Every day is the anniversary of something significant, because history. But Aug. 28 is particularly poignant in the many ways it marks moments in the American experience, each of which resonates today.
Consider what happened on, as they say, this day in history:
Emmett Till, Aug. 28, 1955
Emmett Till was murdered for flirting with and whistling at a white woman. His story drew scrutiny to the Jim Crow laws, sanctioned segregation and primal white fear that followed the supposed end of slavery a century before.
This is how history.com describes the story of Till, a Chicago lad who was down south visiting some relatives when the youngster attempted to woo a pretty girl.
“While visiting family in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African American from Chicago, is brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailants — the white woman’s husband and her brother — made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river.”
It’s said that the local people sanctioned this killing.
Three months later, African Americans began a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system. The murder inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to seek justice on an even grander scale.
Martin Luther King, Jr: Aug. 28, 1963
It was hot when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took to the podium to talk to 200,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington. King unleashed his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Everyone always quotes the same "hand in hand" passage from this incredible speech. King had said he was seeking to evoke Lincoln and the nation-healing "Gettysburg Address." This is the passage that enshrines that speech with King's own immortal words.
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity."
“But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination."
The Riots Against War: Aug. 28, 1968
King and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy had just been assassinated when the Democratic Party convened to choose a nominee. Even ‘60s icon Andy Warhol had survived an assassination attempt.
The progressive wing of the Democratic party was angry. Chicago police were prepared to be brutal. The most prominent protestors of the war in Vietnam descended on the city. Riots ensued.
The seeming radicalism of the left further drove a wedge in a sharply divided country. Chicago’s mayor and major kingpin, Richard Daley, had given police a shoot-to-kill prerogative. The riots and reaction to them were brutal.
Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who defended the policies on winning the war in Vietnam proffered by his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson, had sewn up the Democratic nomination.
But the political strife within the party prompted the sort of internecine war within the Democrats that we’re now seeing within the GOP. Humphrey would go on to lose to Richard Nixon. And the Chicago Seven, the leaders of the anti-war movement, would move famously to one of the many trials of the century.
Women’s Rights, Aug. 28, 1917
One of the milestones in feminist history, the day women gathered en masse in front of the White House and waited for President Woodrow Wilson. Their demands were simple. They merely were asking for the right to vote. As with all great movements, arrests were made. Ten women went to jail. And they finally got that right to vote in August 1920, tipping the scales in myriad elections to follow, and continuing a fight for gender rights that continues today.
Image Credit: By Rowland Scherman (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons