History Podcasts

This Day in History: 11/03/1964 - DC Residents Cast Votes

This Day in History: 11/03/1964 - DC Residents Cast Votes

Find out what happened on November 3 in this video of This Day in History. On November 3, 1956 the Wizard of Oz was first aired on television, and it became an instant classic for all who watched the first screening. On November 3, 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched the first animal into space. The space dog survived in space for several days on Sputnik 2 until the batteries in her life support wore out. On November 3, 1998, former wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota. Most importantly, on November 3, 1964, the residents of Washington D.C. cast their first vote for the presidential election. The 23rd Amendment was passed by Congress to grant these residents the right to vote in the presidential election.


This Day in History: 11/03/1964 - DC Residents Cast Votes - HISTORY


portions of Maryland and Virginia were ceded to the new Federal government to establish the District of Columbia
Source: Library of Congress, Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t[he] United States (by Pierre L'Enfant, reprint of 1791 map)

During the American Revolution and the era of the Articles of Confederation, the members of Congress met at various locations. In 1783, the Pennsylvania government refused to order the state militia to protect the Continental Congress from a mob of soldiers demanding back pay, and Congress moved. When the new Constitution was ratified in 1788, the Confederation Congress was meeting at New York City.

The new US Constitution included a clause that led to creation of the District of Columbia, with exclusive Federal jurisdiction: 1

The Congress shall have Power. To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States

Creating a Federal district ensured that no single state would have special leverage over the Congress. That clause generated little controversy, but the risk was greater than zero. In 1800, when voters rejected a second term for Federalist President John Adams and elected Republican/Democrat Thomas Jefferson instead, the transition of power was not smooth. Electors cast 73 votes for Jefferson, but also 73 votes for Aaron Burr. That tie force the US House of Representatives to select the president, and the process dragged on for six days.

Jefferson suggested to the governor of Virginia, James Monroe, that the "middle states" should arm and Republican/Democrat governors might direct militia to march on Philadelphia. By force, the militia could prevent John Adams from remaining in office after the end of his term, or from appointing an ally of his (John Marshall) as acting president. The House of Representatives chose Jefferson as President before Monroe gave any direction to the Virginia militia.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison had noted the risk that any state retaining control over a national capital might apply inappropriate pressure, and: 2

might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the Confederacy.


the original version of the Residence Act excluded Alexandria from being included in the District of Columbia
Source: Library of Congress, An act for establishing the temporary and permanent seat of the government of the United States

The political debate after ratification of the Constitution was where to place the new capital. Various sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York sought to become the new home of the new government. A political compromise, arranged by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton to balance interests of northern and southern states, determined that the capital would be located on the Potomac River.

Jefferson and Hamilton were political rivals, but recognized the benefits of negotiating deals that would benefit both sides. In 1790, Hamilton wanted to increase the financial power of the new Federal government. He sought Congressional approval for the US Treasury to assume responsibility for the debts incurred by the states to fund their efforts during the American Revolution. Creating a national debt to replace 13 separate state debts would increase support in the business and financial communities for a successful Federal government, one that could repay its debts.

Thomas Jefferson had philosophical objections to a stronger central government, fearing an increased Federal power would result in an equal decrease in the power of individual states. The successful American Revolution had stopped British officials from imposing decisions in America by fiat. Jefferson had supported adoption of the US Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation, but had no desire for the national government to grow powerful enough to impose its will on the states by fiat.

Jefferson and Hamilton orchestrated a deal. In 1790, the Funding Act transferred state war debts to the Federal government, and the Residence Act directed that the new national capital would be located on the Potomac River in a 100-square mile district controlled by the Federal government.

Placing the capital so far south was expected to affect the culture in the Congress, in particular its willingness to accept slavery. About 170 years later, John F. Kennedy supposedly said with an ironic twist, "Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm." 3

The Funding Act and Residency Act were passed while Congress was meeting in New York City. The government relocated to Philadelphia for 10 years so there would be time to buy land and prepare government buildings in the new capital, and as part of the bargain struck with Pennsylvania leaders to get their approve of the deal. President George Washington was authorized to select the exact location on the Potomac River "at some place between the mouths of the Eastern Branch and Connogochegue." 4


the initial Residence Act authorized George Washington to place the new Federal district between Conococheague Creek (Williamsport, Maryland) and the mouth of the Anacostia River
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Washington ordered that the boundary survey should start at Jones Point. That ensured Alexandria would be included within the boundary, even though it was downstream from the mouth of the Eastern Branch (Anacostia River). Congress quickly legalized his executive decision by passing a 1791 amendment to the Residence Act.

Andrew Ellicott, assisted by Benjamin Banneker and others, marked the boundaries and placed stones one mile apart in 1791 (Virginia) and 1792 (Maryland). The first boundary stone was placed at Jones Point on April 15, 1791. It was replaced with a larger one in 1794, and that stone still remains at the site. All stones were made from Aquia Creek sandstone, which was also used to construct the Capitol and Executive Mansion. 5


14 boundary stones marked the edge of the land ceded by Virginia to the District of Columbia
Source: Library of Congress, Chart showing the original boundary milestones of the District of Columbia (by Fred E. Woodward, c.1906)

George Washington's decision included a well-developed port city within the boundary of the Federal district. That limited the ability of Virginia and Maryland to interfere with transportation and potentially gain some influence over the national government.

Washington may also have desired to provide some economic advantages to his neighbors in Alexandria, less than five miles from his own Mount Vernon plantation. He expected that the activities of the Federal government, including the US Congress, would stimulate the local economy.

He knew that in Virginia's rural counties, the days when the local court was in session attracted lawyers, plaintiffs/defendants, jurors, and others. Government activities increased business activity, and markets would open on certain days when a crowd was anticipated. However, the 1791 amendment to the Residence Act that authorized inclusion of land upstream of Hunting Creek also required that all public buildings be located on the Maryland side of the river, limiting any economic activity on the 31 square miles within the district that were formerly part of Virginia. 6


the District of Columbia was a diamond, 10 miles on either side, with all Federal buildings in the Maryland portion
Source: Library of Congress, Plan of the city intended for the permanent seat of the government of t[he] United States (by Charles L'Enfant)

When Virginia ratified the Federal Constitution in 1788, it proposed amendments to create a Bill of Rights. The ratifying convention also considered an amendment so Virginia would retain some control over the Federal district: 7

That the exclusive power of legislation given to Congress over the federal town and its adjacent district, and other places, purchased or to be purchased by Congress of any of the states, shall extend only to such regulations as respect the police and good government thereof.

Congress did ultimately propose twelve amendments to address the Bill of Rights concerns, but did not agree to limit its authority over the District of Columbia. Virginia did not pursue the issue, and agreed in 1789 to cede to the Federal government the land on Virginia's side of the Potomac River. Maryland formally transferred its ownership to land within the district on December 19, 1791.

Since Maryland knew that Congress would not have time to create a new legal code immediately for the District, the state's cession act included a provision that the portion transferred to the Federal government would continue to use the laws of Maryland until replaced. That kept the Federal territory from reverting to a "state of nature," and allowed George Washington to negotiate deals through which local landowners sold their land to the Federal government.

In May, 1800, President Adams ordered Federal officials in the Executive Branch - all 125 of them - to move from Philadelphia to the new capital. President Adams first slept in the Executive Mansion in November 1800, when Congress first met in its new location. 8

Virginia was slower to transfer its sovereign authority to the Federal government. By 1800, the division between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans extended to the powers of the Federal government within the new district. Federalists were advocates of a strong central government. The Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson supported limited Federal control, and giving Maryland/Virginia some responsibilities within the district. At the end of the administration of John Adams on February 27, 1801, the Federalists pushed an Organic Act through the US Congress establishing exclusive Federal jurisdiction with no remnants of state control.


Georgetown, Hamburgh, and Carrollsburg as well as Alexandria were incorporated into the new District of Columbia
Source: Library of Congress, Sketch of Washington in embryo: viz., previous to its survey by Major L'Enfant, 1792 (by E.F.M. Faehtz, F.W. Pratt, 1874)

The president was authorized to appoint a mayor for the District of Columbia. The Organic Act also organized local courts and created a municipal government for the District. That triggered Virginia's official cession, ending Virginia's authority over the lands it had ceded. As with the Maryland cession, the Virginia act stated that the laws of Virginia would be applied in the Virginia portion of the District until replaced. 9

Under the 1801 Organic Act, the town of Alexandria retained its municipal government within the new district. The adjacent land outside the town boundaries, but within the District of Columbia, was designated Alexandria County. That farming land was often described as the "country" portion within the District of Columbia, and today most of it is Arlington County.


largely undeveloped Alexandria County was a separate part of the District of Columbia, distinct from the town of Alexandria
Source: Library of Congress, District of Columbia

North of the Potomac River, Georgetown also retained its charter and the rest of the District was designated as Washington County. Maryland ceded its control over both land and the Potomac River within the District. In 1801, Congress chose to give both counties jurisdiction over the river, but the debate over the District and its boundaries did not stop.


the 1801 Organic Act gave authority over the Potomac River to both Alexandria County and Washington County
Source: Library of Congress, An Act Concerning the District of Columbia (February 27, 1801)

During the ratification time, North Carolina and Pennsylvania had also proposed limiting Federal power over the District of Columbia so residents would not be disenfranchised. Members of Congress proposed retrocession of all or part of the district in 1803, 1804, 1818, and 1822. Alexandria leaders had requested retrocession as early as 1803, claiming: 10

our characters differ altogether from those of the citizens of Washington and George-Town, that we are "men of industrious habits," in possession of commerce, arts and mechanism, consequently incapable of cooperating with the vagabonds and speculators in the City.

Cession of 32 square miles of Virginia resulted in a shrinking of the land area and population of Fairfax County. Alexandria was the county seat of Fairfax County when the District of Columbia was created, so county officials prepared by building a new courthouse further inland at the Twn of Providence. The Fairfax County courthouse has been located there ever since, though the town renamed itself Fairfax. When the Town of Fairfax became an independent city in 1961, the area around the courthouse remained in the county.


since 1961, the Fairfax County courthouse has been within an island of county land surrounded by the independent City of Fairfax
Source: Fairfax County Static Map Gallery, Comprehensive Land Use (2017-26)

Transfer to the District of Columbia meant that residents in Alexandria lost their Virginia citizenship. Starting with the election of 1802, Alexandrians were not allowed to vote for members of Congress, or for president starting in 1804. Elections for town government did continue, and Congress issued Alexandria a new town charter in 1804.

Congress did not create a territorial legislature comparable to the Virginia General Assembly, to govern the majority of the District not within a town boundary. As a result, those living in Alexandria County were completely were disenfranchised, since the President appointed the district mayor and justices of the peace for local courts.

At the local level, Congress failed to update the Virginia civil/criminal codes after 1801. They continued to be the law in Alexandria County and in the town of Alexandria, and Maryland law stayed in force north of the Potomac River.

In the Virginia portion of the District of Columbia, Congress was prohibited from erecting public buildings. In compliance with the Residence Act, all Federal facilities were constructed north of the Potomac River.


all Federally-funded infrastructure was planned in the portion of the District ceded by Maryland
Source: Library of Congress, Plan of the city of Washington (by Pierre Charles L'Enfant, c.1794)

In 1826, Congress relaxed its limits and did fund construction of a jail in Alexandria County. It was not until 1932 that the Federal government constructed its first building in Arlington, the post office at Clarendon. 11


a jail in Alexandria was constructed with Federal funding authorized in 1826
Source: Library of Congress, Slave market of America (1836)

More significantly, Congress did not provide substantial funding for local transportation infrastructure such as the Alexandria Canal. Georgetown residents successfully opposed extension of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal to the rival port. In contrast, the Virginia General Assembly created the Board of Public Works in 1816 and started subsidizing turnpikes, canals, and railroads for rival Virginia ports, especially Richmond. 12

The lack of Congressional response to address local concerns, and the lack of any business improvement from being part of the District, frustrated local leaders. A locally-led "retrocession" movement in Alexandria, to undo the original land cession by Virginia to the Federal government, started in 1824.

In 1832, residents of Alexandria County and the town of Alexandria voted on a proposal to rejoin Virginia. Over 40% of the voters supported retrocession to correct the imbalance of economic benefits with the former Maryland side of the District, but the majority chose to stay in the District in a 419-310 vote. In 1838, Georgetown residents also considered retrocession, but were unable to get Congress to allow a vote.

When part of the District of Columbia, Alexandria lost the competition for trade with the backcountry. It surpassed Colchester and Dumfries and attracted trade from Virginia's northern Piedmont, but Baltimore captured much of the trade from the Potomac River Valley.

Slaveowners in Alexandria did not encourage the development of a white working class. Those who desired to become skilled laborers chose the culture of Baltimore, where industrial development offered mechanics economic opportunity.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad penetrated into the hinterland and helped Baltimore boom, while to Potowmack Canal failed. Trade on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal reached Georgetown first. One early sign of the capacity of Baltimore in 1814 was that it was able to resist British attack, while Alexandria meekly surrendered.

In 1820, Alexandria had 8,218 people. In 1840, there were only 8,459 residents. George Washington's expectation that a seaport with access to the Chesapeake Bay would become the "entrepot" of the western lands had become reality, but that town was Baltimore rather than Alexandria. 13

In 1840, the residents in the town of Alexandria debated retrocession in the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser. Town residents then voted 537-155 in favor of returning the Virginia portion of the District of Columbia back to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The desires of Alexandria County residents did not align with town merchants, however. The Ball, Carlin, and Birch families feared dominance by the town, and did not experience directly the economic disadvantages of being within the district. When the Virginia General Assembly expressed support for retrocession, George Washington Parke Custis made clear at a meeting at Ball's Cross Roads that county residents objected to being treated "as so many swine in the market, without our knowledge, and most clearly against our expressed wishes."

Congressional refusal to recharter local banks reduced the local money supply and interfered with business. Merchants suffered, and one expressed a complaint that is still heard in the District of Columbia today: 14

[Congress treated] the ten miles square. as a field upon which experiments in legislation might be safely tried by political quacks. regardless of the wishes. of the people.

The white political leaders in Alexandria feared that Congress might outlaw the slave trade within the boundaries of the Federal district. In the 1840's, the town was a major slave market. That business, though less respectable than shipping wheat, provided a significant number of local jobs.


the slave trade was legal in the District of Columbia until the Compromise of 1850, and continued on the south side of the Potomac River in what was Alexandria, Virginia until the Union Army occupied it in 1861
Source: Library of Congress, A slave-coffle passing the Capitol

In 1844, Congress ended its self-imposed ban on debating anti-slavery petitions. Ending the "gag rule" was an indicator of the growing political power of abolitionists. The worst-case scenario for Virginia slaveowners was the prospect that slavery would be banned in the District of Columbia, including Alexandria County and the town. Slaves might be able to escape simply walking across a political boundary with no physical barriers, connecting to the Underground Railroad, and fleeing freedom further north.


slave house of J. W. Neal & Co. in DC north of Potomac River (left) Franklin and Armfield's slave prison in Alexandria (right)
Source: Library of Congress, Slave market of America (1836)

It took six years of lobbying in Richmond before the Virginia General Assembly endorsed retrocession. The US Congress also concurred in 1846.

In the House of Representatives, Congressman R. M. T. Hunter led the effort to obtain concurrence. His original retrocession bill was ambitious, and included the Federal government repaying the $120,000 contributed by Virginia in 1791 for construction of public buildings in Washington. After hearing opposition, he dropped that proposal and limited the voter referendum to just the Virginia section of District.

Congress was busy debating the status of Texas and the war with Mexico, so Hunter kept the retrocession debate low-key and avoided discussion of the slavery issue. He focused on how voters had been disenfranchised and how Alexandria had been damaged economically, by inclusion within the District of Columbia.

States, but not the District, had provided financial support for banks to encourage commerce. States, but not the District, had invested in roads and other internal improvements to draw trade to their ports. Hunter portrayed Alexandria as a child of the Federal government, but "neglected by the foster mother." 15

If she had remained in Virginia she must have been considered in the system of internal improvements in that State, and by this time, it is probably that she would have commanded the trade of a part of the valley of northwestern Virginia, and western Maryland. A large region, rich in agricultural and mineral resources, which is now locked up, would probably long since have been opened to this place as its commercial depot.

If she has fallen behind in the race, is it surprising in her to believe that it is owing, in part at least, to her separation from Virginia, and her connexion with this District?

Alexandria town and county residents got to express their desire on September 1 and 2, 1846, in two days of viva voce voting. In that process, there was no secret ballot. Everyone knew how each individual white man who voted felt on the choice. 16

Residents of the Town of Alexandria voted in favor by 734-116. Residents of Alexandria County opposed retrocession by a 29-106 vote, in part because taxes were predicted to rise to pay for the bonds sold to finance the Alexandria Canal. Voters in the county were swamped by the overwhelming support within the town. The combined vote was 763-222 in support of rejoining Virginia.

President Polk issued a proclamation transferring the territory to Virginia on September 7, 1846. The Virginia General Assembly met the following Spring, and officially accepted retrocession on March 13, 1847.

Another segment of the population also opposed retrocession, though they could not vote. The number of free blacks in Alexandria dropped from 1,962 in 1840 to 1,409 in 1850, down to 15% of the population. Between 1850-1860, the free black population continued to decline, dropping to 11%. People without access to the ballot could still vote. with their feet. 17


over 12% of the residents in Alexandria County were enslaved in 1860
Source: National Archives, Map of Virginia Showing the Distribution of its Slave Population from the Census of 1860

The land area of the District of Columbia was reduced by one-third. That portion of the Federal district returned to Virginia became Alexandria County, Virginia, and was not added back into Fairfax County. The boundaries stones set in 1791 to mark the Virginia-District border defined the boundary between Fairfax County and Alexandria County.

The General Assembly granted the town of Alexandria a city charter in 1852, but communities classified as "city" were not independent from the county until after the state adopted a new constitution in 1869. 18


the boundary stone that marked the western tip of the District of Columbia is now in a park maintained by the City of Falls Church

After retrocession, Virginia purchased bonds and subsidized the debt of the Alexandria Canal. Alexandria began financing expansion of a rail network to the Piedmont and the Shenandoah Valley.

Three years after retrocession was finalized, Congress abolished the slave trade within the boundaries of the remaining portion of the Federal district as part of the Compromise of 1850. The slave trade in Alexandria expanded.


after 1847, the County of Alexandria and the Town of Alexandria were no longer part of the District of Columbia
Source: Library of Congress, War map, showing the vicinities of Baltimore & Washington, compiled from the latest surveys by G. M. Hopkins (1861)

Retrocession led to the first Union invasion of a southern state. On May 24, the day following Virginia's referendum approving secession, Union soldiers floated on steamboats across the Potomac River to the wharf at Alexandria and marched into the city. Other troops came across the Aqueduct Bridge and Long Bridge that day. Over the next two years, they built a series of forts within Alexandria (now Arlington) and Fairfax counties to prevent a Confederate attack on Washington, DC.


the border between Arlington and Fairfax County (yellow line) was irrelevant to Union engineers who built a circle of forts to protect Washington, DC in the Civil War
Source: Library of Congress, The National lines before Washington (published in the New York Times, 1861)

The Civil War gave the Congress an opportunity to reconsider retrocession. At the end of 1861, Abraham Lincoln proposed restoring Alexandria to the District, stating: 19

the extension of this District across the Potomac River at the time of establishing the capital here was eminently wise, and consequently that the relinquishment of that portion of it which lies within the State of Virginia was unwise and dangerous. I submit for your consideration the expediency of regaining that part of the District and the restoration of the original boundaries thereof through negotiations with the State of Virginia.

In 1867 the House of Representative approved a bill to rejoin the Virginia section with the Maryland section, but Reconstruction politics intervened.

An Alexandria resident trying to avoid paying taxes to Virginia sought a legal opinion in the 1870's that retrocession of just a part of the District of Columbia was unconstitutional, or that rejection of retrocession by the voters in the county should have blocked further action. The Supreme Court ducked the issue, and declined to intervene. It ruled in Phillips vs. Payne (1875) that individual plaintiffs had no legal standing to sue because the state and Federal government were not disputing the status of Alexandria. 20


the 1878 boundaries of Alexandria County show the area once included within the District of Columbia and retroceded to Virginia in 1847
Source: Library of Congress, Atlas of fifteen miles around Washington (by G. M. Hopkins)

In 1905, operators of gambling centers at the horse racetrack on Alexander Island (now Reagan National Airport) sued to block Alexandria officials from intervening. They were unable to convince a Federal judge that the 1847 retrocession was unconstitutional and the "pool rooms" were legally in the District of Columbia.

The legal argument followed one made by a property owner in Alexandria County in 1876, hoping to avoid paying Virginia taxes. The US Supreme Court chose to rule against the property owner without making a clear statement on the constitutionality of retrocession. 21

After 1905, legal cases were based on the location of the shoreline rather than the constitutionality of retrocession. In a 1919 lawsuit, Herald v. United States, the Court of Appeals (District of Columbia Circuit) ruled that the high-water line on the south bank of the Potomac River was the Virginia-District of Columbia boundary. The boundary had been defined by Federal retrocession in 1846, at which time the 1632 charter for Maryland applied and the District owned to the "further Bank of the said River." That created a boundary at the high-water line.

In later decisions, courts ruled that the 1877 Black-Jenkins arbitration gave Virginia rights to the low-water line, based on prescriptive use - but Herald v. United States made clear that the 1877 decision did not affect the District of Columbia.

Other local officials and business leaders debated whether rejoining the District would result in Congressional appropriations for parks and roads, or increase real estate prices.

President Taft proposed re-acquiring just the undeveloped "country" portion for parkland along the Potomac River, while leaving the city of Alexandria in Virginia. The Federal government already owned over 1,000 acres within Alexandria County after seizing/purchasing the Arlington estate of the Custis/Lee family. Taft's administration thought the success of the McMillan Plan, for redesigning the Mall, could be enhanced by protecting the shoreline from inappropriate development. 22


President Taft proposed the Federal government acquire land (shown in green) along the Potomac shoreline in Arlington County
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Modern Rosslyn would not have been possible, if Congress had funded Taft's proposal to purchase an additional 7,300 acres. Virginia did not support the purchase, and did not concur with other attempts to alter the official boundaries of Virginia and the District of Columbia to undo the boundary created by retrocession.

Virginia Land Cessions

Virginia-District of Columbia Boundary


proposals to undo the retrocession decision were in the news between 1890-1910
Source: Library of Congress, "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers," Evening Star (December 19, 1896 and October 15, 1905), Washington Times (October 16, 1905), and Washington Herald (January 28, 1910)

Links


Alexandria was part of the District of Columbia between 1800-1847
Source: Library of Congress, Chart of the head of navigation of the Potomac River shewing the route of the Alexandria Canal (1838)


Good News in History, March 29

60 years ago today, residents of Washington, D.C. were finally given the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections.

