"Belief in progress doesn’t mean belief in progress that has already occurred. That would not require belief."

Franz Kafka

Slave Ship Identified Off Mexican Coast

Researchers have identified the wreckage of a paddle-wheel steamboat (discovered in 2017) as the remains of La Unin. It was once used to carry Maya people to Cuba to work in sugarcane fields there, before La Unin sank near the Yucatan port of Sisal in 1861. Although slavery was illegal in Mexico, the operators of La Unin and similar vessels are thought to have purchased Mayas who were captured as combatants or left landless during the rebellion known as the War of the Castes, which took place from 1847 to 1901. It is unknown if it was carrying enslaved Mayas during its final voyage. The ship was identified thanks to oral history, according to lead researcher Helena Barba Meinecke: "One of the people in Sisal who saw how they led the Mayas away as slaves, told his son and then he told his grandson, and it was that person who led us to the general area of the shipwreck.”

The Unstoppable Race

Yorkshir has a 4-mile horse race called the Kiplingcotes Derby which has been held every year since 1519. That makes it the oldest annual horse race in England. According to the ancient rules, if the race ever fails to take place, it must never be run again, so the Derby's organizers have always been careful to have at least an attempt at a race every year. In 1947 (harsh winter), 2001 (foot-and-mouth disease crisis), and 2018 (heavy rain), the race was functionally canceled but a single horse was led around the course to keep the tradition alive.

Buzz Off

One genus of mosquitos, discovered and named by German entomologist Johann Wilhelm Meigen in 1818, is called "anopheles." From the Greek an (“not”) + ophelos (“benefit”).

Pushkin was Mixed Race and Proud of It

Alexander Pushkin, Russia's great father of literature, was the great-grandson of an enslaved African. Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal was likely born in what is now Cameroon in 1696. He was kidnapped as a child and brought to Constantinople to be sold, where Tolstoy's ancestor "rescued" him (per Pushkin). Gannibal's rescuers then brought him to St. Petersburg and presented him as a gift to Peter the Great. Gannibal was made a court page, godson to the emperor, and general pet of the court. His free status was rather ambiguous. Gannibal eventually received a military education in France, and when he returned to Russia, rose to the nobility and died a general-in-chief owning hundreds of serfs.

Pushkin was proud of his ancestor. He started an uncompleted historical novel in 1827, "The Moor of Peter the Great." Pushkin himself was aware of how his appearance made other treat him, and how it influenced his view of himself. For instance, he wrote of "my Africa" in Onegin, and called American slaves "his brothers." He also owned serfs. And was labeled as having "African blood" by gossips after a famous duel.

The Man Who Enabled Millions To Read

Louis Braille began losing his sight at three years old, due to an accident with a toy that struck him in the eye and which became infected and spread to his other eye. By age five, Louis was completely blind. It was 1812 and there was nothing that medicine could do for either eye.

He was lucky though and was able to attend one of the first blind schools in the world, the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. There, Louis was exposed to the "night writing" method invented by Captain Charles Barbier of the French Army. It was a series of dashes and dots intended to be read by soldiers when putting on a light might be dangerous. But the night writing system was rather complicated and difficult to use. It did, however, inspire Louis to try and make a better system on his own. By the time Louis was 15 years old, he had trimmed Barbier’s 12 dots into six and had found 63 ways to use a six-dot cell in an area no larger than a fingertip. Braille, the system still used around the world, had been born.

Just to finish off Louis' story -- his life did not end at age 15! He published his own system in 1829 and added symbols for both mathematics and music. He went on to have a number of publications about the new reading and writing system, and in 1833, Louis was offered a full professorship where he taught history, geometry and algebra. He also became an accomplished cellist and organist. Unfortunately his invention was met with skepticism by the public. It was not even taught at Braille's alma mater, the Royal Institute. Due to a persistent respiratory illness he was forced to give up teaching and move back to his hometown at age 40. In 1852, Louis Braille died, just two days after his 43rd birthday. He would never know how widespread his invention would become. Today there are over 250 million people with visual impairments, who are able to access the written word thanks to Louis Braille.

Official Signature of Ottoman Sultan Murad III

AAlthough "signature" is a rough translation of the Ottoman's word "tugra." Murad III did not literally sign all documents like this, rather, it was a symbol of his authority which was placed on all official documents and seals and coins. Each sultan chose his personal tugra immediately after their accession to the throne, and used the same format throughout their life.

Aaron Molyneaux Hewlett, the first African American instructor at Harvard. He was the instructor and superintendent of physical education from the college's gymnasium's construction in 1859 until his death in 1871. Hewlett got the post because he was a boxing and wrestling instructor, first while he worked as a porter, then in "Molyneaux House" his own sparring academy. The New York Clipper, at the time the leading New York sports paper, considered him "one of the best boxers in Brooklyn." The 1866 portrait above was taken after Harvard recruited him. It is the first known photograph of a medicine ball in the United States.

Depiction, by an unknown Vietnamese artist, of the French capture of the town of Hưng Hóa (in today’s Phú Thọ, Vietnam) on April 12, 1884. The taking of the town was a major victory in France’s Tonkin Campaign (1883–86) to take northern Vietnam and turn it into a French protectorate. France also created a protectorate in Annam (central Vietnam) after a nationalist uprising there in 1885.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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