Aug-22: A Day of Revolutionaries

August 22nd marks the anniversary of the Haitian Revolution and Nat Turner’s Rebellion, as well as the death of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins and the end of the litigation over nuclear activist Karen Silkwood.

It also marks the first air attack on a city (Venice), the First Geneva Convention, the DC Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment (which failed ratification) and the birth of my father, longtime Rhode Island Assistant Public Defender Paul Kelley.


Haitian Revolution

From  The Haitian Revolution has often been described as the largest and most successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere.  Slaves initiated the rebellion in 1791 and by 1803 they had succeeded in ending not just slavery but French control over the colony.  The Haitian Revolution, however, was much more complex, consisting of several revolutions going on simultaneously. These revolutions were influenced by the French Revolution of 1789, which would come to represent a new concept of human rights, universal citizenship, and participation in government.

The United States, fearing that Haiti’s revolt would lead to slave revolts in the U.S., did not recognize the new nation until after the Civil War.

[Note some list the revolt start date as August 21.]



Nat Turner’s Rebellion

Nat Turner, a slave in Southampton County, Virginia led a slave revolt that killed 55 to 65 people before it was put down a week later.  It was the largest and deadliest slave uprising in U.S. history.  The 2016 film “Birth of a Nation” tells the story of the rebellion.


Venice is Target of World’s First Air Raid

Seeking to crush Venice’s revolt against Austrian rule, the Austrians blockaded the City.  The Austrians could not get close enough to shell the city so they unleashed 200 balloons carrying 33 pounds of explosives armed with half-hour fuses into Venice.  The balloons caused minimal damage and some blew back toward the Austrians.  The Venetians surrendered two-days later.



The First Geneva Convention is Signed

The First Geneva Convention, which attempts to regulate the conduct of warfare sought to provide relief to the wounded without any distinction as to nationality and neutrality of medical personnel units.  It was signed by the Grand Ducy of Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain and Wuttemberg.



Michael Collins Assassinated

Michael Collins, an Irish independence leader and Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, was shot and killed in an ambush in Cork during the Irish Civil War that followed independence.



District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment

Congress passed the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment which would amend the Constitution by providing that:

For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.

Only 16 states (NJ, MI, OH, MN, MA, CT, WI, MD, HI, OR, ME, WV, RI, IA, LA, DE) ratified the amendment, short of the 38 needed.  See Ten Reasons Why You Should Care About D.C. Voting Rights.




Kerr-McGee Pays $1.38M to Karen Silkwood Estate

Karen Silkwood worked at a Kerr-McGee nuclear facility in Oklahoma and became an activist on plant health and safety issues after she was contaminated with plutonium. She was killed in a 1974 car accident en route to a meeting with a New York Times reporter to discuss her claims, but the binders of evidence she assembled were not found in her car.

After the longest trial in Oklahoma history, a jury awarded her estate $505,000 in damages and $10M in punitive damages in 1979.  The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court, but Kerr-McGree threatened further appeals.  The estate settled with Kerr-McGee for $1.38M on this day in 1986.


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