As the U.S. capital city, the District of Columbia is a special ‘federal district’, not a state, and therefore never had voting representation in Congress like people living in the 50 states. The adoption of a new compromise, the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution, officially granted the District the same number of electoral votes to be cast for the President and Vice President as that of the least populous state. This right was first exercised by DC citizens in the 1964 presidential election won by Lyndon Johnson. (1961)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The Republic of Switzerland was established (1798)
  • The Knights of Columbus was founded by a Catholic priest to encourage benevolence and racial tolerance among its members (1882)
  • Turkey (a nation of Muslims) officially recognized Israel (1949)
  • Vietnam began celebrating Veterans’ Day (1973)
  • Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, including their newest album Physical Graffiti at No.1—certified 16 times Platinum (1975)
  • Beatles records officially went on sale in the Soviet Union (1986)
  • Serbs & Croats signed a cease-fire to end the war in Croatia (1994)
  • 35 countries and over 370 cities shut off lights for 60 minutes during Earth Hour for the first time (2008)
  • Marriage became legal for gay couples in England and Wales (2014)

Also, 226 years ago today, German pianist Ludwig van Beethoven debuted at the age 24 in Vienna. He surpassed his pianist father to become a virtuoso and one of the most influential composers of all time.

He started going deaf several years later and by his mid-40s could hear almost nothing, yet still composed some of his greatest works. He had not performed for 13 years, until he conducted the premiere of his Ninth Symphony. They had to turn him around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience because he could hear neither it nor the orchestra. The masterpiece Ninth Symphony, his final one, also became known as “the Choral Symphony,” because it was the first to use voices– singing the verses of a poem, “Ode to Joy” by Friedrich Schiller, with additions by Beethoven. Three years after the premiere, he died at the age of 56 in Vienna. Franz Schubert, who died the following year and was buried next to Beethoven, was one of the torchbearers. (1795)

And 154 years ago today, the U.S. Congress commissioned the Lincoln Memorial to be built.

Jason OX4 World Economic Forum, CC licenses

Originally it was conceived as a monument to Union victory and the abolition of slavery–and would have placed Lincoln atop a tower made up of grateful freedmen as well as abolitionists, and Union generals. But, when Congress approved a memorial in 1911, an entirely different set of values dictated the project. Lincoln represented union–not victory. Its frieze would feature the names of every state, north and south. The winning architect Charles McKim, argued that every effort should be made to make the man transcend his worldly origins – thus the Greek temple design. (1867)

Photo by VTscapes Tom E Canavan, CC license

Also Happy Birthday to Eric Idle, who turns 78 today. Member of the groundbreaking Monty Python comedy troupe and author of the hit Broadway musical Spamalot, the actor, singer-songwriting musician, and author was bullied throughout his school year, which he called the perfect comic training ground. Idle studied English at Cambridge University a year behind future fellow-Pythons Graham Chapman and John Cleese. A competent guitarist, Idle composed many of the group’s most famous musical numbers, most notably “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life“. (1943)

And 62 years ago today, Some Like It Hot, the romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, was released. Considered to be the greatest comedy of all time, it received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor, Best Director (Billy Wilder) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The story is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime. They befriend a singer named Sugar on a train (Ms. Monroe), and have to struggle to remember that they are supposed to be girls and cannot make a pass at her. WATCH the clip… (1959)

And, 41 years ago today, Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of The Moon spent its 303rd week on the US album chart, becoming the LP that spent the most time on the Billboard chart.

It broke the record set by Carole King’s 1971 album Tapestry and remained on the charts for 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988—longer than any other LP in chart history. WATCH the hypnotic, ethereal Breathe… (1980)


Today in History

Today is Wednesday, May 5, the 125th day of 2021. There are 240 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 5, 1925, schoolteacher John T. Scopes was charged in Tennessee with violating a state law that prohibited teaching the theory of evolution. (Scopes was found guilty, but his conviction was later set aside.)

In 1494, during his second voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica.

In 1818, political philosopher Karl Marx, co-author of “The Communist Manifesto” and author of “Das Kapital,” was born in Prussia.

In 1891, New York’s Carnegie Hall (then named “Music Hall”) had its official opening night, featuring Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a guest conductor.

In 1942, wartime sugar rationing began in the United States.

In 1945, in the only fatal attack of its kind during World War II, a Japanese balloon bomb exploded on Gearhart Mountain in Oregon, killing the pregnant wife of a minister and five children. Denmark and the Netherlands were liberated as a German surrender went into effect.

In 1961, astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. became America’s first space traveler as he made a 15-minute suborbital flight aboard Mercury capsule Freedom 7.

In 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, the first of his Triple Crown victories.

In 1978, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream had its beginnings as Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened an ice cream parlor at a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont.

In 1981, Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland on his 66th day without food.

In 1987, the congressional Iran-Contra hearings opened with former Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord (SEE’-kohrd) the lead-off witness.

In 1994, Singapore caned American teenager Michael Fay for vandalism, a day after the sentence was reduced from six lashes to four in response to an appeal by President Bill Clinton.

In 2009, Texas health officials confirmed the first death of a U.S. resident with swine flu.

Ten years ago: Solemnly honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Barack Obama hugged survivors at ground zero in New York and declared that the killing of Osama bin Laden was an American message to the world: “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.” Pakistan’s army broke its silence over the U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden, acknowledging its “shortcomings” in finding him but threatening to review cooperation with Washington if there was another violation of Pakistani sovereignty. Director, playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents (“West Side Story”) died in New York at age 93.

Five years ago: Former Los Angeles trash collector Lonnie Franklin Jr. was convicted of 10 counts of murder in the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings that targeted poor, young Black women over two decades. President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 58 federal convicts, part of a broader push to ease punishments for nonviolent drug offenders. Londoners cast votes in an election that gave the city its first Muslim mayor, Labour lawmaker Sadiq Khan, who succeeded outgoing Conservative Boris Johnson.

One year ago: President Donald Trump visited a Honeywell mask factory in Arizona, but ignored guidelines to wear a mask. Tyson Foods said it would resume limited operation of its huge pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, with enhanced safety measures, more than two weeks after closing the facility because of a coronavirus outbreak among workers. Even though Joe Biden had no remaining opponents, a judge ruled that New York’s Democratic presidential primary would have to take place on June 23 because canceling it would be unconstitutional. Michigan communities saw record turnout for local elections, with votes cast largely by mail. Facebook said it had removed several accounts and pages linked to QAnon, taking action for the first time against the far-right conspiracy theory circulated among Trump supporters.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Pat Carroll is 94. Country singer-musician Roni Stoneman is 83. Actor Michael Murphy is 83. Actor Lance Henriksen is 81. Comedian-actor Michael Palin is 78. Actor John Rhys-Davies is 77. Rock correspondent Kurt Loder is 76. Rock musician Bill Ward (Black Sabbath) is 73. Actor Melinda Culea is 66. Actor Lisa Eilbacher is 64. Actor Richard E. Grant is 64. Former broadcast journalist John Miller is 63. Rock singer Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) is 62. NBC newsman Brian Williams is 62. Rock musician Shawn Drover (Megadeth) is 55. TV personality Kyan (KY’-ihn) Douglas is 51. Actor Tina Yothers is 48. R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn is 46. Actor Santiago Cabrera is 43. Actor Vincent Kartheiser is 42. Singer Craig David is 40. Actor Danielle Fishel is 40. Actor Henry Cavill is 38. Actor Clark Duke is 36. Soul singer Adele is 33. Rock singer Skye Sweetnam is 33. R&B singer Chris Brown is 32. Figure skater Nathan Chen is 22.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.


