May-28: Bigotry, War, Prisoners and Nature

May 28th is day whose principal events tell a tale of bigotry that includes the Indian Removal Act and the dawn of apartheid; war with the debut on George Washington on the world stage; prisoners with the creation of Amnesty International and Nature with the creation of the Sierra Club.

It is also the day that a teenage German was able to fly his Cessna into the middle of Red Square during the Cold War.



Guadalupe Suicide Attack to Resist Reinstating Slavery

Delgres_timbre[1]When Napoleon sought to reestablish slavery in the French Antilles, Louis Delgrès led the resistance in Guadalupe. Forced to retreat to Fort St. Charles held by slaves and realizing he was out-manned by the French; Delgrès refused to surrender and led 400 men and women on a suicide attack in which the raiders ignited their gunpowder stores in an attempt to kill as many French soldiers as possible.  Slavery on the island would not end until 1848.


Congress Passes Indian Removal Act

Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which was signed by President Andrew Jackson, to authorize the president to negotiate with southern Indian tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi river to permit expansion in the South.  Ultimately, the tribes were forced to move at gunpoint, relocating from the South to federal land in Oklahoma in what became known as the “Trail of Tears” as many died en route.


South Africa Election Ushers In Apartheid

South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts, whose United Party favored gradual integration, won 49% of the vote to just 37.7 percent for D.F. Malan’s Reunited National Party who campaigned on a pledge to implement Apartheid.  Despite the United Party’s vote total, Malan’s Reunited National Party and the Afrikaner Party ended up with a majority of seats in Parliament.  Over his six-and-a-half year tenure as Prime Minister, Malan would lay the foundations of Apartheid that would remain in place until 1994.



Young Lt. Col. Washington Leads First Battle of French and Indian War

In the first engagement of the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven-Year War), a 22-year old Lt. Col. George Washington ambush and defeat a French reconnaissance party in the Battle of Jumonville Glen.


Pakistan Matches India in Nuclear Tests

In response to India’s testing of nuclear weapons earlier in the month, Pakistan conducted five simultaneous underground nuclear tests.  This made Pakistan the seventh nation to publicly test nuclear weapons.  The U.N. Security Council called on both countries to stop testing and economic sanctions were imposed.



The Birth of Amnesty International

On this day, British human rights lawyer Peter Benenson, angered by Portugal’s seven-year sentence to two students who raised their glasses in a toast to freedom, penned “The Forgotten Prisoner” in The Observer.  Benenson’s letter asked readers to write letters to the Salazar regime expressing support for the Prisoners and led to his founding Amnesty International.



John Muir Founds Sierra Club

After his successful in campaigning for the creation of Yosemite National Park (the nation’s first), John Muir founded the Sierra Club whose initial goals were establishing Glacier and Mt. Rainer national parks, convincing the California legislature to give Yosemite Valley to the federal government and preserving California’s coastal redwoods. The Sierra Club would quickly win a victory with approval of Yellowstone National Park and it remains one of the most influential environmental groups in America.

. . . And a Fluke


18-Year Old German Lands Plane in Red Square

Mathias Rust, a German amateur pilot from the greater Hamburg area, flew a Cessna into Red Square from Helsinki.  Although he was tracked by Soviet fighters, they never received permission to shoot him down.  He was sentenced to four-years imprisonment but was released the next year.



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