February in American History

  • Post category:History

George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Iwo Jima, and More

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During the first half of this article, readers learned about some of the significant events for the early part of the month. The end of the French and Indian War, the conclusion to the heroic Great Race of Mercy, and the courage demonstrated by the participants of the Greensboro Sit-Ins are just a few of the memories seen in American history for February.

For the second half of the month, readers will reflect on the births of George Washington and Susan B. Anthony, the establishment of Judicial Review in the first major US Supreme Court case, the election of the first African-American US Senator, and the iconic flag-raising on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima, among others.

Birth of a Movement: Women’s Suffrage

February 15, 1820:
Susan B. Anthony is born in Adams, Massachusetts. One of the most prominent suffrage activists and social reformers of the 19th century, she began to collect anti-slavery petitions as early as age 17. Before and during the Civil War, she was very active in the anti-slavery movement. She also assisted the Women’s Loyal National League in collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of abolition.

In 1869, she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. This occurred following the introduction of the 15th Amendment, which Anthony and Stanton opposed, unless it included the right for women to vote. In 1872, Anthony cast her first vote, defying the US suffrage law, and was fined $100, which she refused to pay. Women’s suffrage would finally be added to the US Constitution in 1920 with the 19th Amendment. Anthony passed away on March 13, 1906.

Dawn of Submarine Warfare

February 16, 1864:
The HL Hunley becomes the first submarine to sink a ship. Designed by Horace L. Hunley, this was a Confederate submarine, operated by a hand-cranked propeller. The Civil War is sometimes said to be the dawn of modern warfare, as it introduced various concepts which were later improved during the world wars.

Some of these include the submarine, repeating rifle, Gatling gun, ironclad ship, and others. After finding its target – the USS Housatonic – in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, the Hunley attacked. Operated by eight men, the Hunley sank the Housatonic, but also sank itself in the process, being too close to the blast radius, killing all on board.

President’s Day

February 17, 1971:
President’s Day became official when US Congress passed the Uniform Federal Holidays Act. Celebration of the day, however, is dated back to the 1880s, in celebration of George Washington’s birthday. While many of our presidents are barely recognized by most of the American populace, all of them, no matter how large their role, have made some kind of impact on our nation’s history. From Washington to Trump, all of our presidents deserve a decent respect for holding the highest God-appointed office in the world.

February 22, 1732:
George Washington is born near Pope’s Creek, Virginia. Gaining military recognition during the French and Indian War, here he participated in several of the conflict’s notable operations, including the Battle of Jumonville Glen and the Braddock Expedition. At the start of the American Revolution, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from May 10 – June 15, 1775, and then as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army from 1775-1783.

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During this time, he experienced much loss, but became renowned for his courage and leadership. He served as president from 1789-1797, and unaffiliated himself with political parties, in an effort to prevent division of the nation. Washington was unanimously elected president and has been renowned as the “Father of the Country.” He passed away on December 14, 1799.

Jefferson Davis and the Start Of The Civil War

February 22, 1861:
Jefferson Davis becomes the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. Davis was born on June 3, 1808, in Fairview, Kentucky. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a representative from Mississippi in the US House of Representatives from 1845-1846; Secretary of War from 1853-1857; and US Senator from Mississippi from 1857-1861. Davis also fought in the Mexican-American War, leading a charge at the Battle of Monterrey.

Following the Civil War, he was captured by US troops and imprisoned for several years, where he awaited a trial that never occurred. After his release from prison, he wrote several memoirs, which were later combined and entitled, “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.” A planter and pro-slavery advocate, Davis was outspokenly pro-slavery before the Civil War. After the war, he stated that slavery “was in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident.” Davis passed away on December 6, 1889.

US Flag Raised, Iwo Jima

February 23, 1945:
The US flag is raised on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. This soon became one of the most iconic photographs of all time, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. The Battle of Iwo Jima began on February 19, 1945, and lasted five weeks. Over 30,000 US Marines fought in the battle against a Japanese force numbering roughly 22,000.

Six Marines would participate in the original flag-raising. The Stars and Stripes waving above the island provided hope that the long-awaited ending to the largest conflict in human history could possibly be nearing its end. In 1954, the Marine Corps Memorial, featuring the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, was dedicated in Arlington, Virginia.

Marbury v. Madison and Judicial Review

February 24, 1803:
The US Supreme Court establishes Judicial Review in Marbury v. Madison. The issue began when President John Adams, just two days before the end of his term in 1801, appointed several dozen Federalist judges. The Senate confirmed the judges, but a few of them were not commissioned by the start of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. One of them – William Marbury – filed a lawsuit.

Jefferson stated that the judges should have been appointed sooner, and his Secretary of State – James Madison – took on Marbury in court. This was the first major decision by the US Supreme Court, and has been considered one of the most important, as the court ruled that they had the power to declare a law unconstitutional. The court ruled that Madison was wrong in failing to deliver Marbury’s commission, but that Marbury could solve the issue via a Writ of Mandamus.

Hiram Rhodes Elected to the US Senate

February 25, 1870
Hiram Rhodes Revels becomes the first African-American US Senator. Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels was a member of the Republican Party, and represented Mississippi from 1870-1871. During the Civil War, he helped organize two Black regiments, and fought at the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863.

Revels was also a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and preached throughout the Midwest. In 1845, he was arrested in Missouri for preaching to African-Americans. Prior to serving in the US Senate, Revels served in the Mississippi State Senate. He passed away on January 16, 1901.

Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address

February 27, 1860:
Abraham Lincoln delivers his Cooper Union Address in New York City. Some claimed this is the oration which won Lincoln the presidency. During the speech, Lincoln expresses his belief that slavery should not be allowed to expand into the western territories. The beliefs of the founders echoed this position.

One memorable excerpt, addressing Southern Democrats, reads, “But you say you are conservative – eminently conservative – while we are revolutionary, destructive, or something of the sort. What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried? We stick to and contend with the identical old policy on the point in controversy which was adopted by ‘our fathers who framed the government under which we live.’ while you, with one accord, reject, scout, and spit upon that old policy, and insist upon substituting something new.”

End of The Gulf War

February 28, 1991:
The Gulf War comes to an end. Beginning on August 2, 1990, this conflict consisted of the largest Allied coalition since World War II. When Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait to annex the nation for oil fields, many forces united, leaving Hussein and his forces virtually alone.

Operation Desert Storm began on January 17, 1991, which initiated the American phase of the war. On February 28, 1991, the conflict ended in a significant Coalition victory. The Gulf War was also the first to be featured on live television during combat.

“Gone With the Wind”

February 29, 1940:
Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Oscar. Known best for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind,” McDaniel starred in numerous other films, and also became the first African-American female to sing on the radio. Her Oscar won in 1940 was for Best Supporting Actress.

She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1975, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame inducted her into their hall of fame. According to the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s website, McDaniel’s father fought in the Civil War with the 122nd USCT. She passed away on October 26, 1952.

Remembering February

The month of February is one filled with heroism. We see the heroic advancements of many African-Americans, including Hiram Rhodes Revels, Hattie McDaniel, and many others. We observe the birthdays of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony.

Likewise, we are reminded of the courage demonstrated by US Marines on Iwo Jima, when they rose the banner of freedom to shine across the Pacific. America is the story of us, amid all of our struggles and successes, as February shows beyond the shadow of a doubt. May we never forget our heritage.

Garrett Smith
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