Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” is published

Year
1962
Month Day
September 27

Rachel Carson’s watershed work Silent Spring is first published on September 27, 1962. Originally serialized in The New Yorker magazine, the book shed light on the damage that man-made pesticides inflict on the environment. Its publication is often viewed as the beginning of the modern environmentalist movement in America.

Carson received a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932 and spent the next several decades researching the ecosystems of the East Coast. She rose through the ranks of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and published many works on the environment, including The Sea Around Us. In the late ’50s, she became concerned by reports of the unintended effects insecticides were having on other wildlife, and the Audubon Society approached her about writing a book on the topic. Silent Spring was the result of this partnership and several years of research, focusing primarily on the effects of DDT and similar pesticides. Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer during this time, causing the book’s publication to be delayed until 1962.

READ MORE: The Early Environmentalists

Silent Spring did not call for an outright ban on DDT, but it did argue that they were dangerous to humans and other animals and that overusing them would dramatically disrupt ecosystems. Carson met with staunch criticism, largely from the chemical industry and associated scientists. She was called “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature” and “probably a communist,” among other things, but the firestorm around her drew attention to a problem Americans were finally ready to acknowledge. 

Despite her illness, Carson made a slew of media appearances and testified before President John F. Kennedy‘s Science Advisory Committee, finding more supporters than detractors. Though she died only two years after the book’s publication, the movement she helped popularize blossomed over the next decade. Her successors fought for the creation Environmental Protection Agency, formed in 1970, and her arguments were instrumental in securing a nationwide phase-out of DDT, which began in 1972. Carson’s work on pesticides not only drew attention to their unintended consequences but also familiarized the public with the extent of the harm mankind could inflict upon nature, one of the most important lessons our species has had to learn.

READ MORE: How Nixon Became the Unlikely Champion of the Endangered Species Act

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Iconic photo of Che Guevara taken

Moments before he was shot to death by a soldier of the Bolivian government, the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara told his executioner, “Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!” Guevara died a short time later, on October 9, 1967 at the age of 39, but he was correct in his assertion that this would not be the end of his legacy. Today, that legacy almost always takes the form of a single photograph, Guerrillero Heroico, which some have called the most famous photograph in the world.

That photo was taken on March 5, 1960, seven years before Guevara’s death, at a funeral for workers killed in an explosion in a Cuban port that Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government blamed on the Americans. Guevara, a general in the revolution and the intellectual heavyweight of Castro’s regime, looked on as Castro delivered his fiery funeral oration. For about thirty seconds, he stepped to the front of a crowd near Castro’s rostrum, into the view of newspaper photographer Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, also known as Alberto Korda. Korda snapped two shots of Guevara, his face resolute and his long hair flowing from under his trademark beret, before Guevara retreated back into the crowd. Perhaps due to his background as a fashion photographer, Korda took a liking to one of the images and cropped it into a portrait, even though the newspaper La Revolución declined to use it.

For several years, the now-iconic photo remained nothing more than a personal favorite of the man who took it. Korda named the picture Guerrillero Heroico—“Heroic Guerrilla Warrior”—and hung it on his wall, occasionally handing out copies to guests. It was not until 1967 that the public would first see the image, which appeared in the magazine Paris Match alongside an article about Latin American guerilla movements.

Guevara was killed in November of that year, captured while fighting with Bolivian revolutionaries. During his memorial service in Havana, an enormous print of Guerrillero Heroico was hung over the façade of the Ministry of the Interior. The service marked Che’s canonization as a martyr of global revolution, as well as the ascendance of Korda’s image as an icon of rebellion.

The following year the image of Guevara went viral. It appeared on the cover of a copy of Guevara’s memoirs, published in Italy. It was also used as the cover of a literary journal advertised on the New York City subway. In the same year, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick created a stylized version of the image, setting a black-and-white Guevara against a red background, and distributed it as widely as he could to honor Guevara’s legacy. A poster bearing Fitzpatrick’s image was shown at the Arts Laboratory in London. 1968 was a year of upheaval across the world, and Guevara’s image featured prominently during the student riots that swept France in May, the populist protests of Italy’s “Hot Autumn” and the nonviolent, surrealist-inspired demonstrations of the Dutch “Provos.” 

In addition to being held aloft at protests or hung in the homes of his admirers, Guevara’s image has become popular as a fashion statement, adorning t-shirts and posters wherever counterculture is revered. Rage Against the Machine used a modified version of the image as the cover for their 1993 single “Bombtrack,” and Madonna referenced it on the cover of her 2003 album American Life. Korda succeeded in stopping Smirnoff Vodka from using his photo in one of its campaigns, but it has appeared in countless other advertisements, including ads by Nike and a campaign by Taco Bell which featured a Chihuahua in revolutionary garb.

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Delano Grape Strike begins

Year
1965
Month Day
September 08

September 8, 1965 marks the beginning of one of the most important strikes in American history. As over 2,000 Filipino-American farm workers refused to go to work picking grapes in the valley north of Bakersfield, California, they set into motion a chain of events that would extend over the next five years. We know it as the Delano Grape Strike.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

Filipino and Mexican immigrants had worked for decades along the West Coast, moving with the seasons to harvest the region’s crops. The Filipino contingent in particular was growing restless, as many of the workers were aging and anxious for decent medical care and retirement funds. When one of their number, labor organizer Larry Itliong, declared a strike on September 8, he asked for the support of the National Farm Workers Association and its Mexican-American founders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Although Chavez had reservations about his union’s capacity to pull off the strike, he put the issue to the workers, who enthusiastically joined.

The strike lasted five years and went through a number of phases. From the outset, the already poor farm workers faced opposition from law enforcement and cruel attempts at sabotage by the growers—some reported that farmers shut off the water supply to their meager dormitories. As frustration grew and workers increasingly spoke of violence three years into the strike, Chavez decided to go on a hunger strike, emulating his hero Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to ending the calls for violence, the hunger strike drew further attention to the movement, earning praise from figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The union, by then known as the United Farm Workers, also called for a boycott of table grapes. Individual households stopped buying grapes, and union workers in California dockyards let non-union grapes rot in port rather than load them. Eventually, the industry could take no more, and the growers came to the table. In July of 1970, most of the major growers in the Delano area agreed to pay grape pickers $1.80 an hour (plus 20 cents for each box picked), contribute to the union health plan, and ensure that their workers were protected against pesticides used in the fields.

“We said from the beginning that we were not going to abandon the fight, that we would stay with the struggle if lit took a lifetime, and we meant it,” Chavez said of the grueling strike. “[Soon] all grapes will be sweet grapes again.”

READ MORE: Cesar Chavez: His Life and Legacy

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Golda Meir elected as Israel’s first female prime minster

Year
1969
Month Day
March 17

On March 17, 1969, 70-year-old Golda Meir makes history when she is elected as Israel’s first female prime minister. She was the country’s fourth prime minister and is still the only woman to have held this post.

Meir, who was born in Kiev, Ukraine and raised in Wisconsin, began her career as a Zionist labor organizer, and later held several positions in Israeli government, including Minister of Labor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Upon the sudden death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1969, Meir was chosen as his successor. 

During her tenure, Meir gained a reputation as a savvy diplomat. She saw the country through the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, after Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel. Although Israel was victorious, over 2,500 Israelis died, and many criticized the government for a lack of preparedness.

Due in part to her age and ailing health, Meir resigned in October 1974. She was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.

Meir died in Jerusalem on December 8, 1978, at the age of 80. 

READ MORE: 7 Women Leaders Who Were Elected to Highest Office

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Elvis Presley is drafted


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Year
1957
Month Day
December 20

On December 20, 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army.

With a suggestive style–one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”–a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” Presley had become a national icon, and the world’s first bona fide rock-and-roll star, by the end of 1956. As the Beatles’ John Lennon once famously remarked: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” The following year, at the peak of his career, Presley received his draft notice for a two-year stint in the army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters to the army asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He received one deferment–during which he finished working on his movie King Creole–before being sworn in as an army private in Memphis on March 24, 1958.

After basic training–which included an emergency leave to see his beloved mother, Gladys, before she died in August 1958–Presley sailed to Europe on the USS General Randall. For the next 18 months, he served in Company D, 32nd Tank Battalion, 3rd Armor Division in Friedberg, Germany, where he attained the rank of sergeant. For the rest of his service, he shared an off-base residence with his father, grandmother and some Memphis friends. After working during the day, Presley returned home at night to host frequent parties and impromptu jam sessions. At one of these, an army buddy of Presley’s introduced him to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom Elvis would marry some years later. 

Meanwhile, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, continued to release singles recorded before his departure, keeping the money rolling in and his most famous client fresh in the public’s mind. Widely praised for not seeking to avoid the draft or serve domestically, Presley was seen as a model for all young Americans. After he got his polio shot from an army doctor on national TV, vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his discharge on March 2, 1960.

READ MORE: 7 Fascinating Facts About Elvis Presley

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Protesters disrupt the Miss America Pageant

Year
1968
Month Day
September 07

On September 7, 1968, 50 women—one representing each state of the United States—prepared to be judged on their beauty by millions of eyes across the country, in the 41st annual Miss America pageant. But this year would be different.

As the contestants walked across the stage, protesters unfurled a bed sheet turned political statement from the rafters that read “Women’s Liberation” in large letters. The women shouted “No More Miss America!” over the crowd in the first ever protest against Miss America. While they didn’t get caught on camera, their words hit print in the next day’s newspapers, dragging the second wave of feminism into the mainstream.

