Peter Benenson

British lawyer and the founder of human rights group Amnesty International Peter Benenson passed away 25 February 2005, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83. He was Born 31st July 1921 in London and was tutored privately by W. H. Auden before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother’s maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather’s death. He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford but World War II interrupted his education. From 1941 to 1945, Benenson worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the “Testery”, a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers. He also met his first wife, Margaret Anderson.

After demobilisation in 1946, Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958 he fell ill and moved to Italy in order to convalesce. In the same year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.In 1961 Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of António de Oliveira Salazar – the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson’s article, entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners”, was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students.

To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in London in July 1961 at a meeting of Benenson and six other men, which included a Tory, a Liberal and a Labour MP.The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, the Amnesty International faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged that the organization he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive. An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.While never again active in the organization, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Seán MacBride and also received the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001.

Malcolm X

On February 21, 1965, Human Rights Activist Malcolm X was tragically assassinated, as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, after a disturbance broke out in the 400-person audience. As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man seated in the front row rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a double-barreled sawn-off shotgun. Two other men charged the stage and fired semi-automatic handguns, hitting Malcolm X several times.

Malcolm X was Born 19th May in 1925. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence. Malcolm X’s father died—killed by white supremacists, it was rumored—when he was young, and at least one of his uncles was also lynched.

When he was thirteen, his mother was placed in a mental hospital, and he was placed in a series of foster homes. In 1946, at age 20, he went to prison for breaking and entering. In prison, Malcolm X became a member of the Nation of Islam and after his parole in 1952 he quickly rose to become one of its leaders. For a dozen years Malcolm X was the public face of the controversial group, however disillusionment with Nation of Islam head Elijah Muhammad led him to leave the Nation in March 1964. After a period of travel in Africa and the Middle East, he returned to the United States, where he founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Malcolm X’s beliefs changed substantially over time. As a spokesman for the Nation of Islam he taught black supremacy and advocated separation of black and white Americans—in contrast to the civil rights movement’s emphasis on integration. After breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964—saying of his association with it, “I was a zombie then … pointed in a certain direction and told to march”—and becoming a Sunni Muslim, he disavowed racism and expressed willingness to work with civil rights leaders, though still emphasizing black self-determination and self defense.

Sadly On 21 February 1965, less than a year after leaving the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three members of the group. The funeral was held on February 27 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ in Harlem and Malcolm X was buried at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Malcolm X has been described as one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history and is credited with raising the self-esteem of black Americans and reconnecting them with their African heritage. He is largely responsible for the spread of Islam in the black community in the United States. Many African Americans, especially those who lived in cities in the Northern and Western United States, felt that Malcolm X articulated their complaints concerning inequality better than the mainstream civil rights movement did.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks day takes place on 4 February to commemorate the birth of American civil rights activist Rosa Louise McCauley Parks who was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, She was of Cherokee-Creek descent with one of her great-grandmothers having been a documented Native American slave. She also had a Scots-Irish great-grandfather. As a child she suffered poor health with chronic tonsillitis. When her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Pine Level, just outside the state capital, Montgomery. She grew up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, mother, and younger brother Sylvester. They all were members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), a century-old independent black denomination founded by free blacks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early nineteenth century.

McCauley attended rural schools until the age of eleven Where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk to theirs. She attended the The Montgomery Industrial School, which was founded and staffed by white northerners for black children, and took academic and vocational courses however it was ostracized by the white community and attacked twice by arsonists. Parks then went on to a laboratory school set up by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes for secondary education, but dropped out in order to care for her grandmother and later her mother, after they became ill.

She grew up in Alabama, a former Confederate state which had adopted new constitutions and electoral laws that effectively disenfranchised black voters and, in Alabama, many poor white voters as well. Under the white-established Jim Crow laws, passed after Democrats regained control of southern legislatures, racial segregation was imposed in public facilities and retail stores in the South, including public transportation. Bus and train companies enforced seating policies with separate sections for blacks and whites. School bus transportation was unavailable in any form for black schoolchildren in the South, and black education was always underfunded.

In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery. He was a member of the NAACP, which at the time was collecting money to support the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, a group of black men falsely accused of raping two white women. Rosa took numerous jobs, ranging from domestic worker to hospital aide. At her husband’s urging, she finished her high school studies in 1933, at a time when less than 7% of African Americans had a high-school diploma. In December 1943, Parks became active in the civil rights movement, joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, where She worked for the local NAACP leader Edgar Nixon as a secretary until 1957. In 1944, in her capacity as secretary, she investigated the gang-rape of Recy Taylor, a black woman from Abbeville, Alabama. Parks and other civil rights activists organized “The Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor”, launching what the Chicago Defender called “the strongest campaign for equal justice to be seen in a decade.”

In the 1940s, Parks and her husband were members of the Voters’ League. She held a brief job at Maxwell Air Force Base, which did not permit racial segregation because it was federal property. She rode on its integrated trolley. Parks worked as a housekeeper and seamstress for Clifford and Virginia Durr, a white couple. Politically liberal, the Durrs became her friends. They encouraged—and eventually helped sponsor—Parks in the summer of 1955 to attend the Highlander Folk School, an education center for activism in workers’ rights and racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee and Parks was mentored by the veteran organizer Septima Clark.

In August 1955, black teenager Emmett Till was brutally murdered after reportedly flirting with a young white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. In November 1955 Rosa Parks attended a mass meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery that addressed this case as well as the recent murders of the activists George W. Lee and Lamar Smith. The featured speaker was T. R. M. Howard, a black civil rights leader from Mississippi who headed the Regional Council of Negro Leadership.

MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT

The Montgomery City Ordinance segregated bus passengers by race. The first four rows of seats on each Montgomery bus were reserved for whites. Buses had “colored” sections for black people generally in the rear of the bus, although blacks composed more than 75% of the ridership. The sections were not fixed but were determined by placement of a movable sign. Black people could sit in the middle rows until the white section filled; if more whites needed seats, blacks were to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people could not sit across the aisle in the same row as white people. The driver could move the “colored” section sign, or remove it altogether. Legally, no passenger would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available.

However, Montgomery bus drivers adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move when there were no white-only seats left. If white people were already sitting in the front, black people had to board at the front to pay the fare, then disembark and reenter through the rear door. On Thursday, December 1, 1955, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus, a General Motors Old Look bus belonging to the Montgomery City Lines. After working all day, around 6 p.m.,in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the “colored” section. Near the middle of the bus, her row was directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she did not notice that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded. Blake noted that two or three white passengers were standing, as the front of the bus had filled to capacity. He moved the “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Three of them complied. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the redesignated colored section. Blake said, “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks responded, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” When Parks refused to give up her seat, Blake called a police officer who arrested her. Parks was charged with a violation of Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law of the Montgomery City code although technically she had not taken a white-only seat; she had been in a colored section. Edgar Nixon, president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and leader of the Pullman Porters Union, and her friend Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail that evening.

 Montgomery City Ordinance segregated bus passengers by race. The first four rows of seats on each Montgomery bus were reserved for whites. Buses had “colored” sections for black people generally in the rear of the bus, although blacks composed more than 75% of the ridership. The sections were not fixed but were determined by placement of a movable sign. Black people could sit in the middle rows until the white section filled; if more whites needed seats, blacks were to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people could not sit across the aisle in the same row as white people. The driver could move the “colored” section sign, or remove it altogether. Legally, no passenger would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available. The Montgomery City Ordinance segregated bus passengers by race. The first four rows of seats on each Montgomery bus were reserved for whites. Buses had “colored” sections for black people generally in the rear of the bus, although blacks composed more than 75% of the ridership. The sections were not fixed but were determined by placement of a movable sign. Black people could sit in the middle rows until the white section filled; if more whites needed seats, blacks were to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people could not sit across the aisle in the same row as white people. The driver could move the “colored” section sign, or remove it altogether. Legally, no passenger would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available.

Parks did not originate the idea of protesting segregation with a bus sit-in. Those preceding her included Bayard Rustin in 1942. Irene Morgan in 1946, Lillie Mae Bradford in 1951 Sarah Louise Keys in 1952, and the members of the ultimately successful Browder v. Gayle 1956 lawsuit (Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith) who were arrested in Montgomery for not giving up their bus seats months before Parks. Nixon conferred with Jo Ann Robinson, an Alabama State College professor and member of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), about the Parks case. Robinson believed it important to seize the opportunity and stayed up all night mimeographing over 35,000 handbills announcing a bus boycott. The Women’s Political Council was the first group to officially endorse the boycott. On Sunday, December 4, 1955, plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott were announced at black churches in the area, and a front-page article in the Montgomery Advertiser helped spread the word. At a church rally that night, those attending agreed unanimously to continue the boycott until they were treated with the level of courtesy they expected, until black drivers were hired, and until seating in the middle of the bus was handled on a first-come basis. Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. The trial lasted 30 minutes. After being found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs, Parks appealed her conviction and formally challenged the legality of racial segregation. She stated:

I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time … there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I did not wish to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

A bus boycott was subsequently organised in protest of Rosa Parks arrest and trial whereby people were asked not to travel by bus in Montgomery. Following the success of the one-day boycott, a group of 16 to 18 people gathered at the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss boycott strategies. The group agreed that a new organization was needed to lead the boycott effort if it were to continue. Rev. Ralph Abernathy suggested the name “Montgomery Improvement Association” (MIA). Its members elected as their president Martin Luther King, Jr., a relative newcomer to Montgomery, who was a young and mostly unknown minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) believed that she was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience in violating Alabama segregation laws. Parks’ prominence in the community and her willingness to become a controversial figure inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses the first major direct action campaign of the post-war civil rights movement. Her court case was being slowed down in appeals through the Alabama courts on their way to a Federal appeal and the process could have taken years. The Montgomery bus boycott continued for 381 days. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months, severely damaging the bus transit company’s finances, until the city repealed its law requiring segregation on public buses following the US Supreme Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that it was unconstitutional.

Following her arrest, Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. Her act of defiance and the Montgomery bus boycott became important symbols of the movement. However she suffered hardships as a result. Due to economic sanctions used against activists, she lost her job at the department store. Her husband quit his job after his boss forbade him to talk about his wife or the legal case. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP; and Martin Luther King, Jr., a new minister in Montgomery who gained national prominence in the civil rights movement and went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

LATER YEARS

In 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery for Hampton, Virginia; mostly because she was unable to find work. She also disagreed with King and other leaders of Montgomery’s struggling civil rights movement about how to proceed, and was constantly receiving death threats. her brother and sister-in-law in Detroit, Sylvester and Daisy McCauley asked them to join them, Rosa and Raymond Parks and her mother moved. In Hampton, she found a job as a hostess in an inn at Hampton Institute, a historically black college From 1965 to 1988 she served as secretary and receptionist to John Conyers, an African-American US Representative. She was also active in the Black Power movement and the support of political prisoners in the US. After retirement, Parks wrote her autobiography and continued to insist that the struggle for justice was not over and there was more work to be done. Parks rendered crucial assistance in the first campaign for Congress by John Conyers. She persuaded Martin Luther King (who was generally reluctant to endorse local candidates) to appear with Conyers, thereby boosting the novice candidate’s profile.

When Conyers was elected, he hired her as a secretary and receptionist for his congressional office in Detroit. Parks often focused on socio-economic issues including welfare, education, job discrimination, and affordable housing. She visited schools, hospitals, senior citizen facilities, and other community meetings and kept Conyers grounded in community concerns and activism and held this position until she retired in 1988. Parks participated in activism nationally during the mid-1960s, traveling to support the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, the Freedom Now Party, and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. She also befriended Malcolm X, who she regarded as a personal hero. Parks collaborated with members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Republic of New Afrika in raising awareness of police abuse during the conflict. She served on a “people’s tribunal” on August 30, 1967, investigating the killing of three young men by police during the 1967 Detroit uprising. Parks took part in the black power movement, attending the Philadelphia Black Power conference, and the Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. She also supported and visited the Black Panther school in Oakland

During the 1970s, Parks organized for the freedom of political prisoners in the United States, particularly cases involving issues of self-defense. She helped found the Detroit chapter of the Joann Little Defense Committee, and also worked in support of the Wilmington 10, the RNA 11, and Gary Tyler case. Sadly Her husband died of throat cancer on August 19, 1977, and her brother, her only sibling, died of cancer November 1977. In 1980, Parks—widowed and without immediate family—rededicated herself to civil rights and educational organizations. She co-founded the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation for college-bound high school seniors. In February 1987 she co-founded, with Elaine Eason Steele, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, an institute that runs the “Pathways to Freedom” bus tours which introduce young people to important civil rights and Underground Railroad sites throughout the country.

