May 21, 2020
Day 142 of 366
May 21st is the 142nd day of the year. It is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a United Nations-sanctioned international holiday for the promotion of diversity issues.
May 21st is also National American Red Cross Founder’s Day.
Historical items of note:
- In 1703, Daniel Defoe is imprisoned on charges of seditious libel. He was the author of Robinson Crusoe.
- In 1780, English prison reformer, philanthropist, and Quaker Elizabeth Fry was born.
- In 1843, French jurist, educator, and Nobel Prize laureate Louis Renault was born.
- In 1844, French painter Henri Rousseau was born.
- In 1851, slavery in Colombia was abolished.
- In 1860, Indonesian-Dutch physician, physiologist, academic, and Nobel Prize laureate Willem Einthoven was born.
- In 1864, Russia declared an end to the Russo-Circassian War. Many Circassians were forced into exile, eventually leading to the designation of the Circassian Day of Mourning.
- In 1881, the American Red Cross was established by Clara Barton in Washington, D.C.
- In 1904, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in Paris.
- In 1917, the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 burned for 10 hours. It caused $5.5 million in damages and destroyed around 300 acres including 2,000 homes, businesses and churches. About 10,000 people were displaced, but only one fatality was recorded. The fatality was due to heart attack.
- Also in 1917, actor and director Raymond Burr was born.
- In 1927, Charles Lindbergh touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris after completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
- In 1939, the Canadian National War Memorial was unveiled by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
- In 1945, actor, writer, and producer Richard Hatch was born.
- In 1946, physicist Louis Slotin was fatally irradiated in a criticality incident during an experiment with the demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
- In 1952, actor and wrestler Mr. T was born.
- In 1980, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was released.
- In 1981, Transamerica Corporation agreed to sell United Artists to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $380 million after the box office failure of the 1980 film Heaven’s Gate.
- In 1999, All My Children star Susan Lucci finally won a Daytime Emmy after being nominated 19 times. She set the record for the longest period of unsuccessful nominations in television history.
- In 2017, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed their final show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
May 21st is the Circassian Day of Mourning.
The Circassians call the North Caucasus home, stretching from along the high peaks of the Caucasian mountain range at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, bounded by Russia from the north and the Middle East from the south.
In its narrowest sense, the term “Circassian” includes the twelve historic Adyghe princedoms of Circassia, three of which are democratic and nine which are aristocratic – Abdzakh, Besleney, Bzhedug, Hatuqwai, Kabardian, Mamkhegh, Natukhai, Shapsug, Temirgoy, Ubykh, Yegeruqwai and Zhaney – each represented by a star on the Circassian flag.
Most Circassians are Sunni Muslims, and speak the Circassian languages, which are a Northwest Caucasian dialect continuum with three main dialects and numerous sub-dialects. Many Circassians also speak Turkish, Russian, English, Arabic, and Hebrew due to their history.
From 1763 to 1864, the Circassians fought against the Russians in the Russian-Circassian War. They succumbed to a scorched earth campaign led by General Yevdokimov. On June 2, 1864 (May 21, on the Julian calendar), Russian Tsar Aleksandr II declared that the war over after the occupation of Circassian land, and he approved a decision to deport and exile the entire Circassian people for both their refusal to convert to Christianity from Islam and their continuous raids on Russian villages.
More than 1.5 million Circassians were expelled, which comprised nearly ninety percent of the total population, and most of them perished from disease, hunger, and exhaustion. They traveled around the world in search of a new home on foot and by ox cart, some roaming for over twenty-five years.
In 1914, Nicholas II celebrated the 50th anniversary of the event as one of the empire’s greatest victories. Joseph Stalin had continued their oppression with a classic divide-and-rule policy, subdividing the remaining Circassians into several smaller groups, including the Adyghe, the Cherkess, the Kabardin, the Shapsugs, and several others.
Today, between two and four million Circassians live outside their homeland in over 40 countries worldwide. In 1996, Boris Yeltsin acknowledged while signing a peace treaty with Chechnya that the war had lasted 400 years and was a tragedy.
In 1990, the Circassians designated the 21st of May as day of mourning on which they commemorate the tragedy of the Circassian nation.
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.