CURRENT EVENTS

Archaeologists Find Cabin Lived in by Harriet Tubman
April 21, 2021
Archaeologists are confident that they have found a cabin once lived in by famed Underground Railroad 'conductor' Harriet Tubman. Tubman, once a slave herself, helped hundreds of others escape the bonds of slavery by traveling along the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses and protected passages designed to shepherd African-Americans from slavery in the South to safe havens in the North. Tubman learned many outdoor skills from her father while living in a cabin in the woods. She would have used those skills to help her charges travel on the Underground Railroad to freedom in the 1850s and 1860s. Now archaeologists say they have found that long-lost cabin.

Earth Day
Every April 22 is Earth Day in the United States. On this day, the focus is the planet itself and how to better take care of it. Among the things that Earth Day promoters urge people to do on Earth Day are plant trees, travel without cars for a day, and test their drinking water to make sure it's safe.
IN DAYS GONE BY

Lexington-Concord
The two major skirmishes that signaled the beginning of the Revolutionary War took place on April 19, 1775. It began with the famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World" and ended with a lesson in the importance of having the high ground. The result was a small lesson that would turn into a larger refrain, that the British occupation of the Eastern Seaboard was about to find its days numbered.

Samantha Smith: Following Peace
A 10-year-old from Maine wrote a letter to the head of the Soviet Union and got a reply. The reply was unsuspected, as was the accompanying offer. The Premier, in a very public letter, invited the girl and her father and/or mother to the Soviet Union. That letter, from Yuri Andropov to Samantha Smith, was announced to the world on April 23, 1985.

The Oklahoma Land Rush
Forced relocation of Native Americans was not an uncommon occurrence in the early 19th Century. One of the prime destinations for the relocated people was the Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma. By the 1880s, the U.S. Government had decided to open Indian Territory to white settlement. Native American tribes–among them Apache, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Commanche, and Creek–had been forced by the Dawes Act in 1887 to restrict their settlements to specific areas of the territory. A large amount of land, nearly 2 million acres, was not owned by any Native American tribe and was known as the Unassigned Lands. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 opened Indian Territory to white settlement. President Benjamin Harrison set a date of opening for April 22. At noon on that day, tens of thousands of would-be settlers rushed into what they hoped was their new home lands.


The Titanic A Century Later

A century later, the Titanic still captivates, with its story of an "unsinkable" ocean liner on its maiden voyage striking an iceberg and sinking to the bottom of the sea early on the morning of April 15, 1912. The story has been told many times since then, in the words of survivors, in the pages of print, and on the silver screen. Much is known, including where the ship now rests on the ocean floor. Much remains unknown.

Take a closer look with these six stories:

  • Go through the details of the sinking of the Titanic, with a focus on the "how" and the "why."
  • Find out more about the passengers, who included the very famous and the very not-famous – more than a thousand people seeking a new life in the New World.Find out more about the captain – just how experienced he was and what happened to him after the iceberg struck.
  • Discover details about the ship itself, including where it was built and how much alike it was to two other star-crossed ships built by the same shipping line.
  • Get a glimpse of the discovery of the wreck, 70 years after the sinking.
  • See just how pervasive the Titanic story is in our culture.

The History and Political Development of France

The Gauls
VercingetorixSome of the earliest known residents of what is now France were the Gauls, a polyglot people who inherited Celtic traditions and struggled for existence in much of what is now Western Europe–against the Romans, notably, but against other peoples as well. One of the most famous of the Gallic commanders was Vercingetorix (right), who fought a determined campaign against the Roman general Julius Caesar. That famous general defeated Vercingetorix and then subjugated Gaul. The Gauls enjoyed Roman "protection" and even thrived under it for a time but were eventually the target of other invaders. The Vandals ravaged Gaul in 406. Four years later came the Visigoths, on their way to sack Rome. A still reeling Gaul had to contend with Attila and the Huns a few decades after that. Ultimately taking over with lasting authority were the Franks.

The Franks
Battle of Tours The most famous early Frankish leader was Clovis (left), a powerful warrior with a magnetic personality, able to inspire his fellow Franks to join him on a campaign of conquest. He soon was in control of nearly all of what is today France. Another famous Frankish leader was Charles Martel ("Charles the Hammer"), who led European forces to victory over an invading Muslim army at the Battle of Tours (right), which many historians consider to be a turning point in history. Later came the most Frankish leader of all, Charlemagne ("Charles the Great"), who ruled alone from 771, when his brother died. Charlemagne (left) earned his famous name by conquering most of Italy and most of Germany, creating an empire the likes of which hadn't been seen in Europe in a few centuries. He and his descendants came to be known as the Carolingian Dynasty.

