May 28 2011

On This Day In History May 28

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

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May 28 is the 148th day of the year (149th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 217 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, the British newspaper The London Observer publishes British lawyer Peter Benenson’s article “The Forgotten Prisoners” on its front page, launching the Appeal for Amnesty 1961–a campaign calling for the release of all people imprisoned in various parts of the world because of the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

Benenson was inspired to write the appeal after reading an article about two Portuguese students who were jailed after raising their glasses in a toast to freedom in a public restaurant. At the time, Portugal was a dictatorship ruled by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Outraged, Benenson penned the Observer article making the case for the students’ release and urging readers to write letters of protest to the Portuguese government. The article also drew attention to the variety of human rights violations taking place around the world, and coined the term “prisoners of conscience” to describe “any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing…any opinion which he honestly holds and does not advocate or condone personal violence.”

“The Forgotten Prisoners” was soon reprinted in newspapers across the globe, and Berenson’s amnesty campaign received hundreds of offers of support. In July, delegates from Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland met to begin “a permanent international movement in defense of freedom of opinion and religion.” The following year, this movement would officially become the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Born in London as Peter James Henry Solomon to a Jewish family, the only son of Harold Solomon and Flora Benenson, Peter Benenson adopted his mother’s maiden name later in life. His army officer father died when Benenson was aged nine from a long-term injury, and he was tutored privately by W. H. Auden before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother’s maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather’s death.

He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford but World War II interrupted his education. From 1941 to 1945, Benenson worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the “Testery”, a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers. It was at this time when he met his first wife, Margaret Anderson. After demobilisation in 1946, Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958 he fell ill and moved to Italy in order to convalesce. In the same year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1961 Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar – the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal was the last remaining European colonial power in Africa, ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime. Anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson’s article, entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners,” was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in Luxembourg in July at a meeting of Benenson and six other men. The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.

Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, the Amnesty International faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged that the organization he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive. An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.

While never again active in the organization, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Sean MacBride. He died of pneumonia on 25 February 2005 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83.

 585 BC – A solar eclipse occurs, as predicted by Greek philosopher and scientist Thales, while Alyattes is battling Cyaxares in the Battle of the Eclipse, leading to a truce. This is one of the cardinal dates from which other dates can be calculated.

1503 – James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor are married according to a Papal Bull by Pope Alexander VI. A Treaty of Everlasting Peace between Scotland and England signed on that occasion results in a peace that lasts ten years.

1533 – The Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declares the marriage of King Henry VIII of England to Anne Boleyn valid.

1588 – The Spanish Armada, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, sets sail from Lisbon heading for the English Channel. (It will take until May 30 for all ships to leave port).

1644 – Bolton Massacre by Royalist troops under the command of the Earl of Derby.

1754 – French and Indian War: in the first engagement of the war, Virginia militia under 22-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington defeat a French reconnaissance party in the Battle of Jumonville Glen in what is now Fayette County in southwestern Pennsylvania.

1798 – The United States Congress empowers president John Adams to enlist 10,000 men for service in case of a declaration of war or invasion of the country’s domain. It also authorizes Adams to instruct commanders of ships-of-war to seize armed French vessels preying upon or attacking American merchantmen about the coast.

1830 – President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act which relocates Native Americans.

1863 – American Civil War: The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first African American regiment, leaves Boston, Massachusetts, to fight for the Union.

1892 – In San Francisco, California, John Muir organizes the Sierra Club.

1905 – Russo-Japanese War: The Battle of Tsushima ends with the destruction of the Russian Baltic Fleet by Admiral Togo Heihachiro and the Imperial Japanese Navy.

1918 – The Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and the Democratic Republic of Armenia declare their independence.

1926 – 28th May 1926 coup d’├ętat: Ditadura Nacional is established in Portugal to suppress the unrest of the First Republic.

1930 – The Chrysler Building in New York City officially opens.

1934 – Near Callander, Ontario, the Dionne quintuplets are born to Oliva and Elzire Dionne; they will be the first quintuplets to survive infancy.

1936 – Alan Turing submits On Computable Numbers for publication.

1937 – The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, is officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C., who pushes a button signaling the start of vehicle traffic over the span.

1940 – World War II: Belgium surrenders to Germany to end the Battle of Belgium.

1940 – World War II: Norwegian, French, Polish and British forces recapture Narvik in Norway. This is the first allied infantry victory of the War.

1942 – World War II: in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Nazis in Czechoslovakia kill over 1,800 people.

1952 – The women of Greece are given the right to vote.

1961 – Peter Benenson’s article The Forgotten Prisoners is published in several internationally read newspapers. This will later be thought of as the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty International.

1964 – The Palestine Liberation Organization is formed.

1974 – Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Sunningdale Agreement collapses following a general strike by loyalists.

1975 – Fifteen West African countries sign the Treaty of Lagos, creating the Economic Community of West African States.

1977 – In Southgate, Kentucky, the Beverly Hills Supper Club is engulfed in fire, killing 165 people inside.

1979 – Constantine Karamanlis signs the full treaty of the accession of Greece with the European Economic Community.

1982 – Falklands War: British forces defeat the Argentines at the Battle of Goose Green.

1987 – 19-year-old West German pilot Mathias Rust evades Soviet Union air defenses and lands a private plane in the Red Square in Moscow. He is immediately detained and will not be released until August 3, 1988.

1991 – The capital city of Addis Ababa, falls to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, ending both the Derg regime in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Civil War.

1993 – Eritrea and Monaco join the United Nations.

1995 – The Russian town of Neftegorsk is hit by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that kills at least 2,000 people, half of the total population.

1996 – U.S. President Bill Clinton’s former business partners in the Whitewater land deal, James McDougal and Susan McDougal, and the Governor of Arkansas Jim Guy Tucker, are convicted of fraud.

1998 – Nuclear testing: Pakistan responds to a series of nuclear tests by India with five of its own, prompting the United States, Japan, and other nations to impose economic sanctions.

1999 – In Milan, Italy, after 22 years of restoration work, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper is put back on display.

2002 – NATO declares Russia a limited partner in the Western alliance.

2002 – The Mars Odyssey finds signs of large ice deposits on the planet Mars.

2003 – Peter Hollingworth becomes the first Governor-General of Australia to resign his office as a result of criticism of his conduct.

2004 – The Iraqi Governing Council chooses Ayad Allawi, a longtime anti-Saddam Hussein exile, as prime minister of Iraq’s interim government.

2008 – The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal formally declares Nepal a republic, ending the 240-year reign of the Shah dynasty.

Holidays and observances

   * Armed Forces Day (Croatia)

   * Christian Feast Day:

       * Bernard of Menthon

       * Germain of Paris

       * Lanfranc

       * William of Gellone

       * May 28 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Downfall of the Derg Day, a National Day. (Ethiopia)

   * Flag Day (Philippines)

   * Republic Day (Nepal)

   * Republic Day, celebrates the declaration of independence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic from the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic in 1918. (Azerbaijan and Armenia)

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    The world’s major religious traditions all give the development of compassion a key role.

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