Monday, July 05, 2010

Today -100: July 5, 1910: Of a safe and sane Fourth


Incongruous Headline of the Day -100: “Safe and Sane Day the Country Over.” Meaning that there were relatively few deaths from fireworks, which were banned in many places, including New York City. However, the United States was anything but safe and sane on July 4, 1910.

The cause: boxer Jack Johnson, who was black, beat James Jeffries, who was white, in the 15th round of the “Fight of the Century.” This did not go over so well with some people. Among many other racial incidents, fights broke out in Omaho, with one black man killed; two black men were killed by white men in Little Rock in separate incidents; on a trolley car in Houston a white man slashed the throat of a black man who had “jeeringly proclaimed Johnson’s victory”; and in Macon, Georgia, “The negroes have become so boisterous in celebrating the victory of Johnson over Jeffries that the authorities doubled the police force to prevent a clash of the races. Several negroes have been beaten and scores of them arrested, but there has been no serious disturbance.” Define “serious,” New York Times. “The negroes have angered the whites by insolent remarks about Jeffries.” Three other “insolent” negroes were killed in a shoot-out with a mob at a construction camp in Uvaldia, Georgia, and others fled “into the woods, where they are being hunted by the whites.” In Wilmington, Delaware, a white man was slashed by a mob of black men, who were then chased into an apartment house by a mob of several thousand whites, who bombarded it with stones. When the cops showed up, the mob tried to lynch the black man they arrested. In Roanoke, VA, a black man who heard of Johnson’s victory said, “‘Now I guess the white folks will let the negroes alone.’ A white man replied, ‘No,’ and the two clashed.” And there were running racial fights all over New York, with gangs of white men and youths looking for blacks to beat up; the Times described one fight as “a direct outcome of an argument over the respective merits of the white and negro races.” But in a touching act of racial reconciliation in St Joseph, Missouri, a white man defended a black man who had been hit by a white man – so a white crowd beat him up instead. Eight dead nation-wide (so far), all black (one of them a black cop in Mounds, Illinois, who was killed by black rioters), although one white man will probably die of his wounds.

Headline of the Day -100: “Americans in Berlin Sad.” Yes, that’s also white guys mourning Johnson’s victory.

In other holiday news, an errant firecracker burned down half of Benton, Pennsylvania.

Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller, the 8th chief justice of the US, died on the 4th of July. Since one seat is already vacant and one functionally vacant, pending cases will be decided by just six justices. Fuller was appointed by Cleveland in 1888. His death leaves only two Democrats on the bench.

Taft spoke to the convention of the National Education Association on the 4th, explaining how American colonial policy in the Philippines was actually in complete conformity with the language of the Declaration of Independence (deriving just powers from the consent of the governed, etc), “when that language is properly understood by the same sort of construction as Lincoln gave to the language ‘All men are created equal.’ ... When the time shall arrive in which the Filipinos can be safely trusted to organize and maintain permanently their own Government, and this Government shall withdraw from the islands or offer to do so, the proposition of the Declaration of Independence will then have been fulfilled and the Government will be a just one, for it will rest on the consent of the governed.” But we can’t do that “in the absence of the full effects of education”. So it’s “a purely altruistic policy”. Ditto for Cuba.

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