December 19, 1865: following the Civil War and emancipation, many freed black people in the South remained beholden to their former white masters. In South Carolina and other former slave-holding states, many freed people continued to reside in the same communities, sometimes on the same land, working for whites who had previously owned the men, women, and children as property. Freedmen had limited opportunities to earn money to support themselves and their families and often continued to work as manual laborers in slavery-like conditions. In many ways, “black codes” enacted following emancipation sought to maintain white control over freedmen and perpetuated the exploitation black people had experienced during slavery. South Carolina's black codes, like others, contained many laws that applied only to black people. On December 19, 1865, a measure restored freed blacks' subservient social relationship to white landowners, stating that “all persons of color who make contracts for service or labor, shall be known as servants, and those with whom they contract, shall be known as masters.” The law required black “servants” to work from dawn to dusk and to maintain a “polite” demeanor. South Carolina reached even further into black laborers’ personal lives,
- prohibiting apprentices to marry without their masters’ permission
- forbidding farmers living on their masters’ land to have visitors
- imposing a curfew.
- forbidding freedmen in South Carolina from pursuing any occupation other than laborer unless able to pay a $100 fee.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
December 19, 1956: the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision ordering an end to racial segregation of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus system. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of the iconic events in the history of the civil rights movement, but in fact a legal challenge to the bus system’s policy of segregation that had begun more than a year earlier when authorities arrested Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955. The lead plaintiff in the legal challenge that was settled on this day was Aurelia Browder, who police arrested, along with three other African-American women on March 2, 1955. On June 13, 1956 in Browder v. Gayle the U.S. District Court for Alabama ruled segregated public transportation unconstitutional. Thus, it was the Browder decision that ended segregation of the Montgomery buses and not the famous bus boycott that Parks inspired.
US Labor History
December 19, 1907: an explosion in the Darr Mine in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, killed 239 coal miners, most of whom were Hungarian immigrant laborers. Some came from the nearby Naomi Mine, which had closed after at deadly explosion several weeks earlier. Only one person is thought to have survived the Darr Mine explosion. December 19, 1921: in Truax v. Corrigan, the Supreme Court ruled that picketing was unconstitutional. Chief Justice (and former president) William Howard Taft declared that picketing was, in part, "an unlawful annoyance and hurtful nuisance..."
December 19, 1984: a coal mine fire killed wenty-six men and one woman were in the Wilberg Coal Mine near Orangeville, Utah. It was the worst coal mine fire in the state’s history. Federal mine safety officials issued 34 safety citations after the disaster but had inspected the mine only days before and declared it safe.
December 19, 1910: the artificial fiber rayon was first commercially produced by the American Viscose Co. of Marcus Hook, Pa.
December 19, 1946: war broke out in Indochina as troops under Ho Chi Minh launched widespread attacks against the French.
- December 19 – 25, 1960: Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart comedy album returns for a third time to Billboard #1.
- December 19 – 25, 1964: “Come See About Me” by the Supremes #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, their third consecutive release that went to #1.
December 19, 1969: The Beatles released their 7th and last Christmas fan club recording. December 19, 1974: after four years' negotiation, the Beatles had appeared to have agreed on the terms governing their formal split, and a meeting had been arranged at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. George Harrison was performing at Madison Square Garden that night; McCartney had flown in from London; and Starr, having signed the document earlier, was on the telephone. At the last minute, John Lennon (also in NYC) objected to a clause that he felt would create tax problems for him (as the only Beatle living in the United States), and decided not to attend. Harrison, furious, canceled plans for Lennon to join him onstage at Madison Square Garden, but McCartney turned up at the East 52nd Street apartment that Lennon and Pang shared to discuss the sticking point. Things remained unresolved.
December 19, 1974: Nelson A. Rockefeller sworn in as vice president, replacing Gerald R. Ford, who became president when Richard M. Nixon resigned.
December 19, 1986: Lawrence E. Walsh appointed independent counsel to investigate the Iran-Contra affair.
December 19, 1994: the Whitewater scandal investigation began in Washington, DC. December 19, 1998: after 13 1/2 hours of debate over two days, the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment, charging President Clinton with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton vowed to fill out his term and appeals for a bipartisan compromise in the Senate.
December 19, 2000: the U.N. Security Council voted to impose broad sanctions on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers unless they closed terrorist training camps and surrendered U.S. embassy bombing suspect Osama bin Laden.
World Trade Center
December 19, 2003: officials unveiled design plans for the signature skyscraper — a 1,776-foot glass tower — at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Nuclear and Chemical Weapons
December 19, 2003: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to halt his nation's drive to develop nuclear and chemical weapons.
December 19, 2013: the United Methodist Church defrocked Rev. Frank Schaefer, the Pennsylvania pastor who officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding six years ago and refused to agree not to perform other gay marriages. December 19, 2013: with lesbian and gay couples having married over the past several months in many New Mexico counties, on this date, the state Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex couples to marry throughout the state. This made New Mexico the first state in the Southwest with marriage equality and the 17th state nationwide. The court wrote: “We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.”
Westboro Baptist Church
December 19, 2013: Westboro Baptist tweeted that it stood in solidarity with Phil Robertson of the A&E reality show "Duck Dynasty," who told GQ Magazine in a recent interview that he believed homosexuality was sinful. December 19, 2014: U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho must pay more than $400,000 to the lawyers who successfully fought to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage. Dale awarded an amount that was about 10 percent less than what the lawyers requested. Utah Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and attorney Christopher Rich argued for an award of little more than $200,000. They said that the six lawyers working on the case took too much time and charged too much in hourly fees. The lead attorney billed $400 an hour and recorded more than 600 hours. Judge Dale disagreed, saying that the complexity of the case warranted frequent communication and extra time to prepare for court appearances.
Stop and Frisk Policy
December 19, 2013: NYPD Officer Wilson Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the wrongful stop and frisk of a 52-year-old father in Brooklyn. Gonzalez was the second member of the department to be prosecuted at a disciplinary trial at police headquarters for questioning, stopping and frisking a person without sufficient legal authority. Gonzalez, who also pleaded guilty to writing the summons "without sufficient legal authority," will lose 15 days pay if Commissioner Raymond Kelly approves the punishment.
December 19, 2014: after passing the Senate and the House with broad majorities, legislation to help people with disabilities pay for health care and other needs was signed into law by President Obama. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was the first sweeping legislation for people with disabilities since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. The new law allowed families who have a child with a disability to save for their long-term care through savings accounts modeled after tax-free 529 college savings accounts.