Posts Tagged ‘This Day in History’
Every school child knows that the Spanish nobleman and explorer Juan Ponce de Léon discovered Florida in the Spring of 1513 while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. We know this because the state of Florida commemorated the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Léon’s arrival with a year-long celebration called Viva Florida 500 in 2013. Tourists can visit Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Ponce de Léon Springs State Park in the northwest panhandle, or various statues of the famed explorer–located in front of St. Augustine’s city hall, in Bayfront Park in Miami, at Juan Ponce de Léon Landing Park near Melbourne Beach, and another in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was the first governor.
His legacy continues today in the towns, cities, and streets all over America that are named for him, but let’s explore some of the myths surrounding Ponce de Léon’s “discovery” of Florida and his search for the “Fountain of Youth.”
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was Born in 1460
* Early historians and scholars believed that he was born in 1460, and many reference books still cite this date. One of the factors that originally supported the legend that Ponce de Léon was seeking a fountain of youth was the mistaken belief that he was a relatively old man (53) at the time of his voyage.
* In 1974, American historian and Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison was the first to document that Ponce de Léon was actually born in 1474, making him only 39 years old when he landed in Florida.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was a Spanish Nobleman
* Ponce de Léon was born in San Tervás del Campo. While the names of his parents aren’t known, it is believed that he was the illegitimate son of a powerful Andalusian nobleman.
* As a young boy, he became the page of a Spanish knight of Calatrava named Pedro Núñez de Guzmán. Even though he was poor and illegitimate, he was educated and received some military training. He participated in military campaigns, including the war to conquer the Kingdom of Granada.
* In 1493, he volunteered to serve on one of the 17 ships that were part of Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new World.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Discovered Florida
* When he first arrived on Florida’s shores, there were an estimated 100,000 to as many as 350,000 native Americans already living there. Among the known tribes were Timucuans, Apalachee, Pensacola, Tocobaga, Calusa, Tequesta, Jeaga, Jobe, Ais, and others.
* Archeological evidence indicates that their earliest ancestors arrived there some 12,000 years ago. By the end of the 17th century, nearly all of these indigenous peoples were gone–due to a combination of European aggression, enslavement and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, influenza, typhus and measles.
* He was probably not even the first European to visit Florida, though he was the first to land under the authority of the King of Spain, so it was recorded and recognized. He called the land La Florida, the Spanish term for “place of flowers,” or because the Spanish religious festival Pascua Florida (Easter) was occurring at the time.
* The Spanish had already been sending expeditions to the Bahamas for years to capture slaves, and there is evidence that some made it to the east coast of Florida. By 1513, when Ponce de Léon first arrived, so many Europeans had visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish.
* The English explorers John Cabot and his son Sebastian explored the east coast of North America in 1497-1498—from present-day Canada to possibly even as far as Florida. Others say that Saint Brendan of Ireland may have traveled to Florida’s shores sometime between 512 and 530 AD, or perhaps the Viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed there in 1000 AD.
* As many as six different maps dated from 1500-1511 have been discovered that appear to show the peninsula of Florida.
Myth: He Was Searching for the Fountain of Youth
* Ponce de León received a contract from King Ferdinand of Spain in 1512 to explore and settle an island called Bimini. He was in search of riches in the form of gold and land, as well as a possible governorship for himself.
* “No mention of a Fountain of Youth occurs in any known documents from Ponce’s lifetime, including contracts and other official correspondence with the Crown,” according to University of South Florida historian J. Michael Francis.
* It wasn’t until fourteen years after his death that the Fountain of Youth legend came about. In 1535, Spanish historian and writer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who was a political adversary of Ponce de Léon, wrote about the Fountain of Youth in an account of the Spanish presence in the Americas entitled Historia general y natural de las Indias. It’s widely viewed as an attempt to discredit his achievements and make the explorer appear foolish.
