June 28

1981, 1903 

Many names, dates and events to place on today's page, but this is personal history, so I must take the personal first: the death, today in 1981, of Terrence Stanley Fox, a nobody really, in the world of great artists, thinkers, politicos, scientists, a 23-year-old kid from Winnipeg in Canada, who didn't really do anything, except get very, very sick, and understand that there was nothing anyone could do about it, and then god damn it he did something about it himself, the only thing he could...and then he died.

Terry Fox, as those of us who joined the annual race in his honour, raising funds for cancer research, preferred to call him, was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, when he was just 17; they amputated his right leg six inches above the knee in 1977, and gave him a prosthetic leg at a time when prosthetics were hardly any further out of their infancy than he was. Research was needed, for cancer especially, and research requires funding; so Terry decided to raise some. He set out on his Marathon of Hope from St. John's, Newfoundland on April 12th, 1980, planning to cross Canada at the rate of a marathon, twenty-six miles, per day, seven days a week until he got there.

Given that he came from the nobodies, it was only to be expected that nobody would pay him any attention; but gradually some of the somebodies heard about it, and he was drawing crowds to salute him, the media were following, the police were providing an escort, and the money was dripping in - at about the same rate as chemotherapy, which is slow and painful, when what he badly needed was fast, and lots. 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 miles) of hobbling his way through Quebec and most of Ontario had brought him to Thunder Bay on September 1st 1980, and from there he would get no further. The cancer was in his lungs and the only place he was hobbling to now was hospital. He died today, June 28th, the following year.

My own minuscule involvement was as a Head of School in Toronto in the early years of this century. Like almost every school in Canada, our kids trained for weeks, and filled up their sponsorship forms for months, so that they could be participate in the Terry Fox annual run, a mere few miles around the local park in our case, but these were 5-13 year olds, and distance wasn't the objective.

Since that first day in St John's Newfoundland, more than $750 million Canadian dollars have been raised for cancer research in Terry's name, and it still isn't enough. Feel free to make your personal donation here.

One day earlier, and George Padmore would have found a place in my novel "A Journey In Time", where he might have been mildly uncomfortable alongside Emma Goldman, Harry Pollitt, Earl Browder and Danielle Casanova, all of them convinced Marxists who fought for freedom and the rights of the common man, but without necessarily yielding their intellectual dignity to the Kremlin or the Forbidden City. Alas he didn't make it, because he was born on June 28th 1903, and the criterion for admission to that novel was birth, or death, or some incident of significance, on June 27th.

I am guessing that you have never heard of George Padmore, though his name should be on the honour board in your personal hall of fame, alongside Martin Luther King and Seretse Khama and Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah and Steve Biko, as one of the key figures in the progress made by Africans in Africa, and in the post-slavery and post-imperial world beyond, in rediscovering their dignity, and asserting their rights, in reclaiming their identity, and demanding their freedom.

He was born Malcolm Ivan Meredith Nurse in Trinidad, graduated from St. Mary's College in Port-of-Spain, became a reporter for the Trinidad Guardian but then moved to America in 1924, intending to study medicine but taking a law degree instead, in order to become an anti-racism advocate under his new name, George Padmore. In 1927 he joined the Communist Party, and edited the "Negro Champion", later called the "Liberator", based in Harlem. At a time when blacks in America could only rise above their lowly status if there was a noose around their neck to lift them there, Padmore moved to the Soviet Union, where he and the Jamaican poet Claude McKay were the only non-politicos from the west to be given an office within the Kremlin. His job, as head of the Negro Bureau of the Red International of Labour Unions, was to edit the organisation's journal, "Negro Worker" (he also published his first book at this time, "Life and Struggle of Negro Toilers", an investigation of the working conditions of black people around the world), and especially to travel, spreading the word of Pan-Africanism wherever he could, recruiting leaders for African liberation movements, which he did gladly, until he was instructed to stop. The Soviets had joined with Britain and France against Hitler, and suddenly supporting African liberation was an obstacle to that union. Padmore was incensed, refused, and was expelled, first from the Komintern, then the Communist Party, and finally from Russia.

He moved to London next, where he published his second book, "Africa and World Peace", organised the International African Service Bureau (IASB), edited its journal "International African Opinion", and befriended C.L.R James, the author of "Black Jacobins", an extraordinary account of the liberation of Haiti from the French, British and Spanish. Padmore's third book, "How Russia Transformed Her Colonial Empire: A Challenge to Imperial Powers" did not go down well in wartime Britain, and even less well in post-war Britain, where the Soviets were once again the enemy, and the Pan-African Federation, with which Padmore had merged his Bureau in 1944, were simply anathema - Jomo Kenyatta of would-be Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah of would-be Ghana, the Fifth Pan-African Congress which had the gall to assemble in Manchester and call for the end of colonialism and imperialism throughout Africa, and of which Padmore was one of the principal organisers and speakers. When he published "Africa: Britain's Third Empire" in 1949, the British banned it in both Kenya and the Gold Coast. Dauntless, and at the personal suggestion of Nkrumah, he followed up with "The Gold Coast Revolution" in 1953, a study of that colony's struggle to achieve self-government, and then, in 1956, "Pan-Africanism or Communism?", which represented his final break with Communism as much as it did his commitment to the need for an indigenously African way forward.

When the Gold Coast became independent Ghana in 1957, President Nkrumah invited Padmore to Accra as his personal adviser on African affairs. Two years later, at a conference in Liberia, he was taken ill, flown to London for treatment, but died, on September 23rd 1959, and was buried at Christianborg Castle, a relic of Dutch imperialism in Osu, Accra, and now the seat of the Ghanaian parliament.

