1921 Harding publicly condemns lynching
On this day in 1921, President Warren G. Harding delivered a speech in Alabama in which he condemned lynchings?illegal hangings committed primarily by white supremacists against African Americans in the Deep South.
Although his administration was much maligned for scandal and corruption, Harding was a progressive Republican politician who advocated full civil rights for African Americans and suffrage for women. He supported the Dyer Anti-lynching Bill in 1920. As a presidential candidate that year, he gained support for his views on women's suffrage, but faced intense opposition on civil rights for blacks. The 1920s was a period of intense racism in the American South, characterized by frequent lynching?s. In fact, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) reported that, in 1920, lynching claimed, on average, the lives of two African Americans every week.
During the 1920 presidential campaign, Harding's ethnicity became a subject of debate and was used by his opponents to cast him in a negative light. Opponents claimed that one of Harding's great-great-grandfathers was a native of the West Indies. Harding rebuffed the rumours, saying he was from white "pioneer stock" and persisted in his support of anti-lynching laws. Although the anti-lynching bill made it through the House of Representatives, it died in the Senate. Several other attempts to pass similar laws in the first half of the 20th century failed. In fact, civil rights for blacks were not encoded into law until Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Harding's public denunciation of lynching would appear insincere if one were to believe allegations that he had actually been inducted into the Ku Klux Klan while in office. In 1987, historian Wyn Wade published The Fiery Cross, in which a former Ku Klux Klan member claimed to have witnessed Harding's initiation into the Klan on the White House lawn. Scholars have since pored over Harding's papers, but have found no evidence to support this allegation.1929 Henry Ford dedicates the Thomas Edison Institute
On this day in 1929, the 50th birthday of the incandescent light bulb, Henry Ford threw a big party to celebrate the dedication of his new Thomas Edison Institute in Dearborn, Michigan. Everybody who was anybody was there: John D. Rockefeller Jr., Charles Schwab, Otto H. Kahn, Walter Chrysler, Marie Curie, Will Rogers, President Herbert Hoover?and, of course, the guest of honour, Thomas Edison himself. At the time, the Edison Institute was still relatively small. It consisted of just two buildings, both of which Henry Ford had moved from Menlo Park, New Jersey and re-constructed to look just as they had in 1879: Edison's laboratory and the boarding-house where he had lived while he perfected his invention. By the time the Institute opened to the public in 1933, however, it had grown much more elaborate and today the Henry Ford Museum (renamed after Ford's death in 1947) is one of the largest and best-known museums in the country.
Ford's museum was an epic expression of his own interpretation of American history, emphasizing industrial and technological progress and the "practical genius" of great Americans. Its collection grew to include every Ford car ever built, along with other advances in automotive and locomotive technology. There were also farm tools, home appliances, furniture and industrial machines such as the printing press and the Newcomer steam engine. On a 200-acre tract next door, Ford built a quaint all-American village by importing historic homes and buildings from across the United States. "When we are through," Ford told The New York Times, "we shall have reproduced American life as lived; and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."
Today, there are more than 200 cars on display at the Ford museum, including the 15 millionth Model T, the Ford 999 racer that set the world speed record in 1904, the first Mustang ever produced and a 1997 EV1 electric car made by General Motors. More than 2 million people visit "The Henry Ford," as it's now called, every year.1941 Germans massacre men, women, and children in Yugoslavia
On this day in 1941, German soldiers went on a rampage, killing thousands of Yugoslavian civilians, including whole classes of schoolboys.
Despite attempts to maintain neutrality at the outbreak of World War II, Yugoslavia finally succumbed to signing a "friendship treaty" with Germany in late 1940, finally joining the Tripartite "Axis" Pact in March 1941. The masses of Yugoslavians protested this alliance, and shortly thereafter the regents who had been trying to hold a fragile confederacy of ethnic groups and regions together since the creation of Yugoslavia at the close of World War I fell to a coup, and the Serb army placed Prince Peter into power. The prince-now the king--rejected the alliance with Germany-and the Germans retaliated with the Luftwaffe bombing of Belgrade, killing about 17,000 people.
With Yugoslavian resistance collapsing, King Peter removed to London, setting up a government-in-exile. Hitler then began to carve up Yugoslavia into puppet states, primarily divided along ethnic lines, hoping to win the loyalty of some-such as the Croats-with the promise of a post-war independent state. (In fact, many Croats did fight alongside the Germans in its battle against the Soviet Union.) Hungary, Bulgaria, and Italy all took bites out of Yugoslavia, as Serb resisters were regularly massacred. On October 21, in Kragujevac, 2,300 men and boys were murdered; Kraljevo saw 7,000 more killed by German troops, and in the region of Macva, 6,000 men, women, and children were murdered.
Serb partisans, fighting under the leadership of the socialist Josef "Tito" Brozovich, won support from Britain and aid from the USSR in their battle against the occupiers. "The people just do not recognize authority...they follow the Communist bandits blindly," complained one German official reporting back to Berlin.1959 Guggenheim Museum opens in New York City
On this day in 1959, on New York City's Fifth Avenue, thousands of people line up outside a bizarrely shaped white concrete building that resembled a giant upside-down cupcake. It was opening day at the new Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the world's top collections of contemporary art.
Mining tycoon Solomon R. Guggenheim began collecting art seriously when he retired in the 1930s. With the help of Hilla Rebay, a German baroness and artist, Guggenheim displayed his purchases for the first time in 1939 in a former car showroom in New York. Within a few years, the collection?including works by Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Marc Chagall?had outgrown the small space. In 1943, Rebay contacted architect Frank Lloyd Wright and asked him to take on the work of designing not just a museum, but a "temple of spirit," where people would learn to see art in a new way.
Over the next 16 years, until his death six months before the museum opened, Wright worked to bring his unique vision to life. To Wright's fans, the museum that opened on October 21, 1959, was a work of art in itself. Inside, a long ramp spiralled upwards for a total of a quarter-mile around a large central rotunda, topped by a domed glass ceiling. Reflecting Wright's love of nature, the 50,000-meter space resembled a giant seashell, with each room opening fluidly into the next.
Wright's ground-breaking design drew criticism as well as admiration. Some felt the oddly-shaped building didn't complement the artwork. They complained the museum was less about art and more about Frank Lloyd Wright. On the flip side, many others thought the architect had achieved his goal: a museum where building and art work together to create "an uninterrupted, beautiful symphony."
Located on New York's impressive Museum Mile, at the edge of Central Park, the Guggenheim has become one of the city's most popular attractions. In 1993, the original building was renovated and expanded to create even more exhibition space. Today, Wright's creation continues to inspire awe, as well as odd comparisons?a Jello mold! a washing machine! a pile of twisted ribbon!?for many of the 900,000-plus visitors who visit the Guggenheim each year.
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