Image Source: Wikipedia
Lou Gehrig was born on June 19, 1903 in Yorkville, New York City, New York. He was the second oldest of four children from his German immigrant parents. Henrich, his father, was a sheet metal worker and Christina, his mother, was a maid. His mother’s earnings were the primary income for the family because his father was in and out of work due to his abuse of alcohol. At a young age, Gehrig helped support his family after his two sisters died from whooping cough and the measles and his brother died in infancy.
At the age of seventeen, Gehrig received recognition for his talents playing baseball while attending Commerce High School. Playing against Chicago’s Lane Tech High School at Cubs Park (now Wrigley Field), he hit a grand slam out of the park in front of 10,000 visitors on June 26, 1920. Commerce won the game that night with a score of 12 to 6. Gehrig graduated from high school in 1921 and enrolled in Columbia University on a football scholarship. In college, he majored in engineering and played both football and baseball. Briefly, he played on a summer professional baseball team under the false name, Henry Lewis. After a dozen games with the Hartford Senators, his identity was discovered and he was banned from playing on any college sports team during his freshman year. In his sophomore year at Columbia, he went back to sports, playing as a fullback for the football team and as first baseman and pitcher for the baseball team. Although Gehrig completed two years at Columbia, he never graduated from the university.
Yankee scout Paul Krichell had followed Gehrig’s amateur career for a while, impressed by his skills and techniques, including his powerful left-handed hitting. In June of 1923, Gehrig had signed a Yankee contract. He was introduced on the team as a pinch hitter mid-way through the season and played in 23 games, but not in the World Series of that year. Four years later, Gehrig would be renowned for the greatest season ever played by a batter with an average of .373 at bat and 218 hits, including 52 doubles, “18 triples, 47 home runs, a then-record 175 runs batted in (surpassing teammate Babe Ruth’s 171 six years earlier), and a .765 slugging percentage” (Wikipedia, 2013).
Although Gehrig was often overshadowed by his iconic teammate, Babe Ruth, he is remembered for setting many major league records during his baseball career, some of which were only broken or tied within recent years. He had hit the most career grand slams (23) until this record was tied by Alex Rodriguez in 2012 and he played the most consecutive games (2,130) until this record was beat by Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1995.
In 1934, Gehrig was struck with his first lumbago attack. Although he finished the game that day, he needed a pinch runner to take his place. The media speculated that this might have been an early sign of what was to come later. In 1937, Gehrig’s stats stood at .351 batted and .643 slugged. However, by 1938, Gehrig’s stats started to decline with his health, with an average of “.295 at bat, 114 RBIs, 170 hits, .523 slugging percentage, 689 plate appearances with only 75 strikeouts, and 29 home runs” (Wikipedia, 2013). Although his stats were still above average, they were not representative of an all-star player.
A year later, while the Yankees were playing in Chicago, Gehrig flew to Rochester where he was diagnosed with having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AML); a new disease at the time that became otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and, of which, there is still no known cure. In June 1939, Gehrig turned 36 and he was suffering with progressive paralysis and speaking and swallowing difficulties and facing a life expectancy of no more than three years. A month after his diagnosis, he retired from Major League Baseball and his uniform number 4 was retired by the New York Yankees. On June 2, 1941, seventeen days before his 39th birthday, Lou Gehrig died in his home in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx, New York.
Source: Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain, via Public Domain Pictures
The United States celebrates Father’s Day every third Sunday of June to show our dads how truly special they are to us. Moms aren’t the only parent making daily sacrifices for their children; dads make just as many. Father’s Day began in the early twentieth century as a complementary holiday to Mother’s Day. After learning about Anna Jarvis’ successful campaign for Mother’s Day at a morning sermon, Sonora Smart Dodd eagerly sought out the Spokane Ministerial Alliance for a day to honor fathers. Dodd was born in Sebastian County, Arkansas on February 18, 1882, but her family moved and settled in Spokane, Washington in 1887. After her mother died while giving birth to her youngest brother, Marshall, Dodd and her five siblings were raised by her father, William Jackson Smart, a farmer and veteran of the Civil War. Dodd was the oldest and only daughter of the Smarts, and at age 16, she helped her father raise her younger brothers after her mother’s untimely passing.