* Ponce de Léon most certainly never found the Fountain of Youth. While he and his men were attempting to establish a colony on Florida’s west coast, they were ambushed by a group of Calusa Indians. He was wounded by a poison arrow in the attack and died in Cuba in 1521, at the age of 47.
* The Fountain of Youth Archeological park in St. Augustine is a not the legitimate site of the legendary fountain, but a tourist attraction that first opened in 1904–dreamed up by a woman named Louella Day McConnell. The current park was developed by Walter B. Fraser after he purchased it in 1927. His family still runs the park, which is one of Florida’s oldest continuous tourist attractions, with 100,000 annual visitors.
To find out more about Ponce de Léon, the exploration of Florida, and the Fountain of Youth, direct your students to these ProQuest Research Topic pages available on eLibrary:
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This day in history marks the beginning of the United States’ official journey to explore the “final frontier”–outer space. Featured here are a few of the significant events in the history of American manned space flight.
“Equipping the United States for Leadership in the Space Age”—President Dwight D. Eisenhower
When the Soviet Union put the first human-made object into space by launching the artificial satellite named Sputnik in October 1957, the United States faced mounting pressures to enter the “Space Race.” Fearful of being surpassed in missile technology, Congress quickly passed legislation to create a new government agency to conduct civilian space exploration. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into law on July 29, 1958.
“Sailor Among the Stars”—Dr. Allen O. Gamble
The word astronaut first appeared in the English language in 1929, probably in science fiction, but it wasn’t commonly used until December 1958. That’s when NASA adopted it as the name for the men (and eventually women) it would train to compete in the space race. Dr. Gamble, NASA’s manpower director from 1958-1964, described the selection this way: “Someone found that the term aeronaut, referring to those who ride in balloons and other lighter-than-air vehicles, was derived from ‘sailor in the air.’ From this we arrived at astronaut, meaning ‘sailor among the stars.'”
“Why Don’t You Fix Your Little Problem and Light This Candle?”—Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr.
The men who made up NASA’s first astronaut class were called the “Mercury 7.” The seven men chosen from a pool of more than 500 American military aviators were Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper, John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Walter M. “Wally” Schirra Jr., Alan B. Shepard Jr., and Donald K. “Deke” Slayton.
Shepard became the first American man in space, making his historic suborbital flight on May 5, 1961. He made the above statement to Mission Control as he sat in the cramped Mercury capsule atop a Redstone rocket on the launch pad, while the launch was delayed for over four hours. The actual flight lasted only 15 minutes but was a success.
“Not Because They Are Easy, But Because They Are Hard”—President John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy gave NASA the goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. On May 25, 1961, he stood before Congress and proclaimed that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” On September 12, 1962, he gave another speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, outlining his goals for America’s space program. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Less than seven years later, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would fulfill Kennedy’s vision by landing on the moon.
“We Came in Peace for All Mankind”—Plaque affixed to the leg of the Apollo 11 lunar landing vehicle
When astronauts first landed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission, they left behind evidence that they’d been there. Among these items were an American flag and a plaque, which was signed by President Richard Nixon and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. The plaque bears a map of the Earth and this inscription:
HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969 A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
“The Eagle Has Landed”—Astronaut Neil Armstrong
Six Apollo missions landed on the moon during the years between 1968 and 1972: Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. Twelve men actually walked on its surface. Each of the five later Apollo missions also left a flag. Photographs taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite show the five flags still standing in place. (Buzz Aldrin reported that he saw Apollo 11’s flag blown down by rocket exhaust when the lunar lander blasted off the Moon’s surface to rejoin the orbiting command module.) The LRO images also show objects such as the lunar rovers used by some Apollo missions, and even the tire tracks they left behind.
