Wednesday, June 17, 2015

May 7: Indiana Territory

On this date in History ... May 7, 1800:

A bill is passed to divide the Northwest Territory and the Indiana Territory is created. The capital was Vincennes, the oldest settlement in Indiana territory, and William Henry Harrison, who would become the 9th President of the United States, was made governor of the Territory less than a week later.  

After Ohio, Michigan and Illinois were formed (in 1803, 1805, and 1809), various areas in Indiana, particularly those near the Michigan line and in Wayne County, by the Ohio line, wrote to the government protested the distance of Vincennes from the rest of the people which made it difficult to conduct business with travel times so far.  In 1813, the capital was moved to Corydon.  After a few years, complaints about the distance again surfaced. It was decided in 1820 to move the capital to a more central location and in 1821, the city of Indianapolis was founded just for this purpose.

May 6: Chinese Exclusion Act

On this date in History ... May 6, 1882: 

President Arthur signed and approved the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first significant law restricting immigration, that one senator called “the legalization of racial discrimination.” For the first time, Federal law denied entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it “endangered the good order of certain localities.” It was an absolute ten-year freeze or moratorium for labor immigration from China.  

While only intended to last ten years, the law was intended to last only 10 years, but wasn’t repealed until 1943. The first major Chinese immigration was during the California gold rush that started in 1848. The Chinese population was “tolerated” as long as the gold was plentiful, but when the gold started running low, animosity toward “the foreigners” rose. The Chinese immigrants moved to larger cities, such as San Francisco, and took low paying jobs such as laundry and restaurant work where they were soon blamed for depressed wage levels.  

Chinese who were already in America when this bill passed now had additional requirements.  If they left the country, they had to get new certification to get back in the country, something that was very difficult under the 1882 Act.  

By 1943, the anti-Chinese feeling in America was much subdued and Congress repealed all exclusion Acts, allowing 105 Chinese born immigrants per year and gave foreign-born Chinese who were in America the right to apply for naturalization.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

May 5: Alan Shepard

On this date in History .... May 5, 1961:  

Alan Shepard becomes the 1st American & the 2nd person in space on a short, 15 minute flight as part of the Mercury Seven astronauts, the first American space program.

In 1971, he became commander of Apollo 14 & the 5th person to walk on the moon. “When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he replied, ‘The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.’”    

Ten years later, at the age of 47 and the oldest astronaut at the time, Shepard became the commander of Apollo 14, becoming “the fifth and oldest person to walk on the moon.”  He was the only member of the original Mercury Seven to walk on the moon. While he was on the moon, he hit two golf balls. 

Shepard died of leukemia in 1998 and his wife of 53 yrs died 5 weeks later.

May 4: Ida B. Wells

On this date in History .... May 4, 1884:

Ida B. Wells, a schoolteacher, was sitting in a woman’s railroad car, reading, when the conductor ordered her to move to the “Jim Crow” car. She refused, saying that was a smoking car and she was in the ladies car.  When the conductor grabbed her, she “sunk her teeth” into his arm.  

The 1875 Civil Rights Act had banned discrimination based on race on transportation but in 1883, the Supreme Court declared this act unconstitutional.  The ruling said Congress did not have the power to void discrimination acts by individuals as it did on state action or laws  Private acts of racial discrimination were simply private wrongs that the national government was powerless to correct”.

When she sued the railroad for her treatment, her attorney was paid off by the railroad, so she hired a white attorney and won a $500 settlement.  The judge says she was indeed a lady.  She was a schoolteacher and was “dressed accordingly.”  Her victory was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court.  Ms. Wells went on to be a civil rights activist by being a journalist. 

As a journalist, she became aware that the new black middle class was at risk when three of her friends were lynched.  Before this, she had thought such lynchings, while deplorable, were targeted at those in the lower class who may have been involved in activities that merited a kind of punishment.  Her eyes were then opened to see that lynchings were a way to “get rid of negroes who acquired wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized…..”

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