Parks also served on the Board of Advocates of Planned Parenthood. In 1992, Parks published Rosa Parks: My Story, an autobiography aimed at younger readers, which recounts her life leading to her decision to keep her seat on the bus. A few years later, she published Quiet Strength (1995), her memoir, which focuses on her faith. At age 81 Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home in central Detroit on August 30, 1994 by Joseph Skipper who was later arrested an imprisoned however she Suffered anxiety following the ordeal, and moved into Riverfront Towers, a secure high-rise apartment building. Learning of Parks’ move, Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch offered to pay for her housing expenses for as long as necessary. In 1999 Parks filmed a cameo appearance for the television series Touched by an Angel. It was her last appearance on film; Parks began to suffer from health problems due to old age. A portion of United States Interstate 55 in St. Louis County and Jefferson County, Missouri, near St. Louis, was named the “Rosa Parks Highway”.

In 2002 Parks received an eviction notice from her $1,800 per month apartment for non-payment of rent. Parks was incapable of managing her own financial affairs by this time due to age-related physical and mental decline. Her rent was paid from a collection taken by Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. When her rent became delinquent and her impending eviction was highly publicized in 2004, executives of the ownership company announced they had forgiven the back rent and would allow Parks, by then 91 and in extremely poor health, to live rent-free in the building for the remainder of her life.

In her final years, she suffered from dementia. Parks received national recognition, including the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Parks died of natural causes on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92, in her apartment on the east side of Detroit. She and her husband never had children and she outlived her only sibling. She was survived by her sister-in-law (Raymond’s sister), 13 nieces and nephews and their families, and several cousins, most of them residents of Michigan or Alabama. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, becoming the third of only four Americans to ever receive this honor. California and Missouri commemorate Rosa Parks Day on her birthday February 4, while Ohio and Oregon commemorate the occasion on the anniversary of the day she was arrested, December 1.

War on Poverty Day

War on Poverty day takes place annually on 8 January. The aims of War on Poverty Day are similar to The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty which is celebrated annually on October 17. The date of 8 January was chosen as it is the anniversary of the introduction of The War on Poverty. This was unofficial name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on Wednesday, January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed In response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent and led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.

As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the federal government’s roles in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies. These policies can also be seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1937, and the Four Freedoms of 1941. Johnson stated, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it”.

The Office of Economic Opportunity was the agency responsible for administering most of the War on Poverty programs created during Johnson’s Administration, including VISTA, Job Corps, Head Start, Legal Services and the Community Action Program. The OEO was established in 1964 and quickly became a target of both left-wing and right-wing critics of the War on Poverty. Directors of the OEO included Sargent Shriver, Bertrand Harding, and Donald Rumsfeld.

The OEO launched Project Head Start as an eight-week summer program in 1965. The project was designed to help end poverty by providing preschool children from low-income families with a program that would meet emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs. Head Start was then transferred to the Office of Child Development in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (later the Department of Health and Human Services) by the Nixon Administration in 1969.

President Johnson also announced a second project to follow children from the Head Start program. This was implemented in 1967 with Project Follow Through, the largest educational experiment ever conducted. The policy trains disadvantaged and at-risk youth and has provided more than 2 million disadvantaged young people with the integrated academic, vocational, and social skills training they need to gain independence and get quality, long-term jobs or further their education. Job Corps continues to help 70,000 youths annually at 122 Job Corps centers throughout the country. Besides vocational training, many Job Corps also offer GED programs as well as high school diplomas and programs to get students into college.

In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since. Although thr steep decline in poverty rates began in 1959, 5 years before the introduction of the war on poverty

The ‘absolute poverty line’ is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health. Poverty among Americans between ages 18–64 has fallen only marginally since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1% today. Poverty has significantly fallen among Americans under 18 years old from 23% in 1964 down to less than 17%, although it has risen again to 20% in 2009.[9] The most dramatic decrease in poverty was among Americans over 65, which fell from 28.5% in 1966 to 10.1% today.

In 2004, more than 35.9 million, or 12% of Americans including 12.1 million children, were considered to be living in poverty with an average growth of almost 1 million per year. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, since the Johnson Administration, almost $15 trillion has been spent on welfare, with poverty rates being about the same as during the Johnson Administration. A 2013 study published by Columbia University asserts that without the social safety net, the poverty rate would have been 29% for 2012, instead of 16%. According to OECD data from 2012, the poverty rate before taxes and transfers was 28.3%, while the poverty rate after taxes and transfers fell to 17.4%. Although The OEO was dismantled by President Nixon in 1973, many of the agency’s programs were transferred to other government agencies.

