Although writing can help decipher history, it’s our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ruth First, anti-apartheid activist

On the afternoon of August 17, 1982 Ruth First was killed when a letter bomb exploded as she was going through her mail in her office at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique. She had been forced to leave South Africa in 1964 because of her political activism and after first going into exile in England she had taken up a post as Director of Research at the university in Maputo. In her book 117 Days (1965), Ruth First describes her experiences in solitary confinement in a South African jail. The book’s final sentence, in which she writes about her eventual release, was to prove horrifyingly prophetic: “When they left me in my own house at last, I was convinced that they would come again.” Indeed the security police did “come again”—this time in the form of a bomb secreted in an envelope stolen five years previously from the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Swaziland.


Ruth First was born on May 4, 1925 in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who had come to South Africa in the first decade of the twentieth century. Her father, Julius, a furniture manufacturer, had come to South Africa at the age of ten from Latvia and her mother, Tilly (née Levetan), had come from Lithuania when she was four years old. Both parents were left-wing activists and founder members of the Communist Party of South Africa, and Ruth and her brother grew up in an intensely political home. They were exposed to revolutionary politics at an early age: at the age of fourteen, Ruth was already a member of the Young Left Wing Book Club.


After matriculating from Jeppe High School for Girls, Johannesburg, Ruth attended the University of the Witwatersrand where she was very active in student politics. After graduation she worked briefly for the Johannesburg City Council and then started her career in journalism, becoming editor of the left-wing radical newspaper The Guardian. This newspaper was to change its name regularly over the next decade as increasingly repressive state actions banned the Communist Party (in 1950) and censored the media.


Ruth First was a prolific writer and her penetrating investigative journalism exposed many of the harsh conditions under which the majority of South Africans lived. After the advent to power in 1948 of the National Party, her courageous writing exposed the evils of apartheid that were reflected in every facet of life for black South Africans. Her work increasingly highlighted the struggle between labor and capital and the exploitative role played by the state in that struggle.


In 1949 Ruth First married Joe Slovo (1926–1995), a fellow communist and activist who had come from Lithuania to South Africa as a boy. They played a leading role in the increasingly radicalized protests of the 1950s when the Nationalist government set about dismantling and incapacitating any organization or person opposed to its policies. The Communist Party and the African National Congress (ANC) together with the African trade union movement were subjected to increasing harassment. On top of the list of political bogeys at that time was the Communist Party of South Africa that was banned in 1950 but operated underground.


The ANC, founded in 1912, began to adopt a more militant mass-based strategy in the 1950s and young leaders such as Nelson Mandela (b. 1918) and Walter Sisulu (1912–2003) advocated working in close co-operation with Indian, Colored and White organizations that were opposed to government policies. In 1953 Ruth First helped found the South African Congress of Democrats formed to work with the ANC in resisting the government, and she was on the drafting committee of the Freedom Charter that was presented at the Congress of People at Kliptown on June 25, 1955. Unfortunately a banning order prevented her from attending the gathering.


In December 1956 both Ruth First and her husband Joe Slovo were arrested and charged with high treason along with 154 other activists. The trial lasted four years, after which all 156 accused were acquitted. Following the State of Emergency declared after the Sharpeville shootings in March 1960 (where a peaceful protest against the Pass Laws had culminated in the shooting of sixty-nine people by the police), the ANC was banned and thousands of activists were arrested, including Joe Slovo. Ruth First fled to neighboring Swaziland with her children and returned to Johannesburg only after the emergency was lifted. After a secret trip in 1961 to South West Africa (now Namibia), a mandated territory given to South Africa after World War 1, Ruth First was banned and restricted to the magisterial district of Johannesburg for five years.


As various restrictions prevented her from continuing her work as a journalist Ruth First became more and more involved with the underground movement that was changing its tactics from protest to sabotage. On July 11, 1963, the Security Police raided Lilliesleaf Farm at Rivonia near Johannesburg, which had been purchased as a base for the underground movement. High ranking members of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, the armed wing of the ANC) and the South African Communist Party were arrested. Neither Ruth nor Joe (who was on the High Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe) was present at the time of the raid. In the trial that followed prominent ANC activists like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki were sentenced to life imprisonment.


Although she was not put on trial time was running out for Ruth, and on August 9, 1963, the Security Police arrested her in the main hall of the Witwatersrand University library. She was detained in solitary confinement under South Africa’s draconian Ninety-Day Law under which any police officer was given the power to detain a suspect without a warrant and to hold the suspect for ninety days without access to a lawyer. On her release she was immediately re-arrested on the pavement outside the police station for another twenty-seven days, during which time she attempted suicide. It was clear that she could not continue living in South Africa and in March 1964 she left South Africa with her children on an exit permit to join her husband, who had already fled to England.


The family settled in North London and Ruth became intensely involved in anti-apartheid politics. The 1960s saw Ruth researching, editing and writing a number of books including 117 Days, which was made into a television film that exposed millions of people living in Britain to the horrors of apartheid. She was a prolific author, writing and editing books, pamphlets and articles on Africa and in particular on the destabilizing role South Africa was playing in the region. In 1973 Ruth was appointed a lecturer in sociology at Durham University, England and in 1977 professor and research director of the Center for African Studies at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique. Here she worked with a team of Marxist academics to assist the new government of the recently liberated Portuguese colony to construct a new socialist order.


In the geo-political climate of the time the apartheid government of South Africa feared the close proximity to South Africa of the newly liberated Mozambique and the possibility of its being used as a base for attacks on South Africa. Ruth’s presence and her work posed a potential threat and, following the conclusion of a UNESCO conference at the center in 1982, Ruth was killed by a letter bomb sent by security agents in South Africa.

SELECTED WORKS BY RUTH FIRST


South West Africa. London: 1963; 117 Days. London: 1965; with Segal, R. South West Africa: A Travesty ofTrust. London: 1967; The Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup d’etat in Africa. London: 1970; with Steele, J. and C. Gurney, eds. The South African Connection: Western Investment in Apartheid.London: 1972; Libya: The Elusive Revolution. London: 1975; Scott, Ann. Olive Schreiner. London: 1980; The Mozambican MinerProletarian and Peasant. New York: 1983.

Bibliography
Davenport, T. R. H. South Africa: A Modern History. London: 1977; Harlow, B. After Lives: Legacies of Revolutionary Writing. London: 1966; Marks, Shula. “Ruth First: A Tribute.” Journal of Southern African Studies 10 (1): October 1983: 123–128; Pinnock, Don. Voices of Liberation, vol. 2: Ruth First. Pretoria: 1997; Slovo, Gillian. Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country. London: 1997; Verwey, E. J., ed. New Dictionary of South African Biography, vol 1. Pretoria: 1995; Williams, Gavin. “Ruth First’s Contribution to African Studies.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 14 (2) (1996): 197–220.

Still Fighting Apartheid – South African Activist Dennis Brutus

by  Monday, August 1st, 2005
Denis Brutus, (28 November 1924 – 26 December 2009) born in 1924 in what was then British Rhodesia to South African parents, shot to prominence (and jail) in the 1960s campaigning for a boycott of South Africa in the sporting world. A veteran activist, poet and Professor of African Studies and African Literature, Brutus continues to campaign vigorously against economic injustice. His targets today are the corporations, banks and institutions that profit from what he terms a “global system of economic apartheid”. Robert Looby recently had the pleasure of discussing the past, present and future with Prof. Brutus
How did you get involved in the struggle for justice?
I grew up in a segregated area of course. I'm classified as a non-white or a coloured, so one is exposed to racial segregation very early, and remember this is the twenties and the thirties when I grew up. But I always make the point that within a community one is protected from the kind of harsh racism that one would experience outside that community. We were one of the early creations of what was called the segregation policy, which later became the apartheid policy of course, from 1948 onwards, when the apartheid government was elected. In the ’20s and the ’30s you had a kind of colonial racism not unlike what was happening in the south of the United States, where schools and churches were separated for black and white. In South Africa eventually they would have post offices with separate entrances for black and white or, as it was called, white and non-white. (Blacks were divided into fairly broad categories under the term ‘non-white’.) There were buses for whites only and buses for non-whites.
Above all that you need to internationalise the pressures… if they're globalising oppression, we are globalising resistance.
So I grow up in that context, but I'm not particularly aware of it because, as I say, one is sheltered. When I start going to school and later to high school and I have to travel through the city – then of course one becomes more aware of the signs that say ,whites only, or ,non-whites only’, although the language they used was ‘Europeans’ and ‘non-Europeans’ so that amusingly people coming from America for instance thought that they ought to get into a non-white bus. They were not Europeans; they were Americans. It's one of those minor confusions.
Once I went to high school, one became more aware of the racial discrimination between white and non-white in the bus service and of course always the bad service was for the non-whites. I think it was actually at university that it really came home to me, although I'd been aware of it at high school. And it came to me in a peculiar way. I went to a black college called Fort Hare, which had been an old military outpost commanded by a colonel called Hare in the days of the colonial wars against the Africans. Then this fort was taken over by the churches as a kind of ecumenical enterprise and jointly they put up a college for non-whites – blacks actually – and it was named after Fort Hare. One of the things that struck me was that some of the best athletes in the country were at Fort Hare and they were performing better than any white athletes in that particular sport, but they were not allowed to be on the Olympic team because the government proudly announced that there would never be a black on the Olympic team.
It gets a little more complicated because according to the Olympics you ought to select on merit and not penalise people because of their race, so I became involved in opposing the policy of racism and apartheid essentially from a sports angle initially. Now amusingly, people have paid me the compliment of saying I was very smart to select sport as the area in which the apartheid system was vulnerable, but in fact I didn't tackle the system because I thought it was vulnerable at that point. I just thought it was plain unfair to keep athletes off the team because of their colour; so you can see how I eventually collide with the system and I'm banned and I'm arrested and put under house arrest and jailed and I escape and I get shot in the back in Johannesburg and I end up on Robben island with Nelson Mandela in the same section of the prison, breaking stones. But it really began with sport, and I feel I ought to say this. I don't want to get credit for something I don't deserve: being some very smart guy who took on apartheid via sport. That was not my approach. My approach was: I took on sport as racism and in the process found myself in conflict with the apartheid system …
What lessons are there to be learned from the defeat of apartheid?

Above all that you need to internationalise the pressures – and it helps to have specific targets. The springbok rugby team created one for us; Barclays Bank may offer us the same opportunity – they operate in more than 80 countries. When I was in Britain, together with Peter Hain, now a member of the Tony Blair government, I organised a very effective campaign all across Barclays banks and eventually, as you may know, we forced them to leave South Africa. They're now returning in spite of having been one of the big allies of apartheid so we are mobilising opposition to them. What is important about it is that Barclays operates in more than 80 countries all over the world. We're planning to organise protests in all 80 of those countries so if they're globalising oppression, we are globalising resistance.
I was in court earlier this month in Johannesburg opposing the takeover of the biggest retailing bank in South Africa, ABSA (Amalgamated Bank of South Africa – the bank with the widest services among the popular masses), by Barclays Bank. You must remember that Barclays was one of the banks that financed the apartheid system and lent it enormous sums even when the UN was condemning the system and calling for a boycott. The campaign is still on.
With the collapse of apartheid were you not tempted to retire from public life and leave others to carry on the struggle for justice?
I wish I could say yes, but unfortunately I went back to South Africa, largely at Mandela's invitation, at the time of his triumph in the elections. The ANC was unbanned and they had a celebration. And I realised that the ANC had made a deal with white power so that in fact corporations were still going to run the system. They were still going to own the gold and the banks and they were also going to run the Olympic committee. It was operated by whites even though the whole fight had been about trying to get a more representative structure. But the ANC, perhaps in its anxiety to get power – and many of them of course were compromisers secretly – undertook various negotiations. The ANC had in fact sent young men and women to train with the World Bank as interns, so clearly they were not interested so much in changing the system as changing who ran the system. When I realised that, I understood, really reluctantly, that the fight wasn't over and that I would simply have to keep going. When I got back they said to me at the airport: 'How does it feel to be back in a democracy now?' And I said 'Hold it, hold it. I don't think we've arrived in a democracy yet.' So I was unpopular of course because clearly I was saying things that people would rather I did not.
You were also in Edinburgh for the G8 meeting. What did you achieve there?
It is helpful to focus on current events. Edinburgh and the G8 Summit was a major advance for us and a major setback for our opponents. Blair's attempt to distract attention from the war in Iraq, the anger of the British people at his lies, and his pusillanimous following of the bushcowboy-rampaging – all failures; anger against the war and his conduct was, instead, intensified. And his hijacking of a major section of civil society, by lining up NGOs around white whatevers and claptrap about Making Poverty History also backfired; more people in Britain and the world understand better the essential cruelty and rapacity of a global economic system – global economic apartheid – which exploits and crushes millions around the world.
For us, I think, our greatest gains were in mobilising and organising radical voices on one of Britain's great historic occasions, and in turning around the pleas for pity and charity so that they became strident demands for social justice. Political awareness, in Britain and around the world, benefited greatly. Our thanks to all those who organised so well and so generously.
The larger fight, of course, continues. And so in Africa we are still struggling to beat back the imperialist designs of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), just as the people of the Americas are fighting CAFTA as their contribution to our global struggle. Overall, I believe we are steadily making advances.
The Bonos and the Geldofs confuse the issue for many, who then believe the problems can be solved by charity. For a contrary opinion, seeMonbiot. They failed to persuade many at the G8, so we can keep going. We may even have gained momentum, since many more now have a better understanding of the problem.
George Monbiot has spoken to us about the &ldquoconditionalities” attached to debt relief programmes.
The tricky thing is that conditionalities vary from country to country. Countries that are given loans generally have three conditionalities imposed on them. Many others, but principally three. One: they are forced to accept an SAP, or Structural Adjustment Programme, which requires the countries to change the whole structure of their economies. They have to put the focus on export, producing for export and going to export markets. That means several things. One is of course that when you are producing corn for export, you don't have corn for local consumption. You literally are starving the people at home by aiming at getting to the market. Point two is that you're at the mercy of the market and you often have to sell at the market price, which really is a price that does not give you a very good return on your economy, but the fact that you are producing goods for export, not for local consumption, is more serious. Why do they insist on that? There are many reasons but I'll give you just one. When loans are given to developing countries by the western countries, they are given in dollars and must be repaid in dollars. This means that you have to earn dollars and the way you earn dollars is by going to the export market and getting foreign currency. That's one of the conditionalities.
