March 25, 2020
Day 85 of 366
March 25th is the eighty-fifth day of the year. It is International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The United Nations international observance was established in 2007 and it honors and remembers those who suffered and died as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade. Called “the worst violation of human rights in history”, over 400 years more than 15 million men, women and children were victims of the slave trade.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Lobster Newburg Day, National Tolkien Reading Day, National Little Red Wagon Day, Manatee Appreciation Day, and National Ag Day. National Little Red Wagon Day and Manatee Appreciation Day are both typically observed on the last Wednesday in March. National Ag Day’s observance changes annually.
Historical items of note:
- In 1306, Robert the Bruce became the King of Scots.
- In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a patent to colonize Virginia.
- In 1655, Titan (Saturn’s largest moon) was discovered by Christiaan Huygens.
- In 1745, John Barry was born. He was an American naval officer and is credited as the father of the American navy.
- In 1807, the Slave Trade Act became law, abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire.
- In 1920, Patrick Troughton was born. He was the Second Doctor on Doctor Who.
- In 1928, astronaut Jim Lovell was born.
- In 1934, feminist and activist Gloria Steinem was born.
- In 1939, screenwriter and producer Dorothy “D.C” Fontana was born. She was a major architect of Star Trek.
- In 1942, singer-songwriter and pianist Aretha Franklin was born.
- In 1947, Elton John was born.
- In 1948, actress Bonnie Bedelia was born.
- In 1965, civil rights activists led by Martin Luther King Jr. successfully completed their four-day 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
- In 1979, the first fully functional Space Shuttle orbiter was delivered to the John F. Kennedy Space Center to be prepared for its first launch. It was named Columbia after three namesakes: The American sloop Columbia Rediviva which, from 1787 to 1793, under the command of Captain Robert Gray, explored the US Pacific Northwest and became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe; the command module of Apollo 11, the first crewed landing on another celestial body; and the female symbol of the United States.
- In 1982, race car driver Danica Patrick was born.
In 1863, William Bensinger, Robert Buffum, Elihu H. Mason, Jacob Parrott, William Pittenger, and William H. H. Reddick were awarded the first six Medals of Honor in American history. They were awarded this distinction for their participation in the Great Locomotive Chase (also known as Andrews’ Raid) during the American Civil War. Nineteen of Andrews Raiders, named after plan architect and leader James Andrews, were awarded the Medal of Honor. Two participants did not receive the commendation since they were civilians.
The Great Locomotive Chase was a military raid that occurred April 12, 1862, in northern Georgia. Union Army volunteers commandeered a train called The General and took it north toward Chattanooga, Tennessee. During their mission, they did as much damage as possible to the vital Western and Atlantic Railroad (W&A) line from Atlanta to Chattanooga and were pursued by Confederate forces on foot by rail for 87 miles. One of the more famous pursuing Confederate trains was The Texas.
The Union forces cut the telegraph wires along the way, meaning that the Confederates could not send warnings ahead. Nevertheless, the Confederates eventually captured the raiders and quickly executed some as spies, including Andrews.
The Walt Disney Company dramatized the events in their 1956 film called The Great Locomotive Chase.
The Medal of Honor is the highest military award in the United States, presented to service members who have distinguished themselves by acts of valor. It is presented in the name of Congress – a fact that has led to the popular misnomer “Congressional Medal of Honor” – by the President of the United States. The President typically presents the Medal at a formal ceremony intended to represent the gratitude of the U.S. people, with posthumous presentations made to the primary next of kin.
There are three versions of the medal, one each for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Marine Corps and Coast Guard awardees receive the Navy version, and members of the Space Force will receive the Air Force version. The Navy’s version of the Medal of Honor was introduced in 1861. The Army’s medal followed in 1862, while the Air Force’s medal was introduced in 1965.
Since 1944, the Medal of Honor has been attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon, the center of which displays thirteen white stars in honor of the original colonies and states. The Medal of Honor is one of only two United States military awards suspended from a neck ribbon, the other being the Commander’s Degree of the Legion of Merit, which is usually awarded to individuals serving foreign governments.
Congress also authorized a service ribbon, which is light blue with five white stars and worn first in the order of precedence. There is also an authorized lapel button in the shape of a six-sided light blue bowknot rosette with thirteen white stars to be worn on appropriate civilian clothing on the left lapel.
Since 1948, the Medal of Honor and all service decorations awarded to members of the armed forces by any of the armed services have been afforded special protection under United States law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture. That law includes any associated ribbon or badge.
The Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,525 times to 3,506 individuals, forty percent of which were for actions during the American Civil War. Although not required by law or military regulation, service members are encouraged to render salutes to recipients of the Medal of Honor as a matter of respect and courtesy regardless of rank or status, whether or not they are in uniform. This is one of the few instances where a living member of the military will receive salutes from members of a higher rank.
Medal of Honor recipients are also entitled to a long list of special privileges, which are established by law.
On November 15, 1990, President George H. W. Bush and the United States Congress established National Medal of Honor Day to honor the heroism and sacrifice of the Medal’s recipients.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.