This popped in over the Twitter transom yesterday:
I don’t recall having seen the shot before. But Alex Selwyn-Holmes at Iconic Photographs posted a very complete story about the picture in 2009.
Between April 15 and April 26 1959–a few months after he took power in Cuba–Fidel Castro went to the United States, invited by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In one of those forgotten episodes of the Cold War, Castro went to the US for loans. Castro hired one of the best public relations firms to present his new government. Castro answered impertinent questions jokingly and ate hot dogs and hamburgers. His rumpled fatigues and scruffy beard cut a popular figure easily promoted as an authentic hero.
In 1959, Castro’s forces had recently ousted Cuban president (and dictator) Gen. Fulgencio Batista. Under Batista Cuba was very much a playground for America’s rich, and a steady supply of cheap sugar and good cigars. In the musical play and movie, “Guys and Dolls,” the character Sky Masterson gets a date with a Salvation Army-style preacher woman, to win a bet. When she finally consents (after he offers to fill her mission hall with reprobates in need of salvation), she asks what time she should be ready for dinner. “Noon,” Masterson replies. They are to fly from New York to Cuba for dinner, and return by the next morning. Cuba’s reputation as hangout for American mobsters came honestly. (“Guys and Dolls” opened on Broadway in 1950, and the movie hit theaters in 1955. That was the heyday of the Douglas DC-6, which is what a gambler probably would have flown from New York to Havana at that time, flying in to what is now Jose Marti International Airport.)
In contrast to the playboy mobsters, Cuban people tended to lead very bleak lives. Sugar and tobacco farming did not make Cubans rich; processing of sugar was done by large international corporations. Cuban cigars, recognized for quality, tended to be cheap, and tobacco farmers and cigar makers employed thousands of underpaid Cubans. Cuba’s Havana nightlife seemed reserved for the wealthy, which usually meant foreign tourists, and not Cubans.
Castro’s revolution succeeded partly because of that rift, and Castro promised to turn things around for the masses of Cuban people (promises yet unkept).
For 11 days in 1959, Fidel Castro fascinated the U.S. He spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. (His UN speech and famous hotel stay, in which he plucked and cooked chickens in his New York Hotel room, came the next year). Castro ate hot dogs, and laid a wreath in the tomb of George Washington. At one point Castro was introduced in the audience of the “Ed Sullivan Show” as “the George Washington of Cuba” (this trip?) But in Washington, Castro ran into Richard Nixon’s anti-Communist paranoia when seeking aid from the Eisenhower administration. Without help from the U.S., Castro took offers of assistance from the Soviet Union who were anxious to have a friend and ally in the Americas, close to United States territorial waters.
Would Castro have cozied to the U.S. instead of the U.S.S.R., had the U.S. offered aid. Most historians think Castro’s communist path was already set when he visited the U.S.
This photo makes one wonder. Certainly it was good public relations, for Castro to be seen paying homage to Abraham Lincoln. Was it more than just a propaganda photo?
It’s a fascinating photo.
What do you think?
- Cuba marks 60th anniversary of revolution’s onset (bigstory.ap.org)
- Fidel Castro Praises ‘Brave Country’ Russia For Role In Syria Chemical Weapons Deal (huffingtonpost.com)
- Fidel Castro denies Russian claim that Cuba snubbed Edward Snowden (theguardian.com)
- 10 Best things to do in Cuba (southamericatoursblog.wordpress.com)
- Obvious: Fidel Castro finnaly admits Cuban model does not work… (bluegrasspundit.com)
- See this January 1959 interview Ed Sullivan had with Fidel Castro, in Havana.
- New York Daily News gallery of 24 photos from Castro’s April 1959 visit to the U.S.
Leave a Comment » | Cold War, Communism, History, Icons of history, photography | Tagged: Abraham Lincoln, Alfredo Korda, Cold War, Communism, Fidel Castro, historic photographs, History | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
Liberty stands gazing out at about 265 feet* above the water of New York Harbor, a fixture there since construction in the 1880s.
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.
The Statue of Liberty has been a fixture in the U.S. and American psyche, too. Excuse me, or join me, in wondering whether we have not lost something of our former dedication to the Statue of Liberty, and the reasons France and Americans joined to build it.
