The Thing About Today – August 23

August 23, 2020
Day 236 of 366


August 23rd is the 236th day of the year. It is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, a UNESCO observance used to memorialize the transatlantic slave trade and its victims. The date was chosen to honor the 1791 uprising in Haiti (then known as Saint Domingue) which started a series of events leading to the trade’s abolition.


In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Ride The Wind Day and National Sponge Cake Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1305, Sir William Wallace was executed for high treason at Smithfield, London. He was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence.
  • In 1775, King George III delivered his Proclamation of Rebellion to the Court of St James’s stating that the American colonies have proceeded to a state of open and avowed rebellion.
  • In 1784, western North Carolina (now eastern Tennessee) declared itself an independent state under the name of Franklin. It was not accepted into the United States and only lasted for four years.
  • In 1904, the automobile tire chain was patented.
  • In 1912, actor, singer, and dancer Gene Kelly was born.
  • In 1923, Captain Lowell Smith and Lieutenant John P. Richter performed the first mid-air refueling on De Havilland DH-4B, setting an endurance flight record of 37 hours.
  • In 1931, actress and singer Barbara Eden was born. She is probably best known from her starring role in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie.
  • In 1949, actress Shelley Long was born.
  • In 1961, French composer and conductor Alexandre Desplat was born.
  • In 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first photograph of Earth from orbit around the Moon.
  • In 1970, actor River Phoenix was born.
  • In 1973, the Norrmalmstorg bank robbery took place in Stockholm, Sweden. It turned into a hostage crisis and, over the next five days, the hostages began to sympathize with their captors. This led to the term “Stockholm syndrome”.
  • In 1990, West and East Germany announced that they would reunite on October 3rd.
  • In 1991, the World Wide Web was opened to the public.
  • In 1994, Eugene Bullard, the only African American pilot in World War I, was posthumously commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.


August 23rd is the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, also known as Black Ribbon Day, in the European Union and other countries.

It is an international day of remembrance for victims of totalitarian regimes, specifically Stalinist, communist, Nazi, and fascist regimes. It represents the rejection of extremism, intolerance, and oppression, and is one of the official remembrance days of the European Union. As Black Ribbon Day, it is also an official remembrance day of Canada, the United States, and several other countries.

Originating from protests in western countries against the Soviet Union, especially in the years leading up to the Revolutions of 1989 and the Baltic Way, which was a major demonstration against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states in 1989. The observance was proposed as an official European remembrance day by Václav Havel, Joachim Gauck, and a group of freedom fighters and former political prisoners from Central and Eastern Europe during a conference organized by the Czech Government. It was formally designated by the European Parliament in 2008 and has been observed in the European Union since 2009.

The date of August 23rd was chosen to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a 1939 non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany that contained a protocol dividing Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence. That pact was described by the European Parliament’s president Jerzy Buzek in 2010 as “the collusion of the two worst forms of totalitarianism in the history of humanity.”

A related observance takes place in Romania, known as Liberation from Fascist Occupation Day. It commemorates King Michael’s Coup, a coup d’état led by King Michael I during World War II. With the support of several political parties, the king removed the government of Ion Antonescu, which had aligned Romania with Nazi Germany, after the Axis front in northeastern Romania collapsed in the face of a successful Soviet offensive.

The Romanian Army declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Soviet Red Army on the Moldavian front, which was a decisive event in the Allied advances against the Axis powers in the European theatre. The coup was supported by the Romanian Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, the National Liberal Party, and the National Peasants’ Party, all of whom had coalesced into the National Democratic Bloc in June of 1944.

August 23rd is a day to remember the victims of totalitarianism and to stand up against fascism wherever it may exist.


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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