Dec. 15, 1999

What It Is Life To Read the Ancients

by David Budbill

Broadcast Date: WEDNESDAY: December 15, 1999

Poem: "What It Is Like To Read the Ancients" by David Budbill from Copper Canyon Press.

On December 15, 1791, the new United States of America adopted the BILL OF RIGHTS, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, laying out the fundamental rights of its citizens, including freedom of religion, speech, and the press, as well as the rights of peaceful assembly and petition.

The Sioux Chief SITTING BULL and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, South Dakota, on this day in 1890, during a fight with Indian police. Sitting Bull had wiped out General George Custer's troops at the Battle of Little Bighorn, then gone on to win other showdowns with the Federal army; but he'd been arrested and held for several years in the South. His participation in the Ghost Dance movement, which looked for an Indian leader to sweep away the nation's white settlers, alarmed the government, and he was shipped north to prison in South Dakota. When a band of warriors tried to rescue him, they were all killed.

It's the birthday of writer BETTY SMITH, in Brooklyn, 1904, who wrote over three dozen plays, but was best known for her novels, particularly her first: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which came out in 1943.

The French Army defeated the Germans on this day in 1916, in one of the bloodiest battles of the western front in W.W.I: the BATTLE OF VERDUN. The Germans had planned to concentrate all they had on one strategic point, the fort at the city of Verdun in northeastern France, then press on to Paris. They began their assault in February, nearly 10 months earlier, and the two sides waged a seesaw war of attrition all year. The fighting came to a head in the late spring and early summer, with over 400,000 casualties for the French, and nearly as many for the Germans. The fort and city were destroyed, but on December 15 the French turned the tide, capturing 7,500 prisoners and driving the rest of the German army back east.

It's the birthday in Buffalo, New York, 1922, of novelist ELLIOTT BAKER, author of A Fine Madness (1964), and a half-dozen other novels, including And We Were Young, (1979), and Unhealthful Air (1988). A Fine Madness is his best known book, the story of the problems of drunken poet Samson Shillitoe.

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