“Okay, Houston, We’ve Had a Problem Here”—Astronaut Jack Swigert
Apollo 13’s journey to the moon was aborted when two of the oxygen-producing fuel cells exploded 2 days after its launch, with the spacecraft about 200,000 miles from Earth. The lack of oxygen wasn’t a real issue, but there was a problem with the CO2 scrubbers–which meant that the three astronauts on board could be suffocated by their own carbon dioxide exhalations. Guided by engineers on the ground at Mission Control, the astronauts used duct tape and surplus materials to repair air filtration canisters in the lunar module to help them survive the journey back to Earth.
“We Will Never Forget Them, Nor the Last Time We Saw Them”—President Ronald Reagan
President Reagan addressed the nation on January 28, 1986, after the Space Shuttle Challenger blew apart just 73 seconds after launch. The entire country mourned the loss of all seven astronauts aboard. The tragedy was a huge setback for the program, and the next mission wasn’t launched until almost three years later. The program suffered another catastrophe on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded over Texas during re-entry, killing all seven crew members.
The space shuttle program was launched in 1981, designed to be the “world’s first reusable spacecraft“–launching like a rocket, orbiting like a spacecraft, and landing like a plane. Crews ranged in size from five to seven people. NASA’s space shuttles have traveled 542,398,878 miles, making 21,152 Earth orbits. In all, there were 833 crew members in the 135 shuttle missions that were carried out through the end of the program in July 2011.
The history of NASA includes not only manned spaceflight, but also the exploration of our solar system, galaxies, and the entire universe. Scientific advances have been made in astronomy, astrophysics, astrobiology, aeronautics, Earth and life sciences, as well as lunar and planetary exploration and much more. NASA technology and research have contributed countless innovations and technologies first pioneered in space exploration that benefit everyday life. Among these are cordless power tools, telemedicine, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, satellite television, joysticks and GPS navigation systems. The impact of our nation’s decision to enter the “Space Race” nearly 60 years ago can’t be truly defined or accurately measured.
March 15 is most famous as the day Julius Caesar got whacked in the Senate by Brutus and conspirators in 44 BC. (You can read about the “Ides of March” in an item posted on this blog a couple of years ago: click, please) But what else happened on this day? Well, keep reading and follow the links embedded in the text to see Research Topics and other resources in eLibrary.
-1848: The Hungarian Revolution broke out. Led by fiery journalist Louis Kossuth and spurred on by a Kossuth-inspired uprising in Vienna, protesters took to the streets, demanding freedom of the press, an independent government and more. The revolt was at the beginning of more than a year of unrest in the Habsburg Empire that saw Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Poles and others attempting to gain independence. The Hungarian Revolution was part of a wave of revolts, known collectively as the Revolutions of 1848, which swept across Europe. The contagious nature of these events would be seen again a century and a half later in the Revolutions of 1989 and the Arab Spring in 2011. (While we’re at it, bonus uprising: Hungarian Revolution of 1956.)
-1913: Woodrow Wilson held the first U.S. presidential press conference … by accident. The new president was scheduled to meet members of the press one by one to develop a rapport like that he had with journalists when he was governor of New Jersey. Because of the large number of reporters who showed up, he decided to address them collectively, initiating what has become the regular way presidents communicate with the press and the American people.
1917: Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, abdicated. Years of hardship in Russia due to involvement in World War I brought about the February Revolution, part of the Russian Revolution, in which waves of strike and protests against the government broke out. Nicholas came to the decision that his rule was untenable, and he gave up power. Later that year, as the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution, Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and later executed. Only in 2008 were the bones of all of the victims positively identified, putting an end to rumors that a couple of them escaped.
1944: The Third Battle of Monte Cassino began. In January of 1944, during the Italian Campaign of World War II, the Allies began a bloody operation to break through the Germans’ Gustave Line and get to Rome. The third of these assaults involved a huge amount of bombing that destroyed the town of Cassino. After a fourth assault, the Germans were finally driven out, but at the cost of 55,000 Allied casualties.
And how about this for up-to-the-minute?: Pope Francis is scheduled to have meeting with Catholic cardinals TODAY at which he is expected to sign the papers to officially declare Mother Teresa a saint.