Another one, much more serious in my view, although they're all serious, is that the World Bank and the other external banks become what are called &ldquopriority creditors” and this means that you have to repay them or at least pay a service on the debt. But because they're a priority creditor social services at home – whether schools, hospitals, water, housing, roads, infrastructure – all have to wait until you have paid your debt or your service on the debt. This means a tremendous burden on the people because they are not getting the services they should and the money that comes in as taxation goes out as service on the debt. Social services are therefore desperately neglected all over what we call the global south – countries in Africa and Asia and South America, who are all victims of this burden of debt. By the latest count it is about 180 countries and the total debt is in the region of – if you use English figures – 2,000 billion1. So the second one is this loss of social services because your money is going on the repayment of debt.
The third conditionality varies from country to country but is probably the worst: in order to qualify for debt forgiveness or even partial debt forgiveness or some kind of phoney debt forgiveness where they lend you the money to pay them what you owe, incurring a new debt in place of the old one, i.e. to become what is called a HIPC, or Highly Indebted Poor Country, you have to make a firm and binding commitment that you will take orders from the World Bank and the IMF. If you don't, you are guilty of what is called &ldquobad governance” as opposed to &ldquogood governance” so you virtually sign a death warrant. This is a new form of enslavement and has been correctly so described by the African Council of Churches and others. By making that binding commitment to obey the orders, prescriptions and conditionalities of the World Bank and the IMF, you are virtually being recolonised, being re-enslaved by the chains of debt.
How are you maintaining the pressure?
Increased education is what keeps us going – and growing; this is how, eventually we won the South Africa fight. Now we have better resources, but more powerful forces against us, such as consumerism, which distracts the young we might recruit. But we keep growing – in South Africa, but also in South America.
We're really going after not only all the banks, but the World Bank and the IMF. So it's a very broad picture. In that picture, what we specifically do with Barclays is really up to my campaign and the strategies developed. Let me give you the three current strategies. One strategy is to demand an apology from Barclays for its guilt in financing the apartheid system. We want a public apology for that. Point two: we want reparations to be paid to the victims of apartheid. There are many still who have never received any assistance from the government in spite of the fact that there was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as you remember. There were recommendations that certain sums of money should be given to the victims of apartheid and they've never got those monies. Point three is a rather complicated one. We have filed a law suit in the New York Supreme Court naming 23 corporations and demanding reparations from them. Barclays is one of the 23, so we're saying Barclays should not enter South Africa – although the government has okayed it – until the lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court is resolved.
Right now I'm quite excited about three projects for which we’re not getting any support, though that doesn't deter me. We'll probably get them done eventually. One is we're trying to have a conference in the US in which we will combine Africans and African Americans on the issue of reparations. They're both campaigning on the issue of reparations but they campaign separately. We’re trying to pool them together so for me that's quite a demanding project because it would involve hundreds of people if we can pull it off. And two: we’re planning an action in South Africa where the victims of apartheid will confront the minister in the parliament building itself. There'll be a march on parliament and a demand that the government take action to deliver on reparations and that too will take some time. Also, I've a new book coming out, early next year. I've just had one come out, a collection of poetry called Leaf Drift. It's a kind of mixture – just leaves, drifting together. So I'm kept busy. I turned 80 last year and I might turn 81 this year if I last long enough. There's enough to keep me busy.
Notes
1 A figure of $2.5 trillion is given by George Monbiot in his The Age of
Consent (2003) after Romilly Greenhill and Ann Pettifor, The United States
as an HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) – how the Poor are Financing the
Rich
More about Dennis Brutus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Brutus
reference: http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/still-fighting-apartheid-south-african-activist-dennis-brutus/1/

Published collections

  • Sirens Knuckles and Boots (Mbari Productions, 1963).
  • Letters to Martha and Other Poems from a South African Prison (Heinemann, 1968).
  • Poems from Algiers (African and Afro-American Studies and Research Institute, 1970).
  • A Simple Lust (Heinemann, 1973).
  • China Poems (African and Afro-American studies and Research Centre, 1975).
  • Stubborn Hope (Three Continents Press/Heinemann, 1978).
  • Salutes and Censures (Fourth Dimension, 1982).
  • Airs & Tributes (Whirlwind Press, 1989).
  • Still the Sirens (Pennywhistle Press, 1993).
  • Remembering Soweto, ed. Lamont B. Steptoe (Whirlwind Press, 2004).
  • Leafdrift, ed. Lamont B. Steptoe (Whirlwind Press, 2005).
  • Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader (Haymarket Books, 2006).

Monday, July 21, 2014

14 Historical 'Facts' That Are Completely False

1. Jewish slaves didn't build the pyramids.
This popular myth reportedly stems from comments made by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when visiting Egypt in 1977, according to Amihai Mazar, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn't exist at the period when the pyramids were built," Mazar told the AP.
Recent archaeological finds actually show that Egyptians built the pyramids themselves.
"The myth of the slaves building pyramids is only the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood," Dieter Wildung, a former director of Berlin's Egyptian Museum, told the AP. "The world simply could not believe the pyramids were build without oppression and forced labor, but out of loyalty to the pharaohs."


2. Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian.
Cleopatra belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great. Her family actually refused to speak Egyptian, and she was the first to learn the language.
The misconception about her nationality may have arisen from the way she represented herself in public — as the reincarnation of Isis, an Egyptian goddess.





3. Vikings didn't wear horned-helmets.Archaeological evidence doesn't show any evidence of horned-helmets. Death sites instead tell us most Viking warriors went bare-headed or wore leather headgear, according to The History Channel.
This popular, albeit false, image of burly men striding into battle with horns apparently dates back to the 1800s, when Swedish artist Gustav Malmströmstems included the imagery in his work. Some of Wagner's operas also included costumes with horned-helmets.






. Christopher Columbus didn't discover America.
Columbus struck land in the Caribbean and also explored Central and South America, but he never set foot on North America. Nonetheless, the U.S. celebrates Columbus Day every year.
Also, thinkers as far back as Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician in the sixth century B.C., knew the world was round. Columbus even supposedly planned his trip using a copy of Ptolemy's "Geography," which included theories about the world's spherical shape.



5. The Pilgrims didn't host the first Thanksgiving.
First of all, the Pilgrims ate numerous meals for giving thanks before the one typically cited as the origin of our modern holiday. Also, Spaniards in Florida celebrated a similar event in 1565, well before the Pilgrims in 1621 (indeed, historians don't know if the legendary 1621 dinner even happened.
It's also not clear what the Pilgrims ate at this famous dinner. Some accounts put venison on the table — though it's not surprising that roasting turkeys caught on more than the much larger and more complicated deer.
While we're on the subject, Abraham Lincoln didn't make Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1863 — on the last  Thursday of every November. But wait, we used to celebrate Turkey Day on the third Thursday, right? President Roosevelt moved the holiday in 1939 to make the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas just a little longer, giving people more time to shop, thus boosting the economy. Congress later changed it back.