President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” speech was delivered at a time of recovery (the poverty level had fallen from 22.4% in 1959 to 19% in 1964 when the War on Poverty was announced) and it was viewed by critics as an effort to get the United States Congress to authorize social welfare program. Some economists, including Milton Friedman, have argued that Johnson’s policies actually had a negative impact on the economy because of their interventionist nature, noting in a PBS interview that “the government sets out to eliminate poverty, it has a war on poverty, so-called “poverty” increases. It has a welfare program, and the welfare program leads to an expansion of problems. A general attitude develops that government isn’t a very efficient way of doing things.” Adherents of this school of thought recommend that the best way to fight poverty is not through government spending but through economic growth.

Prof. Tony Judt, the late historian, said in reference to the earlier proposed title of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act that “a more Orwellian title would be hard to conceive” and attributed the decline in the popularity of the Great Society as a policy to its success, as fewer people feared hunger, sickness, and ignorance. Additionally, fewer people were concerned with ensuring a minimum standard for all citizens and social liberalism.

Conservative Research Fellow at the Independent Institute James L. Payne followed this line of thinking when he wrote that “the war on poverty was a costly, tragic mistake because abolishing poverty did not seem far-fetched to the activists and it was a perspective that led to intolerance … The simple economic theory of poverty led to a single underlying principle for welfare programs … In adopting the handout approach for their programs, the war-on-poverty activists failed to notice – or failed to care – that they were ignoring over a century of theory and experience in the social welfare field … The war-on-poverty activists not only ignored the lessons of the past on the subject of handouts; they also ignored their own experience with the poor.”

Economist Thomas Sowell also criticized the War on Poverty’s programs, writing “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.

In 1967, Martin Luther King “criticized Johnson’s War on Poverty in his book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? for being too piecemeal, saying that programs created under the “war on poverty” such as “housing programs, job training and family counseling” all had “a fatal disadvantage because the programs have never proceeded on a coordinated basis and noted that at no time has a total, coordinated and fully adequate program been conceived. In his speech on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New City, King connected the war in Vietnam with the “war on poverty”:

The legacy of the War on Poverty policy initiative remains in the continued existence of such federal programs as Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), TRiO, and Job Corps. Deregulation, growing criticism of the welfare state, and an ideological shift to reducing federal aid to impoverished people in the 1980s and 1990s culminated in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which President Bill Clinton claimed, “ended welfare as we know it.”

International Human Solidarity Day

The United Nations’ International Human Solidarity Day is annually held on December 20th. Solidarity refers to a union of interests, purposes or sympathies among members of a group. In the Millennium Declaration world leaders agreed that solidarity was a value that was important to international relations in the 21st century. In light of globalization and growing inequality, the United Nations realized that strong international solidarity and cooperation was needed. So The United Nations was founded on the idea of unity and harmony via the concept of collective security which relies on its members’ solidarity to unite for international peace and security.

The purpose on International Human Solidarity Day is to celebrate unity in diversity. During the day governments are also reminded of their commitments to international agreements on the need for human solidarity as an initiative to fight against poverty. People are also encouraged to debate on ways to promote solidarity and find innovative methods to help eradicate poverty.

It was created in 2005, after the UN General Assembly proclaimed that International Solidarity Day would take place on December 20 each year. This event is aimed to raise people’s awareness of the importance of advancing the international development agenda and promoting global understanding of the value of human solidarity. The assembly felt that the promotion of a culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important in combating poverty.It also aims to remind people on the importance of solidarity in working towards eradicating poverty.

Activities taking place on International Human Solidarity Day may include promoting campaigns on issues such as:Banning land mines. Making health and medication accessible to those in need. Relief efforts to help those who suffered the effects of natural or human-made disasters. Achieving universal education and Fighting against poverty, corruption and terrorism.

International Migrants Day

lnternational Migrants Day is observed annually on December 18. International Migrants Day was first set up by the General Assembly of United Nations to mark the anniversary of December 18, 1990, when the General Assembly adopted the international convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. The day is observed in many countries, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations through the dissemination of information on human rights and fundamental political freedoms of migrants, and through sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure the protection of migrants.

