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Archive for June, 2011

On June 27, 1869, political activist Emma Goldman was born in what is now Lithuania and was then part of the Russian Empire. After emigrating to New York, Goldman quickly became interested in political events, particularly the burgeoning anarchist movement. The infamous Haymarket Affair, a Chicago labor protest that led to a violent conflict between police and workers, further sparked Goldman and others’ interest in anarchist politics. Though a controversial figure, Goldman became a celebrated orator and an early advocate not only for anarchism, but also for women’s and gay rights. In 1906, she founded and became editor of Mother Earth, a literary and political journal that published some of the best-known writers of the era. Amid the political environment of the Red Scare, which targeted those associated with radical or revolutionary causes, Goldman was ultimately deported in 1920 along with hundreds of other activists.

Emma Goldman riding a streetcar in 1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Opening History has several collections featuring Goldman as well as associated individuals, events, and political issues. Chicago: A Collection of Digitized Books from Illinois Harvest offers extensive materials related to the Haymarket Affair, while Harvard University’s Immigration to the United States offers materials specifically related to Goldman and those giving a broader picture of the 1919 Red Scare and the politics of the era.

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On June 20, 1863, West Virginia was officially admitted to the Union. Statehood came about primarily through long-standing regional tensions between eastern and western Virginia that erupted with the issue of whether or not to secede from the United States. While at the beginning of the Civil War West Virginia remained part of Virginia, counties in the northwestern part of the state were generally against secession. As it became apparent that Virginia would choose to secede, Union supporters from this area held two conventions in Wheeling, followed by a popular vote in 39 counties that led to the formation of a new state that would remain loyal to the Union. Results of this election were likely skewed, as Union troops stationed in many counties stopped secessionists from voting. Unionists from the northern part of the future state were also heavily overrepresented during the November 1861 Constitutional Convention, which ultimately ratified a state constitution with an amendment calling for the gradual abolition of slavery in the state. In 1871, the U.S. Supreme Court case Virginia v. West Virginia called into question the constitutionality of West Virginia’s legitimacy as a separate state, but the court reaffirmed its legality.

Train cars in front of an African-American elementary school near the West Virginia coal fields. Image courtesy of the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

Opening History has several important collections related to the history of West Virginia. The Cyrus F. Jenkins Civil War Diary offers an important look at the presence of Confederate troops in the southern part of what would become West Virginia. The Jackson Davis Collection of African American Educational Photographs from the University of Virginia also includes a rich selection of images featuring African-American schools in West Virginia.

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On June 13, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated celebrated attorney and then-United States Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall is best remembered today not only as the first African American on the bench, but also as an advocate for civil rights who throughout his career fought to reform policies that unfairly discriminated against individuals and groups of people based on race.

NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall speaking at the 1956 NAACP Convention in San Francisco, California. Image courtesy of Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Marshall himself was born in 1908 in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated at the top of his class from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. (He had wished to attend law school in his home state, but was not allowed to attend because of segregation policy.) At only 32 years old, Marshall became Chief Counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Over the next two decades, he successfully argued many cases aimed at ending racial discrimination in education, voting, and housing. As a Supreme Court Justice, Marshall continued to argue for individual rights and freedoms, not only regarding racial injustice but also criminal procedure, labor law, and other issues.

Opening History offers many collections related to the history of the law in the United States, especially for individual states. One important collection, Ada Lois Sipuel v. Board of Regents University of Oklahoma, explores a Supreme Court case argued by Marshall that helped undermine educational discrimination in universities.

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On June 2, 1953, Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in an elaborate, lengthy ceremony that was the first to be televised. Just 26 years old at the time of her coronation, Elizabeth had officially been queen since the death of her father, King George VI, in February 1952. The event took place in Westminster Abbey in London, following a tradition originally established by William the Conquerer in 1066. Over 20 million people from around the world saw the BBC version of the broadcast, which was translated into 44 languages.

Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, and her dog Crackers in a poster reprinted from a 1944 issue of the Illustrated London News. Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries

Opening History has numerous collections featuring British history and exploring the relationship between Great Britain and the United States. Immigration to the United States (1789-1930) from Harvard University includes thousands of items related to British immigrants. Summons to Comradeship: World War I and II Posters from the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Public Library offers many posters from Great Britain, including a selection that feature the royal family  and a teenage Princess Elizabeth during World War II.

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