6. Napoleon Bonaparte wasn't short.
Well, at least he wasn't as short as we think. Yes, Napoleon stood at 5 feet 2 inchesin pre-French Revolution units — but that's about 5 feet 6 inches in U.S. measurement. That's taller than the average male height in France at the time of 5 feet 5 inches.
Napoleon may have earned the name "Le Petit Caporel" (The Little Corporal) affectionately. Still, we use the term "Napoleon Complex" to refer to small men with inferiority problems.




7. Marie Antoinette didn't say, "Let them eat cake."
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his novel, "Confessions," that "a great princess" spoke these inconsiderate words. While many assume he was referring to the famous Marie Antoinette, however, there is no evidence to support this claim.
Noted biographer Lady Antonia Fraser attributed the quote to another French princess: "[Let them eat cake] was said 100 years before her by Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV. It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither."
The quote — or something like it — had been previously attributed to many royals, dating back to Emperor Hui of Jin in Zizhi Tongjian.



8. Paul Revere never yelled, "The British are coming!"
First of all, Paul Revere needed to keep his knowledge of the Brits' arrival on the down-low. British troops had already camped out across the Massachusetts countryside, according to The History Channel. Also, the colonists still considered themselves British. If anything, Paul Revere probably told people on a need-to-know basis about the "regulars" — the colonists' term for British soldiers.



9. George Washington didn't have wooden teeth.
Washington did have horrifically bad teeth. He even wore multiple sets of dentures throughout his life made of ivory, gold, and lead — but not wood, according to the organization that runs Washington's famed estate, Mount Vernon.
Washington did love his port though. The burgundy-colored drink may have stained his teeth, making them appear brown and grainy, like wood.





10. Albert Einstein didn't fail math.
Einstein actually excelled at math from a young age. The rumors that he couldn't adequately solve an equation started on "Ripley's Believe It Or Not."
In his book, "Einstein: His Life And Universe," Walter Isaacson wrote about Einstein’s response to the Ripley's claim: “I never failed in mathematics. Before I was 15 I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
Einstein's matriculation certificate, received at the age of 17, even shows the highest marks, a "6,"  in Algebra and Geometry.


11. A cow kicking over a lantern didn't cause the Great Chicago Fire.
The Great Chicago Fire killed hundreds and burned more than 3 square miles in 1871. Contrary to popular myth, the blaze actually started in a small alley for unknown reasons. The journalist who attributed the blaze to "Mrs. O' Leary's cow" knocking over a lit lantern admitted he embellished the story.


12. Spanish Influenza didn't originate in Spain.
Originally called the "three-day flu," this disease killed an estimated 50 million people in 1918 — 34 million more than World War I's causalities.
The rumor most likely started because Spain was hit early and hard with the disease, according to the History Channel. Even Spain's king contracted it.
It's nearly impossible to tell where the endemic disease originated, but John Barry, based on all the evidence available, suggests the first case occurred in Haskell County, Kansas.


13. Wall Streeters didn't jump to their deaths following the market crash of 1929.
Between Black Thursday and the end of 1929, only four suicides were plunges linked to the events that sparked the Great Depression. And only two of those occurred on Wall Street, Slate reported.
The president of County Trust Co. and the head of Rochester Gas and Electric did both kill themselves — but they used guns.
The rumors reportedly started when comedians began cracking jokes about the sad state of the economy. For example, Will Rogers quipped that " you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of," according to Slate. Both the New York Times and New York's chief medical examiner tried to set the record straight but to no avail.


14. Abner Doubleday didn't invent baseball.
The Mills Commission, headed by then-president of the National League, Abraham Mills, was charged with determining the origin of America's favorite pastime. The elected body ruled in 1907 that, to the best of its knowledge, Abner Doubleday, a Civil War general, invented baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839. The town even became the site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
But in his book, "Baseball And Blue In Gray: The national pastime during the Civil War," George B. Kirsch, a professor of history at Manhattan College, explains that scholars put Doubleday at West Point in 1839, not in Cooperstown. Also, upon his death, Doubleday left no notes, letters, or papers about his role in the creation of baseball.
We don't know who played the first game, though in 1938, Congress officially recognized Alexander Cartwright as the creator of modern version. He served as the founding father of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club and finalized the diamond-shape. He's in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, too.


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Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

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