In 1997, Filipino and other Asian migrant organizations began celebrating and promoting December 18 as the International Day of Solidarity with Migrants. This date was chosen because it was on December 18, 1990 that the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families.Building on this initiative, December 18 with support from Migrant Rights International and the Steering Committee for the Global Campaign for Ratification of the International Convention on Migrants’ Rights and many other organizations – began late 1999 campaigning online for the official UN designation of an International Migrant’s Day, which was finally proclaimed on December 4, 2000 to take into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world.

The (UN) proclamation of the International Migrants’ Day is an important step, offering a rallying point for everyone across the world who is concerned with the protection of migrants. The UN invited all UN member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations to observe this day by disseminating information on human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, sharing experiences, and undertaking action to ensure the protection of migrants.The International Migrants Day is seen firstly as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and secondly to promote respect for their basic human rights.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

November 25 has been designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the United Nations General Assembly. The date marks the anniversary of the assassination of the Mirabal Sisters (Patria, Minerva, Maria &Dede), who were Dominican political dissidents and activists, who opposed the dictatorship of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo (1930–1961). Rafael Trujillo, was the country’s president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952, but ruled as a dictator from 1930 to his assassination in 1961.

Minerva Mirabal studied law in order to earn a Law Degree and become a Lawyer, and became involved in the political movement against Rafael Trujillo after she was refused a licence to practice law after declining Trujillo’s romantic advances. Her sisters followed suit, first Maria Teresa, who joined after staying with Minerva and learning about their activities, and then Patria, who joined after witnessing a massacre by some of Trujillo’s men . Dedé joined later, due to having been held back by her husband Jaimito, and they formed a group called the Movement of the Fourteenth of June (named after the date of the massacre Patria witnessed), to oppose the Trujillo regime. They distributed pamphlets about the many people whom Trujillo had killed, and obtained materials for guns and bombs to use when they finally openly revolted. Within the group, the Mirabals called themselves Las Mariposas (“The Butterflies”), after Minerva’s underground name. Minerva and Maria Teresa were incarcerated Amid mounting international opposition to Trujillo’s regime. Three of the sisters’ husbands (who were also involved in the underground activities) were incarcerated at La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo. Despite these setbacks, they persisted in fighting to end Trujillo’s leadership. In 1960, the Organization of American States condemned Trujillo’s actions and sent observers. Minerva and Maria Teresa were freed, but their husbands remained in prison.

Sadly On November 25, 1960, while Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and driver Rufino de la Cruz were visiting Patria and Minerva’s incarcerated husbands, they were stopped by Trujillo’s henchmen. The sisters and the driver were separated and were clubbed to death. The bodies were then gathered and put in their Jeep where it was run off the mountain road to look like an accident. After Trujillo was assassinated in May 1961, General Pupo Román admitted to having personal knowledge that the sisters were killed by Victor Alicinio and Peña Rivera, who were Trujillo’s right-hand men. The sisters’ assassinations “had greater effect on Dominicans than most of Trujillo’s other crimes”, noting that “it did something to their machismo” and paved the way for Trujillo’s own assassination six months later.

After the death of her sisters, Dedé Mirabal devoted her life to the legacy of her sisters. She raised her sisters’ six children, including Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Minerva’s daughter, who served as deputy for the National District in the lower House since 2002 and served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2000. Of her own three children, Jaime David Fernández Mirabal, is the current Minister for Environment and Natural Resources and former vice president of the Dominican Republic. In 1992, she founded the Mirabal Sisters Foundation and in 1994 the Mirabal Sisters Museum in her hometown Salcedo. She published a book, Vivas en su Jardín, on August 25, 2009. She lived in the house where the sisters were born in Salcedo until her death.

The Mirabal sisters were eventually recognised as Public Martyrs and there are many homages to the Mirabal sisters, including an exhibition of their belongings at the National Museum of History and Geography and the transformation of Trujillo’s obelisk into a mural dedicated in their honor. Since 1981Women’s activists have marked November 25 as a day to fight violence against women and The UN has invited governments, international organizations and NGOs to organize activities designated to raise public awareness of the problem which affects Women around the world, who are subject to rape, mental cruelty, domestic violence and other forms of violence. There is more information about the history of this day, and publications relating to violence against women, at the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the The UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women).