As the protesters shouted from the rafters inside the show, outside hundreds of women took over the Atlantic City Boardwalk, carrying signs that said “Can make-up hide the wounds of our oppression?” and “All Women Are Beautiful.” One woman holding pots and pans and a baby mopped the boardwalk while another another chained herself to a puppet giant puppet of Miss America to symbolize how women are imprisoned by beauty standards. The protesters even crowned a sheep to symbolize how the pageant treated women like livestock at a county fair competition to a crowd of laughing and grimacing spectators.

READ MORE: I Was There: The 1968 Miss America Pageant Protest

The protesters dumped feminine items they deemed symbols of oppression including “bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs, and representative issues of Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, etc.” into a giant “freedom trash can” that they intended to set on fire.Though they weren’t allowed to light a fire on top of the flammable boardwalk, the bra burners myth was born later, in a New York Post story on the protest.

The protest was inspired at a meeting of the New York Radical Women. The group of activists discussed a film about the role beauty standards play in women’s oppression. The movie used the swimsuit competition as an example. That’s when feminist activist, Carol Hanisch, decided taking on the nearly 50-year-old iconic pageant might be the perfect way force this conversation around beauty into the public eye.

In the months before the pageant, the protesters advertised their demonstration as a change to stand up to “an image that oppresses women in every area in which it purports to represent us.” They also issued a press release that included 10 reasons for their hatred of the pageant, as an open invitation to women in August.

The group condemned the consumerism around sponsoring the program and how it valued women’s beauty before her personality. They felt the contest reinforced “the degrading Mindless-Boob-Girlie Symbol.” Also drawing their ire were the pageant’s racist standards that kept women of color from wearing the crown. The protesters also rejected the double standard that demanded that the women be “sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure yet titillatingly bitchy.” Worst of all, they felt the pageant stripped the contestants of their voices, pushing women to be “inoffensive” and “bland.”

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Kerner Commission Report released


Year
1968
Month Day
February 29

The President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—known as the Kerner Commission—releases its report, condemning racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. Headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, the 11-member commission was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and recommend solutions.

The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal,” called for expanded aid to African American communities in order to prevent further racial violence and polarization. Unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, the report said, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

The report identified more than 150 riots or major disorders between 1965 and 1968 (including the deadly Newark and Detroit riots) and blamed “white racism” for sparking the violence—not a conspiracy by African American political groups as some claimed.

Statistics for 1967 alone included 83 people killed and 1,800 injured—the majority of them African Americans—and property valued at more than $100 million damaged or destroyed.

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Detroit Riots of 1967 begin

Year
1967
Month Day
July 23

The 1967 Detroit Riots were among the bloodiest in American history. The strife occurred during a period of Detroit’s history when the once-affluent city was struggling economically, and race relations nationwide were at an all-time low.

The Detroit Police Department’s vice squad often raided illegal drinking establishments in the city’s poorer neighborhoods, and at 3:35 a.m. on Sunday morning, July 23, they moved against a club that was hosting a party for returning Vietnam War veterans. The early-morning police activity drew a crowd of onlookers, and the situation rapidly deteriorated.

Soon thousands of people had spilled out onto the street from nearby buildings, throwing rocks and bottles at the police, who quickly fled the scene. Looting began on 12th Street, where the club was located, and shops and businesses were ransacked.

By dawn, the first fire broke out, and soon much of the street was ablaze. By midmorning, every policeman and fireman in Detroit was called to duty. Back on 12th Street, officers struggled to control the crowd.

The rioting continued all week, and the U.S. Army and the National Guard were called in to quell the worst of the violence. By the time the bloodshed, burning and looting ended after five days, some 43 people were dead, many more seriously injured and nearly 1,400 buildings had been burned or ransacked. 

READ MORE: The Detroit Riots, from a Child’s Perspective

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Suharto takes full power in Indonesia


Year
1967
Month Day
February 22

On February 22, 1967, Indonesian President Sukarno surrenders all executive authority to military dictator General Haji Mohammad Suharto, remaining president in title only.

In 1965, Suharto, a senior army officer, narrowly saved Sukarno from a communist coup. In the aftermath, he moved to replace Sukarno and launched a purge of Indonesian communists that resulted in thousands of deaths. In 1967, he assumed full power and in 1968 was elected president. Reelected every five years until his forced resignation in 1998, Suharto stabilized his nation and oversaw significant economic progress. However, he was criticized for his repressive rule and for Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, which left an estimated 100,000 Timorese dead from famine, disease, and warfare. Suharto died in 2008. 

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St. Lawrence Seaway opened

Year
1959
Month Day
June 26

In a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II, the St. Lawrence Seaway is officially opened, creating a navigational channel from the Atlantic Ocean to all the Great Lakes. The seaway, made up of a system of canals, locks, and dredged waterways, extends a distance of nearly 2,500 miles, from the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Duluth, Minnesota, on Lake Superior.

Work on the massive project was initiated by a joint U.S.-Canadian commission in 1954, and five years later, in April 1959, the icebreaker D’Iberville began the first transit of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Since its official opening, more than two billion tons of cargo, with an estimated worth of more than $300 billion, have moved along its canals and channels.

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