This day in history marks the inauguration of the first and only president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. After being named President of the newly-formed Confederate States of America, he delivered his inaugural address from the portico of the Alabama state capitol building in Montgomery on February 18, 1861. Most people know that Davis was the Confederate president. But did you know he was also a West Point graduate, a war hero, the son-in-law of a future U.S President, a U.S. Congressman, a Cabinet member and a U.S. Senator? While Davis did support slavery, he advocated for states’ rights and argued against secession.
Davis graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1828. He then served as an infantry Lieutenant at various posts in Missouri, Illinois, and in the Iowa and Wisconsin territories. He also took part in the Black Hawk War of 1832, along with a Captain of the Illinois volunteers named Abraham Lincoln. While serving under Colonel Zachary Taylor (later elected the 12th President of the United States), he met and fell in love with Taylor’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. Taylor disapproved of the relationship, and Davis resigned his military commission in 1835 in order to marry her against her father’s wishes. She died only three months later, after contracting malaria in Louisiana.
He was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-ninth Congress and served from March 4, 1845, until June 1846, when he resigned to command the First Regiment of Mississippi Riflemen in the Mexican-American War. He distinguished himself by contributing to victories in the Battles of Monterrey (1846) and Buena Vista (1847), where he was wounded. Returning to Mississippi as a war hero, Davis was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1847-1851 and again from 1857-1861. During his time there, he was a key supporter of the creation of the Smithsonian Institution, and a member of its Board of Regents.
President Franklin Pierce selected Davis as his Secretary of War in 1853. During his tenure in office, he helped design the National Capitol and the Statue of Freedom atop its dome. At the close of Pierce’s term in 1857, Davis reentered the Senate and became a prominent spokesman for the South. On June 27, 1850, while the Senate was debating the Compromise Bill, Davis had stated, “God forbid that the day should ever come when to be true to my constituents is to be hostile to the Union.” That day came on January 21, 1861, when he joined four of his colleagues who resigned their seats in the U.S. Senate after their states had seceded from the Union. A month later, he was chosen by acclamation to be the Confederate president.
After the Civil War ended, Davis was captured by Union forces near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865. Charged with treason but never tried, he was detained in a military prison for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia. President Andrew Johnson issued a pardon on Christmas Day, 1868 to all persons who participated in the “rebellion.” Davis refused to take the oath of allegiance to regain his American citizenship, which was restored only posthumously by the U.S. Congress and President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Davis died in New Orleans on December 6, 1889. Over 70,000 people paid their respects at New Orleans City Hall, and he was buried there on December 11. His body was moved to the former Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia in 1893.
To learn more about the life and legacy of this often misunderstood American statesman, visit these sites available on SIRS WebSelect:
You can find even more information in these Research Topic pages available on ProQuest’s eLibrary:
Elvis Presley rose from humble beginnings to become the ‘King of Rock and Roll.’ He remains an international pop culture icon almost 40 years after his death. On the eve of his 81st birthday, here are 10 things you may or may not know about Elvis:
1. Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi to Gladys Love (Smith) and Vernon Elvis Presley. He had a stillborn identical twin brother, named Jessie Garon.
2. Presley, who never received formal music training or learned to read music, studied and played by ear. He identified the Pentecostal church as his primary source of musical training.
3. When he was 13 years old, he and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. His music career began there in 1954, when he recorded a song with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records.
4. In December of 1957, Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army. Three girls from Montana wrote a letter to President Eisenhower in which they begged him not to give Elvis a G.I. haircut and cut off his sideburns.
5. While he was in the Army and stationed in Germany, he met 14-year-old Priscilla Ann Beaulieu. They married eight years later, on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.
6. Elvis is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, selling more than 1 billion recordings worldwide.
7. His only child Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968. Ironically, the daughter of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ was briefly married to Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop.’
8. On December 21, 1970, Presley visited President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. The photo of Nixon and Elvis shaking hands in the White House is the most-requested image in the holdings of the National Archives.
9. Elvis died at age 42 at his Memphis home on August 16, 1977. Elvis bought the mansion named Graceland in 1957 for $100,000. It was opened for tours in 1982, and since then an average of 500,000 visitors pay tribute annually.
10. Elvis was buried twice. Elvis was originally placed in a crypt next to his mother, Gladys, at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis. Shortly after, several young men attempted to steal his remains. His father Vernon then decided to move both bodies to the grounds of Graceland. He received special permission from city officials to do so, and they both rest there today.
To learn more about Elvis Presley’s life, music, legacy, and his lasting influence on American culture, visit ProQuest’s eLibrary Research Topic page, or one of these editorially selected websites, available on SIRS WebSelect:
On December 16, 1972, the Miami Dolphins tallied a 16-0 victory over the Baltimore Colts, completing the first undefeated 14-0 regular season record in the history of the NFL. They are the only team in NFL history to finish a season unbeaten and untied, and then go on to capture a Super Bowl victory that made them world champions, ending with a perfect 17-0 overall record. Over 40 years later, the Dolphins remain the only NFL team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied from the opening game through the Super Bowl (or the NFL championship game).
Six players from the ’72 Dolphins team have since been enshrined in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame: Nick Buoniconti (linebacker), Larry Csonka (fullback), Bob Griese (quarterback), Jim Langer (center), Larry Little (guard), and Paul Warfield (wide receiver), along with head coach Don Shula. It had not become common practice for Super Bowl champions to be invited to the White House until after 1980, so the 1972 Dolphins never got their White House visit. On August 20, 2013, 40 years after their historic perfect season, President Obama welcomed the team to the White House to celebrate and recognize their accomplishment.
Prior to the 1972 Dolphins, the only other team to ever complete the regular season undefeated and untied is the Chicago Bears, who accomplished the feat in both 1934 and 1942. However, both of those Bears teams lost in the NFL Championship Game. In 1985, the Chicago Bears were 12-0 when they visited Miami in a nationally televised Monday night showdown. Members of the undefeated 1972 team were in attendance and watched the Dolphins claim a 38-24 upset victory. The Bears went on to an 18-1 season, capped by winning the Super Bowl, but the Dolphins’ claim on the only perfect season was still intact.
The most recent team to challenge the Dolphins’ exclusive hold on an undefeated season was the 2007 New England Patriots, who finished the regular season with a 16-0 mark. (The Patriots were able to compile a better regular season record than the 1972 Dolphins because the NFL lengthened the regular season schedule from 14 to 16 games in 1978.) New England added two playoff wins and entered Super Bowl XLII undefeated (18-0), but the dream of a perfect season fell short as they were defeated 17-14 by the New York Giants.
This season, with three games left in the regular season, the Carolina Panthers remain undefeated at 13-0. Stay tuned to find out if they can duplicate the perfection achieved by the 1972 Miami Dolphins team.
eLibrary has over 100 Research Topic pages related to the NFL and its teams, coaches, players and commissioners. To view a few of them related to this post, check out the links below:
150 years ago, with the country in its fourth year of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln had been re-elected to a second term. On March 4, 1865, he gave his second inaugural address, and spoke about the war:
“Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came….Fondly do we hope–fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.”—Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865
Just over a month later, on April 9, 1865, the American Civil War effectively ended when Confederate Army Commander General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at a private home in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The terrible war that saw the Nation suffer over a million casualties and the deaths of than 620,000 American soldiers–from combat, accident, starvation, and disease–was finally coming to an end. The next day General Lee wrote in a farewell address to his men, known as General Order No 9:
“After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.”
