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Milestones: Thursday, November 16, 2023

November 16, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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CORPS OF DISCOVERY — THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION REACHED THE PACIFIC OCEAN ON NOV. 16, 1805, after having embarked on this voyage almost exactly 18 months and two days earlier, May 14, 1805. Also called the Corps of Discovery Expedition, it had the goal of surveying the newly acquired lands from the Louisiana Purchase. One of President Thomas Jefferson’s goals was to find the Northwest Passage — the most direct water source across the continent — to use for commerce. The Corps of Discovery was a select group of U.S. Army and civilian volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend, Second Lieutenant William Clark.

Of course, another goal was to establish U.S. sovereignty over the lands and, in the process, a policy of diplomacy with the Native American tribes inhabiting – and who belonged to the land. 

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TRAIL OF TEARS — OKLAHOMA OFFICIALLY BECAME THE 46TH STATE ON NOV. 16, 1907, with a welcome by President Theodore Roosevelt. The new state consisted of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory, which were admitted collectively. The word Oklahoma is originally a Choctaw tribe term of the words okla, meaning “people,” and humma, meaning “red,” and this group was said to have occupied the land for 15,000 years. However, with the U.S. acquisition of the land through the Louisiana Purchase and the push westward that dislocated several indigenous tribes, Congress claimed part of the land and ceded other sections, which became known as “Indian Territory.” The compulsive push across Mississippi and the Cherokee people’s being forced to abandon their homes is referred to as the Trail of Tears.

Oklahoma is called the “Sooner State” because of a bunch of people who jumped the pistol shot, opening the land for settlers.

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A BLUES SESQUICENTENNIAL — WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER HANDY, born Nov. 16, 1873, in Alabama, laid the foundation for the blues style of music. The son and grandson of Methodist ministers, William Handy drew on the melodies he had learned in church and adapted them to a new style. He got to play (cornet) in the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. His musical troupe, touring the American South, picked up on the melodies, harmonics and rhythms of Black folk music. Handy’s song, “Memphis Blues,” from 1909, set the 12-bar, major-key structure that became American blues. He also wrote “Beale Street Blues” and “Saint Louis Blues.”

William Handy also published sheet music, which became a means of notating the blues musical structure.

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CONQUISTADOR OF THE INCAS — THE ADVENTURES OF FRANCISCO PIZARRO, THE SPANISH EXPLORER AND CONQUISTADOR, ARE SCHOOL TEXTBOOK MATERIAL. Exploiting an internal rift within the Incan peoples, Pizarro, on Nov. 16, 1532, set a trap on their emperor, Atahualpa, which helped offset the fact that the Spaniards were low on numbers. Pizarro planned a feast in Atahualpa’s honor and then captured the emperor, and forced him to convert to Christianity. Pizarro also massacred the Incans, who were already in a civil war, after one of the former rulers’ sons deposed his half-brother. Arriving on the scene with the blessing of Spain’s King Charles V, Pizarro began recruiting soldiers who were loyal to the deposed Huascar. 

Pizarro also played Atahualpa, using him as a pawn in his quest for power and disposing of the former emperor after he had acquired the gold. 

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SUCCESSFUL ‘ADAPTATION’ — THE ORIGINAL MUSICAL “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” opened on Broadway Nov. 16, 1959. The play was based on the real-life Maria von Trapp’s 1949 memoir, “The Story of the Trapp Family,” but the Broadway musical’s creators took liberties with the story that actually proved successful on stage and later on screen. The Broadway production starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain von Trapp. When the producers discovered that Bikel was a talented folksinger, they wrote “Edelweiss” for him. 

The musical was a success, even though the liberties its producers took irked the real von Trapp family. For example, in real life, Maria von Trapp was the tougher, disciplinarian parent. 

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RESPITE FOR A MUGGLE WORLD — HARRY POTTER, THE PRODUCT OF AUTHOR J.K. ROWLING’S FANTASY STORY OF A MAGICAL UNIVERSE, DEBUTED ON SCREENS Nov. 16, 2001. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released in the States just two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, offering a reprieve to a grief-filled nation. Daniel Radcliffe starred in the title role, and such luminaries as Maggie Smith, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman played the professors at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

The movie was based on the 1997 eponymous book; both were resounded successes that magically transformed Rowling from a struggling single mom into a billionaire. She went on to write six more voluminous Harry Potter novels, of which content was adapted into movies, establishing an entire Harry Potter enterprise.

See previous milestones, here.


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