Monday, April 14, 2008

143 years ago today

April 14 has some significance in the eyes of the world because of two tragic events that occurred just forty-seven years apart. On April 14, 1865 the most beloved actor of his day, John Wilkes Booth stepped forward and fired a fatal shot into the head of President Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln slumped forward in his seat, Mr. Booth leaped out of the box and yelled “Sic Semper tyrannis” which is a Latin phrase meaning "thus ever (or always) to tyrants." Booth then left the theatre and after a twelve day manhunt he was gunned down and captured by Union troops. Lincoln passed away on the morning of April 15, 1865.

Eleven years later, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass dedicated a freedmans monument to Lincoln in Washington D.C. eulogized his former friend by stating “But dying as he did die, by the red hand of violence, killed, assassinated, taken off without warning, not because of personal hate--for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him--but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.”

John Wilkes Booth thought that he was doing the United States a favor by assassinating Lincoln but everyone knows that Booth’s belief was utterly wrong. The first presidential assassination in United States history began a long and bitter reunion for both north and south and it paved the way for blacks to suffer the consequences of racism and segregation from 1865-1964. In reality, Booth failed in his quest to stop black citizenship because the pressure of segregation opened up the world to the Civil Rights Movement and that forever ended racial separation in America. Booth won a small battle by killing Lincoln but African-Americans won the war. Blacks won out in the war of attrition. As for Lincoln, poet Walt Whitman wrote a poem about the fallen president and a excerpt of that is:

“CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”

Fast forward now to April 14, 1912 and the R.M.S. Titantic. The vessel struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, taking the lives of over 1,500 people. Today, the ship rests nearly three miles below the oceans surface and just off the coast of Newfoundland. It was on its maidian voyage from England to New York when lookouts spotted the iceberg and a later investigation showed that the crew had failed to follow safety procedures. The ship sank in less than three hours and many of its crew and passengers were trapped because it lacked sufficient lifeboats for everyone onboard. Thereafter no sailing vessel is allowed to leave port without sufficient knowledge of safety procedures and enough lifeboats for everyone onboard.

Information on the “Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is located here:

The best webpage on Lincoln’s murder is at

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