July 14, 2020
Day 196 of 366
July 14th is the 196th day of the year. It is Black Country Day in the United Kingdom, which celebrates the area’s role in the Industrial Revolution. The Black Country consists of what traditionalists call “the area where the coal seam comes to the surface”, which tends to encompass “West Bromwich, Coseley, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton, Wednesfield, and parts of Halesowen, Wednesbury, and Walsall but not Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Smethwick or what used to be known as Warley” according to locals.
Historical items of note:
- In 1798, the Sedition Act became law in the United States. The act made it a federal crime to write, publish, or utter false or malicious statements about the United States government. The Sedition Act expired on March 3, 1801.
- In 1874, the Chicago Fire of 1874 burned down 47 acres of the city, destroying 812 buildings, killing 20, and resulting in the fire insurance industry demanding municipal reforms from Chicago’s city council.
- In 1877, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began in Martinsburg, West Virginia, when wages of Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers were cut for the third time in a year. The strike was ended on September 4th by local and state militias and federal troops.
- In 1881, Billy the Kid was shot and killed by Pat Garrett outside Fort Sumner.
- In 1910, animator, director, producer, and actor William Hanna was born. He co-founded Hanna-Barbera.
- In 1926, actor Harry Dean Stanton was born.
- In 1933, all political parties in Germany were outlawed except the Nazi Party. The Nazi eugenics programs began with the proclamation of the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring that called for the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who suffers from alleged genetic disorders.
- In 1936, astronaut Robert F. Overmeyer was born.
- In 1943, in Diamond, Missouri, the George Washington Carver National Monument became the first United States National Monument in honor of an African American.
- In 1960, Jane Goodall arrived at the Gombe Stream Reserve in present-day Tanzania to begin her famous study of chimpanzees in the wild.
- Also in 1960, actress Jane Lynch was born.
- In 1976, capital punishment was abolished in Canada.
- In 1985, actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge was born.
- In 1992, 386BSD was released by Lynne Jolitz and William Jolitz, thus beginning the Open Source operating system revolution. Linus Torvalds released his Linux soon afterward.
- In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons probe performed the first flyby of Pluto, thus completing the initial survey of the Solar System.
July 14th is Bastille Day, the national day of France. In French, it is formally called Fête nationale.
The French Revolution was a period of social and political upheaval in both France and its colonies, beginning in 1789 and ending in 1799. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon brought many of the revolution’s principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond.
Inspired by liberal and radical ideas such as equality before the law, the Revolution influenced the decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies.
It was on this day in 1789 that citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, a medieval armory, fortress, and political prison that symbolized royal authority in the center of Paris. The fall of the Bastille marked a major turning point in the Revolution, quickly resulting in the abolition of feudalism and the proclamation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen).
One year later, the citizens of Paris celebrated the unity of the French people and the national reconciliation in the Fête de la Fédération, a massive holiday festival. At the time, the first French Constitution was still being drafted, but the spirit of it was understood by everyone. The Marquis de La Fayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War and key figure in the French Revolution, led the President of the National Assembly and deputies in a solemn oath:
We swear to be forever faithful to the Nation, to the Law and to the King, to uphold with all our might the Constitution as decided by the National Assembly and accepted by the King, and to remain united with all French people by the indissoluble bonds of brotherhood.
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.