Today in History

Today is Wednesday, March 17, the 76th day of 2021. There are 289 days left in the year. This is St. Patrick’s Day.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 17, 1762, New York held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade.

In 1776, the Revolutionary War Siege of Boston ended as British forces evacuated the city.

In 1936, Pittsburgh’s Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood began as the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers and their tributaries, swollen by rain and melted snow, started exceeding flood stage the high water was blamed for more than 60 deaths.

In 1941, the National Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D.C.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in the wake of a failed uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule.

In 1966, a U.S. Navy midget submarine located a missing hydrogen bomb that had fallen from a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber into the Mediterranean off Spain. (It took several more weeks to actually recover the bomb.)

In 1969, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel.

In 1970, the United States cast its first veto in the U.N. Security Council, killing a resolution that would have condemned Britain for failing to use force to overthrow the white-ruled government of Rhodesia.

In 1988, Avianca Flight 410, a Boeing 727, crashed after takeoff into a mountain in Colombia, killing all 143 people on board.

In 1992, 29 people were killed in the truck bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In Illinois, Sen. Alan Dixon was defeated in his primary reelection bid by Carol Moseley-Braun, who went on to become the first Black woman in the U.S. Senate.

In 2003, edging to the brink of war, President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave his country. Iraq rejected Bush’s ultimatum, saying that a U.S. attack to force Saddam from power would be “a grave mistake.”

In 2009, U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained by North Korea while reporting on North Korean refugees living across the border in China. (Both were convicted of entering North Korea illegally and were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor both were freed in August 2009 after former President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.) The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its final print edition.

In 2010, Michael Jordan became the first ex-player to become a majority owner in the NBA as the league’s Board of Governors unanimously approved Jordan’s $275 million bid to buy the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson.

Ten years ago: The U.N. Security Council paved the way for international air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, voting to authorize military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone over Libya. U.S. drone missiles hit a village in Pakistan U.S. officials said the group targeted was heavily armed and that some of its members were connected to al-Qaida, but Pakistani officials said the missiles hit a community meeting, killing four Taliban fighters and 38 civilians and tribal police. Country music entertainer Ferlin Husky, 85, died in Westmoreland, Tennessee.

Five years ago: The Obama administration formally concluded the Islamic State group was committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. An Arizona man was convicted of a terror charge tied to an attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas, marking the second conviction in the U.S. related to the Islamic State group Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, an American-born Muslim convert, was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. Finally bowing to years of public pressure, SeaWorld Entertainment said it would no longer breed killer whales or make them perform crowd-pleasing tricks.

One year ago: A three-week shelter-in-place order took effect in six San Francisco-area counties, requiring most residents to stay inside and venture out only for food, medicine or exercise. State TV in Iran warned that “millions” could die if Iranians kept traveling and ignored health guidance the coronavirus death toll in Iran neared 1,000. More movie theaters closed nationwide the nation’s largest chain, AMC, said its theaters would close for at least six to 12 weeks. Bus riders in Detroit were stranded after most drivers didn’t report to work. The Kentucky Derby and the French Open were each postponed from May to September. A case of the coronavirus was reported in West Virginia, the only U.S. state that hadn’t seen one until that point. As Florida, Arizona and Illinois went ahead with presidential primaries, hundreds of poll workers dropped out, forcing state officials to scramble. Joe Biden swept to primary victories, increasingly pulling away in the Democratic race.

Today’s Birthdays: The former national chairwoman of the NAACP, Myrlie Evers-Williams, is 88. Former astronaut Ken Mattingly is 85. Singer-songwriter John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful) is 77. Former NSA Director and former CIA Director Michael Hayden is 76. Rock musician Harold Brown (War Lowrider Band) is 75. Actor Patrick Duffy is 72. Actor Kurt Russell is 70. Country singer Susie Allanson is 69. Actor Lesley-Anne Down is 67. Actor Mark Boone Jr. is 66. Country singer Paul Overstreet is 66. Actor Gary Sinise is 66. Actor Christian Clemenson is 63. Former basketball and baseball player Danny Ainge is 62. Actor Arye Gross is 61. Actor Vicki Lewis is 61. Actor Casey Siemaszko (sheh-MA’-zshko) is 60. Writer-director Rob Sitch is 59. Actor Rob Lowe is 57. Rock singer Billy Corgan is 54. Rock musician Van Conner (Screaming Trees) is 54. Actor Mathew St. Patrick is 53. Actor Yanic (YAH’-neek) Truesdale is 52. Rock musician Melissa Auf der Maur is 49. Olympic gold medal soccer player Mia Hamm is 49. Rock musician Caroline Corr (The Corrs) is 48. Actor Amelia Heinle is 48. Country singer Keifer Thompson (Thompson Square) is 48. Actor Marisa Coughlan is 47. Actor Natalie Zea (zee) is 46. Sports reporter Tracy Wolfson is 46. Actor Brittany Daniel is 45. Singer and TV personality Tamar Braxton is 44. Country musician Geoff Sprung (Old Dominion) is 43. Reggaeton singer Nicky Jam is 40. TV personality Rob Kardashian (kar-DASH’-ee-uhn) (TV: “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”) is 34. Pop/rock singer-songwriter Hozier is 31. Actor Eliza Hope Bennett is 29. Actor John Boyega is 29. Olympic gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky is 24. Actor Flynn Morrison is 16.


Footnotes

    Gibbs, C.R. “The District Had a Voice, if Not a Vote, in the 42nd Congress” Washington Post. March 2, 1989. https://search-proquest-com.proxygw.wrlc.org/docview/140076816/3B90FC0F9.Organic Act of 1871:https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/41st-congress/session-3/c. Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 08 March 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1871-03-08/ed-1/seq-4/> , b, c, d Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 30 March 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1871-03-30/ed-1/seq-4/> Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 29 March 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1871-03-29/ed-1/seq-4/> , b New national era. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 13 April 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026753/1871-04-13/ed-1/seq-3/> , b New national era. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 20 April 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026753/1871-04-20/ed-1/seq-3/> Alexandria gazette. [volume] (Alexandria, D.C.), 21 April 1871. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025007/1871-04-21/ed-1/seq-2/> , b Hogg, Jeffrey Norton Parker Chipman: A Biography of the Andersonville War Crimes Prosecutor. [North Carolina: McFarland, 2008] , b “Washington National Monument : shall the unfinished obelisk stand a monument of national disgrace and national dishonor? : speeches of Hon. Norton P. Chipman of the District of Columbia, Hon. R.C. McCormick of Arizona, Hon. Jasper D. Ward of Illinois, Hon. John B. Storm of Pennsylvania, Hon. J.B. Sener of Virginia, Hon. S.S. Cox of New York, in the House of Representatives,” June 4, 1874. Washington : G.P.O., 1874. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/loc.ark:/13960/t9474n05q , b, c, d Masur, Kate. An Example for All the Land : Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, DC. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010) p. 214-256

About the Author

Michael Kohler is an undergraduate Political Communications student at George Washington University. He hails from the Midwest, growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, but he has found a true love for the District since coming for school in 2018.


Today in History

Today is Saturday, May 15, the 135th day of 2021. There are 230 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 15, 1970, just after midnight, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two Black students at Jackson State College in Mississippi, were killed as police opened fire during student protests.

In 1602, English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold and his ship, the Concord, arrived at present-day Cape Cod, which he’s credited with naming.

In 1918, U.S. airmail began service between Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York.

In 1948, hours after declaring its independence, the new state of Israel was attacked by Transjordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

In 1954, the Fender Stratocaster guitar, created by Leo Fender, was officially released.

In 1963, Weight Watchers was incorporated in New York.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its unanimous In re Gault decision, ruled that juveniles accused of crimes were entitled to the same due process afforded adults. American realist painter Edward Hopper died in New York at age 84.

In 1968, two days of tornado outbreaks began in 10 Midwestern and Southern states twisters were blamed for 72 deaths, including 45 in Arkansas and 18 in Iowa.

In 1972, Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot and left paralyzed while campaigning for president in Laurel, Maryland, by Arthur H. Bremer, who served 35 years for attempted murder.

In 1975, U.S. forces invaded the Cambodian island of Koh Tang and captured the American merchant ship Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge. (All 39 crew members had already been released safely by Cambodia some 40 U.S. servicemen were killed in connection with the operation.)

In 1988, the Soviet Union began the process of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, more than eight years after Soviet forces entered the country.

In 2000, by a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a key provision of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, saying that rape victims could not sue their attackers in federal court.

In 2015, a jury sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR’ tsahr-NEYE’-ehv) to death for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and left more than 250 wounded.

Ten years ago: Mobilized by calls on Facebook, thousands of Arab protesters marched on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, sparking clashes that left at least 15 dead.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama urged graduates at Rutgers University to shun those who wanted to confront a rapidly changing world by building walls around the United States or by embracing ignorance, as he delivered a sharp and barely concealed critique of Donald Trump. “60 Minutes” said goodbye to Morley Safer, honoring the newsman who had been a fixture at the CBS newsmagazine for all but two of its 48 years (Safer died four days later at age 84).

One year ago: President Donald Trump formally unveiled a coronavirus vaccine program he called “Operation Warp Speed,” to speed development of COVID-19 vaccines and quickly distribute them around the country. The House approved rules changes allowing Congress to keep functioning while it was partly closed lawmakers would no longer be required to travel to Washington for floor votes and could assign their vote to another lawmaker who would be at the Capitol to cast it for them. J.C. Penney became the fourth major retailer to file for bankruptcy reorganization since the pandemic began. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired the State Department’s inspector general, whose office had been critical of alleged political bias in the agency’s management. Comedic actor Fred Willard, whose films included “Best In Show” and “Anchorman,” died at 86.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor-singer Anna Maria Alberghetti is 85. Counterculture icon Wavy Gravy is 85. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is 84. Singer Lenny Welch is 83. Actor-singer Lainie Kazan is 79. Actor Gunilla Hutton is 79. Actor Chazz Palminteri is 75. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is 73. Singer-songwriter Brian Eno is 73. Actor Nicholas Hammond (Film: “The Sound of Music”) is 71. Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett is 68. Musician-composer Mike Oldfield is 68. Actor Lee Horsley is 66. TV personality Giselle Fernández is 60. Rapper Grandmaster Melle Mel is 60. Actor Brenda Bakke is 58. Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith is 52. Actor Brad Rowe is 51. Actor David Charvet (shahr-VAY’) is 49. Actor Russell Hornsby is 47. Rock musician Ahmet Zappa is 47. Olympic gold medal gymnast Amy Chow is 43. Actor David Krumholtz is 43. Rock musician David Hartley (The War on Drugs) is 41. Actor Jamie-Lynn Sigler is 40. Actor Alexandra Breckenridge is 39. Rock musician Brad Shultz (Cage the Elephant) is 39. Rock musician Nick Perri is 37. Tennis player Andy Murray is 34.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.


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On paper, the Restore the Vote Amendment Act re-enfranchised thousands of Washingtonians in federal institutions. But whether it will be enforced depends largely on the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ willingness to cooperate with local authorities like the D.C. Board of Elections. As Thornton puts it, “we can put a process in place, but to ensure that it’s followed by BOP is a whole other animal.”

The Corrections Information Council estimates there are currently about 4,500 D.C. residents in federal custody, but keeping track of them is not an easy task. Prisoners are regularly shuffled from one facility to another, and coronavirus lockdowns have limited the amount of contact they have with the outside world.

So far, DCBOE has sent out 2,400 voter registration forms to prisoners in the federal system, but it’s not entirely clear how many made it to their destination.

“It’s a very complicated process,” says Nick Jacobs, a spokesperson for DCBOE.

The BOP says it notified D.C. residents of their newfound eligibility to vote on three separate occasions via its internal emailing system, sending out voting instructions and printable registration forms.

But the agency has declined to share some prisoner contact information with DCBOE. “We’re working through those details,” says Jacobs. “We can’t automatically get [that information].”

The BOP says sharing the information without prisoner consent would constitute a violation of federal privacy laws since DCBOE isn’t a law enforcement agency, but some local officials aren’t buying it. Last month, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton expressed concern about the BOP’s “apparent lack of cooperation” with D.C. authorities, urging the agency to release the prisoner data. “There is no reason the names and locations of inmates from D.C. should not be provided to BOE,” Norton wrote in a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal.

But the BOP denies any wrongdoing. “The BOP continues to make D.C. voter registration information and mailing materials available to all D.C. inmates,” said Ken Hyle, assistant director of the BOP, in a response to Norton’s letter.

Despite the complications, DCBOE says it has successfully registered about 400 federal prisoners, or roughly 9 percent of D.C. residents in federal custody. A number of applications, however, have been turned down due to errors in the forms. Part of the problem is that registering to vote in the District requires a valid D.C. address, something many prisoners no longer have, particularly if they’re been serving long sentences. Additionally, first-time voters must provide proof of residence, like a utility bill or unexpired identification card.

“If you’ve been in federal prison for 10 years, how are you going to do that?” Jacobs asks.

One possible workaround is to register prisoners at their former address, but whether DCBOE will allow it is still up in the air. “That’s the critical element,” he says.

In the meantime, Jacobs says DCBOE is drawing up a memorandum of understanding with the BOP. The non-binding agreement would lay the legal groundwork for cooperation between the agencies.

The struggle to ensure incarcerated people can vote this November is yet another episode in the District’s long fight to acquire equal voting rights for its citizens in the absence of statehood. While the 50 states are in charge of their own prisoners and facilities, the federal government has, for more than two decades, had jurisdiction over people in D.C. who have to serve prison time, even if they haven’t committed federal offenses.

Once convicted and sentenced, these individuals are transferred to any of the 122 federal prisons scattered across the country. And while many serve sentences somewhat close by—the nearest federal prison for men is a roughly two-and-a-half hour drive away in Cumberland, Md., and the nearest BOP facility that houses women is roughly three-and-a-half hours away in Preston County, W.V.—some end up thousands of miles from home, in Arizona or California.

The unusual arrangement dates back to the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, which ordered the closure of the Lorton Correctional Complex, where D.C. residents served sentences for most of the 20th century and where Thornton was held for a cumulative ten years. Washingtonians who were subsequently convicted of crimes were placed in the custody of the BOP.

The controversial law was meant to alleviate a lingering economic crisis that had left a $722 million gap in the District’s budget. By shifting some of D.C.’s administrative responsibilities, like running prisons and courts, to the federal government, Congress hoped to get the District’s finances back on track.

From a financial perspective, the Revitalization Act was a success: It allowed D.C. to balance its budget and sparked a new era of economic growth. But many Washingtonians still see it as a dark spot in D.C. history, a setback in the District’s quest for self-governance and criminal justice reform.

“I think it was one of the worst bargains the District ever made, to give up and lose such control of our [criminal justice] system,” says Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.

Allen says he has little faith the BOP will work to ensure D.C. residents in the federal system can vote this year. “They have zero political interest in implementing this pre-election,” he says. “If they had the real intent, they would go and make sure that every single D.C. resident has the paperwork they need. “

He acknowledges the Restore the Vote Amendment Act is difficult to enforce. “Admittedly, some of this is aspirational,” he says. “We don’t have the ability to force the Bureau of Prisons to ensure these rights are protected, but we’ll work with them.”

