Today in 1793 Congress passed the first fugitive slave law requiring all states to forcibly return slaves who have escaped from other states to their original owners. The laws stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such labor or service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
The passage of a second fugitive slave law was part of the Compromise of 1850 between the North and South.
Fugitive slaves circumvented the law through the “Underground Railroad,” which was a network of persons, primarily free blacks, who helped fugitives escape to freedom in the Northern states or Canada.
Today in 1865 the Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet addressed the House of Representatives. He delivered a sermon to the House chamber commemorating the victories of the Union army and the deliverance of the country from slavery.
Garnet, a former slave himself, was the first black man to address congress. President Abraham Lincoln, with the unanimous consent of his Cabinet and the two congressional chaplains, had arranged for the special Sunday service to be held on February 12, the president’s 56th birthday.
Today in 2008 Hollywood’s longest work stoppage since 1988 ended when members of the Writers Guild of America voted by a margin of more than 90 percent to go back to work after a walkout that began the previous November 5.
The writers’ strike began during the negotiation of the WGA’s latest contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers which represents over 300 production companies. Negotiations stalled after WGA members demanded a share of the revenues generated by movies, television shows and other works distributed on the Internet and viewed on computers, cell phones and other new-media devices.
More than 60 TV shows had to be shut down, causing a drop in ratings and the loss of tens of millions of dollars in ad revenue for the networks. The strike was estimated to have cost the local L.A. economy more than $3 billion. TV viewers at home were forced to go without new episodes of their favorite shows, as networks loaded the schedule with reruns and increased amounts of reality programming.
The new contract gave WGA members residual payments for programs streamed online and formalized union jurisdiction over programming created for the Web. Writers would be paid for shows streamed on advertising-supported Web sites and WGA members hired to write original content for the Web would be covered under a union contract.
Today in 1924 at the Aeolian Hall, New York City, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” was performed for the first time.
The New York Times reported, “This is no mere dance-tune set for piano and other instruments. This composition shows extraordinary talent, just as it also shows a young composer with aims that go far beyond those of his ilk.”
Rhapsody would, of course, come to be regarded as one of the most important American musical works of the 20th century. It would also open the door for a whole generation of “serious” composers—from Copland to Brecht—to draw on jazz elements in their own important works.
Happy birthday Abraham Lincoln, 16th president, born today in 1809 at Hardin County, Kentucky.
Highlights of the Lincoln administration is leading the nation through the Civil War, freed the slaves, composed the Gettysburg Address, and established Thanksgiving.
Lincoln was the first president assassinated April 15, 1865; he never recovered consciousness from his mortal wound and died at the Petersen House, Washington, D. C. He was age 56. Lincoln is interned at Lincoln’s Tomb, Springfield, Illinois.
Happy birthday Judy Blume, best-selling author, born today in 1938 at Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Blume is known for for her children’s books and young-adult novels. Her books realistically address such topics as menstruation, bullying, divorce, sexuality, friendships, family and body image, which have gained legions of young fans, However, their content frequently led them to be banned by school libraries. After her work was the target of an organized book-banning campaign in the 1980s, Blume became an anti-censorship activist.
In addition to writing for young readers, Blume has penned novels for adults, including “Wifey” (1978), “Smart Women” (1983) and “Summer Sisters” (1998), all of which were best-sellers. Her books have sold over 80 million copies and translated into more than 30 languages.
Rest in peace Salvadore “Sal” Mineo, film and theater actor, murdered outside his West Hollywood apartment today in 1976 at West Hollywood, California. He was age 37.
Mineo was famous as a teen actor during the 1950s. He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his roles in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Exodus (1960). He was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for Exodus.
Mineo’s was stabbed in the parking area of his apartment as he returned home alone at night. It is believed to be a botched robbery attempt. The murder went unsolved for two years and Lionel Ray Williams was arrested for the crime. In March 1979 he was convicted and sentenced to 57 years in prison. He was released after serving 25 years and sentenced to prison again for criminal activity.