Sep. 4, 2000
I Stop Writing the Poem
It was on this day in 1957 that Arkansas governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to bar nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. In response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborn Division to make sure they could enroll. A few days later Eisenhower made a prime-time, live televised speech to the nation, in which he said, "Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts."
It's the birthday of the historical novelist Mary Challans, born in 1905, London, who wrote under the pen name, Mary Renault. She's best known for The King Must Die (1958), set in ancient Greece.
It's the birthday outside Natchez, Mississippi, 1904, of novelist, poet, and essayist Richard Wright. His family moved around the South a lot when he was a boy, and Wright was largely self-taught, and never attended any school after 15. He spent his free time at libraries, particularly in Memphis, where he began reading H. L. Mencken. Since the library there was a "whites only" library, he forged a note from a white patron that said: "Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy have some books by H. L. Mencken?" Wright made his way up to Chicago, became an activist in the Communist Party in the '30s, and started writing short stories as a part of the Depression-era Federal Writer's Project. His best known work is Native Son, the story of Bigger Thomas, a petty thief who is hired as a chauffeur by a rich white man. He kills the man's daughter, then his own girlfriend, then is finally arrested, tried, and condemned. The novel was controversial because, in the book, Bigger's lawyer argues that Bigger can't be held responsible for his crimes, that the real guilt lies with a society that won't accept him as a full human being, which drove him to kill. Wright left America not long after Native Son came out, and settled in Paris, where he published novels, short stories, plays, essays, poems, and memoirs before his death in 1960.
It was on this day in 1888, in Rochester, New York, that George Eastman received a patent for his new, easy-to-use camera, the Kodak.
It's the birthday of architect and city planner Daniel H. Burnham, born in Henderson, New York, 1846, founder of the influential "White City" style of architecture around the turn of the century. He was just 27 when he and architect John Wellborn Root went to work together to find new ways to build taller, fireproof buildings. Theirs were the first skyscrapers, and Burnham went on to design New York's Flatiron Building and Washington D.C.'s Union Station. From there he turned to urban planning. He was the chief architect of Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and built an elaborate fairground of grand boulevards, classical building facades, and lush gardens. This was the "White City" model, and the style spread around the nation. His greatest claim to fame, though, was the city of Chicago itself, for which he laid a plan out in 1909.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®