Poem-a-Day sent Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” out this morning (Poem-a-Day is a wonderful service of the American Academy of Poets — you may subscribe and I recommend it). There it was, waiting for me in e-mail. My students generally have not heard nor read the poem, I discover year after year – some sort of Texas-wide failure in enculturation prompted by too-specific requirements of federal law and state law, combining to make a slatwork of culture taught in our classrooms with too many cracks into which culture actually falls, out of sight, out of mind; out of memory. I fear it may be a nationwide failure as well.
Have you read the poem lately? It once encouraged American school children to send pennies to build a home for the statue. Today it wouldn’t get a majority of U.S. Congressmen to sign on to consponsor a reading of it. Glenn Beck would contest its history, Rush Limbaugh would discount the politics of the “giveaways” in the poem, John Boehner would scoriate the victims in the poem for having missed his meeting of lobbyists (‘they just missed the right boat’), and Sarah Palin would complain about “an air-bridge to nowhere,” or complain that masses who huddle are probably up to no good (they might touch, you know).
Have you read it lately?
The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
AAP makes poems available for iPhones, too, and you can see how it appears, phrase by phrase. “The New Colossus” takes on more of its power and majesty delivered that way.
Is the Academy of American Poets playing politics here? It’s September 12. Yesterday many Americans took part in ceremonies and service projects in remembrance of the victims of the attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. In much of the rest of America, there is an active movement to nail shut the “golden door,” to turn out a sign that would say “No tired, no poor nor huddled masses yearning to breathe free; especially no wretched refuse, no homeless, and let the tempest-tost stay in Guatemala and Pakistan.”
Would Americans bother to contribute to build a Statue of Liberty today? Or would they protest against it?
Does that lamp still shine beside the golden door?
* I’m calculating Liberty’s gaze at about 40 feet below the tip of the torch, which is just over 305 feet above the base of the statue on the ground. The base is probably 20 feet higher than the water, but this isn’t exact science we’re talking about here.
31 Comments | History, Homelessness, Icons of history, Immigration, Patriotism, Poetry, Poverty | Tagged: Emma Lazarus, Golden Door, History, Homelessness, Icons of History, Immigration, New Colossus, Patriotism, Poetry, Poverty, Statue of Liberty | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
James Madison joined the world on March 16, 1751. Tuesday is the 259th anniversary of his birth.
James Madison University, appropriately, made hoopla during the whole week in 2009. What about this year?
James Madison’s Orange County home offers free admission all day Tuesday in honor of the fourth president’s 259th birthday.
Born 1751 at Port Conway in King George while on a visit to his grandmother, Madison was raised at Montpelier, the oldest of 12 children. He is buried on the grounds of his lifelong home in the family cemetery, site of a special ceremony in honor of his birthday March 16 at 1:30 p.m.
Former Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene Hickock will deliver remarks at the cemetery along with Quantico Marine Corps Base Chief of Staff Col. Thompson Gerke, who will lay a wreath on the fourth president’s grave on behalf of President Barack Obama. Numerous other groups will also honor Madison by placing wreaths on his grave Tuesday.
The U.S. Marine Corps has a long-standing tradition of attending the annual birthday ceremony because of Madison’s connection to the naval force’s founding. As Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, Madison recommended sending a squadron of naval ships to fight pirates off the coast of Africa, ultimately leading to their demise by 1805.
As president, Madison again called on the Marines to lead the nation during the War of 1812.
Nice of the Marines to show. Nice of President Obama to send a wreath. Maybe we can understand why Republicans wish to avoid any celebration of Madison.
- Calendar of events from Montpelier
- Information about the celebration from the State of Virginia travel office; “Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, and president of the United States. Now that the home’s recent $25 million architectural restoration is complete, visitors can see the progress of “A Presidential Detective Story: Rediscovering the Furnishings and Décor of James and Dolley Madison” through daily guided tours. They can also participate in hands-on activities, and archaeology; stroll the grounds; and take in the many galleries and other attractions on the 2,650-acre estate. To learn more, visit http://www.montpelier.org. Date/Hours: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 (9:00 AM-4:00 PM”
- Steven Waldman’s lament in the Wall Street Journal last year about the lack of respect Madison gets; Waldman overstates Madison’s role in religious freedom barely. Waldman’s right. We should pay more attention to Madison.
- Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub post from last year, featuring the National Guard’s poster honoring National Guardsman Col. James Madison of the Virginia Militia
- My essay on the importance of Madison in America’s founding, “James Madison: Go-to Guy”
- More from the Bathtub: “Meet James Madison”
- MFB post with links to Founders Online
- The Newseum and the First Amendment Center celebrate the 12th annual Freedom of Information Day on March 15, at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.; seminar from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; “What has become of Freedom of Information?”
1 Comment | Bill of Rights, First Amendment, Heroes, History, Human Rights, Icons of history, James Madison, Presidents, Religious Freedom, U.S. Constitution | Tagged: Bill of Rights, Father of the Constitution, First Amendment, founders, History, James Madison, James Madison's Birthday, March 16, Religious Freedom, U.S. Constitution | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came into the world on January 27, 1756 – younger than Franklin, younger than Madison barely. I try to keep his life chronology in relation to U.S. history. Mozart died on December 5, 1791, the day the Bill of Rights was ratified.
Our local classical station, WRR-101.1 FM promises appropriate playing of his music, even taking requests with that modern device, the internet:
Listen to WRR, Classical 101.1 as WRR plays works exclusively by Mozart, born Jan. 27, 1756. All your favorite symphonies, concertos, opera overtures and chamber works by this musical titan will be spotlighted.
Something from Mozart you’d like to hear? Share it with us at facebook.com/wrr101 and we may add it to the birthday celebration!
Personally, I hope someone plays one of Mozart’s two works for glass harmonica. Dr. Franklin’s musical invention has a small repertoire, but a solid one, considering Mozart’s contribution.
Mozart’s stock rose in the 1990s with the production of the play and movie Amadeus! I like to think it rose at least partly because people like his music, too, as this essay suggested way back then:
Turn your channel to PBS, where Hugh Downs or Peter Ustinov is narrating a Mozart special. Turn to one of the commercial channels, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 466 and “Little” G Minor Symphony K. 183/173dB are selling MacIntosh computers, Don Giovanni gives class to Cheer laundry detergent, The Marriage of Figaro hawks the Sirocco automobile, the Requiem’s Lacrymosa seemingly sanctifies Lee Jeans, and another piano concerto (K. 482) perks Maxwell House coffee. The recovery of a Mozart symphony, even if juvenilia, receives front-page coverage from The New York Times. Dealers and collectors will go to any extreme for a piece of the action; Mozart autographs sell at the same prices as fine paintings, and dealers in one case dismembered the “Andretter” Serenade K. 185, retailing it piecemeal for greater profit. The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni now rival the box-office receipts of La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.
So, what will you do to celebrate?
Invite others to celebrate, too!
More than just as tribute to the victims, more than just a disaster story, the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire, and the following events including the trial of the company owners, lay out issues students can see clearly. I think the event is extremely well documented and adapted for student projects. In general classroom use, however, the event lays a foundation for student understanding.
A couple of good websites crossed my browser recently, and I hope you know of them.
- From Cornell University’s Institute for Labor Relations, a site the features writings of some of the victims, headlines of the times, and several other documents suitable for classroom use or in building a Documents-based Question for an AP class.
- From the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the home of the Douglas Linder’s “Famous Trials” page, the story of the trial of the owners of the company (they were acquitted). This site is rich in information and images, a real gold mine for in-class slide presentations and student projects.
Events around the fire illuminate so much of American history, and of government (which Texas students take in their senior year):
- Labor issues are obvious to us; the incident provides a dramatic backdrop for the explanation of what unions sought, why workers joined unions, and a sterling example of a company’s clumsy and destructive resistance to resolving the workers’ issues.
- How many Progressive Era principles were advanced as a result of the aftermath of the fire, and the trial?
