers. However, the demonstrators had concealed weapons and they shot back. At least five demonstrators were killed or mortally wounded, others were injured.
During a 1980 trial on the massacre, evidence emerged that the Greensboro Police Department had received an advance alert about the violence, but chose not to act and were conspicuously absent. It turns out that some of their police force belonged to the American Nazi Party and may have actually supplied the weapons. The six Klan and Nazi defendants were acquitted of all charges on self-defense grounds. A federal trial in 1984 also resulted in acquittals.
RISING FROM THE ASHES — ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER OFFICIALLY OPENED IN LOWER MANHATTAN ON NOV. 3, 2014, more than 13 years after the original Twin Towers were destroyed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. As New York City mourned its slain firefighters, clergy and citizenry, leaders decided to rebuild on the site of the destroyed complex with office buildings, parks and a memorial museum. The cornerstone was laid in 2004 but construction did not begin for another two years; it was May 2013 before the spire was installed.
Some viewed the delays in a positive vein, however. Architecture critic Kurt Andersen wrote, “The fact that it’s taken more than a decade to finish, I think —the gradualism — makes that sense of emblematic rebirth more acute and irresistible.”
See previous milestones, here.
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