March 6, 2020
Day 66 of 366
March 6th is the sixty-sixth day of the year. It is the European Day of the Righteous, a commemoration of those who have stood up to crimes against humanity and totalitarianism with their own moral responsibility.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Dentist’s Day, National Dress Day, National Frozen Food Day, National Oreo Cookie Day, National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, National Dress in Blue Day, National Speech and Debate Education Day, and National Employee Appreciation Day. The last three are typically observed on the first Friday in March.
Apparently, it’s a busy day.
Historical items of note:
- In 1475, Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo was born.
- In 1619, French author and playwright Cyrano de Bergerac was born.
- In 1665, Henry Oldenburg – the first joint Secretary of the Royal Society – published the first issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. It is the world’s longest-running scientific journal.
- In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was signed into law by President James Monroe. The compromise allows Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state, allowed Maine into the Union as a free state, and made the rest of the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase territory slavery-free.
- In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo came to an end. After a thirteen-day siege by an army of 3,000 Mexican troops, the 187 Texas volunteers – including frontiersman Davy Crockett and colonel Jim Bowie – defending the Alamo were killed and the fort was captured.
- In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev presented the first periodic table to the Russian Chemical Society.
- In 1917, illustrator and publisher Will Eisner was born.
- In 1923, comedian and game show host Ed McMahon was born.
- In 1943, Norman Rockwell published Freedom from Want in The Saturday Evening Post with a matching essay by Carlos Bulosan as part of the Four Freedoms series.
- In 1968, actress Moira Kelly was born.
- In 1981, Walter Cronkite signed off as anchorman of CBS Evening News. This marked his retirement from the program after nearly twenty years. He was succeeded by Dan Rather.
Walter Cronkite left a farewell message for his audience:
This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it’s a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we’ve been meeting like this in the evenings, and I’ll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I’m afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists; writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change. Furthermore, I’m not even going away! I’ll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don’t fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that’s the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I’ll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night.
In 1857, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case.
Dred Scott was an enslaved black man whose owners had taken him from Missouri (at that time, a slave state) into the Missouri Territory, most of which had been designated “free” territory by the Missouri Compromise. When his owners later brought him back to Missouri, Scott sued in court for his freedom, claiming that because he had been taken into a “free” United States territory, he had automatically been freed and was legally no longer a slave. He sued first in Missouri state court, which ruled that he was still a slave under its law. He took his case to the federal court, which ruled against him by deciding that it had to apply Missouri law to the case. In his last chance, he then appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held in a 7-2 decision that the Constitution of the United States was not meant to include American citizenship for black people, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and therefore the rights and privileges it confers upon American citizens could not apply to them.
Chief Justice Roger Taney had hoped that the ruling would settle the slavery controversy, which at this point was dividing the public and leading into the upcoming Civil War. The effect was the polar opposite, with “unmitigated wrath” from the majority of the populace except for the slave states. In fact, this decision was seen as a contributing factor to the outbreak of the Civil War four years later.
After the Union’s victory in 1865, the Court’s rulings in Dred Scott were superseded by direct amendments to the U.S. Constitution: the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, and the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship for “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. The Dred Scott decision, however, remains judged in the history books as one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions ever.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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