Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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November 23rd
Eleanor Roosevelt
For nearly a century and a half, most First Ladies stayed out of the limelight, their public duties limited to greeting White House guests and hosting state dinners.

Eleanor Roosevelt changed that during the years her husband Franklin was president, from 1933 to 1945. She was the first First Lady to hold press conferences and address a national party convention. She gave scores of speeches, authored magazine articles, wrote a newspaper column, and captured the country’s imagination.

Eleanor seemed to be everywhere, visiting coal miners in Appalachia, sharecroppers in cotton fields, and soldiers overseas. She was FDR’s eyes and legs. Sometimes he would say in a meeting, “About that situation, my Missus told me . . .”

In November 1938 the outspoken First Lady attended a conference in Birmingham, Alabama, where segregation laws required blacks and whites to sit apart at public gatherings. She arrived at the auditorium, took one look at the whites sitting on one side of the aisle and blacks on the other, and took her seat on the black side.

After a few moments a police officer tapped her on the shoulder and said she would have to move. The chief of police had threatened to arrest anyone who broke the segregation laws. Move she did – by placing her chair in the aisle between both sections, managing to sit beside whites and blacks.

For the rest of the four-day conference, she carried a folding chair from meeting to meeting. In every room she sat in the middle, refusing to be segregated, a symbol of the need for all Americans to come together. “We are the leading democracy of the world,” she told the conference, “and as such must prove to the world that democracy is possible and capable of living up to the principles upon which it was founded.”

American History Parade
Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth U.S. president, is born in Hillsboro, New Hampshire.

The Battle of Chattanooga, Tennessee, begins, resulting in a critical Union victory.

The first jukebox debuts at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco.

Eleanor Roosevelt attends the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in Birmingham.

Most World War II food rationing ends in the United States.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

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