February 7, 1926: Carter G. Woodson establishes Negro History Week
The story of Black History Month begins in Chicago during the late summer of 1915. Three years earlier, Carter G. Woodson had received a doctorate from Harvard, and was in Chicago to participate in a national celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation sponsored by the state of Illinois. Thousands of African Americans also made the trip to see exhibits highlighting African American progress since the end of slavery and an overflow crowd of six to twelve thousand waited outside the Coliseum for their turn to view the exhibits. Inspired by the three-week celebration, Woodson met with A. L. Jackson and three others to form the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).
Carter G. Woodson
He intended that others would popularize the findings that he and other black intellectuals would publish in The Journal of Negro History, which he established in 1916. As early as 1920, Woodson urged black civic organizations to promote the achievements that researchers were uncovering. A graduate member of Omega Psi Phi, he urged his fraternity brothers to take up the work. In 1924, they responded with the creation of Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. To generate greater interest he sent out a press release announcing Negro History Week in February, 1926.
Woodson chose February to build on the established tradition of celebrating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass on the 12th and the 14th, respectively. Since Lincoln’s assassination, the black community, along with other Republicans, had celebrated Lincoln’s birthday. Since the late 1890s, black communities across the country had been celebrating Douglass’. Woodson, innovated by asking the public to expand their study of black history beyond the celebration from the study of two great men to that of the accomplishments of African Americans.
—Excerpted and paraphrased from a more detailed posting by Prof. Daryl Michael Scott at asalh.org.
On this day in 1926 Carter G. Woodson established what would become Black History Month
February 6, 1935: Monopoly® Goes on Sale for the First Time
Merely playing Monopoly to the end is a test of ones resilience and persistence. Not surprisingly, the stories behind the game’s development and one professor’s work to defend his right to create an alternative are similarly inspiring tales of entrepreneurial resilience.
The game as we know it came out of the depths of the Great Depression. Charles Darrow, a heater salesman laid off after the Crash of 1929, started selling a board game he had seen played in Eastern Pennsylvania. He and his wife made the board (then actually oilcloth) by hand coloring in the deeds themselves.
1935 Darrow Patent
Darrow secured a copyright and sold his games through the Wannamaker department store in Philadelphia. In 1934, he tried selling the game to Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. They both rejected him but in 1935, after seeing the game’s success in Philadelphia, Parker Brothers wrote back. They helped Darrow to take out a patent and he would later become a millionaire—the resilient entrepreneur’s dream.
The tale of Anti-Monopoly is also indicative of unusual resolve. Prof Ralph Anspach an economics professor from San Francisco State, had played Monopoly as a child in pre-war Czechoslovakia. His family fled the Holocaust. In 1948 he would travel to Israel to defend the new Jewish homeland in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In the 1970s, while explaining the dangers of cartels to his son Anspach decided to create a game in which players competed to break up monopolies (instead of build them).
He called his game Anti-Monopoly. In 1974, he was plunged into a trademark fight which pushed him to the brink of personal bankruptcy. He would ultimately argue that Monopoly was played as a folk game prior to its patenting and that therefore his game did not infringe on Hasbro’s trademark. Parker Brothers would win a court order to destroy thousands of copies of Anspach’s board game but Anspach would prevail in a 1979 Court of Appeal case which determined that the trademark “Monopoly” was generic. Parker Brothers’ appeal to the Supreme Court was denied. Congress would soon pass a law invalidating the defense used by Anspach but his own case was grandfathered in. Through his own resilience, he won.
February 5, 1997: Switzerland’s largest banks create a fund to compensate Holocaust victims
As the Nazi menace became evident, hundreds of thousands of Western European Jews attempted to secure their assets (much of it liquidated in fire sales after pogroms like the Reichskristallnacht) in bank accounts in Switzerland and neutral countries. These refugees or their couriers were often unable to communicate account details to relatives who managed to escape the Nazis. Moreover, descendants’ access to these accounts was often blocked by missing paperwork such as death certificates (which the Nazi neglected to issue). These dormant accounts and those holding assets directly plundered by the Nazis and their allies were shrouded in secrecy.
