The Thing About Today – June 17

June 17, 2020
Day 169 of 366


June 17th is the 169th day of the year. It was previously a day of remembrance for the East German uprising of 1953. It began as a strike by East Berlin construction workers on June 16th, which evolved into a widespread uprising against the communist German Democratic Republic government. It was violently suppressed by Soviet occupation forces (using tanks) and the military force of the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, but the strikes and protests continued into more than 500 towns and villages. All told, it involved more than one million people. It was an annual public holiday in West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) until reunification happened in 1990. After that, it was replaced by German Unity Day, which takes place on October 3rd.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as Global Garbage Man Day, National Eat Your Vegetables Day, National Stewart’s Root Beer Day, National Apple Strudel Day, and National Cherry Tart Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1242, following the Disputation of Paris, twenty-four carriage loads of Jewish religious manuscripts were burnt in Paris. The Disputation of Paris, also known as the Trial of the Talmud, was an inquisition that followed the work of Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity. He translated the Talmud (a central text of the Jewish faith) and pressed 35 charges against it to Pope Gregory IX by quoting a series of allegedly blasphemous passages about Jesus, Mary, or Christianity. Four of the most distinguished rabbis in France defended the Talmud against Donin’s accusations.
  • In 1579, Sir Francis Drake claimed a land he called Nova Albion for England. It would later be known as California.
  • In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Her husband, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan I, would spend the next 17 years building her mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.
  • In 1637, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet reached the Mississippi River and became the first Europeans to make a detailed account of its course.
  • In 1839, in the Kingdom of Hawaii, Kamehameha III issued the edict of toleration which provided Roman Catholics the freedom to worship in the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaii Catholic Church and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace were established as a result.
  • In 1843, the Wairau Affray took place. It was the first serious clash of arms between Māori and British settlers in the New Zealand Wars.
  • In 1867, Irish-born American educator, publisher, and humanitarian John Robert Gregg was born.
  • Also in 1867, Australian poet and author Henry Lawson was born.
  • In 1882, Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Igor Stravinsky was born.
  • In 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor.
  • In 1898, the United States Navy Hospital Corps was established.
  • In 1943, singer-songwriter and producer Barry Manilow was born.
  • In 1944, Iceland declared independence from Denmark and became a republic.
  • In 1945, broadcaster and author Art Bell was born. He was the founder and the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM.
  • In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled 8–1 in Abington School District v. Schempp against requiring the reciting of Bible verses and the Lord’s Prayer in public schools.
  • In 1972, five White House operatives were arrested for burgling the offices of the Democratic National Committee, in an attempt by some members of the Republican party to illegally wiretap the opposition. It would be known as the Watergate Scandal.
  • In 1982, actor Arthur Darvill was born.
  • Also in 1982, actor Jodie Whittaker was born. She is currently the Thirteenth Doctor on Doctor Who.
  • In 1985, Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-51-G) launched carrying Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first Arab and first Muslim in space, as a payload specialist.
  • In 1987, with the death of the last individual of the species, the dusky seaside sparrow became extinct.
  • In 2015, nine African-Americans were killed in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was a 21-year-old white supremacist who targeted the church because of its history and stature. The gunman’s adoration of the Confederate battle flag sparked a debate on the modern display of the symbol.


June 17th is the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

The United Nations observance aims to raise awareness of the presence of desertification and drought, which transforms fertile drylands into arid deserts. The event highlights methods of preventing desertification and recovering from drought using a unique, novel emphasis each year that had not been developed previously.

The goal is “to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.”


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.




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