Using primary sources to engage students in learning and building critical thinking and constructing knowledge is emphasized in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). For example, the CCSS require secondary students to “Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.“
Educators, you can help your students explore the Civil War and other topics in U.S. history through primary source documents with SIRS Government Reporter’s Historic Documents feature. Over 325 documents are available–including speeches, legislation, treaties, and others of historical value. Search for documents by title or subject, or browse through an alphabetical list. Each contains the full text of the document, as well as a brief summary explaining its background and significance. Some historic documents that are available on SIRS Government Reporter and related to the Civil War include:
- Lincoln’s “House Divided” Speech (1858)
- Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
- Constitution of the Confederate States of America (1861)
- Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
- The Gettysburg Address (1863)
- Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865)
- Andrew Johnson’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon for the Confederate States (1865)
Start using the primary source historic documents available on SIRS Government Reporter in your Common Core-based lesson plans and classroom activities today!
Fifty-six years ago, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, fled his homeland during an uprising against Chinese control of the country. Traveling mostly at night, he and his party made an arduous 15-day journey across the Himalayas and on March 31, 1959 entered India, where he was granted asylum.
Born in 1935, Tenzin Gyatso was identified at a very young age to be the reincarnation of his predecessor, was trained in the teachings of Buddhism, and at age 15 was formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama in 1950. Not only had he become a holy leader but also the political leader of a people under threat from a Chinese government that was intent upon pressing its authority. While an agreement with the Chinese allowing for joint administrative control over the country had been reached in 1954, the bloody conflict of the Tibetan uprising caused him to fear for his safety and, aided by the CIA, he made his trek to India. There, he set up the Tibetan Government in Exile, which has pushed for the rights of his countrymen ever since, though it does not promote Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama has traveled the world to promote peace, human rights and interfaith dialogue, and in 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The situation with China remains a difficult one, and in recent years the Dalai Lama, who retired as head of the government in 2011, has talked about the future of Tibet following his eventual death. His suggestion that he might not be reincarnated has led to even further friction with the Chinese government, which has said it might select the next leader itself. Whatever the outcome, the 14th Dalai Lama will go down in history as one of the most well-known and influential spiritual leaders of modern times.
On this day in 1911, Tennessee Williams (born Thomas Lanier Williams III), one of America’s preeminent playwrights, was born. Best known for his Broadway hits The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams once said: “I have only one major theme for my work, which is the destructive impact of society on the non-conformist individual.” This theme, many critics have noted, emerged from Williams’s own childhood, which was marked by tragedy and family dysfunction.
His mother, a fading Southern belle, was an overbearing parent trapped in an unhappy marriage. His father, a violently alcoholic traveling shoe salesman who was rarely home, denigrated Williams for being too effeminate. Williams, who eventually lived as an openly gay man, was raised Episcopalian (his grandfather was a minister) and struggled with his sexuality throughout his youth. His sister Rose, who suffered from mental illness, was subjected to a botched lobotomy as an adult, and Williams felt guilty for not protecting her more. All of this added up to a painful, difficult life, but it provided Williams with the material that would inspire his greatest works, most notably The Glass Menagerie.
Williams’s plays, typically set in the deep U.S. south, never shy away from tough topics, such as sex, violence, mental illness and addiction. But it is Williams’s empathy for his characters that make his plays truly compelling. To learn more about the life of this great American playwright and how it informed his plays, visit the Literary Corner in SIRS Renaissance.
After being printed as a serial in an abolitionist newspaper, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly was published as a completed book on March 20, 1852. It quickly became a sensation and sold 3 million copies before the U.S. Civil War began.
Born in Connecticut to a large family, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle’s Tom’s Cabin in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Living in Ohio just across the border from Kentucky, Stowe has firsthand experience with fugitive slaves. Furthermore, the life of slave in Maryland named Josiah Henson inspired her to write the story. Stowe was skilled storyteller and she used vivid imagery to show Northerners the atrocities of slavery. The impact of the book has led many historians say that it contributed to the start of the U.S. Civil War.
SIRS Discoverer provides biographical information on Harriet Beecher Stowe and the publication of this influential novel.
Have you read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? If so, why is this work of fiction such a significant part of American history?