Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

Edward I of England, AKA Edward Longshanks (1239)

Edward became king upon the death of his father, Henry III, in 1272 but was not crowned until he returned from a crusade two years later. His 35-year reign was characterized by constant warfare, including long and costly campaigns to conquer Wales and Scotland. It was a struggle to fund these endeavors, and he did so, in part, by exploiting the Jews under his rule. Finally, in 1290, he expelled them from England and seized their property. For how long did his Edict of Expulsion remain in effect? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

John Howard Griffin (1920)

Griffin was an American author who darkened his white skin with medication and sunlamps in order to experience the racial segregation of the southern US. He described his experiences in his controversial 1961 book Black Like Me, which details his interactions with others—both white and black—and the problems he encountered while traveling and attempting to meet basic needs. It is often recounted that Griffin died from skin cancer resulting from his efforts to darken his skin. Is it true? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ion Victor Antonescu (1882)

Antonescu was dictator of Romania during World War II when his country was part of the Axis. He had a close relationship with Adolf Hitler, who lauded the Romanian’s “breadth of vision.” Antonescu ordered the 1941 Odessa Massacre that claimed the lives of at least 25,000 Jews, though some estimates suggest an even higher death toll. In 1944, Antonescu was overthrown in a coup and later convicted of war crimes and executed. In his final letter to his wife, what did Antonescu encourage her to do? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928)

Guevara was a Latin American revolutionary who developed guerrilla warfare as a tool for revolution. Born in Argentina, Guevara traveled widely as a medical student and became convinced that only violent revolt would end the poverty he witnessed. He joined the Cuban Revolution and became one of Fidel Castro’s most trusted aides before leaving to foster revolutions elsewhere. He was killed in 1967 while directing a guerrilla movement in Bolivia. What is the meaning of Guevara’s nickname, “Che”? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff Gordon (1863)

A leading British fashion designer of the Edwardian era, Gordon made less restrictive clothing for women that she sold in her own “Lucile, Ltd.” shops in London, Paris, Chicago, and New York. To promote her wares, she organized tea times when models would parade around in her designs, a precursor of the modern fashion show. Gordon was a passenger on the Titanic and survived its sinking by boarding Lifeboat 1 with her husband. What did the tabloids allege about their escape from the ship? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Arthur Fellig, AKA Weegee (1899)

A New York City-based photojournalist, Fellig distinguished himself with his stark and often grisly black-and-white images. His nickname, Weegee, a phonetic pronunciation of Ouija, was derived from his seemingly clairvoyant knowledge of where crimes and emergencies were taking place and his habit of frequently beating authorities to the scenes. In reality, there was nothing supernatural about this—he simply possessed a police radio and made good use of it. What did he keep in his car’s trunk? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Gene Wilder (1933)

Wilder was just 8 years old when his ailing mother’s doctor urged him to try making her laugh. The boy took those words to heart and developed a passion for performing that eventually led him to Hollywood. He is best known for his roles in comedy classics like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein. He cowrote the latter film with producer and director Mel Brooks, and their screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Which film sequel’s script beat them out? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Hattie McDaniel (1895)

McDaniel was the first African American to win an Academy Award, earning it for her role as the maid Mammy in 1939’s American Civil War epic Gone with the Wind. Segregation, still widespread in the American South at the time, prevented her from attending the film’s Atlanta premiere, but when her friend and fellow actor Clark Gable—who had recommended her for the role—wanted to boycott the event, she insisted that he attend. Why does McDaniel have two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836)

Anderson was the first licensed female physician, as well as the first female mayor, in England. Denied admission by many medical schools, she studied privately with physicians before finally earning a license from the Scottish Society of Apothecaries. Largely as a result of her efforts, British examining boards later opened their examinations to women. Anderson championed the idea of medical care by female doctors for female patients. What was her New Hospital for Women later renamed? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Suharto (1921)

Suharto was a relatively unknown army chief in 1965, when he crushed an alleged coup with a ruthless purge of communists and leftists throughout Indonesia that left as many as 1,000,000 dead. In 1967, he replaced the deposed Sukarno as president. He oversaw a return to economic stability and led the violent 1975 invasion of East Timor, which Indonesia soon annexed. Greatly unpopular after the economic unrest of the 1990s, Suharto resigned in 1998. Why was he placed under house arrest in 2000? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary