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the work of history

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    April 16, 1889: Charlie Chaplin is born.

    A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.

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    Sketch of Cthulhu drawn by H.P. Lovecraft in 1934:

    To R.H. Barlow, Esq., whose Sculpture hath given immortality to this trivial Design of his oblig’d of all servants. 


    H.P. Lovecraft

    11th May, 1934

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    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

    April 22, 1899: Vladimir Nabokov is born.

    Vladimir Nabokov was born in Saint Petersburg and wrote many of his novels (including his earliest nine) in Russian, but his most famous work, the controversial classic Lolitawas written in English. Nabokov was born to an aristocratic Russian statesman (killed in 1922 by monarchist assassins) and his wife; the Nabokovs enjoyed a cushy and privileged lifestyle in St. Petersburg until 1919, when they were forced into exile in Western Europe. There, Nabokov studied at Cambridge, wrote short stories and poetry under a pseudonym, and composed his first major work in English - The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, shortly before he and his family (including his Jewish wife, Vera Nabokov née Slonim) fled to the United States from France in 1940 with the onset of the German invasion of France.

    In the U.S., Nabokov worked at a number of institutions (New York’s Museum of Natural History, Stanford, Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell) teaching in a number of different fields (entomology, creative writing, comparative literature, Russian, and Russian and European literature). In addition to his fiction writing, Nabokov was also an accomplished literary critic, chess problemist, and entomologist - in fact, he wrote his most famous novel while studying butterflies in the Rocky Mountains. Lolita and Pale Fire (1962) were ranked fourth and fifty-third on the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels List, respectively. 

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    April 23, 1775: J.M.W. Turner is born.

    [Turner] became known as ‘the painter of light’, because of his increasing interest in brilliant colours as the main constituent in his landscapes and seascapes.

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  • 04/23/13--10:01: J.M.W. Turner → ships

  • J.M.W. Turner  ships

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    April 25, 1917: Ella Fitzgerald is born.

    I guess what everyone wants more than anything else is to be loved. And to know that you loved me for my singing is too much for me. Forgive me if I don’t have all the words. Maybe I can sing it and you’ll understand.

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    Yes, only one though - I saw his painting Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino when I went to the Getty Museum, and I agree. A picture on the Internet cannot compare at all

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    partisan Urbano Lazzaro points out the bullet hole in the wall behind the spot Mussolini was allegedly executed

    April 27, 1945: Benito Mussolini is captured.

    On this day in 1945, Italy’s former father of fascism, who had adopted the title Il Duce and a dictatorship over his country from the late 1920s until 1943, was captured by Italian communist partisans, along with his mistress Clara Petacci.

    In mid-1943, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism during the eventually successful Allied invasion of Sicily, but he remained in power through the intervention of his German allies, who rescued him and set up under his name a new puppet regime headquartered in Salò, in northern Italy. By this time, Mussolini, his health in a poor state and his characteristic confidence blighted by constant failure, was no longer the bombastic leader who had once marched on Rome, by his own admittance - in an early 1945 interview, he said most uncharacteristically:

    I have no fight left in me. I work and I try, yet know that all is but a farce … I await the end of the tragedy and – strangely detached from everything – I do not feel any more an actor. I feel I am the last of spectators.

    Allied forces liberated Rome in July 1944, while partisan resistance fought Axis forces from within the country. Amidst this fighting and German retreat, Mussolini, his mistress, and officials of his puppet government made an escape attempt to Switzerland, and then to Spain, but were stopped by communist partisans and then executed the next day in a village in northern Italy. Their bodies were brought to Milan and dumped in the Piazzale Loreto, where civilians hung them upside down on meathooks - and stoned them, shot at them, and spat on them. 

    Other links: mutilated corpses of Mussolini and Petacci (graphic)

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    April 29, 1946: The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal convenes.

    Officially called the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), the Tokyo Trials took place nearly eight months after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which marked the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan to the Allied nations. The IMTFE was modeled after the Nuremberg Trials (which set precedents for most later trials involving international criminal law) and, like the Nuremberg Trials, ended in death sentences and life imprisonment for dozens of its twenty-eight main defendants - a group filled with infamous faces, like that of Hideki Tōjō, general, party leader, and prime minister;  Kenji Doihara, who played an instrumental role in the Japanese invasion and destabilization of Manchuria and later other parts of China; Iwane Matsui, commander of expeditionary forces in China, deemed responsible by the tribunal for the Nanking Massacre; and many others. Emperor Hirohito and the entirety of the imperial family (including Prince Yasuhiko Asaka, a commander at Nanking) were not prosecuted by the tribunal.

    Eleven men representing eleven different nations served on the IMTFE’s panel of judges, all of them top justices, attorneys, or professors from various Allied nations. The Indian representative Justice Radhabinod Pal famously dissented and, while acknowledging the brutality of certain events (the Nanking Massacre specifically), argued for the exoneration of all indictees, since other trials would cover these acts - as Class B and C crimes. Pal also questioned the legitimacy of the entire proceeding and condemned the United States’ use of atomic weapons against Japan, as well as the fact that this, which he regarded as one of the war’s worst crimes, would go unpunished. 

    Class A crimes (as opposed to“Class B” and “Class C” crimes - war crimes and crimes against humanity) were defined as crimes against peace, and were therefore reserved for political and military officials who had played parts in the planning and instigation of war; twenty-eight were ultimately charged with Class A crimes and six were hanged for them at Sugamo Prison in December 1948, a month after the trials adjourned. Unlike the Nuremberg Trial executions, where the corpses of the hanged had been photographed and published, no photographers were allowed at the executions. 

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    How to Spot a Communist

    But there are other communists who don’t show their real faces… who work more silently… 

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    Online museum collections are the best. My favorites, though, are the National Museum of the American Indian, which has a really neat search function, and the Met, although the other Smithsonian collections are also good. Other than that, LIFE, the Atlantic’s photo compilations, archives (the NYPL), etc. And sometimes I just browse wikipaintings.

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    Plane wreckage on display in Moscow, November 1960

    May 1, 1960: The U-2 incident takes place.

    By 1955, both the United States and Soviet Union had developed and successfully detonated thermonuclear weapons; the next year, the first Lockheed U-2, an icon of Cold War-era espionage, flew a mission over the Soviet Union in order to gather and deliver intelligence regarding its technological progress. Covert reconnaissance missions conducted throughout the era provided the government detailed photographs that would, hopefully, enable the U.S. to stay ahead of its communist foe. 

    Meanwhile, Soviet Union-United States relations seemed to be, to some extent, thawing - in late 1959, Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States for the first time with his family (and a strong desire to see Disneyland) and left the country in the hope that some kind of détente might be achieved between the nations. This brief period of good feelings was disrupted by the U-2 incident, in which CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers and his U-2 spy plane were shot down while flying in Soviet airspace. Unaware that both the pilot and his equipment had been recovered by Soviet officials, the U.S. government released a cover story claiming that Powers had been conducting weather tests. The cover story was contradicted by the concrete evidence provided by the Soviet government of American espionage activity, and by Powers’ own confession; Powers, upon returning home (having been traded for a KGB agent), was criticized for failing to self-destruct his aircraft and for failing to commit suicide, although he was ultimately determined to have not divulged any important information to the Soviets and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 2012

    Although Eisenhower accepted responsibility for the incident, including the failed cover-up, the U-2 incident caused the collapse of the planned Paris Four Power summit, and any tentative easing of tensions achieved in the previous decade was undone. And in 1962, a U-2 plane captured images in Cuba and initiated a confrontation that would send the two nations closer to nuclear war than ever before. 

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    Flappers at an outdoor sports event, Addison Scurlock, 1920s-30s.


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  • 05/01/13--16:33: What's a flapper?
  • Flappers. Roaring Twenties. Jazz, short hair, alcohol, cigarettes, sexual liberation, short dresses, overturning of Victorian values and expectations for women, youth and glamor and hedonism,  etc etcetc. There are a lot of interesting newspaper articles about them from the 1920s; for example, this gem:

    All the world’s a stage to-day, and the flapper is its ingenue. She is the demi-dame that’s too old to believe in Santa Claus, hair ribbons, and Louisa May Alcott. She runs from sweet sixteen to twinkling twenty, but that’s all she does run from… Most of ‘em graduate from low heels to high heels and high necks to low ones before they graduate from high school. 

    They get double meanings a long time before they get double chins, but they still get by with their baby faces… On a ballroom floor the flap is neither handicapped nor shoulderbound. She has more steps than the State Capitol and more stamina than an army mule. From tiara to toes, she’s Terpsichore. She understands men and horses and literature and bridge. And she knows New York from the Aquarium at the Battery to the Zoo in the Bronx. 

    The Evening World, April 1920

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  • 05/01/13--17:02: Photo

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    Captured members of the Hitler Youth

    Raising the flag over the Reichstag

    May 2, 1945: Berlin falls to Soviet forces.

    The next day, General Wilding, the commander of the German troops in Berlin, finally surrendered the entire city to the Soviet army. There was no radio or newspaper, so vans with loudspeakers drove through the streets ordering us to cease all resistance. Suddenly, the shooting and bombing stopped and the unreal silence meant that one ordeal was over for us and another was about to begin. Our nightmare had become a reality. The entire three hundred square miles of what was left of Berlin were now completely under control of the Red Army. The last days of savage house to house fighting and street battles had been a human slaughter, with no prisoners being taken on either side. These final days were hell. Our last remaining and exhausted troops, primarily children and old men, stumbled into imprisonment. We were a city in ruins; almost no house remained intact.

    Eyewitness account of the end of the Battle of Berlin

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    Russian soldiers and a civilian attempt to move a bronze eagle that had previously been installed above a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.


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    May 4, 1970: The Kent State shootings take place.

    The shooting of unarmed students by members of the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, was one of the most notorious domestic events of the Vietnam War Era. It took place in the midst of a protest which itself was a reaction against government policy; antiwar sentiment was widespread throughout the nation, particularly among young people, so when President Nixon announced in late April that the U.S. military was to conduct military operations in Cambodia in pursuit of the PAVN and Viet Cong forces (which seemed to contradict his policy of Vietnamization and détente), student-organized protests on university campuses across the country erupted. These student strikes eventually involved at least 400 campuses, although the National Guard was deployed to only twenty-one of them, one of which was Kent State University in Ohio.

    The Kent State demonstration began on May 1; the National Guard was called to the campus on May 2 by Governor James Rhodes, who denounced the student protesters and claimed that they were ”the worst type of people that we harbor in America”, comparing them to Nazi brownshirts and the Ku Klux Klan. Many in Kent and across the nation agreed with the governor’s condemnation of student protests, but just as many disagreed, to varying degrees. When the shooting and killing of Kent State students made national headlines, the issue remained just as divisive, with many believing that the students had brought the violence upon themselves. On May 4, the tensions between the guardsmen and students heightened. Tear gas was used in the guardsmens’ attempts to disperse the crowd, and at some point in the confusion, for some still unknown reason, a little under half of the 77 guardsmen present began to fire into the crowd of students. The guardsmen later claimed that they had been shot by a sniper and were firing in self-defense; this claim was denied vehemently by the students, who admitted to throwing rocks, and also by the New York Times reporter who had been on the scene. The reporter also wrote:

    As the guardsmen, moving up the hill in single file, reached the crest, they suddenly turned, forming a skirmish line and opening fire.

    The crackle of the rifle volley cut the suddenly still air. It appeared to go on, as a solid volley, for perhaps a full minute or a little longer.

    Some of the students dived to the ground, crawling on the grass in terror. Others stood shocked or half crouched, apparently believing the troops were firing into the air. Some of the rifle barrels were pointed upward.

    Near the top of the hill at the corner of Taylor Hall, a student crumpled over, spun sideways and fell to the ground, shot in the head.

    When the firing stopped, a slim girl, wearing a cowboy shirt and faded jeans, was lying face down on the road at the edge of the parking lot, blood pouring out onto the macadam, about 10 feet from this reporter.

    Four students were killed, and nine were wounded (one was permanently paralyzed from chest down). Of the four killed by rifle fire, two had not been participants in the protest. According to eyewitness accounts, the students were shocked at the fact that the guardsmen had fired upon them and even more shocked that they had fired live ammunition instead of blanks. John Filo, the photographer who captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Mary Ann Vecchio and Jeffrey Miller (pictured above), also believed at first that the guardsmen were firing blanks. President Nixon expressed regret for the killings, although he suggested that the students’ disruptive activities had “[invited] tragedy”, and, according to a Gallup poll, the public agreed - according to the survey, only 11 percent placed blame on the National Guard, while 58 percent blamed the students. Eleven days later, two black students were killed at Jackson State University during an antiwar protest, though these events failed to capture national attention as the Kent State shootings did.  

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    Thank you, and I agree! It was actually my very loud and passionate APUSH teacher who inspired me to make this blog. Good luck with your future plans.

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    I personally didn’t think it was as hard as people make it out to be, especially since people totally like to over-exaggerate how difficult certain classes are, and I know this because I’ve had like six different classes touted to me as the “hardest class ever!!!”, but regardless - it’s a still a high school class, and it’s a class based on memorization and taking in facts  (and it’s usually lecture-based).

    No one’s going to ask you to make scholarly analyses, but they will ask you to remember people, places, pieces of legislation, movements, battles, etc. If you’re good at that kind of thing, you’ll do well (whether you like history, or whether you study, or not, honestly). If you’re not good at that, your level of success will probably depend on how interesting you find the material and how much time you put into it. In my opinion, the best part about APUSH is that (in my personal experience, at least) it’s the first time where a public school history course isn’t a total retread of everything you’ve already learned in past grades, so interest level usually isn’t a problem. 

    In conclusion: it’s totally subjective. Some people breeze through the class, and others struggle, depending on what kind of classroom environment you work best in. My only useful tips are to read the textbook and to organize key information by president, and also to remember that it’s still just a high school class.

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