- Effective municipal government, responsive to voters and public opinion, can be discerned in the actions of the City of New York in new fire codes, and action of other governments is clear in the changes to labor laws that resulted.
- The case provides a dramatic introduction to the workings and, sometimes, misfirings of the justice system.
- With the writings from the Cornell site, students can climb into the events and put themselves on the site, in the courtroom, and in the minds of the people involved.
- Newspaper clippings from the period demonstrate the lurid nature of stories, used to sell newspapers — a working example of yellow journalism.
- Newspapers also provide a glimpse into the workings of the Muckrakers, in the editorial calls for reform.
- Overall, the stories, the photos, the cartoons, demonstrate the workings of the mass culture mechanisms of the time.
Use the sites in good education, and good health.
2 Comments | Disasters, Government, Historic documents, History, History images, Icons of history, Images, Immigration, Journalism, Jurisprudence, Justice, Labor and unions, Newspapers, Progressive Era, Public education, Student projects | Tagged: 1911, Disasters, Historic documents, Historic Images, History, labor, New York City, Progressive Era, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, unions | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
In English, it’s just one letter difference between “winds” and “wings.” An encore post, commemorating one historic event from December 17 involving both winds and wings:
Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.
No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either.
Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:
- Today in History, December 17, Library of Congress (good images)
- American Treasures of the Library of Congress
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Online Exhibition: Invention of the Aerial Age
- Scientists and Thinkers, the Time 100: The Wright Brother
- The Wright Brothers National Memorial (U.S. Park Service)
- NOVA on PBS: “The Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine”
1 Comment | Airplanes, Geography - Physical, Heroes, History, History images, Icons of history, Images, Invention, Technology, Transportation, Travel | Tagged: Airplanes, Aviation, History, Inventions, Kittyhawk, Technology, Wright Brothers | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
For U.S. students there is an uncomfortable nexus between mythology of the Arthurian style legend, Biblical mythology and history, and British history that fascinates me. The Stone of Destiny has a provenance stretching back 5,000 years to the Jewish patriarch Jacob, and which features a blog by one of the last men to steal the stone — with several stops along the way to open the story to trickery, hoaxes and uncertainty. It’s a fabulous story that too few people know.
And, as I noted, one of the last men to steal the thing is blogging away on politics today — on the topic of Iraq and how we treat our veterans, for example. Is history great, or what?
This is a long way of getting to recommending Ian Hamilton’s blog for an interesting read, which we’ll do below the fold, after a bit of history.
16 Comments | History, Hoaxes, Icons of history, Politics, Santayana's ghost, War | Tagged: History, Hoaxes, Ian Hamilton, Icons of History, Politics, Santayan's Ghost, Stone of Destiny, War | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
Constitution Day is September 17, 2007. It’s the anniversary of the day in 1787 when 39 men signed their names to the proposed Constitution of the United States of America, to send it off to the Continental Congress, who was asked to send it to specially convened meetings of citizens of the 13 states for ratification. When and if nine of the former colonies ratified it, it would become the document that created a federal government for those nine and any of the other four who joined.
For Texas, the requirement to commemorate the Constitution was changed to “Celebrate Freedom Week” effective 2003. This week is expected to coincide with the week that includes national Veterans Day, November 11. School trustees may change to a different week. (See § 74.33 of the Texas Education Code) Texas does require students to recite a section from the Declaration of Indpendence. (Recitation is highlighted below the fold.)
Knowledge of the Constitution is abysmal, according to most surveys. Students are eager to learn the material, I find, especially when it comes presented in interesting ways, in context of cases that interest the students. The trick is to find those things that make the Constitution interesting, and develop the lesson plans. Some classes will be entertained by Schoolhouse Rock segments; some classes will dive into Supreme Court cases or other serious issues, say the legality of torture of “enemy combatants” or warrantless domestic surveillance. Some classes will like both approaches, on the same day.
Texas teachers have two months to get ready for Celebrate Freedom Week. Constitution Day is just a week away for anyone who wants to do something on September 17.
Sources you should check out:
- My post from last year, featuring links to Gordon Lloyd’s interactive Howard Chandler Christy painting of the delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, and other sources.
- Bill of Rights Institute Constitution Day page — consistently high quality classroom materials.
- University of Texas Constitution Day 2006, interviews with Texas scholars
- Educators’ links from the Constitution Day home page
- Three video clips for intermediate to junior high students, from Richardson, Texas, Independent School District
- Free poster and teaching guide to the U.S. Constitution, for teachers
- Constitution Day 2007 website
- National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
- Charters of Freedom – The Constitution display, National Archives
- Center for Civic Education Constitution Day lesson plans and materials
4 Comments | 1787, 1789, Bill of Rights, Government, Historic documents, History, Icons of history, James Madison, Lesson plans, Supreme Court cases, TAKS, TEKS, U.S. Constitution | Permalink
Posted by Ed Darrell
Yes, it’s the Liberty Bell, photographed from underneath, with the lights shining through the crack.
I guess it was a lot more obvious than I thought. No one guessed wrong.
This is the bell that resided in the bell tower of the Pennsylvania Statehouse, what we now call Independence Hall. It is the bell that was rung to proclaim the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The bell was cast with several flaws in 1752. It had to be recast shortly after it was delivered, and then cast a third time. It cracked in the early 19th century (legend has it cracking while pealing during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall — I won’t vouch for that story). It was last rung in 1846, on the anniversary of George Washington’s birth.
Enshrined in art and legend, the bell appeared on the reverse of the Franklin half-dollars (when was the last time you saw any 50-cent piece in circulation?). It was put on tour after the Civil War in an effort to get the nation reunited around old symbols (but, considering it was first called “the Liberty Bell” by early abolitionist groups, one might wonder how effective was the tour). When I visited it in the 1990s, the bell rested in its own pavilion about a half-block away from Independence Hall. Renovations of the historic site included construction of a new museum, which required the bell to be moved again.
Preservation and restoration experts wondered whether the bell would well survive the move. So the National Science Foundation (NSF) was called in to study the bell and determine whether it could take the stress of the move. NSF’s press release said the bell passed its “stress test.” The story of the measurement is well told, and may be interesting to students. The writer at NSF put in a lot of the history.
The photo is from the NSF team that did the study; it shows the inside of the bell and part of the “spider” support system that helps hold the bell together and support display.
My probably faulty recollection is that we studied the story of the Liberty Bell each year in grades 1 through 5, which in my case includes schools in the states of Idaho and Utah. My baseline U.S. history tests over the past four years show that about half the students I had, in grades 7, 10, 11 and 12, could not identify the bell or tell why it is revered in U.S. history.
Every reader here gets an “A.”
Other Liberty Bell information:
- The sister to the Liberty Bell now resides at Villanova University.
- The first “Forever Stamp” features the Liberty Bell.
- The bell rings E-flat.Just when the third cast bell cracked is disputed.
- The bell’s yoke is made of American elm, a tree that is threatened with extinction by Dutch elm disease.
- Replicas of the bell were cast in France and presented to each state in 1950 as part of a government bonds drive. Utah’s replica resides just outside the chamber of the Utah House of Representatives; according to Answers.com, New York’s replica bell “hangs in the lobby of the Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens County Savings Bank in New York City, a building that is a replica of Independence Hall.”
- Other famous replicas: In neon, at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies; now gone, in plastic, twice life-size, at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers (Ameriquest became insolvent in 2006, and the park was renamed and the bell removed); in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom, DisneyWorld Park in Buena Vista, Florida; in the Rotunda of the Academic Building at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, honoring A&M alumni who served in World War II (this is probably the state replica from 1950).
- Gus Grissom’s Mercury Project spacecraft was named the “Liberty Bell 7;” it sank upon Grissom’s return from orbit, but the capsule was recovered in 1999.
- The bell was originally cast by Whitechapel Bell Foundry in England, which also cast the bell in London famously known as Big Ben, which also is cracked. Whitechapel Hand Bells are used by handbell ringers around the world.
- In April 2001, Mitchell Guiliat broke through barriers and struck the bell several times with a hammer. He was trying to ring it, not damage it, he said later. He got a nine-month sentence in prison, 5-years probation, and a fine of $7,093.
- More “triviata.“