IN THE SPOTLIGHT

BLACK
HISTORY
MONTH

These African-Americans are famous for their deeds in wartime.

The 54th Massachusetts: History on the Battlefield
One of the extreme ironies of the American Civil War was that in later years, when one of the main causes of the fighting was clearly defined as the slavery of Africans by the Southern states, neither the Union nor the Confederacy gave much thought to having Black Americans fight for themselves. The North was undoubtedly more sympathetic than the South, but regiments of the Union were overwhelmingly not Black, and this was the case for a good part of the war. This changed significantly with, among other things, the announcement of the Emancipiation Proclamation and the organization of an "experimental" all-Black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. This regiment was formed in March 1863, nearly two full years into the war.

The Extraordinary Story
of William Carney
With the Emancipation Proclamation came the drive for Black men to fight for the North in the Civil War. The first regiment to be mustered and sent into battle was the 54th Massachusetts. Among the men mustered in that historic regiment was William Carney, a former slave who had suspended his pursuit of the ministry to fight for the Union. Carney and the rest of the 54th Massachusetts trained for several months in early 1863 and then reported to Hilton Head, South Carolina. After a brief first engagement, they faced their first real test, in an attack on Fort Wagner, on Morris Island, on July 18. The fort was heavily defended, with both cannons and sharpshooters. Nonetheless, the order came for the 54th Massachusetts to lead the way in storming the fort. They did just that, advancing through a withering storm of enemy fire. Carney carried the flag alongside other members of his regiment, who continued to advance even though they probably knew that their attack had little chance of succeeding. Carney, even though he was shot in one leg, made it through the enemy's defenses and entered the fort. He planted the flagpole atop the high wall and proudly displayed the colors of the United States Flag. He was shot in the chest, the right arm, and the right leg, twice. Amazingly, he made it back to the Union forces, where he was promptly ushered into the medical tent. He had achieved both of his goals. William Carney survived his multiple wounds and later became the first Black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

CURRENT EVENTS

2 New Continents? Depends on Who You Ask
February 20, 2017
Twice in the period of a few weeks, scientists have announced the discovery of new continents. First, it was Mauritia, based on 3-billion-year-old samples of the volcanic rock zircon, found on the solid rock of the tiny island of Mauritius, leading scientists to conclude that what lies beneath the current-day territory was once a large continent that stretches for many miles along the sea floor. Scientists concluded that Mauritia was once a supercontinent that included what is now both India and Madagascar. Now, it's Zealandia, a 2-million-square-mile underwater landmass that includes both New Caledonia and New Zealand, which are 1,500 miles apart. Scientists now think that both current countries and the land that lies underneath the ocean between once belonged to one large chunk of (above-the-waves) land that they're calling Zealandia. Today, 94 percent of the landmass is underwater.

'Forest Cities' to Help Combat Smog in China
February 20, 2017
An architect envisions "forest cities" in China, as part of a plan to combat the country's smog problems. The project will start in Nanjing, with a "green" project called Nanjing Green Towers consisting of a pair of tall towers dotted with lots and lots of trees and shrubs, in an among offices, a museum, and a 247-room luxury hotel. Such a project, when completed, will remove 25 tons of carbon dioxide each year from the air in and around Nanjing, while also producing more than 35 pounds of oxygen every day. Eventually, though, the architect envisions "forest cities," larger versions of the Green Towers.


THIS WEEK IN HISTORY

Baron von Steuben and the Success of the Continental Army
Baron von Steuben was a Prussian officer who played a large part in molding the Continental Army into the fighting force that eventually won the Revolutionary War for the United States. An introduction through a mutual acquaintance to Benjamin Franklin resulted in Steuben’s traveling to America, with the promise of employment in the Continental Army. Steuben reported for duty at Valley Forge on Feb. 23, 1778. Steuben’s arrival must have presented a welcome boost to what was for the Continental Army an otherwise demanding winter.

Supreme Court Establishes Judicial Review
On Feb. 24, 1803, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Marbury v. Madison, the first case in which anything was declared unconstitutional. This was the case of John Adams and his frantic appointment of the "Midnight Judges." The Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, asserted itself as the arbitrator of laws and acts of Congress and how those laws and acts could be thought as consistent with the Constitution or, in this case, unconstitutional.

 

 

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