Good News in History, December 12

10 years ago today, Maddison Square Garden hosted a benefit gig for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, featuring a star-studded lineup of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Michael Stipe, Chris Martin, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters and others. Paul McCartney, members of Nirvana and Dave Grohl also performed. In total the benefit raised $30 million for repair and relief efforts. READ More, and watch a performance… (2012)

You can watch the first 3 hours of the concert thanks to this YouTuber who uploaded it from Palladium. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kick off the show, other notable timestamps are 42 minutes where Roger Waters performs with special guest Eddie Veder, 1 hour 50 minutes where Jon Stewart does a quick comedic introduction to Eric Clapton, and 2 hours 19 minutes when the Stones play.

MORE Good News on this Date:

Singer and actor Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey (1915)
Paula Ackerman became the first woman Rabbi in the US (1950)
Kenya gained independence from the United Kingdom (1963)
30,000 women held hands and formed a chain around the 9-mile/14.5 km Greenham Common in a peace rally against the use of cruise missiles (1982)
Houston became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, whena large percentage of voters chose City Controller Annise Parker (2009)
A sixth grade boy, Gerry Orz, persuaded the California state government to declare December 12 as a “Day of Silence” to officially honor the victims of bullying (2013)

76 years ago today the United Nations accepted John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s gift of a 6-block tract of Manhattan real estate to become the site of the U.N. headquarters. The gift figured prominently in the decision to locate the world organization in the U.S.

When the Rockefeller donation of $8.5 million for the East River site (equal to $74 million in 2019) was announced in the General Assembly, the Hall was filled with loud applause. “The US Ambassador cheered Mr. Rockefeller’s ‘magnificent benevolence’. The Rockefeller Foundation today continues to support the UN with funding.

15 years earlier, during the Great Depression, the same philanthropist funded the construction of Rockefeller Center in NYC, creating 75,000 jobs at a time of widespread unemployment. During World War II he also helped establish the USO (United Service Organizations), an agency that aids and entertains U.S. military members and their families. (1946)

And, on this day in 2015, twenty women won municipal council seats in a landmark election. It was the first time females were allowed to run for public office in Saudi Arabia, and the first election in which they could vote.

Photo by Tribes of the World, CC license on Flickr

Two years later women were finally allowed to drive, an historic move that topped off two decades during which women were granted the rights to participate in the national government, the Olympics, a co-ed university, co-ed cinemas, sports clubs, physical education in schools, and to seek education and health care without a man’s permission.

152 years ago today, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first black congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Born into slavery in South Carolina, he was freed in the 1840s by his father, a slave who had been allowed to work as a barber and split the profits with his “master”. With his savings, he purchased the freedom of his entire family.

As a respectable leader in Charleston, Joseph Rainey joined the Republican Party and eventually won four elections to Congress, where he worked hard to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Learn more details in the book, ‘Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First BlackCongressmen’. (1870)

And on this day in 1917, Irish immigrant Father Ed Flanagan opened Boys Town as a home for wayward boys in Nebraska.

After arriving in the US, he became a social reformer as a priest—trying to change how America cared for its children. With nothing more than a $90 loan from a friend, he bought an old boarding house and began welcoming Omaha’s homeless boys, regardless of race or religion and even child criminals in prison for serious crimes. Soon they outgrew the home with 100 boys getting a new start, and even electing their own government.

The 1938 film Boys Town, starring Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan, was based on, and some scenes were filmed at, the now-famous home. Tracy won the Oscar for Best Actor and his entire acceptance speech sang the praises of Father Flanagan. The Catholic leader died in 1948, but his successors faithfully carried on his legacy—and Boys Town today still operates with the same principles and practices that originated with his vision.

Also, Happy Birthday to Bill Nighy who turns 73 today. The acclaimed English actor is best known to American audiences for the romantic-comedy masterpiece, Love Actually, in which he plays the overaged pop star Billy Mack who finally professes his love for his manager. The film earned him the esteemed British BAFTA Film Award (and three other awards) for Best Supporting Actor. He never had to audition for a role thereafter, and appeared in many movies like About Time, and the blockbuster the Pirates of the Caribbean film series in which he portrayed the villainous Davy Jones.

Photo by Carlos Delgado, CC license

The best-dressed actor moves brilliantly between a wide array of genres, appearing in (among others) Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Notes on a Scandal, Hot Fuzz, Valkyrie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rango, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. His television performances also won him awards—for the BBC series State of Play and in the TV films The Girl in the Café, Gideon’s Daughter, and Page Eight, for which he earned Golden Globe nominations, winning one for Gideon’s Daughter. WATCH a video montage of Love Actually with Bill singing Christmas is All Around... (1949)

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