On Oct. 4, the Council unanimously voted to make the Restore the Vote Amendment Act permanent, adding a provision to make the DOC an automatic voter registration agency. Moving forward, anyone admitted to DOC will be registered to vote unless they opt out. The same system is already in place at some D.C. agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As a returning citizen, Thornton knows that giving prisoners the opportunity to vote doesn’t guarantee they’ll show up on Election Day. In the last three decades, much of his work has focused on educating currently and formerly incarcerated people about their civic duties and responsibilities, a process he says demands time and patience.

Many of these individuals haven’t had a chance to engage in the electoral process or to decide what it means to them, Thornton explains. “We’re talking about, in a lot of cases, people who haven’t even thought about politics—there’s been no formal education whatsoever.”

Some see voting as counterproductive, as a form of participation in the same machinery that keeps them locked up. “They feel the system on their necks,” Thornton says. “They feel that their lives have been adversely impacted by the system, and now you’re talking about getting involved in it.”

When he was still fresh out of prison and rehab, Thornton’s work as a volunteer at the D.C. Jail became the cornerstone of his own recovery process. “I was bitten with that bug, and I took it and ran with it,” he says.

One of his proudest achievements remains an election he organized at the D.C. Jail for the 2008 presidential race. “That was big for me,” he says. It was a historic year—Barack Obama, the first Black Democratic presidential nominee in U.S. history, was generating a whole lot of buzz inside jail walls.

Still, the turnout beat Thornton’s expectations, and he says it was the outreach work that made the difference. Leading up to Election Day, he had taken every possible opportunity to bring up voting rights with inmates, engaging them at the jail’s chapel and during counseling sessions on substance abuse.

“From start to finish, we put a lot of work into educating the individuals in the jail,” he says. “We had gotten the access that we needed to be able to do the work to get those guys involved and get them to want to participate.”

Since then, voter turnout has fluctuated at the D.C. Jail. In 2016, 238 inmates (about 19 percent of the jail’s average daily population that year) voted. In 2018, only about half of that number showed up.

But numbers aside, Thornton says teaching prisoners about voting rights is always worth the effort. “You have some folks who, it hits a light for them. And they get involved while incarcerated.”

At the D.C. Jail, many eligible voters, including some people who are temporarily housed there so they can appear in D.C. court, have already cast their ballots.

When Joel Castón’s absentee ballot finally got to his cellblock at the D.C. Jail earlier this month, he was a bit nervous to fill it out. “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be,” he says. “I think it was more the buildup of being able to do something I yearned to do for a long time.”

For the past 26 years, Castón has been serving a life sentence for a felony he committed as a minor. The D.C. native has bounced around the federal prison system “like pingpong,” spending time in 16 different facilities, some as far away as Oklahoma.

But a landmark bill the D.C. Council passed in 2016 gave him a new lease on life. The Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act gives inmates who committed a violent offense before their 18th birthday and have served 15 years in prison the opportunity to have their sentences reevaluated and reduced.

As a result, Castón was transferred back to the D.C. Jail from a federal facility in West Virginia so a judge could re-examine his sentence. Today, there’s still no verdict on his release, but Castón says he’s grateful to be getting a second chance, and well aware of the role politics played in giving him that opportunity.

“If it wasn’t for that reform, me and my colleagues know I wouldn’t have a meaningful argument to regain my freedom,” he says. “The only way I could have this hope is because the political process went forward.”

Though this election marks his first time casting a ballot, Castón has long been an advocate for voting rights and educated his peers on their importance. “When you are conscious of the fact that you are detained, you become aware of the political system,” he says. “And along with that awareness, you begin to build a desire to want to participate.”

Some are indifferent, but Castón says people serving life sentences usually understand the potential that voting has to turn lives around. “We think that we are outside of these things, but once you realize that you have a direct impact on your living conditions, once that lightbulb goes off, people begin to fall in line immediately.”

Getting transferred back to the D.C. Jail, near his mother, who he calls his “queen,” has been a huge relief for Castón. While in distant federal prisons, he had given up on visits, knowing they would be too costly for his family. “I just pretty much wrote it off, out of my mind.”

As a native Washingtonian, he’s proud of the District for allowing people convicted of felonies to vote. “What happens in this city sets the standard for the nation,” he says. “I hope it can be used as a stimulus to move the tide in other jurisdictions.”

In the meantime, he’s just glad that he finally got to exercise his rights. “I don’t want to sound cliché here,” he says, “but it was sort of like a dream come true.”

Advocates say the disenfranchisement of incarcerated people is rooted in racist laws that once sought to bar minorities from voting, a relic of America’s Jim Crow past.

“It was an effort to maintain political power,” says Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Today, laws that prohibit currently and formerly incarcerated people from voting continue to disproportionately affect Black Americans. According to the Sentencing Project, a D.C.-based advocacy group, more than 7 percent of African American adults were unable to vote in 2016 due to a felony conviction, compared to just 1.8 percent of people who aren’t Black.

In D.C., the restoration of voting rights will be most deeply felt in the Black community, which has long suffered from high incarceration rates. At the DOC, nearly 9 in 10 men are African American, while the District’s overall population is only 45 percent Black, according to a recent report.

It remains to be seen whether this newly enfranchised group will constitute a voting block powerful enough to tip D.C.’s local elections. Still, advocates say the Restore the Vote Amendment Act is about more than political outcomes.

“Whether the outcome of an election changes or not, the idea is that every person, regardless of any act or conduct that led to them being incarcerated, is valued by the city,” says Smith.

Research indicates that allowing returning citizens to participate in civic life makes it easier for them to reintegrate into society. “I think the consequences are actually very deep in terms of keeping people engaged in their communities, and to give people that connection and stake in their city,” Smith says.

For Thornton, voting rights were a source of empowerment when he returned from prison. “That was all part of the unraveling, and getting back to being human and getting back to being a citizen and getting back to be a part of society.”


The campaign

The 1964 election occurred just less than one year after the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy in Dallas. Johnson, Kennedy’s vice president, was quickly sworn in, and in the subsequent days Kennedy’s presumed assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered. To American and foreign observers alike, this created a disturbing image of disorder and violence in the United States. In the tempestuous days after the assassination, Johnson helped to calm national hysteria and ensure continuity in the presidency. On November 27 he addressed a joint session of Congress and, invoking the memory of the martyred president, urged the passage of Kennedy’s legislative agenda, which had been stalled in congressional committees. Johnson placed greatest importance on Kennedy’s civil rights bill, which became the focus of his efforts during the first months of his presidency.

Central to the 1964 campaign was race relations, particularly with the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Johnson signed into law in July and which was intended to end discrimination based on race, colour, religion, or national origin. For most of the period since the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the Democratic Party dominated what came to be known as the “ Solid South,” easily winning Southern states in most presidential elections. Johnson’s support of civil rights legislation, however, began the process that would eventually push the South consistently into the Republican column.

Barry Goldwater, a U.S. senator from Arizona, won several key primary victories against Nelson Rockefeller in a bitter contest and was nominated on the first ballot at the Republican convention in July in San Francisco, California, just two weeks after the Civil Rights Act had been signed. Goldwater had voted against the act, and he was a staunch anticommunist and a strong proponent of reduced federal activity in all fields. Goldwater selected Rep. William E. Miller of New York as his running mate. Goldwater’s nomination was not without controversy, since many Republican moderates considered Goldwater outside the party mainstream at the convention Rockefeller received a loud chorus of boos as he spoke. Indeed, a poll in June had indicated that more than three-fifths of rank-and-file Republicans favoured William Scranton, governor of Pennsylvania, for the party nomination.

During the spring Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, an opponent of racial integration, had entered primaries in a number of Northern states in an effort to demonstrate the existence of a Northern white anti-civil rights “backlash” vote. Wallace won 30 percent or more of the Democratic vote in the Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland primaries.