Perhaps thousands of individuals had petitioned banking authorities for decades with no success but beginning in 1995 the World Jewish Congress (WJC) marshaled these individual efforts and launched a class-action lawsuit. They were also able to build bi-partisan support for their effort to recover these funds. Stymied by the Swiss in their search, researchers spent hundreds of hours scouring tens of thousands yellowed U.S. intelligence dispatches.In their search they discovered that much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in gold stolen by Germans during the war remained within Swiss banks. They learned that while the Swiss would not disclose account details they may have used some of the deposits to help the Polish government indemnify Swiss citizens who had their property seized by the Communists.
In time, the pressure brought by the WJC lead the banks to publish the names of thousands of foreign account holders whose accounts had been dormant since 1945 as well as a number of dormant accounts opened by Swiss residents who may have been acting as proxies for Jews in other parts of Europe. One survivor whose father’s name was not on the list but continues to search was quoted as saying “I cannot give up…It has gone too far.”
The dogged persistence of others like her and of the World Jewish Congress was rewarded on this day in 1997.
The story of the resilience of the WJC and the effort to create an effective coalition is ably narrated by John Authers and Richard Wolff in The Victims Fortune.
February 4, 1783 Britain proclaims formal end to hostilities with the U.S.
After the thirteen American colonies declared their Independence there was the small matter of the British to consider. Today, given the sheer size and population of the United States it is hard to imagine how they could possibly lose.
230 years ago, it was not a foregone conclusion. The colonies had just transformed themselves into states. They had no infrastructure for raising and supplying and army. Relatively few colonists were interested in volunteering. They had previously depended on Britain for such manufactures. Inflation was rampant and local merchants would not sell to the revolutionaries who had only paper money from new-born states whereas the British paid with gold and silver.
On the other hand, the British were the largest navy a well-equipped army and access to the greatest Empire the world had yet known, including Canada. The Americans only had support from French.
Yet from 1775 George Washington and the revolutionaries remained resilient. In 1781, with the help of the French commander Count Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau, they defeated Britain’s Cornwallis at Yorktown. This victory sapped Britain’s will to continue the war and proved the value of the Americans’ perseverance. On this date, the British would declare a formal end to hostility as they negotiated a formal peace with the Americans, Spain and France.
On this day, George Washington proved the virtue of resilience in pursuing and achieving even the most ambitious goals.
February 3rd, 2005: Alberto Gonzales becomes 80th (& first Hispanic)
Before he became the 80th attorney-general, Alberto Gonzales was a White House Counsel, an Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court and Secretary of State of Texas. He started his college education at the rigorous Air Force Academy where he made the Dean’s list every semester before transferring to Rice University. He received his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School and he made partner at Vinson & Elkins, the country’s top energy law firm.
But before all these things, Alberto Gonzales was the second of eight children born to a migrant worker cum construction laborer and a homemaker growing up in the town of Humble, a predominantly white oil town in Texas. His father left school in the second grade, his mother in the sixth. Three of his grandparents may have been illegal immigrants and his family lived in a two bedroom home that Gonzales’ father built with his brother. The tiny home lacked telephones and hot water but despite these humble circumstances Gonzales rose to the highest executive office to be held by a Hispanic in the United States.
In a very real sense, Alberto Gonzales embodies the classic up-by-your-bootstrap American Dream story. In excelling against a background of privation, Alberto Gonzales exemplifies the fruit of resilience.
Feb 2, 1943: Germans surrender at Stalingrad reversing the tide of World War 2
The Battle of Stalingrad was until the battle of Leningrad, the most bloody battle in human history. In just over 5 months of fighting, the Red Army suffered approximated 750,000 casualties. A comparison of pre- and postwar censuses shows that of half a million civilians living in Stalingrad before the war barely 1,500 remained. Over 40,000 died in just the first two days of bombing. Countless others suffered starvation as both armies turned to pets, then to vermin then to each other for sustenance.
Prior to the battle, the Nazi übermentschen and their allies were presumed invincible by the Soviets and their western allies. Indeed, over 50,000 Soviet citizens joined the German side in the battle in the hopes of preserving themselves after a Soviet defeat that seemed inevitable. So certain, were the Soviet leaders themselves that defeat was on the horizon that much of the city’s food was moved out before the battle.
Yet, the performance of those Russians who stood to defend the city in door to door combat and the Red Army that ultimately encircled the Axis forces engulfed by the vastness of the Russian steppes bear testament to the virtue of perseverance in even the most dire circumstances. Prior to the resistance of these Soviets starved for food and confidence, it was certain that the Germans would successfully march through Europe. But on this day seventy year ago the Nazis were turned back and the tide of the man’s most gruesome war turned.