For a full list of Padmore's writings, I cannot resist the irony of directing you to the website of marxists.org, and with rather less irony to the institute established in his name, which splendidly describes Padmore's "vision of a world unburdened from the arrogance and tribulation of empires and dedicated to equality, solidarity and hope."

Amber pages

Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish painter, born today in 1577

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher, born today in 1712

Luigi Pirandello, playwright, born today in 1867

Treaty of Versailles signed ending WWI, today in 1919 - did they choose the date symbolically?

First black US cabinet member sworn in (Robert Clifton Weaver), today in 1966 (is it frankly credible that it took this long? does this not just tell you everything you didn't want to know about white-black relations in America - and MLK assassinated on April 4 of the same year!

Stonewall Inn riots started in New York, today in 1969. (First the niggers, then the faggots! Better watch out or it'll be the Yids and the pussies next, and then they'll be trying to shut down our beloved NRA and KKK, and then what hope for glorious America? ... I wonder if this is the place to write about that oddity of language, that the words "compassion" and "mercy" in both Hebrew and Arabic, which is to say in both the Jewish and the Moslem worlds, are etymologically connected to the word for "womb", while all those symbols of "power" and "supremacy", the guns and rifles, the submarines and airplanes, the sports cars and the sports sticks, every one of them without exception is phallic).

US Supreme Court reversed Muhammad Ali's conviction for refusing induction in the US Army, today in 1971. A moment of redemption, I guess. I wonder how Muhammad Ali and George Padmore would have got on.

And last, because it allows me a wonderful symmetry on this page, the amazing and extraordinary Helen Keller, deaf, dumb and blind since she contracted scarlet fever when she was just nineteen months old, graduated with honors from Radcliffe College, today in 1904 (the day after her 24th birthday). Special mention to the always forgotten Anne Sullivan, her guide and teacher - more on both of them, and Gavrilo Princip, the man whose gun triggered World War 1 by assassinating Archduke Ferdinand today in 1914, in "A Journey In Time".

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

March 3

2015, 1931

Two curiously connected dates; the second is below; the first is the more recent:


Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, invited to speak to a joint session of Congress by Republican Senate Speaker John Boehner, without bothering to consult with President Obama - a symptom of the appalling state of American politics, which had come down to little more than nose-thumbing from both sides. Inviting Netanyahu just two weeks before an Israeli election was surely no coincidence either, but the real point was the on-going discussions between Iran and various parties, including the US and the EU, which at that moment were within days of a possible conclusion. From the instant of the announcement of the invitation, Netanyahu's visit was controversial, to the extent that many Democratic Representatives and Senators chose not to attend his speech. It required political and diplomatic skills of the highest order to make any sort of speech in such circumstances, yet Netanyahu managed it. Below are two links, the first to a transcript of the speech published by the Washington Post, the second to a video of it broadcast by the New York Times.


Question: for how long has America had a National Anthem?

Answer: you'll be surprised. Only since 1931. Here's the story. 

In 1812 Britain and America went to war. It lasted three years. On September 3rd, 1814, a man named Francis Scott Key was sent with a flag of truce on a mission by President Madison, to secure the release of a physician named William Beanes who was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. He boarded a British flagship in Chesapeake outside Baltimore, and spoke with two senior British commanders, who agreed the request. But Key overheard them discussing war plans, so he was not permitted to leave the ship until the battle was over.

During the night, Key witnessed the ferocious bombardment of Fort McHenry and Baltimore, and noticed that the fort's flag continued to fly right to the end, when the Americans had held out for an improbable victory. In the morning the soldiers in the Fort raised an even larger flag to celebrate their victory.

That flag, which at the time had only fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner, and you can actually see it on display in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Key was so inspired by the victory at Baltimore that he scribbled a poem on the back of a letter he happened to have in his pocket. He finished the poem a few nights later, and gave it the title "The Defense of Fort McHenry".

Later he gave the poem to his brother-in-law, who thought it would fit a drinking song called "The Anacreontic Song", written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a gentleman's club in London - which was not a gentleman's club as we understand the term today, but a gathering of amateur musicians. Two newspapers printed the song, and then a host of other newspapers reprinted it, changing its title to "The Star-Spangled Banner" (well, wouldn't you? Think of all the bad puns people could make out of the original, of which "The Anachronistic Song" may be the most obvious, but probably the least derogatory). Under its new name it became an immediate hit, and in July 1889, seventy-five years after it was written, the Secretary of the Navy made it the official tune to be played whenever the flag was raised.

Move forward another twenty-seven years, to 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star-Spangled Banner" be played at all military and "other appropriate occasions", which included the baseball World Series of 1918.

Another thirteen years on, to 1929, and a man named Robert Ripley drew a cartoon, making fun of the fact that America was the only country in the world that did not have a national anthem. So on March 3rd 1931 President Herbert Hoover signed an order (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. § 301) making "The Star-Spangled Banner" the official national anthem of the United States.

The text below includes the guitar chords that I worked out with my Miami school's music teacher when we decided that the regular recitation that alternates with the Oath of Allegiance needed musical accompaniment, and no website or chord book that we could find offered any guitar chords; people who can actually sing this terribly complicated music are even fewer (it's the modulation to C# in the fifth line that causes the problems), though piano arrangements are easy to find.
     E           B     C#m   Ab       C#m        F#  B
O! say can you see       by the dawn's early   light

              E                 B                  E
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.

B                    E               B        C#m  Ab              C#m   F#  B      
Whose broad stripes and bright stars  through the perilous   fight,

              E                  B                         E
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.

                                  C#                           F#m         B
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

         E                           B                     C#m      F#   B
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

       E                      A            C#   F#m      F#7    Bsus B
Oh, say does that  star-spangled  banner  yet      wave

              E      B       E      C#m    E/B        B7  E
O'er the land of the free and the home of the  brave?

There are actually three other verses, though they are not part of the national anthem:

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press