On June 19, 1910, in Spokane, one of the first unofficial events of Father’s Day took place at the YMCA with Dodd and many other local celebrators. Originally, Dodd requested that the holiday occur on June 5th, the day of her father’s birthday, but her pastor had not prepared a sermon in time for that date so the event was pushed to the third Sunday of June. Three years after its successful debut in Spokane, a bill regarding the occasion was introduced in Congress, but it didn’t receive the same attention as Mother’s Day. In fact, Father’s Day went without much mention until a few renowned parties of interest attempted to inaugurate it as an official holiday. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson visited Spokane to give a speech at a Father’s Day celebration. On his return to D.C., he requested to Congress that the event be commemorated officially. Unfortunately, Congress didn’t approve his request; they feared that the outcome might only lead to a commercialization similar to Mother’s Day. Another early attempt occurred in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge, who discussed changing the unofficial status of the holiday with Congress, but he never followed through with issuing a national proclamation to make the change happen.
In spite of the initial success of Father’s Day in Spokane and among various cities in the US, by the 1920s, the holiday was virtually forgotten. What’s more, Dodd had become very involved in her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago so she, too, stopped promoting it. However, when she returned to Spokane in the 1930s, she resumed her efforts. With intentions to make Father’s Day a national celebration, she sought the help of commercial trade groups that specialized in men’s products, including the Father’s Day Council, an organization founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers. Unfortunately, the commercial promotion only discouraged the public from taking the holiday seriously. For several decades, the media mocked it at any given opportunity, but the Council persisted in spite of the negative publicity. In fact, they used it to their advantage by playing on the jokes in their advertisements for Father’s Day.
Still, the struggle to formalize Father’s Day continued into the latter half of the twentieth century. In addition to Wilson and Coolidge, many political players supported it and partook in its inception. In 1957, Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine argued that Congress had overlooked the sacrifices fathers contribute to parenting for 40 years. Nearly 10 years later in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a national proclamation in honor of fathers and fatherhood, designating the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed it into law. Dodd’s hard work had paid off; she would live to celebrate Father’s Day alongside the nation. Four years prior to her passing in 1978, she was honored at the Expo ‘74 World’s Fair in Spokane.
Image Source: Library of Congress
Memorial Day is observed annually on the last Monday of May in memory of the American soldiers, who gave their lives in the protection and service of the United States. Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day following the years of the Civil War and was observed in memory of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. On May 5, 1868, Major General John Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of veteran Union soldiers, proclaimed Decoration Day to be observed on May 30th in his General Order No. 1. What’s more, historians suggest that Maj. Gen. Logan chose the month of May as it is a signification of spring; a timely season for the arrival of new flowers throughout the country which could be used to decorate the gravestones of the war dead. Subsequently, the first official observance of Decoration Day occurred May 30, 1868 at ArlingtonNationalCemetery in WashingtonD.C.
During and after the Civil War, women in the North and South had decorated the gravestones of fallen soldiers with flowers, wreaths, and other decorative ornaments. Many cities in the United States have since claimed to be the founding place of which Memorial Day first took place, but multiple concurrent events actually occurred in relation to the war. Because people have decorated the gravestones of their deceased family and friends to honor their memory since ancient times, Memorial Day was designated in a similar respect. Although the question of a physical founding site is debatable, on May 5, 1966, Congress and Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York as the official “birthplace” for Memorial Day. Historic accounts in Waterloo indicate that one hundred years prior to this designation, a memorial event was held to honor the veterans of the Civil War.
In 1913, Union and Confederate veterans gathered for a four-day reunion at the site of the Battle at Gettysburg. The reunion occurred on the 50th anniversary of the bloodiest and most infamous battle of the Civil War. Remembrance was addressed with parades, reenactments, and speeches, one of which was delivered by President Woodrow Wilson. After the First World War, Decoration Day was observed in a manner of broader expression in order to include every American soldier who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Throughout the 20th century, Decoration Day began to be commonly referred to as Memorial Day, but the former is still used in some regions of the U.S.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act (UMHA) to change the original date of Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of every May in order to allow for a more convenient three-day holiday weekend. Consequently, some veteran organizations, including The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), have publicly opposed the date-change, arguing that the change promotes commercialization of the holiday rather than the value of its origins. In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and moved to the last Monday of May.
