Kenneth C. Davis's Blog

October 16, 2017

President John F. Kennedy, Proclamation 3504 (October 23, 1962), authorizing the naval quarantine of Cuba. This proclamation and a national television address by Kennedy were made in response to the placement of Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba in October 1962. The threat led to the most dangerous Cold War confrontation as the two countries tiptoed toward war. A U.S. spy plane was shot down over Cuba and the prospect of nuclear exchange grew real.


John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States (Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum)


Any vessel or craft which may be proceeding toward Cuba may be intercepted and may be directed to identify itself, its cargo, equipment and stores and its ports of call, to stop, to lie to, to submit to visit and search, or to proceed as directed. Any vessel or craft which fails or refuses to respond to or comply with directions shall be subject to being taken into custody. Any vessel or craft which it is believed is en route to Cuba and may be carrying prohibited materiel or may itself constitute such materiel shall, wherever possible, be directed to proceed to another destination of its own choice and shall be taken into custody if it fails or refuses to obey such directions. All vessels or craft taken into custody shall be sent into a port of the United States for appropriate disposition.


-President John F. Kennedy


Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum


After a period of tense negotiations, the thirteen days marking the most dangerous period of the Cuban missile crisis ended on October 28 when Moscow announced that the Soviet Union had accepted a negotiated solution and affirmed that the missiles would be removed in exchange for a non-invasion pledge from the United States. Other secret agreements included the removal of U.S. missiles that had been placed in Turkey, a NATO ally.


Visit the “The World on the Brink” Cuban Missile Crisis resources a the JFL Presidential Library & Museum.


 

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Published on October 16, 2017 09:26

Answer: All of the enslaved people in Yorktown who had escaped to the British in hopes of freedom.


http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/surrender-lord-cornwallis

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis by John Trumbull (Source: Architect of the U.S. Capitol)


When the British forces under Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington and his French allies on October 19, 1781, the terms of capitulation included the following phrase


It is understood that any property obviously belonging to the inhabitants of these States, in the possession of the garrison, shall be subject to be reclaimed.


(Article IV, Articles of Capitulation; dated October 18, 1781. Source  and Complete Text: Avalon Project-Yale Law School)


Thousands of  escaped enslaved people had flocked to the British army during Cornwallis’s campaign in Virginia in what has been called the “largest slave rebellion in American history.”


They had come in the belief  that the British would free them. Cornwallis had put them to work on the British defense works around the small tobacco port, and when disease started to spread and supplies ran low, Cornwallis forced hundreds of these people out of Yorktown. Many more died from epidemic diseases and the shelling of American and French artillery during the siege.


The African Americans in Yorktown included at least seventeen people who had left Washington’s Mount Vernon  plantation with the British, as well as members of Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved community also captured earlier in 1781. They were all returned to bondage, along with thousands of others as Virginian slaveholders came to Yorktown to recover their “property.”


4isaacgrangerjefferson-uva

Isaac Granger Jefferson at about age 70 (Courtesy: Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)


Among them was Isaac Granger Jefferson, a five-year-old boy who was returned to Monticello and later told his story.


The stories of some of the people “reclaimed” by Washington are told in my new bookIN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY; The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives. 



 


The Battle of Yorktown and role of African-American soldiers there –as well as the fate of the enslaved people in the besieged town — are featured in THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF AMERICA AT WAR: Untold Tales from Yorktown to Fallujah.


 


 


The Hidden History of America At War (paperback)


“A fascinating exploration of war and the myths of war. Kenneth C. Davis shows how interesting the truth can be.” –Evan Thomas, New York Times-bestselling author of Sea of Thunder and John Paul Jones

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Published on October 16, 2017 08:00

September 22, 2017

Scheduled for publication in May 2018 by Henry Holt, this book recounts the story of the most deadly epidemic in modern times, the Spanish Flu pandemic, which struck the world 100 years ago during the last months of World War I.


 


More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War -Coming MAY 2018


 


Publisher’s Description:


 Invisible. Incurable. Unstoppable.


From bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis comes a fascinating account of the Spanish influenza pandemic that swept the world from 1918 to 1919.