The Capetian Dynasty
Hugh CapetA later famous King of the Franks was Hugh Capet (left), who founded a dynasty of his own, prevailing at a time of great unrest throughout Western Europe. Various descendants of Charlemagne made certain claims to the Carolingian reputation, and Capet had to struggle long and hard to finally take control. His dynasty lKing Philip IV of France asted nearly 400 years. Following him on the throne a century later was Louis VII, who famously led a large contingent of troops invading the Holy Land during the Second Crusade but might be more famous as the first husband of the dynamic and famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose dowry strengthened the hand of England's King Henry II. Another dynamic Capetian was Philip II, known as Philip Augustus, who engaged in titanic struggles with two of England's kings, Henry II and John and eventually retook nearly all of what those two monarchs had seized from France. The most well-known of the late Capetians was Philip IV (right). Philip it was who established the Auld Alliance, a long-running mutual defense pact with Scotland against England, and set up France's first Parlement. Philip it was who moved the papacy to Avignon, where it stayed for generations. Philip's sons succeeded him on the French throne. It was the death of his youngest son, Charles IV, without an heir that precipitated a succession crisis that brought on the Hundred Years War.

The House of Valois
France's King Charles VIIPicking up the slack in the wake of the demise of the Capetians was Valois, a descendancy that ruled France for a few centuries in the early Middle Ages. It was King Charles VII (left) who established the French standing army, a development that helped the country win the centurylong war with England. Another element of that victory came in the inspiration and deeds of the "Maid of Orleans," Joan of Arc. Other well-known Valois rulers were Louis XI, known as the "Universal Spider" for his plentiful intrigues, and Louis XII, known as the "Father of the People." Religious tensions dominated much of the later Valois reigns, punctuated by struggles between Catholics and Huguenots.

The House of Bourbon
King Henry III of FranceKing Louis XIV of France It was a Protestant king, Henry III (left), who founded the House of Bourbon. He was the first but not the most famous of the Bourbons, a dynasty the lasted for centuries. Perhaps the most famous of all French monarchs was Louis XIV (right), the famed "Sun King," who reigned for decades and was the architect of so much of early modern French society, thanks in no small part to his country's success in a series of wars, notably the Thirty Years War. He was the son of Louis XIII, whose able ministers included the iconic Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. By the time that Louis XIV, his grandson was in line to succeed him. This was Louis XV, who presided over a devastating defeat in the Seven Years War, a part of which was fought in North America and came to be known as the French and Indian War. This king also gave way to his grandson, Louis XVI, who quite literally lost his head during the French Revolution.

The French Revolution
It was at turns gradual and speedy, triumphant and tragic, sustained and dramatic. French society for centuries had been stratified into social and economic classes. Feudalism had given way to the Ancien Régime, which divided the people of France into Three Estates. Making up the First Estate were the clergy, the religious leaders of the realm. Nobles and royals excluding the monarch made up the Second Estate. Those Storming of the BastilleGuillotine two Estates together made up about 2 percent of the population for much of this period. The rest of the population comprised the Third Estate. This included not only commoners and peasants but also slightly wealthier people like businessmen who made respectable but large incomes. This division into Estates came in handy when the king needed to summon the people for advice, as in the use of the Estates-General, which dated to 1302. Kings summoned this group occasionally to approve new taxes. In the 18th Century came the growth of the ideas of the philosophes, Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. Forming the basis of much of this thought and discussion was the philosophy of René Descartes. Ideas of equality flew in the face of the stratified society preferred by the monarch and the nobility, as ultimately personified by Louis XVI and his extravagant wife, Marie Antoinette. Enough people had had enough by the closing years of the 18th Century that a mob stormed the Bastille (left), setting off the Revolution. A new legislative body, the National Constituent Assembly, issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and then the Constitution of 1791. King Louis XVI tried to flee the country but was caught and placed uner arrest. He was eventually convicted of treason by the Assembly and executed, along with his wife. Gripping the country by this time was the Reign of Terror, personified by the Committee of Public Safety and its most prominent member, Maximilien Robespierre. The guillotine (right) efficiently disposed of hundreds of so-called "enemies of the state." In the wake of all of this internal upheaval, France went to war with various other European nations, starting with the War of the First Coalition and continuing on through a handful of subsequent coalitions. French troops met with varying degrees of success for nearly two decades. Rising to prominence was a young officer named Napoleon Bonaparte, who came to dominate the European scene. Largely at Bonaparte's direction, the Directory gave way to the Consulate, ending the Revolution.

Napoleon crossing the AlpsThe Napoleonic Era
He rose from humble beginnings and achieved lasting fame and recognition. Famed as a military commander and a political leader, famed as the husband of Joséphine, Napoleon achieved greatness for France but also brought about great sorrow. He and the Grand Armeé had great success–at Austerlitz and Borodino and Jena–but also suffered great defeats–at Trafalgar, in Russia, and at Waterloo. He redrew the political map of Europe, particularly with the Confederation of the Rhine and Continental System, a progenitor of the European Common Market that was designed to exclude the U.K. from European trade.

The Last Monarchs of France
July Revolution of 1830Napoleon III Napoleon was defeated and exiled, twice. The new ruler of France was Louis XVIII, whose prestige and authority benefited from a decade of prosperity but suffered in a time of famine and want. His son, Charles X, had a hard of it and was replaced during the July Revolution by Louis Philippe. This was the time of the Romantic era in Europe. A series of revolutions in 1848 featured one in France, and the king fled the throne in favor of another republic, led by President Louis Napoléon Bonaparte. In 1851, he became Emperor Napoleon III. His rule had varying degrees of success and failure. The most notable of the latter was the disastrous defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, in which he himself was captured. France's defeat was the death knell of his time on the imperial throne. Indeed, he was the last monarch of France.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2021
David White