With the arrival of the new spring season of every year in May, we celebrate our mothers for every contribution and sacrifice they make for us. Similar to this time of year, our mothers take away the cold, dark, and dreariness of a long wintertime and bring us into the bright, beautiful colors of spring. The Tulip Festival in Albany, New York, is one event in particular that reflects this special time of year.
Image Source: Jenny Diaz
The first Mother’s Day, as a national holiday, began from the efforts of the mother-daughter duo, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis and Anna Jarvis. Ann Marie was a social activist in West Virginia before, during, and after the time of the Civil War. She recognized the hardships on her community as a result of the war and responded by organizing clubs to assist in their needs. As early as 1858, she organized clubs for women called, Mothers’ Day Work Clubs. These clubs put able-bodied women to work and assisted in improving the living conditions of afflicted families. Among other things, Ann Marie and her club members raised money to buy medicine and bring in hired-help to children with ill-stricken mothers. Dr. James Edmund Reeves, the brother of Ann Marie, supported his sister’s cause by providing medicine and medical training to the women in her clubs. During the war, many were conflicted by supporting the efforts of the Union or the Confederacy, but Ann Marie disregarded such divisions, welcoming her aid to suffering soldiers on both sides of the fence.
Until the day she died, Ann Marie continued working toward a day that would observe mothers for all the sacrifices they make for their families and the community at large. When Ann Marie passed away in 1905, her daughter Anna distributed 500 white carnation flowers to every woman in the congregation of her mother’s church, St. Andrews. The following year, she held a memorial in honor of her mother’s contributions to the community. Inspired by her mother’s tireless efforts, Anna campaigned tirelessly in order to attain a national holiday for mothers in America. In 1914, Anna and her mother’s efforts would finally be recognized by President Woodrow Wilson, who signed an official measure establishing Mother’s Day as an annual holiday to be observed on every second Sunday in the month of May. As a result, Mother’s Day was a success across the country.
Although Anna envisioned Mother’s Day to be a quaint familial holiday, celebrated with small gatherings and carnations worn symbolically as a badge, the success of the day turned out to be a little different than was expected. Florists, greeting card companies, and other commercial organizations took the holiday and capitalized on the idea. Anna protested against its growing commercialization, arguing in regard to its impersonal nature, but Mother’s Day would remain to be celebrated commercialized or not. In the end, perhaps, it’s not how we celebrate Mother’s Day, but what and who we’re celebrating it for, our mothers, the most priceless women in the world.
Want to learn more about the origins of Mother’s Day? Visit the New York State Library and browse the catalog for these titles:
-Joint Resolution Designating September 27, 1987, as “Gold Star Mothers Day.”
United States. 1987.
-Mother’s day: its history, origin, celebration, spirit, and significance as related in prose and verse
Rice, Susan Tracy. 1936.
-Mother’s day and father’s day book; containing recitations, songs, exercises, toasts, plans for banquets, and a play
Moffett, Paul. 1935.
Image Source: Bobbie Peachey
Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated annually on April 22. Earth Day is a national holiday on which people engage in activities and events in observance of environmental causes. Over forty years ago, the first Earth Day was celebrated in hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities across the nation after United States Senator Gaylord Nelson called for an environmental teach-in. The teach-in was a peaceful demonstration suggesting the need for environmental reform.
Earth Day would eventually lead to a host of reformative acts necessary to protect the environment, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Endangered Species Act, etc. Prior to regulatory environmental protection, factories pumped out toxic black gas clouds into the sky and dumped tons of toxic waste into our nation’s waters. What’s more, the loss of plant and animal species was occurring at a dangerously rapid pace. Since the 1970s, the United States has passed dozens of environmental laws to support safer industrial practices, strengthen ecological protection, and maintain an all-around healthier Earth. In fact, in December of 1970, President Richard Nixon formed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to the need of cleaner air, water, and land. Today, the EPA works to ensure the safety of human and environmental health in every pocket of the United States.
Every effort counts! Join in the Earth Day festivities by implementing conservational practices into your daily routine at home, work or out-and-about. New York State recommends these Earth Day Tips (Learn more about NYS Earth Day Tips, here):
don’t wash dishes with the water running
use reusable dishes for meals
wash and dry only full loads of laundry
turn off the water while brushing your teeth
switch off unnecessary lights
compost leaves and grass clippings
recycle motor oil, antifreeze and car batteries
send electronic copies whenever possible
change air and oil filters regularly for your car
bring your own tote or reusable bag to the grocery store
(like your local library) share books, cassettes, magazine, and videotapes with friends, hospitals, and prisons
Get active! Visit the New York State Library for all your research needs on environmental protection acts, conservation, and greener practices. Browse the catalog to find these titles:
- Hot, flat, and crowded : why we need a green revolution– and how it can renew America 1st ed.
Friedman, Thomas L. 2008
- The Endangered Species Act : how litigation is costing jobs and impeding true recovery efforts : oversight hearing before the Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, first session, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Natural Resources author.
- The great experiment in conservation : voices from the Adirondack Park 1st ed.
Porter, William F. 2009
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Washington Irving was born on April 3, 1783 in New York, New York. Irving was born the youngest boy of eleven children, four of whom had died long before he was born. His parents were Scottish-English immigrants, who settled in Manhattan near the end of the American Revolutionary War. In honor of the American hero and first president, Washington Irving was named after George Washington and met him when he was six years old. His older brothers followed in the trade of their father as a part of the small community of merchants in the city, but not Irving. He showed a genuine interest and talent for writing and his brothers were very supportive of this passion, providing financial support at times.
When Irving was a young man, an outbreak of yellow fever spread rampantly throughout Manhattan. In fear of losing their youngest son to the disease, his parents sent him upstate to live with a friend in Tarrytown. Irving’s new home enraptured him; he spent much of his time frequenting the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow, learning about the Dutch culture which resided there since the first settlers and wandering about the Catskill Mountains. Many years later, this little Dutch town would become the setting for one of his most popular short stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Later, when Irving established himself as a respected writer in both the U.S. and Europe, he began producing many of his most popular literary works. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent was published as a two volume book in seven installments over a period of two years (1819-1820). Rip Van Winkle was released in the first installment of these short-stories, resulting in instant popularity. Popular, indeed, but many of his works fell victim to theft. As his initial publications were released in the U.S., people began reprinting them in British newspapers without his permission or knowing. At the time, however, the ownership of one’s intellectual property was nonexistent in international copyright law. Without legal ground to lean on, Irving resolved to have his literature published at the same time in America and Britain to prevent further piracy.
He traveled abroad for seventeen years, living in Paris, Madrid and London for a time, acquainting himself in social circles and actively investing himself in the political scene. Irving was not only known as a popular writer of his time, but as a player and contributor in politics, receiving a medal from the Royal Society of Literature and an honorary doctorate of civil law from Oxford during his service as the Secretary to the American Legation in London. Later, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain. He returned to Tarrytown late in his life, where he would write and live out his final years.
The success of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, paved the way for many more great literary works he would produce throughout his lifetime, in both fiction and non-fiction, including Bracebridge Hall, Tales of a Traveller, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus and so on. While some of his biographical works were intended to be categorized under “non-fiction,” they were classified under a new genre of all their own, called Romantic History/Biography because Irving incorporated fiction along side the history as well. Many of his literary works can be found under pseudonyms he used since his earliest publications, including Jonathan Oldstyle, Diedrich Knickerbocker, and Geoffrey Crayon.
To learn more about Washington Irving visit the New York State Library and browse the catalog for a detailed listing on this collection.
-Rip Van Winkle & The legend of Sleepy Hollow
Irving, Washington. 1974.
-Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle
Locker, Thomas. 2008.
-On the road with Washington Irving : chiefly in 1832
Bowden, Mary Weatherspoon. 2009.
-A history of New York, from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty : containing among many surprising and curious matters, the unutterable ponderings of Walter the Doubter, the disastrous projects of William the Testy, and the chivalric achievements of Peter the Headstrong, the three Dutch governors of New Amsterdam : being the only authentic history of the times that ever hath been or ever will be published
In Manuscripts & Special Collections.
Image source: Andreas F. Borchert
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated internationally on March 17th each year. Saint Patrick was arguably born in Banna Venta Berniae in England in the 4th century A.D. Later he became a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the “Apostle of Ireland,” he is the primary patron saint of the emerald island. Saint Patrick’s father was a deacon from a Roman family and his mother was related to the great patron St. Martin of Tours. Though his parents came from religious backgrounds, they did not emphasize religion in their home nor pay much attention to his education. Later in life, Saint Patrick admits to his embarrassment by his lack of education.
At age sixteen, Saint Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to Ireland. During his six year enslavement, he became a devout Christian through constant prayer. He believed his enslavement was a test of his faith by God. Saint Patrick’s master was a high priest in the Pagan religion of Druidism, the wide-spread religion of Ireland at the time. However, Saint Patrick was determined to put an end to Druidism on the island after having a vision of the children of Ireland reaching out to him for his help. His mission was set; someday he would find a way to convert the Irish to Christianity.
After six years of captivity, he escaped from Ireland by ship and landed in France. Wandering lost for twenty-eight days; he traveled a span of two hundred miles until he finally found his way back to his family in England. Saint Patrick returned to France to study and enter into priesthood. After many years with the seminary, he never lost sight of his mission to bring Ireland under the Christian faith. Soon, he was ordained Saint Patrick Bishop of the Irish by Pope Saint Celestine I and returned to Ireland to fulfill his mission.
In the beginning, the Irish people resisted his teachings, but Saint Patrick’s relentless determination slowly convinced them that their religion kept them enslaved under false Pagan beliefs. Through his teachings, writings, and outreach, many of the former Druids became baptized and converted to Christianity. And, to ensure that their new faith would remain in place over time, Saint Patrick ordained Church officials and councils to govern the newfound Christian communities.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
To learn more about Saint Patrick, here’s a short list of titles provided by New York State Library:
-Saint Patrick, his origins and career
Hanson, R. P. C. (Richard Patrick Crosland), 1968.
-St. Patrick and Irish Christianity
Corfe, Thomas Howell. 1973.
-The steadfast man; a biography of St. Patrick
Gallico, Paul. 1956.
For more titles on this subject browse the New York State Library’s catalog or visit the State Library today!
The United States celebrates Women’s History Month in March annually. In 1978, schools in the district of Sonoma, California started participating in a Women’s History Week by influence of the International Women’s Day on March 8th. In 1981, the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaimed a Women’s History Week. As the holiday was becoming more popular throughout the country, more schools and universities began participating in the weekly event. By 1987, Congress expanded Women’s History Week to a month. In recent years, President Barack Obama has emphasized this special time of year, by releasing annual reports on popular women in history and the many accomplishments women have contributed to American history. The Friends of the New York State Library show their appreciation for Women’s History Month with a spotlight biography on a native New Yorker who made her mark in American history by selfless acts, progressive thinking, and relentless ambition to make changes in our nation.
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnston, New York in 1815 and occupied many jobs during her lifetime: writer, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and suffragist. Stanton grew up among her eleven siblings, but experienced the great loss of six of her brothers and sisters during her youth. Her father, Daniel Cady, was a New York Supreme Justice and her first influence in politics. Her mother, Margaret Cady, was described as being very void of much affection toward Stanton and her surviving siblings because she fell into a depression after the loss of her other children. With her father preoccupied with legal cases and her mother deep in depression, Stanton was raised by her eleven-year-older sister, Tryphena and her husband.
Before slavery was outlawed in New York State in 1827, Stanton’s family owned a male slave named Teabout. The memoir, Eighty Years & Me, which she wrote later in life, alludes to Teabout living with her family during her youth and providing tender care for her and her siblings, but not the fact that they owned him as a slave.
Stanton received a formal education at the Johnson Academy, where she surpassed many of her male peers, particularly in Greek. After graduation, Stanton enrolled in the Troy Female Seminary, now named the Emma Willard School in honor of its founder, but many of her male schoolmates attended Union College, a college for men only at the time in Schenectady.
Shortly following her time in Troy, she married temperance activist and abolitionist, Henry Brewster Stanton; he was a friend of her cousin, Gerrit Smith. On their honeymoon in 1840, Stanton met Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, feminist, and abolitionist, at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. Mott invoked her passion for politics. In 1848, Stanton, Mott, and a group of women’s rights activists organized the fist women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. Stanton wrote the Declaration of Sentiments for the convention, following the line of reason within the U.S. Declaration of Independence, but rather than citing that “all men are created equal,” she adjusted it to read that all men and women are created equal.
The movement was on its way, gaining popularity and many followers. In 1851, Stanton met Susan B. Anthony and initially joined her in the movement of temperance, but later Stanton refocused their political direction toward women’s rights and suffrage. Together, the women struggled for the voice of women to be given the right to vote. When the fifteenth amendment was passing through Congress, Stanton and Anthony organized the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. They worked relentlessly, urging Congress to recognize women’s rights in a broad range of social, economic, and political issues aside from suffrage. In spite of their efforts, the fifteenth amendment passed in 1870 without the inclusion of women’s rights.
Women finally gained their constitutional right to vote fifty years later, long after Stanton and Anthony would have ever had the chance to be a part of this monumental change in America. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson presented the suffrage bill to Congress multiple times, but each occasion failed to ratify the amendment. Finally, on May 21st the nineteenth amendment passed with a landslide of favorable votes: 304 – 89.
To learn more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women’s history, check out these titles from the NYS Library:
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton : women’s suffrage and the first vote
Adiletta, Dawn C. 2005.
-The political thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton : women’s rights and the American political traditions
Davis, Sue. 2008.
-Elizabeth Cady Stanton : an American life
Ginzberg, Lori D. 2009.
For more titles, browse the New York State Library catalog.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Saint Valentine or Valentinus is commonly known as a famed romantic, but not so commonly known as a religious martyr. What’s more, fragmented historical accounts indicate that Saint Valentine might not have been one, but two men, whose separate legends amalgamated overtime.
One account of Saint Valentine occurred during the 3rd century A.D. This Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome, who was persecuted for marrying Christian couples by the emperor Claudius II. During this time, the church was experiencing great persecution by the reigning Roman Empire. Saint Valentine’s mission was to help Christian couples receive the proper sacraments for marriage which was outlawed at the time. According to legend, Claudius II had taken a liking to Saint Valentine and tried to save his life by converting him to Roman paganism. Ironically, Saint Valentine tried to convert the emperor to Christianity instead. Outraged by his actions, the emperor had Saint Valentine brutally executed by beatings, stoning, and finally, beheading. In addition, legend suggests that while Saint Valentine was imprisoned, he fell in love with the blind daughter of his prison guard. It is said that he wrote her a love letter enclosed: from your Valentine. And, right before his inevitable fate, legend has it that Saint Valentine performed the miracle of curing the girl of her blindness. Once the girl could see, her father and their large family converted to Christianity.
Another account of Saint Valentine appears out of early martyrologies, a catalog of the names and histories of those who were executed for refusing to renounce Christianity. This Saint Valentine was a bishop who lived in Interamna (present-day Terni, Italy) during the 3rd century A.D. Similar to the first account of Saint Valentine, legend signifies that during a visit to Rome, he was imprisoned, tortured, and executed. It is said that after his execution, his body was hastily buried at a nearby cemetery, but his disciples went to his burial ground to unearth him and return him to Interamna.
