“He told the orphans they were going out into the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood.”
Then he walked with them, “his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots.”
Janusz Korczak ran an orphanage in Warsaw before the war started. Then in 1940 his orphanage was forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. Janusz went with the children.
He had opportunities to leave the ghetto. The resistance wanted to help him escape. He chose to stay, to be with the children, to be with them to the end, to that day in early August of 1942, when he had to convince the SS men to let him go with the children to Treblinka, an extermination camp.
“I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.”
This was Janusz Korczak.
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Hazel Ying Lee loved to have fun. She liked playing pranks, and some described her as hilarious. She was also adventurous and athletic, enjoying swimming and playing handball. But maybe most of all, Hazel was courageous and loved flying planes. About Hazel’s love for flying, her sister said she “enjoyed the danger and doing something that was new to Chinese girls.”
Hazel was born to Chinese-American immigrant parents in Portland, Oregon, in 1912. At nineteen, Hazel watched a friend fly. That experience marked the beginning of her lifelong love. She saved money and, with the financial help of the Portland Chinese Benevolent Society, earned her pilot’s license, making her the first Chinese-American woman to earn one.
Wanting to put her aviation skills to good use, Hazel accepted an invitation to become a Women Airforce Service Pilot for the U.S. during World War II. The program had been created to add more pilots for the U.S. in the war effort, though these female pilots were non-combat, focusing their efforts on testing and ferrying aircraft and training pilots. They were also not officially considered part of the military and thus received no military benefits. Hazel joined as the first Chinese-American pilot.
Hazel’s attitude towards the work was described well by a fellow pilot — “I’ll take and deliver anything.” “Calm and fearless,” she had a great attitude and brought her sense of humor to the job. After an incident in which her plane went down in a farm field and a person on the ground mistook her for an enemy Japanese combatant, Hazel shared the story with her fellow pilots to exuberant laughter and continued her work proudly supporting the U.S. war effort.
Sadly, however, on November 23rd, 1944, while flying in bad weather in North Dakota, she crashed with another plane upon landing. She suffered severe burns, and two days later, she passed away. Hazel was buried next to her brother, a U.S. soldier who was killed while fighting in France three days after Hazel’s passing.
Of the 38 female pilots to die during WWII, Hazel was the last one.
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“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
– Sophie Scholl
These were the last words of Sophie Scholl, a 21 year old college student at the University of Munich and member of the non violent White Rose group, who were dedicated to passive resistance against the Nazi government. She was executed for passing out leaflets about the resistance.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.'” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
Early years and marriage
Born in Manhattan in 1884, Eleanor Roosevelt suffered much trauma in her early years. At two, she was with her parents aboard a ship that crashed. Everyone survived but the event left Eleanor fearful of ships and seawater. A few years later, when Eleanor was eight, her mother and a younger brother died from diphtheria. Less than two years after that, her father also passed away after a seizure shortly after a fall. Eleanor was just shy of her tenth birthday at the time.
After her parents passed away, Eleanor went to live with her grandmother. She continued suffering from the traumas and also dealt with worries about her looks. But in these years, Eleanor began to find space for joy. She fell in love with field hockey. So much so that as she reflected on life, she remarked that her happiest day was when she made her high school field hockey team. And Eleanor’s self-confidence began growing with support from the school headmistress, who was known for being a great educator and teaching women to be independent. As a result, Eleanor thrived and was beloved in school.
It was also during these years that love came into Eleanor’s life. In 1902, she met Franklin D. Roosevelt while on a train ride. A romance blossomed, and they became engaged the following year. Eleanor’s uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt, walked her down the aisle when she and Franklin married.
Political Life & Later Years
Eleanor’s husband became a politician. And while his career grew in stature, eventually becoming President, Eleanor’s role as a public figure grew as well. “I think I have a good deal of my Uncle Theodore in me, because I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on,” she would say.
Balancing work with raising six children, as First Lady, Eleanor played an active role in her husband’s presidency, serving as his eyes and ears around the country. Working tirelessly, a day in her life could consist of travel to give multiple speeches while writing an article for a paper and letters to friends and associates. She used her platform for social progress, becoming known for adamantly standing up for equality, including disobeying segregation laws in the South. The rules needed to change is how Eleanor lived and opportunities for disadvantaged people needed to be created.
After her husband’s death in 1945, Eleanor stayed active in public life, serving as a delegate to the United Nations and chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights. Instrumental in drafting a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she worked hard to promote its adoption.
Eleanor believed in a better world, or in her words, a world in which “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” She passed away in 1962.