With 2018 marking the centennial of the worst disease outbreak in modern history, the story of the Spanish flu is more relevant today than ever. This dramatic narrative, told through the stories and voices of the people caught in the deadly maelstrom, explores how this vast, global epidemic was intertwined with the horrors of World War I – and how it could happen again. Complete with photographs, period documents, modern research, and firsthand reports by medical professionals and survivors, this book provides captivating insight into a catastrophe that transformed America in the early twentieth century.


I will be writing more about the book and the subject of the Spanish Flu and the “war to end all wars” as we get closer to publication date. In the meantime, I hope you will also read my previous book IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY.


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Published on September 22, 2017 07:12 • 10 views

September 20, 2017

“Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts.”


President Eisenhower (Courtesy: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum)

President Eisenhower (Courtesy: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum)


President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Situation in Little Rock,” (September 24, 1957)


For a few minutes this evening I want to speak to you about the serious situation that has arisen in Little Rock. To make this talk I have come to the President’s office in the White House. I could have spoken from Rhode Island, where I have been staying recently, but I felt that, in speaking from the house of Lincoln, of Jackson and of Wilson, my words would better convey both the sadness I feel in the action I was compelled today to take and the firmness with which I intend to pursue this course until the orders of the Federal Court at Little Rock can be executed without unlawful interference.


In that city, under the leadership of demagogic extremists, disorderly mobs have deliberately prevented the carrying out of proper orders from a Federal Court. Local authorities have not eliminated that violent opposition and, under the law, I yesterday issued a Proclamation calling upon the mob to disperse.


This morning the mob again gathered in front of the Central High School of Little Rock, obviously for the purpose of again. preventing the carrying out of the Court’s order relating to the admission of Negro children to that school.


Whenever normal agencies prove inadequate to the task and it becomes necessary for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to use its powers and authority to uphold Federal Courts, the President’s responsibility is inescapable.


In accordance with that responsibility, I have today issued an Executive Order directing the use of troops under Federal authority to aid in the execution of Federal law at Little Rock, Arkansas. This became necessary when my Proclamation of yesterday was not observed, and the obstruction of justice still continues.


Complete text and Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Situation in Little Rock.,” September 24, 1957. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.


A video version of the address can be found on C-Span

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Published on September 20, 2017 04:00 • 1 view

September 19, 2017

I am very excited to unveil the cover design for my forthcoming book, MORE DEADLY THAN WAR: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War.


More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War -Coming MAY 2018


Scheduled for publication in May 2018 by Henry Holt, the book tells the story of the most deadly epidemic in modern times, the Spanish Flu pandemic, which struck the world 100 years ago during the last months of World War I.


The two stories are inseparable. You cannot understand the end of that war without knowing about a global calamity that killed an estimated five percent of the world population in a little more than a year. Spanish Flu killed about as many Americans in one year as have died of HIV/AIDS in thirty years.


This dramatic narrative, told through the stories and voices of the people caught in the deadly maelstrom, explores how this vast, global epidemic was intertwined with the horrors of World War I.


I will be writing more about the book and the subject of the Spanish Flu and the “war to end all wars” as we get closer to publication date. In the meantime, I hope you will also read my previous book IN THE SHADOW OF LIBERTY.


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Published on September 19, 2017 07:12 • 1 view

September 18, 2017

Answer: Frederick Douglass, “Speech to the National Free Soil Convention” (August 11, 1852)


Frederick Douglass circa 1847, age approximately 29 years. Source National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.


 


Both National Conventions acted in open contempt of the antislavery sentiment of the North, by incorporating, as the corner stone of their two platforms, the infamous law to which I have alluded—a law which, I think, will never be repealed—it is too bad to be repealed—a law fit only to trampled under foot, (suiting the action to the word). The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers. [Laughter and applause.] A half dozen more dead kidnappers carried down South would cool the ardor of Southern gentlemen, and keep their rapacity in check. That is perfectly right as long as the colored man has no protection. The colored men’s rights are less than those of a jackass. No man can take away a jackass without submitting the matter to twelve men in any part of this country. A black man may be carried away without any reference to a jury. It is only necessary to claim him, and that some villain should swear to his identity. There is more protection there for a horse, for a donkey, or anything, rather than a colored man—who is, therefore, justified in the eye of God, in maintaining his right with his arm.


Frederick Douglass: Speech to the National Free Soil Convention August 11, 1852


Source: Frederick Douglass Writing Projects, University of Rochester Libraries


Douglass was talking about the Fugitive Slave Act, enacted on September 18, 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850. Passage of this law further emboldened abolitionists such as Douglass as well as inspiring Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 


Harriet’s Writing Room Source: Bowdoin College

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Published on September 18, 2017 08:31 • 1 view

September 17, 2017

Answer: On September 17, Washington signed the parchment copy first, as President of the convention. 


On September 17, 1787, 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia, voted to adopt the United States Constitution.


United States Constitution (Image Courtesy of the National Archives)

United States Constitution (Image Courtesy of the National Archives)


To recap these events:


Working from May 25, when a quorum was established, until September 17, 1787, when the convention voted to endorse the final form of the Constitution, the delegates gathered in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House were actually obligated only to revise or amend the Articles of Confederation. Under those Articles, however, the government was plagued by weaknesses, such as its inability to raise revenues to pay its foreign debts or maintain an army. From the outset, most the convention’s organizers, James Madison chief among them, knew that splints and bandages wouldn’t do the trick for the broken Articles.


The government was broke –literally and figuratively– and they were going to fix it by inventing an entirely new one. James Madison had been studying more than 200 books on constitutions and republican history sent to him by Thomas Jefferson in preparation for the convention. The moving force behind the convention, Madison came prepared with the outline of a new Constitution.


A reluctant George Washington, whose name was placed at the head of list of Virginia’s delegates without his knowledge, was unquestionably spurred by recent events in Massachusetts (Shay’s Rebellion, a violent protest by Massachusetts farmers). Elected president of the convention, he wrote from Philadelphia in June to his close wartime confidant and ally, the Marquis de Lafayette:


I could not resist the call to a convention of the States which is to determine whether we are to have a government of respectability under which life, liberty, and property will be secured to us, or are to submit to one which may be the result of chance or the moment, springing perhaps from anarchy and Confusion, and dictated perhaps by some aspiring demagogue.


On September 17, Washington signed the parchment copy first, as President of the convention. He was followed by the remaining delegates from the twelve states that sent delegates in geographical order, from north to south, beginning with New Hampshire. (Rhode Island was the only state that did not send a delegation.) When the last of the signatures was added –that of Abraham Baldwin of Georgia– Benjamin Franklin gazed at Washington’s chair, on which was painted a bright yellow sun. He then spoke, as James Madison recorded it:


I have, said he, often in the course of a session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell if it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.


In another perhaps more apocryphal tale, Franklin left the building and was confronted by a lady who asked, “Well Doctor, do we have a monarchy or a republic?” The witty sage of Philadelphia replied,


“A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”


This post is excerpted from America’s Hidden History, which offers fuller account of the Convention and the events that led to it.  You can also read more about the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution in Don’t Know Much About History: Anniversary Edition, Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents and  In the Shadow of Liberty.


For more about the Constitution, visit these sites:

The National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia and James Madison’s Montpelier


Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)


Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition


New York Times Bestseller America's Hidden History

New York Times Bestseller
America’s Hidden History


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Published on September 17, 2017 05:00 • 2 views

August 28, 2017


“Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.”
— Abraham Lincoln, “First Annual Message to Congress” (December 3, 1861)



To most Americans, the first Monday in September means a three-day weekend and the last hurrah of summer, a final outing at the shore before school begins, a family picnic. The federal Labor Day was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland during his second term in 1894.


 


But Labor Day was born in a time when work was no picnic. As America was moving from farms to factories in the Industrial Age, there was a long, violent, often-deadly struggle for fundamental workers’ rights, a struggle that in many ways was America’s “other civil war.” (From  “The Blood and Sweat Behind Labor Day”)


 


“Glassworks. Midnight. Location: Indiana.” From a series of photographs of child labor at glass and bottle factories in the United States by Lewis W. Hine, for the National Child Labor Committee, New York.


The first American Labor Day is dated to a parade organized by unions in New York City on September 5, 1882, as a celebration of “the strength and spirit of the American worker.” They wanted among, other things, an end to child labor.


In 1861, Lincoln told Congress:


Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.


Today, in postindustrial America, Abraham Lincoln’s words ring empty. Labor is far from “superior to capital.” Working people and unions have borne the brunt of the great changes in the globalized economy.


But the facts are clear: In the current “gig economy,” the loss of union jobs and the recent failures of labor to organize workers is one key reason for the decline of America’s middle class.


Read the full history of Labor Day in this essay: “The Blood and Sweat Behind Labor Day” (2011)


 

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Published on August 28, 2017 11:16 • 1 view

“Why do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day?”


This  Ted-Ed animated video explains the history of the holiday and why it still matters today. (Reposted from 9/1/2014)


You can also view it on YouTube:


 





You can read more about the history and meaning of Labor Day in this piece I wrote for CNN a few years ago:


“The Blood and Sweat Behind Labor Day”


Read more about the period of labor unrest in Don’t Know Much About® History.


Don't Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)

Don’t Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)


 

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Published on August 28, 2017 06:00 • 2 views

August 27, 2017

(Revise of 2013 essay)


Lyndon B. Johnson (March 1964), 36th President of the United States (Photo: Arnold Newman, WHite House Press Office)

Lyndon B. Johnson (March 1964)
(Photo: Arnold Newman, White House Press Office)


 


All I have I would have given gladly not to be standing here today.


Lyndon B. Johnson, in his first address as President to a joint session of Congress (November 27, 1963)


The 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on August 27, 1908, in a small farmhouse near Stonewall, Texas on the Pedernales River. Coincidentally, it is also the date on which LBJ accepted the 1964 Democratic nomination for President. (Senator Hubert H. Humphrey was his Vice Presidential nominee.)


In some respects, history and time have been kinder to Lyndon B. Johnson than his tortured Presidency –and certainly the critics of his day—would have possibly suggested. A power broker extraordinaire during his days in Congress, especially during his twelve years in the Senate, Lyndon B. Johnson challenged John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 primaries, and then accepted Kennedy’s offer to become his Vice Presidential running mate. Johnson was credited with helping Kennedy win Southern votes and ultimately the election.


Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One at Love Field Airport two hours and eight minutes after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas. Jackie Kennedy (right), still in her blood-soaked clothes, looks on. Public Domain-Source White House


On November 22, 1963, history and America changed with Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson became President, taking the oath of office aboard Air Force One with Jacqueline Kennedy, the dead President’s widow standing beside him.


Driven by a rousing sense of social justice, born out of his youth and upbringing in hardscrabble Texas and Depression-era experiences, he had become one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most loyal New Dealers. First in a federal job, then in Congress and later as “Master of the Senate.” As President, Johnson set the country on a quest for what he called the “Great Society,” looking for ways to end the great economic injustice and bitter racial disparity that existed in America in 1963. But his vision for a “Great Society” was counterbalanced, and ultimately overshadowed by his doomed course in pursuing the war in Vietnam.


In the midst of the war, recently released White House tapes reveal  Johnson confided–


I can’t win and I can’t get out.


Fast Facts-


Johnson was the first Congressman to enlist for duty after Pearl Harbor.


Lyndon B. Johnson as Navy Commander (Photo Credit: Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum)


•Johnson was the fourth president to come into office upon the death of a president by assassination. (The others were Andrew Johnson after Lincoln, Chester A. Arthur after Garfield, and Theodore Roosevelt after McKinley.)


•Johnson appointed the first black Supreme Curt Justice, Thurgood Marshall.


The Johnson Library and Museum is in Austin, Texas.  Lyndon B. Johnson died at the age of 67 on January 22, 1973. His New York Times obituary.


Read more about Lyndon B. Johnson, his presidency and the Vietnam War and civil rights movement in Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents and Don’t Know Much About® History.


Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents


Don't Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)

Don’t Know Much About History (Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition)

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Published on August 27, 2017 06:00 • 2 views