At the Democratic convention in late August in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Johnson was renominated, along with Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey as his running mate. The convention, however, was the scene of a major civil rights controversy. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), a largely African American group, challenged the credentials of the all-white Mississippi regular Democratic delegation (who had been elected in a discriminatory poll). MFDP member and black activist Fannie Lou Hamer—who earlier had famously declared, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”—made an impassioned plea to the credentials committee:

If the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

A compromise was worked out for the MFDP to take two seats, but the MFDP refused, and eventually most of the official Mississippi Democratic Party delegation left the convention, since they refused to support Johnson against Goldwater.

Goldwater made moral leadership a major theme of his campaign. In a move widely interpreted as an appeal to the “backlash,” Goldwater placed heavy emphasis during his campaign on lawlessness and crime in big cities. The Republican Party made little effort to court the vote of African Americans, and black voters would move in great numbers to the Democrats, providing Johnson his margin of victory in states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Although foreign affairs had not been a central issue in much of the campaign, American military involvement in Vietnam did weigh heavily on Johnson. During the primary campaign in California, Rockefeller cast the conservative Goldwater as a risky choice, asking in a mailing, “Who do you want in the room with the H-bomb button?” Resurrecting Rockefeller’s line of attack, the Democrats produced the so-called Daisy ad, one of the most powerful television advertisements in presidential election history, which showed a little girl in a field picking flower petals. As she counts up, a countdown begins that leads to a nuclear mushroom cloud, an allusion to Goldwater’s past statements that nuclear bombs might be used tactically in Vietnam. The mushroom cloud was then followed by Johnson’s voice, saying that “these are the stakes” in the election. The ad ran only once but synthesized in many people’s minds the view that Goldwater was too extreme for the presidency.

When the votes were cast on November 3, Johnson defeated Goldwater handily, winning by more than 15 million votes and capturing 61 percent of the vote. The electoral vote domination was even greater Johnson won 44 states and Washington, D.C., for 486 electoral votes, while Goldwater won 6 states accounting for 52 electoral votes. Goldwater did poorly in traditionally Republican areas, but, largely on the basis of Goldwater’s opposition to the civil rights bill and his promotion of states’ rights, he carried Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, in addition to his home state of Arizona.

For the results of the previous election, see United States presidential election of 1960. For the results of the subsequent election, see United States presidential election of 1968.


Today in History

Today is Wednesday, March 17, the 76th day of 2021. There are 289 days left in the year. This is St. Patrick’s Day.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 17, 1762, New York held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade.

In 1776, the Revolutionary War Siege of Boston ended as British forces evacuated the city.

In 1936, Pittsburgh’s Great St. Patrick’s Day Flood began as the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers and their tributaries, swollen by rain and melted snow, started exceeding flood stage the high water was blamed for more than 60 deaths.

In 1941, the National Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D.C.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in the wake of a failed uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule.

In 1966, a U.S. Navy midget submarine located a missing hydrogen bomb that had fallen from a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber into the Mediterranean off Spain. (It took several more weeks to actually recover the bomb.)

In 1969, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel.

In 1970, the United States cast its first veto in the U.N. Security Council, killing a resolution that would have condemned Britain for failing to use force to overthrow the white-ruled government of Rhodesia.

In 1988, Avianca Flight 410, a Boeing 727, crashed after takeoff into a mountain in Colombia, killing all 143 people on board.

In 1992, 29 people were killed in the truck bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In Illinois, Sen. Alan Dixon was defeated in his primary reelection bid by Carol Moseley-Braun, who went on to become the first Black woman in the U.S. Senate.

In 2003, edging to the brink of war, President George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave his country. Iraq rejected Bush’s ultimatum, saying that a U.S. attack to force Saddam from power would be “a grave mistake.”

In 2009, U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained by North Korea while reporting on North Korean refugees living across the border in China. (Both were convicted of entering North Korea illegally and were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor both were freed in August 2009 after former President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.) The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its final print edition.

In 2010, Michael Jordan became the first ex-player to become a majority owner in the NBA as the league’s Board of Governors unanimously approved Jordan’s $275 million bid to buy the Charlotte Bobcats from Bob Johnson.

Ten years ago: The U.N. Security Council paved the way for international air strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, voting to authorize military action to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone over Libya. U.S. drone missiles hit a village in Pakistan U.S. officials said the group targeted was heavily armed and that some of its members were connected to al-Qaida, but Pakistani officials said the missiles hit a community meeting, killing four Taliban fighters and 38 civilians and tribal police. Country music entertainer Ferlin Husky, 85, died in Westmoreland, Tennessee.

Five years ago: The Obama administration formally concluded the Islamic State group was committing genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. An Arizona man was convicted of a terror charge tied to an attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas, marking the second conviction in the U.S. related to the Islamic State group Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, an American-born Muslim convert, was later sentenced to 30 years in prison. Finally bowing to years of public pressure, SeaWorld Entertainment said it would no longer breed killer whales or make them perform crowd-pleasing tricks.

One year ago: A three-week shelter-in-place order took effect in six San Francisco-area counties, requiring most residents to stay inside and venture out only for food, medicine or exercise. State TV in Iran warned that “millions” could die if Iranians kept traveling and ignored health guidance the coronavirus death toll in Iran neared 1,000. More movie theaters closed nationwide the nation’s largest chain, AMC, said its theaters would close for at least six to 12 weeks. Bus riders in Detroit were stranded after most drivers didn’t report to work. The Kentucky Derby and the French Open were each postponed from May to September. A case of the coronavirus was reported in West Virginia, the only U.S. state that hadn’t seen one until that point. As Florida, Arizona and Illinois went ahead with presidential primaries, hundreds of poll workers dropped out, forcing state officials to scramble. Joe Biden swept to primary victories, increasingly pulling away in the Democratic race.

Today’s Birthdays: The former national chairwoman of the NAACP, Myrlie Evers-Williams, is 88. Former astronaut Ken Mattingly is 85. Singer-songwriter John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful) is 77. Former NSA Director and former CIA Director Michael Hayden is 76. Rock musician Harold Brown (War Lowrider Band) is 75. Actor Patrick Duffy is 72. Actor Kurt Russell is 70. Country singer Susie Allanson is 69. Actor Lesley-Anne Down is 67. Actor Mark Boone Jr. is 66. Country singer Paul Overstreet is 66. Actor Gary Sinise is 66. Actor Christian Clemenson is 63. Former basketball and baseball player Danny Ainge is 62. Actor Arye Gross is 61. Actor Vicki Lewis is 61. Actor Casey Siemaszko (sheh-MA’-zshko) is 60. Writer-director Rob Sitch is 59. Actor Rob Lowe is 57. Rock singer Billy Corgan is 54. Rock musician Van Conner (Screaming Trees) is 54. Actor Mathew St. Patrick is 53. Actor Yanic (YAH’-neek) Truesdale is 52. Rock musician Melissa Auf der Maur is 49. Olympic gold medal soccer player Mia Hamm is 49. Rock musician Caroline Corr (The Corrs) is 48. Actor Amelia Heinle is 48. Country singer Keifer Thompson (Thompson Square) is 48. Actor Marisa Coughlan is 47. Actor Natalie Zea (zee) is 46. Sports reporter Tracy Wolfson is 46. Actor Brittany Daniel is 45. Singer and TV personality Tamar Braxton is 44. Country musician Geoff Sprung (Old Dominion) is 43. Reggaeton singer Nicky Jam is 40. TV personality Rob Kardashian (kar-DASH’-ee-uhn) (TV: “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”) is 34. Pop/rock singer-songwriter Hozier is 31. Actor Eliza Hope Bennett is 29. Actor John Boyega is 29. Olympic gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky is 24. Actor Flynn Morrison is 16.

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Watch the video: This Day In History November 9th (January 2022).