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“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.'” – “As quoted in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1944; 1948) by Dale Carnegie; though Roosevelt has sometimes been credited with the originating the expression, ‘Damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ is set in quote marks, indicating she herself was quoting a common expression in saying this. Actually, this saying was coined back even earlier, 1836, by evangelist Lorenzo Dow in his sermons”- “Eleanor Roosevelt.” Wikiquote, Wikimedia Foundation, https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Eleanor_Roosevelt
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, NAID: 195393
Please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation if you enjoyed this Susie King Taylor quote. Visit our Patreon page to donate. Your support is much appreciated.
“Susie King Taylor quote about sympathy during war” sources:
Taylor, Susie King, 1848-1912. Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S.C. Volunteers. Boston :Pub. by the author, 1902. – Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina, https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/taylorsu/taylorsu.html
Susie King Taylor, known as the first African American Army nurse. [Boston: published by the author, 1902 from a photograph taken between 1862 and 1866] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018663038/>.
Hannah Szenes once wrote, “There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.”
She was a playwright and a poet. And she was a Special Operations Executive paratrooper for England during World War II, one of 37 Jewish recruits from Mandate Palestine who helped rescue Hungarian Jews facing deportation to Auschwitz. She believed deeply in the importance of this work and for the people to know that others were helping them. As Hannah would say, “Even if they catch me – the Jews will be notified. They will know that at least one person tried to reach them.”
On March 14, 1944, she parachuted into Yugoslavia for a mission. But at the Hungarian border, Hungarian gendarmes arrested Hannah. Taken to prison, guards tortured her for, among other information, the code to the transmitter she used for communicating with the SOE. The only information she gave them was her name.
Put on trial for treason, she was offered a pardon if she would admit guilt. Hannah refused. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by a firing squad. In a last act of defiance, Hannah refused a blindfold at her execution. She was just 23 years old.
Three years prior, in 1941, Hannah wrote:
so young to die.
No, no, not I,
I love the warm sunny skies,
light, song, shining eyes,
I want no war, no battle cry,
No, no, not I.”
Please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation if you enjoyed this snapshot biography of WWII hero Hannah Szenes. Visit our Patreon page to donate.Thank you for supporting us.
Alfonso, Kristal L. M. “The Female Fighters of World War II.” Femme Fatale: An Examination of the Role of Women in Combat and the Policy Implications for Future American Military Operations, Air University Press, 2009, pp. 7–20. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep13932.7. Accessed 15 Nov. 2023.
Baumel, Judith Tydor. “The Heroism of Hannah Senesz: An Exercise in Creating Collective National Memory in the State of Israel.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 31, no. 3, 1996, pp. 521–46. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/261019. Accessed 15 Nov. 2023.
It was 1946 and Joyce Bryant was a teenager visiting cousins in Los Angeles. They went to a local club where an impromptu singalong began. On a dare she got up on stage to sing. Soon she was the only one singing. The club owner offered her $25 to stay on stage. She needed the money to get home so she continued to perform.
This was the beginning of what would become a legendary career for Joyce Bryant. She became a top nightclub performer, famous for her voice and for her look.
Joyce used her fame to fight for civil rights, often speaking out against racial billing practices at nightclubs and hotels. She advocated and herself challenged Jim Crow laws, becoming the first black American to perform in many places around the United States. One such experience came in 1952, when she became the first Black entertainer to perform at a Miami Beach hotel, defying threats by the Ku Klux Klan.
Joyce tired of the nightclub scene by her late 20s and so she walked away from her lucrative career. She instead devoted herself to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, enrolling in Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. She then engaged in activist work, including organizing fundraisers for Black communities and working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement.
Eventually though she returned to music. But this time, Joyce trained to become a classical vocalist. And just like her previous music career, she found success. Her efforts led to a contract with the New York City Opera and performances with other opera companies.
In her later years, Joyce once again left the music business, though she would continue to in the music scene.
“Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, That the State…prepare a form whereon the racial composition of any individual, as Caucasian, Negro, Mongolian, American Indian, Asiatic Indian, Malay…may be certified by such individual…
“It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white…“
So declared Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which forbade marriage between interracial couples. Anti-interracial marriage laws were nothing new in Virginia, the state had some form of them in effect since the time of slavery (1600s). But this particular act was a direct consequence of the American eugenics movement of the early 1900s, which hoped to “improve the inborn qualities of a race” by way of immigration restrictions, anti-interracial marriage laws, forced sterilization, and even euthanasia programs to remove “defective genetic attributes” from the reproductive pool. It was this Racial Integrity Act of 1924 that Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia, brought down with their famous court case of Loving v. Virginia in 1967, and with it helped put an end to state sponsored implementation of white supremacy.
Mildred Jeter, a skinny girl of African American and Native American descent, was born in 1939, six years after Richard Loving, who was of English and Irish ancestry. They both lived in Caroline County, Virginia, a place much friendlier towards racial mixing than other Southern communities of the time.
Mildred met Richard when she was eleven and he seventeen. She went to an all-black school, and he, having left his all-white high school after only a year, made a living as a construction worker. What started as a friendship eventually blossomed into love, and after Mildred became pregnant at age eighteen, they decided to get married.
Marrying in their home state of Virginia was impossible, so Mildred and Richard drove 90 miles north to Washington D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. Upon returning home the Lovings lived in peace for just a few weeks until in the middle of the night their house was raided by the local sheriff along with two deputies acting on a tip. The sheriff barged into the Loving’s bedroom at 2AM demanding to know of Richard,
“Who is this woman you’re sleeping with?”
“I am his wife,” Mildred answered.
Their marriage certificate hung on the wall.
“That’s no good here,” the sheriff proclaimed.
Loving Family Washington D.C. Marriage Certificate
The Lovings were taken to jail. Richard was allowed to post bail the following day, but Mildred, despite being pregnant, was held longer. The Lovings were charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a felony crime carrying a one to five year jail term. During the hearing the presiding judge, Judge Leon Bazile, stated,
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The Lovings pled guilty to breaking Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law and were given the minimum one year sentence. With the ruling came the stipulation that their sentence would be suspended if they left Virginia and did not return together for twenty five years. The Lovings agreed. They moved to Washington D.C., had three children, and lived there for five years, until the isolation from family and friends, as well as financial hardship, made them long to return to Virginia.
The year was 1963, and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Mildred, inspired by the movement, got in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union who agreed to take on the Lovings’ case and help them return home. There was only one problem, since the Lovings had pled guilty to breaking Virginia law, they had no right to appeal the original ruling. So they contacted Judge Leon Bazile and asked him to void his verdict on the basis that Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. He declined. The Lovings appealed, and the case went to Virginia’s Supreme Court of Appeals, but that court upheld Judge Bazile’s decision, stating that Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law didn’t in fact violate the Fourteenth Amendment because both whites and non-whites were punished equally for the crime of interracial marriage.
But the Lovings didn’t give up. They appealed the Virginia court’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. The court, at the time headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren who also presided over Brown v. Board of Education, examined the case and overturned Virginia court’s decision.
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’”, Warren stated, “fundamental to our very existence and survival… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes…is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Interracial marriage was declared legal in Virginia and in the US as a whole. The Lovings, now legally married, were finally able to live in peace at home in Virginia.
Of Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage law in general, Justice Potter Stewart and Justice William O. Douglas, two of the associate Justices who were part of the Supreme Court’s ruling, stated,
“There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.”
Loving v. Virginia became one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most important cases. The Lovings were hailed as heroes by their community and the country at large.
But when asked about their accomplishments in a Life magazine interview, Richard Loving humbly said,
“We have thought about other people, but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”
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“Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, That the State…prepare a form whereon the racial composition of any individual, as Caucasian, Negro, Mongolian, American Indian, Asiatic Indian, Malay…may be certified by such individual…” – Racial Integrity Act of 1924 – Wikisource
“improve the inborn qualities of a race”: EUGENICS: ITS DEFINITION, SCOPE, AND AIMS. By Francis Galton. THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY, Volume X; July, 1904; Number 1.
Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws 17th century: “‘Loving’ and the History of Anti-Miscegenation Laws in Virginia and Washington.” By Candice Frederick. New York Public Library.
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” — Judge Leon Bazile in Caroline County Court, 1958 – “Judge Leon M. Bazile, Indictment for Felony,” Library of Virginia, accessed October 6, 2022, https://lva.omeka.net/items/show/54.
“We have thought about other people,” Mr. Loving said in an interview with Life magazine in 1966, “but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/06/us/06loving.html
Loving family Washington D.C. marriage certificate – National Archives, NAID: 17412479
Loving v Virginia, 1967 Ruling: “There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.” – Richard Perry LOVING et ux., Appellants, v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University.
In the warm embrace of the summer of 1912, the vibrant city of Stockholm, Sweden was abuzz with excitement. The finest athletes from around the world were gathered there for the fifth modern Olympic Games. Among them, representing the United States, was Jim Thorpe. He was set to compete in a few events, including the decathlon, a grueling event that was made up of ten competitions including sprints, jumps, throws, hurdles, vaults, and a distance run. It was a true test of versatility. The winner would be given the title of world’s greatest athlete.