The history of Saint Valentine is murky because there isn’t enough reliable information known about him other than his name. According to the Roman Martyrology, a martyr with the name Saint Valentine died on February 14th at the Via Flaminia in the north of Rome. Although there are at least two accounts connected to Saint Valentine being more than one man, the similarities of their legends suggest to historians that Saint Valentine, the priest and Saint Valentine, the bishop might have actually been the same man. While there is scarce information to know this for certain, we can’t say. However, we do know that Saint Valentine, the man or men, inadvertently started an annual tradition in many cultures around the world, to celebrate the love one has for another through sweet gestures of chocolates, flowers, love letters, and romance. In honor of Saint Valentine, we celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
African-American History Month (also known as Black History Month) is celebrated every February in the United States to commemorate important people and events in African-American history. African-American History Month began in 1926 as “Negro History Week” by the influence of historian Carter G. Woodson, who has been referred to as the father of black history. Negro History Week had a very successful impact on the black community by spawning the creation of black history clubs and gaining the increased interest of grade-school teachers and white progressives. Eventually, Negro History Week expanded to a month-long event after gaining national recognition from the federal government in 1976. Since 1970, Black History Month has been celebrated at KentStateUniversity. African-American History Month is an integral part of American History as it reminds every American citizen about the battles the black community fought through to win their equality, liberty, and civil rights as American citizens. In honor of African-American History Month, the United States observes the courageous spirits of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., President Barack Obama, and many, many more!
Harriet Tubman – Harriet Tubman was born into slavery around 1820, but the exact date is arguable as many slave birthdates and places were not often recorded. Tubman experienced abuse from her slave owners while growing up in Dorchester County, Maryland. They owned Tubman’s entire family and sold many of her siblings to buyer at any chance. During her adolescence, she suffered a head injury by accidentally getting between a run-away slave and his irate owner; he threw a two-pound weight at the run-away, but missed and hit Tubman instead. The blow left her unconscious for two days, but she didn’t receive medical attention because her owner didn’t want to spend money for the treatment. As a result, she reportedly suffered from black-out episodes the rest of her life. When Tubman got older, her owner tried to sell her, but never found a buyer. Shortly after, he died and Tubman knew that her family was likely to be separated and sold to new owners. Eventually, Tubman ran away to Philadelphia, but returned to Maryland on thirteen occasions to free her family and relatives from the clutches of slavery. Tubman traveled at night and hid during the day by the means of an Underground Railroad, a number of safe-houses, networked together in support of her mission. She traveled as far north as Canada to free escaped slaves after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 had passed, requiring Union States to help in the effort of recapturing fugitive slaves.
Fredrick Douglass – Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, around the year 1818, but the exact date is unknown which Douglass writes about in his memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Born to a slave, Douglass was separated from his mother at a young age and his father was believed to be a white man; one of his owners. When Douglass was moved to Baltimore, his mistress taught him how to read. Eventually, however, Douglass would have to continue lessons on his own, including how to read and write. His newfound education encouraged and tormented him at the same time as he came to learn the meaning of the word “abolition.” Douglass experienced the brutalities of slavery, being moved from one owner to the next, starved, and beaten. Soon, he escaped to the North, but because he was a run-away slave, he could be recaptured and sent back to his owner. As a result, he left the country to live freely in Ireland and England. After two years, he would gain the support of European abolitionists, who helped him raise enough money to buy his freedom in the U.S. Although, his European supporters asked him to stay in England to escape the racism in the United States, Douglass returned to the U.S. to help his thousands of brethren, bound by the heavy chains of slavery. Later, Douglass became an active abolitionist, giving orations and writing several autobiographies about antislavery and the abolitionist movement.
Billie Holiday – Billie Holiday was born in 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Baltimore. With an absent father and a working mother, she was raised by a relative. Holiday experienced hard times during her youth with run-ins with the law, rape, and prostitution, which eventually led to her dropping out of school. Holiday moved to Harlem, where she and her mother worked together at a brothel. She started singing in various nightclubs in Harlem, gaining recognition for her unique vocal style, and being compared to Louis Armstrong for having a “good sense of lyric content” (Wikipedia, 2013). Holiday was signed to numerous record labels throughout her singing career. Her melodic improvisation revolutionized jazz singing by introducing new styles of phrasing and tempo which can be heard in such hits as “God Bless the Child” and “Lady Sings the Blues.” In 1939, Holiday recorded the heart-wrenching and popular song “Strange Fruit,” a protest song against lynching which was still occurring in the South. She closed every show at the nightclub, Café Society, with the song, closing her eyes and singing it like a prayer. Holiday has won countless awards for her musical talents, and in 1973, her legacy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Langston Hughes – Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri to a school teacher and a father who eventually divorced his mother to escape the racism in the United States. Hughes spent much of his time in Kansas with his paternal grandmother as a child because his mother traveled often for work. Later he moved with his mother to Cleveland, Ohio where he began to show exemplary talent in writing during high school. He wrote for the school newspaper, edited the yearbook, and started writing short stories and poetry. He also wrote his first jazz poem, a type of poetry in which he popularized, called “When Sue Wears Red.” Although Hughes began to attend ColumbiaUniversity, he left the school after struggling with racism. He later enrolled in LincolnUniversity, an historically black college in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After he earned his bachelor’s degree, he returned to New York and became a part of the popular Harlem Renaissance. In Hughes’ poetry, he tried to depict the reality of hardships and prejudices experienced by the poor black community. Hughes wrote his first published book in 1930, called “Not Without Laughter,” and would continue to publish new collections and writings throughout his literary career.
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Michael Luther King was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia and later changed his named to “Martin” in honor of the German priest and theologian during the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. He grew up in a family of clergymen, beginning with his grandfather in 1914 and his father in 1931 at EbenezerBaptist Church. Ironically, however, King was not as enthusiastic about the faith he was brought up to believe during his youth as he came to be in his adulthood. However, after studying the Bible in-depth, King changed his outlook on religion and was set on a path to a life in ministry. King graduated from MorehouseCollege, a distinguished African-American institution in Atlanta with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology. After graduation in 1948, he attended Crozer’s Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania to earn a Bachelor of Divinity degree. After earning a fellowship at Crozer, he was able to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at BostonUniversity in 1953. King was a prominent figure in the Montgomery bus boycott, which not only brought justice to Rosa Parks, but the local black community as it required the City of Montgomery to revoke its law mandating segregation in public transportation. But segregation, racism, and prejudice were just the issue; he wanted justice, equality, and changes for the black community across America. As a result, he lectured on racial and civil rights issues throughout the country and demonstrated peaceful protests along with other black church leaders and civil rights activists. In spite of the verbal and physical abuse and the arrests he often faced during his mission for civil rights, King demonstrated the famous March on Washington for a peaceful change. Two-hundred thousand people gathered along Lincoln’s Memorial on August 28, 1963 to hear King recite his famous and influential speech, “I Have a Dream.” His unrelenting efforts resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorized the federal government to outlaw the discriminatory acts on ethnicity, religion, and women. Moreover, segregation laws were lifted and voting requirements were amended to end discriminatory practices against the black community which resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He received the Noble Peace Prize in 1964 and continued to demonstrate peaceful protests throughout the 1960’s, to inspire change in the world.
President Barack Obama – Barack Obama was born into an interracial family in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama’s parent’s divorced when he was young and he moved around with his mother frequently during his childhood. In fact, they moved to Indonesia, shortly after she remarried. Young Obama attended school and experienced both lower and upper class living. Eventually, he moved back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and attend a private high school. After high school, he attended OccidentalCollege in Los Angeles, but then transferred to ColumbiaUniversity to receive his bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in international relations. After graduation, Obama worked as a community coordinator in Chicago between 1983-1985 creating, both, job training programs and tutoring programs. Before moving back to the east coast in 1988 to attend HarvardLawSchool, he traveled to Europe and Kenya to visit his father’s birthplace. He received his J.D., magnum cum laude in 1991. He returned to Chicago to work as a Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. Slowly making his way into the political arena, he served as a board member, director, and chairman for numerous outreach organizations in Chicago, and was elected State Senate in 1996. In 2005, he was sworn in as U.S. Senator and announced that he would resign in 2008 to focus on his candidacy as president. On November 4, 2008 he won the presidential election on the platform of “hope” and “change” in the United States and became the first African-American to be elected president. In 2012, President Barack Obama, introduced his new campaign, “It Begins With Us” which won him a second presidential term on November 6, 2012.
(Source for all Images: Wikimedia Commons)