Sometimes, a casual conversation makes you stop in your tracks. Back in early January, my dad said, “you know, the end of the month is 50 years since I arrived in Viet Nam”. I hadn’t realized it was. He arrived in Viet Nam right before the Tet Offensive in 1968. He was only 20 years old. I thought for a moment and responded with, “That means this April is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination”. He nodded.
2017 brought my family so many amazing celebrations, most notably, my father’s 70th birthday and my parents’ 40 anniversary. As 2018 began, I hadn’t realized the historical impact of this year. 50 years have passed since 1968, since Dr. King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Viet Nam, and everything else that occurred in this pivotal year.
I teach in an urban community so all of my students know about Dr. King and many other influential African Americans. One of my former students even celebrates her birthday today, along with Dr. Maya Angelou. History can be hard for students to connect to as it all occurred “so long ago”. When we meet people that lived through something, it brings life to that event. That event now has a story with real people connected to it. It shows us how these events impacted the people that lived through it. It shows us the life and legacy of that historic person.
Last week before our spring break, I told my students today is the 50th anniversary since we wouldn’t be in school today. It caught some of them off guard too and they stopped to think about what I just said. It made me think about the fact that Dr. King was just a few years older than me at the time he was killed. It makes me wonder if we have made progress. It made me realize that many of the people from modern history are already gone.
As one student said, “we are losing so many great black people”. Linda Brown died on March 25. We happened to be studying the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in one class that week. We are losing many of the people who have shaped history over the years. Dr. Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela just two that come to mind. I can no longer say, “she is still alive”. So, I find stories connected to these people to illustrate their legacy.
As we remember Dr. King today, we honor his life and legacy. We look to see is shaping the next 50. Among them, Dr. King and his legacy will live on.
Aug 18, 1920: Woman Suffrage Amendment Ratified
The 19th amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, received two-thirds majority of state ratification thanks to Tennessee and is now a new law. It culminates more than 70 years of struggle by women. It reads “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United State or by any State on account of sex” and “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
The women’s suffrage movement began in the mid 1800. Women became politically active in politics due to the abolitionist and temperance movements. In July 1848, 200 women met in Seneca Fall, New York to discuss women’s rights. The convention was led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott and became known as the Seneca Falls Convention. Even Frederick Douglass attended this convention! During this time, women focused on better educational and employment opportunities for women. They did also try to gain the right to vote but it was met with much opposition. Over the years, more women’s rights conventions were held. The first national women’s rights convention was in 1850 and it was held every year after. Year after year, women pushed for the right to vote. Wyoming was actually the first state to allow women to vote in 1890.
By the 20th century, the role of women in society was changing. Women worked more, received a better education, and had fewer children. Still, they did not have the right to vote. In 1917, America entered World War I. With so many men overseas fighting in the war, women stepped up to aid the war effort. By 1918, women had equal suffrage in 15 states, but not across the country yet. Finally, an amendment passed the House of Representatives in January 1918. In June 1919, it was approved by the Senate for ratification. Suffragists around the country pushed for ratification and it finally happened on August 18, 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th to ratify the amendment. On August 26, 1920, it was formally adopted into the Constitution.
August 15, 1969: The Woodstock Festival opens in Bethel, NY
On this day in 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival opens in the upstate New York town of Bethel. The festival lasted from August 15-17, 1969. It was billed as “Three Days of Peace and Music” with performances by Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, and many more (click here for Hendrix’s guitar performance of The Star Spangled Banner). More than 400,000 people were in attendance when the gates opened.
August 12, 1978: Rising NFL Star Paralyzed by Hit
On this day in 1978, the Oakland Raiders played against the New England Patriots in a pre-season game. Oakland Raiders free safety Jack Tatum hit New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley helmet-to-helmet. As a result, Stingley was paralyzed for life. He was just 26 years old. Despite the sport’s hard hits and reputation for roughness, this was the first and only time a player was permanently paralyzed as a result of an injury sustained in a National Football League game. At this time, the hit did not violate any NFL rules and no flag was thrown. However, Stingley’s neck was broken and he became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Stingley died on April 5, 2007 at the age of 51. He and Tatum never reconciled.
Helmet to helmet contact is now illegal in the NFL. Some people say that football is a hard sport and that a player will do the job they are paid to do. Others say that helmet to helmet contact should be illegal in the NFL and that a player can still do their job without the danger of injuring them self or other players.
Stingley, a wide receiver out of Purdue, was chosen by the Patriots in the first round of the 1973 draft. In 1977, he had enjoyed the best year of his career, racking up 39 catches for 657 yards and five touchdowns. Tatum, played college football at Ohio State and was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1971 draft. He was known for hard hits and had previously injured other NFL players. Raiders head coach John Madden visited Stingley in the hospital. Tatum tried to visit Stingley but his family did not allow him as they were angry at Tatum. They felt he lacked remorse for what he did to Stingley.
Discussion: What do you think about helmet to helmet contact in football? Should it be illegal? Does it make the game more dangerous? Should Tatum have felt sorry for what he did or was he just “doing his job”?