Jim’s journey to the 1912 Olympics was part of a life-long love for sports. Born in 1887 in Prague, Indian Territory, in what is today Oklahoma, he was raised in a mixed ancestry family that would bring him up with the traditions of the Sac and Fox Native American tribe. By age three, Jim was swimming and riding horses. As he grew older, Jim became actively involved in sports competition, becoming the star football player of his small college for Native Americans. He led them to a National Championship twice. The coach there described Jim as “the most remarkable physical machine in the annals of athletics.”
Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics
Jim’s talent for sport extended well beyond the football field. He competed in more than twenty sports, including figure skating, lacrosse, handball, tennis, and boxing. He even won an intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship. “I was never content unless I was trying my skill in some game against my fellow playmates or testing my endurance and wits against some member of the animal kingdom,” he would say. This diversity made the decathlon a perfect event for him.
The decathlon at the 1912 Olympics started well for Jim. He developed a nice lead after the first day. Then on the morning of day two, as Jim prepped for competition, he noticed that his track shoes were missing. To this day, the shoes are presumed to have been stolen.
Getting a pair of track shoes wasn’t easy. Unlike today, where sports equipment can be readily purchased from retail outlets, track shoes in 1912 were custom-made to suit the individual specifications of each athlete. There wasn’t a store one could walk into and purchase a pair. So he and his track coach went looking for a discarded pair. His coach found a right shoe and a left one. They were different styles, different sizes, but this was the best option given time constraints. One shoe fit fine, the other was too big. So Jim put on two pairs of socks to fit into the big shoe.
Jim came in first place wearing these track shoes. And he didn’t just win; he dominated, winning by a margin of about 700 points. His margin of victory has only been surpassed one time to date. His performance was so astounding that those 1912 Olympic games became known as the “Jim Thorpe Olympics.”
As legend goes, upon receiving his Olympic gold medal from King Gustav of Sweden, the King said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” Jim, humble as always, reportedly replied, “Thanks, King.”
Jim returned home to a ticker-tape parade down Broadway in N.Y. His name was in the papers, the pride of a nation. He was an Olympic champion and the greatest athlete in the world.
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Chuck Taylor sneakers, also known as Converse All Stars, have cemented their place as an iconic element of fashion across generations. This journey to popularity is as rich and varied as the styles they now come in. But how did they become so popular? The following is a short story of their history.
Chuck Taylor History
You can say the historical record started in 1908 when 47-year-old Marquis Mills Converse, a well-groomed and lifelong respected manager, started his own company, Converse Shoes. The company began with making rubber-soled shoes for winter. Then, in 1915, Converse sneakers were introduced for tennis players, and in 1917, the company introduced the All-Star basketball shoe.
Converse advertisement, 1920
During this time, a basketball player at Columbus High in Indiana by the name of Chuck Taylor fell in love with the All-Star basketball shoe. Chuck was a skinny kid with a prominent nose and insightful eyes. By most accounts, he was a good basketball player. Some even say Chuck was a star who played on professional and semi-pro teams. Off the court, he was likable and understood basketball players’ footwear needs. And he was also a gifted salesman who knew how to pitch himself and his ideas. In 1921, Converse hired Chuck Taylor after he arrived unannounced at their Chicago office.
With his drive and passion, Chuck Taylor convinced Converse to introduce the Chuck Taylor sneaker in 1922. And with that same drive and passion, Chuck Taylor made it the shoe to wear for basketball players. In 1936, the sneakers became the official shoe for the United States basketball team in the Olympics.
Then, during World War II, Chuck took on the role of a physical training adviser for the United States military. Before long, service members were actively participating in calisthenics routines clad in Chuck Taylor sneakers, which had been designated as the official footwear of the United States Armed Forces.
In the 1950’s, sneakers extended beyond sportswear and became the norm for daily wear. Much of this was the result of James Dean and his love for the Jack Purcells, a sneaker designed by a former world badminton champion (and which was later acquired by Converse). The Jack Purcell sneakers were similar to Chuck Taylor’s but appealed to a different segment of society. These sneakers were prominent in the rebellious rock culture of the time, broadening the overall appeal of sneakers.
Stories such as the rise of sneakers as a cultural norm are a reminder of the famous wisdom that “All dreams begin with a dreamer.” Chuck Taylor wasn’t the only reason sneakers became popular, but he was certainly the catalyst to usher in the change. As a result, more than 600 million pairs of Chuck Taylors have been sold.
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