On This Day
1919 – Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, for speaking out against the draft during World War I.
Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American socialist, political activist, trade unionist, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States.
Early in his political career, Debs was a member of the Democratic Party. He was elected as a Democrat to the Indiana General Assembly in 1884. After working with several smaller unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Debs was instrumental in the founding of the American Railway Union (ARU), one of the nation’s first industrial unions. After workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company organized a wildcat strike over pay cuts in the summer of 1894, Debs signed many into the ARU. He called a boycott of the ARU against handling trains with Pullman cars in what became the nationwide Pullman Strike, affecting most lines west of Detroit and more than 250,000 workers in 27 states. Purportedly to keep the mail running, President Grover Cleveland used the United States Army to break the strike. As a leader of the ARU, Debs was convicted of federal charges for defying a court injunction against the strike and served six months in prison.
In prison, Debs read various works of socialist theory and emerged six months later as a committed adherent of the international socialist movement. Debs was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America (1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (1898) and the Socialist Party of America (1901). Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.6% of the popular vote), 1904 (3.0%), 1908 (2.8%), 1912 (6.0%) and 1920 (3.4%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state Indiana in 1916.
Debs was noted for his oratory and his speech denouncing American participation in World War I led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium due to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison. He has since been cited as the inspiration for numerous politicians.
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Born On This Day
1854 – Lucy Craft Laney, Founder of the Haines Normal and Industrial School, Augusta, Georgia (d. 1933)
Lucy Craft Laney (April 13, 1854 – October 24, 1933) was an early African-American educator who in 1883 founded the first school for black children in Augusta, Georgia. She was principal of the Haines Institute for Industrial and Normal Education for 50 years. Laney was selected by Governor Jimmy Carter in 1974 to be one of the first African Americans to have their portraits hung in the Georgia State Capitol.
Lucy Craft Laney was born on April 13, 1854, in Macon, Georgia, 11 years before the end of slavery, which was outlawed at the end of the Civil War. She was the seventh of 10 children born to Louisa and David Laney, who were both former slaves; her father had saved enough money to buy his freedom and that of his wife about 20 years before Lucy’s birth. Both her parents were strong believers in education and were very giving to strangers; this upbringing would strongly influence Laney in her life. At the time of her birth it was illegal for blacks to read; however with the assistance of Ms. Campbell, the slave owner’s sister, Lucy learned to read at the age of four. She attended Lewis (later Ballard) High School in Macon, Georgia, a mission school run by the American Missionary Association. In 1869 she entered the first class of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), where she prepared to be a teacher. She graduated from the school’s teacher training program (the Normal Department) in 1873.
Laney worked as a teacher in Macon, Milledgeville and Savannah, Georgia for ten years before deciding to open a school of her own. Due to health reasons, she settled in Augusta, Georgia, and founded the first school for black children. Her first class in 1883 was six children but Laney attracted interest in the community and by the end of the second year the school had 234 students.
With the increase in students, she needed more funding for her operation. She attended the northern Presbyterian Church Convention in 1886 in Minneapolis and pleaded her case there, but was turned down initially. One of the attendees, Francine E. H. Haines, later declared an interest in and donated $10,000 to Laney for the school. With this money, Laney expanded her offerings. She changed the school’s name to The Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in honor of her benefactor and to indicate its goals of industrial and teacher training.
The school eventually grew to encompass an entire city block of buildings. By 1928, the school’s enrollment was more than 800 students.
Laney also opened the first black kindergarten and the first black nursing school in Augusta.
NAACP and other organizations
While living in Augusta, Laney helped to found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1918. She was also active in other organizations to promote the welfare of blacks and black women: the Interracial Commission, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement. She also helped to integrate the community work that the YMCA and YWCA were engaged in.
In 1974 then Governor Jimmy Carter hung the first portraits of African Americans in the Georgia state capitol: Lucy Craft Laney, the Reverend Henry McNeal Turner, and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In 1992 she was inducted into “Georgia Women of Achievement.”
Death and legacy
Laney died on October 24, 1933, and is buried at the corner of Laney Walker Boulevard and Phillips Street, where she first founded the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Now, Lucy Craft Laney Comprehensive High School occupies the space, though her grave and memorial remain undisturbed.
Lucy Laney Elementary School in Harris County was named for her. Lucy Craft Laney High School is also named for her. Additionally, Lucy Craft Laney Community School is a Minneapolis Public School serving PK-5th grade students in North Minneapolis named for her.
Romus Valton Burgin (August 13, 1922 – April 6, 2019) was an American author and United States Marine.
Early life and family
Burgin was born to Joseph Harmon Burgin and Beulah May (née Perry) Burgin in Jewett, Texas. Burgin’s younger brother, Joseph (“Joe” or “J.D.”) Delton (March 24, 1926 – February 17, 1945) joined the United States Army, after changing his year of birth from 1926 to 1925, and was sent to Europe, as a member of Company “C”, 274th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division (“Trailblazers”). Joseph died in Alsace-Lorraine on February 17, 1945 when he was killed by artillery fire near the river Saar and the town of Forbach, as they moved east toward Saarbrücken on the other side of the river, as part of a push against the Siegfried Line. He is buried at the Sardis Cemetery next to his parents.
Burgin joined the United States Marine Corps on November 13, 1942, during World War II and was assigned to the 9th Replacement Battalion. He soon became a mortarman in K-Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K-3-5), and fought in the Pacific War at Cape Gloucester, then alongside his friend, Eugene Sledge, on Peleliu, and Okinawa. Burgin was promoted to the rank of sergeant upon reaching Okinawa.
Burgin was the author of the memoir Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific (with William Marvel). He was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions in the Battle of Okinawa on 2 May 1945, when he destroyed a Japanese machine gun emplacement that had his company pinned down. He also was going to be awarded a Silver Star by Captain Andrew “Ack-Ack” Haldane for taking out a pillbox on Peleliu, but Haldane was killed by sniper fire before he could submit it.
After the war he went to work for the United States Post Office. While in Melbourne, Burgin met an Australian woman, named Florence Risely. They married in Dallas on January 29, 1947. The couple had four daughters. Burgin is portrayed in the HBO miniseries The Pacific by Martin McCann. Burgin himself appears in documentary footage during the miniseries. He died on April 6, 2019 at the age of 96 in Lancaster, Texas.
Burgin, R.V. & Marvel, William “Bill” (2010). Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific. Penguin. ISBN 978-0-451-22990-8.
The official website of WWII Marine R.V. Burgin
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