Good News in History, December 25

242 years ago today, Jupiter Hammon composed his poetry broadside An Evening Thought, the first poem written by an African American to be published in the United States. A simple series of rhymes expounding the word of God and love for Jesus Christ, it has cemented him as a founder of African-American literature. Also a well-known and well-respected preacher and clerk-bookkeeper, Hammon gained wide circulation of his poems about slavery.

As a devoted Christian evangelist, Hammon used his biblical foundation to criticize the institution. Hammon’s full body of work consists of eight publications, four poems and four prose, all consisting of religious content.

MORE Good News on this Date:

US President Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardon to Civil War Confederate soldiers who met certain conditions (1868)
John Philip Sousa wrote his now-famous marching band tune Stars & Stripes Forever (1896)
Screenwriter and director Rod Serling, best known for creating and hosting the Twilight Zone TV anthology series, was born (1924)
Richard Starkey (later known as Ringo Starr) received his first drum set (1959)
To Kill a Mockingbird, a film adaptation of the novel starring Gregory Peck (who won an Oscar for the role), was released (1962)
Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin met in Egypt with President of Egypt Anwar Sadat (1977)
The first successful trial run of the system which would become the World Wide Web (1990)

101 years ago today, Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross, was born in North Oxford, Massachusetts. When Barton was ten years old, she took on the task of nursing her brother back to health after he fell from the roof. Her continued care for David, long after doctors had given up, resulted in his full recovery.

In 1861, wanting to serve her country, Clara Barton began providing crucial, personal assistance to the men in uniform that were wounded or impoverished during the Civil War. She would read books to them, write letters to their families for them, and support them, while collecting medical supplies for the Union soldiers. Prior to distributing provisions directly onto the battlefield, Barton used her own living quarters as a storeroom. The following year, Barton finally gained permission to work on the front lines.

After the First Battle of Bull Run, Barton placed an ad in a newspaper for supplies; the response was a profound influx of donations—and she helped both Union and Confederate soldiers.

She continued this task over the next four years, and buried 20,000 Union soldiers, marking their graves—and Congress eventually appropriated $15,000 toward her project. When Barton returned to the US after visiting Switzerland, she inaugurated the the U.S. branch of the Committee of the Red Cross and became its first president. (1821)

Millions today are celebrating Christmas around the world, the holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, some time around the year 1 BCE. On this day in 1223, St. Francis of Assisi enacted one of the first Nativity scenes, having been inspired by a visit to the Holy Land where he was shown Jesus’s traditional birthplace.

The scene’s popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes. Nativity scenes depict the birthplace as a stable with animals nearby and a large star in the sky overhead.

And 246 years ago today, General George Washington, with a band of hungry and cold soldiers, set out to cross the Delaware River to surprise 1,400 British troops in the American Revolutionary War.

The challenging logistics and dangerous obstacles did not prevent Washington from successfully defeating the Hessian soldiers asleep and hungover in Trenton, New Jersey the following morning. (1776)

And, 76 years ago today, Jimmy Buffett, the singer-songwriter known for his Caribbean-inspired songs about island living, was born. 

With a devoted following of fans known as Parrotheads, he is best known for his 1977 hit “Margaritaville,” as well as “Come Monday”. Aside from his career in music, Buffett is also a best-selling author and is involved in two restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs, “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville”. (1946)

And, on this day in 1973, The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, premiered. The caper film set in 1936 depicts a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss. The movie was hugely successful, nominated for ten Oscars and winning seven, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director, which went to George Roy Hill, who previously directed Newman and Redford in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. The film is noted for its use of ragtime, particularly the melody ‘The Entertainer’ and others by Scott Joplin, adapted by Marvin Hamlisch for a chart-topping soundtrack.

Inspired by real-life cons perpetrated by two brothers, the title phrase refers to the moment when a con artist takes the money, but no one realizes they have been cheated. WATCH the trailer…

Happy Birthday to Sissy Spacek who turns 73 today. She won an Academy Award for her starring role in the 1980 biographical film Coal Miner’s Daughter, about country music singer Loretta Lynn, for which she did all the vocals.

Born in Quitman, Texas, she initially gained fame for her breakthrough performance in the 1976 Stephen King-inspired horror film Carrie. She also earned Oscar nominations for her roles in five films, Carrie, Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart, and In the Bedroom.

Photo credit: 2011, by Angela-George – CC license

In 2018, Spacek portrayed Ruth Deaver on the Hulu psychological horror series Castle Rock—which features several original characters from some of Stephen King’s most notable works—and also co-starred on the Prime Video psychological thriller series Homecoming.

Spacek is also a singer, having recorded multiple LPs, including the soundtrack album of Coal Miner’s Daughter, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and garnered her a Grammy nomination. WATCH her break down her most iconic roles… (1949)

And, finally, 124 years ago today, one of the the greatest male stars of classic American cinema, Humphrey Bogart, was born in New York City. He starred in blockbuster films like High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, The Caine Mutiny, The Big Sleep, and Casablanca—the Best Picture Oscar-winner that landed him his first of three Academy Award nominations. In the film, he uttered one of the most famous movie lines ever: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

It was for his cantankerous portrayal of a boat pilot in The African Queen alongside Katharine Hepburn that Bogart won the Oscar for best actor. A heavy smoker and drinker, Bogart died at age 57 from esophageal cancer. WATCH the best ‘Boggie’ clips… (1899)

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